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The End of the Year Big Bang Theory in Real Estate

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turkeyThe news of the tax credit being extended and expanded rippled through the real estate industry as the masses of “seasonal” Realtors breathed a long awaited sigh of relief. For a while there it seemed like we might have to grind through the holidays (gasp!) and who wants to do that, right? I mean, prospective clients are either all turkey-ed up in their Tryptophan high or fist fighting over LCD screens after Thanksgiving. Everyone knows that the market is dead during the holidays. How about this instead? We take these 5-6 weeks to recharge our batteries and come back with a brand new resolutions list for 2010 that – like all other years – we have zero intention of following through on. Now, where’s that Best Buy insert?

Dissipating Urgency

Stimulus efforts, like any other government action, bring with them strong, polarized opinions that fuel the usual blog posts. But given that as of late, my interest in political debate has been subzero, I am going to leave that for the AG Sunday Politics. From a more pragmatic standpoint however, this thought kept rearing its head in my mind over and over again. In the PreExtension Era, the doubts about the measure passing were causing back muscles to contract, postures to straighten and holiday plans to change. There was more hustling in the forecast with a 50% chance of drumming up more business. Now, as the urgency dissipates many of us are taking the rest of this year off knowing that their fair share of the tax credit dough is awaiting right up the road.

You Get What You Put In

In my last post, I told you about my Russell Shaw-induced ephiphany : Every dollar you make today originates in some action you took 60-90 days ago. With that in mind, what do you suppose will happen come February or March if you take the next month off? Don’t answer that. Look, if mediocrity is a viable option for you, I can’t argue with that. But if you are looking for a way to make the next 4-5 weeks really count, end the year with the Big Bang and fuel the 1st quarter of 2010 to your best ever, here’s your plan:

  1. Exclusive Focus on Appointments – A month full of closings is always preceded by a month (or two) full of appointments. It would seem as obvious as it sounds, until you notice that the overwhelming majority of real estate agents out there seem to do everything but focus on appointments. They love preparing to prepare, even sharing their preparation methods through social media to much praise and applause. But when it comes time to act, it’s just more prep. The harsh truth is you can’t make soup  if you only chop onions from here until Easter. What do I mean by exclusive focus? Tomorrow morning, sit down with your team or yourself and don’t get up until you have answered this question: What can we do to get a minimum of 4 qualified appointments per week, every week starting today? Then brainstorm without worrying about logistics. Come up with ideas that are efficient short term and a plan to implement them. For instance, you might plan an hour a day of phone calls to your past clients – they might be looking to move up or know someone who’s buying or selling or leasing. If you are already generating leads, you make them first priority then you leave 5 empty spots. Nothing gets done until leads are called back and followed up diligently. If you don’t have any leads, your first priority is to generate some. Call some local agents with listings that have been on the market awhile and see if they wouldn’t mind if you helped them advertise the property at your own cost. Then use classified sites to generate business. Or bandit signs. Or expireds. Whatever you come up with, put it on a calendar and follow it like a damn cult. If you are doing it right, there shouldn’t be any time left for Facebook, Yoville, Twitter or the Moron Test.
  2. Get to KNOW your stats – As Matt as pointed out here before, incorporating a stats solution like AltosResearch on your website can result in increased traffic and higher number of leads over the long term. But that’s not what I’m talking about here. I mean KNOW your stats, like they were hardwired into your brain. In my experience, the best way to do this is by preparing for a video market report. Print out the monthly stats released by your MLS on your real estate market and study those figures. Get to know the median sales price, the trend of sales, inventory levels, foreclosure impact etc. When you have to do a concise 2 min segment on your market, you HAVE to know your numbers to get through it. And even if you never publish the video to the world, you have just polished a major selling skill. Next time a prospect asks you about how the market is doing,  your response will no longer be a vague “slow but getting better”. Instead you will blow their mind if you can deliver solid market data in a manner they can digest.
  3. Invest in some 2.0 – The definition of insanity is to keep doing the same things expecting a different result. Ultimately is about generating abundant leads. Point 1 above talks about some short term tactics that could generate some short term success but in the end you have to make some smart and prudent investments to propel your business. If your site stills looks like some software from 1999 threw up some links and endless paragraphs on a page, it might be time for an upgrade. If you have the skill (or the time to learn) create a dynamic site with WordPress.org and bring your look and functionality into the current century for under $100 with premium themes. Or you can have someone do it for you for an affordable price (hundreds) that’s usually just a fraction of the cost on a full fledged custom design (thousands). Next, pimp it with a great IDX search solution, that will pay for itself in just a few months and keep producing for you as long as your site is up. (Diverse Solutions is what I rock). Next, you could elevate your marketing with a syndicated virtual tour tool: Create tours of your own listings or features of communities you cover and distributed them everywhere with a click. (i.e. RealEstateShows and MLBroadcast). Finally, the database is the lifeline of your business and it should be managed as such. Whether you go server-based (REST, Outlook or Act) or web-based (Heap, Javelin or Highrise), pick one that best suits your needs and USE IT.
  4. Exclusive focus on appointments.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Houston Real Estate Rainmaker and Uberproud Father/Husband (not necessarily in that order). When I'm not skinning cats or changing diapers you can find me on Twitter or Facebook. I blog about marketing, social media and real estate. I might not always be in agreement, but you can rest assured I'll be honest. Oh, and I can cook a mean breakfast...

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14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Joe Loomer

    November 26, 2009 at 7:20 am

    Erion,

    This is a perfect bookend for Ken Brand’s “How to Plough Deep While Sluggards Sleep” post earlier this week, and I’ve had that Russell Shaw quote spinning in my head since your last missive. Great reminders to get out there and get humpin’ – make the New Year sizzle with the business other agents are blowing off right now.

    I do, however, take issue with – “If you are doing it right, there shouldn’t be any time left for Facebook…” If you’re doing Social Media right, it’s a part of your efforts. I take it you probably meant spending time in Farmville or playing Mafia Wars and such?

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride!

    Oh, and by the way – HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE!

  2. Scott Cowan

    November 26, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    Thanks for a well written and spot on post.

    What we work on today will pay us in 60 to 90 days is the mantra I use daily. I used to wonder why my business was so much like a roller coaster. Now, I know focused work = consistent results.

  3. Erion Shehaj

    November 26, 2009 at 4:14 pm

    Only a Navy Chief would comment on a post at 7:20 am on Thanksgiving Day. Much appreciated, Sir. 🙂

    As far as the Facebook line, it was within the context of the idea that for a relatively short period of time (4-6 weeks) it’s easier to focus entirely on generating business without any distractions. I remain steadfast on the idea that social media must remain part of any agent’s long term strategy.

  4. Matt Stigliano

    November 27, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    Erion – First, thanks for the mention. I would (logically) assume I am the Matt in question. I’ve been thinking about how to best prep myself for the coming year and your post came at a great time for me. Appointments are something I have been lax at acquiring. I get them and I get the business, but I don’t get enough of them. I’m currently thinking of ways to increase this. As for your comments about stats, I love the idea of the video. It’s kind of like practicing a speech in the mirror before the big debate. I do try and understand my stats, but I do find myself to often giving generic answers and then following up with the market report via email or a follow up call. Not sure why I do that, so now I have some work to do.

    Thanks for the post Erion, you may have just helped me be twice as successful in the coming year.

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Business Marketing

Google Analytics will now filter out bot traffic

(BUSINESS NEWS) Bender won’t be happy that Google Analytics will now automatically remove bot traffic from your results, but it’ll help your business.

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In the competitive, busy world of online content, Google Analytics can help businesses and online publications deliver what their audience and consumers want. Now Google is finally taking the step of filtering out bot traffic in your Google Analytics reporting. This is excellent news!

In the world of websites, online news sites, blogs, and social media, bots are the bane of our existence. In their finest form, they are the electronic equivalent of junk mail. At their worst, they can carry malicious malware and viruses to your site and computer. They can even flood the internet with unfounded rumors that can have an impact on people’s opinions–stirring the political pot or lending misleading numbers to drive unfounded rumors, such as wearing a mask is dangerous. No it’s not! Chalk that nonsense up to bots and crackpots.

For businesses that rely on Google Analytics to determine what content is not only reaching but also resonating with potential customers, filtering out the bot traffic is crucial to determining the best course of action. Bots skew the data and therefore, end up costing businesses money.

Bots set up for malicious purposes crawl the internet looking for certain information or user behaviors. Bad bots can steal copyrighted content and give it to a competitor. Having identical copies on two sites hurts your site and can dink your SEO ranking. However, good bots can seek out duplicate content and other copyright infringements, so the original content creator can report them.

However, it is important for companies and content creators to know if their content is actually reaching real live humans. To this end, Google will start filtering out bot traffic automatically. The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) actually provides an International Spiders and Bots list, through which Google can more easily identify bots. They use the list and their own internal research to seek out bots in action, crawling through the internet and confusing things.

Google says the bot traffic will be automatically filtered out of the Google Analytics results–users don’t have the choice. Some may argue there is a good reason to see all of the data, including bots. Many businesses and online publications, though, will be relieved to have a much clearer vision of what content genuinely appeals to humans, to readers and potential customers. It is a welcomed advancement.

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Business Marketing

Opportunity Zones: A chance to do good

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Opportunity zones offer a chance to breathe new life into economically-distressed communities.

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opportunity zones

Opportunity Zones are a beautiful mechanism for growing communities that are struggling, but some critics have put this process in a negative light. The following is an expert’s perspective on just this topic.

Jim White, PhD is Chairman and CEO of Post Harvest Technologies, Inc. and Growers Ice Company, Inc., Founder and CEO of PHT Opportunity Fund LP, and Founder and President of JL White International, LLC. His new book is a heartfelt rallying cry for investors: Opportunity Investing: How to Revitalize Urban and Rural Communities with Opportunity Funds, launched March 31, 2020.

Dr. White holds a B.S. in civil engineering, an MBA, and a doctorate in psychology and organizational behavior. He acquires struggling businesses to revive and develop them into profitable enterprises using his business turnaround strategy.

In his own words below:

BY JIM WHITE, PHD

Every investment vehicle has a twist some folks don’t like. Real estate, stock options, offshore tax havens, and even charitable gifting can be criticized for certain loopholes.

Likewise, some detractors have pointed to opportunity zones, a newer investment vehicle unveiled in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed by Congress in December 2017. This bold, bipartisan plan allows for private investment capital to be channeled into some of the most distressed communities in the nation, serving the struggling residents and the investors alike.

Personally, I believe it is one of the noblest initiatives to emerge from Washington in years.

I grew up in a sharecropper cabin in what would have been an opportunity zone in Salem, South Carolina. What would an influx of investment dollars have meant to my low-income community? More and better-paying jobs to offset unemployment. People relocating to my town for those jobs, reversing population decline and increasing real estate values. New life breathed into local businesses. The increased tax revenues could have helped improve failing infrastructure. Social challenges, like crime and drug use, could have decreased. Better resources for my family and our neighbors, such as health care and education, would have emerged.

Today, there are nearly 8,800 distressed communities dotting the country that have been identified as Qualified Opportunity Zones (QOZs). These neighborhoods were designated from census tracks, treasury, and state leaders as communities that would benefit from an influx of investment dollars directed through Qualified Opportunity Funds (QOFs) to reinvigorate businesses, rebuild infrastructure and bolster residents.

As our economy continues to falter, more and more businesses file Chapter 11 and unemployment soars under COVID-19, I believe we are heading toward a painful expansion in designated opportunity zones. Even with the latest round of CARES stimulus money many people will have no way to rebound from this crisis.

One of the unexpected consequences of the coronavirus quarantine is that many businesses are discovering that, in reality, they can succeed through working remotely. This success is a double edged sword, meaning that if a business can thrive with employees working offsite then commercial real estate will suffer. And when companies no longer require brick-and-mortar locations, a local domino effect ensues; ancillary businesses, from cafés to gyms to print shops in and around a commercial office environment will subsequently close. The ripples will be felt through many other industries, including construction, transportation, energy, and retail.

Qualified Opportunity Zones and Qualified Opportunity Funds are instruments that can help stop a downward spiral. When a sponsor is able to present a project that meets the objectives of the QOZ initiative, both the QOZ and the investors benefit. That’s a win!

And, it’s not only urban centers that benefit from investment dollars. Forty percent of opportunity zones are rural. Even with often plentiful food, water, energy and other natural resources, deep poverty exists, and too many of America’s 60 million rural residents lack access to education and healthcare. A declining population often goes hand in hand with failing infrastructure as tax money for repairs dwindles. Many households lack broadband, something the vast majority of Americans take for granted.

Despite the challenges, rural residents are often surprisingly resilient and resourceful. According to The Hill (“Rural America has opportunity zones too”), rural residents create self-employment opportunities at a slightly higher rate than the national average. Their challenge is to connect with investors and access funding, more of which is directed to small business investment on the coasts.

In fact, many entrepreneurs and small business owners don’t know about Qualified Opportunity Funds. If a business is located in an opportunity zone it is eligible for direct funding by reaching out to the QOFs with a specific request for funding.

More than any investment plan that’s come before, I believe opportunity zones have the greatest capacity for positive social and economic impact. Spread out over many communities, these investments can help our nation flourish as a whole.

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Business Marketing

Gloves that translate sign language in real time

(BUSINESS MARKETING) A new wearable tech translates American Sign Language into audible English in real time.

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Advancements in technology never cease to amaze. The same is true right this moment as a new technology has been released that helps translate American Sign Language (ASL) signs into spoken English in real time.

This technology comes in the form of a hand glove – similar looking on the front side to what one would wear in the winter, but much more advanced when in view of the palm. The palm side of the glove contains sensors on the wearer to identify each word, phrase, or letter that they form via ASL, and is then translated into audible English via an app that coincides with the glove.

This is all done in real time and allows for instant communication without the need for a human translator. The signals are translated at a rate of one word per second.

The project was developed by scientists at UCLA. “Our hope is that this opens up an easy way for people who use sign language to communicate directly with non-signers without needing someone else to translate for them,” said lead researcher Jun Chen.

The hope is to make communication easier for those who rely on ASL, and to help those unfamiliar with ASL adapt to the signs. It is thought that between 250,000 and 500,000 people in the United States use ASL. As of now, the glove does not translate British Sign Language – the other form a sign language that utilizes English.

According to CNN, the researchers also added adhesive sensors to the faces of people used to test the device — between their eyebrows and on one side of their mouths — to capture facial expressions that are a part of American Sign Language. However, this facet of the technology is not loved by all.

“The tech is redundant because deaf signers already make extensive use of text-to-speech or text translation software on their phones, or simply write with pen and paper, or even gesture clearly,” said Gabrielle Hodge, a deaf post-doctoral researcher from the Deafness Cognition and Language Research Centre (DCAL) at University College London. “There is nothing wrong with these forms of communication.”

What are your thoughts on this advancement? Comment below!

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