December 24, 2009

A Holiday Market Update

Twas the night before Christmas and all 'cross the net
People were still shopping, getting closer to debt
The economy was starting to slowly recover
So what's a few more charges on Visa and Discover?

Free shipping was offered, a discount on wrapping?
Those people on QVC just kept on with their yapping
"Order now and you'll get a special addition..."
Getting crap we don't need is an American Christmas tradition

If a new home's in your future for the year 2010
You should probably start looking for a bank who will lend
They'll all gladly approve you with good cheer and glee
But can they provide you with a new GFE?

If this will be your first home that your thinking of finding
Be sure the April 30th closing is totally binding
If you have everything signed and closed by that day
You're eligible for a Home Buyer Tax Credit up to $8K

What about a home owner who's thinking of moving?
Well you're future has recently started improving
You can earn a nice break so try and hold back your tears
As long as you've been in your house for five of the last eight years

The Sellers out there should start realizing
Home sales the last 6 months have been steadily rising
The prices are now stable, they're coming alive
But they're nowhere near the levels of 2005

So don't be outrageous and shoot for the moon
If you price it too high you'll still be there in June
You've got to appeal to their sense of perception
Position it right to attract buyer attention

It should be extra clean and have good curb appeal
Price it to sell, it should look like a steal
The buyers will scurry and dig into their coffers
If you're lucky you'll be dealing with multiple offers

One thing is for certain as you look to the new year
Don't make emotional choices, you'll have to think clear
Here's some simple advice, you certainly deserve this
Hire a Realtor who will give you "truly remarkable service"

If "building relationships" is task number one
They can probably "solve problems" and "have lots of fun"
They're the agent for you and your family's transaction
I can almost guarantee your total satisfaction

Now to the hard working agents who have joined us this year
I raise a glass to you all filled with holiday cheer
There's no doubt that you all will be true market leaders
Thanks for being such loyal Realtor's Toolbox blog readers.

Merry Christmas!

May you all enjoy a prosperous 2010.


December 22, 2009

The More You Learn...

One of my favorite books is a small, stock-stuffer of a book called Complete Live and Learn and Pass It On: People Ages 5 to 95 Share What They've Discovered about Life, Love, and Other Good Stuff by H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

It's got funny thoughts from a number of people but it never tell you who said the quote, it just notes their age. Here's an example:

"I've learned that I shouldn't get out of the shower to answer the phone. It will stop ringing the minute I get to it." - Age 53

The book is a favorite of one of my mentors (and #75 in my 101 Most Influential People), Kim Daugherty. He shares many of the funnier "lessons learned" with his classes he teaches.

What Matters Now

Last week, master marketing guru and best selling author Seth Godin released a free e-Book to the masses called What Matters Now. I spent the last few days reading this collection of one-page essays by assorted authors, speakers, bloggers, doctors and average people.


Some of the topics in the eBook interested me, some of them bored me, some of them challenged me to think and others motivated me to act. All of them inspired me to share the project with you but not without adding my own essay of sorts.

Lessons Learned by Sean Carpenter

What Is the "meaning of life"? Does anyone ever figure it all out? Do you think there's somebody out there that has all the answers? When you reach the pearly gates of Heaven, do you think St. Peter asks you to sit down with a #2 pencil and take an entrance exam? If he did, do you really think anyone would ace the test?

A few years ago I was lucky enough to be certified to teach the Integrity Coaching and Selling Courses. The creator of those programs is a man named Ron Willingham. In one of his audio CD's that came with the courses he said "the more you learn, the more you learn there is to learn."

Ain't that the truth.

I've also learned...

* You can't put a price on a child's laughter
* I hate snow but I love to watch it fall
* I don't get as nervous, worried or stressed out watching a double overtime ball game if I don't care which team wins
* People will read a hand-written note more than once
* Diet Coke tastes better from McDonald's
* I have more energy after a strenuous morning run than days when I sleep in late
* You can't make people learn anything until they want to learn it
* The more I listen to other people's ideas, the clearer mine usually become

* One of the easiest ways to bring back childhood memories is to lick the bowl after making brownies
* I'll never "know it all" but that shouldn't stop me from learning more than I know today
* To stop writing when the blog post is feeling like it's getting too long

What have you learned in 2009?

December 20, 2009

Are You Leveraging the Home Buyer Tax Credit?

Has the market called a "time out"?

As the holiday coma begins to settle around the real estate community, it's probably the perfect time to begin to prepare some ideas to get out of the blocks quick in 2010.

The Home Buyer Tax Credit created a flurry of first time home buyer activity in the fall. Much of the activity occurred in the final month in anticipation of it ending on November 30th. Agents were feverishly working their social networks, sending mailers and even calling their sphere of influence to encourage those who might be renting or living with Mom & Dad to consider buying a house and taking advantage of the credit. The message was simple - "It was like $8,000 dropping into your bank account." All the other benefits of home ownership was almost secondary to this wonderful "gift" from Uncle Sam.

Activity was brisk and plenty of people were jumping in to take advantage. There were plenty of people rushing to meet the November 30th deadline. As can be expected there was still a good number of people sitting on the sidelines, wondering if the deal would get extended or even sweetened. Why buy now if I can wait, right? Why not see if my credit will go up?

The credit was extended in mid-November and will now last until April 30th, 2010 for closings that occur before June 30th, 2009. Our government even added another level of credit for those homeowners who have been in their current home at least 5 of the last 8 years. If they decide to buy a house, they will receive a $6,500 tax credit. (Some restrictions apply. See this link for more information)

What's Your Hurry?

Not surprisingly, people are now waiting. It seems that people are sitting back, thinking they have plenty of time to "kick tires" and wait for the best deals to appear before their eyes. It also seems that the real estate community has decided to ease up on the promotion of the tax credit as well. I guess most Realtors are figuring that there's no apparent urgency now, so they might as well get rested up before the big push in March and April?

I think these next few weeks are the ideal time to get back to promoting some of the "whys" of taking advantage of the tax credit instead of just saying "what it is." In your conversations with your friends, family and potential 2010 clients, discuss some of the things they could do with the amount they would get back? Think of how many warm conversations you'll be in over these next few weeks? Holiday parties, family gatherings, casual conversations in the mall or gym?

Need some examples? Coldwell Banker recently conducted a survey of consumers asking what they would do with a tax credit if they were a buyer that qualified for the $8,000 credit:

Of the more than 1,000 homeowners surveyed, 83 percent responded that if they were to purchase a home and qualify for the tax credit, they would engage in "smart spending" or put the money toward paying off existing debts, home improvements, savings/investments, or everyday household expenses. Only 6 percent of respondents indicated that they would spend the money on what are commonly referred to as luxury items such as a vacation or a shopping spree.

The survey also asked people who might qualify for the "move up" incentive how they would spend the $6,500 credit:

According to the survey, the top way homeowners would spend their $6,500 tax credit in a "smart" way would be to pay off debts (34 percent), followed closely by making home improvements (29 percent) and putting it into savings and investments (28 percent).

I hope these results are giving you some ideas on how you can turn those boring conversations of what the tax credit is into why a renter or home owner should be considering a purchase. Highlight the concept of $6,500 less in household debt, along with a new, roomier (or smaller) home. Calculate the expected growth of $6,500 in savings coupled with the equity they might realize in a new home purchased at bottom (or close to it) of a house market considered on of the worst in decades. People can really begin to imagine a better picture of "why" they should react, as opposed to "what" they are reacting to.

The survey found that...

"20 percent of homeowners indicated they were more likely to consider purchasing a home than they were six months ago, after learning about the $6,500 federal tax credit."

Coldwell Banker President and CEO Jim Gillespie said "our survey offers positive indicators that there are more existing homeowners considering a home purchase today than there were six months ago, and the majority of respondents say they would engage in 'smart spending' that would directly benefit the U.S. economy."

How Would You Spend $8,000?
Hopefully some of these results help show you that you should be promoting this wonderful opportunity to all the people in your data base, neighborhood and sphere of influence. Remember that the people you're talking to will need to understand more about the "benefits" of the credit than the "features" of the credit. Remember, your message should answer the question - "What's in it for them?"

If you want to read the whole article on the Coldwell Banker survey, click here. To learn more about the details of the expanded home buyer tax credit, go to

Don't wait until late spring to return to promoting this opportunity for your clients and customers. Sellers who want to take advantage of the credit on their next home should get their homes on the market at an attractive asking price as soon as possible. That will give them the best chance to not only capture a buyer on their home, but also find a great home that they and their family can move into.

Then they can begin to figure out the smartest way to use that tax credit.

December 19, 2009

Hey Independent Contractor - Are You Outstanding?

"Last Call"

It's about the time when the bartender will kick on the house lights and let people know that it's almost time to go. As the band Semisonic sang in their hit song Closing Time, "You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here."

These next few weeks before the end of the year are an exciting time for most people. Of course there's the holiday festivities and the many different celebrations, events and activities that go along with them. There's the beginning of the winter weather season, bringing excitement for the skiers among us and dread for the golfers. Depending on household makeup, you might have some kids who are excited for a few weeks out of the classroom.

But for those of you reading this who might be classified by our friends at the IRS as an independent contractor, there's really no rest for the weary, is there? We're trying to tie up those loose ends of 2009 and perhaps secure a few more closings on this years ledger while preparing our marketing ideas and business plans for 2010.

As the temperatures get cooler and the television shows transition into rerun after rerun, it just might be time to hit your local bookstore and grab a good book. I'd like to let you know about a new one that should make it into your "must read" pile. It just might give you some ideas, inspiration or items for your "to do list" in the new year. It's all about making your company or organization exceptional. As an independent contractor that means making "You, Inc." exceptional.

Outstanding! 47 Ways to Make Your Organization Exceptional is by John G. Miller. Many of you may recognize that name. That's because John is also the author of, probably, my favorite book. It's one that I recommend to all my students and audiences. It's called QBQ! The Question Behind the Question and it's all about personal accountability. (Perhaps both of these would be great additions to your bookshelf? And no, I don't make any royalties off these books)

I always enjoy Miller's books for their simple messages and easy to read style. I respectfully refer to them as "Treadmill Books." The print is large enough and the chapters short enough that you can read it while your walking on the treadmill. For those of you who will get back to the treadmill on January 1 as part of your annual "This year I mean it" resolution, test it out and see if you agree.

Most Realtors, managers brokers and owners are always seeking to "become better." Making those concerted efforts at the turn of a new year seems like a fresh start (although there is never a bad time to start a "become better" campaign). If you're ready to strive for more "outstanding" service, experiences and feedback in 2010, go out and get the book - Outstanding! 47 Ways to Make Your Organization Exceptional

To give you a feel for the book, a few of my favorite chapters in the book are:
  • Chapter Five - See Everyone as a Customer

This sure is true in our world of real estate, isn't it? We never really know who our next customer will be or where they will come from. It also speaks to treating our co-workers, staffs and affiliates with the same respect and professionalism as we would those who will help us reach a commission check in the near future.

  • Chapter 15 - Do What You Promise

Once you've been in this business a while, you really become amazed at how appreciative people can be when you just do what you say. It's a simple concept that shouldn't be too hard to figure out but you'll quickly realize how often it doesn't happen. What can you do in your daily routine to make people feel that you walk and talk the "under promise, over deliver" motto?

  • Chapter 18 - Make No Excuses!

Here a great message from this chapter - "In truth, there actually are reasons things go awry: people make mistakes, the ball gets dropped, stuff happens. Life can be complicated, confusing, and complex. Because of this, any one of us on any given day could go on and on with "reasons." But when we attempt to exonerate ourselves with explanations, all they sound like are excuses - and, of course, that's all they really are. What we need to do, instead, is look to ourselves and ask, "What can I do?" and get to work solving the problem."

I'm pretty sure I said "Amen!" to myself after that paragraph.

  • Chapter 38 - Be Coachable

How many of you are actively coaching with your manager, broker, owner or some other mentor? How many of you allow yourself to listen to their words, thoughts, wisdom and feedback with an open mind? Seek out coaching in 2010 and be open to the possibility that you could achieve even more with some help from others.

  • Chapter 42 - Treat Vendors Like People

Sure, you're an independent contractor but your success in getting clients to the closing table is rarely a one person job. You rely on lenders, inspectors, appraisers, service providers, title companies, attorneys and many more to "get the ball across the goal line." If you really want to be outstanding in 2010, read this chapter more than once.

So what are you waiting for? The lights just came on. It's time to order that final libation of the year, raise a toast to the successes of 2009 and get ready to be outstanding in 2010.

Grab the book and a warm spot on the couch or close to the fire and enjoy! Outstanding! is going on my suggested reading list for 2010. Who knows, maybe it will go on yours as well?

Happy Holidays to all my Toolbox readers. Until next time...Build Relationships...Solve Problems...and Have Fun!

December 6, 2009

Turning a Blind (Side) Eye to Your Critics

How do you react to criticism? Do you use it positively - channeling the ideas and comments from others to develop your services or skills? Do you ignore it, continuing to do what you do? Do you react negatively to it, causing you to get distracted and off focus from your goals and plans?

Critics come in many forms. Some are just bystanders, looking to get in some "cheap shot from the peanut gallery" while others are just doing their job. They are paid to be critical of others work and efforts. Sometimes criticism can come in the form of "constructive criticism" where the critic is aiming to help you. It seems to me that today's society has made being a "critic" easier than ever.

People can comment on blogs, web sites and chat boards, often doing so anonymously. When their is no accountability for their actions or comments, it allows for a bit of a "take no prisoners" approach. Facebook now has a "Like" button so people can share when they concur or enjoy your post or update without engaging in too much input or commentary. There's even a push going around for the social networking site to add a "Dislike" button so it is easier to disagree with people or make them feel that they are least from one person's standpoint. Is that really necessary? People would be afraid to post anything anymore.

Can you imagine posting pictures of your child and having someone opt to "dislike" them? Ouch!

I recently saw the movie The Blind Side. It's a motion picture version of the true-life story of football player Michael Oher. Oher overcame a life of poverty and neglect when he was welcomed in by an affluent Memphis area family and developed into a college star and eventually a first round NFL draft pick. Oher now starts on the offensive line for the Baltimore Ravens.

I really enjoyed the movie and it seems that many others have as well. It continues to deliver good box office results and most people I know who have seen it seem to have enjoyed it. So it came as a bit of a surprise to me when I found out that many critics really disliked this movie, some to the point of writing scathing commentary and articles. maybe these reviewers are bitter over getting cut from their high school football teams?

Oh well, what can we do about our critics or those who don't share our feelings or thoughts? Ignoring them is certainly one option. Listening to them with an open mind is another. Perhaps asking ourselves why would this person have such a different viewpoint on the same product?

As we get ready to turn the page on the year (and decade) it might be a good time to ask yourself this question - How do you react to the critics in your life?

Will you choose to listen to them, learn from them or just let it go?

Fot those of you who haven't seen the movie, enjoy this short trailer for The Blind Side. If you get a chance to see it in theatres (or on DVD), I think you'll like it. I know I did.

If you don't like it, don't blame it on me. I'm not a professional critic.

December 1, 2009

Thirsty for Business?

This was the real estate market in 2005

This is the real estate market
heading into 2010

"When the well's dry, we know the worth of water."

- Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanac

If you want to quench your thirst for success in 2010, you had better be prepared to start pumping, keep pumping...and pump some more.