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Open letter: chastising the laziness of the real estate industry

When you take a hard look at the individuals practicing real estate, it becomes quickly evident who the “A” students are, versus those whose work simply doesn’t deserve to be on mom’s fridge.

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The art of growing up

My mom used to love everything I made. As a kid, this included finger-paintings, poems, and music. She loved all of it, and never hesitated to tell me how awesome it was.

There was a point as a teenager when everything I made wasn’t quite worthy for a place on my mom’s fridge. There was an unspoken expectation that I would produce only my best work. I couldn’t sneak bad grades, lousy projects, or plagiarized essays past my mom.

This used to bother me deeply. Why couldn’t I just cruise through my teenage years? My friends didn’t work as hard on their school work. I was passing all of my classes.

I wonder what my teachers thought of our work? It was clear to them who really explored the lessons, spent time interpreting them, and who created meaningful responses to the concepts presented.

Open letter to my industry:

In my profession of real estate, lazy students mail out 33 pre-fab marketing pieces a year. “C” students take cell phone pictures for their listings. Lethargic students allow others to build powerful content platforms, and simply put their name on the product like they made it themselves. This is not your best stuff. And it doesn’t deserve a spot on your mom’s fridge.

Sure, you passed the class though, right? What’s the big deal?

Well, you are slowly killing our industry. We are losing clients to the market itself, and each bad experience a consumer has as a result of your laziness further perpetuates the lousy stereotypes of our industry and forces the agent population closer to irrelevancy.

Accountability in real estate

No one is keeping us accountable the way in which my mom held me accountable.

“A” students hold themselves accountable. They create original work. They don’t copy. They research, audit, and adjust.

I want to make stuff that is worthy of my mom’s fridge. And I think you can make stuff that makes it onto her fridge, too. Just don’t expect to send her a million mailers, trap her with a “squeeze page,” or ask her for a referral when she hasn’t even met you. This is not your best stuff. And it won’t make it on her fridge.

Greg is the principal owner of Fischer Real Estate Services, a Fort Worth firm specializing in customer value and community enrichment. He's also an MBA at TCU, and a proud member of the Naval Reserves. In his spare time - he sleeps.

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16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. Michael Gibbons

    November 14, 2012 at 9:45 am

    more like head in the sand:

  2. Michael Gibbons

    November 14, 2012 at 9:49 am

    1) NAR needs to reconstitute the professional stature of Realtors* 2) do something with online – just fix it 3) buyers pay “fee” for buy side expertise, sellers pay “fee” for sell side – this buyer pay all is like something arcane maritime law from the 18th century…put me in charge those would be my objectives and fixing those three fixes everything – *make Realtors the number one respected profession – yes above nurses …take it ON I dare you

  3. Andrew Mckay

    November 14, 2012 at 10:29 am

    This will never happen but simply after 2 years probation if a realtor isn’t grossing X amount of commissions or selling/buying X amount of homes they loose their license. How can someone represent the client well if they aren’t continually getting experience and becoming better by actually working and closing offers.

  4. Steve Nicewarner

    November 14, 2012 at 10:55 am

    This is one of the things NAR should be doing — driving all Realtors towards excellence as the standard

    • JimLee

      November 16, 2012 at 8:39 am

      @Steve Nicewarner Just for the record NAR has always encouraged and promulgated excellence in our profession. The true issue is the Realtors that won’t take the time and make the investments to take advantage of the tools and training available.
      My partner and I just got back from the NAR Convention in Orlando; 4 days crammed packed with classes, networking, and the trade show full of new and existing products to make you better and more successful.

      • Greg Fischer

        November 16, 2012 at 1:32 pm

        @JimLee  @Steve Nicewarner interesting points Jim, and kind of at the heart of this article. We are encouraged to do well. So are our kids. We all are. Its up to us as individuals to take the tools, education, and training that we receive and make excellent stuff with it

  5. beachtowne

    November 14, 2012 at 11:23 am

    What’s up with your website? I honestly was expecting to be blown away since you are up on your soapbox and all. It is unique, no doubt, but how exactly is it providing “customer value and community enrichment”? Teach me, Greg.

    • Greg Fischer

      November 16, 2012 at 1:27 pm

      @beachtowne dude, thanks for checking it out. I’m not coordinated enough to stand on a soapbox, I just fall off every time. But I do like to write about stuff thats on my mind – so if you want to have a conversation, great. If you want to snark away in a corner – than do that.

  6. stellaremarketing

    November 14, 2012 at 11:36 am

    Thanks for article Greg.  After years of working in and around real estate Ive always been shocked at the poor performance ‘students’ but then I am reminded of how this is the case in nearly EVERY profession – from teaching thru management.  It does make the stronger and more engaged shine however 🙂

  7. gregcook01

    November 14, 2012 at 5:57 pm

    Seems to me this is not NARs problem but a broker problem. Unfortunately, the economics of our business have caused many brokers to become landlords collecting rent checks each month. Succeeding a market requires hard work AND local knowledge and NAR can’t provide that.
    Of course I could be wrong

    • Greg Fischer

      November 16, 2012 at 1:35 pm

      @gregcook01 Greg – interesting comment about brokers acting like landlords collecting rent checks. That sounds about right. Also, as far as tools helping us do our jobs….. I look at it this way. You can give everyone a hammer. Some people will use it to build a birdhouse, and some people will use it to build a castle. Its our own prerogative.

  8. annarborrealtor

    November 14, 2012 at 7:49 pm

    Greg, I’ve often wondered if Realtors (some) had 9-5 jobs how they would make it. Seriously, I have more leads than I know what to do with and it is hard to find buyer agents that want to work. (((sigh)))

    • Greg Fischer

      November 16, 2012 at 2:15 pm

      @annarborrealtor amazing how much business is just out there for the taking

  9. gregcook01

    November 16, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    Greg, you’re right but I think the more immediate question, is who will pick up the hammer at all?

  10. yoweathers

    December 3, 2012 at 7:57 pm

    You brought out valid points.  It helps to reminds me to make sure I am doing “A” work. Thanks

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Opinion Editorials

Avoid the stack, conquer busy work as it comes

(PRODUCTIVITY) It’s easy overwhelmed with emails and a stack of real mail. But tackling as it comes may help to enhance organization and productivity.

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A few weeks ago, I was walking through my office (also known as my bedroom after 5 p.m.) and I noticed a stack of mail that I had tossed aside over the course of the last few months. While they were non-urgent, this collection of paperwork had been opened, read, and left unattended.

Now, this was a classic move of mine – leave a mess for Future Taylor to clean up. So, imagine my surprise when Present Taylor woke up and decided to put an end to “the stack.”

I sat down, went through everything, and took care of what needed to be done. Even though my wallet took a few hits, it felt great to have this cleared up and off my desk.

Right then and there, I made it a rule to let things only cross my desk once (unless there’s some extenuating circumstance in which it requires me to come back to it; i.e. my favorite sentence on this paperwork “This is not a final bill.”) There’s no point in drawing out the stress that “the stack” induce.

This led me to finally attacking something that’s been on my to-do list since I created my Gmail account in 2009 – create an organizational system.

I set aside some time to create folders (for individual projects, people I communicate with frequently, etc.)

While this is all stuff that you may have already implemented, my point is that this increase my productivity and lifted a weight off of my shoulders I didn’t acknowledge was there.

So, I encourage you to find one of those menial tasks that has been on your to-do list forever and tackle it.

This can include, organizing all of your electronic files into folders, updating your phone and email contacts, or going through all of your desk drawers to get rid of unneeded items. Organizing and freshening up your workspace can help increase your focus.

Once you’re organized and in gear, try the “let it cross your desk once” method. When an email comes in, respond to it or file it. When a bill comes in, pay it. You may be surprised at your rise in productivity.

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Opinion Editorials

DNA ancestry tests are cool, but are they worth giving up your rights?

(EDITORIAL) DNA tests are all the rage currently but are they worth potentially having your genetic makeup sold and distributed?

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By now you’ve heard – the Golden State Killer’s 40+ year reign of terror is potentially over as the FBI agents used an ancestry website DNA sample to arrest their suspect, James DeAngelo, Jr.

Over the last few years, DNA testing has gone mainstream for novelty reasons. Companies like Ancestry.com and 23andMe have offered easy access to the insights of your genetics, including potential health risks and family heritage, through simple tests.

However, as a famously ageless actor once suggested in a dinosaur movie, don’t focus too much on if you can do this, without asking if you should do this.

When you look closely, you can find several reasons to wonder if sending your DNA to these companies is a wise choice.

These reasons mostly come down to privacy protection, and while most companies do have privacy policies in place, you will find some surprising loopholes in the fine print. For one, most of the big players don’t give you the option to not have your data sold.

These companies, like 23andMe and Ancestry.com, can always sell your data so long as your data is “anonymized,” thanks to the HIPAA Act of 1996. Anonymization involves separating key identifying features about a person from their medical or biological data.

These companies know that loophole well; Ancestry.com, for example, won’t even give customers an opt-out of having their DNA data sold.

Aside from how disconcerting it is that these companies will exploit this loophole for their gain at your expense, it’s also worth noting that standards for anonymizing data don’t work all that well.

In one incident, reportedly, “one MIT scientists was able to ID the people behind five supposedly anonymous genetic samples randomly selected from a public research database. It took him less than a day.”

There’s also the issue of the places where that data goes when it goes out. That report the MIT story comes from noted that 23andMe has sold data to at least 14 outside pharmaceutical firms.

Additionally, Ancestry.com has a formal data-sharing agreement with a biotech firm. That’s not good for you as the consumer, because you may not know how that firm will handle the data.

Some companies give data away to the public databases for free, but as we saw from the earlier example, those can be easy targets if you wanted to reverse engineer the data back to the person.

It would appear the only safe course of action is to have this data destroyed once your results are in. However, according to US federal regulation for laboratory compliance stipulates that US labs hold raw information for a minimum of 10 years before destruction.

Now, consider all that privacy concern in the context of what happens when your DNA data is compromised. For one, this kind of privacy breach is irreversible.

It’s not as simple as resetting all your passwords or freezing your credit.

If hackers don’t get it, the government certainly can; there’s even an instance of authorities successfully obtaining a warrant for DNA evidence from Ancestry.com in a murder trial.

Even if you’re not the criminal type who would worry about such a thing, the precedent is concerning.

Finally, if these companies are already selling data to entities in the biomedical field, how long until medical and life insurance providers get their hands on it?

I’ll be the first to admit that the slippery slope fallacy is strong here, but there are a few troubling patterns of behavior and incorrect assumptions already in play regarding the handling of your DNA evidence.

The best course of action is to take extra precaution.

Read the fine print carefully, especially what’s in between the lines. As less scrupulous companies look to cash in on the trend, be aware of entities who skimp on privacy details; DNA Explained chronicles a lot of questionable experiences with other testing companies.

Above all, really think about what you’re comfortable with before you send in those cheek swabs or tubes of spit. While the commercials make this look fun, it is a serious choice and should be treated like one.

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Opinion Editorials

What Swedish Death Cleaning your office looks like

(PRODUCTIVITY) If you need any motivation to clear the clutter check out dostadning, aka Swedish Death Cleaning. It won’t kill you but it’ll make you feel super metal while you clean.

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You’ve probably heard of “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” as one of many titles focused on keeping your life organized and stress free. However, I bet you’ve never heard of dostadning, or, “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning.”

Alarmed yet? Don’t be; while it’s exactly as morbid as it sounds, it’s not as morose as you would think.

Dostadning, sometimes called “death cleaning” is a Swedish term referring to a process of permanent cleaning conducted throughout your Golden Girl years, usually starting around age 50. The goal of the process is to alleviate the burden of tidying up from your surviving family once you pass away.

It is currently having a day in the sun thanks to Margareta Magnusson, who is publishing a book on this topic.

The process is rooted in common de-cluttering mantras; only hold onto things that you actually use and actually bring you joy. Nothing you can’t find in your other “simplify your life” bestsellers. However, the spectre of the end of life does hang over the process, and that results in a few unique elements.

First of all, talk of death cleaning is highly encouraged amongst family and friends. Not only does this create accountability, but it also reduces the stigma around the process of passing on.

There’s also the idea of giving things you don’t want away as gifts to friends. It’s a way of creating happy memories for others, little pieces of yourself that can stick around.

In addition to creating these new memories, dostadning encourages personal reflections on your old memories. Clearing out clutter means making more space in your life for things that truly matter; anything negative or neutral gets the metaphorical boot.

That simplicity and self-reflection is a form of self-care, bolstered by the fact that, post-cleaning, you are supposed to treat yourself to something you like.

Because of the focus on long-term organization, dostadning stands out as a more long-term solution, as opposed to the temporary fix of “tidying up.” No matter where you are in life, it’s important to remember to make time to address the cause of clutter, rather than addressing clutter as a symptom that needs a band-aid.

Perhaps you could dostadn your desk? You’ve probably got a few receipts from lunch last month you don’t need anymore or maybe you’re a water bottle collector — you know the ones that get a water bottle and don’t finish it but then get a new one anyways and then somehow wind up with a collection of bottles on and around your desk? Maybe you’ve kept every single stapler you’ve ever been given but let’s be real, do you need 5 staplers?

Maybe your clutter isn’t on your desk, but it’s in your drawers. Or maybe, just maybe it’s in the break room. Wherever your clutter lie beginning to simplify and purge things will make you (and your co-workers) happy.

By focusing on changing the way you organize things as a whole, you may find your efforts to reap longer-lasting returns.

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