Monday, December 1, 2014

Our First Year Rebranded...

Or alternatively, Berkshire Hathaway Home Services… you had me at "Hello!"

OK, maybe not at "Hello." I was a bit weary after the last time our office had been rebranded (somewhat reluctantly) back in 2005, but as I had stated in a previous post, this transition went SO smoothly.  So to revise my statement, you had me at the transition!

BHHS Swag goes nicely with my French Market Basket!
Part of what made it an amazing year has to be how it started with a transition that I would describe as positive energy that was welcoming,  renewing and reigniting even!  Now this may have been specific to my 2 offices, but our theme for the year was the Year of Happiness.  On a larger scale, looking at our year, I think it was also a year of investment in our agents & offices.

People in town (as well as other agents) have asked me what it's been like, becoming BHHS.  From my perspective, I saw big improvements in our technology, training & education, online leads, new agent support, and even office culture.  Briefly, here's how:

The technology the company has introduced this year has been a tremendous help in making our transactions more seamless and our day to day work easier. There's been a learning curve, but they've offered so many training & education opportunities to help us through it.  Honestly, I couldn't be happier about it.

Training & educational activities are more than plentiful, and we don't necessarily have to travel to our corporate offices for it.  There's a mix of live classes, webinars, social media classes, tech and basics of real estate going on at all times.  If you need help with something, they will get it for you.

I don't have to pay separately for my portal (like leads and inquiries come directly to me now.  I know some of the other big brokerages were already doing this and I'm happy we're now one of them.

Responding to Web Inquiries!

There's a formal Mentor program and our new agents aren't left to figure things out for themselves so much anymore - they're getting the full support they need through training and special weekly sessions with seasoned agents, plus the benefit of a mentor who works with them through transactions.  Also, we have a really supportive office and pretty much every agent is willing to help new agents when they need it. (Just the other day a new agent was out showing houses and couldn't get a lockbox to open - 3 agents in the office (myself included) jumped up to drive over and help him.  Now THAT's a supportive office!  My office family rocks.  

That brings me to the office culture.  The biggest change I've seen is how much our office has GROWN since becoming Berkshire Hathaway Home Services. We've had so many more new agents joining us, and and they're succeeding!  It's refreshing to have excited, hungry-for-business agents zipping around the office.  Since becoming BHHS, we've also had some of the perks come back to the office, like office coffee, which had been taken away when we were Prudential (and believe me when I tell you that had NOT gone over very well!)   Also, in what might be the best office news second to the return of coffee, our office is MOVING to a brand new construction site in 4 weeks, and it will be modern & open and in a mixed-use development.  We're all SO excited about it!

Photo by Carl Guild, who is pictured with me below at the launch party.
We're also very engaged with the brand in a way that we weren't before.  I think it's partially through social media marketing efforts both nationally and locally here in CT & RI, but it's on a whole new level than it was.  Kudos to our social media directors, communications and PR teams. I had the honor of being a brand ambassador at our launch event and it was a blast.

So, a year later, and the public recognizes our brand.  Personally, I'm proud of the brand and of our offices.  Thanks to our many events and even social media, I feel connected to agents I didn't know before, and even to other BHHS offices across the country due to interacting with our REthink Council.

We're in a good place, and it just keeps getting better.  Sincerest thanks to our leadership for bringing us here.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Break Out Stars!

I've been using the term "Break Out Star" lately.  You know, as in, the sweet girl who sang as Mrs. Potts in last week's performance of Beauty & The Beast was (for me) the break out star of the show - I had never heard her sing before and she nailed it - knocked my socks off and made me cry.

The Break Out Star of my early Summer garden is Organic Vates Kale, by High Mowing Organic Seeds in Wolcott, VT!  I've had kale before, but never got terribly excited about it.  Until now.

Is it because I've never grown my own kale before?  Maybe.  Maybe freshly picked is what makes it so much better.  This particular variety of kale is a dwarf curly kale baby leaf with dark blue-green leaves.  It may even overwinter!  I like it so much that I'm on the search for more seeds.  I originally picked these up at Whole Foods and thought I'd give them a try.  Easily my favorite new vegetable in the garden this year.  I tend to prepare it the same ways I use spinach - in salads and sautéed with garlic, cooked with sausage, and I'm ready to make a go at crispy baked kale chips!

EAT MORE has recipes I'll be turning to since I have lots of gorgeous baby kale just waiting to be picked.  I've always liked their catchy slogan!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Becoming Part of the Community

How I Found "Home" in my Community

As a Realtor® I talk to a lot of people making a move to a new community.  I've been there with big moves as both a child and as an adult.   I know firsthand how intimidating it can be to start over in a town where you don't know anyone.

I moved to our small town 15 years ago, but continued to carry on every aspect of my old life working in a city and spending all of my time still in my old suburb with my friends & family. The move "to the country" where I didn't know anyone other than my husband and his family was an adjustment I wasn't making very well and to be honest I had a hard time at first.  This wasn't home to me.  As a (kind of) Third Culture Kid who had split my childhood between two different countries, I was used to not being sure which place was home, but now I was an adult and looking for something concrete.  I had to jump in head first and discover what would bind me to this town and find my place in the community.

First I left my job in West Hartford to start a new career in real estate in East Hampton.  I couldn't think of that many jobs at the time that would allow me to work in this town, other than working from home but that would defeat the point.  Real Estate was the perfect choice - I learned so much about the town and explored every street and neighborhood.  It wasn't long before I knew the area better than even some of the long-time residents, and a gained a new group of work friends who would eventually feel like family to me.

Next I looked into several community groups based on my interests.  The most exciting group I belonged to was the Junior Women's Club, an amazing group of women who organized so many community events and were deeply committed to doing good things.  I tried out the Gardening Club, which I was really looking forward to joining, but at that time in history the group was a little too clicky/catty for me and after just 1 meeting of feeling completely unwelcome, I decided not to go back.  (For the record, I heard it got better a few years later.)   Joining the historical society was something my husband and I did together, and we were welcomed by a sweet group of mostly senior citizens and a few historians who shared their knowledge and stories and artifacts to help give me a sense of my town's past.  They're a wonderful, dedicated group and a fantastic resource to this community.  My husband also got involved in local politics, where we got to know other families both old and new to town and all passionate about making a difference.

Then babies came along, and I met a whole new group of people in playgroups and at the public library where they had wonderful children's programs.  Pre-School meant more new faces, then later elementary school, and later soccer and theatre clubs, etc, etc.  Joining a local gym meant bonding while making silly faces during pilates class with other women struggling to do "just one more rep," giggling through a Zumba class, and all of us participating in a super fun flash mob event!

It was perhaps finally through my children being enrolled in the school system, being involved in PTO events, in school sports, in the many excellent arts programs we are so fortunate to have here, and also through all the friends I've made along the way, that I finally feel completely at home in the community.  It was days of walking down MainStreet to our weekend-long fair "Old Home Day" to manning booths and holding my child on the carousel, evenings spent on picnic blankets at the town gazebo listening to live concerts, welcome home ceremonies for returning soldiers where we held signs of support while I wiped away tears, early mornings at the farmer's market, freezing nights cheering on the soccer field, watching parades, standing backstage helping 50 kids into costumes with other theatre parents, neighborhood Christmas caroling parties and visits from Santa on the fire truck, Earth Day cleanups in the village and at the lake… it's through so many little things that I found my sense of community without having any previous roots of my own here.

So thanks to all of the wonderful, friendly people of this little town who helped to make me feel welcome and who continue to do the same for other newcomers.  These people aren't unique to East Hampton - they're everywhere, and they'll help you feel welcome in your new hometown as well!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Super Happy Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day my Friends!

Things that made me happy this morning:

- Breakfast of crêpes fresh from France with Nutella and coffee!
- 2 out of 3 kids made it to the bus on time after 10 days of Spring vacation!
- Asparagus spears popping out of the ground in my garden!
- A busy real estate work schedule with a "Social Media Roundtable" discussion thrown in the mix!
- Laptoplunches is having a 15% off Earth Day sale (use code ED15) & I need just a few Bento items!
- Remembering I have organic seed packs in my purse!
- These reading materials:

So, how am I celebrating Earth Day 2014 you ask?  Squeezing it in between a full day of work, tennis practice for one kid, play rehearsal and soccer for another, and a Board of Education sub-committee meeting for hubby….this is going to be tricky!  If the rain holds off, the little ones are doing a trash walk, we'll bring out the planters from the basement and put them out to dress up the terrace, and maybe put up the screen house to enjoy dinners on the terrace.  Dinner will be an organic meal with fish - the children have been waiting for hubby to get home from France so he can cook up a fabulous fish dinner for them! I wish we had time for a nature walk or more, but there aren't enough hours in the day (or week, for that matter.) We may start another round of seeds for the garden too.  I know, it's the little things...

Thursday, March 13, 2014

My First High Mowing Seeds

Despite the fact that we still had a good foot of snow on the ground a few weeks ago, I went out in search of garden seeds.  With Spring just around the corner, things have to warm up eventually, right?

I did some research into organic seed companies and found a website that I liked but hadn't ordered from before - High Mowing Seeds, out of Wolcott, VT.  When I searched if I could buy the seeds locally, I found that Whole Foods a few towns over carried them.  They had a nice selection, and these are the ones I brought home:

I also found an article I liked about the company over at a website called A Way To Garden.  The article is really informative and has a Q&A with the founder, Tom Stearns.  I enjoyed it.  You can read it HERE.  

Next order of business is getting my onion & shallot sets!  (Even if there's still too much snow in my garden and the ground is frozen because it's 20F out there!)

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Earth Day 2014 - Greening Our Communities

This year's Earth Day is only about 6 weeks away.  This year's Earth Day theme is Green Cities, or Greening Our Communities (for those of us non-city dwellers.)   I have to say I really like this theme!  If half of the Earth's population is urban, then it makes sense to focus on improving those areas.

So, do you have plans for any Earth Day-related event?  If you haven't looked into it yet, it's time to find out what's going on in your community... or if there isn't an event planned, you might just have time to head up an event of your own!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Feeling the Love at My GREEN Life and Real Estate

A few days ago I celebrated my 3rd Anniversary writing for REALTOR® Magazine's YPN blog, called YPN Lounge.  (YPN stands for Young Professionals Network.) I can't believe it's been that long already!  Lately I've been feeling a lot of love from the readers there, getting loads of comments, emails,  tweets, Facebook friend requests and most recently, old-fashioned fan mail.  The kind the post office delivers!

The last package contained a really sweet note card with a note about how much this man had enjoyed my last article, and a copy of his book, What'$ Your Rate?, which is a guide to real estate for first-time home buyers!  I've only started reading it, but the thing I like about it is that it's about planning your financial future by building your "Core 7" team.  I am all about planning and I have a few members of my team secured already, but there are a few aspects I hadn't put enough time into.  According to the book, the 7 members of your financial team are: Real Estate Agent, Mortgage Originator, Financial Advisor, Real Estate Attorney, Property & Casualty Insurance Agent, Accountant, and Estate Planning Attorney.  I work with several of these professionals!  I love the team approach, and once I find the right "teammates" I'm very loyal to them.  Thanks Mark Maiocca for sending me this read!

I'm awaiting my new writing schedule from REALTOR® Magazine and looking forward to another new opportunity as I've been asked to write for the Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Rethink Report, which is the blog for the BHHS ReThink Council.  Technically, I've aged out of the group (I know - 40 is SOOOO old, right?  Haha!) but I'm honored to be asked to contribute.  

I was also feeling the LOVE yesterday when Carl Guild and I organized a Broker House Tour in East Hampton with a Valentine's theme.  We called it the Sweetheart Homes Tour and Carl rented a 12 passenger van which we decorated with valentines messages and hearts and played a "love" mixed CD with Barry White songs.  It was a BLAST with 16 agents and 11 homes toured plus a delicious lunch at the last house!  We even met a few new faces!  Great feedback from the agents and a successful event!  Click HERE to see the 30 second flipagram video wrap up of our morning.  Here we are in front of the "Love Bus!" 

Happy Valentine's Day from My GREEN Life and Real Estate ♥ I hope you're all feeling the LOVE!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Farm To Table in Winter?

Friends recently called and asked if we wanted to go to dinner downtown.  On a school night.  While my initial reaction was that we're not "cool" enough to go downtown on a school night, I'm really glad we did!

The restaurant they picked was Firebox, a Farm To Table restaurant that uses locally-sourced ingredients and is located adjacent to Hartford's Billings Forge Farmer's Market.  Bonus that they had a parking lot with an attendant.  The restaurant is located in "Frog Hollow" which is considered Hartford's most New York-style urban neighborhood and includes Olmsted-designed Pope Park.

The atmosphere was very hip: exposed brick, interesting light fixtures, wooden beams, candles in small Mason jars, blackboards, and walls of bottles of wine.  There's a tavern room, a small room, and the larger dining room in the back, complete with a fireplace and warm, intimate ambiance.

So what could they offer as Farm To Table on a very cold & dark Winter's night?  Plenty!  There was a nice selection of seafood for starters and gorgeous cheese plates from Cato Corner, Colchester.  Between us we ordered from the Taste of Hartford Prix-Fixe menu and tried the meat terrines, market greens salad, a roasted root vegetable soup, grilled char, winter braised pork stew with melt-in-your-mouth root vegetables, calamari and kale, homemade bread, chocolate cherry bread pudding with pistachios, and a cheese plate to take home. It was ALL delicious!  No exaggeration.

We started out in the tavern with drinks as we waited for the dining room to be ready, and perused the wine list and happy hour specials.  Apparently there's live music some nights and they also host events for social clubs and parties like the wedding they have set up in the photo above. The place was buzzing even for 5:30 on a Wednesday, and in the blink of an eye 3 hours had gone by as we enjoyed our meal and dinner conversation.  Our overall feeling was that it was a relaxing, inviting place that we'll definitely come back to.  In fact, I'd head back there tonight if I had the time and try out the Tavern menu because I can't stop thinking about the gorgeous burger a waiter walked past me last night. Also I need to try out their brunch menu!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

I Dream of Houses...

I remember my early days in Real Estate, where I was building my business, working 80+  hours per week and showing house after house after house.  My husband would tell me when we woke up in the mornings that I'd been talking in my sleep, giving house tours!  I specifically remember one morning he woke me up laughing, asking me to tell him more about the "cute ranch with the fireplace and the sunroom!"

I can't help it.  I LOVE houses.  I still dream about them.  Only now I sometimes dream about houses I create in my dreams.  There's a beach house that keeps coming back, and recently in my dreams I saw a rustic almost-tree house overlooking water & mountains in the Pacific Northwest.  I can't help but wonder if these places exist and if one day I'll walk in and recognize them…

This is probably one of the many reasons why I love to rent houses, villas, and flats when we travel.  I put a lot of thought & research into what I want in a home, especially a vacation one, so that it becomes a wonderful part of the memory of place.  Life is too short to make it anything but wonderful, right?  Here are just a few of the places we've been fortunate to call home while away…

There's nothing like really putting yourself in situ to get the feel of a neighborhood, shopping at the local market, eating at the local pub and strolling in the local parks…

I'm searching for homes to call home again right now.  I look for local rental or letting agencies, which I find from reading local papers or magazines online, and I've also had great luck with, or getting recommendations from friends.  There are several home exchange websites to check as well, as some of them have listings where the owners are willing to rent instead of just exchanging.

A lot of people also come to me to ask advice on travel with children and renting properties abroad.  I'm happy to chat if you're looking for help!  Just leave a comment below.

Friday, January 3, 2014

31 Things in 31 Days - My New Year's Work Boost!

With this icy, snowy weather we're having at the start of the New Year, it's too easy for me to justify sitting by the fire with a cup of tea and just working my way through my daily work checklist.  I know there is more I could do, and I  know that how I start my year sets the tone for the rest…and with 2 snow days to kick off 2014, I've had time to come up with a revised plan.

Enter a work/productivity booster.  31 Things in 31 Days.  It's not a new or original idea. Trulia is running a challenge/sweepstake on the same subject.  I've used a similar list for things like housework and cooking (and once for exercise, which didn't work out - haha!) but I hadn't formally applied it to to real estate until today.  I read a few different real estate websites to find ideas for new things to supplement my checklist & calendar.  There are so many articles, blogs and websites offering ideas.  Just doing the research inspired me!

There are a lot of great things you can add to your January 31 Things List to help start the year strong.  My list covers several real estate-related categories that I already work on, but is broken down into very specific tasks in these categories: communication, social media, education, follow-up, writing, growth and networking. Everyone's list will be different based on their own business plan or style or even experience.  Once I got the ideas flowing, I actually came up with MORE than 31 ideas to add to my list!  (What about taking a day off?  Yes, I've got that covered.  I am hoping for a whopping 3 days off this month, and I've scheduled those days' tasks on other days, in order to keep the 31 as a total.)  Some  tasks will take longer than others, but it's a kick-ass list, and it's all about accountability.  Accountability in real estate is a big deal to me.  I'm really excited about it!  It may very well lead to a "28 Things in 28 Days for February!"