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Happy 4th. of July fellow independence seekers

On this day of celebration of our nations independence I think it is only right that we take a few moments to think of our own personal independence. Today is the day we should take off the yokes that we allow to harness us and become independent of our own masters. If not now when?

For a little musical enjoyment today I am including a older Dave Alvin song I hope you enjoy! The video is a recent live performance in Atlanta.

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Washington Scott and the Temple of Jobs

Initial observations about the iPad

Admittedly, I am a fan of electronic gadgets that promise to either make my life easier or make my life more fun. That being said I was very skeptical about the iPad when it was announced. I had made up my mind that the Microsoft Courier was going to be the device that was going to rock my world. Well Apple shipped and Microsoft slipped and I was left clutching at the vapor.

Flash forward to May 2011 since I live in the shadow of Redmond I had to make sure that the Great Eye of Gates did not see me enter the Temple of Jobs. I put on my disguise and I slipped into the Apple Store in the Tacoma Mall. I was greeted by a freshly scrubbed face wearing white tennis shoes. I was so surprised by the neat, clean and very well stocked store that almost dropped the Dixie Cup of Kool Aid that was offered to me.

I was allowed to quietly browse the products offered and was quite impressed with the offerings. I was looking for a 16 gig Wi-Fi iPad and I was politely told that they were out of that model. The salesperson offered to take my name and contact information and would notify me when they received one in stock. Terrified that my contact information would somehow slip into the wrong hands I quickly made my exit from the store. Two days later the draw was too strong. I slipped back into the store and quickly exited with a 16-gig 3g model. That moment might just be the transcendent moment in my real estate career.

Taking the iPad home closing the blinds and turning off all computers running any Microsoft products so that my actions could not be traced to the mother ship in Redmond I opened the box and removed the glowing (ok the screen glows not the actual device) iPad. We have been inseparable since.

Currently I am using my iPad for the following real estate activities:

Email: my Exchange email account was quickly and efficiently configured and setup on the iPad. While not, as powerful as Outlook which was the application that I lived most of my professional life using the mail app is effective and allows me to respond to emails much easier than on my Samsung Epic.

Sign My Pad: this application is simply amazing. For a whopping $3.99 + tax I am able to have my clients sign contracts, addendums etc on my iPad. I had forgotten to bring an addendum with me for my buyers the other night. Fire up Sign My Pad and I was able to cover my backside and impress my clients.

Dropbox: I keep my contracts in the cloud now. This is a 180-degree change for me. I will write more about this later. Suffice it to say iPad + Dropbox = productive agent.

Remember The Milk: one thing I have been hoping to find is a cross platform task list. RTM appears to be a solution. I am still setting up and configuring to work with me and the way I work. RTM looks to be a very strong candidate to be my solution to sticky notes, writing on my hand, and trying to remember to print out my task list from Outlook every morning.

NWMLS: here in Washington we use Matrix as our MLS software. Lets just say Matrix is not mobile device friendly. Trying to look at houses on my phone was causing me aggravation when a client would be able to perform searches faster and more accurate on one of the many consumer search sites. I have been able to use Matrix in Safari on the iPad with mostly positive results. Definitely a step in the right direction. I hope that the developer of Matrix will develop a mobile friendly version of the site.

Initially I did not want the 3g version. I did not want to spend the extra money for functionality that I thought I did not need. My plan was to turn my phone into a mobile hotspot and to connect the iPad to the hotspot. Sprint offers this functionality on my phone for $29.95 a month or $1.00 a day if you only want to turn it on for the day. AT&T offers a 250 Meg package on a month-to-month basis for $14.50. I decided to try this for the first month to see how it works. So far, I have only had one area that the 3g service did not work in. My phone also does not have coverage in this location so both options failed. I activated the hotspot on my phone and while it works and does have 4g connectivity, it drains the battery on my phone almost as fast as a Ferrari guzzles gas. This solution would require me to have my phone connected to a power source if I want to use it for any extended periods of time. Not a viable solution. I am now very happy to have the 3g solution. I know that future iPads and other tablets will have 4g options but if they consume battery power at the rate my phone does then I will be skipping in favor of longer productivity.

Perfect solutions to my desires for mobile connectivity and productivity? No, but a quantum leap forward. I look forward to spending more time learning how to pull more and more of the loose ends of my business and personal life into one device. That device can help me do what I love to do, sell homes.

Oh, and Angry Birds is a great way to spend a few minutes while waiting for your car to get an oil change.


Coming to the silver screen Atlas Shrugged.

Could this be a movie for Bloodhounds everywhere?

I know that just about everyone who reads here at BHB has read Ayn Rand and has their opinions on whether she was a brilliant author. I personally find her works Anthem, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged to be some of the most enjoyable reading that I get to partake of.  I seem to always be reading one of these at any given time.

For many years there have been discussions of how to best bring Atlas Shrugged to the big screen. On April 15th. 2011 the first installment of the book will be released for all of us to watch. Could this be a movie that will inspire everyone? I know that it is a very tall order to bring a work of such magnitude to the masses.  I for one will be watching it on opening night. Right after I have mailed my annual documentation to the looters who are taking more and more from me and always wanting more. I love the fact that the movie is opening on Tax Day. The only other day I can think that might have been more fitting was Independence Day.

Here is the trailer to the movie. I am interested in hearing what you think. Will this be something you will be going to see in the theater in April?


Learning the art of selling consciously

I do not contribute much mostly due to my fears of my writing not holding up well next to so many of the great writers here. However, the only way my writing can improve is by writing and submitting so with that in mind.

I sell real estate. Those four words do a great job of describing me as a professional. Of course there are other things I do with my life but the engine that powers the other areas is selling real estate. I have been on a path to living more consciously for the past few years.  One of the take aways from living consciously is that I need to be focused on whatever task I am working on when I am working on it. I cannot be thinking or worrying about anything else but the task at hand. I have found putting this into practice to be more challenging than I would have ever thought. It is a constant effort to be present in the moment and not be thinking about something completely different. While this has been a struggle it has had success too. When I find myself in the moment I often do not realize it until later when I realize that I just knocked several things off my to-do list and I did not even realize it. It is in that moment that I know I am growing and beginning to master being conscious.

Taking this concept and applying it to sales and prospecting is currently on the top of my to-do list daily. Learning how to sell consciously will allow me to grow my business and my professional abilities to levels that in months past I had only dreamed/wished of. When I committed publicly to prospecting six or more hours a day for the next 120 days I was really pulling out the last of the excuses I had so carefully crafted to keep myself from succeeding  at levels that frightened me. Now I have nowhere to hide. I have opened myself up to accountability and critique if I do not do what it is that I say is so important to me.  The key here is that it is important to me. This is my goal and my dream. It does not have to be anyone else’s it is mine.  I need to find ways to be in the moment when I am prospecting and selling. I often times find myself running a completely different dialog in my head when it comes to prospecting. Operating from fear and intimidation that I am not good enough to be offering my services etc. etc. Yet, when I look back on my client interactions my clients speak very highly of me when it comes to my service, professionalism, and knowledge. Something in my self talk is getting in the way when it comes to selling. It is my responsibility to find the root cause and remove it from my thoughts.

Prospecting can be daunting. Some people simply take to it without what appears to be any fears. Others simply sit on their hands hoping someone will do it for them. I was one of the later. Sitting on the edge of the pool while it seemed like everyone but me was in the water and having a grand time. Finally, I got so tired of sitting on the edge that I went to the high dive and did a cannon ball into the pool. One of the things I love about BHB is that there are so many people here who are willing to teach any of us how to sell. Sort of a variation on “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Many of the statements and articles here are very simple in concept it is in the implementation that we get in our way. By being more conscious of my selling I have made progress in implementing some of the sales practices that lead to skinning cats or to not breaking the chain. In my own way I am now mastering the practice of prospecting. Finding what others need and helping them obtain it repeat and continue.  I can be my own toughest critic. I am on track to close 16 sides this year. Not groundbreaking I know; but it will be my best year with regards to transactions. This will be accomplished in 8 months of work and not 12. I took several months off in late 09 and early 10 to be with my father as he was battling an ailment that took several months to diagnose. Once my dad was back on his feet I felt that I could get back to the business of real estate.  Still 16 sides are not enough to make me feel like I am living up to my abilities. I had wished out loud that I wanted to do 48 sides in 2010. I then promptly took my eye off the ball and ended up in the weeds. Now to keep the pipeline filled with leads I must simply prospect every day.

Consciously prospecting and selling it’s what’s for dinner. Actually it is what generates the money to buy the dinner.


Who Says NAR is Not a Forward Thinking Organization?

I stumbled across an article today from Inman News about the NAR allowing the use of the Realtor Logo on headstones. Turns out the news was shared on Twitter!

If you would like to read the article you can find the story here.

If this was not so crazy I would not believe it. I know that many of you will be rushing out to take advantage of this change of policy =)

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‘Maybe’ kills our careers one letter at a time.

I have been selling real estate for a while now. Not as long as many of you who are frequent contributors or readers here, though. When I got started in real estate, it was the outcome of my last falling out with Corporate America. What my last experience with working for someone else finally taught me is that I am unemployable. I am a great worker; I have a constant flow of ideas that would be of potential value to a business. I simply do not play well with others who are in positions of responsibility and who insist on being a choke point either for my career or for the flow of good ideas to benefit the company. I experience many of the same frustrations in real estate, but at least in real estate I am free to move myself into alignment with others of like mind. I find the choke points to be less restrictive and the potential for personal growth and development to be unlimited.

When I earned my real estate salespersons license (what the State of Washington calls me) I thought that the business would be simple. Just tell people that I am selling real estate and they would say “well, we need to have you help us.” What I found out very quickly was that EVERYBODY knew a Realtor. I was constantly being told “Oh, that’s great but <Insert name here> is selling real estate too.” That response stopped me dead in my tracks. I know that many of you will respond to me that this response should have never stopped me. You are right it; it no longer does, but it did then. I was terrified of rejection or so I thought. What I found out was that I was terrified of everything but the word “Maybe.” No meant that I was being rejected and my self esteem took another blow beneath the belt (I was also going through the long slow decline of a marriage and self esteem was in short supply). Yes meant that I had to deliver value, and frankly I did not have a clue what value to deliver. Maybe, oh sweet maybe. I could go home and tell my wife “So and so said they might need to sell!” I lived for maybes. I cherished maybes. I nourished maybes. I did not want them to grow into yeses. I did not want them to wither into no’s. I wanted an abundance of maybes in my life.

Then one day when I realized that I could in fact deliver value, and that I was actually someone who knew a bit more than the average barista about real estate, it hit me. I wanted yeses. I was still terrified of nos but I wanted to get to that yes.  I started reading BHB and people like Chris Johnson and Jeff Brown were talking about pounding phones and skinning cats. I read what they had to say, and it seemed like they had no fears. I read what Brian Brady and Russell Shaw had to say. Russell was the first one to say things in a way that I could relate to. Then, over time more and more of the posts made sense to me. Just pick up the phone, call, rinse, repeat, again and again as necessary. I’ve read most of the posts on this site at least once and many of them multiple times. Even Greg Swann’s posts that make my brain hurt! The reason I am a Realtor today is because of the posts here on BHB.

Once I realized that I was wasting my time and working much harder and longer to attract the maybe I was hoping for I started realizing that I needed to move to yes.  The fastest way to yes? Ask the questions that will uncover the yes or the no! Simple right? Well on paper it is. I am great at getting in my own way. I second guess everything including the second guesses. It took me a number of months to move out of my own way and to begin to grow a business that today I am proud of. I’m not yet one of my area’s top producers but I  own and run a business that I am happy with. I have a business plan in place for 2010 and I expect that it will be my best year yet.  All it took was to stop looking for maybes.


Atlas Twitched?

In effort to stem public outcry the government today announced that they were limiting the salaries of the top 175 executives for companies that have received federal bailout money.

Will this be the event that causes the best and brightest our country has to stop being exactly what we need in this time of economic strife? Will the best and brightest stay with the companies that so need their talents for a fraction of what they could earn on the free market OR will they do what capitalists have done previously? Will they leave for bigger paydays and more options to earn what the market will bear? I am betting that the majority will follow the opportunities that present themselves in the form of job offers from companies that are in better financial shape and can offer a better financial package. Perhaps one without government run healthcare too. The companies that are in trouble will be forced to struggle with 2nd tier talent to help guide them through the upcoming months. I also predict that we might see a company fail as a direct result of this short sighted action.

This to me seems like the first step towards the very thing that Ayn Rand described in Atlas Shrugged. The thought that this might actually become something other than a work of fiction scares me. What will be next? Will I have to share my commissions with agents who are not working because I am making too much money (A guy can dream now right?) Will our countries talent be wooed by other countries that need our intellectual capital to continue to grow?

While it is disheartening to see reports that the bailout money was used on executive pay and bonuses it is even more troubling to see that our government has decided to step in and force businesses to act and think like government agencies.

Today is a very sad day for the cornerstone of America our capitalistic system.


Estimate to extend the Home Buyer Tax credit? 16.7 Billion What a Bargain!

I was passed along an article today from the WSJ discussing the cost to extend the $8,000 tax credit and to open it to all people purchasing a home would cost $16.7 Billion according to congressional analysts.

The article goes on to state that this is less than expected and could help generate momentum to continue the credit and extend it until June 30th 2010. Wow! That’s only $78,773,585 dollar a day (give or take a million) for the 212 days the extension would be in place.  Additionally this would extend the offer to anyone who wants to buy a home even if it is not their first home. Income limits would be raised to $150,000 for an individual and $300,000 for couples. The senators who are behind this are hoping to attach this to a bill for extending unemployment benefits.

I’m confused here. How on earth can we have a bill in place to extend both unemployment benefits AND a tax credit for anyone to buy a home?

I will admit that I was excited when Washington State was trying to work out a plan to loan the $8,000 tax credit to be used as a down payment. I rushed out and registered a domain name and had visions of more business than I could possibly handle. What happened though really has changed the way I look at the tax credit. First Washington State was not able to find a way to lend the money for use as a down payment.  Second the people that found my site on the tax credit advance were not qualified to buy with or without a tax credit. AND they were upset that it was only $8,000 and had to be repaid. Not a single person I spoke with was in a position to buy a house. Every person was looking for a hand out not a hand up.

Since this awakening I have been slowly building more and more momentum to suggest to my fellow Realtors that the $8,000 tax credit should be allowed to end at midnight November 30th 2009. Any extension is so expensive that I cannot imagine how we will ever repay the debt that we will take on to bribe more people who should not be buying to buy a home. At first I felt like the red headed step child that lived under the stairs but now common sense must be listened to. We cannot keep bribing people into making a decision to take on a commitment that they are not ready to keep.  Even if it’s only $16,700,000,000


Have RE BarCamps lost their way?

I attended the recent Seattle version 2.0 of RE BarCamp earlier this week. Also attending was fellow BHB contributor Al Lorenz.  Held at the Armory on Lake Union, it would be hard to find a location that was more beautiful to hold an event. And yet, I did not come to the event looking for beauty. I came to the event to learn more about techniques that we discuss all the time about marketing and salesmanship. What I discovered was a trade show masquerading as a grass roots event. The main hall of the Armory was lined with various vendor booths fully stocked with the obligatory vendor salespeople. Guys wearing crisp white button-down shirts standing in front of a large tradeshow booth. Bored looking salespeople just hoping that someone with a pulse would stop by their table and inquire about what shiny silver bullet they were selling. To entice agents to stop by and visit, there were all manner of free pens, flashlights, discount coupons, and much, much more…. I don’t know how much business any vendor did. I did pick up one flyer which has already found the way into the recycling after I looked that the product in greater detail online.

The attendance of the event was outstanding. There were over 600 RSVP’s for the event. The Armory easily held the crowd. The challenge of noise was something that everyone struggled with throughout the event. The PA system was difficult to understand simply because the hall was a gymnasium in previous years. The Keynote was by Ian Watt from Vancouver BC. It would have been a very entertaining and enjoyable speech had we been able to see the slides that he brought. The sheet hanging from the balcony was not really the best way to show off all that is glorious about PowerPoint. Ian is a very entertaining person and his presentation was the highlight of the event for me (even with the technical challenges).

The number of real estate professionals that had glazed over looks was disconcerting to me. I overhead a number of people mention that they did not really know why they were there. It was someone else’s idea in the office to attend. It really seemed that the majority of the people attending were not interested in the sharing of ideas and of learning. They were there because someone told them that they “just had to be.” That SMM is the ticket to get their business back on track, get more leads, and to help them lose weight….The sessions were aimed at “entry level” and “not sure if this is for me” audiences. I really feel that the event has grown too big to be the vitally relevant event that it has been in the past. The people that worked so hard to pull the event together deserve to be praised for their organization and hard work. The event was smoothly run (except who forgot to bring a coffee vendor?  I mean, this is Seattle folks) but it lacked the rough around the edges grass roots appeal of version 1.0.  Many of the sessions seemed to be hour long sales pitches from vendors not people in the trenches who are using the product or technology on a daily basis.

What impressed me about the Seattle version 1.0 of RE BarCamp was the free sharing of ideas and processes from those that were actually using the ideas and processes successfully in their businesses. There was a sense from the people that attended that the topics were ones that they were passionate about. The ability to have small conversations about a very specific topic seem to be lacking from the current format of RE BarCamp. I hope that event organizers can make adjustments to the format and that the next event can be more sharing of ideas and information instead of sales pitches for products and services. It is time for real estate professionals to be more free thinking and less apart of the herd mentality that we have blindly been a part of for too long. RE BarCamps can help champion the free thinking agent instead of just helping milk them.


$8,000 Tax Credit Advance Friend or Foe?

I have been following the $8,000 Federal Tax Credit with great interest this year. Currently it is the most talked about topic that I am discussing with potential home buyers. There is a lot of interest in receiving $8,000 when a first time buyer files their taxes for 2009. Now that many states (Washington being one of them) are discussing ways to use the $8,000 tax credit as a way to help first time home buyers get into their homes through bridge loans the discussions have really become spirited. When HUD announced that they would allow the $8,000 tax credit as collateral for “bridge loans” to cover the down payment on FHA insured mortgages the pot literally boiled over with opinions.

Currently it seems on a daily basis that the $8,000 tax credit advance is in the news for one thing or another. Yesterday the Arizona Republic announced that the tax credit would be ineligible for down payment. Later in the afternoon the Seattle Post Intelligencer announced that the Feds still plan to allow use of tax credit for down payments.  Today the Arizona Republic reports the HUD bridge loan program hasn’t been killed. So what exactly is going on with the $8,000 tax credit advance? It would appear that nobody even HUD and FHA really know. I am sure that by the time I actually publish this post there will be something new to report.

What I want to know is what the readers of Bloodhound Blog think of the $8,000 tax credit and in particular what you think of allowing the tax credit to be used towards a buyer’s down payment?

I will go on record that I feel that this makes sense in some particular situations and with some additional requirements on the borrowers.

  • Potential home buyer has the income to cover the complete cost of home ownership out of their current income. The ratios must be well within the FHA guidelines.
  • The credit score of the home buyer is greater than 675. There is no need to allow marginal credit worthy buyer’s even easier access to borrowing money that they might have troubles repaying.
  • The borrower attends and completes a first time home buyer course.
  • The borrower needs to stay in the home five years or repay the $8,000 instead of the three years if they get the money when they file their taxes. They need to have some incentive to keep the home.

Since we already have zero down loans for people wanting to buy in rural areas and for people who have served in the military I am not sure why this program is creating such a public upheaval. Do USDA or VA loans have a significantly higher default rate than other loan programs? What makes us think that the $8,000 tax credit advance program would cause an increase in defaults?

I asked this question yesterday to my LinkedIn connections and I was not surprised that the responses were spirited. Many feel that this is simply going to continuing the overly liberal lending that has created the mess that we are in with regards to real estate. Others feel that lending the money will help jumpstart the economy and that it is of great importance that the government does everything possible to help stimulate the housing markets. Everybody seemed to not have an opinion on the topic. I am sure that the readers here will have something to say on this topic. So, what say you?


The Smell of the Grass, The Crack of the Bat, The Bombs Bursting in Air

John McGraw and Connie Mack were talking Baseball a while back.

“I’m looking to add some new talent” McGraw told Mack.

“There’s lots of talent around these days” Mack replied.

“Yeah, but none of them have passion for the game anymore. They’re all just Nancy boys,” John said.

“Well, have you looked at that Cowan kid up in the Northwest league?” Connie said.

“Yeah, he looks promising but I wonder if he has the moxie to make it here in the bigs?”

“Why don’t you bring him down here for spring training and see if he can hit the breaking ball?”

McGraw telegraphed Seattle asking to have Cowan sent down to Phoenix for spring training. When he got to Phoenix, Cowan was as wide-eyed as they come. He sure looked out of place down in the valley of the sun. “I’ve never been to big leagues spring training before” he stammered.

“Well, just keep your eyes open and learn” McGraw said. McGraw and Mack put the entire team through their paces. The practices were hard and they were long. The spring sun was a warm and welcome change from the dreary gray skies up in Seattle. Everyone at spring training worked hard and did everything the coaches had them do.

There were some really talented folks. Many veterans were in camp, and they led the way. Years of experience made the veterans both savvy and polished. The rookies listened, and learned from the veterans. Soon it was obvious that McGraw and Mack had built another winner of a team.

McGraw and Mack called for Cowan after practice late one afternoon. “Kid, we like your style. Welcome to the show,” and then they walked away.

Well, that’s not really what happened but it sure would have been cool if it had. While down in Phoenix for Bloodhound Blog Unchained, McGraw I mean Greg, asked me to contribute here at Bloodhound Blog. I feel like a rookie who just got the call up to the ’27 Yankees. The murderers’ row of writing talent here is without equal. I only hope that I can carry the water for the team. What I might lack in polished talent I know I make up for in passion. Real estate, Baseball, and technology, are my passions. I am so honored to be able to share them here with all of you. I excited to be here and really looking forward to seeing what the future brings here at Bloodhound Blog.