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Archive for October, 2010

Core Beliefs and The Middle of the Road

When it comes to core beliefs, it’s difficult to take someone seriously, who claims to hold a ‘middle of the road’ position. This isn’t about where you or I stand politically, spiritually, or any other way. Furthermore, I don’t much care where you are on those subjects. I hope you and I would stand together, if necessary, to defend each other’s right to our own beliefs. We’ll both be voting Tuesday, and the belief system garnering the most votes will win any given election — as it should be.

Let’s limit ourselves here to core beliefs and the concept of those who insist on the middle of the road.

For instance, I believe in the death penalty. You may not. We can cuss and discuss it over a friendly beer. But please tell me — what’s the moderate position? Where’s the middle of the road?

What about rape? All you moderates out there, enlighten me. What’s your ‘middle of the road’ take on that one? I’ll wager it’s not anywhere near the middle of the road. Wonder if that makes you that dreaded of all creatures, an ideologue?

Lately it seems an ideologue is defined as one who believes in gravity, and stubbornly refuses to be talked out of it. The evil bastard. But I digress.

Of course, the death penalty and rape are extreme core belief examples. That said, the essence of any core belief you hold, is that it’s deeply rooted, and will brook no violation on your part. Virtually all sane people we know are either for or against the death penalty, and unambiguously against rape in any form. But what about other core beliefs?

What about the Rule of Law?

What’s the moderate, middle of the road position on that one? Surely you had the same upbringing as I, in that you were taught, in no uncertain terms, that breaking the law has consequences. Do we, as fellow Americans, believe in the rule of law, or don’t we? Are we also not in agreement that our nation was founded upon the rule of law? Do we also not believe there should be, and in fact are, consequences for breaking the law?

The American way of life is up for a vote Tuesday.

I won’t speak for you, but I want folks we elect to have clearly stated core beliefs. Ones in which they have tremendous pride. I don’t want our leaders, at any level of power, to be wishy washy, or worse, dissembling about their core beliefs. This goes for everybody.

It appears Americans may finally have reached the point where they simply will no longer tolerate those who don’t walk their talk — or who refuse to publicly state their core beliefs.

I hope on Wednesday morning, you and I wake up knowing that core beliefs have made a roaring comeback — whatever side you’re on.

Let’s remind ourselves what’s so often found in the middle of the road.

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    Urf. NOTS again…

    Just as a matter of disclosure, our mortgage lender has filed another Notice of Trustee’s Sale against us. As I have discussed here before, we’ve been surfing all our our payables for quite a while. I don’t love doing this — but I don’t hate it either — but it’s what we can do to keep the doors open when there is not enough money coming through those doors. We’re lucky to be in business at all, considering how many other Realtors in Phoenix have been wiped out. This is not a tragedy on our end; we’ll buy our way out of hock before the Trustee’s Sale. And, of course, this is actually not any of your business at all. But I never want to be in a position that some noxious busybody can make a truthful statement about me that I have not first made myself.

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    Looking for a treat that will really do the trick? Achieve your goals by tracking your performance.

    That’s a big “Duh!” — isn’t it? Here’s a calendar for November. I’ll talk about my October tonight or tomorrow.

    Meanwhile, here’s a good looking cat for Halloween:

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  • 1 comment

    THE Epiphany – Solomon Was Right

    I’ve had times in my career, the first one at 19, a whopping year of part time experience under my belt, when I was given a slightly unfocused glimpse at what was possible, in terms of that elusive concept, success. In a company filthy with studs and studdettes, (a word I just now made up) I somehow Gumped my way into finishing in second place in a 90 day in-house listing contest. I won an 11″ black ‘n white portable TV — a prize I’ve always been convinced my sainted step-mom was behind. The distance between me and the winner could only be measured in terms of light years. When basking in the shocked applause at the awards meeting, I thought I was a budding gift to real estate brokerage.

    NASA still hasn’t developed the instrument capable of measuring how completely fulla crap I was back then. Lookin’ back, (I blush with shame whenever I do this) I would’ve had to climb up three rungs on the ‘Have a Clue’ ladder to have been Mr. Clueless.

    Goals, plans, hard work, even talent, aren’t the most powerful weapon we have in life. Ask yourself, what precedes all of that? When we lump 1,000 highly successful real estate agents together, what’s the common denominator? Some had goals, some didn’t. There are massively successful people, for whom the next goal they set will be the first. The same goes for all the factors mentioned above. So, what’s the common denominator shared by virtually all of ‘em?

    They made a decision.

    If ya see yourself here, raise your hand, but I’ll only speak for myself. Success in anything just ain’t that complicated, nor is the road leading to it labyrinthian. There are those who do, and those who can tell ya every way known to Man how something can’t be done — at least not by them.

    We all realize the truth of profound principles of life at different speeds. I was a slow learner. You’d think as a PK I’d of understood the pure gold flowing from Solomon’s wisdom (paraphrased) — As a man thinks in his soul, so he is.

    It’a a dreary, rainy, Saturday morning as I write this. For reasons unknown, it was suddenly important to identify the point at which it dawned on me how important a thought — a decision — can be. Like an unexpected mental FedEx delivery, a picture popped into my head, as clear as if it happened yesterday.

    I’d been making decent money, better than average, but not nearly what I’d thought possible. As it happened, the wife and kids were visiting her parents for the weekend. I took advantage of that to roll up the freeway an hour to spend time with my Grandpa and Grandma. The picture? Sittin’ at their kitchen table with them, as Grandma served up a basket of steamin’, fresh from the oven, miniature raisin bran muffins — soft, easily spreadable butter at the ready. (Even as I write that, my mouth begins watering big time.)

    Grandma asks, “What’s on your mind, Jeffrey Scott?” Grandpa just smiled in that knowing way, acknowledging my unsaid wonder at how she always seemed to know when something was up.

    “Why can’t I be more successful?” There, I’d said it. Her initial response unnerved me slightly, as she merely smiled as if looking at a child with a skinned knee. I ignited one of Grandpa’s window shattering bellows of laughter as I wondered aloud if this was gonna hurt much. Seriously, I think his laughter at times made window panes vibrate.

    Her answer, however, was GrandmaSerious.

    She said that everything anyone does in life is always based upon a decision to make it so. Nothing more, nothing less. A simple decision. I was complicating things. Decide what I want to happen. Turn the page. Make it happen.

    She continued, saying that any decision, seriously pondered, couldn’t be made without the underlying truth — that I believed the result I sought was within my reach — that it was not if I could do it, but when. The rest was merely a matter of chronology.

    I was flummoxed. My expression must’ve mirrored that, as Grandpa again unleashed an ear shattering roar of laughter.

    He then looked at me with those super focused, eagle eyes — told me to butter a muffin and eat it. What? OK. Done.

    “You wanted to do it. You gave it thought. You decided you could make it happen. You did. Want me to paint you a picture?!” That’s not hilarious ’till you know he was a nationally renowned artist.

    I got it. It was a chilling epiphany. Why? Think about it a second. If success is merely a result of a decision, we better damn sure be careful what we decide.

    What thoughts preceded what decisions that got you where you are today? LIke I said, chilling.

    Are you happy with the ‘you’ your thoughts and decisions have wrought? Happy with your career? If the answer is no, there’s just one word I have for you, cuz Solomon was right — as we think, so are we.

    Decide.

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    Two more pix from my planet…

    That’s my PhoenixBargains Twitter account as of last night. That account is nothing but auto-Tweeted real estate spam, six weblogs (five automated, one normal) running Twitter Tools plus FreePhoenixMLSSearch.com promoting its activity via Posterous (for now; I have plans to make this more robust and more interesting).

    The first time I mentioned the PhoenixBargains asccount here, it had 54 followers. It’s now up over 300, the lord alone knows why.

    Here’s a treat from last night:

    Phil Gordon is the Mayor of Phoenix. He lives in my neighborhood, North Central Phoenix, but I doubt he’s looking for homes. Probably some minion on his staff was looking for local TweetFeeds and found me. I think we’re up to 500-ish new Tweets a day, every one of them software-generated, so they should have plenty to read…

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    A snapshot from my world…

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    Talking Dogs and Skinning Cats: An Anti-Sales Message

    So I’m about to reopen my doors.  I’m up and delivering now, but I have some anti marketing to kill, and I’ll get to it over the weekend.  I had to learn a I recently attended a real-estate trade conference in the Pacific Northwest.  I won’t say which one.  I went to blogworld. sat in the back and mingled little.  What follows is overheard snipets from attendees, booth speakers and vendors.

    “You,  can–and you should–finally…graduate from selling.  That’s the goal of every agent, right?  You deserve to rise above the crowd and become an online marketer, an avatar…an icon.  Let me help you do that.  Selling?  That’s for the lesser lights amonst us.  Let them handle it.  And, since it’s for lesser lights, then you needn’t learn to do it at a high level. All you need to do is turn some of your worthless GCI into digital credits.  We’ll bring pre-sold, can’t miss buyers to your door.

    “And if our widgets fail…at least you  have provided them with their new entitlement: automated regurgitation of data without context.  Because that’s what buyers and sellers want, right?  They want to be in charge of their own experience and decide what’s right for them.

    ”Well,  sure I respect him.  Why wouldn’t I?  What happens in Vegas is between adults.  Of course he’s honest, sure.  Just because he lies to his wife, betrays his children in plain site doesn’t mean anything bad will happen business wise.  I think he’s as honest as the day is long.  I trust him implicitly. I mean, you gotta do what you feel is right, right?  He’s kept secrets for me, and you know, at the end of the day, marriage is long.

    “Look, I want to provide value.  I don’t want just another pitchfest.  But, you know, if it feels a little festive, great.  If there are pitches going on, hey, what can you do?

    “ROI?  Why would you ask about that? Puh-leaze. Hello, Old fashioned.  You need to become a personal brand. You need to become a recognized authority amongst all the agents.  Don’t you know?  Nobody’s ever really figured out the ROI for television and TV has sold millions of products.  So don’t even bother with ROI.  Obsessing over ROI hows greed, and that’s most unseemly.

    “Believe me, Consumers obsess over agent rankings and who’s who in the RE Netopshere..  They all ask: before I sign this listing agreement, have you got enough Active Rain points?  Have you commented at Agent Genius, Lenderama (when @tcar still ran it)?  Do you guest post on dozens of blogs?  Your customers need to know. This impacts how people will feel when the aggregator shows your Minnesota listing to a Tampa Bay agent.  That could lead to a blog comment.

    ” Haven’t you heard? The boomer-era of greed is over.  You, sir, are in fact, greedy if you don’t give us $79 bucks a month for our people helper widget.  You need to take care of the clients that have BUILT your business, right?   The people that you serve deserve to know what the market is like.  And you’re hiding it from them if you don’t buy our mega-ultra-transparentometer.   How dare you make a profit, when there are extra services that can be given to your clients?  For shame, don’t you realize that we’re in a recession?

    “We’re all in this together, so that Beamer is unseemly.  You don’t need to have possessions like that.  Generation Y won’t respect or relate to you.  And you know how important they are.  We don’t expect you to understand.  Is that an Amex in your pocket?  If you have an Amex you must be doing well, and therefore should really share your largesse with my corporation.  After all, we’re all in this together in this new era of real estate.   I’m just trying to make a living, just like you.  We’re the same.  Your Card starts with a 3.  Go ahead and fill out this form.

    “Your own website?  That’s a bunch of crap.  You need me to make a Facebook Fan page.  For $900 I’ll put an image map together for you and you might get 25 fans.  If all of those fans referred you a deal, you’d make more than the $900, right?

    “You don’t want to be an individual.  There’s no room for that.  Team players are what we’re about these days.  And every team player has anted up and earned the right to put our badge on their website.  That badge makes you the number1 agent, instantly respected by your peers.   If you don’t put it up, bad things might happen to your listings.  We might um, lose them from our reaggregation of the rets feed.

    “I know, we have a free version, and if you want to take advantage of us and hurt our company, feel free to use it.  Every member gets some promotion, but the premium members get exposure and listings on our website.  You just have to pay.  Yes, that’s in addition to your annual dues.

    “Yes, of course, our designations are everywhere.  No, they may not be widely respected, accredited.  But they are letters in the actual alphabet.  And when you put them after you name, other vendors will know that you’re an easy mark.   It’s professional courtesy, so when you pay us your $397, you get a one day course that allows you to be a Certified Expert.  So put our designation CDVS on your website.  That way our other vendors will tag it with google alerts and call you each time they see that pop up.

    “Control your content? Come on.  It’s not 2006 anymore.  Nobody has the time to do that.  Just pay our low $90 monthly fee and the 8 people that visit your website will be treated to premium bandwidth.

    “Why would you say anything mean about a vendor?  You’re talking about one of us.  You know that that’s unethical.   Even if the product sucks, do you want to spoil it for others?  They don’t know their product sucks, and do you really want them feeling bad about the contract they just locked into?  Come on, nobody likes a wet blanket.

    So now, at least I know what it’s about.  I’m really, truly glad I went.  Because I now don’t have to go back.  And if and when I do, I’ll have an agenda that I will pursue with skill vigor and zeal.

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    SEO in 3 min 22 sec

    Everything you need to know about SEO.

    Now have a great weekend.

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    What to do with the home you obtained by expropriation? “What we want to do is to take the foreclosure off the credit report and dissolve it completely, so we can refinance the home and start over.”

    Now that’s cheek. May god have no mercy on the lender who underwrites the refi. From the Wall Street Journal: Niche Lawyers Spawned Housing Fracas.

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    Waiting for Higgs Boson

    Dark matter can be a bitch.  And I mean this in the politest of ways; a mere postmodern posing of the generational Petro/Girard  family tenet, ‘in a hundred years it will all be over.’  Anything after that, please, draw your own conclusions.

    I’m speaking as a  self-actualized moving part of an economic algorithm (and every time I use this word I must ask, ‘is this particular rithm an Al Gore  invention?’) that I was born into—with about the same amount of choice I had in the decision whether or not to crawl from my mother’s womb (yes, I was a breech birth baby) several decades earlier—the end result of a totally nother flawed rhythm method.  I have become cyber-morphed with the last four digits of my social security number, a randomly assigned superfecta I’ve lately grown to loathe…

    “Excuse me. What was your name again?” I ask the voice who finally takes my call.

    This was my second twenty-two minutes on HOLD in the Michael Bolton Greatest Hits audio loop queue of the American Express Blue Card Department. By this point I was looking around my office for a blunt object to off myself with. (Excuse the non-participial modifiers and occasional tense shifts as I’m a bit rusty at posting any thought that requires more than 140 characters these days.)

    “It is Jess-ie, Mister Petro,”  the voice answers.

    I instantly think of my deceased father, a passing memory still fresh in my mind; the other Mister Petro, forever with a faint whiff of expensive cologne and a seemingly wise and vast financial demeanor. (And that Mister Petro survived a real economic Depression.)

    “Thanks you very much today,”  the odd voice, not from this hemisphere, adds on cue.  ”How  may I assist you?”

    “Hmmm. You don’t sound like a Jessie,” I say, looking to cyber-bully an over-matched, out-sourced CSR.

    “Thanks you very much, Mister Petro.”

    I swim back in space and think of my father and me playing  golf under the lights back in old Charlotte, many years earlier; that little Par 3 course on a swampy lake  just off Independence Boulevard. At once I  smell the honeysuckle fragrance and imagine the chatter of  the late night crickets…I recall the real Mister Petro as a much nobler man than I find myself today; a Post-World War II protagonist who paid his bills uncontested, never looking for a break, or an angle, or a re-work.  

    I take a deep breath but still can’t find the humanity to mince my words.

    “Jessie. Look down at your shirt pocket…. Do you see a name tag?”

    “That is correct, Mister Petro. Thanks you very much.”  

    I think back on our younger years and how the old man would join me after work to observe every football and baseball practice; both of us with our own personal reasons for not heading directly home…just yet—to that humble place where time chipped away at the kitchen table reminding us daily of our mortality, much in the same manner that the post-gothic South of the 1970s reminded us that we’d always be, in most ways, outsiders in their territory; carpet baggers who swooped in and swept away the prettiest debutantes for ourselves, leaving their mansions of memories and debt behind. Time and Space  hanging in the magnolia air.

    “You do or you don’t have a name tag?”  I press.

    “Yes, Mister Petro.”

    “Then I don’t want to talk to you,”  I snip.  They shouldn’t have left me in the same one-way chatroom with a whining DWTS loser for 44 minutes.

    “I’m very sorry about that, Mister Petro. Thanks you very much.”  Oh my sweet, sweet Jess-ie.

    “Quit yanking my crank, Jessie, and connect me with someone in your department who has been promoted to at least short sleeve shirt and cheap necktie status (as I sit at my desk in my boxer shorts) and also has the authority to lower my APR to something more in line with…. say,  my bookie!

    “Please hold, Mister Petro. Thanks you very…” 

    Click. Silence. No Michael Bolton. Dial tone. Again.

    And,  as a movable social  part, I’m left with little choice but to take another deep breath and re-enter the queue. Tiny pieces of  my identity are tethered in so many separate but interconnected directions—my real estate buyers and sellers,  American Express (Blue, Gold & Business),  Bank of America Home Mortgage,  BMW of North America (and not even the 7-Series), NAR, CAR,  AARP (gasp)—that I dare not make a false move lest my FICO score, or Page Rank, or LinkedIn social rating suffer a virtual ding.  I am, at the very least,  defined by the last four digits of my social security number. At least for the time being.

    I’m waiting for Higgs Boson.  And if the world is still in this mess in a hundred years, you can mark my RNG words in 140 characters or less, that I’m coming back as a cyber-ghost super-hero to put everyone with a name tag on permanent HOLD,  godammit.

    (sound cue:)

    ‘….Tell me how am-I sup-posed to-live with-out you?….’

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    Investors to put toxic loans back on B of A

    No wonder B of A is accelerating foreclosures. They will need the cash from the sale of REO’s to repurchase about $47 Billion of bad mortgage bonds that were sold with, shall we say, less than pristine origination paperwork. This is where the robo signing mess matters. If the chain of title can be challenged and your friendly union pension fund can recover part of the loss on the investment, some one will be making up the loss. Any guesses who? Rest assured it will not damage the administration’s bankster contributors’  bonus pool.

    Dig deep, taxpaying America.

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    BofA is back in the foreclosure business…

    Wall Street Journal.

    Flip side: Pimco, NY Fed Said to Seek BofA Repurchase of Mortgages.

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    Rule of Law and All That: The Foreclosure Mess

    Suffice to say, I take a different view of the current foreclosure – robo-signer – problem now confronting the mortgage industry. Where Greg calls the banks’ fraud upon the court “procedural laxities,” I say the banks are committing, wait for it, “frauds upon the court.”

    Greg does a neat rhetorical trick, by shifting the focus from property rights to some kind of tort-based argument where the homeowner has to prove harm. Don’t be fooled. Property rights are not about harm. They are about who can prove superior title. And if banks bring fraudulent documents into court to assert that they own properties, they should be punished. In North Carolina, we call this Obtaining Property by False Pretenses, a Class H felony, punishable by up to 30 months in prison.

    Where Greg says your home was foreclosed because you stopped paying it, I say your home was foreclosed because someone who could not prove an ownership interest in the home came along and committed a fraud by falsely asserting they could, thereby depriving you of your superior property rights in the home.

    Where’s the “rule of law” I hear so much? Where are these sacred and inviolable property rights I hear about?

    There’s been a lot of handwringing about consumers who should’ve known better when they were taking equity out of homes in 2005 and 2006. And about buyers who were mortgaging too much to buy those $400,000 homes on $50,000/year incomes. And about how, even though shady originators and greedy banks were selling these pipedreams, it was the buyer/consumer who should’ve known better because, after all, the buyer/consumer signed on the dotted line.

    Now the shoe is on the other foot. In other words, cubicle dwelling robosigners (who I believe are not the real criminals, but merely patsies), were… ummm… not reading what they were signing.

    Caveat emptor, and all that.

    Yes, the timing is suspect because we’re in election season. This problem has been around for years. I first learned about it in detail last year, which means I was very late to the game. But better late than never, I say.

    (I still contend that there was a better way to handle this mess, which was using bankruptcy to cramdown the mortgage.. But banks fought that tooth and nail because… a loan is a sacred contract etc. etc. and these were bargained for agreements. Well, indeed, they were, so if if you, as a bank, want to foreclose, bring the real documents to court and do it. By failing to provide a meaningful alternative that would’ve split the baby, we’re now in a place where it turns out banks themselves were mistaken about how much legal claim they had to certain homes.)

    If some homeowners get some homes on the cheap, well, hooray for them. Banks should’ve invested something in maintaining their property rights – to wit, a decent filing system. And if they couldn’t have been bothered in 2005 and 2006 to do so, well, tough luck.

    And investors who bought bonds backed by this… stuff… can take a hike.

    Now, as to the stoic trial judge, I will say this: they tend to side much more with the consumer/debtor/homeowner than they do with the purported mortgage holder. And why’s that? Well, in certain states – North Carolina, for instance – judges are elected. Even where they’re not – federal bankruptcy court – they tend to frequently see better financed creditors overwhelming pro se or under-represented debtors. They’ll cut the debtor a break.

    Where will this lead? It leads to an informal cramdown. Rather than getting the home free and clear, the borrower frequently settles, and in exchange, re-signs documents with the purported mortgage holder that, this time, the mortgage holder keeps in a safe place.

    Now couldn’t this have been done more efficiently and fairly in bankruptcy court? Yes… Yes it could have.

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    The $100,000 a Year Agent – How That Can Be You

    My company’s checks have a typo on them. I’ve left it uncorrected for years, in order to remind me of my lean beginnings. The company name is on the first line, followed by what should be Jeff Brown — Broker on the second line. Instead, it says, Jeff Brown — Broke. No, really, it does. Hardly anyone notices. In fact, we’re in the year’s last quarter and nobody has said anything this year. I think a couple people told me about it last year.

    Every time I write a check it’s the first thing I notice. Much like muscle memory, the first picture that pops up is me, grabbin’ a commission check, (with much blonde hair blowin’ in the wind) and runnin’ down to deposit it in the bank. Back in those days, if it wasn’t for the backbone of the real estate industry, the working wife, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

    Real estate is, as I was told before California informed me I’d passed my first license test, the highest paid hard work, and the lowest paid easy work around. I’ve found that to be true, but not all-inclusive. As I’ve said a few times recently, .150 hitters can work as hard as they want, but if it’s not at the right things, nothing changes.

    Here’s a thought to ponder. In real estate there are no minor leagues. In baseball kids learn their craft there. In real estate? Gimme a break.

    There was a seven year period in which I worked for one of the biggest real estate firms in all of CA. The office sported 150 agents. They had a mentor program that graduated newbies as experts in protecting the company’s ass. Their career life expectancy was almost measurable. The office manager aspired to have that program bat .150 someday. The worst kept secret ever was the real reason that program was not axed. The newbies weren’t allowed in the ‘main office population’ ’till they closed three transactions — and their split was 50%.

    24 trainees X 3 deals a year, at $500,000 median price, X 3% X 50% = (Insert drum roll here) over Half a Million Bucks to the office. Ta da!!

    Now you know why they trumpet their so-called mentoring programs so often and so loudly. Newbies are nice enough to pay the company’s bills, then politely and quieting fade away, so the next group can take the bit and plow the fields.

    So, how can you make $100,000 a year in a $200,000 a home market? So happy you asked.

    If you’re new, pay attention to what they tell ya about paperwork. Sure, cuz it’s the right thing to do, but mostly cuz if ya don’t get it right in a deal, they’ll hold back your commission ’till it’s the way they want it. Give courtesy nods to their tips on generating business. If they’re in management, it’s almost always due to their inability to do exactly what they’re urging you to. There are exceptions of course, including the office manager mentioned above. But she merely proved the rule. In fact, it was directly due to her previous experience as the partner in a successful real estate firm that made that office so successful.

    Bottom line? Most office managers are like college business professors, in that they teach cuz they could never do it in real life — or worse, were afraid to even try. Don’t get me wrong, good office managers are worth tons. But only for their management skills, not their ability to teach agents how to be successful.

    If you’re one of the exceptions to this rule, God bless ya, and I apologize for paintin’ you with this broad brush. But you of all people know I’m dead right on this point.

    So, you’re doin’ about $30-40,000 a year, and would love to get that up to six figures. Here are a few suggestions toward that end.

    1. Unless you’re Dale Carnegie, your ‘sphere of influence’ will only get ya so far. But then you’ve found that out by now, right? Keep tappin’ and expanding it, but stop drinkin’ the Sphere of Influence Kool-Aid. It’s what office managers tell their newbies. They sell/list a few houses to Aunt Mary, the song leader at church, and an old high school chum, then they’re gone. Meanwhile, the office made 50% per deal.

    2. Bite the bullet and stop avoiding the trenches. The longer you insist on doing open houses on others’ listings, etc., the longer you’ll be doing a deal a quarter. If you don’t like the process of generating something outa nothing, find a team and become a buyer’s agent. They’ll allow you to pony up to the lead generating buffet without you having to lift a finger.

    3. Pick a slice or two out of the market, and go after them with a vengeance. Since you’re not tryin’ to do 18 deals monthly, this will work just fine. Your menu of options? Expired listings — FSBOs — smallish farms — maybe a modest website with your own IDX — and always your trusty sphere of influence, regardless of what two slices you choose.

    4. To make $100,000 in a 100% office, you only need to close 18 transactions. This assumes an average home value of about $200,000 at 3%. That allows for some expenses. That’s 20 if your expenses are a bit higher.

    5. Quietly research your office’s top agents. Approach one you like, and who will give you the time of day. You already know how they’re getting business. Ask them for some mentoring, with the promise you’ll not become a huge time suck. If you’re smart, you’ll be able to apply some of what they pass on. Pay attention.

    Let’s say you decide having a very doable smallish farm, and will diligently prospect expired listings in areas in which you have knowledge. As always, you’re also gonna be faithfully mining your sphere of Influence.

    We’ll assume you’re actually working 40 hours weekly, and that those hours aren’t AgentHours. :) They’re the hours Grandpa worked every week. By your consistent and conscientious plowing of those fields, here’s what will happen — I promise.

    You’ll do about a transaction a quarter with your sphere. Some will do more or less, but that’s about what should happen.

    By working expired listings, you’ll list about a property a quarter, probably more. But count on the one.

    Those listings will generate about one buyer-side transaction a quarter, probably more. It’ll also give you the chance to hold an open house on your own listing, allowing you to lose your virginity with dignity. :) You should do that at least once, if only for how it’ll make you feel.

    Your farm, no larger than 500 homes, will generate, in one form or another, one transaction a quarter. (See a trend developing here, do ya?)

    So far, that’s 16 transactions for the year — probably more. That leaves ya two short of making six figures. Here’s where they’ll come from — referrals. If you can’t do 2-4 transactions a year from referrals, get out — cuz you must really suck. :)

    Note: You’ve likely noticed I didn’t say to get a website with an IDX. If you can afford it, try it out. But understand, most agents aren’t making a lotta money that way. It’s pretty much a boom or bust approach, depending upon the quality of effective GeekWisdom behind it.

    Look, everyone doesn’t hafta do 100 deals a year, and frankly, most don’t want to. But if you pay attention, focus on just a couple three slices of the market pie, and work eight hours a day — you’ll make $100,000 a year fallin’ off a log. Well, maybe not quite that easily, but you get my point.

    With huge and obvious exceptions, (1994 is an example. A couple years ago too, probably.) the potential for the average agent to earn six figures has been very real, at least in this century, depending upon price points in different markets.

    You don’t need huge, or even moderate marketing money. You can be a card carrying TechTard. (Say hi if ya see me at a meeting.) There’s no need for anything special or expensive.

    The fact is, you can make $100,000 from Halloween this year to Halloween next year. To those who take the bit and make it happen, I have this quote for ya.

    Not sure, but I think it was John D. Rockefeller who was once asked, how much money was enough for the average person. His answer?

    “Just a little bit more.”

    I had my first six figure year in the 80′s. It shocked, elated, and scared me to death. I didn’t know it ’till the CPA called, sayin’ my return was ready. I picked it up, brought it home, and opened it for signing. And there it was on the top line — $108,232.

    You can do it. Once you do? You’ll begin to wonder what it might take to make that much in a quarter, or even a month. Then it’ll hit you like a ton of bricks.

    You wouldn’t be thinking like that if you didn’t know it was an option on your menu. It’s a life changing epiphany. It doesn’t happen for most — only those who take their game to what I call BigBoy level. Use your own measurement. Mine was a six figure year.

    Even when I had my first six figure quarter, then later, my first six figure month, nothing has equalled the thrill of seeing those numbers on that tax return for the first time. Not even close.

    Go for it — I promise you, that feeling is worth far more than the hundred grand.

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  • 25 comments

    Foreclosuregate? A scandal? If you want to sue for damages, it behooves you to have suffered a real, actual, material injury.

    I had buyers back out of a purchase contract at the last minute, earlier this year. They got cold feet, and they had no remaining contingencies, so they understood they were losing their earnest deposit. The seller’s agent wanted to fight about it, making a lot of noise about specific performance. But here is what was interesting to me, thinking about the legal issues in the abstract:

    The deal was a short sale.

    In other words, had the sale proceeded to closing, the seller’s actual material gain would have been zero dollars and zero cents.

    Taking account that we cancelled the contract, the seller’s actual material loss was — wait for it — zero dollars and zero cents.

    Arguably, the seller might have suffered financial damages as a result of losing the home to foreclosure, rather than losing it in a short sale, but these consequences could never have been subject to my buyers’ control.

    In other words, though we did not go to court, I could not see a way for the seller to claim any sort of material injury by the cancellation of the contract. He had no real, actual, material consideration at stake.

    Why bring this up?

    Because I think this is the end of the road in the so-called “Foreclosuregate” “scandal.”

    To bring us up to speed, the Wall Street Journal wonders if we’re headed for housing armageddon. Not to be outdone, CNBC insists that foreclosure fraud is worse than you think.

    Here’s what I think: If there were procedural laxities in the handling of paperwork, there was no intent to defraud. And laying that aside, there are no former homeowners who can claim that they were avoidably injured by mis-handled paperwork.

    Why was your mortgage foreclosed? Because you stopped paying it. Did you have any rational reason to believe that you could keep your house once you had stopped paying your mortgage? No. If the paperwork that led to your foreclosure was not prepared to perfection, does that give you the right to retain possession of a home you are not paying for? No.

    Voters are fools, of course, and the Attorneys General of the many states are all up for reelection. This is a perfect “scandal” for getting lots of TV time — for both incumbents and challengers.

    But judges are not fools — not the judges who do the everyday heavy lifting in the Superior Courts. If you want to be rewarded with damages for your injuries, you need to demonstrate an injury. Go tell a judge about how hurtful it was for you to be called out as a deadbeat with improperly-prepared paperwork, and you might just get to see a staid and stoical black-robed jurist have a good belly-laugh at your expense.

    At the bundling level — and above — there may be hell to pay. And there may be a lot of catch-up work to be done at title companies, as they try to get their own paperwork in order. But I find it hugely implausible that any journeyman judge is going to let people call themselves injured for having gotten just exactly what they were asking for.

    Am I wrong? I’ve got a boatload of REOs in the hopper — buyer’s side only — and I don’t want this mess to come grinding to a halt. And I’ve got quite a few buyers who are going to need financing, so if the lenders — or the title companies — go soft on us, we’re screwed.

    But that’s the bigger picture, and, as much as I hate FannieMae and FreddieMac, they’re going to keep buying and bundling loans. The path through this morass may end up looking like the slaughterhouse floor, but we’re going to keep grinding sausage no matter how much papering over of bad paper we have to do.

    This “scandal” is an excellent argument for getting government out of real estate — since it is the government that will ram its “solution” down everyones’ throats, thus to keep the sausage grinders running on time. But we are what we are, and we’re not going to cripple half or more of the American economy because busy people with no fraudulent intent did stupid things in a red-hot hurry.

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  • 34 comments

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