Homebuying Must-Haves: How COVID-19 Has Changed What’s Hot or Not in a Home

The last two months of stay-at-home orders and quarantines have drastically changed how people are utilizing and enjoying their home. The needs of homeowners have changed and that has altered what home buyers are now looking for in a home. What used to be the “must-have” item or space in a home is changing as homes have become people’s offices, playrooms, restaurants, and classrooms. Here’s what you can expect to come back in style, and fade out, in a post-coronavirus market.

What’s In

The Rise in Home Offices

As both children and parents are now working from home, homeowners are discovering the necessity for dedicated home offices. While the new normal post-coronavirus remains to be seen, companies are already planning for employees to work remotely more often. The days of utilizing the dining table as a workspace are proving to not be functional or realistic for the new reality. With an estimated 56% of the US workforce employed in a remote work compatible field and an estimated 66% of employees currently working from home during the Coronavirus pandemic, it’s now a critical element for home buyers that a home has a dedicated home office or an area that could be utilized as one. As sellers list their homes this summer, they’d be wise to cater to this new need by staging a room or area as an office for home buyers to see the potential.

Comfortable workplace with computer near wooden wall in stylish room interior. Home office designComfortable workplace with computer near wooden wall in stylish room interior. Home office design

Taking the Living Room Outside

The yard and extended living areas have always been a factor in the home buyer’s mind. But as community swimming pools and playgrounds are shuttered due to the outbreak, the importance of ample backyard space or additional outdoor areas to enjoy and relax have risen in popularity. As quarantine grows, many are looking for ways to escape their four walls in a safe way. Since COVID-19 and food scarcity, many homeowners value the area to create their own garden. Buyers will be looking for existing gardens or spaces to create one.

A Need for Flexible Spaces

As homeowners utilize their homes in new ways, spaces that can serve double (or triple) duty has major appeal. A guest bedroom that also provides a home office area, or a bonus room that serves as a media room and an at-home classroom. Homeowners are getting creative with their spaces and needing their spaces to serve multiple purposes. For those selling in the coming months, staging to promote and define flexible spaces would appeal to home buyers!

What’s Out

Open Concept Floor Plans

Although it has been all-the-rage for the last several years, open concept makes it difficult for homeowners that are cooking, Zoom-learning, and conference calling more often. As many modern designs offer one large room that serves as the living room, dining room, and kitchen, its popularity has waned as families need more individual, quiet spaces to work and learn at home.

Stainless Steel

What has been the “gold” standard in kitchens for many years, in a post-COVID world, home buyers are looking for sanitary surfaces. If you’ve ever stepped back to look at your stainless steel dishwasher, you’ve probably seen its front cluttered with fingerprints and handprints. Having lived through Coronavirus, we know the detrimental power of transferring germs and viruses from touch. More sanitary surfaces such as copper will most likely grow in popularity with buyers. In fact, in a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine and funded by the National Institute of Health, researchers discovered that the novel coronavirus survived for only four hours on copper versus three days on stainless steel.

While the future “new normal” is still up in the air, the real estate market is still moving homes. As with other previous events, COVID-19 has forced a change in the needs of buyers—and those needs may continue to evolve as more of our day-to-day lives are changed because of the pandemic. But, buyers are already shifting their needs and wants which we can reasonably expect to have a long term effect on home design.


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Jennifer is an accidental house flipper turned Realtor and real estate investor. She is the voice behind the blog, Bachelorette Pad Flip. Over five years, Jennifer paid off $70,000 in student loan debt through real estate investing. She’s passionate about the power of real estate. She’s also passionate about southern cooking, good architecture, and thrift store treasure hunting. She calls Northwest Arkansas home with her cat Smokey, but she has a deep love affair with South Florida.

Source: homes.com

How to Add Your Business to Yelp and Optimize Your Listing

If you’re like most Internet users, you’ve used a business listing or directory website to find a restaurant, specialty store, tax preparer, or other service provider in your area.

Yelp, arguably the most popular business information directory for customer-facing services businesses, welcomes many millions of unique visitors per month. According to Expanded Ramblings, Yelp draws more than 175 million monthly visitors, with mobile traffic accounting for the majority.

Consumers use Yelp to search for service providers near them, navigating to its website or mobile app for a few minutes at a time and closing out when they’ve found what they’re looking for. But business owners have a much more intimate relationship with business directory sites like Yelp. For many small, independent outfits, business listings represent a significant source of new customers — far more than word of mouth marketing alone. If your small business doesn’t yet have a listing, it could be time to set one up.

Yelp for Business Owners: Does It Make Sense to List Your Company?

Yelp isn’t ideal for every type of business. Generally speaking, the most popular Yelp searches pertain to businesses that offer sensory experiences, such as restaurants, bars, venues, and specialized experience providers like tour companies. Searches for retailers — both independent and those tied to a larger chain — are popular as well.

Other popular Yelp categories include:

  • Hotels and travel services
  • Beauty shops and spas
  • Automotive
  • Home services, such as house cleaning, plumbing, and general contracting
  • Health and medical

Yelp also segments listed companies by location: county, municipality, and sometimes neighborhoods (mostly in bigger cities). If your business lives and dies by the number of people who walk into its physical location — for instance, you run a restaurant or retail outlet that does a large amount of business through a storefront — a business directory listing is basically mandatory.

On the other hand, if your company doesn’t have a storefront or doesn’t rely on one to drive sales — for instance, if you sell things online — then other means of driving customers to your business, such as social media marketing techniques or a listing on an e-commerce website like Etsy, are likely to offer a better payoff.

Pros of Listing Your Business on Yelp

Listing a business on Yelp has some key benefits, including legitimacy for businesses who’ve claimed their listings, high search rankings for Yelp business profiles and business owner accounts, and value for customer research.

1. Claimed Listings Confer Legitimacy

Regardless of how much effort you put into optimizing and curating it, the simple act of claiming your business directory listing can change how prospective customers see your business. On most business directories, including Yelp, unclaimed listings are plainly displayed as such. To the man or woman on the street, a highly visible prompt to claim a particular listing — which takes a matter of minutes — doesn’t inspire confidence that the listed business is well-run, or that the owner cares about courting new customers.

Although this is an admittedly subjective measure of an owner’s buy-in or a business’s quality, I know that I personally shy away from businesses with unclaimed directory listings unless they’re backed by a recognizable brand or I’m familiar with them by other means, such as word of mouth.

2. Listings Typically Rank Well in Organic Search (Good for SEO)

Although the details of popular search engines’ algorithms are proprietary and ever-changing, it’s clear that online directory listings rank highly in organic search results — the lists you see when you type a search term into the Google or Bing search bar.

The upshot of this: Unless its name can easily be confused with common or generic terms like “Tasty Pizza,” a typical business’s Yelp listings are likely to appear on the first results page of a search engine — an important point, since most searchers never make it to subsequent results pages. And because Yelp is a well-known and ostensibly unbiased source of information, searchers who want to get the unvarnished truth on a given business are likely to click on the results for its listings.

3. Consumers Rely Heavily on Directory Listings for Research

Despite a recent study reported by PCMag that found roughly 40% of online reviews to be bogus, 60% of consumers consider online review sites as useful as recommendations from real-life acquaintances, according to a 2017 ReportLinker survey. In an increasingly jaded world, that’s a pretty high mark — and a strong case for creating and maintaining listings on popular directory sites.

Cons of Listing Your Business on Yelp

Listing your business on Yelp does have some drawbacks, including a significant time component, limited control over reviews, and the potential for abuse.

1. Maintaining Your Business Profile Takes Time and Resources

Claiming or creating a business listing doesn’t take much time or effort. You can handle either in a spare moment.

However, optimizing and maintaining your listing is not so easy. Even free activities such as uploading photos, analyzing customer data, and responding to reviews all take time that you likely don’t have as a busy entrepreneur. If you have other social media accounts or an online store, your digital responsibilities could become overwhelming, diverting your attention from more immediate business needs.

One solution is to hire a part- or full-time marketing employee or social media manager, but that requires a new addition to the payroll — not always a realistic proposition for cash-poor small business owners. Another option is to retain an outside firm to handle your digital marketing needs, although that can be just as expensive as hiring a part-time employee.

If you currently lack the time or resources to produce a first-rate business directory profile, there’s no shame in concluding that it’s better to wait until you do have those luxuries. If you can’t do it right, don’t feel pressured to do it at all.

2. May Not Display All Users’ Yelp Reviews (or Any at All)

In the late 2000s and early 2010s, some online business directories — particularly Yelp — took lots of blowback for failing to do their part to contain the untold millions of fake reviews spreading across the Internet. Fake directory reviews came in several different flavors, but it was particularly common for listed businesses to purchase positive reviews — typically with gushing praise and the highest possible ratings — for their own listings, or post positive reviews themselves using dummy accounts. In competitive markets, less scrupulous companies likewise had no qualms about posting fake negative reviews on competitors’ listings.

Although they haven’t totally eradicated fake reviews, online directory sites have definitely cracked down on the practice. In fact, the crackdown has been so good that some legitimate reviews don’t make it through the directories’ quality filters, which are controlled by proprietary algorithms similar to those used by search engines.

If you want the opportunity to see — and ensure that your customers see — every review of your business, good or bad, this is a big drawback. And although the particulars of directories’ visibility-controlling algorithms aren’t public, one can envision an algorithm deciding that an overly enthusiastic but legitimate positive review is a fake while allowing a tepid review to be seen.

3. Directory Listings Contain Sensitive Information

If you need your customers to come to your physical place of business, they need to know where it’s located and how to contact it. A restaurant can’t survive if no one’s coming in to eat or calling to order takeout.

On the other hand, there are times when it’s better to conceal your business location, and possibly contact information, from the public. For instance, say you provide white-collar services, such as accounting or legal advice, to local businesses — but you typically visit with clients at their offices and don’t want them to know you work out of a home office or coworking hub. Listing your home address as your business address reveals where you live, while listing a coworking space can lead judgmental clients or your competitors to conclude that you can’t afford a “real” office.

Note that if an unclaimed listing already exists for your business, you may need to claim it and edit out sensitive information or request its removal altogether.

4. Your Listing Could Attract Abuse

Even if you’re not paranoid about people knowing where you live or looking down on you for basing your company out of a coworking space, there’s another reason to eschew a public business directory listing: the prospect that your listing could become a venue for abusive or hateful reviews.

Because business directory sites allow rank-and-file Internet users to post reviews on a given business’s listing without proving that they’ve actually interacted with the company in real life, it’s relatively easy to organize a negative publicity campaign utilizing Yelp or another directory site that permits user reviews. (Directories occasionally step in to delete or moderate obscene or threatening reviews, particularly in response to user flags, but you shouldn’t bank on this to single-handedly keep vitriolic reviews off your listing.)

These negative campaigns typically center around a major service gaffe or prominent public support for a controversial political position. A great example: In early 2015, the owners of a small-town Indiana pizzeria called Memories Pizza made headlines when they said they would follow the letter of the state’s recently passed Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which many observers interpreted as giving businesses wide latitude to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. The ensuing backlash saw thousands of sarcastic, occasionally obscene comments posted on Memories Pizza’s website. The Indianapolis Star reported that the shop closed shortly thereafter, with the owners citing safety concerns.

In the past, lower-profile incidents of a similar nature have hit businesses expressing opposition to state minimum wage increases or support for creationism and intelligent design. To be fair, some argue that the old saying, “All press is good press,” applies here, as negative directory campaigns sometimes spark a backlash that pays off for the affected business. It’s worth noting that, as reported by Forbes, Memories Pizza raised more than $800,000 in a GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign in the four days following its closure.


How to Claim or Create Your Yelp Listing

Yelp uses publicly available and user-submitted information to generate listings for operational businesses. If you’ve been open for some time, there’s a good chance you’re already in Yelp’s database. Yelp allows the legitimate owners of such a business to “claim” their existing profile.

Claiming your profile provides certain privileges:

  • Updating Listing Information. You can edit critical information about your business, including its physical address, phone number, business hours, and website address. This is important because Yelp doesn’t guarantee that its unclaimed business listings are accurate.
  • Adding Photos and Links. You can upload photos of your storefront, merchandise, and the inside of your business. This is great for restaurant owners who want to show off tasty-looking menu items, or service providers who want to display photos of a van or truck bearing a distinctive logo, which users are more likely to recognize than a faceless storefront or generic uniform.
  • Interacting With Reviewers. Claimed profile owners can respond to user-generated reviews, either by sending the user a private message through Yelp’s system or making a public post on the comments feed. This is particularly useful for owners who want to address negative feedback from users and contain issues that could hurt business. Note that you can’t edit or delete negative reviews, which might call Yelp’s objectivity into question, but you can respond to them.
  • User Views and Leads. Yelp tracks your listing’s page views and displays this information to verified business owners. It also creates Customer Leads, which provide hints about how customers are interacting with your business. Data sources for Customer Leads include:
    • Mobile check-ins
    • Mobile calls made directly to your business using Yelp’s on-site click-to-call feature
    • Map views
    • Click-throughs from your Yelp listing to your company website
    • User-uploaded photos on your business page
    • Bookmarks placed on your listing using Yelp’s bookmark feature

Claiming an Existing Business Listing

To get started, click Yelp’s “Claim Your Listing” button, then type in your exact business name and city. This takes you to a results page that displays similarly named businesses nearby and indicates whether they’ve been claimed. If your business is listed, it should say that it hasn’t been claimed.

To claim your listing, you need to create a Yelp account with your first name, last name, email address, and password. Make sure the phone number on your listing is accurate, then click “Call Me Now.” This prompts Yelp to robo-call the listed business number with a unique verification code.

Once you receive that code, you can enter it into the proper field and start editing your listing. If you’re unable to complete the phone verification process for any reason, you can also manually verify your identity as the business owner by emailing Yelp’s support team.

Creating a New Business Listing

If your business doesn’t have an existing listing to claim, you need to create one. At the bottom of the business search results page, click the “Add a Business” button and enter as much information as possible into the fields on the next screen: your business name, exact address, phone number, and website at a minimum.

After you submit this information, it takes Yelp some time — usually no more than two business days — to verify that the business exists and add it to its listings. Once added, you can search for it as described and claim the listing as your own.


How to Optimize Your Yelp Listing

Claiming or creating a Yelp listing is an important first step. However, building a top-notch Yelp presence takes time and effort.

These tips and resources are useful as you work to set your listing apart from your competitors’:

1. Fill Out Your Profile Completely

The more complete your listing is, the better it looks to Yelp’s internal algorithm — and the higher it’s likely to appear on Yelp’s search results pages. There’s no reason not to fill out your profile completely.

2. Use Google Keyword Planner or a Similar Tool

Yelp listings are visible to Google and other search engines, so it pays to use a keyword planning tool — such as Google Keyword Planner, which requires a free Google AdWords account to use — to identify keywords that relate to your company.

For instance, if you specialize in Neapolitan-style pizza and discover that your company website ranks highly for the term “Neapolitan pizza,” make sure that keyword appears at least once in your business listing.

3. Add Lots of Photos

Photos breathe life into your Yelp listing and boost customer engagement. An internal Yelp study found that consumers linger on photo-enhanced Yelp pages for two and a half times as long than on pages with no photos.

Photos are especially useful for showing off your logo — particularly if it’s already plastered on your company’s vans or outdoor advertising properties, and thus recognizable to prospective customers — as well as for highlighting particular products, especially food. If your business is open to the public, include pictures of its interior and outdoor seating areas to give visitors a sense of what to look forward to.

4. Solicit and Respond to Customer Reviews

Yelp frowns on businesses that court reviews by giving away free stuff or offering special deals to those who post positive reviews — it sees this behavior as a form of manipulation. However, you can skirt this prohibition and stay in Yelp’s good graces by placing the Yelp logo in a visible location in your store (such as at checkout or on a menu), linking to your Yelp page from your company website, and straight-up asking for reviews with no strings attached.

Separately, be sure to respond to detailed, thoughtful reviews, whether they’re good or bad. It’s especially important to respond to negative feedback, which shows other page visitors that you’re willing to address service issues and other problems. Just remember to follow social media etiquette best practices at all times.

5. Try Yelp Deals and Gift Certificates

Yelp Deals and Gift Certificates can help you monetize your Yelp listing and generate buzz around your business. Like Groupons and other social deals, both offer heavy discounts on transactions with the issuing business. Yelp Deals focus on discounts for specific local services — for instance, “20% off a haircut-and-shave package.” Yelp Gift Certificates offer across-the-board discounts — for example, “$20 in merchandise for $10.”

In both cases, Yelp takes a cut of the proceeds: 30% of face value for Deals and 10% of face value for Gift Certificates, subject to change with company policy.

6. Consider Buying Ads

If you can afford another line item in your marketing budget, consider buying ad space on Yelp. Yelp ads appear above the first non-promoted listing in Yelp’s internal search results pages, similar to the paid search ads you see on Google and other search engines.

Although they’re clearly marked “Ad,” they’re highly visible and appear only with relevant search terms, so they’re great for attracting people actively searching for what you have to offer. And because they effectively give you priority placement over competitors, they’re great if you operate in a crowded market.

Costs vary widely depending on your location and industry, but expect to spend at least $50 per month for a high-visibility ad campaign.


Final Word

Yelp isn’t the only business listing site worth looking into. There are dozens of other sites that could get your company’s name in front of potential customers. Listings on some of these sites are free to claim, while others require a one-time or monthly fee. Each has its own set of benefits and drawbacks.

Rather than spend significant amounts of time and marketing dollars going after them all, take a weekend or evening to research the options that work best for your business’s needs. Don’t be afraid to talk to other business owners in your industry, even if you’d normally be reluctant to share trade secrets with them. After all, with everything else you need to keep track of, the last thing you need is to make an investment with little to no chance of paying off.

Source: moneycrashers.com

How to Get a Virtual Internship

This is not a great time to be looking for career experience. Industries are suffering, opportunities are scarce and most people are working from home. But if you’re in need of an internship, there are still plenty of options to work virtually – if you know how to sniff them out.
Here’s what you need to know in order to find a virtual internship: where to look, who to talk to, and how to make sure your application stands out from the competition.

Tips for Getting a Virtual Internship

Before you start applying for internships, you need to have the appropriate documents. Here are the most important.

Draft a Resume

Students who don’t already have a resume can find free resume templates through Google Docs and Microsoft Word. These templates have clean designs and are easy to edit.

If you want something more unique, you can buy a template on Etsy. Choose a template that you can easily edit in Microsoft Word or Google Docs. If you’re applying for internships in a creative field like graphic design or advertising, pick a template that has more flair and shows your personality.

When writing your resume, focus on the skills you’ve learned and your accomplishments. If you were a waitress at Waffle House (like I was for a summer), mention how it taught you multitasking and organizational skills.

Create a LinkedIn profile and start connecting with people you know. Ask past employers for recommendations and to endorse you for specific skills like Photoshop or Excel.

Work on a Cover Letter

Some internships will require a cover letter. A cover letter should express the value you’ll bring to the company, like how your interests and skills fit with the organization and why you would be a good addition.

If you’re submitting a cover letter for an online application, make sure to use any keywords mentioned in the job description. Some companies use software that filters out cover letters missing these keywords.

Have a parent or adult mentor look over both your resume and cover letter. They can offer you advice on how to phrase specific ideas and remind you of jobs, awards, and other accomplishments you’ve forgotten about.

Where to Find a Virtual Internship

Once you’ve created a resume and basic cover letter, you can start applying. Here are the best places to find a virtual internship.

Talk to Your College

The first place to look is your college career center. Many large companies have direct relationships with universities and accept a certain number of interns from there every year.

Contact the university career center and ask them about internship opportunities. If you already have a declared major, your department may also have its own career counselor who can help. They may have more personal relationships with hiring managers and internship recruiters.

Sometimes colleges have their own internship and job boards, but it still helps to talk to a counselor directly. They may have more resources and can answer your specific questions.

Even though the pandemic has changed how colleges operate, some are still holding virtual career fairs. You’ll likely have to register in advance and choose a specific time slot, so look into these options as soon as possible.

Make sure to follow up regularly if you don’t hear back from the career counselor. They may be busy, and your emails can get lost in the shuffle. Don’t feel bad about reaching out multiple times- this is part of what you pay for as a student and you’re entitled to their help.

Contact People You Already Know

If you’ve had internships before, contact people from those companies and ask if they need help. It’s much easier to get an internship when you already know the people in charge – especially if you made a good impression during your tenure.

It doesn’t matter if the people you worked with have different jobs now. They may still work in a similar industry and need an intern. Make a list of where you’ve worked and all the people you remember. If you’re having trouble remembering names, go to the company’s LinkedIn page to jog your memory and find their contact information.

After you’ve contacted them, reach out to any professors you know who still have direct ties to the industry. They can forward your information or send you links to opportunities they’ve seen.

Don’t be afraid to contact people at companies where you turned down an internship position. Most people don’t take that personally and may still have positive memories of you – plus, getting a previous internship offer from a company indicates that you’re probably a good fit.

If you’re reaching out to professors you haven’t talked to in a while, remind them what class of theirs you took and include a copy of your resume. This will make it easier for them to forward the email to any prospects.

Take your time when crafting emails to industry contacts. If you write an email with typos and grammar mistakes, your email may be deleted immediately. This is especially true if you’re contacting someone you don’t know. They may receive dozens of emails from students like you and not have time to respond to them all.

Look at Job Sites

If you’ve reached out to your networking contacts with no luck, it’s time to look for a virtual internship on a job site. Job sites should be the last place you look for a virtual internship because it’s harder to stand out among a sea of candidates.

Here are some of the best sites and apps to use:

Remember not to discount an internship if there’s no mention that the job will be remote. Some listings may be outdated and not reflect the current situation.

When you apply, check the company’s website and LinkedIn profile to see if you have any personal connections. Having someone in common can help get your application into the right hands.

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Source: mint.intuit.com