There’s always something to howl about

Archive for September, 2010

The server swap is happening now…

DNS propagation takes a while, so it could be a while before you hit the new sever. Meanwhile, I’m backing up this database every 15 minutes, but there’s no way of know when we might lose data.

I’ll say so when things seem to be finished.

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Lorena Bobbit: Part Time Hairdresser and Real Estate Agent

I am at the Council of MLS’s meeting in Chicago on behalf of a client, and it is surreal. How is it possible, in the age of Craigslist, that it takes this many people to manage a relatively straightforward database?

I just watched Stefan Swanepoel tell the MLS people, to his credit, that it is in their best interest to advocate raising the bar of professionalism in real estate, a subject that has been prevalent on this blog for as long as I’ve been reading it.

Its hard to see the MLS and RE Assoc. people taking that message to heart, considering that raising the bar = fewer dues paying members, but if you are going to tilt and windmills, you might as well go for it and speak truthiness to power, I guess.

Still, the problem of standards is no joke — except that it is.

Good Morning America was on over breakfast at the hotel today, and they started a new “Where are they now?” segment with Lorena Bobbit — remember her?

At about 2:49 in the story, the reporter tells us that Lorena makes her living now “ a part time hairdresser — and real estate agent.”

As John Bobbit once surely said — “Ouch.”


We’re gonna move: and all of its subfolders and subdomains is moving to a new server.

I’m sure you’ve noticed the pain we’ve been going through. I made a big mistake a couple of weeks ago, and, in the process of fixing that, I uncovered systemic problems in our current file server arrangement that are most easily addressed with a match.

Which is to say, we’re going to burn this playhouse down. Last week, I moved and Yesterday I moved 31 of our lower-traffic domains. Starting today, I’m going to begin the process of moving itself to a new server.

This is no small task. We have a huge quantity of content, along with four weblogs associated with this one domain. It will be a while before I do the DNS change — and I’ll tell you when I’ve done it — and it will be a while after that before you land on the new server. As with every DNS swap we’ve done before, there may be some lost comments, if you land on the old server after the new server has gone live. But: We’re fairly slow right now, so this should not be a huge obstacle.

I’m sorry for the hassle — and I’m sorry for all the hassle you’ve been enduring. By isolating our big time-sucks, I hope to make everything perform better. I’ve got some cool ideas I want to play with, but I need to wait for a more stable BloodhoundBlog to show off that stuff.

More news as details emerge. Meanwhile, here’s Loudon Wainwright III on the subject of moving:


My take on real estate bar camps: If you want to learn how to sell, you’ll learn nothing by “studying” with enthusiastic amateurs.

Jeff Brown wants to know if real estate bar camps are a waste of his time. My view is that they probably are, at least in terms of making maximum productive use of time taken away from money-making work. Jeff is a chatty guy, so I expect he can have a good time with any random group of real estate practitioners, but in terms of epiphanies major and minor — or even just an a-ha! or two to cover the cost of the gasoline — there’s just not that much there there.

First a caveat — thus to give you a chance to dismiss me if your mind runs easily to thoughts of thoughtlessness: I’ve only been to one real estate bar camp. Brian Brady and I did a half-day BloodhoundBlog Unchained event at’s headquarters in Seattle, and the first (I think) Seattle REBC was held the next day. Brian and I did a session that day with Ardell Dellaloggia, then I used Al Lorenz’ Windows laptop to do a session on Scenius — with the latter being of benefit to no one, I think. I spent much of the day in a conference room, conferring with anyone who would dare to talk to me, and that was reasonably productive. I taught much more than I learned, but I got to spend quite a bit of time with Al, and that man knows a lot of interesting stuff.

But: The event was opened by a vendor, and the vendorslut influence was an oozing slime everywhere. It was obvious to me that the ordinary punters were completely lost, and it was equally obvious that the vendors were “befriending” folks who had learned nothing — except that they were scared and clueless — picking them off like drunken sorority pledges at a fraternity mixer.

I’ve not done anything with the bar camps that have been held in Phoenix, second because the wired Realtors in town seem to want to have nothing to do with me, but first because the wired Realtors in town don’t seem to know very much that I’m interested in learning. If I want to hear from Seth Godin and Brian Clark, I know where to find them — and they’re better in the original in any case.

I’m very tight with my time — my job is selling real estate, not schmoozing — and I don’t think it’s any accident that the first real estate bar camp was held in a bar. I almost never drink alcohol — ceremony, solemnization, and, sometimes, sex — and I never, ever spend time drinking in bars. There’s a hard limit to how much shit I’m willing to shoot, and there is no topic of small talk large enough to excite my interest. I just want to work, and my steady conviction is that Realtors only talk to each other to give themselves the camouflage of pretending to work, thus to rationalize goofing off. In this regard, Twitter, Facebook and real estate bar camps all become the same one thing: A huge waste of time.

There’s more, though: As I’ve said, I think the whole TwitBook real estate culture is closing on the wrong objectives. You don’t need a phalanx of fair-weather friends and you don’t need filled-out contact forms in toilet-paper quantities. What you need are closed transactions — paychecks. If you’re not closing on paychecks, you are not only wasting your efforts, you are busily working your way toward bankruptcy and starvation.

Now isn’t it a happy coincidence that so much of that TwitBook culture is driven by vendors? How could it be that the people who are telling you to develop your imaginary sphere of tenuous influence are precisely the same people who want to sell you the alleged solution to the problem they helped you create: No paychecks.

That TwitBook culture is what drives the REBC movement, ultimately. Not everyone is a vendor — far from it. Most of the REBC folks are nice people who have gotten fairly good at closing on the wrong objectives and are now ready to help you achieve astounding results at making pretend-friends and collecting pretend-leads. And, as with my experience at Seattle, the vendorsluts slither through the throngs looking for signs of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt, the mask of confusion that marks you as their mark, their natural prey.

I’m told that the Twitbook nonsense has metastasized, in Brad Inman’s Agent REBoot events, into an outright anti-sales message. Everything that matters consists of fake bonhomie among fake friends, and even thinking about making money at work is evil. If we all just make enough “friends” on-line, we’ll all be fine. Meanwhile, buy, buy, buy from the vendorsluts who are the entire roster of speakers at all Inman events. Don’t be a dirty salesperson — heaven forfend! No, let us bring the leads to you, all for only a huge chunk of your gross commission income — if you have any.

This is not good. I’m a geek, big time. By now, I’m doing things I can’t even teach, things I can barely describe intelligibly. I’m a do-it-myself geek, too, which Jeff hates, but this is why I can do things I can’t describe to other people, because I invent every wheel I roll on. But: I am much better at marketing than I am at selling, and this is why I devote so much of my time and thought and effort to getting better at selling. Marketing will bring the buyers and sellers to me, but it’s selling that will get us all to the closing table — which is where the paychecks are distributed.

The unconferencing idea is not a bad one, but it wants real experts — people who know something that should be learned and are capable of teaching it. A convocation of enthusiastic amateurs can be fun, but no one is going to learn anything useful. Worse, many people are going to learn, in detail, how to close on all the wrong objectives. And still worse, the vendorsluts are going to have themselves a jovial, jocular field day feasting on the fearfully befuddled.

I’m not selling anything to you — and I don’t love it that I have to defend myself, so often, from people who cannot see anything larger their their own stunted souls — and I’m pretty sure I’m wasting my time even raising these points. The bar camps will continue, not alone because they’re easy and cheap to set up — and fun to attend, in a time-wasting kind of way.

But: If you really want to learn something practical, spend your time and money studying with real experts — and then go home and actually apply what you’ve learned. By listening to Jeff Brown — and then doing what he said to do — Scott Cowan is going to make a lot more money than you will ever make by forging another couple hundred dozen cotton-candy “friendships.”

And if you or anyone wants to tell me that selling is unseemly, you might as well introduce me to your clients right now. They’re going to be my clients, eventually, anyway. I work for my living, and you’re just wasting time until you get a day job.

But: In the end: If your objective is to waste your time while pretending to work, a real estate bar camp will offer you a much better illusion of productivity than merely dicking around on-line. So go on and have yourself some fun. If you don’t want to learn how to become a great salesperson, I’m pretty sure someone will teach you how to become a great fry cook or cashier or barrista. I won’t see you at the bar camp, but it could be I’ll be seeing you at Starbucks someday soon — and that green apron looks good on almost everyone.


BarCamps — Trust Us — It’ll Be Worth Trashin’ Your Day?

First of all, I generally like and support the concept of RE BarCamps. I attended the first one, held in San Francisco a few years ago. Before making plans to attend, I knew about who would teach what, in loose terms. If memory serves, Brad Coy and Andy Kaufman set up and hosted that first BarCamp.

When the NAR national convention was here in San Diego last year, I went to that one, more to see folks from around the country than anything else. Recently, I attended one in Orange County. There were a lotta ‘names’ there, some who taught classes, some just attending like me.

The concept from where I stand is taken directly from where Dad was educated his first several grades in school — the one room schoolhouse. (And yes, he said it was red. 🙂 ) What sets BarCamp apart from the ‘one room’ concept is that there’s no one teacher in charge, with full authority to control what goes on. What makes it much like the OldSchool approach is the dynamic of students teaching students. In this case, real estate agents teaching their peers.

A Minor Criticism

C.A.R. Expo is in Orange County the week of October 4th, just a 90 minute jaunt up I-5 from me. The day before it begins in earnest, there’s a BarCamp. I have no idea whatsoever who’s gonna be teaching, or, no kiddin’, even what’s gonna be taught.

Not makin’ that up. I’ve always known at least the roughed out list of topics to be taught, and who was gonna be leading those time blocks.

I’m willin’ to be part of the OldFart Brigade, as at 59 I’m certain to be hugely above the median age of attendees. But seriously, this ain’t my first rodeo — and I’m not some dinosaur who’s refused to adapt to the online world. It’s not as if Tony Gwynn was puttin’ on a baseball BarCamp without any details.

If I was a major leaguer and Tony was hosting/teaching at a baseball BarCamp, what the hell else would I need to know in order to attend?

Look, if Tom Ferry was gonna be leading a class on cold calling, I’d be there, in the first row. If Greg Swann was ticketed to teach a block on how he markets his listings? I’m there. Dan Kennedy gonna show us how to better use direct mail? Who wouldn’t be there?

But just show up? Not even a hint of what’s to be taught? I was recently on a panel with two other agents, talkin’ about what we do to generate business. It was on a Tuesday night for Heaven’s sake, and over 150 or so agents showed up. Wonder how many woulda been there if the marketing for it merely said, ‘Some guys, you know, agents, will be talkin’ about how to make money as a real estate agent.” Fortunately, the other two guys’ names were a pretty healthy draw.

So tell me: Why would anyone in the great Orange County/L.A. area block out an entire Monday to attend a day of 45-50 minutes classes on who knows what topics, with whoever teachin’ ’em — much less drive up from San Diego?

Just askin’.


Failing up: The big secret to “the secret to success” is this: The “secret” is completely obvious to everyone.

I got a speeding ticket today. Oops.

The other week, I had what could have been a nice real estate transaction fall apart because I skipped a fundamental step, thinking it unnecessary, only to trip on it later.

Worst of all, a new software project I’ve been working on is failing, taking the SplendorQuest server down with it — as you may have noticed. I’m having to take it apart now — which just by itself has been a major undertaking.

O! Woe is me!

Not. I got a speeding ticket, which took about five minutes out of an otherwise hugely productive day. I worked in the car on my iPhone while the cop pressed hard to make carbon sets with a ball-point pen.

I blew a great deal, but every time I do something like that, I learn from my mistake and do better from then on.

And even as my one mad-scientist project burns down the lab, I had another one go live this week with, so far, very impressive results.

What’s my point?

First, if you’re doing something you’ve never done before, there’s a good chance you’ll fail — which is completely obvious to everyone.

Second, the only possible way to succeed at anything is to press on regardless, even at the risk of repeated failures — which is also obvious.

And third, “the secret to success” consists of focusing on the second proposition and not the first — which, yet again, is news to no one.

I can be thick, I know it, but I’m actually having to think about this stuff. My whole life, I’ve done huge things, big, big tasks, and I’ve never thought much about the motivations driving my work. I want my work done — that’s what drives me.

Until just lately, I had never thought about the way I work in the context of the formal idea of “goal-setting.” I’ve heard and read enough on the topic to know what people are talking about, I think, but I never made any connection to my own life.

For one thing, the goals were so abstract they seemed meaningless to me. Who doesn’t want to go to Europe? Who doesn’t want to drive a nice car? Who doesn’t want to lose weight? But those aren’t goals. They’re desires or longings, at best, or just plain whims.

As I’ve harangued, a meaningful goal has to be specific, detailed and objectively explicit. That stuff rolling around in your head is nothing until you give it form in the world outside your mind. You can’t hold yourself accountable without an accounting.

But there’s more to be learned here, I think: A goal that actually matters — a goal that can actually be achieved — has to be achievable from where you are now. “I want to learn to fly jet airplanes” might mean just as much, in the context of your real life, as “I want to climb Mount Everest.” Try these instead: “I want to take flying lessons” and “I want to practice on the rock-climbing wall at the health club.”

Huge abstract goals might make for fun imaginary movies, but if dreams like those are ever to come true, you have to start with goals you can actually attain right now, with your circumstances and your finances the way they are right now.

And all of that is obvious — but so is this:

Your reason for clinging to huge, abstract, unattainable goals is to camouflage your unwillingness to pursue the goals you can achieve. “If I can’t be a movie star, I’ll be damned if I’ll audition for the community theater!” File that one under: Things Losers Say.

Big things are normally just vast accumulations of little things. Want to write a book? Finish the first chapter, then start working on the second. Want to write a really big software project — perhaps one that can bring a very powerful Linux file-server to its knees? Write one big loop and a lot of little loops. Do you really want to fly a jet? You’ll start by flying an aircraft that looks and sounds like a Volkswagen with wings. Tell me you didn’t know all of this already and I’ll call you a bad liar.

Ontology is being. Teleology is shoulding. They become one as egoism, which has no meaning except from the inside out: Human identity is desiring and evaluating — choosing. Our being is shoulding. Goal-pursuit is how you manifest your future self, which will in turn motivate your future goals.

And that’s beautiful…

Consider these propositions:

1. “I want to achieve better cardio-vascular fitness.”

2. “I want to run every day.”

3. “Running every day is who I am. When I don’t run, I feel less like myself.”

Proposition 3 satisfies the conditions set by proposition 1 — but proposition 1 is not attainable as it is expressed. By contrast, proposition 2 is all you need to do to get to proposition 3. You start off running because you want to run every day, and you end up running every day because that’s who you are.

And you already know all of this. You know it because you’ve lived it over and over again. For everything you can do that most people cannot do, you got to the third state — a kind of easy, habituated virtuosity — by way of the second state. You didn’t set an impossibly huge goal. You set one attainable goal after the next, sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing.

But you failed you way up — you got better as a result of your efforts, and what began as something unfamiliar and perhaps unwelcome came to be so much a part of you that you cannot imagine your life without it.

Everything you have — that you value — you got that way. And everything you want can be had that way, too. All you have to do is set attainable goals, one after the next, and then keep failing your way up.

But you already knew that, didn’t you?


I’d Rather Be Left Alone Than LinkedIn

I’ve been looking for an excuse to cancel my Linkedin acct for months now.

The extra web exposure on a platform that I don’t control is concerning to me.

But, it mainly boils down to the fact that I have new twins and no time to do anything on the web that isn’t building true perpetual equity in an online presence that I personally own.

The final nail in the coffin with LinkedIn for me came last week when I was emailed a false and disturbing message that was maliciously put together by a psycho stalker who targeted everyone who was a first-level connection of his victim online.

So, with that type of personal and professional nightmare escalating for one of my close friends, I’ve finally decided that it is safer to be Left Alone than LinkedIn, fanned, friended, followed….

Even though the Internet is the center of my Las Vegas real estate business, I’ve never been into “social networking” much.

Actually, I started taking my web activity serious in 2006 as a way to replace my previous model of building relationships with referral partners.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy being social and making friends, I just don’t believe I need to get people to “Like” me in order to earn their business.

I know – I’ve heard the sales gurus preach about people doing business with others they Know, Like and Trust….. blah blah.

However, I’ve already proven that a niche web strategy can remove the awkward Know and Like components of the sales conversion process if you simply focus on earning trust by writing valuable content that solves the specific needs and questions of your target audience.

And, as far as duplicating the important Social Proof concept that these social networks enhance, a few creative testimonials down the left column of my About Mark Madsen page will hopefully to do the trick.

Facebook is next on my operating table, but I’ll have to approach that site with a scalpel since I do have so many FB Business Pages integrated into my SEM campaigns.

Either way, aside from a little passive connecting and noise making on Twitter, I’m going to save my business social networking activities for Real Estate Forums / Communities that actually require members to put in work to establish a reputation, as well as joining high traffic conversations by commenting on blog posts.

At the end of the day or week, I care more about having a body of content that I produced representing me vs a bunch of connections to people that I don’t really know or endorse.


Real Estate Investment Tips

Finding a “bargain” property to purchase for rental purposes takes some analytical skills, market knowledge, and a real estate agent who is in sync with your investment goals.

Some investors would consider the ideal rental property to be a three- bedroom, two-bath house in good repair, or needing minor touch-ups at most, and would be willing to pay at or near market value price if neighborhood rental values would justify the investment.

This investor would be holding the property long-term, and would have a desirable property, available for immediate occupancy, and would attract renters willing to pay top dollar to live there.

Other investors would prefer to find a property that is structurally sound, but in need of extensive cosmetic rehabilitation. If this property could be purchased at a considerably below market value price, and if the cost of repair and possible rental income would justify the purchase price, then that would be this investor’s  idea of a “bargain.”

A knowledgeable real estate agent should point out to the new investor that disassociating ones self from a prospective property to rent is vitally important, meaning that the investor should not evaluate an investment property as a property he or she might want or not want to live in. Investment properties should be looked at with profit potential in mind.

Holding a rental property long-term, enables the investor to ride out market swings and generate continued cash-flow. However, consideration must also be given to the fact that the longer a property is held the more extensive the costs of future repairs are going to be, such as roof replacement, appliance replacements, etc.

Furthermore, if the investor is planning to purchase multiple rental properties over time, consideration should be given to hiring a property manager to oversee rent collections, maintenance, emergencies, etc.

Hiring a property manager is often more cost-effective than handling everything one’s self. Additionally, the property manager can be the investor’s knowledgeable guide in calculating the rent levels that would simultaneously attract renters and optimize revenues.

The new investor will have many important decisions to make before committing to a particular property:

  • Is this property suitable for my purposes?
  • How much should I pay for this property?
  • How much of an investment in repairs and replacements would be necessary?
  • Would repair and/or replacement costs override any equity gained at purchase?
  • Is the neighborhood stable, on the upswing, or deteriorating?
  • Would the property location be attractive to a wide range of renters?

Of course, we’re just scratching the surface here, within the limited scope of this article but the bottom line is that the key to real estate investing success is to understand the real estate market and which way it is headed. No easy task, unless you have the experience and the back up of a knowledgeable investment team to guide you.


There’s a new dog in town: Introducing Tony Sena.

We’re adding Las Vegas Realtor Tony Sena to our roster of contributors today. Tony is a well-known force in the world of internet real estate marketing, having founded the popular industry weblog Tony’s current focus is building a property management practice in Las Vegas, as is evidenced in his bio:

Tony Sena, a licensed Real Estate Broker/Salesperson since 2001 in Las Vegas, NV, is the owner of the property management division at North American Realty of Nevada and currently manages over 150 residential properties.

Tony’s former law enforcement experience as a Henderson Police Officer gives him a unique sense of awareness about the potential concerns for crime and safety in neighborhoods.

With 9 years of Internet marketing experience, as well as multiple top ranking web sites, Tony is able to provide his team of agents, listing clients and landlords a competitive advantage for getting in front of thousands of buyers and renters online every month.

If you were at BloodhoundBlog Unchained in Phoenix in 2009, you had a chance to meet Tony in person. I’m eager to see the insights he brings to our discussions here.


The good news in the housing market? We may be witnessing the beginning of the end of the bad news in the housing market.

From The New York Post:

The latest numbers suggest we’re finally at the beginning of the end of the housing correction — no thanks to Washington.

Last Thursday’s numbers from Realtytrac seemed like bad news. In August, foreclosure auctions hit their second-highest monthly total in the report’s history: 147,003, up 9 percent over the month before and up 2 percent over August last year. That’s 7 percent below the peak month, March of this year.

And the immediate precursor to foreclosure sales — bank repossessions — hit their all-time high in August: 95,364, up just 3 percent over July but 25 percent over August 2009. That makes the ninth straight month repos have increased on a year-over-year basis. But foreclosure is a pipeline — and those numbers are the outflow end of it.

On the inflow end, things are slower. August saw 96,469 default or foreclosure notices go out, a 1 percent drop from July and a 30 percent fall from August 2009. And that marks the seventh straight month new foreclosures have fallen on a year-over-year basis. This trend — increased “outflow” and slightly reduced “inflow” foreclosure activity — means that lenders and loan servicers are 1) giving up on modifying mortgages when the borrower can’t pay, and instead repossessing homes and auctioning them off, but also 2) trying to manage the foreclosure pipeline to minimize the downward pressure on home prices.

Why isn’t this bad news? For starters, a multiyear tidal wave of foreclosure sales has been inevitable ever since the housing bubble burst: Too many people had mortgages they couldn’t afford to pay, mortgages with a face value higher than the home’s new market price. There’s never been any way for prices to start heading back up until they first find their bottom — which won’t happen until those bad mortgages are cleared away.

President Obama’s $75 billion mortgage-modification program was always going to be a huge failure — you just can’t keep people in homes they can’t afford — but now the markets are admitting it.

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Find Your Passion? Make Money From It? Gimme A Break

Every time I hear or read someone espousing the ‘find your passion’ mantra (Or should I say script?), my knee jerk reaction is to roll my eyes, sigh melodramatically, and wonder what percentage of these people are chanting that catchphrase to convince themselves and not you and me. Try this — being brutally honest, count how many people you know, first hand, who are literally passionate about what they do for a living.

I can name one — Grandpa. He’s long gone, but his two careers were marked by his love and passion for both. I maintain his case is anomalous. In my life I’ve had a passion for an avocation, baseball — specifically umpiring. I couldn’t believe they paid me for doing it. Whether I was on some forlorn diamond at the God forsaken hour of 9 AM on a Sunday morning for a bunch of 20-somethings with six fans in attendance, or a post season college game with a few thousand partisans watchin’, I loved it. It mattered not to me if it was a Little League game or a Pac 10 contest, the thrill was always there.

Still, it’s been my personal experience and first hand observation that easily over 95% of us aren’t that kind of passionate about what we do.

Yet I maintain, speaking only for myself, that I have a work related passion that keeps me goin’ beyond any desire to generate income. Furthermore, I think I may be in a large minority, if not the majority.

The passion I enjoy for my work has little to do with the work itself — though I’ll admit there are parts of it I thoroughly enjoy and even gleefully anticipate. But for the most part? I don’t love my work. And I’m betting you don’t either. We don’t hate it, at least most of it, but we don’t wake up in the morning excited that the Lord gave us another day to mess with those folks attached to our business who seemingly exist only to make our lives miserable. And no, I’m not talkin’ about our clients in any way, shape, or form.

I’ll confess to loving my conversations with prospects and clients. I often admit to being an addict — craving these chats to the point I require daily fixes. Why? Simple — I know it’s my chance to have a real and measurably life changing, positive affect on their lives. Taking someone from a small pension + Social Security to a six figure retirement is a high I can’t imagine giving up.

The heartfelt passion I’ve always had for my work can be found in one word. It’s a word that scares most agents, as they realize that sometimes it doesn’t apply to them in a complimentary way.


I get emotional when I’ve been able to take someone headed for a lousy or mediocre retirement, redirecting them to a much better end game. I wish I could explain it, but I can’t. You know what I mean though, don’t you? Sure ya do. I’ll bet you’ve experienced it yourself.

Having been on dozens of panels with some truly stellar people, I can testify that I’ve yet to meet one who thinks of their real estate career, the work itself, the way Grandpa felt about his art or his ministry. Not even close. Yet when they talked about the results? Many of them lit up like Roman candles. Whether it was seeing clients’ reactions to their new homes, or something else, it was all about the results they produced — not the work itself.

It’s long been my personal belief that as long as one doesn’t hate their work, likes some of it, sometimes a lot, the real, palpable passion arrives in the results they produce. To so many, it’s what they can do because of the income. To others it’s something as simple as knowing they’re very good at what they do.

Dad built a pretty small company by modern real estate brokerage standards. Instead of 100+ agents he never even had 30 full timers. He was one of those guys who found passion in two ways. First, he loved to win. For him, it was about surpassing a goal, beating his competition, being the guy the rest of ’em were chasing. Take it from me, he didn’t love his work. He didn’t abhor it, but he didn’t live to chase down another FSBO. 🙂 Secondly, it allowed him to live the life he wanted, and to indulge his real passions. Ones that wouldn’t allow him the income to live the lifestyle real estate afforded him.

What fires my passion?

I love those moments on the phone, better in the office, when it’s obvious the client just realized what I’m tellin’ them will actually get them where they wanna go — or out of the trouble they’re in — or best of all, both. For me it’s like walkin’ away after nine innings behind the plate, and one of the coaches tellin’ me my strike zone was wicked solid. Max endorphins.

Not long ago I was able to tell a married couple, long time clients, “…when this escrow closes and the smoke clears, you’ll finally have enough income so that Angela can quit work and stay home with the kids.” You don’t have enough money to pay me for how their reaction made me feel.

Then there’s my all time favorite. The phone call in which I’m privileged to tell a client their Plan has reached it’s main goal — they can give their two weeks notice. It’s time to schedule that first retirement cruise.

Did I enjoy doing 80% of what it took to get them there? Gimme a break. I suppose you think I love dealing with underwriters who can’t get it through their mush for brains that funds in a tax deferred exchange’s accommodator are the most reliable they could ever hope for. Or that you just can’t wait for the next time a first time buyer-client loses their dream home as a result of some bureaucrat’s whim.

My passion is for the results I can produce. The feeling of having brought real value to my client’s table. Knowing my work, expertise, knowledge and experience have made a very real and positive difference in their life.

Doesn’t that sound more real to you than the whole ‘find your passion’ incantation? Will you admit that your passion, if you have it, is found in the results you produce — one way or the other?

I’d love to hear from the folks who disagree with this outlook. I wanna hear how you revel in yet another opportunity, as Grandpa did, to set a blank canvas on the easel for the millionth time, knowing you’ll be in heaven with every brush stroke you make. Remember, I don’t doubt there are some of you out there who love their work the way I loved umpiring. I just think you’re in a minute minority.

Or do you think I’m a party of one?


Do the BAD Thing…

The Unexpected Hanging Paradox:

A judge tells a condemned prisoner that he will be hanged at noon on one weekday in the following week but that the execution will be a surprise to the prisoner. He will not know the day of the hanging until the executioner knocks on his cell door at noon that day.

Having reflected on his sentence, the prisoner draws the conclusion that he will escape from the hanging. His reasoning is in several parts. He begins by concluding that the “surprise hanging” can’t be on a Friday, as if he hasn’t been hanged by Thursday, there is only one day left – and so it won’t be a surprise if he’s hanged on a Friday. Since the judge’s sentence stipulated that the hanging would be a surprise to him, he concludes it cannot occur on Friday.

He then reasons that the surprise hanging cannot be on Thursday either, because Friday has already been eliminated and if he hasn’t been hanged by Wednesday night, the hanging must occur on Thursday, making a Thursday hanging not a surprise either. By similar reasoning he concludes that the hanging can also not occur on Wednesday, Tuesday or Monday. Joyfully he retires to his cell confident that the hanging will not occur at all.

The next week, the prisoner is hanged anyway, despite all the above. That’s the surprise…

The lesson I draw from this is that things are not always what we think they are. The world is full of paradox and real estate is certainly no exception. On the one hand it’s a profession with tremendous freedom of time, yet to be proficient (never mind truly successful) you must become a master of time management. The field of real estate is over-flowing with practitioners and competition can be fierce, yet the key to a smooth transaction is the ultimate cooperation between two “competing” agents. Almost every day as a real estate professional feels like a sprint to put out multiple fires, yet ultimate success depends on the realization that real estate is an endurance event comprised of doing small things right on a continuous basis. Maybe the biggest paradox of all: a main objective for any agent in any transaction is to create peace of mind and comfort for their client, yet the most important thing we can do to become great is stay out of our own comfort zone!

Have you ever been faced with a tough choice and had someone say to you: “Better the devil you know.”? It may be a common bit of advice but it’s also quite possibly the greatest lie ever told. Hang the devil you know! That’s the voice inside telling you, “It’s comfortable here, doing what we’re doing.” “This isn’t bad.” “Don’t try that new thing; it requires more effort and energy than we have available with our busy lives.” “Be careful, we don’t want to fail. That’s the worst thing that could ever happen” And, maybe the most powerful line of all: “Hey, if we do that, others might laugh at us.” Wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong. Terrible advice.

We base most of our decision making on minimizing fear rather than maximizing splendor.

Here’s the Unexpected Hanging Paradox in real estate: The devil you know is going to hang you next week! That’s the surprise. Hang ’em first. Get out of your comfort zone. Don’t let that voice inside lead you to the professional gallows. Today’s message: Damn your devil and get BAD!

Be Act Do


Door knocking my way to walking the walk

So now that it’s time to think big and act on those thoughts, I went door knocking. Oh yes I did. I have made a public commitment to prospecting, and no, I do not have an unbroken chain of red X’s, and no, I don’t feel good about that. Okay so now that we have that covered, let me tell you about door knocking.

Another Realtor and I have on occasion been partnering up for the past year. She’s just gone full time so I recently suggested that we go door knocking. Not only has she never done this, but when I suggested it, she was sure that: a) she’d hate it; b) she’d have people cuss her out and slam the door in her face; c) she’d promptly be kicked off this planet; or d) all of the above. What she didn’t count on, couldn’t believe, and was tickled to find out was, e) none of the above happened. Here’s what we learned about door knocking: The hardest part is getting started. No really. Once you set a time, drive to the neighborhood and get yo lazy booty out the car, the hard part is over, and once you knock on that first door, the rest is a cake walk down Primrose Lane.

We picked a practice neighborhood. A neighborhood that we have a listing in, giving us something to talk about, but we really wanted a neighborhood in which we wouldn’t be too horrified to make some mistakes. It’s a forgiving neighborhood that I’m familiar with. Hard-working, blue collar, friendly people who are used to door-to-door sales people. They will either open the door to be polite, or kindly tell us no thanks. Sorry BawldGuy, not one person told us to go to hell- not one! The houses are close together allowing us to quickly move on to the next house, and we went in the afternoon, 2pm, our thought being the only people home at that time are either retired or SAHM, and both would be receptive to having a quick face-to-face with a friendly adult to break up the routine of the day, plus, retired folks always know what is going on in the ‘hood, and the SAHM are likely to be moving on eventually, and are plugged into the kid’s activities and other mobile families. But mostly, we just wanted practice and to overcome our unfounded fears.

We armed ourselves with business cards a’la Bloodhound Realty. An unobtrusive thing to hand across the threshold, and I know they’ve never seen anything like it before so there’s some novelty involved. Our script? “Hi! We are with Exit Realty and have listing on the corner. Can we give you this wallet-sized property card? If you know of anyone who might be interested in moving into the neighborhood, would you pass it on to them?” Suggestions for improvement are welcome.

So what was our experience? Our very first door, we were invited in to “look around at what I’ve done with the place!” Oooo’s and Ahhh’s and she’s not moving, but she’s retired and knows who is, so that’s a great contact in the neighborhood. At another house, a little old lady, all of 4 ft nothing, holding a child almost as big as her, stepped on the dog to open the door. ::Keep smiling:: Her son just got a divorce, she’ll pass the card to him. Thanks, (although what son wants to live around the corner from Mom?) and uh, sorry about your dog. In all, we made contact with only about 10 owners which in some ways was hardly worth the trip but we needed the practice and mostly we needed to stop being afraid to knock on doors.

Here’s the thing: I just got off the phone with Jenn. She went back to that neighborhood on her own today and met a wife who would like to sell. This was about an hour and a half total time invested over two days. Only one person who answered the door said “No thanks.” No one got angry or even rude, so, if you are hesitant to do this, take heart. People need to hear from and meet good Realtors who really care. They need you to make contact with them. They might not be sure about what’s going on with real estate in their neighborhood and they want this information. Better to get it from you who will treat them well, than someone else.

Jenn and I have already made plans to hit the neighborhood of another listing on Saturday morning, good lord willing and the creek don’t rise. Soooo. How about you? Need to drum up some business? Go out and hit a neighborhood yourself this weekend- we’ll be brothers in arms- and then I’d love to hear from you about what worked and what didn’t.


Love these “10 Reasons to Buy a Home”

From the Wall Street Journal, complete with video, is Brett Arends take on why now might be a great time to buy a home.  This is the action item to follow Greg’s last post on Why Housing will come back.  I’m in a very seasonal, resort type of market.  A buyer’s negotiating position right now, when a seller who doesn’t have a deal is likely going to still own their home next spring, is amazing.  Make that reason eleven.

Enough with the doom and gloom about homeownership.

Sure, maybe there’s more pain to come in the housing market. But when Time magazine starts running covers that declare “Owning a home may no longer make economic sense,” it’s time to say: Enough is enough. This is what “capitulation” looks like. Everyone has given up.

[roiA0915]The Sept. 6 cover of Time magazine: This is what capitulation looks like.

After all, at the peak of the bubble five years ago, Time had a different take. “Home Sweet Home,” declared its cover then, as it celebrated the boom and asked: “Will your house make your rich?”

But it’s not enough just to be contrarian. So here are 10 reasons why it’s good to buy a home.

1. You can get a good deal. Especially if you play hardball. This is a buyer’s market. Most of the other buyers have now vanished, as the tax credits on purchases have just expired. We’re four to five years into the biggest housing bust in modern history. And prices have come down a long way– about 30% from their peak, according to Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller Index, which tracks home prices in 20 big cities. Yes, it’s mixed. New York is only down 20%. Arizona has halved. Will prices fall further? Sure, they could. You’ll never catch the bottom. It doesn’t really matter so much in the long haul.

Where is fair value? Fund manager Jeremy Grantham at GMO, who predicted the bust with remarkable accuracy, said two years ago that home prices needed to fall another 17% to reach fair value in relation to household incomes. Case-Shiller since then: Down 18%.

2. Mortgages are cheap. You can get a 30-year loan for around 4.3%. What’s not to like? These are the lowest rates on record. As recently as two years ago they were about 6.3%. That drop slashes your monthly repayment by a fifth. If inflation picks up, you won’t see these mortgage rates again in your lifetime. And if we get deflation, and rates fall further, you can refi.

3. You’ll save on taxes. You can deduct the mortgage interest from your income taxes. You can deduct your real estate taxes. And you’ll get a tax break on capital gains–if any–when you sell. Sure, you’ll need to do your math. You’ll only get the income tax break if you itemize your deductions, and many people may be better off taking the standard deduction instead. The breaks are more valuable the more you earn, and the bigger your mortgage. But many people will find that these tax breaks mean owning costs them less, often a lot less, than renting.

4. It’ll be yours. You can have the kitchen and bathrooms you want. You can move the walls, build an extension–zoning permitted–or paint everything bright orange. Few landlords are so indulgent; for renters, these types of changes are often impossible. You’ll feel better about your own place if you own it than if you rent. Many years ago, when I was working for a political campaign in England, I toured a working-class northern town. Mrs. Thatcher had just begun selling off public housing to the tenants. “You can tell the ones that have been bought,” said my local guide. “They’ve painted the front door. It’s the first thing people do when they buy.” It was a small sign that said something big.

5. You’ll get a better home. In many parts of the country it can be really hard to find – read the rest, see the video at the WSJ


Joel Kotkin: Why housing will come back.

Urban savant Joel Kotkin in Forbes magazine:

What we are going through now is not a sea change but a correction from insane government and business practices. The rise in homeownership from 44% in 1944 to nearly 70% at the height of the bubble reflected a great social democratic achievement. But by the mid-2000s government attempts to expand ownership–eagerly embraced by Wall Street speculators–brought in buyers who would have historically been disqualified.

In some markets, prices exploded as people moved up too quickly into ever more expensive housing. Housing inflation was further exacerbated by “smart growth” policies, which limited new home construction in suburban areas and instead promoted dense, “transit oriented” housing with limited market appeal and economic logic.

Rather than artificially constraining supply and protecting irresponsible borrowers, we should let nature take its course. Home values need to readjust historic balance between incomes and prices. Over the past 60 years, notes demographer Wendell Cox, it took two to three years or less of median household income to purchase a median-priced home. At the peak of the boom, that ratio had ballooned to 4.6.

The disequilibrium was the worst in regions like Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Bernardino-Riverside and Miami. At the peak of the bubble, between 2006 and 2008, according to the National Homebuilders Association- Wells Fargo “Housing Opportunity Index,” barely 2% of families with a median income households in Los Angeles could afford to buy a median priced home; even in the traditionally affordable Riverside area, the number was roughly 7%. In Miami, barely 10% could afford such a purchase; in Las Vegas, often seen as one of the cheaper markets, only 15%.

What a difference a market correction makes. The affordability number for Los Angeles is now 34%, 17 times better than two years ago, while Riverside is now near 70%. Miami’s affordability picture has improved to over 60% while in Las Vegas, it’s back over 80%.

These lower prices–not Wall Street or federal gimmickry–will lure new buyers to the places that some new urbanists have predicted will be “the next slums.” Already there’s evidence in places like Miami of a renewed interest in now-affordable suburban single-family homes while condos stay empty or become rentals.

Of course without a return to robust job growth, particularly in the private sector, the home market– and pretty much all mainstream consumer purchases–will remain weak. No matter how low prices get, people worried about losing employment do not constitute a promising new market for homes.

But over the longer run most Americans will seek to purchase homes –whatever the geography. Increasingly this will be less a casino gamble, and more a long-term lifestyle choice. As America adds upwards of 100 million more Americans by 2050, the demand will stare us in the face.

As boomers age, the two big groups that will drive housing will be the young Millenial generation born after 1983 as well as immigrants and their offspring. Sixty million strong, the millenials are just now entering their late 20s. They are just beginning to start hunting for houses and places to establish roots. Generational chroniclers Morley Winograd and Mike Hais, describe millenials in their surveys as family-oriented young people who value homeownership even more than their boomer parents. They also are somewhat more likely to choose suburbia as their “ideal place to live” than the previous generation.

These tendencies are even more marked among immigrants and their children. Already a majority of immigrants live in suburbia, up from 40% in the 1970s. They are attracted in many cases by both jobs and the opportunity to buy a single-family home. For an immigrant from Mumbai, Hong Kong or Mexico City, the “American dream” is rarely living in high density surrounded by concrete; if they wanted that, they could have stayed home.

Over coming generations, changes in family and work life will make single-family homes, townhouses and other moderate-to-low density housing more attractive. Contrary to the anonymity predicted by most futurists, your chosen place is becoming more important, as evidenced by numerous suburban and small town downtown revivals as well as growing local volunteerism.

Equally important, multi-generational households are on the rise back to 1950s levels–in part due to immigrant lifestyle preferences. People are staying put; even before the bubble burst, mobility had dropped to the lowest level in over a half century. With the rise of new technologies allowing for dispersed work, the single family home increasingly houses not only residents, but part and full-time offices.

Barring a long-term permanent recession or a national planning regime aimed at curbing single-family home construction, these factors should lead to a new surge in home buying starting later this decade. It may be too late to save many who overextended themselves in the bubble, but this resurgence could do much to propel our anemic economy, restoring the home to its rightful place one of the cornerstone not only of the American dream, but of our democracy.

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