By Christopher M. Leporini, REALTOR® Magazine
American Homes: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Domestic Architecture By Lester Walker (Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers) 330 pp., $15.95
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Don’t let the title of American Homes: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Domestic Architecture fool you. Although it is a comprehensive look at 103 U.S. residential home styles illustrated by more than 1,000 line drawings, the book provides an easy-to-read, perusable format that makes it a perfect reference.
The book provides great detail without becoming overwhelming. Each residential style includes an average of four paragraphs of history, distinguishing features, and several illustrations that highlight both the internal and external features. The book is ordered chronologically, from some of the earliest U.S. housing styles like earth lodge and Native American tipis to the dominant styles of today. What makes the book fun to read is author Lester Walker’s “exploded diagrams,” which are hand-drawn and oftentimes include floor-by-floor or layer-by-layer detail with block handwritten captions.
It’s a useful reference to have at your desk at home or at the office, or on display on your coffee table. You can use it to beef up your architecture knowledge and inform clients on how building materials, floor layouts, and decorative flourishes make a home functional or historically significant.
Walker is a New York-based architect who has written numerous consumer books and articles about architecture. He was a professor of architecture at City College of New York and has presented seminars at Harvard University, MIT, UCLA, and the Rhode Island School of Design. He researched historical texts, American Builder, Architectural Record, and Popular Science, among other publications, to write American Homes.
Tips for Real Estate Professionals
This book can be a valuable tool in your discussions with clients. For example, you can help your clients understand the architectural history and features of a home they are viewing by showing them the style descriptions in this book. Because it’s an easy-to-read reference, you can keep it at your office to refresh your memory about a certain style before meeting prospects for a listing presentation. A four-page glossary of architectural terms also provides handy illustrations of different types of arches, dormers, roofs, and windows.
A few interesting styles covered in the book include:
- Swiss Cottage. Quaint and rustic, the Swiss Cottage, or chalet, was a popular country style in the northern United States in the mid-19th century. The two-story homes were built from rough-cut lumber and featured abundant galleries, balconies, and large windows. This style also featured widely projecting roofs and stones used in raised foundations to enhance the overall rustic feel. The exterior siding was made from one-inch wide, rough-cut boards nailed to a wooden underlayment to resemble the Swiss post-and-beam structure, creating an architectural effect that has been called “skinless.”
- Spanish Colonial Revival. This style is a combination of Mediterranean-influenced architecture and takes its cues from late Moorish architecture, Baroque architecture from Colonial Spain and Portugal, and the Pueblo and Mission styles, among others. The style was popular in Southern California, New Mexico, southern Arizona, Texas, and Florida between 1915 and 1940, and spread to other parts of the country. Features of this style include red-tiled roofs, white plaster or stucco walls, arched windows and doors, and balconies and ornamental hardware made of wrought iron.
- Art Moderne. The Art Moderne style was inspired by America’s love affair with machines (airplanes, cars, and even toasters) and stressed the streamlined and the functional. It became a fashionable fad at the end of the 1920s, although the hard-edge and angular features lent the style more to public buildings such as movie theaters, hotels, and office buildings. Art Moderne homes have rounded corners, flat roofs, horizontal bands of windows, and smooth, unornamented walls. Other hallmarks include curved glass windows that wrap around corners, stainless steel window and door trim, and major rooms that maximize natural light.
- Neomodern. This style, which originated in the West Side of Los Angeles over the past three decades, embodies the unusual and unexpected with fragmented, angular forms and eclectic mixes of raw materials and textures. Its influences include earlier styles, such as International and Post Modern architecture. But Neomodern structures feature vivid color combinations that separate them from the subdued white tones found in International architecture. Glass prisms, slanted walls, trapezoidal windows, and fine detailing typify Neomodern homes.
Want to learn more about architecture? Visit REALTOR® Magazine Online’s Architecture Guide for descriptions and illustrations on different residential architecture styles, our new Architecture Coach column, and information about dormers, roofs, and windows.
- Architecture Coach: Know the Style, Sell the House , Jackie Craven, January 2004
- Web Site Review: About Architecture , Christopher M. Leporini, October 2003
- Web Review: Architecture Sites , Christopher M. Leporini, March 2002
By Haley M. Hwang, REALTOR® Magazine
Opening Doors: Selling to Multicultural Real Estate Clients Michael D. Lee, CRS, GRI Oakhill Press, 1999 284pp., $34.95
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Opening Doors: Selling to Multicultural Real Estate Clients is a valuable resource for any real estate salesperson who wants to expand his or her sales by working with clients from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Indeed, citing a statistic by Fleet Mortgage Group that an estimated 80 percent of all first-time homebuyers will be immigrants by the year 2010, author Michael D. Lee suggests that practitioners who don’t prepare themselves now to work with these new Americans may have to find a different line of work.
Although the book has been out for five years, it’s still the only book of its kind written by a veteran real estate professional that incorporates cultural teachings and applies them specifically to practice of real estate. Much of the first half of the book is an abbreviated geography and history lesson about countries and cultures represented in the United States. Because the book was published in 1999, it cites statistics mostly from the 1990 Census or other updates from the early 1990s. Although the numbers are not the most current, the cultural information and practical tips offered in the book are timeless.
Some of the generalizations that Lee makes about certain ethnic groups and their preferences in the homebuying process are a little too sweeping and broad. But Lee acknowledges, “Out of necessity, this book will make some generalizations about cultural ‘tendencies’” that not everyone may agree with.
But Lee’s take-home message is clear: treat each client as an individual. Don’t make assumptions about them or their beliefs based on their cultural background. Take the time to learn their cultures, and if uncertain about anything, ask questions.
“Every person you meet in the real estate profession is an individual with rights, interests, and visions of the future that are their own, yet much like everyone else’s,” Lee writes. “Understanding their cultures and beliefs will help you to establish friendship, rapport, and sound business success.”
Lee started his career in real estate in 1977 and is now a broker, professional speaker, and author. He spent 10 years researching and compiling the information for this book. He stresses that the information contained in the book should only be the beginning of your studies into other cultures that make up the United States and your specific market.
Tips for Real Estate Professionals
Tips for Showing Property
- Know how important punctuality is to your customers. People from Germany, Austria, and Switzerland are sticklers for promptness. But being 15 to 30 minutes late is generally quite acceptable to those from the Middle East. The Japanese may be consistently 30 minutes late, yet they expect you to be on time. Waiting for them is how you show respect. People from Latin America, Italy, and Spain expect you to arrive late, which they, too, consider a sign of respect.
- Make known your smoking preferences. Smoking is more prevalent and accepted in other countries than it is in this country. If you prefer that customers not smoke in your car or in your sellers’ house, say so. But it’s best for you not to smoke in their presence if you’re a smoker. They may be offended by the smoke but won’t tell you out of politeness.
- Carefully plan transportation logistics. Many multicultural customers bring extended family members with them to showings, so confirm travel plans in advance. Some expect to be driven to showings in a spotless, even luxurious, car. Avoid passing cemeteries and funeral homes with Chinese clients, since they consider them bad luck. Treat a Hispanic woman with respect and solicit her opinion, since she wields great influence in her household.
- Don’t steer your multicultural clients to one particular neighborhood. You can’t legally or ethically assume that people of a particular culture want to live in an area occupied by others from their culture. Your best tactic is to all the information you have about various neighborhoods where they’re qualified to buy. Let them make the decision.
The Meaning of Colors and Numbers
- In Germany, red roses express love and romance, so it may not be an appropriate gift in the business setting.
- A yellow gift in Mexico would not be well received because the color yellow is associated with death.
- The Chinese traditionally wear black to weddings and white to funerals. The color white is associated with death in a number of Asian countries, which is the opposite of European and American traditions.
- While the number 7 is considered lucky and 13 unlucky in the West, the number 4 is a bad omen in much of Asia and 8 is considered lucky.
- Bring a small, thoughtful gift when you meet with new customers. Although giving a gift before the end of a business transaction may be considered bribery in some cultures, it’s acceptable and even expected in certain countries such as South Korea, India, and Japan.
- Neer outspend your clients or customers when exchanging gifts, or they may lose face. One strategy is to open your gift first, and then say you need to retrieve their gift from your car. You can have several wrapped and ready in different price ranges.
- Avoid giving gifts bearing the American eagle to customers from China and Saudi Arabia. It’s a bad-luck symbol in those cultures.
- Never give alcohol to Islamic clients. Most people who practice this faith do not drink.
- Avoid giving Asian customers knives or scissors. Anything that cuts symbolizes the severing of a relationship. Also avoid giving a clock or any white gift, and stay away from white wrapping paper. Such details symbolize death to Asian clients.
- Don’t give handkerchiefs to Middle Easterners. They connote sadness, tears, or pity.
- Exercise caution when giving flowers. In Mexico and Brazil, purple flowers are associated with death, while white flowers, such as carnations, have a similar connotation in Japan and for many European natives.
Tips on Gift Giving
Editor’s Note: It’s worth noting that there is one recommendation that Lee makes in his book that this reviewer disagrees with. Lee writes: “It’s perfectly acceptable to ask where people are from. Better than to assume and be wrong. One simple way to show interest in your client’s cultural background is to ask straight-forwardly, ‘Where are your ancestors from?’” This question, as phrased, can be considered highly offensive to many ethnic minorities in this country, especially if their families have been in the United States for generations. Questions that are equally offensive include, “Where are you really from?” “Where are your parents from?” or rattling off a number of ethnicities in the hopes of hitting the right one eventually (“Are you Chinese? Japanese? Vietnamese?”). A more politically correct phrasing to ascertain the ethnicity of potential clients is to ask, “What is your cultural background?” Or better yet, if you have been referred to a multicultural client by a current client or have targeted a multicultural niche in your market area, you should already know the ethnicity and not even have to ask.