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Archive for August, 2010

A weblogging strategy for non-writerly Realtors. Or: How you can learn to stop worrying and love your blog.

I was on the phone yesterday with Chris Johnson, talking with him about Realtor weblogs. He mentioned that some of the buyers of his real estate weblogs are having trouble coming up with regular content.

I have a solution for them.

What should they do? Stop worrying about it — and solve the real marketing problem instead.

Instead of building a blogsite around a regularly-updated weblog, it would make more sense to me for reluctant writers to build the blogsite around the mission-critical content instead.

Here’s the deal: There are a finite number of topics that you absolutely, positively need to cover. Whatever target-marketed niche the blog is concerned with, you need to document that niche in a fairly comprehensive way.

How many articles would that take? Five? Ten? Surely not twenty. If you’ve done what you need to do, you can ignore the blog except when you’re burning up with something to say.

A WordPress theme like Equilibrium would give your weblog a magazine-like look and feel. The “featured” section could highlight the three or six or nine posts that are mission-critical for your niche. And the “latest post” section can document your more-recent musings. If you write something crucial later on, you can rotate it into the “featured” section.

Here’s the thing: Everything so-called weblogging experts (including me) have told you about real estate weblogging is probably wrong.

You are not trying to build long-term relationships with regular visitors who will wait for your latest pronouncements with bated breath. Instead, the objective of your blogsite should be to provide mission-critical information to people who will find you by Google when they need you and who will be happy to forget you just as soon as they no longer need you. The magazine-style blogsite fits that approach perfectly.

The purpose of your weblog is not to be available for lonely people looking for friends. It is not to make you one of the cool kids, so that Realtors from all over the world can show up at your place to grouse about how awful the real estate market is. The purpose of your blog is certainly not to make you feel bad about one more ugly chore you’re not getting done.

Here is the purpose of your real estate weblog: To communicate to potential clients that you are the agent for them. You don’t need a huge amount of content to do that. What you need is the content that will inspire them with the confidence that you know enough about their particular problem to get the job done.

This idea — just enough weblog — is a solution to your real marketing problem.

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Unchained melodies: I’m in love with my car.

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Bored with merely wasting time on Twitter, Realtors discover an even better way to fritter away their days: Ganging up on each other.

Wonderful

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Lucha Libre Mortgage Reform

Last week there was some discussion about what was to have happened today in Washington. This discussion centered around whether the government would or would not take certain steps to protect the housing market through a mandated deficit funded mortgage bailout.

Today, we have some new information on what Tim Geitner and a host of invited banking executives chit chatted about.

Seems that much of the talk in a few of the posts here centered on whether we could expect the Obama administration and industry executives to continue along socialistic lines, (Wall Street still knows better than Main Street), or whether lightning would strike and we’d decide to take our lumps now.

The answer’s in.

Obama administration invited banking executives Tuesday to offer advice on changing the government’s role in the mortgage market. Their response: stay big.

While the executives disagreed on the exact level of support needed, the group overwhelmingly advocated the government should maintain a large role propping up the nearly $11 trillion market.

Bill Gross, managing director of bond giant Pimco, said the economic recovery required more government stimulus, particularly in the housing market. He suggested the administration push for the automatic refinancing of millions homes backed by mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Fannie Mac.

Refinancing those homes at the lowest mortgage rates in decades would give Americans more money each month. That would boost consumer spending by $50 billion to $60 billion and lift housing prices by as much as 10 percent, he said.

Without such stimulus in the next six months, Gross said, the economy will move at a “snails pace.”

Treasury officials have said they have no plans to enact such a plan, which has been the subject of intense rumors on Wall Street in recent weeks.

So it was just a rumor after all????? But wait….there was more…

Geithner did not offer a specific exit strategy for Fannie and Freddie. He agreed that the government could remain involved in the mortgage system by guaranteeing investors in mortgage-backed securities get paid, even when borrowers default.

There is a “strong case to be made” for such an arrangement, Geithner said.’

This is just like a professional wrestling match, the kind where heroes and crooks throw each other around the ring for a genuine good time and lots of laughs for the audience. It’s all fake, of course, but there’s no denying that the participants are powerful men who can certainly take you to the mat if they want to. And Terrible Tim Geitner, the reigning heavy weight champion, may be funny to watch, but won’t feel so funny when he makes the American taxpayer part of his smackdown.

When Terrible Tim Geitner says there’s a “strong case to be made for a mortgage system that guarantees that investors in mortgage-backed securities get paid, even when borrowers default, that’s carny talk that the fix is in.

Watch as the match unfolds. Lucha Libre Mortgage Reform is coming to a town near you.

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Master Seller-Financing To Beat The Mortgage Market Freeze of 2011

I’m not so sure I want to play hockey against Bryant Tutas.  He thinks like Wayne Gretsky.

I cautioned about the coming mortgage freeze and asked what agents might do to prepare for it.  I’m a mortgage guy so I think in terms of institutional financing.  I completely forgot about seller-financing.  Bryant Tutas answered:

I’m ready for it. I just listed my 3rd property this month where the seller is offering financing. Seller financing is going to be very popular over the next few years. I’ve also been marketing to foreign investors with cash to spend. Once they purchase a home we turn right around and offer it for sale with financing. It’s a win all the way around.

Are you kidding me?  It’s so time-tested but underutilized it’s brilliant.  I forgot all about it!

What do you know about seller-financing?

First, you have to have a seller with some equity but…. ain’t nobody got no equity no mo’.  What’s a hustler to do?

Foreigners are looking to pay cash for U.S. homes and are finding great bargains at auction.  In San Diego, we see investors buy properties at auction and sell them for 20-35% higher, 60-90 days later.  The problem with some of those properties is that they aren’t appraising.  Seller financing doesn’t require an appraisal nor does it have  those pesky underwriting guidelines.  Bryant Tutas mentioned that he is prospecting foreign investors, to buy properties and sell them with financing terms.

This is the ultimate form of private financing.  Before you embark on this strategy, you might advise your sellers to require the following when considering offers:

  • a tri-merged credit report– you definitely want to check for tax liens, judgments, and large charge-offs.  All of those can become liens on title
  • It’s a good idea to require some income documentation– if your buyer’s housing expense doesn’t exceed 50%, you’re kosher in California but it’s probably a good idea to make sure that all of his/her debts don’t exceed 50% of gross monthly income
  • A down payment is going to assure your buyer has something to lose if the deal goes sour.  I might suggest you tier the interest rate offering to correspond with the down payment ( eg- 30% down at 6%, 20% down at 7%, 10% down at 8%)

I’ve sold a home on a wrap, which is basically seller-financing, and I found it’s best to have a title company service the loan.  This helps the borrower when he/she goes to refinance the mortgage by displaying that they paid to an institutional servicer.  You can  have the mortgage rating reported on a credit bureau if an institution services it.

It’s a good idea to have an end in mind.  In California, owner-occupied properties can’t be financed with a balloon payment less than 60 months.  The plan should be for the buyer to be able to refinance that loan by the balloon date.  One thing I did was to offer a discount from principal if the refinanced out of the debt early.

Most title or escrow companies can prepare a note and deed of trust (or mortgage) for your seller.  Search high and low for an escrow officer with some gray hair and a voice cured by Pall Malls and whiskey.  Those grizzled veterans were around in the 90s, when seller-financing was hopping.  They are pretty well-versed in the documentation needed.  (First American Title has an in-house,  loan document preparation service).

If you buy properties correctly, you can really make a great return for an investor,  One “flip” property I recently financed, was purchase for $225,000 and immediately sold for $300,000.  Offering financing terms, if little institutional financing is available, might help you command a premium.  This is a great idea to have in your arsenal when/if the institutional mortgage market shrinks, withers, or dies.

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Nobody Cares About Your M.O. ‘Till They See It’s Skinnin’ Cats Big Time

In almost every baseball game you’ll ever see, there comes a point when the starting pitchers run into a situation on which the game’s outcome will likely pivot. Take last night for instance — the Padres/Cubs game in Chicago. Padre’s starting pitcher Keven Correia had a rocky first inning. The first two batters hit safely, resulting in men on 2nd and 3rd with nobody out, and the heart of the order now due up.

Nobody scored.

Kevin went on to pitch shutout ball ’till lifted for a pinch hitter in the seventh inning. That first inning could’ve gone either way. But he skinned that cat in short order. He’s not Bob Gibson, in that he can’t overpower hitters. He gets batters out the old fashioned way — by pitching, not throwing. When the season’s over, Kevin will have won 13-15 games, a total which is distinctly in the upper echelon of major league results.

HIs fastball can be hit by high school players if not located well. His curveball reminds nobody of Sandy Koufax. Yet he keeps skinnin’ more of his share of cats. Why? Cuz even though his ‘stuff’ ain’t hall of fame caliber, he knows how to make the best of what he has, and consistently does what all winning pitchers do, regardless of what they’re throwing. He disrupts batters’ timing. I know this first hand, as I had the pleasure of havin’ the dish once when he was a junior college pitcher in San Diego.

It ain’t rocket science– but a helluva lot easier said than done. It’s analogous to success in real estate brokerage. Those who do what produces consistent results — skin the most cats — win. And to quote all of our grandpas, ‘there’s more than one way to skin a cat.

Last Thursday I wrote a post about a guy on the east coast who’s been skinnin’ cats at a pretty impressive clip, almost all on the buyer side. (He’ll close 70 sides this year.) Exclusive of any referrals, 100% of his business comes directly from his online efforts, which generate about 7-8,000 leads yearly, give or take a thou.

Greg Swann made an astute observation and asked a question directly related to all those ‘leads’. In fact, he was unwilling to even call ’em leads.

Here’s Greg

Here’s my question: If he’s converting only 1 out of 100, why do you call them leads? Those aren’t potential clients, they’re names — some of them with working phone numbers.

If you hear from 8,000 people a year, that’s 22 a day, every day, including Christmas. It’s got to take at least a half-hour per each one to connect, forge a relationship, gather details, set up searches, isolate likely properties and then decide whether or not to proceed. That’s eleven hours a day, eleven of the best money-making hours of the day.

This doesn’t make any sense to me, Jeff. If I had to talk to 22 new people a day, I would shoot myself before the end of the first day — especially if I knew I had to do that five days in a row to get to a paycheck.

Whatever. My thinking is they’re not leads. They’re obligatory sign-ups to an IDX system.

His comment made sense to me, so I said I’d be talkin’ with the guy to find out how he’s skinnin’ all those cats when the quality of almost all the ‘leads’ suck like a turbo charged Dyson.

The answer had me grinnin’.

He doesn’t call anybody with the hen’s teeth rare exception of the buyer wishing to purchase a home in the $1.5 Million range and above.

Not only does he not call 99.999% of those 7-8,000 IDX leads, he has so many of ’em call him, he has to have a full time assistant to handle the cherries that aren’t cherry enough for his time.

In other words, he let’s the serious buyers filter themselves onto his phone line through their effort, not his. By the time they do that, I imagine the conversation is relatively fruitful. 🙂

No drip marketing in the sense that he’s not sending periodic marketing messages to them in an attempt at building relationships. Just an automatic system givin’ them the listings they wanna see on a regular basis. When they’re serious, they call. Enough to close 70 sides this year.

Surely there will be buyer agents out there who will critique this M.O. Fair enough, to each their own.

70 closed sides, and they’re all callin’ him first.

Works for me.

You?

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The End Product of Appeasing the Collective: Chris Pearson, GPL and Matt Mullenweg

This post contains a Bawld Guy axiom, some tech wank, and more.

For those people that do what I do (what is it that I do–if anything?  I often wonder), there was kind of a big debate this past month.  It involved WordPress–open source GPL software–Thesis, formerly proprietary software that capitulated to no avail.  Matt Mullenweg, an unstable genius that seems hell bent on harming his community (more on that in a moment), Chris Pearson, a narcissistic genius that seems hell bent on blowing a hole in his leg because you can’t tell him what to do.

The gist: the Thesis theme (a theme that I deliver something like 60% of my sites in) was not GPL.  Despite the fact the only lawyers that claimed that it needed to be worked for a free software foundation, AutoMATTic was pursuing them to become GPL.  Ma.tt started calling Chris out on Twitter, not suing, no, just acting like a goon.  There was a delightful Mixergy where Chris Pearson and @@photomatt fought amongst themselves.

I love me some good wank as much as the next guy, so I had to chime in.   I didn’t add much new–the whole situation was utterly ugly all around and very unfortunate, but some of the WP types dropped in to comment (and I love posterous for its simplicity.  But I digress.)

Our dear friend WP Tutorial god Ben Cook summarizes it better than I do for those of us  that love a nerd war.

The Point, If I have One: Don’t Comply With The Hive, They Never Stop.

So after a lot of wrangling–and even a Mashable write up, Copyblogger Brian Clark (who dissolved his partnership shortly after this incident) got Pearson to stop it already and adopt GPL–and probably that should have been done to begin  with for practical reasons.  Note: I hate when people try and force my hand.  Huzzah for Harmony, and Ma.tt was initially thrilled.

But not so fast, last week (meant to post this a while ago, left Macbook in Seattle)  opened another salvo against a compliant opponent, and like France in WWI, Matt is  demanding reparations.   This is what happens when you comply with those who try to coerce you, and it makes it completely understandable why you’d fight this battle.  Before I had two kids, the “Click it or ticket” commercials–where cops are cracking down–had the impact of making me go sans-seatbelt for years.  Not because it was in my best interests, but because whatever cops tell me to do I want to do the opposite.  Because I can, and because expressing and imposing my will matters.  Click it or ticket?  Screw that, I’ll drive how I want.

I’m guessing that Pearson/DIY themes went GPL despite and not because of the threat of legal action.   People I’ve talked to that are qualified IP attorneys have indicated to me that it’s a murky fight and that the courts are unlikely to give an outright victory to the “free software” side.  I’m guessing that DIY Themes didn’t want to fight, didn’t want the distraction and thought that they could get this thing out of their hair and move on.

Screen shot 2010-08-16 at 5.07.58 PM.png

28,377 people.  Times 87.   That’s $2.5 million, people.  That’s a target.  There’s “social proof,” and there’s “making yourself a target.”  And this “target” caused the green monster to come out in Ma.TT and for him to continue to lie–he didn’t call off his dogs.  The money became a magnate for lawsuits by a guy that was in love with control.

The Bawld Guy Lesson:

I always thought Jeff Brown was a fool for never telling his properties, numbers and anything else.  I always thought he was making a grave mistake.  Now?  Not so much.  You want to keep a certain lid on your success to keep the jealous people away.  People do get jealous in ways that can’t be predicted–and burn up those that dare to not bow to the collective get eviscerated with many and varying justifications.

What you do is this: keep a lid any kind of success that gets beyond demonstrating competence and service–and into bragging.  (Or be ready with a retained attorney that can defend you).  Because when we get past social proof and into bragging.  Don’t brag, keep your head down, and be kind.  Chris didn’t help himself by charging the matador’s cape.

The Upshot:

Long term, Ma.TT’s instability has given me some doubt about the future of WordPress.  If they can act in this way to punish a business owner who organized a community and did a ton for their platform, they can hurt my business for daring to color outside the lines.  I don’t think that this is any short term problem with using WP, but I do think that it’s prudent to diversify in much the same way that I stopped chasing subprime loans in 2005.  I know there will be a chorus of people saying, “it’s fine because it’s open source.”  This is true to a point, but if this platform is heavily influenced by someone that is currently given over to capricious instability and dishonesty, then its got a very serious crack in its foundation. (People have chronicled Ma.TT’s history, including getting WordPress.Com delisted from Google for a while for ad-sense spammy stuff.)

As for me, I intend to grow the pie: goal is to move from 8 thesis deployments per month to about 15.  (I won’t disclose my margins, but I will say that they are coming down a good bit.)  I’m also  adding Headway deployments because 1.7 is a big deal, and a lot of our hyper detail oriented non-coding clients will love it.  I’m adding Genesis as well because I want a fully GPL theme in my arsenal.   But I’m looking around, looking past WordPress for a more business focused CMS.  Right now, nothing’s there, but I’m interested in learning more about what I can make.  Ma.tt really hurt his community by prosecuting one of its best contributors and continuing to harm them after they surrendered.   Whenever top producers give in to force, more force follows till the producer gives in.  It often seems like a good idea to appease the barbarians, but it only emboldens them.

 

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Batting Averages for Listing Agents

Redfin just published MLS data from seven counties across the U.S. on the likelihood that a listing activated in 2009 sold by August of 2010. It turns out that the listing agent got a sale 47% of the time, a number that seemed surprisingly low to us, particularly since staging, photographing and marketing costs can add up.

It’s a pointed question for us. Having spent years focused on buyers, we are just beginning to learn how to make listings profitable. Today we still make more money from our home-buyers than our sellers, and our sellers are more work.

In thinking through the target success rate for our business, we’ve wondered if the 2009 data are aberrational. Have success rates been significantly higher in past years? In 2009, were listings just loss leaders for agents to meet new clients and build their brand? Or do you think that the 2009 rate is what a brokerage should expect every year? What do you think the customer expects?

Maybe a hard year is a necessary prelude to a good year. Adam Wiener, a licensed agent who runs new business initiatives and analytics at Redfin, emailed me this morning to note that many listing agents prefer to catch listing customers on the rebound from their first agent, after their listing has failed to sell. We are getting some of that business, and giving some of that business away to others too; hopefully for everyone the second time will be a charm.

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NAR and ALTA further attempt to stifle private enterprise on Private Transfer Fees

When the National Association of Realtors and the American Land Title Association claim to be doing something to benefit consumers, those same consumers can expect to be fleeced once again.  Currently, they are trying to ban private transfer fees by getting the Federal Housing Finance Agency to amend rules so that almost defunct Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac can no longer back properties that have private transfer fees covenants recorded against them.

I’ve written about private transfer fees on Bloodhound before. At the time, I promised to do more work with them and report back.  Since then I have looked at them, and received proposals from Freehold Capital, on implementing them on two of my own projects.  I haven’t recorded their instruments on my projects even though I do like the concept.  As a developer, private transfer fees would be great if they could be securitized so the money was available up front to pay for infrastructure costs.  My issues with the Freehold proposal is they currently do not have a securities market for the instruments and I believe their cut of the action is too rich for what they are providing.  So, I have made a private decision that I do not see enough value in their proposal.

That does not mean that I think Private Transfer Fees should be banned.  It does not mean that a competitor, or Freehold themselves, might not have a proposal in the future I would like to be able to do.  The concept, used as I described it, could be fantastic and help create more valuable properties we can all sell!

Jeremy Yohe, spokesman for the American Land Title Association, claims that “The casual homebuyer would have no clue that these fees are even attached to the property that they’re going to purchase” as his reason that these fees should be banned.  He forgets to mention that the members of his association have the job or providing accurate title information for things recorded on the title, like covenants.  I just love it when people argue their own incompetence is a reason that something should not be allowed.

There are already three groups that take a percentage of the price of a home at each closing that have no ownership interest in the property.  The real estate agents (NAR), the title companies (ALTA) and the government with excise taxes.  This is the same triad that doesn’t want anybody else to be able to do something similar, even if they are just financing the very infrastructure that that created the development in the first place!

I’m sure there are ways that private transfer fees can be abused.  Pretty much anything can be abused.  However, that doesn’t mean I don’t want to have the right to make my own choices.  I also want the NAR and ALTA to quit trying to justify the protection of their pocketbooks while claiming to be watching out for consumers, when they aren’t.

Without private transfer fees, fewer developments will get done and consumers will have fewer, and more expensive options.  The FHFA has submitted the proposal to the Federal Register for public comment, which will be open for 60 days.  If you want to comment on private transfer fees one way or another, email: regcomments@fhfa.gov. Please include “Guidance on Private Transfer Fee Covenants, (No. 2010-N-11)” in the subject line of the message.

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Me and Claudia and PHP: Using internet real estate marketing to — you know — sell real estate…

So, the Arizona Republic ran an article yesterday on on-line real estate marketing and you will never in a million years guess who they did not call. I never get called for any of those kinds of things — the RaiseTheBarTab kinds of events — even though we’re doing cooler stuff than anyone I know of. I’m not weeping. I’m always very forthcoming with everything I know, but if there is going to be a cadre of Realtors dead set against learning how to do the work I do, I’m more than happy to have them working in my own market.

And I’m not bragging, either. We’re going to have a banner year, for us, in terms of volume of transactions, and we’re kicking the asses of all the canned-software Twitter-fidgets named in the article. But we are digging our way out of a deep hole, and we’re a long way from where I want us to be. I like to brag that we spend almost nothing on marketing, but the fact is that we almost never have any money to spend on marketing. I will put every Realtor in Phoenix on notice: When we have money and staff, we are going to be a force to contend with.

So, even though I don’t issue any Twitter spasms, at least not non-robotically, of late I am putting paid to a lot of new and interesting real estate marketing ideas.

What’s changed? Cathleen is giving me some Claudia time. Claudia Couts is the housekeeper I made Cathleen hire last year. She’s with us for two hours a day, six days a week. She keeps the house down to a manageable level of chaos and takes care of all the pet-maintenance duties. The idea was to open up the time that Cathleen was spending on those chores, and this has been a win-win all around.

Lately I’ve been buried in paperwork, at which I’m horrible, and I had marketing ideas that required small amounts of rote labor — at which I’m also horrible. I thought we might hire a virtual assistant, but Cathleen suggested giving Claudia a try. Very big bonus. She is meticulous, conscientious and very thorough-going — and the animals all think she hung the moon.

So I built four new weblogs to target-market niche products. I generate the basis of the content with software, then Claudia goes in and enhances that content by hand. All of this is stored on our server, to be posted automatically by email submission from a CRON job. Each new post auto-Tweets itself into the @PhoenixBargains Twitter account (which also auto-Tweets every search run from FreePhoenixMLSSearch.com). The RSS feed from each of those weblogs is auto-inherited into a corresponding Scenius scene, and those scenes are in turn echoed back on a number of our real estate web sites. They’re also echoed on a huge number of engenu pages, with the result that I can give each one of those weblog posts a temporary window on around 12,000 backlinks.

Here’s the funny part. None of this is about SEO. Search-engine marketing for real estate, so far, has been about as sophisticated as a box of puppies: You hope to be the puppy who jumps the highest when the customer chances to look your way. Our style of marketing is always about building the relationship, so everything I’m talking about — and a lot I’m not talking about — is devoted to getting prospects into our web-based marketing universe. If I can do that, it doesn’t matter how cute your puppy is. I’m selling value, not gimmicks.

Every new thing we come up with builds on all the work we’ve done so far. I don’t depend on vendorslut hacks, and I don’t have the exact same crap that every other Twitspastic doofus in town is using.

Frankly, it’s a pretty lousy time to use the internet to sell real estate. Price is everything, and speed and strategy matter a lot more than style and high-concept. But I know this market will get better, and I know that I will have more money and more staff to throw at the problem of internet real estate marketing, going forward. I have way more ideas than I have time to implement, and my competitors are too busy trading bowling scores with each other on Twitter to notice what we’re up to — so much the worse for them.

I don’t need to hear from newspaper reporters. I need to hear from buyers and sellers. I know I don’t have this down yet, but I’m pretty sure that I’m the only Realtor in this market who is even working on the problem.

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Innovation now: I’ve stopped taking buyer’s checks for earnest money, but now I want to stop worrying about wire transfers, too.

I’m living much of my time right now with my nose pressed right up against one tool or another — listings, DocuSign, the steering wheel, et endlessly cetera. That’s cool, we need the dough, and we can’t make it rain hard enough, fast enough. But by this point I have no idea if something I’m doing is an innovation or not. I’m just dancing as fast as I can.

This topic just came up, and I’m passing it along because I haven’t done that here yet. I know this because I hadn’t done it with my wife and business partner until just now.

Here’s the scoop: I’ve all but stopped taking earnest checks. I’m having almost all of my buyers wire their earnest money deposits directly into title. I never touch anyone’s else’s money — the only known way a real estate broker can be assured of escaping imprisonment.

But that’s not my reason for coming to do things this way. I used to take the check, made out to Chicago or Fidelity or whatever, then schlep it around while I waited for the contract to be executed. Not fun but not onerous — just inefficient.

By now, I do a lot of REOs as rental home investments for out-of-state buyers. I don’t know the name of the title company when we write the contract, and the buyer is back home by the time we need to deposit the funds.

I don’t even talk about checks any longer. I tell the buyer how things work and that I will have title email wiring instructions when we’re ready to rock. Totally transparent, totally arm’s-length, and no one involved in the process says boo.

If the lister is a little too adamant about receiving a PDF of a fax of a scan of a photocopy of a useless check, I will add language like this: “Seller is aware that Buyer will deposit Earnest Money by wire transfer into Title Company, to be determined by Seller, within one business day after Seller’s final acceptance of this Purchase Contract and any incorporated addenda.” (Reminder: I am not your broker.)

It’s the perfect solution — almost.

Bank wires move slowly, this because banks want to milk their own depositors for interest — float. The banks will blame it on their antique computing hardware, but if you take quick look around whatever room you happen to be in right now, I expect you can lay eyes on a computer that can move money at internet speeds — instantaneously.

So here’s a push we can all make, all at once: Praise the gods, our friends at the title companies have all just discovered email — and Twitter and Facebook. How about let’s introduce them to PayPal?

Here’s what I want: When an owner-occupant buyer of a seller-actually-has-folding-green-equity home tells me he doesn’t want to have to go through the hassle of a wire transfer, I want to be able to say, “No problem. You can pay by debit or credit card on the title company’s web site. They’ll charge you a small processing fee, but the money will move in real time with zero hassles.”

So: For my own part: Chicago Title, I’m calling you out. This is good business, good marketing and good PR — you can brag about it in your spam. This is the next step in your emergence into the world of internet commerce.

Go ye and do likewise with the title company you favor. This is what Bloodhounds can do for the real estate industry: Help it to grow up.

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Hold on tight for the rider of your life…

Seen this morning in Surprise, Arizona. That’s a pre-printed rider, too, courtesy of the local board of realtors. I might have said “Not Bank-Owned” instead of “Not A[n] REO,” but, either way, we’re seeing the birth of a powerful new marketing message.

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Unchained melodies: A danceable rebellion…

In my spare time I am more than a little annuckingfoyed at the state of whorebottery in the RE.net, which I had once hoped might be an antidote to the whorebots who have infested residential real estate since the advent of the NAR, at least. But: Teri Lussier advises me that the solution to all this annoyance is danceable music, so here do I deliver me of my frustrations.

First, Elvis Costello in an acoustic demo of Green Shirt that is better than the more-polished radio hit:

Second, live and acoustic, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young with Chicago:

And finally, for Jim Klein and Don Reedy, Lyle Lovett puts everything in perspective:

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Blood, sweat, and fears

Once upon a time, maps were marked HIC SVNT LEONES to denote unknown territory. Hic Svnt Leones means “Here are lions”. Scary. Uncharted territory is scary.

I’ve been paying very close attention to how I accomplish things: What I do and what I don’t do. Why some things are easy and I embrace them and why are somethings harder and I avoid them. I’m trying to improve my business and my productivity so it’s kind of nice useful critical to understand what makes me tick. Or tock. I need to figure out the internal roadblocks that keep me from achieving my goals. I want to recognize them immediately so I can overcome them as quickly as possible rather than letting them pile up to barricade levels.

There is stuff, for lack of better word, that I dislike doing, but when it’s up to me to do everything, and in real estate it often is up to me to do everything, I have to learn to just get on with it. I know this but still, there are things that I don’t like doing so I begin to waste my own precious time, using procrastination as motivation. An epiphany: It recently occurred to me that I would be furious with anyone else who wasted my time the way I so carelessly waste my own time.

Some of the habits I have fallen into are now clear even to me as red flags that I’m avoiding something. Twitter of course, is one example. What? Is it that obvious? Okay, so I use social networking to avoid doing some things that I find difficult. I recognize it now so I can overcome it, and that’s the thing. I once thought this was pain avoidance, but now I see it as fear. Of the unknown. As in Hic Svnt Leones. What is going to happen if I do this thing? What unseen beasties lie in wait to pounce on my soft under belly? I have a very fertile imagination and sometimes it grows weeds in the garden of the mind, but the only way to pull the weeds is if you can recognize them. You have to know which plants are the flowers and veggies, and which plants are like kudzu in Georgia. I’ve been paying attention. Now that I can recognize a red flag going up, I only have to ask myself- what am I afraid of? The answer is typically, no- it’s always something minor, or it’s easily handled, or it’s easily overcome. I may have to break it down into bite size pieces but, quite honestly? There’s nothing I can’t do. You neither if you think about it.

Humans are productive by nature. It’s in our DNA to be working, accomplishing, solving problems, setting goals and achieving them. The best part of learning about what I’m afraid of is that it gives me more opportunities to be productive, to make and meet bigger goals, and accomplish those whispers of dreams that I sometimes barely dare to recognize. Those explorers who ignored the warnings and those intrepid travelers who step into uncharted territory today are the only people who get to stand on the top of the mountain and roar. I want to be one of those people and I’m on my way. See you in that uncharted territory where Hic Svnt Leones.

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“…I knocked that transaction right on it’s…”

The Real Estate Ideal?

Sometimes the best part about being a real estate agent is the time it affords you to be with your family.  Of course, other times the best thing about being a real estate agent is the excuses it provides for doing exactly the opposite: “What’s that dear?  Your mother is going to be in town this Sunday and you want to spend the morning down at Begonias, Begonias and Tulips, then do a little shoe shopping?  Gosh darn it all, I’ve got an Open House that Sunday.”  You get the idea.  But if you really think about it, the best part about being a real estate agent is the opportunity to knock someone else right on their derriere – metaphorically speaking, of course.

Last week our local football team (the San Diego Super Chargers!) held an open practice at the stadium where they play their home games.  I took my two boys down there and we made an evening of it.  (Mostly because I wanted my boys to see what the inside of a professional football stadium looks like without having to drop a cool $500 on parking, tickets, popcorn and a great big Styrofoam finger that implies we’re #1 at something… I’m guessing it’s separating fools from their money, but I can’t be sure.)  Anyway, being there gave us an opportunity to watch Kris Dielman in action.  Man I like watching this guy play the offensive line.  Having been a defensive lineman myself, that’s saying something.  The difference in mind-set between the two is staggering, but that’s exactly why I enjoy watching him so much: he plays offensive line like a defensive lineman… and he plays football the way we should practice real estate.

He’ll often knock his guy 2, 3 even 5 yards back; sometimes he puts the guy right on his backside.  Now that’s what you call getting the job done.  Even more than that: it’s what you call getting the job done very, very well.  You might say he’s a Top Producer at what he does.  But here’s the thing: after he knocks that guy back one yard and two cheeks, do you think he rests on his laurels?  Or maybe he looks around for the accolades and enjoys the applause (can you say “referrals”)?  Do you figure he maybe runs up to one of his teammates on the field (in the office) and shouts over the noise (which would be the coffee pot/copier station in this strained little metaphor of mine): “Hey!  Did you see what I did on that last deal?  I really knocked that last transaction on its escrow!”  No.  No he does not; what he does do is run down the field and look for someone else to hit.  And he finds them and he knocks them on their butt – which is a lot easier now that he’s got momentum – and then you know what he does?  He looks around for someone else to hit!  I swear I watched him knock two guys down during one play and he had a third guy lined up in his sights when the whistle blew… Holy Mackerel, he was one unhappy camper!  You could see it in his eyes – he was excited for that next hit and he was not pleased the play was over; and I’m talking about a guy who’s considered pretty successful just by making the first block.  Anything after that is icing on the cake.  Yet here he is not only lining up a third block but visibly angry when he doesn’t get to finish.

In sports-talk we call that “Playing to the Whistle.”  Mr. Dielman loves playing the game so much that he makes the most of every play and he goes until he can’t go anymore… until the whistle blows.  I don’t know what you’re planning on doing today.  I don’t know what you’ve got planned for this career you’ve chosen in real estate.  I sure as heck don’t know what you’re hoping to do with this particular life.  But I do know this: I hope you get out there like Dielman, and till the whistle blows…

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