There’s always something to howl about

Archive for February, 2010

Are you an Austrian?

We all banter about terms like the  Keynesian, Chicago and Austrian schools of economics.  I thought it might be informative to share this little quiz.  Since football is finished, here is your weekend diversion.

Click here to find out

For the record, I am a  B+ Austrian.

Ja Wohl!


Dual Agency Smack-Down: Real estate in real life . . .

Kicking this back up to the top. I wrote this on November 19th, 2006, but nothing has changed since then. But, as it happens, our friends at Agent Shortbus have taken up the topic of dual agency, albeit without reference to anything rigorous or dispositive. We have a whole category devoted to dual agency, and some very interesting Bloodhounds have weighed in on the topic, over the years. I think I’ve written more on the subject than anyone — possibly more than anyone, ever — but this one post is the giant-killer on dual agency.

So: While our #RTBar-buddies are telling are telling you that dual agency feels just as good to them as a healthy bowel movement, this post explains — in painstaking detail — why disclosed dual agency cannot possibly be effected without persistent, repeated, egregious agency violations against both principals to the transaction.

Don’t doubt my gratitude, though. I love the #RTB marketing message: A “professional” Realtor won’t do open houses, but he will take a double dip when the opportunity presents itself. I cannot think of a better way of selling our own high standards than for our competitors to be so forthcoming about their self-serving “professionalism.” Very nice.

Anyway, even though every bit of this is painfully obvious, here is why even a properly disclosed dual agency is unethical.


Addressing Jeff Brown’s claim that Dual Agency is more about perception than reality, and Russell Shaw’s contention that clients do what they intend to do, rather than what their agents advise them to do, let’s go buy a house and see what happens.

I’m going to split my personality in thirds (I have plenty to go around). Realtor Gregory is going to represent the buyers. Realtor Stephen is going to represent the sellers. Then we’re going to reexamine events from the point of view of Dual Agency, with Realtor Swann representing both parties in a Disclosed Dual Agency.

So: Realtor Gregory is out showing homes with his party and they settle on one they like, listed by Realtor Stephen. Because it’s a buyer’s market, and because the buyers aren’t very well-prepared, they don’t write a contract right away.

What’s the best day to write an offer? Tuesday, in principle, but the absolute best day is the first Tuesday after the first of the month. The buyers have never given this a second thought, but it’s Realtor Gregory’s job to know.

He sends them to Logan Hall of SallieMae Home Loans. Why? Because, although they have good credit and good incomes, they have no cash. Logan can write a fast 80/20 loan with very low closing costs.

When they finally write the offer, Realtor Gregory recommends a structure like this: List price less five percent with an additional three percent coming back to the buyers as closing costs. (Who actually pays those closing costs? The buyers. They borrow three percent more than they would have if they had taken the whole discount off the price.)

What’s the closing date? Again the buyers have never, ever thought about it, but it’s Realtor Gregory’s job to know. The buyers are in a lease until the end of January, and obviously they would want to limit the number of days they pay for two homes. But: Mortgage interest is paid in arrears. If the buyers close very late in the month, they will pay a small amount for those few days of interest, and then their next payment will not come until March 1st — a nice breather. Closing too late in the month is bad because things can slip through the cracks and spill over to the start of the month — which means almost a full month of interest payments in advance. And Realtor Gregory likes to skip Mondays to avoid hangovers and sick days. Ideally, he wants a Tuesday, seven to ten days from the end of the month.

But wait: The buyers are taking three percent in closing costs. Who cares about pre-paid interest? The buyers might not know to care, but Realtor Gregory cares. Logan Hall’s closing costs are so low that he might be able to apply a big chunk of that three percent to buying down the interest rates, leaving the buyers with extra money in their pockets with every monthly payment.

How much in earnest? Five hundred dollars right now, and a free bullet to shoot yourself in the foot with. This is another thing they might do with that three percent seller contribution: Refund the earnest deposit to the buyers at Close of Escrow. They can’t take more money off the table than they put on it, but they can take back every dollar they did bring. And Home Depot will be eating all of their cash for quite a while.

Now this is not a hugely aggressive offer. Buyers are always afraid they’re going to lose their dream house, so rarely are they willing to push things as hard as they might. But: What aggression there is in this offer was put there by Realtor Gregory, not by the buyers. Most of the very subtle ideas the buyers will have known nothing about, until Realtor Gregory explained them.

That’s agency — real, not perceived. It was caused by the agent, not by the clients, who really had no idea how to construct an offer for a home.

Want proof? What could Disclosed Dual Agent Realtor Swann have done in that circumstance? The pricing advice is a violation of the Dual Agency, as is the recommendation to go for closing costs. The advice on when to write the offer and when to close is a violation, as is the advice on how much to offer in earnest. The referral to the lender might be clean, but any direction Realtor Swann give to lender Logan Hall is probably a violation.

Do you see why? Anything that Realtor Swann does to the advantage of his buyers is necessarily done to the disadvantage of his sellers. What’s the best day for them to get an offer? Friday. What’s the best day for them to close? On or before the first five days of next month.

Everything that Realtor Gregory might do, as sole representative of the buyers, Realtor Swann must not do, as Disclosed Dual Agent. This is not a matter of perception, this is a real difference in performance. The buyers can direct Realtor Swann however they wish, but he cannot advise them as to what is to their advantage, and for the most part they do not know. If Realtor Swann is faithful to the limitations of Disclosed Dual Agent, the offer the buyers make for the house will necessarily be substantially worse than the offer written by Realtor Gregory.

Now let’s switch sides and work with Realtor Stephen as he and his sellers weigh what to do about the offer. It might suck eggs, they reflect, but at least it doesn’t suck rotten eggs. They’ve been waiting for four months for an offer, so they know not to scare away a bird in the hand. On the other hand, it’s a long closing period, and the buyers are clearly only marginally qualified. What if the sellers accept the offer, wait two months and then have it fall apart anyway?

Enter the non-refundable earnest deposit. The price is what it is, and the sellers are resigned to either accepting it or staying put for a couple more years. But Realtor Stephen suggests a way to at least take the risk out of taking the offer: Counter, bumping the earnest deposit to $2,500, and making it non-refundable to the buyer at the mutually-satisfactory completion of the repair negotiations. That way, the sellers either cash out in two months or they get $2,500 in compensation for holding the property off the market for those two months.

Inviting Disclosed Dual Agent Realtor Swann back on stage, is the proposal suggested by Realtor Stephen to the advantage of the sellers? You bet. Is it to the disadvantage of the buyers? Hugely. Could Realtor Swann suggest something like that to the sellers? Absolutely not. Is this is real difference, not a matter of perception? Oh, yes. Is it something that sellers are likely to come up with on their own? Not hardly.

Would the buyers be better represented by Realtor Gregory or Realtor Swann?

Would the sellers be better represented by Realtor Stephen or Realtor Swann?

I don’t think there is any counter argument to be made to this. By this demonstration, it is slam dunk obvious that separate representation is better for buyers and sellers, considered separately, than a Disclosed Dual Agency. The only workable way even to achieve Disclosed Dual Agency is by repeated, overt agency violations against either the buyer or the seller, or each in their turn. In other words, you would have to hint at them what to “order” you to do, and each one of those hints would be a betrayal of the interests of the other party.

I don’t think you can gloss over this. I think the pro Dual Agency argument is toast. Disclosed Dual Agency cannot possibly be effected — in reality — without repeated, overt agency violations…

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Fraudulus: Money for Nothing, Tax Credits for free!

Incredibly, the IRS cannot do a lot to stop you, or anybody, from cashing in on the stimulus tax credits.

According to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, the IRS is “unable to verify eligibility for the majority of Recovery Act benefits at the time a tax return is filed.” That doesn’t mean they can’t audit you, but only a small portion of filers are audited.  If audited, you would have to correct any mistakes and you might face penalties.

Understand that the IRS prefers that you file electronically for efficiency reasons.  They rely on taxpayers to provide accurate information.

For example, the inspector general recommended that the IRS require taxpayers to provide documentation to verify first-time homebuyer credit claims, but the IRS said no. Such a requirement, officials said, “would be burdensome and would potentially exclude as many as 2 million taxpayers from electronically filing.”

It wasn’t until the Worker, Homeownership and Business Assistance Act of 2009 was signed into law on Nov. 6 that additional documentation was required for the credit and the IRS was given additional authority with respect to returns that did not include that documentation.

Moreover, the IRS did not have math error authority – meaning that officials are not authorized to check calculations – to stop payment of erroneous credit claims. In essence, the IRS relied on taxpayers to be honest, didn’t require hard documentation and could not check the math on certain credits.

That same article quoted above has a sidebar titled “Getting money you don’t deserve.” It goes through a hypothetical scenario of how the First Time Homebuyer Tax Credit can be scammed for extra benefits.  The limitations of e-filing do not allow the IRS to transfer paper documentation to electronic format.  So, there is a level of trust in the system.  There is a level of trust in the system that the 73,799 taxpayers who are suspected of not correctly claiming the tax credit as of last July do not justify.  Those suspected incorrect claims may total $504 million.

Expect more news of fraud as this version of the Homebuyer Tax Credit, and other stimulus credits, wind down if they ever do.  Thank the NAR and NAHB, and your support as Realtors, for another program we can be proud of.

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There is no place in beauty contests for true greatness.

Yet another over-groomed rat-eater won the Westminster Kennel Club dog show, but it’s not hard to figure out who the real champions were.

(Thanks to Richard Riccelli for fingering this gorgeous photo.)

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The Real Problem with the Morons and Cowards at #RTB

Greg put me on this #RTB nonsense. I will say this: anyone who supports increased prelicensing requirements  is a lazy coward who is deluding himself into mediocrity by legislation.   They don’t want to compete with young whipper snappers, so they make it harder.  Even the most innocuous opinion by Real Life Sheri is dead wrong.  The responsibility for education lies with the practitioners, not with someone that’s disseminating information.  I didn’t learn anything from my prelicensing except this: that my Real Estate Career was going to be filled with egomanical blowhards that were going to do their best to maximize the drama in a transaction.  And that the state had the power to make me sit through 120 hours of nonsense before I could tell full grown adults that “this…is the living room.”

That’s the insanity of getting in bed with the government.  When you advocate increased rules, you’re carrying a scorpion across the river and expecting something good to happen.  The result will be destruction, always.

However, I’m certain that #RTB is to succeed.  It’s a perfect example of Johnson’s law: All randomly generated bad ideas that benefit the government will find a willing partner in the government for their execution.   See, the government doesn’t need to plot and scheme to get bigger.  Once she attains a critical mass, people will kowtow and bring her offerings in the form of enslaving ideas.  There is no conspiracy, there are no black helicopters.  There is nothing but a bunch of morons abdicating their use of a brain and ceding what is rightly theirs to a government or trade organization.  That’s enough to create massive growth in  the government.

Ken Brand puts it nicely:

I don’t want to raise the bar, I want to take the steel bar and beat the crap out of the leaders (Broker’s/Sales Managers/Team Leaders/etc. who hire, support, allow, retain and reward people who violate natural laws of human interaction, common sense and professional conduct (as defined by our association).

He also gives the just deserts to the consumers that accept morons.  When you advance the causes of government you are a friend to slavery, the worst kind of Uncle Tom imaginable. That will be your legacy, that will be your life: furthering the enslavement of mankind

The good news, though, is that there is always time to repent and turn your back on the evil you’re attempting to do.  To raise your own bar and to embrace the competition that comes and beat it.  To use experience–rather than the privileges of station–as a way to beat back the already low standards in the marketplace.  Take continuing education, post licensing requirements off the table.  Embrace competition from all sources.  It makes competent people better and incompetent people cry to the government for solutions.

Pick a side, people.


The Only Thing We Have to Fear, is Ourselves

In my late twenties, as a trader on the floor of the options exchange, I was a “Master of the Universe”.  That’s a very common affliction down there.  Apparently, when you put a bunch of young, fearless, risk-takers together and give them the power to move markets around the world, you end up with a bit of a monster.  At one point I attended a symposium with my fellow traders; each of us secure in our status as Cowboy and Superman rolled into one very special gift for the world.  We listened to the latest market analysis systems and celebrated our shared royalty.  Amidst all the revelry was a speaker who didn’t have a financial background; he was more of a self-help, motivational kind of guy. (Believe me, the last thing that group needed was motivation!)  I remember not paying much attention to him – you know, being a “Master of the Universe” and all – but I wish I had.  He wasn’t there to motivate us, he was there to help us – to keep us from losing ourselves… an effort made mostly in vain.

Within days of the symposium all was blissfully forgotten; let’s face it, what could these talking heads possibly teach a “Master of the Universe?”  All, I should say, but this bit of wisdom from the self-help guru – the one who was so out of place.  This stuck with me and I damned him for it:

If you want to know who you really are, listen to that quiet voice you hear while driving home after a meeting, late at night and tired, with no one else in the car and the radio off.  That voice is who you really are… and the fears that voice brings forth are what you really fear.

Over time I was pretty sure I understood what he meant… but I didn’t.

I was thinking about this the other day.  I had just finished with a group of agents in my POPs Program, where we had been favorably comparing the stress AND the fun of being an options trader with that of being a real estate agent.  While driving home afterward, I was listening to that little voice and it hit me: I realized that my innermost fears are not really fears at all.

They’re a reflection – deep down inside – of my belief about what I do and do not deserve.

So, for instance, if you find that during those quietest of moments, when you listen to the little voice, you are fearful of never having enough money, it’s because deep down inside there’s a part of you that doesn’t believe you deserve wealth.  In the same way if you fear unhappiness or things that make you unhappy,  it’s because somewhere in there you don’t believe you deserve happiness.  Our quietest, deepest fears are really sign-posts to our belief systems… and this is great news!

Understanding this, we can rid ourselves of these fears.  Just the act of listening and understanding what fear is goes a long way toward that goal: “Fear flees from the light of understanding.”  But we can do more; we can take an easy, positive step by simply writing a statement of affirmation and reading it every morning.  Read it with conviction and without fail.  Never underestimate the power of consistency. Water running over a rock appears to have little affect, but water running over a rock over time, is the Grand Canyon! So, if your fear concerns scarcity and you realize that a part of you believes you don’t deserve wealth, simply write a statement of affirmation: “I am a successful and good person deserving of wealth.”  Read this every morning with conviction (that’s the real trick here) and sooner than you think you will overwrite the belief.  It is just that simple.  (Of course, there’s a good chance those fears will be replaced by some new and different fears… but that’s a story for another post!)

In the field of real estate, your beliefs about yourself are just as important to your ultimate success as your knowledge and expertise.  Listen to that little voice and face your fears.  Not only will this open the door to a flourishing career, it will lead to a greater understanding of who you are… and why each of us is truly a “Master of the Universe.”


In Honor of President’s Day

From Samuel Adams’ speech in Philadelphia, 01 August 1776

If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animated contest of freedom — go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen!


Res ipsa loquitur — wirelessly: Mobile phone use soars.


Separate reports out last week show that mobile phone use is soaring in the United States and globally, and data moving across mobile networks is expected to grow dramatically over the next four years.

One report by comScoreMobiLens shows that Americans want to do more than talk on their phones, and they’re willing to pay for it. A total of 234 million people age 13 and older in the U.S. used mobile devices in December 2009. In the past year, smartphone ownership increased from 11 percent to 17 percent of mobile users, while 3G phone ownership increased from 32 percent to 43 percent and unlimited data plan subscriptions rose from 16 percent to 21 percent.

Every month, comScore measures how often people use their phones to send text messages, access the Internet, play games, use downloaded applications, or “apps,” check their Facebook profile, watch videos and listen to music.

In the latest comScore report, all of these activities showed an increase from the previous report period. Though most of the increases are modest because the survey was conducted over a short 90-day period, texting and visiting a social networking site or blog increased more than 2 percent.

The report also reveals users are shifting from the more utilitarian phone operating systems toward more media-focused operating systems that have more functionality. While RIM, the operating system for BlackBerry devices, remained the leading mobile smartphone operating system in the U.S at 41.6 percent, it saw its market share drop slightly along with Microsoft and Palm.

Meanwhile, Apple, which owns a quarter of the mobile market and is ranked second, saw a gain in popularity for its media friendly iPhone platform. Likewise, Google’s Android operating system surged in popularity with the launch of Motorola’s Droid in November, allowing the company to double its market share in just three months. Like the iPhone, the Droid is built for multimedia content.

Separate research released by Cisco estimates that global mobile data traffic has increased by 160 percent over the past year to 90 petabytes per month, or the equivalent of 23 million DVDs. The company projects that this figure will increase 39-fold by 2014, to about 3.6 exabytes per month. One exabyte is equal to about 1 billion gigabytes.

Attention big-foot real estate brokers and power-tied brokerage chain executives: Be sure to piss away a lot of money on “expert” real estate consultants who have never sold anything besides jawbone in their lives. Your failure in the marketplace is taking too long, but “expert” advice is sure to hasten your demise.

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Who could foresee that “global warming” would be exposed as a hoax?

So quickly, I mean. It was an obvious hoax, at least to me. Environmentalism is the new poverty for Marxists, the new insurmountable crisis that can only be solved by universal slavery under a one-world government. If you didn’t see through that pose, you must have slept through the twentieth century.

(For future reference, whatever the supposed emergency, if the proposed solution is more government, the “crisis” is a hoax and the sole objective is more government. This ain’t rocket science.)

Even so, I am delighted to cite two local angles on the “global warming” hoax:

First: Phoenix was one of the cities used to fudge the records on rising temperatures, although I don’t think our teeny-tiny little local hoax has been exposed yet. What they did was move the temperature collection apparatus at Sky Harbor Airport from a position over grass to a new spot over blacktop. Voila! Several degrees “warmer” every day, just like that.

And: Just because the world hasn’t actually gotten warmer since 1995 doesn’t mean winter is a frozen, lifeless hell everywhere. Today — February 14 — we used the air conditioner at home for the first time this year.


The epistemology of Splendor: Apprehending the memes that move me.

I had a great week.

That’s not something I get to say all the time — rarely more than fifty times a year.

The truth is, most of the time I feel like an undocumented refugee from a forgotten country known as A Different Way Of Thinking. I don’t feel any huge bond of commonality with most of the people I know about, and, when I do, that just by itself is a cause for celebration.

What’s different? I could say “I love myself” or “I love my life,” but those sentiments are too vague to be useful. It seems easier to me to define what I’m talking about by negatives, rather than in affirmative statements.

So, for example, it never occurs to me to start a sentence with the words “With my luck…” or “Knowing me…” These are very common expressions, and it’s plausible to me that the humble attitude being expressed by those phrases is faked — that the speaker doesn’t actually feel the — to me — humiliating self-degradation implied by the words. But it doesn’t occur to me to express humility in the first place, not even faked humility.

To the contrary, if I could paint a picture of my own idealized self-image, it might be something like a conquering Viking, sword held proudly aloft, or a virtuoso pianist in that eternal instant of silence when the last note of the concerto has faded into the ether but somehow still rings on in the mind’s ear. I don’t actually see myself that way, but that’s a way of imagining what my life looks like to me from the inside.

And just that much is boundlessly funny to me, since, if it were measured by any presumably-objective standard, my life has been a colossal failure. I’m not rich, not even close. My personal relationships have mostly been disasters, to the extent that I am very careful about letting people get close to me. What little fame I might claim amounts to notoriety — and I have complete contempt for other people’s opinions anyway.

And yet inside my own mind, none of that matters. I love being me, and I don’t care about external measures of my relative success at being me. I stalk the earth as the living god of my own idolatry, and there is an extent to which I do not identify with other people at all. As a matter of epistemology, I am just like you and you are just like me. But in my own interior psychology, I am sui generis, a category unto my own.

So here’s a cute question: Why am I saying all this? After all, even if you feel this way about your own life, too, isn’t this the sort of stuff you’re supposed to keep quiet about? Isn’t that what all that faked humility is for, so no one gets the idea that you actually love yourself, that you enjoy being alive, that you don’t despise and resent the gift of mind, that you don’t feel like a born loser? Aren’t we all supposed to act as though being a human being is the worst of all possible fates, a loathsome burden grudgingly to be borne until we are released from this prison of hideous life by the undeserved charity of death?

Here’s my answer to that kind of argument, every conceivable variation: I will be damned before I will damn my own life.

So why am I saying all this?

The answer to that question is simple: I want to infect you with my attitude.

I do feel myself cursed in a way, because I feel I have a duty — and you cannot imagine how I hate a word like that — to share what I know about being alive as a human being.

If you could see the world the way I see it, you would know how little of myself I see reflected in other people — most of the time. When I run across another refugee from A Different Way Of Thinking, I am twice delighted. First, I get to live my way, without the constant tug of war with the habits of mind of living death. And second, I get to revel in artifacts of A Different Way Of Thinking without having to think all of them up myself. I know it is possible to live all the time in A Different Way Of Thinking, but, for now, I don’t get to live there very often — nor for very long.

But I really, desperately want to, and I know that can only come about when more people understand A Different Way Of Thinking. And I feel myself uniquely qualified to communicate these ideas, not just because I live them so well, but because I can express them so well. I don’t believe in fate or destiny or unchosen obligations or any sort of magical mystical supernatural bonds. And yet I don’t feel that I can die at peace with myself until I figure out how to convey what it feels like to be me — what it feels like to be whole and clean and perfect from the inside out.

And that’s funny to me, too, because I can catalog my faults in exquisite detail. I can be demanding and demeaning, peevish and petulant, endlessly impatient and scathingly, blisteringly critical. But, at the same time, I can envision and describe and embody and share a kind of virtue that is itself whole and clean and perfect, a virtue burnished to a glowing radiance, a virtue that enduringly enraptures and ennobles everyone associated with it.

If I have a job in my life, it’s that, to communicate this idea that I call Splendor in such a way that you not only comprehend it but that you live it, that it becomes the ground state of your own mind, just as it is the ground state of mine.

And that may be just about as far as I can go, for now. I know what I want to say, but I’m not sure how I can say it in a way that will reach you, inform you, move you.

Here is a clip from email I sent to a client earlier this week:

Meeting you and your family has been a delight for me. I always have fun at work, but this weekend was even better that usual. I’ve been playing with a lot of ideas about how I think business can, should and will be done, in a post-deceptive age of marketing, and working with you has felt to me like a summation of everything I’ve been saying since I was still in school myself. I believe in a Roman ideal of integrity, every individual thing an expression of the same one thing. And if that kind of integrity can exist and prosper on earth, then good behavior should be delightful — a delight to experience and to recall.

I am not claiming to have achieved anything like this. I am too much aware of how I miss even the easy targets I set for myself. But I have caught a glimpse of how human beings can thrive when they resolve to live only by living up to their commitments, and this weekend was a short vacation for me in an undiscovered country called A Different Way Of Thinking.

I have to laugh at myself, because I can’t do anything without thinking it all the way down to the root. But I want to do this job — being a Realtor, being a husband, being alive — to the best of my ability and to the outer limits of my capacity to act, and I think I caught a glimpse of my own future, as well, this weekend. That’s a precious gift, and I owe it to you.

So: Bless you. Thank you. I owe you more than you can guess.

I can live this state of being. That much is easy for me, if only because I have never once betrayed it. And I can manifest it, both in my own real-time behavior and in the very best of my writing. But what I want to learn how to do is to teach it, to make my own interior experience of Splendor abstract and transmissible.

And that’s funny to me, too, because when I use the word “delight” what I mean is thrilled to the core. There is no way of speaking or writing about what I experience, in the quiet of my own mind, nor any other way of communicating it — except to live it along with me. And yet that’s what I want to do. I want to come up with a way of conveying in that dry dialect called fathertongue the breathtaking drenching I feel when I have lived my life by my own values and standards — when I have lived up to the life I would imagine for myself.

I am as vain as a kitten, I know this, and as eager and as unafraid as a puppy. I see the world at the age of fifty just as I saw it when I was nineteen years old, just as I saw it when I was four years old — discovering virtue and vice for myself, as each human being must do and as no kitten or puppy ever can. But I believe that my experience of being alive as a human being — the Splendor of being thrilled to the core almost all the time — is normal. I believe that this is what every human life should be like, that to fail to achieve this state of being is not just excruciatingly tragic but outrageously wasteful and completely unnecessary.

And all of this is simultaneously dreadfully serious to me and uproariously funny: I don’t want for you to be a better Realtor or lender or investor or whatever. I want for you to be a better person — a better human being, a better expression of the promise inherent in the incomparable gift of volitional conceptuality — of free moral agency. Whatever it is I might seem to be discussing, on the surface, this is all I am ever really talking about.

I want to live full time in a forgotten country known as A Different Way Of Thinking. And I want for you to be able to live there with me. I don’t know how to get there — yet. I don’t even know how to draw the map. But I know that the world I live in inside my mind can exist everywhere, if we let it. I’m going to figure out how…


Google and the artifacts of inefficiency

The interwebs are BUZZING about Google Buzz and how benevolent Google co-opted everyone’s contact lists from their Gmail accounts. I wonder how many million valid email addresses Google captured in the first 30 minutes of Buzz going live? I try to remember that Google is the same benevolent company that assisted the Chinese communists in censoring the internet for the billlions imprisoned in the PRC. More recently Google has gotten a Federal bailout in the form of assistance from the NSA to secure Google’s servers from the same ChiCom hackers they used to happily work with ‘doing no evil’, except for entrenching the folks who invented the involuntary liver donation.

The point is this: be aware of the cost of “free stuff”, no matter how cool. The price may be more than you are willing to pay in terms of your professional reputation. I would suggest that a cost benefit analysis is in order. What is the cost in professional reputation for all your social media efforts? Are your friend lists, contact lists and customer rosters available for any non-#RTB data scraper to start spamming with listing flyers? It is surely something to think about.

I don’t care if Google renders a contextual ad in my gmail account. I do care if my clients start getting real estate spam from competitors. Below is a relevant video.


#RTB (raising the bar) is #ROT (restraint of trade). If you want to do something that will actually benefit consumers and will run the bums out of the real estate business, #STFU (stop being a tweetard) and #DTFG (deliver the frolicking goods) already!

I’d have more to say about this, but everything I have to say is encapsulated in a single URL:

I was mildly interested in this #RTB (raising the bar) nonsense until I figured out that it’s just more Rotarian Socialism: Make it harder for punters to get a real estate license so that the few who make the cut can make more money with less competition. Nice.

Meanwhile, an email correspondent sent me to Twitter to search on a particular #hashmark. There were more than 30 tweets in a span of 20 minutes, from perhaps a dozen tweetards — all of them theoretically real estate professionals.

Why theoretically? Because if you’re pissing away your day on Twitter, you’re not selling real estate, underwriting loans or doing anything else productive.

And all of those clients you claim to have cultivated via social media? They can see what a goof-off you are, just as much as I can. If I were steaming by the phone, waiting for you to return my call, I would just love to watch you kibitzing with your butt-buddies around the virtual water cooler. Now that’s service!

Here’s the only standard of value that matters to consumers: #DTFG (deliver the frolicking goods)! Your clients want for you to treat them the same way you yourself would want to be treated, were you in their place.

It’s easy to figure out what to do, harder to get the job done — harder still to get it done well. But that is all that matters. And if you’re not going to deliver the goods, then you, too, are one of the bums I want to see pushed out of this business.

Whether you’re a dinosaur pissing and moaning in the bullpen down at the brokerage office or a shiny new giggling on-line with all the other shiny new dino.bots — you are the problem.

Until you are prepared to put your clients first — all the time — you have nothing to say about raising anything. Raise your frolicking standards! And if you don’t — if you won’t — hard-working dogs like me are going to help you find a job you can handle.


Server-swap news: Which server are you connecting to?

F U Cn Rd Ths, you’re connecting to the new server. (A painless transition, so far.)


We are all on welfare now: “The government’s assistance in the housing market now is less about giving us a soft landing than it is about having us furiously flap our arms to stay aloft.”

The Washington Examiner:

The unspoken, bottom line: The federal government has already nationalized the housing industry. We’re not just talking about Uncle Sam providing a few subsidies, or even taking over a few of the big players, as they have in the auto industry. This is a complete takeover. Every new mortgage today is a government mortgage.

Over the last two years, government mortgage and mortgage-backed holdings have grown on net by nearly $1 trillion. Private investors and institutions have shed more than $1.5 trillion — through foreclosure losses, pay downs, and by selling to government.

The effective result is a government-run housing market. Barofsky reports that right now, the government is responsible for about 100 percent of all new mortgage activity. You read that correctly. To put it in his own words:

“According to Federal Reserve net borrowings data, the federal government and the organizations it backs now guarantee or issue almost all net new borrowings for mortgages and MBS.”


What if Twitter and Facebook go Away – Do you have an Exit Strategy?

Chris Pearson is a pretty smart dood.  He’s the developer of the Thesis theme that I use on all of my blogs.  It’s a pretty cool premium theme…but I’m not here to pitch WordPress themes.

Yesterday I received and email announcing some proposed changes in the next version of Thesis and in this email it included a link to a Video interview with Chris Pearson.

For the first 3 minutes, most of the talk is about changes to the Thesis theme….and then it gets interesting.

He starts to talk about the future of Twitter and Facebook and poses some very interesting hypotheses.

Here’s the video (can’t embed the vid for some reason, so check it out and come back) – go ahead and jump to about 3:08 to get to the good stuff.  Then, let’s talk about it.

Chris Pearson Interview - The future of Twitter and Facebook

Ok, so Chris brings up some pretty interesting points right?  I mean, think about how massive of a push there is for the to jump into the almighty Facebook Fan Page and Twitter stream life rafts to float safely to the shores through turbulent real estate seas.

Do you think that Facebook and Twitter care how or why you contribute content?  No, they could care less.  These are popularity contests to see who can get the most groupies.  Once these communities gain celebrity status, they are finally in a position to execute on their end game…..find an investor.

What is an investor going to do?  Use the traffic to the community as leverage to sell advertising or sell subscriptions to generate revenue.  Do you think either of these sites will ask you first if it’s ok if they use their platform for this reason?

Remember when Facebook tried to change their terms of service to say that all of the content on the site was 100% owned by them and could be used any way they see fit?  Do you really think that just by changing the verbiage in the terms of service that it changes the way they view your content?

I know there are hundreds of Twitter and Facebook snake oil salesmen out there crafting the next great real estate survival tool to sell to the rest of us, and good luck to them – I support the right of anyone brave enough to enter the free market system to sell their goods and services.

My personal belief is that most of these solutions are only shiny objects catching our eye, our attention, and providing a false sense of security that could be pulled out from under you without notice at the whim of a volatile young internet nerd that has absolutely no sense of how to build a business based on a viable revenue and profit producing model.

What I ask you to consider is this….Who owns your content?  What’s your exit strategy if Facebook and Twitter are no longer “cool” or become a part of some other company’s business model?  Do you still have an internet presence?  Will your business model change?  Will you lose your “black book” of prospects?  Do you lose all of your content?

I know it’s hard work to build a “community” online, but if you want to be where consumers are, you have to do it.  There are no short cuts or silver bullets.  Marketing is marketing and sales is sales – These fundamental facts will never change.  The only thing that changes is how you reach out to your prospects, how they find you, what they see when they find you.

If you’re going to put this much work (aka – how much time a day do you spend on Facebook and Twitter) are you investing in your long term marketing, branding and sales strategy or are ya just having fun?

If you’re not rubbin bellies or skinning cats….my guess is that the latter would probably best describe your social media strategy.


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