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NextHomie of the Month for February 2019: Jenny Walton

NextHomie of the Month for February 2019: Jenny Walton

Our February NextHomie of the Month has brought to us a sea of enthusiasm, a field of passion, a cloud of positivity, and a giant ball of energy. These characteristics belong to the one and only Jenny Walton of NextHome Kel Mitchell in Huntsville, Alabama!

There’s nothing Jenny can’t tackle once she sets her mind to it. “She is selfless, enthusiastic, a dreamer, and a cheerleader,” said Kelvin Mitchell, Jenny’s broker. “Jenny is the ultimate example of a servant leader. I am amazed at her work ethic and ability to juggle multiple tasks and transactions so effortlessly,” added Kelvin.

For Jenny, that’s just who she is. “I’m a single mom and I’ve raised my daughter in real estate and I want to be a role model for my daughter, for women and for other people who think they can’t do it all as a single parent and still be successful,” said Jenny.

Jenny’s daughter, Ella Rose (6), taught her early on that she had to focus when it comes to the real estate business. “You can get distracted and let this business consume you,” said Jenny. “It’s a balance.”

That balance is also how Jenny found her success. “To me, success is happiness. It’s being able to help others, it’s being mindful and enjoying your life and enjoying the people you love.”

Jenny’s real estate journey started while working at several marketing companies and led to working at an attorney’s office. In 2010 she began her journey into real estate as she found a home builder who offered her the opportunity to sit at his model homes on the weekends. Jenny eventually found a full-time position sitting on-site for some of Huntsville’s top builders.

Ella Rose came along in 2012, and although Jenny’s passion lies in new construction, she realized that lifestyle would not allow her the flexibility she needed to raise her daughter, so she reached out to high school classmate Kelvin Mitchell. Jenny left her other positions behind and joined Kelvin’s NextHome office in 2015.

Today, Jenny is both a working REALTOR® and NextHome Kel Mitchell’s Marketing Director where her and Kelvin have been thrilled to work together.

“Jenny consistently goes above and beyond for her clients as well as her fellow NextHome agents,” said Kelvin. “Jenny recently organized an event to feed the homeless. We put together care boxes that included food, hand warmers, socks, toothpaste, and essentials. We were able to bless 80 homeless people because of her vision.”

To Jenny Walton, that’s all in a day’s work.

“Always persevere,” said Jenny. “Always do the thing you fear most because on the other side of fear is success.”

Bent on focusing her life on her two main passions – Ella Rose and Real Estate – Jenny started a networking group called “Coffee is for Closers” which meets Wednesday mornings, right after she drops off Ella Rose at school.

Whether it be her networking group, her daughter, or her real estate clients, Jenny understands what every person wants out of life. “Life is about connections, about connecting with people. For me, being a REALTOR® means I’m able to be a part of one of the most important times of my clients’ lives, and I get their trust to help me navigate them through it.”

That sense of trust, passion, and positivity is what drew Jenny to NextHome.

“To be a NextHomie means putting people first, helping others and reaching out when others need you,” said Jenny. “It means being an ambassador for your company.”

Even today, Jenny still marvels at what she sees unfolding in front of her. “For NextHome, it’s the people, the culture, the tools, and technology,” she added. “No matter how big we’ve grown, we still have that sense of family and community.”

If there is anyone who understands real estate and family, it’s Jenny Walton. We’re thrilled to recognize her as our NextHomie of the Month.

NextHome Named No. 4 Franchise in the Country for 2019

NextHome Named No. 4 Franchise in the Country for 2019

Pleasanton, California — Feb. 27, 2019 — NextHome was recently named the No. 4 top franchise in 2019 by Franchise Business Review, out of 310 of the country’s top franchise brands. It is the latest accomplishment for the progressive real estate franchise, which is known for consumer-focused branding, technology and marketing that empower its brokers and agents to provide superior service without compromise.

“Our 2019 Franchisee Satisfaction Award winners are among the best in franchising,” said Eric Stites, CEO of Franchise Business Review. “For NextHome to be ranked in the Top 5 by Franchise Business Review places them in very elite company. This award speaks volumes of the quality of the company, the team, and the franchise opportunity they have built.”

Franchise Business Review, a franchise market research firm that performs independent surveys of franchisee satisfaction, provides the only rankings and awards based solely on actual franchisee satisfaction and performance. Franchise Business Review announced the new rankings during the International Franchise Association’s Annual Convention where NextHome’s official position, ranking fourth in the country, was revealed.

Founded in 2014, NextHome has been committed to changing the way consumers work with local agents and adapting to the modern real estate landscape to meet the everchanging needs of agents and clients altogether.

The company is among 310 franchise brands, representing over 30,000 owners, that participated in Franchise Business Review’s research. Franchisees of each brand were surveyed on 33 benchmark questions about their experience and satisfaction regarding critical areas of their franchise systems, including training and support, operations, franchisor/franchisee relations, and financial opportunity.

“Our leadership team is deeply moved by the exceptionally positive findings of this survey. Our franchisees’ transparent acknowledgments emphasize that we are truly doing our part in meeting the needs and expectations of our members,” said NextHome CEO, James Dwiggins. “Being recognized as one of the top 4 franchise brands in the country when we launched less than 5 years ago is a great milestone for NextHome. This acknowledgment inspires us to continue investing in our members and seeing where we can take this incredible culture.”

For additional information about NextHome, visit:


NextHomie of the Month for January 2019: Joe Montoya

NextHomie of the Month for January 2019: Joe Montoya

Sometimes all it takes is a “regular Joe” to have a profound impact on the lives of hundreds of people. Such is the case with Joe Montoya of the Sacramento area’s NextHome Select and our January 2019 NextHomie of the Month.

When people are in need, Joe gets rolling. “Never go to help empty handed,” Joe said in a recent interview.

“Joe’s inspiring,” said Tiffany Lewis, broker/owner of NextHome Select along with her husband, Jason. “He’d give you the shirt off his back. I was at a party at Joe’s home recently and past clients of his told me they could have lived anywhere, but they picked a house near Joe so they could be closer to him.”

Joe’s story is about one man deciding to step up.

Joe and his wife, Julie, had taken some time off and were vacationing in the Paradise, CA area when her brother showed up in his truck and said the authorities wouldn’t let him go back to his house. They didn’t know it at the moment, but Julie’s brother’s house had been destroyed and his dog killed in the wildfires that recently raged through the Paradise area. By that time, thousands of people had been displaced and many were living in a makeshift campground in a Wal-Mart parking lot.

That was all Joe needed to hear. He headed home where Joe and Julie cut up meat and vegetables and made pounds and pounds of hot posole stew. He loaded it into his burner stove on his truck and took off for Paradise.

“It was getting colder and colder up there,” Joe said. “We just had to do something.”

When he arrived, Joe was amazed at the scene –  the parking lot was already packed with people, tents, and vehicles.

“But just as we arrived, one car just happened to pull out and we pulled right into that spot,” Joe said. And when the word got out, there was almost immediately a long line behind Joe’s truck.

“One guy told me the people there hadn’t had a hot meal in over a week,” Joe said. Most of the donated food items were non-perishable items such as jerky, canned goods, or snacks. With the declining temperatures, they needed a hot and heavy meal.

That afternoon, Joe and Julie served over 300 people – until all the posole was gone.

“I can still see all those faces in need and how cold they looked and …,” Joe said, his voice cracking and going silent for a moment as he recalled that day.

But according to Tiffany, this selfless act is just who Joe Montoya is – and why the Culture Committee easily selected Joe as our NextHomie of the Month.

“Joe’s language of love is food,” Tiffany said. “I haven’t known him for a long time, but what I do know is he is our kind of people – personable, fun-loving, passionate for what he does, and completely dedicated to his clients.”    

Joe has been licensed since 1993. For a few years he worked for Realty World Northern California & Nevada where he met two “geeky, tech guys” by the names of James Dwiggins (NextHome’s CEO) and Tei Baishiki (NextHome’s Chief Operating Officer).

“They were just the guys who fixed my computer when I had a problem,” Joe said with a laugh.

Fast forward, Joe was treading water in his real estate career. He had married Julie and they moved from Tracy, CA to Roseville, CA.

“I was in this room and sitting at this conference table and I remember just thumbing through this white book and I was stunned,” Joe said, remembering the first time he flipped through a NextHome presentation book. “As I flipped through that book, I saw the two guys who used to fix my computer. I knew I needed to be branded and what James and Tei were offering was clean and looked like the perfect way to go to me.”

And today, Joe is home at NextHome Select.

“I feel at home,” Joe said. “This place is tailor-made for me. I list a home and I get an email with all my marketing materials done for me. I am a servant of others and so is this company. They operate from a servant mentality and they always have my needs in mind.”

Just like Joe had in mind the needs of hundreds of people in Paradise, CA who hadn’t met him or enjoyed a hot meal in over a week – until Joe Montoya and his truck pulled in.

$33.3 Trillion Housing Market Up 49% Since 2012 – A Third of the Gain From California

$33.3 Trillion Housing Market Up 49% Since 2012 – A Third of the Gain From California

  • The total value of the U.S. housing market rose $1.9 trillion in 2018 to $33.3 trillion.
  • A third of the market’s $10.9 trillion gain since its housing-bust low in 2012 has come from California.
  • The New York metro area’s $3 trillion in value makes it the most valuable market in the country, representing 9.1 percent of the country’s total value.

The value of the U.S. housing market continues to climb, gaining 6.2 percent in 2018 to reach a total value of $33.3 trillion. That’s up $10.9 billion from the bottom of the market in 2012 – and a third of the gain has come in California. The Golden State’s value has climbed $3.7 trillion since February 2012, the nation’s housing-crash low. No other state has gained more than $1 trillion in that same span.

The total value of all homes in the New York metro is the highest among metros analyzed, at $3 trillion – on its own accounting for 9.1 percent of the country’s total housing value. Four of the country’s 10 most valuable markets are in California: Los Angeles, which rose 5.2 percent to $2.9 trillion; San Francisco, up 9.3 percent to $1.6 trillion; San Jose, which gained 10.4 percent to $799.6 billion and San Diego, up 3.4 percent to $673.5 billion.

The housing stock in some pricey metro areas is so valuable, in fact, that the total value in one market often eclipses that of all housing in an entire state. For example, all homes in the Washington, D.C. metro are worth a combined $892 billion – which is more than the values of all homes in 40 individual states, including Colorado ($833.8 billion), Arizona ($708.1 billion), Ohio ($695 billion) and Oregon ($451.8 billion).

These numbers are so gargantuan that it’s tricky to put them in perspective. For example, even the total cinematic earnings from top 10 highest-grossing movies of all time – including Avatar, Titanic, three Avengers movies, Black Panther and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – total $17.9 billion, a drop in the housing market bucket. And Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ net worth of $160 billion is still only about half Detroit’s $314.9 billion housing value.

Better comparisons come from the gross domestic products of entire nations. The U.S. total housing value of $33.3 trillion is equivalent to the combined GDPs of the United States ($19.4 trillion), China ($12.2 trillion) and Canada ($1.7 trillion).

Even individual metros dwarf entire countries’ economies.

For more helpful tips, visit the Zillow blog.

NextHome Executives Recognized in List of Most Powerful Leaders in Real Estate

NextHome Executives Recognized in List of Most Powerful Leaders in Real Estate

Pleasanton, Calif. — Jan. 23, 2019 — Chief Executive Officer James Dwiggins and Vice President Imran Poladi of NextHome were recently recognized by T3 Sixty as prominent leaders in the residential real estate brokerage industry for 2019, making the list of most powerful leaders and the Watchlist.

T3 Sixty, the leading management consultancy and research company dedicated to the residential real estate brokerage industry, annually publishes Swanepoel Power 200 (SP200) which definitively ranks real estate leaders and executives across the U.S. The rankings are intended to shed light on the leaders of the industry and do not reflect company rankings. In addition to this list, T3 Sixty also names leaders who are recognized as the industry’s up-and-coming leaders on the 2019 Watchlist.

Dwiggins, who co-founded NextHome, Inc. in 2014 (which also owns Realty World Northern California & Northern Nevada), was ranked at 158 in 2017, 105 in 2018 and climbed higher on this year’s list of most powerful leaders, ranking at 72. As a thought-leader, and recently named ‘Futurist’ by RISMedia, Dwiggins has successfully helped grow the NextHome franchise network to more than 450 real estate offices housing more than 3,600 agents nationwide in 2018.

“NextHome is committed to being at the forefront of the industry in every aspect. From investing in our people and remaining client-focused to staying well-versed on industry trends and new technologies, NextHome strives to provide top-tier products, resources, and intelligence to our members,” Dwiggins stated. “To have our company recognized in residential real estate brokerage sector is a testament to the fact we are listening to the needs of our members, and more importantly our clients.”

Poladi made the Watchlist that identifies and praises individuals who are innovators and movers-and-shakers in the real estate industry. Since his start at NextHome in 2014, Poladi has been responsible for overseeing franchise training, business development, as well as identifying and helping expand national partner relationships.

“While being individually recognized on this list is an honor, I think the recognition speaks more to the incredibly hard-working team at NextHome who have dedicated themselves to changing the way real estate is done,” said Poladi. “Our company was created to be one that listened to our members’ needs and how we could help them be better for their clients and their communities. I’m really proud to play a part in how we positively impact the real estate industry.”

NextHome partners with leading wine club company Splash Wines

NextHome partners with leading wine club company Splash Wines

Pleasanton, Calif. — Jan. 16, 2019NextHome, the progressive real estate franchise with consumer-focused branding, technology and marketing, reveals its newest partnership with Splash Wines, a three-generation family-owned wine club company that offers elite wine memberships at best industry value. The partnership stems from NextHome’s effort to expand high-quality resources made available to agents, and the buyers and sellers who work closely with them.

As a forward-thinking franchise in the real estate industry, NextHome promises to pursue opportunities and explore new ventures that enable its members with proper tools needed for ultimate agent success. Moreover, as a consumer-centric brand, NextHome ensures buyers and sellers alike are able to benefit from its services.

“At NextHome, we want our agents to succeed. That means as a franchise, it is our responsibility to help our members build connections with the people in their communities and equip them with the proper tools, resources and products,” said James Dwiggins, CEO of NextHome. “Furthermore, aligning with consumer-focused companies like Splash Wines allows us to impeccably work toward the overall goal of excellent customer service.”

As a partner of NextHome, Splash Wines will offer agents the Real Splash Partnership (RSP), a service package that includes a free membership, along with top-tier wine at 50 percent below retail price and free shipping to any location desired – from a customer’s address to a NextHome office. Splash Wines will also offer personalized NextHome branded stickers on every bottle, options for every price-point bottle, from French Champagne to affordable reds, exclusive cases with access to all of Splash Wine’s every day low prices – all with superior customer service at top-of-mind.

“The business of real estate is nothing new. However, that hasn’t stopped NextHome from being an innovator in the industry and driving a whole new level of focus on the consumer, becoming one of the fastest growing real estate franchises in the country,” said Splash Wines CEO Rob Imeson. “It is this customer-driven spirit that makes the partnership a slam dunk for Splash Wines, which has revolutionized the online wine industry. We are excited to see this program grow.”

The partnership is geared toward real estate professionals, allowing them to strengthen and continue relationships with new and existing buyers and sellers. With consumers at the core of the franchise, Splash Wines is another component to NextHome that reinforces how the brand connects and resonates with clients.

For additional information about this new offering, visit:

NextHome launches full-service insurance offering through premier partner Gateway Insurance Group, Inc.

NextHome launches full-service insurance offering through premier partner Gateway Insurance Group, Inc.

Pleasanton, CA — January 8, 2019 — NextHome, the progressive real estate franchise with consumer-focused branding, technology and marketing, announces its exclusive partnership with Gateway Insurance Group, Inc., a contemporary insurance agency that advocates for practicality and protection, set on providing buyers and sellers with excellent service across all of their insurance needs.

Through this strategic partnership with Gateway Insurance Group, Inc., NextHome franchise members will be able to offer their clients a diverse portfolio of world-class insurance products. Same as NextHome, Gateway Insurance Group, Inc. is committed to providing an exceptional experience from beginning to end, crafting the ideal coverage package based on the person’s individual needs.

“We are thrilled to be connected with the network of professionals at NextHome,” said Shane Westhoelter, founder and CEO of Gateway Financial Advisors, Inc. and Gateway Insurance Group, Inc. “As a business owner myself, I know the value of personalized service, customized advice, and people who take pride in what they provide. Gateway Insurance Group, Inc. is excited to be the one-stop insurance partner for NextHome.”

“All of us at NextHome are looking forward to launching this new venture with Gateway Financial,” added Imran Poladi, Vice President of NextHome. “I have personally known Shane for some time now and the business he and his team have built is simply fantastic. We are extremely excited and ready to roll out this business relationship to all of our NextHome members throughout the nation.”

The seamless partnership is geared toward real estate professionals, allowing them to offer their buyers and sellers more practical solutions out of one place. The agents will be able to provide clients with convenience and custom insurance strategies that go beyond the monotonous simplicity of policy buying. With Gateway Insurance Group, Inc. as the premier provider of home and auto insurance, clients working with a NextHome agent will have peace-of-mind in knowing they have a tailored plan that suits their current situation and budget.

“The level of service Gateway Insurance Group, Inc. provides their clients sets the standard in their industry,” said James Dwiggins, CEO of NextHome. “Their personalized approach to insurance will allow NextHome agents and brokers to deliver great value to their buyers and sellers long after the transaction has ended.”

“We pride ourselves on our history of excellent service,” added Aprilyn Chavez-Geissler, First Executive Vice President of Gateway Insurance Group, Inc. “Gateway customers have entrusted us with their home, auto, and life insurance and we are thankful for the opportunity to help them take the ‘IF’ out of life. We are excited to bring our insurance and financial planning expertise to the NextHome network.”

Once the client has established a relationship with Gateway Insurance Group, Inc. they may wish to engage Gateway Financial Advisors, Inc. as a wealth management and financial planning partner. “We find that many clients who entrust their insurance solutions to Gateway Insurance Group, Inc. make the natural transition to continuing the conversation around finances and Quality Life Planning™ with Gateway Financial Advisors, Inc.,” added Westhoelter.

To commemorate the new partnership, Gateway Insurance Group, Inc. will be a Diamond Sponsor at the 2019 NextHome Conference in Las Vegas.

For additional information about this new offering, visit:


About NextHome, Inc.

NextHome, Inc. is an independently owned national franchisor with a focus on changing the way consumers work with local agents and shop for real estate online. It owns the NextHome and Realty World Northern California & Northern Nevada franchise networks with over 440 offices and more than 3,400 agents. The company closes over 17,000 transactions annually worth over $5B in volume. For additional information, visit


About Gateway Insurance Group, Inc.

Since 1990, Gateway Insurance Group, Inc. has established itself as a leader in the insurance industry. Currently, Gateway Companies provides insurance and financial services to over 75,000 households. For additional information, call 858.428.3929 or email


Securities offered through Registered Representatives of Cambridge
Investment Research, Inc., a Broker/Dealer, and Member FINRA/SIPC. Advisory
services offered through Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, Inc., a
Registered Investment Advisor. Gateway Financial Advisors, Inc., and
Cambridge Investment Research, Inc. are not affiliated.

Meet our December NextHomie of the Month

Meet our December NextHomie of the Month

If Pat Vosburgh were to get a papercut, don’t be surprised if she bleeds orange. Since joining NextHome Gulf to Bay along with her husband, Chuck, in spring 2015, Pat has been an enthusiastic NextHome supporter. And because of all the ways she’s wrapped herself completely in NextHome orange and gray, our Culture Committee selected Pat as this month’s NextHomie of the Month.

“It was such a fresh, new company,” Pat said, recalling the first time NextHome crossed her radar. “Our brokers were enthused, the brand had great colors and a very youthful feel to it. The tech is awesome – and [NextHome’s mascot] Luke really did it for me.”

And did it in a big way for Pat, as on any given day today, you will find Pat wearing an orange accented dress, carrying her orange purse, wearing an orange Luke watch, and driving in her orange 1972 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia.

“If I wear a different color, people say, ‘Oh my, why aren’t you in orange?” Pat said with a laugh. “And Luke goes with me almost everywhere!”

Pat, a native of Brooklyn, New York, migrated to St. Petersburg, Florida, in the early 1990’s to get away from the high costs and taxes in New York and enjoy a more temperate climate. It was there in 2009 that she met her now husband, Chuck.

“Chuck is so patient and kind, and I really need that in my life,” Pat added. “I’m very fortunate to have found Chuck.”

Pat and Chuck were married in 2013.

At the time, Chuck had been a professional photographer in the St. Petersburg area for nearly 30 years. Having met Pat, Chuck realized he no longer enjoyed hefting heavy photographic equipment out to photo shoots. He knew it was time for a career change.

Today, Pat and Chuck are REALTORS® at NextHome Gulf to Bay, which is run by Broker/Owners Michael Bindman and Jan Bruzas.

“We love our brokers,” said Pat. “They are devoted and committed to the NextHome model.”

Pat is battling a second go around with Lyme Disease, but she faces it with the same “I got this” attitude that she takes on everything.

“Everyone has a story,” Pat added. “I thought I knew [NextHome Vice President] Imran Poladi’s story until he shared the whole story at last year’s conference. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Imran has a grateful heart and those kinds of stories are meant to be told. Watching all of that makes me want to be a kinder, better person. NextHome is all about having a grateful heart.”

Pat is delighted with the way NextHome leads by example.

“I love our corporate integrity and our loyalty to our brand,” Pat said. “I love the genuine way management treats our people. [NextHome CEO] James Dwiggins just getting on a plane to go help after the floods in Houston. That kind of thing. It’s a corporate culture of caring and love and you feel it up and down the corporate team. Being in a company that is that dedicated to its people makes it easy to act similarly and feel at ease about making the right decision to be at NextHome.”

When Chuck and Pat travel around the country they intentionally point their vehicle so they can stop and visit other NextHome offices along the way.

“It’s absolutely the people,” Pat said. “We’re one big family, and I don’t think there’s another real estate company out there where you’d have that same feeling of camaraderie and belonging.”

Giving back in their own way, the Vosburghs open their home every Thanksgiving and Christmas to those who want a free meal or to come by and enjoy a sense of being together.

“I love to cook and so we have these two open houses and invite people to come and eat for free,” added Pat. “I love to give back that way – by doing something that I love to do.”

Pat and Chuck get every morning off to a fast start by hosting a nationwide book club – at 5 am Eastern time.

“We host it on Zoom every morning,” Pat said. “We’ve been doing it for about two years. Right now, we’re doing ‘Three Feet from Gold’ [by Sharon Lechter and Greg Reid]. Our club is all entrepreneurs.” And they are always looking for new members.

Among Pat’s personal mentors is poet Maya Angelou, citing this statement as one of her own personal mantras: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

For Pat, it all comes down to her belief that NextHome is the right place for her.

“It’s all about the people – all those NextHomies out there,” Pat said. And her goal for NextHome: “We just surpassed 3,000 NextHomies – let’s double that and go for 6,000!

What’s Good in the Hood? Six Ways to Check Your Neighborhood’s Vibe

What’s Good in the Hood? Six Ways to Check Your Neighborhood’s Vibe

When Bradley Shaw decided to move to Coronado, California last year, he was drawn to the laid-back beach lifestyle the area offered. But after he sold his old house and needed to find a new place quickly, he blew off some of the research he planned to do and ended up in a neighborhood he admits isn’t exactly what he wanted.

The house is on a busier street than he would have liked, and he’s found that the demographics of the area, including a high military population, lead to a concentration of rental homes and a consistent turnover of neighbors.

The house itself…still awesome. The rest of his environment…less than ideal.

There’s much more that factors into the enjoyment of your home than the structure itself. In fact, “neighborhood quality” is more important than home size for more than three-quarters of home buyers surveyed by the National Association of REALTORS®.

Here are six questions to consider about your new home’s environment.

1. How safe is the area?

This is probably the first item on your neighborhood fact-finding list, and with good reason. Crime stats can be found a variety of places online including NeighborhoodScout, which has a section for crime rates; and AreaVibes, which computes a Livability Score that includes crime rates.

To find out if there are nearby sex offenders, check databases at the U.S. Department of Justice National Sex Offender Public Website or Family Watchdog. You can also check with your local police department and consult the online community paper, which often prints the police blotter.

2. How awesome are the schools?

Websites such as SchoolDigger and GreatSchools can be a good starting point for assessing your local schools, and they are important to consult since everyone else (read: the next buyers) will be factoring those numbers into their ranking, too. But don’t rely on those numbers completely.

Call your local schools and ask them to send you a copy of the most recent Parent Teacher Organization/Association newsletter. That will give you a good feeling for what goes on in the school community.

Tempted to blow off school research because you don’t have kids? Don’t. The school district is still critical, says Ali Wenzke, a suburban Chicago homeowner who has moved almost a dozen times for her and her husband’s work. “I was pregnant when we bought our first home, and therefore was all over the parks and nearby zoo. We didn’t even consider our school district because kindergarten was years away, and the local high school certainly wasn’t on our radar.” Her story had a happy ending: She had unwittingly bought in a great school district which fast-tracked the resale, but warns it could have easily gone the other way.

3. Can you walk this way?

A new factor popping up is walkability: A NAR survey found that nearly half of people surveyed would choose a community with a smaller yard if it had an easy walk to amenities over a place with a larger yard that required more driving.

“In a city like Los Angeles where people spend so much time in their cars, walkability is a growing factor in many buyers’ decision-making process,” says Realtor® Amber Dolle with John Aaroe Group in Los Angeles. Visit the Walk Score to find ratings for specific houses — the higher the rating, the more walkable the neighborhood is, meaning the easier it is to accomplish routine errands on foot.

4. What is the neighborhood like when there’s not an open house?

Two p.m. on a Saturday is just one tiny sliver in the weekly rhythm of a neighborhood. Nothing beats a drive by on a Friday night to see how wild your neighbors get or just a walk around on a random Wednesday afternoon, says Todd Hutcheson, owner of in Orlando, Florida.

Check out if people are friendly when you stroll by; if kids are out playing; and if the streets are well-lit. And be on the look-out for deal breakers, whether it’s people parking their cars on the lawn or a pack of barking dogs next door, Hutcheson says, which can torpedo your peace and your home value.

And of course, you can always do a little door knocking to check with the neighbors, suggests Dolle, who often accompanies clients on a fact-finding mission. Find out if there are known crime problems or nuisances straight from the people who deal with them every day.

It’s also smart to try your commute during rush hour, just to make sure there are no unpleasant traffic surprises.

5. What’s on the horizon for your neighborhood?

Is your neighborhood slated for a three-lane highway, a new shopping mall, or scores of new tract homes? For better or worse, they will affect your home value, so check with the local planning and economic development departments. Development might just increase traffic woes and density, but it could also increases economic vitality, with upgraded buildings, parks and sidewalks, and exciting new merchants coming to town.

6. What are your neighbors ranting and raving about?

Wish you could be a fly on the wall to find out what’s really important to your neighbors? Try hanging out on Nextdoor or the local Facebook Group. “These types of apps and sites can be great for discovering activity in the area, from upcoming events to crime,” says Aaron Norris with real estate investment firm The Norris Group in Riverside, Calif.

On his own community-run site, he finds that participants share everything from information about traffic incidents to funny stories, weather, nonprofit news, and lost dog posts. “It’s amazing how active these self-regulated groups are,” he says, noting that some are inclined to be positive and informative, while others attract squeaky wheels who have a lot of spare time on their hands to complain. Take the chatter with a grain of salt, but public social snooping can still provide an invaluable peek into what’s on your neighbors’ minds.

And, don’t hesitate to take it a step further. Many sites will let newbies ask questions about a community they are considering.


Why Buying a Home Isn’t as Easy as Seen on HGTV

Why Buying a Home Isn’t as Easy as Seen on HGTV

How do you find your dream home? If you play by HGTV’s “House Hunters” rules, then all you need is to look at three houses, put in an offer, and move in. But real life rarely fits neatly into a 30-minute episode, and it is likely that you are in for a house hunt that’s more complicated than as seen on reality TV.

There are many factors that affect your house hunt – from your budget to your wish list – so before you commit your calendar to open houses for the foreseeable future, here are some things to consider:

How Many Houses Should You See?

Kellie Tinnin of ERA Sellers & Buyers Real Estate in Albuquerque, New Mexico, says there’s “no magic number” when it comes to house hunting.

“Some buyers need to see 50 homes before they can make a decision and some can see 5,” Tinnin says. The number of open houses is relative to how well she knows her clients needs. “It helps to have buyers outline their needs and wants on paper so they can visualize their home desires,” she says.

Having a wish list can definitely help you make the most of your home search. Sites like Real Scout allow you to save your favorite listings in one place, so you can keep your real estate agent in the loop with what you’re specifically looking for in a home.

Kathryn Bishop, a REALTOR® in Los Angeles, says discussing her clients’ needs and wants helps separate the “looky-loos” from the serious house hunters. According to Bishop, a real estate agent “can advise you about the odds of finding that dream house in the area you want for the price you want.” By knowing what clients want–and what they don’t want–Bishop says that a good real estate agent can suggest other possibilities, as well help you “sort out your emotions about each of the items on your wish list.”

Is There Love at First “Site”?

Perhaps you’re thrilled by the prospect of browsing dozens of houses. So what happens when you fall in love with the very first house you see? This is a house you’re buying, not a pair of shoes, so we’re talking serious buyer’s remorse if this isn’t the best house for your needs and budget. What’s a house hunter to do?

Katie Messenger, a REALTOR® with The Bello Dimora Real Estate Network of Keller Williams Realty in Louisville, KY, tells house hunters not to worry.

“If the first home you walk into is truly ‘the one,’ and there’s a fear about ‘what if I like something else?’ or ‘I shouldn’t buy the first house I look at,’ then your agent failed to normalize that feeling that it’s OK to love the first home you see,” says Messenger,

Kelly J. Joyner, a Real Estate Broker and REALTOR® from Charlotte, NC, would agree. If you hit the jackpot with the first house you visit, Joyner says, “then your real estate agent has listened, and you have communicated your wants and needs appropriately.”

When to Call off the Hunt

On the flip side, what if you’re not finding a property that says “home” to you? At what point do you decide to put your house hunt on hold?

Bishop says, “If you are only going to buy a certain type of house in a certain type of neighborhood at a certain price limit, and there are none available, quit looking,” she says, explaining that it could take years for the market to adjust to your price point. Of course, if you must relocate for a job, a growing family, or other pressing purpose, it’s a good idea to revisit your wish list with your real estate agent in order to revise and expand your house-hunting parameters.

HGTV has a way of making house hunting look easy. In real life, your house hunt is likely to take longer, but that doesn’t mean you have to look at a hundred homes, either. By conducting a realistic search based on your needs and budget, you could be moving into your new home sooner rather than later.