Tuesday, December 2, 2008

"What RE/MAX Oceanside is Thinking"

I've been succumbing to the lure of CNN, MSNBC, and FOX News. I was mesmerized by the ugliness of the political campaigns (not the process, mind you, just the campaigns themselves). All the political and economic chaos are enough to make one understand the mindset of a bridge jumper. A little game I've been playing has produced predicted results: Eighty percent (80%) of news stories in the morning paper are negative in nature... The Economy (real estate down, job losses, low retail numbers, GM/Ford/Chrysler woes, inflation, recession, bank failures, fat cat bail outs, plunging dollar, food prices, national debt, Social Security, etc.), war, murder, rape, a host of felonious behaviors, unethical politicians, child abuse, genocide, wild fires, hurricanes, collapsing school buildings in Haiti, terrorist attacks in Mumbai (for you old folks - that used to be Bombay), and on and on. It seems the only good news lately is that Georgia Tech beat Georgia this Saturday.
Back in 1956, Earl Nightingale turned a simple "pep talk" to his employees into a "Gold Record" sensation. His recorded talk was titled, "The Strangest Secret," and in a nutshell the "Secret" was that: WE BECOME WHAT WE THINK ABOUT! So I'm thinkin'... "What am I thinkin'?" For that matter, what are we all thinking? You know the current answer is not good... and if we don't change it, that "Goin' to Hell in a Handbasket" scenario could get pretty real.
Nightingale wasn't the first to glom onto that concept. As far back as the tenth century, B.C., Solomon wrote in Proverbs, "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." Various versions on the theme were developed by Aristotle, Plato, Augustine, and a host of other philosophers. Fast forward a dozen centuries and we've got Henry Ford's famous, "Whether you think you can... or you can't, you are most likely right." And, who could forget: "So often time it happens, we all live our life in chains, and we never even know we have the key." ~The Eagles, "Already Gone"... Good stuff! To loosely paraphrase the masterpiece book, "As a Man Thinketh," by James Allen: How and what we think not only decides our very character, but is comprehensive in every facet of our lives. A man is literally the sum of all his thoughts. Our choices are the fruits of our thinking. The vision that we glorify in our minds... this we will build our lives by... this we will become.
So, where am I going with this? I'm a Real Estate Sales Agent. I've been a Broker for 22 years and on the planet for 63. I get how businesses and the economy function (MBA from Georgia Tech, thank you very much). I'm not ignorant of the fact that the market is not sizzling, but I know for sure that property is selling every day in Palm Coast and Flagler Beach and all over Flagler County. And guess who's selling a lot of it? RE/MAX is! The media would have you believe that NOTHING is moving. That is just plain WRONG! Nearly 150 properties have SOLD in the Flagler MLS in the past 30 days. And RE/MAX agents account for over 1,300 sales sides sold in our local MLS system. The lion's share of these have been sold by my company - RE/MAX Oceanside. The simple truth is that RE/MAX agents are older, more experienced, hold more professional designations and broker licenses, are more tech savvy and more productive than most of our peers. That's not just us that says that... These are facts known to the NAR (National Association of Realtors).
Want to know why this is? Because RE/MAX agents don't spend a lot of time looking in the rear view mirror. We look at things TODAY and realize: "It is what it is." If it's challenging news, we say, "So what? Now what?" Changing to accept new realities is our way of doing business. ""In September 1932, against the backdrop of a great and deepening Depression, presidential candidate and New York governor Franklin D. Roosevelt declared that Americans "must recognize the new terms of the old social contract." Today, amidst the currents of global economic transformation (and a slumping US housing market), our challenges are no less substantial."" (TIME, 7/28/08)
Despite these challenges in the current market, we at RE/MAX Oceanside have made a conscious decision - a choice - to be a source of light, as others choose to stumble around in the darkness. In 1986, my first Broker gave me some powerful insight: "No matter how sophisticated the consumer may be, they are looking for a strong, experienced, successful agent to lead them through this complicated real estate process... regardless of good markets, or bad." In a football game, the outcome most often follows "momentum shifts." If there is a fumble or an interception or a sack in the Red Zone... you want to be the team which prevails. If you are going to be a buyer or seller in the 2008-2009 real estate game, we can bring you the momentum shift you need to prevail.
Well, did you read the paper today? So, what are you thinking?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

"Veterans Day - 2008"

  • The eleventh hour... of the eleventh day... of the eleventh month. The commemoration of the end of "The War To End All Wars" - the end of World War I in 1918. Sometimes eloquence wins out over the sobering notion of our human nature, does it not? In the aftermath of WWII, President Eisenhower made November 11th - "Veteran's Day" - an official US holiday to honor those who have served this nation in uniform. This is a fitting complement to "Memorial Day" which honors those killed in service to this country. President Calvin Coolidge opined that, "A nation which does not remember its Veterans, will soon no longer be remembered."

  • I attended two Veteran's Day events today. One at 9:00AM at Heroes Memorial Park and one at 10:00AM at the new Flagler County Administration Building. Both were short, simple, reverent, and compelling. I shook hands with a 90 year old veteran of the Battle of the Bulge. I introduced myself and told him that my uncle had been a glider pilot and shot down and killed in that same battle. He allowed that he too had been a glider pilot all those years ago.
  • Something bothered me today... maybe "concerned" is a better word. I'll bet that fewer than 10% of those attending either event was under the age of 60. So many Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen with white hair and bad knees. Hats, vests, and jackets with patches, pins, medals, and campaign ribbons from WWII, Korea, and Viet Nam. But where were the younger people? Just look at the roles of organizations like the VFW and the American Legion. Disproportionately older. This country is currently in economic chaos and I sure hope we can fix it. The bigger challenge, however, is the battle for this nation's soul. Who are we? What do we stand for? What will we fight for? Do we still honor our Founding Fathers and the Constitution and the Bill of Rights... or do we want to change things... mix it up... "modernize" those old concepts?
  • We have a new President now. I pray for his success as our leader and as the Commander in Chief of our military forces. I voted for the other guy, yet I passionately want President Obama to succeed. The phrase that hit me hard on election night went like this: "The Republicans have lost this election because their campaign was aimed at how America used to look. The Democrats have won because their efforts have been targeted at what America looks like today." Powerful statement. My hope is that "what we look like today" still honors this country's traditions and pays tribute to its veterans - and pays attention to what President Calvin Coolidge said. God Bless our Veterans and God Bless America.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

"Seton High School - Class of 1963"

"When our high school days are over; We will very often sing; Of the many happy hours; Seton High, to us did bring."
The last day we sang that song together, was June 21st, 1963. We stood on the stage at the IBM Country Club Fieldhouse in Endicott, New York... diplomas in hand... and clueless, as to what lay ahead. We had a reunion in 1983 and, Man, were we full of ourselves! At 38, we were in our prime. I remember a lot of alcohol at that gathering. Then, again, in 1995 (I think), we had a "multi-year" get-together. It was nice, but diluted. Two weeks ago, however, on August 30th, 2008... time stood still. We gathered in Endicott for our 45th reunion - around a clever theme: "The Class of 63' Turns 63!" There is not much that can prepare you for something like this. Suffice it to say, that we looked different than we did at 17! The good news? We looked pretty good!
Most of us had been together since First Grade. Half from St. Ambrose Elementary in Endicott - and the other half joining us from St. James and other feeder schools in Binghamton and Johnson City. We knew one another from our common love of basketball and the ensuing friendly rivalries in the Catholic Schools League. "It was a time," I like to say, "when short, slow, white guys ruled the game." (Except for Joe, third from left , above, who was neither short, nor slow) As you can see from the photos, we were not a very diverse group, those days in Upstate New York... most all of us were from Western and Eastern European descent.
I can't begin to tell you how important these people were in my life. Up until the age of 8, I lived an idyllic family life. The next 10 years, however, were bleak... sometimes nightmarish... culminating with my mother taking her own life, the year after we graduated. Only a small handful knew any of this, but it didn't matter. When I was at school - life was good! The nuns taught us The Golden Rule and for the most part, we lived it out. They were strict... sometimes ridiculous... yet they kept us on the right path. One that stands out is Sister Anthony Louise (aka, "Tony Lou," ). She knew some of my situation and provided encouragement for me, where she could. I took to heart, one of her mantras: "To be successful, you need to be able to write a decent paragraph... and to be able to communicate your thoughts effectively to others." (In recent emails with her, now Sister Maria Cincotta, she said they were under orders to be quite strict. Looking back, she wishes they'd been able to be warmer and more approachable. Ahh, if we could all have "do-overs!") The coaches, although flawed like all of us, were men we could look up to. I can still hear the voices of Mr. Matola, Dinga, and Tarricone, echo off the old gym walls. Thank God for Mr. Deus, who saved me from "mathematical self-destruction." "Kurly Joe" got me through Physics and Mr. Noreika, through Chemistry. The priests were good fellows, also. Nothing like the bum raps many earned in those days. Father Kennedy, Van Amburgh, and Wieczorek... and Father Murphy, from St. James, had our best interests at heart. Father Zeder (a distant cousin), although aloof (as Principals are want to be) had his good days. How about Sister Gabrielle (aka "Gabby"), the Librarian, and her comical instructions to "Make sure the boys put magazines on their laps... if a girl might just sit there!?!?" And then there was Victor, the Custodian, who actually provided the key... that let us in the gym to play basketball... long after the lights were out.
Seventy strong graduated. Six in our extended group have passed away (that we know about): Jeanne Fotorny, Stanley Jackowski, Bill Kovac, Terry Turnock, Mickey White, and Janet Willard. The rest of us are: Mike "Big A" Almy, John Baker, Dave "Murray" Benson, Margie Blazey, Hugh Boyle, Linda Bystricky, Mary Jane "MJ" Cahill, Carol Ann Caforio, Jeanne Callaghan, Charlene "Char" Callahan, Connie Charsky, Bill Conaty, Patty "Cos" Cosentino, Jim "Cib" Cibulsky, Larry "Cousy" Davis, Gloria Dellos, Eileen Dunphy, Sharon Dwyer, Kathy "Dinky" Dolan, Elizabeth "Betty/Emma" Eck, Charlie "Finn" Fisher, Maria Giammichele, Paul Giolma, Kathy "Glees" Glezen, Barb Graham, Cathy Hancock, Peggy Griffin, Tom "Loin Cloth" Haines, George Hanley, Bob Henkiel, Margie Hradisky, Marilyn Horak, Mary Eileen "Sue" Jones, Rodney Julian, Kathy "Kopper" Kopcik, Rosalind "Roz" Kocik, John "Hair" Kovach, Carol Kraycovic, Linda "Myrtle" Kurkoski, Stephanie "Steph" Laddick, Sue Langevin, Margaret McKeon, Kathleen "Katie" McManus, Kenna Lou "JR" Mills, Patti Needham, Maryann "Mambo/Morning" Pastorack, Roberta "Bobbie" Pendered, Eileen Roehm, Mike Ryan, Dona Salamida, Joe "Roz" Rozmer, Sheila Scanlin, Fred Sebesta, Carol Smith, John "Smitty" Smith, Kathy Seliga, Ellen Svatek, Sandra "Sandy" Thayne, Joe "Pickle" Tiderencel, Angela "Angie" Tierno, Joyce Vaughan, John "Booker T" Watts, David "Crockett" White, Carl Williams, Sally Wilson, and Yours Truly - Frank "Zeke/Yatch" Zedar... the good looking fellow in the photo above:-)
The reunion was truly wonderful. To see them again was heart warming. Hugh had the best line of the night when he said, "I feel like we're at a masquerade party... and we've all come as our parents!" How true that was! It's been two weeks now and I wanted to wait to write this. I wanted to settle down a bit from the emotion of that experience. You know what the most frustrating thing was? I didn't get to spend time with everyone! There were those there that I was extremely close to... shared some amazing times and experiences with... and I didn't get to say more than a quick "hello." I still feel this tug to close the loop. Heck, I didn't even get to talk to my girlfriend, Kathy. We were together Junior and Senior years... we both had miserable home situations... and we had each other's back. I was looking forward to her telling my fiance some stories, but it didn't happen.
You know what was really unique about our class? There were no jerks... none. To be sure, we had our cliques and we were not immune from human nature. Yet we stuck by each other. No one took themselves to be "too cool" for the rest. As I look through my yearbook photos, I have at least one good memory from each and every "kid" in my class. No one will ever know the special spot I have in my heart for Stanley ( You can go to the bottom of the blog page, to "Older Posts" and check out Friday, May 25th, 2007, "High School Graduation and Memories of Stanley Jackowski"). He called me when I got home from Viet Nam and we met at Waples. The conversation we had was life-changing. Brain cancer took him much too early. I've lived a full life... and I sure don't live in the past... yet at 63 I still often find my mind wandering to those days... and to those special people. It was a kinder, gentler time - and I miss it. Thank you, Betty, Kopper, and Sandy, for organizing this great party. As I was driving away, I felt good knowing we'll do it again in five years... (When my classmates read this... PLEASE add your thoughts at the bottom of this Blog Post. Did I leave someone out? Do you have a special memory that you'd like to share? Instructions to leave a comment:
  1. Right under these instructions, click on the word, "comments."
  2. There will be a block marked, "Leave your comment." Type your thoughts in that block.
  3. There will be a block marked, "Word Verification." In the block, just re-type the word written in squiggly letters. (This is to keep "Spam" ads from auto-filling the site)
  4. Next, you will see "Choose an identity," with four choices. Click on "Name/URL" and type your name in the "Name" block.
  5. Click on "Publish Your Comment."
  6. There! Done! Easy! You are now a blogger!

Thank you, everyone:-) Frank

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

"Repairing Your Credit"

(ALERT #2: This alert is being posted 12/13/08: Well, The Big Three auto companies may be getting a bailout. Don't you wish we, the taxpayers, could get such a "do-over?" You know, erase our credit card debt, etc., and just get a clean slate? But we're not that lucky, so let's get to work on cleaning up that credit score. Why? Because the absolute best buys in real estate are with us NOW... probably through most of 2009. You CAN get a "normal, fixed rate, under 6% "mortgage. Just do what this blog suggests and "Git er done!" (See Alert #1, below) (ALERT #1: This blog entry was made 08/13/08. However, this alert is being posted 09/30/08...the day after the initial "Economic Rescue/Bailout Bill" was defeated in Congress. The six weeks since this was written have wreaked financial havoc on the lending industry. Regardless of your Republican or Democratic loyalties, there is enough blame to go around both camps. It's upsetting and embarrassing to me as an American, yet greed is truly at the heart of the human condition. The backlash will be felt for a while. Moving forward, a strong credit rating will be essential. If yours is broken - suck it up and do whatever it takes - FIX IT NOW!) As Real Estate Brokers and Sales Agents... we often find ourselves in the middle of highly charged, emotional situations. Foreclosures, job loss, unwanted re-locations, divorce, death in the family, neighborhood conflicts, market fluctuations, etc. For most Americans, the sale or purchase of a home is the most significant financial event of their life. And there we are, in the middle, with all eyes on us. I'm convinced that even the most savvy buyers and sellers are hoping we are really strong... really good at this... and willing to take their hand and lead them through the maze to a good decision. I live for those moments - when the customer says: "OK, you're the expert. Help us put together a good plan here." Because the pendulum swings, we are now at a point where credit has tightened considerably and mortgage loans are much harder to come by. The banks are like "deer in the headlights." Hundreds and hundreds of foreclosures and so-called "short sales" in our Palm Coast / Flagler County, FL market alone. We'll send them a "spot-on" CMA full price offer on a short sale - cash - and not hear a peep from them for over a month! No wonder they are afraid to lend it now. They were so used to giving it away! To be able to move fast and to get a great interest rate, you need a good credit score (often called a FICO score)... FICO stands for "Fair Isaac & Co.," a firm that developed the credit scoring system software in the 1980's. So what's a good score? By most standards, a score of 720 or higher is considered "good." A score below 600 is considered "poor." To get a decent look from a mortgage lender today, you need to be at 680 or above. If you are among the lucky ones, 770 or more is an "A+." The better your score... the better the deal you can get on mortgage rates and terms. Why? Because good credit translates to less risk for the lender. OK, so your credit is currently "not so hot." What can you do? Here are a few hints that may get you off in the right direction: (For you single women out there, you know who Suze Orman is... Surely you watch Oprah... so check this link for a little "chick credibility"... http://www.oprah.com/article/omagazine/omag_200411_suze
  • Be cautious of "Credit repair" offers. "Just $49.95 a month and we do all the work!?" Be careful. You can often do most of this on your own with a little discipline.
  • You can get a free credit report, once a year, from the three major credit reporting agencies, without dinging your score. They are Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union.
  • In simple terms, your score depends on: Your payment history, The amounts you currently owe, The length of your current credit history, The types of credit you use, and New credit you may have.
  • Pay your bills on time. Late payments are credit killers. If you miss the due date, make every effort to pay before the next billing cycle. This can keep the tardiness from becoming a reportable event. Use your bank's on-line payment system for convenience and super record keeping.
  • Keep credit card and store revolving credit card balances low.
  • If you are "past due" on an account, get current.
  • Don't close unused accounts.
  • Don't open any new accounts.
  • If you are having trouble with payments, call the creditor and make an attempt to work it out. Being pro-active can yield some decent outcomes.
  • If your credit report shows items that you are in disagreement with, write them letters of explanation. Everyone seems to have a story about a divorce or a rogue insurance non-payment, or a totally un-explainable item on their report ("I never even had a Sears charge card!"). Deal with these pesky issues and you'll be rewarded.
  • Create a plan. Write it out. Have a timeline, by which you want these problems solved. Make it a priority and you will eventually enjoy the benefits.

There... Hope this is useful. Call us and we'll help you do this. Then, when you are ready, we'll help you purchase a home!

Monday, August 11, 2008

"Housing Greed and Payback"

My Irish mother, Alice Gertrude (O'Keefe) Haggerty, when I had made a poor choice, used to say: "Ok, Franky, it's time to pay the piper." (My father, Joseph (Praznic) Zedar, was Slovenian... How about that for an ethnic combo?) Well, are we paying the piper, or what?
I remember when things crashed in 1989. I thought real estate was gravy, as my first three years were rewarding... and work was fun. But guess what? Short sales actually sold and so did most well-priced homes. By 1991, we were on the rise again. But not now. We're three years into this. I feel like we've come through a nasty storm and we're now in the eye... and now we have to walk through it again to get back out.
So back to this "poor choice" thing that my mother tried to teach me... Our poor choice, regarding real estate, has a one word answer: GREED. Not horrible greed, just normal, every day, human greed. If you have a biblical worldview (or if you just observe life with a scientific scepticism), it's plain to see that greed is in our basic nature. To wit: Do you have to teach greediness to children? No. We struggle to teach them to share. In his recent Newsweek editorial, "The Homeownership Obsession," Robert Samuelson said it brutally honestly: "The housing market," said he, "became a Casino." Wow.. a Casino... how perfect.
As a nation, we have become greedy over-consumers. It's irrefutable. A few weeks ago, my 21 year old son and I watched a special on rural China. There was a woman who walked with her mule on a two hour trip... twice each day... for dirty water. You can believe that my hot showers have been cut in half since then. That will stick with me.
As a Real Estate Broker, here's what makes me nuts. We show houses all the time and comment "amongst ourselves" about the models, etc. If it doesn't have: 22" tiles, 12' ceilings, granite counters, 42" solid wood cabinets, bathtub-like sinks, exotic cooktops, huge commercial refrigerator, cavernous baths & room-sized closets, 3 zone high seer AC, three car garage, etc., etc., etc... then we have the gall to say it's sub-standard. You know - "a starter home." Can you tell me why a family of three needs a 4,000 square foot McMansion, like in the above picture? Sure burns a lot of energy to heat and cool a place like that.
Well, we are paying a price. We are a country that looks down our noses at renters and throws tax breaks at home owners. We reward those that already have the money and punish those that do not. It's a mess. Many older Americans approaching retirement have little wealth accumulation beyond the investment in their homes. I'm guessing a lot of retirements are currently on hold. Don't get me wrong. I own a home and lean to the right. But there has to be a better way to spread the wealth around.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

"Root Canals & Rabies Shots?"

As a professional Real Estate Broker, I often find myself getting on the band wagon with others...
We all complain that the media just can't seem to report anything that even hints at being positive. To be fair, there hasn't been a whole lot of fun stuff to talk about lately ( although I was ecstatic today to see my favorite gas station had slashed the price of regular, from $4.19 to $4.17... Yesss! )
So I'm reading the Wall Street Journal this morning, and this jaunty little segue catches my eye: "As Welcome as a Root Canal or Rabies Shot, here come more Housing Data..." ..."The numbers are expected to offer fresh reminders that neither the financial sector nor the broader economy can leave the Intensive Care Unit just yet." The gist of the article is that we have a huge over-supply of "Vacant and/or For Sale" homes. "The Law of Supply and Demand suggests this doesn't bode well for the future direction of home prices." Awhhh, Come On Now! "To get this vacancy rate back to near normal, over a million homes will have to find new owners." But, here comes the Grinch... Mortgage interest rates are starting to creep up!
I feel like I put on my SPF 15 ( not the Papa Bear "4" or the Baby Bear "50" ) back in 2005... went to the beach... and went in the water to cool off. Problem is I got caught in a Rip Current and have been swimming parallel to the shore for three years! Shouldn't this be letting loose? Oh, well, it can't get worse, right? But what's that in the water ahead? Is that a fin?

Monday, July 21, 2008

"The Future of Cars"

In the 50s'... I can remember the "Gas Wars" in my little hometown in Upstate New York.

There would be three gas stations in a row, let's say an Esso, a Sinclair, and an Atlantic ("Atlantic keeps your car on the go - for business or pleasure - in any kind of weather - Atlantic keeps your car on the go..."). But I digress. The first would advertise "26 cents a gallon"... the second would be "25 cents" and the next "24 cents." For this, they all ran out to the car - washed your windows, checked your oil and tires and coolant - and pumped your gas. I wonder if they do that today in China? They would see-saw and my father loved it. I don't know what kind of mileage our 1952 Hudson Wasp got, but it was a tank.

Much later, my high school years of 1959-1963, would let us cruise a Friday night date for $2 bucks in the tank. That was my hourly wage at Mr. Wallace's drug store. It's funny, because if a kid makes $8 bucks an hour today, that still is enough for gas on Friday night. The new Chevy Impala then was about $2,500, today it's $25,000.

Our problem, as Americans, is that we are voracious consumers. After WWII, Europe went for small cars, small apartments, and scooters. We morphed into 59' Caddy's, Hummers, McMansions, and Harleys. Not to mention Big Macs, Mega Big Gulps, Biggie Fries, and "All you can eat buffets." Well, we're paying the piper today.

There was a great story on cable last night about the 2009 Tokyo Auto Show. The cars were absolutely gorgeous. Beautiful to look at - cheap to buy - and seriously economical to operate. But guess what? Nearly none of them are produced for the US market? Why? BECAUSE WE NEED HUMMERS, DARN IT! WE MUST HAVE 4X4 DRIVE. WE MUST BE READY FOR.... WHATEVER!!!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Who Say's "You Can't Go Home?"

Sometimes things happen in Nature, that simply boggle the mind...
My son-in-law sent me this video clip and I've watched it a few too many times. I wondered if it had been "edited" and was pleased to see that it passed muster on http://www.snopes.com/.

It's the story of "Christian the Lion" and I hope you enjoy it... Click the link, below:

YouTube - Christian the Lion - the full story (in HQ)

Monday, July 7, 2008

Rotator Cuff Surgery

My big brother has said this for years - and It's finally sinking in: "Getting old is not for wimps." I use this as my lead in, because I'm now two and a half weeks into my "Rotator Cuff Surgery Experience" and his words are echoing in the caverns of my mind. This will be short, as typing still hurts and I have to do so with my good right arm in a sling. Aahhh!
Although not mine, my right shoulder looks like the middle photo above. They were trying to stick to the arthroscopic procedure, like the above left picture depicts, yet they found "other stuff," which created a need for the incision. "Other stuff?"
I start my PT (physical therapy) sessions today and I'm told I should bring a bullet to bite on. I have a friend and fellow RE/MAX broker out in Breckenridge, CO. Kelli's Dad is my age and also a former career military fellow. She told me he went through this last year and that he told her the pain of the PT sessions was "what he imagined child birth to be like." That's not good, is it? (Pssstttt: if you need a really good real estate agent in Colorado ski country, contact Kelli: www.kellisells.com )
Oh, and that photo in the upper right? That's me on the way home from the hospital after surgery. My doctor got so mad! He said to chill and let the therapy do its magic... We'll see.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

New Gmail for the iPhone

Official Gmail Blog: New Gmail for the iPhone * No doubt - These are very helpful:

Cell: 386-931-1987)

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day 2008

They call them "The Greatest Generation"... and they deserve the name.
I grew up in their shadow... the men who fought and died in WWII... and then again in Korea. Born in 1945, on the day the Japanese signed the surrender papers on the decks of the USS Missouri in Tokyo Harbor, I could hardly escape it. My namesake, Uncle Frank, was killed in Germany. Several uncles served. All the movies of my youth heralded their exploits.
And today, they are dieing at an alarming rate, these men and women in their 80's and 90's. I have made it my business to meet and thank as many of them as I can. I approached a guy at the Mall in Daytona Beach yesterday. He was wearing a hat that said: "WWII - Silver Star." They don't give those away... They are earned through acts of considerable bravery. I chatted him up and learned that he was an Army Combat Engineer on the D-Day landing in Normandy. He drove a Bulldozer on that hellacious beach, under intense enemy fire, attempting to establish cover for the troops. I listened to his story for about 15 minutes and it left us both misty eyed. I thanked him for his service in WWII - and he thanked me for mine in Viet Nam. Amazing... in that we Viet Nam War Vets are not at all used to being thanked.
Recently, I've met and spoken with a Marine who survived in shark infested waters after his ship, the USS Indianapolis, was sunk by torpedoes in the Pacific. And to an Army infantryman who fought in the Battle of the Bulge. And to an Army Air Corps pilot who flew B-17 bombers, as Luftwaffe fighters tried to knock him out of the sky. A friend of mine from Massachusetts, a military vet himself, has a Dad who was an Ace pilot in the Big War... not many left. Another friend, right here in Palm Coast, is a former Marine (don't ever call them "ex" Marines) and was also awarded the Silver Star for bravery... His challenge came on November 27th, 1950, as 30,000 US Marines, US Army Soldiers, and UN Forces faced off against 120,000 Red Chinese Army Regulars at The Battle of Chosin Reservoir. The brutal winter campaign earned our forces the nickname "The Frozen Chosin."
These people really did "save the world for democracy." It's not just a frivolous saying. What freedom we have today really is a result of the sacrifices this generation made. The other night, I was at the Ocean Center in Daytona Beach for a high school graduation ceremony. As the Colors were presented and the Star Spangled Banner was being sung, young people all around me talked and laughed and ignored the moment. Life was good - not a care - no Draft to worry about - the volunteer force will take care of business. It makes me crazy... and I can't imagine what these WWII and Korean War Vets must feel, when they see this kind of disrespect.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Battle of Florida Real Estate

By now, if you haven't seen the amazing video of drama on the African plain, titled: "The Battle at Kruger," you are in an ever decreasing minority... A group of naturalists, visiting Kruger National Wildlife Park, were treated to riveting scenes as they unravelled - and caught it all on a handheld digital camera. To see this once in a lifetime video, click this link: i-CAUGHT :: Battle at Kruger Battle at Kruger Added Jul 31, 2007 By abc. 461091 Views. Channel(s): Animals, i-CAUGHT tv. 18 Comments. Rating. An amazing series of animal attacks is ...ugv.abcnews.go.com/player.aspx?id=556758 - 51k
A herd of unsuspecting water buffalo are grazing along side a large watering hole, when two adults and a calf wander away from the rest. They are casually strolling... and do not see the pride of five hungry lions, crouching in ambush. WHAM! They explode from their position and the chase is on. Four lions run the adults off, while the fifth overtakes the baby. In the fury of the attack, the two tumble off a ledge and into the water below. A great deal of thrashing ensues, as the other lions join in the apparent kill. But, ahaaa! The ruckus brings two large crocodiles, who try to pull the calf into their domain. It takes five 300 pound lions to pull the calf up the bank... with one of the crocs hanging on! The croc, sensing its vulnerability out of the water, finally lets go. Now the lions are ready to finish the job and enjoy their hard won prize. But wait! The entire buffalo herd has now come back to retrieve their family member. They are enraged and the hunters become the hunted. The bulls chase the lions and toss them in the air on the ends of their formidable horns. The calf miraculously eludes the fierce claws and teeth and escapes back into the middle of the protective herd. The scene ends with the lions cowering and scattering to the winds. You gotta' love it. VICTORY FOR THE UNDERDOG!
Well, guess what? This, as I see it, is a great analogy for this crazy real estate market... and the economy in general... especially in war-torn Florida. We're the Calf in this story. The Lions are represented by Gas Prices, Food Prices, Mud-Slinging Political Contests, The War in Iraq, "Made in China," and the Undervalued Dollar. The Crocodiles are played by Foreclosures, "ShortSales," Inept Banking Business Practices, The Chicken Licken Sky is Falling Media, and Sellers Who Haven't Heard We're in a Down Market. A few blogs ago, I made the comment that "This bad market will be over... when we DECIDE that it's over." I agree with Yogi Berra and believe that 90% of our problems are half mental. And, oh yeah, the Heroic Buffaloes are played by Real Estate Agents who continue to fight the good fight, stay the course, and give customers accurate and cogent advice... even when they don't want to hear it.

Monday, April 21, 2008

"We're Worth It... Now More Than Ever"

I'll be the first to admit it... We're just like you and your profession... a group who fits nicely under a "Bell Curve" (Normal Frequency Distribution for you statisticians out there). Some of us are "exceptionally good"... with loads of experience, education, technological profiiciency, and customers happy to refer us to their friends... really able to consistently deliver the "Wow!" factor. Many are "average," that's not a bad thing, in that they get the job done and meet acceptable standards. Some, sadly, are "not very good"... and they give the rest of us a bad name. Just like doctors, lawyers, teachers, nurses, mechanics, pastors, builders... and any other profession or service you can name. Right now, the real estate world is upside-down and there are some things you should know:
  • Many sellers are angry or confused... or both. Their sense of entitlement is overwhelming, as they firmly believe that the value of their home cannot - EVER - go down... "because this is America!" Nearly every consultation with a seller begins with, "We're not going to give our house away." In this market, having a realistic seller is akin to having a bucket of gold.
  • There are really THREE (3) MLS databases:
  • The first is called "Fantasyland." This is where the above-referenced sellers have their homes listed at "pre-2006" prices. They are hoping and praying and playing ostrich. They haven't read the paper...
  • Secondly, there are the "Short Sale" listings. This is where folks go who are trying to avoid foreclosure. Investors go here too, because they think it's a "get out of jail free" database. They don't understand that banks are in the business of making money and are exceedingly reluctant to let people off the hook... who have other assets! Today, "short sale" listings have become a catch-all of teaser prices. WARNING: If you get involved as an agent or a buyer here, do your homework and be prepared to wait a long time (90-120 days) for an answer. HINT: The answer is often, "No." In order to end up with a successful closing, list prices should be about 10% below market - to prompt offers. Offers, on the other hand should be close to market, in order to elicit a positive response from the bank. Regarding price? Make sure the relationship between your offer and the mortgage payoff amount makes sense. The bank won't take "$150,000... on a house appraised at $275,000... with a payoff of $350,000."
  • The third database is where motivated sellers (Harry and Mary Homeowner, Banks, REOs) are listed and are ready to do business... today.Today, there are 10,809 "Sold" properties in our database, from the past 36 months. Of these, there are 77 short sales. That's about six tenths of 1% of the database. Hardly a panacea for great deals.
  • Just because it says "foreclosure" or "REO bank-owned," does not automatically qualify them for Investor Nirvana. Look at all your options, as there may be Mom & Pop sellers who are highly motivated too.
  • Because you peruse the Internet sites and see lots of homes for sale, does not mean you "know the market." If I go to a medical web site and look at photos and read all about knee replacement surgery, I'm still not an orthopaedic surgeon. This is a tough business sometimes... and we are fully immersed. There is an amazing amount of "turmoil" under the surface of a real estate transaction. With 22 years of real estate sales and training agents and sales management, personal investing, constant reading and personal education... along with chairing our Arbitration Committee and conducting mediation of real estate related disputes... I (and others like me) can really help you make good decisions.

This market won't last forever, Thank God. There are plenty of signs that initial recovery has started. We are really busy! It's not like 1999-2005... and it's not a lot of Waterfront, Canals, and Hammock Beach, but we are busy. Why? Because those that missed the boat last time around, don't want to miss it again. As the lower end clears out, the funnel will flow more freely for the rest of the market. Hallelujah!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

"I Guess We Made Him Mad"

...Well, well, well. It's all clear to me now!
The real estate market has been in a mess for nearly three years now. We all have theories, as to "why." I'm really good at those, you know... You could look it up. But 90% of the statistics, as presented by 72% of all economists, contain 37% flawed data, 65% of the time. You could look that up too.
So, quite a long time ago, it seems that God was displeased with His people's performance here on earth. It rained for 40 days and 40 nights in a display of torrential might. Everything was lost, save for Noah and the inhabitants of the Ark. As I looked at the sky (see photo above) I couldn't help but see the significance of the imagery. We've made Him mad again. There is no other earthly explanation for the cloud formation and/or this real estate market.
But Good News! When the rains subsided, Noah and the survivors enjoyed a new beginning - a clean sheet of parchment - a chance to start over. I'm sensing that is so in the real estate market right now. I can't tell you how busy we've been the past month or so. It's mainly in the lower price ranges (under $200,000), as those who missed the last opportunity to become homeowners, are coming out of their slumber. Prices and interest rates are low. There are lots of motivated sellers and bank foreclosures. The paper is full of bad news, but then again, it always is. There is plenty to indicate we're either at... or very close to... "the bottom." Things are moving, as the force of pent up demand gains momentum. Like my buddy John just said, "The bad market will be over, when the people decide it's over." It's a great time to buy... Don't wait, or you may be singing the "I Cain't Bul'eeve I Missed The Freakin' Boat A'gin" Blues :-)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

"Bill Delbrugge - One of a Kind"

Photo: Bill Delbrugge, Superintendent of Flagler County Public Schools) (Web: http://www.flagler.k12.fl.us/ ) I remember it so vividly... first day of Kindergarten, August, 1992... Mantua Elementary School, Fairfax, Virginia. Zach was five and he and the backpack were about the same size. He and his best buddy, Ross, were cranked; and had been for a week. The kids and the parents all waited together on the corner for the bus to come - and for lives to change... A true Norman Rockwell scene. When it arrived and the kids scrambled aboard, Zach fell on the steps, under the weight of his new pack. True to form, he jumped up like nothin' happened and ran to the back of the bus. As it pulled away, he and Ross pressed their hands and faces hard against the window. Funny like crazy... and never to be forgotten. He was the last, preceded by Andi and Suzy and Chelsea - all with their own unique tales of "the first day of school." Now it's sixteen years later and Zach just turned 21. He's been "finding himself" for a bit, but now is on the brink of a real adventure. He starts Firefighter Academy in Tampa on Saturday morning... Today, I was briefing Bill Delbrugge, Flagler County Superintendent of Schools, on a new program for teachers. He asked me how Zach was doing and remembers details about him and the FPC Class of '05. Zach made ok grades, but left his mark as the class president, a good athlete, the "crazy morning news"... and a big heart. He always talked so positively about "Mr. Delbrugge" and his efforts to make things better in our Flagler County Schools. He was "The Man," yet the kids could talk to him... He went out of his way to make himself approachable and available to them. As parents, we could always see that this was a man on a mission. Informed, passionate, vulnerable, professional, dedicated - the complete package. After our briefing, I asked him what was going on in the schools these days. From our conversation, three things struck me:
  • Educators in Florida are really concerned about budgets and funding. "It's such a volatile issue," he said. "We get nervous when the lawmakers start changing the rules." Traditionally, the bulk of school funding has come from property taxes. "If we ever get to where we are funded by a State sales tax, it would be very difficult to predict revenues... and, therefore, more difficult to make meaningful plans."
  • If the current economy sends property values, and hence property taxes, much lower... there's trouble ahead. In case you missed it, Flagler is still the fastest growing county in Florida. Matanzas High School is now FPC's "cross-town-rival"... more elementary and middle schools... more kids... more teachers needed. Wait a minute, doesn't that take more money to run the show? I couldn't help but think that Florida's median age is steadily dropping... and that means more kids. We better be prepared to fund their education!
  • It seems as though our kids are making headway. Those in charge seem to have more faith in the young folks, as key negative statistics (teen pregnancy, violence, drop-outs) have taken a downward trend. "We're investing in them where it counts." In less than five years, the county schools have gone from about 2,000 computers to about 8,000! "We're doing our best to teach them about relationship building, technology, and economic globalization." "America is not all about assembly lines, like in previous generations... that's why we are focusing on teaching the students problem solving skills. We want them prepared for the realities of the world they will face."

Oh, that program for teachers I was there to brief? It's called: www.RealEstateForHeroes.com and has been created for "Military Forces, Law Enforcement Personnel, Firefighters-EMT-Rescue, Federal Agents, Nurses, and Teachers." It has been set up to provide real, usable, no-nonsense assistance for our community's every day heroes. It helps in a big way, when they choose to purchase or sell real estate, either for personal or investment purposes. To learn more, go to the website or call me direct at 386-931-1987.

So what's the last thing "Mr. Delbrugge" says to me? "Give my best to Zach... and tell him if there's any way possible, I'll be at his Firefighter Academy graduation." That's what we in real estate call "service after the sale..."

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