You’ve Got Money!

Imagine that after checking to see what you can expect when you retire and estimated what your minimum required distributions from your retirement accounts will be, you’ve discovered that you’re not going to have enough retirement income to cover your living expenses. Youve got money.jpg

Ideally, it would be perfect if the extra money you need would just come to your mailbox each month with the same certainty as your social security or retirement income.

Rental homes are a popular choice for passive income because they are an investment that most people understand based on their experience owning a home. They’re easy to manage and the rents should keep pace with inflation.

Mortgage loans for investors are available to investors with good credit and at least 20% down payments. While 30 year terms are the most common, some investors wanting to have the home paid for by retirement may choose a 15 or 20 year term.

A tried and true strategy is to choose average or slightly below average priced homes in predominantly owner-occupied neighborhoods. This will appeal to more prospective tenants wanting to live in good communities and should provide a higher level of revenue.

When an owner has a good property with a good tenant, the income is as predictable and convenient as going to the mailbox each month. To learn more about rental homes, contact your real estate professional.

Back to Basics Works (Again)

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 11.57.15 AMI’m recently (and still, it seems) recovering from a hamstring issue. It’s healing, slowly, but healing nonetheless. Sunday, I decided to test it out with an eight mile, progression run (gets faster each mile). Normally, an eight mile run is not a big deal. Unfortunately, I had not been that far in two months. While all in all, the run went well, there were a few middle miles when it DID NOT seem that way. The next few paragraphs describe the choices I (we) have when things aren’t going as they might.

As with any experience in running or work or life, there are three possible scenarios that exist at that point when one realizes that things aren’t going so well: 1) We can continue going through the motions and simply hang on till the end, 2) we can fold up the tent and call it a day, or 3) we can get out of your comfort zone and try something daring and yet familiar at the same time. I chose number three. The daring part: pick up the pace. The familiar part: go back to basics to do it.

There are three basics at the very core of running: feet on ground (biomechanics), breathing and overall relaxation (physical AND mental). Choosing a nice downhill, I asked myself, “doing okay?” Upon receiving an extremely weak but affirmative answer, I decided to pick it up. The pace increase was noticeable. I lasered my consciousness on running efficiently and relaxed and went into what I call monitor mode: feet landing well and pushing off easily? Check! Hands and face relaxed? Check. Breathing under control? Check! Repeat, repeat, repeat.

Amazingly, although not really, the change was nearly immediate. I knocked off a quicker mile and I felt fantastic! The seventh mile was even faster and considerably under my early pace and despite a decent size hill in mile eight, that one was quick too. Somehow I had turned lemons into lemonade and what could have been a rough finish into a fabulous run. Back to basics, as per usual, had worked.

When faced with a difficult task, rely on what you know. Draw strength from your basics. It’s the ninth inning in the movie For Love of the Game, when Billy Chapel (aka, Kevin Costner) discovers that he has nothing left and his quest for the perfect game may be over. He lets out a deep breath, closes his eyes and says, “Okay, three more. Like I’ve done a million times.”

I rallied on the run. Billy pitched the perfect game.  We all have it in us to reach back and rely on our basics to achieve when troubles arrive. In sales, maybe it’s customer service or product knowledge. Maybe it’s simply relying on knowing that we can finish what we started because we have so many times before. Whatever our basics might be, they are the key to turning it all around. They are the key to high achievement.

Marcus Garvey said “If you have no confidence in self, you are twice defeated in the race of life.”

What are your basics? Run on.

Postive Procrastination

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 11.59.44 AMThe famous words of Scarlett O’Hara in the final moments of Gone With The Wind have been the anchor for procrastinators everywhere: “I’ll worry about that tomorrow. After all, tomorrow is another day.” Some things, as we know, are better left for another day. SOMETIMES, the best thing to do is to put off until tomorrow….
So, with the help of Success magazine, Psychology Today and the people at Creative Flow, and to remove guilt by procrastination, here are 7 good reasons to procrastinate.

1. It’s advanced scheduling. Intentionally postponing an event or deadline is not always negative. Many times, in fact, it is a positive step towards the rearranging of goal and/or schedules. Let’s call it creative rescheduling.

2. Find out Why.  Ask yourself, “why am I putting this off?” Most of the time we can find valid reasons for the moving of an event/deadline. Identifying your why helps you be non judgmental with yourself. It is when we do so in a negative manner (fear, avoidance) that we run into problems.

3. No Guilt. Guilt is one of our top non-productive emotions, so chuck it to the sidelines. 

4. Do Something Else. Reinforce your wonderfulness by completing some other task (usually a simple one helps) and you’ll position yourself away from guilt.

5. Deadlines Are Time Frames. Make sure you understand what a deadline really is. If I have until June 1 to do something, that means I have until June 1 to do it. Just because I might wait until May 29 to begin doesn’t make me a bad person.

6. Creativity Unblocked. Studies show that when people don’t have to do something they don’t really want to do (put it off) they are free to explore the things they actually want to do and creativity is enhanced.

7. You don’t have to do it right now. Enough said!

Home Too Big Now?

iStock_000013567449-200.jpgOnce the kids are grown, have careers, relationships and get a place of their own, parents find that they may not need their “big” home like they did before. Their lifestyle may have changed and the house just doesn’t “fit” anymore.

Benefits of a smaller home:

  • Easier to maintain
  • Lower utilities
  • Lower property taxes
  • Lower insurance
  • More convenient location
  • Convenience of a single level
  • Possibly more energy efficient
  • Possibly lower maintenance

Moving from a larger home frees equity from the previous home that can be invested for retirement income, purchase a second home, travel, education or just to have a nest egg for unexpected expenses. The profit on the home, in most cases, will be tax-free up to the exclusion limits set by IRS.

There will be expenses involved in selling a home as well as the purchase of a new home. These will lower the amount of net proceeds available to invest in the new home.

Like any other big change in life, it is recommended that you take your time to consider the possible alternatives and outcomes. Your real estate professional can provide information that can be valuable in the discernment process such as what your home is worth, what you will net from a sale as well as alternative properties for your next stage in life.

Get the Listing Mindset

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A mindset is a mental attitude or disposition that predetermines a person’s responses to and interpretations of situations. Some people believe that mindsets are fixed. I believe mindsets are capable of growth and change. The Listing Mindset, therefore, can be developed, It is not present at birth. So how do we get there?

First (and foremost) you must THINK listings. It is said that what you think about expands, so think about listings. When you see a house, think about LISTING it. When someone asks you about the market, discuss it from the Seller’s perspective. If you host an open house, do so with the intent to find more sellers. Just thinking alone is not enough. TALK about listings.

Finally, in your marketing, market with an emphasis to potential sellers. Discuss issues sellers want to understand (a great resource to discover what sellers want is the National Association of Realtors Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers – in the section about sellers and real estate professionals). Topics could include: How you find buyers for a listing, Ways to fix up a house, Effective positioning of a home in the marketplace, Tips on the consequences of overpricing. You get the idea. YOUR focus will soon become the way you are perceived.


Fast and Easy But is it Accurate?

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There are sites all over the web that offer to tell you what your home is worth. Simply plug in your address and email and you’ll get a value. It’s fast; it’s easy but is it accurate?

The value is determined by what is called an Automated Valuation Model (AVM) that analyzes public record data with computer decision logic. Square footage, age, number of bedrooms and location are easily definable objective data. The challenge is identifying, measuring and comparing the subjective data.

An AVM cannot identify how unique features might add or detract from the value, if the market is declining or why the comparable sales apply or don’t apply to the subject property. Is a home worth more because it is near shopping or less because it is across the street from a high-traffic commercially zoned property?

Experienced professionals are more likely to make proper adjustments for condition, market appeal and positive and negative influences.

Imagine that you’re going out for dinner and you consult to tell you how much a hamburger is worth. It might be accurate based on condiments, vegetables and weight but can it address things like taste, quality, cleanliness, service, convenience or atmosphere. You certainly couldn’t present the printout to the waiter to negotiate a lower price.

An AVM can be a tool that a homeowner, prospective buyer, mortgage officer, appraiser or real estate agent can use to get a quick idea of price but there are inherent limitations that can only be considered by personal examination balanced with experience in the market place.

Experience and understanding of the subject property and the marketplace are critical to having confidence that a value is accurate. Any person could go through the same steps to arrive at a value but an experienced, well-trained professional is far more likely to assess all of the variables more accurately.

Contrast: A Not So Hidden Secret

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Contrast. You know, contrast, like up/down, in/out, day/night/ black/white. Contrast gets our attention. In fact, contrast is what separates one salesperson from another.

I’ve read two books recently that focus on the importance of contrast in sales (although neither were necessarily focusing on sales),  Neuromarketing by Patrick Renvoise and Resonate by Nancy Duarte.

In Neuromarketing, Renvoise discusses the brain and how people make decisions. He says that only six stimuli speak to this part of the brain and one of them is contrast. Duarte’s book is about presentations, but in the bigger picture it is about contrast. She says that the goal of the presentation is getting people to see the difference between what is and what will be.

This has unending ramifications in the sales business. It is useful, obviously, in presentations. But it is equally effective in developing a negotiating strategy or explaining the virtues of a contract.

Anytime a person has a sales experience, it is an opportunity for the sales person to have them experience the difference, the CONTRAST, between what life is like right at this moment and what it will be like after the experience.

Examples? Okay: 1) The difference (contrast) between renting and buying for a first time homebuyer. 2) The contrast that comes from effective staging, you know, before and after. 3) Then of course having people understand how the world is today and how it will be tomorrow if they choose you to be their agent.

The importance of contrast can be seen most vividly in another realm: weight-loss commercials. You never see a weight loss commercial without what? Yep, the before and after shot. Why do you think that is? The answer: because it works. Advertisers get that contrast is a huge cog in the decision-making process for human beings.

Herman Melville said, “There is no quality in this world that is not what it is merely by contrast. Nothing exists in itself.”

So, how do you use contrast in your business? Are you able to clearly differentiate your value from that other person? Can you have me see how tomorrow will be better than today if I choose you?

Is Attention Worth Dishonesty?

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The headlines this morning were: Travel Bans Lifting, Big Storm Not As Big As Forecasted.

Really? The biggest storm in the history of the universe did not come to fruition? Snowageddon didn’t actually occur? I am, in the words of Kramer’s ever poignant lawyer Jackie Chiles, “Shocked and Chagrined. Stupefied and Mortified!” Actually I am not.

In a world where the media will do anything to capture the public’s attention, over exaggeration, fabrication, and downright dishonesty have become the norm. This is easiest to observe in business of television programming, news and sports. So called “reality” shows have become anything but reality. The news has become a slanted interpretation of things we’re assumed to be too stupid to interpret ourselves and sports (SPORTS, for crying out loud) has become just like the news. And then there is the weather.

The weather used to be a “we call it as we see it” sort of report as to the climatic conditions of the day. Daring and astute weather folk would occasionally take a risk and predict tomorrow. That has changed. With new predictors and the latest satellite models, we are led to believe that mortal man (and woman) is able to accurately foresee the movements of nature. We are not.

To get attention, however (because attention is ratings), we humans and our media must act as if WE are in control of the universe and its changes. Every storm is the biggest ever, every cold front is the coldest ever, and every hurricane is going to place us into the depths of historical and biblical torment unseen in human times.

“The sky is falling, the sky is falling.” Well Chicken Little, I don’t believe you. You’ve lost credibility. You (and the news channels, and the sports channels, and even the Property Brothers for crying out loud) have become self serving, attention grabbing, agenda driven scripted liars.

What does all this have to do with us: you and me? Simple. The best marketing, the best presentations, the best reporting, is honest, authentic and real. Interestingly, the two most cited characteristics sellers look for in a real estate agent are reputation and honesty. Not lead generation technology, not a fancy car, not drama: reputation and honesty.

Don’t believe what you see on the tube, that’s “entertainment.” (and I put quotes around that word because frankly I find little of this television foolishness entertaining). Good agents, good salespeople, don’t act like what you see on HGTV or on CNN, or Fox News, or ESPN. Good agents, good salespeople, are honest, authentic, and trustworthy. You can see it in their marketing. You can see it in the way they run their business. You can see it every day.

Marsha Friedman at Business Superstar in her article entitled The Best Marketing Tool Is Honesty, gives three easy steps to achieving honesty in your marketing (and thus your business): full article here

1). Be honest about what you can and cannot do, 2). Keep Your Word, 3). Remember, there’s a fine line between attention getting and trickery.

Doesn’t seem that difficult.

SO, Back to the “bigger” world. The solution for honest, authentic people to alleviate our twisted television (as well as those more twisted inhabitants of Washington DC) is by demanding better, not taking BS as the norm. Not wanting to appear to be someone from the 60′s, I believe we actually can change things; make them better.



Garage Sales Are Cool

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A well-planned garage or yard sale can make room in your home, get rid of unused items and make some money but it needs some planning to be successful.

  • Start early to research and plan
  • Promotion is key
  • Display items attractively
  • Price items right
  • Organize checkout

Saturdays are generally the best day but there may be some exceptions.  Experienced garage-salers believe that a well-planned one-day event will do as well as a multi-day event.  Serious purchasers will look for the “new” sale and most people don’t come back multiple days.

Advertise in local newspapers and free online classified sites like craigslist.  If several families are going together for the sale, mention that in the ad; it will be a big draw.  Mention your bigger-ticket items like furniture, equipment and baby items.

Garage sale signs can be purchased or made at Staples, Fedex Office or Kwik Signs.  Signs need large lettering so they’re easy to read while people are driving. Most important info: Garage or Yard Sale, address, date and time.  Directional signs are also important.  Balloons and streamers to attract attention to the signs are very helpful.

Consider using the service Square so that you can take credit cards.  The cost is 2.75% per swipe and can be done on your smartphone or iPad.  You’ll need to sign up at least two weeks in advance to receive your reader.

Unless you’re having an estate sale, keep your home locked.  You don’t want people wandering through your home while you’re outside.  If you start to accumulate a lot of money, take some of it inside.  Don’t discuss how much money you’ve made during the sale or how successful it has been.

People will want to bargain; it’s the nature of the game.  Consider this strategy: less negotiations early in the sale and possibly, more toward the end of the sale.

Five Leadership (and Life) Lessons From Stuart Scott.

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A great journalist and entertainer, Stuart Scott, died after a seven year fight with cancer Sunday morning. He was 49 years old. My sons grew up with Stuart. He was their introduction to sports from a perspective to which they could relate. He was different, he was fun, he was COOL.

Stuart Scott was more than cool, however, he was a leader. He was a Black leader in a business of salt and pepper haired white men who thought sports should be reported a particular way. He really was THE ONE who made ESPN cool (there’s that word again).

After witnessing countless tributes, farewells and memories in the days since Sunday morning, those of us who didn’t have the opportunity to meet him or know him as a person, have a better understanding of who this wonderful man was and the impact he had on those he touched. For me, and maybe for you, there are some lessons Stuart Scott leaves us for our businesses and for our lives.

  1. Be yourself. Stuart Scott had a different vision in 1993 when he began his career at ESPN. That vision was to provide sports entertainment to the young, the hip, the cool. It was not always well received. In fact, Stuart faced a ton of adversity (even hate) to his style and delivery early on. Luckily for us and for the network, he stayed true to being HIMself, to being the authentic, real life Stuart Scott. Oscar Wilde said, “Be yourself. Every one else is taken.” Stuart was Stuart. True leaders, real inspirations are who they are, without apology, without regret. They embrace being “the cool side of the pillow.”
  2. Know Who You Are Leading. Many will follow. The knack to being an effective leader is focusing on the right tribe to lead. In a way, Stuart Scott saw the future of sports broadcasting and spoke to it, long before the establishment knew it existed. Without vision, leadership has no effect on those it could lead.
  3. Be Relentless. From everything said about Stuart Scott, he was a professional. His quest to be the best he could be was, well, relentless. A leader rarely knows satisfaction, or worse yet, complacency. They are on a constant mission to take it to the next level every day, every moment. Obstacles, like cancer in Stuart’s case, are simply things to be fought, and ultimately overcome.
  4. Preparation is Everything. This whole leadership thing cannot work without the tireless efforts of the leader. From the countless stories told by his colleagues, Stuart Scott thrived on being prepared. Even in the throes of sickness, his unwavering pursuit to excel never slowed. He looked at every aspect of his profession in an effort to deliver the best end result product possible. If Malcom Gladwell was right that we need 10,000 hours of “practice time” to become awesome at something, Stuart understood. And worked triple time.
  5. Love Others. Stuart Scott was loved. By his fans, by his colleagues, by his friends, by his family, Stuart Scott was loved. The biggest reason for such love was simple: Stuart Scott loved. Love is a powerful mover of people and it was that love for what he did and for the life he led that separated him from the masses. Great leaders, powerful inspirations know that the best results happen when the focus is not self, but others. Stuart Scott existed in an entertainment world that is all about “love me, love me, love me.” Yet he led by loving others.

We can learn a lot from the life, as sadly cut short as it was, of Stuart Scott. And maybe that is some of what he always wanted. Rest in Peace, Stuart Scott. And BOOYAH!