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This article was published on: 03/01/2006

COVER FEATURE: The List Issue 2006

Style & Design

Frayed hemlines and poor manners can hide the true professional in you. Appearance matters in the homes you market, too. Here are tips for dressing, acting, and styling homes with confidence.

9 tips for dining with style

Whether you’re hosting an introductory meeting with referral customers or a client-appreciation event, follow these tips to dine with style.

1. Make a reservation at a place you frequently patronize. Or if you’re trying out a new restaurant, be sure to test it ahead of time and get to know the staff so that you can address them by name.

2. Find out about food allergies. You need to be sensitive to any food allergies of your dining guests so that you can pick a restaurant accordingly and order shared dishes with finesse.

3. Set the tone for what to order. Your guests will take their cues from you if you offer a cocktail, recommend a good appetizer, or tell them the restaurant is known for its lobster dishes.

4. Order manageable foods. Poached pear in wine sauce, spaghetti, and peas are hard to eat. Order dishes that won’t spill, drop, or take too much effort. Avoid anything that you know gets stuck in your teeth, is too crunchy, or contains a lot of garlic.

5. Practice abstemious dining. There’s no quicker way to make a bad impression than by overeating or overdrinking.

6. Turn off your cell phone. If there’s a call you absolutely have to take, tell your guests that you’re expecting an important phone call in the next 30 minutes that you must take and that you’d do the same for them if it was their closing.

7. Raise a toast. Don’t forget to acknowledge the purpose of the meal and show how much you appreciate the guests. Whether it’s “Here’s to our ongoing working relationship” or “I wanted to thank you for the five referrals you sent me this year,” raising a toast makes the guests feel special.

8. There’s no such thing as going Dutch. If you want someone’s business, you have to show some love. Always pick up the tab. And save those receipts; if you discuss business, a portion of the meal will be tax deductible.

9. No check, please. Don’t have the check come to the table. Set up a house account at the restaurant or pay for the meal before or after.

Source: Maureen Costello, Image Launch, Lake Forest, Ill.

14 ways to work a room

Whether it’s a business meeting or a social event, you’re always interacting with prospects. Knowing how to meet people, make a good impression, and maneuver yourself gracefully in any situation will help you succeed. These tips will let you better work any room you enter.

1. Set your goal for any event before you arrive. What do you want to accomplish? Maybe it’s to meet five new people. Maybe it’s to set three follow-up meetings. Whatever the outcome you want to achieve from the event, use your time judiciously to achieve the goal.

2. Walk in and shake hands with confidence. If you start with a positive attitude and a confident posture, people will be drawn to you. Offer a strong handshake with thumbs locked; don’t grab fingertips or knuckles. Look the person in the eyes. Say your name slowly.

3. Eat first. Don’t try to eat, drink, and mingle all at once.

4. Be ready to greet. Keep your drink in your left hand so that you’re always ready to shake hands with your right hand and greet people.

5. Start conversations. Say hello, introduce yourself, and ask people how they’re associated with the event and why they’re attending. Be authentic.

6. Get the name. When you meet people, make sure you catch their name, and use it in conversation. It’s a sign of respect. Be sure to call people by the name they’ve given you, for example, Mrs. Jones, Charles, or Mary Louise.

7. Keep the conversation going. To avoid uncomfortable pauses, use this formula: 1) Ask a question of the person you’re talking to; 2) make a statement about yourself; and then 3) ask another question. Try to strike a balance between asking questions and making statements so that you avoid a third-degree interrogation or talking too much about yourself.

8. Repeat what you’ve heard. Using phrases such as “When you said a moment ago that” or “You mentioned that” proves you were paying attention.

9. Don’t let your eyes or thoughts stray. There’s nothing worse than scanning the room and not looking at the person you’re talking with.

10. Exit a conversation gracefully. At business and social events, one of the biggest fears is getting stuck in a conversation. When you feel the interaction should end, say, “It was great talking to you. I hope you enjoy the rest of the evening.”

11. Make a request. If your goal is to establish a relationship that will eventually turn into a deal or a referral, you need to have a reason to reconnect. Before leaving the conversation, clue people in to expect the follow-up. Say, “Can I e-mail you so that we can get together to share those great Web sites?”

12. Don’t be touchy-feely. Hugging and kissing don’t belong in a business or networking situation.

13. Leave just one card. When you give people your business card, don’t supply multiple cards for them to hand out to their friends. One card is personal and says, “This is for you.”

14. Exit the event with grace. When leaving an event, allow 15 minutes to say good-bye to people you met. Don’t just make a dash for the door.

Sources: Miriam Bamberger, The Flourishing Co. LLC, Washington, D.C.; Rosalie Maggio, author of The Art of Talking to Anyone (McGraw-Hill, 2005) and How to Say It (Prentice Hall, 2001); Susan Fignar, Pur-sue Inc., Itasca, Ill.

Cool tools that won’t break the bank

One of the ways to show your personal style is to have the latest high-tech gadgets. Take a look at the variety of devices you can buy for $50 or less that can make your work day a little more productive and enjoyable.

USB flash drives. These compact flash memory drives now start at about $20 for 128MB of storage space. In fact, flash memory is so inexpensive and small, it’s now combined with a multiformat card reader in the PQI Smart Genie 256MB USB Flash Drive and built into a pen in the PNY Executive Flash Drive, both for around $40.

Wi-Fi finders. Locate hot spots without switching on your notebook computer or PDA. These key-sized devices automatically detect Wi-Fi’s availability in the area and signal strength. Kensington’s WiFi Finder Plus and the IOGear WiFi Finder are both under $30.

Digital voice recorder. Have a great idea while driving but unable to stop to jot it down on paper? Pick up a DVR and start talking. Check out the Olympus VN-240, around $40, which has four hours of recording time.

Better headphones. This is an easy and affordable upgrade for any hardware with sound. Plantronics offers a range of sleek and unobtrusive headsets with prices starting well under $50.

Wireless mouse. For added mobility, unplug yourself from your notebook or desktop PC. It’s a convenience whether you’re making presentations or cruising the Web. Belkin’s MiniWireless Optical Mouse is $49.99.

Never miss the picture. Forgot your digital camera? You can still get a serviceable shot for short-term use with the key-size Philips Keychain Camera priced at $19.95.

Power boost. Restore your cell phone battery anytime, anywhere with Charge2Go, a lipstick-sized reusable recharging system. A single AAA battery will recharge most phones in two hours for up to three hours of talk time, depending on the model. $24.99. Michael Antoniak

Random acts of kindness

We’re all on Earth for a relatively short amount of time. Some practitioners make an effort to make each day count by showing kindness to their fellow man. Here are a few inspiring stories.

  • “Most mornings, I stop by Starbucks for a latte. My Starbucks uses stickers labeled 1 to 7 (indicating the day of the week) to track the freshness on its sandwiches and salads. I always ask for a sticker to cover the lid opening while I drive. Whatever the number on the sticker, I make a point to deliver that many compliments throughout my day, whether to a stranger or someone I know.” —Vicky Tarulis, Coldwell Banker, Olivenhain, Calif.
  • “I was in line at Office Depot one day, when the woman in line ahead of me asked the salesclerk if the paper she was buying was the right type for sending out a résumé. Since I was a coach in a previous career, I started talking with the woman and offered to review her résumé. She ended up getting the job she wanted and credited my help.” —Dale M. Weir, e-PRO, GRI, Coldwell Banker Gundaker, Chesterfield, Mo.
  • “I listed a home last year during a bitter cold Michigan winter. The seller had been living there for a year without heat or hot water before eventually ending up in foreclosure. I turned his gas back on after listing the property, helped him find a lost relative for moral support, helped him find a possible job, drove him to the interview, and bought him a new outfit to wear to his interview and closing. Last I heard from him, he’s still working the same job and back on his feet.” —Jay Goscinski, ABR®, GRI, GMAC Real Estate, The Kee Group, Warren, Mich.

The 10 habits billionaires have

Set your goals high for your real estate career by mirroring habits of the truly elite few. According to Forbes magazine’s annual list of “The World’s Richest People,” which ranks billionaires, 46 out of the world’s 691 billionaires made their fortunes in the real estate industry. Here’s what you can learn from their habits, lifestyles, and business styles:
  • Go commercial. Billionaires who make their fortunes in real estate don’t do it by selling one home at a time. They do it by owning and operating office buildings, shopping centers, apartment complexes, and luxury hotels.
  • Do more than invest. Buying a piece of property and sitting back and waiting for it to appreciate in value is not the way to make billions. You need to enhance its value. J. Paul Getty did just that after he bought New York’s Pierre Hotel for $2.35 million in 1938 and turned it into a hub for New York society by convincing a prominent socialite to stay there. He increased the value of the investment by more than eight times.
  • Be able to see the property for what it could be. Just because you buy a shopping complex doesn’t mean that’s the best use of the property. Recognizing that real estate will have a greater value with an alternative use is what helped billionaire Laurence Tisch achieve success when he acquired controlling interest in the Loew’s Theatres chain and converted prime Manhattan property into the Summit Hotel. Know the zoning laws in your area and apply to have properties rezoned if needed.
  • Be tenacious and relentless. Billionaires don’t let obstacles or pitfalls keep them from achieving their goals. Just because you fail doesn’t mean you can’t succeed in the end. Kirk Kerkorian, who headed Chrysler Corp. and other companies, has made and lost millions in many investments, but he refuses to give up and always gets back in the game and continues to make deals.
  • Have a thick skin. People are by nature resentful and jealous of successful people. Don’t let criticism of your work deter you from your goals.
  • Have superior information. If you do more research than your competitors, you’ll have an advantage in any transaction.
  • Don’t accept the cards you’re dealt. Although one-third of the world’s 46 billionaires who make their money in real estate inherited and then grew their fortunes, two-thirds are self-made, according to Forbes.
  • Live in California. Of the 21 U.S. billionaires who made their fortune in real estate, according to Forbes, more than one-third live in Atherton, Los Angeles, Newport Beach, Palo Alto, or Stockton.
  • Get, and stay, married. Of the 43 real estate billionaires whose marital status is known, according to Forbes, 37 are married, while only three are divorced and three are widowed.
  • Go back to school. Of the 26 real estate billionaires whose educational attainments are known, 20 have a college degree or higher. Five made it on high school diplomas, and one is a high-school dropout.

For more on getting rich in real estate, browse the book selection at

Sources: Martin Fridson, Leverage World, an investment research publication, and author of How to Be a Billionaire (John Wiley & Sons Inc., 2000); Forbes magazine’s “The World’s Richest People,” March 2005

7 ways to update your look

A successful real estate professional needs to look fresh and modern without being too trendy. Ask yourself these 10 questions to see if your look is helping you succeed or holding you back.

1. Is your hair up-to-date? If you look at a photo of yourself from 10 or 20 years ago and the only difference is a few wrinkles on your face, it may be time to freshen up your ’do.

2. Do your clothes fit right? Take a long, hard look at yourself in the mirror. Do your clothes fit the body you’re living in now?

3. Are you well-groomed from head to toe? Your clothes should be clean, pressed, and lint-free. Both men and women should have their nails manicured and shoes polished.

4. Are you modern, without being high-fashion? Invest in good quality basics, such as nice wool pants and a cashmere sweater or a solid shirt and tie. Exude quality without being flashy.

5. Are your accessories polished? Your briefcase should be in good repair and not nicked up or look as if it’s been dragged through mud. That also goes for your writing tablet portfolio. You should also have a good pen. It doesn’t have to be a Montblanc, but it should be nice enough to convey that you’re well prepared and ready to do business.

6. Does your car say the right things about you? Your car reflects on you as a professional. It should give you credibility without being ostentatious. Be sure to have it cleaned weekly.

7. Do you mirror the people you want to work with? If you want to work with corporate executives, dress like a corporate executive. If you want to target moneyed socialites in charity circles, dress like you belong there and participate by writing a check.

Source: Maureen Costello, Image Launch, Lake Forest, Ill.

21 hot building and design trends

Housing styles remain fairly consistent, with certain styles more popular in certain regions. What changes are proportions of houses and their components — the materials used, the layout of rooms, and the rooms themselves. Many condo owners, for example, now seek amenities like well-equipped gyms and green space for people and pets. Other favorites:

1. Copycat materials. New materials mimic old-time favorites but in lighter-weight, more energy-efficient versions. Dryvit Systems Inc. manufactures materials that replicate brick, granite, and limestone for outdoors and indoors.

2. U-shaped designs. When land is at a premium, a U-shaped house allows for a private outdoor space at the center.

3. Hidden garages. Fewer home owners want to see a garage out front, even if they own a fleet.

4. More color. Splashes of bolder, deeper colors are in for shutters, doors, window frames, and even roof tiles. Historic colors are also popular. Color gives a more lived-in look, says Peggy Van Allen, color marketing manager for Dutch Boy Paints.

5. Third-floor living space. Since building up is less costly than adding on, houses are being designed to expand into attic space if zoning permits.

6. Porches. Back in vogue and deeper, porches function more as a living space than a passageway. Some home owners want a private “sunset” screened porch off a master bedroom.

7. Windowless media rooms. In condo buildings where space is at a premium and windows are expensive, builders put media rooms, used mostly at night, in wide corridors.

8. Green materials. Interest in energy-efficient, sustainable materials is on the rise. Backup generators are popular for those in hurricane zones.

9. Snoring rooms. A bedroom that can double as a sleeping space for a family member who snores keeps that person from being banished to a sofa and a spouse from having a sleepless night, says Chicago designer Susan Fredman.

10. Professional-style workout spaces. No longer will a single piece of equipment do. Home owners want larger rooms with all the bells and whistles for working out alone or with a trainer.

11. Dual master suites. Two master bedrooms with bathrooms allow families to accommodate older relatives or returning college graduates.

12. Dual libraries. With fewer living rooms built, more couples seek his and her libraries, or one for adults and one for kids.

13. Cheese cellars. Have a wine cellar? Time to add a cellar to age that bleu.

14. Elevators. For home owners who don’t want to move to a one-level house or can’t add a first-floor bedroom, an elevator allows for aging in place.

15. Multiples, multiples. Two refrigerators have long been common; many are now opting for two dishwashers and even two laundry rooms, or two sets of washers and dryers.

16. Media rooms. Even in the mid-price range, some new homes feature an entertainment center outfitted with a projection screen, leather stadium-style seating, a surround-sound system, recessed dimmable lighting, and a black ceiling, says builder Dennis Stilley of DGR Construction Inc. in Atlanta.

17. Prewired whole-home systems. A centralized panel that controls a home’s systems, including the TV sound, security, thermostat, and lighting is becoming more mainstream as prices come down. Best of all: When you’re away, you can carry a wireless tablet to check on systems or control them from your cell phone or e-mail, says Mike Whaling, business development manager for InfiniSys Inc. in Daytona Beach, Fla.

18. Textures. Whether in materials or paints, smooth is out and texture’s in. Dryvit Systems produces a paint that comes in 80 colors, can duplicate textured surfaces, and is easy to clean. New York designer Liora Manné uses different yarns in rugs and blends colors. Rebecca Cole, another New York designer, recommends mixing textures such as slate, wood, and stone in the same room for a layered look, akin to layering apparel.

19. Pet showers. No longer located outdoors or in a laundry room, a shower for Rover may occupy a separate niche in an owner’s shower.

20. All fixed up. More home owners want to nix remodeling and buy a “finished” house, whether old and remodeled or spanking new.

21. Ay car-amba! Three-car garages have become common, and one leading company, GarageTek Inc. in Syosset, N.Y., says its average makeover now equals $6,500. Makeovers often include paneled walls, tiled floors (sometimes with radiant heat), cabinets, shelves, lighting, a potting or hobby station, and sometimes a place for a TV. “A three-car garage measuring 600 square feet is bigger than most rooms,” says Barbara Butensky, director of marketing.

Sources: Peggy Van Allen, Dutch Boy Paints, Cleveland; Jeff Brooks, Real Estate Convergence, San Francisco; Barbara Butensky, GarageTek Inc., Syosset, N.Y.; Erik Carlson, Dubin Residential Communities Inc., Chicago; Barbara Catlow, Dryvit Systems Inc., West Warwick, R.I.; Wendy S. Cohen, Orren Pickell Designers & Builders, Lincolnshire, Ill.; Rebecca Cole, Cole Creates, New York; Marianne Curran, Realty World First, Raleigh, N.C.; Anna Marie Fannelli, Floor & Décor, Tenafly, N.J.; Susan Fredman, Susan Fredman & Associates, Chicago; Lily Kanter, Serena and Lily, Sausalito, Calif.; Liora Manné, Lamontage, N.Y.; James Martin, The Color People, Denver; Ed Mattingly, Mattingly Custom Finishes, Chicago; Gail Missner, Baird & Warner, Chicago; David Robbins, Architecture Collaborative, Elliott City, Md.; Emily Stevenson, New York; Dennis Stilley, DGR Construction Inc., Atlanta; Sarah Susanka, author, Inside the Not So Big House (The Taunton Press, 2005), Raleigh, N.C.; Sam Switzenbaum, Switzenbaum & Associates, Philadelphia; Mike Whaling, InfiniSys Inc., Daytona Beach, Fla.

Sacred spaces

For many Americans, rooms devoted to reverential pursuits are becoming as coveted as the rec room of the 1970s. Increased floor space, smaller families, post-9/11 nesting instincts, and the mainstreaming of religion and yoga are driving the trend toward dedicating rooms to reflection and spirituality.

Biker Lance Armstrong’s home in Spain came equipped with an altar room. Pop singer Britney Spears, who was raised as a Baptist and then introduced to the Kabbalah’s teachings by Madonna, has told fans she’s toying with ideas for a prayer and meditation room in her Malibu, Calif., mansion. Regular folks, too, are carving out sacred space in spare bedrooms and closets.
  • Michigan eye doctor Tim Hanley heads to his basement, which features sculptures and a monastery bell, for prayer and yoga before starting his workday.
  • Architect and author Sarah Susanka writes and meditates in her attic retreat.
  • San Diego spiritual coach Kamala Devi turned the heart of her home, the living room, into her prayer room. An elaborate antique altar, adorned with Buddhist, Japanese, and Catholic beads, dominates the room.
  • Arlington, Va., health researcher Jennifer Stanley transformed her back porch into a room overlooking a garden dedicated to Vipassana meditation in the Theravada tradition.

Unlike the ubiquitous rec room of the ’70s, these spiritual havens have no common name. But whether they’re called reading nooks, prayer and meditation rooms, or yoga retreats, expect to see more of these soulful spaces, particularly among young singles, childless couples, and empty-nesters. —By Lori Hall Steele

11 ways to add flair to showings

A house must be clean and clutter-free to generate interest. Even more may be necessary to set the listing apart, particularly in a softening market. Here are some decorating and updating tips you can share with sellers that’ll bring “wows” from today’s buyers.
  • Add touches of luxury. Bring in real plants in beautiful pots; the best linens; and big, white, fluffy towels.
  • Paint walls, trim, and ceilings. Keep adjoining rooms in the same color palette to make the home appear larger and flow better. Hire professionals to paint mullions on windows and staircase spindles.
  • Use slipcovers on mismatched furniture. It’s an inexpensive way to create visual unity.
  • Replace mismatched or poor-fitting door handles and cabinet pulls. Buyers rarely get beyond a knob that comes off in their hand.
  • Install bamboo floors in contemporary settings. Bamboo is outpacing maple as the new light-colored wood floor. Forget parquet and veneered wood flooring: Parquet is still out of favor, and buyers are aware that thin wood veneer can’t handle many sandings.
  • Refresh closets with organizers and paint them a neutral color. Make sure closets are lighted and buyers can see the back of all closets and cupboards.
  • Identify wall spaces for large and flat-screen televisions. They’re a must-have for most buyers today.
  • Clean, organize, and paint basements, attics, and garages. Many buyers pass on a home because of a “creepy” attic or basement.
  • Edit furniture and accessories, including family photos. Less is more.
  • Install new light switch covers. Most buyers interact with these during showings. Worn covers show inattention to detail.
  • Purchase the best quality carpet pad. It can make any new carpeting cushy, and buyers love cushy.

Source: Mark Nash, Coldwell Banker Residential, Central Street Office, Evanston, Ill., author of 1001 Tips for Buying & Selling a Home (South-Western Educational Publishing, 2004)

5 feng shui deal breakers for buyers

Feng shui is an ancient Chinese design philosophy that tries to optimize the flow of energy through any space — a single room, a house, even an office building. Proponents say properties with good feng shui meet your physical, emotional, and spiritual needs and bring you good luck. Buyers who believe in the principles of feng shui will avoid homes with the following characteristics:

1. A home with the bathroom located in the central tai chi area, the area of home where all of the energies are in perfect balance

2. A home with a spiral staircase in the center

3. A home with a staircase directly in front of the front door

4. Property located at a T- or Y-junction road with heavy road traffic

5. An excessively oddly shaped home

Source: Buy Your Home Smarter With Feng Shui by Holly Ziegler (Dragon Chi Publications, 2004)

5 feng shui concepts sellers should know

To put the best face on a listing and appeal to buyers who follow feng shui principles, keep these tips in mind:

1. Pay special attention to the front door, which is considered the “mouth of chi” (chi is the “life force” of all things) and one of the most powerful aspects of the entire property. Abundance, blessings, opportunities, and good fortune enter through the front door. It’s also the first impression buyers have of how well the sellers have taken care of the rest of the property. Make sure the area around the front door is swept clean, free of cobwebs and clutter. Make sure all lighting is straight and properly hung. Better yet, light the path leading up to the front door to create an inviting atmosphere.

2. Chi energy can be flushed away wherever there are drains in the home. To keep the good forces of a home in, always keep the toilet seats down and close the doors to bathrooms.

3. The master bed should be in a place of honor, power, and protection, which is farthest from and facing toward the entryway of the room. It’s even better if you can place the bed diagonally in the farthest corner. Paint the room in colors that promote serenity, relaxation, and romance, such as soft tones of green, blue, and lavender.

4. The dining room symbolizes the energy and power of family togetherness. Make sure the table is clear and uncluttered during showings. Use an attractive tablecloth to enhance the look of the table while also softening sharp corners.

5. The windows are considered to be the eyes of the home. Getting the windows professionally cleaned will make the home sparkle and ensure that the view will be optimally displayed.

Source: Sell Your Home Faster With Feng Shui by Holly Ziegler (Dragon Chi Publications, 2001)

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