December 10, 2016

Weekly Book Scan

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Updated: 1 hour 21 min ago

Now That’s Dedication

Fri, 11/18/2016 - 15:18

Sure. Mindset, Method, & Metrics: Winning As A Modern Real Estate Agent (RockPaperStar Press, 2016) is a pragmatic guide to launching a real estate career.

GaborfromHungary, Morguefile

Yes, it’s written in a breezy, conversational tone that makes for easy consumption. It’s comprehensive, stopping to define common terms such as “sphere of influence” and “sales funnel” for those who may be too afraid to ask. (This is important in the sometimes jargon-filled world of real estate writing.)

But also, authors Brandon Doyle, Nick Dreher, and Marshall Saunders share personal reflections and make note of truths you don’t hear as often, such as this: “The power to succinctly put your thoughts down in writing is the most overlooked and underappreciated tool in the business world.” Yes please, and thank you.

Honestly though, these guys really got me before the book began, with their dedication. Because I know you’re going to love it too, I’m just going to reprint it in whole. I think this gives you the best indication of the authors’ motivation (emphasis mine):

We dedicate this book to the real estate agent.

You are the bedrock of entrepreneurialism. You demonstrate every day the very best of self-reliance, hard work, and customer service. You rate below politicians and used car salespeople in every poll of “who do you trust,” yet you soldier on, knowing that the vast majority of your potential clients think they know more about real estate than you do.

When the economy is good, your job is seen as superfluous and your advice of restraint is ignored. When the economy is bad, you are blamed for the unrestrained greed that led all the lemmings off the cliff.

You work when everyone else has time off, and then you work while everyone else is at work. Your job does not end at 6 p.m. It doesn’t even end when you’re asleep at night.

Your job never stops…until it stops. When the phone stops ringing and the buyers stop buying and the sellers stop selling, you are out of an income. Not out of work, just out of an income. Then you pray and work as hard as you can to get back to the point where you’re working around the clock to please your clients and jumping right back on the hamster wheel.

You are the ultimate paradox. You want to be less busy and pulled in a thousand directions, and then the moment you get that break you so desperately wanted, you panic that you’re going out of business.

You’ve sat at the kitchen table listing presentation and heard stories of bankruptcy, foreclosure, divorce, marriage, kids and retirement. The people across the table have cried, laughed, said awful things about you and your business, had totally unrealistic expectations…in other words, they have been totally and completely human, and you’ve seen it all.

We’ve been there. We understand. To you, we dedicate this book.

Yes. Now that’s what we in the biz call “understanding your audience.”

How Affordable Housing Can Actually Succeed on the Open Market

Fri, 11/11/2016 - 14:35

I was tired. It was midday through my third day covering the 2016 REALTORS® Conference & Expo, and I had just wolfed down lunch while trying to have a reasoned conversation about news judgement and real estate. Finally, I knew I was going to have to rush back to get a decent spot from which to cover Gen. Colin Powell’s speech at the General Session later that afternoon (spoiler alert: I was way in the back anyway).

But I wasn’t about to miss a session titled, “The City We Need is Affordable: Urbanization and Global Housing Solutions.” That’s because I firmly believe that oftentimes, the best innovations come about when smart people merge multiple concepts and try to predict how they’ll shape our future. This session combined two important trends that I believe will affect the housing market in 2017. More and more people are moving to cities: The U.N. predicts 66 percent of the population be in urban areas by 2050. And though the luxury market has been leading our slow exit from recession, that imbalance can’t continue. It’s time for the real estate industry to weigh in on affordability and urbanization.

What I did not know, however, was the impetus for the session, so let’s take a step back and I’ll fill you in on that. Every 20 years, developers, urban planners, politicians, and real estate thinkers get together to discuss the future of cities and residential housing at the bequest of the United Nations. So far there have been three such meetings, with the first happening in Vancouver, Canada in 1976 and the second in Istanbul, Turkey in 1996. Habitat III, as they called the most recent iteration of these meetings, happened earlier this year in Quito, Ecuador and there are important lessons for real estate professionals in the outcome. One reason for that is that each of the 162 nations present at Habitat III pledged to abide by the new urban agenda that was unanimously approved at the meetings. That’s going to affect how real estate is developed all over the world.

That’s why FIABCI, the International Real Estate Federation, created a book of examples of how these efforts are being realized on scales small and large around the world. And that’s why Bill Endsley, secretary general of FIABCI-USA, was there at the REALTORS® conference to explain not only their involvement in Habitat III, but what ordinary real estate professionals can get out of it.

It may seem like all real estate development is meticulously planned these days, but Endsley said that the number of cities that actually have a formal plan has decreased around 20 percent since the 1970s. He says that lack of a plan can lead to everything from the proliferation of shantytowns to social unrest.

“If you don’t have a plan, then you have informality,” he said. “Urbanization is going to continue. It’s not going to reverse, and we as real estate professionals need to insist that our cities have a plan.”

The aforementioned book that came out of FIABCI’s participation in Habitat III, “The City We Need Is Affordable,” features examples of companies, municipalities, and nonprofits around the world that are already working toward the values of innovation, inclusivity, resilience, and vibrancy expressed at the U.N. meeting. Download it here, and perhaps you’ll be inspired to bring these ideas to your city planning board or mayor.

FIABCI’s book gathers ideas that are helping cities construct affordable workforce housing more quickly, efficiently, and in a more sustainable way. One example Endsley mentioned in the session was Builders of Hope, a group that takes perfectly good homes scheduled to be demolished (usually in areas where the land is worth much more than the structure, and owners want to build bigger), takes them apart, and moves them to other areas where housing is badly needed. But there are many more examples profiled therein, everything from new building materials and techniques to innovative ways that real estate can solve endemic problems in any given city.

The book shows examples of how these projects are being funded through public-private partnerships, tax credits, and crowdfunding, among other methods. Endsley also noted that real estate professionals and developers can make a great living working on these projects, because demand is so high. “It’s not charity,” he told attendees at the session. “The more vibrant our city is, the more money we make.”

Endsley also said he believed that those who work toward this new developmental vision now will be on the front lines of change, and that it only makes sense for real estate professionals to lead the charge. “This is a sea change in how the world is going to look in the coming years. Take advantage of it,” he said. “After all, we’re the only organization who has members in every community in this country.”

Indeed. Here’s hoping REALTORS® will have a whole new toolbox to share with the world by the time Habitat IV comes around.

A Reader’s Guide to Orlando

Thu, 10/27/2016 - 12:53

Every year I like to take a look at some of the authors who are going to be speaking at the REALTORS® Conference and Expo, in the hopes of giving attendees a list of reading materials for the ride down, and to provide those who can’t attend an option for following along in a literary way.

Photo: keyseeker, Morguefile

(Side note: If you are going to be in town, check out what may indeed be only remaining independent bookstore in Orlando, Bookmark It, located in the pretty neat-looking Audubon Park Garden District.)

Here are three authors who will be speaking at the conference, alongside books of theirs that might be of interest to the real estate world.

  • Retired four-star General Colin L. Powell isn’t just a former Secretary of State, National Security Advisor and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he’s also an accomplished author. I’m looking forward to hearing what he has to say at his keynote address at General Session on Saturday, Nov. 5. While he’s written a number of books, it seems that his It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership (Harper Collins, 2012) might be a good one for Book Scan readers to pick up. In it, Powell reiterates his “13 Rules” and examines how they’ve impacted his life in a positive way. I especially love rules 10 (Remain calm. Be kind.) and 11 (Have a vision. Be demanding.).
  • Since writing Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (Crown Publishers, 2012), Susan Cain has created a whole movement advocating the recognition of the contribution that introversion makes in our world. Even if you’re a confirmed extrovert, understanding how best to communicate with clients and colleagues who aren’t can help you forge better relationships in business and in your personal life. You can read more about Cain in this REALTOR® Magazine interview, or go see her speak in Orlando on Saturday, Nov. 5.
  • I love how Daniel Gilbert explains the economic psychology behind why sellers think their houses are worth so much more than buyers are willing to pay in this REALTOR® Magazine interview. He clearly understands the emotions behind the deal, which is why I think he’ll be a speaker you won’t want to miss on Friday, Nov. 4. If you like that interview, you might want to pick up his book, Stumbling on Happiness (Random House 2006) for a look at some of the surprising ways our ability to imagine the future and predict how much we will like it when we get there affects how satisfied we are with our lives.

Recognizing Clutter for What It Is

Tue, 10/04/2016 - 10:33

When real estate pros talk to clients about decluttering their homes, they might not realize what they’re getting into. In fact, getting rid of stuff can be painful, even for those who aren’t hoarders or recent widows. It’s the normal, everyday resistance to purging our belongings that attracts Christy Diane Farr to the world of self-help writing and life coaching.

Credit: clarita, Morguefile

In Is Home Your Happy Place: The Unruly Woman’s Approach to Space Healing (Paper Angel Press), Farr explains that society reinforces the idea that hanging onto stuff is normal, and that she wants to help otherwise healthy people downsize in a balanced way. “The whole off-site storage industry popped up to reinforce that it’s not just normal but often necessary to possess more than our space will hold,” she writes. “I’m more of a normative chaos kind of guide, if there is such a thing. I want to work with people whose lives are stuck; people who are reasonably functional but who are not living the dream.”

Early in the book, Farr identifies six types of things that people hold onto that stand in the way of living that dream. I think this list is especially helpful for Book Scan readers because if real estate pros can understand the reasons behind why their clients are holding onto stuff, it might help them more skillfully ease through this transition. And if nothing else, you might consider lending them Farr’s book, which is filled with funny asides and assignments created to help people “release” the stuff that’s holding them back.

1. Stuff that makes you feel crazy. Farr uses the example of food storage containers, which I find maddeningly familiar (who hasn’t yelled exasperatedly at the cupboard containing the tupperware at least once in their life?). She encourages readers to balance the functionality of any given item with the space that’s claimed by it. “The madness of trying to manage them far outweighs anything even remotely resembling the convenience that would be using them.”
2. Stuff that’s broken. I’m totally guilty of keeping things around with the intention of repair, but without actually doing anything about it. “If you’re not going to fix it, let it go. It’s either worth the time, money, and energy it takes to make it work, or it just isn’t. Free it, and free yourself.”
3. Stuff that makes you hang onto an unpleasant past. Farr deals with this a lot throughout the book, because she clearly recognizes the pain that comes with decluttering. “The stuff is locked into the feelings and the feelings are locked into the stuff. It doesn’t matter from which side we break the lock. What matters is that we break it,” she writes. “It works because dealing with our clutter is simply a willingness to, at long last, deal with ourselves.”
4. Stuff that’s expired. Here Farr is talking both about old food and meds, but also stuff that has a less obvious expiration date. “The idea behind the expiration date challenge can be applied to all aspects of your life. Since my kids are going to college soon, my maternity clothes are expired. Books I’ve read and have no intention of reading again are expired,” she writes. “If our relationship with this stuff was intended to be eternal, caskets would be bigger. Once something expires, we can let it go.”
5. Stuff that sucks. I love this one! Farr mentions as examples cleaning products that don’t work as they say they will and clothes that don’t look good on. “Ultimately, the goal here is to own only those things that we use or truly love. We want to be surrounded by things that feel good to us.”
6. Stuff that used to be a good idea. This one is especially pertinent for the crafters out there. I like Farr’s challenge to gather all the supplies for projects left undone, and force the issue: “I put them all in this box and labeled it with an expiration date one month from today. This will keep the ‘I meant to…,’ from going on forever. Otherwise, it will. I know this because I’ve met me before. If I want a different outcome, I’ve got to do something different.”