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January 28, 2015

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Updated: 1 hour 15 min ago

Point of Sale Mandates for Real Estate: From Cumbersome to Destructive

Wed, 01/21/2015 - 12:38

Sam DeBord

By Sam DeBord

Government entities often attempt to place additional restrictions or costs on the transaction or transfer of real estate.  While there are often good intentions involved in the creation of these “point of sale” mandates, most proposals for new or increased transactional hurdles have serious negative consequences.

Point of sale mandates are a concern not only for real estate industry professionals, but also prospective and current home owners in a community. Barriers to the transfer of real property slow down the marketplace and often reduce home owners’ equity through transactional costs. Point of sale mandates can also create overall market depreciation by increasing failed transactions.

©cohdra, 2007. Morguefile

There is a wide range of point of sale restrictions on real estate transfers across the country. Some are minor in nature, while others are significant.  Any restriction adding costs, inspections, or bureaucracy to a real estate transaction is a drag on the industry and on home owners, but the effects of some mandates are much more severe than others.

Utility Inspections

Some point of sale mandates are intended to improve the community. Sausalito, Calif., has a mandate that requires owners to inspect their sewer laterals (which connect to the street sewer lines) and repair them before selling the home. While a buyer can (and often should) have a sewer scope inspection independently, the city has created a broad mandate that is sometimes unnecessary for certain property types, ages, and situations.

Municipalities in some areas, including Seattle, require inspection of on-site sewage systems or septic tanks to ensure they meet state regulation standards for operation. This point of sale mandate, much like the sewer lateral mandate, is intended to protect the groundwater and the health of the local community, but it only applies to those home owners who are selling.

This often causes an uneven distribution of responsibility and cost. Consumers can already get their own septic inspection independently when they buy a home. The governing authority may truly believe that all sewer lines or septic systems need to be inspected regularly to promote healthy groundwater. If so, they should propose a policy for all residents’ systems to be inspected on a regular basis and let the community decide if they agree.

Full Home Inspections

Some of the most concerning mandates include some form of government-managed home inspection at the point of sale. These can create fines, repair requirements, and even loss of occupancy rights if they are not adhered to by the home owners.

In Marin County, Calif., home owners are subjected to resale inspections before they can close escrow on a sale. These inspections can call for remediation or charges for items which are not in line with current code or permitting. This often leads to current building standards being applied retroactively to work that was previously done without a permit but according to the building code as it was written at the time.

In Austin, Texas, an energy performance audit is required to be performed and delivered to the buyer before a closing. These pricey inspections must be paid for by the seller. They rate the home’s windows, insulation, ducting, HVAC equipment, and even appliances for energy efficiency and make suggestions to buyers for improvements. They can generate significant repair requests from buyers that can scuttle sales agreements.

In Berkeley, Calif., resale inspections are focused on energy improvements as well. Toilets, shower heads, faucets, water heaters, water lines, duct work, chimneys, insulation, and weather stripping are all required to meet city standards. The cost to the home owners can reach thousands of dollars in many cases.

Point Of Sale Mandates Taken To The Extreme

The Cleveland area has some of the most heavy-handed point of sale mandates that exist in the country. In at least 20 of the metro’s suburban cities, inspections must be done before selling, and in some cities even before the home owner enters into contract to sell their home. If the inspection finds code violations, they must be repaired by the home owners even if they decide not to sell.

The onerous nature of these inspections is exemplified by the city of Maple Heights’ mandate. When home owners receive their point of sale inspection report, if there are code violations, they are granted a 90-day temporary permit to occupy. The city has taken the authority to revoke the home owners’ occupancy rights if they don’t fix the violations within that time frame. Even if the sellers never received an offer from a buyer, they are required to make the repairs to the home at their own expense.

Home owners may have to fix basement floors, electrical wiring and outlets, lighting, hot water tanks, window screens, gutters, fences, or even a concrete slab with three or more cracks. There are more than 40 categories of potential violations which a city-approved inspector can call out for repairs. If sellers can’t finish the repairs before closing, they must put the money for the repairs into an escrow account managed by the city to ensure they will be done. The occupancy permit for the home is dependent upon it.

Sensible Policy For Point Of Sale

Home buyers certainly want their homes to be safe, but they need to be able to make their own decisions about asking sellers for repairs or doing repair work themselves. Some neighborhoods are full of homes built in the 1920s or earlier. These homes have many features that would be considered outdated to an inspector and inefficient by new energy standards, but are often perfectly acceptable to the buyers.

Forcing a person who has lived in a home for 50 years to upgrade all of its systems before selling to a buyer who would have been happy with its previous condition is inefficient and an overreach of authority. It creates a significant financial detriment to the participants in the transaction and to real estate values as a whole in that community.

Our focus through REALTOR® policy has been to continue to educate the public on important safety and energy concerns about their homes. We educate home buyers about energy efficiency options and costs. We implore our buyers to have home inspections and, where appropriate, specialized inspections for sewer lines, septic systems, etc. We’ve taken on the primary role in advising home buyers and sellers about the dangers of lead paint, mold, and other hazards.

We don’t need point of sale mandates from government agencies to make these ideas into costly blanket inspection requirements for all home owners. Buyers and sellers already have the opportunity to research relevant information about their homes, and make their own decisions as to what kinds of features are valuable and necessary to them.

Point of sale mandates, at their very core, are not an effective way to make policy. They put an inordinate weight on the small part of a community that happens to be selling a home that year, while others who stay in their homes for decades don’t share in the cost. We need to continue to educate our clients, as well as our politicians, that empowering home buyers and sellers to learn more about the safety and efficiency of their homes is a far better way to promote those values than adding roadblocks to the sale of their homes.

Sam DeBord is a director for Washington REALTORS® and Seattle King County REALTORS®, and managing broker with Coldwell Banker Danforth. Connect with his team, Seattle Homes Group, at SeattleHome.com and SeattleCondo.com.

Use Your Tweets Wisely

Tue, 01/13/2015 - 08:00

Bill Gassett

By Bill Gassett

So, you’ve finally joined Twitter. How do you know what to tweet about to maximize your time and energy on this rapid-fire platform? How often can you tweet without annoying people?

Your followers’ Twitter feeds moves at lighting speed, so it’s okay to post up to 10 times per day or more. Just don’t do all your postings at once, as this floods people’s feeds and is considered spamming. Spread your tweets out through the day and evening for maximum visibility. Switch up the types of posts so it doesn’t get too boring for your followers. Since you are a real estate professional, it’s expected that you’ll post about real estate topics much of the time. However, you can also tweet about other things that are interesting or helpful to your followers.

Here is a typical day’s worth of Twitter posts:

  • Post around five informative articles or interesting pictures/videos from around the web.
  • Re-tweet interesting posts from people you follow (see below for more on this).
  • Respond to a couple of tweets from others. This is especially effective if you can find people asking questions about real estate, and answer them.
  • Post personal comments about real estate or links to content you have written on your blog. It doesn’t have to be a recent piece, either. For example, here is an article about the inaccuracy of Zillow home value estimates. Most real estate agents are constantly explaining why a “Zestimate of value” should be ignored to both their buyer and seller clients. We all know how far off base Zillow can be! This is the kind of helpful information your followers will enjoy and gladly re-tweet. You can even add some humor into your tweets. Here’s a popular tweet I sent along with the blog link: “You have better odds of seeing Big Foot than an accurate Zillow estimate.”

Re-tweeting Other Real Estate Content

It is important to understand that you shouldn’t just broadcast your own content on Twitter. To be successful with Twitter and grow a following, you have to share others people’s content and engage with them. Keep in mind the social aspect of social media. When someone tweets your content, the best way to return the favor is to look over their profile and re-tweet something they have shared that you find interesting.

Follow Important People and Industry Leaders

Who you follow is just as important as who follows you. It gives you a chance to interact with people, build relationships, and perhaps even get a shout-out. Seek out local news anchors, hot-shot agents (besides yourself, of course), or anyone else you would love to mingle with. If you are lucky, they may even follow you back. You will also want to follow your past or present clients, other agents, mortgage brokers, builders, and anyone else with whom you want to build a connection.

Have Conversations

Twitter is absolutely a two-way street. It’s not just about getting your message out, but building lasting relationships. Whenever you are mentioned, reply. If you are new to Twitter, send out a quick thanks when you get a new follower. If you see something interesting in your Twitter feed, comment on it. It’s a pretty simple concept, yet it’s one that often gets ignored.

Manage Your Time

I often get questions from real estate agents such as, “How do you manage your time on social media?” or “How can I possibly be thinking about tweeting real estate articles if I am out selling houses and meeting with clients?” Time management is always an important consideration when it comes to social media. Fortunately, there are some great tools that can help you manage your time on Twitter. One of my favorite applications is Buffer. Buffer allows you to set what you want to tweet throughout the day on auto-pilot. You could schedule ten articles you want to share and Buffer will tweet them out for you.

Additional Twitter Tips and Advice:

Update Your Profile

When someone views your profile, they instantly form an opinion of you. Can they trust you? Are you a professional? Do they want to interact with you? Make sure that both your profile and header picture give the right first impression. You also get 160 characters to summarize who you are, so come up with something different and catchy that still makes your profession apparent.

Sure, you might gain some website traffic from people viewing your profile, but it is more likely that people will click on interesting blog posts that you share on Twitter (in moderation, of course). In addition, include the Twitter icon—linked to your profile—on your marketing materials, your email signature, and your website.

Add a Period

Did you know that if you start a tweet with someone’s Twitter handle, only that person (and people who follow both of you) will see your tweet? To get your comments to your entire fan base, put a period before the @ symbol if you’re beginning a tweet with someone’s profile name.

In summary, Twitter is all about making connections and staying relevant. As long as you are active on the site and really consider whether or not your tweets add value to your followers, you should be golden. Before long, you will notice an increase in website traffic, and you may even gain a client or two. If you are interested in learning more, read my previous post, “6 Twitter Rules for Real Estate Agents.” You will be a social superstar in no time!

Bill Gassett is a nationally-recognized real estate leader and one of the top RE/MAX salespeople in New England. See all his real estate articles at www.maxrealestateexposure.com.

5 Simple Life Hacks to Boost Experience

Mon, 01/05/2015 - 08:00

Sam DeBord

By Sam DeBord

Real estate rookies can really kick start their learning experience by picking up some simple shortcuts from those who’ve been selling for many years.  These are just a few of the real estate “hacks” I’ve learned over the years from seasoned practitioners that improved my experience and knowledge in simple yet effective ways.

1. Know the Concierge

Do you know every building and subdivision in your city like the back of your hand?  I’ve sold all over Seattle for many years, but there are more than 1,000 condo buildings in the metro area.  You can’t possibly know them all well.

©clarita, 2008. Morguefile

If you’re going to show a buyer a condo in a building where you’re not an expert, get a boost for your experience and your image by previewing or showing up 30 minutes early to talk to the concierge. Find out where the amenities are and tour the unit, but also get the concierge’s name. When your client arrives, you can stroll in together and greet the concierge with, “Hi Tony, good to see you again, we’re headed up to see the pool.”  You’ve already done the research to be prepared for your client, so you might as well add that splash of “in-the-know” to your appearance.

Of course, the same applies to knowing the security guard at a gated community, the marina manager at a houseboat community, or any other gatekeeper to a property you intend to show.

2. Point Out the Negatives Right Away

Consumers who don’t know us aren’t sure they can fully trust us at first. With new clients, they may be concerned that your goal is to sell them whichever home you can get them into as quickly as possible.

Show them that you’re a trustworthy source of information by not focusing solely on the positive selling aspects of a home, especially at your initial meetings. By pointing out the drawbacks of the home they’re touring right away, they’ll develop trust for your opinions and realize you’re not all about the sale.

I’ve had numerous clients thank me after our very first showing, because I started out with an analysis of the home’s weaknesses instead of a sales pitch. Have you ever pointed out that “ocean breeze” sound that you can hear from the master bedroom (freeway noise)? They love it. If you let clients understand upfront that you’re there to help them buy a home, as opposed to sell them a home, they will have have long-term loyalty.

3. Keys in the Back Pocket

This one is a bit silly, but still practical. Have you ever arrived at the fifth house on an eight home tour and found an extra set of house keys in your possession? Buyer tours can be complex, and sometimes agents make the mistake of setting keys down or putting them away quickly when they’re trying to pay attention to their clients. It rarely happens, but when it does it’s an embarrassing and time consuming mistake.

You’ll probably never drive away with someone else’s keys if they’re in your back pocket and you have to sit on them. Even better, put the whole key compartment from the keybox in your back pocket if it fits. It will be a constant reminder that the house isn’t secure until you’ve put it back, and even the most distracted agent won’t be able to sit on it and drive away (apologies to those whose fashion style doesn’t permit the use of pockets).

4. Spend Time Investing in Your Local REALTOR® Board

Think you know what’s happening in your local real estate market? Working with buyers and sellers is just the tip of the iceberg. Listen in on a meeting of your local board’s government affairs, business practices, or MLS issues meetings. You’ll realize how much more is going on behind the scenes.

Understanding the big picture issues of real estate that your REALTOR® board is dealing with every day will build your knowledge quickly. Joining a committee can give you the extra confidence and subject material to discuss these kinds of topics with clients. You can show them that you have unique industry knowledge as well as the ability to sell their homes.

Consumers view any management title you hold with your REALTOR® board as a sign that you’re a leader in the community, and you can climb that ladder quickly if you’re willing to put in the time.

5. Suit Up

Appropriate business attire can vary widely in real estate. If you’re comfortable and successful in your business already, you can wear whatever you like. If you’re newer to the business and hoping to look more experienced, though, don’t give in to the ego trip that says, “I’m going to look how I always look and people can take me for who I am.” This isn’t your high school drama club, it’s a tough business where the majority of agents aren’t particularly successful. Consumers want to play with a winner, and if you look and act like someone who is successful, they will be more inclined to believe you are.

If you know that your image will improve with more professional business attire, then buck up and wear it like your income depends on it–because it does. This doesn’t mean you need to go buy the latest sports car and Armani suit. Just don’t give in to the laziness that says, “I’ll clean out my car next week,” or “I don’t feel like putting on a jacket today.” To this day I wear a suit to every initial meeting with a client, no matter their age or style.  You’re always safer overdressed than underdressed.

Sam DeBord is managing broker of Seattle Homes Group with Coldwell Banker Danforth, and a state director for Washington REALTORS®. You can find his team at SeattleHome.com and SeattleCondo.com.

What Being a Leader Really Means

Fri, 01/02/2015 - 08:00

Wade Corbett

By Wade Corbett

Over this past year I have had the amazing privilege and fortune to participate in the North Carolina Association of REALTORS® Leadership Academy. I have reflected over months on the true meaning of leadership and honestly, I have yet to come up with a definitive description. I cannot say what being a leader is, but I can say without a doubt what being a leader is not.

Being a leader is not about you. Those who become leaders because of a desire for glory or for public recognition are not true leaders. These are the types of people who will stop leading when it stops being convenient. As past NAR President Charles McMillian taught me earlier this year, being a leader is not always convenient. Leading your association, community, church, family, etc. is not easy and it doesn’t always fit into your planned schedule. Sometimes you may have hardships in your life while also having to lead.

Being a leader is not about being at the top of the pyramid. This is something I never comprehended until this year, but some of the best leaders are those who never rise to the highest position of power. I have always had a “rise-to-the-top” personality. But I now understand that me being at the top is not always what’s best for the organization I’m involved in. I learned from the eleven other people in my leadership class (The Best Class Ever) that we are all different types of leaders. There is a time to lead and there is a time to follow other leaders. Following does not mean that you’re subservient to anyone. It only means that you lead from below and help those who happen to be at the top.

Being a leader is not about building on your accomplishments, but contributing to the cause. Kim Dawson, NCAR’s president-elect, taught me that we are each just one piece of a much larger puzzle. Many people believe they are the whole puzzle and that being a leader in an organization is a piece of their puzzle. You are only one piece of the puzzle in the organization you are leading. If you do not have this mind-set, sit back and ask yourself: Why am I a leader?

As REALTORS®, there are a lot of changes facing us on the horizon, particularly NAR’s new Core Standards taking effect in 2015. You need to step up at your local, state, and national association to become part of the leaders of tomorrow. Join your local YPN and volunteer for association committees. Who knows; maybe you’ll become the president of NAR one day! Not that that’s what leadership is about. But it is fun thing to dream about!

If you have any questions about how to get involved in on the local, state or national level, please email me directly at Info@WadeCorbett.com.

Wade Corbett is a REALTOR® with RE/MAX Southland Realty in Garner, North Carolina. Connect with him at WadeCorbett.com or facebook.com/WadeCorbettInc.

Real Estate Resolutions for 2015

Tue, 12/30/2014 - 16:09

Elizabeth Mackay

By Elizabeth Mackay

Do you still make New Year’s resolutions? Do you still hold the hope of something better, something more, as you leave one year behind and embark on another? It’s easy to feel hopeless, there are the old year’s resolutions unmet and the gaping question of whether you’ll see the new year, much less live it out. Yet, progress is the basis of humanity. It is our natural state to want more, to aspire to something greater. Besides, what is life if not lived with hope for better days ahead?

So in the spirit of hope, here are my real estate resolutions for the new year.

I will embody temperance. No more will I be tossed about by the fierce storm of real estate ups and downs, successes and failures. Like life, real estate is a game and I will play to win. But win or lose, I will embody temperance. I will accept both outcomes in the spirit of growth. I will call on humility in times of triumph, and perseverance in times of failure; for all failure is temporary – if we do not quit!

©Prawny, 2014. Morguefile

I will never give in. Never! When I feel defeated and small, I will listen to the words of Winston Churchill and I will stand tall. “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty. Never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” I will not give in to defeat, to fear, or to doubt; I will never give in to the ruthlessness or insincerity of others. I will not give in even to my own limitations.

I will forgive. I will forgive myself for the mistakes of yesterday and I will forgive others for theirs. I will forgive and move on in the assurance that no one can take my good away, and that all men are perfect on their own plane. I will forgive because, “I will permit no man [...] to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him.” (Booker T. Washington)

I will guard my self respect. I will erect my personal boundaries and cross them not for man or fortune. “For what shall it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36, KJV). Whatever the road I take in life, I will walk my own way and let the crossroads be navigated according to what I hold dear and true. I will step forward in confidence and keep moving until the fluttering subsides. I will believe in myself!

I will take the hard road. I will labour at my craft, I will learn and apply the tools of my profession, and I will succeed. Where others falter I will endure. I will not give in to fatigue and desperation. When I am tempted to submit, I will remember the words of Longfellow and I will work harder. For, “The heights by great men, reached and kept, where not attained by sudden flight, but they, while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night.” I will persist and I will win.

I will stay in faith. When all else fails and I lose my temper and harbour animosity, when I temporally give in to the vagrancies of real estate, when I lose hope and succumb to despair, I will hold on to faith. I will lift myself up and try again and again. When another year ends and a new one approaches and I find unmet goals and botched resolutions, I will make new resolutions and start all over again in renewed faith that better is before me, and that perhaps the glory is in how we walk our path rather than where we ultimately end up.

I’d love to hear your resolutions. Please feel free and brave and share them with me in the comments below. Together we’ll stand on this point in space and declare ourselves great!

Wishing you a new year filled with wonder and delight!

Elizabeth Mackay, MBA, is a salesperson with CA Christie Real Estate in The Bahamas. Connect with Mackay at livelifebahamas.com or liz@livelifebahamas.com.

The Truth About Grad School

Tue, 12/23/2014 - 11:15

By Brittney Schwartz, REALTOR® University

Graduate school can be both an incredibly challenging and rewarding time in a person’s life. A lot of what you will ultimately take away from the experience depends upon how you approach it. Some of the best people to help you prepare are the ones who’ve already been through the process.

That’s why we spoke with current and former students of REALTOR® University’s Master of Real Estate (MRE) program to get their advice for getting the most out of your program. Their advice covers everything from self-care and finances to future goals and planning.

1. It’s a time to find your niche.

Graduate school is your opportunity to find the specific field you want to specialize in. Mentorships, internships, and a variety of curriculum will help you discover the path that’s right for you. Determine what about real estate speaks to you and pursue it.

My lifelong career has been in real estate associations, in support of real estate professionals, so the association management concentration made perfect sense for me.  Unique to this program, though, is its balance between the academic and the practical.  Many assignments allowed me the opportunity to not only research topics of particular relevance to my work at a real estate association, but also the opportunity to develop practical tools for use in the workplace.
—Mary Martinez, 2014 REALTOR® University MRE Graduate

2. Don’t toss your textbooks.

For many of us, those overpriced books are the first things we want to offload when the term is over. But in grad school, course materials are often the definitive (and sometimes the only) text on a specific topic.

I have kept my books—and referenced them. And a bonus tip, one of the first books a student should purchase is Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th edition. The papers are required to be written in APA format so becoming familiar with the book is essential.
—Mary Ann Sgobba, 2014 REALTOR® University MRE Graduate

3. Grad school is less like college and more like a full-time job.

Gone are the days of cramming for exams the night before. Many tests and projects in grad school require more time, attention, and a comprehensive study plan. It’s easy to let things pile up between classes, work, and personal life. Figure out how much time you need to set aside for studying each week, and commit to it.

The time management—especially at first—was an adjustment, but not an obstacle. For me, it worked best to get one to two hours in each night after dinner and then several hours Saturday morning. My suggestion to new students would be to find a routine that works for you and stick with it.
—Shannon Bodnar, 2014 REALTOR® University MRE Graduate

4. Leave your comfort zone behind.

If you want to be the best possible you that you can be—and ideally, that’s part of why you’re in graduate school—you’ll need to push your personal boundaries.

Learn from guest speakers and professors. Make friends with them. Unlike your undergrad career, many professors are willing to stay connected after the term ends because they are in your chosen industry. If you have the opportunity to talk to the brightest people in your field, don’t miss out because you “didn’t feel like going to class that week.” It’s an excuse you’ll regret.

I earned my original master’s degree in 1995—a time when the predominant option for working professionals [continuing their education] was brick-and-mortar schools, evenings, and weekends.  The RU master’s program turns that option on its head.  The workload and pace of the accelerated eight-week sessions was a bit more of an adjustment for me.  It was difficult at the beginning.  I liken the experience to working out a new muscle—painful at the beginning but as the muscle gets stronger the pain lessens. This program allowed me to fit schoolwork into my schedule, from the comfort of home, while away on business, or wherever.
—Mary Martinez, 2014 REALTOR® University MRE Graduate

5. Know Your Resources.

Find out what perks and bonuses a program offers beyond class electives. As a REALTOR® University student, the largest real estate library in the world is at your fingertips. Students receive unlimited access to the REALTOR® University Library while completing our Master of Real Estate program, and can maintain access as alumni as well.

The REALTOR® University Library staff is awesome and provides assistance with research as well as review of papers before submitting to the instructor. I would recommend that students complete their writing assignments a few days before due date to allow for review by the REALTOR® University Library staff. Besides the assistance with research, the review by the Library staff was extremely helpful.
—Mary Ann Sgobba, 2014 REALTOR® University MRE Graduate

6. Enjoy the ride.

Going back to school can be a big time and financial commitment, but it can also be an eye opening and fulfilling part of your academic career—and it opens doors you’ll appreciate for the rest of your life. Plus, you’ll learn new skills and become an expert in topics that you weren’t as knowledgeable in when you began the program. Getting an advanced degree will set the stage for your professional advancement, but it’s also a great adventure. Find ways to enjoy it every step of the way.

For more information about the Master of Real Estate program and other educational opportunities available through REALTOR® University, visit www.realtoru.com.

Scientifically Develop the Habit of Lead Generation: Part 4

Thu, 12/18/2014 - 09:47

Alex Cavelli

By Alex Cavelli

“Simplify”
—Henry David Thorough

Over the last few weeks, I’ve taken lessons I’ve learned from the work of willpower scientist Colin Robertson and revealed techniques to help you develop the keystone habit of lead generation. Hopefully by now you’ve experimented and found success. Here’s a review:

Part 1: “Do Not Fail” – Choosing your daily contact goal.

Part 2: “The Seinfeld Method” – Forming consistency.

Part 3: “Definite Purpose” – Envisioning your purpose.

Based on the emails I’ve received, it seems that all three parts have made an impact. A recurring question has been, “How do I find time for lead generation when I have all this other stuff going on?” The answer: simplify.

The Minimalists

One of my favorite recent stories is about young man named Ryan Nicodemus. Nicodemus, along with his friend Joshua Fields Millburn, are two 20-something Ohioans who once believed they had it all.

“A few years ago, while approaching age 30, we had achieved everything that was supposed to make us happy: great six-figure jobs, nice cars, big houses with more bedrooms than inhabitants, pointless masses of toys, scads of superfluous stuff…The truth is we weren’t successful at all. Maybe we looked successful…but we weren’t truly successful. Because even with all our stuff, we weren’t satisfied with our lives—we weren’t happy.”

©pippalou, 2014. Morguefile

Nicodemus needed to make a change to find happiness. To begin their journey, the two friends got together and started evaluating their material possessions. “Where do we start?” asked Nicodemus. Millburn then suggested an idea that changed both their lives forever: “The Packing Party.”

Nicodemus packed all of his possessions into boxes, labeled them, and stuffed them in a spare bedroom. Now these items didn’t just consist of their expensive gadgets. They packed clothes, shoes, cleaning supplies, kitchen utensils, bedding, plates, paintings, toothpaste, food – everything. It almost looked as if they were getting ready to load a moving truck. The main idea was this: over the next 21 days, Nicodemus would unpack nothing except for what he actually used. Whatever remained would then be sold, donated, or trashed.

The results may surprise you at first. Nicodemus unpacked only about 20 percent of his possessions over three weeks! In other words, nearly 80 percent of his possessions were deemed useless or non-essential. He donated clothes he didn’t wear, sold some of his electronics, and even got rid of those unopened cleaning supplies.

The aftereffects from this packing party were an even bigger surprise. Suddenly they found more time, energy and money to focus on what actually did bring them value. Life became “rich” again as they packed (and unpacked) other parts of their lives – relationships, careers, spending habits, and dieting. Today they travel the country encouraging audiences to pare down their lives and create space for things of real value.

So how did such a simple experiment reveal the root of their discontent? And what’s the relevance to your business? Let’s ask Colin Robertson, our willpower scientist.

Science

When we come up with tasks for ourselves, our brain creates an internal reminder that will nag us until we give those tasks attention. Think about that nagging feeling you get when you’re overdue to check your social media accounts. This mental nagging actually drains our willpower and diminishes our ability to focus on essential actives.

Or think about that sense of accomplishment you get when you cross something off your to-do list. Yes, that feeling can lead to other small successes. But the opposite is also true. If we fail to complete a task, feelings of discontent take form. This experience is known as the Zeigarnik Effect. To avoid this effect, we just need a packing party.

Application

As real estate business people, we’re only as effective as the quality of our schedule and our ability to follow it. If you’re ready to have a “packing party” for your schedule to make room for the essentials, they read on and follow these steps:

  1. Pull up your 2015 schedule and completely clear it.
  2. Black out your non-working days first (these are planned days off, holidays, family commitments, vacations, etc.). Now your workdays remain.
  3. Next, take January 5th   and consider it the template for your “ideal workday”.
    • Decide the start time to your ideal workday.
    • Decide the end time to your ideal workday.
    • In between your start and end times, time block these essential activities:
      • Hitting your “do not fail” daily contact goal
      • Listing appointments
      • Negotiation
  4. Apply this schedule to the remainder of your 2015 workdays.

Use your judgment for important activities like attending team meetings, following up with sellers, preparing for appointments, and completing essential paperwork. For example, I call my sellers every Friday between noon and 1:00pm. Some agents choose Wednesdays. I also time block time for daily administrative work between 1:00pm and 2:00pm. If I have no appointments or essential admin work, I can always work on generating leads. When planning, it’ll be helpful to keep these averages in mind:

  • 8 contacts = 1 hour
    • Top agents prospect 3 to 4 hours per day, between 8:00am and noon, 5 days per week.
  • 1 listing appointment = 1 hour
    • Top agents spend 30 minutes or less on listing appointment, schedule them between 3:00pm and 7:00pm, 5 days per week.
  • Negotiation = 30 minutes
    • Top agents will typically negotiate before 7:30am, between 1:00pm and 2:00pm, and/or after evening appointments.

Conclusion

You still have eight working days left in 2014 to start building momentum for the new year. Just as Nicodemus and Millburn started their journey to happiness by paring down their possessions, you can also pare down your business by starting with your schedule. Not only will free up willpower to hit your daily “do not fail” goal, you’ll discover the time and energy to surpass it and list more real estate.

For other techniques and lead generation habit tools, visit and “like” this Facebook page.

Subscribe to Willpowered for daily scientific strategies to increase willpower in other areas of your life.

Alex Cavelli is a REALTOR® with Keller Williams Greater Cleveland Northeast. Connect with Alex via linkedin.com/in/cavelli or Alexcavelli@kw.com.

Nichify : Blog Small for Big Online Results

Fri, 12/12/2014 - 11:26

Charlie Allred

By Charlie Allred

What if every time you posted something online, you thought about providing the most value to the person looking for that information? How would your online presence change? My guess is that it would become more focused.

You have an area of expertise, right?  The Internet and your potential clients online don’t know that unless you tell them. Your website and/or blog should be your way of telling these potential clients what you are doing in real life.

For example, instead of writing about Mesa, Ariz., write about a specific neighborhood in Mesa. Or you can talk about upcoming events in that specific neighborhood.  If you are very specific, your content is much more likely to show up in organic search results.

Credit: ariadna, 2013. Morguefile

When planning your blog posts, think about the buying cycle for your area and try to publish content based on readers’ needs. Ask yourself what community information you can provide your potential client to add real value.

Real estate is all about the community. Find out what community or neighborhood information a potential buyer might seek, then provide it in an easy-to-read, and digestible format on your blog.

A couple of examples from my blog:

  1. Area information for people who are thinking about moving to Arizona
  2. Community information about the districts of Old Town Scottsdale
  3. Real estate information about Old Town Scottsdale homes

The myth in real estate is that you might miss out on sales if you specialize in one neighborhood. But I suggest that you find a niche, dominate it, and then move on to another niche. Writing an article about one specific neighborhood doesn’t mean that next week you can’t write about the adjacent neighborhood.  Eventually, you can write an article on each of the neighborhoods in which you specialize. And that’s the real value for your readers (and potential clients).

Charlie Allred is a Phoenix-based designated broker for Secure Real Estate and author of the book “Pinnable Real Estate: Pinterest for Real Estate Agents.” She is a Pinterest expert coaching agents on how to gain more leads, followers, and clients by using Pinterest. Learn more at her blog: www.PinnableRealEstate.com.

Don’t LOOK for Opportunity in 2015

Tue, 12/09/2014 - 10:11

Anand Patel

By Anand Patel

As we close out the year, you may be looking for opportunities and new avenues to success in 2015. I’m here to tell you that you’re doing it all wrong.

The last few months, while speaking at REALTOR® associations as well as with my own agents, I have been sharing three specific thoughts that have been weighing on my mind as we wrap up 2014. I think that together, they can open up your life to success more than any attempt to hunt down “opportunity.”

“Opportunities? They are all around us…There is power lying latent everywhere waiting for the observant eye to discover it.”
–Orison Swett Marden, inspirational author and founder of Success Magazine

1. Everything happens for a reason.

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “hindsight is 20/20.” With that in mind, take a moment and look back at past events in your life that you may have initially perceived as negative and reevaluate them with the notion that everything happens for a reason. Perhaps it’s a negative comment someone said to you when you were young that stuck with you instead of a positive quality a teacher or parent saw in you. Maybe it was an event where you failed at something and instead of focusing on the lessons learned, you held onto the failure itself.  Looking back at these memories in this light will open you up to a totally new perspective. My father shared this notion with me over ten years ago that everything, EVERYTHING happens for a reason and nothing happens by chance. It took me a while to fully understand what he meant, but once I did interesting things began to happen for me.

2. Be present in the moment.

Being present in the moment means being aware of what is going on around us. It means starting up a conversation with the person behind you in line at the grocery store. It means saying hello to the person sitting next to you in an educational class at your local association. It means putting your cell phone away when having dinner with your family (I get in trouble for this one a lot).  It means picking up the phone and calling someone instead of texting them.  Being present in the moment means bringing real conversations back into your life. It means asking those around you “how can I help?”

To a certain degree, this will happen automatically when you truly believe everything happens for a reason. By understanding there’s a reason behind the people you encounter, events that happen, and conversations you engage in, you will inevitably begin to make the conscious effort to be present.

3. Opportunity surrounds us.

Understanding that everything happens for a reason and grasping the importance of being present in the moment now leaves you open to the opportunity that surrounds you. Remember that conversation in the grocery store? It turns out they are looking to buy a new home. The real estate professional you chatted with at the association event? She happens to have the perfect buyer for the unique listing you’ve had a tough time selling. When you put your cell phone away at the restaurant? You just had the most interesting conversation with your daughter who had been craving your attention all evening. That time you picked up the phone instead of texting? The conversation led you to finding the business partner of the new brokerage you just opened.

Sound crazy? I promise you, try it and you will be astounded by the number of opportunities that will come to you. If you spend your days looking for opportunity, in essence you are telling yourself opportunity is elusive and you have to seek it out. That is far from the truth.

By believing that everything happens for a reason, and by being present in the moment, we will begin to see that opportunity surrounds us everywhere. So as you prepare for 2015, don’t waste your time looking for opportunity, as it has been waiting for you all along.

Anand Patel is broker and president of Pangea Realty Group based in Tampa, Fla. You can connect with Anand on Twitter: @anand_tampa, Facebook: www.facebook.com/prgtampa, or LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/anandpatel1.

Scientifically Develop the Habit of Lead Generation: Part 3

Thu, 12/04/2014 - 09:40

Alex Cavelli

By Alex Cavelli

“There is one quality which one must possess to win, and that is definiteness of purpose, the knowledge of what one wants, and a burning desire to possess it.”
—Napoleon Hill

In part 1 and part 2, I used what I’ve learned from Willpower Scientist Colin Robertson to show how you can scientifically develop the keystone habit of lead generation. Before continuing, I suggest reading (or re-reading) both sections.

Now that you have a specific vehicle for keeping yourself on track with prospecting, I want to give you the fuel. But first, an inspiring story…

Think and Grow Rich

Meet Edwin C. Barnes. As a rather poor young man in the early 1900s, Barnes’ obsession was to become the right-hand man to the great Thomas A. Edison.

Barnes & Edison, with an Ediphone. Library of Congress

When the idea first flashed across Barnes’ mind, it was nothing more than a wish. He had no money, no presentable clothing, little education, and zero connection to the inventor. Still, months passed in which Barnes’ imaginary partnership with Edison started to become real in his own mind.

Through his persistent visualization, Barnes developed the self-confidence to take positive action. He snuck onto a freight train to Orange, N.J. in order to meet Edison. As Edison described him, “He stood there before me, looking like an ordinary tramp, but there was something in the expression of his face which conveyed the impression that he was determined to get what he had come after.”

He was hired. Even after months of menial work with no promise of promotion, Barnes kept his burning desire in the forefront of his mind while awaiting his opportunity. When Edison perfected the Ediphone, none of his salesmen were excited about this odd device. Except for Barnes. Because of Barnes’ particular enthusiasm, Edison gave Barnes the opportunity to sell the Ediphone. Barnes sold it so successfully that Edison gave him the contract to distribute all over the nation. Turns out this business alliance lasted for thirty more years, and Barnes finally achieved his burning desire.

How did Barnes rise to the top? Let’s ask our willpower scientist.

The Science

Colin Robertson says there are three different types of willpower, each using distinct parts of the brain.

1.    “I WILL” POWER

We use this to do the tough things that accomplish our goals.  We use it to exercise, organize our desks, and pick up the phone to dial another prospect.

2.    “I WON’T” POWER 

This is the power we use to resist the various temptations in our lives. We call upon this to resist the burger and fries on the lunch menu, our true feelings about rude clients, and daily distractions that keep us from prospecting.

3.    “I WANT” POWER

This is the most important type of willpower. It’s the part of the brain that remembers our long-term goals, dreams and desires—what we really want. You may have experienced this type of willpower when you were inspired by a great speech or leader, or when you found extra motivation to meet a seemingly impossible sales goal.

This is the type of willpower that Barnes drew upon to go from an “ordinary tramp” to partner with Thomas Edison. Because willpower is like a muscle, the more Barnes reinforced his vision and desire, the stronger his willpower became. This gave him the inspiration to take action and persevere through years of working at the bottom.

Application:

To increase your “I want” power, you must visualize your ultimate business. Ask yourself these specific questions about what your business will look like when you retire from real estate:

  • How will it run?
  • Will you have a large and dominating brokerage, or a relatively small but mighty team?
  • What excites you about this vision?
  • Most importantly, what does this ultimate business mean for you, your family, and community? And what will you be able to do and give as a result?

The clearer your vision of your long-term goal, the easier it will be to use your “I want” power to achieve it. Once you have visualized your ultimate business, you need to be able to see the steps to get there. Barnes may have had a large vision, but he also had the discipline to complete the day-to-day tasks that would get him there. Ask yourself these questions to help you visualize your prospecting process:

  • What time do you start?
  • Who are you calling?
  • How do your conversations go?
  • What does setting an appointment each day look like? How about setting five appointments per day?
  • Are you consistent?
  • Are you having fun?

To get started, you can try this visualization exercise.

One caution: When we visualize our burning desire, we can get a false sense of reward as if it’s already happened for us. And when we get that sense of reward we can lose the motivation to take action toward it. So be sure to use visualization as a starting point for action. Positive thoughts mean nothing if they’re not followed by positive action.

Conclusion

Let us learn from Edwin C. Barnes. He succeeded because he backed his burning desire with definite plan of action. If you want to be the best and enjoy the benefits and responsibilities of what that affords, you have to first envision what life is like at your best.

Visualization has a snowball effect. I find that the more consistently I visualize, the clearer my vision becomes and the easier it is to see the path. When the path becomes easy to see, taking definite action is both simpler and more fun. As Napoleon Hill concluded, “Oh, what a different story men would have to tell if they would adopt a definite purpose and stand by that purpose until it had time to become an all-consuming desire.”

Get started today. Write out your raw, unedited visualization and e-mail it to me. I’ll even share mine with you.

For future posts and prospecting tools, visit and “like” this Facebook page. To learn more willpower secrets, connect with Colin Robertson here.

Alex Cavelli is a REALTOR® with Keller Williams Greater Cleveland Northeast. Connect with Alex via linkedin.com/in/cavelli or Alexcavelli@kw.com.