There’s always something to howl about

Archive for June, 2009

Face Down in Iceplant

To pluck a petal from the bloom of  friend and  recondite commenter, Don Reedy, I’ve been ‘face down in a slope of iceplant’  for 30 days. Yes, iceplant.  (I’ll let the man himself expound a little later but allow me to tempt you with the essence of his yarn—- it involves a houseboat in San Diego, a Belushi Halloween costume (including handcuffed briefcase), and a lost weekend somewhere in the bowels of the 1980s. Un huh.)

You see, I too have been on a pastoral  quest  of sorts this month and  presently find myself scurrying through the  Bloodhound shadows to slip this flimsy piece under the Big Dog’s door before the triple witching hour tonight—June’s last breath.  I take a peek around the literary pound and am relieved to  find that my WordPress password is still active and that my name and mugshot are still posted on the BHB sidebar.  Only a handful of  hours remains between me and blanking an entire month on the hallowed front post page. Hopefully I’ll push Publish before the final strike of Midnight and keep the holy streak alive.  Admittedly, I’ve been remiss in my self-imposed dogmatic duties.

So this is what has gone down since I last posted Mother Nature is not a MILF on May 30th (an essay written mostly on my iPhone that netted a total of 6 unique comments including a few of my own trite responses). I pooled my talents, sunk my literary savings into a mental Ponzie marketing scheme, and found myself  nearly wiped clean from the blogarian grid as I danced 30 days straight ‘with the one who brung me’ to this economic station in life to begin with—real estate sales.  Eleven of them to be exact.  I’ve never done eleven of anything in a single month much less an activity involving commission checks with accompanying deposit slips.  And now, after eleven hard money contracts written and/or Closed in June, I come crawling back to my digital workspace on knees and elbows on this last day of the month, famished and thirsty for Google juice; mind, gut, and Adword account all but drained. On figurative creative fumes. A quip or two every few days on Facebook (again, via my iPhone) has been my only contact with the electronic media. I forgot to pay my Comcast bill. Twice.  When I finally booted up my laptop at home to begin this piece last Sunday, the bastards had already unhooked my shit. Some nice gentleman from a war torn Third World nation assisted me with the re-connect. I think he said his name was Billy Bob.  Billy Bob Pakhtoon.

I posted my first blog in December of 2005  because my lead generation efforts had basically dissolved into sediment.  Momentum alone carried me through 2006. It was only after reading a Time Magazine article later that year that I decided to change my real estate physiognomy and commit to a low carb regiment of  dietary backlink fiber.  For the next several months I was more concerned with the BMI on my Page Rank scale than the actual dirty act of  soliciting….ahem…. property.  And as my writing skills appeared to flourish, my sales skills began to atrophy.  I showed up at my accountant’s office in 2008 with my 1099s in hand and his secretary asked for ID. I was fiscally unrecognizable. I had become the Joaquin Phoenix of  his client base. I told her she should check out my blog, that I was now a writer and a Realtor. I believe her response was, “Whatever. Cash or credit card only, Mr. Petro.”  Whatever…

So, as Mr Reedy so beautifully explains it in the comment section of a previous post, “A friend found me two days later, face down in a slope of iceplant (I’ll bring a sample, because iceplant only grows where it doesn’t freeze). It took another two days for my face to lose the iceplant imprint…”

And there, too, is where I only recently found the other half of my creative soul.  In Iceplant. Face Down. On a Slope.  Imprinted.   I’ve said it many times before on this venue; I can either write or I can sell.  I just can’t seem to do both at the same time worth a darn. So for the next 30 days or so I suppose I’ll write.  I’m in a  Francis Ford Coppola Zoetrope Screenplay Contest with an August 1 deadline. Now that’s as good an excuse as any for not selling jack squat in July.



Real estate duets: Looking for some advice from seasoned partnerships

I am able to generate business- both real and potential business, but I find myself in a situation where I want to team up with another Realtor. I’d like to partner with someone to share the work load, and keep transactions running smoothly.

To that end, I’m asking the Bloodhound family: What advice can you give me? How do you create a partnership? Formally or informally? Do you have a clear distribution of tasks and jobs each person performs? Is everything delegated ahead of time? And even as I write this, I’m answering my own questions, so perhaps better questions are these: What do you know now that you wish you knew then? What were the best mistakes you learned along the way? What one thing do I most need to prepare for?

I want the real dirt about partnering in real estate. If you want to email me privately, I’d welcome that. I can keep a secret. 🙂


Do It Yourself and More Nonsense From Otherwise Intelligent Folk

At 57 I still can’t decide if those insisting on always doing things themselves are deluded, arrogant beyond understanding, or so much brighter than I am, I’m doomed to forever be in the dark. The unrelenting confidence oozing from the pores of do-it-yourselfers piss me off if only on principle. 🙂 How many times do they hafta reinvent the damn wheel — reborn as a richly elegant octagon — before they discover the problem is them? Of course there are usually so many questions they don’t even know to ask — their ignorance basks in the glow of never ending faux bliss.

Wanna know the problem with ignorance? Ya never know how much you don’t know. Why? Often cuz you’re a do-it-yourselfer. Today I’m speaking mostly to real estate agents, but the principles apply to any job. As an agent your bottom line job description ain’t rocket science. You’re either finding a home for someone or selling a home for someone — both in a timely and professional manner. As simple as that is to state, we all know from experience that’s a bunch of overflowing plates on our daily table. All the skill sets required to become expert in those two jobs can be daunting when one wishes to actually, you know, be an expert.

Those skill sets are learned. Mentors, company training programs, blogs, seminars/conferences, webinars, and even books are some of the vehicles carrying agents to the legitimate status of expert — combined of course with endless hours of repetitive study and practice. Yet how many times do we see a so-called expert, often self-proclaimed, wanting us to believe they did it all themselves? They all have brown eyes eventually, cuz spewing that BS long enough tends to turn ’em that way.

You’re not an expert in online technology. You’re not an SEO expert. (Though you and I may be the only ones online who don’t claim that these days.) Let’s look at an incomplete list of related areas of expertise for which do-it-yourselfers fail miserably while belligerently maintaining they’ve mastered them. What a crock.

Using the web via blogs/websites to sell/list property.

Successfully employing SEO principles online.

Using ‘social media’ in general.

Drip email programs. Or, more honestly put, how to stretch out the time it takes to finally get folks to threaten bodily harm due to your expert marketing. 🙂 Don’t get me wrong, I think the drip approach works as well as intended — but only when designed/executed by an expert.

Direct mail marketing.

Postcard marketing.

There’s plenty more we could put on that list if we put our heads together, right?

Here’s how do-it-yourselfers convince themselves of their superior expertise. They compare their results to other do-it-yourselfers. Agents do this incessantly on blogs and at conferences, seminars, and REbarcamps. If it wasn’t so sad it’d be funny. Don’t misunderstand me — this isn’t a blanket indictment of those media — but seriously, the person on the stage is often the one who’s merely a couple chapters ahead of everyone else in the book.

In my time I’ve been a competitive bodybuilder, a marathoner, and an NCAA umpire, including post season. Was I a do-it-yourselfer? No, as I had more respect for those who were legitimate experts in those three fields than to demean their expertise in that manner. In the gym I was trained by a world champion one on one. When a runner, San Diego was blessed with numerous long distance experts who were nationally and sometimes even world famous. As an up and coming umpire, former major league umps and several with NCAA World Series experience trained me on the diamond, hands on.

The arrogance demonstrated by do-it-yourselfers who think they’re at levels they can’t even see, much less execute, is possibly exceeded only by the difference between what they think they know and reality.

This isn’t to say I don’t understand economic realities. Sometimes something is better than nothing, and good enough for now can become much improved over time. I get it. I’m not endorsing the typical agent who’s forever getting ready to do something — just prior to leaving the business. We all do what needs to be done if we’re serious. But when there’s a choice, please, stop with the I can do-it-myself as well as the expert, cuz you’re embarrassing yourself.

If you studied what a real expert does for six months you probably still wouldn’t know what they’ve forgotten. Harsh? Not really. The word expert has been bastardized second only to the word ‘great’ in sports. I was a pretty decent umpire, but I wasn’t within sniffing distance of Doug Harvey, a slam dunk expert, who was one of the best Major League umps who ever trod a diamond. I learned to train and run ever improving marathons, but was never on ESPN. With one exception I never finished in the top ten WOMEN in my age division. 🙂 I competed in bodybuilding, once placing 7th in what I think was called Mr. Teenage So. California. Don’t be impressed though, as compared to the top three, my name might as well have been Nancy. Though I was trained by an expert for two years, they’d been trained by experts for 8-10 years. The winner went on to have quite a career, making several magazine covers. Talk about perception meeting reality. Crestfallen doesn’t cover it. 🙂

So can we please temper the do-it-yourself mania? It’s gettin’ on my last raw nerve. My son makes the argument the do-it-yourself era in real estate related skill sets has been slowly fading for the last year or two. He bases that on the observation that he doesn’t read any more about agents ‘…lying naked on the beach while the money pours in from leads generated from their miracle website, designed and engineered by them alone.’. Gotta love the way he puts things. 🙂

He further notes that those who’ve survived this latest cleansing have, to the extent affordable, ‘called the guy’ whenever possible. I hope he’s right.

‘Calling the Guy’ has been my M.O. since forever. I’m a real estate investment expert, but only a pretender when it comes to CRM, various forms of marketing, internet technology, and the like. Those thinking they’ve effectively mastered all those skill sets are either kiddin’ themselves, or truly are way smarter than the rest of us. That said, it’s amazing how many answers I get to questions I never knew to even ask when talking with a real life expert. Why would anyone want less than the best results possible?

What say you?


Hoarding Listings?

Has anyone noticed listing agents hoarding REO inventory for their own clients? In California, where we now have only 4.2 months of inventory, we have begun to see bank-owned listings marked as contingent within only a minute of being listed, only to return to the market a month later and immediately be bought by a buyer represented by the listing agent. More than a dozen clients, in multiple threads, have submitted examples of these listings on our message boards. We’re trying to figure out what’s really going on and what to do about it. We thought the Bloodhound community might be able to help.

Meanwhile, our partner agents in the Inland Empire of Southern California are also seeing banks take offers on REO properties that are $20,000 or $30,000 lower than the highest bid, on the grounds that the house won’t appraise for the higher offer amount. It seems like the market is trying to set the price, and nobody is willing to believe it (perhaps for good reason).


Building the perfect Bloodhound, three years into the job

Cathleen took most of my client contact off my hands Sunday so that I could have time free to play with a new API the FlexMLS folks are getting ready to release to their client MLS systems. I love FlexMLS, and I haven’t said nearly enough good things about it here, but let this stand as endorsement enough: If your MLS is on the cusp of its vendor contract, get FlexMLS. It’s plausible to me that other companies might have cool stuff, but other companies don’t listen to geeks like me. FBS is wicked smart to begin with, but they’re smart enough to know that nobody knows everything. By listening to the user base, they’re able to grow their product in ways that will matter a great deal to all of us going forward.

So for Act one, I worked out how to build radius searches from any valid street address. By software, I mean. I want to be able to work from street addresses to build searches on the fly.

Act two was just brute force API programming, building semi-custom searches into 11,000 or so unique pages. (I’ve mentioned that Realtors have a publishing problem, but I’ll bet you weren’t thinking in the thousands of pages.)

Act three was a quick-search form. A lot of folks already have stuff like this from their IDX vendors. The difference is that I can build as many as I want, as elaborately as I want, using the most common or the most arcane fields in the MLS system. As an example, imagine a weblog post about central vacuum systems coupled with a quick search form featuring homes with central vac. Can your IDX system do that?

That’s innovation, y’all, and there is a point at which it is nothing more for me than ars gratia artis — art for art’s sake. I play with new ideas not to make money or to skin elephants, but because I love new things, and I love to wring every last drop of implication out of anything I lay my hands on. I can find the marketing — and, one hopes, the money — in new things because I can plow my way through them in the first place.

If you submit yourself to BloodhoundBlog’s archives, you will find hundreds of well-realized ideas about hardware and software and Web 2.0 and sales and marketing. It’s what we talk about, and we do it more and better in greater depth than anyone. This is a very proud accomplishment, and I am very proud to be a part of it.

But there is a level of innovation that rises above particular posts, a spirit that transcends and infuses the work we do here. Teri Lussier has taken to tracking the memes I throw into the conversation, in part because they can be fun reading, and in part because they illustrate how even people who say they disagree with me debate my issues from my frame of reference. There are others here who are doing the same kinds of things, perhaps without Teri noticing. The world of real estate is much larger — for now — that the world we live in. But within this world of ours, the debate belongs to us, with the rest of the either watching in silence or issuing progressively less-credible cannonades of stuttering, sputtering yeah-buts.

And that, at the end of three very quick years, is the innovation that matters most: In our time working here together, we have turned the word “Bloodhound” into a meme that matters.

Cathleen and I loved the idea from the first, since we brought Odysseus home from the pound. But what we saw was simply the iconic idea of a indefatigable professional hunter as a symbol for the right kind of real estate agent.

But in talking here together about the work we do — in seeing and embracing the similarities that unite us, and in acknowledging the proud and sometimes prickly virtues that separate us from others — we’ve carried the world “Bloodhound” much further than ever we foresaw.

Jim Whatley of expressed that complex Bloodhound notion in a way I like:

I do not want walk around and say I sold the most. I want to walk around and say I’m the best.

I am good at contempt, especially in response to what I see as being apologies for laziness or lies, but I have no desire to take anything away from anyone. To the contrary, what I have always wanted to do here is share what I’ve learned — in no small part in order to learn what you have to share.

And so I really, really like the idea of spreading this Bloodhound meme. One could wish we had come up with a better name, but serendipity is where you find it. The essence of a name is that it crystalizes and encapsulates a vast array of ideas under a single, handy referent. Strangers to this place may not know what we mean, when we refer to a Realtor or a lender as a Bloodhound. But we know, as does everyone who has ever been here — most especially the people who try to lurk under the radar.

Who will supplant the NAR? The Bloodhounds will.

Who will realize the full potential of Web 2.0 and all its many APIs? The Bloodhounds will.

Who will dominate the real estate market going forward? The Bloodhounds will.

Who will have redefined everything that matters in real estate five or ten years from now? Whatever we’re calling ourselves by then, it will be the people who write and read here who will have made all the difference.

I love new things — mostly just because they’re new. But when you devote your attention to new things, you can’t help but come up with new ideas of your own. No one here set out to redefine the way real estate professionals think about themselves and their work. But we’ve done just that — in just three short years.

And that’s the innovation that matters at BloodhoundBlog.

That is the innovation that will plant and fertilize and cultivate every seed of every new idea we bring forth in all those years ahead of us.

So: Here’s to the Bloodhounds! I’m very proud to be a part of this thing — strange and unexpected and inspiriting and ennobling — and always enthralling.


“Repeal Proposition 13 Or File Chapter 13 !” To Be California Leftist Politicians’ Cry

I’ve been critical of California’s Proposition 13 because of its progressive nature. It penalizes immigrants and younger families to favor older, wealthier nativists.  Howard Jarvis’ intent was to stop the California’s Legislature from its runaway spending; the Legislature did no such thing. In fact, the California Legislature has increased spending, over the past 31 years,  in spite of the intended purpose of Proposition 13.

As much as I think Proposition 13 is bad public policy, I’m glad it’s on the books. The inevitable bankruptcy of California will cause its citizenry to take a hard look at the cost of the Great Social Experiment its Legislature pursued. Jeff Brown and Sean Purcell are subject to my cautionary warnings that the wealth-eating zombies in Sacramento won’t stand for their citizens’ impudence; I believed that one of those ghouls would try to repeal Proposition 13, citing its’ progressive nature.  I was wrong; they hired a henchman.

Meet San Francisco Recorder-Assessor Phil Ting; he wants to change Proposition 13. Phil Ting is spinning his attack on Proposition 13 as corporate welfare. Ting claims that Proposition 13 unfairly benefits commercial property owners at the expense of residential property owners:

Paradoxical to the law’s initial intent, the commercial property loopholes in Proposition 13 have actually shifted the tax burden away from corporations and onto the backs of residential property owners.

For example, look at San Francisco, where I currently serve as assessor- recorder. Thirty years ago, commercial property owners contributed 59 percent of property tax revenues and residential property owners contributed 41 percent. Today, we see a virtual flip: commercial property owners contributed just 43 percent of property taxes in 2008, while residential property owners contributed 57 percent.

Sounds reasonable,  right?  Bear in mind that Ting called the Catholic Church a tax deadbeat for reapportioning its parish properties to local control, a measure all California Catholic Dioceses are enacting.  This politically-motivated measure was payback for the Church’s involvement in a ballot initiative this past November.  Ting’s the perfect hired gunslinger for the California Left.

Liberal, spend and try-to-tax legislators are trying desperately to figure out how to circumvent the will of California voters  so that they can maintain The  Great Social Experiment; Phil Ting’s their cowboy.

California is so broke its issuing its own currency . We have two options in the Golden State:  cut expenses or raise revenues.  Look for more politicians to jump on Ting’s bandwagon and try to repeal Proposition 13 to fill up the coffers.

Repeal Prop 13 or file Chapter 13 ! ” will be their rallying cry.  I’m voting for the latter.


The “cap and trade” bill is full of outrageous proscriptions on private property rights — so the NAR is campaigning against honest appraisals instead of fighting the growth of the nanny state

If you had your blast email spam from NAR President Charles McMillan, you know what’s important to the Grand Poobahs: Appraisers are all of a sudden just too dang honest, and that’s bad for business. Meanwhile, the so-called “cap and trade” bill that narrowly passed in the House of Representatives last night is full of nightmare provisions impinging on the rights of private property owners to do what they want with their land and structures. Where was the NAR? Elsewhere, of course. Where else?

From JammieWearingFool:

Beyond what it will do to our economy, at the end of the debate House GOP Leader John Boehner took to the floor and started reading from the 300 page amendment that the Democrats drafted and dropped on the legislatures at 3 AM, there was literally hundred of items to impose federal control over your life. Here are some highlights.

Want to replace a window? Not so fast. First you must pay for an appraisal of your house to measure its energy efficiency and receive calculations of both before and after the proposed change. Hey, it may be a great excuse for those guys trying to avoid putting in that big bay style window that the missus has been bugging you about.

Are you having a new house built? Back up, Skippy. This bill includes language that tells you exactly where you can put your electrical outlets.

Did you know that for one sort of appraisal service related to determining energy efficiency there is only one company you can use? Yup, it is right in there along with the name of the company. How is it that this one company managed to land the only contract to service 300 million Americans? Who is this company?

I wish I could answer those questions, but all of those provisions and more, Rep. Boehner went on for almost an hour citing them and still didn’t get through the whole 300 pages, is not available. You see because of when the Democrats dropped this amendment at 3 AM the text of it is not available. So much for that transparency. The total bill runs on for more then 1500 pages and it controls every aspect of your life, from what type of car we will be able to produce and buy to what type of appliances you have in your house.

Under some of these provisions you won’t be able to sell your house. Got your eyes and a quaint little place out the way and off the beaten path? Forget about it. By the time you went through the time and expense to get it up to the new code proposed in this legislation that little place in the woods will resemble something out the Jetsons.

So for those who were at work and getting ready for their weekend, and were simply tired of the wall-to-wall coverage of Michael Jackson, you came just one more step closer to being less free today then you were yesterday. And by the way, Congress has blown town for a two-week vacation. It is hard work turning a Republic into a Socialist state. This must be stopped in the Senate.

My biggest fear now, however, is if the Republicans couldn’t stop this, a bill that will throw hundreds of thousands if not millions out of work as the companies they work for go belly up or leave the country and imposed what amounts to a national homeowners association on all of us, what chance do they have of stopping the nationalized health care?

What else is in this Trojan Horse bill?


How Bloodhoundblog’s Innovators Have Inspired My Business

In response to Greg’s request for innovative ideas from BHB, I thought that would list a few real life examples of how the contributors here have impacted my personal evolution in mortgage marketing and Web 2.0 world domination.

While I believe success is merely a component of innovation, I also agree with the people who need to see proof of results in order to determine a true measure of value.

Since it is too difficult for me to pick one or two innovative or game changing ideas for Greg’s contest, I’ve embedded links to some of the BHB articles that have inspired me over the past few years.

Where did BHB begin for me?

I have been an avid reader of BHB for a couple of years.  This place use to scare me (still does), but I eventually gained the confidence in expanding my own online presence as a result of the education that I gained from reading and participating in the conversations on this blog.

As a loan officer back in the boom days, I only cared about the web because one of my Las Vegas real estate agents was feeding me with leads that he generated from his site.

I basically just helped contribute content and pay some of the expenses in our joint marketing venture.

When I did find time to pay attention to what others were saying online, I’d read about bubbleheads and doom pundits, real estate agents blogging about blogging, how the housing slowdown was only going to last for another 6 months, and how Zillow didn’t have accurate estimates.

However, when the market really did shift as Brian predicted, I was faced with the options of either becoming more involved in our online marketing agenda or walking away and getting a new job.

I kind of did a little bit of all three by developing a game plan for the industry that focused on a more sustainable purpose and different priorities.

The early innovation:

One of my first successful web projects was a FSBO campaign that combined single property web sites, highly visible yard signs, Craigslist, Call Capture, and a solid listing presentation.

My pricing model was based on Greg’s listing fee, and I was even able to get my real estate agents to do the dirty work of selling and marketing my program.

We had over 40 FSBO listings in a matter of months that generated about .25 loans, 3 real estate buyers,  and almost .5 full listing contracts per property.

It was a complete win win for everyone until the market was overrun with REO inventory.

Lesson learned – don’t take listings that won’t sell.

The evolution:

I either own, participate in or am in the process of developing over 17 real estate and mortgage blogs.  My purpose is to build perpetual equity in an online presence that will create residual wealth for my family and friends.  Its a call to arms, but I’m keeping my mind on my mission.

Am I rich yet?  No, but I’ve got a sense of peace and security knowing that I no longer have a publishing problem.

Innovation from Bloodhoundblog:

My biggest challenge is finding the time to execute all of my ideas.

1)  We’re working on Ryan Hartman’s 404 genius for our Las Vegas property management web site.  Combine strategic landing pages with targeted online comments, and I think we’ll be able to connect with the right audience at precisely the moment they need us.

2)  Brian Brady’s Twitter Media Mogul works well with the help of Domus Consulting Group’s Breaking News project.  I’ve already built three of those sites, including a Twitter Mortgage Rate feed.  All I have to do is customize Chris Johnson’s Twitter prospecting and sales program, and I should have an easy system built for my agents and loan officers to thrive from.

3)  After reading Mark Green’s article on creating warm leads through GoToWebinar, I’ve implemented a permission marketing system into my short sale posts.  Brian’s articles about his experience on Wall Street has helped me research and write valuable content for my readers.  As long as we watch what we say and how we say it, the message is always well received.

4)  Eric Blackwell’s advice about SEO and social media was right on, which is why we created a real estate social network.  However, we should have paid more attention to his advice about the business model and need to produce income.  Either way, even if Inman’s News didn’t find our innovation exciting this year, WordPress and BuddyPress did.

5)  How about taking this social media talk to the street?  Not sure if this is considered innovation or common sense, but there are thousands of Las Vegas real estate agents that would probably love to learn how to integrate a little more Web2.0 into their weekly business routines.  I could also create a group blog for them all to participate and learn on.  Maybe I’ll have time to start putting together monthly social media classes beginning in Aug.

6)  I’d like to take it a step further though and help these agents get their own Google profiles, blogs, maps and single property web sites up and running.  At that point, it is as easy as streaming my mortgage blog content to special pages on their sites like Kevin Sandridge is doing with the Scenius strategy he learned at the Orlando Unchained.

7)  While video and podcasts are great ways to build trust, I’m working on a first-time home buyer e-book that easily articulates and organizes all of the valuable information that my real estate partners and I have put on the web.  The printable version will also have a co-branding area and be useful folder filler content for new clients.

I’ve got several more examples, but these are the most noteworthy that I could come up with on the fly.

Who should win Bloodhoundblog’s innovation award?

Regardless of who wins Greg’s little contest, I’d like to sincerely thank all of the contributors and participating readers here for making be better.

I could probably spend another 9 hours going through BHB and pulling out all of the great articles that inspired innovation in my own business and life, but I’ll have to settle on the following link as my final decision:

Here is my vote


Happy 3 years of innovation, Bloodhoundblog!


Vultures to the Rescue – HOORAY!!!

Here's the email - I added the red boxes

What the hell is a Forensic Loan Audit you ask?

According to the SPAM email (above – I drew the boxes for emphasis) that landed in my inbox last night, a company called National Loan Auditors provides a service that:

1)  Markets to loan originators with the purpose of providing loan file audits that

“expose federal, state, county and statute violations, along with any unethical predatory lending practices.”

2)  So mortgage professionals can

“leverage [their] company or firms ability to assist [their] past and present customers, helping them negotiate better mortgage rates and terms with their existing lender…”

3)  Oh, and by the way the mortgage professional can also

“earn up to $1,700 on each case file”

Um, so what you’re saying is that I can market to my past clients, identify errors, omissions and fraudulent activity that occurred when I originated their loan AND pocket $1,700 in the process?  Seriously.  Am I reading this incorrectly?

Our company used to provide loan file audits to our clients too.  [If we could have made money doing it, we still would be.]  The purpose of our audits was to help identify these same types of errors and omissions.  The difference was in our motivation:  our clients used our feedback to improve their compliance scores on future originations.  From experience, I can tell you that even the cleanest and most ethical shops had compliance errors in their files – most of which were innocent, victimless mistakes.  For example, in the State of Georgia, an originator is considered to have taken a Loan Application when collecting any financial information from the borrower – and of course a Good Faith Estimate is required to be sent within 72 hours of the loan application.  This is a common mistake originators make (both banker and broker by the way) – one of many easy to make errors.  There are 20 other similar examples I could point out here but let me get back to the point…

Now you have these vultures performing similar audits with the malicious intent of leveraging even the most benign of errors into strong-arming banks into loan modifications.

Does this type of value proposition help illuminate why the large depository banks are trying to put the small broker out of business?  Make no mistake, most of the mortgage originators who are left in the game today are professionals.  I have the privilege of working with many of them on a daily basis.  But it’s still way too easy for any schmuck to quit his job at the car lot and originate mortgages – and THAT, my friends (yes, that’s a pun) is the problem with the industry.

I don’t have the answers.  But here’s a start – all mortgage originators should have the equivalent of the Series 7 designation for financial professionals.  Obviously, it shouldn’t be the same curriculum, but my point is that it provides 1) a strong educational foundation and 2) a high barrier to entry into the business.  Mind you, this is only a start.  Mortgage professionals also ought to have more skin in the game – one of the few components of HR 1728 I agree with.

This is the scariest article I’ve ever written because it seems I have everything to lose by picking a fight with someone I don’t even know.  Further, I have nothing to gain.  But I wrote about this sort of thing on several occasions and it’s high time that I stepped up and provided an example of how this code ought to work.  When we see things that reek of injustice and damage our industry’s good name, it’s up to US to speak up and take action.  It would have been really easy for me to just delete that ridiculous email but instead I decided to write this article.

I sincerely hope it makes a difference.  Greg Swann, Brian Brady – you guys have inspired me to try and make a difference.  Albeit, this is really damn scary.

Comments are off for this post

How Do You Measure The True Success Of Innovation?

Greg’s recent post about Bloodhoundblog’s innovation contribution to the real estate industry created the typical debate over dinosaurs vs. Web 2.0.

However, there were several good points about the difference between innovation and success.

I’d like to argue that innovation is a component of success, as is failure.

Whether you’re skinning cats the 1.0 way, exploring the potential of a complete virtual realty solution, mixing a creative listing landing page with a direct mail campaign, or putting your referral relationships to full use, the simple fact that most of us are still left in the game to have these discussions is a small sign that we’re all successful in one manner or another.

It is hard to deny that the industry is rapidly changing, especially with regards to the way we leverage the web to communicate to our clients and colleagues.

By the time something has been proven, its already old news and can’t really be considered innovative.

What does innovation mean to me?

In order to have a productive conversation about the actual value of an innovative idea, I think it is important that we first agree on a common definition of innovation.

I hear words tossed around like Top Producer, high conversions, leads to loans….  which don’t mean much to me unless those are the results I’m expecting when I buy a product.

But to me, innovation is more of a way of life vs a business decision.  I’m always looking for ways to make something or someone better, without living in fear of failure.

I don’t need social proof from the masses to build my confidence.  Matter of fact, if everyone is already doing something well, then I’m even more motivated to find a different, more efficient way of accomplishing the same goal.

My loving and patient wife has to deal with these character traits every day.  And to make things worse on her, my 2 year old daughter is showing signs of following in her father’s patterns.  I couldn’t be more proud.

Either way, I just wasn’t designed to wait around on other people to prove that an innovative idea can be successful.  Maybe its because I focus on how I can make something successful for myself instead of wasting energy worrying about what other people think.

Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not an idiot.  Well, not all of the time, but I do try and learn from other people’s mistakes and achievements as well.

Have my innovative contributions to the real estate world been successful?  Yes, but not without some major scars and sacrifices that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

Why the rant?  Because I love beating a dead horse.

I also wanted to give some encouragement to the other innovators on this blog who may be tempted to feel like they have to prove their ideas to the “critical mass of widespread adoption” followers in order to be recognized as a success.


Google Wave Goodbye Real Estate Brokerage As We Know It?

I found some time to check out the Google Wave Developer preview on youtube a few days ago. And darn if I haven’t thought to myself: “This’ll be way easier and more fun to do once Wave comes” at least 10 times since.

So here are some possible applications that have crept into my head. Keep in mind these are all based on the little “taste” this “junkie” got from the preview video, so I’m not even sure a few of these will be doable, but what better place to toss this stuff out than here at BHB?

What Will Change In Real Estate Brokerage Once Google Wave Takes Over The World?

Single Property Websties
I imagine a Wave template that pictures, documents, videos, maps, etc are all dragged into from the desktop or the web. I’m assuming here that we’ll then be able to purchase a domain name for each property and map it to a public url for the “public” version of the wave.

Listing and Conveyancing Folders
Save the trees baby! Can you see creating a wave for a listing or pending sales folder, then inviting other parties to the transaction to participate in the Wave? Need a copy of the Seller’s Disclosure? It’s in the Wave? How about the listing contract? In the Wave. (But only sharable to parties who should see it.)

Buyer Presentations?
Got a new buyer. Drag in the pre-approval letter. Add some links to the Wave MLS Single Property Pages for the listings you’ll be touring tomorrow. Answer the buyer’s questions about agency, marketing conditions, financing, or whatever, from right within the wave, in real time! Heck, even drag in those Google Voice Text Transcriptions! Can you imagine how comprehensive this search-able record of the whole interaction from web lead to settlement will be? Don’t do or say anything stupid! It’ll be in the Wave! (And don’t try to delete your shannanigans either, cause Wave records all edits. Freaky…)

Company Training / Office Procedures / Systems Manuals
Alive, breathing, dynamic, EASILY ENHANCED AND IMPROVED UPON …. In a Wave!

Company Intranet?
Wave. Enough said?

Niche Blogs / Forums
Waves? Waves with tons of contributors? Hmm…

Contract Software… E Signatures?
Who needs separate apps… Put it all in a Wave

Facebook Pages?

Why bother? Too lunky… Join The Wave!

Facebook V. Google?

I just wanted to add this last thought in… it’s more of an observation than an assumed likely innovation. I’ve recently all but stopped spending cash on google adwords. Instead, I’ve been buying super targeted ads with Facebook because the fact that you can pretty much choose who sees and follows your ad is, well, a huge improvement on adwords imo…

But…with Wave…I wonder. Will we be able to only advertise alongside Waves? Waves initiated in a certain geographic area? Waves with certain keywords? Waves with x number of participants? Waves updated within the last few minutes?

I think Wave’s “Live Collaborative Editing” is going to lure people away from Social Media sites like facebook, and away from webmail services like Yahoo… I think that at least short term, Wave will do a ton to further the GOOG’s plans for utter domination of… well everything. 🙂

And it may change a whole lot more than just email and social networking. When everything gets faster, freer, and more transparent, will industries change?

Might MLS’s as we know them die and be replaced with a deliciously publicly controlled version? Going back to the Single Property Website idea… Can you imagine a universally accepted “Single Property Wave Template” for Real Estate listings that’s dead simple for all agents to create, fast, pretty, and yeah, indexable, searchable, and available to anyone who might be interested?

Not sure what the frak I’m talking about? Get some popcorn, some vaseline, a few wet naps… and lock the doors. Here’s the vid that has this geek jizzin:


Unchained melodies: Desdemona outside the walls…


The Fed Translated…..

In keeping with my practice of translating the Fed’s statements, here goes this one:

“Move along, keep moving, nothing to see here folks!   Business as usual!”

They didn’t do a thing to address the bond market concerns or to allow that things are changing at all.   Expect mortgage rates to drift up a small amount on the lack of news…..

Tom Vanderwell

1 comment

Is Excess Still A Value Proposition?


A little bit of honey cake for Desdemona as she makes her last escape

We’re going to lose Desdemona, our English Coon Hound, tonight. She’s been with us for more than ten years, and she was an adult when we adopted her. A long life for a big dog.

Desi is by far the smartest dog we’ve ever known, the most willful, the cleverest escape artist, the most vociferous howler. She is maybe six brain cells short of writing angry poetry and howling on stage like the canine version of Tori Amos. There is nothing about this dog that is not astonishing.

This is Desdemona with my son Cameron, a long time ago:

Here’s an encomium Cathleen wrote to Desdemona’s intelligence in September of 2001:

Desdemona’s going to have a sweet year

Because our coon hound, Desdemona, runs away so easily and so tenaciously, we let her stay in the house when we aren’t home. This acknowledges that Desdemona has won the war. Well, of course she has… she won every battle. You’ll recall, she escapes over our 6′ block fence, even after we added an electric wire to the top; even when we strapped her into a full body harness and tethered her; even when we tethered her at both her collar and her harness and attached the two together; even when we put her into a kennel and tethered her at both her harness and collar and ran the two cables out of separate sides of the kennel; even when we drugged her.

The only thing she couldn’t escape from was a $200 solid plastic shell of a kennel, but after a few times in that box she learned how to splay herself so that anyone who tried to stuff her into the kennel came out of the box bloody and Desi, of course, never came close to going in. So, after spending about $600 on gadgets guaranteed to keep dogs where they’re supposed to be, Desdemona won the war and now gets to stay in the house when we’re not at home.

The spoils of war include more than the simple luxury of staying indoors. They include staying indoors unsupervised! Which means we’ve had to make changes in how and where we store garbage. And we’re sure she terrorizes the cats, and we’re sure she bounds from one piece of out-of-bounds furniture to another.

Now Desdemona no longer becomes anxious when she sees us prepare to leave. Now, when we put the other three dogs outside and we’re wearing clothes that she recognizes as "going out" clothes, she gets into position where she can watch the door, but not close enough to try to run out of it, and smiles. Desdemona never smiled before she won the war. In fact, we didn’t believe she could smile.

Now, Desdemona is a very happy dog. Yesterday got even better. Yesterday at lunch, Tamra and I went to a Jewish deli and we each bought a honey cake for Rosh Hashanah. We eat honey cakes this season to start our year out right, sweetly. When I brought the wrapped cake home last night I put it away where we always store our bread, which has always been a safe place. Of course, you know how the story ends. When we got home last night, we learned that the safe place is not really all that safe… and Desdemona was smiling.

Happy New Year!

One Christmas I had made peanut butter cookies and left them on the same counter. When we came home, not only had Desdemona stolen the cookies, she had eaten them in front of the sliding glass door, so that the other dogs would know she was getting the treat and they weren’t.

I learn a lot from our dogs. They’re the perfect little epistemological laboratory, willing, helpful — and conceptually clueless. They are god’s original cargo cultists, and they illuminate the idea that, while the seed of the Greeks inheres in homo sapiens genetically, the Greek mind requires cultivation. In any case, this is an essay I wrote in 2001 about Desdemona’s outsized willfulness:

Apprehending willful Desdemona

We have four dogs, all big, all beautiful, all very smart, all very willful. The smartest and most willful of the four is Desdemona, a big white English Coon Hound, 65 pounds, all very willful muscle.

There are two ways out of our house. One way leads to the back yard, where the dogs can run, play, snooze, urinate and defecate. The yard is circumvallated by a six-foot block wall. The other way leads the vast, unwalled, scent-rich great big world outside. Most significantly to all of the dogs, it leads to the cars.

Desdemona hates the back yard.

Desdemona loves to ride in the car.

Even people who have dogs do not at first understand the depth and vigor and undiluted purity of Desdemona’s hating and loving. Unless she has to pee very badly, Desdemona almost always has to be dragged to the back door to get her to go outside. And if we leave her there too long — where too long can be less than a minute — she leaps over that six foot block wall and sails forth to explore that vast, unwalled, scent-rich great big world outside.

On the other hand, before I have one leg all the way into a pair of trousers, Desdemona will have figured out that I am going out, and she will be leaping and scampering and howling playfully, campaigning to be taken along. When I put my wallet and keys in my pockets, her frenzy increases, since she is that much more certain that I am going. If I put the other dogs out, she leaps to the next level of excitation, since whatever is the dog-analog of implication is that she’s going and they’re staying. She becomes uncontainable when I lay my hand on a lead, since that is proof positive that she is going to get to go.

Desdemona loves to ride in the car.

The epistemology of this is all pattern-matching, of course. Desdemona does not reason in any sense that would apply to human beings, she simply has a good memory of what happened in the past subsequent to certain recalled events. For this reason, even though we often desperately want for her to go to the back yard — for example, to pee so that we can go to bed without fearing for the carpets — we do not ever "trick" her by presenting stimuli that will lead her to believe she’s going out the front door and not the back. Sometimes this means that Desdemona gets to go for a ride at ten o’clock at night; she hides from us until she knows which door she’ll be going out.

Interestingly, she can distinguish between these two very similar exhortations:

Desdemona, do you want to go outside?

Desdemona, do you want to go for a ride?

Say the first and she will squirrel herself all the way back into the corner under my son’s bed. Say the second and she’ll scoot her way out in an instant and leap and yelp until she gets to go for a ride.

The point is not her epistemology. The point is her will. I have zero doubt that Desdemona has will, which reflects her desires, which reflects her values and disvalues. She cannot conceptualize, and thus her will is not free in the way we speak of free will among human beings (and that freedom of will is not biological in origin but is nurtured into being only by human upbringing). Free will is an attribute of the human brain, but will itself — desire, value, disvalue, emotional expression — is a mammal-brain phenomenon. This is why pre-conceptual children and genetic homo sapiens raised by animals are able to express will even when they are unable to express any concepts.

Now that we understand Desdemona, I must ask you to excuse me. I have to run out and retrieve my dog.

She’s always been the hardest of our dogs to love. Whoever raised her showed her no affection, so she never learned how to express it. She glommed onto me as her alpha when we found her. But she is not herself a true alpha bitch, so she spent her entire life with us competing with the other bitches, mainly Shyly, for dominance. Shyly kicked the shit out of her twice, and after that they learned to get along. But she has never tired of bossing Ophelia around — but Ophelia is just omega enough to put up with it. Nevertheless, Desdemona has never been at home except with us, and she gave up running away a long time ago. Hall-monitor, schedule-keeper, the Barney Fife of our menagerie. I know it’s only pattern-matching, but the damn dog can tell time. I can’t imagine that we’ll ever meet a smarter animal.

And she’s done. She’s been fading for months, wheezing for weeks. Since last night, she’s been splayed in one spot in the hallway. She wouldn’t eat this morning. If she doesn’t improve today, tonight she will make her final escape. She’s been with us for so long I can’t imagine what life will be like without her. The dynamic will change. The other dogs will play more playfully with Desi gone, and that’s sad. She was never anybody’s favorite dog, never anyone’s “pet,” and that’s even sadder. But she was always herself, always a thing unto her own — never really comfortable, never truly at her ease, but as satisfied as she could be to be the smartest dog, the most willful, the cleverest escape artist, the most vociferous howler.

Rest in peace, Desdemona. You’ve earned it.


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