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Opinion Editorials

NAR, RESPA and the Christmas Holidays



House GraphThe real challenge with writing about politics and real estate is that everyone takes off during the Christmas holidays.  Congress has left town and won’t be back for a bit so the health care debate has died down. Tea Party revelers are face down in the egg nog and probably too cold to come out and make a fuss.

It seems that the only person who’s on the job is Dick Cheney busy reminding everyone we’re at war, damn it, and don’t you forget it.  As if the parents of the returning dead and wounded can forget. Yeah, the Christmas Day bomber wannabe got people stirred up.  At least Obama didn’t come to the podium and urge people to shop ’til they dropped to make things all better.

Of course, now we have new RESPA rules that include “simpler” HUD-1 sheets and the notorious and infamous Good Faith Estimate.  Supposedly, this will allow the home buyer to have some good solid numbers with which to shop.  My take is that it will only serve to confuse them.  HUD might have done Realtors — full service Realtors — a favor, though.  Someone is going to need to take the home buyer by the hand to help them make the good choices and, more importantly, settle when they’re supposed to settle even if the HUD-1 and the GFE don’t match up like they should.  The $24.95 flat fee “showing agent” isn’t going to have the education, experience, internal stamina or financial incentive to deal with it.

Now, maybe the NAR will spend some of their money on marketing Realtors as professionals that can help home owners and home buyers through the increasingly complex maze of regulation.  Don’t get me wrong, the Barbie doll family sitting on a fence and the model perfect “Realtor” in the “Now is the time to buy” ads are nice eye candy.  It’s just that, well, they insult the intelligence of the home owner and home buyer and diminish the professionalism of the Realtor.

I’ve got a bit more to say about the NAR but I’ll save it until next week.

So…what’s your take on the new RESPA rules?  Help? Hinderance?

“Loves sunrise walks on the beach, quaint B & Bs, former Barbie® boyfriend..." Ken is a sole practitioner and Realtor Extraordinaire in the beautiful MD Suburbs of DC. When he's not spouting off on Agent Genius he holds court from his home office in Glenn Dale, MD or the office for RE/MAX Advantage Realty in Fulton, MD...and always on the MD Suburbs of DC Blog

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  1. Greg Cooper

    January 3, 2010 at 11:00 am

    I was annoyed (again) when the HUD changes came wafting our way. You make a great point that it’s another reason for us to be needed and a very legit one at that. Reading your take has reminded me once again to keeping looking at the positive on added regs because at the end of the day they are all about the consumers needing good guidance from those of us are actually are watching out for them.

    Dick Cheney has Janet Incompatano to thank for pushing him to the back pages. Shrieking ‘the system worked, the SYSTEM WORKED can’t be what the president wanted to hear either over the lapping of the waves in Kaanapali this past week.

    • Ken Montville

      January 3, 2010 at 6:52 pm

      Yeah, Janet sounded like John Kerry used to: The system worked before the system didn’t work. I’m not ready to call for her head, yet, but we need some answers why this guy was allowed on the plane.

  2. joespake

    January 3, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    Ken, my wife, a loan originator, pulled out a lot of her hair last year trying to comply with the 2009 rules. And now new rules to further complicate the process for well-qualified, ready, willing, and able buyers to get into a home. The Washington bureaucrats and law makers don’t know the real estate business. NAR should have been more involved in the process. The asset managers and risk managers at banks don’t know the real estate business or what is happening in local markets. NAR is not doing much to educate the bank clerks that control millions of dollars worth of property and are most often the cause of failed short sale and foreclosure closings. And i won’t even get into the disintermediation happening in all facets of real estate transactions.

    • Ken Montville

      January 3, 2010 at 6:54 pm

      I don’t know what the NAR could do to educate the bank clerk who are now short sale negotiators. I do think they could have done a lot more to make sure whatever came out of HUD was a lot more “home buyer friendly” which means making the process less stressful not more so. It’s indicative of the overall NAR timidity.

  3. Bryan Myers

    January 3, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    I didn’t know agents made as much as $24.95!! =)

    California chose to make mortgage brokers have fiduciary duties to their clients. Now there’s a change that should have happened 10 years ago. Not that I’m complaining- it’s about time.

    • Ken Montville

      January 3, 2010 at 6:57 pm

      Fiduciary responsibility is all well and good but the mortgage folks need to feel a sense of ethical responsibility and even moral responsibility to get things right. Of course, there are scummy Realtors as well.

  4. Doug Francis

    January 3, 2010 at 8:05 pm

    Within the first ten minutes when meeting with new buyers clients I pull out a simple “net sheet” to cover closing costs and expenses. I have done it that way for 15 years just so we are on the same page… and it usually takes a half-hour and is always eye-opening.

    It has always seemed like a responsibility to them, and to me since the last thing I ever want is a client saying “you never covered that cost with me and I don’t have the money!”

    • joespake

      January 3, 2010 at 8:57 pm

      Doug, with the number of variables in today’s mortgage products, I feel much more comfortable having a good loan officer pre-qualify my clients and offer the appropriate products for their needs. While I can give customers “ball park” estimates, I get them to the mortgage person ASAP, usually before we even get in the car to look at neighborhoods. Making matters even more complicated are unsophisticated buyers wanting to look at nothing but short sales and foreclosures, which are loaded with financing pitfalls.
      For me, a buyer’s seeing a mortgage person and exploring possibilities is a measure of their real motivation for purchasing a home.
      My job in representing the client is to see that the mortgage person walks the line and perfoms as promised.

      • Doug Francis

        January 4, 2010 at 8:58 am

        I always have them meet with mortgage people before we meet, at least via phone. My experience is that people are intimidated by “the banker” and mortgage jargon that they apparently should know, but they are nervous about raising a question. My meetings are part of building a long-term relationship built on trust, and carefully explaining the expenses associated with a real estate transaction (including home inspections) helps accomplish that mission.

    • Ken Montville

      January 3, 2010 at 9:58 pm

      I think covering estimated costs with a potential buyer is a good idea. It’s always an eye opener for first time buyers to realize there may be costs *in addition* to the down payment. However, I like them to get with a mortgage person so credit can be run and I can get a closer estimate of how much home they can afford.

      The new RESPA rules will make that harder since loan officers are not going to provide a GFE they’ll be committed to honoring so far in advance of a ratified contract. One of my loan officer buddies is trying to develop a spreadsheet to help but the criteria for “application for a mortgage” will make it harder to get a good fix on what potential home buyers can actually afford until Realtors have shown houses and driven around only to find out the “buyer” may not be able to buy.

      • joespake

        January 4, 2010 at 10:39 am

        Doug and Ken, I totally agree.. I think the spreadsheet, including those non-mortgage costs, like home inspections, would be very useful. I am going to get my mortgage folks on that today. It just ain’t as easy as it was in 2004, is it?

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Opinion Editorials

Your business model doesn’t have to be a unicorn or a camel to succeed

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) It’s not unusual for people to suggest a new business model analogy, but this latest “camel” suggestion isn’t new or helpful.



Camels walking in desert, not the best business model.

This year in 2020 I’ve seen a great deal of unique takes on how our system works. From 45 all the way down to children instructing adults on how to wear masks properly. However, after reading this new article published by the Harvard Business Review, I don’t think I’ve ever seen something so out of touch with the rest of the business world. Here’s a brief synopsis on this article on business model.

The author has decided that now of all times it’s drastically important for startups and entrepreneurs to switch their business tactics. Changing from a heavy front-end investment or “startups worth over a billion dollars” colloquially called “Unicorns” to a more financially reserved business model. One he has tried to coin as the “Camel”, using references to the animal’s ability to survive “long periods of time without sustenance, withstand the scorching desert heat, and adapt to extreme variations in climate.”

The author then goes on to outline best practices for this new business plan: “Balance instead of burn”, “Camels are built for the long haul”, “Breadth and depth for resilience”.

Now I will admit that he’s not wrong on his take. It’s a well thought-out adjustment to a very short-term solution. You want to know why I’m sure of that? Because people figured this out decades ago.

The only place that a “Unicorn” system worked was in something like the Silicon Valley software companies. Where people can start with their billions of dollars and expect “blitzscaling” (a rapid building-up tactic) to actually succeed. The rest of the world knows that a slow and resilient pace is better suited for long term investments and growth. This ‘new’ business realization is almost as outdated as the 2000 Olympics.

The other reason I’m not thrilled with this analogy is that they’ve chosen an animal that doesn’t really work well. Camels are temperamental creatures that actually need a great deal of sustenance to survive those conditions they’ve mentioned. It’s water that they don’t need for long periods, once they stock up. They have to have many other resources up front to survive those harsh conditions the article writer mentioned. So by this analogy, it’s not that different than Silicon Valley’s strongly backed “startups.”

If he wanted to actually use the correct animal for this analogy, then he should call it a tortoise business plan. Actually, any type of reptile or shark would work. It would probably be a better comparison in temperament as well, if we’re talking ‘slow and steady wins the race.’ Whatever you do, consider your angle, and settle in for the long haul.

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Opinion Editorials

10 tips for anyone looking to up their professional game

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) It’s easy to get bogged down by the details, procrastinate, and feel unproductive. Here are a few tips to help you stay on track and crush your professional goals.



work productivity

Self-reflection is critical to a growth mindset, which you must have if you want to grow and improve. If you are ready to take your professional game to the next level, here are some stories and tips to help you remain focused on killing your goals.

1. Don’t compare yourself to others. Comparison is the thief of joy, as the quote goes. And, in the workplace it’s bound to make you second guess yourself and your abilities. This story explains when comparison can be useful, when to avoid it, and how to change your focus if it’s sucking the life out of you.

2. Burnout is real and the harder you work, the less productive you are. It’s an inverse relationship. But, there are ways to work smarter and have better life balance. Here are some tips to prioritize your workload and find more ease.

3. Stop procrastinating and start getting sh@t done. The reason we procrastinate may be less about not wanting to do something and more about the emotions underlying the task. Ready to get going and stop hemming and hawing, you got this and here’s the way to push through.

4. Perfection is impossible and if you seek this in your work and life, it’s likely you are very frustrated. Let that desire go and learn to be happy with excellence over perfection.

5. If you think you’re really awesome and seriously deserve more money, more responsibility, more of anything and are ready to drop the knowledge on your supervisor or boss, you may want to check this story out to see if your spinning in the right direction.

6. Technology makes it so easy to get answers so quickly, it’s hard to wait around for things to happen. We like instant gratification. Yet, that is another reason procrastination is a problem for some of us, but every person has a different way/reason for procrastinating. Learn what’s up with that.

7. Making choices can be a challenge for some of us (me included) who worry we are making the wrong choice. If you’ve ever struggled with decision making, you know it can be paralyzing and then you either make no decision or choose the safest option. What we have here is the Ambiguity Effect and it can be a real time suck. Kick ambiguity to the curb.

8. If you are having trouble interacting with colleagues or wondering why you don’t hear back from contacts it could be you are creeping folks out unintentionally (we hope). Here’s how to #belesscreepy.

9. In the social media era building your brand and marketing are critical, yet, if you’re posting to the usual suspects and seeing very little engagement, you’ve got a problem. Wharton Business School even did a study on how to fix the situation and be more shareable.

10. Every time you do a presentation that one co-worker butts in and calls you out. Dang. If you aren’t earning respect on the job, you will be limited in your ability to get to the next level. Respect is critical to any leadership position, as well as to making a difference in any role you may have within an organization, but actions can be misconstrued. There are ways to take what may be negative situations and use them to your advantage, building mutual respect.

You have the tools you need, now get out there, work hard, play hard and make sh*t happen. Oh, and remember, growth requires continual reflection and action, but you got this.

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Opinion Editorials

Why soft skills are even more essential in online era

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Since many of us aren’t seeing our co-workers in person these days, our soft skills are even more important in the online working space.



Skype video chat with person writing in notebook. Soft skills are critical online.

When did we start thinking of “soft” as bad? I mean, we’ve got soft serve (excellent), softball (good exercise), fabric soft-ener (another industry I’m enjoying killing as a millennial). And we’ve got soft skills.

Or at least… I hope we do.

The shift to non-optional remote working has been difficult for a lot of us, especially for everyone who forgets to press mute before making sure the kids behave. But it’ll take more than being hot-mic savvy to make it through the foreseeable future. Brush up on these soft skills while we’re waiting on a vaccine, and it’ll make the coming months (years?) much easier.

1. Tone mastery

Do you know the difference between “Hey, Brenda, can we have a 1:1 at 12:30pm to go over the laser-equipped yoga pants presentation details?” and “Brenda, we need to talk…”?

If not, you might not have a great grasp on how to say with your typey-words what you can no longer say with your facial expressions. You don’t need to throw an emoji or exclamation point into every sentence to get your points across, but you do have the power to keep your coworkers’ heart rates in a safe range by explaining what exactly you need from them in your initial messages.

Use that power wisely.

2. Checking in

There’s no water cooler talk if there’s no water cooler, right?

Making and maintaining connections is more important now than ever, natural introversion be damned. You wanna be a star, don’tcha? Keep up relationships with public shoutouts, inquiries, and reaction images, and you’ll keep up morale while maintaining and boosting your potential for growth in the company.

Even if you’re not a small-talk kind of person, just a drop in for updates, meeting minutes, or sharing a relevant article via appropriate chatrooms and DMs can help hone your soft skills.

“Karen, this MLM article reminded me of your anti-Scentsy tangent you forgot we could all hear, maybe send this to your pushy ex-friend.”

“Hey, Ravindra, how’s the new laptop working out? All good? No ‘Kill all Humans’ protocols like the last one?”

Simple blips like this can add up like couch change. If you’re an admin, make a general chats section, and work in enough time in meetings to allow everyone to have a bit of a chat before getting down to business.

3. Make yourself available

This was important before the pandemic, honestly, but it bears repeating now, especially for everyone in a leadership position. If you’re not making time for check-ins, constantly cancelling meetings, or just generally enjoying being gone when people need you…figure out a way to not. Delegate what you can, bring on a VA, shorten that vacation, whatever you have to do. Everyone’s struggling, and being captain means your crew is looking to you. Don’t let the general air of desperation lull you into thinking a metaphorical keelhauling is out of the question—that extra power still comes with extra responsibility.

Keep yourself from double-bookings, cancellations, and absences as much as possible, and things will continue to improve internally… Even if they don’t in the outside world.

Aesop had a fable about an oak tree and a little river reed. When a storm came, the hardened oak tree fell and died, while the flexible reed bent with the wind and lived. We’re in the storm now, and everyone’s doing their best not to break. Keep yourself rooted friends, but the moral here is to soften up.

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