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Archive for February, 2009

The federal government’s housing casino will never play fair as long as there are votes to be bought by cheating

This is my column for this week from the Arizona Republic (permanent link). Since I wrote this on Tuesday, events have overtaken some details, but it remains that few if any borrowers in the Phoenix area will be able to renegotiate or modify their loans under the Obama plan. Everyone who used to have home equity will still get to bear their losses unassisted, however.

 
The federal government’s housing casino will never play fair as long as there are votes to be bought by cheating

To qualify for a renegotiated mortgage under the plan President Obama announced last week, your new loan can be as much as 105% of your old loan — which sounds to me like curing alcoholism with a good stiff drink.

But the people who are in the worst trouble on their loans bought with 100% financing. Even if there had been no decline in values, they probably could not refinance at 105%, not without bringing cash to cover the closing costs.

But, of course, the typical home in the West Valley is down 50% from its peak value in December of 2005.

Suppose you bought a new home for Christmas 2005, paying $275,000. If you get everything just right, you might be able to sell it today for $135,000. You still owe $275,000, but you can refinance your note at only $141,750 under the Obama plan.

Something’s going to have to give.

But what about the people who were move-up buyers in 2005? They may have put 50% down, which means they’ve lost all their equity, but they probably can’t lay claim on a hardship refinancing. What about the people who paid all-cash? Now we’re talking about people who have actually lost real money — their own money.

Meanwhile, many of the people who end up qualifying for restructuring could easily continue to pay on their notes. We all of us pay on our car loans, even though a car loses half its value when you drive it off the lot.

But we don’t think of our cars, clothing, furniture or appliances as investments. By mucking around in the real estate market, the federal government set up a system of middle class welfare, encouraging us to gamble on our homes as if they were leveraged stock issues — or casino games.

This has turned out to have unhappy consequences. A truly free market in real estate would be a boon to us all — but don’t hold your breath. The federal housing casino will never play fair as long as there are votes to be bought by cheating.

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Related posts:
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  • 12 comments

    Dual Agency Debated Outside of the Echo Chamber

    Google News plopped a link to a Blog post on SFGate.com (The San Francisco Chronicle’s Web site) about dual agency in front of me today.

    It’s always interesting to see a discussion about what Greg calls “…the insane way we compensate buyer’s agents in the residential real estate market” in the MSM, even if the arc of the dialog is predictable (“Agents are whores and criminals!”, “No we’re not”, “The traditional Real Estate model is dead!”, “No it isn’t!”, ad nauseum)

    Discussions in the Real Estate blogosphere on this topic have a certain navel-gazing quality to them. That is not the case when regular people, many of whom have been involved in a recent transaction have their say. My favorite comment from the thread:

    No conflict here. Just get the highest price for a seller and the lowest for the buyer at the same time. This is great!

    The way the Realtors, some of whom identify themselves and some of whom just embarrass themselves by shilling for the status quo in such an obvious manner that their identity is transparent, jump all over these discussions just adds fuel to the fire.

    The Realtors doth protest too much, methinks.

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  • 23 comments

    How does a success like REBarCamp avoid the shoe pinch of growing pains?

    Rob Hahn is at it again. He likes to instigate, but since he’s so charming, I fall for it. However, unlike our Fred v Gene cage fight, this time I’m serious.

    Rob thinks a clearinghouse for national sponsorships for Real Estate Bar Camps is a fine idea, and suggests BHG, or Trulia could step up to the plate.

    I don’t think it should become the organizer, or start putting rules and such into place (except the obvious unavoidable ones, like “don’t run off with the money”). But it would be helpful for those of us interested in sponsoring REBC’s.

    I vote eek.

    I like the idea of BarCamp- loose, free, perfect fit for my brain. And I like that it’s organized by passionate people. I have years of volunteer experience under my belt- big, national organizations, and little local organizations. I can appreciate and respect the time and talent that goes into creating a successful event. My concern with Rob’s suggestion is the fact that sponsors do get preferential treatment. Often this type of arrangement is benign, as in local businesses contribute $20.00 worth of coupons to help fill out a PTO raffle, but we are not talking about that. Although, as an aside, if REBC organizers are not looking at the local businesses- local inspectors, local lenders, local photographers as participants (and maybe they do?) then they might be missing some extraordinary partnering possibilities. Looking at the REBarCamp/Seattle site, it’s all national sponsors. Getting local companies involved would truly be in the BarCamp philosophy, wouldn’t it?

    Back to the point. Here’s the thing: Corporations don’t give to organizations, or un-organizations, out of the kindness of their hearts. They just don’t. They give because they expect something in return. Always. Their name here or there, their “presentation”, their branded junk, their “let us help you use our product” panel. BarCamps are free flowing and loose, the sponsor is twittering away with us, and golly darn-it, they are super nice! They bought us drinks at that other wingding- don’t you remember? What can it hurt if they become the go-to guys?

    It hurts because you can’t speak out against the person who pays you. You tell yourself you can. You want to believe you can. But when someone is holding the cash, then if you have the backbone to speak your mind, you tone it down, you choose to demur, you talk around the sponsor, because you don’t want them to pull their sponsorship.

    A strictly hypothetical example: Let’s say that Eric Blackwell decides to present something he’s passionate about at REBarCamp/Indy – no follow links and how they might hurt your business. Let’s say that the clearinghouse sponsor is, as Rob suggests, Trulia. Rudy B is a very nice guy, Eric B is a very nice guy, everyone involved in the organizing of REBarCamps are nice guys. No one wants to be a bad guy. On the other hand, Eric is adamant about teaching Realtors his thoughts and since BarCamp code says anyone can present anything, he proceeds.

    Well, it just so happens that Eric’s presentation is so popular that he is now in demand all across the Tri-state area at BarCamps. Not only REBarCamps, but PodCamps as well have heard of Eric the Rockstar and now the Twitterboard is lighting up like mad with hashtags and, pay attention, an anti-Trulia virus is spreading. Not among Realtors, but among bloggers in general who understand the power of link love. So the eyeballs are banning Trulia, and faster than you can say “pulling our sponsorship”….

    Okay, that’s an over-the-top hypothetical. Let’s think about a more true-to-life version.

    Eric and Eric want to give a presentation on the power of link love, and the evils of no follow, but being uber nice guys and business men, they don’t want to offend any sponsors, so they give a watered down version of the presentation they really want to give, and the attendees pick up on the general atmosphere, feel that something is being held back, and in BarCamp fashion- they walk. All that information is still stuck in fine brains of E&E. But here is the really sad part- next year attendance is down. Long live REBarCamp.

    Okay, I’m being silly, right? I’ve never been a BarCamp attendee and I don’t play one on TV. Tell me why I’m wrong. Any sponsorship is dangerous, but it’s necessary, I get that. So where do we find the balance? How do you pay the bills, not burn out your volunteers, and keep REBC from becoming one more Fish-In-A-Barrel Vendorfesk? Or, let’s say it’s not vendors, but the NAR, or local boards who want to jump on REBC in a big way. Are you entirely comfortable with that?

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  • 32 comments

    Do Loan Originators “See” The Opportunity?

    If you thought REALTORs were behind the learning curve in Web 2.0, you should see the lenders

    If you’re a loan originator, reading this article, congratulations.  There are some 300,000 working loan originators today and I’m guessing that about 1% of us are actively using social media.  Certainly, the REALTORs are way ahead of us but even they have room for growth.  If the participatory web is the future of commercial communication, this gives loan originators a tremendous opportunity to “stop buying donuts” and start teaching the close to 900,000 real estate agents, who don’t get it, how to succeed.

    Remember when you started in the business?  The most successful loan originator told you to “beat the streets and talk to agents”.  Today, beating the streets requires nimble fingers rather than worn-out shoe leather because…

    YOU CAN BRING VALUE TO THE AGENTS FROM YOUR COMPUTER

    Here’s the idea; teach the unwired agents how to get connected.  They’ll love you for it.  In the past four months, I’ve:

    If I market to 100 real estate agents, consistently, I close 100 purchase loans annually.  In California, that’s a pretty good living (even after I pay out my team members).  See where I’m going with this?

    TEACH THE UNWIRED AGENTS HOW TO GET CONNECTED- They’ll love you for it.

    What’s the matter?  You don’t feel confident enough to instruct the unwired agents about how to use social media?  Forget the folks here; they get it.  Certainly you’ll want to establish and nourish relationships here but the REAL opportunity lies in the other 90%- the unwired agents.  You already know more than they do…BUT…

    I’ll tell you how to learn even MORE so that you’re potent; an expert of sorts.

    Come to the BloodhoundBlog Unchained University of Online Marketing, in Phoenix, at the end of April:

    Who should come to BloodhoundBlog Unchained in Phoenix? If it’s part of your job to attract and convert new business, we have what you need. On BloodhoundBlog, we talk a lot about Social Media Marketing, but in our own businesses, we work with Social Media Marketing, Search Engine Optimization, Search Engine Marketing, Direct Marketing and good old-fashioned belly-to-belly sales. We also work directly with internet-based tools from PHP to RSS to CSS — acronym soup.

    Three days of intensive learning about the world of online marketing in real estate- that will make you an experts of sorts.  Spend the rest of the year giving talks, webinars, and office meetings, and you’ll have your 100 agents by Labor Day.  Oh!  You might learn a thing or two to help your business, too.

    Ask Scott Schang, of Porchlight Mortgage about the value of this conference:

    I consistently utilize online webinars, youtube videos and constant contact which creates a perpetual cycle of automated action items that convert contact into clients.

    My product is really education and expertise. Through my internet “presence” I am perceived (rightfully so I would hope) as an expert in my field. I think there’s also a familiarity you develop by being so easily accessible on SM sites.

    I have also met many professionals like yourself that have helped me to grow and become more innovative and creative through these on-line relationships.

    I have built working referral relationships with many other professionals and I believe that my social media reputation helps to facilitate these relationships.

    Bloodhound Unchained in Phoenix last year was really the launching point for my confidence to take more chances with my commitment to social media and I realized that I was far from alone in my search for enlightenment.

    Scott attended the first ever BloodhoundBlog Unchained.  Since then, you can find him in the SERPS for “California Teachers Loans“; Google considers him more relevant than CalSTRS itself.  Scott doesn’t stop with the SERPS, though.  He usues webinars, video, and classes to ge the word out and meet agents.  He started implementing his plan within weeks of attending Unchained.

    Look at what Kevin Sandridge learned at Unchained.  Using scenius.net, he’s able to include his content on two Florida REALTORs weblogs and benefits from multiple backlinks.  He learned more than just the “geeky” stuff, too:

    I had the pleasure of sitting with Brian, Sean Purcell, Teri Lussier, and Chris Brown for lunch at Denny’s during the recent Bloodhound Unchained Orlando 2008 Extravaganza.  As I munched on my Club Sandwich (and it was oh so tasty), Brian relayed the importance of putting yourself out there when you write a blog post – to stand for something – have a something to say – and let it rip!  I have to say, I’m still trying to find that “voice” in my own posts – but Brian did hit here, folks.  Love it or hate it, you’re forced to do one or the other.  In fact, I dare you to read the post in its entirety and not have a firm opinion one way or the other.

    These two guys are connecting with potential referral partners and ADDING VALUE.  They learned a lot of what they’re teaching at BloodhoundBlog Unchained…now, you can, too!

    We often expose bad vendors on BloodhoundBlog and catch a helluva lot of heat for it.  The cream always rises to the top, though.  Top of Mind Networks, President, Mark Green hosted me for a 45 minute social media marketing webinar.  When I was finished he said:

    I am attending Unchained Phoenix and am paying full price for my education.  In other words, there’s no good buddy discount at work here and I’m going because I want to take my business to the next level.  There are only 75 total seats available – that’s it (minus mine, so make that 74).  If you thought this 45 minute webinar was compelling, try immersing yourself in this stuff for 2 straight days.  Think you’ll be able to blow away a realtor with this knowledge?  You bet your sweet bippy you will.

    You bet your sweet bippy you will…pretty cool.  So, what’s the plan?

    First, come read about the three-day event.  We’re only offering 75 seats MAX and close to 50 are already gone.  The tuition is only $697 for the full three day event.

    That’s about one third of a loan commission.  Reserve your spot today.

    PS:  Still unconvinced that attending BloodhoundBlog Unchained won’t  help you learn how to teach the unwired REALTOR to get connected and snag you a referral partner for life?  Call me at (858)-777-9751 and let me tell you a few war stories.  Actually, I’ll knock off 100 bucks, right here, right now…just for reading this

    RESERVE YOUR SPOT AT THE REDUCED PRICE NOW

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  • 8 comments

    The Twitter Experiment: SWRake Seeks Companion for Possible LTR

    Alright.  I talked about posting my results on this post.

    Today’s pay pal of $575.00 allowed me to cross the finish line, early.   I have blogs to build, SEO to SEO, copy to write, PHP to PHP and more work than I can possibly do.  And way more than that, to channel Yogi.   Lawyers, a local News Station…Realtors®…and others have contracted with me to do everything from setting up social networking profiles (boring), to trying to aggregate information on their competitors (fun).  I have a pile of work to do.  From Twitter.  It’s an efficient clearing house when you’re ready to pick up the phone and be a catalyst and when you see phrases and words you dig at http://search.twitter.com.

    I’m not highly skilled as a cold caller compared to many.   But I make the calls.  That’s most of it.  And, I had one shitty response.  Only one.  But I pick up the phone, I say I’m enjoying your tweets.  And, I now have money to pay 2008′s extortion taxes.   I’ll probably have $14,000 after I pay my subs out. There’s money in twitter.  Just lying around.   If  I’m a mortgage lender, EVERY Realtor® would get a phone call in EVERY state I could lend in.  Why?  Because being ON twitter is instant credibility & rapport.

    I didn’t spend hours doing this, really.   I spent probably about 70-75 minutes a day initially calling, and then I did follow up, scheduled through ACT 6.0 now that I have my PC working on my MAC.   (Act 6.0 was the pinnacle of single user CRMs) .  I also asked the Twitterers for referrals that WEREN’T on Twitter.  That was $8,000 of my $25,150.    I have probably another $4,000-8,000 in business I could extract if I’d follow up with zeal and vigor.

    And there’s the rub.   See, I need someone to manage and do the work.  I’ve sold it, gotten project requirements, I’ve found people with real needs to be helped.   And I’m looking for someone to help grind out the work so I can honor my clients, and keep the pace up.  I want someone that has some skill in social networking, some ability to write, a little SEO experience, and a happy attitude.  I’m looking hard for a long term partner.  I’ll do most of the selling, and much of the work.  Someone else will get income to keep me from getting into trouble…doing some work.

    I’m looking for someone that:

    • can give 30+ hours a week..with more time available as revenue comes  in.
    • honors clients and is grateful to have ‘em.
    • works hard and fast, and knows that a deadline is part of a contract
    • Is familiar with WP, HTML, SEO, Social Networking, and Google.
    • Does a little teaching on what makes someone successful at social media.
    • Can make videos and sound semi coherent on said videos.
    • Can set up and configure a client’s WP without a problem.
    • Is dedicated to getting better at getting better every day
    • Willing to stay doing 15% charity/pro-bono work.
    • Can do this for as long as its fun.

    I’m looking for a PARTNER and not an employee.  I can handle writing the deal up, getting paid, collecting bills, etc.  I’ll hire an employee if I must, but the kind of person that wants to be someone’s bitch an employee is probably not for me.  I want accountability, honesty, effort, and a fiduciary responsibility to our clients.   I plan to focus on some specific services (though I don’t yet know what they are).

    So, adding Twitter as another angle for revenue has, for the time being, allowed me to do loads.    I’ll double my sales volume if I can do it and honor my clients.  And if you’re reading this blog, you might be a good fit.  I want to keep connecting and being a catalyst.  I needs me a shepherd.  Contact me at chris@genuinechris.com and help me use cold calling to bring the magic of technology to folks the world over.

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  • 2 comments

    A bumper sticker for our times…

    Get your own.

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  • 16 comments

    We know sheep will follow a Judas goat to their slaughter, as will cattle. Now the NAR is testing the idea on lemmings…

    Todd Carpenter becomes one with the Borg and the charming little lemmings elbow each other out of the way to dive off the cliff head first.

    One of two things will happen: Todd will discover he’s made a terrible mistake and will quit this job with dispatch — I hope very loudly. Or: Todd will deliver us to our slaughter.

    Anyone who expects anything other than evil from the National Association of Realtors has either not been paying attention, or, much worse, embraces that evil.

    In any case, this is not something to be celebrated, not even to affect to be “nice” in chorus with the rest of the lemmings.

    The NAR may want to infest our world in order to destroy it. More likely, they want to take it over.

    What they certainly do not want is to approach the public as we do — openly, authentically, concealing nothing. The entire edifice of residential real estate is founded on secrets and lies, and, as long as it is, the NAR will be nothing but a cesspit of tyrannical motives and vendorslut con games.

    And — more is the pity — Todd Carpenter cannot take their money without being their shill and their Judas goat — or worse.

    I’m saddened by this, because of all the gutless big-name real estate webloggers, Todd has more guts than most. But nothing good for us will come of this, and the only good that can come of it for Todd is for him to escape with his scruples intact as quickly as he can.

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  • 42 comments

    engenu Epiphany #1: Folders become pages

    When I saw this a few days ago on BHB, I was not sure I could come up with anything “helpful”.

    Like most folks, when I first looked at engenu last year, I just didn’t “get” it.  In fact, I didn’t “get”  it until just yesterday when I decided to take on this little challenge.

    Understanding the power of engenu requires one fundamental paradigm shift.  And that shift is this:  Folders become pages.

    When you build a standard-issue web site, you think in terms of pages. If you are creating a web site for, say,  a listed property, you most likely have a page for the property description, another page talking about the neighborhood, another page for your bio and contact information, etc.

    In engenu, folders become pages.

    In engenu, you add a folder for a particular topic, instead of creating a page for that topic. And when you process that folder through engenu, that folder becomes a page.  For example, to create a page for your bio information, you start with an empty folder named “about me.”

    If the very first page you created in engenu was a slideshow from a folder full of images, that’s great, and engenu does that extremely well, but if that is all you did, you may have missed the necessary paradigm shift.

    To experience the paradigm shift, try this instead:

    The prerequisites are a). Have engenu installed and working on one of your sites, and b). Have an FTP program and an basic idea of how to use the FTP program.

    Start your FTP program, and in the panel for your local computer create a new folder.  Name the folder “About Me”.  That’s it.  Leave it as an empty folder.

    Still in the FTP program, connect to your server/host.

    Upload the empty folder to your server/host.

    Exit the FTP program and go to yoursite.com/engenu.  Click on the name of the folder (About Me) and engenu’s editor will open.  Paste a short bio into the “Body copy” text box.  Click “Save and Continue”  then click “Preview Saved Changes” .

    Your empty “About Me” folder became a web page.

    Think about that:  You can create a whole hierarchy of folders (empty or not), nested inside of one another.  You upload that whole hierarchy to your server.  Process through engenu, and each folder becomes a separate web page, linked on the sidebar of the master page.

    With engenu you can simply create the entire structure of a site before you ever add a single sentence of content.  More on that later. Then I’ll tackle custom skins.

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  • 10 comments

    “Appliance” is not a verb!

    As a purveyor of Real Estate Search Engines that function best when they have text to work with, and as a guy who holds both a journalism degree and the English language in high regard, I often find myself wincing in pain when I read the descriptions that end up on Property Detail pages.

    Lately, I have noticed two new “words” creeping into the bastard child of English that is the Real Estate lexicon: “applianced” and “fireplaced”.

    Both of these nouns that have been horribly mutated into past-tense verbs are often accompanied by that harbinger of terrible writing, the adverb, as in “fully applianced” and “newly fireplaced”.

    What the Hell does “fully applianced”" mean? If the dishwasher has been stolen out of a REO, does that make it “partly applianced”? If a foreclosure still has the pipes in the walls, is it “fully coppered”?

    Not to get all Andy Rooney on you, but at a time when people are questioning both the need for and general quality of Real Estate professionals, you aren’t helping yourselves when your most potent marketing tool — the description of a listing you publish on the Web — sounds like it was written as a late homework assignment in the back seat of the short bus on the way to reform school.

    Now I know that many people regard grammar books with the same level of enthusiasm normally reserved for a root canal, but there is one grammar book out there that makes the subject as painless as a nitrous-induced laughing fit. It is called The Elements of Style, also known as “Strunk and White” for the two men responsible for the original version.

    William Strunk, who was EB White’s English professor at Cornell, wrote the original “little book” in the 1940′s. It was called the “little book” because the grammar part is just 14 pages, and it is written as a series of easy-to-remember commands, like “Omit Needless Words”.

    (To which, if I were writing the Real Estate Description Edition, I would add “Don’t make shit up.”)

    EB White was asked to update his old professor’s grammar book, and he added a section on style. If all you know of EB White is Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little, then you may not be aware that, as a regular contributor to the New Yorker,  EB White wrote some amazing non-fiction. EB White offering pointers on style is like getting batting tips from Babe Ruth.

    So please, for the love of God, do me and your potential buyers a favor: Before we start seeing listings described as “fully floored” or “partially cabineted” get an updated  copy of The Elements of Style and put it to good use.

    If you follow the simple rules and pick up a tip or two on style, you will end up with longer, better descriptions because you will be writing in fully formed sentences. Its better for readers, its better for search engines and, I swear, its painless.

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  • 23 comments

    Getting Paid to be Motivated

    I don’t know about the rest of you, but I love marketing.  I love figuring out a theme and creating the copy and running a campaign.  What I have a lot more difficulty with is prospecting.  The daily grind of converting people who haven’t met me into people who want to elect me mayor.  I read posts by Jeff Brown and Chris Johnson and I get all fired up like when I was a stock broker: 200 calls a day and all the throat lozengers you can swallow.  Then I’ll read something by Greg Swann or Brian Brady and I’m speeding down the 2.0 path toward Social Media Marketing Mecca.  But at the end of the day (actually the beginning of the day for me), I still need to do the basics: phone calls, emails, letters and so on.  I’ve got HEAP running some of that for me and I use Facebook and I’m usually bleeding somewhere from all my efforts to skin cats!  It’s a whole lot to digest on the salary we’re paid… Oh yeah, we’re not paid a salary.  We’ve got to keep all those balls in the air AND wait for the big pay days when an escrow finally does close.  Come on… admit it: sometimes a little daily motivation would help.

    Lately, I’ve been monetizing my efforts.  Nothing ground breaking here; just some good old fashioned methods for spicing up the day.  If you’re looking for a little more excitement, give this a try.  (Warning: involves a little bit of math.  If you don’t DO math, or you’re already sufficiently motivated by the repo guy outside the door… skip this post now and save yourself the headache.)

    One for the Money
    Know your dollar figures.  There are two dollar figures I care about: What is my average Gross Commission Income (GCI) per transaction? and What monthly  income do I expect? (This can be found in the business plan you create and update each year… right?)  I live in San Diego and work with lots of investors, so my expected GCI is $7500 per transaction.  I live in San Diego and pay a hefty “sun tax” so my income expectation is $75,000 per month.  (Go Big or Go Home!)

    Two for the Show
    Know your basic numbers.  What do I mean by that?  I mean, on average, how many clients lead to a transaction and what type of prospecting campaign is going to yield those numbers.  Personally, I subscribe to the basic numbers in Gary Keller’s tremendous book:  The Millionaire Real Estate Agent.  That means my data base is divided into two groups:

    • the people I’ve met (called, surprisingly,  METs) are dripped on 33 times annually with an expectation of 1 repeat piece of business and 1 referral piece of business for every 12 METs in the database (#METs / 12 x 2)
    • and those I am prospecting to blindly (often called a Farm), with 1 monthly contact each and an expectation of 1 transaction a year for every 50 people in the database (#Farm / 50 x 1)

    Three to Get Ready
    Know your average percentages.  Let’s make it easy on ourselves and say that your NET – meaning after your split, any splits you pay out, market expenses are covered and you’ve paid your business expenses – is 50%.  For every dollar of GCI, you put 2 quarters in your pocket.  Not bad.

    Four to Go!  (look out… here comes the math)
    To earn $75,000 I must gross $150,000.  I’ve decide the appropriate mix for me is 600 METs and a 7000 person farm.  The METs lead to 100 transactions (600/12 x 2) at $7500 each for a total of $750,000.  The farm leads to 140 transactions (7000/50 x 1) at $7500 each for a total of $1,050,000.  Combined that is $1.8 million in GCI.  Divided by 12 months equals a gross of $150,000.  So far, so good.

    My 600 METs require 33 touches each or 19,800 activities in one year.  The 7000 in my Farm require 12 touches each or 84,000 activities in one year.  Dividing the METs GCI of $750,000 by 19,800 activities yields $38 per activity.  On the Farm side, the GCI of $1,050,000 divided by 84,000 pays me $12.50 per activity.

    Rock & Roll
    First of all, it’s interesting to note that the METs return three times as much per activity; they also cost more in mailings and time.  You’ll have to check your own ROI and decide what mixture is best for you.  Once I have these numbers, I can use them to motivate myself financially; here’s how:

    Go to whatever accounting software you are using right now.  Create a new account called Future Earnings.  At the end of each day total up all the activities you tracked (you do track all your activities… right?) and deposit $38 for every MET activity and $12.50 for every Farm activity.  Emailed 200 Mets?  That’s 200 x $38 which means you made $7600.  Not a bad day.  Watch your Future Earnings account grow.  Every time you get an actual commission check, deduct your average (in this case $7500) from the account.

    Voila, you can now watch your “bank account” grow EVERY DAY.  More importantly, you can see at a glance how your business is doing.  What’s in the Future Earning account this month?  You can be fairly sure that’s what will be in your real account in 60 – 90 days.  Did I make any money today?  Well let’s see: wrote two blog posts… don’t get paid for those, read lots of interesting stories about real estate marketing… don’t get paid for those, called 10 of my METs… Yes!  Made $380 today.  Hmmm, that’s a long way from $75,000 in a month.  Better get my arse in gear.

    It’s not that all those other activities aren’t important.  It’s just that now we can prioritize our day a little better (e.g. no reading until I’ve made $2000 in deposits).  Plus, it keeps us focused on what’s important (you get paid for that which makes you money – everything else is secondary).  Best of all: you get “paid” daily to help keep you motivated!  (Now, if I could just find the checkbook that goes with my Future Earnings account…)

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  • 3 comments

    Number1Expert – Again? R U Serious?

    In May of last year, Eric Bramlett shined the light on an apparent link building scheme that Trulia and Number1Expert had **apparently** **allegedly** been doing, having 3 links to Trulia via a little map widget installed on thousands of unsuspecting REALTORS’ sites created by N1E… Here’s the post that started the fun.

    I got the honor of creating the graphic for that post. (read: enjoyed it and would do it again) Despite our efforts to educate REALTORS, many / most of the links remained. Most REALTORS were too busy with their own lives to realize that N1E was using them to help the competition after charging the REALTOR to build their web presence.

    Fast forward to this morning. Now it’s my buddy Jon Karlen’s (insert hat tip) turn with the flashlight. He sends me an email, noting that a Florida REALTOR’s site now has a Homes.com map widget instead of Trulia. I do a little digging using the same technique that Eric Bramlett used… and VIOLA!, it appears to me that they have done this to many of the same Number1Expertsites…again. Yes it (Homes.com) is a sister company of N1E. (Dominion…appropriate parent company name, methinks) Yes, they only have 1 link. The rest is the same,no?. Am I missing something here? If you are a N1E customer, you are **likely** **apparently** feeding your competitors…yet again.

    (Inlookers: Yes, this is the same Trulia who insisted that they made no changes after dropping in the search engines…and they magically reappeared) TO BE CLEAR: I am NOT saying that this is cause and effect, but the timing? Interesting coincidence. My target here is Number1Expert, but no matter. I could have sworn that Trulia widgets were on those sites up until recently…(I will check).

    Note to Number1Expert customers:
    Yet again, link love from your site is apparently being used to feed your competitors. The first time “could” have been an accident….now? Ummm…OK…maybe it is an accident too.Your call. I am just here to point out where the links are going…not to draw conclusions as to WHY.

    Owning your own web presence also means defending your self against those who power your competition, at least in my view.

    Thoughts?

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  • 9 comments

    You get it, right? I mean people are looking for experts. Well for a few dollars more…

    Surely this landed in your inbox this morning as well.  Maybe there was something just like it.   But I’m seeing a bright future for the site that aims to “revamp the way we define words in United States.”

    Experts in United States offers a “lifetime purchase” with “no hidden fees.” So get in while you still can.

    Their mission is hidden in plain sight:

    Invitation to People and Businesses in United States

    Subject: ExpertsInUnitedStates.com Launch

    Good Morning, this is an invitation to share with you an interesting, fun, and modern new site, where you can promote your areas of Expertise in United States.

    We believe that we are all experts in something, and now we want to give you the opportunity to purchase the word that defines your expertise.

    What we want to do is revamp the way we define words in United States.

    So how does Experts in United States work?

    Well, ExpertsInUnitedStates lists thousand different words and for the price of one dollar per letter you can associate that specific word with your website or blog.

    ExpertsInUnitedStates is interested in different interpretations of words by different individuals, and so the website was created in part to explore and play with the definitions of words.

    So to give you an idea, if you are a “Gas Company”, you could be interested in purchasing the word – Diesel – 6 letters – total cost $6.

    If you are a Hotel in Chicago, you could be interested in purchasing the word – Hotel – 5 letters – total cost $5.

    Once a word has been sold, the word is not available any more, and it is linked forever to your site.

    All the purchases are lifetime. No hidden fees.

    Confused? Well, the easiest way to understand this unique marketing concept is to visit the site and give it a go… We believe that this fun and practical way to promote your business not only generates extra traffic to your website, but it can also recession-proof your business by promoting it as an expert in your field.

    Still confused??  Well, being of altruistic nature, I’ve left the term RealEstate and other related terms up for grabs.  So hurry on over and grab yours for only 10 buck$.   Or, if you can save take that 10 spot on over to Ike’s Place, grab yourself a sandwich and come up with something original to be an “expert in United States” in like radioimmunoelectrophoresis.

    Ooh, that sounds important!



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  • 2 comments

    The three little pigs and the housing rescue plan, a modern fable

    Once upon a time there were three little pigs, and, although they were brothers and looked a lot a like, they could not have been more different.

    The first little pig was hard-working and thrifty. He spent very little of his income, saving and investing as much money as he could. He lived with his mother well into adulthood, helping her with her expenses. He finally bought a home of his own when he could afford to pay for it all in cash. As you might expect, the thrifty little pig’s home wasn’t flashy, but it was all his, free and clear.

    The second little pig didn’t save very much of his income, but he earned a lot of money as a rising executive, and he had an uncanny luck in the housing market. He bought a condominium on his 18th birthday, then traded up to his first single-family home before he was 21. By the time he was 30, the lucky little pig owned a very stately executive home — and he had been able to make a whopping 50% down-payment.

    The third little pig wasn’t very good at working hard, and he had never kept a job long enough to get a raise. He wasn’t at all good at saving money, but he could borrow and spend it better than any little pig anywhere. Like the lucky little pig, he moved away from home early, but he just kept moving — from apartments to friends’ couches to rental homes and then to one girlfriend’s house after another.

    If you are a liberal, you may be thinking of the third brother as the unfortunate little pig. If you are a conservative, you will want to call him the lazy little pig — or worse. To keep the peace, let’s just call him the puerile little pig — the little brother who never quite grew up.

    The original version of this story was about construction quality as a metaphor for planning ahead, anticipating disasters so they don’t take you by surprise. But the world of real estate has changed a lot since then. The most important change was that the big bad wolf ran for congress and discovered that he could stay in office forever by mucking with the housing economy.

    What did he do? He imposed taxes on incomes but gave back a lot of that tax money as a reward for buying a house — buying a house on credit, that is.

    The income taxes didn’t hurt the thrifty little pig too much, but he didn’t get any tax break for owning his home, since he didn’t have a mortgage. The lucky little pig suffered a huge bite on his income taxes, but he was able to recoup some of that loss with his 50% mortgage. The puerile little pig didn’t have any income to tax, nor any house payments to deduct from his tax bill.

    But big bad wolves don’t just stand around with their thumbs in their suspenders, do they? The thrifty little pig had an ovine nature, and he usually voted for the sheep party. The lucky little pig wasn’t as much lupine as he was thoughtless, so he almost always voted for the wolf party. And, of course, the puerile little pig could never get out of bed in time to vote at all.

    The big bad wolf figured out that, if he could muck with the real estate market enough, he could get the puerile little pig a home of his own — and then he could count on his vote forever.

    So the big bad wolf leaned on bankers to lower their standards so much that even the puerile little pig could afford to buy a home — for nothing down, all closing costs paid, and with no mortgage insurance premium. It was just as if all the bankers were sleep-walking, doing the kinds of crazy things bankers only do in dreams. All across the land, bankers gave mortgages to puerile folks who had never saved a penny in their lives and never once paid a bill that hadn’t come in a red-bordered envelope.

    And for the first month, everything was fine. And so, too, for the second month. But on the first day of the third month, a banker noticed that the puerile little pig wasn’t paying his mortgage. All across the land, bankers found that their puerile borrowers were defaulting on their loans, even though those loans had been so easy to obtain.

    Well, the newspaper reporters huffed and the television pundits puffed, but nobody could keep the house of cards from crashing down. The banks had to take back houses for which there were no buyers. The only way they could get them sold was by slashing prices. And because of those fire-sale prices for the foreclosed homes, the values of all homes went down.

    The thrifty little pig had never seen his home as an investment. It was just something he needed to live, like his clothing or his car or his work tools. He had never expected that his home would gain in value, but he also never expected it to lose half its value.

    The lucky little pig had always seen housing as an investment, just like stocks or bonds or rare baseball cards. But he had never given a moment’s thought to the idea that home prices could go down and not just up. Even so, his house lost half its value, eating up his entire down-payment.

    The puerile little pig — call him unfortunate or call him lazy — lost nothing. Since he had paid nothing to get his house, and since he had made no payments on his mortgage, he actually came out ahead. He took his new girlfriend to Las Vegas for the weekend, then moved into her apartment — paying nothing for rent, of course.

    Now if this were really a fable, everyone would learn their lesson — possibly issuing an apology to the grasshopper and the ant for invading their turf. But this is real life, where just about anyone will believe just about anything, provided it’s an obvious, bald-faced, ludicrous lie. So the reporters and the pundits had a field day, blaming the housing crisis on the thrifty little pig, on the lucky little pig, even on the puerile little pig. They blamed everyone except the big bad wolf, because that would have been the truth.

    But the big bad wolf was a step ahead of everyone, anyway. With great fanfare, he announced his housing rescue plan. Bankers would be forced to lend borrowers 105% of their current loan balances, with the goal being to reduce the payments for everyone who qualified.

    The puerile little pig might have qualified, except he had already lost his home.

    The lucky little pig could have qualified, except that he would end up owing even more money for his home. Meanwhile, his 50% down-payment was gone just as if he had burned it.

    The thrifty little pig could not qualify for the rescue plan, since he didn’t owe anything on his home. Even so, half of the value of his house was gone, too.

    And while we might like to imagine that life just goes on as it always has before, that’s never really the case. Things do change, just so slowly that we tend not to notice — particularly if we’re already steadfastly committed to obvious, bald-faced, ludicrous lies.

    So what happened in the end?

    The thrifty little pig took what was left of his savings and moved to a tidy little tax haven in the Caribbean. He never really learned how to let his tail uncurl, so to speak, but he manages his investments by laptop from the beach — paying no taxes to the big bad wolf.

    The lucky little pig became the tipsy little pig, taking a certain comfort in asking, “What’s the use?” of anyone who would listen to him. Eventually he lost his job. He mailed his house keys in to his banker and moved in with his girlfriend, who lives on welfare and child support from the three little fathers of her own three little pigs.

    And the puerile little pig? He ran out of jobs, first, then girlfriends, then friends. Without thrifty investors and big-income-earning lucky executives, the economy got worse year after year, but, the truth is — call him unfortunate or call him lazy — the puerile little pig had never been much good at paying his own way in life.

    So he lived in a cardboard box and he ate from garbage dumpsters. He wore whatever clothes he could find, spending his days collecting empty soda cans to sell to recyclers. He talked to himself a lot, and he bathed so rarely that no one ever came too near him.

    But every election day, there he was at the polls, pulling every lever for the wolf party — the only people who had ever given him a chance to own a home of his own.

    And if you’re the big bad wolf, that’s a very happy ending…

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  • 11 comments

    Sorry Europe. Our President Might Just “Cowboy Up”

    Bank of America is getting slaughtered by short sellers.  The stock has plummeted to under 10% of its March, 2008 value.  Of course, a few things happened on the way to the slaughterhouse:

    • The bought Countrywide, America’s largest mortgage originator.
    • They bought Merrill Lynch, America’s largest retail securities firm.

    Ken Lewis took on a lot of crap on the road to ubiquity.  2009 promises to be more bad news for the financial supermarket as  Countrywide option ARMs and  subprime loans, originated in 2007 by Merrill Lynch unit First Franklin, become wallpaper.

    Comrades Obama and Geithner will surely nationalize the Company, to better reflect its name, right?

    “Not so fast” says Jason Schwartz of Seeking Alpha.  Just because Obama admitted to sharing his toys in Kindergarten, that doesn’t necessarily make him a died-in-the-wool Marxist.  Schwartz chalks the whole thing up to wishful thinking by our European cousins:

    The market is running wild on some hyped up article written in the Financial Times that claims Obama is considering nationalizing the banks. If you actually read the article you’ll notice the anti-American sentiment at the very beginning when they say that ‘nationalization has long been regarded in the U.S. as a folly of Europeans…’ Ok, I get it, Europe has been right all along. Whatever. Obama’s true feelings on nationalization came out in his ABC interview after Geither’s banking speech when he laughed out loud and said, “Sweden had like five banks. We’ve got thousands of banks…managing and overseeing anything of that scale…wouldn’t make sense. And we also have different traditions in this country.”

    Source documents suggest that Schwartz might be as credible as our resident “tin foil hat” theorist:

    Long regarded in the US as a folly of Europeans, nationalisation is gaining rapid acceptance among Washington opinion-formers – and not just with Alan Greenspan, former Federal Reserve chairman. Perhaps stranger still, many of those talking about nationalising banks are Republicans.

    Lindsey Graham, the Republican senator for South Carolina, says that many of his colleagues, including John McCain, the defeated presidential candidate, agree with his view that nationalisation of some banks should be “on the table”.

    “Nationalisation” sounds a whole lot more “civilized” than “receivorship”, doesn’t it?  While I admit that Messrs Obama and Geithner are not necessarily my ideological clones, methinks the Europeans might have underestimated the propensity for them to revert to the American tradition of taking big bets.  Should more US banks fail (and they will), I think the Obama Administration will buy the bad loans and auction off the good assets to the highest bidders…quickly.

    President Obama has nothing to lose, politically, from acting like a cock-sure American when it comes to the banks;  the crisis didn’t happen on his watch.  He can “receive” broken down banks rather than “nationalise” them, throw on a ten-gallon hat, smoke a cigar with Lindsey Graham…AND NOT LOSE ONE PENNY OF POLITICAL CAPITAL.

    I think he’ll do it and I think his bet will work. While the Citi boys are dressing up for the receiving line, the Charlotte-ons are making seven figure bets .  The reports of Bank of America’s death may be grossly overexaggerated.

    Maybe I’ll join Ken Lewis and Jason Schwartz, on the pass line.  After all, how much can a four-dollar stock drop?

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  • 10 comments

    Quietly going about our business

    We go about our business, most of us, very quietly, with an attempt at dignity. One foot in front of the other, moving forward, striving, reaching, yearning to be the best we can be. We want to provide for our families, do right and do well for our clients. We want to put our heads down on our pillows at night, satisfied with the day’s work, and wake up the following morning excited to do it all again.

    We don’t, most of us, want to be rock stars in the blogiverse. We want, most of us, to be appreciated for what we can offer, allowed to give freely without grief, and left to go quietly about our business.

    I don’t agree with everything written on real estate blogs, and I don’t much like some of it, but the people who read these national blogs, the people I meet at Unchained, and the real estate professionals who email me to share their own triumphs- these people are inspiring. They are just like me, quietly going about our business, picking up information like sponges, moving forward, learning, striving, laughing, loving- just people, just real estate agents (without big hair).

    I’m disturbed by the idea of a NAR Social Media Director, when I think about it. But the thing is, I don’t think about it. I don’t care. I don’t wish the new SMD any ill will, I don’t wish them anything at all because it really doesn’t matter to me. By the way, I’m going to call this position The SMeD, just because it makes me giggle.

    So The SMeD will have a job to do, but none of it matters to me because I have my job to do, and as Greg points out, “All we have to do is keep doing what we’ve been doing — and keep getting better at it — and the Boojum under the bed will be gone forever.”

    I’ve always believed this, and it’s always proved true. Anything that we have given power to, in our own minds, can easily be dethroned, defrocked, destroyed, by doing exactly what we do so well every single day of our lives- putting one foot in front of the other, striving, improving, growing, sharing, laughing, loving… SMeD or no SMeD, just us, each one of us, quietly going about our business.

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