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Amy Youngren: The rock star of real estate video | REM





North Group’s Amy Youngren has been described as the rock star of Facebook video.

She has raised the bar of digital real estate marketing to a level inconceivable to those of us without thousands of followers on every possible social media platform. Youngren thrives on innovation and has won various coveted awards for it.

It’s hard to believe that just a few years back she had no idea where she was heading.

“I went to a motivational breakfast almost six years ago. I didn’t hear anything the speaker said except, ‘If you’ve outgrown the pot you’re planted in, you need a bigger pot or you’re going to die,’” says Youngren. “That was on a Friday. On Monday morning I gave my resignation.”

She spent the previous decade climbing her way upwards in the corporate office of a successful real estate franchisor, from reception through the ranks to management. But she says she increasingly felt that she was bumping against a self-imposed glass ceiling.

After that fateful breakfast, Youngren changed the course of her career and went into sales, landing at Keller Williams Referred Urban Realty in Toronto.  “I needed to push myself out of my comfort zone. So, I did,” she says.

In 2017 Youngren was instrumental in re-launching the brokerage’s Urban Lifestyle Group as the larger and more wide-ranging North Group team, which has rapidly grown to 15 agents and an expanding number of satellite locations in southern Ontario.

“We have aggressive growth plans for 2019,” says Youngren.

As co-founder of North Group (she has parted ways with her business partner), she built her team into a top Keller Williams’ entity, ranking in the franchise’s top 10 in Canada. There’s no question that her creative digital video and social media marketing strategies have had a hand in this.

Recently North Group was named ‘most innovative real estate team’ in North America by Inman News. As well, Youngren has been singled out as being among the industry’s most innovative real estate agents on social media and a major industry influencer.

“It’s a credit to our brand, our growth and our marketing,” says Youngren. “A lot of companies lose momentum when they re-brand. But we gained.”

North Group’s marketing is designed to stand out and get recognized, Youngren says. The team tries to be innovative in everything from video marketing to print and overall design.

“We pull our marketing style from outside the real estate industry. We look at advertising, fashion, lifestyle and so on. We want simplistic and stylistic. Not cluttered.”

And definitely, she adds, “not like the rest of the industry,” which tends to be “so cookie cutter when it comes to marketing,” with most salespeople continuing to do the same old things.

Youngren’s use of slick digital marketing for listings and open houses has made her a sought-after speaker on how to leverage technology, video and social media to build a brand.

Fuelling this is the idea that video tends to have a wide reach. She says studies indicate that people are much more likely to share a video on social media than they are to share text, links or photos.

“I’m really passionate about video marketing and how it can increase client engagement,” Youngren says. “No one else was doing lifestyle video marketing when we started – painting a picture of the lifestyle clients could have with that property. We’ve used actors, we’ve interviewed sellers, we’ve talked about the top 10 reasons for living in that neighbourhood.  I’ve told the story of how I sold my house.”

She and her team are always trying to “tell a story about the property,” its history and the neighbourhood, she says.

“Our mantra is to create experiences worth talking about for every client – and also to do the same for every agent on the team.”

In keeping with fostering a generous business culture that supports social change, North Group has partnered with Giveback Homes, so a portion of every transaction goes towards building a home for a local family in need.

Although North Group invests heavily in video advertising and social media (“that’s where most of our business is,” Youngren says), the team does not rely on online tools alone.

“We still get down to grass roots. We understand the power of face-to-face marketing. We’ll pick up the phone, knock on doors.” But she says, “There’s going to be a time when we won’t be able to phone someone unless they’ve provided their number. Those days are coming.”

She also predicts that teams are the way forward and that individual agents will increasingly be unable to compete.

Although Youngren’s direction is now “crystal clear,” when she first started at Keller Williams she did not really have a marketing plan.

“I was running around like a chicken with its head cut off,” she says. “Then I decided to hire an operations manager. It has been a game changer. My advice is to hire staff who are strong in all the areas you are weak.

“Now I’m constantly pushing myself out of my comfort zone through new opportunities, taking risks, and always being coached,” she says. “Fail often, fail forward and do it fast so you can learn from it and move on to the next opportunity. If you’re not failing, you’re probably not growing.”

You’d think that with all her accolades, Youngren would count being tech-savvy among her strengths, but she hedges when asked that question.

“Am I tech savvy? Yes and no,” she laughs. “I know how valuable and important technology is, and I have operations staff who are tech wizards.

“I hire people who make me look better!”


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Real Estate

7 Tips For First-Time Home Buyers In Calgary





Buying a house for the first time can be overwhelming to say the least. If you’re wondering what neighbourhood to go with, what you can afford, or even how to just get started on the process, let us take some stress off your hands! We’ve teamed up with Hopewell Residential to give you 7 tips to ensure the home you end up with is everything you dreamed of.

Hopewell Residential is a five-time Developer of the Year award winner, so their expertise is second-to-none in Calgary and beyond. Who better to learn home-buying tips from than the homebuilders themselves?

Create a checklist of needs & wants

This is a biggie. When you’re buying your very first home, you’ll want to weigh your needs vs. your wants. Ensuring you have what you love in your first home is a big, big deal.

What should you do? Easy. Set up a list of needs and a list of wants, but be pretty strict with yourself, and make sure you take your lifestyle into consideration. With the increase in remote work over the past year, it’s important to keep in mind that a home office or flex room might just be the key to maximizing at home happiness. Especially if you’re thinking you might be expanding your family later on, spare rooms and extra space is key (but more on that later!).

Or for instance, you might need a home in an area with a high walkability score, but you want to be close to certain amenities. Set yourself up with the right level of compromise and the number of homes that actually fit your ‘perfect’ idea will skyrocket.

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Real Estate

‘Don’t give up’: Ottawa Valley realtors share statistics, tips for homebuyers in ‘extreme’ sellers market





The real estate market in the Ottawa Valley can be summed up this way: people from far and wide are in a buying frenzy, but there’s hardly anything to buy at the “store,” and the limited inventory is overpriced.

This “stampede” — as one realtor described it — will affect rural towns as residents grapple with finding affordable housing and agonize over their inability to purchase homes in their price range.

“We are seeing a lack of inventory in all price ranges,” said Laura Keller, a real estate agent from Carleton Place.

Helen Vincent, a Renfrew realtor, said she’s never seen a market like this in her 36 years of practice. “We postpone offers for four to five days in order to get all the buyers,” she said.

Multiple offers — between seven and 10 — became the norm, with cash offers and no conditions, as buyers faced bidding wars. “In Ottawa, they have up to 50 (offers),” she added.

“It’s very stressful. You’re going to get nine (people) ticked off, and one happy. So many people are disappointed,” Vincent said.

Terry Stavenow, an Arnprior realtor for 40 years, said that “the pent-up need took over with inventory going low. It made a stampede on everything that was available.“

“Brand new housing — it’s very much gone. Several building developers are rushing to get inventory. They usually don’t do construction in the winter months,” said Stavenow.

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Real Estate

10 Tips For First-Time Home Buyers





Buying a home for the first time is exciting and a commitment to the future. It’s often challenging, too, and the process requires a lot of steps, many of which can be tricky to navigate as a first-time home buyer.

What are some things you should keep in mind as a first-time home buyer?

First-Time Home Buyer Tips

Here are 10 tips to keep in mind as you begin your journey toward homeownership.

1. Have Your Finances in Order

It’s wise to begin saving as early as possible once you’ve made the decision to purchase a house. You’ll need to consider the down payment, closing costs (which often range from 2% to 5% of the down payment), as well as move-in expenses.

You also need to understand the other costs of homeownership, such as mortgage insurance. property taxes, utilities, homeowner’s insurance, and more.

2. How Much Can You Afford?

Knowing how much you can realistically afford in a home is another important financial consideration. Look for the home of your dreams that fits your budget.

One way to avoid future financial stress is to set a price range for your home that fits your budget, and then staying within that range. Going through the preapproval process will help you understand what price range is realistic for your budget.

3. Make Sure Your Credit is Good

Another thing to keep in mind as a first-time home buyer is your credit score because it determines whether you qualify for a mortgage and affects the interest rate that lenders offer. 

You can check your credit score from the three credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.

This is another good reason for getting preapproved before you start your search. Learn more about the preapproval process and your credit score.

4. Choose The Right Real Estate Agent

A good real estate agent guides you through the process every step of the way. He or she will help you find a home that fits your needs, help you through the financial processes, and help ease any first-time buyer anxiety you may have.

Interview several agents and request references.

5. Research Mortgage Options

A variety of mortgages are available, including conventional mortgages – which are guaranteed by the government – FHA loans, USDA loans, and VA loans (for veterans).

You’ll also have options regarding the mortgage term. A 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is popular among many homebuyers and has an interest rate that doesn’t change over the course of the loan. A 15-year loan usually has a lower interest rate but monthly payments are larger.

6. Talk to Multiple Lenders

It’s worth your time to talk to several lenders and banks before you accept a mortgage offer. The more you shop around, the better deal you’re liable to get – and it may save you thousands of dollars.

7. Get Preapproved First

Getting a mortgage preapproval (in the form of a letter) before you begin hunting for homes is something else to put on your checklist. A lender’s preapproval letter states exactly how much loan money you can get.

Learn more about the preapproval process and how preapproval provides you with a significant competitive advantage in our article How Preapproval Gives You Home Buying Power.

8. Pick the Right House and Neighborhood

Make sure to weigh the pros and cons of the different types of homes based on your budget, lifestyle, etc. Would a condominium or townhome fit your needs better than a house? What type of neighborhood appeals to you?

9. List Your Needs and Must-Haves

The home you purchase should have as many of the features you prefer as possible. List your needs in order of priority; some things may be non-negotiable to you personally.

10. Hire an Inspector

Hiring an inspector is another crucial step in the home buying process. An inspector will tell you about existing or potential problems with the home, and also what’s in good order. You can learn more about home inspections and how to find a home inspector through the American Society of Home Inspectors website.

Buying a home for the first time is a challenge, but it’s one you can handle with the right planning and preparation.

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