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Archive for November, 2006

Real estate links and how to enact a Hollywood Western . . .

Teresa Boardman guest blogs at The Real Estate Tomato with some excellent advice on honing our technology skills.

Free The Drones has more on the Google Sandbox.

Bonnie Erickson at Real Estate Snippets is raising a stink about smelly houses. This may be the perfect answer to the question, “Why preview?”

More counter-intuitive rising-home-value news from Hot Property at BusinessWeek. If there were as many different ways to count groceries, you’d never make it home with a dozen eggs.

Back home in San Diego, Kris Berg has an excellent cautionary tale on the peril of ignoring the preliminary title report.

Two words: Galen Ward. The man is a poet.

Geri Sonkin at All About Long Island has thoughts on discounting. My preliminary conclusion is still that buyers don’t care very much, but I’m still playing with the idea. Three of the houses I have closing in December I would not have had without the flat fee buyer’s agent’s commission, so that’s a counter-argument.

In a Hollywood Western, about a half-hour after the second-act gun-battle, a seeming rout for the bad guys, the respectable townsfolk start poking their heads out to see if it’s safe to come outdoors. Then they gather in the town square and cluck about how much they abhor violence. This is done as comic relief and to set up the expectation of peace, to be spectacularly defeated by the third-act gun-battle. (Can you imagine what fun it is to sit through a movie or a play with me while I pick it apart line by line?) Today some of the townspeople of the RE.net have decided my brief war with Keith at Housing Panic was unseemly. Oh well. Kris Berg brought home a nice post on Realtor bashing, and, of course, Jay Thompson was a combatant. Other remarks suggest that — alike unto the comments of the BubbleHeads — people still don’t understand the issue: When someone tries to extort away your right to say what you choose, that is when I will be eager to engage in a discussion of what is ugly or a waste of time. At the OK Corral, Wyatt Earp said, “The fighting’s commenced! Get to shooting or get away!” Nothing could be easier in the world of weblogs: If you don’t like a particular post, skip to the next one. I don’t relish a fight like that, but I don’t shrink from it, either. My guess is that we are all safer because I beat Foghorn Leghorn back into his chicken coop, but that doesn’t matter to me. I didn’t do it for your sake but for my own…

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  • 6 comments

    Coming Up For Air…

    sick.jpgMy best friend said it best.

    “You’d better quit burning that candle at both ends!”

    His wife, a nurse, agrees. “Get some rest, Doug!”

    Perhaps it’s a good recommendation for all of us, every now and then. To take the time to allow our bodies, minds, and souls to rejuvenate… to become anew.

    For now, it’s more than a recommendation to me, as I have no choice. But with the rest will come wellness… and in wellness I will once again take my turn at bat.

    Meanwhile, please accept my thanks for extending me the honor.

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  • 2 comments

    Strong coffee

    Marketing is as much a way of thinking as it is doing. Thinking about your customers and their motivations. Thinking about your lawn signs and listings and your picture on your card.** Thinking about where you can find ideas and inspirations that will cause buyers to come to you instead of the other guy.

    From time to time, I’ll introduce you to people from my world who have influenced my thinking so they can work their magic for you, too, in your world. This is Denny Hatch. He’s strong coffee, but sometimes exactly what’s needed to kick start the day.

    __

    ** Kris, a little unsolicited professional marketing advice? Keep the picture. It’s working for you.

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  • 2 comments

    Play nice, and NO COMMENTS!

    Forgive the absence of links, although I may have to throw in a couple of unreferenced quotes for effect, but my intent is not to fuel a ridiculous “debate”, for lack of a better word (although there are many better words). Anyone who cares about the catalyst for my comments will have to do their own research.

    “Antagonize” was a word my children learned at a very young age, as in “Stop antagonizing your sister.” It really is time to stop all of the silliness, and quit antagonizing one another. Like any good mother, there comes a time when you have to ground the children. Greg – Go to your room for using the “M” word. (And like any good mother, I will laugh hysterically when you leave the room, because I really found your wordplay raucously funny). Keith and all of your Housing Panic friends, I am sending you home for behaving badly as well. The term RealtWhore, while considered by you and your friends to be quite clever, is clearly a derogatory remark and very childish. We will do it again when everyone can play nice.

    Obviously, what we have here are some very divergent opinions on the real estate market trends. What bothers me the most at this moment, however, is what seems to be the underlying theme: The utter lack of respect many (most) people seem to hold for our profession. And in a perhaps unprecedented blogging moment, I insist that you DO NOT COMMENT ON THIS POST. It’s not that I know and fear that many will disagree with my remarks, but only that I am not looking to pick another playground fight. Consider it my therapy session.

    I am truly tired of the sport of Realtor bashing. Here are the promised, unreferenced remarks, all unfortunately real and recent quotes:

    (Realtors have a) lack of class, lack of education, lack of intelligence.

    I find (the) ‘profession’ and business vile and disgusting in that it pretends to act as a fiduciary for home buyers and is nothing of the sort.

    Why do you put your picture on your Blog comments/business cards/bill boards (if you are not a Realtwhore)?

    Realtors whore out their integrity, honesty, and self respect for money.

    Used house salesmen will be viewed with more disdain than lawyers, politicians, or used car salesmen.

    Why don’t we take it from the top.

    1. Real estate is a job. Like any other, this is a job that people do for a living. And like any other job, there are those who are quite good at it and take it very seriously (say, like a career?), and those that stink. As in life, there are good, ethical, honest, hardworking individuals and there are opportunists who care only for themselves and are motivated only by ego and greed. To stereotype an entire discipline because of some perception, or even real life experience (involving those in the latter category), is not only unenlightened but ignorant.
    2. Many Realtors are do not have college degrees, yet many do have a formal education. While being a member of this profession does not require higher education, many agents are extremely educated and credentialed. These are most often the ones that will excel in this field, yet I challenge anyone to suggest that formal education is a prerequisite for actual achievement or success in most fields, with the exception of the obvious. (We are talking about service industries here; I am highly optimistic that my brain surgeon will have a few years of college under his belt). Case in point, I have a Masters Degree in Civil Engineering. I have a long resume of public and private sector employment, and of sole proprietorship. This is not intended to be boastful; rather to point out that my degrees proved fairly irrelevant in both the practice of engineering and real estate. It is ultimately the quality of the individual and their capacity to learn and apply that knowledge that separates the achievers from the rest of the pack.
    3. Real estate licensing requirements are too lenient. Many like to suggest that, because of this, the industry consists of a bunch of uneducated do-nothings in search of a quick buck. Sadly, in some cases this is all too true. To color an entire profession based on the credential requirements, however, is to label an entire species. Every profession has their stars and their slackers, their ethical and their money grubbers, their competent and their incompetent. I have encountered crummy “professionals” in nearly every discipline over the years, yet I have not sworn off accountants because I once had a mistake in my tax return. Hair stylists don’t have a much harder time than Realtors of obtaining a license allowing them to operate within their trade, yet you had better believe that I don’t use the services of just anybody (last hairstyle being the obvious exception). If your real estate experience has left you with a sour impression, I would suggest you didn’t pick the best representation.
    4. Real estate agents self-promote furiously. Well, duh! We are self-employed and in a service industry where we have one product to offer (and sell) our customers: Ourselves. While you will never see my pixelated mug on a shopping cart or bus bench, I do not disdain those who choose this route; it simply isn’t compatible with my business plan or desired image. I do, however, have my picture on my business cards, my blog, my website, my car magnets and all of my print materials, which for the record, cost me more than the average American earns in year. This is called “marketing”, and if you are employed by another (who takes care of the business development for you), you may never understand it. And by the way, advertising is not a dirty word. My plumber does it, my doctor does it, my dentist does it, and Walmart does it. That is how you drive business to your business. Surviving on past-client referrals alone is a fantasy; clients move, clients die, and, in our case, neighborhoods turn over.
    5. Realtors are not inherently evil, they do not feed on their young, and they do not force people to buy or sell. Believe it or not, we do not spend our days victimizing happy, unsuspecting home owners in an attempt to force a sale, nor do our clients purchase homes at gunpoint who would otherwise have no interest in homeownership. I, for one, lack the super-powers to manipulate free will. It is convenient to blame Realtors from everything from bad loans to bad market cycles to global warming, but in the end we are simply advisers and facilitators. It is not the Nordstrom sales clerk’s fault that the suit I bought last week is now on the 20% off rack, it is not the used car salesman’s fault that I found a car I like better this week than the one I bought last Tuesday (had to slip this profession into the discussion), and my Realtor (no, I don’t represent myself in my own transactions) did not force me to make my last real estate purchase. Let’s all start taking some responsibility for our actions.
    6. All agents are not filthy rich. In fact, most agents make what would be considered by most to be a moderate income. Certainly when you consider the enormous costs, both time and money, and the hours we keep, I believe we are worth every penny. So you could do it yourself? Then have at it. I could represent myself in court and I could self-diagnose my illness, and I could even replace my water heater (with a little help from the Google Gods), but I probably wouldn’t do it very well. My time would have been better spent doing what I do well, which would allow me to pay others to do what they do well. And to those who use the argument that Realtors are not doctors or lawyers (or even plumbers), well of course we aren’t. But if you make this argument as a protest to salaries being on par, I would suggest that life isn’t fair. I’m just one “tall” gene short of being a multi-million dollar point guard for the Lakers. Not fair. So, get your real estate license. No one is stopping you.

    We all begin our lives wide-eyed, trusting and respectful. Somewhere along the line we get jaded. Funny that my children (it always comes back to that, doesn’t it?), who have a tendency to find my mere existence an embarrassment of amazing proportions, see me as somewhat of a rock star. Their culture (and their allowance, by the way) involves my car magnets, my picture on the banner at the high school football games, and on and on. So easy to find this embarrassing, and yet they (my self-proclaimed “real estate orphans”) see how hard I work and how seriously and personally I take my business and the satisfaction of my clients. A friend recently asked my 14 year-old if she was going to be a Realtor someday. Of course, she said “no”. I braced myself for the follow-up, expecting the obvious. Yet, when asked why, she replied, “I don’t want to work weekends.” Out of the mouths of babes. So, play nice, you guys.
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  • 13 comments

    And now we are nine . . .

    Most men have bound their eyes with one or another handkerchief, and attached themselves to some one of these communities of opinion. This conformity makes them not false in a few particulars, authors of a few lies, but false in all particulars. Their every truth is not quite true. Their two is not the real two, their four not the real four; so that every word they say chagrins us, and we know not where to begin to set them right. Meantime nature is not slow to equip us in the prison-uniform of the party to which we adhere. We come to wear one cut of face and figure, and acquire by degrees the gentlest asinine expression. — Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self Reliance

    We’re adding another contributor this morning, Doug Quance of Broker’s First Realty in Atlanta:

    Doug Quance is an Atlanta-based Realtor and Associate Broker. Backed by his team, Doug is in the vanguard of the Realtor 2.0 movement toward hi-tech, full-service real estate.

    Doug managed to get good and sick over Thanksgiving, so it’s a particularly cruel injustice to do this to him today, but he insisted we proceed as planned.

    Athol Kay at The Real Estate Guide calls us The Borghound Blog, which was a lot of fun. This much is true: We’re doing our best to recruit the very best real estate webloggers. But the last thing we want is that “one cut of face and figure,” “the prison-uniform” of some uniform school of thought. To the contrary. Our diversity is our strength. (Didn’t I get a badge from the NAR that says that?)

    In any case, while we are not The Borg, today we are a nonet to be contended with…

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  • 4 comments

    The Millionaire Real Estate Agent

    If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.

    - Isaac Newton

    First things first – WOW, what a fantastic collection of writers and contributers this blog has! I came to Blodhoundblog to quickly see what had already been written before I started to write my post. I wound up spending over 90 minutes reading every single post, going to each of the links (thank you SO much, Richard for http://www.psychotactics.com/). I am so pleased with Greg’s decision to change the direction of Bloodhoundblog – and I was already happy before the changes. I may not post everyday but I sure will read it every day.

    What follows in this post may seem to some like Earl Nightingale meets Buddha - and maybe it is – but I think you are going to like it.

    Last week Matt wrote:

    I might have missed something in the post, but to say that all listings for the discounter were $299 is probably not correct. “58 X 299 = $17,342.”I see a lot of “Discounters” using low selling price as a tool to get people in the door, or on phone. $299 is usually a no support price…and then they tack on a-la-carte items to raise that price up. True, it will never be full commission, but I doubt all 58 sold for only $299. How would he still be in business only making $17K per quarter?Russell, How hard was it to get to the level you are at today? Many realtors never get to this level, because it is very, very hard. I would bet that it is a lot easier to throw up a bunch of ads, that say you will sell a home for $299, and get a ton on people in your office. It can’t be that hard…

    I don’t know how much selling up occurs at his site. But assume he only sells half of the listings he takes and gets paid on twice as many as he closes and manages to up sell every possible option he has – I still don’t like the numbers. I am still saying it is NOT that easy to make money by lowering one’s prices. Please understand I am not saying it can’t be done – just that making money doing it is not easy.

    But the question of yours that really caught my eye was, “Russell, How hard was it to get to the level you are at today? Many realtors never get to this level, because it is very, very hard.”

    I don’t believe that is even the correct framework for understanding what is involved. To think of it as “hard” or “difficult” is trying to grasp it in terms of how much effort is involved vs. charging less and “getting a lot of business” that way. One of the huge advantages I have over most highly successful Realtors (this year we will take over 600 listings, close over 400 escrows – for over 100 million in volume) is that I was an “ordinary” agent my first twelve years in real estate. My first 12 years I sold between 18 – 24 houses a year. I was heavily in debt, lived from deal to deal and was not exactly happy with my “real estate life”. Compare this to Craig Proctor – who at age 29, his third year in the business, was the number one agent in the world for Re/Max. My first TWELVE YEARS were a struggle. So my perspective about achieving an extremely high level of success isn’t all “book learning”. This understanding has enabled me to not only create a completely stable level of success in my own business but also to share my wisdom on this subject with others and help to make them successful, as well. To get to the level I am at (and there are hundreds of other agents making the kind of money I make or more) isn’t a matter of “difficulty” at all. Does it take a lot of effort and dedication? More than an ordinary person can even imagine. But the work isn’t “hard” – it is almost a non-stop joy, a reward in itself. I smoked for 29 years and quit smoking in 1989. For some years after I quit smoking I would get asked if it was “hard to quit”. My answer was always, “No, it wasn’t hard to quit”. I had a few days of unbelievable cravings (I took off work and spent two days non-stop TALKING about smoking – my wife got to listen to all this). I had about three weeks where I had to have Nicorette gum. But it wasn’t “hard”. I had DECIDED. Now deciding – oh my GOD was that difficult. I “thought about” quitting for TWENTY NINE YEARS. People who get to my level DECIDE to get to this level. There will be numerous times along the way where it will seem right to “coast” – I did for three years at 60 deals a year, again at 130 deals (2 years there), again at 200 deals a year (3 years at that level). You get the idea. The operative word here is: DRIVE. It isn’t “hard”, it requires drive. The person has to really want it.

    What I know now is that every person has a “set point” for just about everything. On any subject there is a certain amount of “X”that is considered “good”. Any amount less than “that amount” is not enough. Any amount over that amount is too much. Although this concept applies to anything; motion, speed, food, sex, free time, affection, etc – I’ll use the example of money. There is a certain amount of savings, for example, that is “right” for a person. Less than that amount and they must get it back up to the correct level. More than that and they feel like they have “a surplus” and will find a way to get rid of it. Same with income – make less than the “right amount” and the person will find a way to get their income back up to that “correct amount”. For some years the amount of money I was “allowed” (by myself) to keep was a minus number. As you can imagine, this made for some very interesting checkbook balancing from time to time. So the first “rule” to know if one intends to change the amount of money they will earn or have would be for the person to change their ideas about “how much they need”. Many people may think of this as “positive thinking” – but it is the VITAL first step and can not be omitted.

    Here is a link to a positively wonderful short video that a friend sent to me. It is called 212 degrees. Please turn your sound on and take a few minutes to enjoy it.

    There is also a movie out on DVD called “The Secret“. You can watch it on line for about $5 or order the DVD for $30. If you have not experienced it you are missing out on something quite special.

    A truly key point is covered in the following, and if you understand and grasp it – you will never see your business potential the same again.

    Excerpt from policy letter 28 Aug 1973, Organization Executive Course, Volume 7:

    WHAT DETERMINES STATS

    “It is also true that the volume an organization handles is NOT dependent upon public demand. The volume it gets and handles is solely determined by its internal organization. This sounds so strange that many an Executive Director has had great trouble until he believed and and used it. You can always internally shoot the stats up and keep them up. It is THAT, across all divisions, which determines the volume an organization gets and handles. This is sometimes hard to teach people but once they see the results of it they become converts to that principal —- that it is internal, not external actions that determine stats.”

    - L. Ron Hubbard

    So long as I believed (my first 12 years in real estate) that “the market” had something to do with my income I was like a cork floating in the ocean – my destiny controlled by forces that were – for the most part – completely out of my control. What I know now is that agents who are “geared up” for 50 – 60 deals a year are not going to do much more than that. They may have little spikes up here and there but they will get it “back to normal” quite soon – whatever it takes to accomplish that.

    In Gary Keller’s outstanding book, “The Millionaire Real Estate Agent” this (although not stated explicitly like above with the Hubbard quote) is covered in the correct sequence for hiring assistants. Any real estate agent who plans on ever moving past “having a job” into having a business needs to read this book. At least twice.

    It is not just the most important book ever written on the subject – it is the only book ever written on the subject. Imagine if you could get author, Michael Gerber, “The E-Myth Revisited” to stop by and write up for you what to do in your business to build it up into a stable operation so you would not ever have a problem that money would solve. The proceeding sentence is my book review for The Millionaire
    Real Estate Agent (known to affectionados as the “MREA”).

    To get to the next level (life is improved on a gradient) your organization would need to be set up for actually handling the level of business you want to do. This, of course, would include promotion. Advertising and marketing would not be for the level you are doing now – but for the level you plan to do. If, for example, you did not have an assistant (then you factually ARE one) to do “all the little things” for you – the growth ceiling is to some degree set right there.

    The MREA, which was on the Business Week best seller list for over a year, features numerous quotes from me and they featured me in the book, along with about a dozen other top agents in the United States. Vice President of Keller Williams International, Dave Jenks, along with a camera crew, flew from Austin to Phoenix and came to my office (currently a building attached to my home) and spent a day here filming me and my staff. It was the first video they ever did of a mega producer. It was and still is used to train KW agents at their KW Mega Camp. Their video production techniques are SO much better now but that crude video is still used today and I get told (by KW agents and brokers) it is still the one they like the most. Why am I telling you this? There are KW agents whose incomes dwarf mine. They have direct access to some of the most successful agents in the world. The year they interviewed me for the book we closed just a bit over 50,000,000 in volume. Respectable, sure. But not amazing “world class”. The year in question was 2001. I wasn’t here much that year. I was diagnosed in July of 2001 with bladder cancer. I had an aggressive stage 3 tumor in the bladder wall. The urologist wanted to (was insisting on) completely removing my bladder and my prostate. The Mayo Clinic would not accept me as a chemo patient – they would only accept me I would agree to have my bladder removed. I decided I would rather not have this body than have that kind of life. I wound up with a nut for my oncologist (her main nurse was an angel), I had a wonderful surgeon – had three surgeries and I spent nine months traveling to Los Angles once a week for Scientology counseling to get rid of the grief and “deathfulness”. I was physically in Phoenix about 3 days a week and with the chemo I could actually do “real work” in my office about 6 -7 hours a week. I was unable to go on listing appointments anymore (I tried it but would space out so much while talking to them it was kind of pointless).

    That year we had the best year (at that time) we had ever had. My business went UP with me GONE. As the MREA was all about systems, they liked mine. And there is nothing I do that can not be replicated by anyone who wants to move up. Nothing. My most recent spectacular success is the top agent in Tucson – in business less than three years and they will close about 75,000,000 this year.

    I am totally cancer free – have been “officially” since March of 2002. At the time I even bought myself a Porsche to celebrate (yes, of course it was a 911 convertible. Yes, of course I had to have supercharger added to it later:-).

    And I have exactly the same attitude towards helping agents “break through” any barriers they may have between themselves and the success they desire as I do about giving a cancer patient a “lift”. Attitude is EVERYTHING. Everything.

    Please read this book:

    MREA

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  • 17 comments

    The perfect client/vendor relationship . . .

    “Tell you what, I’ll focus on keeping my clients incredibly informed. You focus on keeping yours in the dark. See you at the finish line.” — Mike Simonsen, Altos Research Real Estate Insights

    Breathtaking sanity — and they’re coming to Phoenix!

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  • 1 comment

    So what’s your problem? (Or a 10-minute makeover on how to make your listing copy more attention getting, more interesting, and most of all, more effective.)

    A fundamental difference between general advertising (image, awareness, brand-building ads–the stuff Century 21 and ReMax does nationally) and direct response advertising (the targeted, measurable results-driven stuff YOU and frontliners like the Bergs–and welcome Kris! what a good get Greg–do locally) is that the former tries to change the way customers think over time and the latter works to change the way customers act right now.

    Since direct response advertising can measure results,** it creates opportunities to test and account for the value and effectiveness of things. Like headlines.*** Copy. Pictures. Or even blog posts.

    Which is what I am doing now.

    I want to see why BloodhoundBlog Post 703 is drawing so few responses (okay, none right now). Is it because it’s just boring and uninteresting to readers? Or perhaps all it needs is a much better headline to get you to take a look and benefit from all its great advice on how to write compelling listings copy. I want to test the supposition “You can lead a real estate agent to a blog, but you can’t make him think.”****

    Vote with your mouse.

    Charmed, I’m sure.

    or

    A 10-minute makeover on how to make your listing copy more attention getting, more interesting, and most of all, more effective.

    __________

    ** When should you use general advertising and when should you use direct response advertising? Well, first determine who’s paying for it. Then decide.

    *** For those of you who care to get under the hood of your marketing, John Caples was the godfather of Tested Advertising Methods. It’s a classic text. (Okay, it’s really, really old, and “They’ll laugh when you order it at Amazon, but OH! when you begin to put his ideas to work…”)

    **** Just kidding. Greg urged me, originally, to use the “makeover how-to” headline. I resisted. I even thought of titling this post “You lookin’ at me?” but I checked and the actual line is “You talking to me?” So I guess the real supposition I’m testing is “You can give a guru good advice, but you can’t account for his ego.”

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  • 1 comment

    I’m Invited!

    When my girls were in their diaper days, their favorite bedtime ritual involved reading Go Dog Go!. For those unfamiliar (under 40), this is an epic tale involving big dogs, little dogs, red dogs and white dogs… you get the picture. This exciting fantasy ramped up to climactic moment when the dogs arrived at The Tree (“to the tree, to the tree”) where they encountered a Big Dog Party! My daughters’ yesteryear squeals of delight could never equal my unbridled exuberance of today when I was invited to Greg’s Dog Party. Well, perhaps I exaggerate, but I am honored nonetheless.

    It is no cyber-secret that I have been a huge fan of the Bloodhound Blog from the start, but I met the word of my induction into the dog pound with both enthusiasm and trepidation. I have been blogging for the better part of a year now under my own comfy security blanket. My all-too frequent typos, lapses in posting, and even the occasional absence of discernable meaningful content (too many human-interest installments) have been largely forgiven by my small audience. My tombstone will read “She used and misused too many commas, hyphens and parentheses, and don’t even get us started on those semicolons”! Greg, on the other hand, has created a superior site over a much shorter period of time. Even his trolls are better! I am the first to admit that I am lucky to truly understand half of what he writes, let alone able to allocate enough time to read it all. The man is a machine, and the need for the online dictionary link in my Favorites folder is entirely his doing. That’s the trepidation part.

    On the other hand, I am thrilled to be included among his hand-picked group of real estate junkies who, like myself, have a passion for the business. One can only admire their willingness to evaluate, reevaluate and even question our industry and our industry practices in such an honest and unfiltered way. So, consider this my RSVP; I am looking forward to attending the party. Forgive me for being fashionably late with my first post of substance (obviously not this one), but I don’t plan on leaving until the lights go out. To the tree!

    (Footnote: Now you all know why I married Steve. Oh sure, I could have courted my high school prom date, John Watson, but only Steve could assure me of the top spot on the sidebar.)

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  • 5 comments

    The sight, the scent, the touch of rich, luxurious, full-bodied . . . real estate commentary . . .

    Today, Jeff Brown is a thorn among roses. We’re adding a new contributor, San Diego Realtor and super-blogger Kris Berg. With Cathleen Collins below the BawldGuy and Kris above, the median quantity of hair approaches the statistical mean.

    But rich, luxurious, full-bodied hair — or none at all — is no measure of the prowess of a BloodhoundBlog weblogger. And, of course, no one can be encapsulated by a capsule biography, but it falls to me to write one anyway:

    Kris Berg is a San Diego Realtor and Associate Broker who is avidly building a business with her husband, Steve, while raising a family, maintaining a home and writing cleverly original real estate commentary.

    If you haven’t read Kris at The San Diego Home Blog, you’re missing out on one of the great treats of the RE.net. She writes pertinent real estate commentary with a style all her own — sometimes raucously funny, always precisely on target. I can’t wait to see what she’ll write here…

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    Foghorn Leghorn strikes out: What if they gave a war — and nothing happened . . . ?

    Well.

    That was underwhelming.

    First, I make a brutally funny, completely accurate joke about that risible demagogue, Keith at Housing Panic.

    Then Keith offers to sell out his weblog and his entire constituency of mouth-breathing morons to escape the ridicule that is his just desserts, his one indisputable claim on the wonders of the universe.

    His “offer” is essentially extortionate. The “or else”?:

    A war with the thousands of HP’ers so harsh and loud your practice and reputation in Arizona likely wouldn’t survive (beyond the damage you’re doing yourself)

    Now anyone who is paying any attention here — a company that excludes Generalissimo Foghorn Leghorn — could have predicted with perfect precision what I would do in the face of something like this: Make it public, of course, in spades.

    So: Keith puts on a predictable pantomime of outsized outrage, heavy on the high-moral dudgeon. And the mouth-breathing morons zoom in to BloodhoundBlog to poke around at random and issue inane comments — heavy on the profanity, light on the grammar.

    This much is a big yawn. There are thoughtful, intelligent people among the BubbleHeads, but I can’t imagine that any of them is so lacking in self-respect that he would take “orders” from a detestable thug like Generalissimo Leghorn.

    That’s as may be. The thuglets who do shake a leg the Leghorn way gave another perfect demonstration of why I have referred to them as Brown Shirts and Flying Monkeys. One Junior G-Man dug up and published my address (ahem — it’s on our web site) here and on Housing Panic. An amazingly drunk man in Connecticut left 23 very long incoherent voicemails on my cell phone. A cadre of relatively literate BubbleHeads tried to figure our how to censor me by means of Arizona Association of Realtors or Arizona Department of Real Estate complaints. It might occur to you to wonder if they have not heard of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution — but of course they have. Thuggery and principle are moral opposites, never doubt it.

    There’s more, but it’s all nothing. I told Keith in advance that it would come to nothing. The original post stands. Forever will it be known that the modus vivendi of Keith at Housing Panic is Masturbating to Armageddon. If the jack-off had any sense, he’d steal it like every other joke I’ve written for him. It would make an excellent title for his autobiography, “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

    Note also that I am unscathed. I stood alone — really the only way I know how to stand — against everything Generalissimo Foghorn Leghorn could bring to bear, and I bore no injuries. Keith has never laid a glove on me and he never will. Why? Well for one thing, I’ve fought and won against trolls who actually had more than two brains cells to rub together. But for another — and I told them this a long time ago — there is no heckler’s veto on the internet. The fact is that I had all kinds of power in reserve — deleting comments, banning particular commenters, cutting off comments — that I did not and would never use. One idiot kept insisting that I had killed her comments, and, when I proved that I had not, bitched that I had revealed her fake email addresses. Oh, well…

    The Flying Monkeys are mostly gone for now, and they are free to stay gone. But they are free to return, too. We are smart, thoughtful people here, and minds eager to learn can pick up a lot. If they elect to behave badly, they may, in the fullness of time, discover how easy they are to ignore. Reality comes to us with an unanswerable elegance, each of us in our own time.

    Thanks to Jeff Brown and Jay Thompson, particularly, for bearding the chicken as it were. Jay, Todd Tarson, Tyler Sookochoff and Jonathan Dalton all had posts on this disappointing little war. Tyler expresses confusion as to means and motive, and Jonathan suggests an alternate strategy:

    Maybe, just maybe we as a group ought to take on the bubbleheads en masse the next time they strike.

    I understand the sentiment, but I think this would be a mistake. Ganging up in any form ratifies and dignifies Keith’s thuggish philosophy. I am able to stand down the entire Flying Monkey army precisely because the principle of justice is entirely mine: I have every right to speak my mind freely, without fear of domination. We owe this ideal not to Lincoln or Jefferson or John Locke but to Socrates himself: Even when the thugs seem to have won, they lose.

    We don’t answer crime with crime, we answer crime with justice. And to aid in Tyler’s understanding, what is the prefect justice for Keith’s ludicrous, posturing thuggery?: Ridicule, of course. He is nothing without that crowd of thuglets around him — and his greatest fear is that they, too, are laughing at him behind his back. As they have wits, they are. The man is the living personification of a joke.

    Even so, not much of a war. Sunday to Tuesday — and really only Sunday. I was too busy to have as much fun as I might have had, otherwise, but I didn’t get to pick the schedule. No honest man can doubt that I won — “Masturbating to Armageddon” is still posted and my career is unscathed. But if a few more men of honor have left the Legions of Leghorn, that is the real victory…

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  • 37 comments

    Ask not for whom the MLS toils . . .

    …it toils for brokers.

    Pittsburgh Homes Daily has news of a new IDX policy for agents: None. Mere agents will not be able to syndicate or even frame data from the West Penn Multi-List’s Internet Data Exchange (IDX). Only the main site of each brokerage will be able to feature the feed, and agents will not even be allowed to frame that on their own web sites.

    In other words, if a prospective buyer wants to search the MLS, he or she will have to go to the main web site of a brokerage. As Larry Cragun points out at RealEstateUndressed, any leads captured by the broker will probably not be shared with agents for free.

    Nice…

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    I may soon be the weakest link at BloodhoundBlog, but I’ll always be the strongest linker . . .

    Cathleen Collins, Richard Riccelli and Jeff Brown: I’m hopelessly out-classed three times in one day. And we’re adding another first-class real estate weblogger tomorrow. Nothing for it but to turn outward to the vast riches of the RE.net. Here’s some stuff that has caught my eye:

    Would you like to know my secret shame? My own mother is a Luddite. Every year we talk about getting her a Macintosh with broadband for Christmas, and every year we put it off another year. All she really needs is email and the web — and she has a natural motivation in the form of a burgeoning herd of grandchildren. But she will not hear of it. Programming her VCR is as far up the technology ladder as she is willing to climb. So this little gizmo, cited on TechCrunch, is actually of interest to me. My mom has never forgiven us for ditching the film cameras — double prints! — and it’s a rare day when I think to print out and snail-mail digital photos. This might be just the thing…

    Kris Berg is back, and in top form. Make time to savor her writing.

    Oops! BusinessWeek says property values are up, this per Zillow.com’s Q3 Zindices and other sources. Who knows if it’s true or not, and I have no ability to weigh any but the most local evidence. But the article does highlight the essential weakness of measuring market activity by median prices.

    Todd Tarson sends thoughtful notes in our general direction. In the second link he is raving about Richard Riccelli’s single-property web site for his own home in Boston, which raves I heartily endorse. This is a gorgeous expression of the single-property web site idea. Be sure to take a look at how it is put together.

    Russ Cofano at Realty Objectives on a ruling an NAR motion to dismiss the DOJ anti-trust suit:

    So what does this mean? As I said earlier, I believe this case will go to trial unless the parties reach compromise. NAR has been, to date, staunch in its belief that it will not settle this case if settlement means a compromise of its core values as to how an MLS should be run. The risk, as implicitly stated by Judge Filip, is that the DOJ may win and if it does, the NAR may have to live with government involvement with MLS in ways never imagined.

    Oh. Great…

    Doug Quance at Broker’s First Realty has a raucous and horrifying story about a closing gone wrong.

    Another horrifying story, this one from Christine Forgione at NY Houses 4 Sale. Also: All I want for Christmas is my…House Sold!

    Will we need title agencies to warrant free and clear ownership of domain names? InmanBlog visits a Brave New World.

    Seth on how to get referrals.

    Pat Kitano at TransparentRE.com holds out hope for the dinosaurs of the mainstream media. My bet: About as fast and with as many upheavals as AT&T learned to compete for business.

    Finally, Stephen Jagger at Ubertor fingered this Craig’s List ad:

    Online real estate broker Redfin is looking to hire a few good part-time bloggers to check out open houses in your neighborhood and write up what you think.[....]

    Qualifications:[....]

    * Love of real estate: you have to be a bloodhound for good deals[....]

    Bad news, cowbirds: Bloodhound when used in a real estate context is a registered service mark…

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    Win-Win: A Recent Case Study

    Win-Win is a concept that’s been popular for a few decades, especially in the real estate industry. Most of the time though it’s been talk and not much walk. Since it supposedly refers to the buyer and seller in the same transaction, many would argue it’s a cruel hoax, and in fact an oxymoronic phrase. How can the buyer and seller both win?

    It can only happen when the buyer and seller agree that their goals can only be realized with each other’s help. Become a team. It must be understood that taking an adversarial position will end any chance of both sides winning. This usually happens when one or usually both sides realize the market hasn’t and probably won’t provide the same solution they can by working together. Team players on the other hand can share in total victory.
    We Win!

    This approach is almost impossible in the sales of homes in which the buyer intends to occupy their purchase. In that situation both sides by definition want obviously different outcomes. (The Real Estate Zebra begs to differ, saying most home buyers and sellers can team up for a mutual win.) Though they eventually can come to agreement, it’s nature is almost always adversarial. Captain Obvious lives. However, in the investment world, it sometimes happens that a buyer and seller can do something for each other that the market has failed miserably to provide.

    Here is such a story.

    Ellen and Rosa are my clients, referrals from family. Ellen had already executed the first leg of her Plan successfully. Rosa and I had just finished creating her Plan and were ready for the first leg, which was the sale of her condo. She’d acquired it several years ago and had well over $100k in net equity. She needed as much cash as possible in order to get her Plan going. She is 50ish and knows her retirement will not be more than marginally adequate if she doesn’t change her approach now.

    Ellen desparately wanted a local condo in which she could opt to live at some future time. She was now living in a duplex that allowed her to keep costs way lower than condo living would allow. It wasn’t the most objective thing she could do as an investor, but it was an intensely held desire, and very important to her. Doing it in a market in which condo sellers were giving away the store was fortunate timing for her.

    In an effort to obtain the most for Rosa’s condo that this market would allow, we marketed hard for almost five months. This included a couple price reductions, and an increase in commission for the buyer’s agent. We tried everything. The market was apathetic. Finally I decided to take the bull by the horns and put these two clients together. It was obvious to me they were a perfect match. I called them and told them of my idea, which was received by both with over the top enthusiasm. They both told me to make it happen.
    Here’s how I structured their deal.

    I established a price that was about 5% below the last sale in that development, which was almost six months old. It was about 10% less than the lowest asking price for her floor plan at the time. They both agreed it was fair. I asked Rosa if she’d consider leasing back from Ellen for a year, with a unilateral option (hers) for six additional months, then a mutual option for six more months. Apparently she hadn’t told me how much she loved living there because she just about reached through the phone and hugged me! She was willing to make the sacrifice but was only doing so because she felt improving her retirement was more important than maintaining the status quo. Ellen loved the idea as she felt very safe having Rosa as a tenant and not a stranger. Plus, a lease was far better than a month to month.

    To make it work with the low down payment Ellen had was to have higher than market rent, which would have maxed out at about $1,200 a month. I did the calculations and told them $1,575 a month for the first year, then another $100 if the option to extend was exercised. Why did this work? Why did Rosa jump at this inflated rent amount? Because Rosa’s total monthly costs for that condo with her loan payments, HOA fee, and the rest was costing her well over $2,000. This was a savings of over $500 a month! And she didn’t have to move. And she’d end up with a net check from escrow of just under $145,000 – all of which was not taxable.

    Rosa? She got her condo with a guaranteed quality tenant who was more than happy to be there. She was able to buy it with only 10% down, and still have it more than pay for itself. And because of the tax write-off she’d be saving roughly $3,500 in income taxes the following year. Furthermore, the price she paid was the lowest for that floorplan in over a year. She is still the only client who brings me Starbuck’s every time we meet at my office. A happy camper.

    We gave the local market almost five months to produce results. Not even the threat of an offer. Two clients – one broker – three days – the perfect solution for both clients.

    In my office we call that Win-Win. It’s what my clients hire me to do.

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  • 22 comments

    Charmed, I’m sure

    DC: A very charming Georgetown house in the very center of the east village…

    CHICAGO: Very charming Gunderson style home located on great block…

    SF: Sunnyvale charmer! Updated kitchen. Great neighborhood…

    Let’s step past the navel-gazing** about why most real estate copy is so dreadfully banal, and step up to the question: What can you do in the next 10 minutes or so to make your listings more attention getting, more interesting, and most of all, more effective?

    And let’s start by dispensing with the myth — if not mystique — that marketing and advertising is more difficult to understand than other professions.*** Doctor, lawyer, real estate agent: It’s all about problem solving.

    “Doctor, I’m feeling pressure in my chest.”
    “Counselor, I’ve been sued for divorce.”
    “[Your name here], I want to sell my house.”

    There is one key difference. Those professionals are looking for solutions to clear and present problems. You, however, start with the solution in hand — a property for sale. Your job is to find the problem. Advantage you, for therein lies the path to better copy.

    You simply need to become a method writer. At your keyboard stop and think: “What problems do my listings solve? And for whom?” Write your answers in simple declarative sentences. One after another. Action verbs preferred. And go easy on the adjectives and adverbs — no matter how charming, elegant, and delightful you find them.

    Here are two to get you started.

    For that in-town condo:
    The end of your two-hour commute — this is a country home in the city with the kind of kitchen that causes suburban envy.

    Or that suburban ranch:
    In the basement…your health club. In the master suite…your day spa. In the family room…day care. Out back…your florist. In this home…your new life.

    While I can’t see your listings, I already know the kinds of problems for which you have solutions.

    “I’m eating at the same three restaurants every weekend…”
    “I never see my kids because I’m commuting hours each day…”
    “I’m sick of taking my clothes to a laundromat…
    “I’ll never meet a man living out here alone in the boonies…”
    “Yada, yada, yada…”

    The more specific the problems you describe, the better your copy will work. Because instead of appealing to no one in particular in a misguided attempt to reach everyone who might be appealing, your copy will — in a few $10,000 sentences**** — target that perfect someone who will walk on broken glass to find the solution only you possess for their problems.

    Of course “solutions-in-search-of-problems” is hardly an original marketing idea of mine. In fact the best thinking — or more accurately, the best instruction — on this instantly effective technique comes from New Zealand by way of Sean D’Souza of PyschoTactics.

    And so that is a second thing you can do in this 10-minute copy workshop. Read his 25 free articles and follow his lessons on the subject.***** He’s giving away far better than what I charge $265 an hour for.

    These three are good starters:

    Is Your Marketing Solution Your Biggest Problem?

    The Power of Why: Your Psychological Ally To Marketing Success!

    Is Nature a Marketing Guru?

    And sign up for his free newsletter. It’s the opposite of spam.

    As you start to explore this you’ll discover “words that sell” are a big, consequential topic. And so we’ll return to it later. But enough for today. After all, I’ve got my own problems to solve.

    ____________

    ** great for the consultants full employment act, but despite what Greg claims in my one-line bio to the right, I think of myself more as a provocateur than a guru (let’s see if he changes it!)

    *** Which is different from saying (and welcome Ronan!) that it is easy to do.

    **** Greg and I talk about the worth of well-written listing copy versus ordinary listing copy…this is my shorthand for that.

    ***** Special interest alert: Sorry, none in this case. But I did buy some of their non-free products and found Sean’s advice works, well, like the solutions to my problems.

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  • “My task which I am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word, to make you hear, to make you feel — it is, before all, to make you see. That — and no more, and it is everything. If I succeed, you shall find there according to your deserts: encouragement, consolation, fear, charm — all you demand; and, perhaps, also that glimpse of truth for which you have forgotten to ask.”

  • 5 comments

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