Thanksgiving dinners can quickly turn tense when touchy subjects are brought up. Here are six interesting housing topics to chat about instead.

For most families, Thanksgiving is more than chowing down on turkey, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie — it’s an opportunity to relish the nostalgia of yesteryears and chat about current events.

However, these conversations can quickly take a turn for the worse, especially if someone brings up a touchy topic, like the 2020 election, or the House’s public impeachment hearings that included a bombshell testimony from real estate developer Gordon Sondland.

Sondland donated to President Trump’s inauguration, subsequently became the ambassador to the European Union and is a main player in the alleged quid pro quo between the U.S. and Ukraine.

If you find yourself becoming the Thanksgiving peacemaker, here are some engaging housing topics that you can bring up to redirect the heat back to the oven.

Cutting-edge home design tools

Is Grandma Ethel’s still holding onto her couches and lamps from the ’50s? Then take out the time to show her and the rest of the family the latest design trends with easy-to-use augmented reality tools by companies such as Sotheby’s International Realty and Wayfair.

Over the past two months, Sotheby’s has made two major updates to its virtual staging app, Curate. In addition to adding new exclusive designs from high-end furniture marketplace, Perigold, Sotheby’s partnered with spatial computing company Magic Leap One to create an immersive virtual reality staging experience for buyers. With the snap of a headset, the whole family can see and interact with a fabulously redesigned, doilie-free Thanksgiving table.

If you don’t have $2,000 to shell out for a headset, no worries — Curate’s standard app experience is sure to keep everyone entertained.

If luxury prices aren’t in the budget, then try consumer-favorite Wayfair, which updated its mobile augmented reality experience this month. The app has an expanded array of 3D renderings of furniture, designs and housewares, and a new “room planner” tool that allows users to create an entire interactive 3D room that users can save for future use.

The future of open houses

While the real estate transaction process differs for everyone, there’s one experience that most buyers and sellers can identify with: open houses.

In a five-part series published this November, Inman News dug into the history of open houses and evaluated their relevance as the home search process becomes more streamlined and digitized.

Agents debated whether open houses provide the same return on investment in terms of time and attracting clients, open houses’ safety factor and how agents are grappling with consumers’ growing preference for digital tour experiences.

Although the series focused on real estate agents’ perspectives, there’s plenty of room to explore how consumers, a.k.a. your family and friends, feel about their open house options, and even brainstorm a few ideas for your next listing.

The rent (and mortgage) is too damn high

National median home prices have been on the rise for 91 consecutive months, with some metros reaching median prices of more than $1 million. As wage growth flattens and the overall cost of living booms, many Americans are struggling to keep a roof over their heads.

That struggle often gets highlighted during the holiday season, as nonprofits and other organizations ask for support in providing shelter and sustenance to those without.

As a recent Inman report highlighted, nonprofits aren’t the only ones worried about housing — local and state governments across the country are passing widespread zoning and rent control reform in hopes of curbing homelessness rates and improving housing stability for renters and homeowners alike.

Has anyone in your circle had a difficult time finding affordable housing? If not, do they know someone who is? Chat about some of the long-term solutions and figure out something you can do now, such as serving those without a home this holiday season, either through a personal or brokerage-wide volunteering initiative or donating to a housing fund.

Who’s the top dog in your market?

The real estate industry has seen an infusion of cash from venture capitalists in 2019, with companies such as Compass and Opendoor reaping the benefits through multi-million dollar funding rounds that are used to fast-track market expansion and technology development.

As a result, longstanding brands and relative newcomers have been clamoring for greater market share through aggressive recruiting tactics, upgraded technology platforms, and bolder marketing to capture consumers’ attention and pockets. Companies have also become more apt to clamor with each other through public statements, earnings calls comments and lawsuits.

Although companies can tout volume transaction growth, announce the opening of new offices or the addition of new top talent as evidence of their dominance, strike up a conversation at the dinner table to see what family and friends actually care about when it comes time to buy or sell a home and what brokerage(s) are dominating their neighborhoods.

Goodbye, social media!

2019 was a difficult year for social media giants, as #deletefacebook, #deletetwitter, #deleteinstagram (ironically) ruled everyone’s timelines in the face of debates about social media’s impact on our mental health, relationships, and public discourse.

In response, Facebook and Instagram have updated their algorithms to shift the attention away from advertisers and back to the original intent of social media: building and maintaining personal connections. Instagram has taken it a step further by eliminating like counts on user profiles as a way of removing the pressure to garner high ‘like’ counts.

Although these changes may be beneficial for the wider public, real estate agents are wondering how these changes might negatively impact their ability to reach clients and market listings. How many people in your circle go to Instagram to vet agents and find homes? Does it matter how many ‘likes’ and follows an agent has? Do you believe these changes are truly altruistic or is it a strategy to push business owners toward paid advertising? You decide.

Are pocket listings fair?

In an uber-competitive housing market, some agents have made pocket listings — the practice of selectively advertising listings that have not been placed on the multiple listing service — their bread and butter.

However, the practice has received intense scrutiny, as critics say it puts some buyers and sellers at a disadvantage and violates realtors’ fiduciary duty to clients.

After years of debate, the National Association of Realtors took an official stance on pocket listings by passing the Clear Cooperation Policy in a 729-70 vote. The Clear Cooperation Policy states that brokers must submit a listing to the MLS within one business day of advertising it.

The reactions to the policy have been mixed, with some agents saying the move is “pro-consumer” by eliminating the perceived unfair advantage pocket listings offer, and others saying it snatches sellers’ ability to decide how they want their home marketed.

How many of your family and friends know about pocket listings? Have they had any experience with them? If so, how did it go?

Email Marian McPherson.

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