February 6, 2012

We Have Moved

Thanks for visiting.

If you are here, you might have been looking for The Realtor's Toolbox. We have moved our blog to a new site.

I hope you'll visit our new and improved blog called Carp's Corner.

It's the same great content with a new name and a new address.


What's In a Name?

Would you still eat at the hamburger joint with the golden arches tomorrow if the name wasn’t McDonald’s?

If Donald Trump sold all of his buildings tomorrow to a guy named Barnaby McPherson, would there be tourists asking to visit McPherson Tower in New York City?

Is there a reason why people would say they’ve never heard of Robert Zimmerman but love Bob Dylan?
Let’s face it…name recognition is powerful.

Even Old New York was Once New Amsterdam

For the last four years I have written this blog, sharing tools tips and techniques to build your real estate business. Since my first blog post back in March 2008, I have been creating content for The Realtor’s Toolbox. Over the last few years it has evolved into more of a place to share ideas and inspiration as well as fun ways to be successful in a career in real estate and succeed in life at the same time by following my simple philosophy ~ build relationships, solve problems and have fun.

I received a letter this past week from the Legal Affairs Department of the National Association of Realtors stating…
The NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS has identified the Internet domain name, realtorstoolbox.blogspot.com, as one in which the membership marks of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS (National Association) are used as a part of the domain name. The National Association requests that you comply with the rules developed by the National Association to preserve and protect the Membership marks and discontinue using this domain name.
While my reason for naming my blog The Realtor’s Toolbox never was intended to mislead the general public in any way, I was always wondering when the all and powerful NAR might find reason to protect their trademark. I actually named it The Realtor’s Toolbox because that was the name of my very first public presentation I did back when I was a branch manager. It was the class that helped my land my current role as Director of Agent Development and has become my “signature class” when I speak across the country to real estate companies and real estate associations (many of which are filled with Realtors).

It just kind of made sense that my blog and my signature class would share the same name. After all, my slogan is “nobody knows homes like a Carpenter” and shouldn’t every good carpenter have a toolbox?

Time to Change
I had been contemplating moving my blog from the Blogger platform to Word Press for quite some time but was happy with the results I had been seeing via Blogger. They were constantly working on bringing new enhancements to the platform and my subscriptions of new readers was steadily growing so I kind of felt that if it “ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Well, when you get a letter from a Legal Affairs Department of one of the largest trade organizations in the United States, you’re not going to sit there and argue. It was time to change.

I contacted my friend Jeremy Blanton, a real estate and technology consultant that I met at last year’s Coldwell Banker Gen Blue Convention and told him I was ready to make the conversion. Jeremy’s company, 210 Consulting, was eager to help and quick to make the site “come alive.” In a matter of 36 hours my blog posts had been moved over from Blogger and my new site was up and running. A big shout out to JB for his efforts and guidance.

New Name. Same Great Content
While the name has changed to Carp’s Corner (the name of my hard copy newsletter I used to send out to my friends, family and past clients when I was an active agent), the content will remain the same. If you are already a subscriber, nothing should change and you should still continue to get my posts sent to your email or RSS feeds as you were before.

If you’re not a subscriber, please consider visiting the new page by clicking here, You can enter your email address on the new page and begin receiving updated posts from Carp’s Corner straight to your email inbox. I can assure you that you’ll get an idea, some inspiration, a valuable tip or at least a smile each time you read it.
If you know someone who might enjoy the site, please email them a link, share the site on your social networks or tell them about it the next time you see them in person.
Thanks for being a loyal reader. I really appreciate you taking the time to ‘sharpen your saw” each day with me. Until next time, keep building relationships, solving problems and having fun.

January 29, 2012

The Race Has Started. Have You?

Photo by Derek Gavey via Flickr
Monday Morning Match is a quick post - maybe a quote, inspirational story or idea - intended to spark some motivation inside each of you so your week gets off to a fantastic start on Monday morning.

We're just a few hours from the first month of 2012 being over, yet many of our real estate brothers and sisters haven't even started their year. Oh sure, they may have turned their calendar and they have done the ceremonial business plan but they really haven't begun because they are still waiting for business to come to them.

Many of the active agents I know have some sort of business - at least one new listing or one new buyer.

Do you?

"The thing that has not been begun cannot be finished"
~ Robert Henri

If you don't have any business yet, ask yourself this: "Why not? What am I waiting for?"

It's been a few years since I have heard agents kick off their January so excited by the business at hand in the first few weeks of the year. I know listings are up in our local market and buyers have been pushed to jump in to the action with a combination of low interest rates, pent up demand and warmer than usual weather in the Central, Midwest and Northeast portions of the United States. I expect pending deals in January to outdistance 2011 and that's good news for a market that is in desperate need of a recovery.

How is your local market doing? Do you know the inventory that is available right now and how it compares to last year? How about the list price to sales price ratio? The average days on market? The average sales price? 

If you are knowledgeable enough, you will quickly become the "market expert" your client demands. Shouldn't you know the numbers of your market better than your local grocery store bag boy knows which aisles to find Tabasco sauce and condensed milk? Show you're a true professional and dig deep to understand your market inside and out.

"Can anything be sadder than work left unfinsihed?
Yes; work never begun."
~ Christina Rossetti

The old cliche is true - "He who lists, lasts." Get out there this week and start making phone calls to past clients and members of your sphere of influence. Contact local FSBO's and any listings that might have expired heading into the holidays. Their 30+ days of misery are over and it's time to get them on to their next phase of life. Build your inventory and get ready for the flood of buyers that will be coming soon.

I've never met a top agent who had a great year in real estate that didn't include a busy first quarter. There are about 60 days left until April 1st. Maybe the work you do these next two months will be what you look back on in December and say, "that's when I really got started."

Start today. If you don't, you'll quickly look up and realize it's the last week of 2012.

Focus on how you can build relationships, solve problems and have fun. 

Don't wait. Start right now.

January 25, 2012

The Real Estate Dance?

I had the opportunity to chaperone at my daughter Riley's 7th Grade Dance Club last night. I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I arrived as one of the only Dad's who was lucky enough to be selected as a volunteer (that is what they call it when your wife signs you up for something, right?)

Now I can't speak for how my daughter felt about me being there but I really had a great time and I am pretty sure I didn't embarrass her. I was also surprised to realize how many similarities there are between what these pre-teens experienced in one hour of Dance Club and what successful Realtors will experience in their careers.

The People With Experience Are Wise and Like to Share Their Knowledge - Mr. Ron Clark is the Dance Club Instructor and he has been doing this for 40 years. He was my instructor back in the late 70's/early 80's when I attended 7th Grade Dance Club and he was my wife's instructor a few years later. The songs might have been different but the basics were still the same.

Who are the people in your office or company that you can turn to in hopes of learning a few of the "moves" that work, regardless of the tune the market is playing? Aren't the "basic steps" the things we always can fall back on and be confident they will work?

Walk In With Confidence - As the parent chaperones were getting final instructions for the evening from Mr. Clark, the kids were lining up in the school lobby. As there are almost twice as many girls as boys, most of the boys walked in with two girls on their arm. They are taught to walk in standing tall, shoulders up and looking straight ahead as they form 6 lines across the cafeteria.

How do you walk up to the door of a listing presentation? When you last approached a For Sale By Owner, did you strut confidently to the door? How much swagger do you show when you meet potential clients in your office lobby for the first time? There's a lot to be said about a person wearing their confidence on their sleeve.

The More You Practice, The Easier It Gets - This was week number three for the club and I was quite impressed with how well they knew what they were doing. The awkward, clammy hand shakes were gone and the embarrased giggles didn't seem to happen tonight. When asked to approach "their lady" for a new dance, the boys stepped up and performed as instructed.

No one likes the first phone call of the day. How nervous were you when you wrote that first purchase contract as a Rookie? Do your dialogues sound natural now after years and years of saying them in practice sessions with your fellow agents? Everyone knows that if they could practice their listing presentation more or rehearse those objection handling techniques every now and then, the butterflies would disappear and the rhythm we seek is just a song beat away.

Making Things Fun Also Makes Them Easier - The old cliche "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" would be so true if all these 12 and 13-year-olds did was get boring dance instruction from a stiff teacher. But they did dance moves like "the Sprinkler" and "the Lawnmower," they "shimmied" and did "the Twist." They "dribbled the ball" and then took a "jump shot." When they slid to the left they screamed "whooooooo" and the same when they slid back to the right. The kids clapped enthusiastically before and after dances. The boys high-fived and fist-bumped while the girls hugged and giggled. Even the chaperones were smiling and having a good time just watching the kids having fun.

Isn't your job easier when you're having fun? Don't your clients enjoy the process more when you are smiling, telling fun stories and easing the stress that can usually be involved in the real estate process? Every day you need to look for opportunities to make people smile or laugh. When you can make people feel comfortable, you can help them be themselves. And that is when you really start to find out how to "solve their problems" in the most efficient and effective manner.

The Power of a Group - At one point, Mr. Clark had the kids gather in groups of 8-14 people (boys and girls mixed) and form big dance circles. Then, one at a time a girl would go in the center and dance however she wanted. Everyone on the outside circle had to imitate the person in the center. Mr. Clark would call for a "switch" and the girl would pick a boy to replace her in the middle and the routine would continue. During this song, the chaperones were asked to walk around the room and select the group that was having the most fun. As you can imagine, they were all "hamming it up" when a parent went by in hopes of swaying our votes. (I'm not sure how or if they knew I was a Florida graduate but the group I voted for all dropped to their knees at the end at Tebowed in homage to Florida graduate and current Denver Broncos QB Tim Tebow)

When you work together with a team of associates in your company or board, don't you feel a boost of energy, a spark of creativity or a common bond that you're all trying to achieve the same thing? We should all find more ways to harness that power more often. Choose to soar with the eagles in your midst instead of hanging out with the turkeys.

Introduce Yourself and Make an Impression - The last thing the kids must do each week is walk arm in arm with their partner(s) and introduce themselves to their group chaperone and thank them for helping. The ladies go first and must stand tall, shake hands, make solid eye contact and loudly say, "Good evening. I am ____________________. Thanks you for helping tonight." If they did it correctly, I shook their hands back, smiled and thanked them for coming and wished them good luck. The boys then followed suit and I did my best to make sure their handshake was firm and their eye contact direct. They all did a great job.

Are you shaking enough hands? Are you making enough face to face contacts with the people in your community that can help you grow and become better? Are you looking people in the eye and asking for their business? Are you saying "thank you" to the people who matter the most?

Ready to Dance?

So what do you think? Are you ready to catch "Dance Fever" this year in your local markets and find plenty of partners to shake it up with? Will you wait for your song to be played or are you going to shout our requests? Are you dynamic enough to move from one transaction to the next the way these kids moved from The Electric Slide to the Cotton-Eyed Joe? Are you going to raise you hand when a volunteer is needed and be the first to offer your services when someone new walks in the room?

The music is pumping and the beats are thumping.

As Lee Ann Womack once sang, "I hope you dance."

January 22, 2012

A Reason to Go Out Of Your Way

Disclaimer - This blog post didn't start off as an almost 2000 word tribute to a pub in Manhattan. But then again, that sunny Tuesday morning in New York City, September 11th, 2001 didn't start off as a day we would never forget.

"Making Your Way in the World Today…"

If you’re older than 35, you can probably sing the theme song from the sitcom Cheer’s without even thinking. There’s no doubt that “making your way in the world today takes everything you've got.”

It's true in any occupation in our world today. It doesn't matter what sex, nationality, age or economic demographic you're in. I can personally attest that it's true in real estate.

Imagine if you worked at or owned a bar just feet away from where The World Trade Center towers once stood in New York City.

"Taking a Break from All Your Worries…"

I was in New York City recently for a real estate conference and one of my new friends from Utah, Chris Nichols, thankfully arranged a group of attendees to travel to lower Manhattan and visit the 9/11 Memorial. To get there from the Times Square area where we were staying is about a 12 minute train ride and then a 10-15 minute walk.

I knew nobody who died that day in those towers on that fateful day but I am sure, like many of you, you remember it as if it was yesterday. I didn’t know what to expect when I made it down there so it was nice that I had decided to make the trip alone (I figured I would connect with Chris and the rest of the group at the site).

The city of New York and all of the planners and volunteers have done a great job of making the entire process (entry, security, etc.) very efficient and minimally intrusive. The first thing you notice as you get close is the “buzz of work." From the construction workers high in the rising buildings to the workers at street level and below, there wasn’t a whole lot of standing around. Everyone had a purpose and was completely focused on why they were there.

"Wouldn’t You Like to Get Away?"

The memorial reflecting pools have been created in the foot prints of the two towers that the world lost that day 10+ years ago. Designers, architects and landscape architects have done a tremendous job of honoring those lost as well as giving a place for family members and friends of the victims and people just like me to come and pay our respects.

Each reflecting pool has walls with the names of each person who died as a result of those terrorist acts etched on them. I felt a literal chill run down my spine as I gazed at these pools and the names surrounding them and trust me...it wasn’t the arriving dusk of a chilled winter evening in the Northeast.

The sight of the new Freedom Tower being built just a few hundred yards away made me very proud of the desire of these workers and all who supported this effort with donations or help along the way. It will be quite a sight when it is totally complete and will hopefully allow those who lost someone that day reach some closure knowing that we can, and did, rebuild.

"Where everybody knows your name…"

Another one of my new friends I met for the first time at the conference, Teri Conrad from Vancouver, Canada had arrived in NYC a few days before me so she and her husband were able to visit the 9/11 Memorial a few days earlier. While no one can tell you how you’ll react upon seeing this place, any advice or guidance on getting there and things around it would be helpful.

Teri told me of a small bar/restaurant near Ground Zero that she and her husband stopped in after their visit and how they were really moved by their visit. Teri suggested that I try to do the same on my visit.

After leaving the actual site and passing through the Visitor’s Center (way more emotional than I was ready for, but certainly worth your time upon exiting the grounds) I texted Teri to find out the name of this bar I, according to Teri, “HAD TO VISIT.”

O’Hara’s Restaurant and Pub is at 120 Cedar Street. Teri had told me specifically about the police and fire badges and patches that covered the walls of the place. I popped in to enjoy a cold beer for happy hour and check my email messages before heading back to my hotel but once inside, the emotion and “story” of O’Hara’s kept me seated on that stool that night and turned me into a fan of what this place is all about.

Located right next door to Fire Engine House #10, it obviously became an integral part of the rescue and recovery that occurred for weeks and months beginning the morning of September 12, 2001. Serving as a temporary “headquarters” of sorts for the National Guard as well as police and firefighters from across the country that descended upon Ground Zero to “help their fallen brothers,” O’Hara’s has become the unofficial pub for firefighters and police everywhere.

This bar survived the collapse of the towers but it was probably more by luck than by anything else. The neat part of visiting O'Hara's is they have multiple scrap books that commemorate the events of 9/11 through photos, news articles and letters from patrons, employees and visitors who were there that day or experienced it in their own way somewhere else. As I sat there looking at the book and chatting with David behind the bar, I texted my new friend Jeff Kershner from Chicago to join me (he had just tweeted about being at the 9/11 Memorial across the street).

Jeff joined me and for the next hour or so, David began to enlighten us with what happened that Tuesday morning ten years ago. David wasn’t there that day (he was a grade schooler) but you wouldn’t have known that by the way he told the stories.

Three people were in O’Hara’s that morning back in 2001 – two cooks and one of the owners. The descriptive telling of the sounds, smells and sights (and sudden lack of sight immediately after the first building fell) was nothing short of “sit on the edge of your chair while the hair on your neck stands up” captivating. David wasn’t trying to impress us and I am sure he might get tired of telling the story but as a great employee trying to make two first time guests feel welcome, he told it as if we were the first people to ever ask the question.

Eventually Jeff and I had to make our way back uptown for some planned events that we each had. As we walked back to the train station we both said how much we wanted to come back to O’Hara’s for a few more beers ($3 drafts compared to $9 in Times Square is kind of a “no-brainer”) and a bite to eat while we were still in town. Jeff and I knew it was much less about the cheap beers than it was about hanging our with "good people."

"They’re Always Glad You Came…"

Jeff and I did make it back the next night. While it would have been great to have spent more time with many of the others we met at the conference, I know there will be more opportunities to dine with fellow real estate agents. I might not get many more opportunities to visit a place like O’Hara’s.

Jeff and I headed for the E Train and rode from 45th street all the way to the end of the line. Up from the depths of the city’s subway system, we walked the 8-10 blocks in a chilly mist, arriving at O’Hara’s and finding it much fuller than the day before. Of course we were there a few hours later than the previous day but we still were able to secure a spot at the upstairs bar. The only bad part was that David was working the lower bar and we wanted to continue our chat from the day before with David.

We said “Hi” to David, who remembered us by name and thanked us for coming all the way back downtown from Times Square. We asked him to let us know when a spot opened up at his bar and enjoyed a beer and some real estate chatter upstairs until a few seats opened up on the lower level.

David wasn’t working all night so after a while of chatter and good natured dialogue, he introduced us to Jimmy and "Uncle Paulie" (as David called him), the two co-owners of O’Hara’s. David added to his introduction the fact that we came back all the way from Times Square and both Jimmy and Paulie were appreciative and welcoming.

Hanging out that evening with Paulie was incredible. Friendly and attentive, he was the consummate bartender and with his thick Jersey accent, he somewhat epitomized the “New Yorker” stereo-type that was created following 9/11, and that is definitely a good thing. In my estimation, Paulie is loyal, proud, hard-working and helpful. He’s the kind of guy who would do anything for his fellow man, not for what he got out of it but just for the sake of helping someone else. Paulie is everything good that people speak of when talking about New York City being the greatest city in the world.

Jeff and I enjoyed hearing Paulie’s version of that horrible fall morning and the decision process he went through when deciding to invest in the pub and become a co-owner a few years later. We talked about the fireman and police officers and service people who have travelled from all parts of the world to visit O’Hara’s, pay their respects and offer up a patch or badge from their precinct’s back home. One thing is clear when you look at firefighters and police officers – they truly believe in the concept of “all for one and one for all.” Almost every inch of the walls behind the bar at O'Hara's are covered with firefighter and police memorablia from around the world.

"Our Troubles Are All the Same"

The neat thing about spending that evening with Jeff, David, Paulie and all the other staff and patrons of O’Hara’s was that we’re all part of something much bigger. The troubles I may have in my personal or business life are no bigger or smaller than the problems everyone else has. Imagine some of the problems being experienced by a 10 year old boy or girl who will never know there father or mother except for a name etched on a reflecting pool wall? Try to picture losing your spouse or child in an istant because of some sick, thoughtless act of terrorism. Imagine a Fireman’s reunion that will be short a few alumni because they gave their life the day those towers fell.

It’s the perspective of hearing Paulie and David tell stories of what happened that day and the weeks following that really make a challenging housing market seem much more manageable.

"Where People Know People Are All the Same"

It was time catch the E Train and head back up to our hotel. Jeff and I called for the tab and were planning for the shock of triple digits. "Pleasant surprise" doesn’t do our feeling justice when we realized our bill was closer to half of what we expected. Turns out that Paulie and David each bought us a round, as did one of the locals at the end of the bar.

You didn’t have to do that,” Jeff and I both exclaimed.

Paulie slowly approached, smiled and paused before he said with a smile… "And you guys didn’t have to go so far out of your way just to spend some time with us here at O’Hara’s. There are lots of bars up near your hotel so for you to come all this way just to spend time with us and ask us questions, it’s our honor to have you as our guests.”

How freakin’ cool is that?

Thanks O’Hara’s.

Of all the cool things I did on my first visit to The Big Apple, spending time with you was the best. Much like the slogan many people have adopted for the horrific day back in 2001, I think the same thought applies to me and Jeff and our visit to O'Hara's Pub.

“We will never forget.”