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Archive for August, 2007

Mucho con gusto: Celebrating human independence in open defiance of Labor Day

I have more than too much work to do, including attending to all the controversy I’ve stirred up, but I pride myself on knowing when I need to stop, if only for a few hours. We’re kidless for the weekend, but we’re on the cusp of being infested by way too much family, so I’m going to grab for all the gusto I can, while I can.

Here’s Mark Knopfler, just blistering on what looks like a Paul Reed Smith FatStratClone (that is to say, a really kick-ass custom-made guitar):

For Teri Lussier’s daughter, Rian, here is an excruciating catharsis:

The examined life is having the courage to purge your own character of mediocrity, not punishing other people for having indulged their fears of greatness.

This is me, a memo from forever:

The time of your life is your sole capital. If you trade that time in such a way that you get in exchange less than you really want, less than you might actually have achieved, you have deliberately cheated yourself. You have acted to your own destruction by failing to use your time to construct of your life what you want most and need most and deserve most. You have let your obsession or anger — over what amounts to a trivial evil in a world where people are shredded alive — deprive you of all of the rest of your values. This is anegoic, acting contrary to the true needs of the self.

One of my favorite memories is of a Labor Day years ago. My son and I were out riding our bikes and we rode to a CompUSA to see all the latest software. The store was packed. Middle managers poring over the PERT packages, programmers pawing through hefty manuals, yuppie couples testing eduware with their little yuppiekinder. Labor Day is a holiday established by people who hate human productivity, who hate the human mind. It is a day set aside on the calendar to celebrate and sanctify indolence — and violence. And there in the CompUSA were the men and women of values. The people who know that to be more and have more, you must learn more and do more.

Those are my people. I love them better than any other people I meet. I work with them, laugh with them on the phone, transact business with them. I love to write about them. There are no villains, none more significant than bugs. But there are heroes. For the most part, they can’t defend their beliefs the way I can. But they live those beliefs, every day.

I think it is hypocrisy to say, “I will cooperate with the state when I shower, when I drive, when I don’t want a landfill behind my house, but I will pretend to rebel with respect to this one of the hundreds of taxes, all the rest of which I will pay without batting any eye.” But that notwithstanding, to deliberately frustrate your own self-adoration, to deliberately circumscribe your own self-actualization, to deliberately forbid yourself to live to the fullest of your capacity — that is a tax that could only be self-inflicted. No tyrant could be that diabolical. Behaving this way is anegoic, acting contrary to the true needs of the self.

The time from the birth of human awareness, age four or so, to its death, closely correspondent to your corporeal demise, is all the life you have as a human being. To deny yourself all you can have, because it is not all you otherwise might have had, is anegoic, acting contrary to the true needs of the self. The people in the West who are most free of the bonds of other people are not the tax scofflaws or the libertarians or the imaginary prudent predators. They’re the people crowding every cultural equivalent of CompUSA, working assiduously to figure out how to achieve the most and the best of all of their values, from first to last.

I think this is where true human freedom starts.

There’s a new Large Band album this week and my father is coming to town. This is my daddy’s favorite Lyle:

Mucho con gusto. The world can wait. I have a date with my wife…

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  • 9 comments

    Come On People — NAR Hasn’t Made A Hill Of Beans Difference Since I Was 18

    There’s been so much talk about what the National Association of Realtors (or Real – I – tors as often mispronounced) should be, is now, and/or should become, I finally couldn’t stay quiet any longer. This subject is as important to the industry, any particular agent or broker, or the public in general, as what color rag I use to check my car’s oil.

    They’re surely an easy target with their latest, and some, (including me) would call their weakest PR moves. But who has ever taken them seriously? Pick a real estate related subject, any subject. What lasting or even temporarily lasting and meaningful change has emerged from the fruitless womb of NAR?

    I would submit three — Nada, Zip, and None. The industry itself has made things happen from day one.

    Whenever they’ve gone up directly against lobbies which actually wield real life political power, they lose far more than they win. And so many of their claimed wins were in the bag anyway. I know, as I’ve been forced to be a member since 1969.

    Education? Are you on drugs? With exceptions that wouldn’t take up all the fingers on one hand, what they offer is embarrassing to thinking people. Want a for instance? Ask your cousin the Realtor about his blog, and watch the instantaneous RCA Dog look on his face. Want another one? The dropout rate of agents in any market, good or bad, is always high, as most of them couldn’t find their butts with two helpers, a map, and a GPS.

    Having a discussion on which way the NAR should be going is almost, but not quite a waste of time. They’ve never stopped me from doing anything but using my Mac to access the MLS systems around the country. Why? Because they’re either to damn lazy to hire my 16 year old next door neighbor to make the changes, they’re apathetic, or they don’t want me using a Mac. It’s still a non-issue to me, as it’s just to easy to circumvent.

    NAR has simply been a non-entity in my career.

    I’ve taken one course of education they’ve offered that was actually worth the time and the money. Since the subject matter was beyond most of them, they’ve left it alone, more or less. The instructors were, without exception, highly successful at doing exactly what they were teaching — a refreshing change from the norm.

    The NAR has one thing of value period — the MLS. It was created by local groups to enhance their efforts to serve the public. It’s a private entity. It’s grown into something that everyone is now attempting to pirate, using flowery words, and moral concepts, which blow warm and hard, but say nothing about their actual agenda.

    They want access to the brokers’ information, in order to avoid paying for services rendered. Anyone who doesn’t see that has been drinking far too much kool-aid.

    And yet, I still don’t care. Ask Russell Shaw what he says about all the help the MLS has been to his operation. After he stops laughing, his answer may surprise you. That guy markets his listings like is hair’s on fire. He uses all the latest technology he deems will get his paying clients what they’re paying for — Results.

    What’s gonna happen with our industry? In one sense I couldn’t care less, as they can’t take away my expertise, experience, performance track record, and/or knowledge. On the other hand, all the talk about brokers already disseminating their listings to the public in every way imaginable, is not on topic. It’s the brokers’ property to pass on in any way they deem fit — as long as they’re motivated by the best interests of their client. You remember them, right? The one who pays them for actual results?

    Successful licensees will not tell you they owe their success to NAR. If NAR went away tomorrow I wouldn’t know it ’till someone told me. Don’t mistake my valuation of them as antipathy. I’ve been inside my local board, a state/national function, without coercion, less than two dozen times in what will be 38 years next month.

    They simply don’t matter. It reminds me of the sports conversation that pops up every few years. It’s about how, pretty soon, soccer will be a major sport in the U.S. I’ve been hearing this pap for almost three decades now. It might happen, but not in Boomers’ lifetimes. It’s a wasted discussion.

    Allow me to point you to something of far more enduring value. Even attempting to point out how worthless this topic has become, is boring me. Read Lani’s letter to her husband. Redeem some of your valued time. At least her letter will add the value of a smile.

    Enjoy your weeeekennnnnnd.

     
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    President Bush Unveils “FHA-Secure” Program Today

    Today, President Bush Announced Steps At The Federal Level To Help Homeowners In Need Of Assistance Avoid Foreclosure. These steps will help homeowners having difficulty paying their mortgages and ensure that the problems now disrupting the housing industry do not happen again. The fundamentals of America’s economy are strong – economic growth is healthy, wages are rising, and unemployment is low. The markets are in a period of transition as participants are re-assessing and re-pricing risk. 

    The White House insists that this is not a bailout.  What are your thoughts?  What are the benefits or disadvantages of this temporary plan that aims to alleviate the pressure on the subprime drama?

    ———–
    Comments are encouraged!

     

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  • 13 comments

    Have a great Labor Day, but don’t leave town without submitting your Odysseus Medal entries

    Cathy just made me think of this, bless her beautiful soul. Deadline for this week’s Odysseus Medal competition is Sunday at 12 Noon PDT/MST. The People’s Choice voting is Sunday afternoon as usual, so take a break form your end of summer reveling to cast a ballot. But take care of those nominations now, before you forget. You can nominate yourself or any post you admire here or, more easily, here.

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    Individual success is not a collective endeavor

    What’s the issue here, really? I am speaking of the anti-NAR revolution at hand, of course. Is it:

    1. The public’s poor perception of the profession and the professional? While some may argue that NAR, in their ongoing (and I will argue) oft-misguided yet well-intended attempts to be supportive of its members, has done more damage than good to our collective credibility, it is all too convenient to place blame entirely on their shoulders.
    2. The standards, ethics, and professionalism of many agents which we find substandard and a drag on our consumer’s perception of value? Guilty-by-association is certainly a concern, even a reality, yet this applies to any career class.
    3. Licensing standards which by their very nature serve not to limit entry to those who are competent but serve rather as an open invitation to anyone who can fog a peep hole? The tricky part here is that the skill sets which the truly great agents must possess are not testable; Entrepreneurship, moral and ethical resolve, devotion to hard work, business acumen, commitment to personal and professional evolution, a right-brain which not only coexists but works in harmony, with the left, and compassion for the client are all attributes which can only be demonstrated once given the opportunity to perform.

    Lest I am accused of just having made a case for sending agent licensing requirements to the guillotine, let me assure you that this is not the case. I have had some pretty hideous plumbers in the past, and have even been to some really terrible doctors. While I will consequently not give my business to these poor performers again, I will still expect my next plumber or doctor to have met some minimum training standards. And I understand that these “credentials” are not a guarantee that they will be spectacular at what they do, but it is a starting point.

    Ask not what your profession (or professional organization) can do for you. Maybe it’s time that each of us who has more than a casual concern for our reputation and our future survival ask instead what we can individually do for the profession. No cooperative of those claiming to be ethically, skillfully or attentively superior will serve to sway public perception. It will always be the lowest common denominator in this or any profession which is most visible and as a result will tend to define the whole.

    The biggest single impediment to a profession populated with only qualified “professionals”, I still submit, is the broker. Knowing that relatively few who arrive at the new licensee table ready to eat will actually enjoy a meal, hiring has become (has always been) a numbers game. Some initial vetting, a true we-the broker-are-qualifying-you, interview process prior to showing them to their cubicle would minimize the cluttering of the industry with people who will only serve to propagate a tarnished image. “Come one, come all, may the best man” win is not in the broker’s, in the consumer’s or in my best interest.

    Of course, this is not a realistic proposition. One broker having taken a stand will just result in another offering up their guest room to the Most Likely to Not Succeed Crowd, and we are back to where we started. And where we started is in a very unique, very hybrid career, one that will never require seven years of secondary education to enter, because there is no education which can entirely qualify you to succeed. The qualities of the successful agent are intrinsic, inherent, and to be validated only through performance.

    What we can do as individuals, not as members of a the whole, is start making our own distinctions. You are an exceptional agent? Prove it. You are more committed to ethics and to consumer experience and service than the Average Bear? Show me, Yogi. There will always be some “underqualified”, ill-prepared bonehead posing as a your neighborhood specialist and getting the business of those who could have been your clients. So, you know you could have done a better job for them? Forget about it.

    It is not reasonable to expect to overhaul an entire industry through an organizing of rebel armies approach. The closest we will come to effecting true change is through the use of the weapons of discourse, debate, and ultimately higher learning which we employ here, and apply there – in our actions. 

    My father-in-law had a fabulous saying about social gatherings. It’s not about who didn’t come, it’s about who did, and in this case, who did come are your clients. Provide an exceptional experience, and I suspect they will be talking a whole lot more about that experience than anything the collective lesser agent, or NAR, might be up to.

     
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    What can sellers do differently to get their houses sold?

    This is me in the Arizona Republic (permanent link):

     
    What can sellers do differently to get their houses sold?

    There are three houses for sale on my street. All three are comps to each other — around 2,000 square feet, three bedrooms, two baths. They’re priced within a thousand dollars of each other.

    House number one is in excellent shape, a turn-key value. It isn’t selling. House number two is in decent shape, but it has a western exposure. It isn’t selling. House number three has been owned as a rental for years, a fact that is completely obvious at a glance. The lawn goes for weeks at a time without being mowed. Amazingly enough, this house isn’t selling either.

    Clearly, even the best of the three is overpriced for this market. How can we tell? Because it isn’t selling, even though it’s the pick of the litter.

    What does that say about house number two? And what conclusion might the seller of dowdy, run-down house number three draw, if he were of a mind to draw conclusions?

    Here’s a better question: What might the seller of house number three do differently, if he actually wants his house sold?

    It’s satisfying, I suppose, to blame “the market.” Too many sellers. Too few buyers. The lenders are in turmoil. What can you do?

    My answer: Whatever it takes.

    Homes are being sold every day. There are fewer buyers than there were a year ago, a lot fewer than two years ago. But even though too many homes are on the market, some of them are selling.

    Which ones? Those homes that offer the greatest perceived value to buyers.

    And where is that value perceived? In the quality of the home or in a bargain price.

    The seller of house number three can beat “the market” in one of two ways. He can refurbish the home to the quality of house number one, then undercut it on price by five or ten percent. Or he can leave the house the way it is — and cut the price by twenty percent.

    Either way, “the market” is ready to make deals. All motivated sellers have to do is meet it halfway.

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    Why supplanting the National Association of Realtors can work where other reform initiatives have failed

    I call it the Law of Somebody’s Dinner. Free market solutions to problems tend to work because entrepreneurs or investors won’t get to eat if they don’t. Government solutions tend not to work because government employees get paid the same — or even more — even if nothing works as advertised. Economists would call “Somebody’s Dinner” an incentive system, and predicting whether some proposed idea will work is a matter of evaluating the incentives — weighing the perceived attainable rewards against the anticipated costs.

    This is why the existing reputation management sites for real estate agents tend not to work. The site itself has an incentive — traffic equals advertising dollars. The agents may perceive a reward in the form of a competitive advantage. But the actual end-users, consumers, do not perceive that they have anything to gain or lose, either from reporting agent activity or from perusing reports. In the case of reporting, the activity could only be seen as charity, doing good for others with no anticipated downstream return. Worse, consumers, especially buyers, are unlikely to make critical distinctions among real estate agents.

    So why would I expect the kind of certification system we’re talking about to work so well that it could supplant the NAR in the minds of real estate consumers?

    Because a very rigorous certification system would be a significant long-term marketing advantage to the certificants. Individual agents already try to market to the kinds of strengths certification would verify, but their efforts are too localized to have a significant impact upon public perceptions.

    But if enough first-quality agents were to pursue certification, and if they were to market their certified status among their clients, we could achieve a critical mass that would eliminate uncertified agents from the mainstream of real estate transactions.

    The incentive is the agent’s first, and only secondarily the client’s. In fact, consumers stand to realize great benefits by working with highly-skilled, scrupulously-ethical agents, but they only agree with that idea in the abstract, at most, for now.

    But because certification brings agents a significant added marketing value, certified agents have a very strong incentive to promote the benefits of working with certified agents in their marketing and in their face-to-face presentations.

    The secondary consequence — better and more ethical real estate transactions — is far more important and far more beneficial. But the consuming public, for now at least, is not well-enough informed to seek out better-trained, more-ethical agents. In their eyes, judging by their behavior, the perceived rewards for due diligence do not measure up to the anticipated costs. We can regard this as an error, if we like, but this is how things work out in reality right now.

    But the primary consequence, a significant marketing advantage for certified agents, is positively viral. Agents who do better by their clients, and who pursue certification as a testament to the quality of their care, will do even better in the future as a consequence of attaining certification. They will promote the idea because promoting the idea will work not just to the benefit of their clients but to their own direct benefit.

    As real estate agents, we are always looking for that edge over the competition, and the alignment of financial incentive with good behavior is the essence of a free market approach to a seemingly intractable problem.

     
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  • 11 comments

    Burn Down the Mission: Elton John reads the Tumbleweed Manifesto to the National Association of Realtors

    I’ll have more later, but of all the many reasons the NAR deserves to be disintermediated, perhaps the simplest and most obvious is that these congenital retards cannot catch the frolickin’ Cluetrain.

     
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    Supplanting the National Association of Realtors will turn it into a toothless vampire overnight

    The Minnesota Association of Realtors went on another foot-shooting expedition yesterday, again calling for paid-up members of the statewide trade group to quit the business so other paid-up members can earn more money. I made fun of them the last time they did this, and I could easily have another go at them tonight.

    But: Here’s the thing: What good would it do? After money, criticism is the best gift you can have from the marketplace, but many people don’t know how to respect that kind of wealth. They suck at what they do and they intend to go on sucking, and if you point out what they’re doing wrong, they puff up into an outraged defensive posture and try to portray you as the bad guy.

    Even worse, the NAR hierarchy seems to self-select for mental and moral midgets, mealy-mouthed morons, minds enmired in mush, utterly incapable of conceiving that the only emotion they inspire among the membership is a tepid sort of revulsion. There is no sport in making fun of them. It literally is like picking on actual retardates. It’s not funny, it’s cruel.

    Plus which, criticism, even raucously funny criticism, is not what’s needed. Here is the full and final cure to the problem posed by the National Association of Realtors, along with every rancid state and local branch:

    Supplantation.

    Not replacement. We can’t get rid of it, no more than we can get rid of the cartel-creating real estate licensing laws the NAR foisted off on an unsuspecting public. We can’t kill this vampire, no matter how much blood-sucking havoc it wreaks. But we can rob it of all its power.

    How? By supplanting it. Just as the NAR seeks to elevate Realtors — dues-paying members — above mere licensees, we can create another, higher organization to deprive mere Realtors of any valuable marketing cachet.

    This is something the Council of Residential Specialists could have done, but it, like REBAC, is nothing more than a lap-dog of the NAR. The real estate broker’s level of licensing could have and should have meant something serious, but, if anything, it’s an even worse joke than the salesperson’s license.

    What is needed is an analogue to the Underwriters Laboratories for residential real estate agents, an objectively determined standard of excellence — hard to get, easy to lose, and impossible, ultimately, to do business without.

    Do you see? By marketing to this much higher standard of care, and by promoting that standard of care to the public, we will essentially eliminate every lower category of licensee. They can scrap over the scrub business, but every duly diligent buyer or seller will opt for a certified practitioner — in exactly the same way that only fools buy electrical equipment lacking the UL seal.

    Given where we are technologically, this can be a hugely rigorous, essentially real-time certification process. Transaction histories and reputation-management come together under one roof, with mediation of conflicts and on-demand search of a practitioner’s history. This is so much more than the state licensing authorities are doing, and, of course, the many-tentacled NAR is doing virtually nothing to police for bad behavior.

    I believe in capitalism, not as an economic policy but as a moral philosophy. Perfect justice is a piece rate and a toll road: You are rewarded for what you actually do, and you pay for the values you actually receive. A truly intelligent way of marketing real estate representation is one that celebrates and rewards good behavior — and massively penalizes vice. Structuring things that way assures that the good people will get progressively better and the bad people will get flushed out of the system with dispatch.

    This is what state licensing does not do.

    This is what the NAR does not do.

    But this is what we can do, all on our own.

    And, having done it, licensing will be understood by everyone to be a meaningless formality. And the NAR and the MLS systems will simply be crosses we will have to bear — for now.

    What’s wrong with the NAR? Everything. What should we do to fix it? Nothing. All we have to do is supplant it, and the NAR will become a toothless vampire overnight.

    Amend me, if you would. Tell me what I’m missing. Tell me what I could be seeing more clearly. Tell me what this thing is called, for goodness’ sakes. If you’re flush with cash and you want to throw some seed money at something that really matters to the future of real estate, I’d love to talk. I am not the committee type, and I am not the campaigning type, but this seems to me to be a chance to make an enduring difference in the way the real estate business is done. What can we do to make it happen?

     
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  • 29 comments

    Flashed cards: “Look, up in the sky! It’s SuperSalesman!”

    Benjamin Bach:

    I receive more comments on these than any other card I’ve ever seen.

    Say what you will, this is the most ambitious card we’ve seen so far.

    And do please say it with pictures.

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    What Should a New Agent Do? How About Paying Showing Agents by The Hour?

    Here are the emails I responded to tonight:

    Hi Russell…I have learned about you from the book Billion Dollar agent. I have been on your site No Hassle Listings this afternoon and I’m most impressed. It is good to see some of the leaders of our industry taking the consultive approach and pay me only for the value I add.

    Russell, I’m changing my business model and starting a team only brokerage here in Jacksonville Florida. We have been building websites and beta testing our value added products. Everything is coming together nicely. However, I’m surveying several people in hopes that I can get a industry understanding on three areas of importance. I would appreciate if you would share with me your compensation plans for Listing Specialists and Buyer Specialists and your weekly, monthly or annual expections for each.  Your years of experience tells me you have probably tested several programs. I’m planning on using Licensed Assistants who are paid $25/showing and $75/open house etc.

    I want LS’s and BS’s doing only listing presentations, business development and negoitating contracts. Your thoughts would be appreciated. The third question is How does your Guarantee Sale program work? percentage reduction?, do you have investors who step in?

    Thank you in advance for any information you are willing to share. Wishing you much continued success,

    ___

    My name is David Miller I’m located in Boston. I read “the millionaire agent” and got your name from that book. I was very impressed in your companies accomplishments!! I just have a couple of questions: What is the most important thing you can do starting out? In terms of marketing what is the most important and most effective…..do you use a telemarketer?. Thank you for your time. David

    ___

    Russell,

    I just finished listening to the most recent podcasts on Bloodhound blog. Thanks again! I find your delivery to be very engaging and your material to be valuable. Again, thank you for being so generous. 

    I hope you will address topics for brand new agents who do not have the processes in place to improve on. Since the drop out rate is high in this business new agents can benefit immensely from your knowledge and attitude. I have shared your audio files with a couple of new agents in my office. We have all enjoyed discussing your views and your opinions. I think that we all are better off for the time we have invested listening to you.Thanks again for your willingness to share your knowledge!
     Best wishes,___

    ___

    You will be able to see the improvement in the speed at which it loads and the lighting – thanks to a Saturday evening spent with Allen Butler. Thanks Allen! I leave early tomorrow for Santa Clara – I’m speaking there for a Starpower Summit, like the one we had in Phoenix. I’ll be back late Thursday and am looking forward to your questions.

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  • 4 comments

    Would you be willing to change your legal name to Bloodhound Realty?

    Your first question is probably “what will you pay me” followed by “wait, what?”  According to Mashable.com, a web developer short on cash has decided to auction off the rights to have his name legally changed to the name of the highest bidding company (most people sweat over providing a product or a service, but this guy is genius).  This process will land him in the Guinness Book of World Records along with the highest bidder- talk about exposure!  Leave it to a dude in cargo shorts and a wrinkled screen T to create a brilliant marketing plan- he’s pimpin’ out his own name! 

    This leads me to ask three things:
    (1) Do you have a way to market yourself, your product or your services that is more unique than your competitors (or more unique than ANYONE for that matter)?  Cargo shorts dude certainly did and his ingenuity will likely pay his bills while he’s chillin’ in the blogiverse (you know he’s got to be a blogger) in his La-Z-Boy!

    (2) Here in Austin several Realtors have actually changed their names- not after their brokerages, but perhaps to look cute on a business card.  There are several ladies who have changed their names to the likes of Sunny Happy Day (who is really named this, is a friend of my mother’s, but not a Realtor).  Too cheap for lipo or implants?  Change your name!  Would YOU do this for business?  I’m thinking of changing mine to Snarky Chick Anglin…

    (3) What’s your guess for his highest bidder?  Can you imagine meeting a guy at a party and him saying “Hi, my name is Cola.  Coca Cola.”  Or, “what’s up, I’m Banana Republic!”  “Thank you for calling, this is Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, how may I direct your call?”  Share your ideas for funny brand names that could end up simultaneously making this dude rich while scarring him. 

    ————
    Comments are encouraged!

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  • Giving thanks for a new Bloodhound: Rob Chipman joins us today.

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    Active Rain Unleashes Impression Advertising

    If they’re ain’t no margin, there ain’t no mission. Active Rain has released it’s revenue model to the network of 43,000 members. My only question is, “What took you so long?”

    In the interest of fairness, Jon Washburn, Caleb Mardini, & Matt Heaton are tech-guys. They always felt that if they build it, the money will come. And build it they did. In the course of 13 months, Active Rain has grown to over 43,000 registered members and has established a community blogging platform that is unparalleled in the RE.net.

    The idealistic approach of MyHouseKey.org was a great one but it failed because of a lack of participation. No points? No interest.
    Gather.com is another approach to communal blogs outside of the RE.net. Gather also uses the point system and offers rewards of free Borders’ gift cards for serial contributors. It seems to attract a sort of pseudo-intellectual Myspace user and doesn’t get the communal participation Active Rain does.

    The boys of Active Rain have done a great job of balancing the fragile egos often associated with top-producing Realtors and loan originators. They’ve established community guidelines and let the members pretty much police themselves. Their Localism.com portal is an interface with consumers. They won the coveted Inman Innovation Award in San Francisco. earlier this month; it couldn’t have happened to a nicer group of guys.

    The climb to revenue wasn’t an easy one. Rumors abounded of lead poaching, black hat SEO, and other conjecture about the unbeleiveable and meteoric rise in the RE.net; none of it was true. Strategic alliances, partnerships, news sharing with mainstream media, and rumors of a buyout were all bandied about as the boys toiled away. They kept their focus and rolled with the punches.

    Now, they want to get paid. Bravo! The success of the Active Rain Real Estate Network comes from the collaboration among its members. Members refer business back and forth, share marketing ideas, and help change the way we do business with the consumer. It is, without a doubt, the single best way a Luddite can turn into an e-marketer in the real estate space in 90 days or less.

    So…who should advertise on Active Rain and Localism? Loan originators should DEFINITELY advertise; they are outnumbered by potential referral source six to one. Stagers should, too. Investments brokers, short sale specialists, commercial agents, coaches/trainers, appraisers, vendors, and anyone who may benefit from the “stuff” that real estate professionals buy will find a thriving and enthusiastic group on Active Rain.

    Here’s to the success of the boys of Active Rain-they deserve every penny they charge.

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    Flashed cards: The Realty Butler is served three times over

    More from Richard Riccelli on ideas for Allen Butler’s business card:

    An object lesson in the art of the possible.

    (Yes, Chuchundra, you are of course right**), since Vettriano’s licensing fees are likely to be a bit dear on a Realtor’s business card budget, let’s quickly explore what can be accomplished with an art budget of a few hundred dollars.

    Visit your favorite stock photography/illustration source (getty, veer, jupiter leap to mind), navigate to the rights-free (cheap and forever) areas, type in your keywords, and see what suggests itself.

    And if you have the decided advantage of a name that is also its own mnemonic, all the better to create a brand ID, if not a brand image.

    The object is to stick with it. Like a bulldog, if not a bloodhound. (I know, it’s a pug. Stock photography does has its limitations.)

    __
    **p.s. and thx for the You Tube clip. Most amusing. I think I was in that room, just out of frame.

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    The Odysseus Medal: Keeping pace with a very fast crowd

    I am in love with this idea, The Odysseus Medal competition.

    We judged ordinary Carnivals several times, and I was persistently underwhelmed with the overall quality of the entries. We judged hard, so the winners were truly worthy of their honors. But too many of the also-ran entries were just link-bait, entered solely to get the link back from the judging weblog.

    We have none of that. I cut pretty ruthlessly to get to the short list, but we get nothing that is wildly off-topic or trooly stoopid — or stolen from another site. Instead, we’re seeing some insanely great posts, and picking just one winner is proving to be a very welcome but very difficult task.

    It’s that way for you folks, too. I can tell by the People’s Choice voting, which is always broad and deep.

    Together as writers, readers and judges, we are building something that matters, something that calls enduring attention to works of the mind that might otherwise just scroll away. The winners are worthy of note, to be sure, but simply to make the short list in this competition is a mark of excellence. If you make it this far, you’re keeping pace with a very fast crowd, an achievement hard to match.

    And with that, to the winners:

    Jeff Turner wrote an excellent post on why real estate video is unlikely to supplant virtual tours. I agree with his take and then some, and it’s something I’ve been meaning to write more about. But there are other, better uses for video in real estate. I’ve discussed a couple — videotaping your first tour of a home at the listing appointment, or taping the final walkthrough as a gift to the buyers. Russell Shaw brings us another, using video as a real estate sales training tool. Russ is just getting his sea-legs in the oceans of do-it-yourself video podcasting, but his initial effort won him this week’s People’s Choice Award.

    Who is not rapt paying attention to the world of mortgage lending? Yesterday at open house, seemingly, it was all anyone wanted to talk about. As the Times rundown on Countrywide makes plain, there is plenty of room for meaningful reform among lenders.

    All the usual suspects are screeching for new laws, of course, but this will serve only to enshroud the worst of practices under the cloak of government. Lenders could start by making lists of questions to ask when comparing loans — but good salespeople can “yes, but” those lists to death. A spreadsheet would be harder to fool — but harder to use, too. The ideal solution, I think, is a very rigorous Seal of Approval system, an Underwriters Laboratories for mortgage lenders. High and ever-escalating standards, with a strong marketing push to kill the remaining appeal of banks and brokerages unwilling to hew to those standards.

    Short of that, weblogging may be the best way for lenders to convey their integrity to borrowers. This week, David Porter proposed an idea for saving buyers money on the purchase of a home. The idea itself wasn’t bad — use a seller contribution to buy down the interest rate — except that David’s presumption is that buyers will stay in their new home for 30 years — without refinancing. His idea might be profitable anyway, assuming a more normal tenancy, but it would require a more rigorous but less definitive calculation. On the other hand, Mortgage Planner Dan Green suggests a different financial strategy with a more-reliable pay-off — using a cash-out refinancing to invest your equity in something other than your home. Dan’s idea wants a spreadsheet profitability analysis, too, along with an examination of tax consequences. Even so, with a practical hedge against declining home values, Dan wins this week’s Black Pearl Award.

    And: Picking an Odysseus Medal winner this week was not easy. Kris Berg was there with, count ‘em, two great articles. Michael Wurzer knocked my socks off with a very through explication of the conflict between an orderly creation of a national MLS system and the hurly-burly of the Realty.bots, the Web 2.0 real estate start-ups. Monetary policy, transparency, moral uplift and how to avoid self-inflicted spam — the menu was dizzying — and deliciously appetizing.

    But: In the end, there is only one best. The winner of the Odysseus Medal for this week is Jay Thompson, with The Sacrosanct 6% Commission — How About 12%?! I’m a sucker for ethics in real estate, of course, but Jay takes the ethical argument even further by showing what weblogging can do at its best. By taking the reader all the way through every part of the philosophical argument against bonus commissions, Jay not only shows his readers why they should be doing business with him with respect to this one issue, but why Jay is a better choice in every possible respect. He is explicitly taking away one objection — “What if you are secretly offered extra compensation to betray my interests?” — but in doing so, he is taking away every conceivable doubt about his honesty and integrity. This is the kind of marketing that really matters — the kind that isn’t marketing at all but which is, rather, a code of honor made manifest. And because of that — because the honor is real, and because Jay has committed himself to it by spelling it out — it’s the kind of marketing that produces continual and enduring results. And if that ain’t worth saluting, nothing is.

    Congratulations to the winners — and to everyone who participated. Deadline for next week’s competition is Sunday at 12 Noon PDT/MST. You can nominate yourself or any post you admire here or, more easily, here.

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