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Buyers Are Clueless, And Why I Care

Buyers are clueless, and I’ll prove it in a minute.

First, let me explain why this conversation matters to you as a new or seasoned real estate blogger.

Does this scenario sound familiar?

Wife:

“It’s 2am, why are you still messing around on that computer?”

Me:

“I’m blogging for dollars, baby.”

Wife:

“That’s what you said last month.”

If you have chosen blogging as your primary business building model, get use to having that conversation for a year or more.

I made the decision to move my real estate and mortgage marketing activities online full-time in late 2006, and haven’t heard the end of it since… both good and bad.

It’s taken me several years to figure out how to make all of the moving pieces work in a manner that can pay the bills. Equally as challenging, was explaining to friends and family my motivation for the path I’ve chosen.

Many passionate bloggers cringe when they hear the terms “business building” or “lead generation” associated with the selfless act of pouring your heart into a blog post that should be meant to enrich the lives of others.

Unfortunately, financially motivated “Social Media and Relationship Marketing” tones have perverted the way outsiders view our true intentions.

I realize that I’m guilty for perpetuating this common belief that the web was invented so that real estate agents can make money online. Look at any of my past presentations or webinars, and you’ll find “build your business” somewhere in the title or description.

Even though it hasn’t felt right at my core, it’s a simple theme that most non-web related industry professionals can relate to.

It’s just been easier to fall into the trap of justifying my online efforts with an ROI, especially when the non-believers are so eager to offer their unsolicited opinions about how to be successful in business.

Keyword here is Non-Believers.

My friend Rene Rodriguez has been harping on me for years to explain why I care so much about the web.

“Yeah, but why,” he would press. “Why should that matter to me as a consumer, mortgage originator or anyone else that you’re speaking to?”

I’d go into my story about how a couple of top ranking web sites helped us make it through the hard times when the market crashed in 2007, and how with new twins it makes it easier to work on my schedule…. and on and on, without ever being able to give Rene an answer that would make him become a believer.

“Neat, so you’ve found success with an Internet marketing strategy. Why go out of your way to teach other real estate people for free? Doesn’t this create a conflict of interest?”

The problem Rene had with my explanation for my love of the web is that it didn’t inspire him.

He wasn’t able to connect on a personal or emotional level that would allow him to really believe that I cared about something greater than just writing articles pertaining to homeownership education.

I mean, there are plenty of proven ways to make money as a real estate professional that don’t involve the pains we go through as bloggers.

The Turning Point.

As soon as Rene introduced me to Simon Sinek’s perspective on inspiring others, it all made sense.

Being able to articulate my purpose is empowering, and gives me a sense of freedom to do what I love.

I stay up until 2am blogging, I teach others about the web, I obsess over details, links, SEO, page structure, sales cycles, building trust online, and site design because my mission is clear.

The Mission To Help Clueless Buyers

It’s actually a selfish motivation, because I’m a clueless buyer.

I’m either arrogant and know it all, lazy and uninterested in hearing the facts, or simply clueless on where to start my information gathering process.

But, if I do care about a decision I have to make, something so important that my family literally depends on me knowing what the right answer is, my attitude changes:

I let my guard down and ask experts humbling questions that clearly show I am not in a comfortable state of control.

I research all of the facts, read every blog post or review I can find and may even ask some friends for referrals.

Regretfully though, all of the charts, reviews and testimonials generally still aren’t enough to help me make an educated decision on a topic that I’m not an expert about.

If anything, the information overload has left me helpless and hopeless on my own.

Have you ever felt this way about an important decision you had to make?

My wife and went through a challenging time in 2005 with this exact scenario.

We actually faced a similar decision a few years later, but without the heart wrenching feeling that overwhelmed us the first time.

If you have ever sat at the desk of an infertility doctor trying to decide on whether or not your potential family is worth the gamble of your last $30,000, then you know exactly what I’m talking about.

“But we read on the Internet that some doctors only charge $5,000 for the same results?”

“True,” Dr. D. compassionately stated, “But your unique scenario requires a different treatment than the specific examples you’re reading about.”

“What are the odds of… if we tried this…. and came back in a year if…?”

See, my wife and I already knew everything we could possibly know from the months and months of research we did. Scratch that, my wife was a pro.

We didn’t need to make an Educated or Informed decision on our own, we wanted to make a Confident decision with the help of an expert we trusted.

We started out clueless about the process, and ended up clueless about which option to choose.

Clueless, but not Hopeless.

It took a true expert earning our trust by patiently and meticulously breaking down a complex process in a manner that we could understand so that we could make a confident decision based on the facts we knew and didn’t know.

Do you know what it’s like to feel confident, empowered, thankful, loyal, humbled…?

(Don’t CLICK HERE for family video, unless you like to cry)

What’s My Why?

I am driven to empower people by giving them the tools and education they need in order make confident decisions.

I do this through blogging and explaining complex processes in a manner that people can understand and trust.

I happen to be a Las Vegas real estate professional.

What’s Your Why?

Salespeople revert to calling buyers liars when they lose focus and allow the buyer’s evolving wants and needs to control the direction of a conversation.

It starts and ends with trust.

Buying a home or qualifying for a mortgage can cause people to feel hopeless and helpless if they are out there on their own doing research.

Whether it’s an involved mortgage program like the FHA 203k Loan, or reaching out to an underwater homeowner with Short Sale advice, I obsess over the details so that people will have all of the information they need to make a confident decision with the help of an expert.

How does your blog or web presence build trust and confidence?

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  • 16 comments

    10 Ways To Get UnFollowed On Twitter

    I try to spend 30 minutes a week doing a little housekeeping with my various blogs and social media accounts.

    Whether it’s simply tightening up profile bios, updating links or completely deleting accounts, maintaining an online presence for business purposes is mostly tedious boring work.

    Well, until today….

    Quick background – I’ve started to spend a little more time on my personal Twitter acct actually paying attention to people vs only sharing my favorite links of the day.

    Generally, I’ll spend most of my time in Google Reader browsing about 50 or so articles a day and simply clicking “share” to have a few relevant links syndicated out through Dlvr.it to targeted Twitter or FB Business Pages.

    However, now that I’m physically logging in to Twitter direct or through Hootsuite, I decided it was time to cut the list of people I follow down to a more manageable number.

    While there are probably more efficient ways of reducing the noise by using an “UnFollow” Twitter application, I figured I’d spend a quick 30 min. scrolling through everyone I follow to see if there were any obvious profiles that I could delete based on name, photo or bio.

    Not sure exactly what I was looking for, but I thought it would at least give me an opportunity to see some old faces as I scrolled through a few years of Twitter memories.

    So, here are the top 10 reasons I deleted someone from my “follow” list on Twitter:

    1. No Photo -

    Unless I knew who they were, it didn’t make sense to follow someone who was too lazy to upload some sort of profile photo.

    2. No Bio -

    Really? I think that mastering the art of the one sentence bio should be the first thing people focus on before they worry about trying to “dominate the web” with all of the new secret magic bullet SEO strategies that are being taught by the Gurus.

    Of course, I made a couple of exceptions.

    I’m sure I’ve got some hidden bios online that suck, but I think I’ve always tried to at least mention my city, industry and intentions.

    3. Quote For A Bio -

    I get it, Twitter is a form of self-expression for some people. Cool.

    However, I was searching for “Real Estate” or “Mortgage” terms in bios from people that I didn’t recognize for my first run so that I could at least follow industry related tweets.

    So, since a nifty quote didn’t tell me much about the person at quick glance, I unfollowed them. Sorry.

    4. “Guru” In Bio -

    That’s just funny.

    5. “I Help People Make Money With Social Networking” In Bio -

    Trying to avoid the spam as much as possible.

    6. Multiple Websites In Bio -

    Call me crazy, but I’d rather know who someone is before I click their link.

    7. “I Tweet For ___, ___ and ___” In Bio -

    There is a difference between multiple people tweeting for a brand or company, but I don’t understand how one person can jump in and out of other personalities.

    8. Locked Accounts -

    I guess, if someone’s hiding their tweets…. I don’t know.

    9.  Obvious Bots / Re-Tweeters -

    I’m sure there are some good exceptions to this rule, but I’ll save the auto-tweet engines for a list or Google Reader feed.

    10.  Brands / Companies -

    I took a second look at all brands and companies to make sure there was a real person managing their Twitter feeds.

    I actually kept most of them, but the few industry names that simply follow every agent or loan officer are probably better for a list or something… if I ever get to that point.

    _________________

    My next step will be to casually monitor the actual updates as they start to flow through and just start unfollowing people that show a pattern of posting things that are useless to me.

    I’m sure I’ll have another “Top 10″ list once I get in and start examining people’s activity, links and number of followers / following ratios. But, we’ll save that for another post.

    Maybe one day I can figure out how to apply Twitter more effectively to my listings on a separate feed for our new Las Vegas Real Estate company, or even use some of the tools to make my time more efficient.

    But for now, I’m content approaching each connection on Twitter one at a time as thought there are real people who have something to say that might benefit me in 140 characters or less.

    Photo Credit

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  • 15 comments

    Developing The Perfect Content Map For Your Real Estate Blog

    Regardless of the recent debates about whether or not a real estate blog should be considered a solid foundation for a single agent to develop a realistic business model on, there are still many benefits of publishing content on a site you own… provided everything is organized properly.

    I follow the CopyBlogger school of thought for designing strategic landing pages to ensure my target audience gets the exact information they’re looking for when they hit my sites for the first time.

    While I do feature categories and tags in non-prominent areas of the footer or custom sidebars, I try to keep my main informational points of interest flowing from the top down in order to respect the time my readers have to spend online.

    Homeowners and new buyers can easily get overwhelmed with the hundreds of details they may need to be aware of when it comes to the mortgage or real estate process.

    One simple answer can easily lead them to five other questions that they didn’t know they needed to be asking.

    Designed with the big picture in mind, your blog can effectively lead someone through their fact-finding mission in a painless and strategic manner.

    Obviously, articulating this complex home buying thing in a manner that non-industry people can understand is great way to build trust with your potential clients.

    Agents are obsessively consumed with “Personal Branding” to the point where buyers have to invest valuable seconds of their life on a site sifting through awards, testimonials, twitter feeds and media interviews before they can find a page that actually addresses their real needs and concerns.

    However, I feel industry blogs have come a long way in the past five years.

    But, we need to get better at focusing on homeownership education if we’re truly going to impact a positive change in our local real estate markets.

    Here’s an example of my Mortgage 101 section, which has significantly increased in stickiness since I took out the sidebars and customized the page layout to serve as more of a site index with a purpose.

    My ultimate goal is to be able to send borrowers and agents to my mortgage blog without having to include an explanation of where to go once they get there.

    This 11 min video had a huge influence in how I’m redesigning my sites:


    Photo Credit

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  • 6 comments

    I’d Rather Be Left Alone Than LinkedIn

    I’ve been looking for an excuse to cancel my Linkedin acct for months now.

    The extra web exposure on a platform that I don’t control is concerning to me.

    But, it mainly boils down to the fact that I have new twins and no time to do anything on the web that isn’t building true perpetual equity in an online presence that I personally own.

    The final nail in the coffin with LinkedIn for me came last week when I was emailed a false and disturbing message that was maliciously put together by a psycho stalker who targeted everyone who was a first-level connection of his victim online.

    So, with that type of personal and professional nightmare escalating for one of my close friends, I’ve finally decided that it is safer to be Left Alone than LinkedIn, fanned, friended, followed….

    Even though the Internet is the center of my Las Vegas real estate business, I’ve never been into “social networking” much.

    Actually, I started taking my web activity serious in 2006 as a way to replace my previous model of building relationships with referral partners.

    Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy being social and making friends, I just don’t believe I need to get people to “Like” me in order to earn their business.

    I know – I’ve heard the sales gurus preach about people doing business with others they Know, Like and Trust….. blah blah.

    However, I’ve already proven that a niche web strategy can remove the awkward Know and Like components of the sales conversion process if you simply focus on earning trust by writing valuable content that solves the specific needs and questions of your target audience.

    And, as far as duplicating the important Social Proof concept that these social networks enhance, a few creative testimonials down the left column of my About Mark Madsen page will hopefully to do the trick.

    Facebook is next on my operating table, but I’ll have to approach that site with a scalpel since I do have so many FB Business Pages integrated into my SEM campaigns.

    Either way, aside from a little passive connecting and noise making on Twitter, I’m going to save my business social networking activities for Real Estate ForumsCommunities that actually require members to put in work to establish a reputation, as well as joining high traffic conversations by commenting on blog posts.

    At the end of the day or week, I care more about having a body of content that I produced representing me vs a bunch of connections to people that I don’t really know or endorse.

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  • 8 comments

    President Obama To Las Vegas Residents: “Screw You!”

    President Obama told a New Hampshire town hall meeting:

    “When times are tough, you tighten your belts. You don’t go buying a boat when you can barely pay your mortgage. You don’t blow a bunch of cash in Vegas when you’re trying to save for college. You prioritize. You make tough choices and it’s time your government did the same.”

    Amazing, I wonder how Obama talks about Vegas when he’s not on TV?

    Maybe this is why HUD Dissed Las Vegas In The Housing Stimulus Lottery, or Florida got their high speed Disney World Train and Las Vegas didn’t.

    Either way, at least we know exactly what Las Vegas can expect when the President speaks about “Jobs” being his top priority in 2010.

    And the Mayor’s reaction:

    Speaking of blowing a bunch of money on trips….

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    12 Days Of Christmas – Mortgage Edition

    Great job putting this together, Jonas!

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    A Veteran’s Journey Home

    It was Christmas Eve December 24, 1967, and he stood in front of his parents house for the first time in 21 months since he had left to serve his country in Vietnam.

    The cool San Francisco fog was a pleasant change from the sticky Mekong Delta heat that he had endured less than 28 hours earlier.

    While pleasant and welcoming, the faint background sounds of traffic and sea gulls confused his heightened sense of awareness.

    Trying to gain a perspective of his new surreal, yet familiar surroundings, this 23 year-old kid paused at the bottom of the long steps that led up to his front door….

    Can I look my own mother in the eyes without letting her see right through to the pain and fear that is hidden just beyond this external shell of a man?

    It had only been weeks, or days, or maybe even minutes since he raced to stop the bleeding and save another brother’s life.

    As a Field Medic, he had been trained to maintain composure while holding a dying man’s hand, yet the Army never prepared him for when he returned to the real world.

    His mind drifted back to the day his father dropped him off at the bus station when he was heading off to boot camp.

    A solid man, who fought back tears as he explained to his son that he joined the fight in World War II so his children wouldn’t have to.

    Will his return open up wounds that his father spent years healing? Does he even have to share his story with his Veteran dad, or will he already know the ending?

    He took the first three steps…. only 8 more to go before he has to face his future.

    A soft bed, secure behind locked doors was motivating him to gently move up a few more steps, only stopping for a brief moment as he cringed with the thought of his prior sleeping conditions.

    Nights were either spent in a foxhole infested with fire ants, or on moonlit missions into the jungle rooting out ambushes. Either way, the thought of a full 12 hours of sleep in his own bed overcame his prior anxieties as he neared the top of the front porch.

    What would he remember, or how would he be remembered?

    As he took his trembling hands away from his weathered face, he realized that he had been kneeling on the first step the entire time.

    Looking up, he saw his parents standing in the open doorway with welcoming arms waiting for him to complete his long journey home.

    _____________

    The happy ending to this story is that my father finally made it up those steps and went on to raise a great family.

    While he continues to struggle with the questions and answers about those 21 months of his life, he has made this world a better place by sharing his compassion and love with everyone that he meets.

    On this Veterans Day, I’d like to thank my father, grandfathers, uncles and their wives and children whom have sacrificed their lives so that I may have the freedom to sit here and blog about it.

    VietNamWall


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  • 13 comments

    Monday Motivation

    It’s been a busy year.  So busy, that I didn’t realize there were only 85 or so days left in 2009.

    Take away the holidays, office parties, traveling to real estate conferences and visiting family, and I estimate that we’ve got about 19 working days left.

    Whether you believe that the economy is going up, down or heading nowhere fast, the only thing we can control over the next few minutes or months is our attitude.

    One of my friends created a great video over the weekend that I wanted to share with the Bloodhound Community.

    Here’s to finishing this year out strong….

    video produced by:  Dustin Hughes

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    Is ActiveRain Selling Loan Officers An Exclusive Opportunity, Or Just Selling Their Real Estate Agents Out?

    active_rain_making_money_off_the_backs_of_loan_officers_by_using_agents_as_a_carrot

    I’ve received a few emails and calls from my loan officers this week about some new exclusive opportunity that Activerain.com is pitching to the mortgage industry.

    Apparently, Active Rain is cold calling mortgage professionals who have an AR blogging history and offering them an “extremely rare opportunity” to pay $299 / month for the privilege of being able to re-sell upgraded AR products to real estate agents.

    The following email is an example of what the new Active Rain business model appears to be:

    xxxxxxxxx,

    Thank you for taking the time out of your day to speak with me.  As I said, this is an extremely rare opportunity.

    WISCONSIN

    Currently 848 Real Estate Agents

    Currently 123 Loan Officers

    You will have a full training course with ActiveRain to learn the knowledge on how to dominate the first page of Google.  With this knowledge you will train agents to do the same.  You will keep in contact with these agents as their trusted advisor who has directly taught them on how to fully market themselves successfully.  There will be loyalty here.  You will have full access to every single new and old agent in the whole state of Wisconsin.  You will be highlighted all over ActiveRain for this.

    $299/month is your investment.

    After 15 upgrades you will receive $700.

    For every rainmaker upgrade thereafter, you receive $25.

    The relationships and possibilities are endless.

    Please let me know as soon as possible as time is of the essence.

    xxxxxxxxxxxxx
    Member Services
    ActiveRain.com
    xxxxxxxxxxxx

    I’ve obviously blanked out the names to protect the people involved in this specific conversation, but I’ve already been given permission by my loan officers to talk about this on Bloodhoundblog.

    ________

    Let me get a few disclaimers out of the way before I dive in to this Active Rain thing.

    I’m a loan officer with several blogging platforms – some are free, and some cost money to participate.

    My main objective with 99% of the group blogs that I build is to help my contributors expand their reach online with a little help from a few friends who share the same goals.

    I understand the importance of having a well capitalized web project so that the development crew can stay on the cutting edge of innovation.

    The real estate industry is brutal enough, so I can truly empathize with the additional complexities and logistics involved with building a social media business in this vertical- especially when competing with the new economics of free.

    Matter of fact, the overwhelming demand of advances in technology, combined with limited time and resources may ultimately force us to shut down our real estate social network after 3 hard years of blood, sweat and tears.

    Either way, the experience has taught me how vital it is for real estate and mortgage professionals to take ownership of their online presence and actually build equity in something that they personally control.

    ________

    Basically, I respect AR’s right and need to create revenue streams to be able to facilitate the perceived value their members expect.

    However, I’m insulted as a loan officer by a Goliath like AR thinking that it is OK to base a business model off of the same tired “pay us a bunch of money for the opportunity to meet more agents” pitch that we’ve been guarding ourselves against for years.

    It just sounds dirty.  And according to one phone call I had this week with a loan officer, the AR sales team is laying it on thick – telling loan officers that if they don’t call back by the end of the day, Active Rain will find another mortgage company to give exclusivity to.

    Here are my 3 main issues:

    1. The veteran loan officer members have sacrificed their valuable time over the years writing content and earning points for the potential to be featured somewhere special on the site.  Yet, now a new loan officer can just buy preferred  placement and access to all of the agents in that state?

    I know that the $299 may not replace the relationships that the non-paying LOs have worked hard to build with the AR agents, but it will create a little confusion.

    How can you measure the true value of a point system when the members have to consider whether or not someone has actually earned their place at the top?

    I guess AR is going to issue these loan officers a special badge, but that is just going to let the community know that they were one of the suckers who got duped into buying “full access to every single new and old agent in the whole state of……..”

    Keep in mind that the email above clearly states this is for Active Rain, not Localism.

    2. Real Estate agents have worked hard establishing a presence on AR for the purpose of reaching their target audiences in the search engines…. But instead, they are being presented as a dangling carrot in front of  hungry loan officers who are starving for the opportunity to take a bite out of that agent database.

    3. I guess it would be fair to give agents free blogs since they are being traded as a commodity for the $300 / month from loan officers.  But actually, the loan officer is simply buying the right to re-sell the blogs to new agents with the potential for a kickback after a certain quota has been met.

    First of all, most loan officers don’t have $300 a month to blow on a new business venture.  And, the ones that do have the money are way too busy closing loans to spend their time pushing Active Rain blogs on their few producing agents.

    This sounds more like activeway than a real mortgage marketing solution.

    ________

    If loan officers are interested in teaching their agents the super cool new tricks of getting found on Google, then here are six great resources that won’t cost you $3600 a year:


    I’m just a loan officer with a few mortgage blogs and a single voice in the business, so I don’t have any personal reasons to be threatened by Active Rain’s new loan officer marketing campaign.

    Actually, if I want to be selfish about things, it works to my advantage if a bunch of competitors are chasing shiny AR objects while I focus on building my own domain’s strength in the search engines.

    However, for some reason, I just can’t sit back and let these giant media companies poach on our industry like this.

    I mean, when did Active Rain go from being a great industry social network to just another company that wants to gouge the already battered loan officer?

    We’re not mules chasing carrots anymore, and we’re not the solution to boosting your bottom line.

    Image Credit

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  • 31 comments

    Too Stupid To Do Business With?

    I’m not that guy who loves forwarding funny emails, but my father-in-law sent one to me that I had to share because it could totally apply to our industry.

    Either way, I thought it would make for a little Friday fun.

    ___________

    This is a true phone call from the Word Perfect Help line which was transcribed from a recording monitoring the customer care department.

    Needless to say the Help Desk employee was fired.

    >>>

    “ABC computer assistance; may I help you?”

    “Yes, well, I’m having trouble with Word Perfect.”

    “What sort of trouble?”

    “Well, I was just typing along, and all of a sudden the words went
    away.”

    “Went away?”

    “They disappeared.”

    “Hmm. So what does your screen look like now?”

    “Nothing.”

    “Nothing?”

    “It’s blank, it won’t accept anything when I type.”

    “Are you still in Word Perfect, or did you get out?”

    “How do I tell?”

    “Can you see the C: prompt on the screen?”

    “What’s a sea-prompt?”

    “Never mind, can you move your cursor around the screen?”

    “There isn’t any cursor: I told you, it won’t accept anything I type.”

    “Does your monitor have a power indicator?”

    “What’s a monitor?”

    “It’s the thing with the screen on it that looks like a TV. Does it
    have a little light that tells you when it’s on?”

    “I don’t know.”

    “Well, then look on the back of the monitor and find where the power
    cord goes into it. Can you see that?”

    “Yes, I think so.”

    “Great. Follow the cord to the plug, and tell me if it’s plugged into
    the wall.”

    “Yes, it is.”

    “When you were behind the monitor, did you notice that there were two
    cables plugged into the back of it, not just one?”

    “No.”

    “Well, there are. I need you to look back there again and find the
    other cable.”

    “Okay, here it is.”

    “Follow it for me, and tell me if it’s plugged securely into the back
    of your computer.”

    “I can’t reach.”

    “Uh huh. Well, can you see if it is?”

    “No.”

    “Even if you maybe put your knee on something and lean way over?”

    “Oh, it’s not because I don’t have the right angle — it’s because it’s
    dark.”

    “Dark?”

    “Yes, the office light is off, and the only light I have is coming in
    from the window.”

    “Well, turn on the office light then.”

    “I can’t.”

    “No? Why not?”

    “Because there’s a power failure.”

    “A power… A power failure? Aha. Okay, we’ve got it licked now. Do you
    still have the boxes and manuals and packing stuff your computer came in?”

    “Well, yes, I keep them in the closet.”

    “Good. Go get them, and unplug your system and pack it up just like it
    was when you got it. Then take it back to the store you bought it from.”

    “Really? Is it that bad?”

    “Yes, I’m afraid it is.”

    “Well, all right then, I suppose. What do I tell them?”

    “Tell them you’re too damned stupid to own a computer.”

    ___________

    So, I guess the main lesson that we can take away from this transcript is that asking the right questions is essential in determining whether or not someone is qualified to do business with.

    I’m sure we’ve all had a conversation with an agent, loan officer or potential client that could have easily ended up in a similar manner.

    You can’t blame the tech help guy for not asking the most obvious question up-front, even though the answer he received would have probably saved both of them 20 min. of frustration.

    I’m wondering what obvious questions we should be asking our clients, agents and loan officers ahead of time….

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  • 9 comments

    How Bloodhoundblog’s Innovators Have Inspired My Business

    In response to Greg’s request for innovative ideas from BHB, I thought that would list a few real life examples of how the contributors here have impacted my personal evolution in mortgage marketing and Web 2.0 world domination.

    While I believe success is merely a component of innovation, I also agree with the people who need to see proof of results in order to determine a true measure of value.

    Since it is too difficult for me to pick one or two innovative or game changing ideas for Greg’s contest, I’ve embedded links to some of the BHB articles that have inspired me over the past few years.

    Where did BHB begin for me?

    I have been an avid reader of BHB for a couple of years.  This place use to scare me (still does), but I eventually gained the confidence in expanding my own online presence as a result of the education that I gained from reading and participating in the conversations on this blog.

    As a loan officer back in the boom days, I only cared about the web because one of my Las Vegas real estate agents was feeding me with leads that he generated from his site.

    I basically just helped contribute content and pay some of the expenses in our joint marketing venture.

    When I did find time to pay attention to what others were saying online, I’d read about bubbleheads and doom pundits, real estate agents blogging about blogging, how the housing slowdown was only going to last for another 6 months, and how Zillow didn’t have accurate estimates.

    However, when the market really did shift as Brian predicted, I was faced with the options of either becoming more involved in our online marketing agenda or walking away and getting a new job.

    I kind of did a little bit of all three by developing a game plan for the industry that focused on a more sustainable purpose and different priorities.

    The early innovation:

    One of my first successful web projects was a FSBO campaign that combined single property web sites, highly visible yard signs, Craigslist, Call Capture, and a solid listing presentation.

    My pricing model was based on Greg’s listing fee, and I was even able to get my real estate agents to do the dirty work of selling and marketing my program.

    We had over 40 FSBO listings in a matter of months that generated about .25 loans, 3 real estate buyers,  and almost .5 full listing contracts per property.

    It was a complete win win for everyone until the market was overrun with REO inventory.

    Lesson learned – don’t take listings that won’t sell.

    The evolution:

    I either own, participate in or am in the process of developing over 17 real estate and mortgage blogs.  My purpose is to build perpetual equity in an online presence that will create residual wealth for my family and friends.  Its a call to arms, but I’m keeping my mind on my mission.

    Am I rich yet?  No, but I’ve got a sense of peace and security knowing that I no longer have a publishing problem.

    Innovation from Bloodhoundblog:

    My biggest challenge is finding the time to execute all of my ideas.

    1)  We’re working on Ryan Hartman’s 404 genius for our Las Vegas property management web site.  Combine strategic landing pages with targeted online comments, and I think we’ll be able to connect with the right audience at precisely the moment they need us.

    2)  Brian Brady’s Twitter Media Mogul works well with the help of Domus Consulting Group’s Breaking News project.  I’ve already built three of those sites, including a Twitter Mortgage Rate feed.  All I have to do is customize Chris Johnson’s Twitter prospecting and sales program, and I should have an easy system built for my agents and loan officers to thrive from.

    3)  After reading Mark Green’s article on creating warm leads through GoToWebinar, I’ve implemented a permission marketing system into my short sale posts.  Brian’s articles about his experience on Wall Street has helped me research and write valuable content for my readers.  As long as we watch what we say and how we say it, the message is always well received.

    4)  Eric Blackwell’s advice about SEO and social media was right on, which is why we created a real estate social network.  However, we should have paid more attention to his advice about the business model and need to produce income.  Either way, even if Inman’s News didn’t find our innovation exciting this year, WordPress and BuddyPress did.

    5)  How about taking this social media talk to the street?  Not sure if this is considered innovation or common sense, but there are thousands of Las Vegas real estate agents that would probably love to learn how to integrate a little more Web2.0 into their weekly business routines.  I could also create a group blog for them all to participate and learn on.  Maybe I’ll have time to start putting together monthly social media classes beginning in Aug.

    6)  I’d like to take it a step further though and help these agents get their own Google profiles, blogs, maps and single property web sites up and running.  At that point, it is as easy as streaming my mortgage blog content to special pages on their sites like Kevin Sandridge is doing with the Scenius strategy he learned at the Orlando Unchained.

    7)  While video and podcasts are great ways to build trust, I’m working on a first-time home buyer e-book that easily articulates and organizes all of the valuable information that my real estate partners and I have put on the web.  The printable version will also have a co-branding area and be useful folder filler content for new clients.

    I’ve got several more examples, but these are the most noteworthy that I could come up with on the fly.

    Who should win Bloodhoundblog’s innovation award?

    Regardless of who wins Greg’s little contest, I’d like to sincerely thank all of the contributors and participating readers here for making be better.

    I could probably spend another 9 hours going through BHB and pulling out all of the great articles that inspired innovation in my own business and life, but I’ll have to settle on the following link as my final decision:

    Here is my vote

    ________

    Happy 3 years of innovation, Bloodhoundblog!

    Related posts:
  • Death, Taxes and Real Estate 3.0
  • How to take away the objections to drawbacks in a home
  • Working the numbers on real estate business models . . .

  • 9 comments

    How Do You Measure The True Success Of Innovation?

    Greg’s recent post about Bloodhoundblog’s innovation contribution to the real estate industry created the typical debate over dinosaurs vs. Web 2.0.

    However, there were several good points about the difference between innovation and success.

    I’d like to argue that innovation is a component of success, as is failure.

    Whether you’re skinning cats the 1.0 way, exploring the potential of a complete virtual realty solution, mixing a creative listing landing page with a direct mail campaign, or putting your referral relationships to full use, the simple fact that most of us are still left in the game to have these discussions is a small sign that we’re all successful in one manner or another.

    It is hard to deny that the industry is rapidly changing, especially with regards to the way we leverage the web to communicate to our clients and colleagues.

    By the time something has been proven, its already old news and can’t really be considered innovative.

    What does innovation mean to me?

    In order to have a productive conversation about the actual value of an innovative idea, I think it is important that we first agree on a common definition of innovation.

    I hear words tossed around like Top Producer, high conversions, leads to loans….  which don’t mean much to me unless those are the results I’m expecting when I buy a product.

    But to me, innovation is more of a way of life vs a business decision.  I’m always looking for ways to make something or someone better, without living in fear of failure.

    I don’t need social proof from the masses to build my confidence.  Matter of fact, if everyone is already doing something well, then I’m even more motivated to find a different, more efficient way of accomplishing the same goal.

    My loving and patient wife has to deal with these character traits every day.  And to make things worse on her, my 2 year old daughter is showing signs of following in her father’s patterns.  I couldn’t be more proud.

    Either way, I just wasn’t designed to wait around on other people to prove that an innovative idea can be successful.  Maybe its because I focus on how I can make something successful for myself instead of wasting energy worrying about what other people think.

    Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not an idiot.  Well, not all of the time, but I do try and learn from other people’s mistakes and achievements as well.

    Have my innovative contributions to the real estate world been successful?  Yes, but not without some major scars and sacrifices that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

    Why the rant?  Because I love beating a dead horse.

    I also wanted to give some encouragement to the other innovators on this blog who may be tempted to feel like they have to prove their ideas to the “critical mass of widespread adoption” followers in order to be recognized as a success.

    Related posts:
  • Notes from the Peanut Gallery
  • Bright spots…
  • Programs for the Pessimist

  • 7 comments

    Why Real Estate Agents Should Stop Playing Loan Officer

    I wasted a few hours this week cleaning up the messes that real estate agents created for their first time home-buyers.

    End result – loan officer still looks like a jerk, but now the borrowers are really confused about who to trust.

    I’m going to combine about five separate scenarios and conversations that I had this week into one rant just to get my point across.

    First of all, the mortgage industry is changing very rapidly.

    True  mortgage professionals are paying attention to things like:  HVCC, concerns of HR1728, Mortgage Insurance companies changing their guidelines, Fannie’s new condo rules, FHA fico score requirements, Loan Level Price Adjustments, new FHA appraisal guidelines, adjusting interest rates in an unstable market, and a constant stream of mortgage Twitter chatter that only adds to the noise.

    For those of us primarily working with FHA First-Time Home Buyers, we’re also keeping tabs on the $8000 Tax Credit being used as a down payment, as well as how long the Fed plans on purchasing Mortgage Backed Securities to keep rates lower.

    Just as real estate agents are learning about short sales, bank owned properties, and transparency, mortgage originators have a full-time job keeping up with industry news so that we can lead our clients down the right path.

    I don’t think that I need to throw another 9 links in this post to demonstrate that there are a lot of things real estate agents and loan officers need to understand before we can express with confidence to our clients that we truly have a handle on their unique scenario.

    Imagine what the effect would be on a first-time home buyer if puked all of this overwhelming information on a them in the first 10 minutes of the initial phone call?

    I had to do this all week just so that the agents and borrowers would understand why I wasn’t able to issue a quick pre-approval letter and GFE simply based on a 15 min phone call and credit score.

    We’re in a tough market, and I totally empathize with the hard working agents who are competing for new business by giving the highest levels of service possible.

    However, in an attempt to provide “motivated” buyers instant gratification, you’re screwing things up for the loan officers who are only here to help everyone accomplish their goals.

    There is a system that loan officers have to follow in order to earn the trust of new clients, especially first-time home buyers.

    We have to help them define their short and long term investment goals, budget for a down payment and closing costs, determine an affordable monthly payment based on their entire financial scenario, and then plan an exit strategy.

    The process of obtaining mortgage money is way more than shopping for the best rates of the minute and then throwing a worthless pre-qual letter up against the wall just so that you can get that offer in ASAP.

    We can’t just deal with the details later.  It doesn’t work that way anymore.

    I’ll never understand why an agent would be willing to spend an entire weekend showing homes to a new borrower before they’ve had a chance to meet with a loan officer.

    “But I’ve got three lenders who work 24/7 for me that can get anything done.”

    My response – Why toy with the emotions of your clients?  It is cruel to tell them that you’ll have one of your preferred banks work up a quick pre-qual the morning before you take them out to view properties.

    I had one agent this week tell me that I didn’t understand how real estate worked -  that we had to move on these properties before someone else put in a better offer.

    I heard the excitement in the hopeful homeowner’s voice when she was describing how perfect this new condo would be and how they’ve been searching for a while to find the best fit for their new family.

    Imagine their disgust in my company’s ability to “perform” under short notice when I explained how they would have to wait until we could qualify them and the property.

    “I don’t understand, (Agent) said that we would be OK since we had good credit and a decent down payment.  My dad didn’t have to deal with this when he bought a house three years ago.  Why wouldn’t banks want to give us money, I thought the government has programs for new buyers?  My agent told us that she had lenders who could get things done…  I don’t trust you, maybe we’ll shop around until we find someone who is willing to tell us what we want to hear…..”

    It sucks being the bad guy, but this could have easily been avoided if the agent painted a more accurate picture of the Las Vegas REO home buying process for her young borrowers.

    So what happens from here?  Lenders will continue to criticize agents for being pushy, and agents will continue to call us idiots and scam artists.

    Regardless of how it sounds, I’m not really against agents.  Our mortgage company is primarily a purchase shop, so we highly depend on referrals from agents and past clients.

    We just have to learn how to respect each other’s roles so that our clients don’t suffer.

    My personal agents know better than this.  Well, most of the time, but I’m still appreciative of their loyalty.

    Either way, here is the correct process:

    1.  Borrower gets approval from loan officer

    2.  Real Estate agent shows borrower new homes

    ______

    Why Should Real Estate Agents Stop Playing Loan Officer?

    • Because lenders have a difficult enough time trying to earn trust in this market without agents causing more doubt
    • The interest rates your other clients got last week don’t apply to your new borrowers’ scenario
    • Per HVCC, originators are not able to help influence value
    • You can’t just easily submit the same loan to multiple banks until an approval sticks
    • An actual approval letter requires an underwriter, not just a loan officer’s signature
    • A “Good Job” doesn’t necessarily qualify as acceptable income or employment
    • A “High Credit Score” is only one aspect of a credit report that an underwriter will analyze
    • A “Big Down Payment” still may have to pass a source and seasoning test
    • “Owner Occupied” means that they actually have to work and live in the same town
    • “Under Valued” does not = a lower LTV in a purchase transaction
    • A roommate’s share of the mortgage payment does not = additional income
    • Rental income on another investment property may have to be verified
    • Equity in other properties does not constitute as liquid assets
    • “Pre-Approval” letters are only as trustworthy as the loan officer issuing them, and even then they still may be worthless

    Obviously, there are some lending scenarios that are no-brainers.

    But I generally need to ask a borrower a series of 20-30 questions and run a full DU or LP approval before I can give a listing agent my honest opinion about whether or not that deal is going to close.

    Related posts:
  • VA Condominium Complex Approvals: Navigating the Maze of Paperwork
  • What Do I Want In a Loan Officer?
  • The New Bait and Switch

  • 16 comments

    The End of No-Cost Mortgage Loans and Other HR 1728 Concerns

    The H.R. 1728: Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending Act is a problem that all mortgage and real estate professionals need to pay attention to.

    My first rule of blogging has always been to avoid political discussions, especially if I’m not an expert on every angle of the topic.

    So, with my second post to the BHB, I’m breaking all of my rules…. I guess this means that I’m starting to get the hang of things around here.

    The difference with this post is that I’m putting my self-consciousness and ego aside for a moment.  I believe that there is way too much at stake for me to wait around until I’m comfortable putting my neck on the line.  I’m taking Greg’s 70% approach and running with it

    If I’m wrong or barking up the wrong tree, I humbly respect that the Hounds of this community will set me straight.  Matter of fact, I’ll do my best to encourage any type of discussion, rant, or other demonstration of disgust, as long as it helps us get closer to the truth behind HR 1728.

    Here’s the deal, friends – HR 1728 has passed the House, which means it still has to go before the Senate and then pass Obamanomics before it becomes a law.

    I’ve spent a significant amount of time reading, researching and writing about how mortgage originators can battleback against this new Mortgage Reform bill.

    I’m either missing a beat, presenting the wrong info, or not yelling loud enough, because it doesn’t seem like there is much talk online about how this new Anti-Predatory Lending bill will impact our industry.

    Obviously, HVCC is getting some reaction, probably because people are already feeling the pain in their wallets.

    However, a lot of us may have to turn to online gaming and selling weed to make a living if H.R. 1728 makes it through the Senate without our voices being heard.

    What are the main bullets of HR 1728 that I care about?

    • Mortgage brokers lose the ability to use their YSP (Yield Spread Premium) to offer No-Cost mortgage loans.  Banks, on the other hand, still don’t have to disclose their same (SRP).
    • It will be a 30 year fixed rate only world, or borrowers will have the ability to sue lenders for up to three times their loan amount.
    • Mortgage companies will have to put up 5-10 percent in reserves on any loan that they originate, fund or transfer -  other than the standard full doc 30 year fixed.  This will basically force all non-depository lenders out of the business.  Yipee for big Government owned banks!
    • Nobody (including attorneys) will be able to charge homeowners to negotiate with a lender on the borrower’s behalf for better loan terms.  This is bad, I don’t care what your opinions are about the loan modification business.  There has to be an equal balance of power, and homeowners should have the right to pay an expert for a fair trial.

    >>Read the Full Text Here

    >>Read Summary Here

    Whether you believe that the current foreclosure crisis is a result of the Clinton Treasury Department’s 1995 regulations which made getting CRA ratings much harder, Fannie Mae’s attempt to increase home ownership, or maybe something more obvious like Credit Default Swaps, the politicians and big banks find it more convenient to just blame mortgage brokers.

    The thing that pisses me off the most about this bill is its name -

    “Anti-Predatory Lending”

    WTF!  -  I mean, who doesn’t think that Mortgage Reform is good and Predatory Lending is bad?

    They have given a complex bill a creative name to fool our clients and professional colleagues who are too busy dealing with their own nightmares to see a new one on the horizon.

    When a few banks control our industry, mortgage rate and program options become limited.

    The following videos could probably sum up the past 10 years and how we got to this new Anti-Mortgage Originator Act:

    Video 1: Barney Frank – Pro Housing, Fannie Mae, and Sub-Prime

    Video 2: Barney Frank “There is no housing bubble, we’ll be fine or the Government will bail us out.”

    Video 3: Barney Frank – The Republicans caused this mess

    Video 4: Rep Brad Miller – Borrowers were duped into bad loans (min. 4-6)

    Confused yet? Having a hard time trying to decide if it was the Republicans or Democrats who let this happen?

    Don’t worry about it, they are probably going to spend the rest of eternity trying to blame each other while the consumer and active real estate / mortgage professionals pay the price.

    I’m not open to a political debate, but maybe some of the readers here are. My main objective for posting this article is to create awareness, and hopefully an educational discussion.

    Like I mentioned earlier, I barely feel qualified based on my overall knowledge of this topic to write about it.  Either way, motion creates emotion.

    Whether you feel the need to express your opinions in the comment section, or you bring H.R. 1728 up in your next office meeting, we need to start creating noise.

    Related posts:
  • FHA Broker Approval Delegated to Approved DE Lenders: Will This Squeeze Out Smaller Players?
  • BloodhoundBlog Radio: FHA/VA in 2010 (with Tony Gallegos)
  • Bankrate.com Encourages Stupid Mortgage Banker Tricks

  • 14 comments

    Unchained Freedom “Friends Keep Friends In The Business”

    As I was driving back to Las Vegas after a full week of hanging out with the Bloodhound crew at Unchained, my mind was racing to get a grasp on all of the new real estate marketing possibilities that I could achieve by the end of the year.

    The confidence I gained through the relationships built at Unchained was all I needed to fully execute my online marketing plans.

    I believe that everyone is an expert at something, and we all have a ton to learn from each other.

    The Scenius sessions at Unchained were a great example of this concept:

    • After a full day of building blogs, Eric Blackwell, Ryan Hartman and I stayed up until 3 am discussing some SEO strategery for Battleback.com.
    • Greg showed me how simple it would be to syndicate my mortgage content on all of my real estate agents’ blogs with just a little bit of technical savvy.
    • Brad Coy and Brian Brady helped me figure out how to easily integrate a Twitter or Facebook presence into my weekly relationship building routines without having to spend too much time being social.
    • Al Lorenz and I talked about the benefits of owning the social media platforms that our clients and referral partners participate on.
    • Sean Purcell’s brainstorming session over a $100 casino chip got me excited about top of mind sales and branding tools.
    • Kerry Melcher’s “Small Town Phoenix Living” reminded me of how important it is to connect with the emotional needs that may impact our clients’ decisions to do business with us.
    • Scott Cowan and I compared our local markets and shared similar opinions about how much online social networking really matters in the long run.
    • Scott Schang and Mark Green opened my eyes to the power of holding online webinars for the purpose of building a loyal database.

    I could go on and on about all of the great conversations that I had at Unchained.

    My main objective for that week was to fill in a few technical gaps with my blogging skills.  As Greg has mentioned many times, real estate professionals have a publishing problem.

    There are so many ideas that I haven’t been able to execute simply because of a lack of knowledge.  However, I now have the tools that will give me the freedom to fail or succeed on my own time and dime.

    I know that the 12 die hard real estate bloggers who stayed up until 12:30 am for my “Pimp Your Blog” class understand where I’m coming from.

    Basically, if I want to launch a new blog tomorrow, I don’t have to wait around and pay someone else to do it for me.

    Do I run the risk of breaking things?  Probably, but I’ve already built failure into my business model.

    Either way, as Brad Coy has already demonstrated, help is only a post away.

    Bottom line, friends keep friends in the business, and I’m sincerely grateful to be part of this community.

    Related posts:
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  • The Funnel: the Leak in my Marketing Efforts!

  • 12 comments