Values and Admiration

Politicians may exist to show us what we look like when the wind of other people’s opinions fills our sails. Values are our rudders. Life is the wind.

Values—Martin Luther King and Malcolm X lived true to their values. They raised attention to issues they believed in to change a wrong. They attracted love and following because they inspired people to higher values. They had no seat to win, no job to secure…they were free to live to mean something to life. Politicians drift from vague commitment to even greater confusion depending on what they have to gain.  Which recent past president do we honor for their commitment to a cause? Who is a profile in courage—and don’t say JFK.

To see how this thought relates to real estate, think of the questions that person in your head asks you as you ponder owning a home. ” Where should my kids go to school? Where do my co-workers think I should live?  What neighborhood will my friends approve? What house style will look best on me? How will I explain to my parents?” With a committee of dozens constantly meeting in our heads, it’s not surprising we move from home to home like no other generation of Americans.

The most content people I meet in this business, clients and other realtors, are people who believe what they believe and move forward on a beam of values. Not everything they do is accepted, supported, admired, or tolerated by everyone. What matters is their commitments matter to them. They bring enthusiasm to their endeavors. They bring happiness to their decisions. They bring joy to their commitments. They don’t waiver and quit because someone says “That won’t work, or that’s not what I would do.”  Values ground us in a way a desire to be admired can’t.

Wherever I hang my hat is my home. 

The Enemy of Creativity is Fear: Or Good Stuff From Seth Godin

Embrace fear and wrap it in creativity. Use fear to improve your creative idea, not to extinguish it.

Great ideas become popular internet Apps, inventions, tools to improve life, amazing books, and movies. Chances are the person credited with the Great Idea probably wasn’t the first to imagine the potential. What the person who made it happen did was overcome fear. Fear is placed in our minds by imagining the idea will fail, be rejected, we’ll be ridiculed. Kind of funny to think that the same idea we imagine to be clever and worthwhile has two faces. One bright and optimistic, the other gloom and doom.

People who set out to make a difference have fear nipping at their heals right up to the date of launch. What they do that allows them to move forward is probably a combination of ignoring the fear and embracing it. Fear embraced for what it is helps the creative person think about areas of opportunity, weakness, areas to be enhanced. When fear derails a creative idea fear succeeds in undermining a person’s pride, ego, confidence. commitment, desire to make a difference. Want to try it? Think of a social issue and suggest a creative solution to friends. They will show you what you should fear. Suggest a business idea to your spouse. If you get an enthusiastic “let’s do it!” you’re one of the fortunate few.

Seth Godin points out that the enemy of Fear is Creativity. Willing to learn from failure allows a person to be creative in face of fear. Fear can not stand up to creativity. Creativity will attract creative people.

Embrace fear. Be creative. Be as fearless as a child who only knows imagination. Wrap that fear in creativity.

East Madison–Back to Where We Started

About a dozen years ago a recent graduate of a New York or Boston university showed up at my office asking for a tour of Madison. He had the accent of a son of New England, and the curiosity of a New Yorker. The young guy, let’s call him Jed, wanted to figure out where he should own if he accepted the job he had interviewed for. He told me the interviewer told him to look on the near west side of the city. When asked why, the young man was told “Because nobody lives on the east side”. By the time we finished our tour and Jed had sized up or city he concluded the East Side was where he would buy. The reason was simple as he saw it. The west side prices were over inflated, east side was affordable, the most potential for improvement was east, and, he told me, “This economy is going to burst. I want to be safe.” I thought Jed was wrong on all counts. He wasn’t.

Just like the earliest days of Madison’s history (1836-1850) people are making their homes on the east side. One of the first streets to have homes built was Gorham Street. The modern regeneration of east side Madison is well underway. Quality businesses are locating within the neighborhoods, owner associations are vibrant, and the East Washington corridor is finally looking cared about.

I took a look at the sales in the near east neighborhoods for 2014; the picture is impressive. One hundred and seventy seven (177)homes at an average price of $227,888 sold. The median price is $215,000. The median priced home sits right where the first homes were built: on Gorham Street. Built 130 years ago the two story, 1600 square foot, 3 bedroom, 2 bath house went on the market in April for $214,900 and sold in 2 days for $215,000. The average time on the market for these homes was 43 days.

Who are these people making like the settlers buying up east side real estate? They’re the “Jeds”. They’re educated, smart, employed, and they are conservative with their home ownership dollars. They want to own in Madison and still have money for other things.

I’m enthused to see people wanting to be part of the movement east. They’re not just buying east because west is so expensive, they’re buying east to be east.

Seller Videotape & Electronic Monitoring of Buyers and Realtors. Is this legal?

Video taping and photographing properties has long been used by buyers to gather and retain information about the many homes they visit. Sellers provide photos and video tours of their homes to appeal to would-be buyers. Now, a new use of recording technology is making its way into the real estate conversation: Seller recording and monitoring of buyers and their realtors on their premises. Not unlike public places, sellers are placing recording and monitoring devices in their homes to watch, listen in, and record the activities of buyers and their agents while they tour the seller’s property.

Unlike public places, the seller is not always placing the electronic device in plain sight and not disclosing to visitors that they’re “being watched”. Is this legal? According to Cori Lamont, Director of Corporate and Regulatory Affairs for the Wisconsin Realtors Association, “…nowhere in Wisconsin law is information that strictly prohibits the use of surveillance devices in this context.”

Sellers contemplating surveillance, especially if they intend to not disclose, would be wise to seek legal counsel first. Real estate licensees who know secret monitoring is being done would be prudent to discuss the situation with their Broker. While the law may not strictly prohibit the electronic monitoring, I would not want to test my immunity in court at my own expense. Technology is becoming common place but acceptance of being monitored without warning is not.

Title Insurance Blanket Exceptions Banned in Wisconsin

No risk to the insurer title policy. It’s a pretty good gig if you can get (away with) it, title insurance with a blanket exception costs the same as title insurance that might cover something.

Tom Larson, VP of Legal and Public Affairs for the Wisconsin Realtors Association reports in the August 2014 Edition of the Wisconsin Real Estate Magazine a ban on Blanket Exceptions in Title Insurance.

The kind of blanket exception we see in Title Insurance Policies effectively limit the liability of the Insurance Company and leave the property owners and lenders at risk. The blanket exception is vague enough to leave the coverage open to interpretation of the attorneys representing the title company and the folks who though they had insurance.

Read Tom Larson’s Article Keeping Them Honest.   The Wisconsin Office of Commissioner of Insurance issued a bulletin prohibiting the blanket exception practice.

Buyer Agency. The Purpose Is Not About Getting Paid

You’re a Wisconsin real estate licensee. What’s most important to you, (a) getting paid, or (b) being on the right side of the law? I know you said “B”, being on the right side of the law. That’s the reason we do buyer agency service right? No? What?

Somewhere along the way to providing buyer agency service the notion that buyer agency contracts are about getting paid took a hold of our industry and has not let go. I could be wrong, I sometimes am, but it seems that the purpose for Buyer Agency is inherent to the consumer demand that made Buyer Agency Service relevant. That demand came from two places: First, the buyer who wanted the licensee on their side for the insight the licensee could share for the buyer’s benefit, and second, the broker who wanted to fill the demand.

In the beginning, as far as  Wisconsin is concerned,  I put the beginning around 1990-91 when the first buyer agents appeared on the scene guns blazing to advocate on par with lawyers for their buyer clients. To be sure those first agents were all about getting it done for their buyer clients who they captured with a wide net of agency contracts, but taking no prisoners of sellers or their Realtors. The traditional industry responded the way traditionalist are prone to…they rose up to do battle with the Advocates. The generals rallied their troops, sides were taken, lines were drawn, and prisoners were few.  When it became clear that the Buyer Agents would not surrender the cry for help went up, “There Outta Be a LAW!” And one was made. (That’s what happened in Wisconsin where producing laws is a close second to producing cheese. In other states the Realtors cried “There Outta Be an Ethics Code”. Either way, there was a lot of crying) If the advocates would not surrender peacefully, then the law would eliminate licensee advocacy. The advocates could remain, but the behavior was now illegal or worse, unethical or both. Only lawyers could advocate  and that makes sense because they’re just better designed for such confrontational behavior. They are. It’s in there DNA. Without advocating as a reason to be, real estate licensees were offered “facilitating”. But facilitating didn’t sound like anything worth three, or four, or five, or six or seven percent of the purchase price and the industry rallied to remain “Agents”. In the end, the legislature gods gave us our unique brand of agency…and it was good, for about ten years.  Maybe I’m going deeper into this than I should, but the story was a good one…OK, back to the topic.

The purpose of the buyer agency relationship is not about getting paid, it’s all about being on the right side of the law so we can (1) do what we do best without unusual restrictions, (2) give the client a summary of services they can hold us accountable to, and (3) in the end earn our compensation.  If I’m effective at what I do, a person who has reason to trust me will want me contracted with them.  If I want to apply myself and my skills for a person, I will want to contract with them. If the first reason to have a contract is to satisfy my erroneous belief that the contract will give me a better than even chance of getting paid, my motive is way off base and this relationship is off to a rocky start.

I’m going to press the blue PUBLISH button now. If you have strong feelings, or mild ones, let me know. This is just my opinion, I’d like to hear yours.

Being Part of the Solution…Checking Motives

Have you ever caught yourself more than a little to eager for the conflict? If you haven’t, I admire you. It’s said that awareness is the beginning of change and when it comes to conflict resolution, changing from eager for the fight to ready for a resolution change is gonna do me good. My first awareness of my motive being out of bounds was to hear what my head is thinking. On my way to a meeting where conflict was brewing my mind was thinking of what I would say and none of what my mind was offering up as clever was conducive to resolution. It took until after the meeting for me to check my motives and recognize that I arrived at the meeting with too many fight’n words and too few resolution ideas and questions. Right motives to resolve opposed to being right is the higher ground where I want to live. Checking motives is a first thing not a last thing I need to do all the time to be a part of the solution. This is not a sometime thing, it’s an all the time thing as a favorite coach of mine used to tell me back in the mid 1970’s.

Real estate professionals, at our best, are in the business of resolutions. Finding middle ground, asking questions, offering ideas, considering consequences, being a rational sounding board, suggesting avenues of approach, are constructive actions of the right motives. Asking questions is an under valued skill…questions that lead to resolution not conflict that is. On my shelf is a book that tells me the power of questions. Leading With Questions. They can cut through the fog, “What ideas do you have? What would you like me to hear? What would you like to hear from me? What happens if we…?” or they can cut to the bone, “Do you really believe? What are you trying to do? How can you say that? Are you for real?”  

Questions are part of the ingredients for resolution soup, another is statements. Finding the middle ground does not require giving away the farm.  To take the high road to the middle ground in a disagreement you may have to make some firm statements. Again, checking my motives will help me make that statement from a position of care for cooperation instead of threat to conflict. Best example that comes to mind is this one: “You’ll hear from our lawyer!” What’s my motive? Well for one, this is statement to incite fear. Just like, “I’m telling mom” or “Just wait till your father gets home!”. Look, lawyers have a place in solutions in the real estate transaction and while it’s open to debate, lawyers are human too so their motive matters too.  How we bring a higher legal mind into the discussion is important to the outcome. Here’s how a person of right motive raised the lawyer idea in a conversation with me and I felt the difference. “We’re making progress here. The details can be worked out from here with the help of a lawyer. I’ll ask (insert name here) to put some ideas in writing and how about you run them past your attorney? I liked that. It felt more like a cool mist on a potentially hot topic; the other way is lighter fluid on the flame. 

Next time you sense the heat rising, check your motives and resolve to be part of the resolution. You’ll know you have right motives when you’re mind is giving you right questions and smart solutions instead of accusative questions, and harsh statements. Wishing you the best. Change is gonna do us good.