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Archive for June, 2010

Harvesting the Redfin green: Learning how to work with web-based prospects who may not have known they were contacting a Realtor.

I built our first real estate web site in June of 2001. I had just gotten my license that May, parking it with an apartment locating service called The Apartment Store. The folks Jeff Brown calls “house agents” like to laugh at niche players in the real estate world, but I passed on three residential brokerages to do rentals. Why? Because I knew I would starve to death — as 85+% of all new licensees do — waiting for my first home buyer or seller. Instead, I took a job where I stood a chance of getting belly-to-belly with five or six motivated people a day.

But: I built the web site because I wasn’t in love with the people I was meeting. Jack English, the broker, had built his business around serving extremely marginal clients — apartment seekers with bad credit, past judgements, felony convictions, etc. Everyone deserves a second chance in life, but, for the most part, I turned out to be a poor fit for the targeted clientele. I moved some interesting people I was delighted to help — for example, two recovered heroin addicts and the sweetest paroled murderer one could ever hope to meet — but I also met a lot of people to whom no one should ever have extended credit.

Even so, the experience was great. I got to talk to a lot of people, showing a lot of apartments and rental homes, and I got to learn, very quickly, what makes the frog jump. That’s why I built the web site: I realized that Jack’s business model was missing a better segment of the rental market. Less-than-ideally-qualified tenants needed help because they didn’t know who would take them and who would turn them down. But there was a much larger, much juicier, much better-qualified pool of prospects out there: People with plenty of money but no time.

That first site, TheApartmentStore.org, was a killer lead generator. No one was doing anything using forms in those days, and GoTo.com was still selling pay-per-click for as little as a penny a click. I was hauling in four and five forms a day. And they were very elaborate forms, devised to eliminate or at least identify loosely-motivated responses. And the keywords I was using were targeted to the prospects I wanted, bigger-budget tenants with scratch-and-dent credit — not body-shop issues — at the worst.

That much was cool. Apartment locating is a referral-fee business, and I was making money off of tenants I never even met in person. I had my day carved up into six 90-minute segments, and my goal was to work a showing appointment into each one of those slots. In August of 2001, I closed 30 leases. I made $6,000 for that month, which seems pretty pitiful now, but my goal was experience, not money.

But that was when I first came to be jaundiced, to put it nicely, about internet leads. I was already making my web site’s visitors jump high hurdles to submit a form, but there were still way too many bogus forms, too many unmotivated prospects, too many people I could never manage to make contact with.

If you’ve heard me speak about web site architecture in public, you will have heard me talk about my goal for web-originated prospects: I want to convert 100% of the people I hear from. Half of that problem consists of delivering the goods as best I can. But the other half consists of diverting or delaying the folks who aren’t really ready to do business.

If all you want is information, that’s cool. Always happy to help. But one of the reasons our sites are so forthcoming with information is that I don’t want to trouble you to have to ask for the help you want, and I don’t want to have to play peek-a-boo with you to get it to you. Realtors talk all the time about Nordstroms, but our web sites are designed to work more like Target: Shop all you want, and no one will bug you until you’re ready to make your move.

I’ve spent years building sites this way, and I won’t swear I’ve been wholly successful. But, by now, I know that if I hear from someone from one of our sites, my chance of turning that contact into one or more closed transactions is better than 50%. We’ve never been good at CRM, but we’re working at getting better, so it could be my long-term yields will go up over time.

But I am still very poor at dealing with loosely-motivated contacts. It’s obvious to me right away, sometimes from the form response itself, that I’m going to have to play cat-and-mouse, and I really, really don’t like it. It’s okay not to buy. It’s okay not to sell. But it seems less-than-okay to me to make a grand overture and then hide under the covers like a nervous bride. My job is making real estate transactions happen — not an easy task right now. The last thing I want to be is the clingy sales-creep you made the mistake of engaging.

All of which brings me to our partnering relationship with Redfin.com. We started working referrals from Redfin on March 25th and I just closed our first referred transaction on June 4th. It was my first transaction, but it was also the first successfully-closed Redfin referral in Phoenix. I don’t know how their own agents are doing, but I was in line to be first three different times, with the first two falling apart. That slow start by itself is not surprising to me. Redfin is offering referred clients 15% of the gross commission, but our experience is that no one in Phoenix cares about commission rebates. We played with this idea in 2006 and it died an ignominious death.

The transaction I closed was huge fun — a sweet woman from Missouri who looked and sounded like home to me — and I have others in the pipeline that show promise. But the burn rate is off-the-charts for us, the kind of stuff we haven’t seen since 2001. I have had referrals from Redfin that I have never once successfully made contact with — and we’re responding to these inquiries like a four-alarm fire.

The ones who are ready to act are glued on right away, no fake, no fail. But the ones who aren’t are barely there at all. It’s frustrating, but we made some lemonade out of it: Redfin’s pipeline management software is so good that I ripped-off reverse-engineered the basic concept and built our own version of it.

But our whole modus vivendi is to get folks into our universe and then keep them there, for months if necessary, only raising their hands when they’re ready to act. Quite a few of the Redfin inquiries come from people who have a curiosity about a particular house they’ve found on the site, a curiosity that may have nothing at all to do with buying that home. As with the HouseValues.com kind of form response, when they find out that filling out the form results in a follow-up from a Realtor, they’re locked into Tom ‘n’ Jerry mode. Frankly, I can’t blame them. Everything looks so automated, I’m sure many of those folks think they’re going to get an automated response.

Mind you, I’m just venting. I need to figure out how to a better job dealing with these inquiries. Redfin is hosting a webinar next week for referral agents to talk about how to get better yields. But, really, it’s just another kind of elephant-in-the-room problem. I need to take the problem head-on, to give people the kind of help they’re looking for and then move on.

And: All that notwithstanding, this has been a great experience for us so far. I get to talk to a lot of people I might not have heard from otherwise, and, not only have I successfully gotten paid, my first Redfin buyer gave us a solid 10 in her post-closing rating:

Greg was the 5th agent I worked with and the only one to listen to what I wanted. He was truly the epitome of what a real estate agent should be.

Cathleen wanted to work with Redfin because she wanted to close more transactions. I wanted to do it because I want to do what I can to undermine the-way-things-have-always-been-done in real estate. But we’ve already profited by building better tools as a result of our work with Redfin. And, soon enough, working with Redfin inquiries is going to make us better salespeople.

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Politician admits human behavior is not subject to coercive control: “You can write all the laws that you want. But it sometimes doesn’t make a whole lot of difference. People don’t follow them.”

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer — made famous by Senate Bill 1070, which requires Los Angelenos, expatriate Canadian basketball players and huffy has-been musicians to act like idiots in public — observing that a state-wide ban on texting-while-driving will have zero impact on texting-while-driving.

I figure I violate about 300 traffic laws on a typical day — with no consequences, obviously. I’m not being reckless, just efficient, and the cops don’t waste their time on me — which assumes they’re even paying attention. Meanwhile, the City of Phoenix already has a texting ban, which I violate at will, also without consequences.

If you have cultivated the habit of thought, you might stop to think about how many laws you routinely violate. The logical next step would be to wonder if everyone else is just like you: Scrupulously obeying laws that hinder them in no way and breaking all the others.

After that, you might be so bold as to entertain the notion that laws among civilized people are redundant, while laws among the uncivilized are meaningless. And who knows where that kind of thinking might lead you…

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Reasons to be cheerful, Part 1.5: Who cares about the tunnel? All I can see is the light…

I wrote this eighteen months ago, when this economic recession was just getting started. I looked at it again tonight and found nothing in it that I wanted to change. I have more to say on the subject of a long recession, perhaps a depression, but this is a very good place to begin to look for optimistic portents. –GSS

 
Hope and despair at the onset of economic recession: Who cares about the tunnel? All I can see is the light…

I don’t do well in despair.

Clarify that. I don’t mean that, when I find myself in despair, I fare especially badly.

What is mean is, if despair were a classroom discipline for which one could be tested and graded, I would probably flunk out.

I’ve lived through some ugly stuff in my life — who hasn’t? — but mostly I didn’t notice. I’m good at thinking — or so I like to think. And, good at it or not, I really do like to think. But I can only think about one thing at a time. For most of my time, for most of my life, I like to think about work. I like to think about what I’m doing. I like to think about what I’m getting done.

That doesn’t leave much room in my mind for despair. Or depression. Or gloom or sadness or fear or doubt or pain or worry or any of the things that people talk about when they’re not talking about work. I know about those ideas, much as I know about ideas like schadenfreude or universal guilt, things that I’ve heard about or read about but never seen from the inside.

You could say that’s my good luck, I suppose, but I’m sure it’s a choice on my part. Who hasn’t known sadness, after all? It’s not that I’ve never lived with painful emotions, it’s simply that I choose not to live with them any longer than I have to — which almost always turns out to be no time at all. I turn to my work not to escape from pain, nor even to work to alleviate it. I turn to my work because that’s what I love most in my life — and my purpose in living is to love my life.

But I come up short, I think, because I’m so badly equipped to prepare for desperate times. We’re headed into an economic recession, perhaps a depression, and I truly don’t know what to think about it. I’ve lived through several of these episodes in the past, and I worked right through all of them and didn’t notice a thing. It was all just newspaper noise to me, and not really even much of that. News — other people’s business — is a stimulant you use to excite your mind when it’s not busy enough.

And yet, and yet, and yet…

I’m willing to concede that I might look at the world through rose-colored glasses if you are willing to concede that my way of seeing the world is simply better. That, whether my way of tilting at the clouds of gloom may be in some way incorrect — according to some imaginary arbiter — nevertheless my way is the way that things get done. It’s always raining somewhere, but if you have time enough to care, you’re not working hard enough.

So: Consider this: The Federal Reserve Bank has been pumping paper money into the American economy since 9/11. Before then, really — since the dot.com bomb. This is actual inflation — what inflation actually means — the inflation of the supply of currency. Your whole life you’ve been taught — by newspapers — to regard inflation as price inflation, but this is a secondary consequence. The quantity of currency is increased — actual inflation — and thus there are more dollars chasing the same quantity of goods, in turn causing prices to rise.

Here’s my question: Since we’ve got a good head of steam going on the currency inflation engine — most especially in the past few months — where is the corresponding price inflation?

Gold is up by double or triple, as are some other basic commodities. Oil, real estate and securities have been all over the map. But everyday stuff is still pretty cheap. The “market basket of goods and services” is probably useless, by now, as a measure of price inflation. But we haven’t seen anything like the kind of price inflation we have every right to expect, given our ten-plus year orgy of currency inflation.

What gives?

Here’s what: The idea of price inflation presumes that, as the quantity of currency increases, the quantity of goods — and the demand for those goods — will remain stable. When that happens, prices have to go up. Economics 101. But what happens if the quantity of goods is also going up dramatically? What happens if the cost of bringing those goods to market is going down — in some cases plummeting?

Generals are always fighting the last war and economists are always making devastatingly logical predictions about the last recession.

What’s different this time? Data-processing, for one major thing. An industrial revolution in China, for another. An intellectual blossoming like manna from the heavens in India. The world is a much richer place than it was 15 years ago — before the internet changed everything.

Everything that is touched in any way by the data-processing economy is better, cheaper, faster than it has ever been before. We have come so far so fast that we have grown blithely accustomed to getting many, many services of incomparable value for free.

Do you doubt me? What would you have had to pay, in 1993, for the research you do casually today, at no cost — often on a whim! — at Google.com? You are submerged to unfathomable depths in wealth uncounted and all you can do is whimper about your poverty!

Ah, but it’s not the same, is it? You can’t eat a free Google search or a free Rhapsody tune or a a free episode of South Park with all the potty-mouth words unbowdlerized. But you can find love for free in dozens of places on the nets. And you can make friends for free at MySpace and Facebook. And you can network your way into a better job, for free, in your spare time, at LinkedIn. None of those are immediately edible, either, but man does not live by bread alone.

But that’s still not enough, is it? The newspaper noise is despair unbounded, despair unleashed, despair and gloom and doom unending, unrelenting, unforgiving, unsparing and unstoppable. All that and you still have an appetite!

Fine. Let’s talk about what is — the world we can see and feel and smell and touch — and not the horrifying specters that haunt our fears.

First, the productive capacity of the world has not changed. If anything, it continues to go up, even if perhaps at a temporarily slower pace. Wealth is not money. Wealth is goods and the intellect and husbandry and manufacturing capacity to produce more goods. Every bit of the real wealth we had yesterday, we have today. A lot of people have lost a lot of money, but our store of produced goods and our fixed capital base for producing more goods is undiminished.

Do you understand? If there had been a war, and if some significant fraction of the world’s capacity for producing goods and services had been destroyed, that would be a very bad thing. That would be a cause, going forward, for concerns about systemic poverty.

This hasn’t happened. We are richer today than we have ever been, expressed in terms of our ability to produce goods and services, and — because of the spread of data-processing, because of the enterprise of the Chinese, and because of the intellectual renaissance in India — we will be quite a bit richer — by those same standards — as soon as tomorrow. I mean that literally: Tomorrow.

That’s the silver lining. Here’s the cloud: The government of the United States — and probably all of the governments it routinely bosses around — are about to set on an unprecedented course of actual wealth destruction. Remember, wealth is goods, not money. But if the federal government makes it unpalatable for very smart young people to seek careers in medicine, the supply of health care will go down just as demand for health care is soaring. Again, this is Economics 101, a class taught to everyone except presidential candidates.

Governments destroy wealth best with wars, but they destroy wealth with almost everything they do. Anything that a government does that makes it harder for an honest trader to either produce, purchase or sell a marketable good or service is a net destruction of wealth. Money is not wealth, but money is the seed stock of new wealth, so, by despoiling the currency, by taxing productivity, and by rewarding stupidity, waste and sloth at the expense of wisdom, thrift and enterprise, governments systemically destroy wealth. This is all painfully obvious — by which I mean, the less obvious is it to you, the greater your pain.

Even so, it almost doesn’t matter. The Federal Reserve Bank had to despoil the American dollar for eleven years before it could bring on this recession, and, in the end, it required a lot of extra-especially-stupid intervention from other branches of the government to bring the economy to its knees. Just exactly how strong is the Atlas that is our semi-sorta-free enterprise system? Almost strong enough to bear the nearly infinite weight of ignorance of the American government.

But wait. There’s more.

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy promised to put a man on the moon in ten years. Not to say anything nice about a government boondoggle, but they actually got the job done in seven years. And then, the Federal government being what it is, Congress promptly cut the budget for everything associated with space exploration.

Was this a depression? Only if you worked in the aerospace industry. But a whole lot of people who had had a whole lot of grounding in data-processing and micro-electronics suddenly had a lot of time on their hands and a huge need to come up with ways of feeding their families.

The result? The birth of the electronics industry as you know it. Clunky digital calculators. Goofy digital watches with huge displays in ruby-red LEDs. And then smaller, cheaper calculators and incredibly cheap multi-function watches. And hand-held games and coin-operated games and game consoles. And micro-computers, first as do-it-yourself kludges and then as little desktop boxes like the TRS-80 and the Apple II. And then — the deluge…

All of this would have happened anyway, one way or another. But it happened the way it did because there was a “depression” among people who had been very well educated in electrical engineering and the computer sciences.

Fast forward to now. Since 1995 or so, people all over the world have been quietly improving their intellectual capital on the internet. Each one of them is pursuing his or her own interests, and each one is working at his or her own pace. But never in the history of human life on earth have so many people been so assiduously devoted to improving their minds. This is an amazing thing — and it has gone essentially unheralded. Like the priceless searches we take for granted on Google, the fact that everyone we know on-line is constantly getting smarter simply seems natural to us, by now. We are on the cusp of a real Athens, a global Agora where everyone can participate and it is so obvious to us that it’s hardly worth thinking about.

And yet all of us — not everyone in the world, but everyone in the wired world — is a part of this thing, and we’re all studying and reading and writing and learning and growing at a pace never once imagined by anyone on earth, not even the haughty Greeks of ancient Athens. They built an Agora for their elite, but we have spread the refinements of the elites to where anyone can take them up, if they choose. This just by itself is an amazing redistribution of intellectual capital that has come about right under our noses.

And all of us are wired a lot, perhaps a lot more than we might want to admit among strangers. But some of us are wired virtually all of the time. There is a subset of American young people, especially young males, for whom all the world takes second place to the internet. To the extent they work in the off-line world, it’s to pay for their time on-line. They may live with their folks or with roommates, but they live as cheaply as they can, thus to be able to devote as much time as they can to their lives on-line. I am not judging these people, not their overall priorities nor what they choose to do with their time on the nets. I am simply observing that they exist — in vast and uncounted numbers.

It seems reasonable to me that, if we are entering a recession or a depression, all of us are going to have to tighten our belts. We may pass on a vacation or two, or we may drive the sedan a year longer than we had planned. Dinner out? Let’s call Pizza Hut instead. But here’s what won’t happen: Absolutely none of us will cut our broadband connections. The kids can see the damned dermatologist half as often, but we’re keeping the DSL line!

Even people who lose their jobs will do what they have to to keep their internet connections. They may give up a wired phone line, but Cox Cable will still be sending a monthly bill.

Now stop and think. Don’t despair. Don’t fear. Don’t worry. Just think. Vast hordes of people all over the world who have just spent the last five or ten or thirteen years massively improving their intellectual capital are about to have a great deal of time on their hands — along with broadband connections to the internet.

Will things get bad? Maybe.

Will these be hard years to live through? Possibly.

Are we doomed? Get real!

We are immersed in wealth we are too insensate to sense, and we are about to increase that wealth by incalculable exponents. The greatest wealth the human mind can know is the time to think — hale, healthy, fed to satisfaction and nothing exigent weighing upon the mind. This condition won’t apply to everyone, and we each of us make better and worse use of the time to think when we have it. But billions of eager, active human minds will be free to think — and free too communicate their thoughts to one another.

No one should wish for the economic storms we are about to weather — and we could wish instead that some of the thinking that is done in the next few years is devoted to ridding the human race of the wealth-destroying pestilence that is government.

But taking account that we are going to weather these storms, they simply could not have come at a better time for the human race.

You can tell me about despair if you wish, but I won’t hear you, and I won’t understand you. You can tell me about fear and worry and depression — if you insist. You can tell me all about the dark, dank tunnel in which your feel yourself entombed…

But all I can see — all I can think about — all I can care about — is the light of mind that leads us out.

 
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Should Redfin Be Renamed Right-Fin ?

A La Jolla real estate broker noticed an article on Gawker.com, about a listing Redfin published, offering a currently occupied home (that isn’t for sale).  From Coastal Real Estate Stars:

A new listing appeared on Redfin this weekend….1600 Pennsylvania Avenue!

Now, in fairness to the Redfin folks, garbage in= garbage out.  Much of the FSBO data they aggregate comes from Owners.com. Obviously, some prankster listed the White House on Owners.com, which the RE.bots (including Redfin) picked up.  Still, one has to wonder if last night’s speech caused Glenn & Co to take matters into their own hands 🙂

Clearly, Redfin.com has the best real estate search site on the internet but the glaring marketing lesson here is at the bottom of the post.  JR Sullivan saw this as a great opportunity to showcase his own IDX search engine.

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Success In Real Estate Brokerage — Branding — What the Public Really Wants

Daniel Pink has put out a video with some interesting facts learned by those in science studying human behavior in the workplace. It’s relatively short, chock-full of information, much of which goes against what we’ve all ‘known’ for quite awhile. Watch it or not, I’ve included it to allow you to understand how I’m relating its content to the real estate industry.

In a nutshell, credible studies tend to show that money isn’t the predictable motivator we thought it was when it comes to doing things requiring, you know, thought and stuff. In fact, they learned that when it comes to tasks requiring real thought, that the more reward promised, the bigger the failure. Hhmm

Supposedly if management in large real estate firms would allow greater autonomy, create an atmosphere fostering mastery, and give purpose to their agents, they’d crush the competition.

Many in real estate have compared large real estate brokerages to boutique brokerages using this template. The assumption is that boutiques draw agents wanting to be part of the mix, so to speak. Yet except for the large dinosaur operations, many if not most of the BIG firms are at least making valiant attempts at becoming agent-centric, in spirit if not in fact. This, in my opinion, is why the big firms won’t die out. They’re making the turn — it just takes carriers longer to achieve the actual directional change.

The discussion though, has now turned to how all this affects branding — in real estate. Let that sink in — but first install the three main words used by Pink’s video:

Mastery — Autonomy — Purpose

Before continuing, know I’m with you. Mastering what we do for a living is a good thing — as is sufficient autonomy and having a purpose important to the practicing agent. But seriously, real estate? Branding? Get outa here.

Look, I understand there are niches of price, location, property type, etc. Ultimately the buyer or seller has to choose a company. Whether your home is a million dollar showpiece or a $99,000 condo conversion in an iffy neighborhood, the bottom line reason thinking people use to pick an agent will always be the same — at least 80% of the time.

Let’s talk about what works with sellers and what doesn’t.

Sellers often host their own Listing Olympics, with agents giving all levels of listing presentations. When I was a house agent, from 1969-1976 it was true then too. Going full time in 1974, I started a farm, a newish concept back then. Once established, know how I won Listing Olympics almost every time versus far more experienced, and easily more impressive agents?

“Mr. and Mrs. Seller, here is a list of the last seven homes to sell in this development. I personally listed and sold four of ’em.”

This was immediately followed by the Medal Ceremony.

In that farm’s peak years of production, I was 23-25 years old. I worked for a three horse operation who thought marketing was seeing folks at the Little League game and sayin’ hi.

Our brand back then? Our listings sold fast — for a lot — and closed. I was one of those three horses. The other two were a retired Navy Chief who looked like Buster Keaton wakin’ up from a nap, and the owner who was a displaced sixth generation farmer from Iowa who looked the part. Brand smand.

Mastery

Please point to the agents in your market you’d grace with the status of Master Agent. Know even one? Who really spends time mastering the skill sets required to be in our business? Not freakin’ many. Why do ya think they stand out like the Hope Diamond on a dungheap? There’s precious little mastery in real estate. Thousands of master posers, but that’s a different post.

Autonomy

Come on now, we’re talkin’ about real estate here. Tell me what’s NOT autonomous about the typical agent’s day to day life. Each day is a blank check, which most agents manage to bounce on a regular basis. If there’s a business not suffering from a lack of autonomy it’s real estate.

In fact, who will disagree out loud that autonomy isn’t the very reason most agents and new firms fail miserably? Yet they mew and whine about ‘corporate’ real estate, which finds them moving to the newest boutique brokerage, which only means they’ll fail looking maybe a bit more hip and stylish, technologically speaking.

If I ever again hire agents to work under me, they’ll do business the way I tell them, or work elsewhere. Mine is not the only way by any measure, but it’s the way you’ll work if my company name is on your card. Autonomy my ass.

For most agents autonomy is the enemy.

Purpose

Is there anything in real estate more overrated than the so-called motivating ‘Purpose’ of brokerages? “Our mission is to spread the American Dream” and dozens of other meaningless reasons for existence. My all-time favorite is the one about “Serving others, while making the world a better place in which to live”.

Even if it’s genuine, you think sellers will choose you cuz you’re makin’ the world a better place? Even if you do believe that, you don’t have the huevos to say it in public. 🙂

Wanna know why Hyundai is now so popular with car buyers? While GM, Ford and the rest, including Japanese carmakers are touting the same warranties and claiming the same high quality as they have for decades, Hyundai just walks up to the confused car buyer and says one thing.

“Our cars carry bumper to bumper warranties for 60,000 miles and our power trains are warranted for 100,000 miles or 10 years.”

That’s why there are so many more Hyundai’s on the road than there used to be. No fireworks, no impressive PowerPoint presentation. 🙂 They’ve put their warranties where their claims are.

Visit any neighborhood in the country, and the guy/gal who’s listing and successfully selling the most listings in that area for the highest prices, quickly — wins. When they don’t get the occasional listing, it’s rarely they were ‘beaten’ by their competition. It was more likely family, or friend, etc.

Marketing? If I’m not performing, and you are, I lose. Marketing only gets ya in the door. If the other guy is sellin’ the hell out of that neighborhood, you’ll be shown the same door. Marketing smarketing.

Dad laughed all the way to the bank with this mindset, which is why I think that way now. All he did was list and sell houses — over and over and over. Try 1,000+ sides a year for four consecutive years, while never having as many as 30 full time agents.

Lookin’ through the wrong end of the telescope

I suggest the central problem in real estate brokerage is not the business models. It’s not the technology. It’s who’s hired to do the job. Dad had a three question job interview.

1. Will you work honestly and with integrity?

2. Will you work HARD?

3. Will you work my way?

‘Yes!’ was a must answer for all three. Applicants looked into his merciless eyes and knew he wasn’t messin’. This was business, and he was in charge of hiring successful people. Posers cowered in his presence. His agents slaughtered the rest of San Diego’s brokerages for average annual income — year in, and year out. One of his main competitors had 16 office for Heaven’s sake and still couldn’t keep up. Why do ya think he always had way more than his share of super-star agents? They KNEW they’d make more just by being able to say the company name to a seller.

Dad wasn’t on TV or radio. He wasn’t even a member of the Board of Realtors OR the MLS. You were fired on the spot if you sold another broker’s listing. He didn’t cooperate with anybody. What his company listed, it sold. Hell, he didn’t even have ‘For Sale’ signs. At any given time, his firm had more listings at or under the median price than the entire San Diego MLS.

He was not a popular guy at the Board, but boy was he popular with his own agents. The buyers and sellers on those 1,000+ sides each year were kinda fond of him too.

All he did was list and sell homes. And homeowners knew this. Sellers and buyers would hafta go up three rungs on the ‘I Care’ ladder to be apathetic about your purpose for being an agent or a brokerage owner.

Look through the end of the telescope used by buyers and sellers. They’re constantly scanning the skies for the agent who is producing R-E-S-U-L-T-S — not promises or hi-tech marketing plans.

Wanna know why much of the public thinks real estate agents are fulla shit? Cuz all the marketing, all the face to face and online conversations are about everything under the sun — but not about the results for which they’re searching.

I figure he hates this when I do it, but Greg Swann is the perfect empirical example of getting things right. Yeah, I know, he loves to talk about all the TechCrap and how what he does in this or that realm of the business sets him apart — and to a large extent it’s true. (Here comes the big JayLo but) BUT, most of what he’s done the last several years has been geared to be able to say just one thing to sellers:

“That house down the street, with the Historical Designation? Yeah, I sold that, and the other two a few blocks over too.” OR “Here’s what we did for the last investor who wanted what you want.” Medal Ceremony

Greg produces results — period — end of sentence — stop arguing cuz you’re embarrassing yourself. He does it his way, Russell Shaw does it another way, but they’re both winning most of the listing wars in which they care to fight. Both those guys have higher IQs than is safe, but still…They win cuz they can state simply — and prove just as simply — that they sell homes.

Succeeding in the Real Estate Industry

This blog has been preachin’ how to succeed since Day 1.

Gain true Mastery of the required skill sets.

Wisely use the nearly infinite Autonomy this business allows you. (Um, that’s code for ‘Get off your lazy ass and work HARD.)

And my favorite — Have aPurpose. For the most part, what it is won’t matter to anyone but you, but have one. Or, even better yet, just decide to do everything you do ON Purpose.

If your so-called ‘brand’ doesn’t translate to the public as you consistently producing their desired R-E-S-U-L-T-S — either change what you’re doing or find another way to make a living.

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“In a sense, Britain inadvertently, through its actions in Hong Kong, did more to reduce world poverty than all the aid programs that we’ve undertaken in the last century.”

From The Atlantic, an explication of economist Paul Romer’s idea to build modern-day Hong Kong-like enclaves to promote development in poverty-stricken counties:

When Romer explains charter cities, he likes to invoke Hong Kong. For much of the 20th century, Hong Kong’s economy left mainland China’s in the dust, proving that enlightened rules can make a world of difference. By an accident of history, Hong Kong essentially had its own charter—a set of laws and institutions imposed by its British colonial overseers—and the charter served as a magnet for go-getters. At a time when much of East Asia was ruled by nationalist or Communist strongmen, Hong Kong’s colonial authorities put in place low taxes, minimal regulation, and legal protections for property rights and contracts; between 1913 and 1980, the city’s inflation-adjusted output per person jumped more than eightfold, making the average Hong Kong resident 10 times as rich as the average mainland Chinese, and about four-fifths as rich as the average Briton. Then, beginning around 1980, Hong Kong’s example inspired the mainland’s rulers to create copycat enclaves. Starting in Shenzhen City, adjacent to Hong Kong, and then curling west and north around the Pacific shore, China created a series of special economic zones that followed Hong Kong’s model. Pretty soon, one of history’s greatest export booms was under way, and between 1987 and 1998, an estimated 100 million Chinese rose above the $1-a-day income that defines abject poverty. The success of the special economic zones eventually drove China’s rulers to embrace the export-driven, pro-business model for the whole country. “In a sense, Britain inadvertently, through its actions in Hong Kong, did more to reduce world poverty than all the aid programs that we’ve undertaken in the last century,” Romer observes drily.

Of course, versions of China’s special economic zones have existed elsewhere, especially in Asia. But Romer is not just arguing for enclaves; he is arguing for enclaves that are run by foreign governments. To Romer, the fact that Hong Kong was a colonial experiment, imposed upon a humiliated China by means of a treaty signed aboard a British warship, is not just an embarrassing detail. On the contrary, British rule was central to the city’s success in persuading capitalists of all stripes to flock to it. Romer sometimes illustrates this point by citing another Communist country: modern-day Cuba. Cuba’s rulers have tried to induce foreign corporations to set up shop in special export zones, and have been greeted with understandable caution. But if Raúl Castro convinced a foreign government—ideally a rich democracy such as Canada—to assume sovereignty over a start-up city in Cuba, the prospect of a mini Canada in the sun might attract a flood of investment.

It must have occurred to Castro, Romer says, that his island could do with its own version of Hong Kong; and perhaps that the Guantánamo Bay zone, over which Cuba has already ceded sovereignty to the United States, would be a good place to build one. “Castro goes to the prime minister of Canada and says, ‘Look, the Yankees have a terrible PR problem. They want to get out. Why don’t you, Canada, take over? Run a special administrative zone. Allow a new city to be built up there,’” Romer muses, channeling a statesmanlike version of Raúl Castro that Cuba-watchers might not recognize. “Some of my citizens will move into that city,” Romer-as-Castro continues. “Others will hold back. But this will be the gateway that will connect the modern economy and the modern world to my country.”

There’s quite a bit more to the article. The Atlantic is anti-libertarian, of course, so the author of the piece goes to some pains to confuse democracy with freedom. But Romer’s concept is an interesting way to transmit the economic — and ethical and intellectual — benefits that emerge from the rule of law — tort law, actual justice, not self-serving Rotarian Socialist legislation — to people who have never known it.

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Wayward Politician Generates Website Visits

You may have heard that Bob Etheridge, a politician from North Carolina, hugged, embraced, cuddled, shared a tender moment, or assaulted two men who were asking him some questions on video about his support for Barack Obama’s agenda as he walked down the street in DC.

Apparently, one of the major sites – www.newsbusters.org – that posted the video, also posted a link to my, dare I say, helpful discussion on North Carolina assault law (which was sort of odd since Etheridge, if he violated a law, violated DC’s assault laws).

This generated something like 6,000 visits yesterday, which is more than twice what I get in a month. But, as far as I can tell, no business from those visits.

All this reminds me that website visits are only very loosely correlated with business: visits don’t pay the bills. But, I suspect, they will help the website move marginally up the Google ladder.

Which is to also say: having comprehensive, well-written content can pay off in ways that I didn’t imagine when writing it, which is that I become the go-to source when a politician manhandles a constituent.

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Killer Real Estate Videos That Won’t Kill Your Budget

Yesterday I put up a post on Marketing Videos and Real Estate.  My plea was for more creativity and less facts.  My point? An agent who gets creative and starts using video wisely might just take down the Goliath agent in their neck of the woods.  The very first comment, from Tallahassee Realtor Barry Bevis, got me to thinking.  He said: “Quality at a price is the struggle…  Without going “Hartman” I can’t figure out how to make a good video at a reasonable cost.”  I quickly sat down and jotted out a half dozen video ideas, then put the pad down and walked away.  When working with creative ideas, I usually find it’s a good idea to let them breathe for a while and come back later.  Often times, after rereading them, you discover even fresher and better ideas.  No such luck today though… you get the original ideas and all their rough edges. 🙂

The goal here is to throw some ideas out and have the genius that is BHB add a lot more.  If we’re lucky, this could turn into a “mini-library” of video marketing ideas for real estate agents temporarily running low in the creativity tank and staring at an empty screen.  For me, it’s all about latching onto an aspect of the house and then running a little wild.  Oh, and I love to steal already well-established ideas from the big boys.

VISA Take-Off #1 – there are a number of ways to shoot this.  Show aspects of the house that shine and do the voice-over: “View of the mountains, $10,000; Jacuzzi tub in your masterbath, $3000; and so on.  Then come in with the conclusion everyone knows: “Owning your own home, priceless.”  The key is what you show during that line: Young husband carrying beautiful bride across threshold.  Or, husband painting vertical, purple stripes in the living room while the kids nod approvingly. Or, an exterior evening shot of the house with every window warmly lit while we see the sights and sounds of a fantastic party going on inside.  Single site web address appears at the bottom of the screen.

VISA Take-Off #2 – Same idea, but a child’s perspective (especially designed for a family home in a family neighborhood).  Filmed from a child’s height, but the voice over is the same idea: “Putting new child-proof latches on these beautiful oak cabinets, $100,” while panning the awesome kitchen.  “Putting (say your plumber’s name here), the best plumber in (your town here) on retainer, $500,” while showing a child’s eye view of putting a toy soldier in the toilet and flushing.  (Might get your plumber to incur some of the costs…) Continue with carpets or whatever is great about the house and allows you to work a child into it.  Then, the close.  “Giving your child a world of his own, priceless,”  said over video of a little boy running to the tree house or swing or whatever in the backyard.  Or how about “First step to Olympic glory, priceless,” and show a 6 year old girl in a starting position with a determined look on her face at the edge of the home’s pool.

Super-Agent – if the home is located in a terrific neighborhood, reinforce the idea of you as super agent (costume? depends on you) and take your clients on a Superman’s view of the local town and neighborhood.  (Strap camera to top of car or stand up in a convertible.)  The key is to make it obvious.  Make fun of the Superman aspect while showing off the awesome coffee house and local school.

Historic Home – While doing a voice over of the historic nature of the home, walk through and keep bumping into people in period costumes who talk about how fantastic it is… or how odd the contraptions are (which you conveniently explain to them and the viewer, e.g. Viking Oven which of course leads to a quick shriek in obvious fear of Vikings).  Better still, if some of the competing homes in the neighborhood aren’t historic (best opportunity: built in the 70s) keep the theme.  After talking to your historic figures, show some hippies coming out of the 70’s home for sale down the street and ask the viewer where they want to live.

Beer Commercial – Video shows people going in the beautiful kitchen and coming out thinner.  Or the owner’s friend comes over alone and leaves with a gorgeous bikini babe from the pool in back.  The voice over says something like: “You know how those beer commercials imply that if you drink their beer you’ll lose weight, be the life of the party and date the best looking guys and gals… well, this house is spectacular and at $250,000 a great value.  But will it deliver everything a good beer does?”  Then walk out from behind the camera and win a lottery or have a beautiful woman offer to marry you or whatever, turn back to the camera and wink: “I’m not saying… I’m just saying…”

Large – if the house or yard is really large, talk about it while a small car pulls up and the new buyers get out and remove the sign from the front yard.  Then they turn back to the car and greet an endless stream of children, friends, local merchants, etc. all getting out of the “circus car.”  End with something clever about a big house or maybe about you, the agent.  “It may look like magic (a miracle, impossible, etc) to most people, but when you buy a home from (insert your own name here), we simply call it: doing our job.”

So, there’s a few ideas from the slightly off-center head of a Tin Foil Hat wearer.  Can you top ’em?  Let’s get this library started!

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Reasons to be cheerful, Part one: Things rarely change as quickly or as dramatically as we expect them to.

Do you want to hear some really bad news? I mean dauntingly bad, horrifyingly bad, news so bad you could spend days or even weeks ruminating on it, worrying about it, desperately praying for it not to be true.

Are you ready? Here goes:

While you might have heard that the national debt in the United States is approaching $14 trillion, the actual unfunded liability of all American governments exceeds $125 trillion.

Stupefying, ain’t it?

And stupefying is precisely the right word, since news like that brings out the stupid in people. Nothing enervates the chicken in Chicken Little like a weather report predicting falling skies. If you find yourself in the business of selling advertising or shrieking treacly books or quack nostrums to Chicken Little, it behooves you to hire yourself some weathermen. Worked for Al Gore, didn’t it?

Am I being cynical? Not so much. Mainly I’m just being old.

I am an old libertarian. Not an old man, I hope, though of course I’m not getting any younger. But I have been a very radically committed libertarian since I was 19 years old, and an anarcho-capitalist since I was 24. I have been swimming in this ocean for 30 years, where many folks all over America are just now daring to wet their toes. I can defend the proposition that I am the first consistent theorist of both rational egoism and market anarchism, but, leaving that claim aside, it remains that I have been a libertarian for a long, long time.

Why does that matter? Because I’ve seen the gravely-predicted collapse of the starry firmament before. More than once. More than twice. More than a dozen times. It does seem plausible to me that the-world-as-we-know-it will someday come to an end. But with every passing day, I become more resolved in the belief that that day will not be tomorrow, regardless of the breathless weather reports.

It’s like this: New libertarians can be excitable. You’ve lived your whole life in an eyes-glazed-over sleep-walking state, and then, all at once, you wake up. The precipitant cause might be Atlas Shrugged or a John Stossel TV special or a reading from Jefferson on a radio talk show. Doesn’t matter, really. What matters is that you suddenly see the world as if had just been made, as if you had never seen it before. And you become acutely aware of the many defects in the way the world has been assembled.

That much is good, but, even so, in this state you are more than unusually likely to conclude that things are so bad that they are beyond repair. The timeline in Atlas Shrugged is only 13 short years, after all. How could we have shambled this far down The Road to Serfdom without being in imminent danger of being immediately enserfed?

I am not jaundiced — to the contrary. But I am an old libertarian, and I know from years of paying close attention to events that nothing changes as rapidly as we expect it to, nor as dramatically. Changing trajectories is easy if you are one person on foot, or a dozen folks all loaded into one airplane. But a nation of 300 million souls, each one of us with his own agenda — this is not any easy thing to move. Doesn’t mean it can’t happen, but experience argues that it doesn’t — not very much, not very quickly, not very often.

As creepily socialist as Barrack Obama and his creepy minions might be, the most outrageously socialist thing ever done in the United States was the imposition of wage and price controls by President Richard Nixon in 1971. But if you don’t remember that event first-hand, chances are you know nothing about it. Why? Because it came to nothing in the long run. The damage was undone — and then forgotten.

I am not jaundiced, but neither am I a Pollyanna. For the most part, the American people are amiable and apathetic, stoutly anideological without being at all prickly about their generally-mellow pragmatism, normally much more interested in sports or work or family life than in public affairs. They really, truly like the idea of giving the tiller a nudge every two years, or every four, leaving the ship of state to navigate itself between elections.

Yes, this is foolhardy, as many people are discovering just now. But it’s hard to argue that it has not been a fairly placid policy, up to now. If you want to see quick, dramatic, stomach-wrenching change, you have to go to those benighted places where there are always mobs of people in the streets, each one of them screaming desperately for revolution at once. As dismaying as the ground-state indifference of the American people might be, it’s hard to argue that the peaceful tenor of our day-to-day existence is somehow a bad thing.

It’s possible that I am more aware than others might be of just how benignly tolerant we are in this country: Almost everywhere else, if you say the kinds of things I say every day, at full voice, you will be sent to jail — or to your grave. As much as we might beef about unjust restrictions of our liberty — and I love to sing in that choir — the fact that I am free to speak the most outrageous kind of heresy is a potent testament to just how free we still are in this country.

Could we be more free? But of course! But as gloomy as the heavens might seem at any given moment, it turns out that the sky does not fall, no matter how much you might think it ought to.

Yes, we are in a perilous state, but we didn’t get here overnight. One betrayal followed another, starting with the 1789 constitution, which began the process of undermining the democratic Spirit of ’76. It was the power of philosophy that got us to where we are, and it will be the power of philosophy that will get us out. But just as the perversion of human liberty in America was a gradual process, effected over the course of 200 years, it seems reasonable to suppose that the reversal of this awful state will take some time to work out.

Practically speaking, what is likely to change in the short run? Not very much, I don’t think. It’s easy to take up the weatherman’s mantle and predict cyclones and hurricanes and always more storms. But, in reality, tomorrow’s weather will very probably be a lot like yesterday’s. Things will change in the long run, one may hope for the better. But the changes we are most likely to see in the near future will be largely imperceptible.

I apologize if this is a disappointment to you. I would dearly love to live in the kind of civilization I can describe in such elaborate detail. But to get there quickly, many, many people would have to die. For the moment, at least, I think I can stand to wait for a more propitious opportunity for radical change.

In the mean time, would you like to hear some really good news? Murder rates are down substantially all over America. The cause? Theories abound, but one plausible explanation is the millions of people who bought guns, fearing that the Obama administration would impose new gun control laws. If this is true, this is very, very good news for advocates of individualism. The more people take responsibility for their own lives and property, the less beholden they will be the to the state.

Obviously, things could get a lot worse than they are right now, and I will talk about those scenarios shortly. But things can get better, too, as the self-arming of the American middle class indicates. Either way, the changes we see are likely to take quite a bit longer than we expect them to, and they may be so gradual as to seem like no change at all.

One could wish for a more accelerated rate of change, but it were well to remember that different is not always better. For my own part, I want for all of us to have a chance to grow to be old libertarians. I know what I want, and I know why I am right to want it. But I can stand to wait to get where I’m going peacefully.

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The NAR Backs the FHA… Who’s Backing You?

Late last week the House of Representatives passed H.R. 5072, the so-called FHA Reform Bill.  One of the major components of that bill (you can read the text of the bill here), raises the monthly insurance premium for all FHA buyers.  What does that mean to your bottom line?
 
Currently, the FHA monthly premium is .55% and the new legislation Congress is looking at will raise the premium a wopping 272% to 1.5%.  What does this mean to your buyer?  If they are at the limit of their eligibility on a $300,000 purchase price now, they would have to lower their interest rate by over 1.25% to still qualify for that house.  In other words, if the current market rate is 5.00%, it would have to drop to 3.75%!  If you think you might have trouble locating a lender who will do 30 year fixed loans at 3.75%, don’t worry; you can also lower their purchase price to bring them back into eligibility.  Their new price would only have to drop 10%!  A buyer looking at $300,000 today will be looking at $265,000 to $270.000 as soon as this bill passes. Does that change your market opportunities for the better… or the worse?
 
I understand why the NAR supports this, it keeps FHA alive and well, doing sub-prime loans for people who can’t afford to buy a home, which in turn keeps dues paying agents busy and coughing up their fair share.  But why do agents support it?  It’s going to have a devestating affect on your clients, and therefore on you.  Do you support it?  Have you let anybody know?
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How Mortgage Originators Will Be Compensated By Borrowers Under The Financial Regulatory Reform Act of 2010

Want to “finance your closing costs” but are confused about the disparity in offered mortgage rates?  You might have to thank the Financial Regulatory Reform Act of 2010 (H.R. 4173) for limiting your ability to structure your loan fees.  Read pp 1486- 1490, specifically Section 9903 of the Bill; Prohibition on Steering Incentives.

I’ve explained that Yield Spread Premium in a way for consumers to reduce upfront closing costs by accepting a higher rate:

Discount Points are upfront interest to the borrower .  Along those lines, so are closing costs from third-party providers.  This means that we figure in those costs as the true COST of credit to the consumer and measure it as an annual percentage rate (APR). There are 2-3 good arguments about why APR is an antiquated measure but I’ll leave them for another article.  Borrowers pay points to lower the rate.  A common term is to “buy down the rate”.

Did you know that mortgage brokers get money at a wholesale cost?  It’s how we make profit. Just like your local Nordstrom’s, we buy at wholesale and sell at retail.  The only difference is that we, acting as a mortgage broker have to tell the customer three times what we expect to profit on their mortgage transaction:  First, within three days of an application on a good-faith estimate, at the bottom of the itemization (bottom of page 1 of the California MLDS), second, within three days of drawing loan documents (same disclosures), and finally, on the HUD-1 Settlement Statement as a paid outside of closing (POC) item.

That profit, paid by the lender to the broker is called yield spread premium or YSP. You can understand it as “negative points”.  if a consumer “pays points to lower the rate”, why can’t they “receive points to accept a higher rate”.  Instead of paying upfront interest in the form of a discount point, they receive upfront interest in the form of a “YSP”.  That receipt of upfront interest defers the mortgage broker’s fee!

In the beginning of 2010, the industry adopted the 2010 good-faith estimate.  The purpose of that disclosure was to smack the consumer, right between the eyes, with the dollar amount  of the originator compensation.  Moreover, if terms improved for the borrower, after receiving that disclosure and when locking the mortgage rate, the originator couldn’t profit from the increased yield spread premium; it has to be passed through to the borrower.

A borrower can compensate a  mortgage broker a $4,000 fee, on a $200,000 loan,  three ways today: (rates are for example only and are not current offerings)

RATE      Borrower-Paid Points     Lender-Paid Yield Spread Premium

4.50%      $4,000                                 $0

4.75%      $2,000                                 $2,000

5.00%      $0                                       $4,000

Under subsections (c) 1-2, of Section 9300, the second (at 4.75%)  or “hybrid compensation” plan would be illegal under the new Financial Regulatory Reform Act.  As with all regulations, industry participants look for ways to better serve the consumer and give her what she wants.  Under the proposed law, I think it is conceivable for an originator to charge the $4,000 fee directly to the borrower and allow the $2,000 yield spread premium (at 4.75%) to pay the other third-party fees (appraisal, escrow title, etc).  If I’m incorrect about that assumption, this new law offers consumers less rather than more control of their mortgage options.

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Video Killed the Real Estate Star…

I love marketing.  I love the opportunity presented by a brand new marketing campaign to be creative and stand out from the day-to-day noise of everyone else.  Unfortunately, most agents don’t share my zeal for marketing.  At least, I assume they don’t; how else to explain the mind-numbing dreck I see every day.  Whether by email, on Twitter, over Facebook, online; even on flyers! (When there are flyers.)  Most agents seem to have attended the Detective Joe Friday school of marketing: “Just the facts, ma’am.”

Video affords us a new form of communication.  It includes multiple modalities that can reach – and interest – many more people than an equivalent, uni-dimensional form of communication.  Some people are predominantly visual, some auditory and some kinesthetic.  An email loses two of those groups, so does a radio spot.  But with video we can reach out to all three groups; we can create terrific visual, we can add sound and we can tell a story that creates emotion.  But even with all that going for it, there is still a limit on effectiveness: us.  In the computer world there is a maxim: garbage in, garbage out.  That can be true of video marketing too, but let’s give it a positive spin.  Here’s the maxim I suggest:

CREATIVITY IN, CASH OUT

I expect some might find that a little too crass, but never forget: the ultimate goal is skinnin’ cats.  In any case, my point is creativity.  Believe it or not, a marketing piece for a listing does NOT have to include all the details; that’s what the single site is for, right?  A marketing piece, and especially a video marketing piece, has as its purpose one real objective: TO STAND OUT FROM THE NOISE!  Be memorable, make someone laugh; if you’re really creative: go viral.  This serves the dual purpose of generating interest in what you’re marketing AND generating interest in you – the best damn agent that viewer has ever met.  Now that’s getting bang for your marketing buck.

Neither of the following two videos is about real estate.  Nor, really, are they much about their product.  But they are creative, they are memorable and they are viral.  Look at what they’re doing, steal some ideas for yourself, and think inside the box: the video box.

 

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Reasons To Be Cheerful

view from my back yard.jpg

For loads of reasons, I moved my family from what Greg once called the “tiny town of Westerville, OH,” to Gresham Oregon, a suburb of Portland.  I move into my rental house in a few days.  picture is what I see in my backyard.

My front yard is pine trees, and past that is a pristine view of Mount Hood. I crossed the plain in my minivan with my wife and kids, over 3 days–followed by my first vacation in years, a week in Manzanita Beach. We’ll do a 6 month stay in Gresham, and then figure out if Vancouver, WA is the mecca of tax avoidance that people say it is.

I have been delivered.

Now, I go back to work feverishly on the Sabbath, working like a dog to help my clients get what they want (and paid for).  I am joyful about the task at hand, my lists are set.

Many of you know (and I’ve never really hidden it).I have survived an ordeal, and I am happy because I’ve learned that I can’t be killed.   I can’t be extinguished.  I can get better faster than the government can harm me.  I took their best blow.  Yes, it hurt.  But I got tougher. They will never harm me.  And when  they try again, my stuff is together and I’m ready, and it will be a mere inconvenience, a half day’s work and a check to some Tax Attorney.

Like Martha Stewart before me, I had to maneuver in unpleasant ways.  I had to give plasma to keep the lights turned on 3 years ago. I wasn’t able to adorn my wife in the way that I’d like.   I joined the non prestigious Chapter 7 Society.  But I never broke, and I never said “do it to Julia.”

I’m guessing I’m not the only one.  I’m guessing that other people are shaking off the blows right now, learning that we can produce the income sufficient to pay for an extra house over a three year period in “the worst economy ever.”   Over 3 years, I paid what it would cost to buy a small house in back taxes, penalties and fees (stretching all the way back to 1998).

Where is thy sting? I lived something close to the worst case scenario.  For the last few years, my monthly cash flow started at -$4500.  That’s before personal or business expenses.  That was back taxes (and penalties.  And interest).  That’s what I paid before I paid the business…And that’s over.  I will pay 2009’s taxes in–or before–October, and everything will be well.  I’m over that.

I’m learning: I can get better faster than they can take away.  I’m glad for the blows because I would never have learned what I can do.  I never would have (without the looming threat of Jail) that I can make whatever I will.  Have you learned?  The government can grow, but it can’t grow faster than we can.  It can’t grow faster than you can improve.  It’s not as smart as we are.  It’s not as vital, or as strong.

That all of you are here, improving gives me great joy.  You can’t hurt us, we are legion.  When we are of service to others, of our own volition, that is how we win.  Defiant prosperity.

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Reasons to be cheerful, part 0.5: Sleeping giants can’t sleep forever.

Do you want something to cheer about? Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom is the number one best-seller at Amazon.com right now:

It gets better. The Federalist Papers is at number fourteen.

I think a lot of people are annoyed that the free country they still remember clearly has somehow vanished right from under their noses. It’s very inspiring to see them searching for it so assiduously. My read is that this is very different from 1994…

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When will the National Association of Realtors stop sucking away the lifeblood of American taxpayers? Like all parasites, when it kills the host.

Read it and weep.

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