Agent EducationBlogCareers October 22, 2020

5 Website Features Real Estate Agents MUST Have

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It is no secret that a website is one of the most important parts of a businessIt has truly replaced the storefront for many businesses, and it is the first place that most clients go to learn about a real estate agent. If you still do not have your own website or you just want to make sure you are on the right track.  Here are five must-have features for your real estate website: 

1. Testimonials

I’m starting out with testimonials because I think it is the most important part of your website. A testimonial or review is simply a previous client’s opinion of the service that you provide. It is just the modern version of word-of-mouth marketing. An agent can go on and on about how awesome they are and why you should use them to sell your homeWhen a potential client reads a review from someone who has used your service, it is much more believable! 

To simplify the importance let’s think about the last time you were looking for a new place to eat.  You probably received a recommendation from a friend. I want you to think about what you did next.  If you are like most people, you went to Google and searched the name of the restaurant and read the reviews.  We know that people trust the opinions of others for something as simple as a restaurant. So it makes sense that when someone is looking for an agent to help them with one of the most expensive purchases or sales of their life that they will want to see what other people think of you. 

So, you may be asking, “How do I get testimonials? I recommend that within a week or two of your client’s closing you send them a message asking them for a review of their experience with you.  I would give them instructions on exactly how to leave you a review on Google, Facebook, Zillow or anywhere else you want people to find you. Here is a link to a sample testimonial emailEvery time you get a testimonial make sure that you post it on your website! 

2. Contact me form and multiple CTAs throughout the site

One of the best tips I ever received (over a 10 years ago) on my first website was to add a contact form. I had spent hours getting all of our services, photos and reviews on the site.  The major part I didn’t think about was making it easy for people to get in touch with the company.  In your case, you want to make it super easy for your new potential clients to reach out to you via a simple form.  You can use Google Forms or most website builders have built-in forms.  It is important to make sure that the form sends you a notification to an email address that you check often.  You also want to make sure that you keep the form short and to the point (name, number, email, and reason). If you are asking for their complete life story, they most likely will not fill out the form. 


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You also want to add calls-to-action (CTA) throughout your website that lead clients to your Contact page.  As clients are browsing all of your content, you want to catch their attention and direct to where you want them to go typically through the use of a button.  I suggest using buttons that say something like “Schedule an Appointment” or “Schedule a Consultation”. In addition to these CTAs, make sure you have a “Contact” button in your top menu.  This is the location most people will look when they are ready to reach out to you. 

3. Video bio

I know, I know, most of you already want to skip over this section. You have heard it repeatedly, but a video bio is a must in 2020.  Video doesn’t have to be perfect anymore. You don’t have the excuse of not having the right equipment, because most of us have an awesome video camera in our pocket.  Today’s cell phones all have excellent cameras built-in.  You are ready to shoot your bio video when you pair your cell phone with a tri-pod and an inexpensive lapel mic like this one from Purple Panda (audio is extremely important!).  

People can really connect to a video versus reading your bio because they get to see and hear you. You immediately become more relatable! The biggest thing is to just practice over and over again, and you will get better. Don’t worry about making a mistake because you can always delete any mistakes you make! I look forward to seeing your first video soon! 

4. Blog with hyper-local content 

As a real estate agent, you are the local expert.  A blog is one of the easiest ways to convey that you are an expert. There are millions of blogs out there and it can be tough to compete with the ones that are already established.  This is why I recommend keeping your your blog hyper-local to the areas that you serve. I know here in Fredericksburg, VA that there are very few agents that are talking about their community. 

So, you agree you should have a blog, but you have no idea what to write about.  You are not alone, and this is probably the reason why most people never start a blog.  I want you to think about things you already enjoy doing and how you can make them relate to real estate or your local community. My most successful blog was called “Why I Love Fredericksburg” and I just wrote about some things my family and I love to do and included some photos. Some other ideas might be to interview local businesses, review recent events or restaurants you have been to, Top 5 lists and so on. People love reading about where they live and the more they read from you, the quicker you will look like the local expert! 

5. Responsive design

In 2020, just about every single person looking to buy or sell a home has a cell phone and we want to make sure they can view your website clearly on the go. Responsive design means that your website adjusts to different screen sizes between your laptop, tablet, and phone automatically.  Most modern site builders like Square Space or WordPress will automatically apply responsive design.  Whenever you make changes to your site you will want to open up a browser on your phone to make sure that everything is clear on a smaller screen. 

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Agent EducationBlogBuyersCareersColdwell BankerElite NewsHome SafeMarket InformationSellers September 1, 2020

Introducing the Home Safe™ Certification

Buying or selling a home is not easy, even in the best of times, but it’s especially difficult during a global pandemic. In order to mitigate the myriad of risks that come with viewing homes, meeting with clients and in-person closings, Coldwell Banker Elite has launched the Home Safe™ Certification. This is the area’s first COVID-19 safety-specific training and certification for agents who want to learn best practices regarding safe showings by using virtual tools and technology for the safest possible interactions. These agents commit to a Five Point Performance Promise designed to help clients stay safe during this health crisis.

Home Safe Certified Header

Home Safe™ Certified agents promise to meet five primary performance goals that include Digital Transactions, Safe Showing Practices, Virtual Meetings as well as using safetyconscious industry partners throughout the transaction. Coldwell Banker Elite has always been on the cutting edge of technology and now, more than ever, these tools and resources are necessary to make the real estate transaction as safe as possible.

Executive Vice President, Matthew Rathbun, notes, “Coldwell Banker Elite is meeting the needs of our clients by creating specialized training to keep clients and their families safe during an unprecedented time, where a unique situation has called for an innovative and trained specialist. This program’s advanced training helps our Associates meet and exceed the needs of our clients.” From paperless transactions to marketing that puts the buyers in the home, Home Safe™  agents are uniquely equipped to handle clients’ needs and concerns and are committed to using the best safety practices known to the industry during this COVID-19 pandemic. 

President and CEO, Kevin Breen, is thrilled to be able to offer this heightened level of service and safety noting, “We are committed to making each and every transaction as safe as possible for our clients and our agents. Buyers and sellers using a Coldwell Banker Elite Home Safe™ Certified agent can be assured that their agent is equipped with the latest technology and is trained in the best real estate practices to get the job done safely in this rapidly changing environment.”

We’re proud to help guide buyers and sellers home safely during this difficult time and we’re committed to doing everything we can to promote healthy practices. Click here to learn more about the Home Safe Program and to find a Certified Agent near you!

Agent EducationBlogCareersColdwell BankerPre-licensing March 27, 2019

Top 3 Benefits of a Career in Real Estate

I believe the top three benefits this business offers is financial independence, the freedom to manage your own time and most importantly, the ability to service and assist clients and customers to obtain one of the biggest assets of their lifetime: their home!

BlogBuyersBuying Luxury HomesFirst-Time Home BuyersNeed More Space February 27, 2019

Is It Time to Take the Next Step? Buying a Home With a Partner

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes…a nice home with room for a carriage? In terms of relationship milestones, buying a home with a partner can be an exciting and life-changing step! How do you know whether buying a home with another person (married or not) is the right decision? What are the legal and emotional implications for each party? Read on for our agents’ best advice for purchasing your first home together!

family bike parents

Define Your Must-Haves

One of the biggest problems we run into as Realtors is when couples have different expectations about what features are absolute must-haves in a home. Stafford agent Debbie Stump of the Rubio Group says, “When purchasing a home with your partner discuss the items on your home search that are most important to you both such as attached garage, number of bedrooms etc. Once you both know what is most important to the other the rest just falls into place.”

Strictly defining what is absolutely necessary and what is just “nice-to-have” will make your home search easier and drama-free! Spotsylvania agent Sarah Hurst points out that “Most people view the word couple as husband and wife, boyfriend and girlfriend but I was fortunate enough to have a single mother client with a 9 year old daughter. The daughter’s health issues made her unable to walk for 2-3 months so in the meantime, we found them a perfect home with two first-floor master bedrooms and lots of room for them to grow! This mom (my client) feels like buying them a home is a great start to getting their life underway!” No matter who you’re purchasing the home with (or for!), taking their needs and wants into consideration should help steer the direction of your search!

mom and baby home

Money Moves

For some first-time home buyers, combining finances with a partner is the only way they’d be able to afford purchasing their own home. Several of our agents recognized the financial advantages of buying a home. As Massaponax agent Michael Skinner put it, “If you’re tired of paying someone else’s mortgage, why not invest in your own future?” Tatyana Ganeyeva, of our Stafford office, advises “If your finances are in order, I would definitely consider buying a home. It’s a great investment, your best money saving tool and a place where lasting memories will be built.”

home buyers couple

Expect the Best, Prepare for the Worst

Whenever couples make a big financial decision like purchasing property, it’s important to make a plan so that all parties are protected. Stafford agent Terin Merriman warns, “Make sure you protect your own best interest, regardless of whether you’re buying with your best friend, boyfriend, etc. If for whatever reason you’re not on the loan, ensure your name is on the title so that legally it’s just as much your home as anyone else’s. Don’t just simply move in and help pay someone else’s mortgage.” Protecting your own best interest in a home purchase isn’t necessarily a harbinger of divorce or eventual animosity! It’s simply the smart thing to do when dealing with such a large investment. As King George agent Debbie Render put it, “It doesn’t matter if it’s a romantic coupling or really good friends who go in together to buy/share costs. It’s just best to see an attorney before actually buying, to work out an agreement between the parties beforehand, so that both know what will happen in a “worst-case scenario.” Using a knowledgeable agent and an experienced settlement company can be really crucial in these situations so that you have an advocate on your side!

BlogColdwell BankerElite News February 12, 2019

Coldwell Banker Elite Named Platinum Award Winner By Cartus Broker Network

relocation platinum

We are so pleased to announce Coldwell Banker Elite has been named a Platinum Award winner by Cartus Broker Services for our Relocation Department’s outstanding performance during the past year! The award will be presented at the 2019 Cartus Broker Network Conference, held March 17-19 at The MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Cartus Corporation is a worldwide leader in employee relocation solutions.

Platinum is the highest level of the Excellence Awards presented to principal brokers. Excellence Award recognition is based on performance results related to a wide variety of metrics including customer service, cost management, and effective analysis and marketing of homes.

“Being presented with The Platinum Award is a recognition of extraordinary accomplishment,” said Mike Brannan, Cartus Senior Vice President, Broker Services. “To earn this distinction, a broker must have successfully demonstrated outstanding performance in a variety of areas, including addressing customer needs, understanding local market conditions, and executing best business practices so our customers may achieve their real estate goals. Coldwell Banker Elite has delivered the very highest levels of results to both their customers and the Cartus Broker Network, and ultimately, their performance has resulted in our ability to provide great value to our clients, their relocating employees, and to our Affinity organizations and their members.”

“We’re honored to receive a Platinum Award,” said Conor Breen, Director of Relocation Services. “Our team has spent the last year fully dedicating themselves to achieving the best results for Cartus, their clients, and their customers, as well as our brokerage. I’m grateful to our team for all of their efforts, and I want to thank Cartus for this honor.”

About Cartus Broker Network
The U.S. Cartus Broker Network includes 784 firms with over 3,000 offices and approximately 116,000 agents. The Cartus Broker Network in Canada is comprised of 218 firms with 431 offices and more than 8,000 agents.

About Cartus
For more than 60 years, Cartus has provided trusted guidance to organizations of all types and sizes that require global relocation solutions. Providing the full spectrum of relocation services, including language and intercultural training, Cartus serves more than half of the Fortune 50 and has moved employees into and out of 185 countries. Cartus is part of Realogy Holdings Corp. (NYSE: RLGY), a global leader in real estate franchising and provider of real estate brokerage, relocation and settlement services. To find out how our greater experience, reach, and hands-on guidance can help your company, visit; read their blog; or click for more information.

BlogElite News December 3, 2018

Four CBE Agents Elected to 2019 FAAR Leadership

We’d like to congratulate all FOUR of our agents elected to the Fredericksburg Area Association of Realtors Leadership Team, including Drew Fristoe as 2019 FAAR President! We’re so proud of all of you and looking forward to celebrating with everyone at the Installation Ceremony on December 6th at the UMW University Center. Get to know the new Leadership Team here!

Drew Fristoe

Drew Fristoe, President

Raised in Fredericksburg, VA, Drew graduated from the University of Mary Washington in 2006 with a B.S. in Business Administration. A first-generation real estate professional who was licensed in 2008, Fristoe is active in his state and local association as well as the National Association of REALTORS®.

Drew chaired the NAR YPN committee Advisory Committee in 2018 and is also the co-founder of the Fredericksburg Area Association YPN, which Drew chaired in 2012, and the co-founder of the Virginia Association of REALTORS® YPN. He has served on the Virginia Association of REALTORS® Information Management Committee. In addition to chairing the Fredericksburg REALTORS® Foundation in 2011 and 2012, Fristoe has also worked on the Federal Political Coordinating Team for 1st District Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA) since 2009.

 Arlene Mason

Arlene Mason, President-Elect

“It gives me great pride and satisfaction to be associated with such a wonderful group of professional REALTORS®” says Arlene. She feels that she has gained so much personally by networking and serving with other dedicated, caring and giving individuals. She says that “the return on the investment of your time will far exceed your expectations.”

A licensed REALTOR® since 2004, Arlene received her associate broker’s license in 2014. Since 2004, she has been involved with various FAAR committees and then decided to take the next step to serve on the Board in 2013. She has served on FAAR’s Board of Directors for the past 5 years, Treasurer for 2 years, and Vice President for the past 2 years. She is also a proud graduate of the Virginia Leadership Academy Class of 2013.

Arlene would like to offer a challenge to her FAAR friends . . . “Become involved – it will open doors for you, and both you and your business will prosper.” She will be honored to serve as President-Elect in 2019 and looks forward to getting know more of her colleagues.

Carol Sondrini

Carol Sondrini, Director

Carol Sondrini is an energetic, positive, team-player who is very involved as a mentor in the Massaponax office and in FAAR. She is a member of the FAAR Education Committee and an elected Governor on the Realtor’s Foundation because she believes deeply in helping others. She serves as the Kitchen Coordinator for Love Thy Neighbor in King George.

She is excited to use her position on the FAAR Board to contribute to the vision moving forward in order to positively impact the members and the community. She hopes to help bring a larger awareness of FAAR to our area.

Deb Ellis

Deb Ellis, Director

Deb Ellis has been in our local market since 2004. Deb is active in the community from co-founding the Owen Lea Foundation to volunteering hours of service to local non-profits. She is passionate about education and bringing higher standards to the industry, as a member of the FAAR Education Committee and an instructor.

As the VP of Residential Services, she coaches, supports and mentors agents and brokers leading them to success. She desires to see
the same in all agents and by joining the board, she can have a positive impact. Exceptional service has been her ethos in the industry.

We are also incredibly thankful for Clay Murray and Ben Keddie’s service at FAAR as 2018 Directors and look forward to honoring them on Thursday! We are so lucky to have such a large presence in the Fredericksburg Area Association of Realtors!

BlogDownsizingFirst-Time Home SellersSellersSelling Luxury HomesSelling Your Rental August 23, 2018

How To Sell Your House Fast

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Ever wonder why some homes sell faster than others? There are plenty of examples of similarly priced homes that had drastically different days on market! Here are our 5 best tips for speeding up a home sale:


1. Clean It Up 

There’s no beating around the bush, the house needs to be clean. If you’re not sure if your house is passably clean, get a friend to give you an honest opinion or just hire a cleaning service. Ideally, decluttering and deep cleaning should happen BEFORE listing photos are taken. Don’t make potential buyers have to imagine what the house might look like tidied up–get rid of clutter both inside and outside the house and put some elbow grease into making the place sparkle! Cabinets and drawers should be wiped down, any scuffs removed from the walls and kitchen appliances polished. Shampooing your carpets or mopping the floors can make a big difference!

 couch table plant


2. Consider Staging

Take a look at some of the other homes for sale in your area. Some of them will be vacant, some will still have the seller’s furniture and some may be professionally staged. Which looks more appealing to you? Staging is an extra expense but for many sellers it is worth the trouble! You can cut down on staging costs if the home is only staged for the listing pictures. If you’re really pressed for time or can’t afford to hire a staging company, focus on staging the bedrooms and living rooms, adding art pieces strategically to make the home feel more comfortable.


3. Professional Listing Photos

Dimly lit iPhone pictures aren’t going to cut it nowadays! The pros know the best ways to frame and shoot various rooms and can adjust for non-optimal lighting situations. Professional photographers will also have wide-angle lenses to fit the entire room in the photo and video and drone capabilities if your home requires them. Your CBE agent will know several great real estate photographers who can make your home look amazing!
 clean white kitchen


4. Make It Available

Once your home is on the market, get ready to spend a lot of time away from your home so buyers and real estate agents can view the property comfortably without you or your pets lurking around. For at least the first week or so that the home is on the market, it’s best to accept all showings within normal viewing hours and to make the home as accessible as possible.

5. Price It Right

Bottom line: Buyers are mostly concerned with their bottom line. Pricing the home appropriately from the beginning will drastically cut down on days on market and help you capitalize on the initial buzz from potential buyers. Your Coldwell Banker Elite agent can help you decide on the right price for your home by looking at a variety of factors: your house’s age, any updates, square footage, and the school district. They can also pull up comparable homes, or “comps,” that have sold in the area to evaluate the best price.


BlogBuyersBuying Luxury HomesFirst-Time Home BuyersNeed More Space December 11, 2017

3 Signs You’re Not Ready to Buy A Home

three signs you're not ready to buy a home

Scrolling through your Facebook timeline in your twenties and thirties can feel like a never-ending slideshow of #adulting milestones. Why is everyone engaged all of a sudden? When did so-and-so have a baby? Chances are, you’ve seen quite a few “We just bought a home!” posts, too. If you’re one of the 80% of millennials would like to purchase real estate, watching all your friends buy a home can trigger massive FOMO.

We’re here to help you figure out whether you’re ready to join the homeowner ranks! As fun as it looks on social media, buying a home before you’re ready or for the wrong reasons can be a huge mistake. Let’s go through the top 3 reasons you might not be ready to buy a home right now:

     1.  Not enough money saved

So you’ve saved enough to make a 10% down payment on your dream home, congrats! Unfortunately, the down payment is only one part of the costs you’ll need to pay upfront. Once you cough up that 10% down payment, you’ll still need to pay for any closing costs, necessary inspections, repairs or maintenance costs, the first few months of mortgage and insurance payments, and any moving costs. Closing costs can run anywhere from 2-5% of the asking price while typical home inspections are around $350-500. That’s on top of your down payment!

Keeping all that in mind, is your dream home still within your housing budget of 30-33% of your yearly income?

    2.  You’re on the move

Due to the high up-front costs of buying a home, real estate is not generally a good short-term investment. The days of flipping distressed properties for a profit are over so if you’re planning on making money on the sale of your home, you’ll need to stay put for at least five years. If your career or relationship status isn’t particularly stable or you’re considering exploring new areas in the next few years—buying may not be the smart choice right now.

   3. You’re still working on your credit

A low credit score won’t make it impossible to buy a home, but it will make it more expensive. Check your credit score on free sites like Credit Karma—the higher your score, the better your interest rate on your mortgage will be! This can make a big difference in your monthly payments so if your credit score isn’t particularly healthy right now, you may want to wait to purchase a home. If you’re not sure where to start, a loan officer will be able to help you navigate the process of repairing your credit and getting ready to buy.

Still feeling like you’re ready to buy? Give any of our wonderful agents a call and start looking for your dream home today!

BlogBuyersBuying Luxury HomesDownsizingFirst-Time Home BuyersFirst-Time Home SellersNeed More SpaceSellersSelling Luxury Homes October 10, 2017

Top 5 Best Apps and Sites for Moving

Parents Take A Break On Sofa With Son On Moving Day

1. ThredUp/ Letgo

Moving, while stressful, is actually one of the best times to evaluate your wardrobe and all your possessions—if you’re dreading moving it to your new home, it’s probably time to let it go. ThredUp and Letgo are both awesome for paring down your closet and letting your old unwanted items have a new life. Not only will you have less stuff to move, you’ll be able to make some cash!

2. Unpakt

Schedule and organize your movers all online with Unpakt! If ever a moving website could be fun to use, this one would be! They help you figure out how many boxes you’ll need based on what kind of items you have and the size of your home and then let you compare moving companies’ prices! You can book them online for your move and the price is guaranteed—not an estimate—which is great for budgeting ahead of time!

3. Sortly

Sortly is an awesome way to keep track of everything you own! Snap a picture of each of your belongings (or maybe just the ones most important to you!) and categorize them by room, box or any way you want. You can create searchable notes and tags to help you find things quickly and even mark boxes with QR labels to see what’s inside without digging through it! After your move, Sortly can be helpful when you’re figuring out how much you need to insure your home for—if you add the value of each of your items, it’ll total them up for you!

4. MagicPlan

Let’s face it, once all your contingencies are satisfied, there’s not a whole lot for you to do besides pack until closing day. Use that hurrry-up-and-wait time to sketch out where your furniture will go, what decor should go where and what will make your new house flow as best as possible. Bonus: now you know exactly where certain boxes (and the super heavy furniture!) should go and you can label them for the movers so you’re not having to rearrange on the day of!

5. Updater

One of our favorite sites EVER! Updater makes transferring your mail, utilities and subscriptions to your new address a snap! Your CBE agent will put in your old and new addresses and voila! You’ll get a link to easily transfer over all of your mail and make sure your utilities are in order before the big day! A couple clicks and you’re done! Why isn’t everything this easy?

Moving soon and need an awesome checklist to make sure you’ve remembered everything? Check out our Ultimate Moving Checklist and download the room-by-room guide!

Blog September 21, 2017

Home of the Week: 84 E River Bend Drive

84 E River Bend Dr

After a long week of emails and meetings, feel the stress of modern life melt away as you pull up to your rustic retreat. Crickets sweetly chirping and the soft sighing of swaying trees around 84 E River Bend Dr is a welcome respite from the incessant dings and beeps of everyday life.

84 E River Bend Dr

While away a quiet evening with a glass of wine on the generous front porch or host a fabulous dinner on the beautiful back deck— 84 E River Bend is made for al fresco entertaining. The property’s ample 3 acres affords your guests all the peace and serenity of the deep woods, even though you’re just minutes from Central Park and Cannon Ridge Golf Club.

84 E River Bend Dr

Re-connect with nature before heading back out into the hubbub of city life—natural woodwork elements and hardwood floors throughout the home keep you grounded and light, while airy spaces help the home feel spacious and open.

84 E River Bend Dr

Curl up on chilly nights in front of the wood-burning fireplace with a mug of hot cocoa or move down to the large basement with a playroom for family movie night. This truly unique home has plenty of space to relax with family and friends.

84 E River Bend Dr

When it’s time to settle in for the night, there are four bedrooms to choose from, including one cupboard-room that kids will love! Listed for only $380,000, this rustic retreat is a hidden gem! If you’d like more information about this home or to schedule a showing, please contact Charlotte Rouse or any of our wonderful agents!