There’s always something to howl about

Archive for October, 2008

Do You Like a Good Scary Story? Read This One Anyway…

I am not, by any stretch, a conspiracy person.  I think the probability of a conspiracy succeeding is inversely tied to the number of people involved.  That makes me especially dubious of government conspiracies.  The bottom line for me is this: people are smart, groups are dumb.  If you want to understand something just follow the money.

But I am getting a little scared.

You may have heard about the various bailouts and financial manipulations the government is engaged in lately.  It has been in the news.  There was a $750 billion bailout, followed by another $500+ billion bailout.  A number of investment banking firms were bailed out (and, curiously, some were not) while AIG continues to be handed money.  Banks are being force fed money and there are more stimulus packages on the way.  All done, we are told, to save us from a world economic collapse.

But is it true?  This week the Fed lowered the fed funds rate… again.  Lowering the rate didn’t do a damn thing a month ago, so why are they trying again?  Here’s a better question: Why are they lowering the rate at all?  Lowering the fed funds rate effectively lowers the “cost” of money.  When do you lower the cost of something?  When their is a demand problem.  From everything you have read, do we have a demand problem or a supply problem?  We are being told that everyone needs money and no one will lend it.  So why in the world would you lower the price of money?

Let’s leave that alone for a minute and move on to the credit crunch.  As I mentioned previously, the world economic collapse is precipitously close and liquidity is the problem.  “No one is lending money.”  “Commercial paper has dried up.”  “Our financial system is grinding to a halt because cash is being hoarded.”  I have not taken the time to actually go out and find these headlines and link to them.  I trust this is now such common wisdom you will take it on face value.  But take a look at the following graph:

Interbank Loans

That represents the loans, in billions, flowing between banks.  It is near record levels!  Money is not flowing between banks?  I don’t get it.  Alright, let’s leave that alone for a minute too.

What about commercial paper?  What about the actual short term debt that allows companies to function.  This is the greatest problem we have, right?  We are being told that if the government can not get this money flowing again quickly there will be a devastating effect on the economy: companies closing down, unemployment going up, recession turned in to depression and so on.  Sounds dire doesn’t it?  But take a look at this graph:

Commercial and Industrial Loans

Yes that’s right.  Here again we are looking at record levels!

Take a closer look at the source for these graphs… the Federal Reserve.  The same Federal Reserve that is telling us the sky is falling is publishing information (albeit not with any fanfare and not easily digestible) that contradicts the very statements they are making to justify their actions.

So lets summarize: we have the Fed lowering the cost of something that is already in high demand.  We have the government printing and pouring billions of dollars into some businesses that are already lending each other money at record rates… and parsing others out to corporations who have secured “most favored” status.  We have the Treasury forcing billions into banks that are already lending money to each other at record levels, whether they want it or not… and taking ownership shares in those banks.

Is it just me?  Or is this an old fashioned power grab?  Could there really be a conspiracy to move us to the “one world economy” non-sense that is slowly bringing European nations to their knees?  I admit, I am one of those weird people that follows economics and the markets.  I “get” this stuff.  But I don’t mind telling you that what I am seeing and what I am hearing does not make sense.  I am no longer confused…  I am scared.  Are you?  Are you paying attention?

(These graphs were first brought to my attention on the must-read Coyote Blog.)


Introducing’s Hottest Bloggers Contest

In an effort to increase subscriptions and ad revenue, I have devised an ingenious new contest to identify the hottest bloggers on the real estate net. If there is one thing we can learn from People Magazine and the Republican Party – substance is secondary – most important: there is nothing that a “hot” headshot and $150,000 or so bucks can’t do to increase popularity and a list of the sexiest “insert your own category”.

Let’s put those bloglogs to good use! Start scanning your Twitter followers – clearly there are some hotties in the mix. Why not nominate a few – heck, why not nominate yourself?

Content you ask? What content? Kids – this ain’t about what you say or think, it’s all about how you look – and Billy Crystal nailed it – “it’s not how you feel, it’s how you look – and you look marvelous!”

You want to drive ad revenue to you site? Listen – sex sells. Adorning your blog with the “Hottest Blogger in the” will drive the kind of subscription traffic you’ve been longing.

Oops – gotta run – my stylist just called. She’s bringing over Armani for my photo shoot. I’m doing a series of new headshots for my avatar. We’re going to shoot a few – you know – the “too hot to handle” look – the “come hither” look. I’m banking on the “I’m too sexy for my content” look.

Money in the bank.


Hurray for Hollywood!

Don’t give me any gas. I don’t care who you vote for. I just think this stuff is funny.


Happy Halloween…?

Rick McKee in the Augusta Chronicle (tipped by Eric Blackwell):

Comments are off for this post

I’m Voting for Senator O’Cain

Greetings from the battleground state of Virginia.  I was 4 years old the last time Virginia was up for grabs.  Back then you could only vote once and you had to use your real name.  My how things have changed. 

I have lived in Virginia my whole life and grew up in a very conservative/Republican area that considered Ronald Reagan a liberal.  For the past 10 years I have lived in the very liberal/Democratic town of Charlottesville. I guess you could say I’ve seen both sides of aisle.  Amazingly, neither of these distorted perspectives (or perhaps both) have rubbed off on me. 

I’ve always said that no matter what, 30% of the people will vote Republican, 30% will vote Democratic, and the reaming 40% will generally vote for the lesser of the two evils.  I generally agree with Sean’s recent post about voters often voting against a candidate or a party, but I see something different in this election.  Perhaps it is just the battleground state status that has brought energy to the local campaigns, but I sense something else – a genuine excitement about the candidates.

Locally, all the excitement has been about Senator Obama, but that is to be expected.  Around the state, according to my family and friends, there is just as much excitement for Senator McCain and especially Governor Palin.  Sorry, Joe the Politician, but no one seems to care much about Senator Biden.

Until this year, I’ve always fallen into the 40% that votes for the lessor of evils.  This year, I have things I like about both candidates that outweigh the things I dislike about both candidates.  In fact, if I had a magic wand that could combine the two, I’d have my guy.  He’d be an articulate speaker, a war hero, and have a long history of bucking both his party and Washington politics.  He’d be the guy with great international experience and fresh ideas that gives this nation hope once again.  He’d be capable of rallying the youth of America and of leading our troops to victory.

If he existed, I’d vote for Senator O’Cain for President. 

For those of you who fall within the 30% who will vote for your candidate no matter what, you probably can’t understand how I could be so stupid.  Here is the fallacy in your logic: 70% of us think YOU are the one who is misguided. 


Twenty-five most influential bloggers? Influence upon whom? Toward what objectives? Or: Why collectivism makes my skin crawl

Brad Coy sends news that I have been named as one of the Inman News “25 Most Influential Bloggers” for 2008. I don’t know this first-hand, since you have to be a member of the Inman Secret Handshake Club to gain access to the “Special Report.” Not quite true: You can also buy the thrilling “Special Report” for only $79.00. That’s only $3.16 an influencer.

But wait: The price just went up to $3.29 an influencer, since, as with last year, I am renouncing this denomination.

I’m sure the people who named me to this list thought they were offering me some sort of distinction. To the contrary, I see it as a diminution of the work we are doing here. Among the influencers are people I see as being active exponents of knowing evil. The rest are decent-enough folks, but I don’t see them, for the most part, as being stout advocates for anything that I regard as being good or vital or important. Nice people, but they’re just people.

Influence by itself is a meaningless standard of value: Fifty million Frenchmen can be as wrong as one. For the most part, the people in the whose opinions matter most to me already write here — and, of course, those great minds are all but entirely omitted from Inman’s list, even though their influence is more-positive and more-consequential than many of those included.

But none of that matters. What matters is this: I am either right or I am wrong — as are you. Agreement means nothing, endorsement means nothing, beauty contests mean nothing, dipshit lists like this mean nothing. All that matters is the quality of your thinking and and quality of your writing. The world is made by minds, not mobs, and I don’t want my name to be used to contradict that proposition.

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NYMag: “NYC Real-Estate Developer Offers ‘Obama Contingency'”

New York Magazine:

Holy election tie-in: Erik Ekstein, who’s developing +aRT, an 88-unit Chelsea condo that just began sales last week, says he’s including an “Obama Contingency Clause” in all contracts that go into effect between now and Election Day. If Obama wins, the contract goes through, but if John McCain prevails, buyers can back out — and presumably move to Canada — “with no questions asked.” (He says he came up with the idea after talking to potential buyers, who seemed to be holding off until the election.) Ekstein, a big supporter of the Democratic candidate, says he’s not worried he’ll lose business. “It’s a very narrow window, and we’re fairly confident he’ll win,” he says.

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Credit Default Swaps Are Not The Bad Guys

David Shafer is a frequent commenter here on BHB and his insights often make me think.  We do not always agree, but I always listen to what he has to say.  He recently posted an interesting and (typically) well written article entitled Credit Default Swaps; The real financial WMD.  You can imagine from the title his take on these instruments.  Part of the article quotes from a recent 60 Minutes segment on credit default swaps  called The Bet That Blew Up Wall Street which is a hatchet job… I mean fair and balanced investigation for which this particular news show has gained such renown.

I commented on this article to the point that it was obvious I was writing a post, which brings us up to date.  I do not agree with the popular sentiment regarding CDS’s and I definitely do not agree with the simplistic view put out by sources such as 60 Minutes that imply derivatives are nothing more than gambling.  The problem is not with the tool but rather the hand that wields the tool (and no doubt, some of the hands at the helm of the credit default swaps market belonged to real tools, if you know what I mean).

Read this very carefully: Credit Default Swaps serve a very legitimate and important purpose.  Derivatives are a must in the market place and here’s why: they provide a hedge on risk.  The ability to hedge risk is an extremely important aspect of our markets.  Without it equities would be lower, rates would be higher and capital would move more slowly.  Derivatives are NOT some bastardized form of gambling.  The suggestion by 60 Minutes and others that they should be outlawed only reflects their rudimentary understanding of how markets work.

I’ll give you an example using a derivative called options, which were my area of specialty as a floor trader.

ABC company insures the debt of XYZ company, allowing XYZ company to borrow desperately needed funds for expansion, research and other job creating endeavors from a large pension fund that would not otherwise have bought XYZ’s bonds (lent them the money).  In turn, ABC company short sells XYZ’s stock, thus hedging their risk.  That way, if XYZ does default on their debt obligations and ABC has to pay the pension fund themselves, they recoup much of their losses in the profits made from shorting XYZ’s stock (which has obviously tanked after defaulting on their debts).

This, by the way, is what made the recent ban on short sales so laughable.  Congress, in all its market ignorance, tries to help companies find liquidity by removing one of the mechanisms that allows them to get liquid.  But I digress…

Let’s go back to our example and let’s say that ABC company does not want to short the stock.  There may be many reasons for this: the cost of carry is too high, shorting the stock may send the wrong sell signals to the market at a time when XYZ is trying to grow and ABC is insuring that growth and so on.   So how does ABC hedge their risk?  They buy puts in the options market (a derivatives market) which allows them to make money should the stock go down.  Again, this “derivative” that is so maligned has been instrumental in helping a company grow and adding jobs to the economy.

With that understanding of the possible good to come from a derivative, let’s take a look at credit default swaps.  These were basically insurance policies written by one company to “insure” or raise the credit rating of another company so that the latter company could borrow money.  Very reminiscent of our previous example, isn’t it?  The difference being that instead of shorting stock or buying puts to hedge risk, they simply carried the risk.  “Ahhh,” you say, “but that is a big difference.”  Plus, there is a big problem arising from that difference: with no regulation there is no minimum reserves required of the insuring company like there would be with a formal insurance company.  There was no way to know if the insuring company – the one trading on their AAA credit rating – could in fact handle a claim (never mind multiple claims).

So how in the world did all these financial giants expect to participate in this unregulated market?  What was supposed to be the regulating aspect?   Once again we get to point our tired fingers at the Credit Rating Agencies.  THEY FAILED AGAIN.  If they had been doing their job (instead of just collecting a fee), they would have looked at a company that was over-extended (didn’t have the reserves to justify the default swaps they were doing) and lowered that company’s rating (hey now, there’s a novel idea).  That would have ended the transaction on the spot.  But none of this happened.  The press has not investigated and – other than appearing before a Congressional hearing a couple of days ago – there have been no repercussions for those ratings agencies that were asleep at the wheel while the whole train barreled down the tracks.

One last thought: an easier way to fix this problem than counting on the ratings agencies who have shown themselves to be completely untrustworthy.  Utilize an open exchange for these products.  Again, regulation does not solve the problem nearly so cleanly or simply as just putting these transactions out in the open.  The Chicago Board Options Exchange (there’s my bias again) is made up of multiple open outcry options pits.  Every trade is called out for anyone to do and every transaction is posted and recorded transparently.  No specialist system (like the NYSE) to create legalized theft and no back room shenanigans such as existed with the credit default swaps thus far.  In an open exchange a company over-extending themselves would be clear for all to see and the market – just as the ratings agencies would have done had they valued their responsibilities rather than the warm embrace of bribery – would have ended that particular company’s growth in credit default swaps.


The Fed Translated….

The Federal Open Market Committee decided today to lower its target for the federal funds rate 50 basis points to 1 percent.   That’s the lowest that it’s been since June of 2004.  If you recall, former Fed Chairman Greenspan is being blamed, in part, for causing the credit crisis by leaving interest rates too low for too long.   How low?  1%.  For how long?  From June of 2003 to June of 2004.

The pace of economic activity appears to have slowed markedly,  that’s a nice way of saying that the economic reports we’ll see for October are much worse than what they were for September owing importantly to a decline in consumer expenditures the consumer finally is realizing that they can’t do like the government and consistently spend more than they make. Business equipment spending and industrial production have weakened in recent months this isn’t just a housing problem any more, it’s spread much further, and slowing economic activity in many foreign economies our economic problems have spread all over the world is damping the prospects for U.S. exports when other countries are in bad economic straights, we can’t export our way out of a recession . Moreover, the intensification of financial market turmoil is I don’t think it’s a mistake that they use the present tense (is) rather than the past tense (has) – the turmoil is ongoing likely to exert additional restraint on spending, partly by further reducing the ability of households and businesses to obtain credit Yes, I think I know what you’re thinking – aren’t all of these bailout programs supposed to get lenders lending and make credit easy again?  More on that later.

In light of the declines in the prices of energy  I saw $2.61 a gallon for gas this morning – but very few people are talking about why they have come down – because of lower demand due to slumping economic activity and other commodities and the weaker prospects for economic activity there’s a brilliant statement – weaker prospects?  Gee, I think my high school junior could see that! the Committee expects inflation to moderate in coming quarters to levels consistent with price stability.  I think they’ve been saying that they expect inflation to moderate like that for months and months.

Recent policy actions, including today’s rate reduction I heard it described this morning that a rate cut won’t hurt but probably won’t help either, coordinated interest rate cuts by central banks we aren’t the only ones doing this, extraordinary liquidity measures the money printing presses have been running so much we’ve had to buy more ink!, and official steps to strengthen financial systems we’re trying to figure out how to put Humpty Dumpty back together again!, should once again, the Fed never uses words by “accident,” I think it’s no coincidence that they said should rather than will. help over time to improve credit conditions and promote a return to moderate economic growth but do they say when?. Nevertheless, downside risks to growth remain that’s a nice way for the Fed to say that it could get worse.  The Committee will monitor economic and financial developments carefully good, I’m really glad to know that Hank and Bernie will be watching CNBC and will act as needed as needed?  Has anyone asked the question of whether the Treasury and the Fed really have the tools to fix this mess? to promote sustainable economic growth and price stability.

Voting for the FOMC monetary policy action were: Ben S. Bernanke, Chairman; Timothy F. Geithner, Vice Chairman; Elizabeth A. Duke; Richard W. Fisher; Donald L. Kohn; Randall S. Kroszner; Sandra Pianalto; Charles I. Plosser; Gary H. Stern; and Kevin M. Warsh.  At least it was a unanimous vote, that makes me feel better.   🙂

In a related action, the Board of Governors unanimously approved a 50-basis-point decrease in the discount rate to 1-1/4 percent. In taking this action, the Board approved the requests submitted by the Boards of Directors of the Federal Reserve Banks of Boston, New York, Cleveland, and San Francisco.

In case you couldn’t tell, the bold printed items are mine.   Now a couple more thoughts on what the Fed did and said today:

1. The Fed has now officially acknowledged that things aren’t pretty.   I think that when you read what I’ve translated, you can see that they aren’t painting a very pretty picture of what’s happening right now.

2. They are doing everything in their power, but how does the saying go?  “When all you have is a hammer, every problem is a nail.”

3. The markets are not behaving according to normal fundamentals.   Commodities are moving in the same direction as stocks (when they usually move in reverse).  Look at what the stock market did yesterday – up 900 points?  And why?  Apparently it was because GE sold some commercial paper (loans, not actual paper).   Normally there is a .5% difference between the 30 year fixed and the 15 year fixed but today that’s only .125%.

4. Whereas the bailout programs are “working” in that banks are getting money, they aren’t “working” in the sense that the banks are turning around and loaning the money out yet.   Why not?  Because they are still, and I believe rightfully so, concerned about the state of the economy and they are afraid that if they take the money and loan it out, they’ll still go under.

All of this is a sign that the markets are “conflicted” and until the markets get back into some sort of normal market, we’re going to see moves that don’t seem to make sense and we’re going to see nauseating volatility.   If someone could invent motion sickness pills for investments, I think they could make a good mint off them right now.

I’ll stay in touch, stay tuned.  Oh, by the way, the fat lady isn’t even in the auditorium yet.

Tom Vanderwell


And after Big Mother is finished subsidizing the mortgages of allegedly prosperous, allegedly self-reliant Americans, could it also please wipe their pwetty widdle noses?

When there’s taxpayer teat to be suckled, it seems nobody sucks like Realogy. The essence of Rotarian Socialism is bald-faced theft in behalf of the Rotarians. I cannot imagine a more telling, more shameless, more shameful example of Kleptocratic prevarication.

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LinkedIn As a Prospecting Tool

An old friend of mine recently asked me this about LinkedIn:

I see your active with LinkedIn… have you upgraded to the pay version of the site, and if so, which version and would you be willing to share your feedback with me?

Since I’ll be talking about this at the Bloodhound Blog Unchained Online Marketing Conference, in Orlando, on November 7, 2008, I thought I’d share this answer with the Bloodhound community:

I haven’t upgraded to the pay version but I use LinkedIn obsessively; I have since 2004.

Whenever I meet a new “contact”, I check LinkedIn and Facebook to see if they’re on that platform.  The automated “top of mind status” these platforms provide is invaluable.  If you were to look at my Facebook profile, you’ll see that I’m using the “status” tool a lot to talk about our mutually loved baseball team.  While that conversation has nothing to do with business, it gives past and potential clients a peek into my personal life.  In the age of the participatory web, customers crave information about people with whom they do business.

You’ll also notice that I’ve given people a peek into my political ideology; that’s probably not the best practice for a salesperson. The controversial conversations that spring from a Yankees/Red Sox rivalry are taken in fun.  The controversial conversations that come from ideological differences can drive a potential (or past) clients away.

Generally speaking, LinkedIn (and now Facebook) can be used as a database or CRM.  While it’s hard to balance the stated purpose of these media (connecting) with commercial uses (straight selling), a reasonably intuitive salesperson will learn “the community rules” quickly.

One of the biggest challenges for sales professionals is getting people on the telephone after meeting them on social networking platforms.  If you’re asking or answering questions on LinkedIn Q&A or participating in Facebook groups discussions, you’ll break down the digital wall and those prospective customers will be more receptive to your call.  I feel pretty comfortable calling someone if we’ve had an interesting exchange in the LinkedIn Q&A.  More than 80% of those calls are appreciated and future communication from me is welcomed.

If you use iTunes, Basho Technologies hosts a podcast called “Sales Warrior”.  Search for it, and look up the podcast that talks about social networking.  It’s free and offers some best practices for using social media in your prospecting efforts.  If you can’t subscribe to Sales Warrior on iTunes, you can listen to this 30 minute podcast by clicking here (it’s free)

LinkedIn Professional service, which costs anywhere from $20-$100 a month can expedite the “connecting” process.  Those receiving the “InMails”, however, recognize that the “connection” was bought.  There is nothing wrong with that but organic connections are always more authentic.

Good Luck and Go Phillies!

PS:  To the person who asked the original question:  You and I operate in much different selling environments;  I sell B2C and you sell B2B.  My behavior on the web attracts consumers because it evokes a visceral response from them.  B2B salespeople might want to dial back my “letting it all hang out” behavior for a more professional approach.  Either way, you can use social platforms to advance your sales efforts.

PPS:  If you haven’t used Facebook for your social networking, here’s a tutorial about how to set up a profile,  In addition to the business opportunities this fast-growing platform provides, you’ll see a  number of our old classmates there.


All these Widgets, Idjits, Digits and Midgets are making me fidget.

Every web 2.0 Realtor® that is any web 2.0 Realtor® has at least one or more widgets up and running on their preferred social networking sites. Some Realtors® collect widgets like my son collects insects—strange little trapped creatures placed proudly on display—creatures that I don’t want coming anywhere near me! And, just like my eight-year-old and his obsessions with all things creepy-crawly—I’m not sure if Realtors® really want these things, or if it’s just the thrill of hunting them down, jumping online, sniffing them out, inserting those few lines of pre-written HTML code into their blog like bugs going into my boy’s empty-and-cut-open Mayfield Dairy milk jug. Then, slowly but ever so proudly lifting them up, so the whole world can see their widgets, more widgets, and look, a whole colony of social-networking, virtual-reality widgets.

Or, as I like to call them: Idjits, Digits and Midgets.

The Idjits
– These things give me the creeps. Every time I see one, I think of the little girl from Poltergeist talking about somebody trapped inside her television. The only difference is that these are little faces trapped inside my computer—probably wanting to get out, but can’t. Prisoners in their own private sidebar hell wishing they had spent their time more productively than typing meaningless replies to words they never even read. Now, some agents swear by this widget and even use it as a makeshift stalker tracker. Obviously they don’t know what having a real-life stalker is like. If they did, they would know that the ones you can’t see are the ones you need to worry about. I’m not concerned about the agents staring at me on my computer, I already know what they are doing…or not doing.

The Digits – These contraptions tell people how good you are at selling real estate, how many posts you’ve written, how many points you’ve earned and how often you appear on the front page of such and such social media site. Funny thing is, not once have I ever been asked by a home buyer or seller how many posts I’ve written, how many comments I’ve made, or how many gold stars I’ve collected. No, they seem to be more curious about how many homes I’ve sold, what my days on the market are, what my list-price-to-sales-price ratio is, and how many digits after the decimal point are they going to have to pay me to sell their home. Yes, there certainly are a few Realtors on certain social networks that I would love to give a certain virtual digit to when they come nosing around my blog, but I think I will pass and hope to run into them in real life.

And, last but certainly not least, well maybe…

We have the Midgets – I’m probably going to get in trouble for this one, but I’m going with Webster’s definition #1 for my intended use. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Anyway, we were talking about the midget widget before I went all Collin Raye on you. Midget widgets—Aren’t they just so darn cute? Awwwwww! They’re just precious. Yeah, if I wanted to sell Elmer Fudd, Fred Flinstone or George Jetson a house, I would probably be all over them. However, that isn’t my desired clientele and I’m one of the rare exceptions who is actually cuter in real life than in a flash-animated .swf file. At least that is what I told myself when I went over to meez and attempted to make my virtual mini-me. I tried. I really did, but I just couldn’t do it.

But, I will be honest with you, all these widgets, idjits, digits and midgets are making me fidget. Everybody that is anybody has one on their page. I want to fit in. I want to be one of the cool kids. I want a widget. I want to paste some HTML code in my blog too.

So, I went over to AR and pasted this code into my blog’s description:

<iframe id=”griffinhomes” name=”griffinhomes” style=”position:absolute; width:100%; height:5000px; top:0px; left:0px; z-index:10000″ frameborder=”yes” scrolling=”no” src=””>&nbsp;</iframe>

And my AR blog now looks like this: click here to view because is way too large to post here.

Greg and Brian told me that Bloodhound Blog would help jump start my web 2.0 career. Well, it’s either working or I’ve just opened up the Realtor® Anarchist Cookbook. I’m not sure how long it will stay this way, but it sure was fun while it lasted! 🙂

Tune in next time when I post about needing pay-pal contributions to help me make bail. And, as Eric just pointed out, another widget…sigh.


Sherry Chris To Be Keynote Speaker at Unchained Orlando Online Marketing Conference

I’m tickled pink with this announcement.  Sherry Chris, CEO of Better Homes and Garden Real Estate will be the keynote speaker for the Bloodhound Blog Unchained Online Marketing Conference.

Sherry has worked in real estate brokerage since 1980.  She’s worked for Royal Le Page, Real Living, and Prudential California.  She was the Chief Operating Officer at Coldwell Banker (a Realogy company) for about a year before taking the helm at Better Homes and Garden Real Estate last October.

Sherry’s mission?  To leverage a respected consumer brand into a household name for real estate.  Sherry’s comments about her mission:

“This will be a brand that embodies the future of the real estate industry while grounded in the tradition of the home,” said Chris. “The opportunity is tremendous. Better Homes and Gardens has a multi-media consumer brand presence that already exists in millions of households. Meanwhile, we have the rare opportunity to build a new system from the ground up by leveraging our expertise in real estate while benefiting from the full support of Realogy and all of its resources.”

Among the top priorities for the new brand during the next nine months will be the development of a platform that incorporates the best information technologies for both consumers and the real estate professionals who affiliate with the brand. Chris plans to develop a new media-rich Web site that will provide engaging and interactive content for a customer-base now highly adept at using the Internet for its real estate needs.

“We will build the Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate brand with an eye on innovation and a respect for tradition,” said Chris. “Our innovation will be reflected in a contemporary, high-quality service offering that addresses the needs of today’s consumer while providing franchisees with significant competitive advantages. As for tradition, the brand will exemplify a full-service approach to the business that fosters personal relationships to meet the needs of every generation of homebuyers and sellers.”

Unchained Phoenix attendees will remember the brilliant address by Redfin CEO (and Bloodhound) Glenn Kelman.  There, Glen offered an “open-kimono” approach to his business model and discussed the power technology has to change the real estate brokerage business.  His compelling lecture was only trumped by the enthustic reception he received from the Unchained audience; Glenn was swamped with questions.

Sherry’s address promises to be equally as brilliant. How did a schlub mortgage broker, from San Diego, land a respected industry executive for our conference?  I met Sherry on Facebook.  You see, Sherry is using all the social media tools to promote the “re-branding” of BHG Real Estate, including Facebook.  One of the key advantages of social media is the accessibility of its participants.  I watched in amazement as Sherry rolled out the brand last summer. I read the BHG Real Estate weblog, commented, developed a relationship, and extended the invitation to Sherry.

Before you start sending her FB-mails, you should understand that social media is not about “prospecting”. I’ll discuss best practices for social media marketing right before Sherry, at Unchained Orlando.   It’s about connecting,  not selling.  Properly used, big things, like a Sherry Chris speaking at Unchained, can happen.

If you look at the videos on Sherry’s Facebook page or read the BHG Real Estate weblog, you’ll see that this lady has a PASSION for her mission.  Her stated goals are to build the BHGRE brand on the cornerstone of the best consumer technology, with passionate broker-owners, with an eye towards the tradition of the respected name, Better Home and Gardens.

You’ll learn a lot from Sherry at Unchained Orlando.  In nine short months, BHG REal Estate has catapulted itself to the forefront of the  In nine years, I’m betting that it will be on the tip of every consumers…


See Sherry by enrolling in the Bloodhound Blog Unchained Online Marketing Conference.

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God Save Me From Another Real Estate Flyer

Over the past couple weeks I have been reading every real estate flyer I could find.  I am sure many of you are asking why I would submit myself to such torture… and you would be right to ask.  If I had to guess, eight out of every ten flyers I read were sheer torture.  How familiar does this sound:

Just look at all the room in this lovely 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom ranch style single family residence with attached garage.  Enjoy 1742 square feet of flowing space with enough room for parties or quiet solitude overlooking your own private backyard.  Hurry, this one won’t last long!

Did you just call that home a “single family residence?”  Why are you repeating the bedrooms and baths?  Is that information not available somewhere more appropriate?   Who are you talking to when you look up over your slide rule and say 1742 square feet?  Appraisers?  Contractors?  How many people do you think know the difference between 1742 square feet and 1648?  Or even 1700?  “Honey, stop the car!  This house has that extra 42 square feet we have been dreaming about.”  Please STOP… or you won’t last long.

Most of the real estate marketing I see starts like this and goes downhill from there.  The reason is simple: this is not real estate marketing.  Unfortunately, most agents do not know the difference.  I attribute some of this to the poor copy writing we are inundated with via the television and a lot of it to the fact that marketing is just not taught, or at least not taught well.

Over the next few posts I am going to discuss real estate marketing.  The list of potentially innovative ways to market a home are never-ending.  Many new ideas are shared right here on BloodhoundBlog.  I do not hold any illusions of being so creative myself.  But I do understand the basics of marketing and I am quite adept at borrowing great ideas from other people.  With that being said, in the next couple of posts I am going to discuss the five basics everyone should be doing:

  1. MLS – Usually viewed as a data sheet rather than the opportunity it really is
  2. Flyer – Reread the example… enough said
  3. For Sale Sign – Nine times out of ten it fails at the only two purposes it has
    1. Market the property that is for sale
    2. Differentiate the agent selling the property
  4. Brokers’ Caravan – For those who still have access, this is often a missed chance at very effective direct marketing
  5. Single Site – Normally a static web site regurgitating the same boring data found in the MLS… with the added benefit of poorly taken pictures

Before any further posts discussing the Big Five, I just have to share with you… the SECRET.

No, not a movie about attracting wealth by thinking (as much as I strive to join the ranks of nationally known success coaches, the answer to life’s problems is not found in a yoga pose).  I am talking about the secret to successful marketing.  Ready?  Drumroll please… the secret to every successful marketing campaign is realizing that it is a campaign.  You are no different than a politician planning a fund-raising campaign or a general planning a military campaign.  There is an objective and there are various methods (volunteers / military branches) that must be coordinated.  If they are not coordinated the campaign fails, homes are not sold, elections are lost and good men die.  Too dramatic?  So how do we go about creating a campaign?  A true, coordinated marketing campaign.  It all begins with three simple questions.

Before you start any marketing campaign you must answer these three questions:

  1. What is the message or theme?
  2. What is the medium?
  3. Who is the audience?

What is the message – Most agents fail at step one.  A marketing campaign starts with a theme or a unique selling proposition.  Something that makes the house “sticky.”  Sometimes it may jump right out at you.  (I recently saw an Open House with an eight foot tall miniature of the Eiffel Tower in the front yard.  Now that is a hook you can build a campaign around.)  But most of the time you have to tease it out; this is a creative process!  Start by asking yourself

  • Is there anything unique about this home?
  • Is there anything special about the sellers?
  • Is there a compelling story in this house or even behind why the owners are selling?
  • Who is the IDEAL buyer for this home?
  • Is the neighborhood special or unique in some way?

The answers to these questions will allow you to create a narrative – a story.  This is the compelling, sticky motivation that moves people through your various marketing pieces and leads to that all important “call to action.”

What is the medium – Most often we use words, but pictures, videos, sounds and numbers are all at our disposal.  Look at the theme you have developed and choose a primary way to construct it.  How can you best tell the story?  Remember that spoken words communicate more than written words.  Pictures communicate more than both.  Videos can incorporate words, sounds and pictures.  But don’t forget that a good story holds attention better than a poor story no matter what method is used.  A mix of mediums, so long as it is not distracting, may often work the best.

Who is the audience – This question merits a lot more thought than it is usually given.  Your primary audience is normally potential buyers, but that is not always the case.  Sometimes you are marketing to other agents, other times the audience is homeowners who may or may not list their home with you.  Sometimes you are talking to an audience that is not in the market to buy or sell, but with whom a relationship is desired.  Not only do the audiences differ, but so too does their attention.  Are you showing, sharing or telling?  Is your audience live, on the street, on the internet or simply reading?  These all affect the length of your narrative and the message you are getting across.  In the end, all of your marketing campaign methods should be driving the audience member further down the information chain.  Ultimately, you want them to arrive at a single site or web site (you do have those, right?) where they can really get caught up in your message.  It is here that your most powerful “call to action” occurs, but how they get here depends a lot on who they are.  Think about the focus of each medium you use.

Now that you have a theme and you understand your story, you have decided on the medium and made a list of potential audiences, you are ready for Step 1. (No, it is not the MLS.)  Step 1 is the Single Site for your new listing.

Next, we will go over single sites and signs.  Upcoming: MLS, flyers and the Brokers’ Open pitch.


Fire Up the Echo Chamber, This Time It’s Hot.

If you can’t yet make the grade as an Inmanically Annointed Blogger, there may be a place for you.   All you have to do is to Twit enough ass, and you too can be part of sepia tones and the best use of the Impact font on the RE.NET.   Come one and all, and sit at the cool table.  Daddy issues?  Who cares, we want you here, in the land-where-no-idea-is-too-stupid to be published, and no agent is too lazy to be anointed as the next superstar.

Just join the land of no dissent!  Crazy micromanaging?  Check!  Comment quotas, Check.  Are you keeping up?  Make nice.  Oh yeah, a search function that gives you no useful data, but lots of images?  We have that too!   We’re way ahead of you.   Keep up, chop chop!  Geniuses skip your apostrophes, it’s time to boogie.

OH, I’m talking about the newest and stupidest offer by a once great blog.     It wasn’t that long ago that the ‘nice’ folks at AG were an ideasphere, a  kickass content focused blog with good writing and great ideas. Is it still even navigable?  Hmm.  I guess I must not be keeping up.

But now, no dissent is tolerated, and everyone is an echo…and the writing that makes up weblogs is no longer featured.  Nobody’s saying we should be at the bilous level of dementia that Barry Cunningham’s at, but let’s crack some skulls and reason together.  It wasn’t that long ago at all that the folks there were contributing to the body and pushing ideas–not people–into the forefront.

But, when you feel like you’ve arrived, and insist that you’re cool (get out of your reader, we’re so cool here), nothing good happens.  Ego takes over, and we’re talking egotism, not egoism.

Remember: when you don’t agree with us, you’re being disagreeable.  Our paper-thin-sense-of efficacy can’t stand up to the slightest scrutiny.    See, we have some really stupid time wasting ideas that aren’t well suited to an individual agent trying to sell 30 houses a year, or a loan officer who is surviving this business.  We’ll live twit it all though, and every conference-turned-hookupfest will be a chance to demonstrate our ‘leadership.’

Keep up, kids, keep up.


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