Usually I try to point Book Scan readers to the written word, but occasionally I find a piece of audio worth recommending. Last time I pointed you toward a wonderful novel about a real estate agent, but this time I’m suggesting a podcast. Yesterday, I was listening to This American Life, an NPR radio show produced by my local station, WBEZ. The show produces one hour of radio a week, usually with several segments organized around a central theme. If you have never listened before, the Nov. 22 episode is a great place to start if you’re in real estate. The show, titled “House Rules,” addresses the idea of “destiny by address” through an examination of the 1968 Fair Housing Act.
One might argue that real estate professionals know more than the average bear about the Fair Housing Act, since it’s so integral to the housing industry in this country. But here are a few items that you might not know about fair housing in America and the legislation itself.
1. The federal government pretty much invented redlining. Many associate this practice with private lenders, but they weren’t the ones to popularize the now-illegal practice. In the 1930s, the Roosevelt administration began backing loans to encourage home ownership… but only among the “right” groups. The government actually drew red lines on maps around certain neighborhoods and refused to back home loans in those areas. And it wasn’t just predominantly minority neighborhoods either; according to ProPublica reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones, the government sought to disincentivize living in integrated neighborhoods as well.
“Your property values were going to go down because the government had decided that integrated neighborhoods were automatically less valuable,” Jones says in the “House Rules” episode. “Between 1934 and 1964, 98 percent of the home loans that were insured by the federal government go to white Americans.” She added that banks and other government programs, such as the GI Bill, simply followed the federal government’s lead. Continue reading »
The past week, I don’t think I passed one evening without spending at least a few minutes working on my Thanksgiving spreadsheet. I’m constantly updating the grocery lists, timetables, cleaning schedules, and more, with the hope that all this advanced planning will allow me to spend the day enjoying life with family and friends.
Because as much as the holidays are all about rushing around, they are also a great time to reflect upon and appreciate what really matters in life. And just in the nick of time, there’s a new book out there to help you do just that. Written by two real estate professionals and one CPA (all three of whom are sisters), the book explores their attempts to refocus on life after the recession.
7F Words for Living a Balanced Life contains plenty of first-hand recollections from each of the sisters about how they take time to make sure each of their days addresses the seven Fs: focus, faith, freedom, family, finance, fitness, and fun. The book is packed with actionable advice on how to bring the 7F Words to life. Below, I’ve chosen one tip per word, to get you started this holiday weekend. Continue reading »
Last Monday, The Coca-Cola Company announced that it would be killing off the consumer end of its corporate website and would be slowly working to do the same to its “press release PR.”
In the place of these vehicles for the Coke message, they’re hoping their year-old online magazine Coca-Cola Journey will step in. Here’s what Director of Digital Communications and Social Media Ashley Brown says Coke learned after launching this social-driven twist on public relations:
Stories that are bright, fun, and brilliant are hits. Readers voted for more Coke-focused stories than un-branded content. They gravitated to stories that focused on Coke’s rich heritage, innovation, careers, and our marketing programs. Virtually all of our coverage of Coca-Cola’s business is a winner. Our readers turned out to be newshounds, travel buffs, photographers, cooking enthusiasts, technology early adopters, sports fans, and music lovers. They left us thousands of comments, and shared our stories tens of thousands of times. We are positively stunned that nearly two-thirds of them are under 34, and that millennials are our most engaged readers.
Ever gotten a letter of intent from unrepresented buyer offering to purchase your listing for exactly for 63 percent of your list price, subject to an armload of caveats and stipulations? How about a minimalist purchase contract from an LLC, missing many, if not all, of the forms required by the local, state or federal government?
The letter probably came right out of a book, ripped out by someone who recently attended a seminar on how to “get rich quick” by investing in real estate. Continue reading »
Every year at the REALTORS® Conference & Expo, I find new authors and books to explore. But what if you want to get a jump start on the meetings coming up this November?
Well, I don’t know about you, but the flight from Chicago to San Francisco is not a short one. And I never travel without a book. Maybe like me, you need to pick up some reading for the trip. Why not bring something directly related to a conference experience? If you grab something from one of these six authors who will be presenting at the conference, you might also try and get it signed at their session.
- I saw Darryl Davis speak during Midyear this year and really enjoyed it. You can find his book, How To Become a Power Agent in Real Estate (McGraw-Hill, 2002), at the REALTOR® Store.
- If you’re looking for something outside of the sales arena, pick up Immaculée Ilibagiza’s Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust (Hay House, 2007). This inspiring true story of how the author hid with seven other women in the cramped bathroom of a local pastor’s house for 91 days to survive the Rwandan genocide in 1994 will undoubtedly leave you with a fresh perspective on life. Continue reading »
There are two kinds of people in this world: cooks and bakers.
I’m a cook. I like to have the ability to toss in a little extra garlic, or cook the bacon extra crispy. If I have kale in my fridge, I like a recipe that will allow me to toss some in before it goes bad. Bakers, on the other hand, have to be precise. If they add too much baking powder, the cupcakes might rise well over the pan, not to mention the bitter taste. If a baker beats the butter just moments too long, their cookies may just collapse into pancakes. Neither of these is perfectionism, mind you. I get just as frustrated when my stirfry is a tad over-salted because I dashed in too much fish sauce as a baker might when their flour scale fails them. Instead, it’s a different conception of how distinct a mix is.
I started thinking about this difference reading Absolute Value: What Really Influences Customers in the Age of (Nearly) Perfect Information, by Ithamar Simonson and Emanuel Rosen. The book revolves around the theory that each customer is influenced by three factors: their own feelings, the advice of others, and marketing. The key is finding out what mix of these three factors your industry or product is beholden to.
So let’s concentrate on that middle factor: the advice of others. Simonson and Rosen’s instructions for how to determine your industry’s mix really explains why referrals are so important in real estate in particular, without even mentioning the industry by name. Here are some of the factors they say make consumers more likely to consult others when shopping for a particular product or service:
- The more important the decision, the more likely customers are to consult others. I think it’s fair to say buying a home is pretty darn high on the importance scale.
- How big is the difference between good and bad? If there are really bad real estate agents and really good real estate professionals, consumers are more likely to research so they don’t end up with a really bad one.
- Risk, uncertainty, and complexity: These items are all pretty high for property purchases, which means people are more likely to depend upon advice from others.
- How fast are things changing? Customers want the best product today, not last year’s best. This item may not correlate with real estate as strongly as say, smartphones, but with the ever-changing economy you can bet that they’re going to want someone who has bought a home relatively recently to hand them referrals. So check out your testimonials: Do you have any from your most recent transactions?
Of course, the authors caution that many of these items depend on the type of consumer we’re looking at, and also note that these factors shift over time. But it’s a nice reminder of what we all know to be true: Referrals are particularly important in real estate.
The short vocabulary quiz I created after paging through Barron’s Real Estate Handbook back in September was so popular that I’d been meaning to create another. And in a serendipitous moment, A Field Guide to American Houses: The Definitive Guide to Identifying and Understanding America’s Domestic Architecture, by Virginia Savage McAlester (Random House, 2013), landed on my desk.
And what a thump it made! This hefty tome holds almost 900 pages of reference material, including more than 2,000 maps and illustrations. More than just a home style guide, this is also a history text, covering domiciles from ancient Native American tribes to the present day. It also gets into the minutia by looking closely at building materials of all sorts, while also examining the 30,000-foot view of neighborhood and community structure. As a reference material, one would expect occasional wonkiness. But the text is also eminently readable, with clear narratives making connections between the march of time and the uniquely American ways of life. Continue reading »
I love traveling to new places whenever I can. But I also try to get back to the family cabin up in northern Minnesota once a year, because it’s good for me. Not that it’s great for my waistline, mind you. But after a week spent sitting by a campfire, canoeing, strumming the odd musical instrument, and cooking big communal meals with my family and friends, the stresses of urban life have faded completely. The priorities I try to maintain amidst the many tasks competing for my attention through any given day come slowly into focus, with seemingly no effort on my part.
As you might imagine, returning from the cabin ain’t easy. But I try to maintain that relaxed, yet can-do spirit that reigns over me while I’m there long after returning to the city.
So when my colleague (and fellow Minnesotan) Erica Christoffer brought Dale Mulfinger’s Back to the Cabin: More Inspiration for the Classic American Getaway (Taunton Press, 2013) to my desk, I couldn’t wait to crack it open. The architect and “cabinologist” (and fellow Minnesotan) filled this follow-up to 2003’s The Cabin with more than 240 pages of beautiful photos of cabins of every stripe (from places other than just Minnesota). From ruggedly rustic to light-filled luxury to pronto prefab, Mulfinger provides detailed floor plans and site illustrations that set this book apart from your average “pretty house pictures” book. He manages to talk about the various advantages of building materials and structures, and weighs in on renovations and incorporating accessibility, without drowning the sheer beauty of the subject matter. And since the word “cabin” means different things to different people, I think it’s particularly interesting how Mulfinger gets at the many purposes these individual homes provide for their varied inhabitants. Continue reading »
Every year, British magazine Financial Times (along with Goldman Sachs) puts together a panel of judges to select the number one financial book of the year. The winner gets a £30,000 prize for providing “the most compelling and enjoyable insight into modern business issues.” But the problem with talking about “modern business issues” today is that the financial crisis still looms large over most books that are being published now.
Interestingly, FT writer Andrew Hill noted in a recent blog post that several books “tested the panel’s resolve not to overload the shortlist with books about the financial crisis.” In the end, two of the six books on the shortlist announced last week deal directly with the economic woes of the last few years: Iain Martin’s Making It Happen (about Royal Bank of Scotland) and Neil Irwin’s The Alchemists (on central bankers).
This concerted effort on the part of these judges to avoid such books was intriguing to me. Are we already finished thinking deeply about how the financial crisis affected today’s business? Continue reading »