BLOODHOUNDBLOG.COM

There’s always something to howl about

Archive for September, 2009

The Reading List: 8 “No BS” Books to Make You Better

Get tactical.  Everyone wants some “grand strategy” or “new initiative.  But mastering tactics at the battlefield level is how 90% of us can earn money faster than the government steal it.  It’s all about Tactics, not Strategy.  Mastering tactics means that you are doing something towards a goal.  Something, anything that’s reasonable is better than fine tuning a meticulous plan.  I fell into the planning trap.   Loads of people have.  Doing something right now, fast, and done is the way to win.

Since making the switch from Stephen Covey to David Allen, I’ve paid off most of my IRS debt, I’ve built a business that works, and I’ve become better at living life on earth.   Stephen Covey principles work, no doubt, but rejiggering some life plan isn’t meaningful until you can make the pile of paperwork on your desk your bitch. That is practical, real and doable.

When Phil said “I hate coaching,” what I really hate is some notion of a program that isn’t held accountable to specific results.  Buying a marketing widget that “costs less than a closing?” Everything you do has to be held accountable to a result.  When Greg talked about A/B Testing, that was the expression of an idea: observe stuff with your own eyes.  Create an OODA loop.

Getting on the path to be an automatically improving being required that I go grab some knowledge.

1.) Getting Things Done, David Allen: The most important book on this list, by far.  Read, pracitce, understand fully GTD principles.  Make the papers and endles op

2.) On War: Von Clausewitz: Great book about going all in when you find yourself in conflict.  There are no half measures, if you don’t have passion behind the stuff you’re doing, simply don’t do it.

3.) Tested advertising methods: John Caples/etc.  This is about writing copy that works, that isn’t necessarily “clever” and that performs.  The book is solid and you can see that people don’t follow it much.  Copy that tells you what to expect and produces no “WTF” type responses is the goal.  And it’s easier to write than the nuanced cleverness that people go for.

4.) Boyd: The Fighter Pilot That Changed The Art of War: I’m a fan of OODA.  It’s a way to always be gathering info.  It’s a set of habits that guide next actions, and it’s a better way to think and act than the bloated mission/vision statements of the Covey/Anthony Robbins crowd.  You have a set of goals, and a set of circumstances.  Go after it.  Find the trends and be first to the punch.

5.) Always Be Testing: The Compete Guide To Google Website Optimizer.  Holy hell, what a good book.  It’s probably dated by now, but the gist of actually having experiments as part of your web life is mission critical.  WP and everything else can serve to run experiments.  You can easily have 2-5 pages to test and stuff.

6.) It’s Not The Big That Eat The Small, It’s The Fast that Eat The Slow: Poorly written, dated, but really good concepts.  Be fast, be first, beat the other guy to the punch.  Hit hard, hit again, be relentless, and then adapt and do it again.  The writing in this book is poor to the point of distraction, but the book itself is fabulous.

7.) The Artist’s Way: Julia Cameron. The second most important book on this list, truly.  You have this thing called “morning pages,” a cathartic way of making your mind clear and free.  Can’t say enough about this book, honestly, it’s the “fluffiest” on the list, but it’s got specifics for staying sharp.  Habits here rule the world.

8.) Philosophy: Who Needs It. Ayn Rand.  She can be shrill, sure.  But, this book is succinct and deliberate as anything else.  I don’t follow her metaphysics–but I do think that to live on earth, her ideas are practical and you can quiet your mind.

The only other thing that I’d say is that meticulous accounting has been a way to build your life.  Being honest with yourself, your numbers and all else is the way to undo whatever damage sloth and sloppiness have done.

What has been a guidepost for you?  What have you read that you can share with me?  I read damn near everything that someone recommends, so recommend away.

Finally, and utterly unrelatedly, “The Break Up” by Pete Yorn & Scarlet Johansson is fabulous.

Related posts:
  • Reading myself right into welfare via a Kindle Fire. Forgetting whats important.
  • Is it time for a second Vook at Brad Inman’s latest brain fart?
  • Goals! by Brian Tracy

  • 4 comments

    Save the world from home in your spare time!

    I’ve known for more than a year that I want to write a book about what we’re getting wrong.

    As a species, that is.

    Through all of human history.

    Surely that’s a man-sized ambition — and perhaps also a new high-water mark for the abstract concept denoted by the word “hubris.”

    That’s as may be. In truth, this is an undertaking I would rather not undertake. For one thing, I’m busy and, in consequence, I’m physically tired much of the time. For another, this is less a thankless job than it is a task for which I can reasonably expect to be punished. Not officially punished, one may hope, but it seems likely that I will be derided, hectored or hounded, as I proceed with this project. I don’t shun that sort of thing, not ever, but it’s not something I actively court.

    But none of that matters. The ideas I want to talk about drive me wild — in the best of all possible senses. I abhor every form of the claim of unchosen duty, and yet I feel that I must go through all this, that I cannot live in peace, much less die in peace, until I have transcribed every bit of everything that races through my brain.

    But I can laugh at myself, too, so much am I alike, in my incipient dotage, to Dostoevsky’s Underground Man: “I am a sick man. I am a spiteful man.” Saving the world is a madman’s obsession, after all, a belfry awaiting its loyal complement of bats.

    [Continue reading here, if you like. This project is way off topic even for a blog as topically-liberated as BloodhoundBlog, so if you want to follow along at home, the main action will be at SplendorQuest.com.]

    Related posts:
  • Sneezers wanted: Pre-release announcement for my new book, “Man alive! A survival manual for the human mind.”
  • Announcing my Obama Rodham McCain universal bumper sticker
  • A kinder, gentler Jeff Brown challenge: Catch yourself doing something worthwhile — for every day in September.

  • Comments are off for this post

    Do Today’s home prices reflect their market value?

    Can you really look at a buyer today and tell them that they are buying their home at a good price?  Sure, you can tell them how the price they are paying compares to what folks have been paying the last few months, or few years.  But that doesn’t mean that what you are seeing is the true market price!  The actual market price can’t be determined without a free market.  Right now, we have anything but a free and stable market in real estate.

    Take the government’s free ice cream housing promotion, also known as the Homebuyer Tax Credit.  The issue I’m concerned about isn’t that it is going to cost taxpayers about 15 billion dollars if it is allowed to expire on November 30.  Nor is the issue that it has cost $43,500 that we, our children and grandchildren will somehow have to pay for each new buyer attracted into the program according to the NAR numbers.  The issue is it has artificially increased the value of homes in the market by $8000 and that will end on November 30th, or sometime.

    So, that $250,000 home your client just bought and put a mortgage on is really only worth $242,000 when that market distortion is removed.  With an FHA loan, and a program to use the tax credit for a down payment, guess who is already upside down in their purchase?  Does this sound anything like the too recent past?

    Our tax code is already heavily skewed towards home ownership.  With our government’s current spending spree and their desire to raise taxes, could the sacred mortgage interest tax deduction eventually be reduced?

    While that is probably not the immediate threat, the current rulers prefer government solutions to allowing the private market to function.  Be it FHA or State Housing Programs for low income borrowers, a monetary policy of rock bottom interest rates and the mortgage interest deduction the programs and the proposals coming forth further distort the market.

    This makes the biggest risk in a real estate investment strategy or even a home purchase predicting the future changes in artificial supports to the market and estimating their effect on the value of those investments.

    Imagine a market without a Toxic Assets Program, Troubled Assets Relief Program, Homebuyer’s Tax Credit, a Interest Mortgage Deduction and a distorted monetary policy.  If you could do that accurately, you could really determine the market value of real estate.  Then you could tell that eager new buyer whether or not they are really getting a good deal in the marketplace.  Isn’t that what we should have learned from 2006?

    Related posts:
  • Are the uninformed chatterboxes in your area insisting that the real estate market has recovered? You may want to defer the celebration. Even so, this could be the golden moment for investors in Phoenix.
  • Market-Basket of Homes: Values up 0.33% in June
  • Price downturn less than scary

  • 13 comments

    BHB-style lawyer marketing – from the trenches

    This is a long-delayed post. A thank you to BHB. A clue for others to see, use, follow. This post is about marketing techniques. A case study. A “you can do this, too.”

    Apology in advance

    Gregg, please pardon the backlinking to myself. I don’t like to pee in the pool by hyping myself, but the project I’m backlinking to is almost over, and will be worthless by the 15th of October, so I have no long term benefit from this. I’m deliberately not linking to my main website.

    The world we live in

    BHB is interesting to me. The philosophy (treat your customers like humans, get ‘em smart, treat ‘em right), the approach (use the tools that Teh Interwebs give ya), the people.

    The real estate world is hidebound and burdened with useless historical debris. But the law world is worse. Lawyering is a closed shop industry and the State Bar is hellbent on protecting union members. Using ideas imported proudly from Elizabethan England.

    BHB-style thinking and action to me is what the individual can do — constructively — to rage against the machine. (Hmmm. Good name for a band, I think.)

    The opportunity

    First, background. The IRS announced a voluntary disclosure program in late March, 2009 — people with money hidden offshore could Come to Jesus and avoid criminal prosecution for tax evasion.

    I’m an international tax lawyer. Ding-ding-ding.

    Seizing the opportunity

    With help and coaching (ha! Chris hates that word!) from GenuineChris I launched www.foreignbankaccountamnesty.com. Simple WordPress install, various plug-ins, no biggie.

    With me so far? Yep. All of you have launched blogs. Ain’t but a few of you who have made money on them. Listen up.

    Get to work

    Here’s what happened next. Chris Johnson harangued me. “Write!” he commanded. I wrote like an SOB. I remember one time when he said “It doesn’t matter what you write, just write.” As if content doesn’t matter. My “A” student overachiever feelings were hurt. But I wrote. Brute Force SEO. That’s what we did.

    Hint. Here’s how you generate a LOT of posts fast. (1) Go buy a little digital recorder. Cheaper = better. Sony = badly-designed overpriced POS to be avoided at all costs. (2) Sign up for an account on www.speak-write.com. (3) Talk into your digital recorder. (4) Send the sound file to www.speak-write.com by email. (5) Get it back in an hour or less, fully transcribed for about 2 cents a word. (6) Light edit. You’re not Marcel Proust. (7) Post.

    Then he said “Do video.” I fretted about that. I’m not photogenic. I don’t have high quality equipment. I didn’t have a pretty background. Guess what. I used my iMac’s native camera. Sitting at my desk. If I was lucky I remembered to pull out my Eyeball microphone to get better quality audio. And I did video. Lots of it.

    Hint. Want to generate blog posts at the same time you do video? (1) Pick up that digital voice recorder of yours. (2) Push start on video recorder. (3) Push start on camera. (4) Start talking. (5) Stop talking. (6) Video to blog, audio to www.speak-write.com for processing into text.

    What happened

    Here’s what has happened. Starting from the first week in June.

  • Phone calls to me from all over the world. (I took a cue from @bawldguy’s blog posts and stuck my cell phone number at the bottom of every post. I got calls from Singapore while I was at my daughter’s soccer practice. I got calls at the beach. Yay Jeff. Thanks for the idea.)
  • Huge revenue. It only counts when the check clears. And the check/credit card has indeed cleared. Let’s just say we have collected in excess of 50X my out of pocket costs.
  • We had to close the door to new business. I did this to honor the commitments we’ve made to existing customers.
  • What’s next

    The amnesty closes on October 15, 2009. I am already plotting my next internet move.

    Action > Whining

    Memo to all personnel:

    • Prospective customers call me, having read EVERYTHING I wrote. They have watched ALL of my videos. They have already decided to buy from me.
    • Videos matter. One guy came in last weekend (flew in from the East Coast) and said “Hey, you look just like you do on your videos!” I about bust a gut. :-)
    • Videos REALLY matter. People saw me, heard me, and knew what to expect when they dealt with me. One less obstacle to the close.
    • Just write. Quantity matters more than quality. Sorry but it’s true.
    • Don’t do the tech stuff yourself. Hire someone. Chris knows way more than me. It wouldn’t have happened without him. If I had tried to do this myself, I would have washed out.
    • This is fun. REALLY fun.
    • This will work for anyone, even real estate brokers. :-)

    Thanks Gregg for the opportunity to talk about this out loud, and for the BHB inspiration. Funny how I tell local real estate friends about BHB and they don’t get it.

    Mr. Google

    Oh. Adwords. We eventually decided to experiment with this, a couple of months after we launched. Took our daily traffic up 5X. Stopped buying ads and traffic dropped again. Hmmm. Cause/effect is obvious even to me. Can’t tell you if we got clients from them or not. But it was at the level that ONE additional customer paid for all the Adword spending we did. And I figure Adwords brought us at least one new customer.

    Mr. Google is your friend. Give him money.

    Anyone else out there, contact me if you want to know more about what I did, how I did it. Do what I do, get what I got.

    Related posts:
  • I can do better than this
  • Some random thoughts on a Tuesday
  • Blogoff Post #7: Weblog Review: In the Trenches . . .

  • 21 comments

    World Health Organization lowers the safe breathing radon gas level: further complicating Real Estate transactions

    New standards released by the World Health Organization (WHO) on September 23, 2009 have taken a huge stance on the odorless cancer causing, radon gas.  The World Health Organization has taken the already safe4.0 pCi/L and reduced the safe breathing gas level down to 2.7 pCi/!  Who cares, right?  Well, I care especially living the Midwest where we have basements.  Basements are a wonderful source for radon gas leaking into the home through cracks in the basement floor.

    You’re writing an offer to purchase with a customer and it’s determined for the safety of the family you’ll go ahead with a radon gas test.  Typically radon gas tests start out at $125 up till about $175 in the Wisconsin market.  The home inspector you’ve hired happens to also tests for radon gas so he kills two birds with one stone.  The home inspector hands over his findings; the report states the average level of radon gas in the basement is 3.2pCi/L.  Perfect were all set to go!  Actually we are not.  The buying side of the transaction states the NEW industry standard is now 2.7pCi/L according to the World Health Organization!  The Selling side states, the World Health Organization does not over-ride the Environmental Protection Agency’s safe operating level of 4.0pCi/L.

    The Realtor now has a problem that needs to solved between buyer and seller in order to get a commission.  Who is correct is this matter; buyer or seller?  Remember…RADON kills…right?

    The National Association of REALTORS has advised the EPA standard is still operative or law. The World Health Organization’s suggested standard has no legal or regulatory status as a binding authority.

    READERS!  IT’S IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND —> As industry professionals we need to draft accurate contracts without complicating our transactions.  Simple and Effective are the two words that immediately come to mind.  Remember to specify in your contracts what level of radon is acceptable before mitigation is required.   Just because we know the EPA standards legally apply, does not mean the buyer uses the EPA standard even though its law.

    Below I plagiarized a statistical graph from the EPA.gov website.

    EPA estimates
    that radon
    causes
    thousands
    of cancer
    deaths in
    the U.S.
    each year.
    radon health risks
    * Radon is estimated to cause about 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year, according to EPA’s 2003 Assessment of Risks from Radon in Homes (EPA 402-R-03-003). The numbers of deaths from other causes are taken from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2005-2006 National Center for Injury Prevention and Control Report and 2006 National Safety Council Reports.
    Related posts:
  • Wall Street & Fed Cut Sittin’ in a Tree…
  • Safe in SoCal
  • Google Plus = MySpace Redux?

  • 3 comments

    Dave, Gary, Jim – Ready to Conquer Video and Double Global Market Share?

    Over at Agent Genius, Amy Chorew has a post up entitled “How One Company Conquered Video”. The post was obviously a nice plug for one of the principles of Coldwell Banker premier in Berlin Connecticut and a local video company, but it somehow set me off a bit.

    Here was my comment on the post:

    Conquered Video?

    The local CB’s approach, while more progressive than most was likely a wasted effort. Fred’s right, these are lame. And Bob’s right. How is anyone gonna see these things?

    What Coldwell Banker should do is this:

    1. Work out a deal with Flip or Vado so that their agents can buy cameras at a discount.

    2. Help each of their agents set up a Youtube account and understand how to upload videos from their cameras and do some very basic editing using Youtube’s built in features.

    3. Assign each agent a theme to video around. Examples: Neighborhood Driving Videos, Interviews With Home Sellers, Interviews With Home Buyers, Featured Businesses, etc.

    4. Give each company agent a Video Blog page (on a larger company Video Site) featuring a youtube gallery similar to the approach on display over at PropertunityKnocks.Com.

    5. Make sure effective lead capture elements are built into these video blog pages.

    6. Promote the overall video blog site to the public via a massive Facebook ads campaign.

    The result?

    Coldwell Banker does something that would accomplish a lot more for their agents (and the company as a whole) then working out some sleazy affiliate relationship with a vendor and taking a little something more from their agents.

    Sorry for being skeptical here. But doesn’t it seem more like CB conquered their agents wallets here a little more effectively than they did video?

    (I feel a little bad about that last part because I wrote it before my first cup of coffee. While it’s possible the local broker had an affiliate relationship with the local broker, it’s not fair to assume they did. Instead I wish I’d congradulated that broker for at least trying instead of being so grumpy. But oh well…)

    The point is this. It’s now more possible for large Brokers to “conquer video” than it ever has been in the past. In my comment to Amy’s post I gave a sorta vague roadmap. But there’s a lot more I’m not talking about.

    Dave, Gary, Jim… whoever personally gets in touch with me first can have first dibs at the rest…


    Related posts:
  • Listings bulimia? While it is not yet ready to break the vicious cycle of bingeing and purging, Zillow.com is willing to nibble on your data feed to try to decide if it wants to eat it later
  • Via Video – Smoking Mr. Potato Head
  • Introducing Dave Phillips, taking the lead role in a reenacted historical drama: St. Francis Xavier and the Bloodhounds

  • 4 comments

    FHA Broker Approval Delegated to Approved DE Lenders: Will This Squeeze Out Smaller Players?

    Over the last eight days, calls from my clients and mortgage associates having been growing on a daily basis concerning the recent announcement by the FHA delegating mortgage broker approval to originate FHA loans to approved DE lenders. Quite frankly, many small lenders and mortgage brokers are concerned the mega-lenders will yield a big stick and force the smaller players out of the FHA playing field.

    In this video, I provide an overview of the concerns, share background information and then present my thoughts.

    FHA Delegates Broker Approval to DE Lenders

    Note: This is my first video, so please excuse any rookie production mistakes.

    Related posts:
  • If the condominum is not VA-approved, how do I get a VA home loan offer accepted?
  • BloodhoundBlog Radio: VA Home Loan Tutorial For California REALTORS
  • Will Pre-Approval Letters Be Banished?

  • 4 comments

    Investment Strategies: High Volatility Markets

    As I begin analyzing a variety of markets, I thought I would quickly share some tips for investment strategy consideration. In thinking about an investment strategy it is important to consider the volatility of the market you are investing in. For example, a market like Los Angeles might see double digit growth one year and negative growth the next, while a market like Chicago might see low single digit growth one year and simply lower growth the next.

    When thinking about whether or not to get into a market early vs. late and when considering whether to get out early vs. late, it’s important to understand the market dynamics. Consider a market like Los Angeles. Over the past 20 years, this market has seen growth as high as 33% to as low as (25%) in one year. From 2001 to 2006, LA experienced double digit growth every year. Conversely, from 1991 to 1997, that same city experienced negative growth every year (data from Case Schiller Home Index).

    In a market like this an investor is better off getting in early and getting out early. If you are a year early, you might experience one year of negative growth, but you would then be rewarded with rapid growth. Even if its not double digit growth, it will trend significantly higher than the national average. On the other hand, it also benefits those investors to get out early. Given the rapid change in markets, a double digit growth year could easily be followed up by a double digit negative growth year. Getting out early and moving to a safer market would typically be better than staying even one year too long.

    Less volatile markets afford investors the opportunity to wait and see. Markets like Chicago experience much slower growth trends and decline at a much slower rate. In these markets it’s smarter to invest after the market has begun its rebound because the growth from year to year is rarely significantly different. Additionally, investors aren’t penalized by rapid negative swings as much. Typically investors might experience slower growth, but rarely will it be negative.

    Keep this in mind when I suggest investing now. This advance is clearly not for all markets. But for markets with significant upside and high volatility, early may not be as bad as some might have you think. Don’t be afraid of -5% or -10% growth, when the possibility of 15%+ growth is possible.

    Additionally, when the market is down you have your pick of the properties with little competition. As the market heats up, so does competition for the best properties. A property that could have been purchased at a steep discount with seller financing in the best neighborhood will be the first to go as the market heats up. While timing is important, sacrificing perfect timing can yield positive results.

    Related posts:
  • Why Small Investors Should NOT Stress About Interest Rates
  • Buy low? Sell high? You can’t sell high for now, but prices are low enough that a buy-and-hold strategy could pay off handsomely
  • Pricing Analysis is Greek to Me

  • Comments are off for this post

    The “I” News

    Happy Monday everyone.  Sean here, with the “I” news team bringing you a few under-reported items from last week.  Stay tuned for the Inspirational, the Inscrutable and the Indefensible.  You decide if any of it is Indispensable.

    The Inspirational:
    James Krenov died last week.  He was an artist, writer and philosopher who left an indelible mark upon this world.  You may not know him, but you have most likely seen the influences of his work in your work.  He was a creator of sublime furniture and leader of one of the most highly regarded woodworking schools in the nation (if not the world).  Take a moment from your busy day to click here and enjoy a little beauty.

    The Inscrutable:
    Football season is underway and those wacky kids running the NFL are at it again.  Texas receivers Andre Johnson & Jacoby Jones were fined $7500 & $5000 respectively for their roles in a fight during a game last week.  In related news, Eagles cornerback Sheldon Brown was fined $10,000 for wearing a Halloween mask to pre-game introductions.  Apparently, the NFL feels that a little embarrassing publicity by one player is twice as offensive as the violent offenses of two players… They do say image is everything.

    The Indecent, Incredible & Indefensible:
    The increasingly authoritarian nature of our Federal government continues unabated.  It is becoming widely understood that the Neo-Progressives bridle under scrutiny and brook no criticism; but this is outrageous even for them.  It seems the U.S. government is now sending threatening letters of warning to private companies who have the temerity to disagree with the administration’s proposals.

    Humana Healthcare notified its customers that proposed health care plans before congress could reduce their benefits.  This, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, is simply a matter of fact.  The Department of Health & Human Services then sent a letter to Humana as well as all the other private insurance providers of the Medicare Advantage programs essentially saying: “Shut-up… or else.”  Click here to read all the gruesome details of central power run amok.

    That’s all for now.  While you’re out there today, take the time to admire and appreciate a little beauty in your world.  But if you do come across someone in your way, remember that punching is preferable to wearing a scary mask.  And whatever you do, don’t assume facts alone will protect you from the childish, petulant threats of powerful elitism.

    Related posts:
  • Well… This is not working…
  • I Have Some Good News – And I Have Some Bad News
  • Are you sick of all the bad news in the Sunday newspaper? You’re reading the wrong sections.

  • 4 comments

    Google Voice: Ready for Primetime?

    Greg’s written: “The trouble with free software, is that you don’t really explore what you’re getting with it.” When I read that, I thought, “True, but…” The “but” being Google, a company whose free products I’ve (mostly) explored to death, even when they’re not very good. I’m looking at you, Google Docs.

    When Google announced that it was entering the telephony business with Google Voice, I was excited, and applied for an “invitation” that came in July in the midst of preparing to take the North Carolina Bar. I couldn’t seriously play with it until August. But now I’ve spent two months with it, and here’s my take: I’m not sure Google Voice is ready for primetime.

    Here’s how it works: At sign up, a user selects a phone number. That number can become the new primary number, which the user gives out to family, friends, clients, and so on. Google Voice allows the user to set which phones will ring when people call the Google Voice number. (Outside callers have no idea they’re calling a Google Voice number. To them it’s just another phone number.)

    The setup was a cinch. Within a few minutes I was up and running with a new phone number that now rings my cell phone, but could also ring an office phone and home phone all at the same time.

    Eric Bramlett has posted about Google Voice’s killer feature: Voicemail Transcription. Since I spend a good deal of time in court, where answering a phone will get you tossed out by an annoyed sheriff’s deputy, being able to glance down at my iPhone to read a voicemail that’s been transcribed for me is fantastic. Even if the transcription is not perfect, getting the gist of the voicemail without having to leave the courtroom saves a ton of time.

    I’ve found transcriptions to be marginal at best, but still good enough to give me a sense of the message. Maybe it’s the southern accent that Google has not yet nailed, but Google still has a ways to go.

    There are other nifty features: the ability to route calls to specific phones, assign phone numbers to groups that can be handled in various ways (send certain groups straight to voicemail or assign certain voicemail greetings to certain groups), or send telemarketers to an “Out of Service” message. I could imagine still other cool features that don’t seem to be terribly hard to implement: the ability to create a voice tree that allows callers to select who at your Google Voice number they’d like to reach.

    But here’s my major concern: Call quality. When a caller calls you on your Google Voice number, his call is routed through Google’s servers, the same servers that handle the transcription, routing, and other features. This routing seems to generate some distortion or latency on the line. Most of the time the latency is imperceptible. Callers don’t notice a thing. But sometimes the delays are noticeable. Callers experience echoes, lags, or distortions.

    Because I like the features, I really want to make my Google Voice number my primary phone number for my business. But I’m not sure whether I can put up with (or have my clients put up with) questionable call quality when they try to reach me.

    I’d love to be convinced of Google Voice’s awesomeness. So If you’re using Google Voice regularly as part of your work or business, please leave your feedback, good or bad, in the comments.

    Related posts:
  • Google Voice Redux
  • How Good is Google Voice Transcription?
  • Got Voice? And other questions for which I have no answers.

  • 10 comments

    iMovie lets me produce six short real estate videos in three hours

    I’ve never loved video as a means of promoting real estate listings. I much prefer lots and lots of really big, really detailed photographs.

    But: The SMS marketing we’re doing with DriveBuy Technologies makes video a necessity. The integration of YouTube into smart-phones is simply too compelling an opportunity to pass up.

    Hence, on Thursday I pounded out six videos for three of our listings, all in about three hours total labor. That’s everything, from set up to sequencing to background music to recording voiceovers.

    How is that possible? I used iMovie, the more basic movie-making software for the Macintosh. I also have Final Cut, but iMovie makes making basic plug-and-chug videos a breeze. Even better, it integrates directly with YouTube, so I can publish from within the app.

    I’m promoting houses, so I’m using photographs, not full-motion video. Assembling these little films is quick and fool-proof.

    How’s the quality? You tell me. I think these are more than adequate to the task.

    Let’s take a look:

    For 5415 West Hasan Drive:


    The house…


    And the neighborhood…

    This is just plain vanilla Ken Burns stuff, and you can take it the way the software does it or manipulate the effect yourself.

    Here are two more, made for 1946 East Vista Drive:


    The house…


    And the neighborhood…

    These two were done using iMovie’s Scrapbook theme, and all the transitions were done automatically by the software.

    One more: 5708 East Paradise Lane:


    The house…


    And the neighborhood…

    These videos used iMovie’s Photo Album theme, again with no manual intervention.

    Without doubt you could do even cooler stuff by intervening with the software, but these results seem pretty sweet to me without my having to do a lot of manual tweaking.

    Related posts:
  • Video: Howling with Brian Brady in Phoenix in the dog days of summer
  • “Leading” With Listings, Systematically Getting (A Few Clicks) From Twitter, And Using Some Lazy Math To Justify The Effort…
  • I wanted to say, “Let’s hear it for the dogs!” — but before I can, I need to say: “Let’s clean house for the dogs…”

  • 12 comments

    My September and what I learned…

    This September has been my toughest in the last 43 that I have had. Not in the business sense, mind you. But I have been dealing with health issues that I now (thankfully) am well on the way to complete recovery from. I will be stronger than ever.

    Like most things that have been tough, it has been the source of great learning as well. Aside from not writing here much at all, the main thing that this forced downtime did was to force me to think. And think I did.

    In evaluating many aspects of my life one of the main faults that I found with myself was was that I simply had not lived deliberately. I did not spend my time deliberately. I did not connect with people as deliberately as I intend to now. And the business side of my life was / is no different. I had not marketed deliberately as I would have liked. I need to be more direct and deliberate and to the point. I had contented myself with the notion that if I did this and that…then eventually my actions would create customers who would at some point pay for my services. Hogwash.

    I found myself siding with many of the folks here. The Jeff Browns who get belly to belly with folks who can either say “yes” or “shove off”. The Brian Brady’s of the world that do not have time to waste on less than direct marketing with measurable results. the Greg Swann’s (who if you ask him why listing with him is better than the next REALTOR can actually give you a direct answer). Even when dealing with new technology, the idea that we don’t need to be direct and deliberate and to the point is amazing to me.

    We must have a pipeline. Deliberately. Leads. No matter how you get them they need to be there. Buy them from others. Rent them. Advertise for them. SEO for them. Network for them. Cold call. Whatever. Maybe all of the above. My new focus is to be direct.

    Much of today’s “social media marketing” is simply too indirect. It is not deliberate enough. What you end up with is wasted time, mis-spent effort and low ROI in the final analysis will only lead to regrets. It does not matter that it is cool. It does not matter all the cool kids are doing it. It ONLY matters if you can CONNECT (directly and deliberately) with enough potential customers to fill your pipeline and build your business.

    REALTORS asking themselves those tough kinds of questions will be the ones who survive this market (in my opinion). Yes the questions are tough. Avoiding them (or honest answers to them) is far more costly in my opinion.

    What I have been through has not been fun…but what I have learned has been invaluable to me. Now it is my turn to apply it.

    So where can you be more direct and deliberate in your marketing / sales plan?

    Related posts:
  • A kinder, gentler Jeff Brown challenge: Catch yourself doing something worthwhile — for every day in September.
  • Google Voice Redux
  • Arizona ranks fourth for new jobs totals . . .

  • 21 comments

    Looking for a reason to buy real estate? How about free ice cream?

    This from my Arizona Republic real estate column (permanent link):

    When I was a kid, my Uncle Jack, my mother’s oldest brother, told me a story I’ve never forgotten. He was at a little county fair way out in corn country. Nothing special, just beauty contests for hogs, cheesy little rides and sticky, sugared confections.

    Late in the day, the ice cream vendor decided to pack it in, announcing that he was giving away what was left of his inventory. People elbowed their way to the front of the crowd, so eager were they to get something for nothing. They walked away with the ice cream piled into their bare hands, rushing off to their cars, leaving a trail of melted drips behind them.

    The lesson I took from my uncle’s story was that those folks didn’t really want ice cream. They were willing to get themselves dirty, and to get their vehicles dirty, just to have something for free. Most of them probably didn’t even eat the ice cream, and they certainly couldn’t have enjoyed it. Imagine trying to inhale a glutton’s quantity of chocolate-fudge-swirl before it melts all over your clothes.

    Could that be what’s going on right now with the $8,000 first-time home-buyer’s tax credit? I happen to be carrying three listings that are undeniably “investor’s specials” — which means they’re a good buy, but they need a lot of work. Even so, my phone is ringing off the hook with agents trying to sell those houses to owner-occupants — folks with very little cash trying to get an FHA loan so they can buy a house, thus to get $8,000 in “free” money.

    Do those buyers really want homes, or do they just want that free money? What will happen to the properties when the $8,000 is spent? Should we dial the clock back to 2006 to see if anything looks familiar?

    Meanwhile, the National Association of Realtors is campaigning for even more “free” money to bribe even more otherwise-unmotivated buyers. The only thing that could make the deal sweeter would be a double hand-full of “free” ice cream.

     
    Spread the word: Click here for a printer-ready version of this column.

    Or: Steal this book: I’ve written over 200 of these real estate columns. They are consistently one of the most popular features on our blogs. Many of them are dated and/or entirely Phoenixocentric. But many others are timeless and generic. If you want to use any of my columns on your weblog or web site, feel free. Three rules: Don’t change my text, credit me as the author and give me a link back to http://www.bloodhoundrealty.com/ with appropriate anchor text. Something like this, perhaps:

    <a href="http://www.bloodhoundrealty.com/" target="_blank">
    Phoenix Realtor Greg Swann</a> suggested I share this with you:

    Am I link-baiting? You bet. The quid pro quo is free content for your site that pulls eyeballs and excites interest.

    Related posts:
  • Want Garlic On That Ice Cream? You Don’t Want Cash Flow On Your Capital Growth Either
  • Epiphany Marketing and Rocky Road ice cream…
  • Who Wants Ice Cream?!

  • 9 comments

    Who hates Paper – This Guy!

    People that know the real Green Bay Greg know that I’m a geek when it comes to technology.  This passion for technology has helped streamline my business to become more efficient while helping the environment.  If you’re like most real estate professionals, I’m confident that you print at least a 100 pages of paper a week if not much much more. 

    In reading a post from a well respected Bloodhound Blog contributor, James Hsu, I noticed that he started to transform his business with a tablet PC.  Being the geek that I am, I started to do more and more research about this great technology.    After thorough research I purchased my first tablet PC for real estate. 

    After jumping in the water, I started to get really excited abot my new toy. As soon as it arrived I ripped it right out of the box and tried to sign a contract within the first 10 minutes of owning the machine. You might wonder how the hell did you know how to sign a contract on a machine you’ve never used? Well in researching tablet PCs, I started to find trends among the tablet PC users.  They either used a program called Microsoft One Note or another program called PDF Annotator.   Thankfully my tablet PC, the HP2730P, came with One Note preloaded on the machine.  I fired up Zipforms and went to file print and selected the printer (Send to OneNote2007).  After I printed the contract to OneNote I was signing contracts within seconds. 

    My journey here at Bloodhound Blog will be about how I actually utilize my tablet PCc to completely run my real estate business.  Signing a contract is an obivious use, but after 4 months of using the tablet PC I’ve found ways to operate my whole business with it.   Streamlining and simplifying my day to day tasks has become a must for me, considering my volume of transactions is growing.  We all want to break through our personal barriers and graduate to the next level and that is what I’m going to share with you on a frequent basis.

    What to expect in the Green Bay Greg Tablet PC BHB Blog:

    • How I use my tablet PC when working with buyers out in the field
    • Meeting with Sellers the Tablet PC WAY!  Looking cool never felt so good!
    • A foolproof way to organize your business and to actually have a clean desk!
    • Utilizing Live.com Windows Live Sync Service Never lose your documents again!
    • The fool-proof inexpensive way to back up all your files!

    I’ve been active participant for a while here now at Bloodhound blog, and I’m really looking forward to giving back. If you have any topics or questions you would like me to cover please email me or leave a comment on the blog.

    Related posts:
  • Paper is so 20th Century – Think Bits, not Atoms
  • If you have any time to spare from catching all those paper fish on TwitBook, I have a no-fee referral for a Bloodhound in McKinney, Texas.
  • Are you sick of all the bad news in the Sunday newspaper? You’re reading the wrong sections.

  • 9 comments

    An educated consumer is someone’s best customer

    Having been a BHB devotee since nearly the blog’s birth, I’m honored to be here.

    If you grew up in the Northeast, you probably recall Sy Syms, owner of Syms clothing outlets, with his ubiquitous television commercials. Sy would end each commercial by saying: “An educated consumer is our best customer.”

    Greg’s description of me – an educated consumer – called to mind Sy’s trademark phrase.

    I was fortunate to buy my first home through BloodhoundRealty.com. Fortune got me a lovely home in central Phoenix, and an education in how a real estate transaction ought to be handled. The home I sold (with Cathleen and Greg’s help) when my wife and I moved to North Carolina. But the education is forever.

    I do not believe the three North Carolina realtors we unceremoniously rejected for not meeting BHB standards thought that an educated consumer was their best customer. C’est la vie.

    In thinking about marketing my law firm and how to apply various insights from BHB, it occurred to me that my realtor friends don’t know how good they’ve got it. I know there are plenty of gripes here about the NAR. But it could always be worse: You could be operating as a licensed attorney, subject to the stultifying and onerous limitations on marketing and business development imposed by state bars.

    So with that in mind, I expect to get more out writing here than I can possibly offer: bringing insights I learn here from your world to help remake my world.

    Related posts:
  • The Starbucks Virgin
  • Consumer’s View on What Bloodhound Blog Is…
  • Five Times More Effective Than E-mail ?

  • 7 comments

    Next Page »