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Let’s Talk Listings – Better Yet? Let’s Talk Gettin’ ‘em Sold

Since the beginning of last year, how long has it taken to sell your listings? I’m not talkin’ about those priced at half the median value in your market. I’m talkin’ about a traditional seller who simply wants you to sell his real estate. Why do a few listings in every market sell faster than the rest? Let’s set aside the obvious go-to answer, price. Let’s also agree that unless you’re pricing your listings below the market, there are other significant factors involved in market time.

But what are they?

My firm is now on its third generation, and to gain respect at the dinner table, you must be a listing agent. Doesn’t mean you eschew buyers, not even close. It also doesn’t mean we don’t hold buyers’ agents in the highest esteem, cuz we do. In fact, we adore ‘em. They’re the main reason we can leave town for extended periods, doin’ deals while applying the sunscreen. ‘Course, I gave up that luxury when I left my hometown market almost a decade ago.

It’s taken about six years, but San Diego’s real estate investors, especially the regular folk, are finally realizing there’s real estate life outside of Paradise. :) If I’m correct in this supposition though, how will I sell their properties quickly and for market value?

BawldJapan strikes again!

I have no false pride when it comes to doing what puts cat skins on the wall. Since I come up with precious few original ideas myself, to survive, I’ve learned to steal like a cat burglar. :) Sometimes I leave well enough alone, sometimes I tweak a little here and there. I’ve learned through experience that my clients are influenced more by one factor than all the others combined: Obtaining the results for which they hired me.

Funny how that works. It’s why most marketing folks keep their distance from guys like me. I’m constantly measuring their efforts with the ‘R’ word — RESULTS.

Serious minded sellers are obsessed with results when they choose an agent to list their property for sale. They universally like the marketing plan we employ. 98% of property owners (a number I picked outa the air just now) have never seen anything like what we show them. But, as much as I’d love to be able to claim credit for it, I can’t. I do claim the credit for at least being bright enough to have recognized brilliance when it was right in front of me — then putting it to use.

All of the credit goes to Greg Swan. His overall marketing plan for selling listings is maybe the most unsung, underrated stratagem for selling residential real estate I’ve seen in my nearly 43 years as a licensee.

Here’s a link to the plan in it’s entirety.

Though we don’t use all of it, the vast majority is adhered to almost slavishly. As I said earlier, I usually take others’ ideas and add my own tweaks. Gotta admit though, Greg’s plan was so completely thought through, there was only one thing I thought was missing.

An experienced interior designer familiar with the real world.

What do I mean by real world? I don’t in any way mean that interior designers aren’t real with what they do. I’m referring to what so very often makes the pivotal difference to buyers. If you’re in a market where a huge segment, maybe most of your personal practice, is made up of homes 10 years old or less, this additional listing ‘team member’ might be unnecessary. Floor plans are far friendlier than they were in 1965. Or 1985 for that matter.

But the professionally trained and experienced eye can almost immediately see where half a dozen simple ‘tweaks’ can combine to make a home literally pop! when buyers walk through. This is particularly true when they’ve already seen the nearby competition.

We’ve used our own designer not only in San Diego, but in a couple other states as well, and with solid results. We’ve even used her ‘long distance’ with clients selling their rental homes or 2-4 unit properties. Even then it’s worked like magic. Most of her design modifications don’t even need a permit, though a large minority do. A contractor, or sub-contractor is used if that level of expertise is required. Quality results is always the measuring stick.

I wrote about this listing long ago. But it still sticks out as the epitome of what’s possible. It was a rental home that had had the same large family as tenants for over eight years. Outside of the medium sized kitchen remodel, the client/seller had done nothing inside for those eight years. The property was about 35 years old, give or take.

Here’s what we had the seller do, based upon the interior designer’s inspection and recommendations. It probably helps to know the house itself was in a nice middle class area with prices at the time, about 10-12% or so above the county median. Basically a typical American neighborhood.

1. Added 3′ X 4′ alcove in the main hallway bathroom. Took that space from the entry way coat closet. Killer addition to the bathroom — no big loss in the entry way. They weren’t gonna be hangin’ their fur coats there, right?

2. Her female side came to the surface in the master bathroom. The unavoidable view from the shower (no tub) was the commode. Surveys have shown conclusively that’s not the preferred view of wives when enjoying their morning shower. :) She had the offending commode turned 90 degrees left. Then had a 4′ pony wall built behind it. Now his better half can only see his head.

3. The backyard patio and its cover was about 50-60% of the home’s width. It paralleled the entire living and dining rooms. The house side of the cover was attached at the level of the eaves. She hated that. She had it detached and repositioned it on the roof. The difference was more than a little surprising. It made everything look airier. It also allowed much more sunlight into the living and dining rooms, which had given the feel of being cave-like before the modification.

4. This was the most effective in my view. She had the last 18-20″ of the dividing wall between kitchen and living room removed, floor to ceiling. This opened up the floor plan such that you didn’t feel squeezed when coming from the entry way or the hallway. It gave the home more of an open feeling, instead of being segmented, almost like a prison. Made a very obvious difference.

5. Except for the kitchen, she had the rest of the house re-floored. It was an eye-opener for me. A very smart move.

6. She had the client’s handyman drywall the entire garage interior. Relatively cheap, and much mo betta appearance.

7. The entire interior, sans kitchen, was painted. Her colors, her guy. Fantastic improvement. Anyone would’ve painted, but it was the color choices and quality of the painter that made the difference.

No changes were made to any of the landscaping, as the client had kept it in excellent condition, using a professional a couple times monthly. We just ensured he had the guy come by weekly during the listing period, and while we were preparing the home for sale. The exterior paint was in good condition and tasteful. The curb appeal was pretty nice, especially compared to the competition listed at the time. It was inviting.

Again, this home was nothing special. We simply made it the best it could be without spending gobs of money. A real facelift woulda run over $30,000 easily. Our client’s outa pocket was around $15,000 or so. At the time, the market was as horrible as I’ve seen it in my career. It was 2009.

Sean Purcell was going to create a killer for sale sign for us, as per Greg’s plan. It wasn’t to be. The home hit the MLS on a Friday after lunch. It went into escrow the following Tuesday or Wednesday. It sold for more than any comparable in the neighborhood at the time. We had to adjust to the appraisal, as it was a brutal buyers’ market then. The adjustment was around 3-4% if memory serves.

Go to the linked list, and do what it says. Give the interior designer addition a whirl too, if you think it would be effective. This plan will easily cut your marketing time, while increasing your expected sales price. Would love to hear your thoughts.

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  • 10 comments

    You’re A Master Cat Skinner – The Good News and The Bad News

    Are you the ‘go to’ guy/gal? Do you list a lotta property and do it well? Are you a leader? Though I’m sure many will say charisma is required, I beg to disagree. It never hurts, but in the end, the Lord created the ultimate equalizer to charisma:

    Results.

    Today, let’s have a serious discussion about what combination of approaches would slaughter what’s currently goin’ on in the national brokerage community. First, here’s my perception of the major ‘schools’ I see in operation.

    Variations on the Agent-Centric brokerage model

    Between us we can come up with a myriad variations. Let’s limit them to very high commission splits, and the desk fee approach.

    As I’ve written before, not long ago, that the agent-centric (A-C) model is failing everywhere it’s been tried. It’s ability to fail at pretty much every level is becoming legendary, regardless of the Titantic-like practicianers now lookin’ to technology to save them. Listen guys, if buying ownership positions in title companies, lenders, and starting your own escrows isn’t prima facie evidence of the desperate reach for lifejackets, I don’t know what is.

    Let’s directly compare the currently popular A-C model with what I’d open in today’s — or any — housing market.

    But first, a word from the Disclosures Department.

    My biz model, though it pains me to admit, would indeed work exceptionally well if completely buyer oriented, listing few if any homes. However, when compared to my model — Broker-Centric — the firm primarily based upon listing homes will annihilate the buyer based company. This isn’t theory, or even bias on my part. As anyone should readily be able to discern, it’s a matter of sixth grade arithmetic.

    Also, I’m loosely basing my ‘virtual’ A-C company on a brokerage I know of in a northwestern state. The size, and commission split are the perfect example of the results one can expect when using this model.

    End disclosures.

    Let’s first construct a virtual company built upon the A-C model.

    Let’s give ‘em a lotta agents, but not make it a big box setup. We’ll hire 35 full time agents. None of ‘em will have less than three years full time experience. They’ll be hired due to various levels of success, but mostly cuz they don’t require major babysitting. They’ll all be paid 90% commissions, and will be responsible for a $50 per transaction fee for E&O insurance.

    We’ll even stack the deck for this brokerage. They’ll have no brick ‘n mortar office. They’ll have whatever technology they wish, but no physical place to go every day. No lease payment, or all the other things that factor in to having office overhead.

    We’ll grant them 250 closed sides for a calendar year. The average sales price will be $150,000 with a 3% commission/side. Yeah, I know many will likely be 2.5%, but making my math easier has higher priority. :)

    The same number of closed sides, average price, and 3% commission/side will be used by my virtual brokerage. Wanna keep as close to a level playing field as possible. Wait — I take that back. Only gonna give my virtual brokerage 100 closed buyer sides and 36 closed listing sides. Seems I should at least appear to be makin’ this fair, right?

    The numbers for our A-C brokerage guy.

    This broker/owner grossed about $1.125 Million for the year. We’ll say he has no overhead for the sake of this comparison. That nets him about $112,500 in pre-tax income. On one hand he didn’t hafta show one home, or make one listing presentation. He grossed six figures for the administration duties assigned to the broker in charge, by the state. We’ll also make the assumption this broker did everything possible to generate a reliable source of leads for the company at large. Assuming a typical 2,000 hour work year with a couple weeks vacation, this broker made just over $56 an hour.

    Trust me, they earned it.

    Now for my virtual brokerage — using the Broker-Centric model.

    I’m the owner/broker. I don’t handle buyers — ever. I set policy. Decide commission splits. List properties. Generate buyer leads.

    Out of the 36 closed listing sides, my agents sold (double-ended) 10 of ‘em, which are accounted for among the 100 closed buyer sides.

    We have an office. I have three buyer-agents. A traffic cop for incoming leads. When the traffic cop’s busy, the buyer agents answer the phone. The overhead for office, traffic cop, phones, lead generation, and general geek expenses run me around $100,000. In point of fact, it’s probably FAR below that, but still, we’ll use it in order to increase the gloat factor when we’re finished. :)

    Let’s look at my numbers now.

    The firm’s gross income was around $612,000. Net of all overhead it quickly becomes $512,000. From that figure my buyer-agents, paid 40% commission splits, made $180,000 between them — about $60,000/yr average. With the exception of referrals or family/friends, they don’t expend any efforts on generating leads themselves.

    That leaves around $332,000 — for me. Barely less than triple what my agent-centric counterpart earned.

    Triple the earning for the firm’s owner/broker. Let us not conveniently forget that I gave myself a handicap. The ‘other guy’ was allotted 114 more sales than I was. What if my firm did the same? What if I listed 50 homes, while my buyer-agents racked up 200 sales?

    Oops.

    That’s an additional $270,000 to me from increased buyer sides.

    Then, there’s the additional 14 listing sides, which add another $63,000 to the till.

    That would bring my take to roughly $665,000 for the year. Let’s subtract another $65,000 in operating expenses arising from the additional sales. That would bring my total office overhead to around $165,000/yr — expenses we haven’t made my agent-centric competitor bear.

    Net of all expenses my take then becomes around $600,000 for the year.

    To put that in relative terms — the broker-centric model produced approximately 5.3 times more pre-tax income for the broker/owner than the agent-centric counterpart. That’s $300/hr if you’re keepin’ score.

    This could be done in my own office in the San Diego area. ‘Course, if done there, it’d take just 100 closed sides of any combination of listings/sales sides to gross over $1 Million. But I digress.

    The TakeAway

    If you’re gonna go for the brass ring, why on the Lord’s green earth would you even consider using any version of the agent-centric model? Any way ya wanna look at it, it’s foolish to the nth degree. Teams everywhere are doing business using the broker-centric model. In many instances the team leaders are making more money than the brokers for whom they work — embarrassingly more in some cases.

    If you have a team now, consider opening up your own operation. If you’re pondering the creation of your own firm? Ditto — Duh.

    What I can’t figure out to save my life, is why, with all the empirical evidence of virtually guaranteed mediocrity, if not outright failure, the brokerage community at large continues taking long walks of short piers.

    The Good news/Bad news joke in all this if you’re the broker/owner of an agent-centric operation.

    The good news is that you made six figures for the year — major congrats!

    The bad news? The guy next door, you know him, the one with less than 20% of your agents? He did exactly the same sales volume your firm did, but paid more income taxes than you made BEFORE taxes.

    Bad news indeed.

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  • 14 comments

    Online Success For Real Estate Brokers/Agents – Still More Myth Than Reality?

    Count this post as the first in this year’s semi-annual observations of social media/online marketing for real estate agents. Those who know my views on the topic, also know I’m always open to changes in the landscape. My years online have shown me widgets and SM pretty much add sales every now and again. Agents don’t need shiny toys and Facebook to do that.

    I have no dog in this discussion — it’s about results.

    In fact, I’m rooting for something, anything, put out by either the TechnoGeeks or whatever the online marketing folks are callin’ themselves these days, to work. I know many of ‘em, and they have good hearts, work their butts off, and want to bring results to the table. They’re big-time smart. But as I’m fond of lamenting, the next shiny toy and/or SM ‘technique’ that skins as many cats as they imply, will be the first.

    The test I apply: Will this new technique beat the increased production that adding another 1-3 hours a week to what the agent’s already doin’?

    That’s a fairly low bar. Yet every year I beg for agents to brag about the new SM/shiny object that added more than a sale or so a quarter. Being more alert at Happy Hour every Friday could make that happen.

    Let’s get IDX outa the way first.

    We all know of or about agents who’ve figured out lead generation via an IDX on a website/blog. Some do better than others, but a level of success can be had — sometimes, impressive success. I’ll leave it to the IDX lead generation experts, but it seems getting thousands of leads a year is a stellar lure. The other shoe inevitably drops though, as it’s been tough for me to find any who’ve worked out a way to successfully skin more than 1% of those cats. I assume somebody is. But that creates its own problem. If, for instance, someone works hard enough to sift through 5,000 IDX leads in order to close 50 transactions — what’s left in the work week for, you know, belly to belly production? How many hours a week is that lone agent puttin’ in?

    If they’re in a $150,000 market, that’s GCI easily over $200,000. If they own the brokerage and have hired agents, one wonders how much they actually make themselves, outside of any deals they do on their own. Think about it. You own a brokerage, but don’t list/sell yourself. You produce leads resulting in $225,000 in closed commissions. What are you making? Desk rent? 10-20% slice of your agents’ pies? We haven’t factored in overhead yet, regardless of how much it might be. High or low, it’s money outa the bottom line for the broker. Somebody please explain this to me.

    OK, where were we? Oh yeah, sifting through a ton of leads.

    Seems though, that process would bury just one agent, right? You tell me, but those numbers would generate hours of sifting work that would add perilously to the list ‘n sell part of the conversion equation. No doubt that explains why so many teams are IDX based. Duh.

    It also explains why teams almost universally opt for the broker-centric biz model. If you’re generating 10,000 leads for 100 closed sales, you simply cannot pay your buyer agents agent-centric commission cuts. Makes a lot more sense, right? Frankly, if I had to count on a 1% conversion rate, I’d . . . well, never mind. Can’t argue with teams that’re workin’ in offices with fur-lined walls, now can we? :)

    Unless someone convinces me otherwise, I’m planning to attend the Real Estate Tech Conference in Georgia scheduled for this April.

    “Why the hell would ya do that?!” is the typical response I’ve been getting. How ’bout road trip to the south, a region I’ve yet to visit. Then there’s a buncha people around the country for whom I harbor great respect, some of ‘em Bloodhounds, who’re also attending. Most I haven’t met, which is yet another reason.

    An atheist in the front pew.

    Problem is, when I show up at these things, I feel like the lone atheist in church. :) The true believers wanna know why I’m not singing’ from the same hymnal. It’s at that point I begin talkin’ of what’s missing. It’s the elephant that’s not in the room — empirical evidence of impressive numbers of skinned cats. That’s when the frowns spread like the rising tide at La Jolla Shores.

    Think about it logically, and rationally. For years now, agents from coast to coast have paid good money to hear about widgets and SM ‘how to’, only to learn they can’t find one example of anyone who’s added 25 sales a year to their production. Yet they keep on comin’. And no, goin’ from one deal a year to 25 doesn’t count. :)

    Here’s this year’s first challenge to all the masters of the online universe, and to those runnin’ the shiny toy department:

    Is this the year you finally bring something to the table that beats anything OldSchool?

    And for the love of God, please please please don’t use the tried and true lame answer that’s been used THE LAST SIX CONSECUTIVE YEARS.

    “It’s a long term strategy, Jeff. It takes time to work its magic. But, once you’ve got the pipeline goin’ full tilt, ya better give your banker a heads up!” Or something along that line. ‘It’s not been tested long enough’. ‘We’re still gettin’ the bugs out’. ‘Agents aren’t using it right — or consistently — or while wearing argyle socks’.

    When those don’t work, they pull out the ever popular, “OldSchool, my ass. The only reason guys like you skin so many cats is cuz you’re older than Moses’ son. You’re simply livin’ off decades of mere existence.” Oh yeah? Well . . . your mother wears combat boots. :)

    Fact: Over 2/3 of my business is with brand new clients. Not via referrals, or IDX, or magic widgets, or wowing people on social media sites. I blog, but that’s it. Heck, I haven’t been able to benefit from direct mail to my own local market in nearly a decade. That’s gonna change soon, but ’til it puts multiple furry coats on the wall, who gives a tinker’s damn?

    Somebody, anybody . . .

    Please step forward and tell me a shiny toy or a new SM technique has been responsible for more than a few sales. For the sake of everything that’s holy, show me how Facebook or Twitter, or whatever other TimeSuck has brought a smile to your banker, who only speaks ‘deposit’.

    I’m hoping somebody steps up with an example they can empirically document. However, I suspect it’ll be like every challenge before this.

    Crickets.

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  • 31 comments

    Experts Smexperts – It’s About Results – Go Tear ‘Em a New One!

    I love it when life presents an example in real time, don’t you? In pro sports, basketball included, the surprise superstar, even if it’s only potential, is fairly rare. What with video tape, computers, and sophisticated scouting systems, it’s very difficult for a player with serious game to fall through the cracks. Add so-called ‘super scouts’ to the menu, and it becomes even more unlikely.

    Though I’m open to your take, in my lifetime, the biggest ‘miss’ in pro sports has been recently retired Major League Baseball catcher Mike Piazza. The only reason he was drafted at all was cuz his Godfather, Tommy Lasorda, as a favor to Mike’s dad, called his name in the 62nd round of the 1988 Amateur Draft. Apparently ALL of baseball’s vaunted experts, including their super scouts, deemed the 1,389 players taken before him as having superior potential.

    How wrong were they?

    He retired in May of ’08 after having hit more homers than any MLB catcher who ever wore a uniform. More than Yogi Berra. More than Johnny Bench. More than Carlton Fisk. More than all of ‘em. There’ve been just 10 players in the history of Major League Baseball who’ve hit 400 home runs while sportin’ a lifetime batting average over .300 — while never striking out more than 100 times in a season. Piazza’s a member of that wicked elite group.

    The Captain Obvious statement of the year is that he’s a slam dunk first ballot Hall of Famer when his name comes up in the next year or two.

    He was drafted as a favor. Baseball’s brain trust appraised his talent as virtually without value. Think about it. Every single MLB team drafted over 40 players they thought had more potential to at least reach the Bigs than did Mike Piazza.

    So much for reliable talent evaluation. ‘Course, there are the excuse makers who now say, in their defense, that he never showed the incredible talent he demonstrated so soon thereafter. We’ve all heard of late bloomers. Shoot, I are one. But a sure first ballot Hall of Famer never shows even one scout a whisper of a hint that maybe he’s as good as the 1,000th guy taken in that year’s draft?

    The experts are now makin’ the same lame excuses about why they passed on Jeremy Lin. The difference? Lin absolutely showed what he could be since high school. He’s played lights out everywhere he’s been given the ball. When he’s at the helm, his team wins. His stats at Harvard are unmatched in the basketball history of the school. His high school in Palo Alto was in Stanford’s backyard. All they did with Lin as their point guard was win win win. Yet, Standford’s brain trust didn’t even deem him skilled enough for a scholarship. So much for the geniuses there. It’s called results. All he does is produce wins. Maybe the most impressive stat he’s produced so far is found in the Knicks’ team field goal percentage. (% of attempted shots made.) Around 43% before Lin. About 64% in his first 7-8 games with him at point guard.

    Oh, did I mention the team’s two super stars were outa the lineup for all but two of those games? Only one is back now. In his first eight games with Lin controlling the action at point guard, the Knicks won all but one. With their two superstars, but sans Lin, they were winning only about a third of the time. Hhmmm.

    The Warriors passed on him, as did the Rockets. To be fair, his days with the Knicks were probably nearing an end ’til both their superstars were snatched from the starting lineup due to an injury and a tragic death in the family.

    Ultimately it’s never about anything but results.

    I used Piazza and Lin cuz they were/are pro athletes, and cuz I could. I also chose them as examples of those who, for whatever reason(s) were reckoned by ‘experts’ as lacking in essential skill sets.

    Ever felt you’ve been underestimated?

    Boy, I sure have. As the boss’s son, my career began being measured by a bar so high I couldn’t relate to it or begin to understand it, much less aspire to meet it. At 18 years old, I wasn’t five months past my senior freakin’ prom. My best defense (unknown to me at the time), was being so massively ignorant I never realized I shoulda been scared @%#*less. Other agents mistook my ignorance-based bliss for fearlessness. What a farce. It’s funny now, but back then? I thank God for that ignorance.

    Have those around you given you the distinct feeling they don’t expect you to excel? Have you accepted their apparent appraisal?

    Long ago I learned pickin’ future big-time producers in a real estate office is a worthless endeavor. I’ve seen housewives with no experience whatsoever explode with production. Seen a Chinese immigrant who barely spoke the language, and even then was scarcely understood, embarrass an entire company with his results.

    I’ll never forget the meeting attended by all the offices. The brokerage owner was singing this guy’s praises when he heard another agent mutter under his breath, “Nobody can understand a word he says.” The owner quickly, and while laughin’ his ass off, retorted, “Well, tough guy, apparently the owners of the nine homes he listed last month understood him well enough.” The office erupted in laughter. That agent taught me much the next few years.

    It’s about results.

    Winners — big-time producers — aren’t picked. They emerge. Ever noticed that in anything in life, people wanna know the final result before anything else? It’s only when the final results are known, that they wanna know how they were produced. Johnny’s walkin’ home from his Little League game, and his buddy’s father next door sees him. What’s the first question he asks the kid? It’s ‘who won’? Right? Only then does he query the boy how he did personally.

    How many potential athletes never made it to the Bigs in their sport cuz they bought in to how others assessed them? We’ll never know, but I imagine it’s been hundreds. A scout tells a high school kid he simply doesn’t ‘have what it takes’. The kid gives up, cuz the scout knows, right?

    Nobody knows — except maybe you.

    Sure, it’s cliché, but you know what you’re willing to do to succeed on a large scale. You also realize the only person who’s been holding you back is you. Experts can’t scout character. They can’t see heart. They don’t have the beginning of a clue what you’re capable of producing.

    42 years in the business and I still can’t predictably pick two big time producers in a row. In fact, the next time I pick one out before everyone knows it, will be the first. All of us carry within us the seed of superstardom. The first step you can take to nurture that seed?

    Stop listening to the morons who’ve already pigeonholed you. I’m here to tell ya they’re clueless.

    Now — go tear ‘em a new one!

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  • 9 comments

    Those Entering the Arena Daily Know the Secret To Skinnin’ Cats – And It Ain’t About Tryin’ Really Really Hard

    What I love about our business is that there’re no points awarded for effort. With rare exceptions, it’s a heartless, merit based culture. Trying really really hard is for first time T-Ballers. Real estate owners don’t sign contracts promising to pay us for our efforts. They agree to pay when we produce 100% of the results outlined in that contract. 99% = go fish, no paycheck. The rest qualifies as ‘the dog ate my homework’ crappola. Coincidentally, this is why the vast majority of new agents make like steam and disappear in their first year or two. They found out the hard way, that in the real world, the world refusing to pay for anything less than the bargained for results, attempting never equals achievement.

    Apparently, to buyers and sellers of real estate, results matter — they matter big time.

    I write this post to those agents who’ve been workin’ like dogs, without much reward. Been there, lived that. I sympathize and empathize. You’ve already demonstrated what’s most lacking in our industry, a consistently OldSchool work ethic. Allow me to gently redirect your energy.

    Join the Brother/Sisterhood of Gladiators — enter the arena of those who value achievement, read: results, over the culture of ‘Participation Trophies’.

    There are two kinds of licensees. Those who enter the arena daily, and those who work their asses off to avoid the arena at all costs. The former generally make an excellent to elite living. The latter either struggle from year to year, or find what we often refer to as a W-2 job. The key factor in the new career is that they get paid whether they produce optimum results or not. There’s no arena involved.

    In real estate, we’re more or less bounty hunters. No skinned cat, no paycheck. No exceptions.

    We’re almost at the halfway point of 2012′s first quarter. If you’re able to look at your activities since January 1st in written form, do so. What percentage of your time were you either prospecting, belly to belly with a prospective client, or, like one of my mentors used to say, ‘out among ‘em, talking’?

    If you, like the bulk of your colleagues, are spending most of your time doin’ things disguised as productive work, but in reality designed to avoid having folks tell you ‘no’, I have some advice. Leave the business now. You’ve already embarked on your exit strategy — and I’m here to tell ya it’ll work like a charm. It’s been a tried and true game plan for generations now. It’s the surest way I know to make minimum wage as a real estate agent.

    The hundreds of thousands of agents who’ve been told this before, thought they could Gump their way to the big money too. They were just as outa touch as the majority of today’s agents are.

    To Repeat: Those unwilling to enter the arena daily are doomed to abject failure.

    Your only hope is to join a team whose leader is a gladiator. They’ll do all the fighting for you, hand you leads they’ve generated, then show you how to convert them to closed transactions. Tragically, most agents have shown over time that they can’t succeed even when spoon fed directly by a gladiator. Ask any team leader. They’ll roll their eyes in agreement — and astonishment.

    The #1 reason 70-80% of agents are outa the business in a couple years or sooner is cuz they simply refuse to do what’s known to work — what they must know in their heart of hearts will work. There is no #2. Proof of their fear of rejection? They tend to fail at nearly the same rate even when ‘protected’ by a gladiator. Therefore, they’re limited to transactions fallin’ outa the sky.

    If the perusal of your 2012 schedule/activities shows you’re playin’ dodgeball with what really works, be honest. Ask yourself why? Then ask yourself what’s stoppin’ you from quickly morphing into a gladiator. Then ask yourself, why not? It’s not magic. It’s a decision. A decision you can easily choose to make — or not. If all else fails, ask yourself how your current strategy has been workin’ out for ya lately.

    Those makin’ the good money are battling in the arena every day. They do it with OldSchool methods, high tech ‘systems’, blogs, you name it. The common denominator between them, the elephant in the room for those avoiding it like the plague, is they embrace the possibility of rejection. Unlike Rome’s gladiators, they learned rejection doesn’t mean certain death. It’s a million dollar epiphany.

    The Takeaway

    In fact, and here’s the takeaway, experienced gladiators will tell ya that rejection affects them the same way the death of an anonymous cockroach does. It literally means nothing to them. That gives them a monstrous advantage over their competition. It always has, and it always will.

    And that, ladies and gents, is why tryin’ really really hard, doesn’t matter a whit to your success, when all you’re doin’ is workin’ yourself to death avoiding what actually puts cat skins on your wall.

    Let me help you get started. The arena is just around that corner over there. The gate’s always open. Anyone is welcome to enter.

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  • 13 comments

    The Brokerage Biz Model That Rocked In 1966 Is Still Rockin’

    Let’s begin by establishing clearly — this isn’t new info — just widely ignored. In fact, it’s more likely than not most agents readin’ this will roll their eyes for one of two reasons. One would be cuz it’s old news to them. Not that they’ve ever contemplated using it, just old news. The other is cynical disbelief when something from a couple generations ago is touted as being highly effective and profitable in today’s real estate brokerage climate. Give it a read and then make your call.

    I will tell you in advance that from what I’ve seen personally, the huge majority of super high volume per agent operations are using it. They just don’t know it was snatched from the hippy dippy 60s. :)

    And yes, there are one or two big time brokerages who’ve successfully gotten away from the model used by the industry the last 40 years.

    I learned this model beginning in 1967. I’ve spoken of Dad’s brokerage countless times here, but what may not have been communicated clearly is how relatively few agents were needed to produce such off the chart sales. Let’s put the numbers on the table. How’d you like to have been one of the 25 to never more than 30 full time agents (Usually 8-12 part timers.) who divvied up more than 1,000 sides a year for five straight years? As their janitor/official printer-of-listings, I witnessed some pretty astounding things. ‘Course, back then I had no earthly clue I was seeing world class production, as I thought it was the way it was supposed to be.

    Boy, did I ever learn different as a few birthdays came and went.

    Our industry, beginning in the 1970s, decided it made more sense to go away from a highly profitable business model. Before operating expenses, the OldSchool model netted 40-50% of every commission dollar earned. From that income they paid all costs — the broker did. I cut my teeth on that model, and it worked like a charm.

    In their infinite wisdom, they decided a superior strategy included increasing agent pay by over 100% in many cases, while simultaneously populating their firms with wet behind the ears beginners. It gets better. In order to house all the no-nothings they leased bigger and bigger offices. Geniuses.

    Considering it was around that time the ‘new math’ came out, maybe that was the real culprit. Or, it coulda been the drugs which had become so popular the decade before. Who knows? We know one thing for sure. The OldSchool model was put on the shelf, often derided as ‘horse ‘n buggy’ thinkin’.

    Horse ‘n buggy is kickin’ NewSchool’s ass all over the country — now.

    Since the advent of teams, the OldSchool model has been taken from the shelf, dusted off, and put into service. This has been happening for several years now. From what I can tell, it’s been spreading superior profit all over the country. Ironically, almost always under the umbrella of a brokerage still shackled by the failed ‘new and improved’ model. It’s the teams that’re showin’ the way, as they throw out the ‘new’ and opt for this old model.

    The 80/20 rule

    It’s my contention that less than 20% of agents are producing more than 80% of the business. I base this on nothing more than average agent earnings, and the tremendous turnover we witness every few years. Yet, when we see brokerages with highly successful and efficient teams sometimes earning more money than their brokers, one wonders what these brokerage owners don’t see.

    If you’d like to test this model, here’s what I’d do if I was still in the house business.

    Let’s begin with a few assumptions.

    1. The typical sales agent out there isn’t makin’ it, not even close. It’s for a laundry list of reasons. The real reason is that most of ‘em simply refuse to do what it takes to succeed.

    2. You aren’t one of those agents. You’re already successful, but want to get to the next level. However, you definitely don’t wanna start your own brokerage. I feel ya. I wouldn’t either when there are so many brokerages out there who’ll wine ‘n dine you to get you under their roof.

    3. You can find a brokerage that will agree to leave you the hell alone, within reason. You don’t want their help, and Lord knows you don’t want their worthless advice. “Point me to my office, I’ll do the rest.” :)

    How it works — what I’d be doing.

    Caveat: There are a few fine books out there giving far better detail than I can here. Suffice to say, the OldSchool biz model has very stealthily made an impressive, and to some extent, an embarrassingly solid comeback.

    I’d find the agents who’re doin’ about a deal a month or so, maybe less. I’d find the ones who were never listers, which is the vast majority of agents. I’d end up with several, but hire just two or three at first. Their pay would be 35-40% per deal of the buyer side commission.

    I would be in charge of generating both inventory and buyer leads.

    Leads would be assigned by me. The only job the buyers’ agents would have is to show up in the morning, grab their leads, convert them, and smile.

    There would also be a transaction coordinator, but that’s my personal preference.

    Predicting 100 listings a year would be foolhardy, by listing around 40 is completely doable.

    In San Diego the median home price is roughly $340,000. The listing side commission would be just over $10,000. If you sold 35 of the 40, that’s $350,000 listing income.

    With three buyer agents selling just two a month at $40,000 below median, $300,000, that’s six sales monthly. That’s not exactly settin’ the real estate world on fire, but it works. If the team leader pays his buyer agents 40%, that would leave him a tad under $390,000 in buyer commissions.

    $350,000 + $390,000 = $740,000 before expenses to the team leader. Let’s say his expenses were $120,000 a year. They won’t be, but we’ll use that figure. He nets about $620,000.

    The broker might be making roughly $50,000 monthly in desk/office fees. Who knows? But if that’s the case, this team leader made more than he did with a tiny fraction of the manpower.

    Now, imagine an entire brokerage run this way. The possibilities aren’t really possibilities, they’re completely predictable.

    Under this model, the ‘team leader’ made $400,000 a year — in the 1960s.

    The foundational difference between the two models

    The OldSchool approach is broker-centric — or team leader centric if you prefer. The broker/agent with the real talent and the real life courage is in charge.

    The model that replaced it is agent-centric. You know, the ones who don’t have the huevos to simply prospect for business, much less start a brokerage? The ones who want the other guy to take all the risk, but pay them all the money? Dad called them leaches, an accurate description from where I sit. ‘Course, he was one hardcore SOB. He predicted exactly what would happen, and it did. It’s the main reason he shut down his operation except for one office back in 1971. “Agents are never gonna run my business. And when others allow it to happen, encourage it — they will pay the price.”

    He was dead right.

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  • 25 comments

    Customer Service – Dealing With Lapses

    I was recently inspired one morning, and it turns out early afternoon as well, by the car dealership that does all my servicing. I wanted to break a 20 year hiatus from camping, so last year I got rid of the roadster. Found a great deal on an ’08 Veracruz, a Hyundai crossover. Think Honda Pilot for size. It’s been better than expected, an understatement. I take it to the neighborhood Hyundai dealership, Drew Hyundai.

    Drew’s been around my neck of the woods since Moses’ son died. It’s reputation is solid, even excellent. My experience with their service department has been off the charts positive. Like many, they assign a service rep to each customer. Mine’s Mike, who on his worst day is outstanding. We should all be as good at what we do as he is. Which brings me to this recent anomalous experience.

    Showed up for my 11 AM appointment right on time. Only one car in line ahead of me. Must’ve been a bit busy, cuz it was over 20 minutes before Mike got to me. No biggie, as a 20 minute wait happens in that industry when things pile up. No complaint from me. Mike takes care of me, then sends me over to the sign-up window for the shuttle back home.

    10 minutes, 20 minutes, no shuttle. Go inside the office to inquire. The very nice woman manning the counter says it should be just a few minutes. It’s now over a half hour since I turned the keys over. No shuttle. Then it arrives. I’m a bit irritated, but if that’s the worst part of my day, it’s all good. The driver says he’s not takin’ passengers, he’s goin’ to the bank. 15 minutes later, a total of over 45 minutes waiting for the ‘courtesy’ shuttle, he returns. Turns out the bank visit was for dealer business, which apparently was more important than takin’ me home.

    I walked back over to Mike’s island. Upon seeing me walkin’ up, he said, “You’re freakin’ kiddin’ me, right?” I said, “Mike, they sent the shuttle to do dealership banking. I need to get outa here. Can you help me?”

    He quickly grabbed a form, told me to take it over to the ‘blue awning’ building, the loaner car was on them. He made this happen in 3 minutes. I got home more than 90 minutes after arriving. It’s usually 30 minutes or less between the time I arrive and when I’m back home. I live less than 5 minutes away.

    The takeaway is scary.

    For those running businesses, whether with a just a few or many employees, this scenario coulda been any one of us. World class customer service policies were in place, and proven over time. Then it happens. One or two employees decide their needs or even their convenience is paramount. It’s a mystery, especially to me in this specific instance. Drew has not only been honest and straightforward in their dealings with me, their employees have been uniformly customer oriented, and quick on their feet.

    There’s no real failsafe for this. However, what almost always seems to work is when another employee sees what’s happening and works quickly, quietly, and under the radar if possible, to put the train back on the tracks. Mike did just that — and seamlessly.

    My takeaway from this was that imperfect human beings will be imperfect. Go figure. But when ownership/top management has clearly created the correct culture, the ‘moving parts’ will adjust to occasional breakdowns.

    I know it’s happened in my firm, and more than once. :) Sometimes it’s been me playin’ the part of Mike, while at times it’s been others having to clean up my mistake. Most of the time, when this happens to us, it’s not been intentionally ill-spirited, but instead, living proof of our imperfection.

    What’s your experience?

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  • 5 comments

    It’s Your Call – Decide – Make Some Toast

    Ever wondered what the most powerful factor is separating those who’re successful and those who’re constantly wondering why they’re not succeeding as planned? There are bajillions of books attempting to explain it to us. They tell us about planning, goal setting, visualizing, hard work and a dozen more ways to get what we want. We’re told the world is our oyster! Shape it as you will! YOU! Can become a goal achieving machine!

    So, how’s that been workin’ out for ya?

    For the sake of this discussion, let’s set aside goals we ‘must’ set, but aren’t particularly motivated to bring off. Losing weight is an example. Tony Robbins talks a lot about ‘gaining leverage’ on ourselves. ‘If I don’t lose X pounds by Y date, I hafta go to work the next day in a Speedo.’ Then you’re supposed to tell your trusted supporters, who’ll hold you to your commitment. I’m not poopooing this, as I know it works for many. Let’s just talk about what we’re naturally motivated to do, and truly want to accomplish.

    Grandma was right.

    She told us we could be anyone we wanted to be. If you were lucky, yours told you one more thing. You must consciously decide to make it so, to become that person. No decision = guaranteed, abject failure.

    How many have a goal to ‘get into great shape’? Know the worst 3-4 weeks for serious people in a gym? The first weeks of the year. All the wannabes with their new workout ‘outfits’ show up, makin’ things tough for serious members. Almost all of ‘em disappear by Super Bowl Sunday at the latest. Why? They didn’t decide to become that person. They ‘decided’ to try, to ‘work’ at it. They planned, wrote goals, bored folks with all they were ‘gonna’ do to make it a reality.

    Then they disappeared.

    When we decide, we become.

    Those who knew me in the 70′s saw a soft, slightly pudgy guy, whose waistline was several inches too big, and whose weight was far over the line. Then one day I brought a client’s offer to a husband/wife team. They hadn’t seen me in a few years. When I entered their office, she said, Jeff! I was wondering who that pudgy blonde guy was downstairs. Ouch. That was it. The decision to get back to my athletic self was made on the drive home.

    A year later I ran my first marathon. I became that guy through one simple decision. I didn’t try. I didn’t work at it. Since the decision was already made, I was that guy long before I looked like him, even when I was huffin’ and puffin’ to finish a couple miles in 24 minutes.

    I did the same thing years later when I returned to serious bodybuilding. It also worked like magic when I decided I wanted to be a baseball umpire. Made it to Division I NCAA level less than four years after my first (hilarious) Little League umpiring debut. I was also chosen, by the coaches no less, to umpire NCAA postseason play.

    It works, people.

    I’ve decided to do many things at work, just like you have. Only I’ve never tried really hard. Those who’re constantly showing empirical evidence of how hard they work while tryin’ to reach a goal, are really doin’ something else. They’re storing mountains of undeniable proof that their failure, their consistent failure, isn’t due to lack of effort.

    Bullllllll Pucky.

    Whether it’s a lifelong affliction or something we’ve overcome at some point, being in denial about what we’re willing to achieve is what plagues us. You a real estate agent and never made six figures? You’ve never decided to. Period. Over ‘n out. Stop makin’ those faces cuz you know in your heart of hearts I’m right.

    Becoming a wildly successful anything is always, without exception, preceded by the decision to become that person. Sans deciding, all the goals, hard work, and so-called motivation won’t get you anywhere but makin’ excuses for another year’s mediocre results.

    Makin’ six figures, gettin’ into unbelievable physical condition — whatever it is you want — is no more difficult than makin’ toast. Decide to do it. How many times have you tried to make toast?

    Everything we do — or don’t do — is the RESULT of our decisions. Anything we try to do? It’s damning evidence we really don’t wanna be that person. Deal with it.

    Then decide.

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  • 12 comments

    Unchained From A TechTard’s Prospective

    I’d be criminally remiss if I didn’t first comment on how massively cool it was spending an entire day and night with the level of expertise, knowledge, experience, and plain old results present at this Unchained event. This was not a room for posers — possibly the understatement of 2011. I was in nosebleed country all day. I felt pretty much all day like I was merely an insignificant fly in the room with these guys.

    Got nothin’ to say about all the GeekSpeak that went on. It was when each speaker began to elucidate their strategy(s) that I perked up and began takin’ notes. I did notice one thing that made it more than just a great day of learning. Something that had me feelin’ all warm ‘n fuzzy.

    Nothing’s changed.

    • Scott Schang, and later on Mark Madsen with Tony Sena, pounded home the point that measuring results is mission critical — period, shut up. More on that principle later.

    • All of ‘em, directly or indirectly paid homage, due tribute, to the end game of all that was taught: Gettin’ belly to belly with those seeking the aforementioned expertise, knowledge, experience, and yes, that pesky concept — results. Any outcome short of that is akin to a coffeehouse conversation with two broke ‘artists’. In other words, you’ll never get that time back, sans results.

    • Mark Madsen literally humbled me with his prodigious work ethic — which when combined with his ‘do it now’ attitude reminded me so much of Dad when he was making plans for his company, back in the day. For reasons I choose not to divulge here, I’ve been unable to follow up with Mark, but that’s passed, and he’ll be hearing from me. Remember his name, cuz he’s the real deal. I don’t often get impressed, mostly cuz I’m a cynical OldSchool bastard. But believe me about Mark. It’s a shame he doesn’t write more here.

    • Ever been to a concert where the first several acts knocked your socks off? One time in the 70s I went to a concert where the freakin’ opening act was Linda Ronstadt in her prime. She was followed by Loggins and Messina. Then Lynard Skynard came on stage and literally blew the place down. And no, they weren’t even the headliners. After they did the best version of Free Bird I ever heard, Rod Stewart appeared on the stage outa nowhere. Now that was a concert. So was Unchained when, after all the gold dispensed by the folks above Eric Blackwell was brought up to speak.

    Many in the room, guys for whom I hold great respect and admiration, referred to Eric as a rock start. What? Huh? I’d spoken to him once on the phone, and read what he’s written here for quite awhile. We finally met before the event started, happy to finally be in the same room.

    When Eric took his turn to speak, it was obvious he’d mastered his craft. I appreciate few things in life as much as someone who’s spent the time and enormous effort it takes to master the principles and skill sets of their profession. Listen to him speak for two minutes and you know he’s a member of that elite group. I will also be in contact with him, seriously so.

    I’ve written here since mid-late 2006, shortly after Greg graciously invited me. If you’ve read me much you know I don’t gush. I’m not quite the crusty SOB Dad was, not yet anyway. But when I offer praise, it’s deserved. Unchained was an all too rare event, even for me. I was profoundly affected in many ways. You may be hearing about one or two in the coming year. We’ll see.

    Then there was Unchained II — The Hotel Room

    Sean Purcell, Brian Brady, Teri Lussier (one of my all time favorite Hounds), Mark Madsen, Scott Cowen, myself, and probably one or two I’m forgetting, adjourned to Sean and Brian’s room. ‘Til about 1:30 it was virtually all shop talk — great shop talk. There was some politics too. It was invigorating.

    Towards the end, Mark Madsen took charge. He asked us, in no uncertain terms, ‘What can we do now — tonight — to help all of us here in this room?’ He became a ‘Hound with a bone, and wasn’t takin’ ‘no’ for an answer. I lined up to give him my info. As I said above, I’ll be talking with Mark very soon. My unscheduled detour has worked itself out. Mark’s offer was both team oriented, generous, and very much appreciated.

    Though Brian Brady plays it down, his too short talk on how he’s succeeded with email marketing gave me two ideas I’m now beginning to implement. I will say however, that his idea of using the Socratic method of teaching with that group was comic relief. The guy knows how to generate business.

    Greg and Brian have created a gem with Unchained. Like so many of you, I’ve been to many of these kinda things. Most of ‘em are barely worth the networking opportunity. Unchained is pure gold.

    If you can attend the next Unchained — do it.

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    Attention Takers: Why, In Plain English, Are YOU Entitled To The Fruits Of MY Hard Work?

    Regardless of protestations to the contrary, all of us make decisions. At least most of ‘em by way of what our core beliefs dictate. In fact, the use of that phrase — core beliefs — virtually never causes problems on either side of any political/ideological debate. Oh, but do what I just did, use the ‘I’ word — ideology — and those who don’t blink an eye at core beliefs, begin dissembling like a one-legged man in a butt kickin’ contest. They don’t wanna go down Ideology Blvd.

    Know why?

    Ideology requires a rationally thought out path — a system of beliefs. For instance, ask the guy just arrested for the armed robbery of the local convenience store to explain how his ideological beliefs allow him to rob others of their belongings while threatening their lives with lethal force. You’ll get one of two responses. Silence — Or — Convoluted nonsense — Or — unfiltered rage.

    Ask a dad why he punishes his seven year old son when caught stealing from his sister. You’ll get plain English from him. It’ll relate directly to his ideological beliefs. His core beliefs the foundation of his belief ‘system’. Is this news to anyone? No? Then why do those from the take-my-fish side of the isle bristle so visibly when those with a clearly defined ideology not only speak up, but spell their beliefs out in — that scary phrase again — Plain English.

    The 10% Crowd

    To be in the top 10% of American income earners in 2011, I’m gonna borrow from the IRS’s 2010 stats. We’ll use the same numbers this year as last since this year’s numbers are partial in nature. If you make $380,354 or more, congrats! Your group, the top 1%, makes about 20% of the personal income produced in the United States. That’s the good news. The bad news?

    You and your buddies pay 20% 38% of all personal income taxes. Did Mom ever split the candy bar that way between you and your brother or sister? No? Her idea of what’s fair must’ve been skewed, right?

    If you earn $113,799 or more you’re in the 10% group. The good news is your group makes a tick under 46% of all personal income. The bad news is you also pay just under 46% 70% of all personal income taxes.

    See a trend here?

    Let’s take a look at the other end of the income spectrum, shall we?

    Caveat: Get ready for great gnashing of teeth and self-righteous pontificating about fairness. Also, count on some creative use of the language. It won’t be Plain English, but it’ll be solid comic relief. And no, entitled fish-takers, when I used empirically historic numbers, I’m not pontificating. I’m reporting documented facts, not spewing wishful thinking or vitriolic rhetoric designed to disguise a vacuous position.

    The bottom 50% of wage earners in America earn a bit under 13% of the income. They pay less than 3% of all personal income taxes. So while just over half (the now famous 53%) of us are paying literally over 97% of all income taxes, a large minority of the bottom half loudly proclaim the ‘fact’ that a sizable portion of the upper half aren’t payin’ their ‘fair’ share.

    The universally accepted number of American wage earners who don’t pay income taxes is about 47%. Again, a sizable and vociferous portion of those non-taxpayers claim that much of the other 53% — you know, the ones actually payin’ the bills — aren’t payin’ enough. Never mind they’re paying ALL the taxes. They’re STILL not payin’ their fair share.

    We call these folks the ‘entitled’ ones.

    I, for one, would respectfully ask them a simple question, phrased in what many of them fear most, Plain English.

    Why are YOU entitled to the fruits of MY hard work?

    To make this a civil discussion, I suggest the following rules.

    1. You cannot make your case for taking my money for your use by asking me or my fellow Pay-the-Bills group a question. You must answer the question as it has been asked — in Plain English.

    2. No personal attacks. If you can’t make your case using your own core beliefs which obviously must form your own ideological system (and yes, you have one), please stay on the sidelines and observe those who can.

    Frankly, I’m sick ‘n tired of being treated, even if only metaphorically, as the convenience store owner mentioned earlier. In fact, that brings up an excellent irony. The armed thief will go to jail if convicted. Yet, any taxpayer consistently failing to pay their taxes faces prison as a real option.

    What the hell has happened to us? What the hell has happened to the Plain English with which we all grew up? When half of us are payin’ the freight for the other half, we’re on the edge of the abyss.

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  • 134 comments

    Was That Your Kid On 2nd Base Lookin’ For You?

    It’s a lazy Saturday here in Paradise, um, San Diego. The last week or so I’ve been running into more than my share of people from my local baseball past, bringing a flood of fond memories in each instance. In Vons last week I ran into a kid I both coached (for and against) and umpired countless times. Yesterday in another local store there was a parent ahead of me at the cash register. “Jeff!! It’s Cheryl, how ya doin’?” “Super, Cheryl — How’s little Stevie?” “He’s a CPA now, living at the beach.”

    Wow — Little Stevie’s a CPA? How the hell old am I anyway? Over the years I’ve had so much fun on the field, enjoying the heat of battle, both in the dugout and as an umpire. From the time my own son was eight, till he was a sophomore in high school, I was in the dugout. That includes post season tournaments, and all-stars at every age group.

    Guess how many many millions of dollars I’d trade for those years.

    The on-the-field stories I have, interesting, funny, and sometimes deeply poignant, go from 1988 through 2000, my last year umpiring NCAA ball. I saw my son’s first homer. Was in the dugout for his no-hitter. Same for the day he stood on the mound so triumphantly, having won the local city-wide major league championship in front of his old buds and their parents. Who, for the record, were cheering wildly for him, while lookin’ up at the announcer’s booth at the black hat who’d chased us out the year before to another league.

    How sweet was that? In that moment, how much was the look on his face worth? Or seeing another league’s folks standing up and cheering for their involuntary prodigal son? Or, having the memory of that look and those cheers till I die?

    I’ve umpired college kids I’d seen play since they were fifth graders for Heaven’s sake. Some of the stories are fall down funny. Some are pure baseball, and most are made up of success, failure, and the value of endless hard work producing results. For a very few, those results included playing Major League baseball. Still have a couple left playin’.

    Ask those kids the value of learning the lesson of hard, almost anonymous work turning into positive results. They’ll have those catskins on their walls for life.

    It’s Dad though, who so often make the pivotal difference merely by their consistent presence. Experience shows far less than 5% of Little Leaguers even make it to third string bench warming status in high school. Fewer still ever get as far as casting a shadow on a college diamond while wearing a uniform.

    But when asked, virtually all the ones with fond memories can tell you stories with Dad playin’ a critical role. Can every guy be a coach in their boy’s sport(s) of choice? Fact is, most can’t. They either don’t have the skill sets or are simply too busy puttin’ food on the table. But they break their butts to be there for the games, to show their kids it’s important.

    Wanna know the saddest thing in youth sports? It’s the kid who doubles in a run, then, after sliding safely into second base like their favorite Major Leaguer, the crowd cheering wildly, they casually (no really) cast their eyes in the direction of the bleachers, searching for Dad, who’s not there — again.

    Lord knows none of us are perfect parents, but Grandma was right. On the first visit to show off our newborn son, she said 95% of successful parenting was being there. As usual, I learned she’d been right.

    Allow me one umpiring story

    I’d made the decision to retire from NCAA umpiring. Not cuz I was tired of it, perish the thought. I simply couldn’t afford the time away from the office.

    Anywho, I’d chosen a pretty much meaningless game to be my last. It wasn’t even between four year schools, but junior college. The catcher for one of the teams was a kid I’d coached/umpired since he was in sixth grade. His nickname was Butt. My son had played with and against him, mostly against since he was 11. In the ninth inning, when his team was on defense, I told Mike this was my last game, I was hangin’ ‘em up. I’ll never forget his response.

    He stood up, makin’ his pitcher pause on the mound, and said, “Thanks for tellin’ me Jeff. I’m glad I was the catcher.”

    Tell me how much that memory is worth.

    I’ve gotta million stories, ok, dozens, about single parents workin’ 2-3 jobs, still figurin’ out how to at least catch half a game when their kid was playin’. Though I’d never claim the highest value isn’t the affect, the impact your presence will have on your son, the memories you’ll get in return will make it the bargain of a lifetime.

    Be there.

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    3 Things You Need To Know and 1 Thing You Need To Be To Blog Successfully

    Having begun blogging in the summer of ’06, I found that many considered me one of the so-called pioneers in ‘online’ real estate. Frankly, I think that’s both true, and completely false. True, cuz inside the tightly defined real estate community I was a pioneer. Even now some of my local agent buds are taken aback when learning I’ve been blogging over five years now. On the other hand, the real pioneers in real estate blogging were doin’ their thing online back when I thought it was cool that I knew how to send email — and no doubt before.

    What’s funny is when my friends ask me why? When I tell ‘em how much my blog has produced in terms of closed business — skinned cats — they’re almost always a bit incredulous. Then they try to be Columbo with questions designed to appear innocent, but based upon obvious disbelief. Sometimes it’s been comical.

    Why some blogs work and the vast majority don’t

    Before beginning, it’s important for readers who don’t know me or of me, to realize that I’m President for Life of TechTards Anonymous. I know virtually nothing about SEO. If you were to find ‘key words’ in any post I write anywhere, it’s an accident every time. … _ _ _ … is the only code I know.

    Content is King! is the battle cry for blogging, though recent history shows many who’ve valiantly tried to discount that principle. I’m here to tell ya, with whatever respect is due blogging detractors, content is King of the blogging universe — at least of the one in which I live. And please, pretty please with sugar on top, don’t come up with the whole, “Yeah, Jeff, but you’re in investments — it’s different for you.” crappola. It’s not. There are literally hundreds of real estate investment sites lookin’ to create business, most, at least in part through blogging. I’m not the Lone Ranger, the exception that proves the point.

    House agents who blog, and write solid gold content consistently are succeeding wildly. Ask Greg if he thinks his company’s site would do as well as it does without his priceless content.

    Fact is? You must actually be pretty damn good at what you do, or it simply won’t have legs. Apply cliché #27 here — ‘not rocket science’, etc. Any business coming my way via online efforts is exclusively from blogging, no exceptions.

    I bring it up now as an encouragement to those who’re genuinely expert at what they do. Blog well, consistently, and often. Share your experience, your hard learned lessons. Explain how things work in a way that isn’t Romper Room revisited, or, for you younger folk, not Mr. Rogers. What do I mean? Stop writin’ in terms that’re either profoundly in search of a Duh!, or cartoonishly simpleminded. As bloggers we’re not the only three digit IQs in the room. Explain things the way experts in any discipline would — in plain English, but not as if their audience just made it through kindergarten unscathed.

    I’ll use another industry to illustrate.

    I know a local clothing designer who, in another life was a well known interior designer in the midwest and east coast. She’s done all my offices for me, and any local listings I take. How good is she? Every time she’s finished one of my offices, the other tenants line up to be next. My listings? The next one she stages takin’ longer than a week to sell will be the first. She’s a bona fide expert.

    I once watched her explain to a client selling an income property why she was having him spend five figures just to prepare for the market. 60 seconds after she began talking you could see the change in his attitude. He was dealing with someone who flat knew which way was north on the map. He stopped her in mid sentence, grabbed his clipboard, and began taking notes.

    That’s exactly how effective a blog is when the writer is truly a master at what they do. You can’t fake mastery. People see that before it crests the horizon. But, I know there’s one more reason you’ll throw up to me to obviate the positive potential of a blog.

    “People pick agents they already know, or through networking.”

    True enough — no argument there. It’s my contention, however, that that is now, and has been changing the last several years. Those who bombard us with the mantra about how, ’124% of homebuyers/sellers begin their search online’, can be assumed to be factual. But as that has become the norm, it also means, by definition, that they’ve also been discovering which agents know their stuff.

    How better to learn that than through reading thousands of words that agent has written — and on subjects buyers and sellers are starving to read?

    Folks will use an agent to find them a house, or sell their home for them, cuz their buddy at work, brother-in-law, or trusted neighbor gives them the heads up. But if during their time online they run across you, an agent giving them one killer informational post after another — turning hopelessly confusing issues into completely understandable procedures?

    I guarantee you: An acceptable percentage of them are gonna make your phone ring, or your email ding. People like feeling comfortable — and nothing makes us feel more comfortable than vastly superior knowledge, expertise, and experience on display. Said another way . . .

    What makes us more comfortable than a real pro, who explains things we don’t quite get, in a manner leaving no doubt all bases have been covered, and that this ain’t their first rodeo?

    If you can look yourself in the mirror and confidently say you’re that agent — you need to be blogging, and should probably start some time around 4:30 yesterday afternoon.

    Blogging works

    You don’t need to know anything more than I do. I know how to type — what I’m talkin’ about — and how to push ‘Publish’. If you can do those three things consistently, your blog will also fill your office with cat skins. Like the man said — “It ain’t rocket science, folks.”

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    The Difference Maker

    I’ve been having periodic, kinda sorta regular conversations with a young real estate agent in the southwest. It’s been goin’ on for maybe a year or more. He thinks he has a very bright future, but from where I sit, he hasn’t yet grasped just how really good he’s destined to be.

    He’s a goal setter, yet he’s not hit his goals the last few years. Don’t get me wrong, he’s done very well. But missin’ his goals consistently isn’t from poor work ethic, he’s like a Nebraskan corn farmer at harvest time. The guy’s relatively tech savvy as he maintains his own websites, which are designed to be lead generators. He has an IDX etc. Still, goals not met.

    He works his ass off, gets referrals up the ying-yang, follows up, crosses his T’s, dots his I’s, loves his mom, and eats his veggies. So what’s the hold up for Heaven’s sake? What’s been missing?

    95% (Pulled out of the clean, breezy San Diego blue sky.) of real estate agents who don’t make it, fail for this reason.

    Promise you won’t roll your eyes.

    Bottom line? He stopped spending so much time with websites, and other various marketing tasks, and began spending most of his time either prospecting or, you know, being belly to belly with folks who could tell him to go to hell. Turns out a buncha folks attached to said bellies haven’t been giving him directions to Satan’s abode.

    Go figure.

    His income this year will most likely eclipse last year’s goal by about 30% or more — a goal he failed to reach. Puttin’ it another way, If he reaches this year’s goal, and he’s ‘this close’ to being on target, he’ll have exceeded last year’s actual income by approximately 55-70%. All this by simply parkin’ his belly in front of more stranger’s bellies than ever before.

    Who’d a thunk?

    Oh, and for the record, so far this year his ‘high tech’ lead generators have produced a tad less than 20% of his income. The dominating majority of what he’s accomplished has been using methods available when Truman was in office.

    Regardless of all this success, he needs to completely retool what he’s offering — a completely different value proposition.

    I’ve advised him to quit, as he so concisely put it, competing with all those agents out there who couldn’t carry his jock on their best days. To be accurate, I added the jock part. :)

    See, he’s been doin’ what I do, only at a level I did back when I was his age. One of my mentors gave me the same advice. Don’t compete with amateurs. Instead, pick their fields clean. And when it comes to specializing in investment property as a real estate agent/broker, purposefully competing on a regular basis with home agents is silly on its face, and a colossal waste of time.

    No need to go into the nuts ‘n bolts of my advice, but if he follows through, and I’m convinced he will, I predict his income will triple in the next couple years. He’s been selling things as opposed to results.

    It matters not that 99% of those reading this won’t be specializing in investment property. Just don’t lose sight of the sea change he embraced like a lost child newly found:

    Focus like a laser beam on being belly to belly with more folks per week than your used to in six weeks. Do that, and as night follows day, your professional life will never be the same.

    Caveat: The discipline required to constantly market and putz around with websites etc., isn’t nearly the soul cleansing discipline it takes to constantly, consistently be belly to belly with those who can crush your spirit.

    It’s called being in the arena — and when it comes right down to it, most simply don’t have the stomach for it. It’s why they spend so much time and money doing other things.

    Spending as much time as possible in the arena — goin’ belly to belly – IS the difference maker. It’s what sets the talkers apart from the doers.

    Talkers spend most of their time doin’ whatever it takes to avoid the arena.

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    Successful Real Estate Blogging

    Let’s begin with a basic truth. I have nothing whatsoever to add to any blogging conversation veering into technology. I don’t get it, don’t understand it. Did I say I don’t understand the technology of blogging? Hell, I don’t even understand much of the basic nomenclature. Most of us learned early on to take so-called technical advances with a truckload of salt, especially after watching most of them fizzle like a water soaked cherry bomb. It’s gotten so bad, some have viewed the geek crowd’s constant prophesying of website TechNirvana as the eighth plague of Egypt. I’m not nearly that harsh in my view, but their general credibility could use some R & R — Rest and Restoration. (badda boom)

    I’m not talkin’ here about agent sites with an IDX for lead generation. That’s a whole different herd of cats. Not my bailiwick. When it comes to that subject, I ‘call the guy’, and have.

    Can Real Estate Agents Generate Income From Blogs?

    The short answer is yes. But most are horrific crash ‘n burns more suited to the next Jackass sequel. In fact, most agents don’t know an agent who blogs, successful or not. They’re told to blog cuz it’s online, and that’s where the industry is these days. Well, kinda sorta, but that’s another discussion.

    Though I’m still an enthusiastic proponent for hyperlocal, most think it’s either A) Intrinsically worthless or B) WAY too much work. Too each their own. I’m all about content, though I promise not to mention the cliché about blog content that just entered your mind. :) It’s all about what you bring to the table. Is it any different than all the other yawners out there? Or are you steppin’ up with real information, expertise, and superior knowledge?

    Here’s the deal

    Given your specific market, will readers of your blog come away thinking you’re the go-to agent? We all search the net about subjects in which we’re interested. When that interest becomes serious, we become more critical. In my opinion that’s pretty universal.

    It’s at that point a blog’s author either wins ‘em over or loses ‘em.

    Over the years I’ve come to appreciate Greg’s approach — he consistently demonstrates superiority where it counts, does it many times weekly, then waits for readers to raise their hands. What many agents considering a blog don’t consider though, is that Greg also produces real world results. He says what can be done — what and how he can do it — then makes it happen.

    What a wonderful formula for blogging success.

    The thing is, and this is a secret kept well by successful bloggers, it usually takes six months or more to get bankable results. It’s one thing to make a good first impression. It’s a whole different ballgame to get a homeowner to raise their hands for the privilege of paying you thousands of dollars to sell their home. Or, relying upon you to get their back WHILE gettin’ them into the most important financial transaction they’ll probably ever execute.

    Google can recognize you cuz of all the brilliant SEO crappola you put into play. Your traffic might be better than mine. In fact, I can almost guarantee you your traffic will, and probably sooner than later, eclipse mine. Mine is wholly unimpressive by any objective standard. My traffic numbers don’t even impress Mom.

    The point is, the number of readers you attract on a weekly basis isn’t even in the same conversation as the importance of what they find when they get there. All impressive numbers mean, given poor content, is that you’ll wind up disappointing more people.

    Don’t appear to be an expert, be one. Same goes for being knowledgeable, and experienced. Case studies work wonders. The #1 thing real estate blog readers wanna know, is that you consistently produce results. There’s that most dreaded of all words in the real estate world’s nomenclature.

    Riddle me this. Who makes more, the guy who closes 60 deals a year with 500 unique views weekly, OR, the guy who closes 60 deals a year with 5,000 unique weekly views? Take your time, but please show your work.

    Unlike so many others, I don’t believe providing proof of results is a bad thing. How many times have we seen online conversations between agents deriding someone who claimed to be #1 in their area? Again, it’s only a baseless claim, one I’ve never made. However, when I was a house agent, back when only NASA had them there computin’ machines, the rubber often hit the road in a homeowner’s living room or kitchen table.

    30-50 year old agents from nationally advertised firms would precede me with listing presentations. They were all Top Producers, all #1. The proof was inarguable, as it was not only mentioned in their glossy, multi-colored presentation notebooks, but their cards as well. Surely they wouldn’t make it up? Then it was time for my appointment.

    Picture a blonde 24 year old Forrest Gump with a tie and a clipboard walkin’ up to the front door tryin’ his damnedest to look 29. We’d go through the obligatory walk-through, then sit down to talk business. What about my company? My experience? How would I sell their home? At what price and how quickly? You know the drill. Remember when I said,

    “It’s at that point a blog’s author either wins ‘em over or loses ‘em”?

    It’s at that point, the question and answer period. That’s when I turned my clipboard around so they could see it more clearly. It had a list of homes recently listed and sold within 2-3 hundred yards of their home. I’d listed and sold all but two. Game over. Elapsed time: 13 minutes.

    Please press hard while signing, there are three copies.

    Produce content of that nature on your blog consistently and you’ll get traction. The dead president kinda traction, the only kind that matters. It’s about them, and what you can do for them. Convey deeply rooted professional experience. Demonstrate expertise by way of examples. Show a profound knowledge on whatever topic you choose to write — your knowledge.

    I promise you your readers will eventually raise their hands once they’re convinced you’re all those things AND trustworthy. Don’t worry about the competition. Just as there’s a seemingly endless supply of agents, most blogs aren’t worth the paper they’re not written on.

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    The Food Is Terrible, But Wow! The Service Is Out Of This World

    Ever had a friend rave about a newly found restaurant who said the service was literally the best he’s ever seen? The question hangin’ in the air of course, is — How was the food? Ever heard a friend reply, “Oh, the food? Average at best. But the service was so off the charts, we’re goin’ back every week.” I’m bettin’ not.

    Let’s lay out a few examples of the above.

    Did attendance at Chargers games drop last season cuz they didn’t always wear their wildly popular throwback uniforms? OR, cuz they stopped winning?

    Would you rather have the rude, gruff, but world class doctor? OR, the dime a dozen physician who serves homemade cookies in the waiting room, and makes you feel really good about yourself?

    Is your best friend your best friend cuz they don’t tell ya the shirt you’re plannin’ to wear on that first date makes you look like a 1958 Sears appliance salesman? OR, cuz when you call them at 3 AM on a rainy Wednesday morning, they’re there in 10 minutes?

    The Chargers’ win/loss record isn’t in any way connected to their uniform’s design.

    Your doctor’s manners are irrelevant to his ability/inability to treat you.

    Your best friend pisses your wife off regularly, yet he’s still the guy you go to when it MATTERS.

    You’re in the real estate business. There’s only one thing you do that’s guaranteed, every time it’s tried, to put a smile on your client’s face.

    Produce the result you were hired to produce.

    Results speak more loudly than anything else you do, including your so-called world class service.

    Those who spend the bulk of their time and money enabling them to produce those results for more people, faster, are the smart kids in the room.

    Clients don’t pay us five figures for HappyTalk. They pay us for results.

    It’s pretty easy to discern who, and who does not get that in any given market.

    However, as Grandpa replied to me once, when, as a 12 year old I said painting pictures of landscapes/seascapes was hard, “If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.”

    Testimonials may speak of the wonderful service they received from their agent, but they wouldn’t be testimonials if the agent hadn’t provided the originally sought after results — and sooner rather than later.

    You have a choice.

    Produce results — OR — become an assistant for an agent who does. Then you can give all the wonderful service your heart desires.

    Did that sound harsh? Find a testimonial about a real estate agent praising their agent, who never did produce the results they wanted, but gave the bestest service ever while failing month after month.

    Ask yourself — Why are those with the most CatSkins on the wall called top PRODUCERS?

    Results. Nothing trumps ‘em, and there is no acceptable substitute.

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