Author: Real Living Real Estate

Tips to Boost Diversity and Inclusion in Real Estate

Improving diversity and inclusion initiatives has become a key priority across the real estate industry and especially at our brokerage network. Ensuring there is a good mix of different cultures, backgrounds and experiences fosters innovation and growth.

Recently, Teresa Palacios Smith, vice president of Diversity, Inclusion and Multicultural Services at HSF Affiliates, shared three tips to boost diversity and inclusion in the workplace in an article prepared by Quicken Loans and RISMedia. From attracting and retaining diverse talent to encouraging community involvement, the article provides sage advice for leaders looking to strengthen diversity and inclusion in their businesses.

To integrate diversity into recruitment practices, Palacios Smith recommends management teams “host town halls and open forums at your office(s) so that you can invite new and established agents to learn more about your company and the opportunities and tools you offer that can set you apart from your competition.”

She also suggests real estate professionals look to local and national minority organizations to build relationships across diverse communities.

Palacios Smith encourages network members to participate in the following organizations:

– Asian American Real Estate Association (AREAA)

– National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP)

– National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB)

– National Association of Gay and Lesbian Professionals (NAGLREP)

– National Association of Women in the Real Estate Business (NAWRB)

– National Association of Realtors (NAR)

Palacios Smith will present more of her insights at NAREB’s Annual Conference held in Atlanta, GA July 24-29 and the NAWRB’s Annual Conference in Chicago, IL July 29-31. Read more diversity and inclusion tips from Palacios Smith here.

Teresa Palacios Smith Receives 2018 Real Estate Newsmaker Award

Congratulations to Teresa Palacios Smith, vice president of Diversity & Inclusion at HSF Affiliates, for being honored with a 2018 Real Estate Newsmaker Award by RISMedia.

According to RISMedia President and CEO John Featherston, “RISMedia’s Real Estate Newsmaker Awards honor the industry’s real newsmakers: the people who are positively affecting our industry and the millions of consumers we serve. Our industry promotes and provides consumers with a pathway to responsible homeownership. Over the past three-plus decades, RISMedia has covered, chronicled and celebrated the professionals making news in real estate, and we are honored to be formalizing these honors starting with the first annual RISMedia Real Estate Newsmaker Awards.”

“I am flattered to receive an inaugural Real Estate Newsmaker Award from RISMedia, and so pleased RISMedia recognizes that all-inclusive real estate is indeed both a notable and newsworthy cause and achievement,” said Palacios Smith. “The award calls attention to the work we’re doing at HSF Affiliates to increase diversity in our brokerage networks and industry overall. We’re proud of our progress and know there is much work to be done.”

The awards were presented at a ceremony at the prestigious National Press Club in Washington, D.C., in conjunction with the National Association of REALTORS® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo taking place during the week. Ron Peltier, chairman and CEO of HomeServices of America, Inc., also received a Real Estate Newsmaker Award during the ceremony.

Going Above the Call of Duty: How One Agent Worked to Turn Around an Entire Town

The road to a career in real estate was quite unconventional for Milt Thomas, agent with Real Living Capital City. After stints as an English teacher in Japan, a bartender and a filmmaker, Thomas found himself in the small mill town of Porterdale, GA, roughly 35 miles east of Atlanta along the banks of the Yellow River.

It was there the 2017 Atlanta REALTORS® Top Producer discovered his passion for the preservation of the historic mill homes – houses built between 1910 and 1920 as homes for the worker families of the mills – as well as a knack for selling real estate.

Porterdale was once a thriving mill town named after the local mill owner, Oliver S. Porter. The mill was the county’s main employer, operated the area’s only fully staffed hospital, provided recreation programs for the mill workers and their families, and built homes, schools and churches within the town limits. The mills closed in the 1970s and the town fell into disarray after much of the population left for jobs elsewhere.

After discovering the village about four years ago, Thomas became interested in renovating one of the small mill homes and purchased a property of his own.

Thomas, along with the Porterdale’s mayor, economic development director and other civic leaders worked together to bring awareness to area’s affordable housing. Thomas joined the historical preservation group and held events showcasing what could be done to renovate the mill homes.

“After 20 years of living in Atlanta, I moved to Porterdale because of the neighborly feel, the river, the peace and quiet,” said Thomas. “I never imagined I would be helping to restore a town to its historic integrity but I feel really passionate about the preservation of these homes and the opportunity restoration could mean for the community.”

To promote Porterdale’s historic richness, Thomas created the site The site is a resource for homebuyers looking for information on homes for sale, various loan programs, schools and arts programs and nearby entertainment and tourism.

When Thomas first started selling homes in 2014, properties sold for an average $27,000. Today, the current market value of many mill homes is more than $100,000.

Rusty Willis, broker/owner of Real Living Capital City, described Thomas’ efforts as going beyond the call of duty to really elevate the reputation of network professionals and the areas they serve. “He’s helping the town restore itself to former glory,” said Willis. “It’s not just real estate, it’s the whole community.”

Real Living Real Estate Leads Industry with Highest Customer Satisfaction Rating

We at Real Living Real Estate are proud to announce network agents earned an unprecedented 98% customer satisfaction rating for 2017, according to independent ratings service Quality Service Certification, Inc. (QSC). This is highest QSC score ever tallied by Real Living, and it places the brokerage network at the top of the real estate industry for customer satisfaction.

Through our innovative Real Living 360 Service® program, the network asks customers to candidly rate the performance of sales agent. QSC administers and validates these customer service satisfaction results following closed transactions for participating agents. More than 17,000 buyers and sellers were surveyed to measure the satisfaction of Real Living Real Estate customers.

“Real Living network agents make a pledge of service excellence every time they work with a home buyer or seller,” said Bob McAdams Jr., president of Real Living. “With each transaction they pledge themselves in writing as the Trusted AdvisorSM, the Skilled NegotiatorSM and the Expert FacilitatorSM. Our Real Living 360 Service Guarantee assures delivery of the promise to provide extraordinary customer care.”

In the QSC study, a full 94% of home buyers and 91% of home sellers who worked with Real Living sales associates reported being very satisfied with the results and service provided by their Real Living real estate professional. According to the latest report from the National Association of REALTORS®, only 61% of buyers and 62% of sellers said they were very satisfied with the buying process and service provided by their real estate professional.

“As the industry trailblazer in customized real estate, Real Living network agents are empowered to go above and beyond to meet the needs of our customers,” said Allan Dalton, chief operating officer of Real Living Real Estate. “This distinction puts our brand above the rest and it’s evident by the excellent results of this survey.”

Gino Blefari, CEO of HSF Affiliates, congratulated the Real Living network for its QSC scores. “Top-rate client service is more than a promise, it’s a lifestyle at Real Living,” Blefari said. “This record-high 98% satisfaction rating underscores the network’s dedication to only the very best in customer care.”

New to the Network: Real Living Home Realty Group

Real Living Real Estate, one of the nation’s leading real estate franchisors and a member of the HSF Affiliates LLC family of real estate brokerage franchise networks, today announced that independent brokerage Properties at the Market Common has joined the network. Real Living’s newest member will operate as Real Living Home Realty Group.

“We’re proud to be joining the Real Living Real Estate network family,” said Jim Parker, co-owner. of Real Living Home Realty Group. “We see this relationship as an opportunity to leverage Real Living’s marketing tools and industry resources. Working with Real Living will expand our reach and help even more homebuyers and sellers in the Myrtle Beach area.”

The brokerage already has a long-standing reputation for connecting with the community and local businesses through its print and online publication, The Insider at the Market Common. The Insider has a readership of over 77,500 and is currently mailed to over 21,000 residences and businesses; 10,000 copies are distributed through 100+ business locations along the Grand Strand.

With their membership in the network, the brokerage will also benefit from Real Living’s comprehensive and integrated suite of resources aimed at helping real estate agents and their clients successfully navigate the home buying and selling process. The technology and systems provided by Real Living will allow the brokerage’s current agents to provide an even higher level of support to clients while encouraging new agents to join the brokerage.

“The Real Living brand is synonymous with lifestyles. Real Living Home Realty Group is a natural fit to market the distinctiveness of Myrtle Beach and the surrounding communities,” said Allan Dalton, chief operating officer of Real Living Real Estate.

Robert McAdams Jr., president of Real Living Real Estate, welcomed Real Living Home Realty Group to the network. “We look forward to providing this already exceptional firm the support it deserves to grow even further,” he said. “We’re thrilled they’ve chosen Real Living and we’re confident they’ll continue their tradition of serving the community of Myrtle Beach under the new name and brand.”

CEO of HSF Affiliates Gino Blefari added, “Jim and the Real Living Home Realty Group team will be exceptional ambassadors for the Real Living network and we’re excited to support them in their strategic growth.”
Real Living Home Realty Group will celebrate joining the network with a community ribbon cutting in the spring of 2018. Details regarding the event, the new branding and new opportunities to work with the brokerage will be available online

Real Living Greater Montana Presents Benefit for Bikers Against Bullies

Team members from Missoula, MT-based Real Living Greater Montana banded together for a charity event that raised more than $13,000 for Bikers Against Bullies. The national non-profit empowers school-aged children with anti-bullying social skills through assembly appearances and role-playing exercises.

In February, the team produced the Winterfest-Rock for the Kids! featuring live musical performances by Jared Blake from The Voice and Jared Weeks from Saving Abel.

 The event was held at the DoubleTree hotel in Missoula, which donated the cost of the room for the fundraiser. The team sold individual tickets to the event and raised more than $4,000 in sponsorships. The event also included a silent auction and a giveaway to raise additional funds.

To get a front-row view of the fun, watch this video from the event!

Inaugural Real Living Community Service Awards Presented at Real Living Connection 2018

Real Living Real Estate is proud to announce that 13 network franchisees and agents were recognized for their civic contributions and community service through the Inaugural Real Living Community Service Awards.

Recipients of the Real Living Community Service Award were recognized among nearly 400 attendees at this year’s Real Living Connection conference in St. Petersburg, Florida.

“From supporting children with disabilities to helping victims of natural disaster, we are so proud to recognize these everyday heroes making a positive difference right in their backyards,” said Robert McAdams Jr., president of Real Living.

To be considered for this year’s award, applicants submitted a short video describing their work in their community and the inspiration behind their service. Highlights of the video submissions were played at the Real Living Real Estate booth for Real Living Connection 2018 attendees. A highlight reel can be viewed at:

“Our first honorees set high standards for their compassion and corporate citizenship,” said Gino Blefari, president and CEO of HSF Affiliates. “Each has gone beyond the call of duty to help local people and programs. They are wonderful ambassadors of our Real Living Real Estate brand.”

The full list of winners includes:

Real Living Realty Professionals, Longmeadow, MA

Real Living Realty Professionals, Longmeadow, Massachusetts, helped not only organize an event addressing the Opioid crisis, it also then planned a fundraising drive to purchase a van for a local child with disabilities.

Beth Wolff Realtors® Real Living, Houston, TX

Beth Wolff Realtors Real living of Houston, TX has a strong, multi-generational history of community service in Houston.  Their participation in community service includes the Greater Houston Partnership, Operation Houston, Keep Houston Beautiful, The American Heart Association and support of Shop With Heart.

PowerMark Properties, A Real Living Real Estate Network Member, Biloxi, MS

PowerMark Properties of Biloxi partners with Together We Rise, an organization dedicated to transforming the way kids experience foster care in communities across the United States.

Real Living Advantage Real Estate, Norfolk, NE

Together the team at Real Living Advantage Real Estate support several local organizations including: Mercy Meals, Go Red For Women, Supplies for Hurricane Victims in Puerto Rico, a Christmas Tree Food Drive, the Angel Tree Picking and Packing Toys for Kids.

Real Living Wareck D’Ostilio, New Haven, CT

John Wareck and Frank D’Ostilio, Owners of Real Living Wareck D’Ostilio, and their team are dedicated to making the world a better place. Together they partner with the Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen (DESK) to provide meals for the Homeless and Underserved.

Real Living Messina & Associates, Duluth, MN

Real Living Messina & Associates, Duluth, Minnesota, completed their 3rd year as a company in partnership with the Best Christmas Ever, whose mission is to provide for families in need during the holiday season.

Dave Culbertson, Real Living Home Team, Mt. Vernon, OH

Dave Culbertson, Broker Owner of Real Living Home Team, Mt. Vernon, Ohio, and founder of the Arms of An Angel Foundation, is devoted to keeping drugs off the streets of his community with direct donations helping fund K-9 units for local sheriff’s departments.

Elaine Wehri, Real Living CCR Realtors, Lima, OH

Elaine Wehri has lived a life devoted to community service. She has helped raise money for the Lima Salvation Army’s Red Kettle campaign, has volunteered as an auctioneer for the Bluffton Lions Club, sponsored the Fort Fest in Fort Jennings and much more.

Katie Weaver, Real Living Kee Realty, Washington Township, MI

Katie Weaver, agent with Real Living Kee Realty, Washington Township, Michigan shared the story of her participation as a key driver in the success of the Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs program.

Brenda Cuoco, Real Living Realty Professionals, Wilbraham, MA

Brenda Cuoco and her team participated in their city-wide Thanksgiving Mayflower Marathon and chose to support the Open Pantry food collection program providing food for the needy and homeless.

Stephen Sheffer, Beth Wolff REALTORS® Real Living, Houston, TX

From Beth Wolff Realtors Real Living, agent Stephen Sheffer shared his involvement in the well-being of Houston with multiple organizations including Habitat For Humanity, The Mission Center of Houston, Avon Walk for Breast Cancer Research and Compassion United.

Navona Hart, Real Living Cornerstone, Farmville, VA

Navona Hart supports several local charities including the Piedmont Senior Resources Center for homebound elderly.

Landon Sallee, Freedom Realty & Property Management, Winchester, KY

Landon Sallee, an agent with Freedom Realty & Property Management, grew his locks over 9 inches to donate them to cancer patients experiencing the emotional pain of hair loss.

The Real Living Community Service Award, recognizes member companies and agents alike for the outstanding service to enrich your community and ultimately, make it a better place to live.

Introducing Real Living's Community Service Award

This year at Real Living Connection, we’ll debut our first-ever Community Service Award. This brand-new Real Living Community Service Award, recognizing companies and agents alike for leadership in civic contribution, is a way for us to honor the outstanding work you do to enrich your communities and ultimately, make them better places to live.
The winner of the award will be announced live onstage at Real Living Connection. Going forward, this award will be a permanent part of our awards program.

Submissions will be in the form of two-minute videos that can be emailed directly to

The content for your submission video (and yes, smartphone videos or selfie videos are accepted) should answer the following questions: What did you do for your community and why did you do it? How did you do it and who did it benefit? Essentially, your video should describe the who, what, why when and how of your community contribution.

Any additional questions about the Community Service Award can be emailed to the address above.

Freedom Realty & Property Management Joins Real Living Real Estate Brokerage Network

Real Living is pleased to announce that Freedom Realty & Property Management in Winchester, KY, has joined the network. Freedom Realty & Property Management is the first company to join Real Living under the brand’s repositioning as “The Leader in Customized Real Estate.”

As part of the re-engineering of Real Living’s branding, franchisees like Freedom Realty & Property Management are now afforded maximum flexibility in business. New network brokerages may retain more of their local identity while fully leveraging brand support and resources. The brand is still selling franchises under the traditional Real Living branding but offers this new option to potential and existing franchisees.

“It was very important that Real Living allowed us the flexibility to retain our local identity backed by the Real Living solutions, systems, tools, training and network reach,” said Greg Wood, broker/owner of Freedom Realty & Property Management.

Thoughts on Leadership: Altruism and Tragedy

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me first in San Diego for the 2017 AREAA National Convention. The conference focused on how real estate can better serve buyers and sellers of diverse backgrounds and I was honored to participate in a panel discussion about the Fair Housing Act, created to ensure homeownership for all. The onstage dialogue was detailed and thoughtful, meant to get to the core of the Fair Housing issue and figure out how we can create a better way to protect renters and buyers from unlawful discrimination.

Next, my itinerary would’ve taken me to Las Vegas for the Zillow Group Broker Forum. The event is invite-only and happens each year, bringing together the nation’s largest brokers to meet with Zillow Group executives and industry leaders to share ideas about trends in real estate. It would’ve been enlightening and informative, I’m sure, but Monday morning I received an email the event was cancelled, and the cancellation was of course the right thing to do.

As you know, Sunday night marked the largest mass shooting in our nation’s history and on behalf of our organization, my thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by the awful tragedy in Las Vegas. This entire week has felt expectedly heavy on our hearts as the country mourns great losses, consoles and slowly, somehow attempts to heal.  

It’s incredible to me that while our world turns ever-tech—more connected, more digital—that when true darkness falls, we find bright spots not in the light from our cell phones but in the lights of those shining, valiant leaders who step up amid tragedy and show unyielding compassion, bravery and poise. We’re not defined by the technology we possess but by the character we display, and stories about the incredible heroes of the Las Vegas shooting prove that fact now more than ever before. I just read an article about the police officers who willingly put themselves in harm’s way by entering a hotel with reports of an active, heavily armed shooter inside. Now that’s leadership and heroism at its finest.

The idea of the unselfishness of people is actually one that is central to our industry. When you think about the essence of real estate, we are not really in the business of buying and selling homes, we are in the business of helping others. We assist buyers, we assist sellers; we help people and always will. Those interested can contribute to the Las Vegas Victims’ Fund here.

So what’s the message? This week, I’ll keep it short because the focus must remain on the fallen and wounded in Las Vegas. But as I said, there is goodness that can be derived from such tragic horror and it’s found in the unwavering selflessness of people ready to help those in need.

GINO BLEFARI is CEO of HSF Affiliates LLC. You can follow Gino on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.