Thursday, April 30, 2009

Chicken Little is alive and well

The American news media has something terribly wrong with it. They love to scare the public. I suppose that they have gotten so convincing that the public is hardly a challenge any longer. They have been haranguing on the economy for awhile now and they have us pretty well convinced that it is in the dumper to stay. That is unless we allow Barry and the League of idiots that comprise our congress to fix it. The fix is the federalization of most all of the banking interests in America. They have bailed out a sizeable portion of the heavy hitters and now have their tentacles firmly around the banks and financial institutions. Next stop is health care.

How do you take over health care? First you have to convince America that the current system is a failure. They count the numbers of people without health coverage and say how horrible that is. Never mind that ANYONE can access medical care at the ER of your choice ANYTIME.

Well you have to create a focal point that will create a problem. A health care crisis of some sort.
Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm...........let's see now. How about Swine flu? We start reporting that we have a new viral variant for which there are no vaccines. That could do it. Barry and his gang of morons could then stand tall and nationalize the supply of Relenza and Tamiflu and save the day. All the while they could fast track the development of a vaccine.

Nevermind for the last 100 plus years viruses have been coming and going. There was the Spanish influenza in 1918 that created a world wide pandemic and killed a ton of people. There was the Hong Kong variant that went "pan" on us and knocked off a pretty sizeable number. There was the Asian A-2 that went "demic" and gorked a big portion of the world. The A Bangkok, the A Singapore, etc. etc.

Also, nevermind, that it is the norm for the virus to go into a population of fowl ( A Avion ) or a population of horses ( A Equine ) or Porky's pals the pigs ( A Swine ). So the media sets the stage scaring everyone to death about the BIRD FLU..........................the SWINE FLU. The World Health Organization deals with this year in and year out. When you go to get your flu shot it will have 3 weak little viruses in it. It is trivalent protecting you against 2 A variants and 1 B variant. You go get your shot and you feel kind of protected. That is until a new variant shows up. Then, Oh my gosh !!!!!, I am not protected. What now?

Folks, do you know that the people who die from A flu are either over 90 yoa, immunocompromised, have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease ( ie: emphysema ). That is the long and short of it. If you are a healthy human being your immune system will kick its butt sideways. It is no fun to have the flu. I have had it 5-6 times over my 63 years. I am sitting here being obnoxious writing about it. However, I am way less obnoxious than the ridiculous media that is scaring everyone to death over it.

There is another front to perambulate. How do I know when I have the flu? As opposed to a common upper respiratory infection. I used to sell a very specific medicine for influenza A. The docs I called on would ask or postulate, " How do I know when I am seeing influenza A ?" We would always discuss high fever, malaise, retrobulbar aching ( behind the eyes ), etc. I would always say by the time you do your anti-body titer and send it off to the health department and get an answer the flu will have moved on down the road. Use my drug, amantadine, it is safe in children down to 1 yoa. I sold a boat load of it and even won Man of the Year honors within my company.

I called on this one old country doc up in Blakely, Ga. He had been practicing medicine for about 50 years. I was making my pitch and told him, " Doctor, I know just what you are thinking. How do I know if I am seeing influenza A?" He responded by saying. " No, Lee, I know when I am seeing the A flu. If a person comes into my office and sits right there where you are sitting and tells me that they have the flu, they don't have the flu. They have a head cold. If a man sends his wife in to get me to come out to the car and look him over because his fever is 103, his legs are like noodles and he is aching all over, now that man has the flu." He had it right.

Forget about obsessing over this A-variant of the influenza. If you get it, chances are you are going to outlive it. If you die, it was probably just a matter of time anyways.

Same thing holds true with the reporting you are hearing about the real estate business. The media has it mostly incorrect. There is plenty of money out there for mortgages. The rates are below 5%. You can get in with less than 4% down. If you are a first time buyer you get a, $8k tax credit if you close by December 1. Quit obsessing over the swine flu and let's go buy you a house. Now that is something to get fired up about.

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Newtonian fact: "What goes up................"

A lot of us all around this country of ours are feeling a smack on the head by that man who discovered gravity. I know we are here in Tallahassee and around the state of Florida. I believe that the old failings of mankind are at play. A lot of folks want to be Aesop's grasshopper and play the fiddle and smoke a little hoppergrass and ignore the hard working ants who are putting it away for a rainy day.

I got into real estate in 2002. That was my first year. Man, to apply robust to describe the market would be like describing water as wet. It was up, up and away for all players: buyers, sellers, lenders, realtors and government. Here in the state of Florida our property taxes flew off the chart increasing 100% in 5 years. Property values just floated that tax to injurious levels. Some smart folks put together the Save Our Homes regulations, capping taxes for permanent residents at no more than 3% per year. However, if you sold your home and moved up your taxes could knock you unconscious. I had a very successful client who sold his $400k home and moved to a $1,200k home. His property taxes went from around $3700 per year to almost $10,000 per year. As I said he was successful and able to take that hit but he did not like it. Others of us, less successful, applied the Save Our Homes acronym of SOH to Stay in Our Homes .

Now where did all that money go? It went into the vaults of various cities and municipalities across our state. The coffers were running over. Week after week county commissions and town councils would convene and plan how to spend all that lucre. Where was it written that, that had to be the case? Who said you had to spend all that loot?

Snap forward a few years and you see a Governor get elected in Florida who made a campaign promise based on property tax reform. He has made good his promise. This reform coincided with the bursting of the real estate bubble. Both effects have been synergistic. The one potentiates the other.

Now here we are. Cities and municipalities decry the depletion of funds. The state of Florida's 2009 budget is sure to be the leanest in many years. You see and hear every day about school Districts that can't make their budgets work. Cities say they may have to lay off workers. What ???? The sun is suddenly coming up in the west ! Used to be if you could land a job with the state government, you were set for life. We had a former Governor who referred to such people as lard bricks. ( His term, not mine ). They just went to an office and sat their and put in their time and one day retired and collected their pension. What a country !!

Once again, Sir Isaac Newton's law of physics reminds us that " What goes up, must come down." We also glean the genius of Aesop who taught us that it is best to put away during the plentiful years for the, sure to follow, lean years.

Our current circumstances will improve one day. That grasshopper will play his fiddle again and the circle of economic life will continue on. Sure is not fun to watch it, nor experience it.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Phone calls are Phundamental

I am sitting here watching University of North Carolina laying the lumber to Michigan State in the NCAA national basketball final game. It is really pretty lopsided. I am telling myself that when UNC gets up by 30, I am going to bed. I watched the first half pretty closely and it looks like the looming stat is MSU's number of turnovers. It is sort of hard to believe that a team could get this deep into the tournament with that kind of deficit in fundamentals.

When I coached baseball to little leaguers I always told them the same thing: " Baseball is a game of catching and throwing." The team that does that the best usually wins. At that level that was an infallible truism. Not many 12 year olds had the overpowering bat.

I am currently helping my son in law take up the great game of golf. He is starting to play a lot better tee to green but his scores are not coming down as quickly as he would like. He has yet to break 100. What would you tell him? I told him: " If you want your scores to come down, practice chipping and putting until your back aches and your hands bleed. Then you will see your scores coming down." The fundamentals of that game are irrefutable.

The same goes for every pursuit. Get the fundamentals down and you will win. One thing that has puzzled me ever since I got into the real estate business is the glaring deficit of fundamentals. Out of 1400 agents practicing in Tallahassee, year in and year out, you see the same names in the top 20% of producers. Where is the difference? I think that one fundamental stands taller than all others in this business. RETURNING OF PHONE CALLS.

I am absolutely amazed at the numbers of people who will not return your phone calls. I don't care if you are calling me to tell me that you just cut your toenails. You leave me a message and I will be back with you in 30 minutes tops. I cannot believe the numbers of Realtors who, if they return your calls at all, get back days later. That, my friends, is a business fundamental. It takes no major understanding of the business, no superior intellect or analytical ability. Someone calls you, CALL THEM BACK.

Someone explained this paucity of professionalism to me once this way. " You can not allow other people to set your schedule for you. You must be Master of that process. Just because someone leaves you a phone message, it is giving up power in controlling your day to drop all else to call them back." WHAAAAAAATTTTTTT????????? I cannot for the life of me imagine that sort of logic. I graduated from college with a major in Business Administration. I took a Business Communication course taught by Dr. Paul Jones who had a degree from the Harvard business school. On the first day of class he taught us above all else, always, always, always return phone calls.

I headed up the public affairs campaign for DuPont in Florida during the 1996 legislature. I had a lucrative budget to throw at a very controversial measure before the legislature. I was in the throws of hiring consultants. We were paying them in the neighborhood of $30k for 2 months worth of work. I remember calling this one consultant who came highly recommended. I got her voice-mail. The message went like this " I am sorry that I missed your call. Please leave me a message and I will get back to you AT MY EARLIEST CONVENIENCE." When I heard " at my earliest convenience " I thought what a crock that is. I did not even leave a message. I gave someone else her $30k. I don't believe she ever caught on because she was a flop at the consultant game and I never heard of her after that year.

Phone calling is a business fundamental that must not ever be neglected. I am a fanatic at it. I return phone calls of people I don't particularly enjoy speaking with. If you leave me a phone message and I don't get back to you, send flowers. I have died.