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How to Be a Much (Much) Better Agent by Ground Hog Day

A couple nights ago I got caught up watching the movie Ground Hog Day with Bill Murray. It’s a fun movie I’ve seen before, so you can imagine my surprise when I realized how much I was learning from this character.

Murray plays Phil, a weatherman doing an on-the-scene report covering Punxsutawney Phil, the famous Ground Hog that looks for his shadow on February 2nd. The twist is: Phil finds himself awaking each morning… to the same morning! It’s February 2nd again and again and again. What does he do? At first, he does what most of us would probably do, he tests the limits: he flirts, he overeats, he steals money, he even tries to kill himself, just to see what happens. But each morning, he awakens to the same Sonny & Cher song on the radio, and the same day repeated outside.

Eventually, Phil begins to improve himself. He takes classes and he learns new skills; he seeks out people who need help and through it all, becomes a better man. He learns, albeit slowly, the power of… the moment. The moment is that brief instant when a decision is made; the decision may lead to years of work or an immediate change, but either way a course is set. (Of course, the opposite applies too: a moment passes without a decision, and a course is set as well.)  So Bill Murray’s character Phil, begins seizing those moments, and begins improving his life in ways he could have never imagined.

By the end of the movie, Phil has become a new man; even the locals treat him differently (and remember, to them it truly has been only one day). The motivation behind making those decisions is ultimately unimportant; to improve as a man, to win the heart of a woman, or just to make more money; the “why” is less important than the “what.” He has transformed himself, one decision at a time, one moment at a time.

You may not wake up each morning to “I’ve Got You Babe” on the radio. And you’re most likely not waking up each day only to discover that it’s the same day all over again. But are you waking up to anything that much different? Is it the same you, doing the same thing, around the same people, in the same area, and having the same results? Imagine how your life might change if TODAY, you make a decision to take a class, or improve your skills, or simply meet more people. Imagine how your life might change if TODAY, you decide to grab that moment…

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  • 10 comments

    A Peek Inside the Unchained Conference (Part 5 of 5)

    Each day of the past week, I featured one of the amazing speakers from the Unchained Conference 2011. It was your chance to spend a little time with some of the most creative, innovative minds in real estate online marketing… unfortunately, that’s all it could be: a few moments. For those of us in attendance, on the other hand, we had over 10 uninterrupted hours of access…

    There were many great speakers, and lots of great ideas this year.  There always are.  But at every conference – Unchained or other – there is one Keynote Speaker.  One presenter that no one will miss.  The Superstar, if you will.  The expert who turns the fire hydrant on full force and dares you to step up.  At Unchained, there is no doubt who that speaker is…

    Eric Blackwell is an SEO expert, and he has helped countless real estate agents generate countless new clients through their online presence.  When he gets going on what works and what doesn’t, you can almost feel the absolute truth of his words.  Why?  Could be all the sites he runs, or the totalality of hours he has spent doing SEO work, but it really comes down to this: Eric Blackwell does SEO for a living – he’s down in the trenches every day testing, trying and correcting.  He knows what it takes to build your online presence, and we know he’s a star.

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    A Peek Inside the Unchained Conference (Part 4 of 5)

    Each day this week, I’ve featured one of the amazing speakers from the Unchained Conference 2011. This is your chance to spend a little time with some of the most creative, innovative minds in real estate online marketing… unfortunately, that’s all it will be: a few moments. For those of us in attendance, on the other hand, we had over 10 uninterrupted hours of access…

    Whether ”I told you so,” or not… remember this for next time: when you hear about an Unchained Conference being scheduled, get online, get out your wallet, and get yourself there. You will leave dead tired, overwhelmed, and so filled with ideas you’ll find yourself clicking your heels and saying “There’s no place like Unchained. There’s no place like Unchained…” Leading that chant will be none other than today’s speaker:

    Brian Brady is called America’s #1 Mortgage Broker by Google; but he’s got a lot more to teach than finance.  He’s been generating clients AND closed transactions from online and social media venues since way before most in the industry had even heard the terms.  At Unchained 2011, Mr. Brady took us on a wild tour of email marketing, Hollywood movies and secrets to converting prospects into clients.  Want to know how The Wizard of Ahhhs does it?  Join him on the Yellow Brick Road at the next Unchained.

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    A Peek Inside the Unchained Conference (Part 3 of 5)

    As promised, here’s another amazing speaker from the Unchained Conference 2011. This is your chance to spend a little time with some of the most creative, innovative minds in real estate online marketing… unfortunately, that’s all it will be: a few moments. For those of us in attendance, on the other hand, we had over 10 uninterrupted hours of access…

    Today, instead of repeating the: “I told you so,” mantra… I’ll just get right to the point: the next time there’s an Unchained Conference scheduled, do everything you can to be there. You’ll leave dead tired and overwhelmed, but overflowing with ideas you can implement immediately. Which brings me to…

    Mark Madsen’s real estate site and an in depth discussion on how he creates web sites that not only attract a lot of traffic, but convert that traffic into clients. Sounds difficult? You bet, but just to make his numbers all the more startling, I’ll remind you of this fact: he’s doing business in Las Vegas… otherwise known as “Ground Zero” of the housing crisis. How does he not only survive but thrive in that environment? The same way he wowed all of us who were there: he creates TRUST.

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    A Peek Inside the Unchained Conference (Part 2 of 5)

    As promised, each day this week I’ll post a few moments from some of the speakers at the Unchained Conference 2011.  It’s your chance to spend a little time with some of the most creative, innovative minds in real estate online marketing… unfortunately, that’s all it will be: a few moments.  For those of us in attendance, on the other hand, we had over 10 uninterrupted hours of access…

    I know that yesterday I did the whole: “I told you so,” thing, but it bears repeating: the next time there’s an Unchained Conference scheduled, make it a point to get yourself there.  You’ll leave dead tired, overwhelmed, and full of ideas you can implement immediately.  Speaking of which…

    Scott Schang’s amazing loan site and online marketing campaign started as an idea at the first Unchained conference, and now he’s back telling us how to do it.  Oh, and reminding us that when it comes to generating prospective clients, we all get what we deserve…

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  • 2 comments

    A Peek Inside the Unchained Conference (1 of 5)

    Each day this week (and earlier than this one, I promise) I’ll post a few moments from some of the speakers at the Unchained Conference 2011.  It’s your chance to spend a little time with some of the most creative, innovative minds in real estate online marketing… unfortunately, that’s all it will be: a few moments.  For those of us in attendance, on the other hand, we had over 10 uninterrupted hours of access…

    I could say: “I told you so,” but instead I’ll say this: the next time there’s an Unchained Conference scheduled – and the way each one gets better than the one before, you better believe there’ll be more – make it a point to get yourself there.  You’ll leave dead tired, overwhelmed, and full of ideas you can implement immediately.

    Here’s Greg, discussing how he creates hundreds of thousands of web pages to dominate the competition.

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    On the Education of an 11 Year Old…

    REWIND: Roughly one month ago, an 11 year old boy was in an altercation during recess. A classmate, known for his “unorthodox” playing style, decided to turn and throw a ball into his face from nearly point-blank range. This “unorthodox” classmate apparently thought it was very funny, and as the boy got up off the ground – hurt and embarrassed – the classmate continued laughing; so hard, in fact, that he fell down. The boy promptly kicked him in the ribs.

    This being a public school and the classmate being not only a punk, but a crybabby too… an ambulance was called. The punk went to the hospital (nothing wrong), and returned the next day on crutches. (Why crutches? Because it’s hard to attract sympathy with a fake injury that no one can see…).  The boy was suspended for 5 days. No, not the punk who assaulted his classmate; the boy who responded.  You see, our public school system believes that only in the most extreme case of self-defense – one in which even the cowardly opportunity to run away is absent – will you not be punished for violence (and truth be told, it’s zero tolerance… so you’ll still be punished).  The punk received less days of suspension. Apparently, faking an injury relieves one of responsibility for one’s actions.  Upon returning to school, both boys were told in no uncertain terms to stay away from each other.  Thus far, a disappointing but not surprising trip through the education industry.

    FAST FORWARD: Last week both boys find themselves in the same group.  The punk steals some candy from one in the group, and the boy – Mr. Five Day Suspension – elects to join in the chase. The punk falls down and the boy stands over him, one leg above his torso, in a universal sign of male dominance.  No one touched anyone.  Just then, two parents come around the corner and, based on what they are seeing, interpolate what must have happened previously.  This same 11 year old boy is reported to have, once again, kicked the punk.  The principal launches an “investigation” and commences to speak with “witnesses”.  (Too many CSI episodes? You be the judge…)  A few of the boys dispute the accusation, but she doesn’t talk to them.

    The next morning, the Principal approaches the boy as he enters his classroom with this bit of educational enthusiasm: “You are in trouble young man; I have witnesses to what you did. You will be spending recesses in my office.”  Now, the boy does not handle false accusations well. (He doesn’t handle well being wrong and knowing it either, but that’s a different scenario).  His reaction? “Those stupid parents are lying!”  This insult to Principal decorum everywhere was too much; how dare an 11 year old boy stand up for himself?  The matter obviously required immediate escalation: “March to my office right now young man.”  The boy was now in full rebellion mode: he threw his backpack against the wall, yelled “No,” and stormed out of the classroom, the principal on his heels.  He was looking for a place to calm down (which he has been taught to do, not only by his parents, but by the Principal herself.)  He headed down to the lower field, to a quiet spot he calls his own behind some bushes (and, unfortunately, outside of “school grounds”). The principal, unable to force his compliance, calls Officer McFriendly… yes, that’s the local police officer assigned to be a liason to the elementary school.  And yes, things get worse.

    The boy only needed a few minutes to calm down, and he’d come out. The principal and his father are talking to him.  The officer decides to go around to the other side and try to help.  The boy moves toward where the officer is heading, and the principal, along with the father, head back to the office to meet them both.  The officer pulls back up to the school, with the boy in handcuffs!  He has been arrested for truancy… but the officer is very reassuring: “Don’t be concerned,” she says with a smile, “because it’s not a criminal code violation or anything, it’s just an educational code violation.” (What the hell is an educational code violation?)

    Once back in the Principal’s office, the officer attempts to take the boy’s statement!  Turns out she had read the 11 year old his Miranda rights upon arresting him, and felt quite comfortable asking him questions in the Principal’s office, given that the boy’s father was there.  Dad quickly ended the conversation, sent his son out of the office, and quietly explained to the officer – in the politest way he could, given the subject matter – why government, by very definition, is evil.  There was going to be no questions for the 11 year old.  The officer tried to explain how this was all nothing to be too concerned about; the state was simply going to have someone meet with the boy, discuss his transgressions, review his work, his behavior… his compliance, and make a small list of “suggestions”… a list, if you will, of things he must do to regain good lad status.  Once completed, they would toss the whole file out!  Honest!

    So there it stands. Oh, and for making the eggregious error of interacting with the boy he was forbidden to be around, the boy was suspended… again.  Let’s total the damage: One overly-sensitive, innocent 11 year old boy: falsely accused, chased, arrested and suspended, FOR ANOTHER 5 DAYS- all before 9:00am.  Why? Because when the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem begins to look like a nail…  “Hey Little Guy… Welcome to the Revolution.”

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  • 9 comments

    The Greatest Listing Single-Site Ever Created!

    …is what people might say once we are all done here.

    After following Robert Worthington’s post: Videos are in My Arsenal and the terrific advice he got, I decided it’s my turn to spend some time in the barrel. Not for videos (despite the abundant potential I see in videos, I’m not there yet) but rather single sites: I am dialing in my individal listing web site model. Well… at least I think I am.

    Heck, just last week I bragged in a Comment on Eric Blackwell’s NAR, IDX, Franchisors post ”I know I can put together a single site that blows away most other agents and ALL other aggregator / franchisor lead generator thing-a-ma-bobs.”  Later that night, however, as I lay down to go to sleep, all I could hear, over and over in my head, was Robert Duvall saying to John Wayne in the movie True Grit: “I call that bold talk for a one-eyed, fat man!”  I realized that such a brag, based on only one person’s review (don’t kid yourself, though, my mom can be a tough critic) leaves room for improvement.

    Real Estate, despite all the talking we do with others, is essentially a lonely business. (We do still talk to lots of people in order to generate business, don’t we? I mean… I didn’t miss some new App that does that for us, right?) When we create marketing pieces, and even entire marketing campaigns, we are often working in the bubble of our own minds. I have borrowed, swiped and learned as much as I can from what’s found on BHB, and so I can ask no better group to take a look at the direction I’m going and provide criticism. This single site, Wellesley La Mesa, is the first one utilizing my new layout and over-all look/feel, so it’s not too late to make wholesale changes if I’m missing something or just plain on the wrong path.

    One note: the web site itself (The UnRealty Group), is about 30% finished, with lots of articles and content missing, so if you link over there, keep that in mind before tearin’ into me… I mean passin’ on your constructive criticisms.  Thanks!

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    The $99 Secret to Doubling Your Real Estate Business That THEY Don’t Want You To Know

    That title is an attention getter isn’t it?  Too bad it’s not accurate… but hey, if I had said “The Secret to Tripling or even Quadrupling Your Real Estate Business” you probably would have written it off as so much hype, right?  So I dumbed it down… hope you don’t mind.

    This started as a comment to a recent post here about the MLS, the mafia and NAR goons… a provocative subject matter, yes? Maybe too provocative for some, and more’s the pity because what lies behind it is nothing less than a beacon – a lighthouse in a stormy sea – that you probably don’t even know you need.  I know I didn’t…  But if you really want to double (or triple or quadruple) your business in 2012, you won’t get there sailing the same old boat around the safety of the same old harbor (the definition of insanity and all that).   You’ll have to get out there in the great unknown: you’ll have to get a little lost; and you’ll have to be willing to trust that far away beam of light from that far away lighthouse that you never noticed on the horizon before.

    This lighthouse has a little plaque over the door.  It reads: BLOODHOUND UNCHAINED.  It should probably read: Omnes relinquite spes, o vos intrantes.  For those unfamiliar with Dante and/or Latin, this will make sense by the end of the article. (Much like the title, that’s a teaser that I hope will keep you reading… the career you save might be your own.)

    In the post linked above, the author said: “The leap is the risk of losing your religion.”

    That statement is more powerful than most can imagine. I was fortunate enough to be at Unchained in Orlando, and again in Phoenix.  I came in with pre-conceived ideas about what I would learn, and maybe what I could share. I left with a new left arm… not literally, of course, but for how dramatic the change (and the challenge) can be, it might as well have been.

    The problem, of course, is that this isn’t a chance to learn in a “classroom” sort of way (though you will most definitely leave with ready-to-implement techniques), it’s a chance to grow… to become… to BE.  And that’s a pretty damn difficult thing to accept.  Oh, I know, we all talk a good game about growing and learning and being open to change; but the truth is change – real, core change – requires letting go of the rock we desperately cling to for fear of being swept away by a current we can’t control.  And if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll admit that you cling to a lot of rocks in this business.  ”It’s always been done this way” is a rock.  ”That’s how I was taught” is another.  Then there are the less obvious, but much bigger rocks we cling to:

    “If I do that, someone might reject me.”
    “If I make a mistake, others will realize I’m a fake.”
    “I better just do what everyone else is doing, otherwise I might fail.”
    “I can’t…”

    Letting go of these rocks, these beliefs, takes all the courage you can muster.  Whether it be a belief in how the NAR operates, or how one can/should practice real estate, or what it means to be successful, or just who we really are – as evidenced by our actions, not our self-serving rationalizations – it’s a terrific leap.  Are you willing to take that leap?  Are you willing to work without a net?  In other words: are you willing to take the responsibility of being you?  Because here’s the big secret: that current you’re so afraid of is your career and your happiness and your success and your life; and clinging to these silly rocks only means you’ll miss most of it… just like the people before you who showed you these rocks; and just like the people around you who remind you it’s always been done this way.

    If you’re willing to let go… if you’re willing to set your sights beyond just becoming a better real estate agent… if there’s something inside you – some little voice – telling you there’s more… then click that button below.  I can’t wait to meet you in Anaheim come November 11th.   I’ll be the guy sitting next to you, pointing out the sign over the door that says: Omnes relinquite spes, o vos intrantes – “All hope abandon, ye who enter in.”  Because Hope is not a plan, it’s a safe harbor in which to hide.  Why settle for safe, when you can have splendor.

    BloodhoundBlog Unchained in Anaheim
    Friday, November 11, 2011
    12 Noon to 10 pm
    Cortona Inn & Suites Anaheim Resort
    2029 South Harbor Boulevard
    Anaheim, CA 92802
    714-971-5000

    Make the Scene: $99

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    The Reason for Boundless Optimism

    This, from a wonderful op/ed piece in the Wall Street Journal over the weekend entitled: From Phoenicia to Hayek to the ‘Cloud’ by Matt Ridley.

    The crowd-sourced, wikinomic cloud is the new, new thing that all management consultants are now telling their clients to embrace.  Yet the cloud is not a new thing at all.  It has been the source of human invention all along.  Human technological advancement depends not on individual intelligence, but on collective idea sharing, and it has done so for tens of thousands of years…

    Knowledge is dispersed and shared. Friedrich Hayek was the first to point out, in his famous 1945 essay “The Uses of Knowledge in Society,” that central planning cannot work because it is trying to substitute an individual all-knowing intelligence for a distributed and fragmented system of localized but connected knowledge.

    So dispersed is knowledge, that, as Leonard Reed famously observed in his 1958 essay “I, Pencil,” nobody on the planet knows how to make a pencil. The knowledge is dispersed among many thousands of graphite miners, lumberjacks, assembly line workers, ferrule designers, salesmen and so on. This is true of everything that I use in my everyday life, from my laptop to my shirt to my city. Nobody knows how to make it or to run it. Only the cloud knows…

    …good ideas can spread through trade. New weapons, new foods, new crafts, new ornaments, new tools. Suddenly you are no longer relying on the inventiveness of your own tribe or the capacity of your own territory. You are drawing upon ideas that occurred to anybody anywhere anytime within your trading network….

    That is what trade does. It creates a collective innovating brain as big as the trade network itself.

    So far this is already inspiring. We are advanced by the collective brain power of everyone we trade with… need there be any further discussion of free markets and open trade?  Why, other than in pursuit of enslavement, would anyone suggest limiting the “collective innovating brain?”  But there’s more; there’s reason for unbridled optimism.  Not just a positive outlook, not just a subtle feeling that the world will work itself out, but a genuine, over-the-top realization of optimism perfected.

    Which is of course why the Internet is such an exciting development. For the first time humanity has not just some big collective brains, but one truly vast one in which almost everybody can share and in which distance is no obstacle.

    The power of the one, vast, collective brain found in the Internet is the greatest development in mankind’s civilization since the creation of civilization itself.  Up till now, when areas were “socially networked by the trading ships of Phoenicians, Greeks, Arabs or Venetians, culture and prosperity advanced. When the network collapsed … prosperity stagnated.”  The social networking of mankind is now instantaneous and worldwide.  Even systems that effort to control information cannot control the Internet; information will out because the innovation crossed the tipping point.  Once we became “one truly vast (collective brain) in which almost everybody can share…” we became a force beyond the reach of any man’s desire to control.  What could possibly overcome the innovation and prosperity of one, worldwide collective brain? Only another equally worldwide collective brain, yet this is not possible. The space was filled at the moment of the tipping point.  It cannot be unfilled and replaced with a lack of knowing.  It has happened.  The future is very bright indeed.

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    Warren Buffett’s Secretary – An Open Letter

    Dear Ms. Warren Buffett’s Secretary,

    First, and on behalf of everyone who feels as I do, please accept our heartfelt condolence that you have been thrust onto the stage of national demagoguery and class-warfare.  I can’t imagine being constantly referred to as: “Warren Buffett’s Secretary” on the national news and in speeches by the President of the United States of America.  Having your personal income tax rate not only held up for scrutiny, but co-opted as the basis for raising taxes on someone else (someone who’s done you no harm that you are aware of), must also be an uncomfortable position indeed, made all the more so by the fact that your own boss put you there.  Having said that… I feel compelled to answer the question that has thrust you into the hot spotlight of public scrutiny and in so doing, I hope to stop this before you become, like Farrah Fawcett before you, the poster child of prurient interest.

    The question: Why do you, Warren Buffett’s Secretary, pay a greater tax rate than your boss Warren Buffett?

    This was less than ably restated by the President of the United States of America today in his speech on raising taxes… I mean taming the deficit: “Warren Buffett’s secretary should not pay more in taxes than Warren Buffet.” You see, this is how demagoguery can get out of hand and the next thing you know, you are thumbtacked on bedroom walls all over the nation.  So, before we can explain why you pay a higher rate than your boss, we must first help POTUS understand the different between a tax rate, and taxes paid.  Mr. President, Warren Buffett’s Secretary pays a higher rate (a higher percentage) of her income in income taxes.  This in no way suggests she pays more… as a matter of fact, Warren Buffett pays a great deal more taxes than his Secretary does; he just pays a lower combined rate.

    To answer the specific question then: You, Warren Buffett’s Secretary, pay a higher rate of tax on your income because you, even being the hard working and integral part of Warren Buffett’s operation that you most assuredly must be, are trading time for money… That is to say, you show up each day willing to trade a certain number of your hours working for Warren Buffett, in exchange for money.  If anyone hears a negative connotation in that statement, you are mistaken.  There is absolutely nothing negative about working for a salary or on an hourly basis and, as it so happens, it’s quite necessary: one person may figure out a new sprinkler system that saves substantial water, but it means nothing if there isn’t someone else to dig the ditches.

    In your specific case, Ms. Warren Buffett’s Secretary, you are taxed for collecting a salary.  (The validity and morality of that coerced confiscation of your income by the government is another conversation altogether.)  Mr. Buffett, on the other hand, is taxed for collecting a profit on an investment (again, we’ll leave the validity of that confiscation alone for purposes of this discussion), and that tax rate is lower.  This is beginning to make sense now, right?  The tax rate for return on investment is lower than that on ordinary income because investment is what creates our economic engine.  When a person is willing to trade their time for money, they are taxed one rate.  But if a person is willing to trade their capital and their expertise… if they are willing to risk that which is theirs, and invest in creating more, they merit a lower tax rate.  You see, to the degree that tax policies are used to influence behavior, one wants to incentivize entrepreneurs over income collectors.  Put another way: those who take risk are wealth producers, whereas everyone else (e.g. salaried employees) are… overhead.  As a matter of smart economic policy, we encourage production and note its impact on the economy as superior to that of overhead.  (Present administration excepted…)

    I hope this letter has helped you understand why you, as Warren Buffett’s Secretary, pay a higher income tax rate, but much less in actual taxes.  And if despite this explanation, you do find yourself trapped in the class warfare demagoguery being advanced by the President, remember to wear a red bathing suit… it worked for Farrah Fawcett!

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  • 12 comments

    The Next Big (Tech) Step in Real Estate?

    I watched the following video earlier this week and was blown away.  The basics of what’s described (kind of a mobile computer/projector/app device) are not that complicated; as a matter of fact, the mock up is made from off the shelf components.  Imagine when these are combined into one sleek pendant hanging on a stylish chain…

    The video shows some of the more fun uses (draw a temporary watch on your wrist with your fingertip, take a picture by holding up your hands to frame an image, “see” social media key words associated with anyone you meet… in real time, the list is amazing), but I was struck by how powerful this can be for real estate agents.  I listed a few ideas below – watch the video first though.

    Imagine walking your clients through a home with this device.  Want to look at the neighborhood comps again? Why crowd around my Pad when we can just sit down in the dining room and see everything laid out on the table itself.  Curious how a room would look if it weren’t painted Jimi Hendrix purple? Go ahead and stand back while I bathe the room in light close to the color you prefer. (Foam green?  Really?)  Don’t know if your entertainment center will fit on that wall?  No problem, I’ll project a 3D image and we’ll check it out while we’re here.  Prefer a guided tour of everything that’s right with this home (and maybe some of what’s wrong)?  Great, the owners themselves are here virtually and will discuss each room as we walk into it.  Want to write an offer?  Great, let’s just step over to the living room wall here and sign your name using your finger.

    Those are just a few ideas from a non-tech guy.  What would you do with this device?

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    Defining Deals, Debts and Deficits

    ‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’
    ‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’
    ‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.’

    Through the Looking Glass

    Apropos of nothing, when you use the word CUT, what do you choose it to mean? 

    Courtesy of the Cato Institute

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    The Sky is Falling… and So Are Loan Limits

    There are more changes coming to the residential lending world (all those surprised by that, please stand on your head and whistle).  The Fed is maintaining the conforming loan limit of $417,000, but is lowering the non-conforming, conforming loan limits.  The what now?  A little background might help: in 2008 Fannie Mae’s charter was expanded to allow loan amounts in high cost areas (such as San Diego… yeah us!) to exceed the nationwide conforming loan limit of $417,000.  The most recent loan limit in San Diego County has been $697,500, thus making it exceedingly difficult for those of us who toil away in the real estate salt mines of America’s Finest City to keep beautiful San Diegans housed in the luxury to which they have become accustomed…

    But as of October 1, the limit is dropping; in San Diego County it will be $546,250 and some wonder if this isn’t just a stepping stone on the way down to the original $417,000! 

    As you might imagine, there is a long list of people who do not like this decision.  The National Association of Realtors has sent out an Emergency “Call for Action” message in response, suggesting “… a housing recovery depends on keeping mortgages affordable” and warning this decrease in loan limits will “make creditworthy borrowers unable to access affordable financing” (emphasis mine).  This raises an interesting question:

    Should the government be providing affordable financing in high cost areas?

    Hold on, let me ask that again, with a little more accuracy:

    Should you and I be subsidizing mortgages for people buying $800,000 homes?

    Wait… don’t answer that.  We don’t want to be insensitive to the needs of my fellow San Diegans and we certainly don’t want to interfere with the ongoing success of the ”housing recovery.”   Let’s move on to the good news:

    With the Fed in charge of “high cost” loans and a market unsure what the Fed might  do next… well, they were kind of the elephant in the room; there was no space for anyone else, which meant that until very recently, there were no true Jumbo loans to be found.  (Unlike jumbo shrimp, a jumbo loan actually means what it sets out to mean: a loan amount larger than Fannie Mae’s conforming – or in this case non-conforming, conforming – limits.)  If you were buying a home for, oh… let’s say $1.5 million, you had better pony up something close to $1,000,000 of the purchase price to get any financing at all.  How’s that for not providing access to affordable housing?

    But something strange happened when the government decided to shrink its involvement in the “high cost area” loan market:  Actual, bonafide, free market lenders came roaring back.  What’s that mean for a quiet little outpost like San Diego County?  It means you can get a loan for much, much more than $697,500 now; you can get a loan for $2 million, $3 million, even $4 million!  Imagine that: just a couple of months ago these loans did not exist and then: “poof”, as if by magic, they’re back.  “Oh sure,” you’re thinking, “these loans might exist again, and that’s nice, but what’s the rate?  Can I even count that high?  Do I want to count that high?”  Surprisingly enough, if you can count into the 5′s, you can master the rates on these true Jumbo loans!  So what’s the catch?  The catch is this: these are actual loans originated by actual lenders, which means they expect the buyer to put 25% or even 30% down. They also expect the buyer to have a very good credit score.  What!  Those evil banks; is that what they call “access to affordable financing”?  No, it’s what they call a risk assessment, and a surprisingly inexpensive one at that.

    So, while some bemoan the lowering of the non-conforming, conforming loan limits, may I suggest that we celebrate?

    • Celebrate the reawakening of lenders who provide loans that may not be common, but are needed; especially for the move-up market.  Can stated income loans be far behind?  (Is there anyone who doubts the validity and need for stated income loans?)
    • Celebrate common sense underwriting standards that stabalize home prices, rather than placing under-qualified homebuyers into homes because “we keep financing affordable,” no matter the consequences.
    • And maybe, just maybe, we can celebrate this as a how-to example of what actually helps the housing market. 

    The Fed is lowering their loan limits and moving out of the Jumbo loan market… that’s the best real estate news I’ve heard in quite a while!

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    The Power of Not Knowing… and Other Meaningful Ideas

    Over the past couple of articles from the POPs Program for Agents, the emphasis has been on the first, key step in creating a balanced, successful life as a real estate agent: staying in the present.  The article on Temporal Awareness showed us that the past (guilt) and the future (fear) don’t actually exist.  It also discussed the emotional response we have over words that don’t exist.  And in The Mirror Effect, one of the most powerful concepts for creating true and lasting happiness, we learn that even someone being hurtful, doesn’t exist.  Are you starting to recognize a pattern here?

    Nothing Exists!
    No, no, that’s not what I’m suggesting.  The pattern is this: We Don’t Know The Meaning… of Anything.  As a matter of fact, I will take it one step further: We Assign Meaning… to Everything.  This is especially prevalent in the Sales and Services professions, where interaction with others is so integral to what we do.  We think we know what we’re seeing; possibly a “hot” new client, for instance:

     

    Only to discover later how child-like are their expectations and decisions:

     

    Time to Celebrate
    At first, this idea that we don’t know the meaning of anything may seem a bit scary, but I suggest to you quite the opposite; this is actually cause for celebration!  Two reasons:

    • Not Knowing the Meaning = Freedom
    • Assigning Meaning = Power

    When we admit, especially to ourselves, that we don’t know the meaning of events in our world, we become free to stop labeling those events as “good” and “bad”.  There’s a terrific line in the poem IF, by Rudyard Kipling:

    If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster,
    and treat those two Impostors just the same; 

    Realizing we don’t know, means freedom from all kinds of pressure.  The pressure to be disappointed, fearful, regretful and yes, even happy.  Sometimes the greatest pressure we know, is to put a happy face on something labeled “good” when in our hearts, we’re not feeling it at all.

    As great as the freedom of not knowing is, it pales in comparison to the power of assigning meaning.  Think about how often this power can affect your life, and how much more success you can generate with it.  When you’ve spent weeks taking a client out to look at homes – every Sunday for 3-4 hours – and they suddenly decide not to buy a home… we already know that we don’t know what this event means.  Is it “bad”? (I’m sure that’s how most of us would label it.)  What about the fact that you’re now free to attend your neighbor’s bbq this Sunday?  What about the home buyer who is going to be there; the one who has already found the home they want to buy, but doesn’t feel comfortable using the listing agent?  What about the rave recommendation your neighbor is going to give you as he personally refers his friend, the buyer, to you?  Tell me again, was it “bad” that you lost the client who was wasting your time?  Was it “good”?  You assign the meaning; why not assign one that benefits you!

    In Stephen Covey’s fabulous book: The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, one of the traits he finds common to successful people is this belief: “everything happens for a reason… and it benefits me.” Well of course it does!  We assign the meaning!  Remember, in The Mirror Effect, when we find ourselves having an emotional reaction to something someone has said – we realize they’ve actually held up a mirror for us to look into and discover an incongruity that is causing us pain.  We stop right then, and instead of getting mad at the person who has done us this favor, we thank them.  What did we do there?  We assigned a new meaning, that’s all!  What an amazing power this is.

    Final Thought
    Imagine what you can accomplish today, in the next few moments even, by possessing the power to give everything in your world its meaning.  Take a moment to go through that massive catalog of recent events and upcoming activities sitting heavily in your mind, already labeled, right now.  Pick a few to start with and rip the labels off.  Give ‘em a new meaning and see what happens.  I bet you’ll be amazed how deeply happy you can be, and maybe even surprised by your new levels of success…

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