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 »
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 »
I read a lot of press releases. Whether it’s from a brokerage boasting about a great second quarter, a tech company angling to get their new doodad into our Cool Tools section, or an author pitching their latest book, most of them fail on a really basic level: They’re not telling me a story.
Author Nicolas Boillot aims to help you fix that problem when it comes to marketing your business. His newest book (and first foray into the business section), I Killed a Rabid Fox With a Croquet Mallet: Making Your Business Stories Compelling and Memorable (HB Books, 2013), breaks down the elements of a good story into their simplest components. He then explains the relationships between these components. For example, you can spout the values of your business all day long. And you can tell me all you want about how amazing your fourth quarter results are. But can you connect the two? If so, you’re on your way to starting to tell a story.
But that’s just the beginning. Here are some of Boillot’s key points to telling a great story about your business:
Know your audience. It may seem like an obvious point, but that’s just because you remember it from grade school. Things are different now: You’re trying to tell a company’s story. And yet they’re also the same, because you’re trying to tell the story to people. News flash: People don’t want to hear about companies; they want to hear about people. The good news is that your company is full of fascinating people that will tell your company’s story better than it, as an organization, can.
Don’t always follow the leader. Even if it’s you. Boillot reminds readers that while leaders often have a compelling story to tell, “sometimes they have enormous egos, want their stories told, and no one around them has the courage to suggest it’s a bad idea.” Boillot then talks about how he diplomatically helped a CEO see that a video all about how awesome he is would not make for a compelling story, and how he helped the guy introduce some conflict (and other characters) into the tale.
Real estate is as cutting edge as it is traditional, and the same thing goes for the English language. Just think: When you’re calling a prospect on your cell, you might “dial” in their number, just as you might also “hang up” when you’re finished. But is there a rotary dial on your phone or a cradle within which you can hang the mouthpiece of your telephone? Nope.
As a word nerd, I love these contradictions that flavor our everyday speech. In I Love it When You Talk Retro: Hoochie Coochie, Double Whammy, Drop a Dime, and the Forgotten Origins of American Speech (St. Martin’s Press, 2009), author Ralph Keyes calls these contradictions “retroterms,” or “verbal artifacts that hang around in our national conversation long after the topic they refer to has galloped into the sunset.”
I Love it When You Talk Retro is a fascinating book by all accounts, and worth a read just for fun. But for Book Scan readers, I pulled out a few of the more real estate-related items for which you might want to know the origins.
Ever encountered an actual skeleton in the closet of one of your listings? Probably not nowadays, but in nineteenth-century England you may have. In the beginning of the era of modern medicine, doctors found that dissecting corpses was a very good way to learn about the human body and disease. However, doing so was illegal. So doctors had to hide the results of such experiments in closets, for fear of punishment. Now, of course, a “skeleton in the closet” is more likely to refer to family secrets than any frightening open house surprises.
Some of the best deals are struck on the front porch. Yet, back when political candidates William McKinley, Benjamin Harrison, and Warren G. Harding used front porch campaigns to connect with fellow citizens, they were derided as lazy by opponents who crisscrossed the country for votes. It was not particularly impressive to give speeches from one’s own front porch, but effectiveness is another measure altogether. Though each front porch campaigner experienced success from their efforts, the phrase is still used as a way to describe lethargic efforts to win people over. Or maybe it’s just a soft sell technique? You decide.
Next time you’re showing off the backyard of an early 20th-century home, don’t offer to take house hunters on a trip to the woodshed. Continue reading »