The Reality of Real Estate (BlueRoof Blog)

Thoughts, opinions, and truths about real estate and life as I see it...

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Location: Salt Lake City, Utah, United States

I like long walks on the beach holding hands and.... oh, wait- that's a different site.

Monday, August 07, 2006

BlueRoof Blog has Changed Locations

In an effort to increase the quality of the blog, I have moved this blog to Hopefully this will make your experience reading my blog more enjoyable.


Greg Tracy

New Blog Site

Just FYI- My blog will be moving to the wordpress platform soon- the address is:

Of course this new blog will be linked to BlueRoof also... thanks for the visits, links and support.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

The Fallacy of the Re/Max System

Re/Max is making a big push with it's new marketing and trying to get the word out they now have all listings on (like that's innovative). And of course the ads always say their slogan of, "Nobody sells more real estate than Re/Max".

First of all, there is no real measurement of who sells the most real estate. And really, what does that even mean? Does it mean selling the most pieces of property, and does that include residential, commercial, industrial and agricultural? Does it mean selling the most actual land (vacant land)? Does it mean only residential? Does it mean selling the most in dollar volume? Does it mean transaction sides or listings sold?

Well, it means something different to many people and there is no one place to see every sale of every company compared to each other.

Re/Max actually isn't that big of a real estate company. Like other major brands, it's actually a big network of different companies and offices branded with one name. And almost all of their entire network is franchises. There are only about 30 company-owned operations.

Re/Max saying that nobody sells more real estate than Re/Max is like saying
nobody sells more Hondas than Honda dealerships...

In reality each office is independently owned and operated. Each different from the next, with it's own set of policies and procedures, it's own set of standards and culture. They all just share the same name. If you actually compare real estate sold from agents working for the same company, then Re/Max isn't even close to being the top. NRT outsells all the other companies in the top 10 combined in transaction sides. But NRT is also a big franchise collection. And it goes under different names like Coldwell Banker, ERA, Century 21 and Sotherbys.

If you called five agents from five different Re/Max offices and asked them about their marketing plan you would hear five completely different marketing plans. Because Re/Max the company doesn't actually do any marketing for home sellers. Re/Max, the company, is more a collector of franchise fees, licensing it's brand to anyone willing to pay it's fees and sign it's franchise agreement.

One agent may pay for newspaper ads and color flyers while another does neither. One agent may believe the internet is a powerful tool so they decide to have virtual tours of their listings and another may not even believe in the power of internet, like the founder of Re/Max, Dave Liniger, who recently claimed that the internet is over-valued, which also makes me wonder why they even care about having reciprocity of listings on their website.

The fallacy of the Re/Max system is that it's not even a system at all. It's a collection of different systems with a common name.

To be fair- most other national brands are also franchises and also operate in the same way. If you work with a Century 21 agent in Alaska and you're really impressed with their service that doesn't you know anything about the Century 21 agent here in Utah. And that Keller Williams agent that didn't do their job well in Texas doesn't have anything to do with the Keller Williams company in Salt Lake.

And almost all agents are independent contractors anyway, so they're all competing with each other- even agents in the same office and company. In most offices of every company the agent decides what level of service they'll provide.

A small number of companies have employee agents so they can dictate the level of service, and some companies have models that ensure the same marketing strategies are met with every client.

The reason I single out Re/Max is not because I think it's a bad company. I actually think it's a great company, mostly because it was formed with the agent in mind, instead of the broker. And that was a big step at the time.

I single out Re/Max because I have to endure their claim that nobody sells more real estate than they do in all of their marketing. And let's not be naive about it- they don't say that because they are proud of their work or something, it's a way to elicit trust and respect. So people will think, "Oh, they sell more than anybody so agents that work there will give me better service".

Many Re/Max agents are very good Realtors, in fact there is probably a higher ratio of good agents at Re/Max in Utah then at most other companies, but it's not because of their company name, it's because they are good people. Just like with all professions there are good and bad.

My advice is simple. When it comes time to list your house, ask your agent if they will put in the listing contract, "Seller may cancel this contract and receive an unconditional release at any time". That way if you aren't happy with their services you can cancel and hire a better agent.

The important thing to remember is in an industry where most all of the sales people are independent contractors who make their own schedules, marketing plans, and service levels it's important to work with someone based on the person and not by the logo on their business card.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Realtor or real estate agent- What's the Difference?

Most people who are not in the real estate industry don't even realize that there is a difference between a real estate agent and a Realtor. Realtor (pronounced Real-tor with two syllables) is such a common term that most people just assume all agents are Realtors, which is not the case.

A real estate agent is someone who has gone through the required schooling and passed a test to gain their license to sell real estate. This usually requires 90-120 hours of class time, followed by a test with the school and then a test with the state. After which you are deemed an "expert" in real estate.

A Realtor is a real estate agent who has joined the National Association of Realtors (NAR). This means they have gone through some ethics training and have subscribed to a set of rules called the 'code of ethics'. And they have to pay dues, of course. ((See video))

So what's the difference?

Well, let's start with the question, why would a sales agent not want to be a Realtor?

Is it because they don't want to pay dues? A few hundred dollars a year shouldn't be too much for someone who is good at what they do.

Or is it because they don't want to abide by the code of ethics? This seems a more reasonable assumption, given that the state and national associations have committees to hear grievances and hold the members accountable for their actions. And these committees operate separately from the state divisions and can hand down discipline when appropriate.

Also, when considering the fact that your agent will be representing you and your financial interests in such a large investment, wouldn't you want to work with someone who has taken that extra step to be accountable and go through that ethics training? ((See Video))

NAR also has a political action arm called the Realtors Political Action Committee (RPAC). RPAC fights and lobbies for property rights and those politicians who would support property rights. I think this is one of the most important roles of NAR.

One reason to join NAR is so you can be a part of RPAC and help to protect the rights of individuals who own property, including fighting Eminent Domain, which is the power of a government to take private property for public use; the 5th Amendment of the US Constitution and articles in many state constitutions allow this practice provided that just compensation is made. For more information, see the Eminent Domain Watch.

There are differences between real estate agents and Realtors and I invite anyone to research for yourself and determine which you would rather have working with you.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Inman Innovator Awards- WTF?

With any awards announcement there will be debate and discussion, agreement and disbelief, and the Inman Innovator Awards (winners announced last week) are no different. I think some of their choices were either politically driven, or just they screwed up.

For instance;

Most Innovative Brokerage/Franchise/Realtor- and the winner is...


(crickets chirping)

Are you kidding me? Re/max is the most innovative brokerage? In what way? They just recently included all broker listings on (about two years after everyone else did). This pick has got to be political because it's really stupid.

The founder and chairman of Re/Max, Dave Liniger just said that the internet is overvalued- and this is the most innovative company?

My pick would be ZipRealty- The have been cutting edge since inception. There are things about Zip that I don't like, but they are very innovative.

Most Innovative Technology- and the winner is...


This product is fine- it will send a text message to the agent's cell phone when a buyer calls on their for sale sign. Companies have been sending the callers phone number to the agents for over a decade. How can this possibly be the most innovative product they could find?

If lead generation tools are what they're looking for, why not leadalarm? This service will convert an email lead into voice and then call your cell phone immediately, and allow you to be instantly connected to that lead.

Inman gave it to NRT's Leadrouter a year or two ago and LeadRouter doesn't connect the agent to the lead. It just gives you the information (and then you have to be frustrated trying to keep the system satisfied with updates).

Or what about Redfin's mapping system? Everyone's got a map now, including BlueRoof, but Redfin's is smoother, richer, and the information around it is better than anyone else's by far. The technology they built is far superior to CellSigns.

Innovator of the Year- and the winner is...

Mark Lesswing, Vice President, National Association of REALTORS

This has got to be a political award- last year they gave it to Earl Lee from Prudential. And this year it goes to NAR's tech guy? Give me a break!

In 2006 no one person brought more innovation into the industry directly or indirectly than Rich Barton of Zillow.

I don't think Zillow is that wonderful- yet. Right now I think it's just a fun way of checking out other people's homes, but the anticipation of it and the excitement it brought to the tech world and the real estate world shouldn't be overlooked. Plus the innovation of Zillow is undeniable. Talk about a grand endeavor.

Rich: I want to get into real estate

Listener: That might be interesting. What would you do?

Rich: Create a database of every residential property in the country, giving an estimate of the properties worth and projections about it's potential worth.

Listener: ... uh, yeah... okay Rich. I need to go now. Good luck with that.

Hey, I like to think of myself as a visionary and I have moments of inspiration, but Rich Barton has inspired millions of real estate and tech people to drive themselves harder to be more innovative. He deserves the award- period.

As I said, any award will be questioned and complained about... but that doesn't mean I'm wrong.

For Sale By Owner Help from Realtors?

My second week in the business I went to lunch with some experienced agents who each gave me their advise on how to be successful as a rookie and unanimously I was told to stay away from For Sale By Owner (FSBO) sellers because these were people who were very different. I was told these people were mean to agents and even when they did eventually list they were difficult to work with. I asked these agents how many of them worked with FSBO sellers trying to get listings and none of them did. They all stayed away from them and worked other sources.

I saw an opportunity. I figured if these agents weren't talking to FSBO sellers then I should. Over the years most of the listings I took have been FSBO sellers who eventually got tired of trying to sell on their own and listed with me. And I have learned to understand them, and their challenges, more and more. Most people who attempt to sell their own home do end up listing with an agent. Why is this?

To begin, almost all the buyers are working with an agent, and why not- it doesn't cost the buyer anything for this representation- and most real estate agents won't show FSBO homes. They don't show these homes for a few reasons.

First, it's much easier and effective to go to the MLS and do a detailed search of exactly what their buyers are looking for.

Second, with the MLS the agent knows they will be paid a commission by selling a home and with a FSBO they have no idea if the seller is willing to pay them.

And pride is a factor- Realtors want to support their trade.

It can also be costly to sell a home. According to the National Association of Realtors, here is how FSBO's market their homes.

Yard sign: 63%
Newspaper advertisement: 44%
Open house: 33%
Friends / neighbors / relatives: 25%
Internet: 24%
Direct mail (flyers, postcards,etc.): 6%
For-Sale-By-Owner magazine: 6%
Television: 1%
Other: 9%
Source: 2004 Profile of Buyers & Sellers, (NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® - Research, 2004).

Some of these numbers are changing now with the internet becoming so dynamic and accepted as a marketing forum, but it can be an expensive (and tedious) task.

So where does this leave the buyer who hasn't been able to find the right home with their agent? Many times they settle for something they don't like as much, other times they look without their agent at FSBO properties and end up having to go through the process alone, and some times they can find a FSBO home with an agent, and then the agent needs to worry about whether or not they'll be paid for their time.

BlueRoof can help. We have every listed property, from every brokerage- and all the virtual tours that are posted on the MLS. And we also have FSBO homes. We also allow FSBO sellers to identify if they are "Agent Friendly", meaning they are willing to pay a buyer agent a commission if they bring the buyer.

And the service is free.

This can help the FSBO sellers by exposing their property to more potential buyers, it helps the buyer by giving them more homes to see, and it helps the agent by giving them a searchable database of homes where the seller has already agreed to pay to a commission. And to place a home FSBO a seller only needs to register (for free) with an email address. We don't require you to committ to anything like ZIPRealty (who just started their new FSBO program) and other FSBO sites do.

When a buyer makes an offer to buy a FSBO home on the BlueRoof website- that offer is sent directly to the seller, who can then respond to the offer, which is sent directly back to the buyer. Once acceptance occurs, the offer details are sent to BllueRoof and an agent will contact both sides and ask if they would like our representation coordinating the transaction. If they do, we will help both sides all the way through closing for only $1000 total. If an agent brings a buyer to a FSBO property on our site, we will also represent that seller from offer on- for that same $1000.

In the market that Utah is in right now more people are trying to sell FSBO. Sure, most of them will probably end up listing with an agent, but until then we'll help best we can.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

BlueRoof is not a technology company

There are some incredible innovations and new technologies coming into the real estate industry right now. And there are some creative and exciting people coming into the business who are helping to change the landscape of it. At the Inman Connect conference last week I really enjoyed meeting more of these people and having the opportunity to share some ideas and thoughts with them.

But there are differences between some of the new real estate models and BlueRoof. Of the most significant is that most of these new companies are tech people who are entering the real estate space and BlueRoof is a company of Realtors who are utilizing technology.

That is an important clarification to me. So what's the difference?

Real estate, and more specifically, being a Realtor is about a few fundamental things to me. It is about protecting property rights, fighting for political issues that effect property owners, it is about agency and representation, and it is about helping people buy and sell property with confidence. And it's about being a resource for people with regard to real estate related matters.

Being a tech company who's earnings come from property sales and/or lead generation is not the same. Some functions are similar, but they are not the same.

It is my opinion that the influx of new technology will ultimately benefit the consumer and bring more transparency to a historically opaque industry. And frankly, the industry needs cleansing. There are too many crappy agents out there simply taking the low-hanging fruit and diluting the reputations and perceived value of good agents. Many of these agents hide behind respected industry names, but a franchise is just an independent with a familiar logo- the person is what makes the agent- not the company name. This is a topic for another blog that can devoted to it, but you get the point.

There are some pretty cool things that we're going to be doing with our site and some new technology in the near future and I'm excited to see it happen, but at the very center of BlueRoof is our commitment to the consumer, our clients, and being Realtors.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Competition in Real Estate

The Department of Justice has been looking into the real estate industry to determine if fair competition exists. It started last September when the DOJ sued the National Association of Realtors (NAR) over a policy called "opt out", where brokers could choose to not include their home listings on other brokers internet sites. The DOJ feels that some brokers might choose this route as a way to push new internet-driven brokerages out of business.

Last week congress held a subcommittee meeting entitled, "The Changing Real Estate Market" and heard different points of view about the nature of competition in the industry. As expected, NAR's position is that there is plenty of competition in the industry and the consumer will ultimately dictate which companies survive and become successful based on their services and business model. Others argued that large traditional brokerages aren't playing fair and create a hostile environment for anyone trying to get into the industry if they don't conform to the traditional way of doing business. And both sides are right.

Here is how I see it-

There is a ton of competition in the industry. Millions of Realtors all competing for the same business. There are a lot of different companies with different business models and commission structures. New innovative business models (like BlueRoof) have to be strong enough to stand up to traditional brokerages, who don't like them doing the same things for less, or even worse, doing better things.

Historically, new models have been torn apart, pushed out of business, or just held down as much as possible by brokerages and agents who don't want their commissions eroded. I used to be in that same mindset when I was with Coldwell Banker and Prudential and GMAC.

Having competition that doesn't like what you are doing is not always a bad thing. It drives you to be better and it can push some companies to think more creativitely- and this is good for the consumer.

The real estate industry is evolving and this is a very good thing. The consumer today is more educated about the process and wants a better value proposition. And they are increasingly demanding better service and flexible commissions and really, who can blame them?

Realtors have an important place in our society as a resource and representatives and if we focus on that I think our value will go up.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Avenues Charmer- Most Viewed on BlueRoof Last Week

This Home at 515 North E Street (500 East) in the Avenues of Salt Lake City was the most viewed home on BlueRoof last week. It's offered for $379,000 and has 2300 total square feet.

It's listed with Christine M Ashton of M.D. Realty, LLC. Christine's contact phone number is 801-521-8223 and her email address is

Her comments are:

REDUCED $5,000. Absolutely charming home for sale. There is a detached apartment included on this property. Main house has 3bedrooms and 2 full baths, the apt is the other bedroom and full bath. Jetted tub. Central Air and much more.

And the avenues is a great area to live in- close to downtown, shopping, and a lot of good restaurants. If you have any questions you may want to contact Christine.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Carnival of Real Estate

I forgot to mention this on the blog two weeks ago and this last week I was in San Francisco all week for the conference, but Zillow started a blog carnival for real estate two weeks ago. If you are unfamiliar with a blog carnival - here is Wikipedia's definition,

"A blog article that contains links to other articles covering a specific topic. Most blog carnivals are hosted by a rotating list of frequent contributors to the carnival, and serve to both generate new posts by contributors and highlight new bloggers posting matter in that subject area."

Last week Searchlight Crusade hosted the carnival and our post was named the "Pick of the Week".

Next one will be hosted by Future of Real Estate Marketing blog, look for it tomorrow (Monday).

We'll be hosting the carnival here on our blog September 18th so watch for it then.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Inman's Real Estate Connect is a Blast

Thousands of people from the real estate, mortgage, title and tech fields descended on San Francisco this week for the Inman News Real Estate Connect event. I arrived Tuesday night and it's been a blast every day (and night!).

Mike and I came with the goal of meeting some interesting people, learn, and have some fun. Mission accomplished. We're here until Sunday, but the rest of the trip will be vacation more than work.

Some things I'll take away from the event-

Some people are much more interesting than you think they might be- like Michael Arrington of TechCrunch who kicked off the event with a rousing presentation of where the industry is heading and some of the challenges it faces.

Redfin's CEO, Glenn Kelman, is a great speaker- very engaging.

Some of those Canadian guys can party.

The Palace hotel needs to staff up when they host an event.

Before you announce that you have FSBO properties and MLS data on the same map- make sure your local MLS representative is not in the room (apparently we're not supposed to do that).

Mike, the president of BlueRoof, showed me that if a girl takes you to a club and upon arriving you ignore her and hang out with other girls- she won't like you very much (go figure).

San Francisco cab drivers can actually defy the laws of physics (and gravity) if there's an extra $20 in it for them.

Perceived value doesn't apply to $12 jack-and-coke's.

The Wasatch Front Regional MLS (Salt Lake City's) is just as control-hungry as ever.

Re/Max doesn't have a clue about the internet's influence on the real estate industry.

I'm leaving this event with some great ideas for BlueRoof and some new friends- what more could I ask for?

Monday, July 24, 2006

Business Card Design Makes an Impact (or not)

Tomorrow morning I fly out to San Francisco to attend the Inman Tech conference. I really enjoy these types of conferences because it gives me a chance to get away, meet some interesting people with interesting ideas, and enjoy a tax-deductible vacation. Sweet!

When I return home I will surely have piles of business cards from all sorts of people from different companies and positions. Some I will want to keep in contact with, and some I will want to remember the conversations we had. And while I am perusing the assortment of cards I will, no doubt, be impressed by some of them and disappointed by others.

I offer my suggestions...

Use a high quality paper- flimsy cards just suck. Spend the extra ten dollars and get good paper.

No standard clip art- Using images that come from standard clip art makes your card look generic, but even worse, it makes it look like you were trying to not be generic and failed.

Have a credible email address- If your business email is or or even you really need to get with a company that will provide you with a company account.

Watch for typos- If you can't spell your name right you need to go back to school. Pre-school.

Use Color- A bit of color makes the card much more pleasant. Tie-die or rainbows aren't necessary, but some color can really give your card some punch, or at the very least it won't be as boring as monochrome.

Have a blank back- When people receive your card they'll want to write notes on the back about you or your company or your conversation. Or maybe you can write the address to a great local bar so if that person ever makes it to your city they'll know where to go.

Have a URL- In today's business world you should have a website to send people to. Whether your business is plumbing or software, have your URL on your card.

No fold-overs- Cards that fold over get caught on things and take up extra space in my pants pocket. Remember the first rule in marketing, which is my next thought...

Keep it simple- We don't need to name call here, but keep your message simple and clear. Have a clean design that is easy to understand and makes a statement.

Readable Fonts- Lettering should be easy to read and, with the possible exception of the heading or logo, consistent throughout the card.

Have an actual designer create your card- Don't jump on to Publisher and draw up a design. You want it to be polished and look good.

No stupid titles- We've all see the start-ups where every employee has some "cool" title like "VP of Fun" or "Director of Computer Stuff". Having something clever to say is good, lame titles are just lame.

Most of us have heard of Matt (creator of Wordpress) Mullenweg's business cards that simply say: "1. Go to Google. 2. Type 'Matt.' 3. Click 'I feel lucky.' " That's pretty cool until your google ranking crashes, like Matt's did for a while.

Have a card that shows your image and has some fun, but just remember that good design makes an impact. Well, so does bad design, but good design makes the impact you'll want.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

First Impressions- Blind Dating for Homes

Ever go in a blind date? Beforehand, aren’t you just praying that they won’t be unattractive. If they are, most of the next hour will be spent thinking of reasons to leave early. Even if they are a wonderful person- you may never find out.

Home owners are going on a blind date when they come to see your home, or at best it’s like interenet dating. They may have seen some pictures and know a little bit about the home, but once they actually show up- none of that matters anymore. And if your home doesn’t look good outside they may never discover how great it is inside- they may just drive away.
If a buyers pulls up and thinks the home looks bad they know all of their friends will think the same when they come over to visit. We all want to have a home that we’ll be proud of.
When selling a home it’s important to present it well and this begins with the home’s curb appeal. You want the outside appearance to draw them in and make them feel comfortable. You want your home to be a place they would be proud to invite people to.
Some tips to make a good first impresson;

-Kill mold and mildew on the house, sidewalks, roof, or driveway.

-Stow away unnecessary garden implements and tools.

-Clean windows and gutters.

-Pressure wash dirty siding and dingy decks.

-Edge sidewalks and remove vegetation growing between concrete or bricks.

-Mow the lawn. Get rid of weeds.

-Rake and dispose of leaves, even if your lot is wooded.

-Trim tree limbs that are near or touching the home’s roof.

-Make sure your driveway is clean and clear.

-Spruce it up with some accent lighting.

-If you can budget it, a fresh paint job does wonders for a dingy house. Drive around your town to find color schemes that are appealing.

-Install a more attractive front door, maybe something with leaded glass inserts.

-If you can’t justify the cost of a new door, consider replacing plain doorknob hardware with something more attractive.

-If new hardware is beyond your budget, repaint or stain the door and polish the hardware?

Bring out the best in your landscaping and bring in the highest and best offer for your home. And as you look for your new place be sure to notice why your first impression is good or bad.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Improving Your Credit Score

Credit scores are more important today than ever. This score plays a large part in what interest rate you'll pay on loans, and whether you'll even get the loan, and it also effects your insurance rates among other things. A credit score is basically a summary of your credit report and a numerical measurement that reflects your management of credit.

Credit scores range from 300-900. A score above 620 is good, above 700 is very good, and above 750 is great. If your score is below 600 you'll be paying higher interest for your loans. If your credit is low, there are ways to raise it.

There are three basic principles to follow to raise your credit score.

First, pay your bills on time (or early if possible). When lenders look at your credit they want to see that you pay your bills as agreed. Having on time payments is one of the biggest factors on your score. Occasionally being late should not affect your ability to get new credit, as long as your late payments aren't too close together and too frequent. If you have a pattern of paying late you'll be considered a higher risk.

Second, don't declare bankruptcy, have an automobile repossessed, or have your home foreclosed on. These are the BIG ones. One of these and your credit will go right down the drain so be careful to plan your money.

Third, keep control of how much money you owe, especially on credit cards. It's good to have credit cards to show a track record, but your score not only looks at if you're paying your payments on those cards, but if you are "maxed out" on your cards. Lenders like to see that you haven't spent every dime you don't have. Plus, if you're maxed out on cards the chance you'll pay on time if an emergency comes up is not good. If you have three credit cards and each has a spending limit of $3000 and you only owe $300 on each card, that shows the bank (and is reflected in your credit score) that you can manage your money and you have a safety net if you need it.

It may not be as bad as you think, at least for buying a home. I've had clients who had just gone through bankruptcy and we still got them into a house, they just paid higher interest. Plus, it's actually easier to buy a house than a car (you can't drive away with a house). Owning a home and paying your mortgage on time is a great way to raise your score.

Follow these guidelines and your score will increase. Make sure you keep your credit report accurate. Periodically check your score with the three credit bureaus and be cautious before closing an existing credit card account because that can hurt your score. If you have an account for a long time and it has no balance that is good. Keep it open.

To get a copy of your credit report, contact the credit bureaus:

Equifax- 800-685-1111 -

Experian- 800-682-7654-

Trans Union- 800-916-8800-

Missing Child Alert- Destiny Norton

Destiny Norton, a local 5 year old girl from Salt Lake City, has been missing since about 8:30pm Sunday night after walking out of her family's front door.

Destiny is described as about 3 feet 6 inches tall, about 45 pounds, with short blond hair that had a green streak in it. She was last seen wearing a black adult-size T-shirt with gray stripes. She has silver caps on her teeth and also goes by the name Annie. Anyone with information about this case is asked to call 801-799-4636. Information may also be sent to

* The volunteer search headquarters has been set up at an LDS wardhouse at 445 E. Harvard Ave. (1142 South).
* A Web site - - is up and contains the latest information about the search for the 5-year-old.
* A fund has been established under the names Rickey and Rachael Norton at Washington Mutual Bank to help defray the costs of the search and assist the family.
* MeadowGold and The Carole Sund/Carrington Foundation have donated $15,000 as a reward for information leading to Destiny's recovery.
* Anyone with information about this case is asked to call 801-799-4636. Tips can also be sent to

Freshman class of 2006

The Beloit College in Wisconsin puts together a list every year for their faculty to give them a sense of the mindset of that year's incoming freshmen. The people who are starting college this fall were born in 1984 and here are some of the items that made the list about them;

They have no meaningful recollection of the Reagan Era and do not know he had ever been shot.
Black Monday, 1987 is as insignificant to them as the Great Depression.

They were 9 when the Soviet Union broke apart and they don't remember the Cold War.

They have never feared a nuclear war.

Their lifetime has always included AIDS.

They have likely never played Pac Man and have never heard of Pong.

The compact disc was introduced when they were 1 year old.

They have always had an answering machine.

They cannot fathom not having a remote control.

Roller-skating has always been in-line.

Jay Leno has always been on the Tonight Show.

They have never seen Larry Bird play.

The Vietnam War is as ancient history to them as World War I, World War II or even the Civil War.

They have no idea that Americans were ever held hostage in Iran.

They don't know who Mork was or where he was from.

They never heard "Where's the beef," "I'd walk a mile for a Camel," or "de plane, de plane!"

The Titanic was found? They thought we always knew where it was.

Michael Jackson has always been white.

Kansas, Chicago, Boston, America and Alabama are places, not groups.

McDonald's never came in Styrofoam containers.

There has always been MTV.

For us in the real estate industry these people will be potential home buyers in the next few years. Most of these people do not read the newspaper and all of them are online, many have never had to deal with dial-up.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Where are all the singles?

Money Magazine has listed it's Best Places To Live for 2006, and tops on the list is Fort Collins, CO, followed by Naperville, IL and Sugarland, Texas. Interestingly, the top ten are all in different states. Representing Utah in the top 100 best towns/cities to live in were Sandy (23), Orem (38), and Layton (41). I remember a few years ago the Places Rated Almanac rated Salt Lake City as the top city in America overall and listed about a dozen Utah cities in the top 100. Ah, those were the days...

Highest average income honors go to Greenwich, CT ($112,493), Cupertino, CA ($110,518) and San Ramon, CA ($109,500), while Bloomington, IN has the highest percentage of singles (58.2%) and the skinniest people, based on body mass index, live in Roseville, CA (24.5) and San Francisco (24.8).

You'll also find cleanest air, youngest (three Utah cities rank in the top 25), most educated, hottest, and priciest to buy a home among others.

Top Ten Reasons Salt Lake City isn't Seattle

I was living in San Francisco during the tech boom and it was a total blast. Whether or not you were into technology or cared at all about start-ups or the internet, you could just feel the energy. There was electricity in the air and everyone could feel it. That's how Seattle seems to me now, too, with all the start ups and tech companies and the energy that's swirling around in the air. It's a pretty cool environment to be in if you are interested in technology.

The Salt Lake area (Wasatch Front) is a great place to live and it's growing and it has a ton of potential, and Utah actually was an early adopter state with regards to the internet, with more people per capita online in 2002 than any stat in the nation, so what's the deal? Why isn't Salt Lake, with all of it's incredible recreation, people online, and good working class, more tech-centric?

Here is my Top Ten list of reasons why the Salt Lake area isn't more tech:

1. Salt Lake is a bit cheap. And by cheap I mean people will go out of their way to save every penny they can. People sell their own homes, people sell their own cars, yard sales are everywhere (and every day people are going to them), and there are possibly more fast food places in the area than the rest of the universe combined. Some people are so focused on saving money they miss out on the big opportunities, stepping over a quarter to pick up a dime. And that's unfortunate because there are a ton of innovators in Salt Lake.

2. Too many people doing the same things. Being innovative is not the only quality a business needs. There are a lot of things that can contribute to a company having that critical early success, and one of those things is being first to market. In this area noone can be first to market because everyone here is doing every thing.

3. People are doing pieces of things. Instead of putting together a solid business plan, raising capital, recruiting a top notch staff and implementing a well thought out plan, many businesses here are really just a couple guys thinking they have a cool idea so they register a business name and website and open for business. No focus or direction really, just a cool idea.

4. The city/government doesn't encourage a start up environment. We have weird liquor laws, even stranger bar/club laws, and a spread-out and sparse nightlife. The culture is not a young, hip, fast-moving tech culture. It's a family fun, get home early for the kid's soccer game, work three night's a week for the church kind of culture. That's not a bad thing- just one way the area is different.

5. Utah is the youngest state in the nation. You might be thinking, "Younger people are more tech savvy and bring that into the workplace". You would be right, but also wrong. Young people in general are much more tech savvy and do bring that into the workplace with them, but our youth is largely in children, and many of the brightest move out of state to chase their tech careers- we need to encourage them to stay.

6. Too many tract homes. Cookie-cutter homes are everywhere in Utah. Even many of the custom homes aren't custo, they're "semi custom". So people live in these boxes that are the exact same as everyone else's boxes and that just doesn't encourage creativity. You can't think outside the box if you spend your entire life in one.

7. Not enough people. There's something about being in a highly-populated area that makes people thrive. Maybe it's a competitivness that develops or a wanting to get ahead, or maybe it's that with more people come more ideas and it's just the law of averages and the more people the more chance some will make it. Maybe being stuck in hours of traffic just gives people time to be creative and the road rage gives them the energy to keep thinking.

8. No NFL Football. I don't really know how this could effect things either way, but Seattle, San Francisco, New York, and Boston all have NFL teams and they seem to be the most techy (that is a real word) cities in the country and I need some filler.

9. Not enough tourist attractions. Most of the VC money is not here and since most of that money goes to regional, if not local, start-ups, we don't see a lot of it. And because there aren't enough people flying in to Salt Lake to check out the dinosaur exhibits, we have a harder time meeting these people. We do have a phenominal ski industry- maybe the resorts could host some tech events.

10. Not enough coffee drinkers. The LDS religion frowns on drinking coffee, and much of the population is mormon so there aren't enough Starbucks- and we all know that that's where the tech deals are made. Probably has something to do with people who in the tech industry get their brains so wired up on cafeine that they can think of outrageous ideas and then have the energy to actually make those ideas work.

Salt Lake and it's surrounding areas are beautiful and there are a ton of outdoor activites, incuding the best skiing in the country. Low crime, friendly people, big mountains... but not nearly enough people blogging or conspiring to become the next Google. That's not all a bad thing, but it sure would be cool to see Salt Lake grow it's tech sector.

Monday, July 17, 2006

How Agency Agreements are Ruining the Real Estate Industry

Editors note- my blog address has changed to:

This is a much better blog host for me, thanks! Post follows:

First, let me start by saying that I believe in agency. I believe in the concept of agency and I believe in it's place within the real estate industry. I teach the agency classes at the real estate school and have never accepted teachers pay, because I teach agency for one reason only- to teach agency.

Having said that, agency agreements, as they are and as they are used (at least in Utah, Colorado and California where I have been a broker) is hurting the industry and clients as much as they are helping. This is mostly due to the fact that there are too may crappy Realtors out there doing a crappy job.

See, the problem is that many Realtors use these as a ball and chain for their clients. They meet the client, give them their schpill about why they should sign the agency agreement and then stop trying. Sort of similar to how a lot of people try so hard to make a good impression while they are first dating someone they like and then after they get married/committed/engaged they stop trying.

An agent meets a buyer, convinces them to sign an agency agreement, and then feels entitled to a commission whether they do any work for the client or not. The client can get tired of the agent not answering their phone (very common) and not returning their calls (very common) and find another agent, then go out with that new agent and find a home they like and the first agent feels like they should get the commission because they got an agency agreement signed first.

An agent meets a seller and convinces the seller that the best way to sell their home is to "price it right" and put it on the MLS. This is my favorite line used by agents. I'll have to dedicate an entire post to it later so this one doesn't go on too long. But, essentially, "price it right" means price it as low as the agent can get the seller to go, and then put the home on the MLS so some other agent can do their work and sell it. This way the listing agent has no marketing expense and no work to do. And then if the seller is unhappy with this "service" they are stuck in this contract, usually for six months.

I wonder why people would have a bad taste for Realtors after this...?

Here's my solution;

All agency contracts should allow the client to cancel anytime they feel they are not being taken care of. There could be a provision in a listing that states any actual marketing expenses incurred during the listing period will be reimbursed by the seller, but the seller can cancel and find a good agent if the one they got doesn't do a good job for them. The government tries to keep corporations from having a monopoly so consumers will benefit from competition. But when some schmuck lists a home and for six months no other Realtor can approach that client, help that client, or even talk to that client, there is a six month monopoly happening and often times the seller suffers. And the same goes for buyers working with an agent that does not do their job.

My solution is to let agents earn the business. Sign an agency agreement and represent the client, and know that if you do not represent the client well you will lose out on that business. Isn't that what agency is really all about? Representing the client? Putting the client first?

There are a lot of really good agents out there and they do represent their clients well and they do earn their business. If agency contracts could be cancelled the bad agents would suffer and the good agents would be able to show more people what it feels like to represented well by a good professional Realtor.

Editors Note-
Apparantly I'm not alone- Ardell at RCG wrote a post about the same thing on 7-25-06.

Backyards Get Extreme

Used to be that people wanted some room for a small garden where they could grow tomatoes or maybe a swingset for the kids. Some even thought about room to plant a few fruit trees. Today more people are choosing to turn their backyards into full out waterparks and outdoor living areas. Some want a place where the kids can have fun while under the watchful eye of mom and dad, while others would just rather have the fun of a park without losing their privacy. Here are some of the latest trends;

Rock Your World

Don't let little things like space get in your way. Go vertical with huge boulders, rock and brick. Shape waterfalls, waterslides and just about anything else you can think of.

Outdoor Kitchens

The kitchen may be the most important room in the house, but it's also becoming the center of the outdoor living space. Whether part of a patio or bar area, or an all together separate space with a fireplace and ceiling, today's outdoor kitchens are getting to be as nice (and expensive) as their indoor counterparts.

Pools, Waterfalls, and Water Features

Remember that little four-foot wide blue plastic wading pool you played in as a kid? You could use that to slide down some of today's waterslides. Fifteen foot waterfalls, rope swings, hot tubs that flow into the pool from five feet above, fiber optic lighting systems, and audio powerhouses that turn your home waterpark into a concert venue.

Make friends with your neighbors and maybe they'll let you come over without admission.