There’s always something to howl about

Archive for November, 2009

The end of the MLS as we know it? (Part: 546)

A few of the comments on my last post about the moves Google seems to be making in the direction of a more robust National Real Estate search have focused on what this means for MLS.

The consensus (hope?) is that Google’s move in that direction, as well as RPR, are bad news for MLS.

Maybe. Probably. But not necessarily so: There is a case to be made for the value of the local MLS in terms of Quality Assurance.

Google wants to index information, not create or validate it (think automation vs manual processes), but if Google Real Estate were riddled with inaccurate listing data, if users were consistently finding listings that are no longer for sale or that have the wrong price, that would degrade the user experience, and that is probably more important to Google than anything else, which may explain why they haven’t, and might not, leverage their position as the conduit through which most real estate traffic flows by creating a Google MLS.

The way it works now, Google’s RE data, accurate or not, leads to sites where changes entered into MLS are quickly reflected. MLS also ensures that only its members contribute listings, so there is some vetting there, as well. As a source of QA that Google does not have to set up and manage itself, the local MLS serves a purpose.

The problem is that lots of MLSs are not going to be happy with going back to their original, limited role of organizing a local market among brokers. They will be loathe to give up on the idea of “adding value” (IOW justifying fees) with things like public-facing Web sites. They also, in many cases, see themselves as a bulwark against change that they don’t like, hence their role as the enforcers of rules meant to “protect” the traditional industry — to the detriment of consumers.

(Exhibit A: MIBOR’s attempt to use NAR IDX rules to label Google a “scraper”.)

As long as that is the case, we are stuck with the balkanized, inefficient and anti-consumer “system” we have now, and that is what makes it ripe for Google to dis-intermediate it.

MLSs could save themselves by working with Google (and RPR for that matter) as the guardians of the upload, but if history is any guide, they won’t. Instead, they will assume that the status quo is unassailable, that they “own” the upload and the data it brings, will use that position to obstruct the free flow of information as long as they can, and then will wonder why their membership abandons them (the way advertisers abandoned newspapers) when Google (and perhaps RPR) open a FREE upload channel around them like the one I sketched out in my last post.

It is literally the nature of the network to route around obstacles, as the music and newspaper industries (although Rupert Murdoch still doesn’t get it as he is trying to stuff the denture cream back into the tube) have discovered, but my bet is that the MLSs, dominated by people in Murdoch’s demographic, will make the same mistake.


‘Maybe’ kills our careers one letter at a time.

I have been selling real estate for a while now. Not as long as many of you who are frequent contributors or readers here, though. When I got started in real estate, it was the outcome of my last falling out with Corporate America. What my last experience with working for someone else finally taught me is that I am unemployable. I am a great worker; I have a constant flow of ideas that would be of potential value to a business. I simply do not play well with others who are in positions of responsibility and who insist on being a choke point either for my career or for the flow of good ideas to benefit the company. I experience many of the same frustrations in real estate, but at least in real estate I am free to move myself into alignment with others of like mind. I find the choke points to be less restrictive and the potential for personal growth and development to be unlimited.

When I earned my real estate salespersons license (what the State of Washington calls me) I thought that the business would be simple. Just tell people that I am selling real estate and they would say “well, we need to have you help us.” What I found out very quickly was that EVERYBODY knew a Realtor. I was constantly being told “Oh, that’s great but <Insert name here> is selling real estate too.” That response stopped me dead in my tracks. I know that many of you will respond to me that this response should have never stopped me. You are right it; it no longer does, but it did then. I was terrified of rejection or so I thought. What I found out was that I was terrified of everything but the word “Maybe.” No meant that I was being rejected and my self esteem took another blow beneath the belt (I was also going through the long slow decline of a marriage and self esteem was in short supply). Yes meant that I had to deliver value, and frankly I did not have a clue what value to deliver. Maybe, oh sweet maybe. I could go home and tell my wife “So and so said they might need to sell!” I lived for maybes. I cherished maybes. I nourished maybes. I did not want them to grow into yeses. I did not want them to wither into no’s. I wanted an abundance of maybes in my life.

Then one day when I realized that I could in fact deliver value, and that I was actually someone who knew a bit more than the average barista about real estate, it hit me. I wanted yeses. I was still terrified of nos but I wanted to get to that yes.  I started reading BHB and people like Chris Johnson and Jeff Brown were talking about pounding phones and skinning cats. I read what they had to say, and it seemed like they had no fears. I read what Brian Brady and Russell Shaw had to say. Russell was the first one to say things in a way that I could relate to. Then, over time more and more of the posts made sense to me. Just pick up the phone, call, rinse, repeat, again and again as necessary. I’ve read most of the posts on this site at least once and many of them multiple times. Even Greg Swann’s posts that make my brain hurt! The reason I am a Realtor today is because of the posts here on BHB.

Once I realized that I was wasting my time and working much harder and longer to attract the maybe I was hoping for I started realizing that I needed to move to yes.  The fastest way to yes? Ask the questions that will uncover the yes or the no! Simple right? Well on paper it is. I am great at getting in my own way. I second guess everything including the second guesses. It took me a number of months to move out of my own way and to begin to grow a business that today I am proud of. I’m not yet one of my area’s top producers but I  own and run a business that I am happy with. I have a business plan in place for 2010 and I expect that it will be my best year yet.  All it took was to stop looking for maybes.


Dominating Websearch with Focus

One of the things I picked up from reading Greg’s blog was his desire to dominate the real estate market not in Phoenix, but in particular neighborhoods. Chris Gilgian’s, a 1950s development where I used to live,  the Willo Historic District, and other neighborhoods in downtown Phoenix. 

As a criminal lawyer, it’s a bit different because, at least in North Carolina, the court system is countywide, meaning that anyone arrested for a crime in Wake County will be handled at the same courthouse or go to the same jail, regardless of whether they live in Knightdale or in Apex.  It doesn’t much matter whether they’re a North Raleigh resident or a Cary resident from a lawyer’s perspective.  The case will be handled at the same place.

But for search and ranking purposes, it does matter.  That’s because most people I want as clients have never committed a crime before or have only had traffic or minor misdemeanors.  And because they’re new to the system, they may not realize, when they’re searching for a lawyer, that the system is county wide.  As a consequence they will search for a lawyer in their neighborhood.

That insight – that potential clients will search for an Apex criminal lawyer or a Cary criminal lawyer – has focused my web and marketing approach.  In the first few weeks, I would mention every neighborhood in the community in my posts.  The scattershot approach wasn’t incredibly effective in terms of ranking.

Now I focus my attention on three communities: Cary, Apex, and Raleigh.  Why those communities?  Raleigh is obvious: if I can dominate Raleigh, there’s a lot of business to be had.  But I picked Cary and Apex for four reasons.  These are the wealthiest parts of the county, so people can pay for legal representation.  These are places where a lot of northerners live – the joke about Cary is that it stands for “Containment Area for Relocated Yankees.”  The fact that I also am a northerner is certainly not a negative when interacting with them, and may also be a plus.

In addition, it was clear to me from a search of Google that lawyers in my area were not making a concerted effort to dominate those rankings.  I realized that it would be much easier for me to move up the rankings for Cary or Apex, than Raleigh.  And by dominating those areas, I could dominate Raleigh eventually.

Finally, I live near these areas, so it’s no problem for me to schedule a home visit, which comes across as a real service, especially if someone has had a recent DWI and had his or her license revoked.

My other insight is that while it’s nice to win for “Apex criminal lawyer” or “Cary Criminal Lawyer” (I’m top 10 for both), it’s also good to dominate for specific phrases that people accused of a crime would search for: “Cary DWI Lawyer” and “Apex DWI Lawyer” and also “expungements Apex” and “sex offenses Apex“.  I’m top 10 for them.

For example, one of my first blog posts was about Roman Polanski and tying him into North Carolina’s statutory rape cases.  Another early post was about North Carolina expungement law because Mel Gibson had sought a California expungement. 

Almost immediately, I started getting calls for expungements, and picked up a client charged with a sex offense.  I realized that if someone is accused of a crime, and they’re savvy, they’re going to Google to find out what the crime is.  Or if they’re reading a warrant or citation and want to find out what the abbreviations mean, they’ll google those words as well. For instance, PWISD (Possession with Intent to Sell and Deliver, I’m top ten for that.)

It’s good to dominate those obscure phrases, or crime names, because then you come up for people who actually have been accused of a crime.  These are people who need a lawyer!

So I’ve since written fairly detailed pages defining different crimes, translating the legalese into English, and using a lot of specific phrases that someone would google for if they were accused or had a family member who was accused of a crime.

In addition to getting clients who can pay, I also get clients who are well educated, self-sufficient, and also basically sold on me before I answer the phone.  They know about me, have done websearches on me, have read my website.  One client actually referred to a blog post I had written earlier that day. 

Finally, I don’t care much about “traffic”.  Traffic is meaningless because I don’t advertise on my website.  I make no money from traffic.  I make money from people who are looking for specific services I provide.  If my website gets 100 visitors this month, but 20 of them hire me at $1,000 to $2,000 a case, you do the math. 

The returns on these web marketing efforts have been good.

I opened the doors on my office on October 5. I’ve spent less than $1500 on marketing (by which I mean Google AdWords, purchasing domains, and two WordPress themes). I spend $500 a month on an office.  I decorated my office for under $350.  My major expenses are the $350 ScanSnap scannner that is awesome, my cell phone bill, and $150 a quarter in atty malpractice insurance.

My first three weeks were slow. But since late October I’ve received $8,000 cash money in the bank, have another $8,000 booked (pretty confident it’ll be paid) but not paid. I conservatively expect to clear $20,000 in gross revenue by the end of the year, not including several thousand the State will owe me for taking indigent clients.  That may not seem like a fortune to some of you, but for someone who was considering taking a legal position with a prosecutor or a public defender that would’ve paid me $42,000/year before taxes, let me say that I’m pleased so far with my progress.  I had prepared my wife for me to earn a fraction of that.

I’ve done it by working 80 to 100 hours a week building out websites that are going to pay dividends well into the future.


“Google Places” is a “National Real Estate Search Engine”? Not so much.

…at least not yet.

On Sept 24th when the Google Blog announcement of Google Places was posted, there was no mention of Place Pages for Real Estate:

“A Place Page is a webpage for every place in the world, organizing all the relevant information about it. By every place, we really mean *every* place — there are Place Pages for businesses, points of interest, transit stations, neighborhoods, landmarks and cities all over the world.”

Notice they didn’t say “addresses” or “real estate listings”, but today over on SearchEngineLand,  there is a post by Matt Mcgee titled Google Builds out a National Real Estate Search Engine which features a “Real Estate Listing Place Page”, and several other outlets have picked up on it.

The Place Page that Matt uses as an example does indeed show that there are now Place Pages for listings that Google knows about via Google Base.

A closer look reveals that, at least at this point, this isn’t very different from what Google has done up to now.

The content on the example that Matt from SearchEngineLand used consists of photos from and redundant basic information from that site and two others.

As Real Estate listing pages go, its a hodgepodge with little added value, such as an AVM, or local market info, that you would find on a good IDX site for the same listing. Even’s basic listing page is better. If you want that detailed information Google, as it always has, provides the links back to the original real estate sites.

That makes this an extension of Google organic results, nothing more.

As a stand-alone listing detail page as opposed to the beefed-up search result page that it is, this “Real Estate Listing Place Page” is pretty half-assed by Google’s standards, which may be why Place Pages for real estate are currently hard to find.

I tried entering the address from Matt’s example in Google Maps, without putting the /realestate after the address, and was not offered the “more info” link that leads to the Place Page, even though we know it exists.

Then I tried entering the address on my new Droid (yes it rocks!) and, again, no real estate listing information was provided.

I also tried the address of a listing near me here in Newport RI — same thing, no link to a Place Page.

But when I tried the name of a business that operates on the street level of my building, Infant Interiors in Newport RI,  the “more info” link pops right up. I did not have to go to some sub-site of Google Maps, like /business, that no consumer has ever heard of.

And this is where it gets interesting, because Google provides business owners with a procedure for claiming and then editing information about their businesses right on the Place Page.

The “edit this place” link is conspicuously absent on the Real Estate listing Place Page.

Now HERE is the blueprint for how Google could, if they wanted to (and it is not clear that they do), make life miserable for NAR, local MLSes,, Trulia, franchise operated sites and IDX vendors.

Business owners who click on the “edit” link that is offered on Place Pages are taken to the “Local Business Center” — which is where you go if you want to correct information that often appears at the top of Google organic results:


OK, now let’s make this the first step in the Google MLS process:


  1. This becomes “Edit my Property”
  2. In addition to the address, this could summarize the asking price, basic details, and perhaps agent info if the property owner chooses to give an agent access to this profile in much the same way you can add users to a Google Analytics account.
  3. This is the current validation scheme. Snail mail. Really, Google? Clearly, they could come up with something better and faster (SMS to a wireless # whose billing address matches the property perhaps?)

Notice that on the Place Page for Infant Interiors, people can add reviews, like the one I just wrote there.  If Google went this route for real estate, I doubt they would allow a homeowner, or agent, to have any control over the content anyone else adds, just like they aren’t giving the owner of Infant Interiors a way to delete bad reviews.

That is quite the opposite of the asinine opt out of 3rd party comments and AVM  that NAR just added to IDX policy, isn’t it?

What’s to stop Google from aggregating all the public data that Zillow or RPR use and adding that to the mix? Maybe they would just buy Zillow and be done with it.

Given that option, it’s easy to see how people, who are as distrustful of real estate agents as they have ever been in the wake of housing bubble, might migrate to a real estate information platform that is outside the industry’s control and has the added benefit of the familiar Google user experience.

When Google puts something like this out there, THEN its time to freak out if you are NAR, a local MLS, Move Inc, an IDX vendor, etc..

Until then, enjoy the borrowed time.


About the TechnoGeek Cell Phone Debate

I love it when I’m able to read or witness geeks debating the finer points of TechnoGibberish. Seems most have never learned they’re in the <1% category about which most technology consumers couldn’t give less of a @#%&. 🙂

Though I harbor genuine and deep respect for those of you who’re able to help us TechTards, there are so few of them who actually DO help. It’s funny to watch, over time, as the vast majority of their ‘can’t miss’ predictions die ugly, without even an audible whimper from TechTards.

I bring this up in order to send you to a post I just read which has the most interestingly informing comment thread I’ve recently had the pleasure to read. I’d love to hear what the Bloodhound TechnoGeek posse has to say about the post, but am far more interested in hearing what they have to say about the comments.

For me, the comments were at times a revelation. I urge you to read every last comment — as I was riveted as various ‘sub-threads’ emerged. But then I’m just a TechTard, right?

Here’s the link — I and my fellow TechTards will be waiting to hear from you guys.

Much thanks in advance for your TechTake.


Another 25%? Ouch, that’s going to leave a mark…..

Okay, a couple of things that this chart assumes:

  • That from 1975 to 1999 was “normal” enough to indicate a statistical trend.   I think the case could be made that it was.
  • That we’re going to eventually get back to that trend line.    I think a case could be made that we will.
  • If both of those assumptions are indeed correct, then we’re heading into a scenario where we have quite an adjustment to go through in terms of a drop in peak housing values until we are back into range with that statistical trend.

What do you think?   Tell me why you think he’s wrong……

Tom Vanderwell

Values Have Dropped Only 25% of the Fall Needed to Reach Trend «

PRICE TRENDS / WAR OF THE WORLDS (Part 4): Property owners nationwide have lost only one dollar for every four dollars they can ultimately expect to lose on their home.

The good news according to the leading data series issued by the United States government is that prices have only fallen 6 percent. If you are a homeowner, you are wealthier than you knew. The bad news is you still have three dollars to lose for every one dollar which has already been lost.

The total projected fall from the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) “All Transactions Index”, which begins in 1975, shows a peak-to-trend fall of 27%. Since prices are 6% lower by this measure, prices must still fall an additional 23% from today for prices to revert to trend.

The assumption built into these estimates is that prices in the years 1975 to 1999 advanced at a typical rate. A trend line was generated to the present based upon that 25-year period. The chart depicts the divergence of the trend established from 1975 to 1999 and the actual prices recorded from 2000 to 2009.

The FHFA prediction of a total fall of 27% is far less than the total fall of between 49% to 60% predicted by Case-Shiller. Based upon the four data sets reviewed in the last few weeks (see summary below), we can estimate a total fall of between 27% to 60% from the bubble top to the long-term trend. The average of the four indexes projects a total fall of 41% from the bubble high to the trend bottom.

Looking ahead from today, the average of the four indexes predicts that property values will fall 26% from our current price levels.


Motorola Droid: First Impressions

As I mentioned here earlier this week, I’ve been thinking about switching to a different network.  Love the iPhone, but am completely unimpressed with AT&T’s network.  So I went into a Verizon store to look at the Droid over the weekend, and then bought one after work at BestBuy on Monday. 

I did the transaction at BestBuy because you get the rebate immediately, instead of having to cut off the label from the box and send it in to Verizon if you were to buy the phone at the Verizon store. 

The phone itself is quite nice.  If I hadn’t been spoiled on the iPhone, it would be the best phone I’ve played with or had.  I’ve had a couple of Blackberries, used by wife’s Motorola Q.  I haven’t used a recent Palm, so can’t compare it to that.

Verizon has a superior network.  The call quality is night and day.  The calls are crisp, the 3G network is fast, and phone calls have not been dropped in the past three two plus days.  That’s a huge improvement over AT&T, which would’ve dropped at least 2 or 3 of those calls.

As for the phone: On the upside, the physical keyboard (in addition to a virtual keyboard), while not very good, is nice to have. The keyboard is too flat, so it makes finding the right keys hard. There are many free apps, and they’re pretty good quality.  If you use Google and Gmail for your email, contacts, and calendar, the integration is seamless.  Even Facebook contacts are properly synched.  Google Voice works great, and because I’m now on a fast network, the call quality between Google Voice and the regular phone isn’t different.

I got the 16 gig version, but thankfully I can swap out the 16 gig SD card in the future for a 32 gig card if I ever want to expand the memory on the phone.  If I bought an iPhone, I’d have to buy a whole new phone to increase the capacity. 32 gig SD cards now run at about $90 to $100, so they’re not cheap, but the price will come down and I’ll do that next year. 

Unfortunately applications have to be stored in the phone’s native 500 meg memory.  That’s not a huge limitation for me, since at no time in owning the iPhone with it’s 100,000 apps did I use more than 200 meg of memory.  So I’m assuming that I won’t really run up against that limitation here.

Here’s one of the best features, which I haven’t fully explored yet.  Google includes turn-by-turn GPS navigation.  I used it last night and it was great – better than my wife’s Garmin.  It even displays the street view at the end of your trip so you can see where you should’ve arrived.  It did have trouble finding the Verizon store last night, however, but the store is brand new and may not be in Google Maps yet.

Applications run fast, and run in the background.  This is an improvement over my iPhone 3G which could take a while to launch an application, and which could not run applications in background.

The removable battery is nice, so I don’t need to send the phone into the manufacturer to replace the battery, and so that I can buy an additional battery and swap it out if the battery life doesn’t suit my needs.

On the downside, the software lacks polish.  The same button may not work the same way across applications, the applications vary in quality and so don’t all run as they should, there are only three home screens of possible apps (instead of iPhone’s 11), the phone is not seamlessly compatible with my Mac (iTunes) although there are workarounds. In addition, processes can build up in the background, requiring you to kill them.

Some people will like that last point – you can theoretically have finer grained control over the phone.  But for most people, that’s just going to be a nuisance.  Think of the iPhone as being… well a Mac, and Android being slightly closer to a Unix box in the way you have control, but also the way you need to know how to control the phone.


Taking the Genius of Brian Brady to the Next Level: How to Pipe Linked In Network Updates Into Your Feed Reader

In the spirit of my #1 Bloodhound Blog Unchained takeaway, here’s a 70% ready-to-roll video.  Brian Brady was kind enough to teach me his brilliant way of leveraging Linked In to establish new relationships.  I haven’t been executing the Brady Principles consistently enough.  Check out a little something-something I stumbled upon (no pun intended) today:

Here are some related links if you’d like to learn more about Brian Brady’s Linked In techniques or Google Reader:

Brian Brady Training on Linked In (awesome webinar we recorded in March)

Google Reader vs. Twitter Lists (why I disagree with a recent article Scoble wrote vs. Google Reader)

Introduction to Google Reader (great article by Mark Madsen, fellow BHB contributor)


Further thoughts — mostly non-thoughts — on RPR

Reacting to John Rowles’ post, Jim Duncan has been talking about the RPR idea for years, and I read a little more about it today, having been tipped over the weekend by Tom Johnson. My take: Yawn.

RPR is not the generals fighting the last war, but the war before that. Apparently, the NAR still believes that the added value of real estate representation comes from hoarding data. RPR is their attempt to put a new fence around the data, having let the last set of barriers fall to and to IDX.

It’s twice funny to me, because not only is that war already well won — by the consumer — so is the true last war, the Battle of the Realty.bots. After all of this chatter, none of this shit has turned out to mean anything in real life.

I mean nothing. I’m convinced by now that no one who does not actually represent buyers and sellers has any clue about what is going on in the real estate market. We don’t search for listings — our clients do — and our position is stronger than ever. We post our listings wherever we can — and our position is stronger than ever.

I’m no friend to any restraint or restriction on trade, but buying or selling a home is a lot more complicated than it was four years ago. Our clients don’t need flashy web sites, they need agents who know how to navigate the shoals of the transaction.

RPR, MLS, VOW, IDX — all of this goes away when we do away with the co-broke. In the mean time, it’s deck chairs on the Titanic, at best, one more dipshit time-wasting “tool” to mask sales-call reluctance.

Notes for the grunts on the ground:

1. Motivated buyers and sellers will not go through a middleman in the early phases of their search. This is 1974-style thinking from the NAR.

2. Motivated buyers and sellers don’t care how they found you. They care about what they found: Do you know your shit? Can you deliver the product? Is your word any good?

3. Whether or not the information you have is better than the information they have is meaningless — to them — until they have resolved to rely on your judgment.

Ergo: There ain’t no substitute for salesmanship.

I’ll play with this toy when it comes around, but that’s because I’ll play with anything. My IDX software is the same as my MLS software (FlexMLS from FBS), and so my clients are searching from the exact same database I use. This is a huge marketing benefit, one that will not be easily replaced.

Even so, the notion of a national MLS is absurd, so it’s most likely purpose is not to re-enslave the data (impossible), but, rather, to attempt to re-enslave the agents. Even that objective would seem to be doomed to failure, but it’s another problem easily corrected by getting rid of the co-broke.

Meanwhile: I don’t care.


Mortgage Market Update on BlogTalk Radio

I believe many Bloodhound readers will find this weekly radio program hosted by David Lykken of value. On this weeks show, Alice AlveyJoe Farr and Tony Gallegos provide the inside scoop and up-to-the-minute information regarding interest rates, loan programs and “hot” industry news related to the mortgage industry specifically addressing the following topics:

  • MBS and Market update
  • Inflationary concerns
  • Fed participation in secondary market
  • Legislative updates
  • Latest on RESPA and GFE…specifically addressing broker channel issues
  • Update on FHA broker approval (mini-eagle) process…what is expected
  • Credit risk…why underwriting is tightening and when is will contract

I hope you enjoy!



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Purposeful Living Is Living For Real

Such a simple phrase, yet apparently so difficult to execute. Agreeing with myself on what my purposes are was at the same time a task easily accomplished, and reminiscent of a root canal. Once they’re established, any goal flowing from them will almost always be accomplished. The importance of having purpose in our lives can’t be overstated.

I learned about purpose by analogy. Purpose is a map — any destination on the map, if we choose to go there, is a goal. The reason goals aren’t achieved, the root cause, is because the goal’s ‘destination’ isn’t on any of the ‘maps’ of the person’s purposes. If your goal is to go to Canada, but none of your maps include that country, it’s highly unlikely you’ll find your way there.

Experts have devised several methods to help folks discover their purposes. Frankly, I’ve always shied away from the concept of ‘discovering’ a purpose, as I’ve always inferred that to mean it was always there, so not necessarily my choice. We can decide at any time to change our main purpose for existence. One of the extreme examples of this truth was the Biblical story of Paul. In the story he not only radically altered his purpose, but reversed it — becoming the world’s strongest advocate for what he’d previously did his utmost to destroy.

So understand, the excuse for not having a guiding purpose cuz ya can’t ‘discover’ it is lame beyond description. We all decide what our purpose in life is, whether it’s a proactive decision or not. Furthermore, having that purpose will not only cause goals to be far more easily achievable, but will generate the goals resonating with the purpose itself. Who’d a thunk?

I don’t advocate any particular method to decide your purpose. Some write down purposes ’till one hits home. Some go to a quiet place and meditate, some even consult experts from different disciplines. It doesn’t matter as long as it produces a purpose with which you’re both at peace and big time excited.

There’s very little in the world more powerful than a purpose driven goal — unless it’s a purpose driven human being.

Your purpose is your map — are you trying to get places not on your current map? Are you living a purpose not of your own choosing? Are you constantly in flux cuz you simply don’t realize your goals are totally incongruent, if not in conflict with your purpose — stated or not?

When setting goals for your business, what’s your track record? It’s one thing to fail cuz your plan/strategy/execution was iffy. Failing due to setting goals in direct opposition to your purpose is self sabotage at it’s most elegant. A goal in misalignment with your stated purpose is maybe one of the most effective Trojan Horses ever. The irony is it was inserted inside your ‘city walls’ by you — guaranteed to fail from Day 1.

I review what I call my ‘umbrella’ purpose annually. It hasn’t changed since I set it in stone back in the ’70’s. The purposes safely underneath have though. This year I’ve deleted all of them in favor of one that seemed to be speaking to me every time I thought of the concept of purpose. I relaxed whenever it came to mind. It’s now, in fact, almost a tag line to my umbrella purpose. Sorry, but unlike some others, I tend to keep my purposes to myself. It’s not that I think it’s wrong to share one’s life purpose. It’s just that it’s not me.

I will share one thing — knowing my overriding umbrella purpose — the one whose approval I need to do anything in life — is part of my DNA, makes all the difference in the world. Take time out to name yours and see what a difference it makes.

One of the key differences in the purpose driven life, is how many decisions simply don’t hafta be made. They make themselves. When it becomes part of who you are, it becomes almost painful to establish a goal (much less work towards it) when it’s not aligned with your purpose for getting up every day.

Though downright hard times hit all of us, those with a crystal clear purpose in life experience far less stress, at least in my personal experience and observation of others. It may be your turn to take the E-Ticket ride in Murphy’s Barrel, but as a consequence of living a purposeful life, you won’t lose your way. Knowing in your heart of hearts the ultimate destination — driven by your purpose — seems to be a natural salve for the road rash caused by ‘Life Happens’.

Learn for yourself — Purposeful Living isn’t just a catchy phrase. It’s living for real.

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As RPR hits, NAR (finally) Concedes that Google isn’t a “Scraper”

get used to it

I attended the NAR convention in San Diego over the weekend and this banner caught my eye. It just seemed oddly Orwellian to me, as if NAR were subliminally planting the idea. As it turns out, that was not far from the truth.

The IDX rules have been updated to explicitly allow indexing by search engines, defeating the Indianapolis BoR’s attempt to use the old rules to prevent brokers and agents from using IDX data in SEO.

This time around, apparently, there was no parliamentary chicanery to delay the obvious. On the other hand, they did add an explicit opt-out for sellers who don’t want AVMs or third-party comments, or links to that content, associated with their listings.

It would be funny if it weren’t so frustrating: Obviously, they are aware that there is this technology called a “search engine” that makes it easy to find stuff, because they just endorsed a rule that acknowledges what the rest of the world figured out in 1995 — that search engines are useful.

Then they pivot and give sellers the right to censor information about their listings, but only on sites that use IDX data, meaning that those AVMs and third party comments are just a quick search away on sites like Zillow and Trulia. All this does is give people a reason to leave the broker or agent’s site to go and find the information they want on a site that is not bound by these idiotic rules.

Not that it will matter for much longer. With RPR, NAR itself is getting into the AVM game and, if you believe the nightmares of some local MLS directors, taking a concrete step towards a national MLS. If the reality matches the spin, they may be able to improve AVMs by adding information contributed by the membership, an idea they call the “Realtor Valuation Model”.

What’s missing is MLS data, at least for now. Done right, blending current and historical MLS data in with all the public data and combining that with an ability for brokers and agents to add their 2 cents would produce a much more accurate, and consistent, picture of real estate value, which means that MLSs have a choice to make: Play ball or don’t.

I’m fully aware of Greg’s opinion of NAR and its origins as a “criminal conspiracy against consumers” and he has a point, but if NAR has decided to hobble the ability of local MLSs to use their rule-making authority to fend off technology that they fear, then that is a good thing . As it stands, the end result of the current MLS system is the balkanization of real estate data and all these internecine squabbles like the MIBOR thing that do nothing to help brokers, agents, sellers or buyers.

Maybe, just maybe, the NAR has come to the conclusion that the MLSs, like the Sunnis in Anbar, need to make a choice — either you are with us or you are a terrorist. If you are with us, there will be benefits, if you are against us, not so much.

As Brian Boero points out, there are so many layers to this that, if it were an onion, it would be the size of Rush Limbaugh’s head, but one thing was obvious this weekend in San Diego and it was the extra padding that some of the MLS people had in their pants from the diaper they had to wear to prevent their loosened bowels from embarrassing them at the Reba concert.

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How can a flat and dusty bumpkintopia like Texas outgrow a paradise on earth like California?

A clip from a fascinating City Journal article on the differences in taxes and services among the states and how that affects growth:

If California doesn’t want to be Texas, it must find a way to be a better California. The easy thing about being Texas is that the government has a great deal of control over the part of its package deal that attracts consumer-voters—it must merely keep taxes low. California, on the other hand, must deliver on the high benefits promised in its sales pitch. It won’t be enough for its state and local governments to spend a lot of money; they have to spend it efficiently and effectively.

The optimistic assessment is that things are going to get worse in California before they get better. The pessimistic assessment is that they’re going to get worse before they get much worse. As is often the case, hanging around with the pessimists is less fun but more instructive. The current recession has driven California’s state government into what amounts to a five-month budget cycle, according to Dan Walters of the Sacramento Bee. He estimates that the budget deal tortuously wrought in July should start falling apart in October, because it was predicated on pie-in-the-sky revenue estimates and because so many of its spending cuts are being challenged, often successfully, in the courts.

The recession will eventually end and California’s finances will improve, say the optimists. Given the state’s pervasive political bias against efficient and effective public services, however, the question is whether its finances will ever get truly well. States that have grown accustomed to thinking of the engine that drives their economies as an inexhaustible resource—whether it’s Michigan and the auto industry, New York and Wall Street, or California and the vision of the sunlit good life that used to attract new residents—find it tough to compete again for what they thought would be theirs forever, and to plan budgets for lean years that turn into lean decades. Instead, they invest their hopes in a deus ex machina that will rescue them from the hard choices they dread.

For California’s governmental-industrial complex, a new liberal administration and Congress in Washington offer plausible hope for a happy Hollywood ending. Federal aid will replace the dollars that California’s taxpayers, fed up with the state’s lousy benefits and high taxes, refuse to provide. Americans will continue to vote with their feet, either by leaving California or disdaining relocation there, but their votes won’t matter, at least in the short term. Under the coming bailout, the new 49ers—Americans in the other 49 states, that is—will be extended the privilege of paying California’s taxes. At least they won’t have to put up with its public services.


Giving up the iPhone for the Droid?

Updates Below 11/16/09

I live in the far suburbs (bordering on rural) of Raleigh, and have had the iPhone 3G (not the latest 3GS) since April.  I mostly love it. It integrates well with gmail, where I maintain my contacts.  It has a few really nice apps that make life easier.  And the design is very nice and intuitive. In fact, I’m in discussions with some folks from Bangalore about building an app for the iPhone that relates to part of my law practice. 

But AT&T’s network is terrible.  Lately I’ve been dropping two or three calls a day.  Back before I started my practice, it was mostly just annoying.  Now it’s getting to the point where it’s interfering with business.  On Friday, when I was in the midst of a major issue with a client, I dropped at least six calls. 

AT&T hooked me up with a new SIM card this weekend, and I went to the Apple store where they exchanged the iPhone with a new one.  But I dropped another two calls today.

So I’m thinking about switching to Verizon.  The Motorola Droid is out, and I played around with it today at the Verizon store.  I’ve gotten so used to the high quality of Apple software, that I was somewhat disappointed by the way the Droid moved from application to application and the fact that the same button did not have the same effect in each application. 

So I’m going to stick it out for a week with the iPhone.  If I continue to have phone troubles this week, I’m going to switch.

It’s unfortunate, because the iPhone has been great for me. But dropped calls are not acceptable.  If you’ve got some thoughts on a Verizon phone – Blackberry, Motorola Droid or Palm – that you love, let me know.  The Droid is appealing because of the open framework and the fact that apps are going to be developed for it in great quantities.

And if you know how to write an iPhone App, and are interested in having me pay you to write a simple one for my business, let me know!


Walt Mossberg of the WSJ has a mostly positive review of the Motorola Droid. As does David Pogue of the NYT.

Gizmodo says “If you don’t buy an iPhone, buy a Droid.


33 Quality Touches for Real Estate Agents

In Gary Keller and Dave Jenks’ game changing book “The Millionaire Real Estate Agent”, the authors recommend a “33-Touch” follow-up system to stay top of mind with “mets”.

Millionaire RE AgentIt was actually a brilliant idea – for Keller.  KW agents immediately began flooding the market with (expensive) calendars, post cards, and chotchkies – building the Keller Williams brand in the process.  While Century 21 squandered ad dollars sponsoring the MLB All Star Game and RE/Max floated its balloon on expensive and largely ineffective national TV ad buys, Keller Williams gained market share without spending a corporate dime.

Back in 2004, when the book was published, I felt strongly that 33 annual touches was too high a frequency for real estate professionals.  But that was before I started exploring social media.  Today, it’s very conceivable for a real estate agent to reach their database with 33 quality touches per year.  Below, I’ve mapped out a sample 33-touch program.

Postal Mail:  5 touches

Direct mail is relatively expensive when compared to some of the vehicles we’ll discuss below – but I still believe it should be a core component in any CRM campaign.  Of critical importance – your direct mail efforts need to look and feel as if they are “one-to-one” correspondences.  I have never preferred post cards and “newsletters” because they are clearly mass-mailing efforts.  We want your contacts to believe that you specifically thought of them when we reach them via direct mail.  Direct mail ideas:

  • Birthday cards for the client and co-client
  • Thanksgiving card (rather than the stale holiday card approach)
  • Market updates (make these a mail-merged professional letter, not a bulk-mail blast)
  • Announcements (invites to charity events, new hires, testimonials/case studies, etc)

E-mail:  12 touches

I’ve written a few articles about the trials and tribulations of email marketing on the Top of Mind Blog – all of which boil down to common sense.  Email is cheap and easy.  This low barrier to entry creates more and more emails being dumped into our inbox every day.  Clutter is a marketer’s worst enemy.  Your email correspondences must meet an extremely high bar in order to maintain readership and response over the long haul.  Here’s our email approach at Top of Mind – please note that our program is built for mortgage professionals, but I still think these principles could apply for real estate professionals:

  • Quarterly Neighborhood Home Sales Reports (every 90 days we advise each contact on what homes sold within a 1/4 mile radius from their home)
  • Quarterly Mortgage Checkups (advises each client how their mortgage is performing vs. market conditions)
  • Beyond the Media (aims to debunk the doom and gloom consumers are bombarded with in the mainstream media, written quarterly)

Phone Calls:  4 touches

Most of us fail, myself included, to actually talk to our past clients frequently enough.  After all, it can be awkward calling a past client who is likely not in the market for our services.  But the beautiful thing about an effective CRM program is it gives us natural, compelling reasons to contact our database by phone.  For example, when you send a community real estate market update, you could simply select 30 clients to follow up with each time with a phone call.  Questions you might ask:

  • Did you receive the letter/email?  (Heck, it’s important for us to ensure that our content is reaching the recipient and is being read!)
  • Did you have any questions or concerns I might be able to address?
  • Might you know anyone who I can help?  (Say, for example if you’ve written about the home-buyer tax credit.)

Web 2.0 – Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, Blogging:  12+ touches

Up to this point, we’re “only” at 21 touches/year… still a long way from Keller’s magic number.  Enter social media and blogging.  It’s virtually impossible to measure how often, say, a Facebook status update is read by a contact in your database… or a blog article.  And I certainly don’t mean to beat a dead horse here… but these vehicles absolutely “work”.  I laughed out loud this morning when I saw Geno’s Facebook entry about his Persian night out.  I know intimately how Brian Brady lives and dies with each Chase Utley at bat.  Above all, social media provides the ideal complement to traditional CRM vehicles because they allow us to connect on a personal level with our database – rather than just on a professional level.  I never liked this expression… but after all we are “buying brain cells” here.

The Glue That Holds Everything Together Is:

Content.  Always has been and always will be.  It’s not enough to “stay in front of” your database anymore.  The ultimate goal is to deepen relationships with your contacts.  Before you hit the send button on a campaign, ask yourself a few questions:

  • Would I see value in this correspondence as a consumer or would I immediately hit the delete button?
  • Is the correspondence about me or is it about the contact I’m sending it to?  What’s in it for the reader?
  • Is this correspondence a “one-to-one” touch point?  Will the recipient believe that I thought of them specifically?

Today, the concept of “33 touches to your database” doesn’t seem so intimidating anymore.  Rather, the challenge becomes providing deeper, more compelling content than your competition.


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