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Archive for the 'Enduring Interest' Category

Blind pickin at its best – So long Doc…


Let’s Talk Listings – Better Yet? Let’s Talk Gettin’ ’em Sold

Since the beginning of last year, how long has it taken to sell your listings? I’m not talkin’ about those priced at half the median value in your market. I’m talkin’ about a traditional seller who simply wants you to sell his real estate. Why do a few listings in every market sell faster than the rest? Let’s set aside the obvious go-to answer, price. Let’s also agree that unless you’re pricing your listings below the market, there are other significant factors involved in market time.

But what are they?

My firm is now on its third generation, and to gain respect at the dinner table, you must be a listing agent. Doesn’t mean you eschew buyers, not even close. It also doesn’t mean we don’t hold buyers’ agents in the highest esteem, cuz we do. In fact, we adore ’em. They’re the main reason we can leave town for extended periods, doin’ deals while applying the sunscreen. ‘Course, I gave up that luxury when I left my hometown market almost a decade ago.

It’s taken about six years, but San Diego’s real estate investors, especially the regular folk, are finally realizing there’s real estate life outside of Paradise. ūüôā If I’m correct in this supposition though, how will I sell their properties quickly and for market value?

BawldJapan strikes again!

I have no false pride when it comes to doing what puts cat skins on the wall. Since I come up with precious few original ideas myself, to survive, I’ve learned to steal like a cat burglar. ūüôā Sometimes I leave well enough alone, sometimes I tweak a little here and there. I’ve learned through experience that my clients are influenced more by one factor than all the others combined: Obtaining the results for which they hired me.

Funny how that works. It’s why most marketing folks keep their distance from guys like me. I’m constantly measuring their efforts with the ‘R’ word — RESULTS.

Serious minded sellers are obsessed with results when they choose an agent to list their property for sale. They universally like the marketing plan we employ. 98% of property owners (a number I picked outa the air just now) have never seen anything like what we show them. But, as much as I’d love to be able to claim credit for it, I can’t. I do claim the credit for at least being bright enough to have recognized brilliance when it was right in front of me — then putting it to use.

All of the credit goes to Greg Swan. His overall marketing plan for selling listings is maybe the most unsung, underrated stratagem for selling residential real estate I’ve seen in my nearly 43 years as a licensee.

Here’s a link to the plan in it’s entirety.

Though we don’t use all of it, the vast majority is adhered to almost slavishly. As I said earlier, I usually take others’ ideas and add my own tweaks. Gotta admit though, Greg’s plan was so completely thought through, there was only one thing I thought was missing.

An experienced interior designer familiar with the real world.

What do I mean by real world? I don’t in any way mean that interior designers aren’t real with what they do. I’m referring to what so very often makes the pivotal difference to buyers. If you’re in a market where a huge segment, maybe most of your personal practice, is made up of homes 10 years old or less, this additional listing ‘team member’ might be unnecessary. Floor plans are far friendlier than they were in 1965. Or 1985 for that matter.

But the professionally trained and experienced eye can almost immediately see where half a dozen simple ‘tweaks’ can combine to make a home literally pop! when buyers walk through. This is particularly true when they’ve already seen the nearby competition.

We’ve used our own designer not only in San Diego, but in a couple other states as well, and with solid results. We’ve even used her ‘long distance’ with clients selling their rental homes or 2-4 unit properties. Even then it’s worked like magic. Most of her design modifications don’t even need a permit, though a large minority do. A contractor, or sub-contractor is used if that level of expertise is required. Quality results is always the measuring stick.

I wrote about this listing long ago. But it still sticks out as the epitome of what’s possible. It was a rental home that had had the same large family as tenants for over eight years. Outside of the medium sized kitchen remodel, the client/seller had done nothing inside for those eight years. The property was about 35 years old, give or take.

Here’s what we had the seller do, based upon the interior designer’s inspection and recommendations. It probably helps to know the house itself was in a nice middle class area with prices at the time, about 10-12% or so above the county median. Basically a typical American neighborhood.

1. Added 3′ X 4′ alcove in the main hallway bathroom. Took that space from the entry way coat closet. Killer addition to the bathroom — no big loss in the entry way. They weren’t gonna be hangin’ their fur coats there, right?

2. Her female side came to the surface in the master bathroom. The unavoidable view from the shower (no tub) was the commode. Surveys have shown conclusively that’s not the preferred view of wives when enjoying their morning shower. ūüôā She had the offending commode turned 90 degrees left. Then had a 4′ pony wall built behind it. Now his better half can only see his head.

3. The backyard patio and its cover was about 50-60% of the home’s width. It paralleled the entire living and dining rooms. The house side of the cover was attached at the level of the eaves. She hated that. She had it detached and repositioned it on the roof. The difference was more than a little surprising. It made everything look airier. It also allowed much more sunlight into the living and dining rooms, which had given the feel of being cave-like before the modification.

4. This was the most effective in my view. She had the last 18-20″ of the dividing wall between kitchen and living room removed, floor to ceiling. This opened up the floor plan such that you didn’t feel squeezed when coming from the entry way or the hallway. It gave the home more of an open feeling, instead of being segmented, almost like a prison. Made a very obvious difference.

5. Except for the kitchen, she had the rest of the house re-floored. It was an eye-opener for me. A very smart move.

6. She had the client’s handyman drywall the entire garage interior. Relatively cheap, and much mo betta appearance.

7. The entire interior, sans kitchen, was painted. Her colors, her guy. Fantastic improvement. Anyone would’ve painted, but it was the color choices and quality of the painter that made the difference.

No changes were made to any of the landscaping, as the client had kept it in excellent condition, using a professional a couple times monthly. We just ensured he had the guy come by weekly during the listing period, and while we were preparing the home for sale. The exterior paint was in good condition and tasteful. The curb appeal was pretty nice, especially compared to the competition listed at the time. It was inviting.

Again, this home was nothing special. We simply made it the best it could be without spending gobs of money. A real facelift woulda run over $30,000 easily. Our client’s outa pocket was around $15,000 or so. At the time, the market was as horrible as I’ve seen it in my career. It was 2009.

Sean Purcell was going to create a killer for sale sign for us, as per Greg’s plan. It wasn’t to be. The home hit the MLS on a Friday after lunch. It went into escrow the following Tuesday or Wednesday. It sold for more than any comparable in the neighborhood at the time. We had to adjust to the appraisal, as it was a brutal buyers’ market then. The adjustment was around 3-4% if memory serves.

Go to the linked list, and do what it says. Give the interior designer addition a whirl too, if you think it would be effective. This plan will easily cut your marketing time, while increasing your expected sales price. Would love to hear your thoughts.


You’re A Master Cat Skinner – The Good News and The Bad News

Are you the ‘go to’ guy/gal? Do you list a lotta property and do it well? Are you a leader? Though I’m sure many will say charisma is required, I beg to disagree. It never hurts, but in the end, the Lord created the ultimate equalizer to charisma:


Today, let’s have a serious discussion about what combination of approaches would slaughter what’s currently goin’ on in the national brokerage community. First, here’s my perception of the major ‘schools’ I see in operation.

Variations on the Agent-Centric brokerage model

Between us we can come up with a myriad variations. Let’s limit them to very high commission splits, and the desk fee approach.

As I’ve written before, not long ago, that the agent-centric (A-C) model is failing everywhere it’s been tried. It’s ability to fail at pretty much every level is becoming legendary, regardless of the Titantic-like practicianers now lookin’ to technology to save them. Listen guys, if buying ownership positions in title companies, lenders, and starting your own escrows isn’t prima facie evidence of the desperate reach for lifejackets, I don’t know what is.

Let’s directly compare the currently popular A-C model with what I’d open in today’s — or any — housing market.

But first, a word from the Disclosures Department.

My biz model, though it pains me to admit, would indeed work exceptionally well if completely buyer oriented, listing few if any homes. However, when compared to my model — Broker-Centric — the firm primarily based upon listing homes will annihilate the buyer based company. This isn’t theory, or even bias on my part. As anyone should readily be able to discern, it’s a matter of sixth grade arithmetic.

Also, I’m loosely basing my ‘virtual’ A-C company on a brokerage I know of in a northwestern state. The size, and commission split are the perfect example of the results one can expect when using this model.

End disclosures.

Let’s first construct a virtual company built upon the A-C model.

Let’s give ’em a lotta agents, but not make it a big box setup. We’ll hire 35 full time agents. None of ’em will have less than three years full time experience. They’ll be hired due to various levels of success, but mostly cuz they don’t require major babysitting. They’ll all be paid 90% commissions, and will be responsible for a $50 per transaction fee for E&O insurance.

We’ll even stack the deck for this brokerage. They’ll have no brick ‘n mortar office. They’ll have whatever technology they wish, but no physical place to go every day. No lease payment, or all the other things that factor in to having office overhead.

We’ll grant them 250 closed sides for a calendar year. The average sales price will be $150,000 with a 3% commission/side. Yeah, I know many will likely be 2.5%, but making my math easier has higher priority. ūüôā

The same number of closed sides, average price, and 3% commission/side will be used by my virtual brokerage. Wanna keep as close to a level playing field as possible. Wait — I take that back. Only gonna give my virtual brokerage 100 closed buyer sides and 36 closed listing sides. Seems I should at least appear to be makin’ this fair, right?

The numbers for our A-C brokerage guy.

This broker/owner grossed about $1.125 Million for the year. We’ll say he has no overhead for the sake of this comparison. That nets him about $112,500 in pre-tax income. On one hand he didn’t hafta show one home, or make one listing presentation. He grossed six figures for the administration duties assigned to the broker in charge, by the state. We’ll also make the assumption this broker did everything possible to generate a reliable source of leads for the company at large. Assuming a typical 2,000 hour work year with a couple weeks vacation, this broker made just over $56 an hour.

Trust me, they earned it.

Now for my virtual brokerage — using the Broker-Centric model.

I’m the owner/broker. I don’t handle buyers — ever. I set policy. Decide commission splits. List properties. Generate buyer leads.

Out of the 36 closed listing sides, my agents sold (double-ended) 10 of ’em, which are accounted for among the 100 closed buyer sides.

We have an office. I have three buyer-agents. A traffic cop for incoming leads. When the traffic cop’s busy, the buyer agents answer the phone. The overhead for office, traffic cop, phones, lead generation, and general geek expenses run me around $100,000. In point of fact, it’s probably FAR below that, but still, we’ll use it in order to increase the gloat factor when we’re finished. ūüôā

Let’s look at my numbers now.

The firm’s gross income was around $612,000. Net of all overhead it quickly becomes $512,000. From that figure my buyer-agents, paid 40% commission splits, made $180,000 between them — about $60,000/yr average. With the exception of referrals or family/friends, they don’t expend any efforts on generating leads themselves.

That leaves around $332,000 — for me. Barely less than triple what my agent-centric counterpart earned.

Triple the earning for the firm’s owner/broker. Let us not conveniently forget that I gave myself a handicap. The ‘other guy’ was allotted 114 more sales than I was. What if my firm did the same? What if I listed 50 homes, while my buyer-agents racked up 200 sales?


That’s an additional $270,000 to me from increased buyer sides.

Then, there’s the additional 14 listing sides, which add another $63,000 to the till.

That would bring my take to roughly $665,000 for the year. Let’s subtract another $65,000 in operating expenses arising from the additional sales. That would bring my total office overhead to around $165,000/yr — expenses we haven’t made my agent-centric competitor bear.

Net of all expenses my take then becomes around $600,000 for the year.

To put that in relative terms — the broker-centric model produced approximately 5.3 times more pre-tax income for the broker/owner than the agent-centric counterpart. That’s $300/hr if you’re keepin’ score.

This could be done in my own office in the San Diego area. ‘Course, if done there, it’d take just 100 closed sides of any combination of listings/sales sides to gross over $1 Million. But I digress.

The TakeAway

If you’re gonna go for the brass ring, why on the Lord’s green earth would you even consider using any version of the agent-centric model? Any way ya wanna look at it, it’s foolish to the nth degree. Teams everywhere are doing business using the broker-centric model. In many instances the team leaders are making more money than the brokers for whom they work — embarrassingly more in some cases.

If you have a team now, consider opening up your own operation. If you’re pondering the creation of your own firm? Ditto — Duh.

What I can’t figure out to save my life, is why, with all the empirical evidence of virtually guaranteed mediocrity, if not outright failure, the brokerage community at large continues taking long walks of short piers.

The Good news/Bad news joke in all this if you’re the broker/owner of an agent-centric operation.

The good news is that you made six figures for the year — major congrats!

The bad news? The guy next door, you know him, the one with less than 20% of your agents? He did exactly the same sales volume your firm did, but paid more income taxes than you made BEFORE taxes.

Bad news indeed.


Unchained From A TechTard’s Prospective

I’d be criminally remiss if I didn’t first comment on how massively cool it was spending an entire day and night with the level of expertise, knowledge, experience, and plain old results present at this Unchained event. This was not a room for posers — possibly the understatement of 2011. I was in nosebleed country all day. I felt pretty much all day like I was merely an insignificant fly in the room with these guys.

Got nothin’ to say about all the GeekSpeak that went on. It was when each speaker began to elucidate their strategy(s) that I perked up and began takin’ notes. I did notice one thing that made it more than just a great day of learning. Something that had me feelin’ all warm ‘n fuzzy.

Nothing’s changed.

‚ÄĘ Scott Schang, and later on Mark Madsen with Tony Sena, pounded home the point that measuring results is mission critical — period, shut up. More on that principle later.

‚ÄĘ All of ’em, directly or indirectly paid homage, due tribute, to the end game of all that was taught: Gettin’ belly to belly with those seeking the aforementioned expertise, knowledge, experience, and yes, that pesky concept — results. Any outcome short of that is akin to a coffeehouse conversation with two broke ‘artists’. In other words, you’ll never get that time back, sans results.

‚ÄĘ Mark Madsen literally humbled me with his prodigious work ethic — which when combined with his ‘do it now’ attitude reminded me so much of Dad when he was making plans for his company, back in the day. For reasons I choose not to divulge here, I’ve been unable to follow up with Mark, but that’s passed, and he’ll be hearing from me. Remember his name, cuz he’s the real deal. I don’t often get impressed, mostly cuz I’m a cynical OldSchool bastard. But believe me about Mark. It’s a shame he doesn’t write more here.

‚ÄĘ Ever been to a concert where the first several acts knocked your socks off? One time in the 70s I went to a concert where the freakin’ opening act was Linda Ronstadt in her prime. She was followed by Loggins and Messina. Then Lynard Skynard came on stage and literally blew the place down. And no, they weren’t even the headliners. After they did the best version of Free Bird I ever heard, Rod Stewart appeared on the stage outa nowhere. Now that was a concert. So was Unchained when, after all the gold dispensed by the folks above Eric Blackwell was brought up to speak.

Many in the room, guys for whom I hold great respect and admiration, referred to Eric as a rock start. What? Huh? I’d spoken to him once on the phone, and read what he’s written here for quite awhile. We finally met before the event started, happy to finally be in the same room.

When Eric took his turn to speak, it was obvious he’d mastered his craft. I appreciate few things in life as much as someone who’s spent the time and enormous effort it takes to master the principles and skill sets of their profession. Listen to him speak for two minutes and you know he’s a member of that elite group. I will also be in contact with him, seriously so.

I’ve written here since mid-late 2006, shortly after Greg graciously invited me. If you’ve read me much you know I don’t gush. I’m not quite the crusty SOB Dad was, not yet anyway. But when I offer praise, it’s deserved. Unchained was an all too rare event, even for me. I was profoundly affected in many ways. You may be hearing about one or two in the coming year. We’ll see.

Then there was Unchained II — The Hotel Room

Sean Purcell, Brian Brady, Teri Lussier (one of my all time favorite Hounds), Mark Madsen, Scott Cowen, myself, and probably one or two I’m forgetting, adjourned to Sean and Brian’s room. ‘Til about 1:30 it was virtually all shop talk — great shop talk. There was some politics too. It was invigorating.

Towards the end, Mark Madsen took charge. He asked us, in no uncertain terms, ‘What can we do now — tonight — to help all of us here in this room?’ He became a ‘Hound with a bone, and wasn’t takin’ ‘no’ for an answer. I lined up to give him my info. As I said above, I’ll be talking with Mark very soon. My unscheduled detour has worked itself out. Mark’s offer was both team oriented, generous, and very much appreciated.

Though Brian Brady plays it down, his too short talk on how he’s succeeded with email marketing gave me two ideas I’m now beginning to implement. I will say however, that his idea of using the Socratic method of teaching with that group was comic relief. The guy knows how to generate business.

Greg and Brian have created a gem with Unchained. Like so many of you, I’ve been to many of these kinda things. Most of ’em are barely worth the networking opportunity. Unchained is pure gold.

If you can attend the next Unchained — do it.


A Peek Inside the Unchained Conference (Part 5 of 5)

Each day of the past week,¬†I featured one of the¬†amazing speakers from the Unchained Conference 2011. It was¬†your chance to spend a little time with some of the most creative, innovative minds in real estate online marketing… unfortunately, that’s all it could be: a few moments. For those of us in attendance, on the other hand, we had over 10 uninterrupted hours of access…

There were many great speakers, and lots of great ideas this year.¬† There always are.¬† But at every conference – Unchained or other – there is one Keynote Speaker.¬† One presenter that no one will miss.¬† The Superstar, if you will.¬† The expert who turns the fire hydrant on full force and dares you to step up.¬† At Unchained, there is no doubt who that speaker is…

Eric Blackwell is an SEO expert, and he¬†has helped countless real estate agents generate countless¬†new clients¬†through their online presence.¬† When he gets going on what works and what doesn’t,¬†you can almost¬†feel¬†the absolute truth of his words.¬† Why?¬† Could be¬†all the sites he runs, or the totalality of hours he has spent doing SEO work, but it really comes down to this: Eric Blackwell¬†does SEO for a living – he’s¬†down in the trenches every day testing, trying and correcting.¬† He knows what it takes to build your online presence, and¬†we know he’s a¬†star.

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A Peek Inside the Unchained Conference (Part 4 of 5)

Each day this week, I’ve featured one of the¬†amazing speakers from the Unchained Conference 2011. This is your chance to spend a little time with some of the most creative, innovative minds in real estate online marketing… unfortunately, that’s all it will be: a few moments. For those of us in attendance, on the other hand, we had over 10 uninterrupted hours of access…

Whether¬†“I told you so,” or not… remember this for next time: when you hear about¬†an Unchained Conference being scheduled, get online, get out your wallet, and get yourself there. You will leave dead tired, overwhelmed, and¬†so filled with ideas you’ll find yourself clicking your heels and saying “There’s no place like Unchained. There’s no place like Unchained…” Leading that chant will be none other than today’s speaker:

Brian Brady is called America’s #1 Mortgage Broker by Google; but he’s¬†got a lot more to teach¬†than finance.¬† He’s been¬†generating clients¬†AND closed transactions from online and social media venues since way before most in the industry had even heard the terms.¬† At¬†Unchained 2011, Mr.¬†Brady took us on a wild¬†tour of email marketing, Hollywood movies and secrets to converting¬†prospects into clients.¬† Want to know how The Wizard of Ahhhs does it?¬† Join him on the Yellow Brick Road at the next Unchained.


A Peek Inside the Unchained Conference (Part 3 of 5)

As promised, here’s another¬†amazing speaker from the Unchained Conference 2011. This is your chance to spend a little time with some of the most creative, innovative minds in real estate online marketing… unfortunately, that’s all it will be: a few moments. For those of us in attendance, on the other hand, we had over 10 uninterrupted hours of access…

Today, instead of repeating the: “I told you so,” mantra… I’ll just get right to the point: the next time there’s an Unchained Conference scheduled, do everything you can to be there. You’ll leave dead tired and overwhelmed, but overflowing with ideas you can implement immediately. Which brings me to…

Mark Madsen’s real estate site and an in depth discussion on how he creates web sites that not only attract a lot of traffic, but convert that traffic into clients. Sounds difficult? You bet, but just to make his numbers all the more startling, I’ll remind you of this fact: he’s doing business in Las Vegas… otherwise known as “Ground Zero” of the housing crisis. How does he not only survive but thrive in that environment? The same way he wowed all of us who were there: he creates TRUST.


A Peek Inside the Unchained Conference (Part 2 of 5)

As promised, each day this week¬†I’ll post¬†a few moments from some of the speakers at the Unchained Conference 2011.¬† It’s your chance to spend a little time with some of the most creative, innovative minds in real estate online marketing… unfortunately, that’s all it will be: a few moments.¬† For those of us in attendance, on the other hand, we had over¬†10 uninterrupted hours of access…

I know that yesterday I did the whole: “I told you so,” thing, but it bears repeating:¬†the next time there’s an Unchained Conference scheduled, make it a point to get yourself there.¬†¬†You’ll leave dead tired, overwhelmed, and full of ideas you can implement immediately.¬† Speaking of which…

Scott Schang’s¬†amazing loan site and online marketing campaign started as an idea at the first¬†Unchained conference, and now he’s back telling us how to do it.¬†¬†Oh, and reminding us that when it comes to generating prospective clients, we all get what we deserve…


Attention Takers: Why, In Plain English, Are YOU Entitled To The Fruits Of MY Hard Work?

Regardless of protestations to the contrary, all of us make decisions. At least most of ’em by way of what our core beliefs dictate. In fact, the use of that phrase — core beliefs — virtually never causes problems on either side of any political/ideological debate. Oh, but do what I just did, use the ‘I’ word — ideology — and those who don’t blink an eye at core beliefs, begin dissembling like a one-legged man in a butt kickin’ contest. They don’t wanna go down Ideology Blvd.

Know why?

Ideology requires a rationally thought out path — a system of beliefs. For instance, ask the guy just arrested for the armed robbery of the local convenience store to explain how his ideological beliefs allow him to rob others of their belongings while threatening their lives with lethal force. You’ll get one of two responses. Silence — Or — Convoluted nonsense — Or — unfiltered rage.

Ask a dad why he punishes his seven year old son when caught stealing from his sister. You’ll get plain English from him. It’ll relate directly to his ideological beliefs. His core beliefs the foundation of his belief ‘system’. Is this news to anyone? No? Then why do those from the take-my-fish side of the isle bristle so visibly when those with a clearly defined ideology not only speak up, but spell their beliefs out in — that scary phrase again — Plain English.

The 10% Crowd

To be in the top 10% of American income earners in 2011, I’m gonna borrow from the IRS’s 2010 stats. We’ll use the same numbers this year as last since this year’s numbers are partial in nature. If you make $380,354 or more, congrats! Your group, the top 1%, makes about 20% of the personal income produced in the United States. That’s the good news. The bad news?

You and your buddies pay 20% 38% of all personal income taxes. Did Mom ever split the candy bar that way between you and your brother or sister? No? Her idea of what’s fair must’ve been skewed, right?

If you earn $113,799 or more you’re in the 10% group. The good news is your group makes a tick under 46% of all personal income. The bad news is you also pay just under 46% 70% of all personal income taxes.

See a trend here?

Let’s take a look at the other end of the income spectrum, shall we?

Caveat: Get ready for great gnashing of teeth and self-righteous pontificating about fairness. Also, count on some creative use of the language. It won’t be Plain English, but it’ll be solid comic relief. And no, entitled fish-takers, when I used empirically historic numbers, I’m not pontificating. I’m reporting documented facts, not spewing wishful thinking or vitriolic rhetoric designed to disguise a vacuous position.

The bottom 50% of wage earners in America earn a bit under 13% of the income. They pay less than 3% of all personal income taxes. So while just over half (the now famous 53%) of us are paying literally over 97% of all income taxes, a large minority of the bottom half loudly proclaim the ‘fact’ that a sizable portion of the upper half aren’t payin’ their ‘fair’ share.

The universally accepted number of American wage earners who don’t pay income taxes is about 47%. Again, a sizable and vociferous portion of those non-taxpayers claim that much of the other 53% — you know, the ones actually payin’ the bills — aren’t payin’ enough. Never mind they’re paying ALL the taxes. They’re STILL not payin’ their fair share.

We call these folks the ‘entitled’ ones.

I, for one, would respectfully ask them a simple question, phrased in what many of them fear most, Plain English.

Why are YOU entitled to the fruits of MY hard work?

To make this a civil discussion, I suggest the following rules.

1. You cannot make your case for taking my money for your use by asking me or my fellow Pay-the-Bills group a question. You must answer the question as it has been asked — in Plain English.

2. No personal attacks. If you can’t make your case using your own core beliefs which obviously must form your own ideological system (and yes, you have one), please stay on the sidelines and observe those who can.

Frankly, I’m sick ‘n tired of being treated, even if only metaphorically, as the convenience store owner mentioned earlier. In fact, that brings up an excellent irony. The armed thief will go to jail if convicted. Yet, any taxpayer consistently failing to pay their taxes faces prison as a real option.

What the hell has happened to us? What the hell has happened to the Plain English with which we all grew up? When half of us are payin’ the freight for the other half, we’re on the edge of the abyss.


The Reason for Boundless Optimism

This, from a wonderful op/ed piece in the Wall Street Journal over the weekend entitled: From Phoenicia to Hayek to the ‘Cloud’ by Matt Ridley.

The crowd-sourced, wikinomic cloud is the new, new thing that all management consultants are now telling their clients to embrace.¬† Yet the cloud is not a new thing at all.¬† It has been the source of human invention all along.¬† Human technological advancement depends not on individual intelligence, but on collective idea sharing, and it has done so for tens of thousands of years…

Knowledge is dispersed and shared. Friedrich Hayek was the first to point out, in his famous 1945 essay “The Uses of Knowledge in Society,” that central planning cannot work because it is trying to substitute an individual all-knowing intelligence for a distributed and fragmented system of localized but connected knowledge.

So dispersed is knowledge, that, as Leonard Reed famously observed in his 1958 essay “I, Pencil,” nobody on the planet knows how to make a pencil. The knowledge is dispersed among many thousands of graphite miners, lumberjacks, assembly line workers, ferrule designers, salesmen and so on. This is true of everything that I use in my everyday life, from my laptop to my shirt to my city. Nobody knows how to make it or to run it. Only the cloud knows…

…good ideas can spread through trade. New weapons, new foods, new crafts, new ornaments, new tools. Suddenly you are no longer relying on the inventiveness of your own tribe or the capacity of your own territory. You are drawing upon ideas that occurred to anybody anywhere anytime within your trading network….

That is what trade does. It creates a collective innovating brain as big as the trade network itself.

So far this is already inspiring. We are advanced by the collective brain power of everyone we trade with… need there be any further discussion of free markets and open trade?¬† Why, other than in pursuit of enslavement, would anyone suggest limiting the “collective innovating brain?”¬† But there’s more; there’s reason for unbridled optimism.¬† Not just a positive outlook, not just a subtle feeling that the world will work itself out, but a genuine, over-the-top realization of optimism perfected.

Which is of course why the Internet is such an exciting development. For the first time humanity has not just some big collective brains, but one truly vast one in which almost everybody can share and in which distance is no obstacle.

The power of the one, vast, collective brain¬†found in the Internet is the greatest development in mankind’s civilization since the creation of civilization itself.¬† Up till now, when areas were “socially networked by the trading ships of Phoenicians, Greeks, Arabs or Venetians, culture and prosperity advanced. When the network collapsed … prosperity stagnated.”¬† The social networking of mankind is now instantaneous and worldwide.¬† Even systems that effort to control information cannot control the Internet; information will out because the innovation crossed the tipping point.¬†¬†Once we became “one truly vast (collective brain) in which almost everybody can share…” we became a force beyond the reach of any man’s¬†desire to control.¬† What could possibly overcome the innovation and prosperity of one, worldwide collective brain? Only another¬†equally worldwide collective brain, yet this is not possible. The space was filled at the moment of the tipping point.¬† It cannot be unfilled and replaced with a lack of knowing.¬† It has happened.¬†¬†The future is very bright indeed.


3 Things You Need To Know and 1 Thing You Need To Be To Blog Successfully

Having begun blogging in the summer of ’06, I found that many considered me one of the so-called pioneers in ‘online’ real estate. Frankly, I think that’s both true, and completely false. True, cuz inside the tightly defined real estate community I was a pioneer. Even now some of my local agent buds are taken aback when learning I’ve been blogging over five years now. On the other hand, the real pioneers in real estate blogging were doin’ their thing online back when I thought it was cool that I knew how to send email — and no doubt before.

What’s funny is when my friends ask me why? When I tell ’em how much my blog has produced in terms of closed business — skinned cats — they’re almost always a bit incredulous. Then they try to be Columbo with questions designed to appear innocent, but based upon obvious disbelief. Sometimes it’s been comical.

Why some blogs work and the vast majority don’t

Before beginning, it’s important for readers who don’t know me or of me, to realize that I’m President for Life of TechTards Anonymous. I know virtually nothing about SEO. If you were to find ‘key words’ in any post I write anywhere, it’s an accident every time. … _ _ _ … is the only code I know.

Content is King! is the battle cry for blogging, though recent history shows many who’ve valiantly tried to discount that principle. I’m here to tell ya, with whatever respect is due blogging detractors, content is King of the blogging universe — at least of the one in which I live. And please, pretty please with sugar on top, don’t come up with the whole, “Yeah, Jeff, but you’re in investments — it’s different for you.” crappola. It’s not. There are literally hundreds of real estate investment sites lookin’ to create business, most, at least in part through blogging. I’m not the Lone Ranger, the exception that proves the point.

House agents who blog, and write solid gold content consistently are succeeding wildly. Ask Greg if he thinks his company’s site would do as well as it does without his priceless content.

Fact is? You must actually be pretty damn good at what you do, or it simply won’t have legs. Apply clich√© #27 here — ‘not rocket science’, etc. Any business coming my way via online efforts is exclusively from blogging, no exceptions.

I bring it up now as an encouragement to those who’re genuinely expert at what they do. Blog well, consistently, and often. Share your experience, your hard learned lessons. Explain how things work in a way that isn’t Romper Room revisited, or, for you younger folk, not Mr. Rogers. What do I mean? Stop writin’ in terms that’re either profoundly in search of a Duh!, or cartoonishly simpleminded. As bloggers we’re not the only three digit IQs in the room. Explain things the way experts in any discipline would — in plain English, but not as if their audience just made it through kindergarten unscathed.

I’ll use another industry to illustrate.

I know a local clothing designer who, in another life was a well known interior designer in the midwest and east coast. She’s done all my offices for me, and any local listings I take. How good is she? Every time she’s finished one of my offices, the other tenants line up to be next. My listings? The next one she stages takin’ longer than a week to sell will be the first. She’s a bona fide expert.

I once watched her explain to a client selling an income property why she was having him spend five figures just to prepare for the market. 60 seconds after she began talking you could see the change in his attitude. He was dealing with someone who flat knew which way was north on the map. He stopped her in mid sentence, grabbed his clipboard, and began taking notes.

That’s exactly how effective a blog is when the writer is truly a master at what they do. You can’t fake mastery. People see that before it crests the horizon. But, I know there’s one more reason you’ll throw up to me to obviate the positive potential of a blog.

“People pick agents they already know, or through networking.”

True enough — no argument there. It’s my contention, however, that that is now, and has been changing the last several years. Those who bombard us with the mantra about how, ‘124% of homebuyers/sellers begin their search online’, can be assumed to be factual. But as that has become the norm, it also means, by definition, that they’ve also been discovering which agents know their stuff.

How better to learn that than through reading thousands of words that agent has written — and on subjects buyers and sellers are starving to read?

Folks will use an agent to find them a house, or sell their home for them, cuz their buddy at work, brother-in-law, or trusted neighbor gives them the heads up. But if during their time online they run across you, an agent giving them one killer informational post after another — turning hopelessly confusing issues into completely understandable procedures?

I guarantee you: An acceptable percentage of them are gonna make your phone ring, or your email ding. People like feeling comfortable — and nothing makes us feel more comfortable than vastly superior knowledge, expertise, and experience on display. Said another way . . .

What makes us more comfortable than a real pro, who explains things we don’t quite get, in a manner leaving no doubt all bases have been covered, and that this ain’t their first rodeo?

If you can look yourself in the mirror and confidently say you’re that agent — you need to be blogging, and should probably start some time around 4:30 yesterday afternoon.

Blogging works

You don’t need to know anything more than I do. I know how to type — what I’m talkin’ about — and how to push ‘Publish’. If you can do those three things consistently, your blog will also fill your office with cat skins. Like the man said — “It ain’t rocket science, folks.”


Talking Dog Syndrome

Robert Worthington’s car story reminds me of this.

In 2003, I had an epic run.  A 6 figure 60 day period.

I was happy as hell. ¬†In 2004, I became…

Arrogant.  Thought this was my new life.  Thought I was now a 7 figure agent. Made a 60 thousand month an 80 thousand month (and forgot the famine that sandwiched the months).

We’ve talked about this before.

Anyway, enter a man, Harry. ¬†Harry was a mid 40’s (I was late 20’s) agent. ¬†Looked like Peter Falk with a crew cut. ¬†Harry was a nice guy, a little slow, and kind of a bumpkin. ¬†Harry’s mom used to be in Real Estate as an old time agent. ¬†Harry’s mom could now move to Florida.

People thought Harry was a moron.

People derided Harry for having his momma’s business.

Harry drove a 1993 Geo Prizm everywhere. ¬†He got to the office around 7am and left around 10am. ¬†He got back to the office around 7pm and stayed for a half hour or so. ¬†We didn’t see much of him. ¬†I was in the office to sober up for an hour after being a little too boozy. ¬†We passed as he was coming back.

I can’t resist the urge to brag, and this time was no different.

“4 closings this week.” ¬†I said, counting my $129,000 4% double ender as 2 closings.

“Great.” he said, “You only get about 2 great runs a year, so work hard.”

Whatever, bumpkin.

Slow talking Harry was always enthusiastic, didn’t miss a meeting, and kept to himself.

Later, he referred a client he didn’t have time for to me. ¬†I didn’t close him. ¬†The client was a jerk. ¬†(Note: I probably could have closed him had I not wanted to be right, but that’s a lesson for another time). ¬† Another client, and nothing. ¬†Harry asked to see me, I was too busy, but would welcome his referrals.

I got one more, another closable person that my arrogance kept away (after all, I was driving an Acura RL, what the hell could Harry know. ¬†He drove a Hundai to get here. I never met with Harry ¬†and didn’t hear much from him.

But after our brokerage closed, he was curt with me at a boozy Realtor meeting where we were all informed who our new masters were.  He came into a different brokerage and I learned a few things.

  • Harry made over 650,000 per year.
  • Harry had a vending machine business that brought in another $120k (heh heh tax free heh heh). ¬†He schlepped the quarters, candy bars and laundry soap himself.
  • Harry had something like 9 duplexes, all in an up and¬†coming¬†neighborhood.
  • Harry had ear marked me to be part of his business after I was agent of the month 3 months in a row.

Harry wasn’t a fast talker. ¬†He was, however focused. ¬†He didn’t take bathroom breaks during the day. ¬†He cared about his clients. ¬† I whiffed at what was sure to be a bonafide amazing¬†opportunity.

I learned this second hand, from another old timer.  I had no idea about any of those facts.  When I pondered this, slow talking, Prism driving Harry, it was as if my dog had a secret life teaching Russian to diplomats.  I never saw how this mouth breather was better than me.

But he is, still churning out volume without complaint, drama, rancor facebook twitter or a blog.


Book To Buy: The War of Art

Today, you will need to buy this book.

Because it has been the one thing that’s been key to the run I’ve been on. ¬†To understanding who I am.

To go pro.

Every idea I’ve implimented has come from this book – or from the Meditations (hays translation).

Anyway, even if you’re broke and mad at the world, go get this book. ¬†I’ve read it 5 times, I think. ¬†I could stand to read it 50 more.


The Difference Maker

I’ve been having periodic, kinda sorta regular conversations with a young real estate agent in the southwest. It’s been goin’ on for maybe a year or more. He thinks he has a very bright future, but from where I sit, he hasn’t yet grasped just how really good he’s destined to be.

He’s a goal setter, yet he’s not hit his goals the last few years. Don’t get me wrong, he’s done very well. But missin’ his goals consistently isn’t from poor work ethic, he’s like a Nebraskan corn farmer at harvest time. The guy’s relatively tech savvy as he maintains his own websites, which are designed to be lead generators. He has an IDX etc. Still, goals not met.

He works his ass off, gets referrals up the ying-yang, follows up, crosses his T’s, dots his I’s, loves his mom, and eats his veggies. So what’s the hold up for Heaven’s sake? What’s been missing?

95% (Pulled out of the clean, breezy San Diego blue sky.) of real estate agents who don’t make it, fail for this reason.

Promise you won’t roll your eyes.

Bottom line? He stopped spending so much time with websites, and other various marketing tasks, and began spending most of his time either prospecting or, you know, being belly to belly with folks who could tell him to go to hell. Turns out a buncha folks attached to said bellies haven’t been giving him directions to Satan’s abode.

Go figure.

His income this year will most likely eclipse last year’s goal by about 30% or more — a goal he failed to reach. Puttin’ it another way, If he reaches this year’s goal, and he’s ‘this close’ to being on target, he’ll have exceeded last year’s actual income by approximately 55-70%. All this by simply parkin’ his belly in front of more stranger’s bellies than ever before.

Who’d a thunk?

Oh, and for the record, so far this year his ‘high tech’ lead generators have produced a tad less than 20% of his income. The dominating majority of what he’s accomplished has been using methods available when Truman was in office.

Regardless of all this success, he needs to completely retool what he’s offering — a completely different value proposition.

I’ve advised him to quit, as he so concisely put it, competing with all those agents out there who couldn’t carry his jock on their best days. To be accurate, I added the jock part. ūüôā

See, he’s been doin’ what I do, only at a level I did back when I was his age. One of my mentors gave me the same advice. Don’t compete with amateurs. Instead, pick their fields clean. And when it comes to specializing in investment property as a real estate agent/broker, purposefully competing on a regular basis with home agents is silly on its face, and a colossal waste of time.

No need to go into the nuts ‘n bolts of my advice, but if he follows through, and I’m convinced he will, I predict his income will triple in the next couple years. He’s been selling things as opposed to results.

It matters not that 99% of those reading this won’t be specializing in investment property. Just don’t lose sight of the sea change he embraced like a lost child newly found:

Focus like a laser beam on being belly to belly with more folks per week than your used to in six weeks. Do that, and as night follows day, your professional life will never be the same.

Caveat: The discipline required to constantly market and putz around with websites etc., isn’t nearly the soul cleansing discipline it takes to constantly, consistently be belly to belly with those who can crush your spirit.

It’s called being in the arena — and when it comes right down to it, most simply don’t have the stomach for it. It’s why they spend so much time and money doing other things.

Spending as much time as possible in the arena — goin’ belly to belly — IS the difference maker. It’s what sets the talkers apart from the doers.

Talkers spend most of their time doin’ whatever it takes to avoid the arena.


The Food Is Terrible, But Wow! The Service Is Out Of This World

Ever had a friend rave about a newly found restaurant who said the service was literally the best he’s ever seen? The question hangin’ in the air of course, is — How was the food? Ever heard a friend reply, “Oh, the food? Average at best. But the service was so off the charts, we’re goin’ back every week.” I’m bettin’ not.

Let’s lay out a few examples of the above.

Did attendance at Chargers games drop last season cuz they didn’t always wear their wildly popular throwback uniforms? OR, cuz they stopped winning?

Would you rather have the rude, gruff, but world class doctor? OR, the dime a dozen physician who serves homemade cookies in the waiting room, and makes you feel really good about yourself?

Is your best friend your best friend cuz they don’t tell ya the shirt you’re plannin’ to wear on that first date makes you look like a 1958 Sears appliance salesman? OR, cuz when you call them at 3 AM on a rainy Wednesday morning, they’re there in 10 minutes?

The Chargers’ win/loss record isn’t in any way connected to their uniform’s design.

Your doctor’s manners are irrelevant to his ability/inability to treat you.

Your best friend pisses your wife off regularly, yet he’s still the guy you go to when it MATTERS.

You’re in the real estate business. There’s only one thing you do that’s guaranteed, every time it’s tried, to put a smile on your client’s face.

Produce the result you were hired to produce.

Results speak more loudly than anything else you do, including your so-called world class service.

Those who spend the bulk of their time and money enabling them to produce those results for more people, faster, are the smart kids in the room.

Clients don’t pay us five figures for HappyTalk. They pay us for results.

It’s pretty easy to discern who, and who does not get that in any given market.

However, as Grandpa replied to me once, when, as a 12 year old I said painting pictures of landscapes/seascapes was hard, “If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.”

Testimonials may speak of the wonderful service they received from their agent, but they wouldn’t be testimonials if the agent hadn’t provided the originally sought after results — and sooner rather than later.

You have a choice.

Produce results — OR — become an assistant for an agent who does. Then you can give all the wonderful service your heart desires.

Did that sound harsh? Find a testimonial about a real estate agent praising their agent, who never did produce the results they wanted, but gave the bestest service ever while failing month after month.

Ask yourself — Why are those with the most CatSkins on the wall called top PRODUCERS?

Results. Nothing trumps ’em, and there is no acceptable substitute.


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