There’s always something to howl about

Author Archive

Ray Bradbury: “In sum, do not insult me with the beheadings, finger-choppings or the lung-defiations you plan for my works. I need my head to shake or nod, my hand to wave or make into a fist, my lungs to shout or whis­per with. I will not go gently onto a shelf, degutted, to become a non-book.”

Lately I’ve been pondering where the spice in our culture has gone? Perhaps, as a woman of a certain age, I’m unable to see it, but I don’t think so. My deviant detector is fairly well-tuned and I’m drawn to the outsiders of the world because, well, I am one, but it’s very milquetoast out there these days. We wouldn’t want to offend anyone or their delicate sensibilities.

Somehow I missed reading Ray Bradbury. Well, no, not somehow. That was pretty much a planned avoidance of the sci-fi genre in general because it tends to spawn cult-like followers. True story. And I’m not much into cults however clever they are. But today David Boaz at the CATO Institute posted the Coda to the 1979 Del Rey edition of Fahrenheit 451, written by Ray Bradbury. And while I’ve been pondering our collective love of the plain vanilla, I’ve concluded that it seems to have begun around the year this Coda was written. Either it was the death of disco or the election of Ronald Reagan but something went terribly wrong around that time. I never read Bradbury, but this is quite lovely and also funny and has enough biting social commentary to make me appreciate the man’s sensibilities and shared appreciation of digressions. There are indeed many ways to burn a book.

About two years ago, a letter arrived from a solemn young Vassar lady telling me how much she enjoyed reading my experiment in space mythology, The Martian Chronicles.

But, she added, wouldn’t it be a good idea, this late in time, to rewrite the book inserting more women’s characters and roles?

A few years before that I got a certain amount of mail concerning the same Martian book complaining that the blacks in the book were Uncle Toms and why didn’t I “do them over”?

Along about then came a note from a Southern white suggesting that I was prejudiced in favor of the blacks and the entire story should be dropped.

Two weeks ago my mountain of mail delivered forth a pipsqueak mouse of a letter from a well-known publishing house that wanted to reprint my story “The Fog Horn” in a high school reader.

In my story, I had described a lighthouse as hav­ing, late at night, an illumination coming from it that was a “God-Light.” Looking up at it from the view-point of any sea-creature one would have felt that one was in “the Presence.”

The editors had deleted “God-Light” and “in the Presence.”

Some five years back, the editors of yet another anthology for school readers put together a volume with some 400 (count ‘em) short stories in it. How do you cram 400 short stories by Twain, Irving, Poe, Maupassant and Bierce into one book?

Simplicity itself. Skin, debone, demarrow, scarify, melt, render down and destroy. Every adjective that counted, every verb that moved, every metaphor that weighed more than a mosquito—out! Every simile that would have made a sub-moron’s mouth twitch—gone! Any aside that explained the two-bit philosophy of a first-rate writer—lost!

Every story, slenderized, starved, bluepenciled, leeched and bled white, resembled every other story. Twain read like Poe read like Shakespeare read like Dostoevsky read like—in the finale—Edgar Guest. Every word of more than three syllables had been ra­zored. Every image that demanded so much as one instant’s attention—shot dead.

Do you begin to get the damned and incredible picture?

How did I react to all of the above?

By “firing” the whole lot.

By sending rejection slips to each and every one. By ticketing the assembly of idiots to the far reaches of hell.

The point is obvious. There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people run­ning about with lit matches. Every minority, be it Baptist / Unitarian, Irish / Italian / Octogenarian / Zen Buddhist, Zionist/Seventh-day Adventist, Women’s Lib/ Republican, Mattachine/ Four Square Gospel feels it has the will, the right, the duty to douse the kerosene, light the fuse. Every dimwit editor who sees himself as the source of all dreary blanc-mange plain porridge unleavened literature, licks his guillotine and eyes the neck of any author who dares to speak above a whisper or write above a nursery rhyme.

Fire-Captain Beatty, in my novel Fahrenheit 451, described how the books were burned first by minori­ties, each ripping a page or a paragraph from this book, then that, until the day came when the books were empty and the minds shut and the libraries closed forever.

“Shut the door, they’re coming through the win­dow, shut the window, they’re coming through the door,” are the words to an old song. They fit my life-style with newly arriving butcher/censors every month. Only six weeks ago, I discovered that, over the years, some cubby-hole editors at Ballantine Books, fearful of contaminating the young, had, bit by bit, censored some 75 separate sections from the novel. Students, reading the novel which, after all, deals with censorship and book-burning in the fu­ture, wrote to tell me of this exquisite irony. Judy-Lynn Del Rey, one of the new Ballantine editors, is having the entire book reset and republished this summer with all the damns and hells back in place.

A final test for old Job II here: I sent a play, Leviathan 99, off to a university theater a month ago. My play is based on the “Moby Dick” mythology, dedi­cated to Melville, and concerns a rocket crew and a blind space captain who venture forth to encounter a Great White Comet and destroy the destroyer. My drama premieres as an opera in Paris this autumn.

But, for now, the university wrote back that they hardly dared do my play—it had no women in it! And the ERA ladies on campus would descend with ball-bats if the drama department even tried!

Grinding my bicuspids into powder, I suggested that would mean, from now on, no more productions of Boys in the Band (no women), or The Women (no men). Or, counting heads, male and female, a good lot of Shakespeare that would never be seen again, especially if you count lines and find that all the good stuff went to the males!

I wrote back maybe they should do my play one week, and The Women the next. They probably thought I was joking, and I’m not sure that I wasn’t.

For it is a mad world and it will get madder if we allow the minorities, be they dwarf or giant, orangu­tan or dolphin, nuclear-head or water-conversation­ist, pro-computerologist or Neo-Luddite, simpleton or sage, to interfere with aesthetics. The real world is the playing ground for each and every group, to make or unmake laws. But the tip of the nose of my book or stories or poems is where their rights end and my territorial imperatives begin, run and rule. If Mor­mons do not like my plays, let them write their own. If the Irish hate my Dublin stories, let them rent type-writers. If teachers and grammar school editors find my jawbreaker sentences shatter their mushmilk teeth, let them eat stale cake dunked in weak tea of their own ungodly manufacture. If the Chicano intel­lectuals wish to re-cut my “Wonderful Ice Cream Suit” so it shapes “Zoot,” may the belt unravel and the pants fall.

For, let’s face it, digression is the soul of wit. Take philosophic asides away from Dante, Milton or Ham-let’s father’s ghost and what stays is dry bones. Laur­ence Sterne said it once: Digressions, incontestably, are the sunshine, the life, the soul of reading! Take them out and one cold eternal winter would reign in every page. Restore them to the writer—he steps forth like a bridegroom, bids them all-hail, brings in variety and forbids the appetite to fail.

In sum, do not insult me with the beheadings, finger-choppings or the lung-defiations you plan for my works. I need my head to shake or nod, my hand to wave or make into a fist, my lungs to shout or whis­per with. I will not go gently onto a shelf, degutted, to become a non-book.

All you umpires, back to the bleachers. Referees, hit the showers. It’s my game. I pitch, I hit, I catch. I run the bases. At sunset I’ve won or lost. At sunrise, I’m out again, giving it the old try.

And no one can help me. Not even you.


What Willie’s Roadhouse taught me about being a Niche Biche.

Yes, yes, I’m late to the SiriusXm party I admit it, but we recently got rid of a car with a cassette player, so that should tell you a lot. Honestly, the only thing I knew about satellite radio was Howard Stern so you can’t really blame me, can you? But that’s the past. Now that I’m here, can I tell you how much I love it? I do! I love it! A channel of nothing but Broadway show tunes? What, are you kidding me? My gay clients and I have sing-alongs, but that’s not why I love it. Here’s why I love it: It’s specialized. I don’t know how many channels there are altogether because I only listen to two. I flip between OnBroadway and Willie’s Roadhouse. I’m not interested in Spa, POTUS, or Hair Nation (If you’ve ever met me you know I live in my own private Hair Nation, thanksanyway), or any other of the bazillion channels available, each so freaking specialized and focused that it blows my mind! On the way from OnBroadway to Roadhouse, I have to pass Prime Country, Outlaw Country, Bluegrass Junction, and The Highway. No thank you, I’m not interested. I want my Roadhouse. I want my George and Tammy, my Johnny and June, and a little lite Texas Swing thrown in to mix it up. I’ve been laboring under the false impression that C&W was C&W but no, not even close. And each radio station taps into one tiny segment of the entire car-driving radio-listening population, each driver getting their own unique radio itch scratched in just the right place- it’s ecstasy. Pure unadulterated radio ecstasy. But this is a real estate blog so let’s talk Realtor talk.

Last week I was referring a lead to a Realtor and she informed me that I’m too quick to limit myself to one area. Not really true, but I remembered Ryan Hartman’s post that gave away the blue print for a broker’s market domination plan. You should go read it, I’ll wait. Done? Okay, see where I’m going with this?

You know how much you love satellite radio? Because it’s so damn focused on one little segment of the entire listening audience and it scratches your itch in just the right way? You could be doing that with your blog. Focused on one little area, or one unique niche, biche, or one long tail search, giving a potential client just the right information, just the perfect combination of insight and expertise so that you’ve scratched a real estate itch that only you can scratch. Satisfaction. The IDX can only do so much, just like the music can only do so much, it’s you putting the whole package together: Restaurants, retail, Little League, market reports, and houses for sale, to create one unique and highly and perfectly specialized niche.

The area that I was told I shouldn’t limit myself to? 438 homes were sold in that area last year. It’s just me right now. I could sell 5% of those homes and have an okay year. Specialize? Limit myself? I believe I’ll take a cue from satellite radio and follow Ryan’s advice, because that’s an itch I know how to scratch.


Online Reputation Management for Realtors (and everyone else for that matter)

Recently I was asked to participate on a speaker’s panel at an upcoming real estate conference in Columbus. It’s always nice to be asked to participate and I even had a disturbing but fleeting Sally Fields moment. Conventional conventions are not my thing, but I got to thinking about the subject of the panel- Online Reputation Management and while in the end I demurred, I knew I had much more to say about the subject than my share of a speaker’s panel would allow. Here then, is what I might have said about ORM in 15 minutes or less:

Online Reputation Management. Interesting concept. I know what it means, I’m just not sure it gets to the root of the problem and the problem isn’t that people can post horrible and hideous things about you online, because if you spend enough time online speaking your mind, not hiding who you are, well then girlfriend, someone, somewhere is bound to say something hideous and horrible about you. The focus should not be that you cannot control what other people say, that’s reactive thinking. The focus should be on the only thing you can control- your own thoughts and actions.

It occurs to me that once upon a time a Realtor’s reputation was theirs to control through advertising alone. They wrote smarmy or vague advertisements about being the Neighborhood Expert, and who knew any better? What were you going to do- go around to each of your neighbors for verification? “You know this guy? Is he the expert?” It’d take for friggin’ ever to get a consensus on whether or not Joe, the Friendly Neighborhood Expert (FNE), was in fact, a) Friendly, or b) an Expert, but the interwebs changed all that, sort of. I mean you can still say whatever you want about yourself, but now your clients can turn to the ultimate FNE, aka Google, and in the blink of an eye, all is revealed.

This is a good thing. It’s good for us. It’s good for our industry. But most importantly it’s good for our clients because now you really do have to be an FNE if you are going to call yourself one. If you talk about customer service, you’d better deliver the goods. If you claim to be a top producer, you might want to make sure that jives with the facts. This isn’t bad, but it might be a different way of thinking.

We’ve been having some amazing conversations about privacy here on BloodhoundBlog, mind-bending conversations about a world where privacy doesn’t exist and why it shouldn’t. I confess I was not on board with this at first.  I’m sure there is something in my lily white bread past that I’d be horrified if you knew. I’m sure there is something in my Midwest, middle class, psuedo-Catholic upbringing that you’d be horrified if you knew. Like… I once cheated on an Algebra test. Okay, you caught me, I did it twice. And… I would, on occasion, buy booze at the local drive-thru when I was only 16. Heard enough? No? Okay, how ’bout this- I own an entire Time-Life collection of Cowboy Songs. On cassette! Think what you will, think less of me if you must, now you know my deepest secrets.

What does that have to do with ORM? Transparency. Did you ever read Greg’s post on the Implied Accusation? He suggests that you treat your clients as transparently as possible, something like this:

“I make my living effecting real estate transactions, and I don’t get paid until every step of the process is completed. But my legal and moral obligation to my clients eclipses every other interest in my life, including my own self-interest. I want for you to be happy at the end of this process — no matter how it ends. I want for you to be delighted with the work I’ve done for you, even if we end up not buying or selling a house. You are my client now, and I want you to be my client forever. I want to do everything that is right for you, first and always. And I want for you to bring me all your business — you and everyone you know. And I want for you never to feel the need to sue me. The moral is the practical, always, no matter what business we do — or don’t do — right now.

“Why am I saying all this to you? For two reasons: To make it explicit, and so you can feel comfortable holding me accountable to it. These are the terms on which I do business with everyone, and this little speech is your warranty that I will do business with you this way, as well.”

I bring this up because this gets to the heart and soul and brains of Reputation Management. You must be honest, open, transparent, throughout every aspect of a real estate transaction- hiding nothing, revealing everything, working in a completely open manner in real life, otherwise your online reputation is worth the paper it’s written on.  In other words, how we conduct ourselves offline is really the only way to manage our reputations online. Last week, Greg Swann wrote in an email about privacy:

“Transparency means never having a motivation you hope to conceal from discovery.”

Our clients are not idiots, we must stop treating them as if they are. The transparency needed to earn your client’s trust and keep your reputation polished will not come from the top down in this industry so don’t look to the NAR for an example on how to conduct business that minimizes your risk of reputation damage. The past few years have done nothing to elevate the reputation of the real estate industry, but we can move beyond that by considering how we conduct every detail and aspect of our own business and our own dealings with our own clients. “Transparency means never having a motivation you hope to conceal from discovery.”  If you do this one thing, or make every attempt to do this one thing, it won’t matter what anyone says about you because in the end, the truth will always speak for itself. Want to know how best to manage your online reputation? It begins and ends offline, with this: Mind your motivation and your reputation will mind itself.


Say “Cheese!” It’s time to play Business Card Monte

We’ve all seen them. The usual suspects on a line-up across a counter in an empty kitchen. Gathering dust on a convenient window sill. Spread out like an abandoned poker game on a dining table. Ah yes, the real estate business cards left behind at showings. Black, white, red, blue, cheap, shiny, standard issue, each one with a Friendly Neighborhood Expert (FNE) smiling earnestly or stupidly grinning, depending (see tiny mug shot, above). My clients notice them too and they kind of scowl over the line up. When I toss mine onto the pile they say, “Hmm. Yours is different.” At which point I flash my own killerwatt smile and say, “Because I am.” They grin back, we move along.

Business cards are pretty awesome when you think about it. Palm-sized advertisements that you can carry about. A potentially effective way to get your message across, but it seems mostly wasted in the world of real estate.

Recently I saw a business card that was left behind with a printed thank you message: “Thank you for allowing us to show your property.” That’s nice. The message was printed next to the full length image of Mr and Mrs FNE. I wonder if it would be useful to have a showing-specific business card, with space to write a note on it? “Love the floor plan!” “Great job with the kitchen.” “Sorry we accidentally let the cat out.” “What the hell is that smell?” You get my point. Someone more experienced can fill me in on why that would be a disastrous idea for their client.

I’ve had property-specific business cards printed up, that’s an easy item to hand across a threshold if you are door knocking, and I have all purpose business cards I use, (see blurry photo, below) they feature The Brick Ranch logo from my website, and it does stand out in a sea of tiny FNEs splashed across the Formica, but business cards are so cheap, why not have a few on hand for a multitude of purposes?

I remember Russell Shaw commenting on one of the BHB business card posts that your face had better be on the card at Realtor networking events. Okay. I can get those printed for cheap at $18.00/thousand. Done. And at the rate I attend real estate networking events, they’ll still have to throw out the bulk after my funeral.

If I worked heavily in short sales, I’d have all sorts of info on the back of a Short Sale specific card. First-time buyers, luxury market, property management, anything could have its own card with information pertaining to that segment of the real estate world.

For the record, here’s my all-purpose business card, but I’m thinking of diversifying. Real estate business cards are notoriously boring, but tremendously cheap so why not? What about you? Done anything interesting with your business card lately?



A Bloodsucker’s Ball

If I was going to create a soundtrack for #rppsi, (and why wouldn’t I?), it would have to include the dark and disturbing world of Mack the Knife.

Nick Cave, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and Lotte Lenya stick it to us. Enjoy the pain.


When all you have are fangs, everything looks like an artery

I’m so glad that the NAR leaders took the time to present the Town Hall meeting. It was both informative and educational and I learned quite a bit about the NAR, how they really function as an organization, and what they hope to accomplish with the Realtor Party. Ya know, the NAR leaders who took the time to prepare and present this Town Hall seem like really nice folks who truly believe in what they are saying, and I believe them when they say it really is about survival, but their solutions are based on what they’ve done in the past, and what they’ve done in the past is look at taxpayers, politicians, and members, as dinner.

Some of my favorite quotes:

“It’s the few of us who are pulling everybody else along. A few of us are making and allowing people to stay in business because of our RPAC donations. It’s time that everybody gives… We need to make this fair for everybody and everybody needs to share in what we do at NAR.”

In other words, “we need your blood in order to survive”. Something doesn’t quite follow, though. If I’m forced to join the NAR in order to be a member of the MLS, how am I being unfair to the NAR because I’m not a willing participant in their RPAC political blood-sucking initiatives?

Speaking of those political initiatives…

“(The NAR has) over a million members… about 900,000 of them don’t stand up and charge when we say charge.”

Oh. Well. I do beg your pardon. And yet, even with such a lamentably small number of  foot soldiers willing to do their bidding, (Dear NAR- instead of looking at us as sheeple, perhaps you should consider upping your own UVP) the NAR proudly proclaims all the fine work it did in pushing for the cannibalizing Home Buyer Tax Credit. That was good for the temporary survival of Realtors, not so good for home buyers who may have paid more for their homes than they otherwise would have if the market had been allowed to work itself out and, especially not so good for taxpayers who have just flushed more than half a billion dollars down the commode on tax refunds to ineligible home buyers. Well done, RPAC. Well done.

So now the NAR is looking at its own members and licking its lips, and after the Town Hall meeting, I think I might understand the thought process at work here. After all, if all you have are fangs, everything looks like an artery.


The Realtor Party, Part II: The Implied Accusation, and Other (Missed?) Opportunities

While Greg Swann takes on the big thinker issues behind the proposed Realtor Party Political Survival Initiative, I’m pondering a more microscopic view- how might this affect the relationship between my clients and me. Maybe not at all. I have no reason to believe that the public will think much about it, at least for a few years, and they may even like it. So what’s the harm?

We know that REALTORs rank along side used car salesmen, lawyers, politicians, and Stuff You Scrap Off Your Shoe when it comes to public opinion polls. As an industry, we are not trusted. At this point in time, our industry is widely considered a necessary evil. Why should that be? We have a Code of Ethics. Doesn’t that make us all, I don’t know, ethical? Our image problem is so pervasive and institutionalized that millions of dollars go toward advertising to get the word out that we are professionals. So how does the Realtor Party solve that? It doesn’t. In fact, it makes things worse. The reason (as in one reason) given for the RPPSI is that as an industry we need to compete with other self-interests. This benefits our image how?

So, I’m thinking… What if? What if we turned away from that? What if we stopped wrestling with pigs and the dirty business of politics? What if instead of more politics, we opened our eyes to the extraordinary opportunity in front of us?

This site is a treasure trove and one of my favorite posts is, The Implied Accusation in real estate: How to win the war on your attitude… It’s not over dramatizing to say that this post changed the way I communicate with clients. In fact, I’ve printed parts of it to give to my clients, who also love it. In part:

The Implied Accusation is the underground river flowing through every unhappy relationship. To address good and evil, all you have to do is bring things out into the open. But after a while, there is simply too much to go through, too much that is too shameful to be cheerfully borne and revisited. Nothing lives underground, but nothing ever really dies, either, its just rots, becoming its own graveyard. In the end, it becomes easier to destroy the relationship than to go to all the work necessary to repair it.

Here is The Implied Accusation in real estate: “Realtors are stupid.” “Realtors are corrupt.” “Realtors are lazy.” “Realtors are self-serving.” “Realtors will say anything to make a deal.” These ideas are epidemic, a cultural undercurrent.

You know these charges are untrue, but what do you do about them? To leave The Implied Accusation unnamed, unaddressed is to seem to confess to it, or at least to plead no contest. Your clients begin their relationship with you with unstated doubts about your integrity, and you hope to counter those attitudes by your behavior.

This is not enough. You have to make the issue explicit. You have to make every bit of it explicit, and not just once. At any point in your relationship with a client — possibly years after a transaction has closed — you may have to address The Implied Accusation. When, specifically? When there arises the possibility of a colorable doubt about your motives. The trouble is not that your client might complain, but, rather, that he might not complain and yet walk away from your relationship feeling aggrieved.

Back to the grunt on the ground level. What if we said no to RPPSI? What if we saw in ourselves the opportunity to rise above politics, step away from politics as usual. What if we grabbed this as our chance to once and for all collectively say out loud to our clients,

“The most important point I want to convey to you is that I intend to work for you as if you were a member of my own family. If my mother were buying a home, if my sister were selling, if my son were getting his first condo, not one of them could expect better service from me than I plan to give to you.

“Why do I work that way? I believe in doing the right thing, no matter what, and that’s my overriding reason. But the fact is, if I treat you the way you want to be treated, you’ll bring all your future business to me, and you’ll refer all your friends and family to me. Furthermore, I incur a legal liability when I represent you in a real estate transaction. I’ve never been sued, and, god help me, I never will be. But my best protection against getting sued is to do right by you in the first place.

“I make my living effecting real estate transactions, and I don’t get paid until every step of the process is completed. But my legal and moral obligation to my clients eclipses every other interest in my life, including my own self-interest. I want for you to be happy at the end of this process — no matter how it ends. I want for you to be delighted with the work I’ve done for you, even if we end up not buying or selling a house. You are my client now, and I want you to be my client forever. I want to do everything that is right for you, first and always. And I want for you to bring me all your business — you and everyone you know. And I want for you never to feel the need to sue me. The moral is the practical, always, no matter what business we do — or don’t do — right now.

“Why am I saying all this to you? For two reasons: To make it explicit, and so you can feel comfortable holding me accountable to it. These are the terms on which I do business with everyone, and this little speech is your warranty that I will do business with you this way, as well.”

Dear NAR, It seems to me that you have a real chance here to rise above. This is your time to face the implied accusation head on. This is your opportunity to begin to right the wrongs of the past; to heal wounds, to repair the damage you’ve been a willing party to, and to make us proud…

If you make your moral code explicit — in real estate or in your life as a whole — and then live up to that moral code, you will be unassailable. The moral is the practical. We do well by doing good. And virtue — properly understood and properly effected — is all the reward you could ever want…

I want to be proud of this organization and this industry. I want to know that the NAR is the largest champion of private property rights- all private property rights- in the world. That our moral code is beyond reproach, and people anywhere in the world can look to the NAR for how to protect themselves (their property) from coercive forces…. Sigh. Otherwise, Dear NAR, now more than ever before, you will not speak for me.


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…


“As Ohio goes, so goes the nation.”

Governor John Kasich said it here.

But let me break it down for you:


Time off for good behavior

My husband Jamie took off work for two solid weeks over the holiday, but even then, today he shared a rather startling revelation with me: He still lost 60 hours of vacation time in 2010. I was in the middle of creating a weekly schedule for myself in order to practice time blocking in 2011, and I had asked him about vacations, suggesting we schedule time off together- early and often. We’ve got kids in college and young critters at home, so a tight budget and an undisciplined puppy mean we won’t be taking any two week trips to Paris but still, we could easily schedule a morning off on that day, an overnight trip to Indy or Columbus this day, a day trip to watch the ponies run in Kentucky on yet another day. It would be fun just to try to use up 60 hours and not really go anywhere at all.

We had 7 major family celebrations since Thanksgiving. Add a handful of office parties and friends gathering together, and dammit I’m looking forward to Monday. Our obligations to other people pushed hard into our relaxation time this holiday and we all have a bit of holiday fatigue which is really unfair to those people we love, but also it is not a healthy way to begin the trek through the long winter months.

So as I was working out a weekly schedule for real estate related tasks, it occurred to me that I have no option but to combat fatigue of any sort by scheduling some goof off time. The whole reason for creating a schedule is to help me to meet goals and some of my goals are personal. I want to paint again. I want to spend time with my husband and my friends, nurturing some relationships that have gotten a bit weedy lately. I want to poke around some boutiques that I pass by on a regular basis and try out some new coffee shops.  In other words, I want guilt-free time that is mine alone to decide how to use and likely the only way to do that is, ironically, to schedule it into my calendar. Surely I’m not the only one who struggles with this, although today it occurred to me that I probably just need to get over myself. Geez. The world turns without me- so go ahead Lussier, take a day off.

I’m not talking about time for church or the gym or to coach the kid’s soccer team, those seem to be obligatory to most of us. I’m talking about time set aside for yourself for nothing in particular. I know you pros who have been in real estate for years can probably attest to benefits of scheduling time off and vacation time. I was hoping you would share some of the things you do- the big and small things- that help you recharge your batteries on a regular basis. Do you only return calls during certain hours? Do you schedule a weekly date night? I’m wondering, how do you maintain your balance?


It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

… which brings a groan from the deepest depths of my soul. I’m not holly jolly Christmas type. The hustle and bustle part of this season can put me in a funk. I used to wonder about that, but now I think it might be because I already have all I want for Christmas.

I do look forward to my own little family’s one Christmas tradition that isn’t pillaged by the outside world: Our Christmas Eve dinner of duck served with a changing assortment of side dishes and always a cordial glass worth of wine for the almost-of-age among us. It’s a time for us to slow down and reflect and love each other, and for each of us it’s become our favorite part of the holiday.

This is an amazing band from Cincinnati- Over The Rhine. This song is for those of us who dread the holidays but have learned how to live through them by creating our own traditions and finding our own way to be happy. Sing it, sister.


In which I find more focus and dump the hocus pocus

Disclaimer: If your business is humming along, I doubt you will get much useful information from this post, however, please do feel free to share any productivity hints in the comment section. Thanks!

I made a public commitment, and so I thought I share where I was and where I’m going. To Jeff Brown: I have yet to do one single 6 hour prospecting day. Haven’t done one. I’ve gotten to the point where I can do 3 hours most days of the work week, but even that isn’t consistent, so that’s still a goal, and I’m still committed to hitting that goal, and I will, but it’s a tough one for me. Which brings me to my first point: Real estate is not an instant gratification business. And the church says, “Duh!” Right. Old-timers are laughing their arses off right about now and I am too. I really like instant gratification, but unfortunately, I can’t use it to pay bills, so if you are seduced by that, as I often am, be careful. Don’t lie to yourself about what is “working”.

Working requires thoughtful planning and focus. If you want to brainstorm an idea, give me a call, drop me an email. I am very very good at brainstorming. Making a goal, making a commitment to that goal, doing the basics, this focus comes less naturally to me, but that’s where the money is so that’s what I’m learning to do.  Know thyself: Hands down, best thing I’ve done to help me focus was to secure a private office. I had been “working” out of a desk in our family room. Oh, I know, my broker supplies a desk at the office, I could use that but my stuff is at home. Unfortunately, so are our dogs, our cats, our kids, the laundry, food, you get the point. Here’s my solution: My broker owns our office building and this being the Rust Belt circa 2010, we have a few empty suites in the building which he has been trying to lease. I’ve taken over an office on a month-by-month basis. If he finds a tenant, I get kicked out. I moved into this new office in September, and it took me about a month to weed out paper, organize for efficiency, and learn how to maximize time at the office- more about that in a bit.

Working from an office has done a few things for me. The drive to a separate building allows or forces me to make a mental shift in attitude: I’m driving to work, I’m there to work. I don’t have all day to spend there so I must stay focused on accomplishing what I’m there to do, and I am very proud to say that I’ve learned to do that. Took awhile, wasn’t easy, but I can do it. And an inexpensive office is probably easy for you to find as well. My Plan B for securing an office was to offer a nominal fee on a month-by-month basis to any number of vacant offices in town. Someone will prefer something to nothing and giving the owner the ability to continue to search for a more permanent tenant sweetens the deal.

The fact that there is an entire industry devoted to organizing calendars and To-Do lists shows how difficult it is for most people to get things done. My husband Jamie is an engineer and project manager, his boss is an off the charts D personality, they share a secretary who is amazingly organized. They all use spiral bound notebooks- you know, the kind you can buy for .10 cents during the back-to-school sales? They each use cheap spiral notebooks for their To-Do lists. As I mentioned before I’m an idea-generator which means I’m a note-maker. I write stuff down, doodle, etc, all day. Writing all this on a spiral notebook To-Do list makes for one big mess at the end of the day. If I write these bits and pieces on scraps of paper or sticky notes, they end up all over the place, which sometimes means lost. Now, I’ve taken an idea from Rands in Repose and use both a To-Do list and what he refers to as a Parking Lot. I use a steno pad for the To-Do list. Its smaller size is convenient and prevents me from writing notes all over it, keeping it clean and easy to read. The Parking Lot is a legal pad that I keep just to the right of my computer– I’m right-handed– with a pen on top. That’s the place I can make notes, doodle while on hold, write down phone numbers and names, dates, etc. Each page is dated so it’s easy to track down notes later, and at the end of the day anything useful or important gets transferred elsewhere- my To-Do list, a calendar, my files. I have yet find a calendar that is useful to me. Suggestions?

I’ve just this past week created a spreadsheet for tracking numbers. No more guess work for me, but also, there’s no way to lie to myself about what is really happening. Yes, I’ve lied to myself. I’ve got a whole bundle of bad habits to undo. Numbers can’t be improved if you don’t know them, but the added bonus of tracking numbers is that they are just numbers. I’ve removed the emotion- it’s just numbers. This is important- it’s crucial for me. So I’m tracking number of contacts and the sources, as well as work in and work out. What do you track that’s improved your productivity?

For the past year and a half I’ve been referring business out, so in one sense, I’m starting over. I’m starting from a stronger place, but it’s a very new beginning. On the other hand, I don’t think I’m any different from any one else in the business. I’ve been listening to Floyd Wickman, and he said something that really struck a chord with me: “Every day in this business, we wake up unemployed.” Once that sunk into the gray matter, it put things into perspective. I wake up every morning thinking to myself: I’ve got to find a job today. And to be honest with you, instead of a frightening thought, it’s kinda where I get my kicks. How many other jobs hold so much opportunity?

I have a favorite quote from Ohio president William Howard Taft,

“Next to the right of liberty, the right of property is the most important individual right guaranteed by the Constitution and the one which, united with that of personal liberty, has contributed more to the growth of civilization than any other institution established by the human race.”

Combine that with the thrill of the job hunt? I got it bad. No other career is going to do it for me. I’m going to make this work.


Because bloodless revolutions are sexy


Door knocking my way to walking the walk

So now that it’s time to think big and act on those thoughts, I went door knocking. Oh yes I did. I have made a public commitment to prospecting, and no, I do not have an unbroken chain of red X’s, and no, I don’t feel good about that. Okay so now that we have that covered, let me tell you about door knocking.

Another Realtor and I have on occasion been partnering up for the past year. She’s just gone full time so I recently suggested that we go door knocking. Not only has she never done this, but when I suggested it, she was sure that: a) she’d hate it; b) she’d have people cuss her out and slam the door in her face; c) she’d promptly be kicked off this planet; or d) all of the above. What she didn’t count on, couldn’t believe, and was tickled to find out was, e) none of the above happened. Here’s what we learned about door knocking: The hardest part is getting started. No really. Once you set a time, drive to the neighborhood and get yo lazy booty out the car, the hard part is over, and once you knock on that first door, the rest is a cake walk down Primrose Lane.

We picked a practice neighborhood. A neighborhood that we have a listing in, giving us something to talk about, but we really wanted a neighborhood in which we wouldn’t be too horrified to make some mistakes. It’s a forgiving neighborhood that I’m familiar with. Hard-working, blue collar, friendly people who are used to door-to-door sales people. They will either open the door to be polite, or kindly tell us no thanks. Sorry BawldGuy, not one person told us to go to hell- not one! The houses are close together allowing us to quickly move on to the next house, and we went in the afternoon, 2pm, our thought being the only people home at that time are either retired or SAHM, and both would be receptive to having a quick face-to-face with a friendly adult to break up the routine of the day, plus, retired folks always know what is going on in the ‘hood, and the SAHM are likely to be moving on eventually, and are plugged into the kid’s activities and other mobile families. But mostly, we just wanted practice and to overcome our unfounded fears.

We armed ourselves with business cards a’la Bloodhound Realty. An unobtrusive thing to hand across the threshold, and I know they’ve never seen anything like it before so there’s some novelty involved. Our script? “Hi! We are with Exit Realty and have listing on the corner. Can we give you this wallet-sized property card? If you know of anyone who might be interested in moving into the neighborhood, would you pass it on to them?” Suggestions for improvement are welcome.

So what was our experience? Our very first door, we were invited in to “look around at what I’ve done with the place!” Oooo’s and Ahhh’s and she’s not moving, but she’s retired and knows who is, so that’s a great contact in the neighborhood. At another house, a little old lady, all of 4 ft nothing, holding a child almost as big as her, stepped on the dog to open the door. ::Keep smiling:: Her son just got a divorce, she’ll pass the card to him. Thanks, (although what son wants to live around the corner from Mom?) and uh, sorry about your dog. In all, we made contact with only about 10 owners which in some ways was hardly worth the trip but we needed the practice and mostly we needed to stop being afraid to knock on doors.

Here’s the thing: I just got off the phone with Jenn. She went back to that neighborhood on her own today and met a wife who would like to sell. This was about an hour and a half total time invested over two days. Only one person who answered the door said “No thanks.” No one got angry or even rude, so, if you are hesitant to do this, take heart. People need to hear from and meet good Realtors who really care. They need you to make contact with them. They might not be sure about what’s going on with real estate in their neighborhood and they want this information. Better to get it from you who will treat them well, than someone else.

Jenn and I have already made plans to hit the neighborhood of another listing on Saturday morning, good lord willing and the creek don’t rise. Soooo. How about you? Need to drum up some business? Go out and hit a neighborhood yourself this weekend- we’ll be brothers in arms- and then I’d love to hear from you about what worked and what didn’t.


Blood, sweat, and fears

Once upon a time, maps were marked HIC SVNT LEONES to denote unknown territory. Hic Svnt Leones means “Here are lions”. Scary. Uncharted territory is scary.

I’ve been paying very close attention to how I accomplish things: What I do and what I don’t do. Why some things are easy and I embrace them and why are somethings harder and I avoid them. I’m trying to improve my business and my productivity so it’s kind of nice useful critical to understand what makes me tick. Or tock. I need to figure out the internal roadblocks that keep me from achieving my goals. I want to recognize them immediately so I can overcome them as quickly as possible rather than letting them pile up to barricade levels.

There is stuff, for lack of better word, that I dislike doing, but when it’s up to me to do everything, and in real estate it often is up to me to do everything, I have to learn to just get on with it. I know this but still, there are things that I don’t like doing so I begin to waste my own precious time, using procrastination as motivation. An epiphany: It recently occurred to me that I would be furious with anyone else who wasted my time the way I so carelessly waste my own time.

Some of the habits I have fallen into are now clear even to me as red flags that I’m avoiding something. Twitter of course, is one example. What? Is it that obvious? Okay, so I use social networking to avoid doing some things that I find difficult. I recognize it now so I can overcome it, and that’s the thing. I once thought this was pain avoidance, but now I see it as fear. Of the unknown. As in Hic Svnt Leones. What is going to happen if I do this thing? What unseen beasties lie in wait to pounce on my soft under belly? I have a very fertile imagination and sometimes it grows weeds in the garden of the mind, but the only way to pull the weeds is if you can recognize them. You have to know which plants are the flowers and veggies, and which plants are like kudzu in Georgia. I’ve been paying attention. Now that I can recognize a red flag going up, I only have to ask myself- what am I afraid of? The answer is typically, no- it’s always something minor, or it’s easily handled, or it’s easily overcome. I may have to break it down into bite size pieces but, quite honestly? There’s nothing I can’t do. You neither if you think about it.

Humans are productive by nature. It’s in our DNA to be working, accomplishing, solving problems, setting goals and achieving them. The best part of learning about what I’m afraid of is that it gives me more opportunities to be productive, to make and meet bigger goals, and accomplish those whispers of dreams that I sometimes barely dare to recognize. Those explorers who ignored the warnings and those intrepid travelers who step into uncharted territory today are the only people who get to stand on the top of the mountain and roar. I want to be one of those people and I’m on my way. See you in that uncharted territory where Hic Svnt Leones.


Next Page »