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Getting a San Diego Condo VA-Approved Adds Value To Service Members

Debra Brady and I are experts at VA-financing.  One of the things we do very well is secure a VA condo complex approval for condominiums which aren’t agency approved.  Some comments from a recent YELP review:

I started the home buying process while still on deployment, and Brian graciously worked with me across 13 time zones to begin explaining the ins and outs of home buying.

This is actually kind of fun for me.  With technology, deployed service members can communicate with me well in advance of buying.  Many times, when deployed,  they have free time with little to do.  They use Gchat, Facebook Messenger, Skype, and email to communicate with me.  Sometimes it makes for some weird hours but I enjoy finally meeting them when they return to the States.

I googled VA home approval, and his was the first name to pop up.  Brian is an absolute master at working with the VA.

That’s what I love to hear–that we come up first on Google Search for this topic.

Brian took my wife and I out for cocktails to explain in person the different loan rates and explain the decision making process for each of them, and Debra worked like a fiend to make sure thinks were done WELL ahead of time.

This is how Debra and I work.  I spend most of my time “selling” real estate agents and educating clients and Debra gets the loan done.  When we’re clicking properly, I am “Mr. Outside” and she is “Mrs. Inside”.  Clients know that she is in the office, every day from 8AM until 230PM each day and available on the telephone.  This frees me up to: (a) find more business for us and (b) properly educate home buyers about the process.  We pride ourselves on “no surprises” during the loan process.

To any Servicemembers who are interested in using their VA loan option, look no further than Brian, he is THE expert who will get you into the place you want.

That’s what I hope to hear on every VA loan we close.  It doesn’t ALWAYS happen but, I’m proud to say, it does happen more often than not.

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  • No comments

    Celebrating the father of our freedoms: The freedom to own real estate

    Kicking this back to the top. Happy Independence Day! — GSS

     
    This is me in today’s Arizona Republic (permanent link):

    Celebrating the father of our freedoms: The freedom to own real estate

    By the time you read this, Independence Day will have passed, but I thought I’d give you one more reason to celebrate our freedoms: Real estate.

    We call our culture Judeo-Christian, but we owe our laws and political institutions to the Greeks and the Romans. The Greek Hoplites, in particular, are the model upon which Western Civilization is based: Individual family farmers, freeholders in the land they farmed, who owned their own weapons of warfare and who banded together as a virtually unconquerable infantry when their lands were attacked.

    What accounts for the independence of the Greeks? Was it their unprecedented military tactics? Was it their superior weaponry? Or was it the savage dedication of free men fighting for their own land?

    The Hoplites fought against ragtag slave armies, engaging in combat only out of fear of the lash, never losing sight of the chance to dessert. But the Greeks fought to retain the rights they had wrested from despots, rights ordinary people, until then, had never known.

    We derive many more treasures from the Romans, among them the story of Cincinnatus, the retired general called back to battle and given dictatorial power because the situation was so dire. Instead of abusing that power, Cincinnatus won the war, set down his arms and picked his plow where he had left it.

    We honor the citizen-soldier in the conduct of George Washington, who could have declared himself king of America, but who instead, like Cincinnatus, surrendered his power and went back to his farm.

    Politicians will tell us that we owe our freedoms to representative government. This is twice false. The interest we share in government is the land we each own individually, like the Hoplites. Moreover, representative government without free ownership of the land is tyranny in camouflage.

    Americans are free because we have the uncontested right to buy, use, enjoy, rent, let and sell the land we live on. If you have any fire-crackers left over, you might light one for the freedom that is father to all the others: The freedom to own real estate.

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  • 4 comments

    Practical ontology in real estate? Who ever heard of such a thing?

    NewHomeBuildingInPhoenix

    From KJZZ Radio in Phoenix, The Way of the Bloodhound:

    ‘“From now on whenever you’re driving on the freeway look for a truss,” Swann said, referring to a roof truss on the back of a truck. “And when you start to see a truss every day, then things have turned around. If you see three trusses a day, then things have really turned around. But if you can go five days without seeing a truss on the freeway, then no one is building anything.”’

    The linked story is from Peter O’Dowd, a journalist for whom I have huge respect — not alone because he listens when I talk about bug’s-eye-view real estate.

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  • 4 comments

    Reason Magazine: “How established homeowners use regulations to stop new low-cost homes.”

    It’s not mentioned in the Reason article, but the real curse of zoning is the prohibition of innovation. By forbidding all projects, land-use tyrants exclude not just the dreck but also the sheer genius. Some builder coud have come up with the modern equivalent of Wright’s Five-Thousand Dollar Home, but that guy works in software instead, where innovation is celebrated and rewarded.

    Meanwhile, the hard consequences of coercive land-use regulations:

    When a news crew showed up to film a public meeting in tony Darien, Connecticut, in 2005, some of the residents were less than thrilled. “Why don’t you fucking shoot something else?” one demanded. Hundreds crammed into the hearing, sneering and jeering during the presentation.

    The fresh hell residents showed up to protest? A proposal to replace a nondescript single-family home on a one-acre lot with 20 condos for senior citizens.

    In Snob Zones, journalist Lisa Prevost describes the heights of entitlement to which property owners ascend when faced with the prospect of new development, especially multi-family dwellings in neighborhoods dominated by single-family homes. Prevost tours New England and finds an aging, declining populace bent on excluding outsiders. In town after town, affluent and working-class alike, residents line up to shout down new development no matter how modest.

    In Darien, the need for the proposed project was clear; the town’s senior housing center had a long wait list, as did the last condo development built in the area (in 1994). Still, many townsfolk, expecting the project to open the floodgates to more high-density projects in the resolutely low-density burgh, were incensed.

    Incumbent homeowners have a powerful weapon for vetoing change: zoning. In Darien and other exclusive zip codes, mandated minimum lot sizes kneecap developers who want to build something other than super-sized homes. In the process, they put entire towns out of reach for all but the wealthy. In hardscrabble Ossippee, New Hampshire, where it’s not uncommon for the working poor to live in tents during the summer months to save on rent, the zoning code flatly prohibits new apartment buildings.

    Though Prevost, who covers the real estate beat for The New York Times, has no problem with the traditional justification for zoning (but for it, she believes, dirty industries might locate in residential neighborhoods), she has written as damning an indictment of zoning as any free marketeer could hope for. “The market is hungry for apartments, condominiums, and small homes,” says Prevost, “if only zoning restrictions would get out of the way.”

    Where libertarians see an infringement on property rights, Prevost sees a problematic tradeoff between local demands for low density (tinged with fears that undesirables might move in next door) and regional needs for affordable housing. It amounts to the same thing, however: established residents using government force to kill the low-cost housing that would exist in a free market. In the words of the pioneering community planner (and ardent urban renewal opponent) Paul Davidoff, those who wield zoning laws “have not bought the land but instead have done the cheap and nasty thing of employing the police power to protect their own interest.” Nice.

    Read the whole thing. Here’s a sweet joke for incentive:

    In the words of one developer who switched to building cottage homes during the recession: “I used to say, we’re building homes for people who can’t afford them, with money they don’t have, to impress people they don’t know. You could just see it—it was stupid.”

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  • 10 comments

    Kotkin: “Why the next great American cities aren’t what you think.”

    Joel Kotkin at The Daily Beast:

    Once considered backwaters, these Sunbelt cities are quietly achieving a critical mass of well-educated residents. They are also becoming major magnets for immigrants. Over the past decade, the largest percentage growth in foreign-born population has occurred in sunbelt cities, led by Nashville, which has doubled its number of immigrants, as have Charlotte and Raleigh. During the first decade of the 21st century, Houston attracted the second-most new, foreign-born residents, some 400,000, of any American city—behind only much larger New York and slightly ahead of Dallas-Ft. Worth, but more than three times as many as Los Angeles. According to one recent Rice University study, Census data now shows that Houston has now surpassed New York as the country’s most racially and ethnically diverse metropolis.

    Why are these people flocking to the aspirational cities, that lack the hip amenities, tourist draws, and cultural landmarks of the biggest American cities? People are still far more likely to buy a million dollar pied à terre in Manhattan than to do so in Oklahoma City. Like early-20th-century Polish peasants who came to work in Chicago’s factories or Russian immigrants, like my grandparents, who came to New York to labor in the rag trade, the appeal of today’s smaller cities is largely economic. The foreign born, along with generally younger educated workers, are canaries in the coal mine—singing loudest and most frequently in places that offer both employment and opportunities for upward mobility and a better life.

    Over the decade, for example, Austin’s job base grew 28 percent, Raleigh’s by 21 percent, Houston by 20 percent, while Nashville, Atlanta, San Antonio, and Dallas-Ft. Worth saw job growth in the 14 percent range or better. In contrast, among all the legacy cities, only Seattle and Washington D.C.—the great economic parasite—have created jobs faster than the national average of roughly 5 percent. Most did far worse, with New York and Boston 20 percent below the norm; big urban regions including Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and, despite the current tech bubble, San Francisco have created essentially zero new jobs over the decade.

    [....]

    The reality is that most urban growth in our most dynamic, fastest-growing regions has included strong expansion of the suburban and even exurban fringe, along with a limited resurgence in their historically small inner cores. Economic growth, it turns out, allows for young hipsters to find amenable places before they enter their 30s, and affordable, more suburban environments nearby to start families.

    This urbanizing process is shaped, in many ways, by the late development of these regions. In most aspirational cities, close-in neighborhoods often are dominated by single-family houses; it’s a mere 10 or 15 minute drive from nice, leafy streets in Ft. Worth, Charlotte, or Austin to the urban core. In these cities, families or individuals who want to live near the center can do without being forced to live in a tiny apartment.

    And in many of these places, the historic underdevelopment in the central district, coupled with job growth, presents developers with economically viable options for higher-density housing as well. Houston presents the strongest example of this trend. Although nearly 60 percent of Houston’s growth over the decade has been more than 20 miles outside the core, the inner ring area encompassed within the loop around Interstate 610 has also been growing steadily, albeit at a markedly slower rate. This contrasts with many urban regions, where close-in areas just beyond downtowns have been actually losing population.

    [....]

    Pressed by local developers and planners, some aspirational cities spend heavily on urban transit, including light rail. To my mind, these efforts are largely quixotic, with transit accounting for five percent or less of all commuters in most systems. The Charlotte Area Transit System represents less a viable means of commuting for most residents than what could be called Manhattan infrastructure envy. Even urban-planning model Portland, now with five radial light rail lines and a population now growing largely at its fringes, carries a smaller portion of commuters on transit than before opening its first line in 1986.

    But such pretentions, however ill-suited, have always been commonplace for ambitious and ascending cities, and are hardly a reason to discount their prospects. Urbanistas need to wake up, start recognizing what the future is really looking like and search for ways to make it work better. Under almost any imaginable scenario, we are unlikely to see the creation of regions with anything like the dynamic inner cores of successful legacy cities such as New York, Boston, Chicago or San Francisco. For better or worse, demographic and economic trends suggest our urban destiny lies increasingly with the likes of Houston, Charlotte, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Raleigh and even Phoenix.

    The critical reason for this is likely to be missed by those who worship at the altar of density and contemporary planning dogma. These cities grow primarily because they do what cities were designed to do in the first place: help their residents achieve their aspirations—and that’s why they keep getting bigger and more consequential, in spite of the planners who keep ignoring or deploring their ascendance.

    Read the whole thing. I’ve been pimping Kotkin here for years. When you see his name out on the nets, give him your time. He’s been dead right about what’s happening in American cities, where Richard Florida has been dead wrong.

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  • 1 comment

    Apparently, insanity is buying the same house over and over again, even though you never qualify.

    You just can’t make this shit up: Obama administration pushes banks to make home loans to people with weaker credit. Why not? It worked out so well the last time.

    The Obama administration is engaged in a broad push to make more home loans available to people with weaker credit, an effort that officials say will help power the economic recovery but that skeptics say could open the door to the risky lending that caused the housing crash in the first place.

    President Obama’s economic advisers and outside experts say the nation’s much-celebrated housing rebound is leaving too many people behind, including young people looking to buy their first homes and individuals with credit records weakened by the recession.

    In response, administration officials say they are working to get banks to lend to a wider range of borrowers by taking advantage of taxpayer-backed programs — including those offered by the Federal Housing Administration — that insure home loans against default.

    Housing officials are urging the Justice Department to provide assurances to banks, which have become increasingly cautious, that they will not face legal or financial recriminations if they make loans to riskier borrowers who meet government standards but later default.

    Officials are also encouraging lenders to use more subjective judgment in determining whether to offer a loan and are seeking to make it easier for people who owe more than their properties are worth to refinance at today’s low interest rates, among other steps.

    Obama pledged in his State of the Union address to do more to make sure more Americans can enjoy the benefits of the housing recovery, but critics say encouraging banks to lend as broadly as the administration hopes will sow the seeds of another housing disaster and endanger taxpayer dollars.

    “If that were to come to pass, that would open the floodgates to highly excessive risk and would send us right back on the same path we were just trying to recover from,” said Ed Pinto, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and former top executive at mortgage giant Fannie Mae.

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  • 5 comments

    We are all ‘greater fools’ now: How can you sell your house to a big family when big families don’t exist any longer?

    Markets go up. Markets go down. But the whole house of cards is built on the idea that population will grow. What happens when it doesn’t?

    matt-king-most-depressing-slide

    From Business Insider:

    It’s what I like to call “the most depressing slide I’ve ever created.” In almost every country you look at, the peak in real estate prices has coincided – give or take literally a couple of years – with the peak in the inverse dependency ratio (the proportion of population of working age relative to old and young).

    In the past, we all levered up, bought a big house, enjoyed capital gains tax-free, lived in the thing, and then, when the kids grew up and left home, we sold it to someone in our children’s generation. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work so well when there start to be more pensioners than workers.

    The entire welfare state is built on the idea that young people can be milked of their wealth because they’re too busy being young to notice.

    Alas, the welfare state also awards adults either for not reproducing or for reproducing in only the most wealth-destructive ways. The consequence (entirely foreseeable) is that the number of dependents-by-choice goes up while the number of de facto slaves declines — by people either opting out of producing wealth or opting in to the welfare state’s “free” benefits or, as here, by not being born in the first place.

    This will not end happily…

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  • 5 comments

    There is no real estate inventory problem in Oceanside, CA

    How often had you heard real estate agents complain about “the inventory problem” this past year?  I used to think their complaints were farcical until these past 3-4 months.  I have about a dozen pre-approved buyers out looking for homes.  Interest rates are low and the foreclosures are getting snapped up as soon as they hit the market.  Not one of those dozen has been able to get an accepted offer since Labor Day, 2012.

    Clearly, there must be an inventory problem. 

    It’s time to change gears real estate agents.  A few years back, I suggested that buyers would be controlling the market and the listings side of the business should be de-emphasized.  All the properties being offered were short sales or foreclosures.  Paperwork-intensive transactions didn’t sound so appealing to me and I recommended that agents focus all their efforts on finding buyers and getting them into contracts.  Those who followed such advice didn’t get rich but earned a darned good living these past few years.

    I had breakfast this morning with Mr. Oceanside, Don Reedy.  We discussed the local market and “the inventory problem” when it hit me; there is no shortage of homes.  In Oceanside alone, there are thousands of home owners, with equity, who can sell their properties to ready and willing home buyers.  This offers the ambitious real estate agent a great opportunity.  Too often, real estate agents (and loan originators) forget that we are paid to add value to transactions.  If we’re simply acting as gatekeepers, we are no different from everyone else.  We need to “create personal inventory”–find sellers for the buyers who want their homes.

    Here is my ten- step plan for real estate agents, for a great 2013…with PLENTY of “personal” inventory:

    1. Attend your local caravan meeting each week.  Pay close attention to the agents who speak during the “buyers’ needs” segment.
      Call a dozen local agents weekly who work with buyers.  Find out where the inventory problem is.  At this point, you will see a glaring opportunity in your town/market area.  If you know that those agents have 2-3 buyers, for a certain price range, in a certain area, you have identified “half” a market.
    2. Look at the property tax records in the “problem” subdivision.  Choose only properties with owner’s equity.  Generally speaking, you’ll look for homes bought prior to 2006 or in 2010.  If you’re doing a search with the local title company, and you know the homes are worth $350,000-$400,000, you could also search for sales which had recorded mortgages under $250,000 (that can eliminate a lot of problems).  Compile a lit of potential “equity sellers”.
    3. Visit those equity sellers on a Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon.  Don’t mail them.  Don’t call them.  Don’t email them.  Bang on their door and tell them that you KNOW where 2-3 willing buyers of their property are.  Ask to meet with them to discuss the idea of “equity transfer” to different property.
    4. Meet the now interested seller and explain that, when they look at their original mortgage payment (before they refinanced), and add the expected equity from the sale of their home, they might be able to buy a “better” (bigger, nicer, closer to work) home.  It might be useful to have some listings printed out, in the “better” homes’ price range, to whet their appetite.  Recommend that they speak with America’s #1 mortgage broker, to get pre-qualified for the “equity transfer” program, with mortgage payments which were equal to their original (before they refinanced) payment.  Schedule a follow-up visit and tell them you’ll have the mortgage broker call them in the morning.
    5. Speak with the agents who have willing buyers for the home.  Verify that they are still in the market and that you might have a property about to hit the MLS.  Explain that you’ll give them a “heads up”, right after the listing agreement is signed, and tell them that you’ll let their buyers “preview” the property the day the listing is entered into the MLS.  Estimate when you think that will be.
    6. At the follow up visit to the interested seller, start the meeting off by showing them the available inventory for the pre-approved amount (you’ll have a pre-approval letter from the mortgage broker).  Sell the fact that you are transferring the equity from the existing property.  If they seem excited, offer to list thee property for 30 days only.  Explain that this market is a bit of an anomaly and, if you can’t get them the price they need, to affect the “equity transfer” in 30 days, it may not make sense to sell at that time.  Have the seller sign a 30-day listing agreement along with a 60-day buyer’s brokerage agreement.
    7. Instruct them to be out of the property from 2PM-7PM on the next Friday and out of the property from 1PM-4PM on the next Saturday.  Schedule time to review offers, at 6PM on that Sunday evening.
    8. Plan to enter the listing into the MLS on Friday morning (or late Thursday night).  Schedule an open house for that Saturday.  Call the agents with buyers, and instruct them to schedule a showing on that Friday (from 2:30PM until 6PM).  Tell those agents you plan to hold it open that Saturday and that quick offers are the wisest policy.  Explain that you expect to be presenting offers all day Sunday.
    9. Find your seller a new home.  Collect commission checks for adding real value to a lopsided market.  Celebrate.
    10. Repeat.

    It really is that simple.  If there are more buyers than sellers in a market, find more sellers.

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    Things to do in Denver when all you can say is “SMIE!”

    Jay Thompson Earning His Pay

    “Please don’t shoot me! I’m your buddy, I swear…”

    The Knights Who Say “SMIE!”, spewers of beguiling lies, get their heads handed to them in Denver, but like all good shills, they just keep on spewing.

    Don’t say I didn’t warn you

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    Are Zillow and Trulia thrashing savagely in a blood-red ocean? Here’s a clue: Both of them are jumping the shark.

    Do you feel like dinner?Is the business model of all the Realty.bots daft?

    It is Citron’s primary thesis that Zillow is a Web 1.0 business presenting itself as a Web 2.0 investment. The entire premise of Web 2.0 is that smart managing and publication of information interactively to users can scale tremendously, while costs remain fixed. But unlike Netflix, LinkedIn, and even Facebook, Zillow isn’t voyaging forth into an ever-expanding horizon of unlimited sized markets opening up on the internet. It generates virtually all of its revenue from U.S. real estate agents. And it does so the old- fashioned way—by cold-calling them on the telephone. It’s been operating since 2006 more or less as it does today, and was consistently unprofitable, until the last two quarters.

    [....] It is a “heavyweight” sales company masquerading as a “web 2.0″ leveraged technology play. The only way it has to grow revenues right now is with the increasing intensity of the sales effort. It’s not light and leverageable like LinkedIn, or OpenTable (Sales and mktg 21.4% of revenues) Zillow is more similar to Groupon than a Web 2.0 company such as LinkedIn or Open Table.

    [....]

    Expressed another way, it is apparent to Citron that Zillow is buying revenues with an intense telesales effort. Put in its simplest terms, they spent an additional $3.8 million on sales expense last quarter, and only generated $4.8 million in new revenues!

    By comparison, Open Table spends 21% of revenues on sales, and even LinkedIn spends 33%. This comparison shows how much Zillow is dependent on old school phone room sales—not Web 2.0 online leverage.

    While management might spin a fun story about their company growing revenues at a rapid pace, the proof is in the numbers. The cost of sales demonstrates that customers do not buy Zillow ads; they are sold Zillow ads, which should be disturbing because they address a target niche market unlike OPEN or LNKD—and cost of sales should be lower.

    [....]

    Citron notes that MOVE.com, formerly Homestore.com, referenced above, could not make money during the real estate boom of the mid 2000′s. At the time, they were the only online destination for brokers to buy leads. (Citron wrote about MOVE when its market cap was over two billion “with a B”; today it is 350 million “with an M”).

    How does anyone expect Zillow to thrive in that identical business, with competition from Realtor.com, Trulia, and a host of smaller competitors, all fighting for wedges of the same finite customer base? The inescapable market reality is that the business model of selling leads to real estate brokers just does not scale…read on.

    Do read on. The Citron report is devastating to all of the Realty.bots.

    Is it true? The suits deny it, of course, but for the minions of publicly-traded companies, it is a felony to tell the truth about business prospects. That Zillow and Trulia have hired a herd of Judas Goats — six-figure flunkies paid to write rah-rah-rah weblog posts — seems telling to me.

    Meanwhile, note these bold new initiatives:

    Trulia.com will give you a chance to win a Mercedes E550 just for building out your agent profile. That’s a car worth something like $75,000 in exchange for contributing free content to Trulia’s site. Why isn’t it worth your while to populate your profile without the incentive? Uh…

    But wait. There’s more. Zillow.com will give you a chance to win a $10,000 Amazon.com gift card just for completing a Zillow Premier Agent web site. And this is not worth doing without the incentive because…? Yeah.

    These are both instances of jumping the shark, and they’re both very loud statements that the big bosses at both Zillow and Trulia think their product — advertising paid for by schmucks like you — isn’t worth the money they charge for it. How can we know that for sure? Because free advertising is not the prize offered in their contests. Not even second-prize. Not even tenth-prize. Instead, your opportunity is to be their bitch and then not win a car or a gift card. The lottery is a sucker bet, too, but at least the lottery doesn’t hold you hostage forevermore.

    Are the Realty.bots really in trouble? I have nothing invested in them in any way you can measure investment. But people who will say things like this

    Think about the possibilities … $10,000 worth of free stuff.

    will say just about anything…

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  • 23 comments

    Virtually belly-to-belly: Don Reedy’s salesmaniacal YouTube video voicemails.

    Reacting to this post from yesterday on a better way to handle video testimonials, Don Reedy brought us this idea in the comments:

    Greg, this is really easy, and does take planning, but not much time.

    I’ve started trying to communicate with prospects, people I just meet coming and going, and folks in escrow by using my laptop, recording a 30-45 second message, posting as an “unlisted” video to YouTube, and then linking a picture of myself with a “play button” on my torso to that link.

    I embed the picture with link in emails. They fly through, are almost always clicked on, and provide that belly to belly contact emails don’t always do. And yes, often that simply results in future actual phone calls, but the goal of creating value to and for the client is surely helped along by this methodology.

    Here is the photo of Don he sent to me in an email:

    And here is the video I see when I click on that image:

    As constructive criticism, I think I want the photo to be bigger with a bigger YouTube-like Play button, plus also a reiterated call to action in text form: “I’ve made a ‘video voicemail’ just for you. Click ‘Play’ to see it.” For the video, I want Don’s head and shoulder bigger — closer to the webcam — and higher in the frame.

    Those are quibbles, though. I love the idea, and the “Yeah!” special effect is fun. It might work to tack on a business card at the end, along with a link-back, in the video and in the description section, to any client-specific web pages.

    This is cool, though: Using rough-and-ready tools to put a very personal touch on voicemail-like contacts. Using smartphone video with one-touch YouTube posting, Don’s technique would be useful for all kinds of client follow up.

    As an example, here’s the ‘script’ for a movie you’ll have to screen in your imagination:

    Hey, Jim and Shirley. Greg Swann here with a quick video voicemail about the houses I looked at for y’all today. I’ll have a web page for you later today with photos of the homes I visited, but here’s the Cliff’s Notes: Westwing Mountain may be the answer to our prayers. The homes are a little pricier, but they’re newer and most of them are in great shape. And the views are simply breathtaking… [insert slow panorama here] Watch your email for my pix. Talk to you soon.

    Not as fast as a voicemail, but it delivers the goods where a voicemail can’t. I rate that a win.

    This is a cool idea, a Scenius present from Don. How do I know it’s a Scenius-in-the-making? Because if you think about this Don’s way, you’ll come up with a dozen great ideas of your own.

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    San Diego Real Estate – A Cacophony of Data

    I love the scene from the “Princess Bride” where they undergo a battle of wits. Very funny scene, and way too reminiscent of popular conversations regarding the housing market in general and the San Diego housing market specifically.

    So, How’s the Housing Market Doing in San Diego?

    There’s no shortage of data or opinions, of course.  Here a just a couple of places and opinions I found interesting and potentially useful.  First, Here’s DataQuick’s (OMG lengthy) view of the San Diego data.  Quite a bit of stuff in here, all of which seem to indicate that the San Diego market might be recovering slightly.  But right on the heels of the DataQuick report is an article from MSNBC, a report that has  a rather dim view of San Diego’s recovery.

    So, with my own opinions of the San Diego market in my head I reviewed a couple of local real estate experts to see what they thought. First a take on one of the neighborhoods in San Diego by Kris Berg.  Her numbers are easier for me to read than DataQuicks, and no one likes to be called a sick real estate market by anyone.  And here’s our good friend Jeff Brown with his take on analyzing real estate data.  Jeff is speaking to the choir in me when he talks about analyzing.  He is asking if the data and the way it is analyzed is as important at the analyst doing the organizing.

     My Take on San Diego Real Estate

    My opinion comes after this concerto, aptly named “Cacophony”, but sweet music to my ears, and which I’ll explain below.  Listen to this now.

    Pretty cool stuff, huh?  A cacophony of sounds, but your head and your heart allow you to analyze and put these sounds together so that they not only make sense, but are appealing and fun to spend time with.

    Which Brings Me to My Opinion on the San Diego Real Estate

    Market

    • When you want to know if there’s gas in the coal mine….you send down a bird.
    • If you see smoke, you know’s there’s fire….but how hot is that fire?
    • If it walks, quacks and…you know….it’s a duck.
    • “Why not go out on a limb? That’s where the fruit is.”  (Will Rogers)
    • See it.  Hit it.

    Yep, this is what you paid to read.  Some old fashioned advice about skinning cats, and some advice for each of you who are real estate pros.  And that advice is that it’s up to you to consume all the data, analyze all the data, taste the food at every restaurant, smell the grass at every playground, walk the railroad tracks at 10 p.m., put your soda down and go into art shops and old shoe repair places.  It’s up to you to be the analyst that Jeff Brown wants you to be, the historian that Kris wants you to be, and the ultimate best at putting together a synergistic and cohesive body of knowledge (not info…) that your current or future clients can take to the bank.

    San Diego real estate is a cacophony of data, but each of you has a guitar in hand, and an audience who wants to listen to the concerto, not all the notes.  In your area, learn the notes, and then put them together to make a concerto that clients will turn to.  Every real estate market has a sound that you can harness, and data that clients desperately want to hear.  Conduct yourself (and your data) like a professional, and the only cacophony you’ll hear is the phone ringing with new clients.

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    “But we’ve got to have some regulation!” How else are insiders going to get their mitts onto sweetheart mortgage deals?

    Regulation is rent-seeking, Rotarian Socialist graft, and that’s all it ever is. Who sold out the housing market? The regulators, of course.

    AP: Countrywide won influence with discounts.

    HousingWire: Investigation reveals Countrywide VIP program scope and influence.

    Bloomberg: Countrywide Used Loans For Favor With Fannie Mae, Report Says.

    I love this bit from the AP story:

    Among those who received loan discounts from Countrywide, the report said, were:

    —Former Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd, D-Conn.

    —Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D.

    —Mary Jane Collipriest, who was communications director for former Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah, then a member of the Banking Committee. The report said Dodd referred Collipriest to Countrywide’s VIP unit. Dodd, when commenting on his own loans, said that he was unaware of receiving preferential treatment but knew his loans were handled by the VIP unit.

    The Senate’s ethics committee investigated Dodd and Conrad but did not charge them with any ethical wrongdoing.

    —Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

    —Rep. Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., former chairman of the Oversight Committee. Towns issued the first subpoena to Bank of America for Countrywide documents, and current Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., subpoenaed more documents. The committee said that in responding to the Towns subpoena, Bank of America left out documents related to Towns’ loan.

    —Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Calif.

    —Top staff members of the House Financial Services Committee.

    —A staff member of Rep. Ruben Hinojosa, D-Texas, a member of the Financial Services Committee.

    —Former Rep. Tom Campbell, R-Calif.

    —Former Housing and Urban Development Secretaries Alphonso Jackson and Henry Cisneros; former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala. The VIP unit processed Cisneros’s loan after he joined Fannie’s board of directors.

    —Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, was an exception. He told the VIP unit not to give him a discount, and he did not receive one.

    —Former heads of Fannie Mae James Johnson, Daniel Mudd and Franklin Raines. Countrywide took a loss on Mudd’s loan. Fannie employees were the most frequent recipients of VIP loans. Johnson received a discount after Mozilo waived problems with his credit rating.

    The report said Mozilo “ordered the loan approved, and gave Johnson a break. He instructed the VIP unit: ‘Charge him ½ under prime. Don’t worry about (the credit score). He is constantly on the road and therefore pays his bills on an irregular basis but he ultimately pays them.”

    Johnson in 2008 resigned as a leader of then-candidate Barack Obama’s vice presidential search committee after The Wall Street Journal reported he had received $7 million in Countrywide discounted loans.

    The report said those who received the discounts knew the loans were handled by a special VIP unit.

    “The documents produced by the bank show that VIP borrowers received paperwork from Countrywide that clearly identified the VIP unit as the point of contact,” the committee said.

    The standard discount was .5 waived points. Countrywide also waived junk fees that usually ranged from $350 to $400.

    You insist, contrary to all evidence, that Batman will rush in to save you from the harsh, cruel world. Now you know the market price of Batman’s “integrity” — 50 basis points.

    There’s a clue in the air. If you breathe deeply, you just might catch it.

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    “It’s not the people, it’s the idea. The idea makes the people great, as great as they want to be.”


    Happy Independence Day. This is me, fiction from The Unfallen:

     
    Bel Canto is about halfway between Central Square and Harvard Square. When they emerged into the cool of the night, they turned left, toward Harvard Square. They walked along in a contented silence, and she felt very close to him for no reason she could name. His hands were stuffed into the pockets of his coat and his left elbow was sticking out there, like an invitation. Without asking permission she stuck her hand inside the crook of his elbow and kept it there. He looked down at her hand and smiled, so she knew it was all right. She knew they would look like an old married couple to the students pushing past them, one of those Yuppie couples who inhabit the high-rises on Mass Avenue. There’s a first, she thought, to be tickled at being mistaken for married.

    Central Square is the shopping district for a number of blue collar neighborhoods. As you walk out of it toward Harvard Square, you see a little bit of everything — the Cambridge Post Office and city government buildings, free-standing houses, high-rise apartment towers, frat houses for both Harvard and M.I.T., cheesy little office buildings, restaurants, bars, fringe businesses — everything. But as you draw near to Harvard Square, Harvard asserts itself, and the eclecticism of the no-man’s-land between town and gown gives way to extremely absurd art galleries and extremely unappetizing restaurants and extremely fanatical radical bookstores and extremely incomprehensible retail stores devoted to every extremely incomprehensible pursuit or pastime known to the mind of man — or at least the Harvard man.

    But even that can’t last. The real estate in Harvard Square proper is extremely valuable. If you cannot pay the rent, the landlord will direct you to a more suitable location closer to Central Square. In Harvard Square itself, absurdity is found only out of doors.

    And it was out in full force tonight. At the Harvard Square station of the subway the plaza was rife with milling weirdness. Little teenage skateboarders with their strange haircuts and black street poets and homeless Vietnam veterans with stress disorder and a taste for the vine and middle-aged men in three-quarter-length raincoats thumping bibles and hectoring anyone who would cooperate by ignoring them. And everywhere, everywhere, everywhere little brown-haired Madonnas from Southie and Revere. Brown leather bomber jackets and big hoop earrings and way too much make-up and way too many Marlboro cigarettes. Sitting on walls and benches or standing around in twos and threes. Big-boned girls with big round breasts and big round behinds hanging around in Harvard Square looking for a shot at something better.

    And big round brown eyes, Gwen knew, big like a horse’s eyes or a fawn’s or a dog’s. Big like an orangutan’s eyes and just as lost, just as searching, just as hopeful, just as hopeless. She felt her own eyes welling up and she squeezed Devin’s arm. She said, “I’ve told you one of my secrets. Now it’s your turn.”

    He smiled and he placed his right hand atop hers for a moment and it was nothing and it was everything. He said, “I know how to roll cigars. Is that a good enough secret?”

    “Not likely,” she scoffed.

    “I really do. I learned when I was Hunter’s age, five years old. My grandfather taught me how.”

    “Your grandfather taught you how to roll cigars? When you were five?”

    “It’s the truth. He was unfallen I think, just wild and innocent. He grew up on the streets of Athens, and there was nothing he didn’t know before he had beard enough to shave. I was growing up on the streets of Boston and he thought I had the right to the same education he’d had. That was my youth, mostly, spending every afternoon with my grandpa. You asked for a secret and I’m giving you a history…”

    “Well do go on.” She pulled herself a little tighter to him and he didn’t complain.

    He smiled, a tight little wall of a smile that keeps things from spilling out. “Nicholas Demosthenes Constantopoulos, my mother’s father…”

    “Yet another Demosthenes.”

    “I don’t know how far back it goes. A long way. It’s Hunter’s middle name, too. It’s just one of those things that make a family. The family is who we say it is, and maybe the more we have to say, the more a family we are.” He smiled again, from joy this time. “My family has a lot to say.”

    She laughed quietly. And she had the idea that he had pulled her still more tightly to him. They were walking the long way through the Square, looping around Brattle Street, walking very slowly. She put her left hand on his forearm, so now she was holding his arm with both hands. Her cheek was almost at his shoulder. She didn’t feel quite confident enough to put it there but she didn’t want to pull away either.

    “My grandfather came to this country right after the first World War. He was fifteen and he stowed away on a freighter. Russia had gone Communist, of course, and Greece and Italy and all the Slavic countries were dallying with it, and he was convinced that if he didn’t get out then, he might be stuck there forever. Killed even, because he never could keep his mouth shut.

    “Anyway, just after the war was the beginning of the end of immigration in America. ‘Give me your tired, your poor’ was secretly revised to read ‘Give me your blonde, your protestant.’ Nobody meant anything by it, I guess, we just fear the stranger. The toe-headed Episcopalians who ran this country thought it was being overrun by Irish Catholics and Russian Jews and swarthy Mediterraneans and greasy Slavs with thick ankles and thick accents. My grandfather spoke just enough English that he was able to convince the immigration people that he had a job waiting for him as a translator for a Greek language newspaper. That’s how he got in.

    “But what an American he was! He did the dirtiest, filthiest jobs to accumulate capital, and he made little patriotic souvenirs, little flags and ribbons, by hand at night. He had a Singer sewing machine that he bought at auction. It’s powered by a foot treadle. I still have it; I intend to show it to Hunter someday when he decides he’s overworked. Nobody worked harder than my grandpa. He’d make his little souvenirs and take them around to the parks or the beaches on Sunday. It was a way to make extra money, but it was always just Sunday out in the world for him, too. All the other immigrants loved this country as much as he did, so he always sold out.

    “That was his break, that was his big idea. He took all the money he’d saved and opened a little sweat-shop on Kneeland Street. He made little souvenir flags and big flags for houses and flagpoles and enormous flags for statehouse lawns. He’d do any American flag, federal, state or municipal, and any historical American flag, but he never once made a flag from any other country, not even Greece. During the second World War he turned down a lot of money from the Canadians because he wouldn’t make their unit flags.

    “Before the war he married my grandmother and my mother was born and the Great Depression came and nearly wiped him out, but he didn’t lay anyone off and he never missed a payroll. And every Sunday, rain or snow or shine, he’d go to a park or a beach or an historical site and push a little cart loaded with patriotic souvenirs.”

    Her cheek was on his arm by now and he either liked it or didn’t care or hadn’t noticed, she didn’t know which. “And where in all this did you fit?”

    He smiled warmly. “I grew up with him. My dad — we’ve barely even talked about him — my dad was a nuc in Rickover’s Navy. He was away all the time, so we lived in my grandfather’s townhouse in Bayview — I still live in that house. I went to Saint Timothy’s, right around the corner from the house, and I’d go to my grandpa’s factory up the block after school. I’d do my homework there or listen to my grandpa argue with the neighborhood merchants or we’d play chess together — completely unpredictable and he could kick my ass.

    “Here’s the secret. My grandfather knew this old black Dominican who had a cigar shop on Harrison Avenue. You could buy tobacco in the leaf there, Havana-seed tobacco from Jamaica and the Dominican Republic. But you could buy smuggled Havana leaf, too, if you proved you could be trusted. So my grandfather, a life-long anti-Communist, a dyed-in-the-woolen-underwear American patriot, defied the Cuban embargo so he could continue to roll his own Havana cigars. He never let me smoke one, because my mom would have killed him. But he taught me how to roll them, and I can still do it.”

    He was smiling everywhere, just beaming. She said, “You loved him very much, didn’t you?” She regretted it at once.

    Sadness dropped down on him like a curtain. “I miss him every day. Every day. Any time I need to see him, I can, though. I can see him laughing. Just wild and innocent and sweetly crude and gently rude and completely free in the shadows of the late-afternoon sun. Laughing from his throat like rocks in a barrel, laughing around a fat hand-made Cuban cigar…

    “He used to take me with him, every Sunday, once I got to be about Hunter’s age. All week long he was a businessman. Not a big businessman, but quick and shrewd and clear-sighted and very decisive. On Sunday he was just a sweet old Greek with a push cart. Always had time to chat with old friends and new ones. More often than not it was my job to move the merchandise, because he was having too much fun just being out in the world. We didn’t need the money, it was just something he did. Something we did.

    “We worked the Bicentennial together, and I’m glad we did because he… He died that winter. I was sixteen and too proud and then some, and it seemed like all spring and summer of 1976 he was rapping me on the back of the head and telling me not to be a horse’s ass. We’d go to Breed’s Hill or the Common or the Old North Church and all these ugly people in ugly summer clothes would show up and honor America by throwing tonic cans and gum wrappers at it. It offended me, particularly because my grandpa was the real glory of America and these corn-fed idiots just treated him like dirt.

    “We worked The Esplanade on Independence Day that year, very big history-making day. Six-hundred-thousand drunken morons and The Boston Pops. And tall ships. And fireworks. We couldn’t push the cart, it was too crowded, so we just stayed where we were, selling stuff hand over fist. But I was in the blackest mood I’ve ever been in.

    “My grandfather was the American dream, every page of that story. My father was a Captain in the U.S. Navy. I was a teenage physics god who was really going places. And these fat stupid beery people were treating my grandfather like an organ grinder and me like his monkey.

    “There’s only so much you can say when a boy’s almost a man, right? My grandpa pursed his lips and let me stew. We shut everything down when The Pops started the 1812 and he pulled me tight to him. I was maybe four inches taller than him by then, but it didn’t matter, because he’ll always be bigger than me. It was loud, loud, loud and I knew he was trying to say something to me but I couldn’t hear him, I could just see the tears rolling down his cheeks.

    “He grabbed me by the hair and pulled my ear down to his mouth. He said, ‘It’s not the people, it’s the idea. The idea makes the people great, as great as they want to be.’ And right then the cannons went off and the fireworks went off and the sky over the Charles was enflamed. And we stood there together crying, him for his America, and me for him…”

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    Internet savvy Phoenix real estate broker seeks a buyer, a partner, an investor or a job.

    A note to the Bloodhounds: I want to come in from the cold. If you know of a biggish Phoenix brokerage that could use my skills and assets, I’d appreciate the referral. –GSS

    I own a very small boutique real estate brokerage — good reputation, strong good will, clean books, and colossal internet power — but I am ready to move on to something else. Stripped to the essence, this is what I have to offer:

    • A very strong internet presence consisting of several hundred-thousand web pages on a number of domains. I have several custom-built automated IDX sites, and I can throw 300,000+ backlinks at any web page, raising any web site’s standings in the Search Engine Results Pages virtually overnight.
    • A FlexMLS-based IDX real estate search site that scores on the first page of Google for a number of very-high-value search terms.
    • Me: A sales professional with a deep background in print and internet marketing and strong systems, applications and API programming skills. I built all of the web sites discussed below, and I have a lot of experience building workable IDX/VOW RETS solutions from the FlexMLS database. I have high-level relationships with real estate industry technical professionals and vendors, and I can present comfortably to groups from 50 to 50,000 people.

    In short, I have a freight train’s worth of internet power being pulled by a mule-powered real estate business. The interent presence I bring to the table would be of substantially greater benefit to a much larger brokerage. Here is a summary of my internet assets:

    • BloodhoundRealty.com — Main brokerage lead-generation site. It’s built as a WordPress weblog at the top level, but it subsumes thousands of pages, including separate web pages for every community and subdivision in Metropolitan Phoenix. The idea is to capture long-tail searches and upstream them into qualified leads. I have technology, so far not implemented, to effect the same kind of long-tail search-capture for every street address in Metropolitan Phoenix, taking those searches back from the national Realty.bot sites like Zillow.com, Trulia.com and Realtor.com.
    • FreePhoenixMLSSearch.com — The most robust MLS search in Metropolitan Phoenix, and one of the strongest MLS sites in SEO performance. This site is a consistent source of motivated buyer leads. The IDX-driven sites discussed below drive click-traffic back to this site to keep potential buyers engaged as they refine their searches.
    • Ascende.me — Pictured above, this is an iPad-optimized IDX-driven luxury homes catalog. This site can be repurposed to support subdivision listing farms for individual agents. This is the future of internet real estate marketing to both buyers and sellers and no one has it but me.
    • DistinctiveParadiseValleyHomes.com — A weblog built to rhapsodize Paradise Valley luxury properties.
    • ABetterListing.com — A site devoted to marketing to equity sellers, a demographic category we may soon see more of.
    • PhoenixShortsaleValues.com — A site focused on marketing to short sale sellers.
    • Re-brandable lead-generation sites — These are running as automated IDX-driven sites now, capturing and upstreaming long-tail searches.
    • Real estate weblogging sites — Real estate industry-specific weblogging.

    I’m open to just about any idea, but I’m initiating this discussion in pursuit of compensation. I can help you maintain and build upon these internet investments as well as maximizing and building upon the value of your existing net presence, but my immediate objective is to transfer my business assets to a broker better equipped to manage them. I have skills that are in very short supply, and I want to maximize the value of my intellectual capital. As it says in the headline, I’m looking for a buyer, a partner, an investor or a job. If you want to push your business to a higher level on the internet, I want to hear from you.

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