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Archive for the 'General' Category

Real Estate Auctions: Not Just For Foreclosures Anymore

Two years ago, I started paying MLS, NAR, CA, and SDAR dues.  Since my wife Debra was taking on more of the lending responsibilities, I spent the bulk of my time working with the real estate agents.  Having MLS access allowed me to hold broker opens for my agents, hold open houses for their listings, and act as a de facto “buyer’s agent” for them when they were out of town.

I had a few “orphan” clients and, in the past 30 months,  I represented about a dozen buyers and listed and sold two properties as a real estate agent.  It’s not something I love but understanding the brokerage side of the business enhanced our knowledge as lenders.  We understand contracts, deadlines, contingencies, and conversations with our agent clients better.  Throwing mom and dad in the station wagon, showing homes, writing offers, meeting property inspectors, negotiating repairs, and closing deals has made us better lenders so I’m grateful for the experience.

Eight years ago, a local hedge fund type started an online real estate auction site.  I wrote about it here and was tangentially involved but it never really took off.  I think it was more because of the online component and less of the auction component.  Generally speaking, when tech types and hedge fund guys try to disinternediate the local brokerage, they lose.  Greg wrote about the next flop yesterday.

I have always been intrigued with auctions so it shouldn’t surprise you that I have followed Harcourts, the New Zealand real estate brokerage’s entry into the Southern California market.  Harcourts has been holding non-distressed auctions for two years now with tepid results.  I had a few thoughts about why its results are mediocre so I started to form a new firm; California House Auctions.

We are a vendor.  We have an exclusive agreement with one of the top auctioneers in California.  He’s held over 600 auctions in the past thirty years and is well known in the community.  We’ll be helping ANY real estate brokerage to sell their (non-distressed) listing through a live auction.  We’ll charge a fee for each successful auction (paid at close of escrow to a licensed real estate brokerage).

I am still slogging through some legal and licensing stuff but we should hold our first auction later this month.

That’s my latest scheme and I hope to get your input as we progress.  We think this could be a great way to sell non-distressed properties and we think the live auction on the front lawn will help our brokerage clients earn more listings from the neighbors.

I’m thrilled we kickstarted RE.net2.0 and can’t wait to see what all of you have been doing these past five years

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How Not to Message

Taking this moment to give this brief lesson on how not to message:

Neil Siegel, a former special counsel to Joe Biden and supporter of ObamaCare/Affordable Care Act, was on WUNC’s The State of Things on Wednesday discussing recent appellate litigation involving the subsidies authorized by the Act. The DC Circuit ruled Monday that subsidies are illegal in states that did not set up their own insurance exchanges. North Carolina is one of those states. The Fourth Circuit, in which North Carolina is located, found otherwise.

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There is no real estate inventory problem in Oceanside, CA

How often had you heard real estate agents complain about “the inventory problem” this past year?  I used to think their complaints were farcical until these past 3-4 months.  I have about a dozen pre-approved buyers out looking for homes.  Interest rates are low and the foreclosures are getting snapped up as soon as they hit the market.  Not one of those dozen has been able to get an accepted offer since Labor Day, 2012.

Clearly, there must be an inventory problem. 

It’s time to change gears real estate agents.  A few years back, I suggested that buyers would be controlling the market and the listings side of the business should be de-emphasized.  All the properties being offered were short sales or foreclosures.  Paperwork-intensive transactions didn’t sound so appealing to me and I recommended that agents focus all their efforts on finding buyers and getting them into contracts.  Those who followed such advice didn’t get rich but earned a darned good living these past few years.

I had breakfast this morning with Mr. Oceanside, Don Reedy.  We discussed the local market and “the inventory problem” when it hit me; there is no shortage of homes.  In Oceanside alone, there are thousands of home owners, with equity, who can sell their properties to ready and willing home buyers.  This offers the ambitious real estate agent a great opportunity.  Too often, real estate agents (and loan originators) forget that we are paid to add value to transactions.  If we’re simply acting as gatekeepers, we are no different from everyone else.  We need to “create personal inventory”–find sellers for the buyers who want their homes.

Here is my ten- step plan for real estate agents, for a great 2013…with PLENTY of “personal” inventory:

  1. Attend your local caravan meeting each week.  Pay close attention to the agents who speak during the “buyers’ needs” segment.
    Call a dozen local agents weekly who work with buyers.  Find out where the inventory problem is.  At this point, you will see a glaring opportunity in your town/market area.  If you know that those agents have 2-3 buyers, for a certain price range, in a certain area, you have identified “half” a market.
  2. Look at the property tax records in the “problem” subdivision.  Choose only properties with owner’s equity.  Generally speaking, you’ll look for homes bought prior to 2006 or in 2010.  If you’re doing a search with the local title company, and you know the homes are worth $350,000-$400,000, you could also search for sales which had recorded mortgages under $250,000 (that can eliminate a lot of problems).  Compile a lit of potential “equity sellers”.
  3. Visit those equity sellers on a Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon.  Don’t mail them.  Don’t call them.  Don’t email them.  Bang on their door and tell them that you KNOW where 2-3 willing buyers of their property are.  Ask to meet with them to discuss the idea of “equity transfer” to different property.
  4. Meet the now interested seller and explain that, when they look at their original mortgage payment (before they refinanced), and add the expected equity from the sale of their home, they might be able to buy a “better” (bigger, nicer, closer to work) home.  It might be useful to have some listings printed out, in the “better” homes’ price range, to whet their appetite.  Recommend that they speak with America’s #1 mortgage broker, to get pre-qualified for the “equity transfer” program, with mortgage payments which were equal to their original (before they refinanced) payment.  Schedule a follow-up visit and tell them you’ll have the mortgage broker call them in the morning.
  5. Speak with the agents who have willing buyers for the home.  Verify that they are still in the market and that you might have a property about to hit the MLS.  Explain that you’ll give them a “heads up”, right after the listing agreement is signed, and tell them that you’ll let their buyers “preview” the property the day the listing is entered into the MLS.  Estimate when you think that will be.
  6. At the follow up visit to the interested seller, start the meeting off by showing them the available inventory for the pre-approved amount (you’ll have a pre-approval letter from the mortgage broker).  Sell the fact that you are transferring the equity from the existing property.  If they seem excited, offer to list thee property for 30 days only.  Explain that this market is a bit of an anomaly and, if you can’t get them the price they need, to affect the “equity transfer” in 30 days, it may not make sense to sell at that time.  Have the seller sign a 30-day listing agreement along with a 60-day buyer’s brokerage agreement.
  7. Instruct them to be out of the property from 2PM-7PM on the next Friday and out of the property from 1PM-4PM on the next Saturday.  Schedule time to review offers, at 6PM on that Sunday evening.
  8. Plan to enter the listing into the MLS on Friday morning (or late Thursday night).  Schedule an open house for that Saturday.  Call the agents with buyers, and instruct them to schedule a showing on that Friday (from 2:30PM until 6PM).  Tell those agents you plan to hold it open that Saturday and that quick offers are the wisest policy.  Explain that you expect to be presenting offers all day Sunday.
  9. Find your seller a new home.  Collect commission checks for adding real value to a lopsided market.  Celebrate.
  10. Repeat.

It really is that simple.  If there are more buyers than sellers in a market, find more sellers.


Blind pickin at its best – So long Doc…


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 (1 of 5)

Each day this week (and earlier than this one, I promise) 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 could say: “I told you so,” but instead I’ll say this: the next time there’s an Unchained Conference scheduled – and the way each one gets better than the one before, you better believe there’ll be more – make it a point to get yourself there.  You’ll leave dead tired, overwhelmed, and full of ideas you can implement immediately.

Here’s Greg, discussing how he creates hundreds of thousands of web pages to dominate the competition.

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Was That Your Kid On 2nd Base Lookin’ For You?

It’s a lazy Saturday here in Paradise, um, San Diego. The last week or so I’ve been running into more than my share of people from my local baseball past, bringing a flood of fond memories in each instance. In Vons last week I ran into a kid I both coached (for and against) and umpired countless times. Yesterday in another local store there was a parent ahead of me at the cash register. “Jeff!! It’s Cheryl, how ya doin’?” “Super, Cheryl — How’s little Stevie?” “He’s a CPA now, living at the beach.”

Wow — Little Stevie’s a CPA? How the hell old am I anyway? Over the years I’ve had so much fun on the field, enjoying the heat of battle, both in the dugout and as an umpire. From the time my own son was eight, till he was a sophomore in high school, I was in the dugout. That includes post season tournaments, and all-stars at every age group.

Guess how many many millions of dollars I’d trade for those years.

The on-the-field stories I have, interesting, funny, and sometimes deeply poignant, go from 1988 through 2000, my last year umpiring NCAA ball. I saw my son’s first homer. Was in the dugout for his no-hitter. Same for the day he stood on the mound so triumphantly, having won the local city-wide major league championship in front of his old buds and their parents. Who, for the record, were cheering wildly for him, while lookin’ up at the announcer’s booth at the black hat who’d chased us out the year before to another league.

How sweet was that? In that moment, how much was the look on his face worth? Or seeing another league’s folks standing up and cheering for their involuntary prodigal son? Or, having the memory of that look and those cheers till I die?

I’ve umpired college kids I’d seen play since they were fifth graders for Heaven’s sake. Some of the stories are fall down funny. Some are pure baseball, and most are made up of success, failure, and the value of endless hard work producing results. For a very few, those results included playing Major League baseball. Still have a couple left playin’.

Ask those kids the value of learning the lesson of hard, almost anonymous work turning into positive results. They’ll have those catskins on their walls for life.

It’s Dad though, who so often make the pivotal difference merely by their consistent presence. Experience shows far less than 5% of Little Leaguers even make it to third string bench warming status in high school. Fewer still ever get as far as casting a shadow on a college diamond while wearing a uniform.

But when asked, virtually all the ones with fond memories can tell you stories with Dad playin’ a critical role. Can every guy be a coach in their boy’s sport(s) of choice? Fact is, most can’t. They either don’t have the skill sets or are simply too busy puttin’ food on the table. But they break their butts to be there for the games, to show their kids it’s important.

Wanna know the saddest thing in youth sports? It’s the kid who doubles in a run, then, after sliding safely into second base like their favorite Major Leaguer, the crowd cheering wildly, they casually (no really) cast their eyes in the direction of the bleachers, searching for Dad, who’s not there — again.

Lord knows none of us are perfect parents, but Grandma was right. On the first visit to show off our newborn son, she said 95% of successful parenting was being there. As usual, I learned she’d been right.

Allow me one umpiring story

I’d made the decision to retire from NCAA umpiring. Not cuz I was tired of it, perish the thought. I simply couldn’t afford the time away from the office.

Anywho, I’d chosen a pretty much meaningless game to be my last. It wasn’t even between four year schools, but junior college. The catcher for one of the teams was a kid I’d coached/umpired since he was in sixth grade. His nickname was Butt. My son had played with and against him, mostly against since he was 11. In the ninth inning, when his team was on defense, I told Mike this was my last game, I was hangin’ ’em up. I’ll never forget his response.

He stood up, makin’ his pitcher pause on the mound, and said, “Thanks for tellin’ me Jeff. I’m glad I was the catcher.”

Tell me how much that memory is worth.

I’ve gotta million stories, ok, dozens, about single parents workin’ 2-3 jobs, still figurin’ out how to at least catch half a game when their kid was playin’. Though I’d never claim the highest value isn’t the affect, the impact your presence will have on your son, the memories you’ll get in return will make it the bargain of a lifetime.

Be there.


Who “Nose” What’s Right?

This is an article whose inception has come from some recent interactions on other blogs with regard to NAR’s update of Article 10 of the Code of Ethics concerning discrimination against sexual orientation. Though I participated in commentary on this topic, what really was bothering me was what follows. Simply put, I’m pretty damned tired of being proselytized and dumbed down by NAR, and even more tired of watching the planet forsake common sense because crafty special interest groups have figured out how to dilute the “Fathertongue” so as to render it useless.

I’m against “Gay Marriage”, and wanted to talk with you about why.

Wait, excuse me for a minute…there’s a bunch of people at my door.  Oh my, it’s the ACLU, some folks with signs with something about LGBT on them, some reporters from MSNBC, and even someone from NAR with a photocopy of the newly amended Article 10 sexual orientation anti-discriminatory verbiage.

Ground rule #1 – This is not about religion. Yes, I am a Christian, and yes Christians mostly believe that gay marriage is not appropriate. Yes, I’m one of them. But in this article you get no traction with any comments slamming Christianity. This is not about my faith. As with most “discrimination” issues, I am well able to separate my philosophy and faith from an honest discussion about rule of law, society, sociology, the family, and more importantly, the long hand of a master to whom I owe no allegiance.

Your Right to Throw a Punch Ends Where My Nose Begins

This saying has been a way of life for me for as long as I was able to stick up for myself. Hopefully you won’t find the saying controversial. It’s a reminder that I am an individual, complete and independent, and while we do in fact interact, your right to exercise your independence ends where my “nose” begins. You may shout or debate. You may whisper behind my back, or come to my door with placards. You may join with your own pugilists to wage war on my philosophy. You may lobby and convince. All these things you may do. But you must stop your fist where my nose begins.

The Marketing Wordsmith

My stand in saying I am “against” gay marriage comes from my long love of the written and spoken word. I’ve written that we must say what we mean, and that doing otherwise because of societal or group pressure always demeans and diminishes us. Greg Swann writes eloquently of these pressures in an essay at

I think that Greg uses the term “fathertongue” to describe the activity of communicating with the use of the written and spoken word. He differentiates this from “mothertongue” communications, nonverbal in nature. And so if it follows that we communicate, and that communication is a lynchpin that holds society together, then understanding, respecting and mastering the written and spoken word are skills all of us should undertake to the best of our abilities.

Believe me, those who work in the field of marketing have in fact mastered this art, and I’ll use these marketing wordsmiths’ work products to demonstrate how and why the word “marriage ” morphed from X to Y while the “fathertongue” watchmen slept in the tower.

We Say X…but we Mean Y

Here’s some examples of how we’ve lost our way with words, and more importantly, the real meaning behind those words.

• If you take a pregnant woman and force the early termination of a child she is carrying….it was called an abortion. Now it’s “a woman’s right to choose.
• We used to call the duty we owed to our country the Selective Service. Now it’s the All Volunteer Army.
• We used to talk about same sex relationships as homosexuality. Now it’s “gay rights.”

You see, the marketing folks figured out that if you SAY it over and over, this new phrase for the old phrase, we’ll dumb down and forget what the original term actually meant. Only I haven’t forgotten…and I really care.   You should, too.

Marriage – The Union of a Man and a Woman

You know the phrase, don’t you? “It’s the economy, stupid.” Small talk, hardball, softball, gamesmanship, scare tactics….none of these hide the obvious. We all know what this phrase means.

Marriage. You know what it means. Boy meets girl. Guy meets gal. Man and woman join together. Kids (mostly the old fashioned way, with an occasional wonderful adoption). This what the word marriage means.

We have other words to describe relationships. Dating. Going steady. Living together. Friends with benefits. Different words, all of which denote a different relationship with a different set of facts.

Why then, I ask, change the true meaning, context and value of the word marriage, a word and relationship from which we have germinated and grown our society over these many years? Will you replace MY fathertongue with yours? Will you thrust your fist into my nose, insisting you have a right which I do not? Will a segment of this democracy numbering 20% or less dictate a change in my right to use the commonest of words in the commonest of ways to communicate the commonest of relations?

Oh, but gay couples want equal rights. They want the right to live together, bring children into their families, devise and contract as couples, obtain the right to be considered direct family for such things as medical care, visitation, etc. And do I protest these?

Not for one moment. I’ve been an advocate for these changes for many years. A child of the 1960’s, Vietnam, and the Civil Rights movement left me well equipped to stamp out discrimination wherever it rears its ugly head. (I surely did not need NAR to remind me of this as they felt they had to in Article 10 of their Code of Ethics….but thanks daddy).

Just don’t usurp my word.

You can have these words (or more) – civil union, civil partners, LGBT’s….and I’ll march with you to the legislatures to see that the rights I mentioned above are provided rightfully to you.

Just don’t try to morph my word.

But Things and Meanings Change Over Time

Sure, some things have changed.

  • I used to think that what Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather said was true….turns out it wasn’t always.
  • I used to think my baseball heroes were, well heroes. Rose, Bonds and Clemmons prove otherwise.
  • I used to think Congress had the only right to declare war. Billions of dollars and thousands of lives later…..guess not.
  • Used to be that “R” rates movies had some bad language and some frontal nudity (mostly female and breasts only). Now……(don’t get me started).
  • And you used to be able to stand toe to toe with another person, shout, scream, spill venom, and if fisticuffs broke out a Band-Aid usually fixed the damage. Now, it’s shoot first, stab second, defame publicly third. No one understands the importance, the tradition, the meaning of discourse any longer.

Don’t Get Your Nose Out of Shape

Who “nose” if I’m right about gay marriage? Remember, it’s the word “marriage”, and its common and well established usage that I am unwilling to cede over to a special interest group. (Yes, LGBT is, by just about any standard, a special interest group).

Who “nose” if NAR had to take the step of reminding all of us that discrimination, in any form, is discrimination? I suppose if our governing body thinks we’re unable to conduct ourselves without discriminating, then it should come as no surprise that the general public likewise fails to discriminate our profession from that of politicians, lawyers and car salesmen.  (Again, no offense intended to you should you fall into these categories….but you know what I’m talking about, don’t you?)

So if you’d like to punch me out because I’ve expressed a view with which you do not agree, then just remember to be nice. Your right to throw your punch ends where my nose begins.


Happy 4th. of July fellow independence seekers

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

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

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A couple of weeks ago I joined millions of other Americans in the last minute ritual of rushing to the post office on April 15th and filing… my tax extension.  Brimming with pride over not procrastinating this year, a reward was in order.  Now this is normally the realm of chocolate frozen yogurt, but I wanted something more appropriate, maybe even a little dangerous; so I went down to the local Tea Party Rally.

Though a newbie to the whole “Astroturf” experience, I felt I had some idea what to expect thanks to the fine, unbiased reporting of our main stream media.  I braced myself for loud, selfish people who didn’t give a damn about the less fortunate.  I girded myself for cynical young radicals.  I steeled myself for the subtle racism reportedly running just beneath the surface. In short, I entered the raucous Public Square of the Tea Party by embracing the Boy Scout motto: Be Prepared.

Ha!  Somebody – I’m not sure if it’s the Boy Scouts or the Fourth Estate – owes me an apology.  I didn’t hear any loud, selfish rhetoric.  In fact, the speeches mainly concerned the social justice of liberty and even saving public employee pensions!  I did not see young radicals (though this was Oceanside, CA so distinguishing between subversive radicals and skateboarders is tricky).  And any “subtle racism” must have been drowned out by Ted Hayes’ standing ovation.

I spent hours looking out over the nearly two thousand people who attended, and it’s what I did see that surprised me: the predominate, if not prototypical, Tea Party activist is a woman in her early fifties who is, or soon will be, a grandmother.

Surprising, right?   I wasn’t prepared either.  (You see why I’m looking for an apology from the main stream media… or is it the Boy Scouts?)  The more I thought about it though, the more sense it made; who else would it be?  The Tea Party, at its heart, stands opposed to the generational transfer of financial devastation.  Now granted, parents are generally more protective of children than anyone else.  But most moms and dads are focused on immediate threats: food, shelter, education… and maybe little league baseball.  When it comes to our children’s posterity, however, no one holds a candle to Grandma.   The “Mama Grizzly” concept is popular right now, but who do you think taught them to become Grizzlies?  Heck, I remember being disrespectful to my grandmother once… once.  How about you?

I guess you could say a “funny” thing happened to me on Tax Day.  I went to a Tea Party Rally, and had a Senior Moment.  I left with more optimism, less worry, and a very different understanding of the Tea Party.  You might want to sit-up and pay attention.  I have a hunch the political elite, with their pandering and their self-serving spin, are not prepared for the powerful force coming their way.  They are messing with her grandchildren, and grandma’s not happy.


The Santa Claus Nation

I love Christmas…just so you know. And no, I’m not on drugs, this being just past the start of Spring. But it occurred to me today that we are becoming a Santa Claus nation. Let me explain.

It all started when I read that the U.S. Post Office had just issued a stamp that depicts the Statue of Liberty. The story indicated that the picture of the Statue of Liberty was not actually the real one, but rather a photo of the Statue of LIberty in Las Vegas! Of course, when I read the article, I assumed that this mistake would make the stamp valuable, and that the real Statue would quickly replace the fake one. But….

The United States Postal Service admitted the mistake but said it planned to stick with its Lady Liberty “Forever” stamp.  “We still love the stamp design and would have selected this photograph anyway,” Roy Betts, a post office spokesman, told the Times.

Really? While I happen to love the movie “Miracle on 34th Street”, and am delighted each time I watch it, I’m no longer 6 years old, and (spoiler alert) understand the difference between Christmas and Santa Claus. Can’t wait for December? Want a reminder?

The difference between Christmas and Santa Claus just doesn’t seem to have been clarified to our government, the Post Office for example, does it? What we’re now going to get is a depicture of a depicture. A replica of the real thing. They’re giving us Santa Claus. I want Christmas.

This is really a post about government in general, of course, NAR specifically, and an awful lot of the world we’ve colorized in attempt to feed the masses chaff instead of grain. I’m a man who was once a boy, working in a profession run by boys who never act like men, in a country where our government now openly promotes imitation over the real deal. If you’re on the street today showing homes, and if you come upon an old woman with wrinkles, look away. Somewhere there’s a Photoshopped Gravatar of her that I’m sure will be better than the real thing. Seems that there really IS a Santa Claus, Virginia…


The Blindsided Realtor

On January 31st I had a catastrohic retinal detachment in my left eye that rendered me blind (black, nada) for two days.  Two days later I had retinal surgery to repair the detachment.  This included injecting and filling my eye with silicone oil to keep the retina in place and the intraocular pressures where they needed to be.   In a followup visit four days later I had additional laser surgery to tack down the areas of the retina that needed it.  I was told during this time to lie face down 24 hours a day to keep the silicone oil pressing against the back of the eye.

Then, one week after the surgery I began to see a black shade covering my eye once again.  The retina had detached once more, and so for a few more days I was not just legally blind (the effect you get with silicone oil and the regular run of the mill retinal detachment surgery), but black, dark and very disturbingly blind.  It seems that the retina had not only detached, but there had been formation of retinal scar tissue in the wrong place.  This is a very serious condition called proliferative vitreal retinopathy (PVR), and if left uncorrected almost always results in permanent blindness.

Well, you’re saying, this is a real estate blog; not a Jerry Springer show or even an Oprah event.  And you all know that I’m writing this because I’ve had some sort of epiphany…right?

In truth, there hasn’t been an epiphany yet, and there might not be one.  I started off asking myself if there were any other “blind” Realtors functioning in America.  Turns out there’s a quite successful, totally blind, real estate agent in La Jolla.  So my hopes of being important because I couldn’t see just simply faded to grey like in a bad B-movie.  And any hopes I had for this being just a good story that I could share around the water cooler died this past week.

I was sent to USC Doheny Eye Center in Los Angeles by my surgeon here in La Jolla.  Was told his group was the “best of the best.”  Beth and I drove up, saw four doctors, including the big cheese himself, and came away with a plan.  Fluid had built up behind my retina, but there was a slight possibility that I could go home, stay face down for four more days, and by then hope that the retina was doing well enough to just “add laser” to keep it attached. 

Not to be.  I was able to stop my black shadow blindness, but the retinal fluid remained, scar tissue was still forming, and another operation was needed. 

I’ve had lots of opportunities to be afraid.  Sailing alone one “dark and stormy night” from the Channel Islands to San Diego I went up to check a sail and was knocked into the water.  I had the tiller tied off (the boat was sailing itself), and so when I went over if I had failed to find the boat and get back in I’d be left in the middle of the Pacific right in the path of the commercial vessels that traverse the coast.   Well, more likely that I would have died from exposure since the water temp was only in the low 50’s.  And I’ve also literally flown off the side of a mountain in West Virginia in my motorcycle, landing face down, removing just about all the tissue possible, and burning the h*** out of my leg and arms.  And more stories…but the point is….I wasn’t afraid.  I simply was not afraid.

But on Tuesday I’m going to have another surgery, and if you permit me, I want to let you know I’m afraid.  That’s certainly not an epiphany.  It’s not even newsworthy.  It’s a reflection of how I was blindsided by the reality of how a precious and unbelievable gift could be snatched away so quickly. Just reflect a bit with me.

The sensitivity range of the eye, which gives us excellent vision in bright sunlight as well as in the dimmest moonlight, far surpasses any film. The eye adjusts to 10 billion-fold changes in brightness.
Its neural circuitry enables the eye to automatically enhance contrast.
Its color-analysis system enables the eye to distinguish millions of shades of color and quickly adjust to lighting conditions (incandescent, fluorescent, underwater, or sunlight) that would require a photographer to change filters, films, and housings.
The eye-brain combination produces depth perception that is beyond the range of any camera. Engineers have yet to design a system that will, e.g., calculate the exact force required for an athlete to sink a basket, on the run, from 25 feet away, in a split-second glance.
Consider the combination of nerves, sensory cells, muscles, and lens tissue in the eye.
Light passes through the cornea, which has the greatest effect on focus. It is the cornea that determines whether someone is nearsighted, or has astigmatism. This is the part of the eye corrected by Lasik surgery.
The cornea is alive, one cell layer thick, getting its food and oxygen from tears. The tear gland not only feeds and lubricates the eye, but also packs enzymes into the tears that kill bacteria.
Then light passes through the iris, the aperture. People had no idea how intricate irises are until we started making biometric scanners for identification purposes. Whereas each human fingerprint has 35 measurable characteristics, each iris has 266. The chance that two people will have matching irises is one in 1078.
Passing through the lens, the light is further focused, a fine-tuning. Then it strikes the pigmented retina.
The retina has 127 million photovoltaic receptors – only 7 million of which provide color awareness and fine detail. The information of these 127 million receptors is converted from light to electricity and transmitted along one million nerve fibers to the 1% of the cortex of the brain.
As little as one photon can trigger a photoelectric cell; a flashlight, eg, fires 1018 photons per second. On a clear dark night, the eye can see a solitary candle flame from 30 miles away.
Think in terms of Polaroid Instamatic cameras that printed out photos rapidly, and compare. The retina never stops “shooting” pictures, and each fiber of the optic nerve processes one hundred “photos” each second. Each of those individual photos would be represented mathematically by 50,000 nonlinear differential equations, to be solved simultaneously. Considering both eyes, and allowing only five synapses (connections) to other nerves from the retina to the brain cortex, a 1983 Cray supercomputer would require one hundred years to process the information that your eye transmits every hundredth of a second.

Pretty impressive piece of equipment we all were given, yes?  I understand that 85% of everything we learn and know comes to us by way of our eyes.  If you will think about how you take in what you know, who you know, and how what you’re doing right now is made possible by the eye you’ll feel a little bit of what I’m afraid of losing.

Yet who among you has not suffered?  Just in the writings and musings in this one place we see mothers holding their daughters up for miracles, reputations bludgeoned and regained, the heavy hand of debilitating disease holding court in good men and women’s lives, friends in the throes of grief from the sudden or sometimes drawn out process of family members and friends, and doers of both great and small tasks in Haiti and other parts of our world.  

No epiphany.  Just wanted to share.  If you are a man or woman of faith, then ask God to do what will be best for me in His eyes.  If you are a 60’s hippie, take a hit and wish me good karma.  But no matter what your philosophical bent, ask yourself if you’re using your eyes, your time, and the wonder that goes with those gifts the best you possibly can. 

It’s no epiphany, but it’s a fact that how and what we see are miracles to those of us who are given the opportunity to reflect on a life without.  And thanks for giving me a Sue Silvester moment to talk with those of you with whom I share the bond of friendship.  I’m less afraid now.


A new bumper sticker: Lend Locally

So this is a brilliant point from the comments section. Brian Brady says local lending is a possible solution to our present problems. Greg’s reproduced it.

Now, the problem with secondary mortgage market is that, as currently constituted, it hasn’t been a true market for generations. It’s a political game to the extent that people on Wall Street knew they could socialize the risk, but capture the upside. How else to explain such risky behavior?

Defenders of big banks will point to efficiencies of large scale movements of capital. But certainly those efficiencies are overshadowed by the significant social and economic costs of politicized subsidies.


I’m Back – ready to entertain my fellow bloodhounds again

I’ve  been absent for a bit.  2010 was the year I decided to move my life and business from Wisconsin to Florida.  Bascially, I was tired of selling homes for $125k, tired of freezing cold winters, and tired of not living the dream.  I’d always dreamed of buying a retirement  home in Florida.  Today however, I can tell you I’m writing this blog post from my family’s small 2 bedroom apartment.  We sold our house, and moved to Florida. 

In short, the past six months have been filled with setting up a real estate brokerage, all while studying a 400 page book for the state brokers exam, all while my wife is pregnant and going to give birth 1-6-11, all while running a business in Wisconsin, and all while trying recruit agents, and start a successful real estate business in Florida.

I can confidently say that never ever again will I attempt to go to the extreme of moving a business, although moving a business is a 4 to 5 part blog post just in itself.  Greg Swann can no longer write about the how nice the weather is in Arizona while I used to be jealous, envious, and wishing for his Arizona weather year round.  Although Florida is not Arizona, it’s the paradise I currently live in and plan to enjoy till the ticker stops ticking.

Most of all, I’m glad to be back in the saddle again.  I’m glad to be reading posts from bloodhounders, instead of picking up that state exam book.  If any of you reading this post right now are thinking of moving your real estate business, there is much work involved.  Geeez, maybe in five years, I can tell you if it paid off or not for me.  Either way, I’m living the dream!


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