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Archive for March, 2011

ZestiBerry: Zillow available for your BlackBerry

If you are a Blackberry user, you can now access your Zestifarm on the go.
Thank you, Zillow! Blackberries are industrial strength communicators. They have the best keyboards and battery life in the business. Another reason I like them is that they have insurance available for the time when you drop it and it doesn’t dent the concrete. And one more thing… you can take a call and look something up on your phone without hanging up. That seems to be a big deal these days. Now you can see Zillow on a Blackberry as well. Are there any other happy blackberristas out there?

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  • 3 comments

    Is It Really Just The MLS?

    Greg’s post a few minutes ago lit me up.

    I’m pretty sure that just like Greg a majority of NAR members pay their dues each year for just one reason: To get access to the local MLS system.

    If this is really true, then forcing changes at NAR or killing the organization altogether is likely as simple as building a really solid National Listing system that both pros and consumers would be comfortable with. Of course, the technology already exists and is out there. Adoption is another story, but nothing a souped up modern marketing plan couldn’t overcome.

    But maybe let’s not get ahead of ourselves? First… let’s see for sure whether or not most pros equate NAR dues with little more than MLS access?


    If you’re connected with a fair number of current NAR members and you want to help get a sizable sample for this poll, please feel free to tweet this, put it on facebook, or copy the widget to your website.

    Thanks!

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  • 11 comments

    What’s the best thing the National Association of Realtors can do for the American economy? It could drop dead — but it won’t — so here’s how you can kill it, instead.

    Hey there, toothy-grinned, glad-handing Realtor: How’s the world treating you?

    Business is not so good? Your house is worth less than half of what you paid for it? Your kid has three degrees but can’t get a job?

    Are you looking for someone to blame for your troubles?

    Guess what? There really is a mastermind of evil in the American economy. A vast parasite, a vampire king, with an insatiable appetite to devour everything that used to be known as “the American way of life.”

    Are you being preyed upon by banksters? By Wall Street tycoons? By Chris Dodd and Barney Franks?

    Those are the folks we like to blame, when we seek explanations for the Great Recession.

    But who is really at fault for your miseries?

    The sine qua non cause of this disaster — of the national economic malaise and of your own personal financial situation — is… wait for it…

    The National Association of Realtors.

    It’s the NAR that obstructs consumers’ access to market alternatives to old-fashioned real estate brokerage.

    It’s the NAR that insists on subsidizing homeownership at the expense of other, more-productive uses of capital.

    It’s the NAR that manipulates the tax laws to induce thoughtless consumers to overpay for homes they never would have — and never should have — bought in the first place.

    It’s the NAR that makes war on the rights of Americans to use and enjoy their real property as they choose.

    It was the NAR that lobbied for each law and rule change that resulted in the housing boom, the sub-prime lending catastrophe, the wanton bundling of fraudulent loans, the on-going subsidization of the secondary mortgage market, etc.

    The villain behind all the villains in the collapse of the American economy is the National Association of Realtors.

    The NAR’s legislative initiatives are uniformly criminal in their objectives. The purpose of all economic legislation is to induce by force an outcome that would not occur in the absence of that force. This is crime, no different from a mugging.

    As the author of every state’s real estate licensing laws, the NAR mugs consumers by preventing them from doing business with whom they choose — on the terms they choose.

    And the NAR mugs consumers by promising them a largely non-existent income tax deduction — for borrowers only, not all-cash buyers — while shifting the tax burden to other taxes — and to those hapless cash buyers and to people who don’t even own real property.

    The NAR mugs consumers by ginning up phony incentives to create churn in the real estate market, artificial activity that engenders commission income for real estate brokers but which is destructive of the larger economy.

    The NAR mugs consumers by giving lip-service to the idea private property while it does everything it can to undermine the rights of the owners of real property.

    Why can’t we get rid of the spurious mortgage interest tax deduction? The NAR. Why can’t we get rid of the Community Reinvestment Act? The NAR? Why can’t we get rid of FannieMae, FreddieMac, GinnieMae, FHA, VA, USDA and HUD? The NAR.

    The National Association of Realtors is at war with the actual interests of American consumers — and it is winning that war! There is no greater enemy to the prosperity of the American people than the NAR. Again and again, when you dig down to the sine qua non — without which not — cause of any sort of legislated criminality, you find the NAR as the decisive lobbying leverage. That is, where it is not itself the author of the laws.

    But, hey, so what? The NAR might be mugging the rest of the economy, but they’re my muggers, right?

    Guess again. Crime does not pay.

    The NAR’s crimes only seem to benefit the membership. In fact, every rent-seeking action of the NAR results in destruction elsewhere in the economy. The accretion of this destruction impoverishes everyone — including you. Including your children.

    A free economy is built on production, not on predation. That the NAR claims to be preying on the body politic in your behalf changes nothing. Parasites will feed and feed and feed until they devour the host.

    This is what is happening in America right now: Led by the National Association of Realtors, looting “business-people” of all sorts are devouring the host — that would be your family — to death.

    But wait! Every sort of business has its snout in the corporate welfare trough. The NAR is just getting its share. That’s the logical fallacy called Two Wrongs Make a Right.

    Fine! But even if the NAR doesn’t mug consumers, every other kind of pressure group will. This is true, alas. It’s also the logical fallacy known as Tu Quoque — loosely, “you do it, too.”

    Those two fallacies are worth mastering in all their varieties of plumage. Why? Because, when you find yourself deploying them, you are invariably rationalizing evil.

    The National Association of Realtors is evil.

    It exists to prey upon consumers, to use them as pawns in its conspiracy to enrich its own membership at everyone else’s expense.

    But crime never pays — and this is why the NAR’s economic policies have destroyed the American economy.

    What’s the best thing the NAR could do for the American people?

    It could become an indefatigable champion of the inalienable rights of property owners.

    This is what it could and should do — but it won’t.

    Instead, for as long as it continues to exist, the NAR will persevere as the mastermind of evil in the American economy. More rent-seeking laws. More bogus pretend-benefits for homeowners. More manipulation of the rules to churn the real estate markets. More economic chaos, everywhere, enduringly — until the entire kleptocracy collapses in mass starvation, as it eventually must.

    This is what the National Association of Realtors is. A knowing agent of evil hell-bent on destroying everything that, not that long ago, made America great. The NAR’s sole agenda is to get you to devour your own children — and to get you to thank them for the privilege of destroying everything you love in your life.

    So: Really, what is the absolute best thing the National Association of Realtors can do for America?

    It can drop dead. Ideally at once.

    That won’t happen, either, of course.

    But you can take away its moral sanction. How? Five simple words:

    “They don’t speak for me.”

    The NAR wants to take even more of your money, using it and you as leverage to bribe even more private-property-hating politicians to enact even more economy-destroying legislation.

    If you can quit this vicious labor union and still continue to work in residential real estate, more power to you. But if, like me, you have to pay these vampires to retain access to the MLS system, you can still do what you can to make it plain that the National Association of Realtors does not speak in your behalf.

    The NAR feeds on your blood, ultimately. It is you they deploy as the plastic soldier in their lobbying army. It is your money they subsist on. But it is your moral authority — a million members strong — that they cannot exist without.

    When you withdraw your sanction, you will only weaken the NAR by a tiny increment, that’s true. But you will have weakened it, just as I am doing here. They don’t speak for me.

    If it had any integrity, the National Association of Realtors would do us all a favor and drop dead. Since it hasn’t, we’re going to have to kill it, if we want our freedom back.

    I encourage you to quit the NAR if you can. But I entreat you to withdraw your moral sanction — “They don’t speak for me” — even if you can’t.

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  • NAR dead pool . . . ?

  • 19 comments

    Slow Real Estate Market: I’m not going to take it anymore!

    I haven’t been posting much at Bloodhound lately, or really for awhile.  Professionally, I did not make the progress last year I usually do.  I went backwards and was simply distracted by other things.  By this time last year, I was a very sick boy and it took until nearly Christmas to be back to having much energy or vitality.  But, it wasn’t time wasted.  From a personal standpoint, it confirmed what I already know, and that’s to just do the things that I want to do.  Since that’s pretty much how I’ve always lived, I looked at my life and decided it was perfect.

    So, about January, I had the energy to get back to speed on business.  My brokerage wasn’t doing what I wanted it to do.  It wasn’t doing much at all.  So, I decided to fix it.  I did some Ryan Hartman type of web marketing and got the leads flowing again.  In my market, a market that hasn’t seen over 150 homes sold annually since 2007, I was getting 2 to 5 real buyers per week asking to do business and sending me their contact information.  That was a good start.

    But, that wasn’t enough.  I’m the rural hound in this crowd.  We have a group of brokers really happy with their own little MLS system that doesn’t track much data.  It would look pretty 1992 to the rest of you.  So, by digging into it and looking at what was actually selling, I noticed that foreclosure sales, bank owned and short sales, had gone from a handful of percentage of the market to at least 20%.  Even more instructive, the number was growing quickly.

    While I had a bunch of buyers calling, I was having issues getting folks who could get loans and get deals done.  By dipping my toe in marketing foreclosures I found that most all of them were looking to spend cash.  And, in this resort market, most were wanting premium properties.  Awesome!  That solves the qualification problem

    So, I found out that lakechelanforeclosures.com and chelanforeclosures.com were available.  In a matter of a few days I had 5 of the top 10 spots on google searches for foreclosures in the area.  I now have a great bunch of buyers, new leads coming in looking for properties of all types in the area and deals getting done.

    It took about 6 weeks from the decision to change the outcome I was getting in my brokerage to  a complete turnaround in results.  I would love to tell you I thought of some new marketing secret.  I didn’t.  The mechanics of doing it can all be found in the pages of bloodhound.  I didn’t do anything new but set up a web site that catered to the happening part of my local market.  Since then, I have been working the leads.  If you’ve been looking at all the information on Bloodhound and wondering how effective it is, I can tell you yet again:  This stuff works.

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  • 7 comments

    It’s the REALTOR Party, you can cry if you want to…

    …But when push comes to shove, I’m a Midwesterner- practical, down-to-earth, not prone to crying over spilled milk. If something is wrong, let’s fix it. If there is a problem, let’s find the solution and move along. So when push recently came to shove and the NAR rolled out their latest membership shakedown benefit, my Midwestern mind mulled over what was really happening and whether or not there was a fix.

    There is a video that’s been making the rounds in Ohio as public union options are being reconsidered. In 2007, Bob Chanin, General Counsel to the NEA for over 40 years, gave a farewell speech to the NEA. This is a fascinating look inside the history of one of the biggest, most powerful unions in the country, but at 25 minutes it’s a bit long. Let me break it down for you: Chanin describes in loving detail how the NEA was once-upon-a-time, a quiet little organization of long suffering do-gooders. Then they got politically organized. He says:

    “It is not because of creative ideas, it is not because of the merit of our position, it is not because we care about children, it is not because we have a vision of a great public school for every child. NEA and its affiliates are effective advocates because we have power and we have power because there are more than 3.2 million people who are willing to pay us hundreds of millions of dollars in dues each year because they believe we are the unions that can most effectively represent them, the unions that can protect their rights and advance their interests as education employees.”

    But wait, there’s more:

    “When all is said and done, the NEA and its affiliates must never lose sight of the fact that they are unions and what unions do first and foremost is represent their members.”

    If this doesn’t disturb you, fine. I’m not here to change your mind. And just so I’m clear about this: I’m a REALTOR because I’m forced to be, for access to the MLS, and not necessarily because I want to be (and just for the record, Dear NAR- I’m not anti-NAR per se, but I am anti-coercion. Force is coercion and coercion is thuggery and thuggery is evil. Now that we’ve got that straight… ). It does make me very proud to be a real estate agent though, because, to the very depths of my soul, I love the big idea of property rights and property ownership. That’s the bigger picture for me and that’s the thing that has kept the thuggery from getting too firm a grasp in my own REALTOR/ real estate business. But now the REALTOR Party changes all this. I’m now forced to pay into a PAC- which in essence and for all intents and purposes makes me part of a union in action if not in name. This is problematic for several reasons- one, because I become a direct party to any and all sorts of misguided lobbying that I might find ethically reprehensible, and two, because I can’t serve two masters at the same time and neither can the NAR and what that means is that inevitably there will come a painful moment when the NAR will have to make a decision that will pit its own members (me, you, us) against our own clients. And please don’t lie to yourself- it’s not a matter of if, it’s only a matter of when it happens, although I’d love to be wrong about that (but I won’t be wrong about it). 

    So this quiet unassuming Midwesterner can take a push -forced membership- but now I’ve been shoved- forced PAC contributions. This is where I could waste a lot of time whining about this or endlessly debating the pros and cons, but what would be the point? Do you believe that because the NAR is closely monitoring these discussions they will suddenly decide to dump the REALTOR Party? I’d love for you to be right about that (but you won’t). Instead, my simple and pragmatic mind quickly went through the five stages of grief and decided to move on.

    I’m thinking about what I can do to be the change I want to see in this world and lo and behold, I’ve decided that for me, the most effective plan of action against the latest NAR thuggery benefit is to make a renewed effort to vigorously engage in an ongoing and relentless campaign of  public education about everything that might affect real estate transactions, including exposing whenever the NAR is doing harm.

    Oh I know, I know, mine is but a small voice, in a small town, most clients don’t really care, blah, blah, blah- whatever. Here’s the thing (graphic visuals forthcoming, if you are easily offended, please avert your eyes): I’m not inclined to be gently bent over a barrel by or for any organization, so doing nothing is not in my nature. At the same time, I’m not naive enough to think that my whining about this to the NAR is going to amount to a hill of beans. The way I see it, my biggest weapon is my own grunt on the ground status. By serving my clients and educating them to think for themselves, even in small numbers and one at a time, they will begin to expect, then to demand transparency, better behavior, better service, better real estate transactions, not only for themselves, but for their loved ones. When my clients understand what I understand, they will make their own demands on the NAR and that’s when (and I’m willing to bet only when) real change will happen. Right then. Moving on…

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  • 31 comments

    The Coffee House Crisis

    With all the talk lately about the new lending regulations that will apply on April 1st, a similar set of new laws and regulations has been completely overlooked.  I felt it prudent to bring this unsettling situation to light.

    As you may or may not be aware, over the past few years there have been quite a few problems “percolating” in the retail coffee business.  It seems that some customers have been over-charged, while others have ordered coffee that was too hot or just plain did not satisfy. This is a serious situation, not only because of the expense involved, but also the very real danger of severe burning.

    The House sub-Committee on Agriculture and Imports has been holding hearings into this matter.  They brought a number of new regulations to the full Congress, which were subsequently voted into law and take effect April 1st of this year.  These new regulations govern the coffee purchase transaction within a retail coffee vendor.

    I’ve highlighted some of the key components below:

    • The server must be paid (or tipped) the same for all beverages and may not earn more based on the time or effort involved.  (E.g. there is no difference between an Iced Cocoa Cappuccino 1 pump mocha, 1 pump white mocha, non-fat milk with a drizzle on top and a plain black coffee.
    • Customers must pay by credit card or cash, but never both.  If paying by credit card, they may not leave any cash tip for the server.
    • The Coffee House must distinguish between beans grown / brewed in-house and beans that are imported.  With beans grown / brewed in-house, the server must decide what to charge the customer before the customer ever enters the establishment and must then charge ALL customers that exact same amount.  (The server may only change what they charge once per “qualified period”.)
    • If a customer orders a beverage from the grown / brewed in-house selection and pays with a credit card, the server may receive no tip. (For purposes of this section, even the owner of the Coffee House is considered a “server”.)  Instead, they must be paid according to a compensation plan the Coffee House has created.  Said compensation plan must apply equally to every server who works there, despite experience or expertise.
    • If the customer orders a beverage from the grown / brewed in-house selection and pays with cash, the server shall not be tipped or paid at all!
    • If the customer orders a beverage from the imported bean selection, they MUST pay with a credit card.  The server will then be paid according to a pre-arranged compensation plan which differs with each and every particular grower / brewer.  (Customer has no choice but to pay the higher price associated with credit card use.  They are precluded from using cash if they wish to order from the server.)
    • The server must offer each customer 3 beverage menus from other coffee houses for comparison purposes.
    • The customer must sign a disclosure regarding any sugar, cream, cinnamon, etc. that may be a part of their finished beverage, and then wait 3 hours to actually place their order.  (If the coffee house itself offers these ancillary items, they are prohibited from applying different margins – i.e. they must set prices on these items in such a way that their profits will be the same despite supply or demand.)
    • Finally, the Coffee House must separately retain 5% of its profits against any potential future liability stemming from a customer mishandling their coffee cup or otherwise burning themselves.

    As clear as all of these new regulations appear, there are still some issues to be decided; Congress will, at a later date, notify Coffee Houses how long they will have to wait before they can enjoy that 5% profit they have been denied.  They will also define what a “qualified period” is at some future time.  Also, Congress has not yet defined what a qualifying cup of coffee is or should be, but will do so soon…

    Thank you for your attention to this very serious issue.  With the help provided by our Congressional leaders, I believe we can all feel safer the next time we order a cup of coffee.  Of course it’s quite likely we will pay more due to all the new regulations… and I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t want to be a coffee server… or a lender…

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  • 16 comments

    Turning an iPad into more than a Toy

    I recently upgraded from a iPad 1 to iPad 2. Two reasons: I’ve found the iPad app to be so useful that I wanted my wife/legal assistant/colleague to be able to use one as well. With the iPad’s Daylite Touch, she and I are able to update, add clients and prospects, and manage calendars on our Daylite database.

    Second, while Verizon has customer service problems, AT&T’s coverage where I live is really awful. In certain courtrooms, I’d have to turn the iPad just so to get a signal. Verizon’s network is ubiquitous. While AT&T is purportedly faster, I’d prefer ubiquity and decent speed, to spotty coverage and top speeds.

    The iPad 2 is noticeably faster than the iPad. It’s lighter, and since I use the iPad as basically a book at night in bed, the weight difference is nice. I thought the new cover would not stay on, especially in my bag. But once it closes, it doesn’t move.

    The cameras on the iPad 2 are shockingly lousy. And Face Time is basically useless since no one I know has Face Time.

    I posted a 10 App list on my Raleigh criminal blog and thought I’d share it here, taking out one application which is of use only to lawyers. That makes it a 9 app list. I’ve got no financial interest in any of these products. I use them in my daily law practice. All of these apps could be used in any number of professional settings.

    1. Daylite Touch – This app will only be useful if you use the MacOS Daylite as your database. This is not the place to review Daylite, which is mostly a great product, with a couple of significant flaws. But Daylite is the best solution I’ve found in a Mac environment to manage customer or client relationships. I remote host my Daylite database so that I can reach it anywhere in the world. Daylite Touch is simply awesome. It lets you add new clients (if I get a call when I’m not at the office), update court dates (while sitting in court), add notes, add tasks, and manage an awful lot. It rarely crashes, it seamlessly integrates with the desktop version of Daylite. Truly, Daylite Touch may be the best part of Daylite. There’s a yearly fee of $50 per device, but in my estimation it’s well worth it.
    2. EverNote – If you need to sync documents between devices and computers, EverNote is a great solution. In North Carolina, we have various sentencing guidelines, or updated court room calendars that show which judges have been assigned to which courtrooms. At the start of each week, I’ll refresh whichever documents I need to refresh from various sources in EverNote. During the week, I merely need to go to one spot on my iPad to find whatever reference document or calendar I need to view. EverNote, in short, allows me to keep all of these documents synced and in one place across multiple computers.
    3. LogMeIn – LogMeIn provides a secure way to access your desktop when you’re not in your office. This can be incredibly useful. Let’s say you forgot to load a document from your office into Evernote. LogMeIn will let you load it, so that the document will then be synced with your iPad. Of course, it’s always important to keep your password confidential, since if someone has access to your desktop, they can see everthing.
    4. iAnnotate PDF iPad – I liked iAnnotate last year, and I like it this year. It provides all you really need to view, edit, and share PDFs. There are multiple different PDF viewers, but from my perspective this is the best. Easy to use, not expensive, and very stable.
    5. WordPress for iPad – One of the things I do is maintain my own website and blog. Doing so can be a chore. But it’s also important to keep people up to date about the latest developments in the news and in the law. WordPress for iPad allows me to do this. Admittedly, writing very long posts on the iPad is not very convenient. But I’ve found that I can make quick posts or updates with ease.
    6. DocumentsToGo – I’m cheating here because I haven’t used this suite of software. I have used Apple Pages, which I don’t like. I find the formatting gets all messed up. Since I don’t write long documents on my iPad, I prefer a word processor that will not mess up formatting from documents received from a desktop, but will allow me to make small edits. DocumentsToGo syncs with the cloud (which Apple Pages does not).
    7. Air Sharing HD – There are a number of applications, including DropBox, that allow you to share documents with your iPad. DropBox syncs with the cloud, which then syncs with your iPad or computer (and vice versa). This application allows you to sync directly with your iPad, which means nothing will go to the cloud. In addition, this application will allow you to print directly from your iPad to a networked (Mac) printer. That can be very convenient.

      In the future, it would be nice to permit your iPad to print to any printer (if authorized) in any networked situation. But for now, Air Sharing HD will have to do.

    8. Skype – I put this on the list because I don’t have standard telephones. Instead, I use a combination of Skype and Google Voice and cell phones to direct calls. It works quite well in a small office, allows you the flexibility of appearing to run your office from where ever you may be located, and is very inexpensive. My gripe with Skype is that even after a year, they have not updated their app for the larger iPad screen. Certainly with the new cameras on the new iPad, video conferencing should be integrated into the new Skype iPad app. When it is, this application will be fantastic, much better than Apple’s Face Time which is nearly useless because virtually no one has it.
    9. 1Password – I’m pretty fanatical about managing passwords to maintain security. When you do this, it’s difficult to remember all the passwords you have for different accounts and so forth. 1Password is a secure way to maintain passwords, while not using duplicate passwords at different sites. 1Password is, as far as I know, only for the Mac. But the iPad version of it nicely integrates with the Mac environment. Highly recommended.

    Hopefully these apps will help you use the iPad in your professional practice as more than a toy. I’ve found that these apps really help me deliver high quality criminal law defense to my clients.

    Related posts:
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  • 7 comments

    Is it just me…?

    Or is it getting interesting out there?

    I showed to twelve different parties this week, and I put the ball through the basket four times — two of those with Property Management Agreements after COE. At least two leases, too, with other leases still in doubt. I’m working all day from my car, but that’s always been my favorite place to be.

    Is it just me, or has the worm turned?

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  • 16 comments

    IDX and BLOGS A match made in heaven.

    I was trying to respond to Jeff Brown’s last post about successful blogging and my comments just kept getting too long. So I thought I would send it to Greg as a blog post and see what he thought about posting it. Now, here we are! Thanks Greg!

    While some people are out there looking for the most experienced, thoughtful, succinct and eloquent agent they can find, I actually think those folks are in the minority. I have always felt like the average Joe doesn’t think that we are rocket scientist type consultants, they think we are salesmen.

    Most sellers are looking for the listing agent who has the most signs and success in their neighborhood, or someone who has been referred to them. A few will call based on good blogging, but the vast majority finds the agents that help them by looking at homes that are listed in their area. They have two ways of contacting them, either by calling on the sign or by finding them online in someone’s IDX.

    Most buyers don’t think they need an agent to help them; they just want to see houses.

    A successful blog in my opinion doesn’t have to necessarily convince the potential seller or buyer that you are the one; it has to convince Google that your site has enough authority to place it near the top of the results when someone searches for real estate in your area. Blogs do this in two ways. The first is that Google just loves the blog format. I have written a blog post hit “publish”, realized I had a typo in the title, fixed it immediately and found it indexed in Google with the typo. The post was indexed within 3 minutes of posting.  My website is a blog, even though it has 128 static pages and I have only posted 28 posts. The posts add content; the comments add content (my 28 posts have about a thousand comments).  I would like to post more but I am too busy dealing with the leads.

    I would suggest that when you are measuring bankable results from a Realtor web presence, a blog is just one part of the process.  The other important part of the web presence is having the device that actually converts readers/wishful thinkers into bank depositors, and that is the IDX. The blog brings authority to the site, helps push the site in the SERPs and also brings the visitors. The IDX turns the tire kickers into clients. One doesn’t work very well without the other.

    IMHO it is very difficult to get Seller listing leads (where someone simply calls and wants to interview you for the listing) straight from the knowledge you impart on a blog unless you already dominate an area. I think it is almost impossible if you are new in the business.

    Yet with an IDX, a newer agent (or any agent who has finally decided that it’s actually time to go to work) can attract buyers and help the agent sell some homes. It will also indirectly lead to some listing opportunities with the Buyers who have to sell something first!

    I think that today when a seller starts thinking about selling, he will frequently start by looking at the other homes in his own neighborhood for sale to see what they are selling for, either by calling on signs, or looking them up online in a local IDX.  For years, potential sellers are meeting agents that way. Many sellers will simply call whoever has a lot of signs in the neighborhood, call one of the ten agents they know, call whoever sold them the house, or call the agent their friend used.

    The sellers that are left today… well I don’t think too many of them are reading someone’s brilliant and fresh analysis of the market and calling because they think the blogger invented sliced bread. Maybe a few are, but not “most”.  I think most just want to see how much the house across the street is selling for, so they call and ask… and boom they are talking to the listing agent or the IDX agent.  Those agents, if they are smart, are the early birds that get the worms.

    A blog can be very valuable even if the agent isn’t a great writer and the dominant agent in an area, simply by explaining the process, showcasing the area, and creating the relevant content and keywords that are required to have a presence in the web that someone can actually find while they are searching for info online. In order for your site to be considered an authority it has to have all of the related keywords that apply to your industry. What better way is there to get that authority than by writing posts that explain the process: The appraisal, the inspection, the financing, the staging, the showing, the contracts etc.etc.etc. Obviously there are other factors that influence your position in the search results, but having the semantically related words (keywords) that apply to your industry is an essential ingredient.

    If the website ranks on Google and has traffic, the IDX will give you a steady stream of buyers, and a lighter stream of sellers.  The blog gets you to the party and the IDX is what gets the cute girl to ask you to dance, what happens after that is up to you.

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  • 44 comments

    A new hound in the pound: Introducing Dan Connolly

    How could Dan Connolly need an introduction? He’s been running with the dogs in our comments for years. My fault for not inviting him to join us sooner, but Dan took the hound by the ears in his own behalf. He’ll have a post up for us shortly to let us know what we’ve been missing.

    I asked Dan for a brief bio, and this was his response:

    Bio? I was licensed in 1986, w/RE/MAX since 88… Internet marketer… family man.

    I don’t like to toot my own horn.

    I am committed to ethics and will always go the extra mile.

    I don’t really know what else to say.

    Ah, well, the man might be demure, but I don’t think we’ve ever found him to to be shy of thoughtful opinions. Please make him feel welcome.

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  • 6 comments

    Successful Real Estate Blogging

    Let’s begin with a basic truth. I have nothing whatsoever to add to any blogging conversation veering into technology. I don’t get it, don’t understand it. Did I say I don’t understand the technology of blogging? Hell, I don’t even understand much of the basic nomenclature. Most of us learned early on to take so-called technical advances with a truckload of salt, especially after watching most of them fizzle like a water soaked cherry bomb. It’s gotten so bad, some have viewed the geek crowd’s constant prophesying of website TechNirvana as the eighth plague of Egypt. I’m not nearly that harsh in my view, but their general credibility could use some R & R — Rest and Restoration. (badda boom)

    I’m not talkin’ here about agent sites with an IDX for lead generation. That’s a whole different herd of cats. Not my bailiwick. When it comes to that subject, I ‘call the guy’, and have.

    Can Real Estate Agents Generate Income From Blogs?

    The short answer is yes. But most are horrific crash ‘n burns more suited to the next Jackass sequel. In fact, most agents don’t know an agent who blogs, successful or not. They’re told to blog cuz it’s online, and that’s where the industry is these days. Well, kinda sorta, but that’s another discussion.

    Though I’m still an enthusiastic proponent for hyperlocal, most think it’s either A) Intrinsically worthless or B) WAY too much work. Too each their own. I’m all about content, though I promise not to mention the cliché about blog content that just entered your mind. :) It’s all about what you bring to the table. Is it any different than all the other yawners out there? Or are you steppin’ up with real information, expertise, and superior knowledge?

    Here’s the deal

    Given your specific market, will readers of your blog come away thinking you’re the go-to agent? We all search the net about subjects in which we’re interested. When that interest becomes serious, we become more critical. In my opinion that’s pretty universal.

    It’s at that point a blog’s author either wins ‘em over or loses ‘em.

    Over the years I’ve come to appreciate Greg’s approach — he consistently demonstrates superiority where it counts, does it many times weekly, then waits for readers to raise their hands. What many agents considering a blog don’t consider though, is that Greg also produces real world results. He says what can be done — what and how he can do it — then makes it happen.

    What a wonderful formula for blogging success.

    The thing is, and this is a secret kept well by successful bloggers, it usually takes six months or more to get bankable results. It’s one thing to make a good first impression. It’s a whole different ballgame to get a homeowner to raise their hands for the privilege of paying you thousands of dollars to sell their home. Or, relying upon you to get their back WHILE gettin’ them into the most important financial transaction they’ll probably ever execute.

    Google can recognize you cuz of all the brilliant SEO crappola you put into play. Your traffic might be better than mine. In fact, I can almost guarantee you your traffic will, and probably sooner than later, eclipse mine. Mine is wholly unimpressive by any objective standard. My traffic numbers don’t even impress Mom.

    The point is, the number of readers you attract on a weekly basis isn’t even in the same conversation as the importance of what they find when they get there. All impressive numbers mean, given poor content, is that you’ll wind up disappointing more people.

    Don’t appear to be an expert, be one. Same goes for being knowledgeable, and experienced. Case studies work wonders. The #1 thing real estate blog readers wanna know, is that you consistently produce results. There’s that most dreaded of all words in the real estate world’s nomenclature.

    Riddle me this. Who makes more, the guy who closes 60 deals a year with 500 unique views weekly, OR, the guy who closes 60 deals a year with 5,000 unique weekly views? Take your time, but please show your work.

    Unlike so many others, I don’t believe providing proof of results is a bad thing. How many times have we seen online conversations between agents deriding someone who claimed to be #1 in their area? Again, it’s only a baseless claim, one I’ve never made. However, when I was a house agent, back when only NASA had them there computin’ machines, the rubber often hit the road in a homeowner’s living room or kitchen table.

    30-50 year old agents from nationally advertised firms would precede me with listing presentations. They were all Top Producers, all #1. The proof was inarguable, as it was not only mentioned in their glossy, multi-colored presentation notebooks, but their cards as well. Surely they wouldn’t make it up? Then it was time for my appointment.

    Picture a blonde 24 year old Forrest Gump with a tie and a clipboard walkin’ up to the front door tryin’ his damnedest to look 29. We’d go through the obligatory walk-through, then sit down to talk business. What about my company? My experience? How would I sell their home? At what price and how quickly? You know the drill. Remember when I said,

    “It’s at that point a blog’s author either wins ‘em over or loses ‘em”?

    It’s at that point, the question and answer period. That’s when I turned my clipboard around so they could see it more clearly. It had a list of homes recently listed and sold within 2-3 hundred yards of their home. I’d listed and sold all but two. Game over. Elapsed time: 13 minutes.

    Please press hard while signing, there are three copies.

    Produce content of that nature on your blog consistently and you’ll get traction. The dead president kinda traction, the only kind that matters. It’s about them, and what you can do for them. Convey deeply rooted professional experience. Demonstrate expertise by way of examples. Show a profound knowledge on whatever topic you choose to write — your knowledge.

    I promise you your readers will eventually raise their hands once they’re convinced you’re all those things AND trustworthy. Don’t worry about the competition. Just as there’s a seemingly endless supply of agents, most blogs aren’t worth the paper they’re not written on.

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  • 9 comments

    Sane People Don’t Comment on Real Estate Blogs, You Don’t Need 1,000 Facebook Friends & Other Valuable Lessons Learned From 3 Years Slinging Stuff Online

    The real thing that pissed me off about the well intentioned jackals at Agent ReBoot was not what was explicitly taught: it was what was implied.  Somehow you need oodles of traffic to be successful.  Somehow, you need oodles of Facebook Likes.  That somehow all being able to be at the center a tepid and tense noisy murmur was what it takes to be Real Successful in Real Estate.

    And I’ve made the mistake too.  For a long time, I thought it was simple math: converting a tiny percentage of mostly indifferent people would scale.  You would LinkIn a bunch of people on MyTwitFace and voila! Winning!

    So you take every friend request you can, and you add the pople you connect with, as force of habit.  If someone has 6-7 friends in common, you add them too.  Winning.

    You fire up a blogpost or two,pass it along and your new friends and strangers dutifly comment something often indistinguishable from the stuff that winds up on the wrong side of your akismet filter.

    “Nice post, you laid it on me.”  they dutifly say. And you in turn go through the WP dashboard to their sites.  ”You make nice post to, I love to hear you on this topic! ” It’s all about the dofollow, baby.  Getcher linkbacks here, and on to the next one.

    Winning.  You have a metric to measure: friends, contacts, twitbacks, clicks and raw traffic.  Woot.  Winning. You’re winning that game, the war for comments.  You’re marching your army of 12,000 Twitter Bots, 2100 indifferent Facebookers, and another few hundered people that are still shuffling around the empty halls on LinkedSpace.  Duh, winning!

    Bad contacts- just  like bad money -drive out good contacts.  You had a Facebook full of300 friends, coworkers and neighbors.  You were connected to these people.  You were warmed when you saw the pictures they posted.  Now?   You have 300 of your friends.  But now your Facebook had been “improved” by the 700 Realtors from across the country, the 200 vendors that follow them, and just recently a herd of zebra showed up.  Now, instead of the people you love and know, you also get to follow the exploits of a bunch of middle aged philandering conference goers, their pains and passions.

    This churns up activity for you.  Fills your status with activity, likes, and loves.   You must seem really popular and successful!   So the people that liked you before, that were receptive are now desensitized to your messages.  Your signal to noise ratio went to hell, and there’s no need to tune into anything that you say.  After all, it’s readily apparent that you’re very popular.

    But hey, you’ve got the hordes now.  And you can’t bear to unfriend them, can you?  That would not be nice. And remember, we have to be nice.   The hordes may turn on you!

    Here’s a hint: without looking, go here: http://www.facebook.com/friends/edit/ click “All Friends”.    Go through that page.  IF you don’t know who they are or where they are from?  Buh-bye.  Be ruthless.   Do it 3-4 times.  Tedious work.

    Then call the people that are left.  Apologize to them for being a sales-douche on Facebook, and get on with looking at kid pictures and playing the “thank God” game with all your ex girlfriends.  When you do, you’ll have better relationships, more friends, and

    Indifference doesn’t scale, it spreads.  To you.  You become indifferent about your community, you muss stuff, they become indifferent to you.  When you allow a FB page to have the folks you’re utterly indifferent to on it, then the next thing that happens is that you miss buying signs, status updates of people that are interested in getting help.  You become innured to your real connections.

    Being connected with everyone is like being connected with nobody.    Winning!

    From the hip: Six ways to change Facebook for the better..

    • If the other person is a Realtor, and you are at less than $25,000 in GCI from referred/referring business in the last 12 months?  Ditch ‘em.  If you have more, it’s a judgement call.
    • If the other person is a Realtor’s-hanger-on.  Ditch ‘em.  Even if you’re a Realtor.  (Ahem.  I haven’t solicited any new F.I.R.E. business this year to my knowledge)  I’m all about video these days.
    • If the other person is a drag, in any way, ditch ‘em.  Life’s too short.
    • If the other person is a stranger, either meet ‘em or ditch ‘em.
    • If the other person has more than 3500 friends, ditch ‘em unless you know you’re special.
    • If you haven’t talked in a year, talk or ditch ‘em.

    Less is more.  Win!

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  • 20 comments

    Social Security and the Tyranny of NOOMPs

    The debate over Social Security and America’s mind-boggling debt is going to get more heated.  We’ve seen over and over in polls that people favor cutting spending… unless that spending involves them directly.  In my industry we see it with the NAR and every Rotarian Socialist program that comes down the pike.  But we see it with everyday homeowners too.  “Yes!” they scream with their signs and their votes, “cut spending across the board.  I’ve been taxed enough!”  But suggest eliminating the mortgage interest deduction and see what happens.  “It’s way too important,” and “What would that do to the real estate industry?” (virtually nothing, by the way).  What’s to be concluded?  We are dealing with a nation of NOOMPs. (You remember NIMBYs, right?)  NOOMPs are people who support spending cuts, so long as those cuts are Not Out Of My Pocket.)  And I suggest there’s no greater concentration of NOOMPs than within the AARP.

    Robert Samuelson wrote a good piece in Newsweek recently entitled Who Rules America? It’s The AARP.  In it, he suggests “the AARP sets overall priorities (in government).  Its power derives from the fear it inspires in senators, congressmen, presidents and political candidates.”  He went on to say “No one wants to strip needy seniors of essential benefits.  Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid provide crucial protections for millions of poorer and older households.  But for many relatively healthy and economically secure Americans, these programs constitute middle-class welfare.”  That last bit of analogy apparently caused such an uproar (ostensibly from middle-class Americans who don’t appreciate it when someone points out they are on welfare), that he felt obliged to write a second article entitled Social Security: A Form of Welfare to try and set the record straight.  I applaud Mr. Samuelson for his frank and honest discussion, but I don’t think he goes far enough…

    The Social Security system has been a welfare scheme since its inception.  If it had been a situation where people paid in and then later withdrew – what we might call a retirement account – and which Congress then went in and stole from (leaving behind their ubiquitous IOUs), we could fairly blame the politicians with abandon.  But that’s not the case.  This was sold as a “pay as you go” system and approved by not only politicians, but by the public as well; in election after election after election.  Worse yet, Congress did continually raid the funds and leave behind IOUs, creating the bankrupt situation in which we currently find ourselves.  So here’s the question: do we blame the politicians who kept crooked records and stole (sorry, “borrowed”) money that wasn’t theirs in order to pay for programs people demanded, or do we blame the people demanding them?

    I, for one, am tired of hearing people, especially Baby Busters –quite possibly the most economically, politically and culturally devastating generation in America’s brief history – arguing that they have some kind of contract; they paid in and they deserve their money back.  Or worse: that they paid in and now current generations owe it to them to continue this Ponzi scheme of wealth redistribution.  I’ve got a thought: you, as a generation, voted for the politicians that ignored the Constitution and started government on its current, bloated sense of self.   The unfunded and under-funded attempts at social engineering were initiated on your watch and with your blessing.  It was your call to continue a system anyone with a grade school education could have pointed out was unsustainable; a system that could only survive by increasingly taxing later generations.   How about you take a big bite of humble pie, admit you were wrong, and clean up your own mess.

    I haven’t seen polls to back this up, but I don’t know anyone under the age of 50 (and paying attention) who expects to receive Social Security in their lifetime. So here’s a proposal: we will happily forgo any “benefits” due us for what we’ve paid in thus far – for having supported this theft of our wealth – in return for you taking responsibility for your decisions.  Maybe you can raise the retirement age, maybe you can means test the income, maybe you can cut the pay-out; but here’s the point: I don’t care what you do about it.  Just stop shoveling it my way.  Our current generation of politicians and voters has already given me a $1.5 trillion dollar yearly deficit to deal with and that’s more than enough.  To borrow from the vernacular of your day: Start being stand-up… and stop being NOOMPs.

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  • 13 comments

    Heresies for the Sects of Prospecting: I do not believe my clients need me to be their buddy and I never get hung up on.

    This is a response to a comment from Robert Worthington. I’ve turned it into a post because I talk too much.

    > On average how many visitors are you getting monthly to your site?

    I have no idea. I’ve never been fastidious about analytics, and by now I’m useless. I have no idea which pages are tickling Google (known to my stupid soul as Urchin — that’s how long it’s been since I bothered with any of this) and which are not. Most everything is new, so most pages, presumably, are not even hitting my Analytics account, which I have not visited in years, in any case. I suck at SEO, too. And my CRM-life is CRM-free, still, after years of kvetching about it.

    I need a high-C to bring order to my life, clearly, but there’s more:

    I don’t do Twitter or Facebook. I don’t write much on my real estate weblog and I never go off topic. I don’t get many comments from normal people, I don’t unmoderate comments from real estate professionals, and I don’t encourage comments in any case. The calls to action are email or phone. I write here and there and nowhere else.

    I do not believe my clients need me to be their buddy.

    I do believe they need me to be an expert on residential real estate and how to go about buying, selling, renting, leasing, improving and profiting from it.

    So: I have written tons of content over the years, and I deliver it all on my real estate blogsite. I have no idea how many people see it, nor how many dig in and read it. But I know that the people I hear from are almost always pre-sold on working with us, and most of those contacts turn into closed transactions — many of them multiple transactions, some with multiple-transaction referral trees.

    On top of that, we deliver tons of dynamic content, mostly in the form of MLS listings. Every dipwad in town has search, but we have the best MLS search available from any Phoenix real estate brokerage, and we’ve optimized it in ways that other brokerages can’t. That site SEOs well, so the net result is that we get a lot of very loyal search traffic. Some of that we’ll lose, but we don’t have to keep everything to close a lot of transactions, and that’s an accelerating percolator of new business.

    Everything we do on-line is intended to get people into our software universe. However you find us, I want for you to find your way home, back to the main blogsite. If I can get you to read what I have written, I can show you why our way of working is better for you.

    I have no idea how many people are landing on our pages and skating away or how many more are reading but rejecting the message. What I do know is that I lose very little time to people who are not already pre-sold on everything we are doing. I get people who read well, obviously, and I hear from a lot of high-Cs and high-Ds. Some of my clients possess wealth that is beyond my ability to comprehend. But everyone we talk to is motivated and qualified, and some of them can tell me what I think better than I know it, so carefully have they read what I’ve written.

    But do not attribute any of this to any sort of science. I think a lot about marketing, and I have built some interesting robots that I thought were sound expressions of good marketing principles. But mostly what I have been doing, in the ten years that I have been building real estate sales-seeking web sites, has been satisfying myself. I want something done. I build it my way. If I don’t love it, I’ll keep rebuilding it until I do. But once I do, I may not make it back there for years.

    I have never made a secret of this, and it’s a caveat I would hope to impress upon everyone who reads BloodhoundBlog: I am much better at ideas than I am at execution. I am a high-D to the exclusion of everything, and D means d-o-n-e done. When I am done with something, that’s when I need to hand it off to the high-Cs to execute, document and perfect. I like what we’re doing, but I know we could be doing everything better.

    > Sounds like your business is firing on all cylinders.

    What I want from the web is what I’m getting: Contacts from motivated people who already know they want to work with us.

    I said this at BloodhoundBlog Unchained in 2008, and everyone scoffed.

    And then everyone went off on the Gary Keller trail. That’s fine by me, but it’s not how I want to live. I don’t want to chase business down, I want it to come to me pre-sold. I’ll still have to sell, that’s a given, but I want to sell to people who already have some commitment in the game — ideally a commitment to working with us, but, at a minimum, a serious investment in the game of completing a real estate transaction itself. I don’t want to have to convince someone to want the product — or worse, to want me — before I can even begin to sell the product.

    For all of me, this is what marketing is for, to pre-sell business, so a high-D like me can get down to business. Call it blasphemy to the Bawldguy, but I never get hung up on, and I never want to. I only want to talk to people who already know they want to talk to me.

    We’re growing, and we’re growing in ways that will only get better as our market improves. We were here once before, five years ago to the month, but we’ve mostly been rug-surfing since then: Staying on the rug however we could as it was being pulled out from under us. We might-could be doing enough, by now, to be on the cusp of doing a lot. I’m on pace to do 60 houses this year, which is more than I’ve ever done before. And we’re just that close to being able to scale the property management business, which will turn into a lot more volume, if not a lot more gross profit.

    [Profit? What's that?]

    What I really want, and we’re not even close to being good at this yet, is to make sure we keep the people who find their way into our software universe — keep them before they raise their hands, yes, but, most especially, to cultivate everyone who likes the way we think as loyal customers and referrers forevermore.

    I’m not doing half of what I want done, but if I can get to a place where I can pay staff, we’re going to explode. I think the TwitBoook real estate marketing philosophy is retarded, but I love, love, love the internet. We’ve never done business any other way, and with every passing day I become more convinced that we’re doing it right. I could easily be doing more transactions — by listing short sales or REOs. But I like the business we’re doing, and I like the direction it’s taking us. I think I’m due for some frolicking vindication, if nothing else!

    Robert: Bless you. Thanks for asking.

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  • 9 comments

    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.

    My tenth house for this year is closing today, and I may be leasing up my two vacant rental properties between now and five o’clock. I know, I know — I’m missing out on all those wonderful paper fish on TwitBook, but my experience is that paper-fish chowder doesn’t make for a fulfilling meal.

    Oh, well. Each man to his own saints. But, unlike TwitBook, where spitballs cast at other Realtors come back a thousand fold, when I say the words “I have a no-fee referral,” what that means is pretty simple:

    I have an opportunity for you to catch a real fish — and cash a real paycheck — and all you have to do is deliver the frolicking goods!

    It’s not nearly as much fun as wasting time on line while you pretend you are doing work, but everything’s a trade-off, ain’t it?

    Here are the notes from the seller:

    I am a huge fan of your blog. And though I am not a real estate agent, I used many of your sites articles and initiative to help me locate and buy my current home. Unfortunately, I never came across an informed agent who understood the value of proper high tech research and the value I was bringing to the deal. Sadly, the agent that I settled with for the purchase was nothing more than a functional tool for me to direct. Much disappointment (though I worked a great 25% off market buy in the end!)

    And as I now I am selling my previous house – I beg you assistance: How can a well prepared seller locate a forward-thinking agent?

    I do want a energetic agent. I do want a marketing savvy realtor! I do want a custom yard sign that shows the price! I do want the listing to appear where the buyers are looking online. And on and on.

    Get it? You have to be a Bloodhound. You’ve got to be prepared to do the work.

    But if you are, I’ve got a deal for you, all tied up with a bow, and all you’ve got on TwitBook is a boat full of paper fish.

    Hit me by email if you want to talk to the sellers.

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  • 1 comment

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