Saturday, May 26, 2007

"Memorial Day - Thank You... So Very Much"

It's Memorial Day Weekend in Palm Coast. We're off to Publix, Albertson's, Winn Dixie or Food Lion for ribs, chicken, hot dogs, corn, charcoal, chips, beer and soda. All the good movies are long-gone from Blockbuster's. Cars are loaded with chairs, blankets, radios, umbrellas, coolers, and SPF 30 for the trip to Flagler Beach. La Bella's will sell a ton of pizza. School is out and spirits are high. Summer is here, and in spite of this pesky real estate "correction," life is good. That is unless you are in the Armed Forces... on leave... and waiting for your second deployment to Iraq. No political statements here (although I promise to re-visit this later, so you can see into my heart on this matter)... just a heart-felt "Thank you" to those who put it all on the line... for you and me. To the Army, the Marines, the Air Force, and the Navy, who go in harm's way. And to the Coast Guard who help at home. A salute to you on this Memorial Day, 2007. (The following is from a blog post, by U.S.Army LTC Bob Bateman, on 05/11/07, from The Pentagon. I got it from my good friend, Bill "Toz" Tozer, a retired Army artillery officer, now living in Moscow... No, not that Moscow... the one in Idaho):
"It is 110 yards from the "E" ring to the "A" ring of the Pentagon. This section of the Pentagon is newly renovated; the floors shine, the hallway is broad, and the lighting is bright. At this instant the entire length of the corridor is packed with officers, a few sergeants and some civilians, all crammed tightly three and four deep against the walls. There are thousands here. This hallway, more than any other, is the "Army" hallway. The G3 offices line one side, G2 the other, G8 is around the corner. All Army.
Moderate conversations flow in a low buzz. Friends who may not have seen each other for a few weeks, or a few years, spot each other, cross the way and renew. Everyone shifts to ensure an open path remains down the center. The air conditioning system was not designed for this press of bodies in this area. The temperature is rising already. Nobody cares.
10:36 hours (local EST): The clapping starts at the E-Ring. That is the outermost of the five rings of the Pentagon and it is closest to the entrance to the building. This clapping is low, sustained, hearty. It is an applause with a deep emotion behind it as it moves forward in a wave down the length of the hallway. A steady rolling wave of sound it is, moving at the pace of the soldier in the wheelchair who marks the forward edge with his presence. He is the first. He is missing the greater part of one leg, and some of his wounds are still suppurating. By his age I expect that he is a private, or perhaps a private first class.
Captains, majors, lieutenant colonels and colonels meet his gaze and nod as they applaud, soldier to soldier. Three years ago when I described one of these events, those lining the hallways were somewhat different. The applause a little wilder, perhaps in private guilt for not having shared in the burden yet. Now almost everyone lining the hallway is, like the man in the wheelchair, also a combat veteran. This steadies the applause, but I think deepens the sentiment. We have all been there now. The soldier's chair is pushed by, I believe, a full colonel. Behind him, and stretching the length from E to A, come more of his peers, each private, corporal or sergeant assisted as need be by a field grade officer.
10:50 hours (local EST): Twenty-four minutes of steady applause. My hands hurt, and I laugh to myself at how stupid that sounds in my own head. "My hands hurt." For crying out loud. Shut up and clap. For twenty-four minutes, soldier after soldier has come down this hallway - 20, 25, 30. Fifty-three legs come with them, and perhaps only 52 hands or arms, but down this hall came 30 solid hearts. They pass down this corridor of officers and applause, and then meet for a private lunch, at which they are the guests of honor, hosted by the generals. Some are wheeled along. Some insist upon getting out of their chairs, to march as best they can with their chin held up, down this hallway, through this most unique audience. Some are catching handshakes and smiling like a politician at a Fourth of July parade. More than a couple of them seem amazed and are smiling shyly.
There are families with them as well: the 18-year-old war-bride pushing her 19-year-old husband's wheelchair and not quite understanding why her husband is so affected by this, the boy she grew up with, now a man, who had never shed a tear is crying; the older immigrant Latino parents who have, perhaps more than their wounded mid-20s son, an appreciation for the emotion given on their son's behalf. No man in that hallway, walking or clapping, is ashamed by the silent tears on more than a few cheeks. An Airborne Ranger wipes his eyes only to better see. A couple of the officers in this crowd have themselves been a part of this parade in the past. These are our men, broken in body they may be, but they are our brothers, and we welcome them home. This parade has gone on, every single Friday, all year long, for more than four years."
(I spent three years of my life working on the "E-Ring" at the Pentagon... off Corridor Four... just one hallway down from the scene described above. That was from 1980 - 1983... eighteen years before the plane exploded through those walls on 09/11/01) All I can say to our men and women in uniform today, is: Thank you... Thank you so very much."

Friday, May 25, 2007

"HS Graduation & Memories of Stanley Jackowski"

When I walked into the locker room, I saw Stanley Jackowski, pinned in the corner. He was wet and naked and vulnerable... fresh out of the shower after gym class. He was covered with nasty red welts and the five guys "snapping" him with their towels were like jackals on a fresh carcass. Sometimes, High School - like life - can be pretty cruel. He was screaming... begging them to stop... as they continued to snap - and taunt - and laugh. It was early on in our Freshman year and Stanley wasn't having much fun. To this day, I'm not sure why, but this freshly minted thirteen-year-old, waded in to protect Stanley, a kid I didn't really even know. I further don't know for sure why they stopped, but I'm grateful they did. Whatever the reason, after a few tense moments, they backed off.
Now Stanley, by high school rules, was very un-cool. He was not blessed with the kind of looks the girls chased after. He'd never make the cut in sports. His clothes were out of style and never fit. He was too loud and his laugh... well, his laugh, kindly put, was irritating at best. Nearly everyone picked on him... and I'm quite sure his high school years were miserable. For my part, I "adopted" Stanley and ran interference for him, as best I could. Please understand that this was a small minority, but Stanley took the heat for four years. Most of my friends treated him just fine. Senior year we got some help... Crockett transferred in from Oklahoma - a displaced football player at a basketball school. He had a big heart too, and didn't like how Stanley got treated either.
Last Saturday night, FPCHS (Flagler Palm Coast High School) graduated the Class of 2007 down at The Ocean Center. Like at every high school graduation, since mine in 1963, I watched the procession intently. As the 668 students made their way to their chairs, I wondered, "How many "Stanleys" are in this class?" "How many of these kids "endured", rather than "enjoyed", their high school experience... at the hands of cruel and dispassionate classmates?" Being a teenager is tough enough, as they struggle to establish a credible identity. I'll never forget what my then seventeen-year-old son, Zach, said to me: "Dad, it makes me crazy... because sometimes I want to crawl up in your lap like when I was little... and sometimes I just want you to leave me alone." Wow! I wonder what Stanley thought about at night... when he was alone... in those hazy moments before sleep came.
Well, some years went by after graduation and I never saw Stanley around. I took an unsuccessful first stab at college and then drove a fork lift truck in the factory for a couple of years. Viet Nam was heating up. Some of the guys grew their hair and burned their draft cards. Some of the guys cut their hair and joined the Army, Marines, Air Force, or Navy. My namesake, Uncle Frank, was in the Army in WWII and was killed in the Battle of the Bulge. I grew up staring at his posthumously awarded Bronze Star for bravery and his Purple Heart, displayed in a case on my Gramma's wall. I joined the Army to "see the world"... and I got to see Viet Nam, up close and personal. I served with the 196th Infantry Brigade and the 39 years that have passed since then have been tattooed with those memories.
So in 1969, I came back home for a visit. Only those who have been in a foreign country... in the craziness of combat - where rules are few - can understand the surreality of "coming home." And while there, the phone rings, and it's Stanley. "Hey, Stan, man it's been six years. How are you?" "Frank, they told me you were home from Nam' and I'd like to see you." "Sure, man, how about Waple's Bar tonight at 8:00?" "Sounds good. See you there."
I got to Waple's early and saw that a lot had changed in my town. I surely didn't get a "hero's welcome," except for Stanley, that is. I didn't recognize him at first. His head was shiny and bald and his features swollen. "Brain cancer," he said. "They tell me I've only got a few weeks." We talked for a long time and what he told me was life-defining. He told me that high school was a living hell for him... and that I was his only friend. He told me that it was important for me to know that, before he died. He wanted to thank me (and Crockett) for watching his back... That was a long time ago, but the memory is fresh. Here's to the "Stanleys" of the world. Do you know one? If so, go now... and do what you need to do.

Monday, May 21, 2007

"Jacksonville Symphony Visits Palm Coast"

Music under the stars... a gorgeous early summer night... front row table on the football field grass... and an appropriate "Symphony" candy bar in our delicious box picnic lunches. As the kids say, "It's all good." "Picnic and Pops," featuring the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra was a huge success. The venue, FPC High School's football stadium, was perfect. Normally, the sounds of raucous marching bands and staccato drum lines emanate from this field, but last night it was the symphony, led by their gregarious conductor, Scott Gregg. Jointly sponsored by the "Palm Coast / Flagler Foundation for the Arts and Entertainment, Inc." and the "Flagler Symphonic Society," the event demonstrated the success being enjoyed locally, due to these organization's efforts to enhance the presence of The Arts in Palm Coast and Flagler Beach. Officers of these organizations include Joe Ganci, Tom Corum, Sam Perkovich, Glenn Grube, and Linda Kuntz , with the Foundation, as well as Mary Stetler, Pam Richardson, Celia Pugliese, and Cornelia Manfre, with the Society. Thanks also go out to the Palm Coast City Council and the Tourist Development Council of Flagler County for their cultural grants, which helped to facilitate this concert. The music? It was wonderful. Highlights from Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, The Best of the Beatles from John Lennon and Paul McCartney, and a tribute to Duke Ellington were the show-stoppers for me. Our fellow RE/MAX Oceanside Realtor and friend, Sam Perkovich, scored (excuse me, I mean sponsored) a front row table for our office and it was perfect. Sam has been involved with the Foundation for the Arts and is currently a VP for them, as they orchestrate Flagler County's emergence as a place where the Arts will flourish. I got smarter, too. From now on, when I hear the theme from "Raging Bull," or the score from "Godfather III," I'll say, "Isn't that Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana, by Mascagni, just beautiful?" If you didn't know that, you need to get out more...

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Real Estate Lessons: "Junior & The Budweiser #8"

NASCAR? No, I was never really much of a fan. We didn't do that in Upstate New York when I was a kid in the 50's and 60's. Not too much in the way of "Moonshine Mystique" in our world. But then I joined the Army "to see the world." And after they let me see Viet Nam, I found myself at the University of Tampa, on a "bootstrap" scholarship. Now I'd heard of the "Daytona 500" before, but never dreamed I'd actually be in the stands. Being the adventurer, I scored tickets to the race in 1973 - Infield, no less. It was my gift to my father-in-law, a guy who actually co-owned an old Ferrari and rode shotgun in local road rallies. It was our privilege to see "The King," Richard Petty, wheel his #43 Dodge into the winner's circle that day. To say the day was exciting would be an understatement. The Army continued to let me see more of the world... and more car races. How about a Formula 1 race in Monaco? Very cool, indeed.

So, OK, I've got to tie real estate and NASCAR together, right? Here goes... My older (and only) brother is a Catholic priest - "Father Tom," as they all call him. He and I both inherited our father's unusual sense of humor... ( "How much wood could a woodchuck chuck, if a woodchuck could chuck wood?" "Gosh, I don't have any idea. How much?" "Two cords." "Two cords? Why?" "Well, it's just something you've got to know." ) We'll observe something and both start to laugh, while others stare vacantly, waiting to "get it." Back in the 198o's, a famous (or, perhaps infamous) bumper sticker popped up. It read: "Sh** Happens" Well, my brother, the Father, went nuts. After he saw it the first time, he could not stop being amazed by its simple, yet profound message. Surely, it must be of biblical derivation. We'd say it... then laugh for ten minutes... then say it again. We tried to clean it up, by substitution, but "Stuff Happens" just wasn't funny. To this day, some twenty years later, when anything goes awry... we know what to say.

So the buzz in NASCAR this week has been all about Junior (No, he hasn't gotten his real estate license, that we know of). All season it's been about his squabble with Dale Senior's wife - and how he wants at least a 51% interest in DEI Racing. Then he goes and announces he's leaving after the season's done. And does icing make the cake better? Yes. Yesterday revealed that Dale will be docked 100 points and his crew chief will be fined $100,000... for fiddlin' with the rear wing mounts on their Car of Tomorrow. Wow. Sh** Really Does Happen.

As the years have unfolded, I've taken that standing joke and done some fiddlin' of my own. I've changed it to: "Sh** Happens. So What? Now What?" It's my way of acknowledging life's randomness... and then dealing with it. Try it - it works. Junior's crew was like that this week. The team president, Max Siegel, met with them and observed that "Nobody was freaking out. Everyone went into a "What do we do now" mode. It is what it is. It's unfortunate, but we'll move on." I guess DEI read my mind and simply paraphrased, "Sh** happens... So what?... Now what?" Hope it works for them.

Real estate is just like that... whether it's Palm Coast real estate, Flagler Beach real estate, Ski resort property, California, Virginia, or New York... Sh** happens. I've studied this, and on average, markets have cycled about every seven years in the sixty years since WWII. Now we're in a race to the bottom, price wise. Positive spin? The sooner we get there, the sooner we start the climb back up. So we should all do just like Dale Jr. and his crew: Don't freak out. It is what it is. It's unfortunate (if you're a seller) but we should move on...

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

"Movin' On Up!"

Yesterday's blog post, "Statistically Redundant Statistics," 5/14/07, included a little tongue-in-cheek envy, aimed at our friends in California. Newport Beach, in Orange County, to be exact. Now, Palm Coast and Flagler Beach are both beautiful. It's peaceful... and even though we've just been through a challenging period of hyper-growth, we remain relatively unspoiled. But, if you've ever been to the coastal areas south of LA, you know it's just simply a different planet. Magnificent estates, high on hills, overlooking the Pacific. Shopping and restaurants to please the pampered. Marinas filled with dreamy yachts. You get the picture. It is not without cause that the area is known as "LaLa Land."
Things do change, don't they? In 2001, I purchased a home on one of Palm Coast's salt water canals, in an area called "Sailboat Country." There are precious few sailboats there, but you could have one because there are no bridges blocking your mast and access to the Intracoastal Waterway. $385,000 bought over 3,000 sq.ft. of completely tiled living space on two levels, 30 ft. living room ceilings, tile roof, circular drive, a 50 ft. lap pool, a dock, and a killer view down a long canal... all just 10 minutes at minimum wake speed out to the ICW. Last year it appraised at $910,000. And, yes, this year would show a number significantly lower. It had to stop. If it didn't, the average home in Palm Coast would have been over $1,000,000 in a few short years. 20% appreciation each year will do that.
So where are we now? Do we compete with Newport Beach, CA? Not even. Half of their homes are selling for over $1,000,000, with some of the pricier digs up in the $10 -$20,000,000 "plus" range. And this is after they've endured a 44% drop in prices... whew.
Today's, 5/15/07, MLS data for Flagler County reveals:
* Since 1/1/07 (about 4.5 months) we have had 7 sales over $1,000,000. From a modest $1,020,000 to a top price of $1,850,000 for a 6,430 sq.ft. home on six acres in Sugar Mill (and it didn't even have a pool...). This represents 1.4% of the total 493 sales.
* Currently available for sale, are 166 listings over $1,000,000. They run up to a high asking price of $3,995,000 for a home in Island Estates at Hammock Dunes. This represents 5.6% of the total 2966 homes and condos now on the market in Flagler County.
* Also, the News Journal reported last week that a local custom builder had just completed a $2,500,000 model home at The Conservatory. That's the stratosphere for model pricing in Flagler or Volusia. I guess we are "Movin' on Up." Palm Coast real estate, along with Flagler Beach and the outlying areas... seems to be weathering this challenging market storm.

Monday, May 14, 2007

"Statistically Redundant Statistics"

I've been led to believe that Albert Einstein was a pretty smart fellow. We picture him with disheveled hair, glasses on his nose, tweed jacket, corn cob pipe, and a definite "wild professor" look... the kind of guy that would be tough to have a normal conversation with... (my apology to Sister Anthony Louise, my high school English teacher, for ending that sentence with a preposition...) I'm thinking, however, that Albert was probably "very, very sneaky," to quote the butler in the classic film, "Mr. Deeds." Why? Because he looked and played the nutty professor role, BUT he said stuff like this: "Things should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler." You'da thunk that quote was from Yogi Berra, himself.
And everyone has heard that "Figures Lie... and Liars Figure," thanks to Mark Twain. I'm picturing "The Comedy Duo of Einstein & Twain" on "Saturday Night Live," as they throw out their one-liners and say, "Bada Bing," to the sounds of canned laughter. The point here, of course, is that both were spot-on with their observations. In my last post to this blog, "The Real Estate Wild Card," 5/11/07, I threw out some stats... and drew some conclusions about the coming months. What I'm saying here is, never accept statistics at face value, without some explanation of the broader context. Like an onion, these facts and figures come shrouded in layers. Sometimes the real meaning is in the space between the layers.
My numbers tend to make local sellers (especially those who bought most recently) cry. Want to feel better? In once invincible Orange County, CA, it's gotten downright silly in some zip codes. How about zip 92663, Newport Beach... the median price (the mid-point, with half less expensive and half more... not to be confused with the average price) has plunged 44.2% recently... down to a dismal $910,000. "Poor baby," you say sarcastically, but that's down from $1,630,824. Their price drop... is about 4x our median sales price. Their sister zip 92660 only dropped the median from $2,007,978 down to $1,510,000... a mere 24.8%.
Here's some local confusion for you... to show you how a slice of numbers, extracted without regard to context, can paint a picture different from reality...
This is a comparison of the month of March, 2005 to March, 2007:
* Zip 32136 - March 2005: 10 sales - Median price: $321,250 - 52 days avg. on the market.
March 2007: 4 sales - Median price: $226,250 - 60 days to sale.
* Zip 32137 - March 2005: 96 sales - Median: $222,450 - 84 days to sale.
March 2007: 54 sales - Median: $263,500 - 142 days to sale.
*Zip 32164 - March 2005: 113 sales - Median: $187,000 - 73 days to sale.
March 2007: 59 sales - Median: $204,000 - 139 days to sale.
If you took these at face value, you'd conclude that some zips are seeing an escalation in price. The sample sizes, however, are too small to conclude this. On the other hand, you can say, with some assurance, that there are about 50% fewer sales and it's taking about twice as long to get to closing. All I'm saying is, "Be careful." If you had two guys, one 6'9", 145lbs., and the other 5'3", 295lbs., this would not be the correct sample, from which to derive height and weight statistics for men.

Friday, May 11, 2007

The Real Estate Wild Card

The Real Estate "Wild Card?" As though real estate hasn't been wild enough for the past 20 months? If you're a seller, you're not laughing, are you? Before I go deeper, let me define "seller," ok? It's someone who really has a need or a strong desire to sell. I always ask potential listing clients, "On a scale of 1-10, with a "1" meaning "no need," a "5" meaning "if I can get my price," and a "10" being a "desperate need," how would you rank your motivation to sell?" If we aren't at "7 or above," they'd need to be blood relatives for us to take them under our wing. It's just a huge exercise in frustration (for them and for us) to do otherwise. Sometimes I feel like Dr. House on the popular new TV series, "House." I know I'm right, but they sure don't want to hear it, if the news isn't what they'd like. Remember ENRON? When it had gone from $20/share to over $200/share, no one wanted out because it was "too good" to get out. When it plunged to $1/share, reality was tough to swallow. Houses are like that (kinda' sorta') as markets cycle. If you bought in 1998 for $200,000 and could have sold in 2005 for $600,000 and now the number is $500,000... that's not cause for bridge jumping.... That's a 250% return in nine years... plus the best tax write-off in town. Sure your closing costs and professional fees will be a cost of 7-8%, but your tax person can find more deductions there... AND you got to live there and enjoy it for nine years. America - what a country. Just like with stocks, once the train leaves the station - and you weren't on it - you've missed this one. The tendency that sellers have is to embrace that $600,000 number like a prom date, as if the market has not changed. (Admittedly, things can be a bit dicey however, if you're the one who bought it for $600,000 in 2005 - and need to sell today.) Sellers, if you need to sell now, make sure your agent is being real with you. Because the "Wild Card" is coming... and it's a really big deal. If you went to the doctor with chest pains and difficult breathing, and an x-ray "found something" on your lungs, would you want the doc to withhold that, so as not to hurt your feelings? Or would you want the truth and an aggressive plan of action to maximize your potential outcome? No-brainer, right? Then ask your agent to get tough. Pick up the phone and call them. Tell them you want current, accurate data - and a compelling argument for the correct price - the price that will cause you to sell - now. It's not that there are no buyers. Their ranks have not shrunk much more than 10% (as the others "wait for the bottom.") The challenge is not Demand. The challenge is Supply, as inventory has swelled to levels that would take over three years to absorb, at the current rate of sales. As a result, overall prices have dipped negative for the first time since 1996 (see the above chart from the 03/27/2007 Wall Street Journal - Real Estate Journal)

Here's what's coming: Several Hundred Thousand Foreclosures in 2007/2008. That's the "Wild Card." Why is this important to you as a seller? Because this inventory surge is going to push prices even lower. Industry economists (not just one or two crackpots) are predicting a dip of another 5-7% in prices, because of this reality. Just one foreclosure can lower prices in a given neighborhood another 1-2%. Don't let your agent get away with just saying, "We've got to lower the price." Make them prove it. Position yourself wisely. If there are 50 houses like yours for sale, look at the actual "selling prices" of the last 5 to have sold. That's where you want to be. Don't get into the vulnerable mindset of, "They can always make an offer," or, "There's a buyer for every house," or, "If it's meant to be, it will happen." For a ship to reach its port, it first has to pull away from the pier... and sail an accurate course. Ask that your Realtor provide professionally researched data to support their argument. It's what you'll need to make an informed decision.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Want a Career... But Not a Job?

1986 was the year I left the Pentagon and the Defense Intelligence Agency, after a twenty year career with the US Army. I had a great job offer from Hughes Electronics (remember Howard Hughes?) to move to LA. $75-Large to start, plus a nice moving allowance and one of those sweet "guaranteed sale" deals on my Virginia home. But I had had enough of the bureaucracy scene. I knew that I'd merely be trading my Army Greens for a Brooks Brothers suit... and be heading back to the "Puzzle Palace" (the Pentagon) on a regular basis to ply my trade. What it came down to was this: I really wanted to be a civilian again! (Pardon me for the flashback, but that just reminded me of the Drill Sergeant in basic training up at Ft. Jackson, SC. "Good morning, maggots! I'm here to inform you that you are no longer civilians from this day forward. You are now in this man's Army! Which reminds me... I used to really love my Mother, but it bothers me that she's a civilian!" Ha ha, Sergeant, so funny!) So, what did I do? I got my real estate license and jumped into my second career... one that does not pay you a dime - unless you earn it first.

That was way before the Powers That Be came up with that mysterious slogan: "An Army of One." But that's what I had become. Where was my Executive Officer and Sergeant Major and Admin Staff to help me? This is embellished a bit, for effect, but the broker walks in and says, "Hi, new guy. Here's your desk and here's your phone... Good luck, pal, you're on your own!" Ouch! Well, I jumped in with a vengeance... out to prove I could make good at this civilian thing. And I did. I grew my business quickly and by my second year, I had become overwhelmed and, de facto, had become my own assistant. The years that ensued were highly productive, yet chaotic. I'd be at the office by 7:00 AM and often sitting with clients at 7:00 PM. It got crazy. Then I started hiring assistants. And things got crazier. They were usually young and smart and aggressive... and, yes, restless and mobile. I'd train them - we'd get in a groove - they'd move to California. If I'd just seen this book sooner... but then again, if I had, it probably wouldn't have impacted me like it has now.

So what's the fuss? If you're one of the many Palm Coasters and Flagler Beachies who rise early and head out to Daytona, St. Augustine, Orlando, or Jacksonville each day, pumping $90 into your SUV twice a week, and working loyally for a company who will forget you at pink slip time... You've got to read this book: "The Obsolete Employee", by Michael J. Russer... see: to read the review and to purchase it. If you are an employer, read this and jump on the train. Employee? Read it and then maybe jump off! Heck, start your own train... or Limo... or whatever your imagination can stir up! My guess is this book could very well start a revolution. It's all about "Virtual Outsourcing." Remember, less than ten years ago, the concept of "Telecommuting?" Nah, that could never work... right? Well, virtual outsourcing is the new telecommuting. It's a way for bosses not to have traditional employee headaches. And for employees not to have traditional bosses.

Want a mind-popping endorsement? How about this, from Michael Gerber, the author of "The E-Myth:" "Some books are timeless. Others are exactly the opposite; they come at exactly the right time, for exactly the right reason, and perform exactly the right job in exactly the right way. (No, you skeptic, this is not his brother...) He goes on to say, "This book is a brilliant resource... Read it. I did. And it changed the way I think about hiring forever." How about this, from Chris Durst, CEO of Staffcentrix, LLC: "...It shows employees a way to escape the rat race and live their dream working on their terms - when, where, and how they want to." And Dan Burrus, author of Technotrends: "Russer has identified a tremendous shift in the way small business works. This is a leading-edge trend that will eventually dictate who thrives and who struggles in the small business arena." Wow! I'm listening. How about you?

Walking the talk is always risky, isn't it? So here's the deal. Instead of pursuing the traditional assistant model, my partner Maritssa and I, over at RE/MAX Oceanside, are going to swim in the "Virtual Assistant Pool." It will be the shallow end of the pool at first, yet the pool it will be. We will start researching this week and "give it a go." I'll report back to you during the month of July... to let you know how we're doing. I've got a good feeling about this... I'm whistling, as I walk away:-)

Monday, May 7, 2007

"Palm Coast and All That Jazz"

Saturday was one of those "Home Depot Days." As usual, the hot dog and the Coke at the front entrance was a great diversion from the real task at hand. My list was in my pocket and I even remembered a basket. "Weird," I thought, as I pushed it along, "Why do I have this little basket if I'm here to buy a stove? Anyway, I did what I came to do: grass seed, potting soil, flat edged spade, couple of new light fixtures, tile cutter (for the "procrastination project"), the above mentioned stove (on sale), matching microwave, and a Snickers at checkout. Oh, and did I mention my usual Home Improvement improv in the power tool section, lusting after a drill press I wouldn't use in this lifetime? Highlight of the outing? I was selected to "spin the wheel" when I came in the door and won a home projects "How To" book - how cool is that?
So I'm home... and after a little work, I'm ready for a shower and a nap, when the phone rings. It's our friend, Donna, from our RE/MAX office. "Are you guys free tonight?" she asks. "Oh, man," I'm thinking, "Why do people ask that way?" What am I getting into, if I say, "Yes?" And what might I miss, if I say, "No?" Plus, there's the moral dilemma of stretching the truth. And the more awkward position of perhaps being found out, if I fib. After this brief moment of inner turmoil, I reveal that we have no plans. Actually, that was the plan (you know... to have no plans... oh, forget it). "Great, because I have two extra tickets for Jazz Night over at The Wine Pairing Shoppe," says she. Now, I get around (if you know what I mean - wink, wink), but I had not heard of Jazz Night or The Wine Pairing Shoppe ( before this invitation. But, man, am I glad we found out. Selling Palm Coast real estate is our profession... and really connecting with our customers is our passion. Introducing them to this newly discovered spot will be our gift.
We were met at the door by a lovely woman with a sparkling, friendly way. Fay answered our questions and found us a great table. Knowing we were "newbies" to the scene, she checked in on us from time to time. Nice. The artist entertaining this night was Jan Crawford and her Blues Fusion band. She (and they) were amazing. Three hours of classical jazz interpretation: Billy Holiday, Nancy Wilson, Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, Louis Armstrong, Ray Charles, Peggy Lee and more. We were mesmerized and thoroughly entertained. The owners, Margo and Gary York, serve up a winning mixture of fine wines, cheeses, and ambiance. My partner and I don't drink (I'm sure, however, that I contributed mightily to the stock values of Coors and Jack Daniels during my 20 years in the Army - again, another story), but were quite happy with the nice choices of alternative beverages.
Margot told me they'd moved to Palm Coast a couple of years ago, from Massachusetts, after 20 & 29 years, respectively, with the Dow Jones Corporation. The wine shop idea was their brain child and they opened in December, 2005. Friday nights are "wine tastings," while Saturday is reserved for Jazz. They sell fine wines during the week and have a gift shop, as well. Private parties may reserve the shop for functions during the week. The Wine Pairing Shoppe is on Palm Coast Parkway in the St. Joe Business Center (across the Parkway from Ace Hardware). Visit their website (link, above) for more information. If you want to enjoy great jazz in the company of sophisticated wine and music aficionados... this will surely be to your liking...

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

"I Blog, Therefore I Am"

When I first got wind of this "blogging" thing, my initial impulse was to jump in with both feet. I mean the whole language disrespect of the techie culture was beauty, in and of itself. If IBM were to re-name itself in the new world order, it might change from "International Business Machines" to "BizBots 4U" or sumpin,' sumpin'. Web Log, shortened to Blog was cool enough to pique my interest. I heard the voice from a past mentor, saying, "Remember, Frank... Leading Edge, not Bleeding Edge." I'm still not sure if waiting was the right thing, but I do know that thousands upon thousands of Blogs were started... yet haven't seen a fresh Post since Sundance and Antonella were voted off "Idol." Speaking of which, did you see it this week? You knew none of the girls were going home - and sure enough, "Bye, bye Phil and Chris." I guess it was Phil's time, but he got better and better as the show went on. (Please excuse me, I've got something in my eye...) You can bet he'll get a record deal and look pretty good in a cowboy hat, too. The touching scene between Blake and Chris was just... too... much... (Excuse me again - I'll be all right - honest...) Wait a sec, where was I? Oh, yeah, the Blog, heh, heh. Man, I get off track easily. My son has ADD/ADHD and I often wonder where he got it? So I finally started this Blog, well after the first phase had passed. "Why do I want to do this?" I asked myself. "It seems that there are sooo many Blogs. Does anyone read them?" Then I remembered a class I attended about six years ago in Virginia. It was given by Michael Russer, known in the real estate community, up till then, as "Mr. Internet." (see: ) (That has since evolved into "Mr. Freakin' Internet", for ambiguous reasons.) A guy in the class asked him, "Now that everyone has a website, it seems that having one is no big deal, right?" I knew where this was headed. "So, based on that logic," said Mr. Internet, "You'll be taking your name out of the phone book?" The truth was that a lot of folks didn't get it back then. And still don't. Business success today demands a net presence. NAR (National Association of Realtors) stats are showing that a number approaching 90% of consumers considering a real estate transaction... begin with an Internet search for an agent (for example: - not the old "Let your fingers do the walking" Yellow Pages drill. When's the last time you opened up a paper encyclopedia to get some information? I thought so... works like a champ! Want to try it? Go to the Wikipedia link here, click "English," then type in "Snowbird" in the Search bar. Then click the "discussion" tab at the top of the page to see the origin of the word, describing all our Palm Coast winter visitors. You'll be surprised at what you find...
So, why Blog? Because it's a means of expression, which allows a "backstage peek" into the Blogger's thoughts. It's a way for people to get to know me, yet at arm's length. No commitment. Don't have to sign anything. It's way different (or should be) from a website. No advertising. No chest pounding or, "We're #1" rhetoric. Mr. Russer teaches us that the IEC (Internet Empowered Consumer) wants it that way. They want to be in control of the relationship... right up to decision time: "What agent do we want to get us through this maze?" Hint: It's usually the ones who will provide accurate, useful information, without hounding them. Then, and only then - after this is decided - do the agents assert themselves. At this point, the good ones will know that consumers - even savvy, confident consumers - will want strong agents to take them by the hand and lead them through the transaction process.
And, for your information, unlike the Pointy Haired Boss in the Dilbert comic, I do do my own stuff (did I just say "do do?")... (and I'm smart enough now to pay Dilbert's owners for the re-print rights, unlike years ago with Disney's mouse - another story!) If you live in, or visit, or own property here in Palm Coast, Flagler Beach, or Flagler County - my hope is that you'll be a regular to this Blog. It's from me to you... a little humor... a little information. Enjoy:-)

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