Communication, Media, Opinion and Fact

Over coffee this morning, I started to think about how communication changed in my lifetime. Technology increased the connections for me personally, but media changed over time. If you think about news, professional connections and friendships, we had fewer connections years ago. In some ways, I can touch almost everyone using technology. Some ads I run are seen by thousands and comments, if you consider viewership and interaction, on several social media sites add up to more than 100,000 viewers a month! I’ll be read by people I may never meet, but I may influence in some small way.

My friendships have sometimes changed as well. Some social media friends have become a part of my life in a very real way. I think adapting to be current in the use of technology and the way I see the world makes a difference in how effectively I’m able to market and how I connect. Email doesn’t work in the same way, letters are nearly obsolete, print media reaches a tiny segment of the population and phone calls are even secondary. How should I communicate and, considering the recent headlines, is fact or opinion more important in communication? I’ve been writing a modest blog for the last 8 or 10 years. The domain changed a few times and I’ve changed the theme, but much of the coverage is opinion. What do I think about my industry? What do I like or dislike about my community? How should the world change? Opinions are gradually replacing fact…or in my opinion the way people consume news is changing. The public demands interactivity and demands the sharing of opinion. Consider Twitter. I have more than one twitter account and spend time commenting or adding content regularly, but the number of interactions and what I see from the interaction is changing. In the last year, I began to think about reaching out to a group, instead of reaching out individually. I’ll explain. We’re all self-centered to a degree. Most of us assume our opinions have value and if we share an opinion, everyone will somehow reach the same conclusion. I’m guilty in this post as well. Over coffee and the news, I thought about the changes in how I do business and communicate, but thought the change is reflected in media, entertainment…pretty much everywhere.

So, where does that leave me? In sales or politics, opinions count. I never truly considered the degree of attention given to opinions before this year, but everything seems to be turning into opinion. What do I think about the local market and the US real estate market? I think we’re in for at least two more good years, if not more. Lower interest rates won’t happen, but historically low rates have been a part of our lives for so long, I think people forget the availability of credit, not rates, shapes the market. Home costs will increase and construction costs will continue to increase. When you think about pricing, it all becomes relative. “Real Estate” will always be a safe investment. As markets increase, a portion of every gain benefits the real estate market, but removal or reduction of regulations like Dodd Frank will bring gains. Years ago, I remember talk about Japan Inc in business school. Until then, I never considered the partnership we should have with government and I never felt a partnership until seeing the results of efforts at economic development. Jobs and economic health became a focus and appear to be central to the changes we may see in the coming few years. I can only see good news for the economy, housing, development and the value of US assets. This post is just my opinion, but nowadays opinions seem to count a great deal.

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Under-rated North Beach on Amelia Island is Surprisingly Private

Driving along the beach earlier, the privacy of the oceanfront area north of Main Beach showed. I think you’ll agree, but this is a seriously under-rated area. Prices are lower and the feel is closer to the Fernandina I remember years ago. At the end of the video, you’ll see the fence at the boundary of Fort Clinch State Park.

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Off-Site Parking Agreements and Impact to Development

I’m aware of at least one re-development paused after the recent discussions surrounding Slider’s parking, leased or rented in order to permit an expansion in the past.   In the past, the City of Fernandina has allowed development requiring parking to proceed, if an agreement to use nearby parking can be reached with other owners.  These agreements can expire and there lies the difficulty.   Currently, Slider’s and Day’s Inn are having a discussion about the current agreement or lack of agreement.  The city has given notice of potential non-compliance. Fast forward to about the 7:30 mark, if you want to hear City Attorney Bach’s summary. This is the only parking agreement I’m aware of, but I know this is a likely consideration in potential redevopment of the First Baptist Church property on North 5th.

Slider’s is a larger property and is more noticeable, since the location has little or no parking on site, with a building near or on the property line.  The adjacent public beach access parking becomes overflow for a business, so leasing space off-site to comply with the requirement to provide parking is a very important consideration for those concerned with beach access and for those considering developing in the same way.

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Giant Florida Tomato Plant Towers Over 2 Story Florida Building!

This plant, growing out of an old building on 4th Street in Fernandina, towers over the building in the background. I think I have a green thumb, but this plant is growing out of a crack between the sidewalk and building….in February! I’m wondering if it will last long enough to bear fruit.

Angles and presentation make a difference. Does your lead picture show a home properly? Making a point of thinking about which shots showcase a specific feature makes all the difference. No, I’m not selling anything with a giant tomato plant, but I do think about every picture. The second picture of a home was pretty bland taken from the front. Changing the elevation and adding the crepe myrtle to the shot showcased the size of the yard and gave a very different impression.

I’m thinking a little about #FAKENEWS this morning as well and the difference a title can make to a blog post. “Giant Tomato in Florida” may be misleading, but I’m curious. When everyone can write something and self-publish, how much competition is there for attention? Media, even reputable media, seems to be less reliable today. I think I read a recent statistic (obviously factual, since I read it somewhere online) about trust of media around 42%. I know I’m personally using Twitter, Facebook, Google and other online sources to verify stories. If I’m not sure, I look for several versions and rarely take the reporter’s word. Locally, I’ve noticed the difference in coverage or “selection” of pieces over coverage, with the writer’s bias determining which pieces to include in a story. This, essentially, determines the conclusion a reader will reach. As a broker, I’m not going for fake news or misleading, but I do make a point of showcasing the best features. As a blogger or social media #GURU, (yes guru….my blog, my rules), I’m usually looking for engagement and attention, but then I’m opinion and marketing, not news.

Just think about your sources and the “presentation” of news or a property. Is it partially opinion and biased or is it entirely factual?

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Spring is in the Air…Best Time to Sell

Spring is the best time to sell and the best time for my business, but what happened this week. When the media starts talking about change, whether world events, Dodd Frank, interest rates or a world leader’s meltdown 3000 miles away, I can see a visible change to my business. Days like this become slower as the weather changes. While the view of the post office renovation is vastly improved, I can see the afternoon rain on the way. Florida buyers are notoriously finicky, when it comes to weather. As we speak, the rain started and I can see I’ll be on the phone or sending email today, probably not out showing property.

How do you feel about buying or selling a home this spring? As an agent, I can see the peak points in the market. If you look at June as a peak closing month last year, the best time to list your home is early spring. Consider the 60 to 90 days prior to the peak for closed sales and the time after the beginning of the search for a home.

Buyers, when the have a choice, should try to look for a longer period or at “non-peak” periods. While I love making a sale, I try to help clients make the best decision. If they need to sell and have a time frame, I’m more than happy to help, but I always like to know if I have time to find the right property or if they have a fixed schedule. Schedules might be based on a job change or school year and I make every effort to accommodate.

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Common Home Repairs….First Five Years…Real Problems

All homes take maintenance. Some maintenance can be a minor repair by the owner and sometimes it can indicate a more serious problem. Blog posts shouldn’t be an effort, but something I read earlier made me wonder. Without the flowery paragraphs following a list of simple repairs, I think we can all use “google” to look for a video showing minor repairs or understand whether the items are covered under a builder’s warranty for new construction. Earlier I searched for “five common repairs” and any number of matches came up with uncommonly similar wording.

No homeowner I know is particularly concerned with “minor” repairs. We all need to plan for the big issues. Out of the list of common repairs, I see a handful of bigger underlying issues. Leaking faucets or toilets can lead to a bigger issue. Leaks can lead to mold or deterioration of framing. Peeling paint can indicate a poor paint job or an issue with moisture. Jammed disposals are easy, but thinking about how to use a disposal can make a difference in the lifespan. My wife has had some interesting adventures with disposals over the years, with broken glass, can lids, peach pits and rice, but most buyers and homeowners need to know how to plan for the big repairs, not the small repairs.

What can’t you afford? You should always consider the big items. How old is the roof? How many years of service are left on the major appliances? Is the kitchen up to date? Bathrooms? Is the flooring new, a current color? What kind of maintenance is needed to the home….painting inside or out? How old is the HVAC? What about pools or landscaping? When possible, I try to help a client consider the short term costs associated with buying and the costs associated with “OWNING” a home. Failing to plan for the big items can make a difference for many owners. The random crack or garbage disposal adventure won’t break the bank. A leaking roof at the wrong time or a broken air conditioning unit in summer can cause a serious problem.


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Pocket Listings….What do I think?

There are times when pocket listings or “unpublished” available property has a certain logic. It is never my preference, but recognizing and accommodating owner’s circumstances is important. Consider someone thinking of moving out of the area, but still working. Sometimes it takes time to sell something truly unique, but selling after taking a new position can create a disadvantage. Regardless, there are reasons an owner would choose not to list and trying to look for a way to accommodate partially limited exposure, is occasionally necessary.

Sometimes an adjoining owner will give me a price, but would prefer not to have the traffic or attention you would normally hope to attract. Just to make something clear, I would always prefer an exclusive right of sale, full promotion and signage. Sometimes an owner would like to avoid disturbing a tenant, sometimes an owner is not in any particular rush and sometimes the “pocket listing” asking price is equivalent to saying, “If you find a buyer willing to pay….”X”, I’ll sell.”. I can think of sevreral reasons an owner might prefer to discretely offer a property to potential buyers and reasons a buyer might prefer to remain anonymous until negotiations are completed.

What do I think? I think accommodating the client is important and considering whether privacy is a benefit or handicap.

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Standard Marine Potential and Everything Changes

Everything changes and in a few years, this property on North 2nd May be part of great changes to a long-underused area in the Historic District.  

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Dodd Frank Dismantled?

This morning began with a story on the possible dismantling of Dodd Frank. I can’t say I understand all the implications, but real estate has become more complex in the last 10 years, with little benefit from my perspective as a broker. Some of the regulations seem to have been more geared toward slowing a recovery, than encouraging or allowing the market to set values. In my simplistic view of the world, changes and increases to regulation don’t always have the intended effect.

“We have the best, most highly capitalized banks in the world, and we should use that to our competitive advantage,” he added. “But on the flip side, we also have the most highly regulated, overburdened banks in the world.” Gary Cohn, White House National Economic Council  Source:  2-3-17

I’ve mentioned it before, but I dislike absorption rates in appraisals. Using a trend to compare inventory makes sense in a big area, but what happens if the market begins to recover? The use of a trend could lengthen the time with depressed values and, in turn, lead to lower prices for owners, lenders trying to recover after a foreclosure and owners selling to avoid foreclosure. What decisions might change if a market in decline, remains at a low level for a longer period? I think the unintended consequences of regulating are a cost to the entire system. Consider the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Essentially, the agency was authorized by Dodd Frank and meant to improve the stability of the sector with added rules….a lot of added rules. Appraisal guidelines, closing procedures….but above all compliance and a growth of government. The changes coming could be dramatic, but could only mean a rewriting of pieces of the act.

The freeing of credit, loosening of appraisal or underwriting guidelines, has the potential to extend gains in all sectors of the real estate market. I would prefer less interference in the changes to the market, but reduce or eliminate loans with low down-payment. Equity creates stability, in my opinion. The issues with an unstable market come from a lack of equity and from speculation. As prices falter or drop, loans with low equity default sooner. If all loans required a higher down-payment, the decline in a slowing market would be far less likely. If appraisal guidelines gave more leniency to appraisers, areas with few comparable sales would be less damaged in a slow market. I can remember a number of sales with too few similar comps. Time limits and geographic limits often resulted in comparable sales I would never have considered reasonable. One duplex was appraised as a duplex, then the lender decided it was really a single family home, then a duplex….. The value was unquestionable, but there were almost no comparable sales with similar square footage or at the same size and considered a “Duplex” at the time. When it becomes incredibly difficult to reach reasonable, there is a problem. Dodd Frank isn’t responsible for every regulation and I’m just thinking back to changes without a visible improvement I’m able to see for my industry. I’d like to see stability in the market and a stable banking system, but I think the same can be accomplished, at least for lending, with added equity required.

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Weak Negotiation, Backups and Possible Future

Politics and business look a lot like passages from Sun Tzu, if you stop to think. Without being partisan or going too far into a political judgement, there are some common rules to negotiating. When your position is weak, recognizing this is important. As an agent, a weak position could be working with a highly motivated buyer with a financing position competing to purchase a property with more than one buyer. In politics, the current delay of cabinet confirmations is a perfect example. Most or all will likely be confirmed, but the delay is counter-productive. If you consider Rex Tillerson’s senate confirmation today, recognizing the division serves neither party could preserve a greater chance for future bipartisan decisions.   If the wall isn’t moving, pushing harder is a waste of time.

On open ground, do not try to block the enemy’s way. Sun Tzu

Burning all bridges happens in real estate negotiations as well. As an agent, I choose to be professional in all positions, but recognize every sale and negotiation may not be successful. Preserving credibility for your buyer and yourself sometimes leads forward.  Sometimes an owner and listing agent will share the accepted offer.  This can move my buyer toward being a backup.    Failing at first, sometimes offers an opening. Some buyers back away entirely, but there is almost always some slight possibility of a later second offer. What we’re watching with Trump’s confirmation is equivalent to two buyers. One buyer (political) can almost certainly succeed…on this confirmation and each one after. If the weaker party (with fewer votes) continues to protest, there is a smaller chance of future negotiation, even for second place.  As time passes, their voices may not even be considered.

By the way, I’m finding some of the votes for or against someone like Gorsuch for the Supreme Court, a little fascinating. If the candidate is truly exceptional, why would one party or another choose to obstruct. I’ve been on boards with an obviously difficult choice. It wasn’t my first choice, but I also recognized the consensus and futile nature of voting in opposition to a good, if not my first choice of, alternatives. I’ve also watched board members change votes for, what I felt at the time, amounted to purely political reasons. This is likely to happen in the Gorsuch confirmation. Even though it serves little or no purpose to oppose and even thought Gorsuch appears an almost certain confirmation, he will be opposed for political reasons.

Making anyone an opponent, when you have no possibility of gain, is just foolish…. If you have no chance to win, leave everyone feeling you were a professional and reasonable voice.

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