Reviewing the Latest Interior Design News

Whether you are looking for contemporary designs, commercial interior design ideas, modern furniture or historic relics for your home, design news can offer practical ideas. Many people like to know what they are looking for prior to calling the professional interior designer, so they won’t get talked into anything they may not want. Generally, the interior designer will be a good listener and communicator, knowledgeable in everything from interior design furniture and lighting to building regulations and kitchen storage space. So what does the moment hold for interior design?

Green building materials, furniture and interior design services are making design headlines all around the world, but particularly in America, in places like Seattle, Portland, New York and Austin. Last year, green building technology found a friend in the money-conscious consumer who was looking to save on his or her energy costs. Traditionally, sustainable design had been seen as “pricey” and “hardly worth it,” but now prices have dropped and consumers are beginning to see where pennies can be pinched.

The LEED standard became the predominant licensing agency and Energy Star appliances became mandatory for government buildings in many states. More than 14% of all US cities have some kind of “green real estate” program in place and insurers agree to protect sustainable houses. These breakthroughs are clearing the way for a more responsible and environmentally-friendly society.

While it may sound incredulous, the latest interior design news is that music has been added to the interior design services repertoire. Music/architecture specialists from New York and London to Aspen and Belize are creating customized play lists that are synchronized with their clients’ decor. “Hearing the wrong music in the wrong space can be very disorienting,” explains DJ Coleman Feltes, who has created mixes for Versace, Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana fashion shows. Stylists charge between $50 and $250 an hour, he says, which is downloaded onto iPods or sent as CDs by mail. For the discerning, high-end clients, atmosphere is everything and the perfect music fits into that paradigm.

Young interior decorators bring their own distinctive visions to the table, according to the latest Baltimore interior design news. For instance, 30-year-old Annie Zemarel Werden, who comes from a background in Italian fashion and landscaping, adores historic items in her professional interior design. “I like to use things that have a sense of history [like an antique mirror], things you find when traveling or antiquing.

I like the charm of an old house,” she explains. Ex-history teacher Charlene Lester says that her style isn’t flashy but is rather practical in her home designs. She adds, “Given the choice of getting something green that costs a couple of hundred dollars more, most of our clients go green.” Italian Expat Fabrizio Fiorini uses “transitional” designs that aren’t exactly contemporary but aren’t traditional either. He goes for “refreshing, upgrading and renovating,” using bold colors and contrasting cold and warm shades.

Good and Bad News for Realtors

I won’t exactly come across as a visionary if I point out the real estate has been in the slumps for the past few years. By the way, just in case you missed it, water is wet. Now that I’m done stating the obvious, it’s time to start digging through some of the recent numbers that the National Association of Realtors (NAR) has been kicking out regarding the future of our industry. What they mean to the industry is sometimes not that obvious.

Let me start by pointing out that recent NAR missives are pointing at an increase in residential and commercial property sales. While this is certainly good news, it’s also that time of the year. While we can all certainly hope that this continues to trend upward, at present it looks like it’s going to do so slowly and considering the glut of inventory currently in market it could be a while before we start hearing any good numbers about new housing starts. That said, getting better is better than getting worse. Unfortunately, what these trends mean for real estate professionals who are currently in the trenches is uncertain.

Part of the good news is that the competition among Realtors who buy and sell houses has improved greatly due to a sharp decline in the number of licensed Realtors talking them on. According to various numbers released by the NAR and others, in 2006 there are approximately 1.4 million NAR members. I have also seen estimates as high as 2.6 million licensed realtors for that period of time. Today, again according to the NAR, that number is under 1 million.

According to the 2011 NAR member profile poll, while things are looking up a bit, Realtors really are working harder and making less. In fact, the median income of an average realtor dropped 4.5% last year to $34,100. This was preceded by a 3% decline in 2009. Those members who list themselves as broker/Realtors earned a median salary of $48,700 while sales agents earned an average of $24,900 in 2010. Even more disproportionate is that NAR members who’ve been in the business for two years or less earned a median income of $8,900 while those who’ve been in the business for 16 years or more earned $47,100. While good news for those agents who stick it out year after year, this raises a red flag not only for the challenges that new broker/Realtor’s face in entering this market but also is going to create a generational gap between home buyers and the professional Realtors there to help them.

For example, the 2011 member profile survey shows that the typical NAR member broker/Realtor is 56 years old. Only 3% of all Realtors are under the age of 30. While age may not be a huge factor in successful home selling, when you take into consideration that many home buyers are young people who are purchasing their first home, it’s quite possible that they will respond differently to agents closer to their age who have a good handle on alternative forms of finding and marketing homes through blogs, social media tools, specialized websites etc. Again, according to the member survey, only 10% of all Realtors claim to have a blog. Of those, 18% are between the ages of 30 and 39 while 16% are younger than 29. Likewise, 83% of agents under age 29 claim to use social media tools to help find and assists their clients compared to just 52% of agents between the ages of 50 and 59.

My intention is not to be ageist, but to point out that as markets change the need for members to be flexible needs to change as well. The bottom line is that if your clients are going to use certain approaches to find a new home or to sell their existing ones, agents need to be aware of these tools and methodologies in order to meet those clients in the right place.

As people much wiser than me have pointed out “this too shall pass”. Where we are today is not we’re going to be in the future. The good news is that we’ve hit the bottom and were looking up. The bad news is that it’s still a tough slog and for many people it’s a hard way to make a living. That said, the passion that most agents have for the work they do has less to do with their paychecks and more to do with the services they provide their clients and the challenges that keep them fresh and viable the marketplace. By staying flexible, keeping a positive outlook and looking for ways to create opportunities, we can continue to rebuild this industry and make it a positive experience for everybody.

The Growing Importance and Complexity of Business License Compliance

On July 16, 2011, The Blaze website reported that police in Midway, Georgia shut down a lemonade stand run by three girls trying to save up for a trip to a water park because they didn’t have a business license[1]. About once a year, a news story will air about some poor kid’s lemonade stand closed for a lack of proper licensing. People express outrage at the petty actions of city officials, wonder what the world is coming to, and the news cycle moves on.

This familiar story, however, has implications for anyone running or acquiring a business. There is a lesson to be learned here: While ensuring compliance with the myriad of business licensing and tax registration requirements is becoming increasingly complicated, the need to remain in compliance is more important than ever. There are over 74,000 governmental authorities in the U.S., each with its own rules, parameters, and requirements that can apply to a given business. Determining which authorities have jurisdiction over a particular business operating in a certain location and maintaining compliance with those requirements can be burdensome, to say the least. The South Carolina Chamber of Commerce estimates that it takes 47 hours for a typical new business to comply with licensing requirement just in its state. At the same time, cash strapped governments are stepping up their enforcement efforts as fees, penalties and fines can be an important source of revenue. Additionally, the Sarbanes Oxley Act has raised awareness regarding the importance of compliance among suppliers, banks and boards of directors. Business license compliance requirements are often written into important contracts and are a key part of due diligence in merger and acquisition transactions.

For a company operating in many locations, licensing requirements can be very onerous. One nationwide retailer reports that it has to manage 180,000 business licenses and permits each year, and that number is likely to increase. The number of professions requiring licensure is increasing each year, often driven by the people in those professions hoping that regulation “will boost the prestige of the professions, provide oversight and protect consumers from shoddy work.” [2] A study done in 2008 found that the percentage of professions requiring licensure has risen from 5% in 1950 to 23% in 20082. In many cases when a firm engages in a business purpose requiring a licensed professional, the business must obtain its own license in addition to ensuring that the professionals it employs are properly licensed. The incentive for state and local governments to start licensing cat groomers, tree trimmers and shampoo artists, to name a few, is the revenue generated. License fees, penalties and fines usually more than cover the costs to administer the licensing process and are generally revenue generators for government.

The problem is compounded by the concept of nexus. While nexus is most typically applied to determine whether tax registration and filings are required, it can be applied to licensing in some industries. The application of nexus means that, in some cases, even companies without a physical presence in a given location still must comply with licensing requirements when doing business there. Businesses whose employees perform on-site services, trucking companies, leasing companies and real estate management companies are some examples of industries subject to licensing requirements even when they are not located in a given jurisdiction. At the same time, the penalties for non-compliance can be severe. Businesses can be subject to hefty fines and can lose substantial business and revenue when their operations are shut down for lack of proper licensing. They can also face bad publicity and suffer increased insurance costs.

Whether you are currently operating a business in multiple locations, or performing due diligence on a target company in an acquisition, ensuring that the company has all the required permits/licenses and is properly registered everywhere it is doing business is a critically important task. It is also a daunting one, as each state, county and municipality has its own rules regarding which activities need to be licensed, how and by what authority the activities are licensed and how often the licenses must be renewed. Ensuring that the company remains in compliance both by renewing all licenses in a timely fashion and guaranteeing that new company activities are licensed appropriately add to the difficulty.

Handling the Complexity

As the complexity and importance of business license compliance continues to grow, companies need to dedicate the appropriate staffing, resources and systems to effectively manage the process. Developing internal systems and expertise can be costly, but may be an effective approach for larger companies that can dedicate the needed resources. Smaller companies and law firms concerned with the due diligence aspects of business licensing may find that their needs are best met by working with a knowledgeable service company that can provide reliable, cost effective solutions.

[1] Gabby, Tiffany. Georgia Cops Shut Down Girls’ Lemonade Stand for Lack of Business License” The Blaze.com, 16 July 2011, 13 November 2011, http://www.theblaze.com/stories/georgia-cops-shut-down-girls-lemonade-stand-for-lack-of-business-license/.

[2] Simon, Stephanie “A License to Shampoo; Jobs needing State Approval Rise” WSJ.com, 7 February 2011, 13 November 2011, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703445904576118030935929752.html

This article is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered, or relied upon, as legal advice.