There’s always something to howl about

Archive for the 'Dirty Laundry' Category

My client went shopping for houses on, and only 75% of those she found were bogus listings…

My note to her: “Trulia and Zillow both present inactive listings as though they were active to fool the public into thinking that they have more inventory than the agents they exploit for advertising money, even though their listings come straight from the MLS systems. Mere real estate brokers would be fined out of business for pulling these stunts.”

Despair you nothing, though, hard-working dogs. Every time Trulia or Zillow are caught pulling these bait-and-switch stunts, one more active real estate shopper is turned off of their sites forever. Nice going, suits…


Happy Birthday, Greg!

Enjoy your next trip around the sun!


I Hate Bill Maher

I hate Bill Maher…mostly. Hate most of the stances he takes, and over the years the manner in which he has taken them. “Never make a point when you can take a shot…Maher.” But in this short video he has me laughing, at myself and even with him. Good on ya….as Greg would say.


Am I getting soft, going kookoo, or simply exposing that mostly I like to laugh rather than look at gestalt or grouse? Ah well, Maher will do himself in with me in a week or month, but for today I’m leaving work with a smile on my face. Be happy my fellow hounds….


The Proprietor Is Celebrating Another Spin Around the Sun

Happy Birthday, Greg!




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.


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…


Shouldn’t Sellers Invoice Listing Agents?

I suppose it’s pretty rare that a seller actually hands their listing agent an invoice during the course of a listing, but it shouldn’t be. Based on what I see, the vast majority of listing agents should be billed by the seller, same as they would be by any other third party vendor. The fact that it doesn’t happen simply means most sellers don’t understand what is really going on during the course of a listing and, I’d wager, neither do most agents – or if they do they certainly haven’t informed their client.

Here’s a question every seller should ask their listing agent: “Why are you going to put up a For Sale sign in my front yard?” Standard answer: “A sign is just one part of my ‘Handy-Dandy, Super-Duper, 24 Point, 7 Step, Maximum Sales Price Marketing Plan’ or HDSD-24/7-MSM Plan… which I offer to all my clients completely free of charge.” (The standard answer is impressive, wouldn’t you agree? We agents are very creative indeed.). Of course, given the use of internet these days, I suggest to you, dear reader, that most For Sale signs are more directional than informational, but let’s not split hairs. Okay, so the sign is a part of the marketing plan. Next question by an informed home seller: “If that sign is part of your plan to market my house, why doesn’t it mention anything about my actual, you know… house?”

This is old Greg Swann stuff, but I’m rehashing because it needs to be taken further. There are actually two correct reasons for placing a sign in someone’s front yard:

  1. Sell the actual home. (The primary objective from a fiduciary standpoint.)
  2. Attract future home sellers from the neighborhood. (Secondary objective, but a legitimate expectation of work well done.)

So why is it then, that the vast majority of signs fail both of these objectives? Because they are designed with a different purpose altogether; they are designed to advertise the brokerage (hence the uniform colors, logos, big brokerage name and phone number). To a smaller degree, they are also designed to advertise a brokerage’s presence in a neighborhood (hence the requirement that most agents not deviate from the standard issue signs). Wait a minute, I thought we were hired to sell the client’s home; did we also contract with them for advertising and marketing allowances? Put another way: next question from informed seller: “Do you expect me to allow a company (even a one-man real estate company) to erect an advertising billboard on my property without charging them a fee?”

Yes, a fee. If we are going to advertise our business on someone’s property, we should expect to pay them for use of their property. And please don’t insult anyone’s intelligence by suggesting the contract signed by the sellers gave us permission to do this. We have a fiduciary obligation with our client. The fact that we have not explained that we are going to erect a small advertising sign on their front yard – a sign for which they would be paid were it any other business – is a breach of that obligation.

(Note: we see this played out in the home remodeling world as well. Signs in the window or yard. But these signs are, generally speaking, negotiated into the contract for what they are: advertising.  Whether or not the homeowner is smart enough to ask for a discount or fee does not impact here because general contractors do not engage their customers in a fiduciary relationship.)

So, what should an agent do? For my small little band of rebel agents, the answer is easy. First, we explain what’s actually happening. Then, we can either offer to pay our client for the right to advertise on their property, or we can create a sign that satisfies its two stated purposes. We find it cheaper and more appropriate to actually do our job and create a custom sign. For many agents, however, and many reading this article right now, that is not an option; you are required to use the sign the broker wants you to use, rather than a sign that actually helps the client. That’s alright; once the seller understands what’s happening and passes along an invoice, maybe you can bill it to your broker…

Here’s a second question every seller should ask their listing agent: “Why are you going to hold my house Open this weekend?” Standard answer: “To attract buyers.” Yes well, that is an honest answer, isn’t it? But it’s more than a bit misleading too. Statistically speaking, Open Houses don’t sell homes.  According to NAR, when asked, less than 1% of eventual homebuyers first found their home through an Open House. But then, that’s sort of the point, isn’t it: to meet new buyers who, while not buying the house we’ve held open, will probably buy something. Wait a minute, I thought we were hired to sell the client’s home; did we also contract with them for lead generation? Put another way: next question from informed seller: “Do you expect me to spend time cleaning and prepping my house, then spend more time and money keeping my family and I busy all afternoon while you use my home to build your business, and not charge you a fee?”

Yes, a fee. This is no different than the sign business. If we know that the primary (and secondary and even tertiary) purpose of holding an Open House is to meet new buyers who, more than 99 times out of 100, are not going to buy our client’s home, then we have a fiduciary obligation to inform them. Did they think we were actually trying to sell their home rather than increase our client base? Do they have any idea we are using their house as bait? Do they realize they are, in fact, acting as a third party vendor at that point and entitled to the same fee? If they don’t… who’s not doing their fiduciary job?

Again, my little band tries very hard at the beginning of the listing to disabuse the seller of various beliefs and chief among them is their misunderstanding of Open Houses. We will certainly hold one (ONE) if they request it. But if we request it – and there are properties where we are definitely interested in attracting similar property buyers – the client should expect payment for their time and money. Wouldn’t you?


The Lones Group in Bellingham Washington Commits Hari Kari

Warning : This post is purely REALTOR inside baseball

Around here, we live, eat and breathe marketing. Online reputation management and online publicity is what we do to get our clients houses sold and  to find buyers who trust us enough to allow us  to assist them in their home search.  As a student of this stuff, I am flabbergasted by the news that a self anointed expert who in her own words, “started the Real Estate marketing revolution… and we are darn proud of it!” would attempt to extract money from a practicing REALTOR over 2,000 miles away who happens to use the same mascot, a Zebra. Now I understand that hard earned and promoted brands must be protected, but I really cannot see how Daniel Rothamel’s zebra mascot in Virginia, promoting Daniel’s real estate brokerage activity could in anyway damage The Lones Group in Bellingham Washington which uses a rainbow zebra on their website.

The Lones Group in Bellingham, WA and it’s owner, Denise Lones do not even perform real estate brokerage-they sell advice to those who do perform real estate brokerage.  I am not sure I see how Daniel Rothamel, the Real Estate Zebra is damaging The Lones Group and their photoshopped rainbow zebra.  I took a peak at the Lones Group website to see if perhaps they did business in Virginia and that was why they were picking on Daniel Rothamel, The Real Estate Zebra.  Upon glancing at their testimonial page of happy customers, I only found clients in the Pacific Time zone, most of their clients were Washington REALTORS.  I did note something peculiar about the Lones Group’s happy customers, as listed on their testimonials page. There are 28 testimonials displayed. Six of their happy clients had no website link.  Six more happy customers of the Lones Group had links to… wait for it…dead websites.   Now we find that the company that started the Real Estate marketing revolution has 25% of their happy clients who love the Lones Group’s work are not even linked to this powerhouse marketing firm and are hidden from potential clients.  I may be wrong, but if I were selling the real estate marketing revolution that I started, I would make darn sure that my happiest, bestest clients could be found from my website on the off chance that a potential customer would take a peek at the revolutionary work I had done.  Well, this potential customer found 25% of the happy customers were missing in action in this revolution. Why are they missing? Were they litigated into oblivion? Inquiring minds want to know.

Exploring The Lones Group in Bellingham, Washington calendar posted in their website (just Google The Lones Group, Bellingham Washington) I find that the Lones group calendar is full of events in the State of Washington for REALTORS of that state. I did not find any events announced for the State of Virginia.  I really have to wonder what this lawsuit is all about.  Daniel Rothamel does not compete with Denise Lones in any way shape or form. He just happens to use a sketch of a black and white zebra to promote his business. Denise Lones uses a rainbow colored zebra. Denise Lones should put her attack attorneys on these companies as well, since she paid for the boilerplate:

Lones’ attorneys might even find more satisfaction from any of the above companies.  Daniel Rothamel is a sole practioner REALTOR in Virginia, not a real estate marketing consultant, and has no more to do with the Lones Group’s practice than any of the above Zebra themed companies.

Well, the title of this post was about Hari Kari, implying that the Lones Group is suicidal. Here is my take:  The Lones Group promotes themselves as a marketing consultant to REALTORS.  As such, they, better than anyone else should know that REALTORS as a species bleed empathy,  for their clients and for their colleagues. We are the only industry that cooperatively offers commissions to competitors. We are social critters.  Daniel Rothamel is one of us, and he is being kicked  by a vendor that makes her living from the hard earned commission dollars of REALTORS.

Now, knowing REALTORS as I do, it seem to me that this assault on Daniel Rothamel, The Real Estate Zebra is Hari Kari.   Just sayin’.

Here is the complaint

List of Zebra Companies: h/t Cheryl Johnson


A new year and the looting of the American people continues unabated.

BofA Settles GSE Buyback Requests for Pennies on the Dollar

According to this MND article, Obama appointee, FHFA acting director Edward DeMarco just handed Ally bank, formerly GMAC Bank and Bank of America potentially a total $300 billion windfall. Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, wholly owned subsidiaries of the US Treasury Dept. are foregoing the opportunity to put hundreds of billions worth of  mortgage backed securities  back to these banks in return for $3 billion cash which, no doubt came from the TARP and shadow earnings as a result of regulatory forbearance. The mortgage backed securities have a refund clause by which the originator is obligated to repurchase the securities if there were specific deficiencies in the origination of the underlying mortgages. As we saw in “foreclosuregate”, even the chain of title for some of these securities is defective. I think we can safely assume that there is probably more than $3 billion of refunds to be had with aggressive defense of the taxpayers’ interests.  Why does this matter?  Bonuses, baby.  Every dime coughed up by Ally or Bank of America reduces profits which shrinks the bankster bonus pool.  Apparently the Administration cannot stand the idea of those nice banksters riding in last year’s Maybach.  Especially after they made all those generous campaign  donations.

Maybach Laundalet

Wells Fargo, CitiBank and Chase have yet to cut their pennies on the dollar deals with Mr. DeMarco.  As the article points out, there are many purchasers of these same mortgage backed securities such as public and private pension funds and insurance companies who will probably go to the mat for a lot more than a couple pennies on the dollar.  The pension trustees and the insurance companies have a fiduciary duty to recover as much as possible for their beneficiaries.  It is a trillion dollar shame  that the administration doesn’t take its obligation to the taxpayer as seriously.  It will be interesting to see if there will be any Congressional oversight forthcoming in the new Congress regarding the Obama Administration’s magnanimous gift to the banksters.


Is THIS The Year You Grow A Pair And Finally Walk Your Talk?

If that title harshed your mellow in any way, you’re the target audience. Does it sound unfair? Make you feel like you’re being picked on? Poor baby. Compared to much of what’s published on these pages, I’m a relative Mr. Rogers. But the dark cloud messin’ up the mostly silver lining that was my 2010, was the talk/walk ratio with which I constantly was forced to deal. Isn’t shame possible any longer? Does nobody know how to blush? Has there been some sorta immunity from embarrassment pill on which I missed out?

I speak from painful experience. Many of the early years in the business my talk/walk ratio was maybe 8:2 or so. Talkin’ big time while walkin’ in clown shoes is something with which I’m no stranger. I know, cuz I’ve watched me do it.

Hey! I has an idear.

Do most of your talkin’ to yourself. Do most of your walkin’ makin’ things happen — quietly. Most of my mentors were lifetime members of Brutal Mentors Я Us. There were countless times I was ‘gang mentored’ in the truest modern sense of the phrase. They weren’t interested in why things couldn’t or didn’t get done. If you can’t walk your talk, maybe Von’s is hiring they’d say. Actually, they said a lotta stuff a whole lot different than that, but those gems won’t be repeated here. 🙂

Ever get tired of hearing your own empty words?

We all have more or less talent than the next agent. Same with experience and knowledge. Experience doesn’t happen a day at a time. It happens a transaction at a time. Every time you sit down and prospect. Each time you follow up. Every belly-to-belly with a potential client. Etc., etc. Knowledge increases cuz we seek it out, not cuz it gives a damn about us.

Whether or not you have more or less talent than the guy a desk over is literally not worth talkin’ about. Who’s working harder? Who’s learnin’ how to work smarter? Who’s grindin’ it out day after day after day? If the title pissed you off, you haven’t done that yet — and you know it.

Ever ask yourself why?

Allow me to quote one of my mentors.

“You’ve never given your best effort for one simple reason: You’re scared shitless you’ll discover you just don’t pack what it takes. That your best just ain’t good enough. Try growin’ a pair and find out once and for all.”

Not long after that knife to the crotch, in fact the same week, I endured this conversation while getting my tax return done at H&R Block — with my new bride sitting right next to me. After going over the income/expenses for my year, the preparer looked with sympathy at my wife and said,

“Mr. Brown, you’d have been much better off if you hadn’t worked this year.”

The ride home was, um, funereal. She was quiet cuz she didn’t know what to say. I was quiet cuz I’d been replaying both quotes in my head, and knew they were both on the mark. I decided then and there to do two things.

1. Grow a pair.

2. Find out if indeed I had what it took to make more in real estate as an agent than the the big rat at Chuck E. Cheese.

When we finally arrived home, a five minute drive that lasted two lifetimes, I was at the same time enraged (at myself), completely humiliated (in front of my brand new bride), and nearly unable to face her. She saved me, saying just the right things at just the right time. In essence, she expected me to show her and the world what I was really made of.

I know as surely as I know the sun’s gonna set in the west today, that there are those reading this who’re wondering how I knew so much about ’em. You may be one. You’ve spouted so much crappola the last few years, that nobody thinks you’re capable of producing anything but what comes outa your piehole. You know in your heart that the next time you walk your talk about work, it’ll be the first time.

Been there. Done that. Feel your pain. Feel your sense of abject failure. Empathize with you big time.

So here’s what ya do.

Decide that once and for all, the world, your family, but especially you, are gonna find out what you can do when you literally put your best effort on the line, and let the chips fall where they may. In sports they call it ‘selling out’. When the game’s over they haven’t anything left to give.

It’s a lot easier shaving or puttin’ on your makeup in the morning when you can look yourself in the mirror and smile at who’s lookin’ back.

Walk your talk — and talk a lot less.

If you’re still readin’ — Happy New Year!


Why Don’t Most New Or Struggling Real Estate Agents Want To Be Mentored?

From time to time many of the contributors here have written about the concept of mentoring from one viewpoint or another. You may be a mentor, or have been well mentored, or both. Maybe neither. In fact, probably neither. My experience has been somewhat anomalous in that I was blessed, early on, with an abundance of first-rate, exceptionally successful mentors, who literally didn’t give a damn about my feelings. Tough? One of ’em was a Marine, a survivor of the Battle of Guadalcanal. When he talked, you listened, then said, “Yes sir, thank you sir, may I please have another?” The guy was funny, but brutal. And boy, was he ‘colorful’. Many years later, after Jim had passed away, Dad told me that Jim bet him he could make me cry.

This year has been an eyeopener for me as it relates to mentoring. You’d think agents, especially the younger ones, would be eager to learn which way’s north on the map from someone who’s been there, done that, been knocked down, yet survived to thrive. As each year as gone by, fewer and fewer agents last longer than a week or so under a bona fide mentor. Most say they want to learn, but when push comes to shove, talk must be converted to walk, and they trip on their own BS. In the last month or so I’ve asked several experienced agents who, as policy, give of their time to mentor, if they’ve seen the same trend. Yes — it was unanimous.

Every single one of my mentors, and there were many, extracted a sacred promise from me to pay it forward. I’ll not live to be old enough to get free and clear of that obligation, though I try.

In the last decade or so, I’ve had several agents ask me to mentor them, as in, “Will you please mentor me?” Three of ’em walked their talk to the end. All three currently thrive. Just a guess, but in the last three years or so, there’ve been at least 15-20 come to me, initiating contact, wanting to be mentored. They all fell by the wayside, and pretty quickly at that. And for the record, I’m not generalizing about their character, either way. Many, I’m sure, had their own reasons, possibly unrelated to real estate. Hell, they may’ve just not liked me, who knows?

My upbringing, plus, ironically my mentors’ teaching, force me to take the lion’s share of the blame.

Still, I give freely of my time, and love the process of mentoring. There’s nothing different in my approach now, than in years past, yet those mentored are simply not taking the bit, they’re spittin’ it out. It’s not that what I teach is outdated, as many here would aver, as I’m still walkin’ that talk myself.

Though I hesitate to say this aloud, it occurs to me that my way has everything to offer except anything close to a magic button. If that’s indeed the wrench in the works, I’m saddened.

A current project, under the radar, on which I’ve been workin’ is also sans any magic buttons. Yet as we near launch time, it appears, based upon close analysis of the targeted groups, that it should, more likely than not, be successful.

‘Course, the proof will reside in how furry my newly constructed wall becomes. My only worry comes from wondering if the wall is big enough. 🙂

Having been so long divorced from my hometown market (seven years), I’ve not been able to apply very much of my OldSchool ways. As written here before, that era has come to a welcome end. 2011 will tell us all if my M.O. is still effective. Yeah, right, as if there’s any doubt. 🙂


Fewer and fewer agents want to walk their talk. Results from my (Triumphant? Embarrassing bust?) return to the home market? They’ll be reported here immediately after the first quarter is over.

Can’t wait.


Happy Birthday, Greg!

Happy Birthday, Greg! I hope you have a wonderful day celebrating your next spin around the sun!


All Things Being Equal… You’re Not Even Close

I was working with a group of agents this week on their 2011 business plan.  We were going through various forms of marketing and the expected returns when one spoke up and said: “The problem is, I hate calling people.  I can send letters and even emails, but I don’t want to call anyone.”  She is a very good agent as far as real estate agent activities go: she works well with clients, she shows homes well, she negotiates well and so forth.  She just doesn’t want to call people.  At all.  

“Okay,” I told her, “that’s not the end of the world.  If you’re not willing to call clients you can still be an agent, you just need to join a team that provides the clients or partner up with someone who has more clients than they can handle.”  That’s where the conversation got interesting.

Turns out this agent has tried my suggestion in the past and is looking for the right relationship right now.  “But,” she says, “the agents I’ve found so far are all so greedy.  They want a big piece of the commission.  All they do is hand me the name and then I do all the work.  I’m trying to meet an agent that understands our roles are different, but we both equally are growing the business.”

This is the problem with many self-employed people and real estate agents in particular.  They seem to think their value is tied to their time.  “All you did was give me the client’s name.  I did all the work so I think we should split 30/70 my way.”  This couldn’t be further from the truth and the faster you understand “value” in an open market economy, the smoother your business life will become.  Your value is not tied to the time you contribute.  It’s tied to the value you bring.  Hmmm, your value is tied to your value.  Can I get a big “Duh” from the Jeff Brown camp?

Apparently this comes as a surprise to some agents, but you are not all equal.  As a matter of fact, I’d estimate that 5% to 20% of you (and I’m being generous here) are important and the rest of you are not.  Why?  Because the only important agent is the agent that makes it rain.  I know, I know; I can hear you through the internet: “If I don’t show the homes and negotiate and write contracts, what good are the clients your precious rain maker generates?”  Here’s a simple way to understand this:

If the rain maker takes time off from the business, would you still be in business?  No.  Without clients you’re just another agent standing around the copy machine, complaining how difficult the market is.  What about the reverse?  If you take time off from the business, would the rain maker still be in business?  Yes.  She’ll just find another agent to do what you were doing.  There are hundreds and hundreds of them out there.  And there’s your understanding of value: are you replaceable?  If the answer is yes, you’re not the primary value in a business relationship; you’re a cost.

Last year I wrote about the owner of a local Single A baseball team and his quote: “It’s hard for me to answer questions about everyone who works here as a whole.  I see them as two very distinct groups: there’s those who create revenue and then there’s everyone else…  everyone else being a cost.”   He was dead on; there are two personnel components to any business: those who increase the bottom line and those who are a cost to the bottom line.  If you bring clients through the door, you are increasing the bottom line.  If you take clients out the door to see  homes and write contracts, you are a cost to the bottom line… and you are replaceable.

Back to the workshop I was leading; I told this agent who was searching for a partner that understood her equal value that she was not equal; not even close.  If I were an agent with too many clients and I was going into business with her, I’d probably pay her 20% – 30% of the commission and I sure wouldn’t enter into any kind of partnership.  Think that’s harsh?  Think it’s not happening?  Think again.  If you’re not a rain maker, there is definitely a place for you in the real estate industry.  But if you think it’s a valuable one, you’re mistaken.  And if you want to create wealth in the real estate industry, go take a good, long look in the mirror and remind yourself:  “In business, wealth is a function of value.”  Then get out there and make it rain.


I’m a time-waster. How about you?

Here’s the point: My name is Greg Swann, and I am a time-waster. My next closing is Wednesday, November 17th, 2010.

It’s news that is my special poison, a quick check of major news and opinion sites several times a day. Stir that in with email, some of it work, some of it work-ish, some of it just more time-wasting. And blend all of that with lots of tiny little brief chores done for clients at various stages of “the process.”

That’s a half-productive day. I start at six, finish at six or nine or one — the next day. And if I spin in place like that all day, I can get half as much done as I should have.

It’s not that I’m working from home. I’ve worked from home for almost twenty years, and I’ve always been able to get a lot done when I need to.

And it’s not the internet as such — duh! I’ve worked on the internet for most of my life.

And I’m not even really a bad, bad boy. It’s just checking this for a minute and that other thing for a couple more, all while taking care of business, yes-sir-ee-boss. By the end of the hour, I’ve rarely wasted more than 20 minutes, so what’s the beef?

The beef would be the stuff that’s missing between these two slices of bread, as it turns out.

I don’t care for the example being set by prominent members of the on social media sites, but I also don’t care if their seemingly-constant TwitBooking helps or hurts them.

This is what I care about: Hundreds and thousands of ordinary working stiffs are mimicking those poor examples, in the mistaken belief that scrupulously documenting every burp and bowel movement will make them successful.

But, from my own corpus: “Egovangelist, motivate thyself!” It’s all one thing, and the way to help other people get good at getting things right is to get good at getting things right. I love to think of myself as a hugely productive being, and the job that matters most to me is not scolding other people for being worse than me, but simply to be better myself.

If I can set a good example, so much the better. But as hard as I work, I want to get a lot more done.

I have other things I want to talk about, but this has to come first, I think. I know not everyone can be as public as I often am — and I think my own error has been not to be public enough — but if you have it in you to make a similar confession, you might be doing some starving Realtor or lender a big favor.

Here’s my bottom line: I can describe defects in human behavior so tellingly because I have lived everything I talk about. I have never wanted to represent myself as a paragon of virtuous behavior — too much the contrary. And while I know what virtue looks like, it’s not an attribute I am always adept at embodying. I think it’s funny that I seem to be so notorious among what is actually a very small pool of people, but there is nothing I want for anyone in this business — or for anyone on earth — except health, wealth and the happiness that comes from being your best possible self.

That’s where I live — when I’m alone, and most of the time when I’m with Cathleen. The more I work, the more of my self I express, so I am twice foolish to waste any time, ever. My plan is to amend my ways, and, as I have done of late, to document my progress and observations.

What about you? If you can say it, say it. If you can’t, at least do it. I’m a time-waster, but, alas, my name is legion. As with every human vice, this is a correctable nuisance. But it demands correction.

And: So: Please excuse me. I have work to do.


Swallow Hard — Make It Happen — Or Get Out

For the most part, it’s human nature to have a love/hate relationship with the results that have our name attached to them. I’ve failed far more often than I’ve succeeded. It’s not even close. Name a category in which I’ve endured the ignominy of defeat, and my hand is more likely than not be in the air.

Baseball is useful here, as it’s a game based on failure. Hall of Famers are players who failed somewhat less than their peers. Major leaguer hitters as a group, fail at a rate of roughly 75%. Those who fail a ‘mere’ 65-70% of the time often end up earning $1 Mil a month or so. Think that’s a thin margin separating average from excellent? Try this — The difference between a .250 and a .300 hitter? One measly hit a week. Really.

Ponder this.

In San Diego’s market, one extra skinned cat monthly at the median price, about $375,000 or so, would create additional GCI of — wait for it — $135,000. Median price in your market is $150,000? That’s an additional $54,000 or so. One more deal a month. Would that make the difference for your family? Would those results keep you in the business? Would you then stop making pathetic excuses for your failure to do what produces spendable results?

If you can honestly say that’s within your reach by quietly tweakin’ your effort a bit, super. Do it now. I’ll expect a Christmas card next year.

However, if you’re already killin’ yourself 25 hours a day, eight days a week, you may wanna consider doin’ something different so as to generate better results. How’s that for an original thought? Explaining an anemic bank account to those counting on you at home is not a Kodak moment, a truth to which I can effectively testify.

It was one of those moments when the phrase, ‘Winners don’t make excuses, they make it happen’ became real to me.

Adapting is really code tellin’ us to stop doin’ what ain’t workin’ and start doin’ things that do. Again — there are those who tell us why their failure is reasonable, and those who simply don’t accept failure. The latter keep changing what they do until their results become what they want them to be.

The ability to adapt is THE overriding factor in the longterm success of a real estate agent, and it’s never been truer than it is today.

Results don’t lie — they’re always exactly what they are — no more, no less. If what you’re doing is delivering better results than before, but still aren’t eliminating sleepless nights, you need to keep movin’ up on the adaptation scale. The not so funny thing, is that the average agent out there who is struggling to survive, knows exactly what needs to be changed. Yet they don’t, or more accurately, won’t change their M.O. I’ve never understood it, even though I plead guilty to it a couple times.

Pick a decade, any decade.

I’ve lived through every single day in the real estate biz in the decades of the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, and 00’s. They had one thing in common as far as real estate agents go — and that is, real estate agents go — as in, away. In droves. Good times or bad, they simply disappear. Most of the time it’s not only without fanfare, but more like now ya see ’em, now ya don’t. One day you wave good-bye as they’re leaving the office, never realizing it’s literally for the last time.

They either didn’t know, or refused to acknowledge their need to adapt and keep adapting ’till the results were at least satisfactory if not stellar. Frankly, I think most agents throwin’ in the towel these days do so knowing they’d refused to do what it took to flourish. Refused.

I know I’m capable of that stoopid behavior, cuz I’ve seen me do it.

You haven’t changed your M.O. sufficiently if you’re still losin’ sleep. Again, I’ll speak only for myself. Here’s an incomplete list of changes I’ve been forced to make in order to remain in the business, as opposed to handing in a job app to Von’s.

  • FSBOs disappeared, so I became Farmer Brown — knock knock.
  • Switched from homes to investments — a paradigm shift.
  • Spent thousands for education
  • Moved to direct mail.
  • Stopped using direct mail.
  • Abandoned my local real estate market in San Diego. (Scared s***less)
  • Adapted to online realities — started a blog.
  • Began using direct mail again, as snail-mail traffic thinned.
  • There’s been more, much of it ongoing, but you can see I’ve been forced to change my ways so many times, it’s as if I’ve been put on earth to provide the real estate gods with entertainment. Dad began and ended his wildly successful real estate brokerage career doin’ the same things. Freakin’ maddening.

    Good times, bad times, and those rare times in between — adapt or pay the financial price. The question to which I’ve yet to find an answer, is why we so often insist on doing what we know ain’t feedin’ the bulldog. Even worse, we know in our hearts it’s not gonna change tomorrow, next week, or next month.

    Here’s the first change you may wanna consider making, if you’re not earning enough money. Look in the mirror and admit, at least to yourself, that your results are just that — yours. It’s not the local market, the economy, lenders, supply/demand, or any of the other myriad reasons available. Those reasons aren’t stopping the agents who’re flourishing, and they’re not stoppin’ you.

    Second, decide whether or not you’re willing to do what you already know will produce the results required for your financial survival. If you are willing, here’s the next step.

    Swallow hard. Then, either make it happen, or get out.

    That last sentence? Said to me with much enthusiasm as Dad was makin’ fun of me one morning, and I don’t mean fun, as in ‘ha ha’. I’d forgotten how little he cared about why agents fail, and had complained about the severely decreasing number of FSBOs. A month later I swallowed hard, then knocked on my first door.

    Been able to look myself in the mirror ever since.


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