Every once in a while, when I’m reading something wholly unrelated to work, I come across the most interesting insights into property ownership.
This week I’ve been wading through the terrifying, foul-smelling world of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. The book is a muckraking (and I mean that in the best sense of the word) look at the meatpacking industry of Chicago at the turn of the 20th Century. Not even a third of the way into the book, I find the immigrant family I’ve been following through the harrowing process of settling in Chicago’s Packingtown neighborhood are screwing up the guts to buy a home. They’ve only been in America for something like a week, they can’t speak English, and they’re already counting up the downpayment. The process is fascinating; I recommend reading the whole thing (you can access it for free online at the Gutenberg Project; the whole home-buying storyline begins in chapter four). But I wanted to share with you a portion that occurs after they buy the place and begin “feathering their nest” in chapter five. I hope you don’t mind that I’ve bolded the parts I loved:
They had bought their home. It was hard for them to realize that the wonderful house was theirs to move into whenever they chose. They spent all their time thinking about it, and what they were going to put into it. As their week with Aniele was up in three days, they lost no time in getting ready. They had to make some shift to furnish it, and every instant of their leisure was given to discussing this. Continue reading »
So I’ve been working on this project called Street Cred with the our pals over at Doorsteps, a platform that works with real estate pros to educate and empower home buyers. It’s basically all about how REALTORS® are truly experts at explaining why their neighborhood/city/town/state is a great place to live, and it talks about all the ways these practitioners are using technology to be what amounts to ambassadors for their communities. I’m pretty excited about it. You should check it out.
Anyway, these awesome practitioners got me thinking about how tough it can be to be a “relo.” You know, those unfortunate folks who have to move across the country because their company is basically forcing them to relocate? Who on earth would be more in need of the services of an expert neighborhood ambassador than these poor saps?
Well, just before the holidays I got a book written by one of those poor saps. Except she is not taking it laying down. In her new book, Home Sweet Homes: How Bundt Cakes, Bubble Wrap, and My Accent Helped Me Survive Nine Moves, Diane Laney Fitzpatrick gets into the nitty gritty of these ugly, cross-country relocations. How do you help your kids adjust to the new surroundings? What do you do when the movers say the truck is too full? How do you keep the home inspector from seeing that spiraling mouse who’s trying to run away with a mousetrap clamped to his head?
Oh, sorry. Did I neglect to mention that this book is also hilarious? Sure, we’ve all got hellish moving stories, but Fitzpatrick has nine moves worth. She breaks the tales up by inserting snarky but surprisingly-helpful advice, such as:
- Joining extra-curricular clubs, gangs, and cults will make your children happier.
- Moving your car can be complicated. Abandoning it in a bad neighborhood before you move should be at least considered.
- Avoid anyone who has inherited your former home. You don’t look all that good.
- Don’t rely on your dog for any sympathy whatsoever.
- Set the tone for your family with cheerful but firm leadership. Think Hitler with packing peanuts. Continue reading »
It’s easy to feel like we’re constantly behind the times when it comes to online trends. Not only are products out of date as soon as you take them home from the store, but the needs of consumers online change even faster. Therefore, writing a physical, hard-copy book about upcoming online and mobile trends cannot be an easy task.
Consider then, the lot of the lowly book reviewer, who’s one step behind even the author. That’s why I figured I should get my review of Marc Ostrofsky’s new book Word of Mouse: 101+ Trends in How We Buy, Sell, Live, Learn, Work, and Play (Simon & Schuster: 2013) online before the new year.
Turns out I’m already too late. Thing is, it’s a book that promises to be dated almost before it’s even released. Ostrofsky includes revelations such the fact that Facebook uses facial recognition software in your photos or that you can actually buy groceries with a smartphone. To be fair, I should have suspected as much by just looking at the cover; I mean, who voluntarily uses a mouse that’s physically connected to a computer anymore?
Though most of the book relied on out-of-date* studies to make points that digital natives already intuitively know, I did find a couple of interesting tools in the book:
Datameer is a company that sets up a dashboard using a site’s analytic data that “enables regular business people, not just data priests, to pose questions,” according to the author. As someone who regularly has to deal with a frustratingly complex analytics software that seems to be written in another language, this seems to be an idea whose day has come. Continue reading »
I was reading Ron J. West’s new book, Corporate Caterpillars: How to Grow Wings (iUniverse LLC: 2013), this week and came across an interesting tidbit perfect for this time of year. I’m sure many of you are working on your 2014 business plans or goals right now. West briefly shares how one commercial real estate development company attacks this process in a unique way:
“Each year there would be a different corporate ‘theme’ with a single goal shared by everyone in the enterprise. For example, one year the goal to ‘develop accountability’ was established. The second tier of goals was department- and workgroup-specific. Finally, the third tier of goals was specific to each individual employee.”
At first I was somewhat skeptical. How is a brokerage full of independent-minded real estate professionals going to institute a top-down goal-setting regime like that? But then I got to thinking: Maybe it’s just what the doctor ordered.
There’s no doubt that the goal-setting process can be tougher when you add more players. It’s easy to tell yourself you’re going to be a healthier role model for your family by getting up early go work out every day. But forcing the whole group to get up and to go to the gym with you? Probably not going to happen.
Still, if you were to simply share that goal with your family, they’re going to be there to help you stick to it. By involving them in the process of holding you accountable to your goals, they’re now part of your goal. Something is bound to rub off on them, and who knows? Maybe you’ll end up with a work-out buddy or two after all. Continue reading »
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 »