Monday, December 14, 2009

Foreclosure a boon ?!?!

Well I suppose there is somebody somewhere who can look at an empty glass and see good things. This is an interesting perspective from an article int he WSJ.

Defaults could end up being a boon WASHINGTON – Dec. 14, 2009 – The increasing willingness to abandon homeownership in favor of renting could, in a counterintuitive way, be an important step in the economic recovery, some analysts say.The U.S. homeownership rate declined to 67.6 percent as of September, down from its peak of 69.2 percent in 2004. Much of the reason for this decline is the number of foreclosures.Deutsche Bank Securities expects 21 million U.S. households to be underwater by the end of 2010. If 20 percent of these homeowners default, losses to banks and investors could exceed $400 billion.While these losses are definitely bad for banks, relief from paying a mortgage makes more money available – an estimated $5 billion a month – for consumers to purchase other things.“It’s a stealth stimulus,” says Christopher Thornberg of Beacon Economics, a consulting firm specializing in real estate. “The quicker these people shed their debts, the faster the economy is going to heal and move forward again.”Source: The Wall Street Journal, Mark Whitehouse (12/10/2009)

Sunday, December 13, 2009


I am a huge football fan. I took great note in the selection of this season's best football player. The Heisman trophy supposedly goes to the best football player in the country. As an Alabama fan I was delighted to see the award go to Mark Ingram. However, I have to say that I am not so sure that he is even the best player on the University of Alabama's football team itself. There are some players on that team that are equally superlative. Mike Johnson, the offensive left tackle; Javier Arenas the defensive corner back and return specialist; Rolando McClain the linebacker and certainly the defensive lineman Terence Cody.

There is something within all of us that drives us to recognize excellence. In your job place I would be willing to bet that you have some sort of award function that does such. Over a plate of institutional fish, chicken with vegetable medley some authority gets up to recognize the top spaghetti stretcher of the year. Everyone jumps up and cheers and has a shot of champagne to add to the delusion that this whole rigamerole has some sort of galactic relevance.

I used to be a little league baseball president and I always opposed the selection of All Star teams. That is a very political process where coaches, pressured by parents, offer up their own little player selected as the best they have to offer. We would assemble 15 or so of these little tykes and then go play in a District tournament If you were lucky perhaps you advanced to the next level. Then all the parents got the privilege of cancelling vacation plans and devoting unmeasurable effort to raise the money to make the trip for a week long tourney. If things worked out well perhaps you could come back as State champions, Regional champions maybe even NATIONAL CHAMPIONS.

I always wondered what was wrong with allowing the team with the best win/loss record to go and represent us at the next level. Forget all the political jockeying that goes into selecting the superlative. The problem with this process at all levels and in all slices of our lives is that the selection process is subjective and unfair. Whereas we place people on a stage and applaud them the damage is done to the people who never get to stand on a stage and be applauded. The process is then an overall damaging one because untold numbers of people come away believing "Man, am I a big loser. I was not chosen as shoe lace clipper of the year."

These sorts of things bother me and are best observed in the crowning of the Miss America pagaent. You are going to sit there and tell me that one dimpled, coiffured, curvaceous, made up, coached and staged female human being is superlative to the hundreds of thousands, even millions of beautiful women in this land of 300 million people? I just do not buy it. Yet millions of people sit and watch the process with breaths held in anticipation of just whom that person is going to be.

The least subjective process that looms before us presently is the crowning of America's best NCAA 1A football champion. Once again, I am an Alabama fan and I am delighted that my team is in a position to become the 2009 National Champion. How rotten is a process that builds some sort of computer formulae and then creates a secret society called the BCS schools. Some are in that circle many others are not. The BCS bowls adamantly oppose the unraveling of this fraternity. Why? Simply stated..........................millions of dollars of revenue. We now have the BCS championship game involving the teams ranked #1 and #2 by this onerous system. Then we have 35-40 meaningless bowl match-ups. At the end of all this we crown a mythical national champion. This has been the case for as long as I have been alive. It is no more relevant than the Miss America pagaent. The answer to all this? An NCAA Division 1A football playoff.

Sports Illustrated has this season posed a national playoff. At the end of this week's issue highlighting Alabama's winning the SEC Championship, they place a little column entitled Wouldn't It Be Fun? They take the top 16 BCS teams and seed them into a two bracket playoff. It goes: In the left bracket: #1 Alabama vs #16 Pitt; #8 Ohio State vs #9 Iowa; #5 Florida vs #12 Va. Tech; #4 Cincinnatti vs #13 LSU. In the right bracket we see: #2 Texas vs #15 Oregon State; #7 Oregon vs #10 Georgia Tech; #6 Boise State vs #11 Penn State; #3 TCU vs #14 BYU. Each winner plays another winner into 4 second round games then winners play in 2 semi-final games and then those winners play for the National Championship. The team that mans up and plays through all the brackets and is left standing is the National Champion. That is exactly the way they do it in Basketball. No one grouses about paper champions in that pursuit. The way we do it now produces a Superlative? I think not.

There is a supplement to the local newspaper that comes out in late summer. It is called Whose Who in Real Estate. How do you get your name into this superlative publication? It is really rather simple. You have to be a licensee of course. Then you have to send a couple hundred dollars to the newspaper and then your name will be amongst Whose Who in Real Estate. It does not matter if you even actually sell anything. What an exercise in smoke and mirrors.

If you need a Realtor ask around amongst your friends as to who they might have used to sell or buy. If they liked the practitioner then it is likely that you will like them. Practicing real estate is not anywhere near neurosurgery. The licensing process weeds out most of the unscrupulous. You cannot have a criminal record and get a license. You can lose that license through unscrupulous enough behaviour, however. Seek someone you know and trust and you will be in good hands.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Would you rather be Appreciated or Depreciated?

Here are some interesting numbers for you to contemplate if you own a home or are considering owning a home. These come to me from a subscription to Trends, compiled by Mr. Don Pickett. He describes the numbers as ballpark however they ring pretty true by my reckoning.

First off let me say that the ownership of real property as an investment has traditionally been built around the principle of equity. You establish equity in two ways. 1) You pay down your mortgage. 2) You hope that your property increases in value over time or appreciates.

Following are numbers reflecting the principle of appreciation over the last 10 years. You will note that the numbers will reflect a % of the year increase in value over the previous year and the average price of a typical home in Leon County in that year.

YEAR............... % CHANGE...................... AVERAGE PRICE

1999...................... 3%
2000...................... 6
2001.......................8........................... $153,664
2002...................... 4............................. 159,481
2003.................... 14............................. 181,191
2004.................... 12 .............................202,835
2005.................... 15 .............................233,826
2006...................... 8 .............................253,546
2007...................... 2............................. 257,874
2008.................... (6)............................ 242,603
2009 (thru Sep) (10.5)......................... 217,214

Once again, we see the application of the law of gravity. What goes up must surely come down. Look at the average price for a home in Leon County 2001 vs 2006. What you bought '01 was worth approximately $100k more 5 years down the road in 2006. What a run.

It has now changed. In my opinion it has changed forever.

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Sunday, October 11, 2009

Humility in a Waiting room

I worked for a pharmaceutical company for 30 years, 1972 to 2002. For pretty close to 20 years I carried a bag as a detail man. I called on physicians in their offices. Accessing physicians in 1972 was much less challenging than 2002. That is why I moved to the Public Affairs sector of the company as a Government Affairs Manager along the way. Anyway as you can imagine I spent a lot of time in physicians waiting rooms hoping for access to the prescriber. I facetiously used to tell people that I was a professional waiter.

I was waiting to see Dr. Rick Damron at what became Medical Group of North Florida. It was 1986 in October. The fall baseball classic was underway. It was right around 5:30 in the PM. I had been waiting about an hour. There was an old man sitting across from me so I struck up a conversation with him. He seemed old to me. I was 40 years of age back then.

The subject quickly turned to baseball. The Mets and the Red Sox were in the Series. The night before a Red Sox player, Bill Buckner, had allowed a ball to roll between his legs allowing the series to go to the 7th game. The Mets would ultimately win the Series. Buckner has been the subject of derision and vilification ever since that night. I was a Winthrop Park Little League head coach at that time. I was careful not to draw the old man too tightly into analyzing the elements of the previous night. He was out of his league. After all I was a head coach. What was he? I was soon to find out.

The old man had been sort of quiet as I shot my baseball accumen across the room to him. He was responsive and seemed to be interested in my observations. I could also tell that he has preoccupied with his wife being back in an exam room. As I continued to blather on, the door to the hallway aligning the exam rooms opens and out comes Dr. Damron.

I thought he was coming out to give me a couple of minutes to pitch my latest product. Instead he moved directly to the old man. This is what he said: " Mr. Barber, I read your column all the time. I have even listened to games you have broadcast back in my youth. Could you possibly give me your autograph for my father? He is a big fan."

Dr. Damron then headed back to the exam rooms. As he exited he turned to me and said,
" Sorry I can't see you today. I am running behind." I bid farewell to the old man and in a complete state of embarrassment I was happy to get out of that medical complex. I am not the quickest study on earth but it dawned on me finally who the old man was.

He was Red Barber. He was one of the most respected baseball minds in America. He had been the broadcaster for the New York Yankees for a little better than 10 years. He also did the same job for the Phillies and I think the Dodgers. He wrote a weekly column from right here in Tallahassee called From the Cat bird Seat. That column was syndicated and appeared weekly in major newspapers all over the country. Some 6-7 years later as I was working in my front yard an ESPN news crew stopped in front of my house, while I was doing some edging, and asked how to get to a particular address. I asked them where they were heading and they told me to Red Barber's house. Red Barber had just passed away.

I reflected back on my earlier experience with Mr. Barber. He had been so kind and patient with my infantile observations about the baseball game. Had I been in his shoes I would have curtly dismissed someone like myself. Imagine the restraint I would have had to have suppressed were I him speaking with someone like me. " Do you have any idea who I am? Do you think that I am intrested in your weak opinion about the World Series? Why I have been the play by play announcer in several World Series games."

I was humbled and he was a perfect example of humility. That lesson taught by example has stayed with me to this day.

Friday, October 2, 2009

One In Four

Do me a favor. Go outside and stand across the street from your home. Weather is nice should not be too strenuous. Now look at your house and the three other ones adjacent to yours. Got that picture? OK, now think about this. One of those three neighbors next to you is a financially distressed property. They are in some phase of Lis Pendens. They are headed to foreclosure. Perhaps you, yourself are one of them. Takeaway message is that there are a lot of people hurting out there.

Statistics are that 1 in 4 are in trouble. They have somewhere in their past had a mortgage broker or banking official sign them up for an interest only loan, an adjustable rate mortgage or refinanced them at 125% loan to value (ltv). Your house was worth $200,000. Some mortgage company, perhaps by e-mail, said to you we are going to refinance you at 125% LTV. Going to give you a great rate and send you a $50k check to do with whatever you want. It just sounded too good to pass up. You did it and now the value of your house has eroded to $125k. You owe $250k on a house worth half that much. What are you going to do? You cannot refinance. You have no equity. You cannot sell it because people can buy houses all around you for $100 to 150k.

Now throw in the loss of a job. You put in a call to your lender. What can we do? Can we sell it short? Well we will assign a mitigator of some kind to your case and see what shakes out. In the mean time send us all your recent bank statements, three years of tax returns and find a Realtor who will work for 1% because no way are we, the bank, paying them the going rate for commission. And, oh by the way, whatever loss we take on the sale of your house you are going to sign a note for at 12% interest.

Now put yourself on the other side of this scenario. You are a buyer. You have a little money and a decent job and credit rating. You may even have a loan commitment letter from the lender. You are licking your chops to go buy a foreclosed property and/or a short sale. You find one. You have a Realtor who has asked you to sign an agreement that you will pay thier side of the commission when and if the bank refuses to pay them. You find a property you love. You sign a contract offer and your Realtor delivers it to the Sellers agent who in turn delivers it to the lender. Then the dance begins. The other Realtor puts in a call to the lender asking them to consider the offer. 1-2-3-4-5-6 weeks go by the lender has not returned anyone's call. Why? Because they are inundated with similar requests. Oh they have also cut their staff to the bone. You forgot that the recession was all across the board. Six weeks has turned into 6 months. You have tired of the dance, however, you signed a legitimate contract that binds you to the will of the lender.

Short sale turns into Long-Long sale. It is most likely going to cost you extra money because, guess what, the bank ain't gonna repair ANYTHING. Your Realtor gets out of the business because all they are doing is spending money driving you around, paying MLS fees and all the other operational costs. The bank is probably going to refuse to pay them their commission anyway. They have to find a job waiting tables, driving a cab, something that can provide them some cash flow. So you are left on your own trying to figure out this nightmare you have started.

Choose your battles wisely. Affiliate with a Realtor who has the experience and staying power you need. These are troubled times we operate in. Is it going to get better soon? Who knows that it is not going to get worse? The Feds cannot bail us out ad infinitim. You might want to reconsider chasing the foreclosure or short sale. There is a lot of risk associated with the bulk of them.

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Where were you?

I remember where I was when President Kennedy was shot, so do you. I remember where I was when Bobby Kennedy was shot, so do you. I remember where I was when Dr. King was shot. I will always remember the day I watched Neil Armstrong take that first step on the lunar landscape. You have to be a mature American to recall all those events.

You can be a child as young as 12 and remember the most significant event since the shot heard around the world that was fired at Ft. Sumter, South Carolina somewhere around 1861. That event was September 11, 2001. The Ft. Sumter event was the impetus that led to the most blood ever spilled here in America since the Revolutionary war.

When those planes flew into the World Trade Center and our Pentagon approximately 3,000 innocent Americans shed their blood, innocent, collateral damage in a cowardly act of terrorism. Since then one of the most evil dictators in history was captured, tried and hanged. Our soldiers still are taking it to the terrorists and those who have harbored terror. Many additional lives have been lost in an effort to make you and I feel safe once again.

I was in Baton Rouge, La. with DuPont. I had flown in on 9/10. Myself and 2 colleagues were doing software training for 2 cardiology groups assembled at the Baton Rouge Hilton. I had been to breakfast and had read a little article in USA Today about the establishment of 911 as the emergency number for the nation. Some sort of commemoration was scheduled somewhere on 9/11 to apply a little numerology. When I left my room to go down to the meeting room my colleague, Roger, came out of his room with a funny look on his face and announced that an airliner had just flown into the World trade center. I thought back about the article I had read and I said " No that is just some sort of gimmick to promote the establishment of 911 as the nationwide emergency number." Boy was I ever wrong.

We went to the meeting room checked in with our management and called off the training and went to pack. I was fortunate enough to think about getting a rental car. I had National Car Rental on speed dial. After I speed dialed it about 10 times I was able to successfully reserve a car. By the time my colleague from Birmingham, who had driven down, got us to the airport all airports across the country had been closed. Air Force One was heading to Louisiana, where I was. I had a guy at the rental car desk offer me $1000.00 for my rental car. He was trying to get home to Los Angeles. My other colleague and I drove the 8 hours back to Tallahassee and then he went on to Sarasota. We were scared. I just wanted to be home with my family.

I remember my daughter stood in line in Gainesville at the University of Florida, along with her room mates, to donate blood. People went to church in droves. Retailers sold out of flags. The mood of the country was anger towards the terrorists.

Where are we now? Blood donations have become a way to buy dinner for some. People stopped going to church in droves. Republicans hate the Democrats. Democrats hate the Republicans. Everyone hates the war. Tea parties abound. GM's principal owner is the U.S. Government. Financial institutions are owned by the government. The government wants to own health care.

What scared us to death back on 9/11/01 is now just a bare memory. If you fly into New York City there are new structures going up to replace those twin towers. It is hard to remember what they looked like in our mind's eye.

The same resolute planning that effected 9/11/01 is still going on in some Al Queda camp somewhere. Death to America still motivates people to strap bombs on thier children and send them into a crowd.

I wonder when and what the next 9/11 will be. Sure makes you pause and reflect doesn't it.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Coaching, the key to success

I have been thinking about the importance of coaches in our lives. I have occupied the role of coach off and on over my 63 years of life more than once. I have been the coach and I have been the recipient of coaching. I suppose that successful parents, teachers, legislators, executives, sales people, the list goes on exponentially, all have elements of coaching within them.

A member of the media once asked the legendary coach, Paul ' Bear' Bryant what made him such a great coach. The Bear answered back simply " Great players." I am not so sure that is the fact. There is just no doubt that it takes a special gift to be able to get the best out of people.

I remember a great baseball player named Jim Abbott. He was a gold medal winning, Olympian baseball pitcher. The fact that he only had one arm was of special note to the media and to anyone who watched him pitch. Not to him. I remember reading an article about him in Sports Illustrated many years ago. The one thing that stands out in my memory is the tribute he paid to his parents. They instilled in him a belief that he could do anything he wanted to. He went on to play in the Major leagues and was a notable contributor to his team.

What is it that makes us believe in ourselves? That is the essence of coaching. To make someone believe that they can do something special. Why would anyone be worth $4 million dollars a year to coach. Yet we have two great examples of that moving into the 2009/10 collegiate football season. Coach Meyer at University of Florida and Coach Saban at University of Alabama both command those sorts of salaries. Why? Because they have proven that they can make young men believe that they can win.

Let's face it, not many of us have the talent to golf like Tiger Woods, hit a baseball like Chipper Jones, pull down a rebound like Charles Barkley, lead a winning football team like Tim Tebow, serve a tennis ball like Roger Federer. These are flesh and blood human beings who are comprised of the same elements you and I are. Now I wonder how well Tiger Woods could hit a 90 mph fastball? We all know how well Charles Barkley plays golf. Betcha Chipper and Tebow would not get far in the U S Open in tennis. Federer would most likely fail at executing a high powered offense in football. Yet in their own element they have the mindset and belief that they can win.

I remember a scene in Return of the Jedi. The little lizard like Jedi Master, Yoda, used the force to raise the X-Wing fighter out of the swamp of Degobah and set it on dry land. Luke Skywalker had tried to do the same thing a few minutes before. As he watched Yoda do what he could not he exclaimed, " I don't believe it ! " Yoda retorted, " That, is why you failed."

My son was a pretty good little baseball player. I coached him from the time he could walk. I coached him 'til he was 14. I then turned him over to Coach Bill Lord. He went from being about a 5 or 6 on the baseball player index to an 8 or 9, almost immediately. He went on to play shortstop at Lincoln HS. He made All Stars in every league he ever played in. Of 50 + walk on attempts at Tallahassee Community College my son was the only one who Coach McLeod kept. Coach Bill Lord made my son believe that he was better than I ever could. That same man coached me when I entered the Real Estate business. He made me believe that I could do it. I have done it. I have been successful in real estate sales.

Realtors are coaches. They take sellers or buyers and help them put forth the best elements of their real estate offerings or desires. They think Win-Win. They teach begin with the end in mind. They teach others to put first things first. They help people synergize the elements they possess to buy or sell. They seek first to understand and then to be understood. They set an example of proactivity. Then, throughout their careers they sharpen the saw. Those are the Seven habits of highly effective people. That book stays on the table beside my bed. I read it and the scriptures regularly.

Do not go into the game of selling or buying real estate without the coach. You will win if you do. You will lose if you don't.

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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Renting........the wave of the future???

I have noted since I have been in this business that statistics suggest that 60% of Californians rent. Noticed this Associated Press article this morning and I am posting it to my BLOG. I am of the personal opinion that the hay days of home ownership are fading away. It happened so quickly that we are all still sitting here scratching our heads.

My opinion only and worth about what you are paying for it.


Associated Press
August 6, 2009

The rate of homeownership is forecast to keep tumbling in the next decade to lows not seen since the 1980s, a trend that could redefine a key element of the American dream even after the housing market recovers.

The percentage of households that own homes hit a peak of almost 70% in 2004 and 2005. By the second quarter of this year, that slipped to 67.4%, according to the Census Bureau. Now, a University of Utah analysis projects it'll drop to about 63.5% by 2020 — the lowest since 1985.

"It will fall steadily by about half a point per year," says Arthur C. Nelson, director of the university's Metropolitan Research Center. "We'll have far more renters in the future."
Homeownership has long been viewed a key to building stable communities and middle-class families. Federal policy encouraged it with tax credits and government-backed mortgages. Now, demographic changes, strict mortgage rules, energy-saving policies and lessons learned in this housing crisis are driving more people to rent.

About 57% of the 30.3 million housing units added from 2005 to 2020 will be rentals, Nelson says. "So many of our federal and state and local policies are driven by the assumption that homeownership is inherently preferred over renting," he says. The housing collapse may have an impact.

"We're returning more to what was normal in the 1960s," says Dowell Myers, housing demographer at the University of Southern California. "People didn't buy homes then as an investment. They bought them to raise families."
Renting also may be more appealing because:

• Households are smaller. The youngest of 79 million Baby Boomers will turn 56 by 2020 and many will be empty nesters who favor small homes. The 20-something millennial generation is at a peak age for renting."What we used to think of as the typical American family — married couple with children — is really not typical anymore," says Mark Obrinsky, chief economist for the National Multi Housing Council in Washington, D.C.

•It's tougher to buy. The subprime mortgage crisis is tightening credit availability.

•Some arenew to the USA. Most recent immigrants rent.

•Somewant to save energy. From tax credits to mass transit, going green is reshaping growth.
Homeownership is not inherently good or bad, Obrinsky says. "Let's give people the best set of housing choices. They want to be a renter, let them be a renter. If they want to be an owner and they can afford to be, let them be an owner."

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Reflections on justice

I have had a strange week. In the midst of the week I received a call from a representative of a Home Owners Association here in Tallahassee. The essence of his rant was that I could potentially be named in a law suit. What ??? That sort of pronouncement gets my attention. The essence of his fervor was that a home owner who had bought a listing from a seller I represented was taking down trees. I, of course, wanted to know what that had to do with me.

His psychotic response was that the fellow had declared that I had not provided him with a copy of the covenants and restrictions surrounding this association. Thusly he had failed to seek the permission of the Homes Association. I informed him that I had provided that information to his agent and that it was the fiduciary responsibility of his agent to provide the C&R to him. I then terminated the discussion electing to make a donation to NAMI ( the National Association of Mental Illness ) rather than donating my time directly to him, a compelling representative of the cause.

I concluded my week by answering a summons to jury duty. It is not a good idea to ignore such. It is always a time consuming and mildly frustrating investiture of time. I was in a pool of approximately 200. My name was called to go to a particular court room and I was invited into a jury box. There were approximately 20-25 of us in the box. That number would be winnowed down to 6 to hear a particular case.

The judge presiding over this case was Circuit Court judge Kevin Davey. He used to live right across the corner of the golf course from me. I have always held a huge amount of admiration and respect for this man and his family. His daughter, Erica, played softball for me at the age of 9. She passed away about 13 years ago from osteomyeloma. I can still see in my mind's eye the look of determination on her steely little face as she played softball. She played with absolute pain in every movement. Yet she ran and squealed and laughed and had a wonderful time as 9 year olds are supposed to do. She looms in my mind as a great example of what it takes to be a champion. She never seemed to give up in the face of long, long odds. Her family took every step with her and they set a wonderful example of support. She is gone on to laugh and play with the angels in heaven. The family is left behind to deal with this onerous world that we continue on in. Where is the justice in that? Yet, this man continues to stand watch over the process of justice.

Well, I digress. The court was Civil Court. There sitting in the defendant's chair was another real estate broker, a very successful one. In the plaintiff's chair was a builder, developer of numerous subdivisions in north Florida. The charge was that the broker had acted with malfeasance in his fiduciary responsibility with the handling of escrow funds. I will not know how the verdict comes out on this. The trial begins on Monday I was fortunate enough to be dismissed as a potential juror. I was happy for that fact.

These two brushes with the wheels of justice this week caused me to reflect. The system is in place in this free country of ours to deal with malfeasance. Those of us who feel taken advantage of can utilize this system of justice that has evolved within our nation. As we have watched the Senate hearings surrounding the Sotomeyor appointment to the Supreme court we should be focused on the extraordinary effort we take to maintain this system. We may seek redress via the court system regardless of our status or station in life. If you are a homeless person who gets run over by a gorilla pushing a shopping cart at Target and suffer bodily harm, trust me, there is an armada of barristers of the law standing in place to help you seek damages. This tort system of ours is what it is. The courts are jammed with silly, frivolous law suits. Many claims get settled before they ever get into court. But we would rather have too much law than not enough.

As a licensed practitioner I am held to standards of performance. I can mis-step along a huge gauntlet of law and regulation, ethics and competency. Many, many eyes watch what I do. If I fail to perform then I deserve to be challenged. Liability looms large. That is why I carry errors and ommissions insurance. To be without is like driving around without auto coverage.

I am currently reading The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, by Edward Gibbons. At the outset of the book the author points out that Rome evolved to dominate the world in the first century because of the system of law and government that they had in place. I am assuming that Rome fell largely because that system eroded away at some point in time. They ultimately became a conquered and fallen nation.

Remember: " One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." We should give all we have to preserve it.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Florida Legislature Repairs Home Inspection

The very first deal I put together was disassembled by a home inspector. I won't go into who he was. My buyer had put in a deal on a home in Summerbrook. It was a lovely home and they ordered a home inspection via a practitioner referred by her Father who was a real estate broker in Georgia. Mrs. buyer went to be present at the home inspection. She was an attractive lady and this had a special appeal to this home inspector who I later learned considered himself a ladies man. He spoke to her off the cuff telling here that he would not buy this home because it was stucco. Nevermind that the Seller had a stucco inspection in place that declared the home free of defects. He did not place anything on his report relative to the stucco being deficient. He merely verbalized the damaging proclamation to my buyer. The damage was done and she insisted on terminating the offer. I had shown them about 20 homes and filled out all the paperwork.

Moreover, I had just recently become licensed as a salesperson. To review that process: 63 hours in a formal class, passing a 100 question end of class exam, Taking a very difficult DBPR license exam and then 45 hours of formal post-license class time and passing of another 100 question exam. Total cost of that endeavor, roughly $1000.00.

This home inspector had just killed my deal so I looked into what sort of licensure he had pursued to get into a position of deal destruction. Imagine my surprise to learn that his position required no licensure at all. NOTTA !!! Yet he and others of his ilk play very prominently into a real estate transaction and carry immense influence. The fact that my 2 year grand-daughter and her neighbor could become home inspectors the day after they decided to do so blew my mind. As I write this post home inspectors, in Florida, still require zero licensing requirements.

I had just recently been streeted through a buyout of our division by another company. Prior to that I had lobbied the Florida legislature off and on for 30 years. I had friends in the legislature and made mention of this inequity to some of them. Simultaneously a colleague in my same division had decided to become a home inspector in North Carolina. This is what it required to become such and had been so for many years: 100 hours of class room time; a one year apprentice-ship under a licensee, performing 100 home inspections; passing a fairly difficult state exam.

I was told by one of my acquaintances that a home inspection/mold remediation bill was soon to be on the books. Senate Bill 2234 was passed by the '06 legislature and becomes law 7/1/2010. It will require licensure of home inspectors and mold remediators. They will be required to sit through 120 hours of class time; carry certain minimums in liability insurance and 14 hours of continuing education prior to each licensing renewal. Unfortunateley, those home inspectors who have been in the business for so many years can be grand-fathered into licensure.

When I decided that I wanted to become a real estate broker this is what was required: One year of salesperson servitude under a licensed Broker; 72 hours of class room instruction; passing the class test; passing the DBPR hard, hard state exam; 60 hours of post-license class time and passing that exam. Add it all up and I had 240 hours of classroom instruction and the stress of 4 very difficult formal exams and one year of servitude.

This post is not about trashing home inpsectors. There are some very competent practitioners here in Florida. Some are certified by state and national certification associations. That is not, however, licensure. If I have to jump through the difficult hurdles required to become a real estate broker, then please require that those who can kill my deal, at a minimum, be licensed.

The Florida legislature bought that argument and a little less than a year from now the playing field will be leveled somewhat. Now all we need is for the market to rebound. That is a whole different subject to post on. I do that bi-weekly under The Tallahassee Market on my website at

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Remembering Craig Hasty

This post is about a fellow named Craig Hasty. He and his Father, Del, and his little miniature dachsund, Sammy, lived just down the street from me for many years. I remember the first time I met Craig. He was coming down the sidewalk wearing marine style camouflage complete with boots. I was walking my bassett hound, Cleo. Craig and Cleo immediately fell in love with one another. Craig would always fall all over her, rubbing her ears and proclaiming, " Cleo, just a big, fat, loveable dog." I always referred to Cleo as the Cleopottamus. Craig loved that nickname for Cleo and often referred to her as the Cleopottamus. He was always bringing her bones from steak or rib cookouts and just dropping in to see her.

He became a family friend. After he took up running, he would run ( not jog ) past our house in the early hours of the morning. Sometimes we would hear his boot steps down our sidewalk as he picked up our paper and delivered it to our front door. We were one of several neighbors he performed this special service for. An acquaintance called me one morning to warn me that he saw a strange character in camouflage running around in our front yard early, early in the morning. The purpose of the call was accompanied with " I know you have two pretty daughters and I just thought you should know." I told him that was our neighbor, Craig, and he was a friend to my whole family, including my pretty daughters.

Craig was a little bit different. I never learned the cause of his mental development being slowed. He was stuck somewhere in adolescence though he was a man in his late 30's perhaps 40's. Del was a retired military officer and Craig lived with him. I believe his Mother had passed away some years earlier. Craig could drive and would often see me working in the yard and pull into our driveway just to visit. He always wore his camouflage fatigues and often a little black beret. I do not ever remember him being in a bad mood or saying an unkind thing about anyone, ever. He always addressed me as Mr. Vass although I told him often to call me Lee.

He was simply a sweet person. My wife often shared her baked goodies with Craig and his Father. They had a next door neighbor whom Craig declared a Saint. She often sent them meals and looked after them in many ways.

The news came that Del had cancer. Our immediate thought was what on earth would happen to Craig. Craig cared for his Dad as best he could and the cancer seemed to take a slow circuitous approach. Craig became even more esconced in running and joined Gulf Winds Track club. He poured his heart and soul into that association and ran several events including marathons. He was always proud of his ability to finish events. I was always amazed at his ability to run long distances in impressive times in fatigues and boots. That club became a family to Craig. He spoke to me of specific members and I could tell that he had made many good, solid friends there.

The day came that Del succumbed to the cancer. It was exactly 3 weeks later that Craig went to join him. He died in Taylor County, I believe. He went out for a run on one of the hottest days of the year. He ran and ran and ran without stopping, without hydrating and just keeled over and died. Those of us who knew him realized that he was smart enough to know that he could end his life in such an exercise.

I often think of him and people like him. It is common to wonder why the Great God who controls the universe and is said to know when a sparrow falls, places people like Craig Hasty in our midst. I believe that such people are precious to Him and He envelopes them in a special veil of protection. They are not capable of petty gossip, larcenous tendencies nor egregious behavior. They are placed in our midst for us to reflect upon and ask ourselves is the rat race we run really all that important? Craig's world was pretty small and simple. We would all be a lot better off involving ourselves in small and simple.

These times we live in are taking us back to that juncture. The world has consumed itself into a world wide depression. We will survive it only if we simplify our appetites and look to the Craig Hastys in our midst. I miss my visits with Craig. I know he is in a better place with his Mother and Father together. I also believe that he still has some time to rub on Cleo who left us about 5 years ago. His little Sammy is somewhere close by as well. I am just positive that he is happy and fulfilled. I hope to see him again one day. Hope I am worthy.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Predatory Purchasing II

I am re-posting this earlier BLOG. It bears re-visiting.

In the mid-seventies I was in Long Island, New York on business. It was a week long stay. While I was there an Eastern airlines jet went down. The death toll was nearly 100. I clearly recall that the news reports covered the fact that before authorities could secure the crash site, other human beings were approaching the scene and stealing jewelry, wallets, purses and other personal items off the corpses. That has always loomed very large in my mind as to just how low humankind can sink.

It hardly parallels in an analogy but I have been thinking about that experience here lately as I represent people as Sellers and Buyers in our current real estate market. The mindset in a large number of people is that many sellers are under extreme duress in selling thier homes. This market represents an opportunity to try and obtain an extraodinary purchase. In other words many buyers turn into predators trying to benefit at the crash site of the current real estate downturn.

There is little compassion displayed in many of the offers that I have had to handle within the last few months. The prime victim is the person who has not been able to make a payment for awhile on thier homes. They are heading into foreclosure or short sale. The Buyer armed with a sufficient line of credit or cash moves in for the kill. Never mind that the seller is down on thier luck, financially.

The predatory purchaser wants to obtain that property at an extreme discount, hang the circumstances of the poor property owner.Now, I know that we live in a free market economy. I am all in favor of getting a good deal on just about anything I go to purchase. However, I feel that common decency should drive us in the direction of offering a fair price for property. Low ball offers have always been a part of our business however the current market we are in seems to bring out the predator in some of the more unscrupulous. You see their signs on every street corner, " Will pay cash for houses, quickly."

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Volunteer Doltism

I read a great editorial this week in the Democrat by Bob Gabordi. He was opining concerning people who sit next to you at sporting events and scream out criticism and obscenities at players, coaches, officials, cheerleaders, grounds crew, weathermen, the person who sang the National anthem, etc. You know the ones I mean. They look like the polar opposite of an athlete. They are generally morbidly obese and shun personal hygiene. They always seem to find a seat near me at such events.

Mr. Gabordi was saying that such people should have to seek licensure for such a privilege. They should be made to pass an examination that qualifies them to speak out on the nuances of how to pitch to a batter with one base open in a tie game during the third phase of an equatorial equinox. Once they have established thier expertise then we can hang on their every gutterally engineered comment. Until they pass such a test then they must, by law, keep their opinions to themselves.

I responded to him with the following perspective. I believe that such people who peform thusly do society an advanced service. Lump them in with the people who wear offensive tee shirts, place distasteful bumber stickers on their cars, tattoo themselves with antisocietal rhetoric, and pierce themselves in strange places.

If we were to legislate that people with IQ's below 70 must wear some sort of indication of that fact, in a public display, on thier person at all times, the ACLU would have a field day. Yet these people voluntarily display such in their behaviour and their choice of outward appearance. I think we are a very fortunate society that being the case.

An example. Once upon a time my good golf buddy and I were getting ready to tee off at Seminole golf course for a relaxing 4 hour visit mixed with violent thrashing of golf clubs. As is the case, often, the starter sent another twosome to join us. One of these golfers looked like a character from the movie Scarface . Clenched in his goon-like face was a cigar of enormous proportion. On his tee shirt was a declarative addressed to Seminole fans that was offensively distasteful. It had to do with an unnatural act involving those of Seminole allegiance. How fortunate were we that we could read this fellow's shirt and make a snap decision that we were NOT going to spend our next 4 hours with him. I told the starter so. I went on to suggest that it was a poor reflection on the golf course management that such a person, wearing such a tee shirt would even be allowed on the course. The starter nervously arranged another pairing and my friend and I enjoyed a lovely round of golf. Had this fellow not advertised his shallowness of character we would have been stuck in a distateful circumstance.

It is my opinon that we are fortunate to live in a society that allows free expression of character. We can therefore shun the perpetrator and live our lives on a higher plane. We can thusly protect ourselves and our children by placing a respectable distance between ourselves and people of such an ilk.

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Grandpa is over the hill and Grandma doesn't care

I am a product of the 60's. I experienced the sexual revolution live and in person. What people used to snicker and whisper about prior to then, sitcoms, private conversations began to obsess about right out in the open. Still people would get married and have their families in due time and get on with living the American dream.

I have recently experienced two weddings where the bride and bridegroom were preceded down the aisle by thier little 2-3 year old offspring. I feel like something left over from the Mesozoic period. I had a maternal great aunt who disappeared back in the 1890's and no one ever heard from again. The scuttlebutt was that she got herself in trouble. Nowadays there is absolutely zero stigma attached to such a circumstance. People living together before the nuptials is common practice. Pregnancy prior to marriage is commonplace and accepted.

I remember cars back in the 60's had huge tailfins on them. The psychologists got a lot of mileage by saying that they were in fact phallic symbols reflecting the new found freedom of sexual expression. I always scratched my head and wondered how in the world society could all of a sudden be that obsessed with sex.

Now, here I am in this new millenium. There is no longer a need for phallic symbols. I think I counted 492 E.D. commercials in one baseball game I watched in the last week. The world is now obsessed with the subject of erection. There is no phallic subtlety to this obsession. The manufacturers of Viagra, Cialis and Levitra spend 100's of millions of dollars advertising for their products. I used to live in the world of pharmaceuticals. I know that they would not be making those expenditures if the world did not thunder to their door and buy the product. I have to admit that I was more comfortable when people whispered about such subjects. Call me an old fogey.

When I was a young man people would say that grandpa was over the hill. It meant that he could no longer cut the mustard. Whatever the case, be it hypertension, diabetes, hypercholesteremia, low testosterone, just wasn't interested anymore, etc. This was an accepted fact of life and you know what? Life went on. You know what else? Grandma nor grandpa went blind nor did she care a whole lot that grandpa preferred playing 18 holes of golf instead of a game of slap and tickle.

The discovery of sildenafil ( generic for Viagra) was what is called a serendipitous discovery. It was being studied as an antihypertensive. Some of the human trials produced a lot of men with unmistakeable smiles on their faces. Wallah ! An application to the FDA gave us the first product for ED. Cost? $10 per tablet. It was known as Vitamin V, the little blue pill and a break through. Bob Dole made his smirky little commericals and it made Pfizer pharmaceuticals more rich and powerful. State medicaids, who at the time, were getting stingy about giving people the newer BP meds, antiarrythmia drugs, asthma drugs added this drug to their formularies. They allowed the medicaid recpients as many as 10-12 tablets per month at taxpayer expense of various states.

My point? Simply this: We live in a surreal world. Many people are mindless automatons. We are susceptible to what we see on CNN, FOX, CNBC and so on. This recession/depression we are in is real, primarily because we think it is so. We read about it in the WSJ, USA Today. We saw a report on CBS. So we react accordingly.

I am telling you right now. For those of you paying rent, I don't care what the economist says on the Oprah show, it has never been a better time to purchase a home. Don't believe it when they tell you there is no money for mortgages. There is plenty of money at UNDER 6%. The inventory of homes is HUGE. You can take your pick. There is $8,000 in a bonafide tax credit available to you. The Florida legislature just set aside $30 million to allow you to get an advance on that tax credit to use for your down payment. Call me up and let's get going. Nothing makes life more fulfilling than owning your own home. It is still the American Dream. I can help you get it fulfilled.

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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.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


My children used to watch a movie when they were small with some sort of an acronym that went something like ROUS. It was a very popular movie cartoon that featured "Rodents Of Unusual Size". That is about all I remember of it. Those children are all in thier 30's now and their Dad is soon to turn 63.

I am now making a living as a real estate broker. I just entered into my 7th year and have had a modicum of success. At one time Tallahassee had a real estate agent population of somewhere around 2500 agents. If you do the math, that makes one agent for every 20 households in Tallahassee. That number has dwindled down to less than 1000 with our new economy.

I remember another acronym that someone once quoted to me. It was NUTIE. I don't know if you pronounce that with a long or short U . It stands for Never Underestimate The Importance of Experience.

The years since I was in my 30's have flown by as any sextogenerian will tell you. I remember when I turned 50 yoa a reality set in on me. I was not young anymore. I also came to realize that when you turn 50, in the workplace you almost become invisible. People don't include you in dinner plans, outings, team meetings, etc. You don't get the notice you once did nor the acclaim. The J is suddenly gone from your jump shot. You don't have the moves on the dance floor you used to have. What happened to me? I got promoted to management after 20 years of being a sales rep.

I remember one thing that I said during my interview. I referenced a book I had read called Iacocca. It was a biography written about Lee Iacocca the mastermind of the Chrysler resurgence. I quoted him on the subject of age. He said that there was one anomaly that existed in the auto business that really bothered him. When he was at Ford the UAW had negotiated a package that allowed you to retire after 25 years of service almost at full pay and benefits. So he said what would happen is that you would start someone 25-30 yoa and after they had become journeymen in their service they suddenly got up and walked out the door. There was all this experience evaporating at Ford. The person would retire and get a part time job and play golf, travel, landscape their yard, etc. It was nice for the person, but it was foregoing a valuable resource for Ford.

Just as an employee had seen it all and knew the business inside and out, they walked away. He said that was a drain on their capital that was always worrisome to him.

I believe that is applicable in all trades and professions. It is the old gray-beards that are the valuable resource in the worker pool in any organization. They have seen it all. They have faced good times and challenging times. They do not react from the endocrine system. They react from the bedrock of experience.

In this relatively new business I am in I see a lot of sorority girls and fraternity boys turned realtor. They look good on billboards, websites and business cards. They are invited to all the parties and the team meetings because they are are just so darned good looking.

My advice to you, and I believe Iacocca would tell you the same, is get the experience to walk by your side. Choose an agent that has some battle scars in place. Retain the executive who has a broad base of experience in the business world. Someone who has had to make decisions that really counted heavily. Your best friend may be one of those sorority girls or fraternity boys turned real estate agent. In the most important purchase you will ever make go with the professional that has been to war and has the experience. You will be glad you did.

NUTIE. Never Underestimate The Importance of Experience.

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Friday, March 6, 2009

Mortgage Interest, A Great Investment

I have several acquaintances who are financial advisers. Most of them have been very successful. They are really earning their fees right about now, in this quagmire of an economy we find ourselves in.

One consistent place that advisers have always counseled their clients to invest is in a home. Mortgage interest is a hedge against taxes as the interest is tax deductible. That has been the case ever since I have been aware. If you have a new mortgage and your Principal and Interest monthly payment is $1000.00 then you have approximately $12,000 to claim as a deduction when taxes roll around. What are the taxes on $12,000? We have a graduated income tax system so if we determine that you are in a 20% tax bracket, that does not mean that you are actually going to pay 20% of your income in taxes. Let's say that you pay more like 12% of your income in taxes.

So we see that having a home will save you 12% of the $12,000 that you paid out on your mortgage loan. All the payment is pretty much interest until you get into the last 15 years of the payback period. So how much cash does that home save you? 12% of $12,000 is $1,440. That is your total cash saving. Divide that by 12 months and you are adding a tidy additional $120 to your monthly cash flow, just by owning a home. Throw in the property taxes, which are also deductible and you add more to the cash flow. Let's say you pay $2,000 in property taxes. At your 12% tax rate that amounts to an additional $240 you save. Divide that by 12 and you add an additional $20 per month to your cash flow. So now we are up to $140 in monthly cash to your bottom line.

If you are putting out $1,000.00 rent per month you are not eligible for any savings at all. Makes you wonder why so many people rent, doesn't it. I suppose that a lot of folks just don't know how easy it is to purchase. That is what we Realtors do. We advise people on that front.

Now let's do one more little exercise. Let's say that you owe $100,000 on your home via a mortgage. You have your home financed for 30 years at a fixed rate of 6%. Using one of the calculators on my website we can posture an exciting scenario.

Let's say that you have an additional $125 extra per month coming in and you would like to invest it in something. You already own your home so you are thinking about investing in something else. What is that something else going to be? Is it going to be the stock market? Not a bad idea because there are a lot of great deals out there currently. How about gold? Some people think that is a solid place to look right now.

I read in the USA Today that people were buying Treasury bonds at 0% interest. Why would people do that? Because they trust that to be a place to put their money that would be safe. Do we have all that much confidence in wherever we have our money currently? 401k's have become fodder for late night comedians.

Here is something to consider. According to the calculations that I just made on one of the calculators on my website, you ought to consider investing that money in paying down your mortgage. If you were to pay an extra $125 a month on that $100,000 mortgage do you know that it would knock 10 years off of the length of your mortgage? It would save you somewhere around $42,800 in interest. Where could you put your money to get that sort of return?

If you pay that extra $125 per month and you save $42,800 it would mean that you are getting return on your money at the rate of 142%. Do the math. $42,800 divided by 20 years is $2140 per year. Compare that to the $1500 per year you are paying extra on your mortgage. My calculator tell me that is 42.7%. Sure beats treasury bonds at 0%, doesn't it?

Something to think about. If you are paying rent, please call me and let's get you into a home. Man, you would not believe the deals there are on homes in the Tallahassee area. Let's get started.

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

An Amazing Athlete

Yesterday morning I observed an amazing athlete. He possessed all the attributes that go into the composition of a good athlete, balance, agility, upper body strength, endurance, speed, quickness and a mindset to be above average. No, I was not watching ESPN nor any other sports venue.

I was watching a young fellow running alongside of a big green and white truck that said Waste Management on the side of it. He was working my neighborhood, here in Killearn Estates. He would run from location to location, keeping up with the truck. He would sprint to a trash receptacle and dodge between cars as he pulled it to the rear of the truck. He would then lift that obtuse object above his head and shake the contents out of it and then return it to the spot he had retrieved it from. Occassionally he would leap onto a foothold on the truck and take a brief ride. The truck meandered along the route that I was walking with Maggie the Wonder-Bassett. I was overtly impressed with what I saw.

I could not help but reflect on this sight and contrast it to the morning news. Alex Rodriguez, A-Rod ( now A-roid) the New York Yankees mega-star, was implicated in the utilization of performance enhancing drugs to get an edge in the sport in which he already was a star. This news, coupled with the strike MLB baseball went on a few years ago, has just about cooled my interest in this league, forever. These prima donnas make millions of dollars playing a game that most of us would gladly play for free. Then the revelation comes that they cheat to maintain pace. The bottom line is a heart breaking take away message that bad people cheat.

My waste management guy, I am sure, uses some performance enhancing tools as well. They are most likely: a mortgage payment, a wife and children dependent on him, an employer who pays him and just the endorphins that arise from wanting to do his job well. A-Roid would do well to spend a few hours following this man. Perhaps he could learn a little about what it takes to be a true champion. At least he could look at an example of what it means to have character.

Not all champions are found between the lines of a field of competition. Most of them do not have agents standing at the ready to sell them like a bottle of ripple. They are working class people who go to work everyday and put in the required amount of time to earn their pay. They are the backbone of this great nation of ours. We see them all around us. All we have to do is stop and pay a little bit of attention and they will teach us what life is all about.

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The Little Man:

Friday, February 6, 2009

It's Okay to be Little Bitty

As I address this let me start by stating that I worked for “LARGE“ for thirty years. I was employed by the DuPont company which has been a Fortune 500 company for many years. I worked in various assignments over my career with DuPont, many of them at an Executive level. I was there long enough to make the determination that large does not always equate to better.

Many functions in large corporations, going back ten years or more, began to be out-sourced to smaller firms. Examples are Human Resources, relocation, fleet management, printing, and so forth. Why this move to out-sourcing? Simple: Smaller firms could deliver much more efficiently. Most large corporations get hand cuffed by their own policy manuals. Smaller firms can assess, analyze and correct a function much quicker than a large corporation can do it for themselves.
To apply a nautical analogy: Which takes longer to turn around, the USS Norway or a canoe? The answer, of course is a canoe.

All the foregoing holds true in the real estate world. When you decide who is going to help you buy or sell, or both, who is it going to be? One of the large corporate real estate firms or a smaller, local firm? Essentially , the only difference you will see is the presence of national advertising. Do you really believe that when you see that hot air balloon on CBS that it makes a difference in the buying or selling process as it relates to you back in Tallahassee? Of course, it doesn't.The smaller firm utilizes the same tools to market or buy as the larger firm, the multiple listing service (MLS), local newspaper, signage, flyers, open houses, realtor net-working, so forth. One thing the larger corporations consistently do, that smaller firms do not usually, is charge you a transaction fee. That is a fee, usually between 300 and 500 dollars that you pay just to do business with them. Whether you successfully buy or sell, you will owe that fee. We do not and never will charge you a fee to do business with Lee Vass Realty.

Smaller firms operate locally. They are specialists in the local market. National companies are spread out over the whole nation spot-lighting the country coast to coast. If you were to go deer hunting, do you want a shotgun in your hand or a rifle? Most likely you want a rifle. The smaller firm is the rifled approach. Small firms are the local market specialists.

When you choose a realtor to represent you the over riding consideration is to choose one that you know and trust. The small firm does not give up one iota to the larger firm. In fact the smaller firm is usually not tied to a lot of policy manual dictates. The smaller firm can tailor a marketing strategy to your circumstances from the get-go.

Most larger firms have a large number of agents reporting to a Broker. The Broker dictates policy and is often hard, if not impossible, for you to access. Why not work directly with the Broker? In most smaller firms you do just that.

At Lee Vass Realty you work directly with the Broker/Owner. We operate under the same State of Florida, DBPR licensure as any other agency. We are members of the Tallahassee Board of Realtors, Florida Association of Realtors and The National Association of Realtors. We carry errors and omissions insurance. We are plugged into MLS. We live in the local market. We can best represent you locally.

I hope that I have convinced you that you give up, very little, if anything at all by foregoing the use of a large firm in favor of using a small real estate agency. Call me to get going on buying or selling in the local market.

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Alan Jackson sings it:

Thursday, January 22, 2009

On Being a Realtor

I am posting tonight in response to a query this morning from a lady who asked me just what it was that a Realtor does. I have given the matter some thought and it is a very reflective question. I have concluded that a Realtor is a generalist who coordinates, counsels, directs and aids compliance to the rules and regs surrounding a real estate transaction. I represented DuPont for 30 years, mostly as a sales representative. What I did then and what I do now are as different as night and day.

Practicing Real Estate is loosely connected to sales skills. Rarely do you take a person into a home and pitch them on features, advantages and benefits of a particular house in an effort to get them to make a decision to buy. If you are lucky enough to attract a buyer there is a process whereby you lead them to a choice. You conduct the buyer's interview to establish their wants and needs. Then you search the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) to match up their wants with particular houses that seemingly fill that need. You then schedule some showing time and take them to see the property. Once in the property the house must "sing" to the buyer, on its own. The property must convince the buyer. Rarely is it necessary for the Realtor to "sell" the property.

In selling a listing the Realtor is a counselor and advisor. The Realtor advises the seller how to stage the house for it to demonstrate its strong features to a prospective buyer. If the seller is unwilling to clean, paint, plant, de-clutter, etc. no amount of selling skills on the part of the Realtor matters.

A Realtor is a licensed professional. He must take hundreds of hours of instruction and then pass numerous tests, many quite difficult, to become licensed and stay licensed. The process is expensive and time consuming. He must be a member of a local association that will coordinate the cooperation of all agents in a geographic area in maintaining the MLS, continuing education and other matters. He is licensed by the Florida Real Estate Commission (FREC) which operates under the Department of Business & Professional Regulation. FREC sets forth all rules and regs that surround the practice within the state. FREC maintains a probable cause element that polices and disciplines those who would play fast and loose with their license.

A Realtor is somewhat of a traffic cop in that in the midst of a transaction he must be able to direct all the matters that will consummate in the successful transfer of Title. A Realtor must stand ready to recommend Title companies, Home inspectors, Termite inspectors, surveyors, Insurance providers, repair people, structural engineers, mold experts, attorneys, Home warranties, etc. The Realtor must be prepared to react quickly and competently when snags arise within the transaction. Most transactions are subject to exact schedules. The Realtor must assure that all parties adhere to timelines.

A Realtor is somewhat of a paralegal. Special emphasis on contract law. All aspects of the transaction are strongly tied to the sales contract, a legally binding instrument. He must be knowledgeable in how to complete this 7 page document plus all disclosure forms. He needs to know how and when to amend the contract via addendae.

Probably, above all, a Realtor must be a negotiatior. The more pronounced an agent's negotiating skills the more valuable he is to the party he represents. Agreement must be reached, most importantly, on sales price. Additionally there are concessions that can be asked for and granted relating to closing costs, repairs, warranties, closing dates, etc. When a fight erupts you want the most eloquent, smartest and coolest advocate you can find by your side.

A good Realtor is a good communicator both verbally and written. He should keep careful records as to what has been agreed upon in a deal and all correspondence between all parties. A good agent is patient, kind, thoughtful, available and consistent. To a practicing Realtor no one is more important than his client, outside of his family. He will lay it all on the line for his client.

I operate as a sole proprietor. I must have a Leon County Business license, a City of Tallahassee business license and of course, a State of Florida real estate license. I am a Broker which requires one to have a year of being an agent under a broker and then class time and passage of a tough, tough exam. I have to adhere to continuing education requirements. I must carry error and ommissions insurance. You do not want a Realtor who does not carry that insurance. You also do not want a Realtor who does not maintain a very pronounced presence on the internet. Most buyers go online to search property first before they ever contact a Realtor. I am a member of the Tallahassee Board of Realtors, Florida Association of Realtors and the National Association of Realtors.

Overall, I would say that the practice of real estate is quite satisfying. One has complete flexibility of time. The bottom line is that Realtors really help people to accomplish the dream of home ownership. A good Realtor keeps his finger on the pulse of current trends in the business and the development of new avenues. A good Realtor's success is tied to the numbers of people he has competently and effectively helped to achieve the purchase of a home or the sale of their home.

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Losing weight

I will now post on a subject that I am an expert on. LOSING WEIGHT. I have lost 1000 pounds over the course of my lifetime. Unfortunately, I have gained back 1050. I am a 62 yoa white man with hypertension, diabetes and hyperlipidemia. Statistically, I am a ticking time bomb. I have had a couple of cardiac scares, one resulting in a heart cath. You would think that all that would motivate me to lose weight. NEGATORY. In fact I recently put on another 5 pounds over the holidays just to assure that I remain in as miserable a state of health as is possible.

The thing that I am not expert in is FINDING THE MOTIVATION. You see I have a chromosomal deficiency that causes me to be unable to lose weight. Let's just call it the fat gene. Yes I could choose to live a normal life and not go to Brickyard Pizzeria and buy that 16" beauty with the extra cheese, pepperoni, italian sausage and eat most of it myself. However, you see, I am compelled in that direction. Something deep in my dna drives me to overindulgence. In the midbrain of the normal human being there is a delicate balance of GABA, dopamine and endorphins. All stay at acceptable levels when they are ingesting food. I have a deviated mid-brain. Ah Hah, you say, " I knew that guy was not normal."

When I put the first bit of food substance in my mouth my mid-brain fires endorphins across my synapses. That is called the pleasure phenomenon. I experience a "high" just as real as the one that Corky the Cocaine addict does when he snorts his first line of cocaine. I am compelled to continue to shove pie in my pie hole in a piteable attempt to keep the endorphin level where it provides the euphoria I seek. It is not my fault that I have to sit with my pants unzipped and open at night as I sit in my recliner in order to breathe properly. I am a poor victim of a food addiction.

As Cheech and Chong, the great philosophers of my youth once said in one of their ballads, " I need help, ladies and gentlemens. I need someone to set a pick for me at the free throw line of life." ( Basketball Jones, circa 1972 ). I have been through 12 step programs. Notably Weight Watchers where I have lost a huge portion of my 1000 pounds. I have read the books. Been on the fad diets, grapefruit, sugar busters, etc. etc. The list drones on and on.

I used to be a smoker. After I moved to Tallahassee in 1972 I was well on my way to quitting. Then my Father flew into Tallahassee and we undertook a trip to Springfield, Ohio together. We were going to visit my Uncle Fred who was dying of lung cancer. My Dad was a prolific smoker, about 2 packs a day of Kools. I fell into temptation and bought myself a pack of Winstons and made like a chimney for a couple of days. I really looked cool with that cig hanging out of my pie hole. Sort of like the Marlboro man.

My Dad and I got up after our first night in the motel and made our way to the hospital. Now the last memory I had of my Uncle Fred was of a large 220 pound man with the vitality of a salesman. Here in front of me is my Uncle. He weighs about 90 pounds. They have already performed the thoracotomy and he is getting along with one lung. Here he sits on the side of his hospital bed, chain smoking unfiltered Camels. Joe Camel he did not remind me of. More like a prisoner of war. He is so hopelessly addicted to those cigarettes that he cannot take a breath without one in his mouth. My Dad and I left the hospital, I took the pack of Winstons out of my pocket and dropped them into a waste receptacle. My Uncle was dead two weeks later at 52 years of age. He left a widow and three children. He left an indelible image in my brain. I have not touched a cigarette in 35 plus years since the moment I threw away that pack of Winstons. Anytime I was tempted I conjured up the image of him in that hospital, sucking on those Camels. My slight addiction was forever more solved. I was MOTIVATED.

From whence cometh motivation? It is as elusive as the prize on American Idol. We have occasions of resolve. We last a few days and in my case, I walk into our home and smell the fragrance of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. My wife will then stumble over my pulsating form sitting in the corner with hot cookies on my breath and cold milk all dribbled down the front of my size 3x Lipscomb Lions Tee shirt.

Motivation is there. It lurks somewhere deep inside of us. It just needs an Uncle Fred to connect the dots for us. One of the great motivational speakers of all time was Zig Zeiglar. Zig would do this bit about the fact that we were all victims of "Stinkin Thinkin".

Well for me, my next stop is Nutrisystem. That is the well advertised program where you go on this prepared and carefully measured, portion control program. My motivation? Chris Berman, the Boomer, on ESPN. I saw a picture of this guy last summer in a Golf magazine. He was in a golf shirt and his stomach protruded out providing a landing pad for a Chinook helicopter. Now I see him on the Nutrisystem ads and he has lost 40 pounds. If the Boomer can do it then so can I .

We will see how it goes. This program is not cheap. You are buying breakfast bricks at the rate of $10 per. I figure if I have skin in the game it might just MOTIVATE me. The thought of having a heart attack that will cost me and my insurance provider $100,000 plus ain't getting it done. We shall see.

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Chech and Chong, set me a pick: