Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Dump spam...

I'm going to go slightly off topic here for a few minutes.

I don't know about you, but I get so much spam it isn't even funny. In fact, eliminating some of the spam frees up so much time I can get in the garage more...

I just want to share one of my spam strategies. It is fairly effective, and if you put the right pieces in to place, it can make your email communication much more efficient. It does involve having two two things.

The first requirement is owning your own internet domain, and having it hosted where you can control the mailbox... and most hosts let you control the mailbox for your domain. You can own your domain through a number of registrars for under $10/yr. Hosting can be done for just a few bucks a month.

The next thing you need is a program or service that will collect your mail and sort it for you. I use MS Outlook, although Mozilla Thunderbird would be a great open source (=free) option. You might also be able to do it through a webmail service like Gmail or Yahoo or something... but I haven't tried.

So, the first thing to do it start being REAL careful about who you give your "real" email address. I have a primary that is on my business cards, and I give to people. I won't post it here... there is a contact form on my websites... because there are harvesting programs that surf the net looking for addresses.

Second, when filling out those hundreds of forms every time you have to give an email address, use a unique address. My Airtran Rewards account uses AirTran at my domain dot com. Notifications from here use Blog at my domain dot com. (btw, mydomain dot com is not the actual domain...) This does two very important things. The first one is that it lets me know where the email came from. If I get an email to AirTran at my domain, and that email comes from Hertz rent-a-car, I know that AirTran sold my address.

The next step both reduces the spam one needs to look at, and organizes email that one might actually want to read. In Outlook, make folders for different types of mail. I have folders for real estate related mail, and then it is further broken down into client names, RPAC, and then various other folders based on need. I also have a folder for 4x4 stuff. It is broken down into club stuff, and then other catagories as needed. There are several other categories and sub-categories that I use... but you get the idea... and yours will different and based on your own needs.

Finally, build rules (I do it as mail comes in) to route the mail to the appropriate folder. When I changed from my old address, I replied to people as needed, and gave them a new address to route their mail to the appropriate place. As mail came in to the new addresses, I wrote rules in Outlook so that the mail would go to the folder I needed it to go to.

Now, as my mail comes in, I can glance and know if it is something I need to be on right away, or if it is something that can wait. I empty out my junk folder several times a day, but it only takes moments instead of the great deal of time it would take before.

I hope this helps. And, I know there are other strategies to lower spam as well.

Just don't route MY mails to spam...

And, I will soon be deploying a GREAT offer through email. Keep an eye on my new website for details... they aren't there yet, but will be in the next week... It's going to be a cool deal.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Abandon all hope, Ye who enter Atlanta's roads on Halloween...

Cookie Monster on the prowlTomorrow is Halloween. Don't drive. Seriously, the scariest thing in Atlanta tomorrow will be the traffic.

It won't be bad in the morning, but coming home will NOT be fun. After about 2:00, until around 9:00, the highways and side streets will be crazy. It won't just be the little pirates and ghosts running around collecting candy, either. It is the same every year.

There are the adult parties, the kid parties, the trick or treating and then that special something else... people go nuts.

Mark my words. Take off early (I'm thinking just before lunch) and go home. Dress your little goblin (take that whatever way you want), and then kick back and throw some candy around. Don't even try to go out for a pizza if you don't have to.

Be safe out there...

Blog Anthology, Posts 106-115

What? Only 10 posts this time? What's up, Lane?

Well, I have just about caught up. After the ten I present today, the posts are from the Blog Anthology. Going forward, I will try to summarize every two weeks or so. I was just a slacker for the last few months.

As we left off in the last blog anthology post, I had mentioned building a car-hobby centric subdivision around road racing, rock crawling or drag racing. Well... Are there any developers out there that want to go after an untapped market and build a community that offers something different? We already know that a Unique Selling Proposition can overcome broader market trends. Calling one developer.. you don't know who you are yet.

Everyone is talking about coaching... so I will too. Brittany, Owen, Kiefer and Paris... give me a call. Not only will I give you some good coaching, but I can sell you a house. And I obviously can't screw you up much more...

Countrywide Mortgage is up to its armpits in the sub-prime mortgage junk. So, the CEO tried to lay out a case as to why the government should bail them out. I'm not a fan. Where does this guy get his data?

There is a saying that is too prevalent in this industry. And I don't like it. So, what happens when I disagree with something? (everyone together) I write a post laying out a case against it... Buyer are liars... or not so much.

Three of my favorite words... and it isn't location, location, location... along with my former profession. Free, Free, FREE... Nifty open source photo editor.

Market Update for Gwinnett County, August 2007. I also announced a change in the timing because of the data not being released fast enough for me.

The Army Corps of Engineers is really getting under my skin. I haven't washed my truck in months. I don't water my yard. So, I wrote about the effects of Lake Lanier On droughts and mussels.

Back to the California "Bubble blog" guy, and his claim that housing is not as good of an investment as stocks... Off to the spreadsheet. I was truly SHOCKED by the data. What is a better investment?

I am going to be doing advertising for this site and my "new site" pretty soon, so I wanted to know, Does advertising need to be "good" to be effective?

Finally for this installment... I went Wandering through the DoJ website. For all of the complaining that they do about the NAR and disclosure in the real estate injury, they don't disclose some very important facts themselves. I think someone there got a crappy agent and now has a bit of a bent to beat up on the rest of us.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Blog Anthology, Posts 91-105

I can't believe that I have had to write 7 of these. Ok, I knew how many posts I had, but until I started reading through everything to get this anthology done, it really didn't hit me how much material there was here.

There is no doubt that the majority of the country is in a buyer's market. We certainly are here in most of the sub-markets and micro-markets here around Atlanta. But, What is a Buyer's Market?

So, since we talked about buyer's markets, it's only fair to cover a seller's market. What is a Seller's Market?

I get a couple of different updates from the NAR. Sometimes these lead to blog posts as I wonder what they are talking about, break news, or just try to explain what one might hear about on the news later. What are we doing here? Looking at the housing landscape... talks a bit about what the fallout should and shouldn't be over the sub-prime mortgage meltdown.

Here is one of the worst kept secrets around. I'm building a new website. In Shhh... Can you keep a secret? I kind of break the news... even though I had mentioned it previously in a more limited way. I'd still love your comments and feedback about the new site.

I'm up around 100 blog posts on this site. I have copied ALL of these over to the new website. I have also put other content I have produced onto the new site. Can I call a moving company for content? is just a little blurb about the site, Joomla (the Content Management System) and building a site.

Bubble bloggers are having a great popularity these days. So, I wrote The sky is falling... and the bubble is coming. I just wanted to put a little different spin on the Nightline story about one of the most widely read bubble bloggers.

Another bonus for having a blog is that I get to talk about properties. My first property blog is about a Tuscany condo in Midtown Atlanta. BTW, I think we are going to have a multi-unit open house on Nov. 11th. Stay tuned, I'm working on something else to do in conjunction with that open house that is unheard of here in Atlanta.

It can be odd where one finds inspiration. For this post, an old pick-up truck heater and an Alaskan writer named Satch Carlson got me writing. Nothing, nothing, nothing... Jet blast!

I like to get out a camp a little. So, I was Looking forward to a little camping! and SFWDA Dixie Run. I was also trying to see if anyone would offer up a camper... nobody did.

I'm a Libertarian, and so when I read about things like Imputed income, I get a little antsy, and a bit miffed. If you don't know what that is, you need to read the post. If you have an idea, but don't know why I would be miffed... read... and if you still don't know, please make a comment.

I enjoy NASCAR racing. And it served as Lane's "Crazy Idea of the Day" on Oct. 8th.

The NAR is catching on to the fact that buyers want big garages. How soon before everyone else figures out It's about the garage!?

I think that one of the coolest things in private sector research is the X Prize. Read to find out what it is and why it is so cool.

Since I went camping, I had to report on the trip. Ahh, relaxed... ok, sorta relaxed gives a little rundown on the trip... with no camper.

There are golf communities, equestrian communities and even tennis communities. Why not a racing or rock crawling community? Actually, there are a couple of racing communities as well as racing "country clubs" spread around the country. I tossed out some opinions in If you lived here, you'd be rock crawling/drag racing/road racing now...

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Blog Anthology, Posts 76-90

Sixth part? Yep.

My "other" post on September 11th was P is for Pictures. With the importance of the internet for consumers looking for homes, the presentation is more important than ever before. Previously, I showed bad pictures... this time I went for the good ones.

A lot of people on Active Rain thought I was going to have a problem with Q... Q is for Quit Claim. It was easy. When reviewing the title history, seeing a Quit Claim Deed doesn't have to mean there is a problem. Often it just means that a good closing attorney wanted to make sure there wasn't a problem in the future.

Not every real estate agent is a REALTOR(R). Unfortunately, the words have become interchangeable... even inside the industry. R is for REALTOR(R). I outlined the differences.

For my consumer blog, I called in an expert to handle S is for Staging. Angel Walker agreed to help me out and made a GREAT post. Staging isn't new, but many of us in the industry have a new found respect for the results staging can bring.

As with the rest of the world, T is for Technology. There are a LOT of technologies that buyers, sellers and agents are bombarded with every day.

I am not a "half-measures" person. I believe that doing it means doing it right... and doing it up! I don't like things that are wimpy. If you want to have a great kitchen, make it a GREAT kitchen. If you are going to have a garage, make it a killer garage. U is for Ultimate. Everybody has a different definition, what's yours?

Here I sit, writing for "virtual" subscribers, from my "virtual" office. How could I write anything different than V is for Virtual.

Some say that negotiating is a contact sport. There can only be one winner in any contest. Take no prisoners. Give no quarter. But, as often is the case, it isn't over until it is over, and the very people you just beat up get to hold the cards again. In real estate, W is for Win... and Win.

I knew what I was going to write about when I got to X before I had even figured out what I would write for D. This was one of my favorite posts. I think it is important, and despite my often flippant attitude and writing style, I tried to treat this with a little more respect. X is for... (that doesn't mean there was NO room for humor).

I interupted my A-Z series to bring in the Market Update for Gwinnett County, August 2007.

Despite the name, Y is for Youth, this post is about ethics and honesty... and Jimmie Johnson bashing (indirectly, since he seems to be the NASCAR cheater without remorse).

Z is for... (surprise)

Finally done with the A-Z series, I went back to talking and thinking of garage stuff. Where is the cool garage stuff? is as much about the search as it is about the results. But, every garage needs some fluff... really cool fluff.

So, that was kind of expensive. So, Now let's try some cool garage stuff that won't break the bank. Northern Tool and Harbor Freight provided some of the inspiration. Whirlpool gave some as well. We can't all spring for $3400 fridges.

Since I was on a roll, I found some More Groovy Cool Garage Stuff... This more about environment and decor. But, the "man pit" doesn't have to be ALL about work.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Blog Anthology, Posts 61-75

Part V... will it ever end?

On my "other" blog, at Active Rain, I had written a post about generating ideas for blog posts. Well, one of those ideas was to do an A-Z series. So, I did.

A is for Appraisal covers the basics about Appraisals, CMAs, CMSs and BPOs. They all have different methodology, but the goal is the same... figuring out the value of a property.

One of the items that WILL be more utilized is the buyer's agency agreement. I cover why in B is for Buyer's Agent. Many states will be requiring agency agreements with buyers, as they have with sellers for years.

Not all sales are all cash, as-is and without any reservations. So, C is for Contingency.

Getting a property inspected, checking future zoning or verifying value would all be D is for Due Diligence.

E is for Ethics is about exactly that. Good ethics are paramount in the real estate industry. An agent without a positive ethical grounding is just about worthless. But, ethics aren't the only thing.

Everybody wants a deal. Barely a day goes by that I don't have a call about foreclosures. After all, they should be a good deal, right? Sometimes they are. Sometimes... not so much. F is for Foreclosure.

Would I be a "garage-loving" agent if I didn't write G is for Garage?

In most states, an owner's primary residences carries financial and legal protections. Much of this is covered in H is for Homestead.

Every once in a while I write something short. I is for Inspection is my short post.

I had this friend. She bought me a Christmas present for the employee party where we worked. I wrote a blog post 20 years later... Obviously it begins with J... but I'll let it be a surprise.

K is for Knock-down. Boy, there are a lot of angles one could look at this subject from. I picked one...

I love garages. But, I also really love industrial style lofts. L is for Loft talks about a loft that I "followed" for a while. Interesting changes.

Car people stay on top of their scheduled maintenance for their cars. M is for Maintenance tells why homes need the same attention.

It might have been a lame stretch, but N is for Numbers. I hear a lot of agents saying that they aren't really "number people", but it just isn't true...

I'm preparing to have an O is for Open House for the property at the Tuscany. I blogged about advantages and disadvantages of an open house in this post.

I took a break on Sept. 11th to write about what happened for my wife and I on that day in 2001. It was a normal day...

Friday, October 26, 2007

Blog Anthology, Posts 46-60

Part IV. Lots of posts...

This time we'll start with It's time for the IRS to GO! I'm a supporter of the FairTax, so I laid out the case in response to the news story about the guy that caught Barry Bonds' record-breaking home run. Fun, huh?

If you don't know, I created a Local Real Estate Forum for Buyers, Sellers, Investors, FSBOs and others. I wish I could say that it is bustling with activity, but it isn't. I'm always looking to change that. Another feature that I have added is individual subdivision areas. With this, your neighborhood (if it is around Gwinnett County, GA) can have a private forum... no one that hasn't been granted permission will be able to even see it is there.

I dived deeper into the FairTax, Since I previously brought up the FairTax... more specifically regarding real estate. Keep in mind that this is based on my understanding of the plan.

July 2007 Market Report for Gwinnett County. How did I do on my predictions?

There are simply things that I am not allowed to actually talk about as a licensed real estate agent. Fair Housing laws mean that people have to go elsewhere for Answers to questions I can't answer.

The next part of my Real Estate Investing Series is Real Estate Investing 202 - Buy and Hold Strategies. If I recall correctly, it deals with buy and hold strategies.

The MacDaddy of my Real Estate Investing Series has been Real Estate Investing 301 - Advanced Strategies. I have received scores of calls on this one. Don't call my office... I'm not there. Emailing me is MUCH better. Of course, the NCNDA will be the first thing we go over...

Are we our own worst enemy? Sometimes I think so. While this is primarily aimed at those in the real estate business, there might be a few things that others can carry away from it.

I don't really like "business school speak." Words like product and inventory have their place, but it isn't in front of consumers when talking about their food, homes, cars or financial planning. Wouldn't you love to own this wonderful INVENTORY?

I write a lot it seems. How many blog posts do I need for a book?

As part of my forum project, I created an Atlanta Area Motorsports Calendar. If you have an event (pro or amateur), meeting or other type of event just let me know. I'll post it up. This is a link to the release.

Want to sell your home to an investor? It might not be all it's cracked up to be. "We Buy Ugly Homes" might also make something you think of as an ugly offer. But, there are advantages, too. Read on...

I had to revisit the 200 level classes in my Real Estate Investing Series. In Real Estate Investing 203 - Shifting Classes and Uses, I explored increasing investment value through changes in zoning or usage.

Always willing to play for a while, I tossed up A little more Moab, with a few friends. I love that place... and I need to get my Jeep done so I can go back. Buy a house.

I don't think the offer is good any more, but I asked Are you a first time home buyer willing to be on TV?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Blog Anthology, Posts 31-45

Part 3 of my 1,000,000 part series... If you have liked something I wrote, this will give you an little easier time finding something else that might inform or entertain you. All of these posts are tagged with "blog anthology."

It might be a little dry for those outside of the profession, but Maybe it's Time to Bury Dual Agency lays out the case for not allowing it. This would still allow unrepresented buyers or sellers, but there would be no conflict regarding one agent having agency agreements with both parties.

For anyone that doesn't know I own an ugly Jeep, here you go. Not only is part of it green, but I might be to. Does this mean I'm actually Green? Recycling, precycling, and controlling the thermostat are just a couple of symptoms. It could be that I'm cheap, too...

Watching the news would lead one to think that there is a massive entity called... The National Real Estate Market. It just isn't so. HEY MEDIA... Are you listening? ALL Real Estate is LOCAL!!! There are markets doing quite well, others are average, and some are collapsing... but they can't seem to figure that out.

The second in my Real Estate Investing Series was Real Estate Investing 201, Digging Deeper into Flipping looked at exactly that... flipping.

Because so few people "got" the post about specializing, I decided to be more blunt... and expand a bit. Do you have a Unique Selling Proposition? goes into using a niche market. While I think there is a benefit to real estate agents, I think that it also applies to those selling a home. It has to be marketed, too.

Finally, I got to talk about garages again. I'm telling you... the GARAGE is the "new Media Room" has nothing to do with media rooms. instead, media rooms were hot. All of the new houses had to have one. Now, bigger and cooler garages are gaining in popularity.

Want to go to DisneyWorld? There are ways to do it that only break part of the bank. DisneyWorld Bargain Strategy won't get you there for free, but there are ways to seriously upgrade the experience without seriously upgrading the cost.

DeKalb County Limited Building Moratorium talks about infill.

In a similar vein, Cobb County places restrictions on number of adults living in single family homes.

Are there just too many real estate agents?
I wonder the same thing. Nationwide, almost 1% of the population is licensed. Some places it is over 2%.

Cool Toys and Ideas for the Garage was heavier on ideas than toys. There are some good links and some pros and cons about different garage products.

Know anyone that wants a 7000 SF Log Home on Lake Lanier?

I was just curious about luxury touches on entry level homes. Luxurious Entry Level Homes? asks if entry level buyers think it is worth it.

In one of my Market Reports, I made a few predictions. I called this one a month ago... covers one of those predictions.

The NAR has actually tried to get in front of thise a few times, but i think it needs to be the centerpiece of what we do in Washington, as well as EVERY state capitol. Eminent Domain Abuse is running rampant, and it needs to stop.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Blog Anthology, Posts 16-30

Welcome to part 2 of my anthology of previous blog posts. The purpose is to give a quick reference to the older posts for newer readers. All of these posts are tagged with "blog anthology." If you click on that link to the right, you will get all of these posts. So, let's dive in.

In Agent as Buyer, I wrote about my experiences looking at property with my wife... we haven't bought yet, and it is on the back burner. But, it might be interesting to see how a real estate agent looks at personal real estate.

The next two posts are connected. In Mercedes Doesn't Discount and But Wal-Mart Does, I talk a little bit about discount brokerages, FSBOs and full service brokerages. There are people that are best served by each model, and others that are poorly served by getting into the wrong one for the wrong reason.

Lessons From Driving School is primarily pointed towards real estate practitioners, but it obviously came from outside real estate, and the basic lesson applies to almost everything we might do.

Do you wonder What Buyers Are Looking For? If so, drop in and take a look at an abstract of the 2007 NAR Buyer's Survey. I bring it up again later after it is released. Yes, garages are on the list...

I always preach that the value of a home is NEVER related to what one owes or what one paid, but in this post, I Stand Corrected.

Many homeowners wonder about Repairs, Improvements, Upgrades and Resale. They are important. When one is selling a home, is it worth it to spend money, and if so, how should it be spent? This is one of my most popular articles on Ezine.

Obviously, I think that consumers need an agent when they are buying a home. But, Buying a New Home... Still Need An Agent? lays out the case for having an agent that represents YOU and not the builder if you are buying new construction.

I know of a house that sat under contract for over six months. The discount broker let the seller sign a contract that didn't give him an out if there was not timely performance by the buyer. I call that Customer Dis-Service, Pt. I.

Stone Mountain Park had a cool event this summer in conjunction with Animal Planet... it's over now, but you can read about it here.

One of the most important things a marketing plan needs to include in order to sell a house is GOOD photos. After all, Pictures are the first (and maybe last) impression you will give a Buyer. These aren't good...

Everyone wants to know, Are we on the edge of a Calamitous Housing Bubble? Well, this lays out the case for why we are actually doing pretty well in Gwinnett County, GA.

Since I was in a predictive mood, I decided to tackle What is going to happen to Interest Rates? So far, I seem to be on track. We had a bump that was a little smaller than I expected, but they are sliding now.

One of my best posts so far has been The "Dirty Little Secret" that FSBO companies won't tell you! I was watching the news and there was a STUPID story about real estate "dirty little secrets". But, I think they missed the mark. I didn't mention it in the post, but the DLS that started it was that real estate agents don't tell clients that they don't exclusively own time shares... What idiot does NOT know that?

I am so misunderstood sometimes. On my other platform, almost EVERYONE missed the point of We specialize in American, Asian and European Cars and Trucks. It isn't just for real estate, but that is a primary focus here.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Blog Anthology, Posts 1-15

I know that in the earliest days of this blog, there weren’t many readers. And, while there are a couple more readers now, there are a LOT of old posts out there. I just wanted to provide a quick reference so that one can go through and find the posts that might be of interest. The short descriptions are much easier to use to find a nice post to read than just diving into the tags. So, enjoy.

Garage with a detached home was my initial and introductory post. I got to talk a little bit about me and what I hope to accomplish with my blog.

House Stalking was sort of fun, and it might be my most famous post. After posting it, I was contacted by a reporter from the New York Times. They did a story about house stalking (I wasn’t the inspiration, just another cog).

Then I looked at FSBOs for the first time. First I talked about a study in Wisconsin, and followed it up with a post about the math to compare FSBO savings in the real world. It works out to be pretty close to the same… just less work to have an agent.

How did it get this far? was a post about going to an eviction. The owners were already pretty much out. However, there were a lot of clues about the family that lived there. But, the point was that it was something that didn’t have to happen.

Have you ever known a home owner that made One improvement too many? I was talking with a potential buyer at a property I had listed, and they just wanted to spend a HUGE amount more than the property was worth.

A garage is a garage is a garage… NOT! Was my first real garage news post. I ran across a story about builders actually thinking a cool garage might sell property.

Without lame attempts at humor, I would not be me. Three sides covered and butt hanging out compares hospital gowns and homes…

I had a couple of travel posts. New Orleans and Moab, UT.

Not all real estate agents are good people… and they aren’t all bad people. Unfortunately, we are stereotyped as kind of stupid, greedy, and shallow. So, I wrote about that in An Unfortunate Stereotype.

I hit my first widely published Market Report for Gwinnett County for June 2007.

Real Estate Investing 101 covered the basics of various types and strategies of investing in… real estate (was that a shocker?).

Finally, for this installment, I laid out the case for why now is the time to buy real estate. Is It Time to Buy?

Wandering through the DoJ website

What is it going to take to make them happy? Did someone at the DoJ have an unsatisfactory experience with a real estate agent? Or is it simply that they know our approval ratings are down there with our Democrat led Congress (which would love to have even the dismal ratings of George W. Bush), so we are an easy target?

There is an interesting report called "Competition in the Real Estate Brokerage Industry" that is a pretty interesting read... ok, not that interesting as a read, but interesting to look through because of the way things are presented. I'm going to give my personal impressions after spending the morning looking through it online.

  • They really don't like full service brokerage. At every opportunity the report bashes full service brokers.
  • The data that they use often contradicts what they are trying to point out. Some examples of this would be that there isn't sufficient competition in the industry either at the brokerage level or at the sales agent level. But, the report begins by stating that there are no significant barriers to entry to the sales agent level, and few barriers to entry for the brokerage level. It also states that there is a lot of fluidity in the industry. Finally, it states that competition is fierce... but apparently not fierce enough, because it says that competition is needed to bring prices down for consumers.
  • More and more consumers are choosing to utilize full service brokerage models... even though there are more brokerages offering other than full service options.
  • There are very few mentions of limited service brokerages offering fewer services for consumers... but plenty of mentions of consumers saving money by utilizing flat-fee or limited service brokerages.
  • Commission rates have been going down, but not fast enough for the DoJ. Because home prices were rising, average commissions were still increasing. But, because of the low barriers to entry, the increased competition led to the pie being split more ways. One has to wonder if the DoJ wouldlike to see more agents (more competition) or fewer agents (less competition, but perhaps ?more reason to cut commissions?).
  • The DoJ asserts that the MLS is imperative to consumers, but decries the fact that it is owned privately.

I was really disappointed. There are so many contradictions, yet in EVERY case, the DoJ asserts that the real estate industry is flawed. The price that is agreed, even though there is fierce competition from many players, must not actually be fair... and is a result of a restraint of competition. The restraint of competition is because there are too mazny competitors...

It goes on...

I think there is someone at the DoJ that dealt with a crappy agent and has decided to go after the entire industry.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Does advertising need to be "good" to be effective?

Since I am in the process of getting my new website together, I have been on the track of marketing and advertising. I know that good SEO will bring some folks in, but I also know that if I don't market and advertise the site, it won't get the traffic it needs.

So, that brings me to this...

I was sitting in McDonalds today, having lunch with my son, and a commercial came on for Head On. If you haven't seen one of these, then you are living under a rock. These may be the worst commercials EVER made. Attack of the Killer Tomatos is a cinematic masterpiece compared to these commercials. Plan 9 from Outer Space has a complex plot, as well as high production value compared to these ads.

"Head On, apply directly to the forehead" is repeated around 300 times in 30 seconds.

Terrible commercial. But, not only is this goop coming off the shelf as fast as they can make it, but they have spun off several other products. And... this is very important... I'm talking about it. Viral marketing. And it is the WORST kind of virus.

Stupid ad, and stoopid effective (for those not up on the latest groovy culture, "stoopid" is good).

So, I ask the question, does advertising need to be good to be effective?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

What is a better investment?

I was up late, and caught a little bit of the Nightline episode where they featured a "bubble blogger" in California. One of the statements he made was that housing was not a good investment compared to the stock market over the last 30 years. That line was screaming at me.

I went to Google to try and find national average home appreciation rates for the last 30 years. I wasn't able to. I was able to find the annualized appreciation for the last 10 years though. According to S&P (warning, pdf file), average annualized returns for homes were 10.93%, while the stock market was 7.63% for the same period.

So, my next stop was to open up an excel spreadsheet and start making some calculations. I based the interest rate at 8%. I ran the calculation based on 5% down, 10% and 20% as well. I also calculated the return on stock purchases either with cash or on margin (50% down). I thought the numbers would be pretty tough on the stock market, but I didn't think it would come out this lopsided. I based this on a $200,000 investment.

(***Warning, these are not annualized numbers, but overall returns for a 10 year period)

  • For a buyer putting down $10,000 (5%), they would have a 10 year return of 2215%
  • For a buyer putting down $20,000 (10%), they would have a 10 year return of 1145%
  • For a buyer putting down $40,000 (20%), they would have a 10 year return of 610%
  • For a buyer paying cash, they would have a 10 year return of 182%
  • For a stock investor buying $200,000 in the S&P 500, they would have a 10 year return of 109%
  • For a stock investor buying $200,000 in the S&P500 on margin ($100,000 investment, 8% APR), they would have a 10 year return of 137%

Like I said, I was sure that real estate would come out better because of the power of leverage. However, I didn't expect it to be that lopsided.

I'm sure that there are mistakes in my methodology that can be found. I spent a few minutes putting this together, however, there are also a lot of other items that would go in favor of real estate. among the items that I didn't account for that would increase the real world rate of return for real estate are these:

  • Home Mortgage Interest Deduction
  • Value of rent (you can live in the house, but not in the stock)
  • Lack of volatility (S&P rated homes at 2.07% v. stocks at 15.28% volatility)

Of course, there are a few items that would offset these:

  • Home maintenance
  • Utilities
  • Repairs
But, I would still argue that home ownership is CLEARLY the first step towards a solid financial future.

Friday, October 19, 2007

On droughts and mussels

Ok, we have hit the point where one has to live under a rock to not have heard about the drought in the Southeast. It is a real problem. But there are a few things that don't seem to be getting the play that they should.

  • The Army Corps of Engineers is releasing water from Lake Lanier in order to "preserve" a pair of specific species of mussel that lives in the Apalachiacola River delta in Florida.
  • Alabama doesn't even have a mechanism in place for statewide water restrictions... much less an implementation of water restrictions. GA has been under restrictions for most of the last several years.
  • The Army CoE "accidentally" released an extra 22 billion gallons of water due to a faulty gauge this past spring. That is enough to provide the Atlanta metro with water for a month and a half.
  • If there wasn't a dam on the Chattahoochee River, there would be about half as much water flowing south.
  • The largest water consumers in the area are a Pepsi Gatorade plant and a Coca-Cola syrup plant.
What it seems to be coming down to is that a species of mussel is more important to the Army CoE than the people they are supposed to be serving. Lake Lanier was formed by the Corps to serve the water needs of PEOPLE in the region. But, now those needs are secondary to a mussel that would be facing survival issues if the dam weren't in place. Furthermore, if Atlanta and north GA have to live under water restrictions, areas downstream that rely on the same source should also be under the same restrictions.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Market Update for Gwinnett County, August 2007 (updated 10-17-07)

I need to change the format on these numbers just a bit. I have been trying to put out the market report around the 15th of the month for the previous month (10/15 for Sept., for example). However, the numbers have been changing so dramatically that I am seeing changes for the previous month (seeing changes to August when I do the 10/15 report) and the changes are dramatic. So, in response, I need to back up the reports just a little. I will try to get future reports out in the first week of the month, but they will be lagging a little over 30 days. This means that around the first week of November I will post a September report.

At this time I will be updating the August report.

August prices are pointing up, but preliminary numbers for September are pointing the other way. I think we need to see a drop in prices to spur buyers into action. I don’t expect that to be much, but a modest decrease of maybe 2%. Currently we are up 4% vs. last year. June was up 5%, and July up 2%. This might also be partly a function of some of the new home sales on the higher end of the market. I would really like to see this flatten a little, as I think it would spur a little more buying.

Time on the market is also trending up vs. last year. We are up to 88 days. That is almost 3 weeks (18 days) more than this time last year. Last month was 80 days on market, but that was also 10 days more than July 2006. May sales were the lowest this year at 76 days on the market. In fact, May was the lowest since last October (2006) when the DoM was 72 days.

By now, I think anyone in the housing market has heard of the Sub-prime Mortgage Meltdown. It is still a big player on the market. Buyers that were marginal even six months ago are out of the market now. Buyers that are solid are still solid. If anything, those buyers are in a stronger position. Since there are fewer buyers, they have increased strength with sellers. Furthermore, I’m starting to see lenders trying to court those strong buyers. Face it, mortgage lenders make money by loaning money. They can only stop writing for so long before they need to look at making money again. Obviously the marginal buyers aren’t popular with the secondary market, so getting “A paper” mortgages back into the stream will become more of an imperative… and so I expect to see rates slide a little for the best buyers.

The current mortgage climate is tough. For buyers with weak credit history, the market is almost closed. Alt A loans (stated income, no documentation) will be away from the market for the foreseeable future, except for the rarest of good credit buyers. And expect that 0% down and even 3% down loans will be reserved for those with better credit.

I think it is getting to be time to say that smart investors need to get back in the market. Buy & Hold strategies will be heavily rewarded in the long run. Prices are good, rates are kicking for those with good credit. There might be a slight easing of prices in the coming months, but I wouldn’t count on it, and we won’t know that we’ve hit bottom until we are off of it.

Finally, remember that we can only get an accurate look in the rear-view mirror. We will only KNOW there has been a change in the market when we see it has already changed. We’ll know that change has taken place when we see all of the best deals are already gone. Currently, I can’t get an accurate picture of overall market activity for at least 30 days after the end of the month. That means that the market could be well into a turn before the numbers will bear it out. And, while I don’t know that we should expect increasing values terribly soon, I don’t think prices will drop much either.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Free, Free, FREE... Nifty open source photo editor

Gabe's BlazerSo, without getting real wordy about how I came across this (it all has to do with the new website), let me tell you about a cool open source photo-editor I just came across.

It is called the GIMP. That stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program. GNU is one of the open source licensing protocols. I guess it would be best summed up as the open source equivalent of PhotoShop.

If you aren't familiar with open source, it is a movement (sorry, but it really is) of mostly software geeks and engineers that create programs and then allow anyone to have them, and anyone that would like to modify the program to pop the hood and dive into the source code. The community makes revisions, as well as hacks and add-ons. (Hacks are modifications). It is really a cool idea, even though the capitalist in me wants to scream "You could be making money".

This isn't my first foray into open source. I use SMF (Simple Machines Forum) to runModified Blazer my real estate forum and the forum for my 4wd club. I also have recently started to use Joomla to build my new website. So far, I have been pretty impressed with each of these products. I will say that many of the open source products don't have the same prettiness as their high dollar counterparts, but they still seem to have the performance.

Floating around this post, you will see the results of a couple of minutes of editing. It didn't take me as long to edit this image as it did to write this post.

Not too bad for something that is free to use, free to upgrade, and I haven't even looked at a manual yet.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Buyers are liars... or not so much

I know, I know. It is one of those pervasive statements in real estate. Everyone in the business says it.

Buyers are liars.

But, are they really? I don't think so. My buyers tell me exactly what they want, and then they buy it. When they don't, I eventually figure out I'm not listening. Occasionally, I figure out that they really don't know what they want... or maybe they know, but just don't know how to communicate it.

Usually, when I fall back on the "Buyers are liars" line, I find out that I am putting my desires in place of the buyer's desires. That might be the toughest thing to stop. I have to take off the "Lane glasses" and get back to being a conduit for my client.

Here are some of my filters...

How could anyone want less than a two car garage.

Twisty driveways suck.

Kitchen appliances come in three colors, black, stainless steel, and "in need of replacement."

TVs, even flat screens, do not belong above the fireplace.

While I have a reason for every one of them, my buyer's might not feel the same way. I have to constantly STOP filtering my clients desires through mine. It is human nature to put our own spin on what we see and hear.

Oddly, they stop lying to me when I start listening to them again. I think I get better at this every day.

Feel free to drop in to my new website and take a look. I'd love to hear your reactions. It's still under construction, so pardon the dust.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Where does this guy get his data?

I just can't help myself...

I just ran across this little release from the NAR. Basically, the CEO of Countrywide says that the subprime mortgage mess could widen the home ownership gap between whites and minorities. However, in the same daily brief, the NAR sent out this piece as well. it states that the sub-prime mortgage problem is striking across the board, cutting across racial, income and regional differences.

Which one is it?

Same newsletter, completely different results. Whom to believe?

Off to Wiki we go...

Of course, I don't have the numbers for the last couple of months, but I doubt that Angelo Mozilo has a good set of numbers, as well... but I'll concede his might be better than mine. However, looking at wiki, it seems that home ownership is not only at an all time high, but is increasing for EVERY group.

Of course there are going to be blips, but I feel confident in saying that the basic trends of the last several decades will continue. Overall home ownership has been on the increase for a few decades... again there have been a few blips, but according to the census bureau, this trend has been holding sine 1940.
So, will any of the media bother to mention these little items? It wouldn't surprise me if there wasn't any mention.

By the way, here in GA we are above national averages.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Brittany, Owen, Lindsay, Kiefer and Paris... give me a call.

Photo Coutesy of Courtesy of, this is NOT real estate related, but I just have to say it.

Owen Wilson was looking to hire someone to be his friend. Kiefer apparently couldn't afford a cab a couple of weeks ago. Lindsay and Brittany... what does one say? Paris?

I feel really bad for these people. Being young (ok, fairly young in Kieffer's case), good looking and rich seems to be such a burden. I mean really, it must be darn near impossible to make it through the dayPhoto Courtesy of Courtesy of without getting hammered and going for a drive... forgetting to put the kids in the car seat.

So, what would I offer up?

I'll be willing to take on any of the above as a life coach. I can inject a little reality into their lives. And each of them needs a good dose of reality. Somebody needs to tell them to "stop being an idiot", "put on your underwear", "don't drink and drive", and "I don't care if that chick did break up with you, there are plenty of others in line".

I'd be willing to take on the job of life coach for a very reasonable $5000/month... each... for phone consultations. (where are the smilies? I need a smily here...)

And buy some property from me, too. Here's my new (as in still under construction) website. Photo Courtesy of

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Calling one developer... you don't know who you are yet.

I must admit that I was a bit amazed at the reaction to my last post. On Active Rain, it received a Feature within an hour of being posted. It was also one of my most viewed and commented blog entires. I was shocked that the comments weren't closer to the "Are you nuts?" type.

So, just to get one step closer to reality, here is a compromise first step. Let's team up to build houses for a variety of car people. We're out there. There are at least as many of us as there are horse people, maybe even golf people. Ok, maybe there are more people that hit the links on a Saturday than there are building street rods, but you get my point. There are a LOT of folks out here in the world that love cars. Not only do they love cars, but they have more than two or three. Not only do they have more than two or three, but they like to work on them. For many car people, working on the car might involve a lot more than changing the oil in the driveway.

"What can we do with that little nugget, Lane?"

Let me derail you for a moment. Take a look at a couple of posts I tossed out previously.

Patrick zapping a beadSo, buyers want bigger garages, specialists thrive when generalists fail, and in order to sell in a weak climate a unique selling proposition is one of the key weapons. Builders are choking on inventory in many areas, but other spots are selling like hotcakes. Even in a relatively local area, one development can't keep up, and the next can't keep its head above water.

Of course, pricing is one of the things that can make a difference... but so is value. Building what others don't is one way of creating value. If it is building something desirable, it will separate the leader from the pack.

Instead of building houses and needing to give away TVs and 5%+ commissions, why not build something that will draw buyers. There are some unique (and relatively inexpensive) marketing opportunities. Also, the word of mouth could be amazing. Many people in the car culture community are involved in clubs, and word of a development that was geared towards them would spread like wildfire.

You just need the right type of agent to handle the process and get the ball rolling. Let's team up. Contact me for more info.

Let's build a subdivision that will have the buyers lining up... in their coolest cars.

Friday, October 12, 2007

If you lived here, you'd be rock crawling/drag racing/road racing now...

I just answered a question on another board about marketing a drag racing track that is for sale. I just couldn't help but hit a flight of fancy over it. I started to think of some of the unique, but also fairly popular concepts that I have run across over the years.

There are several road racing communities around the country. The basic concept is to take a private track, with nice views, and instead of trying to make money holding races all of the time, turn it into a private club with residences sprinkled throughout. Throw in a paddock, a nice clubhouse and a few other amenities, and it's a country club for race folks. There are plenty of amatuer racers that have a lot of money to play with... it isn't a cheap hobby. For those that are really into their own racers, factoring in track rentals and transportation costs just for test and tune days, and having access to a track in the neighborhood starts to look great.

Now, people that like to turn the wheel aren't the only ones that would enjoy having a local facility to play. There are at least as many folks that enjoy powering something down the track against the clock. One would need to look into the requirements for private events, but there might be some restrictions that would limit the track to 1/8 mile sprints rather than the traditional 1/4 mile bursts. However, a 1/4 mile track could be set up with lights and timing equipment to run both distances. Just think, Saturday morning and one could pull the dragster out of the garage at home, not even load it up on a trailer, but drive it over to the line... and make a few runs.

The final option would be the most original one. A residential rock crawling club... Rock crawling is one of the fastest growing motor sports in the country. Private off-road parks are popping up all over the country. Unlike drag racing and road course racing, rock crawling happens at VERY slow speeds. While one could argue that there is plenty of carnage in rock crawling, or even its faster cousin rock racing, injuries are pretty rare and pretty mild. So, it might be the safest of the three to host in a private facility without safety crews and emergency transportation. Also, because of the nature of the desirable terrain, it could be hosted in a smaller space, or scaled to larger spaces. It could be done with rolling topography or a fairly flat area with arranged obstacles.

Depending on the desires of each of the communities, events or public days could be hosted to offset some of the costs of the facilities. While the amenities would likely be more expensive than all but the most luxurious traditional clubs (golf, tennis and swimming), the extra income flow, as well as the rarity of the facilities/communities would create good value for the home owner's association.

It sure does make for an interesting group of concepts... and looking at the possible demographics, I think that the right developer could create some VERY popular and unique communities. Free press and publicity would be a breeze, too...

Drop in to my new (as in still under development) website. Take a look. Give me a call.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Ahh, relaxed... ok, sorta relaxed

Gabe at the rock compSome people like to watch baseball. Others think that basketball is what makes life worth living. I like things that involve a little more octane. From Thursday (Oct. 4th) through Sunday (Oct. 7th) my 4 wheel drive club ran registration for the Southern Four Wheel Drive Association.

Sunburned, fried, frozen, tired and glad would all be accurate descriptions of the last few days. Temperatures during the day were in the 80s with wonderful (and burning sunshine) and in the 50s at night. We ran registration from 7:00am (I am NOT a morning person) until as late as 11:00pm. It was a great time.

The big ugly tan and black Blazer belongs to a guy named Gabe (a future client). This was during the rock crawl competition. Justin (one of my clients) was his spotter. They did a great job bringing it in 3rd place in the big tire class. M-715

As predicted, I never made it onto the trails... of course, I don't actually have a trail rig right now, while I'm building my Jeepster. However, I did manage to snap a few shots of some interesting hardware. Remember, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

The "truck" looking thing to the left is an Army M-715. This one is SERIOUSLY beefy, and did quite well in the rock competition.

But, despite the fact that I was busy for the majority of the time, I feel somewhat recharged (I will accept that it isn't the same as a cruise). We talked trucks, travel, and joked with each other. We talked about Tellico (the scene of the trail rides), Moab (the center of the 4wheeling universe) and the Rubicon Trail (the home of the fist Jeepers Jamboree). We talked about friends that couldn't make it up for the weekend, had moved on to other hobbies, or just moved on.

Batteries recharged. Attitude reset. Priorities back to normal. Isn't that what vacations are all about?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

X Prize

So, how many of you have heard of this? The X Prize.

Back when I wrote the A-Z series, it was my back up plan for the letter X. Currently, it doesn't have much relevance to real estate, but one day it might.

The original X Prize was $10,000,000 to be awarded to the first entrant to launch a craft in to space, and then turn around and do it again with the same craft within a short period of time. Another current X Prize is for Genomics.

The X Prize that grabbed my attention is the Automotive X Prize. The basics involve developing a car that is capable of at least 100mpg, can carry 4 people, and emit under a certain amount of pollution... and it has to be marketable to real people. No carbon fiber, $1M concept cars that look like a cross between a VW Bus and a bar of soap. Think about something more like an accord that has some evolved technology and can be sold for under $30k. I've even decided how I think it might be possible...

"But, this relates to real estate how?"

I'd love to see an X Prize that involved low cost building designs for developing countries. Of course, I'd like to see this developed in a manner that it could positively impact local economies, providing jobs and profits...

Just a thought... and this isn't what I would do with the money.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

It's about the garage!

I just had the opportunity to wander through the October issue of REALTOR(R) magazine. Cars and Cable caught my eye (pg. 14). As I had previously mentioned in a blog post in July, oversized garages made a pretty good showing. Second place.

Now, before you go gloating about second place, keep in mind that first place was central air conditioning... which is pretty tough to beat, and almost everything on the market is already equipped. Also notable is that garages moved up from 5th place in the last survey (2004). And it is a HUGE jump. A full 56% of buyers said they were ready to spend premium money for an oversized garage this year, vs. only 6% in 2004.

Sure, SUVs have contributed to the desire to have a larger garage, but we have a car-centric culture. Americans LOVE their cars. And we love having a lot of them. And... we want to park them inside.

I'm not surprised... I'm just ahead of the curve.

When you are ready to step up to a big garage in Gwinnett County, I am the REALTOR(R) that knows garages AND houses.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Lane's "Crazy Idea of the Day"

Bobby LabonteBarely after midnight, and I have already had my best crazy idea of the day...

In almost every form of motorsport, the drivers are festooned with the names of all of their benefactors. As Kurt Busch stands in Victory Lane, chugging a Coke, wearing a Miller hat, and holding a quart of Mobil1, all of us know that they pay his way. Of course those are the best products on the planet... they pay his check.

When Jimmy Johnson talks up Lowe's, or Jeff Gordon mentions his new energy drink, we know why. There is no question.

But, what I want to know is...

Who spent the big bucks for Hillary Clinton? What about Fred Thompson? John McCain? Barack Obama? Who paid for their last elections, and who is funding them now?

Maybe politicians should get nifty suits like NASCAR drivers. It would be interesting to see who's name shows up where.

Wouldn't that be fun?

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Imputed income


Let me give you a quick idea of what it is. Keep in mind that I am not a tax professional, or a lawyer... just a real estate agent.

I guess the easiest way to say it is that it is phantom income. For our current purposes, let's look at a short sale. Let's say that the seller owes $300,000 on their home. In the short sale, the property sells for $225,000. Obviously the difference is $75,000. When the bank takes the loss, they report the write-off as income to the "recipient", the seller. So, that year they get a huge income boost. And they owe taxes. Nice, huh?

Congress is working on altering the tax laws so that people aren't stung by this in many cases. We'll see what happens.

But, that's not all...

A few years ago, a plan was floated to Congress to actually expand imputed income. Some lobbyists felt that there were people that were "unfairly" gaming the current system, and taking advantage of others. How were they doing this, you ask? They bought homes to live in.

You see, these people weren't paying increasing rents. Instead, their fixed rate loans had largely the same payment for years. So, while renters were facing increased rents over time, homeowners had the same payment until they moved or {gasp} paid off their homes. That isn't fair, is it? (trust me, I am shaking my head...)

What to do? Well, figure out what the market rent would be for a homeowners property, and then charge them the difference as imputed income. So, our villain (Biff the homeowner) pays $2000/mo. for his house payment. If he were to rent a similar house, the cost would be $3000/mo. So, obviously our villain is getting over. He is saving $12,000/year compared to the less fortunate (those would be the renters...). So, maybe he should have to pay tax on the extra income.

Luckily, some of our congress critters figured out that they would be committing suicide at the ballot box if they actually tried to implement something like that. Not to mention that every extra penny collected would be swallowed up by the new agency that would have to figure out the rental value of every owned home in the US.


Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Looking forward to a little camping!

Jeepster from Dixie RunYou heard it. At the end of the week, I'll be off to the wilds to do a little camping. While it isn't as much of an outdoor experience as some, it is a nice place to get away. That also means that I won't have new posts up Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

The Southern Four Wheel Drive Association (SFWDA) has their 21st Annual Dixie Run outside of Murphy, NC in the Tellico OHV area. I don't think I will even get to fourwheel this year (not really that unusual), since I will be spending most of my time in the registration area. However, my phone won't have service, and I won't be reachable from Atlanta for a couple of days.

BTW, that Yellow Jeepster isn't mine. It is cool though. He has a TJ Wrangler suspension under it, and it is quite clean. Quite a few people didn't notice how modified it really was.

So, it will be three days in a tent for me... and several hundred of my "closest personal friends."

However, if someone has a camper they want to loan me from Thursday through Monday, I might be willing to take you up on it. I guess I really am getting old.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Nothing, nothing, nothing... Jet blast!

I used to have a favorite writer named Satch Carlson. He wrote for Autoweek Magazine back in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He had a statement that I have found to be prophetically true...

He was talking about the heater controls in an old truck. The fans speeds were "nothing, nothing, nothing and jet blast." How true is that?

I'm not talking about blower motors in old trucks right now, but rather life. Have you noticed that things never move along at an even pace? It seems like things sit for a while and then...


But, I kind of like it... I like the slow times. I get to play with my son, and work on the Jeep. I like the frantic times too. I like rushing around, looking for the most efficient path. And then it is back to the slower pace. I can look back at the insanity and see how I can do better next time.

I guess if I just sat around waiting, I'd go crazy. Of course, if it weren't for the lulls... I'd go crazy, too.

My wife thinks I have a little cabin deep in crazy. She thinks she can already send me mail there...

Enjoy things for what they are.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Tuscany condo in Mid-town

Tuscany Living RoomSoon to hit the MLS, you saw it here first...

This is a great 1 bedroom/1 bathroom condo that also features a den/office. With 966 square feet (tax records) of interior room, and a 103 square foot patio (builder's plan), there is more space than in other 1bd/1ba floorplans.

This is a great top-floor unit with a view out to mid-town, overlooking Juniper Street. It features a lovely double sided fireplace between the living room and the den, halogen track lighting, and a huge walk-through closet in the master bedroom. It also features beautiful wood floors throughout, and luxurious solid surface countertops in the kitchen and bath.

All kitchen appliances will remain, as will the washer and dryer in the laundry room off of the kitchen. there isTuscany Kitchen also a covered parking space included with the unit.

Walk to Piedmont Park, or to one of the many restaurants in the area. Located between 10th Street and 8th Street, just one block off of Peachtree, Tuscany is incredibly convenient. While others are still fighting the traffic on I-75, I-85 or GA400, you can be home and relaxing in front of the TV, working out in the complex gym, or floating in the pool.

Welcome home. This rare floorplan is offered at $209,900. The seller is motivated, and will consider a lease purchaseTuscany PorchTuscany Kitchen DetailTuscany Living Room Fireplace as well.

Tuscany BedroomHere is a link to the property on my site...