There’s always something to howl about

Archive for April, 2007

Arizona appraisal bill, amended to allow web sites like to operate, passes House, returned to Senate

Arizona State Senate Bill 1291, as amended to assure the legality of consumer-oriented Automated Valuation Models such as that used by, passed the Arizona House today by a vote of 52-3, with five members not voting. The bill will be transmitted back to the Arizona Senate for reconsideration there.

The amendments, proposed last Monday by Scottsdale Republican Representative Michele Reagan, include language that will exempt AVMs from appraisal licensing requirements with the stipulation that home valuations are provided at no cost and are not called “appraisals.”

The Arizona Board of Appraisal had issued two cease and desist letters to — but to no other free AVMs — demanding that the Seattle-based internet real estate start-up stop issuing home valuations in Arizona until it obtained an Arizona appraisal license. The Attorney General of Arizona had issued a similar letter to

If the amended version of SB 1291 passes the Senate and is signed by the governor, free consumer-oriented AVMs will be able to operate without impediments in Arizona.
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Welcome to the People’s Republic of California: Steve Jobs cannot tear down his own house

Palo Alto Online:

The California Supreme Court does not want to hear about Steve Jobs’ quest to tear down a historic Woodside mansion. On April 25, the state’s high court turned down Jobs’ petition to hear his case.

Jobs, the CEO of Apple Inc., has been waging a losing battle against a group of preservationists over the fate of the Jackling house, a massive Spanish Colonial revival-style mansion built in 1926.

He said he plans to tear it down and build a new family home on the Mountain Home Road site, but has been thwarted by an ad-hoc preservation group called Uphold Our Heritage that filed suit to block the demolition

Jobs was granted a demolition permit by the town of Woodside in December 2004.

Uphold Our Heritage, led by Miami Beach resident Clotilde Luce, whose family owned the Jackling house in the 1960s, successfully halted the demolition, wining its case in both the trial court and appeals court.

Luce called yesterday’s state Supreme Court’s decision good news for preservationists.

Howard Ellman, Jobs’ attorney, could not be immediately reached for comment.


Jobs has said that he plans to build a much smaller family home on the site, and referred to the Jackling house, where he lived for 10 years, as an architectural “abomination.” In recent years, the Jackling house has been uninhabited and allowed to fall into disrepair.

If you find your mind entertaining any sort of idea that begins with the words, “Yeah, but,” I will show you the path to a perfect understanding of perfect justice:

Imagine a battalion of busybodies were telling you what you could and could not do with your property.

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The Carnival of Real Estate . . .

…is at TransparentRE. I can’t tell who won, so I’m left with the assumption that Kris Berg did not win, either with Sensible Flats and Social Responsibility or Houses Grow on Trees – Redfin Continues Quest for World Domination. O, cruel fortune!

Sadly, Jeff Brown, with An Example — How To Answer A Client’s Question, was also an also-ran at The Carnival of Real Estate Investing. Without intending to criticize, this Carnival comes off to me like a sort of hobby forum, something involving elaborate power tools and several exotic varieties of adhesives. Jeff writes about investing, so he’s always wide of the mark. The available categories in the entry form don’t even address what he does. Go figure…

But: In the somewhat-less-subjective world of “objective” journalism, Kris Berg emerges as a star Realtor in San Diego. More on this coup at The San Diego Home Blog.

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For Monday — An Eclectic Reading List

Andy Sernovitz knows how to generate word of mouth marketing. He’ll be speaking May 12th in Chicago at SOBCon 07.

His book is not only a must read, it may have the most impressive duo ever writing the foreword and afterword. Seth Godin wrote the foreword, with Guy Kawasaki writing the afterword.

He’ll be speaking at SOBCon 07. And if he’s good enough for Seth and Guy, he’s certainly good enough for me. 🙂 Of course another speaker, Liz Strauss is one of the highest ranked bloggers in the world. Both of her blogs Liz Strauss dot Com and Successful Blog, each have huge followings. Though there are several other very impressive speakers, the trip is worth it just to hear those two speak. I urge you to at least take a look at the book, and the Strauss blogs to get a feel for how much you could learn through your attendance. Look for the BawldGuy, ’cause he’ll be there.

Jonathan Dalton wrote about an example of agents who don’t have a clue. His post offers empirical evidence of what pros like Jon must face on a regular basis. It’s maddening. I know because on my side of the street, investment property, we must deal with agents who read a couple chapters of some guru’s real estate investment book, then commence to bury their unsuspecting clients in criminally stupid deals. I bet after you read his post you could name several of your own examples.

For a neck wrenching change of pace, and a reminder your job as a real estate agent just isn’t all that difficult, go here and read what real day to day hard work is all about. The next time you’re out there plantin’ signs you’ll be whistling. Why? Because you wo’t be loading pigs on a truck using ‘Redneck engineering’ to get it done. It’ll give you some perspective for sure.

Athol Kay’s wife, Jen, is interviewed on Real Estate Wives (and husbands). She sets the record straight on the life of a dedicated blogger. After reading the interview it seems to me Athol made a very wise decision some years back.

For those of you with impeccable taste in computers, i.e. Mac users, you might, as I have, learn some pretty cool ways to do things you’ve always wondered about. mac OS X HINTS will surprise you with the depth and breadth of their hints. I’ve learned a ton in just the last few months.

And finally, I published a post this morning about the Flywheel Principle. Grandma taught it to me when I was just entering the business. Instead of a flywheel she used a stand of oak trees planted by a farmer needing both shade and a better view. Starting from just a small handful of acorns an entire row of the regally impressive trees now enhance the view and provide shade. It literally took years and years. He made use of the Flywheel Principle in order to ensure his success.


Mortgage Minutes with The FHA Expert: Old Skool Guvvies May Solve the Subprime Meltdown

I interviewed “The FHA Expert”, Jeff Belonger of in this 18 belongerminute podcast. This is my first interview so you’ll notice two things:

1- I sound like the used auto dealer in a small town that bought the town’s only radio station; I’ll work on the delivery.

2- Jeff, from my hometown of Cherry Hill, NJ, brings out my “Philly accent”.

Some links to follow along:

Creative Financing: FHA Loans

Creative Financing: The Nehemiah Down Payment Assistance Program

Pre-Approval vs. Pre-Qualification

Thank you to “The FHA Expert”, Jeff Belonger, for his patience and professionalism. He can be reached at (800)-291-7900 or at www.the FHA


Second Russell Shaw Sales Success Seminar: Podcast #1

Linked below is the first of five podcasts from the Second Russell Shaw Sales Success Seminar. This event was held on April 17, 2007, and lasted for about three hours. That seminar, along with another held on March 13, 2007, are precursors to the forthcoming Russell Shaw Sales Success FAQ files. Russell will take questions from these podcasts, along with others you send to him by email, and answer them in a series of FAQ-like video and audio podcasts. His plan is to end up with a complete real estate sales training course in podcast form.

This podcast is available in audio and video format, each covering the same content.

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My Life as a Dog – Author 12

As Teri continues her march toward the prize and is no doubt putting the finishing touches on her acceptance speech, I have reached a milestone of sorts myself. It has officially been five months and one day since my smiling likeness was added to the sidebar of the Bloodhound. Why choose this random milestone to reflect on my contributions here, rather than a more logical breakpoint on the Greg-orian calendar (say, five months and seven days)?

Just maybe, I am messing with Greg. This being Monday morning, I am sure that what he really wants on his front page is the link to the Carnival or an update on SB 1291. I have always suspected that this sort of fluff post really riles Greg, he being the Big Thinker. While he is trying to have meaningful dialogue on issues of national import, I invariably pop in at the most inopportune time with my vacation journal or a picture of my client’s cat. I always envision him pounding furiously and red-faced at the keyboard to bury my contributions with something more worthy of a site with Authority. “Fox News? Greg Swann here. I will be a little late to our interview. She’s posting again”.

Okay, I confess I am not clever enough to be that ornery, at least not intentionally. You see, I have no master plan. I have no plan at all. The fact is, I’ll just never be as global or deep in my reasoning and analysis as our Top Dog. I often imagine Greg posting from a home office which is a scale model of the White House Situation Room, complete with a host of monitors displaying feeds from around the globe. Conversely, my workspace involves a computer, mounds of steaming contracts, the cat’s most recent hairball “offering”, and the Hawaiian Death Idol acquired on our 2004 vacation. (Don’t try to cross me, the Idol has tremendous get-even powers).

And, the Real Estate Tomato says I’m doing it all wrong. They recently talked about the biggest blogging blunders one can make. Reading their top ten mistakes list, I could give point by point examples of my blogging crimes against humanity, but that would just further the crime. I’ll just focus on the biggies.

Writing about whatever pops into your mind is not going to comfort your audience that it is worth giving you their email address to be notified of future content.

Oh-oh. Big trouble here. My “recipe” for posting is this:

  • Move jammie-clad body gently from bed to coffee pot.
  • Drink huge amounts of coffee while typing whatever is on my mind. (At 5:00 AM, this is not a whole lot).
  • Hit the “publish” button.
  • Repeat act of consuming caffeinated beverage in massive quantities.
  • Read latest post and shake head in amazement. “I said what?”
  • Think about a do-over, but recognize that I’ve got nothin’ else. The post stands.

Giving the impression that there is an audience that is concerned about your personal affairs can alienate those that are attracted to your blog by your relevant content. Those that appreciate and encourage you to continue writing about your life are not business prospects… they’re called friends.

Double oh-oh. The readers of my “home” blog (which, to my knowledge, consist of the Bawld Guy and one 14-year-old in Toledo who thinks there is a housing bubble) know the names of my children and pets, what I had for dinner on Thursday and the color scheme of my family room. I just can’t help myself. All of that irrelevant drivel is part of who I am. In the words of Randy Jackson, I’m just keepin’ it real, for better or for worse. The alternative would be to pretend I am someone who I am not, and I think the results would be far worse. (I might alienate my Toledo “friend”).

The fact is, I’m a blogging train wreck. My content is so schizophrenic that no one ever knows what to expect, myself included. While my fingers are typing away, my brain is on a seven second delay. Yet, we are currently working with three clients who found us through our blog. Go figure.

Just maybe the Real Estate Tomato is wrong. Or, maybe it just depends on what you expect to gain from your efforts. I don’t have any delusions of national recognition, and while I get the periodic Redfin bee in my bonnet, the depth of my true understanding of Web 2.0 and the revolution wouldn’t fill a day pack. While the heavyweights are out there changing the world and establishing credibility on a national scale, I am still just a working girl, meeting the Termite Guy, stuffing the flyer box, and just generally trying to make a decent living.

Most days I just feel outclassed here, playing the role of the loopy out-of-town cousin, Author 12. So it was that I found some comedic irony when I took the call from the reporter at the San Diego Business Journal this week asking for my reaction to the month end numbers released by the California Association of Realtors. “I would have called you sooner”, she said, “but I read on your blog that you were out of town”.


The persecution: Why it matters to all of us

Jay Thompson, The Phoenix Real Estate Guy, clued me in to an email he got yesterday, which I was supposed to get as well. Mine didn’t come because the email address was wrong. Jay deals with the substance of the email in the post linked above, but here’s the meat of the matter:

Why are Jay and I, and other principled Realtors, rising to’s defense in response to the attempts at persecution of the net-based real-estate start-up by the Arizona Board of Appraisal?

I speak only for myself, but I can always speak at length about the positions I take. First, it’s important to understand what this is not about, in my opinion:

  • It’s not about
  • It’s not about real estate.
  • It’s not about appraisals.
  • It’s not about job-protection, although this seems to me to be the objective behind the persecution.
  • It’s not even about Arizona.

I think what is really going on here is the first campaign in a long war to determine whether internet-based commerce will be suffered to grow as it has until now, without restrictions or impediments. Or: Whether the combined forces of power-mad “statesmen,” progress-hating “progressives” and hand-out-hungry “businesses” will be able to break the net to the saddle they have strapped onto every other enterprise in America.

In a sense, I’m not defending’s business, I’m defending my own. I’m about principle before everything, so that doesn’t matter to me, although I do admire the necessary integrity of rectitude: The moral is the practical. But this is so much larger than Zillow that the instant matter blends into the background.

Many of the pioneers of internet technology are hard-line Capitalists, stout defenders of the idea of free enterprise. That’s not universal, but there is also a very strong gut-level libertarianism among entrepreneurs generally.

In fact, the internet has grown so quickly, and so unpredictably, that the reactionary forces determined to tax, regulate or forbid everything have been stymied. A few very far-sighted people have successfully argued against regulating the net, and, meanwhile, the would-be arbiters-of-everything have been held in check by their own monolithic ignorance of technology. People who see the net as “a series of tubes” are not fit even to talk about technology, much less regulate it.

Like the East Valley Tribune, I see this as a free speech issue: and other Realty.bots certainly have every right to express opinions and publish facts about houses without pleading to the state for a license.

But, larger than that, this is about the war that will be waged by those reactionary forces determined to tax, regulate and forbid everything in their foolish and ultimately futile quest to reduce the universe to a comfortable lie they can affect to understand.

And even larger than that, the internet may be the last, best hope for the triumph of Capitalism in America. As we are paying attention, we watch, agog, as miraculous technologies are brought forward every day. I think it is a criminal obscenity to push innocent people around at gunpoint, in advance, in punishment for the injuries they might cause. But which one of us wants to claim to be wise enough to guess what wealth, what wonder we might destroy in the name of throwing a saddle on the untamable human mind?

I don’t like’s Zestimates, this with a certain notoriety. But, for now, you can run Zestimates at BloodhoundBlog. I had my son Cameron build a little PHP program to tap Zillow’s API, putting it in our sidebar. If is in violation of the law, so am I. If you want to add this code to your weblog or web site, this should work fine:

[?PHP include(""); ?]

Turn the square brackets into angle brackets. The code won’t work in the Mac’s Safari web browser, but, of course, neither will

I guess it really comes down to who you trust more. I am in league with the Greeks. I believe in the fundamental goodness of inventors and entrepreneurs, and I believe even more fervently in the naked, grasping evil of people who attempt to push innocents around at gunpoint. I regard it as a signal tribute to the propaganda skills of the anti-Capitalists that it is even necessary to raise these issues, that it is not obvious to everyone that people who just want to sell you stuff — or give it to you for free — are not a peril to your life, but massively-armed megalomaniacs most certainly are.

But there it is: I am not defending against the Arizona Board of Appraisal. I am defending the ideas that make the truly human life possible at all. The matter at hand is just a skirmish in a long, long war, a war as old as the Greeks themselves. But what we do about this particular conflict may determine what we do the next time something like this comes up, and the next time, and the next. If we’re not willing to stand for principle now, how much less stout will our resolve be when next it is challenged?

I am nobody’s friend in taking this issue back to its root premises. Many of us would rather walk around in a pleasant fog, convinced, by not having thought about it, that nothing means much of anything. Bad news. Everything means something, usually something very important. And everybody’s gotta take a side…
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Boston Globe on the enblogged globe: Brokers in Blogsville

The Boston Globe has a feature on webloggers today. Nothing that will seem to be news to regular real estate weblog readers, but a nice chance to shine for a lot of familiar names. No mention of RCG, Matrix or BHB, but that’s perfectly understandable. When reporters finally resolve to pay attention, they become webloggers.

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Seth Godin book-tour dates announced: Philadelphia, Chicago, New York, Santa Clara, Ann Arbor and Phoenix

The big picture. The tour. The Phoenix event.

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East Valley Tribune slams Board of Appraisal over censorship, endorses Reagan amendments to SB 1291

In general, newspapers influence people who are paying attention, a small but inordinately important minority. Today the East Valley Tribune, clarion of the populous suburbs east of Phoenix, came out strong for and other consumer-oriented Automated Valuation Models:

Arizona home buyers and property speculators are fortunate the state Board of Appraisers did something against their interests while the Legislature is still in session, so lawmakers can act immediately to put a stop to it.

The Board of Appraisers is going after, a year-old Web site that offers free estimates of market values for an estimated 70 million houses across the country. The state agency contends the site is offering property appraisals without an Arizona license, and has ordered it to remove these “zestimates” or face formal sanctions and a possible lawsuit.

But makes no claim that its estimates are based on actual visits to individual properties or research of their histories. Instead, the Web site gathers sale details about other homes in the same neighborhood that have recently changed hands, government tax valuations and other publicly available information, and then provides a rough prediction about a house’s value under current market conditions.


Given recent reports about widespread mortgage fraud and foreclosures resulting from inflated purchase appraisals, the state Board of Appraisers should be working to increase the amount of information available to consumers rather than shuttering potential sources of knowledge.

At least the Legislature appears to see the wisdom of this. On Monday, Rep. Michele Reagan, R-Scottsdale, introduced an amendment to SB1291 that was endorsed by her House colleagues to protect free opinions about property values as long as the provider doesn’t claim or imply that they are formal appraisals.

Putting Reagan’s amendment into law would be a nice endorsement of free speech and the consumer’s right to multiple sources of information.

None of this is news to people following the story here, and, in fact, the most-recent events are not covered. But this is the kind of public outcry that can swing the balance against this silly stunt by the Board of Appraisal.
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Sailing the Red Oceans: Real estate start-ups, weblog shut-downs and getting Google to trust your site in advance

I have news, but some of it is getting a little stale. My apologies. I have been buried, not that this is unusual.

As Kris Berg reports in her inimitable way, Redfin has relaunched, rebranded and all but reinvented itself, establishing a beachhead in Boston in the process. As far as I can tell, the big news is the company’s new logo, which features an image of Eve acting on the bad advice of a snake. Every picture tells a story, don’t it?

Sellsius has also launched its product offering, a kind of searchable, semi-permanent, for-pay Craigslist. This looks to me like a Red Ocean, but what do I know?

That much has been reported elsewhere. This hasn’t: Territory Real Estate has launched its flat-fee buyer-brokerage in Boston and greater Massachusetts. Proving the appeal if not the merit of the Red Ocean strategy (first explained to me by’s David Gibbons), Territory immediately goes on the attack — against Redfin.

But: Screw all that. There are matters of greater moment.

For instance, is weblogging headed for an icy, entropic death? TransparentRE says not, at least not for real estate weblogs. This much is obvious: Weblogging is a fad, like CB radio in the seventies. Anyone who didn’t expect it to fall off dramatically was self-deluded. But there are two important differences between weblogging and the ordinary Rubik’s Cube style of fad: First, viral blogging is a new communications medium, the backbone of the alternative media. And second, owners of commercially-motivated weblogs have an enduring interest in persistence beyond fad appeal. The number of weblogs doesn’t really matter, nor does the number of putatively “active” weblogs. Sites that draw a decent number of evanescent eyes from search traffic may generate income for their owners. But, in the long run, the only weblogs that matter are the ones that can attract a stable population of repeat visitors.

Two more and I’m out of time: A WordPress Theme Generator, so you can express yourself with unborrowed tastes. And the irrepressible, irreplaceable Dave Smith with a strategy to suss the Google Sandbox with a Trustbox instead.

To close, here’s a quote for the Red Ocean Navy:

Don’t ever let anyone tell you that something is too competitive. Once you subtract the people who don’t work very hard, or the people who aren’t as good as you, your competition shrinks dramatically.

It goes for us, too.

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State vs. will be a lengthy bout

This is me in today’s Arizona Republic (permanent link). This goofy little column often “breaks news” in the sense that I cover facts that have not yet been reported by the Republic‘s real estate reporters. Normally I keep this to myself, because I don’t want to frighten the people who were kind enough to give me the column. This week I told my editor that were were “scooping” the newspaper, and gave him resources for vetting the facts presented below. The consequence? At the top of the story is says, “Special to the Republic.” Top that, Hildy Johnson.

(Just between us, I’m pretty sure I’m mangling the citation of the standing law. It’s Chapter 32, not 36, but even then I don’t know how it should be properly cited. Newspapers have style books for stuff like this. This will do: ARS 32-3601 et seq.)

State vs. will be a lengthy bout

The ongoing saga of Arizona vs. will not end.

When the state Board of Appraisal recently revealed that it had sent cease-and-desist letters to the Seattle Web-based real estate start-up in July and November, it failed to disclose that it had language pending in the Arizona Legislature that would have conclusively outlawed and other consumer-oriented Automated Valuation Methods.

That legislation, Senate Bill 1291, seemed to be on an under-the-radar track to easy passage until its existence was discovered by the real estate blog.

The proposed language would have substantially revised Arizona Revised Statutes Chapter 36, among other things defining an appraisal as “an opinion of value.”

Does that mean that two neighbors, talking about the price of the house for sale up the street, would be in violation of appraisal law?

What and other AVMs do is so far removed from what an appraiser does that in order to outlaw Zillow, the drafters of the legislation apparently found it necessary to outlaw ordinary free speech altogether.

Importantly, there have been no consumer lawsuits or Board of Appraisal complaints in Arizona against, nor has the Board of Appraisal moved against other consumer-oriented AVMs operating in the state.

A compromise was sought by Rep. Michele Reagan of Scottsdale. She proposed three amendments, one of which would have restored consumer-oriented AVMs to a state of unquestioned legality:

“An Internet website that gives a free opinion as to the value of real estate, if this opinion is not referred to as an appraisal” would have been exempted from the Senate legislation.

But this revised version of the bill did not pass by the necessary two-thirds majority in the House.

In consequence, the existing version of ARS Chapter 36 is still in force.

The Board of Appraisal and the Attorney General’s Office argue that is in violation of the standing law. argues that what it is doing is perfectly lawful. And the website continues to provide its “Zestimates” for Arizona properties.
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Houses Grow on Trees – Redfin Continues Quest for World Domination

What do you do when faced with windfall earnings? Reinvest in your business, of course.

Thanks to Cynthia Pang, Redfin’s Senior Communications Manager, for the links to the latest, exciting news. This has been a big week for Redfin! Not only did they roll out a new logo and invade Beantown, but (assuming they have fulfilled their contractual obligations) their San Diego client has removed contingencies and is one step closer to an approximate $13,000 windfall. As the new logo suggests, houses really do grow on trees.

You heard right: Redin is in escrow in San Diego. Taking our beach city by storm since their February 8th arrival in San Diego with much hoopla, this brings the total Redfin “represented” pending and closed sales in the San Diego market to (let’s see, add the column, carry the one) – One. Not being one to brag, this puts my total production during the same period at exactly 1000% more than Redfin’s, but then, I did have a head start. I’m thinking of expanding into the Greater Punxsutawney region next month.


Subprime Loans Disappeared? Learn How to be a Hard Money Loan Broker

Loan originators who have based their business on subprime mortgage products have been feeling the pinch in 2007. Private mortgages or hard money lending may be the solution to your problem.
Four originators gathered with three hard money lenders in our podcast.

The Lenders:

Mitch Zeichner (310) 948-2622 Mitch represents a wealthy family’s portfolio and funds real estate loans for residential properties in California, Arizona, and Nevada.

Dean Huntley (858) 759-9090 Dean is a true “trust deeds broker” and private mortgage lender. Dean represents 70 investors and funds residential and commercial real estate loans in California and Arizona.

We were joined by originators Robb Lejuwaan , Marc Brinitzer , and investor Jon Morrow.

Some important links:

HARD MONEY: Life as a Legal Loan Shark

HARD MONEY: Apartment Loans

HARD MONEY: Beware of the Brokerage Daisy Chain

HARD MONEY: Seven Tips For Borrowers

California Hard Money Lenders

California Mortgage Association

The podcast lasts some 58 minutes and has some static at 35:10 that lasts for 30 seconds. If you are a mortgage originator who is looking for a way to get some business, listen in! It works. I received a report today that an originator and lender on the call are working to fund a loan next week.


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