Professionals and Referrals

My time in Real Estate is coming to an end, at least as an active agent. I’m keeping my license active so I can still earn referral income. If you need to buy or sell a house, you can still contact me and I will connect you with an excellent Realtor to handle your transaction.

During my time in Real Estate, I’ve really wondered where people’s heads are when it comes to recommendations for professionals. There are many types of professionals who are needed for a Real Estate transaction. Clients, of course, can hire any professional they choose. Most Realtors have a short list of professionals that they’re familiar with and work well with. Unfortunately, anybody not on that list is a wild card. You have no idea how competent they are, or how good of a job they’re likely to do. Often, we’re surprised. But just as often, we’re left wanting to ask our clients “Why the hell didn’t you just listen to me and hire the person I told you would do a great job for you?”

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Is Accident Forgiveness Simply a Pre-Paid Insurance Increase?

I’ve had my insurance with Allstate New Jersey for the last 11 years. It’s not a bad relationship. They don’t bother me, I don’t bother them, and I guess we’re both happy.

It’s been a long time since I’ve had to talk to Allstate. We sold a car last year, and I had to call to take it off the policy. I don’t remember how long it was before that when I had to talk to them last.

One of the last two times I had to call Allstate was right after Accident Forgiveness was rolled out. I thought that was a great idea. I’ve paid tens of thousands or more of dollars for car insurance, and so far I have not had to make a single claim. So by this point, after 20 years of driving (and paying insurance), being forgiven for an accident sounds like a great idea. I could probably have bought several cars for what I’ve paid in insurance, especially in the early years when it cost me a fortune to insure a car simply because I was young, single, and male.

But when they asked me if I wanted to add accident forgiveness to my policy, they explained that it would raise the cost of my policy. I politely declined.

I have to ask, if you’ve talked to your insurance company about accident forgiveness: isn’t this just another banking/insurance scam? Is this little more than pre-paying a policy increase? Or am I missing something?

One of My Listings Was Just Reduced and is Waiting for You

2010-08-08 Doughtery House-0108

We just reduced the price on one of my listings. If you’re looking for a fine home in Deptford, NJ, this could be yours.

This fine 3 bedroom, 2 bath home was completely renovated in 2003. It features an open plan living/dining/kitchen area. The kitchen has skylights that provide plenty of natural light. The master suite is on the first floor and includes a sitting room or office or whatever you may need to use it for. Upstairs are 2 bedrooms with huge closets and a spacious loft with built-in bookcase.

The detached 2 car garage is air conditioned.

This home is centrally located to shopping and major highways.

Contact me for details and a personal tour of this fine home. You can also visit the home’s website for more information.

The Key Word in Social Media is Social

Social media is a double edged sword. Through social media, I’ve reconnected with high school friends and Navy buddies I thought I’d never see again. I’ve even kept in touch with family, and formed closer relationships even with those in driving distance. I’ve been able to get a glimpse into the minds of business leaders I respect and admire. I’ve been able to see what celebrities I like are doing, like the Ghost Hunters and the Deadliest Catch fishermen.

Social media provides a business advantage. I can promote my listings a lot easier through social media. I can broadcast a lot farther and a lot faster about open houses and new listings. It’s a great business tool.

But I can also be spammed relentlessly by others promoting their own businesses and interests, who have no filter between their mind and keyboard. I routinely get friend requests from people, only to have my status stream and messages filled up with “business opportunities”, webinars, demands for information, and other distractions. All this from people who totally ignore the social aspect of social media.

Just now, I cleaned out 8 messages from my Facebook inbox. All were from people who “friended” me only for business promotion purposes. One guy sent two messages about a video of a friend who is supposedly making $1000 a day.Great. Believable. Somebody else sent out 3 messages about how he’s looking for short sales. That’s just the Real Estate and “Internet Marketers”.

I’m all for using social media for business. But I think you need to form a relationship. The founder of the company I’m affiliated with says “people buy people before they buy (anything else)”. So if you’re expecting me to buy your product through Facebook, then who are you? What are you thinking about? What are you doing? What do you like to do? What books are you reading?

I don’t turn down friend requests unless they’re obvious spam, but I tend to ignore those people who do nothing but shamelessly market.

What about you? Do you run into shameless promoters on social media? Do you think it’s OK?

John Maxwell: Don’t Shun The Sting

This post by John Maxwell hit home for me. I had to make a phone call last night. I got an answering machine. I’m not very good with voice mails. Even with people I know, I’ve never been good. I sometimes opt to hang up on the voice mail and try to call later. My messages are very stilted because I lack feedback from the person. But when I’m calling for business, it’s bad form to not leave a message.

After I left a message last night, Christina told me it sounded horrible. I agree.

But, I am going to have to master the art of the phone call and the voice mail message to succeed in my business. I guess I’ll just have to keep at it.

I’ve only known of John Maxwell as an accomplished speaker. Like me with phone calls, he once started from somewhere too.

Thank You, Sears. May I Have Another?

As a small businessman, customer service is VERY important to me. I can't afford to unintentionally get customers angry. That would send me back to a cubicle. Anything but that. Things happen. Yes. People get upset. Yes. That's part of life, and part of business. How you react to things happening and people getting angry says a lot about yourself and your business.

I bought a treadmill from Sears about 3 years ago. Lately, it started to smell like it was burning. I called Sears, since we paid for the 5 year service plan. I was scheduled for a service call between 1 and 5 PM this afternoon.

Guess what? It's obvious. They didn't show. Nobody called. And of course, with a 4 hour window requiring one of us to be home, it placed us under a huge inconvenience. We had an errand that both of us needed to do, but I ended up doing it myself. It required a lot of labor.

Christina called me after 5 when it was obvious that a large, billion dollar corporation can't keep an appointment. She called them. The call center rep was rude to her. She asked for a manager. She escalated 2 levels in the call center, and did not encounter a single person who cared. We've already been waiting a week and a half for this service call. Now we're waiting until July 18. That's a Saturday. In my business, Saturdays are workdays. Thanks, Sears, you could have just cost me money.

Guess what Sears offered us for our inconvenience? A "free" consultation for air conditioning or siding or some other home service. Right. It would be free anyway. What idiot would pay for a consultation for that? Sears already demonstrated their unreliability and lack of caring about us as customers. If I needed anything done on my home, I know several good and reliable contractors who would do the job right. And I know where they live…

If you live in south Jersey and need air conditioning or siding (or any other contracting service) performed, please contact me. Spend your money on a good small businessman who cares about doing a good job. I can refer you to several. Don't give your money to Sears.

I'm writing this as sort of an open letter to Sears. Some companies actually monitor social media and blogs. When you're as large and soulless as Sears, it's a good way to find out what's really going on when several levels of corporation are between the executives and the customers. Of course, when you're as large and soulless as Sears, you probably don't care about one inconvenienced customer. Or two, or even a thousand. You'll do just fine no matter how many upset customers you leave in your wake.

So if you're reading this, Sears, I hope you don't miss the few tens of thousands of dollars in sales that you just lost from me. I have a long memory when large, soulless mega-corporations tick me off. Just ask Lowe's.

Banks Getting Rid of Free Checking?

I saw a post on Lifehacker this morning about banks getting rid of free checking. Apparently they have their customers back over a barrel and can do what they want once again.

I've only used the services of one "bank" in my life. That was Commerce Bank. But I got tired of their stupid games and closed my account. Commerce bank had some silly policy that if you deposit a paycheck on Thursday, somehow the funds would not be available until Tuesday even though they were reflected in your balance. That is, unless you get out of the car and go in the bank and cash out part of the paycheck at the counter. Then the entire thing was available. It never made sense to me at all.

I have almost always conducted my banking at credit unions. I started with Security Service Federal Credit Union in San Antonio, Texas, when I was 13. I started with a savings account, and opened a checking account when I was 16.

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