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Perception Versus Realty

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Real Estate is local but…

Last week as I was getting ready to attend business meetings in California, I stopped at my local credit union to get cash a couple of checks for the trip. I’m friendly with most of the tellers, and they all know I’m in real estate so at some point the conversation always seems to get around to the market. My teller asked how business was and I told her that it was fine, people were buying homes, and that as we went into spring the activity seemed to be increasing. She then said.”I guess that’s because all of the prices are coming down so much, huh?”. And I was (brace yourself) almost at a loss for words.

Our market in Philadelphia saw great appreciation during the peak of the market, but not the levels that some markets saw like Las Vegas, Phoenix, SoCal, Miami etc. As a result, our market has not seen the price reductions that have become part of the landscape in some of those areas. In fact recently Philadelphia Magazine , a large local magazine that prints a housing issue every March, had just had an entire issue telling local residents that our market was not suffering, but was in fact pretty healthy. The article, “Everything You Know About Philly Real Estate is Wrong” demonstrated that the market was stable in price though the number of properties sold had diminished in the past year. Even our local newspaper had recently had a few articles about the stability of our housing prices, and I thought that perceptions might have shifted. But here, this bright working woman seemed to have missed that local message. It sort of makes you wonder doesn’t it? At least it made me wonder.

Most Really Significant Media is not…

Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist for NAR has become associated with his accurate and meaningful mantra “All real estate is local”. And those of us in the real estate industry know that to be true. But most people get their information from media that is not local. They get their information from the sources that are easiest to access, or from sources that are “in their face” the most. And those sources are television, radio, and syndicated journalists. And these media all generally tell the same story because they are not real estate experts and its easy to get into a herd mentality since opinions seem more valid when they are echoed by a group of people.

For many years their message was, “real estate is great“, “real estate means wealth“, “real estate is how to get rich quick“, “anything you buy today will be worth more tomorrow” (or maybe later this afternoon). Then their message went to “it can’t be as good as we’ve been telling you it is“, “when will the bubble burst“, “watch out the bad times are here“, and”the sky is falling, the sky is falling!” Then we entered the third phase when there were real price adjustments and trouble in specific real estate markets around the country.”the end is here!”, “the bubble has burst“, “real estate (everywhere) is plummeting“, and “see how smart we are, we told you so!” All of which was compounded by the “sub-prime debacle”, which became the “mortgage meltdown” and led people to believe that “everyone is going to lose their homes”.

All of this was exacerbated by the need of the media to fill the network TV shows, the cable TV shows, news radio, talk radio, the newspapers , the financial magazines, the podcasts and blogs of the financial pundits, and the podcasts and blogs of the journalists who follow the economy. For goodness sakes, Jim Cramer from “Mad Money, a stock expert who has no real estate background, made the flat unilateral statement that no one should buy real estate for the next year or two – under any circumstances- not no way – not no how (apologies to the guard in the “Wizard of Oz”) . We can put his advice into perspective by remembering that this was the genius who specifically told people not to sell Bear Sterns just before that stock plummeted through the floor.

Now is the Best Time to Buy

Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying that we’re not experiencing some price adjustments, or that the real estate market in many places has not resembled a Nuclear holocaust (I know a broker in a Southern State whose company went from 58 Million dollars in Commission income in 2006 to 27 Million in 2007- and while that’s still a lot of income, that’s a huge hit for any company or individual to take as well as a tribute to that owner who is still stable and operating a fine company) But its just not the case everywhere, and when consumers don’t realize this they create the myth of a national real estate market which does not exist.

I’m one of those people who still believe that real estate is a good thing to buy if you have a need for housing. I think that over a term of years, people benefit from owning their home both emotionally and financially. I also believe that real estate is a good investment if you buy using common sense and follow some basic rules of real estate investing.

If you buy a property and obtain a rent that matches or exceeds the costs of financing and operating the property you will make money. Over a period of years, you will receive income from your rental (which will generally increase over the years), increase your equity as the rent pays down the loan, receive a tax benefit from depreciation, and possibly experience some appreciation over a period of time if you are patient. And if you don’t get the appreciation, the other three are still pretty decent returns, especially when you calculate the benefit of leveraging your down payment to control the larger amount of money representing the value of the property. Even though that down payment may need to be larger, you will still be controlling as much as 3 or 4 dollars for every one you invest. Remember, the concept of an investment is that you invest money – not that you borrow the entire value of an asset and then hope for appreciation.

And I hasten to point out that this isn’t just theory for me. I am an active real estate investor buying property right now. I know that as long as people get married and divorced, are born and die, people will continue to need housing and real estate will be rented, bought and sold.

The Quick and Easy Answer is…

That there is no quick and easy answer. People who having housing needs should buy property to satisfy those needs on the best terms and at the best price possible, understanding that purchasing a house is a long term commitment. The old rules apply – a property that satisfies the needs of the buyer, with a good design, priced well, in a well maintained area with good pride of ownership is probably the right thing for the buyer to own.

Investors need to buy properties based on the reality of the marketplace they work in. Maybe they should buy to rent, and maybe they can still buy the property, add value through improvement, and realize4 an entrepreneurial return on their effort, but they can;t just buy a property for the asking price and expect to resell it for a profit based on anticipated appreciation. But with CDs and Money Markets at 3 or 4 percent, real estate is still a superior return for most people who can sacrifice liquidity for a higher return. And some people should just not sell right now, or possibly buy if they don’t have a real need, or the money to invest in real estate.

Each one of us should look for the articles about our marketplace analyze the information and then tell the truth of the market to each person we want to to work with so that they might better understand what that marketplace really is. I think we need to make comparisons with the national media and explain how the information provided by those media compare to the real local picture. We need to use our blogs and newsletters, and e-mail campaigns to spread the word in clear concise easy to understand terms so that consumers know what the real deal is where you are- and why this might just be the best time to buy real estate.

After all, everyone who has a monthly housing expense is paying someone’s mortgage, so it may as well be their own.Unless they are my tenants – in that case they should continue to rent and pay off my mortgages.

(photo credit)

Bill is an unusual blend of Old & New - The CEO Century 21 Advantage Gold (Philadelphia's Largest Century 21 company and BuzzBuilderz (a Social Media Marketing Company), He is a Ninja CEO, blending the Web 1 and 2.0 world together in a fashion that stretches the fabric of the universe. You can follow him on twitter @Billlublin or Facebook or LinkedIn.

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10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. John Lauber

    April 6, 2008 at 5:05 pm

    I read those articles and forwarded them to my sphere when they came out. Being in your market, I’ve heard those same questions/concerns. I feel like I’ve been saying the same thing since 2006 or so, “This area is not as bad as the media would have you believe. All real estate is local and we’re OK.” I read all the articles in Philly Magazine and thought they could only help and we’ve been seeing plenty of action in our office since January (before the articles came out). I cringe when I hear Cramer and other “experts” make simplistic, across the board statements. We need more articles like Art Heavens wrote in early March (when that Philly magazine came out).

    It’s like someone who keeps saying you look sick, that you think you may be sick. Some people I speak with do understand that they’re not “sick”. Those are the people I’m enjoying working with now. Now, if only a few more would take their medicine, I can keep paying my mortgage 🙂

    Thanks for the post.

  2. Suzy Trotta

    April 6, 2008 at 5:50 pm

    I love your final comment about renters paying someone else’s mortgages. I posted it over at my blog. Enjoyed the article!

  3. Bill Lublin

    April 6, 2008 at 9:33 pm

    @ John- Didn’t mean to ignore Al, but he’s said lots of negative stuff before reaching that epiphany!
    @ Suzy – Thanks, I’m honored! 🙂

  4. Bob Schenkenberger

    April 6, 2008 at 10:26 pm

    Love the video, I will be sharing it soon on my blog! Thanks for the post!

  5. John Lauber

    April 7, 2008 at 4:25 am

    Bill and all – I mistyped the name above in my prior comment. It was Alan (not Art). I even double checked my comment. Too bad you can’t edit comments.

  6. West Toronto realtor

    April 7, 2008 at 5:48 am

    Love this one! Sometimes I have feeling that there’s, much more fun, when working as realtor on US market now. It seems nobody is knowing what’s going on and everybody is talking just the right opposite and many “experts” emerged, while real professionals are just smiling. I am working as a West Toronto realtor team member and situation here is much calmer. However, you can find some (and there is still more and more of them) prophets, telling that “the crisis will cross Canadian borders in few weeks!” without providing any facts…

  7. Janice Bovee

    April 7, 2008 at 8:00 am

    You make many good points, “All real estate is local” has been my mantra for at least a year now. I think a lot of people are into doom and gloom scenarios. I’ve been an investor in Philadelphia and New Jersey real estate for 25yrs now and I say amen let them pay my mortgages.

  8. Matthew Rathbun

    April 8, 2008 at 8:50 pm

    ::deep bow:: I stand corrected – I am still the rookie writer on the blog 🙂

    Incredibly important points here. Too often practitioners relegate their need to be a micro-market professional. They try to utilize national publications or bias to justify their advice to their client. Not only is real estate local, but each consumer has different needs and desires that makes them unique.

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Business Marketing

Spruce up your product images with Glorify (just in time for Black Friday!)

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Want professional, customizable product images for your company? Consider Glorify’s hot Black Friday deal.

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Glorify app lets you create beautiful designs for your products.

Glorify, the app that creates high converting, customizable product images for your business, is offering a lifetime deal for $97 this Black Friday. In just a few clicks, you can transform one of Glorify’s sleek templates into personalized, professional-looking content – and now, you don’t have to pay that monthly fee.

Whether your business is in electronics, beauty, or food & drink, Glorify offers a range of looks that will instantly bring your product images to the next level. With countless font styles and the ability to alter icon styles, shadows and other elements, you can access all the perks of having your own designer without the steep price.

In 2019, Glorify was launched – the app was soon voted #2 Product of the Day and nominated for Best Design Tool by Product Hunt. Since then, they have cultivated a 20k+ user base!

Glorify 2.0, which was launched last week, upgrades the experience. The new and improved version of the app is complete overhaul of intuitive UI improvements and extra features, such as:

  • background remover tool
  • templates based on popular product niches and themes
  • design bundles for your website/store, social media
  • annotation tool
  • upload your brand kits and organize your projects under different brands
  • 1 click brand application
  • & much more!

“But the most important aspect of Glorify 2.0, is that it comes with a UI that sets us up for future scalability for all our roadmap features”, said CEO of Glorify Omar Farook, who himself was a professional graphic designer.

Farook’s dream was to provide a low-cost design service for the smaller businesses that couldn’t otherwise afford design services. Looking through reviews of the app, it’s evident that Glorify does just that – it saves the user time and money while helping them to produce top-notch product images for their brand on their own.

Glorify is one of the many new design-based apps that make producing content a breeze for entrepreneurs, such as Canva. As someone who loves design but doesn’t have the patience for Creative Cloud, I personally love this technology. However, Glorify is unique in that it is the only product-driven design app. All you have to do is upload your photo!

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Business Marketing

This new Chipotle location will be fully digital

(BUSINESS NEWS) In the wake of the pandemic and popularity of online delivery, Chipotle is joining the jump to online-only locations, at least to test drive.

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Chipotle exterior, possibly moving to a fully digital restaurant space soon.

A lot of industries have switched to an online-only model in the wake of the pandemic. Most of them have made sense; between abundant delivery options and increased restrictions on workers, moving away from the traditional storefront paradigm isn’t exactly a radical choice. Chipotle making that same decision, however, is a plot twist of a different kind—yet that’s exactly what they’re doing with their first online store.

To be clear, the chain isn’t doing away with their existing locations; they’re just test-driving a “digital” location for the time being. That said, the move to an online platform raises interesting questions about the future of the restaurant industry—if not just Chipotle itself.

The move to an online platform actually makes a lot of sense for businesses like Chipotle. Since the classic Chipotle experience is much less centered on the “dining” aspect than it is on the customizability of food options, putting those same options online and giving folks some room to deliver both decreases Chipotle’s physical footprint and, ostensibly, opens up their services to more people.

It’s also a timely move given the sheer number of people who are sheltering in place. A hands-on burrito assembly line is not the optimal place to be in a pandemic, but there’s no denying the utilitarian appeal of Chipotle’s products. To that end, having another restaurant wherein you have the option to order a hearty meal with everything you like—which is also tailored to your dietary needs—is a crucial step for consumers.

Chipotle’s CTO, Curt Garner, says he is hoping this online alternative will offer a “frictionless” experience for diners.

As a part of that frictionless experience, consumers will be able to order in several different mediums. Chipotle’s website and their mobile app are the preferred choices, while services like GrubHub will also be available should you choose to order through a third-party. The idea is simple: To bring Chipotle to you with as little fuss as possible.

For now, Chipotle is committing to the single digital location to see how consumer demand pans out. Should the model prove successful, they plan to move forward with implementing additional digital locations nationwide.

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Business Marketing

Your business’ Yelp listing may be costing you more than you think

(BUSINESS MARKETING) The pay per click system Yelp uses sounds good in theory, but it may be hurting small businesses more than helping.

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Man browsing Yelp for his business listing in open office environment.

We all know Yelp – we’ve probably all used Yelp’s comment section to decide whether or not that business is worth giving our money to. What you might not know is how they are extorting the small businesses they partner with.

For starters, it’s helpful to understand that Yelp generates revenue through a pay per click (PPC) search model. This means whenever a user clicks on your advertisement, you pay Yelp a small fee. You never pay Yelp a cent if no one clicks on your ad.

In theory, this sounds great – if someone is seeking out your product or service and clicks on your ad, chances are you’re going to see some of that return. This is what makes paying $15, $50, or even $100 a click worth it.

In practice, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. When setting up your Yelp account, you are able to plug in keywords that correspond with your business. For example, owner of San Francisco-based Headshots Inc. Dan St. Louis – former Yelp advertiser turned anti-Yelp advocate – plugged in keywords for his business, such as “corporate photographer” and “professional headshots”. When someone in the Bay Area searches one of those terms, they are likely to see Headshots Inc.’s Yelp ad.

You are also able to plug in keyword searches in which your ad will not appear. That sounds great too – no need to pay for ad clicks that will ultimately not bring in revenue for your business. In the case of Headshots Inc., Dan plugged in terms such as “affordable baby photography” and “affordable studio photography”, as his studio is quite high-end and would very likely turn off a user who is using the word “affordable” in their search.

How Yelp really cheats its small business partners is that it finds loopholes in your keyword input to place your ad in as many non-relevant searches as possible. This ensures that your ad is clicked more and, as a result, you have to pay them more without reaping any of the monetary benefits for your business.

If you plugged in “cheap photography” to your list of searches in which your ad will not appear, Yelp might still feature your ad for the “cheap photos” search. As if a small business owner has the time to enter in every single possible keyword someone might search!

In the case of Headshots Inc., Dan ended up paying $10k in total ad spend to Yelp with very little return. Needless to say, he is pissed.

So what does this mean for you if you use Yelp for your business? If you don’t want to completely opt out of Yelp’s shenanigans, try these 3 tips from Dan:

  1. Try searching some potential irrelevant keywords – are your ads showing up in these searches?
  2. Do your best to block the irrelevant keywords. It’s impossible to get them all, but the more you do the more money you will ultimately save.
  3. Keep an eye on the conversation rate on your profile – does more clicks mean more client inquiries? Make sure Yelp isn’t sending low-quality traffic to your profile.

Ultimately, it’s about protecting your small business. Yelp is the latest in big tech to be outted for manipulating individuals and small businesses to up their margins – a truly despicable act, if you ask me. If you don’t have tens of thousands of dollars for ad spend, then either boycott Yelp or try these tips – your company may depend on it.

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