Archive for the ‘business tips’ Category

7 Ways to Be the Best Leader You Can Be

Tuesday, January 5th, 2016

Recently a was faced with a situation involving one of my children and a person in a position of leadership. My child was engaged in an activity where there were many unhappy participants. The leader was informed and “reacted,” but unfortunately attitudes did not change and the group continued to become more unhappy. images

In reviewing the situation I considered what I might have done differently had I been in that situation. Having been in leadership positions many times, I have learned that in order to be a true leader, such that you can create and maintain both cohesion and happiness with your team, you must practice the following:

1.  Be proactive, not reactive. Proactive means that you need to think ahead. If you wait until a problem arises it often can be too late to get back to where you started. However, if you keep lines of communication open and follow the other steps below, you should be able to avoid big problems. Being reactive just upsets the troops and creates more of a divide, often making you the “bad guy.” Instead, you have to view each situation as a challenge and not a problem, and then find creative ways to resolve it.

2.  Listen. We are all told at an early age that it is important to listen. But as technology has exploded and people have learned to get what they need quickly, many of us do not take the time to really listen. If you are a leader and do not listen to those you lead, then you are ineffective. Your group looks up to you and needs to know that you are on their side – they want to share concerns and they want you to help fix them…you are the LEADER so this is only logical! If you hear that people are unsatisfied, then you need to speak to them to find out why, and you need to listen and not judge. You may be part of the problem.

3.  Be fair and consistent. To be an effective leader you must be fair – both in your decision-making process and in the way you treat group members. If you demote one member for something that is unbecoming of a group member, then you have to do the same with other members who do things that fall into that category. You need to make sure that all members KNOW what those no-nos are; of course I always suggest putting rules into writing at the start so members know what they must do as group members, and also what they should not do. Once you start being unfair, or reacting in different ways to members in similar situations, you lose respect. All great leaders have respect.

4.  Reward often and always be a greeter. Every successful business owner I know rewards her/his employees for jobs well done. This does not have to be a monetary reward and can vary in different situations. If you are a coach of a sports team and your team won, or didn’t win, you need to tell them how proud you are of the hard work they did – if they lost you also need to also encourage them and provide plans of action so everyone can move forward with cohesion and excitement. When you arrive at practice each day you should say hello to them and ALWAYS start with a positive greeting. People need to feel recognized for hard work, and they respect you for doing so. Don’t take anyone for granted.

5.  Provide encouragement – always. If you are a leader you must encourage your members. Period. No one will want to work with you if you don’t make them feel good about the hard work they are doing under your lead.

6.  Assume responsibility for lack of cohesion and admit mistakes. If you group or team is not working together in a positive way, of if there is resentment or unhappiness from even one member, you as a leader must take responsibility. You can never assume that you are not the problem, even if you are not. As a leader you need to get to the bottom of the issue and provide solutions. If the mistake is yours, then admit it and provide solutions so it doesn’t happen again. Ignorance = disrespect.

7.  Be positive. A positive leader encourages his team to be the same, which in turn leads to more productive and happy team members. Even in the face of problems you have to maintain and project a positive attitude.

Most of us are leaders and may not even realize it. Teachers, doctors, coaches and parents – to name a few – are all leaders, every day. The teachers, doctors and coaches who do not have respect are ineffective and should either make changes or find other careers. Parents need to have the respect of their children too – if they do not then they need to seek advice from professionals. Look at your leadership role as a chance to really make a difference in the lives of others…that is pretty powerful.

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The Importance of Marketing Like a Professional

Thursday, August 7th, 2014

The marketing pieces I receive in the mail on a daily basis amaze me…but not in a good way. It feels as if as the world gets more and more technologically savvy,people become lazy and less professional…real estate agents are not the exception (in fact, they are one of the biggest culprits). Your first point of contact with a potential client, whether via your website, an ad, email, video or mailer, is the only first impression you get to make. If you lose the client at that point you usually do not get a second chance. spell-check

 The good news is that it is not difficult to be professional – it just takes a little more effort and patience. Here are the best ways to make sure your marketing materials make you look professional:

1. EDIT. I cannot say enough about the necessity of editing, and I have written entire blogs dedicated to its importance. Honestly, some of the nice glossy pieces I get in the mail every day from real estate agents look horrible… the information presented is useful, but many are filled with spelling and grammatical errors, and poor quality photographs. If you are a real estate agent who wants to be seen as a professional, you need to be able to demonstrate that you understand the English language.

There is nothing more frustrating than reading these poor marketing pieces. Many come from “big” area agents who spend lots of money on advertising. With all that money you’d think they’d hire an editor. If you can’t afford to do that then you need to have several educated people check over whatever you send out, before you do so.

2. Preparation. Just like a face-to-face meeting with a client, you need to show you are prepared through your marketing materials. Your marketing pieces reflect your preparation and attention to detail. If it is sloppy, has grainy images and typos/grammar errors, that is a reflection on your work ethic (even if in reality you are a hard and dedicated worker). Take the time to lay out the piece and get a proof before printing anything in bulk. It takes extra time and may cost a bit more, but it is time and money well spent.

3. Appearance. I don’t care what anyone tells you to the contrary – if you want to be perceived as a professional you need to dress the part. Showing property in your gym clothes might be convenient, but it doesn’t portray a professional image, and the same rule should apply in your marketing. It doesn’t matter if the recipient is a casual person or is coming from the gym herself. You should always dress professionally – it is not only a statement that you care and that your clients’ needs are important to you, but also that you take your job seriously.

In marketing, as in everything you do to promote your brand and your services, there should be no corner cutting. What you put out there is a direct reflection on yourself, your business ethic and your ability to represent your clients professionally.

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Owning vs. Renting: 56 Reasons…

Sunday, February 17th, 2013

Just in case you needed more reasons as to why it is advantageous to buy a home, here is an extensive list about the advantages and disadvantages of owning and renting…

Rent Advantages

  • May be cheaper than a mortgage payment
  • Fewer (if any) maintenance costs
  • No down payment required (less deposit)
  • No real estate taxes (renters insurance optional)
  • Less stress (who cares, it’s not yours!)
  • Freedom to move or downsize when necessary
  • No risk of home price depreciation
  • Some utility bills may be included
  • “Free” amenities such as pool, gym, security
  • Money can be used for other, more profitable investments
  • Can’t be foreclosed on (but you can be kicked out at the end of your lease if the owner is foreclosed upon)

Rent Disadvantages

  • Rental payment may exceed monthly cost of mortgage
  • No ownership or wealth creation
  • Payments never stop when renting
  • Rent will rise over time
  • Must deal with a landlord or management company
  • No tax benefits
  • Rules, regulations, and limitations
  • More temporary, less stability
  • Always at the mercy of the property owner
  • Pets may not be allowed

Ownership Advantages

  • You can build home equity and wealth
  • Status- Status-Status
  • Sizable tax deductions possible
  • Your space, your rules (pets welcome)
  • Ability to remodel, expand, tear down
  • Pride of ownership (social status, accomplishment)
  • Potentially better for children, family structure
  • Mortgage can improve your credit history/score
  • Ability to borrow against your home (HELOC or cash-out)
  • No more monthly payments once mortgage paid off
  • Fixed payments (if you choose a fixed mortgage)
  • Mortgages are the cheapest loans available
  • No landlord
  • Can exclude capital gains when you sell (partially)
  • Inflation hedge
  • Can rent out to others
  • Can sell and use proceeds for bigger/better home
  • Retirement nest egg
  • It’s the American Dream!

Ownership Disadvantages

  • Home prices may lose value
  • Could overpay for your property
  • Obtaining a mortgage (and finding a home) is a hassle
  • Not everyone qualifies for a mortgage
  • You must pay taxes and homeowners insurance
  • Total housing payment can be more expensive
  • Mortgage payment can rise (if an ARM)
  • Sizable down payment necessary
  • Maintenance costs can be excessive
  • Pricey HOA dues (if applicable)
  • You’re “stuck” in a home (long-term commitment)
  • Increased liability and responsibility
  • Transactional costs of buying and selling
  • Ownership is stressful!
  • Taxes and insurance generally rise
  • Your home can be damaged or destroyed (and not fully insured)
  • Can be foreclosed on and lose your home


The preceding post was written and shared with permission by Dan Dobbs, of Capital Mortgage Services. He can be reached at, or Or call him at 949-250-3981. DRE#00986886, NMLS# 307631

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5 Things Real Estate Listing Agents Should NOT Do!

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

There are times in any business where one must laugh at some of the antics that go on behind the scenes, some of the unprofessional things others in the business do and say. We have all been there, no matter in which field you work….I am sure you can conjure up a few times you were left scratching your head over something a colleague did. The real estate industry is no exception, and in fact I think there is even more room for inexcusable behavior because most agents are independent contractors and do not have anyone looking over their shoulder most of the time.

Listing agents have been made fun of in other blogs for lack of proper grammar, spelling errors, and all kinds of other things. I have to admit despite my shock at the lack of editing, I do find these blogs humorous (albeit sadly so). But there are a few things that REALLY make me question some agents’ professional goals. Here are the top 5 on my list:

1.  Listing a property and being unresponsive. If you list a home, obviously the seller thought highly enough of you to give you the listing…so now you actually have to do some work! Placing a listing on the MLS is an open invitation to people to ask questions. If you are not going to make yourself available to do so, than what are you doing listing homes?! This is one of my biggest frustrations, and I have had to tell many clients, “the listing agent has not returned my calls/emails.” I had one agent just last month who didn’t respond to calls, emails and texts about a property for almost a week! My client finally then wrote an offer, only to be rejected because another had come in during the noncommunicative time. This is not right, folks.

2.  Copying information from similar listings without verification. As agents are aware, when a buyer purchases a home there is a period of due diligence, where the buyer conducts inspections and investigates the property to her/his satisfaction. However, when you are inputting a listing to the MLS, it is so important to get the information right. If you find another similar property in the neighborhood and merely copy that information into your listing, you could be providing false information to buyers. Even though they have time to discover this, doesn’t it make more sense to get it right from the start, so as to avoid wasting anyone’s time, including yours and your seller’s?

3.  Directing agents to a website to book an appointment. In this day and age we are so technologically savvy, and I love that, BUT…real estate is still and will always be a business about people. We are not selling widgets, we are selling more than just a home – we are selling a lifestyle. The more personable and friendly you are, the better it is for everyone. If you want to have your showings scheduled via a website, fine. But I have 2 caveats: make sure the website works properly, AND provide a phone number where the agent/consumer can reach a live individual with questions!

4.  Limiting the method of communication with the listing agent.  I agree that there are times when a quick question can be addressed via email, but there are times when I like to speak with the agent, so I can get a feel as to how the agent works and ask multiple questions, especially if the property is a distressed property. An agent should NEVER limit the means of communication between other agents who may have interested clients with valid questions, as this is doing a disservice to your sellers.

5.  Placing viewing restrictions on the property. I understand there are times when some viewing restrictions must be imposed, such as in the case of tenants, a family with a baby or very young children, unfriendly pets or perhaps a homeowner who works at night and sleeps during the day. But if you want to get the home sold you have to coach your clients about being as flexible as possible. Putting a home on the market and telling agents it is a “drive by only, then submit offer in order to view property” is plain ridiculous and a waste of everyone’s time. Similarly, if you do not plan on letting people in the home, for pete’s sake have your sellers fill out a Instruction to Exclude the Listing from the MLS until it is ready to be viewed, and then place it live! Do what you can do to make the property as accessible as possible.

The real estate industry is not only consumer-centric, but is based on good old-fashioned principles of cooperation. If you want to represent your sellers to the best of your abilities, you and your listing need to be as accessible as possible.

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Increase Your Chances of Short Sale Offer Approval

Sunday, August 14th, 2011

Buyers often ask me what they can do to assure their short sale offers are accepted. While for the most part we are at the mercy of the lenders when it comes to short sales, there actually are ways to increase the likelihood of getting that priceless lender approval letter.

The simple answer is to make your offer as clean as possible. Here are some tips:

1.  Do not ask for a home warranty. Most lenders will not pay for this. I always offer to buy a one year home warranty for my buyers, and this makes for one less expense to put on the HUD statement – the document by which lenders decide whether or not to approve a short sale.

2.  If you have to ask the seller to pay closing costs, get creative. In short sale cases most sellers do not have the money to pay for the buyer’s closing costs (they usually can’t pay their own, thus the reason for the short sale), and most short sale lenders will not pay closing costs. Some buyers do not have the money to pay their own closing costs, so they may need to find creative ways to include this – such as writing the offer for slightly over asking price, and then asking for the closing cost credit through escrow. Make sure to discuss any alternatives with your agent and mortgage professional to find the right solution for you, as you need to be aware of any effects this may have on your mortgage, taxes, etc.

3.  Offer a higher initial deposit to show you are serious. If possible, make your initial deposit appealing. Of course this depends on your budget and the price of the home you are trying to purchase, but 2% of the purchase price is usually decent. If you are purchasing a home in a higher price range you may consider 3%. Again, discuss this with your agent.

4.  Find out about termite standing before writing your offer. Many lenders will not pay for termite work, and will only provide a report. But there are lenders who will offer some money toward wood destroying pest repairs. If possible, have your agent discuss with the listing agent whether he or she included termite work estimates in the estimated HUD that was delivered to the lender (if there was one), or discuss whether the agent knows if the lender will cover any of these costs. If the lender has made clear it will not cover this you may consider asking for a report only. Be careful here – I have had lenders pay for termite work, so don’t just write this one off; see what information your agent can discover.

5.  Make sure your agent is constantly communicating with the listing agent. Often buyer’s agents write the offer and sit on the sidelines waiting to hear from the listing agents. I think it is important to contact the listing agent once a week to see if there has been any news on my clients’ offers. I like to do this at the end of each week, so the agent has had the work week to check on progress with the lender(s), but usually do so on Thursday or Friday morning, in case my contact reminds the agent to check for updates.

Short sales can be hard for several reasons, but from the buyer’s perspective the most common and difficult is waiting. Making your offer as clean as possible, and having your agent stay on top of progress, will hopefully make the approval period a little less painful, and make the wait well worth your while.

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Change for the Better

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

Change. It is a powerful word that conjures up a plethora of emotions, from excitement to fear. The very idea of change can make you panic or it can energize you, but you shouldn’t let your response to change prevent you from making it, as you could end up missing out on some fantastic opportunities. The fact is that the world is moving so fast, and change is always inevitable – but happiness should be your main goal.

Obstacles. It is human nature to accept patterns and situations in life, and oftentimes that means putting up with things we don’t love (or even like), for fear of the unknown. Countless people go to jobs every day that they don’t enjoy. They may dream of opening a bed and breakfast, selling homemade blankets or granola bars, starting an organization to help latch-key kids have something to do after school. The reason they don’t act on their passion is because they are afraid of the unknown: what if I don’t make money for a long time? How will I finance my dream? Where do I start? How do I get my product approved by the FDA?

Baby steps. The answer to all the fear is to make a plan and then DO IT! The founders of some of the biggest companies started from their homes and garages and kitchens. They didn’t know they would end up building multi-million dollar companies, but set out doing what they were passionate about and stuck with that. Because they loved their work, good fortune came from it. I am not saying you should quit your job today and go home and start baking your famous brownies, but you need to start with generating a business plan.

Business plan. If you don’t know how to create a business plan there are websites you can visit and books you can buy to help you do so. Talk to other people in similar businesses and see what types of equipment they use, who they go to for materials. Get out there and do some research. Then, when you have compiled that and have a list of sources, create a plan and figure out what you need to start up. Do you need a patent? Trademark? What is the minimum amount of money you will need to start up? Do you have enough savings, or need a loan, or an investor? Do you need to go back to school? Speak with your accountant and figure out how you want to form your business (Corporation, LLC, partnership, etc. Each has different benefits). You can have a legal site like draft up your documents, and you can register your ficticious business name with your county.

Start now. Make time to take the steps you need to start working on your passion. It may take months, or even years, to get off the ground and get to the point where you can leave your job and start to build your passion, but you will feel good knowing that you are working toward that goal.

The most important advice to remember is to not be afraid of change…instead, embrace it!

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Can Social Media Ease Your Workload?

Sunday, May 22nd, 2011

I read some great blogs this morning, and they inspired me to talk about one of my favorite things: keeping it real. With the advent of social media many people think that there is a “next great thing” that will make their business easier. Right now that thing is social media.

Social media is great – it’s fun, it’s available 24/7, it allows us to connect with industry experts and colleagues, and maybe even find new clients or customers. But it is a mere tool we have in our arsenals, not a “quick fix” that will allow us to take a day off or relax our tried an true methods of doing business. The fact is that RELATIONSHIPS cannot be trumped. We simply need to understand that our relationships with our clients, customers, colleagues and friends are the most important tool we have in our business, and in our lives. Social media cannot replace that, but it should still be a part of what you do each day.

I have blogged many times about the importance of phone calls, meetings, visits to clients. In fact, this is the aspect of my work I truly enjoy the most. Sitting down with a client or colleague for lunch or coffee is actually fun. I get to learn more about him or her, and if talk turns to business hopefully I can educate, share knowledge and answer questions. There is no substitute for one-on-one connections, in my opinion.

Many business people complain that with the advent of social media there is simply too much to do, too much to keep up with, and unfortunately I hear all the time that relationships are left out in the cold. One Realtor friend of mine recently told me that she just doesn’t have the time to connect with past clients. This should be her number one priority!

Here are a few ways to make it easier to keep in touch with people every day:

1. Schedule a time of day to connect. By this I don’t mean sit in front of your computer or phone and email someone. Spend an hour a day: call a past client, meet one for a cup of coffee, stop by their home. It doesn’t take much! If you can’t schedule a meeting every day then make a phone call and plan one. Try to plan at least one meeting a week, but still spend an hour each day calling or doing the next activity…

2. Handwritten notes. Sending an email doesn’t show much effort, but if you write a note to a client/customer it shows you care. Many people don’t understand the value of this, but trust me, people appreciate this. Try to write several notes a day. You can do so on birthdays, anniversaries, house anniversaries, holidays and just about any time. But don’t let this be a substitute to a visit or call – you need to do both.

3. Party. What better way to thank your clients than to throw a party for them? It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive. You can do a dessert party, or a cocktail hour. You can have it at the beach or a park. The message is more important than the price tag. This obviously is not something you do all the time, but you can plan it and send out notices about it in advance to get people excited.

4. Educate continuously. This is something that you have to strive to do, every day. You are your local expert, so you need to show that to not only your clients, but the locals! If you don’t have a blog, start one. You don’t have to be a writer. You can do a video blog, interview people in your area or do a photo blog. Post calendars on your local blog to keep people informed of local events. If a client asks you a question, turn the answer into a blog. You can also create a monthly or quarterly newsletter for your past and current clients, even highlighting a different person in each one (get their permission first, of course) – this is a great way to keep people informed about the local market and get them excited to read your content. There are many sites you can go to to do so, but it is very easy to create yourself. Once you have a template made you simply have to fill it in with new stories, which of course are easy to find online and by creating your own content.

5. Social media. Yes, you should engage in social media as well as the old basic methods, but you need to do so in conjunction with them, not as a replacement. Try to limit your time spent on social media so that it doesn’t consume you. Use it to post your blogs, connect with industry experts and share area knowledge. It is a great learning tool not only for those with whom you share, but for yourself as well. I definitely do NOT advocate overlooking social media, as it is very powerful if you use it correctly.

It is much easier to keep up with your clients if you make a schedule and stick to it – but you have to keep up with it. It took me 2-3 years of blogging to really see effects, but amazing things have happened and opened up to me because I am vigilant. People start to notice that you are an expert in your field. Besides, it’s great to share with others and helps keep you on your toes too, so make it fun! Remember that nothing can replace relationship building, no matter how shiny it is or how wonderful it may seem. So, the answer is no – social media cannot ease your workload. But if used in conjunction with the above tools it can definitely make your work more fulfilling and likely more profitable.

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Fantastic Book & Signing in San Diego This Sunday

Friday, March 4th, 2011

What kind of animal are you? I highly recommend this book, and if you would like to meet the author here is the information for Sunday’s book signing in San Diego.

Meet Stefan Swanepoel, author of Surviving Your Serengeti:
Sunday, March 6, 2011
7:00 pm ‚ 8:30 pm
Manchester Grand Hyatt

Lobby Bar

Bring your own copy of Surviving Your Serengeti or you can pick one up for $20 at this book signing. Stefan will be signing books, answering questions, and giving out “What Animal Am I?” pins. So be sure to take the quiz before coming! (Click this link to take the quiz:

The Manchester Grand Hyatt is in the heart of San Diego right on the waterfront. Find us just left of the check in desk in the open area by the lobby bar.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Manchester Grand Hyatt
1 Market Place
San Diego, CA 92101

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Cooperation Stomps Competition in Real Estate

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

Real estate, like any sales business, thrives on competition. But it is the nature of the competition that can give the industry a bad name. There is a time for competition, which can be healthy, and a time for colleagues to cooperate–and actually they can exist simultaneously. So whether you are “the top producer” in an area, someone who sells just a few homes a year, or somewhere in between–listen up.

Realtors are a different breed of business people. True, our business involves sales, but realistically we provide much more: we are guidance counselors, teachers and personal trainers. We don’t just hand someone an apple from the bunch and take a quarter, so to speak. Purchasing a home is one of the biggest financial decisions a person makes in his or her lifetime. It is not something that typically happens quickly, and there is a lot of work involved. The Realtor who only cares about a paycheck will not last long, especially with technology driving change in our industry. We have to be smarter, more connected, better equipped to assist our clientele and each other.

In such an atmosphere there is one mantra that needs to be followed: we all need to cooperate. No kidding, you say, right? But honestly, there are many agents out there who still think it is all about themselves. Of course, we do compete with each other, but we also need to increase the trust in our industry, and that cannot be done unless we all respect each other and perform our duties in the most professional manner.

Every industry has it’s complainers, it’s sour pusses, it’s bad eggs. Look at lawyers–the general opinion seems to be that they are disliked, but if you are arrested or sued you would be calling one faster than a speeding bullet. There are many amazing lawyers out there, but the bad eggs spoil the perceptions of the industry. The same is true of real estate.

So, get out there and respect your competition. Join industry chats, follow other agents on Twitter and Facebook, read Realtor blogs, share your knowledge with other agents. Return agent phone calls and emails. It doesn’t mater how many houses you sell or how much money someone spends on marketing. If you do the best you can do with what you have and you are happy, you can only get better by cooperating with others and paying it forward.

If you want to take it one step further, keep in mind that cooperation is important but you also need to watch what you say–both to colleagues, clients and online. To read more about this click here:

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You’d Better Watch What You Say

Friday, February 25th, 2011

With the world online it has become harder to uphold reputations and maintain your desired degree of professionalism…you actually have to work at keeping them in check. Clients and colleagues can check up on you in an instant, so what you say online and in person needs to be well-thought out. Realtors are no exception; in fact, they probably have to be more careful than the average person, for fear of violating a myriad of laws or regulations. For some tips on how to keep your reputation untarnished read more at

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