Wednesday, November 25, 2015

It’s Thanksgiving, and My Thankfulness Is Both Personal and Professional





Thanksgiving is a welcome opportunity to reach out to you and others and thank you all (and God) for being in my life. When we look at the danger and devastation elsewhere in the world, whether from natural or man-made causes, we have plenty for which to be thankful.

2015 has been a good year for Golden Real Estate.  Our agents will have sold $37 million worth of real estate come Dec. 31, representing 100+ transactions, up slightly from the previous two years. We have continued to enhance our services for both buyers and sellers.  

As always, it has been a year of learning and improvement, much of which has been documented by me in this column.  One of the more satisfying improvements this year was our partnering with Care Patrol to help elderly sellers find the best assisted living facility and not just sell their home and wish them good luck.  We’ve had two successes since announcing that partnership.

We cherish our reputation for sustainability, with our solar powered and super-insulated office resulting in energy costs of under $150 per month even in the winter — and that includes the cost of charging three electric vehicles. This year all of our agents obtained certification as EcoBrokers, making us the only brokerage I know of where all agents have this important training and certification.  If you want an agent who understands solar power and other sustainable issues, any agent at Golden Real Estate can help you.  And they will show you listings in one of our two Teslas!

I’m grateful for the progress that our industry has made in so many areas this year.  REcolorado, our Denver MLS, has made some great improvements which I’ve also written about in this column. One of my favorite improvements is that any buyer or seller can now check on the level of success of an agent by going to www.REcolorado.com and clicking on “Find an Agent.”  The website will then display (with photos) all of the agent’s active, under contract and sold listings going back two years.  For instance, if you were to search for me right now, you’d see one active, three under contract and 59 sold listings. As Rita would say, Woohoo!

No longer can a prospective listing agent overstate his or her level of success and get away with it — IF you know about that feature of our MLS website.  Unfortunately, this feature of REcolorado.com does not list how many buyers each agent has represented, so you can’t check an agent’s experience when it comes to representing you as a buyer.  If you are also selling, however, that’s not a problem because you want your listing agent to be your buyer’s agent and discount the commission he or she charges to list your current home.

Also this year, however, www.realtor.com has filled that information gap, and you can now google the name of any agent followed by “realtor” (if he or she is a Realtor) and one of the very first items on the first page of Google will be a link to that agent’s profile on realtor.com. I checked my own profile just now, and it shows one active listing and two sold listings. (Sales data is still being uploaded from our MLS.)  The difference is that each sold listing shows whether the agent worked with the seller, the buyer, or both.  You can’t find this information anywhere else (unless you’re an agent).  Buyer information is being provided to realtor. com by REcolorado.com, and I don’t see any reason why REcolorado couldn’t add buyer data to its own display of agent information.  I was just told that we’ll see that in 2016.

That profile of agents on realtor.com has another feature that thrills me — it has actual reviews from past clients, something that you could only get, until now, from a little known website, www.RatedAgent.com.  I’m pleased to report that it was because of my own suggestion to an executive at realtor.com that a deal was struck for RatedAgent. com to provide ratings and reviews, which realtor.com is rebranding as “Real Ratings.”  Realtor.com will continue to have “Recommendations” which can be written by anyone at all and can be deleted or phonied up by the agent (just like an agent can do on Zillow and other websites), but the “Reviews and Ratings” are only from verified past clients and can’t be altered or deleted, if they’re negative.  This is a HUGE improvement for consumers, and, since Golden Real Estate’s agents fare well when it comes to ratings and reviews by past clients, I’m so grateful for this development. I think realtor.com is proud of it too, and you can expect to see a major advertising campaign boasting about their “Real Ratings” as soon as the upload process (ongoing as I write this) is completed. 

(Note: Although agents can’t delete or alter negative reviews or ratings obtained by RatedAgent.com, they can turn off the display of all reviews or ratings on realtor.com as well as on RatedAgent.com, so if you see no reviews on an agent’s profile, either their brokerage hasn’t signed up for RatedAgent.com’s service or they haven’t allowed RatedAgent.com to display their data.)

As I reported last week, I just returned from the Realtor convention and expo in San Diego, and I’m grateful for all the things I learned and products I purchased, some of which I have already put to work.  So I have to say I am grateful for the American (and Canadian) entrepreneurial spirit which keeps inventing and producing products and services to improve how businesses, including ours, operate.

That brings me back to my original comment about being thankful to live in the United States but specifically in Jefferson County, Colorado.  For the most part we live here without fear, especially when compared to what we see on TV every night, including from one of my favorite destinations, Paris. Let’s not take it for granted.

As Rita and I sit down for our Thanksgiving dinner, I will have grateful thoughts not only about my clients, my broker associates, my service partners and you, dear reader, but I will also be thinking about how fortunate Rita and I are to live in peace, enjoy as high a quality of life as we could ever want, and have the resources to contribute to the alleviation of hardship by those not as blessed as we are.

Thank you for reading this column.  I love writing it each week, but I wouldn’t be writing it if I didn’t have this newspaper to publish it and an audience to read it.  Happy Thanksgiving!

 [Published Nov. 26, 2015, in the YourHub section of the Denver Post and in four Jefferson County weekly newspapers.]

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Here’s Some of What I Learned at Last Weekend’s NAR Convention/Expo



Every November I like to attend the National Association of Realtors’ annual convention and expo. This year it was in San Diego. There were hundreds of educational sessions to attend, and I took extensive notes at the few I attended, while leaving adequate time to visit the expo hall where I learned about (and purchased) new products and services — of which there were tons!

Fortunately, the rest of those 100-odd educational sessions can be listened to after I get home, and there are a few I will indeed listen to on my computer.

As a broker/owner, I look not only for products and services that will increase my own productivity and effectiveness, but also for ones that will help my broker associates do the same.

There was lots of inspiration to be had as I mingled with agents from across the country and from 60 other nations.  In the general session five agents were honored as “good neighbors,” selflessly serving their communities. Susan Stearns was honored for transforming the lives of adults with special needs.  Nancy Hines keeps a spotlight on the detection of early stage ovarian cancer (when it has a high cure rate).  John Kersten is a power fundraiser for Easter Seals.  Barbara Mills ensures a proper homecoming for returning soldiers.  And Dan Goodwin empowers struggling families with affordable housing.  [Click here to read much more about each of them.]

Yes, Realtors are go-givers, not just go-getters.
 
During the general session, agents representing each of those 60 countries came on stage waving their nation’s flags. All received polite applause and isolated cheers from their compatriots until the flag-bearer for France came on stage. The process came to a halt as the audience of thousands rose as one and applauded loudly for several minutes.  The terrorist events in Paris had occurred only 24 hours earlier.

At one educational session, I learned about some cutting edge technology incubated under NAR’s “REach” program. One such company, Pro.com, has created a smartphone app for preferred (screened) vendors. I’ll be able to create a Golden Real Estate branded version of that app which combines Pro.com’s screened vendors with our own preferred vendors — plumbers, electricians, handymen, etc.  This will be a great resource for both clients and non-clients alike.

I was impressed by two other REach projects:

BoostUp is a terrific program which helps people save up for their down payment on a home. Again, it’s a program which real estate brokerages can private label. It provides a mechanism for people to start saving for a down payment, and the brokerage or agent contributes part of their commission when they’re ready to buy.

August is a “smart home” company which has developed four clever products which allow a homeowner to provide access to their home in a smart, secure way.  For example, they have a doorbell camera device which connects to your home’s WiFi. When the doorbell is activated, it rings on your smartphone wherever you may be (the person at the door thinks you’re home), and you get to look at the visitor on your phone and converse with them.  You can then “buzz them in” if you also have the WiFi-enabled deadbolt opener. I bought this product and a matching keypad.  The keypad allows a homeowner to give specific people a code which opens that deadbolt but only at times specified by the homeowner.

Other highpoints for me included the following:

I visited On the Move Trucks, which sold me our moving truck 11 years ago. They have a newer model I really liked, but I told them I’m waiting until they have one with an electric power train.  I explained that Tesla sells power trains to other manufacturers, which they didn’t know. They are going to look into the concept and let me be their first customer for their electric truck. (Box trucks are perfect for this concept because they have so much under-carriage space for a battery pack.)

I signed up with a company called YouMail which replaced my iPhone voicemail with an intelligent system allowing me to get transcripts of voicemail messages which they archive in folders I create and/or send to my email so I can archive them on my computer.  I can also read my emails instead of listening to them, which is helpful in meetings when I have my phone silenced.  I can create different greetings for different callers based on their Caller ID, and I can block anonymous calls, giving them a greeting all their own which says that if they unblock their Caller ID, I will answer their call. I can also have a greeting with instructions to press a certain number (or numbers) to be transferred to other team members or to anyone else.  Super cool!  Cost: $25/month (show special) but definitely worth it!  I already have it implemented. This product, like many others, would be useful to any business, not just real estate.

[If there's someone I want to stop calling me, I can assign their Caller ID to a realistic greeting which plays 3 tones and then says my phone has been disconnected or is no longer in service. "Please check the number and call again."]

I signed up with a lead generating company, Landvoice, which provides leads and tools that will be useful to my broker associates in generating business.

One of the exhibitors in the expo hall was a professional photography company, Image 1 Studios, which took the picture you see on this page and then put the Colorado scene in the background using Photoshop.  This replaces the lesser quality, unretouched photo that appeared for the first time last week. I have other versions of this photo with white, black and maroon backgrounds — all for $150, with copyright released to me.

There were several vendors selling backlit photo frames for hanging in storefront windows.  I bought a couple of those plus a 1-inch thick 16”x27” frame for hanging in our office window which plays a video of our choose.  Really cool!  We will use it to display active listings to people without them having to come into our office.

Zillow had a drawing for a Tesla if you signed up as a Premier Agent, which I had already done, so I was entered in the drawing, which will be this Friday.  One can never have too many Teslas, right?

I have mentioned only a few of the learnings and purchases from my trip to the NAR convention. As you can tell, I had a good and productive time in San Diego.  Now it’s time to implement some of those great products and services!

[Published Nov. 19, 2015, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section and in four Jefferson County weekly newspapers]
 

HUD Announces Relaxation of Condo Financing Requirements



    This was huge news, timed for release at the NAR convention in San Diego.  A few years ago, HUD implemented re-certification requirements that were completely unreasonable for condo association boards to comply with.  The result was that a majority of condo complexes became “unwarrantable” meaning that FHA and other loans were virtually impossible to obtain. Thanks to NAR’s efforts, HUD has now relaxed those requirements. 

[Read HUD's press release on this topic here: http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/press/press_releases_media_advisories/2015/HUDNo_15-145]  


[Published Nov. 19, 2015, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section and in four Jefferson County weekly newspapers]