Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The City of Gainesville | #5, Should Have Been #1 to Me

For those that know me, you can vouch for the fact that I am VERY proud of my Chicagoland heritage.  Though most of my city's sports team - for which I am a devout fan of all of them - have not given me much to cheer for lately (except in hockey.. GO BLACKHAWKS!), I am still proud to call the Land of Lincoln my home.  This is largely why I made up my mind that my stay in Gainesville, Florida was going to be short-lived when I first moved here in 2006. Eight years, a marriage, great church, and one son later, I have placed roots in the great city of Gainesville, Florida.  These 8 years as a citizen roughly equate to 25% of my life and it doesn't seem that I will be moving anywhere any time soon. So, it's safe to say, I'm a "Gainesvillian!"

A recent report released by Movoto Real Estate listed our great city of Gainesville, Florida as the #5 best place to live in the entire state of florida - trailing only Coral Springs, Deerfield Beach, Winter Park, and Pompano Beach.  These were the reasons cited for their determination of placing Gainesville at #5:
  • Low unemployment rate (7.9%)
  • Low cost of living
  • Low average commute time (20 minutes)
  • Beautiful average summer temperature (79 degrees)…. not sure how they came up with that one
  • (No surprise here) The University of Florida offering a college town vibe sparking music venues, bars, art festivals, and local improv groups.
However, having lived here for the past 8 years and deeply exploring Gainesville to make the most out of my experience living here, I have a very different view of the city which would qualify it for a #1 ranking as the, hands down, best place to live in Florida. Here are the points of my case:
  • Thanks to the University of Florida, we have one of the most decorated and richest sporting and scholastic traditions in all of the world - winning multiple national championships across multiple sports, as well as graduating multiple thought leaders and merit scholars into major contributors to society.  On top of that, the university has a long-standing position as one of the top 10 largest universities in the US.
  • Let's say, for some reason, you just can't assimilate to the culture of Gainesville and just need to get away.  Well, you'd be happy to know that Gainesville is within a 2-hour drive of some of the best and most active cities, attractions, and beaches that the state has to offer, including Daytona Beach, Orlando, Cedar Key, Jacksonville, Tallahassee, Amelia Island and more!

  • Now, as a Chicagoan, I am intimately acquainted with one of the nation's most eaten delicacies: pizza!  Since I come from one of the pizza capitols of the world, I have earned my stripes to offer a qualified opinion on this matter.  With that being said, Satchel's Pizza, on the east side of Gainesville is, hand's down, one of the best pizza places in the nation -- You have to experience it.. and their atmosphere is an experience in itself. 
  • The natural springs of Alachua county are some of the most awe-inspiring and fun venues in all of the country.  Located just north of Gainesville on the Sante Fe River, Ginnie Springs offers tubing, cave diving, kayaking and more.  And you can also encounter one of the most gently-large, endangered species up close - the manatee.
  • We have a real "Miracle on 34th Street"! Coming from an urban scene where graffiti and other expressive wall art is frowned upon, Gainesville can boast that we encourage this form of
    expression.  The 34th street graffiti wall is an attraction and staple of the community, offering any citizen, or friend of the city, an opportunity to express themselves at any given time.
I can seriously go on about Gainesville, Florida - the town where I met my wife, the town where my son was born, and the town that I have grown to love and call myself a proud citizen of, but there seriously aren't enough characters nor enough time for me to write it all… and retain your attention at that.  So just take my word for it… Any outsider can spend a few days here: speaking with locals, frequenting a few spots here and there, but to truly know Gainesville, Florida, is to love it! And that's why it gets a #1 ranking all day long from me.  :)

Contact me if you have further questions or need anymore information.  I also love to hear your feedback if this information has been helpful to you.  Peace and increase!!

When it comes to Real Estate, Think Hurst First!

Monday, May 12, 2014


It's that time of year when most people begin to assess their homes and commence the, ever-so-popular,  "Spring Cleaning", or the Extreme Home Makeover - where they pick out a DIY project or two that they've seen on a popular HGTV show, check out a YouTube tutorial or two, make a trip to Home Depot and Flip That House of theirs.  How do I know this is accurate? Well, my wife has us doing both of these initiatives right now… and I LOVE IT!! (especially if I want to stay happily married.)  At any rate, practical reasoning and real estate professionals agree that these projects can, and will, increase resell and property values of most homes.  As a matter of fact, our great friends at Trulia did a recent study to determine which rooms of the house potential homebuyers value the most.

Only second to the master bedroom and its walk-in closet, is the kitchen.  This makes sense: where you lay your head at night, followed by where you prepare the food you chow down on (I, personally, would have flipped this. Sorry, food is extremely important to me and my stomach.)  At any rate, since the master bedroom is pretty much an open space where you can make enhancements with the addition of stellar furniture and creative decor, I chose to focus on the kitchen: a place where permanent fixtures and structures are essential. Here are some helpful tips for you to create an EXTEME KITCHEN MAKEOVER!

1. Open up your kitchen design: A kitchen that encompasses a nearby dining area or adjoins the nearby living room makes for a prime entertainment gathering spot.

2. Incorporate an island if space permits. It's just plain "in style" and serves many purposes from food preparation space, to workspace, to space for having meaningful conversations about grades on a recent report card. This is the hub.

3. Cabinetry is one of the most expensive aspects of a kitchen, but one of the most essentials to the look. If you have a decent-sized budget, you can replace your cabinets with oak, cherry or stainless steel layouts. Dark stained cabinets can bring richness and a sense of warmth to your kitchen. Factory finished cabinets, built in double oven are popular right now. It’s easy to install and elegant in look. However, if you are on a budget, instead of replacing the cabinets, rearrange and reface the cabinets. Simply replacing hardware on cabinets such as knobs, pulls with unique, elegant shapes can offer a nice look.

4. GO GREEN. Choosing recycled glass and concrete countertop, available in a variety of designs and colors are small tips to make you an environmentally conscious homeowner… and these days, THAT COUNTS! Marble, ceramic, and granite are naturally occurring material and also very sturdy. And if you have a little extra cash to "make it rain", go for quartz countertops that are maintenance free and durable. Also, update your kitchen appliances with energy saving features and use recessed LED lights to cut down on your energy bill (my GRU employees reading this might not like that one.)

5. Sink and oven back splashes . Ceramic tiles are a popular choice due to their durability and easy cleaning; and they're cost effective too! You can also go with a glass, granite, or quartz backsplash with appropriate countertops.

6. Lighting is essential to enhancing your kitchen. Lighting is the main accent when it comes to kitchen ambiance. Accent lighting can add beauty and elegance to your kitchen. You can have under counter lighting with xenon, fluorescent, puck and more. However ensure to let the sunshine in.

7. Choose flooring materials that focus on the durability aspect and limiting exposure to moisture. There are a number of options like vinyl, tile, cork, engineered wood, and laminate to name a few.

8. Painting walls with contrast colors will enhance your kitchen’s appearance.

10. You can also choose to update your sink and customize your space by installing built-in chopping boards and wine chillers. To further enhance the look and appeal of your kitchen make better utilization of space, hang painting and place some artifacts.

Contact me if you have further questions or need anymore information.  I also love to hear your feedback if this information has been helpful to you.  Peace and increase!!

When it comes to Real Estate, Think Hurst First!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Welcome the Millennials! | Your Old Methods of Marketing Suck!

It first started with the "Baby Boomers".  They were a generation of people born in the post world war II era, roughly between the years of 1946-1964.  They were a people group who grew older and began to completely dominate and influence a culture - from fashion decisions, to political views, to purchasing decisions, to marketing messaging.  However, recently, this Baby Boomer generation has begun to retire, pass away and, put quite simply, have decreased in population and influence.  Then, there was "Generation X", which didn't have much of an identity……. and quite frankly, I can't define them either so lets move on.  Enter: "Generation Y", or  more affectionately known as, "The Millennials." This generation, much like the Baby Boomers, has become the most dominant portion of our population and they are expanding.  And, like the Baby Boomers, they are changing the way we dress, the way we market, our political and cultural views and, most importantly, the way we communicate.  As it pertains to real estate, they have even become the largest group of home buyers.  So, in case you haven't gotten the memo, your old methods of marketing to them and communicating with them, most likely, SUCK!  It's the equivalent to being The Flintstones living amongst the Jetsons. And, newsflash, it's "not so easy, a caveman can do it."  So if you're not partaking in this huge paradigm shift, then you're on your way to losing… especially in the real estate market.  So let's define this people group, shall we?

The Pew Research Center released a report in March of 2014 which defines The Millennials as a generation that is disconnected from "the institution", has a strong sense of community and are extremely socially aware.  Most reports concur that they encompass individuals born between the years of 1981 and 2000 (ironically, I am considered a "Millennial"… I don't know, I found that interesting.)  They are also referred to as "Generation Me" because of the strong sense of entitlement and narcissim (But, that's so not me though.. just thought I'd clear that up.)

The NAR (National Association of Realtors) released a very intriguing report about the impact of The Millennials on the homeownership market and here's what they found:

Largest share of home buyers at 31% and smallest share of home sellers at 12%
  • 76% are first-time buyers
  • Buying primarily for desire to own a home
  • 19% live in urban areas—largest share amongst the generations
  • Biggest neighborhood influencers: quality of neighborhood and convenience to job
  • Commuting costs are very important to 37% of Gen Y buyers
  • Plan to live in home 10 years
  • 74% say biggest benefit from an agent is helping them understand the process
  • 20% had a difficult time saving for a downpayment à among them 56% said student loan debt delayed saving
  • 17% had to stall home sale because their home was worth less than their mortgage
  • Most likely to think their home is a good financial investment: 87%  
So now, the next question is: if they represent the largest opportunity for the housing market, what are the best ways to reach and communicate with the Millennials?  Newsflash: Your Old Methods Won't Work Anymore!! Here are a few key avenues of communication that you will have to implement and master in order to stand out with The Millennials:

1. You must make your marketing and content dissemination "Mobile Device Friendly":  Just from 2012-2013, web content access via mobile devices went from 18% to 27% and it is growing rapidly!  And because we live in a rapid, "microwave" society, if your content can not be easily accessed and read on these devices, you will be quickly ostracized and blacklisted by this sect of people.

2. They are beginning to prefer Instant Messaging and Texting to Phone Calls: According to the Pew Research Center, some 83% of American adults own cell phones and three-quarters of them (73%) send and receive text messages. When asked how they prefer to be contacted on their cell phone, research found that 31% said they preferred texts to talking on the phone, while 53% said they preferred a voice call to a text message. Another 14% said the contact method they prefer depends on the situation.  And, as texting becomes progressively easier, expect it to continue it's rapid growth trend among Millennials.

3. Use the Convenience of File Sharing: Bloated servers and crowded inboxes are issues that have infected all organizations. Infocentric Research recently deemed searching for files through the wastelands of old documents to be the biggest time waster. File sharing platforms are one of the first significant technological achievements developed by The Millenials, with many being launched at the beginning of last decade. Consider using these platforms for sharing large files: We Transfer and SendSpace.  And for online files storage, these are generally accepted medium: Google Drive and DropBox. All of these medium are generally free, but may incur fees depending on huge sizes.

4. Must have a strong, multi-platform Social Media presence: We've all seen the ridiculous statistics about the billions of people on the Big 3 social medium: Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.  However, there are some other medium that are growing astronomically to be considered major players such as Pinterest, Instagram, Linked-in and Google Plus.  Consider social media presence as a huge cocktail party where you can meet anyone you want to know and communicate with them at anytime.  How cool would it be to go to hundreds of networking events and build relationships with key buyers and influencers on a daily basis?….. wait for it….. wait for it.... THIS IS IT!!! Whether you think it's dumb or not, you need be here and you need to interact with the people regularly. It's a prime opportunity to brand yourself, frequently touch your market, and most importantly, listen to your customers.  And if your challenge is the consistency of posting and having a presence on all of these medium, no sweat!! There are some great multi-platform sharing apps that will allow you to not only share content across multiple platforms, but they also allow you to auto-schedule your posts for the optimal times of viewing by readers on that medium!  Try these: HootSuite, EveryPost, Buffer, and Feedly.

Contact me if you have further questions or need anymore information.  I also love to hear your feedback if this information has been helpful to you.  Peace and increase!!

When it comes to Real Estate, Think Hurst First!