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The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many REALTORS® to quickly transition to the digital age and a new era of video conferencing and online meetings using tools like Zoom, Skype, Facetime Live, Microsoft Teams and many others.

It is important to remember even as we all work from home, the video conference meetings we attend are professional meetings, and participants should practice good video meeting etiquette.

Here are some best practices for online video conference meetings from Zoom and other resources:
1. Save your invitation confirmation, which provides the meeting ID number, password, and a link to the meeting that is unique to you. It cannot be replaced. Do not share invitation links with others.

2. Download the Zoom or whatever conference app you plan to use. Sign in and familiarize yourself with the audio and video settings. You can do a test to see how you look in the camera and test the audio.

3. Find a quiet place without background noise, where you won’t be distracted or interrupted by a television, phone calls, barking dogs, etc.

4. When you are let in by the host, click “Join Audio” so you can hear speaker. Do not interrupt the meeting to let the whole group know that you can’t hear, or can’t see the person on the screen.

5. Make sure you have a work-appropriate background. Nobody wants to see your bedroom or personal collections! You want participants to focus on the meeting and not on your background. Better yet, use Zoom’s virtual background feature to eliminate background distractions. Avoid backlight from bright windows.

6. Use the video option when possible as it gives you a greater presence at the meeting. If you are using you mobile phone, for security reasons add your name instead of your phone number, so the host and other participants can identify you.

7. Don’t look sloppy. Dress for your audience. Your outfit should match the expectations of your audience. Be professional-looking. Use a professional photo in place of video if you are not appropriately dressed.

8. Join the meeting early, at least 3-5 minutes before the start of the meeting. Be patient and wait until the host lets you in.

9. Mute your microphone when you’re not called on to speak.

10. Do not interrupt the speaker. Use the chat function to ask questions. And don’t be rude in the chat. Everyone can see the chat box, even the speaker!

11. Be aware that you are on camera. Stop looking at yourself, avoid doing other tasks like checking emails, looking at your phone, or worse yet, snoozing. Look into the camera when talking instead of looking at yourself.

12. If you need to go the bathroom while on a Zoom call, do not forget to turn off your video and audio. You don’t want everyone to remember you brushing your teeth and gargling, or flushing the toilet, because they will!

June is National Homeownership Month, a time to recognize the value of homeownership. Owning a home is more than an address. When you invest in homeownership: you build financial stability, gain the freedom to create a home that fits your lifestyle, and play a role in strengthening your community.

Since Americans have been forced to shelter in their place of residence due to the coronavirus pandemic, the home has come out on top. Families are discovering their home and improvements they can make. Homeownership has mattered even more to prospective buyers.

“The home is now not just a place to live, but also a place to work,” said Mary Kay Groth, president of the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® (SILVAR) and a REALTOR® with Sereno Group. “With more companies allowing their employees to work remotely, surveys show a growing trend in buyer preferences to expand their home search farther from the city to places with more open space and for larger homes with a dedicated space for a home office.”

The social benefits of homeownership are many. Homeowners move far less frequently than renters, making it easier to build community networks and support systems. This results in a higher membership in voluntary organizations, greater social interaction in their communities, better school performance by children living in owned homes, a higher rate of high school graduation and higher earning, and better physical, psychological and emotional health outcomes.

The pandemic has caused a drop in home sales, but it has not brought transactions to an absolute halt. In fact, market activity has grown in the past month as REALTORS® embrace technology to help their clients achieve their dream of homeownership. Since traditional open houses are banned, SILVAR REALTORS® like Mary Jo McCarthy are holding open houses virtually.

McCarthy, a REALTOR® with Golden Gate Sotheby’s International Realty, recently told SILVAR members, “It’s the path that we’re in, so I felt I have to learn it. I’m in the weeds right now and just figuring out how to navigate, but it shows my clients that I’m moving ahead with technology.”

In-person showings are allowed now, but with only three persons – two from the same household and the agent. Health and safety restrictions must be followed. Mitra Lahidji, a REALTOR® with Compass, described the process. “We kept a 6-foot distance from each other, we had face masks and gloves. I gave booties to my clients, two persons only, and then wiped the areas we touched.”

“We are so fortunate technology has allowed us to be in touch ‘face to face’ with our clients,” said Groth. “For now, the best value we can give our clients is to know our marketplace so every buyer who wants to achieve their dream of homeownership can, and to also be a voice of calm and assurance when they are feeling overwhelmed with all that is happening around us.”

The National Association of REALTORS® is celebrating the new era of homeownership and recognizing the people, policies, and programs that are #CreatingHome now and into the future. Visit https://homeownershipmatters.realtor/homeownership-month-2020/ for homeowner stories and expert advice.

There is a bright spot to the coronavirus pandemic, and that is the rise in adoption and foster applications in animal rescue and shelter facilities. In fact, some shelters have happily announced they are empty, while others like the Silicon Valley Humane Society, have announced due to overwhelming adoption demand, they have temporarily paused their adoption appointment sign-up for dogs and are only taking adoption appointments for those interested in meeting cats, rabbits, and pocket pets and even these appointments are filling up quickly.

“In this unprecedented time of shelter-in-place and social distancing, many individuals and families long for a little companionship,” said Mary Kay Groth, president of the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS®. “If you were planning to adopt a pet before the coronavirus pandemic, now could be a great time to take that step. More time at home means more time to bond with your new pet and work with them on training.”

According to the National Association of REALTORS® “2020 Animal House: Pets in the Home Buying and Selling Process” report, 66 percent of U.S. households currently have a pet or plan to get one in the future, proving that pets and their effects on a home, must be considered for a majority of households. Additionally, 43 percent of households would be willing to move to better accommodate their pet(s), demonstrating that this is a priority among consumers. A small percentage, one percent, of recent homebuyers said they were prompted to make their purchase by the desire for a better home for their pet(s). When searching for a new home, 18 percent of recent homebuyers said it was very important that their new neighborhood is convenient to a vet and/or outdoor space for their pet(s).

Within the past year, a median of 38 percent of REALTORS®’ clients have owned a pet, companion animal, or service animal; and 18 percent of REALTORS® have represented clients that have moved solely for their animal. When finding a home for their clients, the most important feature for REALTORS®’ clients in terms of their animals’ situation is a fenced yard. This was followed by a large enough home for the household and pet, and flooring.

Pets also come into play when REALTORS® work with sellers. The most common pet-related advice REALTORS® give their seller clients is take the animal(s) out of the home during showings and replace anything damaged by the pet(s). Eighty percent of Realtors recommend that their clients remove pets during showings when selling their home.

Groth cautions families not to adopt a pet just because they are home during the coronavirus pandemic. “The pandemic and our shelter-in-place orders won’t last forever,” said Groth. “Before you adopt a pet, consider how much time you will have to care for a dog, now and post-pandemic, is your job secure enough to afford pet-related expenses, does your current place of residence have space for a pet or, if you’re renting, does your landlord allow pets? Will you have the time and energy to commit to training your dog? These are important questions to consider.”

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