Dwell shares insider tips after consulting architects, DIY home builders and shipping container experts from around the world.
You’ve decided to join the shipping container revolution. Your plans are drawn up, your site is prepared and your welding torch is ready to transform a discarded steel box into the durable, stylish and sustainable home of your dreams. Now what?
To help you get started, we asked architects, DIY home builders and shipping container experts from around the world for their insider tips on bringing home the best possible container for your building needs.
The first step, they agree, is to find a reputable distributor. “Shipping companies don’t want people calling them for one or 10 containers. They prefer to sell to dealers,” says Barry Naef, director of the ISBU Association (ISBU stands for intermodal steel building units, the term for containers used specifically for construction).
He recommends checking the extensive international list of dealers on the Eco Green Sources website. And don’t despair if you live far from the ocean. Thanks to a network of inland distribution hubs, says Naef, “there are as many [containers] in the mid-U.S. and Canada as there are at the ports, at nearly the same prices.” A dealer can help arrange for overland transport of your container via 18-wheeler truck.
Other sourcing options exist, too. In Zambia, a local NGO supplied Tokyo-based architect Mikiko Endo with old containers it had used to transport donations (she transformed them into maternity clinic housing). In Israel, architect Galit Golany purchased a refurbished container from a prefab construction company, then fixed up the turnkey unit with timber cladding, roofing, a deck and stone base.
Stephen Shoup, founder of Oakland’s building Lab, agrees that looking for a distributor that will do some basic modifications prior to sale is a good idea.
“It’s tons of fun to be standing there with a plasma cutter and a welder and be hacking into these things and pasting them back together, but if you’re encountering engineering issues, then you’re going to need licensed welders. That cost is much more controllable when done at the fabrication shop or shipyard,” says Shoup.
Another option is to purchase a container manufactured specifically for building, like the ones from Toronto-based MEKA or Silhouette Spice in Tokyo. These can be cheaply transported using existing global shipping networks, but are tailor-made to meet building codes (Japan’s are especially strict).
If you do decide to purchase a genuine seafaring container, you’ll need to keep a number of factors in mind. First is size. Although dimensions are generally standardized, your safest bet for projects that join multiple units is to purchase a single brand (perhaps one whose logo you fancy). Houston-based architect Christopher Robertson, who has designed both upscale residential and disaster-relief housing using containers, recommends choosing “high cubes” (HQ), which are about a foot taller than standard, because the smaller size can feel claustrophobic after installing insulation. Lengths vary from 8 to 53 feet, with 20 feet and 40 feet being the most common.
Whichever you choose, Robertson cautions that the costs of transportation and modification quickly add up. “There’s a real misconception that building with containers is absurdly inexpensive. Unfortunately, that’s not true at all,” he says.
Assuming you’re still hooked on the many other benefits of container construction, you’ll need to think about age and condition. Options range from virtually unscathed “one-trippers” to eight-to-10-year-old retired containers, with varying degrees of rust, dents and warping. Your choice depends on your design goals.
For Brook van der Linde, an artist who built a DIY container home with her husband in Asheville, cost and sustainability were more important than perfect condition. “Our goal was to use materials that were headed for the landfill. Our containers were constructed in 2005 so they had a good long life going to China and back,” she says.
Robertson, on the other hand, sought out one-trippers for his residential project. “They’re a little more expensive but they look a lot better,” he explains. “If they start having a lot of dings and rusts, you lose the aesthetic pleasure.”
Although a container’s history is trackable via its serial number, the best way to assess its condition is through a visual once-over prior to purchase. Arrive at the lot armed with a level to check for excessive warping and a checklist of potential problems, such as holes, dents, damaged door seals, and corrosion (a little rust is par for the course). Don’t forget to use your nose, as well. The wood flooring of most containers is treated with toxic pesticides, which you’ll need to seal or remove, and others may have been used to transport unpleasantly odiferous contents.
Finally, once you’ve made your choice, take a deep breath. The toughest — and most enjoyable — phase of building your container home is still to come.
What does it take to make a home famous? In case you’re wondering how to make YOUR home famous, there are two main routes to explore: Either become famous yourself (the more difficult of the two options) or lend your home to a film project for use in a movie or even a commercial.
Found an interesting article published March 5 in the Los Angeles Times titled “The star treatment: Want a film set in your living room?” (To access this article, registration is required). It’s all about looks, marketing and good neighbors that gives some background on how to go about getting your residence into a film. The article states that “On a big-budget Hollywood film, your house can earn anywhere from $2,000 to $20,000 a day.” Even though you have to register on the L.A. Times site, it’s definitely worth the effort if you are looking for the fast track to having a famous home (or if you just want to get paid $2k-20K per day to stay in a hotel)!
Logo Auctions vs. Local Graphic Designers
Design can be very personal. Especially when it comes to creating a logo to represent your product or business. Some logos may appear arbitrary at first glance, but a good designer can explain the rationale for their choices, including why a certain color works over another.
When choosing a graphic designer for any part of your integrated marketing campaign, there are other factors to weigh besides the obvious cost considerations. For instance, what type of clients have they worked with? Can you see portfolio samples of their work? Do they have references? Are they responsive, and available to meet in person or only online?
One avenue for those looking to see more design options for less money has been online logo “auction” sites. The basic premise of a logo auction is like a contest. Here’s how it works:
A design “auction” site connects you with designers from all across the world. You provide direction by giving basic background information about your company and type of business, your tag line (if any), and what attributes and qualities your logo should communicate.
Determine what you can afford to pay and offer a cash “prize” (somewhere between $150 – $1,000). The higher the prize, the better the quality and variety of logos you will receive. Then set a deadline (standard contest length is seven days) and choose your winner. Feedback and revisions may be necessary before making a final selection.
The downside of the logo auction route is that you should know going in what potential uses you may have for your logo. If you don’t know how to give good direction, you could be in trouble down the road.
If you’re not very experienced at working with designers or giving direction, you may want to choose a local creative team that you can communicate with more easily. Key questions include:
All these potential uses have different design requirements. If you or your designer don’t know the right questions to ask, it can be difficult to provide the proper direction.
You may need to go back to your designer at a future date for logo modifications or variations, depending on the usage. There’s a certain comfort in knowing you can meet your designer in person to resolve any issues. However, if you hired someone on the other side of the world through an auction site, be aware that it may be tough to get a hold of them again.
Because web design and the technologies that underpin it are moving so rapidly, they’ve received a lot of media coverage, including our post about the benefits of Responsive Web Design (RWD). As a result of all the ink, many integrated marketers have made improving their web sites Job One for this year.
If a rebuild or refresh is on your radar, don’t get too far without first brushing up on emerging trends in these vital areas:
Your rehab is not finished the moment your contractor cleans up.
After the last trim is painted and the appliances are installed, you have one more crucial step that will ensure you a quick sale, STAGING.
For those who are not familiar with STAGING, Staging is the process of creating an emotional experience that leads sellers to make buying decisions much quicker and easier. Staging is a pivotal element in your real estate investing business that does not take much effort, but yields in immense benefits. Bottom line – Staging sells your property faster, which allows you to see your profits sooner.
Staging is simple; you want the buyer walking thru the house to envision themselves living there. You want them to visualize where they would put their furniture, where they will have dinner, and enjoy a movie. Staging does not have to be complicated. You can have a lot of fun and showcase your style. Here are few tips to help stage your rehab.
Home Staging Tip #1: Clean, clean, clean!
Make sure your rehabbed house is clean from all debris, inside and out. You want the house cleaner than if your mother-in-law was coming over for Thanksgiving dinner. Make sure you don’t forget the window sills and little nooks and crannies, dry wall dust gets everywhere. Be meticulous in the kitchen and baths. You should feel comfortable eating your next meal off the floor.
Home Staging Tip #2: Bring a friend or family member
This person needs to not have an emotional connection to the house. You want an unbiased eye to help highlight the positives and distract from any negatives.
Home Staging Tip #3: Pick a Staging Point.
Go to each major room in the house (i.e. Kitchen, Bathrooms, Living room) and select an attractive part of the room to highlight. An example in the living room would be a fireplace. Simply put a mirror or painting on the mantel with some candles and a few logs in the fireplace and you just staged! It’s simple as that. Now your buyer is able to visualize enjoying a roaring fire on a chilly winter night in their new house!
Take advantage of these staging tips before putting your flip house on the market. Your goal is to enhance the “WOW” factor a buyer gets as they preview the property. This will maximize your time. Back to TIP #1 CLEAN, Make sure your contractor cleans up after themselves every night to ensure time isn’t wasted when you are ready to clean. TIP #2 Also talk to your friend or family member that you are going to involve. Tell them what your objective is, as they will be more helpful if they know your goal. TIP #3, you can save a lot of time by picking the features in advance that you want to highlight. If you are unsure of your own style, don’t be afraid to ask a store clerk or friend for help. You can accomplish half the work of staging before your project is finished. Stick to a tight time line and don’t waste a minute. Every wasted minute is narrowing your profits.
Can a savvy home stager be the secret to selling your home fast—and for top dollar? Many real estate experts say yes.
Home staging entails hiring an experienced professional to bring in furniture, accessories, and art that will make your house look its best and appeal to the appropriate buyer. If you’re still living in the home, a home stager will rearrange your existing furniture to wow buyers.
“The goal of a stager is to attract the largest possible number of would-be buyers and get the home sold at the highest price, all in the shortest period of time,” says Andrew Sandholm, a real estate agent at BOND in New York City.
Of course, staging requires an investment upfront. Most stagers charge $300 to $600 for an initial design consultation, and then $500 to $600 per month, per room. But staged homes sell on average 88% faster and for 20% more than non-staged homes, according to industry data.
Still, if you're going to reap those rewards, you need to find a good home stager. You can start your search by asking your real estate agent for recommendations; then meet with each. The following questions will help you determine the best home stager for the job.
1. What training have you received?
You certainly don’t need formal training to have a great eye for interior design, but being accredited by the Real Estate Staging Association (RESA) means that a practitioner is held to certain standards. To become a RESA member, stagers must pass an ethics exam, have home staging business insurance, and have at least one year of staging experience.
2. How many average days were your staged homes on the market last year?
Finding an experienced stager is important, but finding a successful one is paramount. “A stager can be great at getting contracts, but if their homes don’t sell, they’re going to be a waste of money,” says Sandholm. Try to find a stager whose homes sell within 30 days, since that's usually the point at which listing agents advise clients to make a price reduction.
3. What’s the typical price range of the homes you stage?
You want someone who specializes in staging homes that are similar to yours. For example, “If you’re selling a starter home, you wouldn’t want to hire a stager who specializes in luxury homes,” says Sandholm.
4. How do you stay on top of interior design trends?
The person you hire should be able to explain how he or she keeps up with the furnishings and decor trends that make buyers come running. Do they attend conferences? Do they actively preview new listings? Do they hobnob regularly with other stagers and decorators to learn about the latest and the greatest?
5. Can I see photos from your three most recently staged homes?
You can ask a stager to see their portfolio, but it may not be an accurate representation of their work. “They’re only going to show you their best work,” says Sandholm. But, looking at stagers’ most recently staged homes will give you a better idea of the quality of their work.
6. What are your rates?
Most stagers charge a monthly fee, but some charge a flat fee per room for the duration of the listing, says Chris Dossman, a real estate agent with Century 21 Scheetz in Indianapolis, IN. You'll want to get quotes so that you can budget appropriately. If you’re tight on cash, consider only staging a few rooms, especially the living room, kitchen, and master bedroom—which make the greatest impression on home buyers, according to a recent National Association of Realtors survey.
Know that staging costs can vary depending on where you live. If your home is vacant, and you want the entire house staged, prices can range from as little as $975 a month (Indiana) to $5,500 a month (California), according to RESA. If the home has some furniture, you’re looking at between $700 (Iowa) and $4,800 (California) a month for a two-month staging contract.
7. How much time will it take you to stage my home?
“Usually, it only takes one to two days to stage a home, but good stagers are busy,” says Dossman. Availability may wind up being a determining factor in who you hire. If a stager says it’s going to take a week or longer, find out why. “If the person plans to stage your home with furniture that’s tied up in another listing, that’s a red flag,” says Dossman.
8. Is your business covered by insurance?
There’s a chance your home could get damaged when the stager moves furniture in and out, so make sure the business has insurance to ensure you’re protected. For due diligence, ask to see proof of coverage.
9. What can I tackle myself?
A reliable stager will be honest with you about what projects you can do yourself to save money. For example, if only one room needs a fresh coat of paint, that’s something you can take on. Once hired, a good stager will also offer tips on little things that you can purchase to make your home more inviting, such as candles and fluffy towels for the bathrooms.
10. What style would you recommend for my home?
This is a bit of a trick question, but it’s worth asking. “You want a neutral stager, since you’re trying to cast the widest net possible,” says Sandholm. In other words, you don’t want to hire someone who has an overly narrow design aesthetic.
Marketing collateral is an umbrella term that refers to the collection of printed media used to make the sales effort easier and more effective. Whether you hand it out, mail it, or it is picked up from a counter-top or trade show booth, collateral is meant to educate a potential customer by providing details about the products and services you sell. Collateral material should also serve to promote your company by featuring your logo and other branding elements, and include contact information to make it easy for someone to buy from you.
Generally speaking, collateral is tangible media, such as the following (although more and more companies are employing digital collateral):
Brochures: Whether a tri-fold or a fancy multi-colored catalog, a brochure can be handed out to prospective customers, used in a direct mailing, placed on a counter to be picked up or sent out when people want more information.
Business Cards: Every businessperson should have one, and it should include all contact information: your name, company name, address, telephone number, fax number, website and email address.
Newsletters and e-newsletters: Newsletters help keep your company’s name in your customers’ minds when sent on a regular basis. Avoid the hard sell by providing relevant information so your customers look forward to reading it.
Fliers: These “one-pagers” generally have less descriptive text than brochures, but include special offers and/or promotional pricing along with a call-to-action.
Sell Sheets: Sell sheets are similar to fliers, but instead of offers, they are meant to quickly and efficiently impart facts about your product or service.
If you’re going to go to the trouble of creating collateral to promote your company and its products/services, make sure each piece represents your company in as professional a manner as possible. When produced well, marketing collateral can help drive your sales. When poorly produced, it sends a negative message about your company (and often ends up in the trash).
Originality is overrated. In fact, it’s sometimes pointless and not even worth the effort. Maybe you’ve heard it said, “There’s nothing new under the sun.” And recall that the poet T.S. Eliot once wrote, “Mediocre writers borrow; great writers steal.”
Now, hold on a second. We’re not condoning plagiarism or encouraging copyright violations. It’s just that there’s no need to reinvent the wheel every time you need a pithy line for your next marketing campaign. There are a lot of perfectly round “wheels” out there that will serve your purpose if you’ll only take a moment to fit them onto your marketing “vehicle.”
At the risk of revealing insider secrets that could put some of us wordsmiths out of business, we’re going to give away some tricks of the trade that nearly every writer employs at some point.
Ready-Made Headline Formulas
Professional blogger Jon Morrow heard the same advice about stealing from a professor, but it took a few years for it to finally sink in for him. Since then, Jon has compiled a handy list of headline formulas that he calls “Headline Hacks.” His free ebook describes six different categories with 52 ready-made, fill-in-the-blank headline formulas that you can easily use for your own business writing. So we’re going to take Jon’s advice and steal a page out of his “Headline Hacks” (while giving him credit) to share with you.
Most headlines fall into the same basic categories. The reason you see so many “Top Ten” blog posts and “How To” articles is because they work. The reader knows exactly what to expect from such a headline, and knows they can skim the headings to quickly get what they need.
Six Basic Types of Headlines:
Virtual Real Estate Transaction Coordinator
Many people live in smart homes, drive smart cars and use smart phones. REALTORS® should be no different, especially with all the tech tools at their disposal nowadays.
While some brokers still use paper documents, fax machines and push button lock boxes, mobile and connected agents can manage deals from their car using their iPad or other tech tools in their arsenal.
If you’re looking for an entry point into the connected world, here are the Top 10 tech tools to help you become more productive, efficient, and current.
1. Yesware. This is an email tracking add-on. It alerts you when the emails you sent have been opened. The mobile version of the software provides push notifications alerting you when an email you sent was opened. Yesware works with Gmail, but it’s also compatible with Top Producer® CRM, so you can track emails to groups.
2. Market Snapshot®. Create “Just Sold” and “New Listing” alerts for current, future, and past clients with this tool that works within Top Producer® CRM. Designed for mobile, Market Snapshot® sends agent-branded email alerts to deliver timely and accurate information, with your name and logo prominently featured.
3. HelloSign. This app targets those who want to go paperless. It lets your clients sign documents electronically. You can then send them to the co-op agent without ever printing, scanning or faxing a piece of paper. It works seamlessly with Gmail and Google docs. There’s even an option to create a form you can host on your website or send via email.
4. Vidcaboodle. Creates a video channel for your website from your phone. All videos can be displayed in one place fully integrated into your website. Video drives traffic to your site, not to YouTube.
5. EasilyDo. This is your personal assistant without the monthly expense. This free app accesses your digital life, finds the most important stuff and surfaces it for you. It gives you a daily snapshot of important reminders: flight information, order confirmations, and appointments. It even scans your social media presence to let you know when past clients have a job change, get married, or have a life event you can use to reconnect with them.
6. Ginger. Never send another email loaded with misspellings or misused auto-corrections. Ginger is an app following you online while you type and automatically spell checks everything. It makes you look smarter, because your text messages and emails will be corrected for grammar, synonyms, definitions, re-phrasings, and punctuation.
7. Mailboxapp.com. Designed for Gmail and iCloud accounts, the Mailbox app redesigns your mobile inbox to make email easier to use on the go. Swipe to hide a message from view, snooze messages you will get to later, and organize all of your confirmations to list. Mailbox learns from your swipes and organizes your inbox—leaving you with more time to prospect.
8. Sitegeist. For those pesky questions you can’t answer due to Fair Housing laws, direct your clients to Sitegeist. They can discover local demographics, school data and bevy of other interesting tidbits. Referring your client to an app shows you’re not just an authority on local real estate activity—but you’re plugged into resources they can depend on for useful information, as well.
9. MileIQ. Make tax time easy. This app knows tracks your auto mileage automatically. It separates business trips from personal trips—all you need to do is just scroll left or right to file your trip under the appropriate heading. At the end of the year, print your custom mileage expense report and hand it to your accountant—your mileage is done.
10. Rapportive. This Gmail extension allows agents to quickly identify who is emailing them. With Rapportive, every email address is linked to the sender’s social media accounts. Instantly, you see what city they’re in, their job title, employer and their Twitter, Facebook and Google+ accounts. Rapportive allows agents to see who is emailing them and have a face to look for when a client requests a showing.
Do you first consider your audience when preparing your marketing materials? Or are you writing for your CEO or marketing colleagues?
Integrated marketing campaigns require a strong strategy with consistent messaging, tone, and voice used throughout each leg of the campaign. Effective marketing needs content focused on driving sales. To do so, you need to write with your customer in mind, and write well. Here are eight writing tips that will help improve the quality of your sales materials and help increase your revenues:
TC On Point - Transaction Coordinator Company
In an age of e-this and social-that, it’s easy to forget that many businesses still rely on traditional printed materials to market their products and services.
True, websites have become today’s de-facto marketing medium. And flashy new pad-style computers can invigorate even the most pedestrian sales presentation.
But in the trenches, today’s sales pros still use brochures, sell sheets, direct mail and other key marketing and sales support materials to land, close and nurture new accounts.
Of course, those who routinely use printed materials continually seek ways to create and produce them better, faster and more efficiently—which may explain why companies large and small are leveraging the benefits of online storefronts.
Web to Print
An online storefront (aka Web to Print) is a browser-based Web application that links digital, print-ready versions of company marketing collateral to a pre-determined print-production and delivery environment. Typically, your team (or your printer’s) will design and upload material templates, which can then be accessed, edited and output on-demand by authorized users to a nearby printing facility. The technology even allows for personalized variable output.
Coming into its Own…Again
When online storefronts came onto the scene a few years ago, print buyers and marketers were all atwitter, knowing that it was the all-in-one printing-marketing-personalization solution they’d been waiting for. And, more recently enthusiasm has spiked, largely because more and more vendors and businesses are clearer on the technology’s considerable upside, which includes:
An experienced print-service provider can help you tailor a customized, cost-effective online storefront for a range of printed/integrated marketing materials, such as:
Have you ever used an online storefront for your business?
Virtual Transaction Coordinator