Category Archives: Interesting

Well, it is to me at least

Aside

For years my real estate team closed a lot of transactions from home buyers and sellers we met through our websites. And now, owning a company that builds websites for real estate brokerages and now hosting over 13,000 real estate … Continue reading

Why Tech-Savvy People make the Best Realtors

Image

How do you choose a good Realtor? After all, it seems like you could pick a name out of a hat or use a referral from a friend and your experience will be relatively the same across the board, right? Wrong. If you’re serious about buying or selling in this market, you need a Realtor with a bit more clout. One that has a leg up on the competition.  And the best person for this job is a tech-savvy realtor. What does tech-savvy mean exactly? It can mean a variety of
things. However, there are a few tried and true factors to look for when selecting a technologically skilled agent.

The first thing you should always check for is a website. If you hear of an agent from a referral and you can’t easily find his/her website, you should move along. Other home shoppers are going to click on one of the first websites they see, so if you’re agent isn’t showing up when you search, chances are other people won’t find them either. In addition to simply having a website, your realtor’s site should be easy to use and have a nice design. Your realtor should be connecting you with other buyers or sellers (depending on what side of the transaction you’re on.) So if their web design is scaring off other people your chances of finding a buyer or seller become much slimmer.

Social media engagement is another key element of a tech savvy realtor. Granted, your agent doesn’t have to post, tweet, or like something daily. But simple interaction in the social sphere shows that your realtor knows how important online communication is to modern day buyers and sellers. After all, a good agent can utilize tools like Facebook or YouTube to further communicate their thoughts and ideas with a wider audience.

Finally and most important of all is a solid home search option. Research shows that nearly 95% of all homes sales now begin with an online search. That is a huge percentage of the market and must be catered to accordingly. This data tells us that what almost every homebuyer wants when they are searching a real estate site is a good search option. If you’re Realtor’s search option is difficult to find, or even worse- nonexistent, then you are definitely not working with a tech savvy Realtor. An online home search option is the most important weapon in a techy realtor’s
arsenal, so make sure your realtor is well equipped.

As you can see, finding a tech-savvy realtor is not terribly difficult- you just need to be aware of what you’re looking for. Simple adhere to these pointers and you’ll find the right tech-savvy realtor in no time. Good luck!

Guest Article by @AndrewHill- www.austinhomelistings.com

You’re Not Just Buying a House, You’re Buying a Neighborhood

Everyone is familiar with the cliché that the only thing that matters in real estate is location.

As you browse through local real estate listings though, it may be difficult to consider what the practical application of that advice actually is. Put simply, when you purchase your home you are buying into the neighborhood it is located in. Consider these tips for making a successful move into a new neighborhood.

Ask Questions

Ask questions about any neighborhood that is home to your potential new housing. Is it on the way up? Are there good schools? Are there active neighborhood organizations? These are all very important questions that help determine exactly how a neighborhood functions and who chooses to live there. Thankfully, the answers are likely to be readily available online or in literature found around the neighborhood. It is important to remember not to be too quick to judgment. No two neighborhoods are exactly identical, so it is unlikely that you will be moving in somewhere that is entirely like your old one.
Any new neighborhood you are moving into will have its own vibe and it is important to evaluate that honestly.
Match Personalities
Simply taking a look at local businesses will give you a good sense of whether or not an area is a good fit for you. If you enjoy crafting and the neighborhood is home to a lot of cute boutiques, you are much more likely to enjoy living there. Similarly, if you see kids out playing, you might be spotting some new pals for your own children. There is no exact science to figuring out what kind of neighborhood matches with which kind of personality. There are certain things that are obvious though, such as trying to find an area with people who are similar to you in age. These kinds of similarities foster a sense of community in
a neighborhood and will help you fit in from day one.
Do Research
Researching any potential new home should also entail researching the neighborhood it is located in. Many neighborhoods keep detailed and up-to-date websites that catalog events and goings-on. You can also research the history of a particular neighborhood and possibly discover something that appeals to you.
Ultimately it is crucial to realize that neighborhoods are constantly evolving and it is ok to try living in a place that is slightly outside of your comfort zone. Considering the neighborhood you are moving into simply means taking the blinders off and looking around you at your potential brand new neighbors.
About The Author: Hughes Real Estate Group is a Boise real estate team serving buyers and sellers in Idaho. If you’re looking for a great home in Idaho, you can visit Kevin’s website where you can search real estate including Boise homes, Meridian homes , Nampa homes , and Eagle
homes.

 

Improving Localized Marketing: Simple Suggestions to Improve a Local Profile

With a number of companies looking to build their total marketing profiles online these days, many
businesses seemingly hit the wrong target points. For small businesses and restaurants, a failure to focus
on some local marketing techniques can also lead to a failure to experience full potential and returns on
business development and technology efforts.

Engaging in social media efforts are a must for any business trying to improve its digital footprint these
days, but even more so for those trying to improve their local footprint. With localization of social media
efforts, it’s always crucial to have a profile that’s geared specifically to the customers. With a small scale
company, using these social media profiles should be first used to build a local image.

With social media, one of the growing trends in major marketing is the use of check-in services. These
services have allowed many companies, from restaurants and retail stores, to really build up a larger
local reputation. With check-in services, businesses can offer discounts and benefits in exchange for
check-ins at the location of their business. With a high number of check-ins, businesses will see impact
from two separate ways. First, repeating customers will come back because of discounts and friends of
patrons will see the business throughout social media platforms, attracting new customers.

Along with social media improvements, businesses should also put a large focus on their online profile,
just like companies looking to improve national marketing strategies also do. Local businesses often
struggle to take advantage of some customers because of a failure to build an online presence. Even
though it may not seem normal, local businesses can still find major profits by expanding their websites
and digital footprint.

With a good website, many businesses are starting to look to mobile devices to further spread their
profiles. In a local setting, a restaurant or retail store can benefit from a mobile site by helping to
increase their search optimization. Also, mobile information is critical for potential customers who are
on the go, looking for either information or directions.

Once social media campaigns and a good website are setup to improve brand development, the site
can be spruced up in the content department to reach out to the customer base. The information on
the website can be targeted to remind visitors of the area where the business is located throughout the
site. Also, websites local information can be improved by putting the business’ directions on most of
the pages. By using this strategy, visitors to the website are continually reminded of exactly where the
business is.

A number of businesses are in search of strategies and suggestions on how to properly improve their
marketing footprint from a localized perspective. Many retail stores and restaurants often lack the
proper manpower or knowledge to truly have a great impact in their marketing efforts. For those
companies who may be short on staff or time, using professionals is a great option. For example, a store
or restaurant looking to break into a Florida market could use a Tampa, Jacksonville or Orlando SEO/
Development platform to really kick up their online profile.

-Guest Article by
Melinda Carter
melindacarter204@gmail.com

Most Active Online Home Shoppers

People Searching Online

The real estate industry has reluctantly been pulled online during the last three years and today most agents and brokers know that people are searching for homes online.

Hopefully this will be the year that brokerages start building great websites- and hopefully they will hire a great website design company like BlueRoof360 to do it.

But which areas are people most actively looking online for homes? Using Google Trends we can see which states and cities are the most active searching for different terms. Let’s look and see where people are really looking online…

Real Estate For Sale

For the term “homes for sale” Salt lake City ranks at the top, followed by Orlando, Phoenix, Tampa, Atlanta, Dallas, and Denver.

sell-my-home

For the term “Sell my home” the top states are Arizona, Florida and Utah, followed by Missouri, SC, Georgia, Tennessee, Colorado, NC, Texas.

The term “Search for Homes” ranked like this;

1. South Carolina, United States
2. Arizona, United States
3. Nevada, United States
4. North Carolina, United States
5. Georgia, United States
6. Florida, United States
7. Oklahoma, United States
8. Tennessee, United States
9. Maryland, United States
10. Colorado, United States

Since I’ve posted about  this before, let’s look at where people are most actively searching for other popular terms;

Term                                        Area most searching for that term

Family Activities                          Salt Lake (and Utah) by a landslide

God                                             Tennessee

Jesus                                          Alabama (and Tennessee is #2)

Hell                                              Kansas

Porn                                            Kentucky

Foreclosure                               Miami, Vegas, Tampa

I am afraid                                Philly, Boston, Orlando

Self improvement                      Salt Lake (and Utah) by a landslide

Teen problems                           Iowa

Politics                                       D.C. (surprise), followed by Maryland, NY, Connecticut

Singles                                        Salt Lake (and Utah). followed by Denver, Phoenix, Tampa

Go to Google Trends and try for yourself- you might be surprised at what people are searching for in your area…

Healthiest US Cities For Women, Men

healthiest-cities-in-america1

MSN just released a report, in conjunction with Men’s Health, naming the healthiest cities in America for women and men.

From MSN;

To compile our first annual survey of America’s Best & Worst Cities for Women, we joined forces with Men’s Health to analyze how 100 U.S. metropolises stack up when it comes to health, fitness, and quality of life. (Check out this month’s issue of Men’s Health to find out whether your city is guy-friendly, too.) Our number-crunching team tallied 38 factors, including cancer rates, commute times, air quality, and the number of residents who swipe their gym passes regularly. When the dust finally cleared, a few of the cities had trounced the competition.

According to the report, the top cities for women are;

1. Salt Lake City

2. San Francisco

3. Seattle

4. San Jose, Calif.

5. Denver

6. Minneapolis

7. Fargo, N.D.

8. Madison, Wis.

9. Manchester, N.H.

10. Aurora, Colo.

For men the report states the top ten cities are;

1. Madison, Wis.

2. St. Paul, Minn.

3. Salt Lake City

4. Seattle

5. Aurora, Colo.

6. San Jose, Calif.

7. Lincoln, Neb.

8. San Francisco

9. Boston

10. Minneapolis

New BlueRoof Website Includes Phoenix and Denver Markets

BlueRoof expands to Denver and Phoenix markets

Since BlueRoof first launched three years ago we have accomplished a lot- we’ve been voted “Best Real Estate Website” three years in a row, we’ve won the W3 Award (Silver in 2007, Gold in 2008 ) for Best Homepage, Visual Appeal and Navigation, we’ve sold hundreds of homes/year with only a few people, and we’ve built a strong brand in the Utah market with very devoted clients.

And although I have been offered (over two dozen times) to expand into new markets, I haven’t. Don’t get me wrong, the plan has always been to grow, but so far I have not had the chance for a few reasons- first of all Prudential bought the BlueRoof brokerage (but not the website or technology)  just 5 months after I started it, back in 2006, and I had to sign a contract stipulating a few things that prevented me from doing anything else. Then we started BlueRoof360 (in April of 2008 ) and in the last 8 months have built over 1200 websites for agents and brokers around the country, which has obviously taken my focus.

BlueRoof Agents

But the most important reason I did not expand BlueRoof sooner was that I needed to decide what was the best way for me to grow the brand while ensuring the client experience would not suffer. I’ve watched as other brands have grown to other areas but I didn’t want to grow in the same ways.

Roost partners with a company in each area, meaning the leads are going to any of the company agents, some of whom will do a good job for the clients and some will not (every company has good and bad agents) so they are basically selling leads. Redfin hires their own agents in each market, but that would require me raising capitol and they hire agents who are relatively inexperienced (top agents don’t want to be a desk jockey for another company). Estately refers leads out to other agents and although I like that they have say in the quality of service these agents provide, these agents don’t have an investment in the brand so they aren’t going to promote the brand or be dedicated to it.

I did not want to franchise the name because that would risk the brand being diluted by bad agents/brokers or not being marketed properly and I would have no control over it. I did not want to open my own brokerages in other markets because I would have to bring in investors to raise the necessary capitol and then have other people who do not know the brand, or the real estate business, telling me how to run it. And I didn’t want the website to simply be a lead generator. .  I wanted BlueRoof to be represented by people in each market that were invested in the promotion and growth of the brand and the overall experience the client receives working with the BlueRoof team.

I needed to find good, strong, established Realtor teams to work with. Teams who have a lot of experience and can handle the new business that will come, would be dedicated to growing the brand, and also offer excellent service to their clients. People who shared the same vision I have that technology should not only be used to get new business, but to improve the home buying/selling experience of our clients.

Today, I am excited to announce that I have found these teams to partner with in the Denver and Phoenix markets. Teams that I am proud to have represent the BlueRoof brand. And today we are all together  launching a new version of the website with some  cool new features and upgrades, but have maintained the overall look and feel of the original, award-winning, design.

Bob Maiocco

Our Denver, Colorado team is led by Bob Maiocco with Keller Williams. Bob got into the business in 1992 and he and his team have a lot of experience working with online web visitors, in fact has been a speaker at Keller Williams technology events discussing best practices in utilizing technology. Bob’s team averages $12-$15 Million/year in sales.

Nate Green

In the Phoenix market our team is led by Nate Green, also with Keller Williams. Nate was named the agent recruit of the year in 2004, Rookie of the Year in 2005, was ranked #10 in the nation for volume at Keller Williams November 2005,  in 2006 he was named “Cultural Icon” , in 2008 his team were spotlighted in Residential Executive magazine, and the last two years they have been the top agent and team in their office of 120+ agents and have consistently closed $12-$15 Million in sales.

BlueRoof Client Area

Our new backend system gives our clients tools that are unlike anything else in the industry, including the ability to follow their entire transaction as it happens and see showings and feedback on their listings immediately as it is left. Our new search is, in my opinion, the best in the industry- with the most visual and fun home searching experience online.

I believe that design is the most important element in a website. And by design I don’t just mean looks. At BlueRoof360 our philosophy can be summed up by a quote by Steve Jobs,

“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like, design is how it works.”

We still have a lot of cool social and mobile features we’ll be adding soon, but we wanted to get the new site launched so we can begin promoting it for the spring season and using the cool new back end system for our clients. By the way, I realize that having a landing page that is a map is so… Web1.0, but I wanted the actual site to be able to represent each area separately, but also allow the web visitor to select which area they are interested in.

If you have a few minutes to spare, stop by and look around. I’m always interested to hear what people think.

Here’s to the economy stabilizing, a new presidential administration that actually cares about people who don’t give them money, the Utah Utes crashing the BCS party again, and to a fun and prosperous 2009!

Greg

The Most Digital Cities in the Country

most-digital-cities-technology-real-estate

Government Technology released this month its annual Digital Cities report naming the cities in the nation that are the most “connected” to the populace. Some familiar cities made the list again this year (Aurora, Colorado and Lincoln, Nebraska both topped their categories last year as well.)

The first-place winners in each of the four population categories are:
• Aurora, Colo. (250,000 or more population)
• Lincoln, Neb. (125,000 – 249,999 population)
• Roanoke, Va. (75,000 – 124,999 population)
• Lynchburg, Va. (30,000 – 74,999 population)

Tuscan and Mesa, Arizona both made the top ten in the 250,000+ category and Salt lake City, Utah came in second in the 125,000-249,999 category.

The states with the most cities making the list are Virginia (nine), Florida (eight) and Colorado (seven).

According to the survey, “Cities are incorporating newer technologies such as Webcasting, podcasts and blogs while continuing to use IT to enhance delivery options for citizens and businesses.”

Top Ten Healthiest States

Healthiest States in the Nation

Vermont is the healthiest state in the nation for the second straight year, according to MSN. According to the report, Vermont scores high with these stats;

 

Prevalence of Obesity (percent of population): 6

Air Pollution (micrograms of fine particles per cubic meter): 10

Lack of Health Insurance (percent without health insurance): 10

Immunization Coverage (percent of children ages 19 to 35 months): 29

Primary Care Physicians (number per 100,000 population): 5

Poor Mental Health Days (days in previous 30 days): 14

Cardiovascular Deaths (deaths per 100,000 population): 10

Cancer Deaths (deaths per 100,000 population): 13

 

The rest of the top ten are;

2- Hawaii

3- New Hampshire

4- Minnesota

5- Utah

6- Massachusetts

7- Connecticut

8- Idaho

9- Maine

10- Washington 

The unhealthiest state honor goes to Louisiana- Georgia, Nevada, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Florida, Texas, Tennessee, South Carolina and Mississippi didn’t look so good either, being at the bottom of the list.

2008 Election- Obama/McCain Proposed Policies Explained in Plain English

BusinessWeek published a really great non-partisan article that clearly explains the differences in the two candidates proposed policies. Whether or not you are decided, and especially if you haven’t yet decided, this is simple guide to the man who will soon be our next president…

From the article;

Where the Candidates Stand

As Nov. 4 draws near, many Americans are still undecided about for whom they will cast their vote. While many elections in recent memory have been close, none seems to be quite so momentous. Not only because of the historic implications of electing either the nation’s first black President or its first female Vice-President, but because never before has a Presidential election coincided with such economic uncertainty.

In fact, such previous hot-button issues as Iraq, terrorism, and abortion have been all but forgotten amid the raging debate surrounding America’s, and the world’s, financial health. Unsurprisingly, the candidates differ widely on how they would go about responding to the current crisis, and how their policies would impact voters. To help Americans decide, BusinessWeek takes a close look at John McCain’s and Barack Obama’s positions on taxes, jobs, education, health care, the financial crisis, and retirement. First up, taxes…

I think most Americans will agree that this is among the most important elections of our lifetime. With the economy struggling, major wars in two foreign countries (and the possibility of additional wars), radically different views on taxes, health care, and education, and the difference of a democratic president and congress or not, there are major reasons to feel strongly about this election.

I know I do…

The Most Important Stat to Track on my Website

There are a lot of statistics for me to follow with my website, BlueRoof.com. Some things are interesting to watch (what states people are visiting my site from, what web browsers they use, etc.) and every stat has some value (where to spend marketing, which browsers to optimize my site for, etc) but some stats are more significant for me to watch than others.

There are some stats I watch more than others. Here are the things I check daily:

Overall Traffic (and compare to the following Day, Week, Month)

Unique Visitors (and compare to averages and following Day, Week, Month)

Average Time on Site

Traffic Sources

Now this last one, traffic sources, tells me something very important. In fact it is one of the most important things for me. It tells me how many people are coming directly to my website by typing in the URL, meaning they knew where they were going.

You can see about 70% of my traffic comes from people going directly to my website. This figure continues to grow. Two years ago none of my traffic was direct because I was a new company and website. last year I was reaching for 50% of my traffic to come directly, and now I’m about 70%. And I’m spending about 25% of the marketing I did last year, getting the same amount of traffic and the same amount of leads.

I also check the top ten keywords people searched for to find my website because that also shows me how many people searched for my website. You can see that most of the people who find my website by search engine already knew they were looking for BlueRoof.com.

This is important for me to know because I want to see how many people are being referred to come to my site. Most of the traffic I get to my site now is direct traffic (about 70%) or people who are searching for my site. BlueRoof.com is not a name you would necessarily know to type in to search for homes unless you knew what the website was.

If my marketing budget stays the same and the my traffic rises, or if my marketing budget goes down but my traffic and leads increases then I am getting referral traffic, and that is what I really want because it tells me people like my website enough to refer it to people they know.

My website is very visual so there is not a lot of content (text) for search engines to grab onto and determin rank. I haven’t packed it full of links and text so it is not optimized for search engines at all. And because of that I’ve had to pay for my traffic by using pay per click (PPC). But once people get to my site they enjoy being there and I get business. And I can see that people like it enough that they are referring people to the site.

This tells me that my strategy is paying off. My strategy is not the same as everyone else when it comes to how to design my site and what to put on it. My strategy is to make the experience the best I can for the consumer and they will choose to work with us because we offer them value.

Watch for a new release of BlueRoof.com to launch in a few weeks. We’re making some upgrades in usability, function and information. The most important thing to me is the user experience (design) so I’m excited to add new features to BlueRoof.com while maintaining great design.

BlueRoof360- Industry Best Realtor Websites, Lead and Client Management

blueroof360.png

Custom Websites for the price of a template…

In 2007 we closed 114 homes because of our website. Last year, in 2008, we closed just under 100 without me selling (my buyer team agents did the selling).

While the majority of real estate agents were seeing their businesses slow down significantly and the overall market lose energy, our business has stayed, and is still staying, very consistent.

You may not even want to be a top-producing agent, but I’m sure you wouldn’t mind an extra sale or two each month.  Technology does not take the place of personality and personal contact but, when utilized correctly, it can help us connect with our clients and also bring us new business.

Understand, I am not a technology guy getting into real estate. I am a Realtor (over 14 years) who uses technology very well.

As a real estate agent, if you want to get business from the internet and offer real value to your clients what are your current choices? You can use Point2, Advanced Access, Homes.com or myriad other template websites, you can (even worse) just have a page on your broker’s website, or you can spend a lot of money building a custom website and hope the people building it know anything about real estate and design. This has been the challenge for Realtors and brokers.. until now.

Now, finally, there will be another choice that brings the power and design of a custom website, the newest, innovative technology, a simple and intuitive back-end system, and client services technology, for a price that is lower than many of the templates.

advanced-access-and-point2-can-not-compete.png

Enter BlueRoof360

BlueRoof360 costs only $100/month and is a complete online solution for real estate agents and brokers. Attract new business, offer better service for your clients, give more value to the consumer, and grow your team and your bottom line.

I have been the managing broker for several large (100+ agent) real estate offices. I have become a student, learning what consumers like and want when searching for homes. By meeting buyers from my website and working with them I have been able to learn a lot about how to use the internet for real estate over the last five years. And because I am a real estate agent and I have managed, recruited, trained and hired hundreds of Realtors, I understand what real estate agents need and what they like and want.

Paying for a template website because it’s cheap is not always the best approach.

As Greg says, “If 10,000 people exhibit a casual interest in your product, you will have earned nothing, whereas if one person actually buys, you will have earned a huge pay-check.”

Consumers want a better overall experience including value, service, interaction and information. They want to feel as though they are being taken care of but that they have good information and still run the show.

Agents want simple tools that enable them to focus on the relationship and they want business that comes to them without referral fees.

To offer real value to the consumer and get real business from the internet I believe you need to have a few very important pieces that all work together. It all begins with a destination website. Not a form-filled, SEO-crazy, template website, but a website that is designed well, has cutting-edge technology, is fun and easy to use, and has great information for the consumer.

Next you need to know how to drive traffic to your website. How to make it seen and how to make it a place that people will want to come back to again and again, and tell other people about.

real-estate-agent-websites.png
When someone asks for help or requests a showing on a property you need to respond very quickly- 15 minutes or less (under one minute is ideal). You need to have a near-immediate connection. People do not want to wait and they won’t wait. They’ll usually work with the first agent to get back to them.

You need to be able to stay in touch with your leads, clients, past-clients, family, associates and friends. You need to give the consumer (your current and potential clients) excellent service. You need to WOW them.

You need to continue to grow and learn from others who are doing it. 

And it has to be easy. It has to be simple to do. Real estate agents do not like complicated, difficult programs and hours of learning how to use stuff. We like fun, easy and simple.

custom-realtor-websites.png

BlueRoof360 will give you a custom website. Not a template website, but a custom website. A template gives you pre-defined spaces that you can change text and images in. We give you a custom website and if you ever want to modify or add new pages (you have unlimited pages) you can add them anytime, and it’s simple.

You can have instant chat, videos, podcasting, widgets or whatever you want.

real-estate-lead-management.png

You’ll also have a complete, but very simple to use, lead and client management system and a notification system. When someone requests to see a property you’ll be notified immediately by text message and email and that person’s information is automatically entered into your lead management system for you. Assign an email keep-in-touch campaign with a click. You can make new campaigns or edit the campaigns and make them your own anytime you want.

We have tried “Top Producer” client management system twice, but both times our team would not even use it because it was so complicated. We paid over $90/month and it just sat there. We’ve designed ours to be simple and easy to use.

You can allow your clients to log in to their own account and see their file. A listing client can see everything you have done on their file and when. They can see when the magazine ad went out and when the sign was ordered and every showing. They can see all the feedback from their showings and your own personal notes. This doesn’t take the place of your personal communication, but it helps you to stay in touch with them even when you are busy and it helps them stay connected to the transaction in a new and interactive way.

Keep doing what you are doing now and just use this to add some extra deals every month. Or go full-out and close hundreds of deals this year from your website. Either way, a long-term online presence will grow your business and give you tools to give better service and value to your clients.

As Jeff, TheXBroker, says…

“So where is the middle ground of killer technology and rePro listing penetration? I think BlueRoof is headed down the right path. Technology (Solvent) + rePro (Solute) = A Solution…one that both consumers and professionals can benefit from.”

The internet is a simple, powerful way to connect with people and grow your business and now BlueRoof360 will give you a simple and powerful way to do it.

To get a quick demo contact us at sales@blueroof360.com or 801-699-6619.

BlueRoof360- Custom Websites at a Template Price…

—————————————————————————————————-
Tired of a template website that doesn’t bring you business?

If you are looking for a custom real estate website with lead management (CRM) system and more, contact BlueRoof360 (http://blueroof360.com) at 888-850-4867 Ext#1 or sales@blueroof360.com.

Utah Liquor Laws- Oh, My My My…

utah-state-liquor-laws.png 

The LDS fanatics state legislature has decided to “simplify” the incredibly ridiculous Utah state liquor laws again. Will this stupid and absurd “musical chairs” of liquor law rule-swapping ever stop?

Under the new rules, the limit to how much alcohol that can be poured into a drink has been increased from 1 once to 1.5 ounces. That’s the only sane part.

But, now you can no longer order a “sidecar”, or an additional shot of that alcohol that we locals have been forced to order so we can “spike” our drinks and give them a normal ratio of alcohol.

You can have a shot of liquor in front of you with a drink, but now you can not have a shot of the same type of alcohol that is in your drink. So, if you are drinking a Margarita you can have a shot of vodka or rum or bourbon, but not a shot of tequila.

Smart…

Now, I’ll just order two shots of Jack Daniels and a regular coke and pour both shots into my coke. These are the stupid things we adults need to do in Utah to have a normal drink.

Also, wine coolers and flavored malt beverages will only be sold in state liquor stores, so now that $6 six-pack of wine cooler (which are just as weak as beer) will cost you $9 with the state liquor store mark-up of over 40%.

The reasoning is that if kids see fruity drinks in the grocery store they will;

A) Steal the drinks (meaning kids here are all thief’s)

or they will

B) Simply want to drink because they see these tempting fruity drinks. Because that’s why kids drink alcolhol, right? For the fruity taste! I mean, they can’t get fruity drinks anywhere else, right?

So now, thanks to our intellectually-challenged state legislature, kids will not be drinking anymore in Utah because they won’t see fruity drinks at Albertsons…

And, of course, you still cannot ship wine into or out of the state and beer is 3.2% alcohol unlike every other state, where it’s 6%, because our lawmakers get a kick out of changing laws and rules about things they know nothing about (which is most everything).

Here is my solution;

Why not let adults drink whatever kind of alcohol they want, and let bars make the drinks the way they want, like in  other states, and then punish alcohol-related crimes much more severely? Isn’t that supposed to be the whole goal, to get rid of the bad things that can happen when people are drinking?

Here’s the ironic part of the whole thing- telling me I can’t have a shot of tequila on the table at the same time as my margarita does not make me drink less tequila, it makes me drink more. When the waitress gets to my table with my shot, I have to “chug” my margarita so I can then have my shot. And then I have to order another margarita because I just chugged mine. Most people don’t drink shots, they drink mixed drinks or beer and they order a round of shots that sit on the table until everyone takes the shot together.

In Utah, we have to do shots of our mixed drinks and beers so that we can do shots of liquor. Our legislature is so smart…

The Carnival of Real Estate

blueroof-carnivalofrealestate.png 

Welcome to the 81st Edition of the Carnival of Real Estate! Step right up and get ready for a wonderland of writing styles and topics. Reading through the entries I was reminded of the last time I hosted the Carnival back in September 2006, and how much blogging has grown, especially in the real estate industry, since then. Five years ago when I started blogging nobody read my blog and I didn’t read anybody else’s. Today blogging has become a legitimate, and important, means of communicating between large spectrums of people.

The Winner’s Circle for this Carnival includes four well-written posts that I think were both informative and interesting. Here are the four posts I am placing in the Winner’s Circle…

winners-circle.png

*Kevin and Monica Ray’s Real Estate Blog discusses radon and the risks associated with it. I think it’s great how they included information about fixing the problem and safe levels.

* Joe Manausa of Tallahassee Real Estate Blog gives us a comprehansive comparison of “Rent Versus Ownership” and details the investment potential of owning versus investing money in the stock market. Even without including the tax benefits, he makes a compelling case.

*Nigel Swaby of Salt Lake Real Estate Blog gives a report on “Ruthless Walk-Away’s” and some very good insight and opinion around the practice.

*Marcus McCray from Hook Me Up! explains “Why Professional Referrals Are Overrated!” There’s some great logic in this post and it’s written well.

Here are the rest of the posts, enjoy!

Christopher Smith at Real Estate Investing in the Real World writes the beginning of an article about investing in real estate long-term. I really enjoyed the article until it suddenly ended. It should have been a completed article. The beginning paragraphs were intriguing and well written. Too bad it was cut short.

DaltonsBriefs presents a post that references a Zillow post about activists doing damage to property to bring notice to their cause.

MyNewPlace discusses the Casulo, a bedroom set in a box. It’s not available yet, but might be a great idea for students or people traveling abroad.

Nathan Blair of Salt Lake City Utah Real Estate Blog thinks aloud about what is “classic” in architecture.

International Listings presents an incomplete, and questionable (they forgot to mention the best real estate website) list of real estate websites that are 2.0.

Purva Brown, the Sacremento Real Estate Gal, brings up three mistakes first-time home buyers fall victim to.

Silveral of Celebrity News and Gossip talks about celebrity homes and the characteristics many of them share.

John Lockwood of Sacramento Real Estate Blog lists the “Seven Deadly Misktakes Buyers Make in This Market.”

Dee Copeland of Texas Realty Blog writes about the trend of “Boomerang Buyers” moving back to the Austin area.

Charles Woodall of Dotham Home Search suggests that “Days on Market are Irrelevant” and makes some good points. I have posted on this topic myself and think it’s a good topic of discussion with buyers, especially in areas that are in buyers market’s.

Dan Melson at Searchlight Crusade suggests that “The Mortgage Loan Market Controls the Real Estate Market.” His thinking is that as loan products go away, so do buyers who need those products to buy, and when rates go up, the buyer pool of a price range gets smaller.

Lenore Wilkas of Hillsburough, Burlingame Luxury Home Sales says “Be Sure to Ask Your Agent How Long the House Has Been For Sale.” The post discusses the practice of re-listing property to manipulate the days-on-market for the listing.

Raymond at Money BlueBook gives his reviews of the house-flipping shows currently on television.

Joe also gives us a look at some of the Tallahassee market’s pricing and sales trends.

Silicon Valley Blogger at The Digerati Life asks “Who’s To Blame For The Subprime Mortgage Mess?” With responsibility distributed between many people involved in the real estate transaction, he wraps up with some good advice to the buyers who, I believe, are ultimately responsible for signing contracts on homes they can’t afford.

Steve Leung gives us the “Consumer’s Rights When Purchasing New Homes”. He talks about warranties, having your own representation and protecting yourself.

Steve Faber at DebtBlog wonders, “Property Foreclosures- Is It Really as Bad as They Say?” Steve goes over some of the statistics showing some states, including Nevada, Florida and California have high foreclosure rates, but also had some of the highest run-up’s in prices over the last few years.

Cynthis Holt from Real Life Real Estate shares her frustrations with buying a short sale property in “War Zone”.

Kathy Koops from The Cincy Blog explains how the “3 Key Words in Real Estate” may not be as important as price.

Geordie Romer of  Leavenworth Washington Real Estate Blog presents  his “Top 5 Ways to Shoot Your Leavenworth Condo Project in the Foot.” He actually goes the extra mile and gives six, including “Don’t dismiss the internet as a fad.” Good advice.

Brian Block of Virginia Real Estate News says, “I’ve Officially Run Out of Room on My Business Card” and shares his experience breezing through the broker’s exam and the designations he holds.

Craig Schiller at HOME STAGING, Rants & Ravings presents “OOPS Goes the Staging!” The post is written well. There a lot of bold words, but the post shows how video can help make your point. It would have been great to have some more specific tips and even some examples on good staging. Hopefully that will be in the next post.

Rebecca Levinson of Connect2Agent presentsDo consumers want rock stars or real estate agents to sell their home?” She tells the story of another agent’s attitude and the impression it left on her.

Cliff Jacobson at WebHome USABlog presents, “Realtor Dirty Tricks” where he discusses Glenn Kelman and the NAR.

see-you-next-week.png

Thank you to everyone for participating in this week’s Carnival of Real Estate. Next week look for it over at The Matrix.

Top State Governments

top-state-governments4.png 

The PEW Center on the States has released it’s report grading all the states on how well their governments work and accomplish goals and objectives. They look at a lot of factors, including;

• Elected officials, the state budget office and agency personnel have appropriate data on the relationship between costs and performance and use these data when making resource-allocation decisions. • Agency managers have the appropriate information required to make program management decisions.• The governor and agency managers have appropriate data that enable them to assess the actual performance of policies and programs.• The public has appropriate access to information about the state, the performance of state programs and state services and is able to provide input to state policy makers.

People• The state regularly conducts and updates a thorough analysis of its human-capital needs.• The state acquires the employees it needs.• The state retains a skilled workforce.

• The state develops its workforce.

• The state manages its workforce-performance programs effectively.

Money• The state uses a long-term perspective to make budget decisions.• The state’s budget process is transparent, easy to follow and inclusive.• The state’s financial management activities support structural balance

between ongoing revenues and expenditures.

• The state’s procurement activities are conducted efficiently and supported

with effective internal controls.

• The state systematically assesses the effectiveness of its financial operations

and management.

Infrastructure• The state regularly conducts a thorough analysis of its infrastructure needs and has a transparent process for selecting infrastructure projects.• The state has an effective process for monitoring infrastructure projects throughout their design and construction.• The state maintains its infrastructure according to generally recognized engineering practices.

• The state comprehensively manages its infrastructure.

• The state creates effective intergovernmental and interstate infrastructure coordination networks.

That’s a lot of criteria and a lot of research. So, how did the state’s rank?

top-state-governments.png

The top state governments in information (with A’s) were Utah, Washington, Missouri, Virginia, and Michigan.

top-state-governments1.png

For handling money the best government was Utah, which took the only A in the nation, follwed by Washington, Nebraska, Virginia, and Delaware, with A minuses.

top-state-governments2.png

Infastructure, again Utah was the top state, and the only state earning an A. With A minuses were Florida, Kentucky and Michigan.

The report says of Utah, “there’s a lot to cheer about. Utah manages itself with savvy business acumen. Financial decisions are made wisely, with an eye toward return on investment and long-term performance in all facets of state government.”

Of Virginia, the reports states, “Virginia proves that tracking data—and holding employees accountable for outcomes—can work wondrous efficiencies.”

And of Washington, the report says, “Washington has been a consistent leader in results-based governance. It was ahead of nearly all other states in controlling spending by keeping track of where investments were and were not paying off.”

New Hampshire had the worst grade in the country, with an overall D+. The study says, “The governor, who serves a two-year term, doesn’t necessarily appoint—and cannot remove—his own agency heads, who serve four-year terms. So the governor can spend lots of time banging heads with other members of his own cabinet. “The basic system of government is designed to make it difficult to transform anything,” explains one former state official.”

Top Ten States for Jobs

unemployment-rates.png 

Yesterday MSN released a list of the Best and Worst states for jobs based on unemployment figures, and they offer the “mean” wage of each state. Mean wage is a term meaning that half the jobs pay more and half pay less.

Here are the top fifteen states;

1. South Dakota
Unemployment rate: 3 percent
Population: 796,214
Mean annual wage: $30,460
Top industry: Trade, transportation and utilities (19.9 percent)

2. Idaho
Unemployment rate: 3 percent
Population: 1,499,402
Mean annual wage: $34,810
Top industry: Trade, transportation and utilities (20.2 percent)

3. Wyoming
Unemployment rate: 3.1 percent
Population: 522,830
Mean annual wage: $34,290
Top industry: Government (23 percent)

4. Nebraska
Unemployment rate: 3.2 percent
Population: 1,774,571
Mean annual wage: $34,300
Top industry: Trade, transportation and utilities (21.1 percent)

5. Utah
Unemployment rate: 3.2 percent
Population: 2,645,330
Mean annual wage: $35,540
Top industry: Trade, transportation and utilities (19.7 percent)

6. Hawaii
Unemployment rate: 3.2 percent
Population: 1,283,388
Mean annual wage: $38,630
Top industry: Government (19.6 percent)

7. North Dakota
Unemployment rate: 3.3 percent
Population: 639,715
Mean annual wage: $32,440
Top industry: Trade, transportation and utilities (21.4 percent)

8. Virginia
Unemployment rate: 3.5 percent
Population: 7,712,091
Mean annual wage: $41,450
Top industry: Government (18 percent)

9. Montana
Unemployment rate: 3.6 percent
Population: 957,861
Mean annual wage: $31,290
Top industry: Trade, transportation and utilities (20.5 percent)

10. New Hampshire
Unemployment rate: 3.6 percent
Population: 1,315,828
Mean annual wage: $39,250
Top industry: Trade, transportation and utilities (23.3 percent)

11. New Mexico
Unemployment rate: 3.7 percent
Population: 1,969,915
Mean annual wage: $33,980
Top industry: Government (23.2 percent)

12. Delaware
Unemployment rate: 3.8 percent
Population: 864,764
Mean annual wage: $41,680
Top industry: Trade, transportation and utilities (18.7 percent)

13. Maryland
Unemployment rate: 3.8 percent
Population: 5,618,344
Mean annual wage: $44,030
Top industry: Government (18.2 percent)
14. Iowa
Unemployment rate: 4 percent
Population: 2,988,046
Mean annual wage: $33,250
Top industry: Trade, transportation and utilities (20.4 percent)

15. Vermont
Unemployment rate: 4 percent
Population: 621,254
Mean annual wage: $36,350
Top industry: Trade, transportation and utilities (19.4 percent)

Michigan heads the list of “worst states”, followed by Mississippi, South Carolina, Alaska, California, D.C., Ohio, Arkansas, Nevada, and Kentucky.

America’s Top Ten Lustful Cities

blueroof-blog-blueroof360.png 

Forbes has come out with another social list- this time called America’s Most Lustful Cities. Salt Lake City ties with Boise for fifth place, yet the list is not actually a list of the most lustful, it’s a list of the cities with the highest per-capita condom sales. To say that condom sales indicates lustfulness is not only irresponsible, but really dumb.

Most condoms are sold to married couples or other monogamous people in relationships. And to think that Denver ranked #1  and Vegas isn’t even on the list makes the whole thing a bit difficult to believe. I’ve lived outside of Denver and I’ve been to Vegas a lot of times and, while Forbes puts out a lot of great social top ten lists, I just can’t seem to buy into this one.

(h/t Cityburb)

Companies That Need to Be Founded

new-business-new-company.png 

I’m in the middle of launching my own new company, but if I had the time and the know-how here are some companies I would love to start. And maybe someone out there will someday…

real-estate-network.png

A social network that is much better. A place that has more features than Linked-In (which has none), and is much easier to use than Facebook (Can they make it any more difficult to simply send a message?), but that is more grown-up than MySpace. I’m talking about a social network where I could go to and keep up with people, chat, share photos, etc. And it needs to be simple and easy to use and understand. Make it simple!!! And without all the stoopidness of MySpace, you know the blaring hip-hop and porn on people’s pages. Why not a calendar that I can share with my network that we can all share events and birthdays, an easy way to rate and recommend local bars and restaurants, and a clean, simple design that is intuitive and fun to use.

real-estate-agents-communicating.png

A Twitter that was much better. This wouldn’t be difficult to build, either and if I had time I would probably just do it myself. Take the basic idea of twitter, but make it so I don’t have to read all the responses to messages I can’t see and make it so I can choose channels or areas to be in. So maybe I can be in a business section where I’m not reading about people feeding their dog or whatever, but actual business ideas and messages. And why not let people drag-and-drop photos, videos, music and other stuff? Also 140 characters could easily be expanded to 500 so I could finish a thought… that would be nice.

realtor-websites-and-lead-management.png

A search engine that utilizes human judgement- at least for the top commercial website ranks. Keywords and meta-tags ruin the results on existing search engines. SEO kills good design, making website creators (and their clients) to choose between a good website design that they need to pay for all the traffic to, or a wordy manifest with keywords repeated ad nausea and no design appeal in order to rank high in organic search results. For the top commercial website results, at least, human judgement should be used to ensure relevance, but also, that the best websites rank the highest.

Just because something new comes along, doesn’t mean it’s been done right. Instead of just doing more of the same or only looking for the next, new big idea, we need to take existing ideas and make them better. Remember, when a company becomes big, it becomes slow and less willing to take chances and make improvements. There are a lot of opportunities out there for people who are willing to take the chance and put in the work. People don’t want to be sold anymore, they want to be inspired.

Trulia- Tech Guys in Realtor’s Clothing

trulia-tech-guys-making-money-from-brokers.png

The real estate industry has been in a major state of flux for two years now, with new technology and innovation entering the market constantly. It’s truly an exciting time to be in this industry. Some of the technology has really benefited the consumer and real estate agents alike. Many agents are becoming much more efficient and are offering much better service than ever before. Some technology (virtual tours, online fax) has become so common and accepted that many would not want to think of working without it.

One of the areas that has seen major growth is in the third-party, tech-guy’s turned real estate entrepreneur’s, listings.bot arena. First there was HouseValues, which was an innovator in that it saw how weak real estate agent’s were at attracting business from the internet so it capitalized on that weakness and got it’s own internet leads and sold them to real estate agents. Then, Lending Tree jumped in with it’s bid-for-mortgage business model becoming a bid-for-anything-real-estate-related model, and it now sells leads to agents as well.

And Realtor.com was actually doing this before any of them. By being the official website for the National Association of Realtors (NAR) it was given exclusive access to all the content from all of the MLS’s across the nation. So, did it take this MLS data and use it to further the industry and pursue noble Realtor causes? Of course not, it sold leads back to the agents, just like the other guys. Realtor.com used to charge $1000’s to be the “designated” Realtor for an area and get those area leads. Now it charges agents to place their listings at the top of the results and to have the agent contact info and property address shown.

Today we have Trulia, among many others, who have a new business model- Give it all away for free and be the agent’s best friend, grow really big until the agents depend on you, then charge them and make a bundle.

Trulia takes the listing info and sends the leads back to the agents with no charge. Everyone loves that. But when you have VC money you’ve got to make profit and giving stuff away doesn’t bring in any profit.

trulia-is-bad-for-business.png

Trulia has always sold ads on their website, and at the beginning claimed they were only interested in making money from those ads. But, now that they have grown and are getting a lot more traffic (and have investors), Trulia is changing, as I thought they might. They are no longer just making money from advertising. Now Trulia sells placement of listings to the agents, just like the other guys. And it’s only a matter of time before they begin charging agents to be a “designated” or “premier” or “showcase” agent, and then only a matter of time before they charge for the leads.

Not that’s there’s anything wrong with that. They certainly have a right to have their business model, and their search function and information is superb. They offer a lot of info and have some really cool tools on their site. But it’s just data- they have no real estate knowledge or expertise because they are not real estate people. Trulia was founded, as most of the other listings.bot websites, by tech people. Just a couple of tech guys- not real estate guys, tech guys.

blueroof360-realtor-websites-lead-management.png

A better alternative for brokers and agents (and the consumer), would be to have their own destination website that is not only full of rich content and great search functionality, but offers the individual agent’s local knowledge and personality. Because, while real estate technology is expanding and becoming global, the transactions and business are still based on relationships and personality and trust between Realtors and their clients.

It is wonderful to have great data and technology, but a successful real estate business still needs to be founded in service and relationships. And no national website can offer people the personal touch of a local agent, with their intimate knowledge of an area and the excellent service they provide to their clients.

There is a difference between information and knowledge. These mega-websites can offer tons of data and graphs, charts, statistics, reports, and other information, but at the end of the day- none of them can advise a local buyer like I can.

trulia-is-a-listingbot.png

Agents and brokers could, as an alternative to feeding the machine of these mega-sites, create their own online brand, their own online real estate destination, and offer the same cool data and technology, and fill it with their own personality and their own knowledge and experience. Instead of contributing to a mega-site knowledge base, they could offer their own, local knowledge bases. If I am buying a home in Salt Lake City I want to know about the Salt lake City area and local market conditions and get expert advise and guidance for that area and I really don’t care about who is the top agent in Grand Rapids or what ten agents say about the market in Boston.

My founding BlueRoof360, stemmed from the dozen or so monthly emails and phone calls I receive from agents and brokers asking me if I can help them build a website or help them convert online leads or help them with their online services. 

Agents can now have their own websites and blogs and have innovative technology and cutting-edge search tools and data, and keep their business for themselves and offer their own personality and knowledge, without spending $100,000 and twelve months designing a custom website. I’m not just trying to be noble- I want to make a profit, just like the next guy. But I’m doing it in a way that helps, not hurts, the agents and brokers in the long-run.

Unlike Trulia, or Zillow, or Redfin, or many of the other tech.bot real estate sites- I am not a tech-guy trying to make money in real estate. I am a Realtor using technology to offer better service for my clients.

And now I’m using technology to help other agents grab hold of their fair share of the internet business that so many of the tech-guys are trying to take from them. Using these mega-sites is not bad, but it shouldn’t be an agent’s only source of online business.

Real estate professional know real estate better than tech guys or anyone else, and with the right technology won’t need these outside mega-sites because they will be one of their own.

Inman Connect NYC, 2008

inman-connect.png 

Most of the attendees to Inman Connect are owners, corporate people, or start-ups in the real estate industry- not many Realtors attend. It’s a fantastic way to teach, learn and network from those who are pushing the industry into the future.

And there are some great conversations floating around in the halls between sessions. With normal company or Board of Realtor Association conventions much of the conversation is, “How do you get your business?” or “What do you think of the market?” At the Connect event there are so many technology companies and owners of brokerages that the conversations have a bit more sophistication. Throw in a few beers and they get very interesting.

Some of the things I saw, realized, remembered, liked, and noticed from the convention;

There are a ton of start-ups launching in real estate right now

It is a blast meeting up with other bloggers at these conventions

Google offices have arcade games and a cool view

Dustin (dramatically) cut his hair

Joel always seemed to be on his way somewhere

NYC is a great place for a convention

Speaking at 9am has its advantages. I was a bit ambivalent about speaking in the first session of Connect. I didn’t know if kicking off the event was an honor or if it was like being the opening act for something better. Turns out, it was pretty great.

If you forget to pack your pants and have to wear jeans, just pretend you did it on purpose and noone will ever know the difference (until you blog about it)

Showing up at the very end of a party (because your flight was delayed) is still fun, but you’re left out of all the pictures and video

Craig never has much enthusiasm, but he’s always honest

I always forget my camera

Many large brokerages just don’t understand technology and how to utilize it efficiently. Even some who think they do- really don’t. Politics and corporate red tape make a company move too slow to keep up with technology.

Rudy and Joe are always cool to hang out with (and they always remember their cameras)

Brian Brady isn’t afraid to stay out all night.

Dustin has a list of things he learned as well.

Google Search Secrets by Sellsius

google-search.png 

Sellsius gives us a fantastic list of Google Search Secrets that expose some really cool tools found inside our favorite search engine. A few of the secrets;

Find similar terms with the tilde (~): ~cheap homes. You get auctions, foreclosures, etc.

Use the wildcard star (*) if you don’t know the missing word: a man’s home is his *.

Get a list of definitions with “define:” define:foreclosure.

Use Google as a calculator (good for figuring a commission): 548,000 x 6%.

To search a term in a particular blog or website use “site:”. Useful if a website or blog doesn’t have a search box: site:blog.sellsiusrealestate.com zillow. (Dang, 960 Zillow posts. We must have a crush on Zillow.)

Type in the area code to find out the city: “646”.

Time & Weather. “Time Hong Kong” gives you the time in Hong Kong. “Weather Hong Kong” (or weather (zip code)) gives you the weather.

Local Movie times. Type the movie and your city or zip code: “I am Legend 10022″

Track FedEx, USPS & UPS packages: skip the log in and just type in the tracking number.

Flight information: “Delta flight 2446″

Comparisons: type in quotes: “better than___”, “worse than___”, or ” ___ sucks” (for bad reviews). “better than iPod”
Reverse lookup. Type in a phone number and Google gives you the address and/or identity of the owner.

Conversion tool for currency and weights and measures. “100 US dollars in British Punds”, “Square feet in an acre”, Ounces in 5 pounds” or even “days in 5 years”. 

Republican vs Democrat- See the Political Dashboard

political-dashboard.jpg

Yahoo has the political dashboard. I’m not sure if this helps you in your decisions much, but it’s a nicely displayed group of information either way.  (h/t to Eric Bryant)

BlueRoof on HouseHunters This Week

hgtv.png 

Trisha, my wife and business partner will be featured on HGTV’s HouseHunters later this week. She’s the only Utah Realtor to ever be on the show, and most certainly the most beautiful to ever appear on network television.

The show is titled, “To Be or Not to B&B”

From the HGTV website, “In Salt Lake City, a young couple searches for a place to hang their hats and their shingle.”

Shows times are:

€     December 20, 2007 10:00 PM ET/PT
€     December 21, 2007 2:00 AM ET/PT
€     December 22, 2007 5:30 PM Mountain Time

Most “Vain” Cities in the Nation

salt-lake-city-vanity1.png 

Those guys at Forbes, they really do know how to pick ‘em. They just released their list of the Top Ten Most Vain cities in the country, based mostly on the number of plastic surgeons per capita. Apparently, over 11,000,000 cosmetic procedures were performed in the US in 2006, a 48% increase over the previous year.

From the article, “As the number of cosmetic procedures nationwide continues to surge, we looked at which cities have most embraced market demand for taut faces, lush lips and flat abs. There were predictable entries like New York, Miami and Los Angeles, but also surprising ones like Louisville, Ky., and Nashville, Tenn. Most shocking of all was the town that ranked first: Salt Lake City. “

Yes, you read that correctly- the city at the top, rated as the “Most Vain” was my very own hometown of Salt Lake City.

salt-lake-city-vanity.png

Forbes offers this disclaimer;

“Unexpected entries like Salt Lake City, Nashville and Louisville might rise to the top, given smaller populations and medical or university programs and centers that focus on plastic surgery. An influx of younger, more affluent residents into the smaller cities may also account for the rising number of plastic surgeons.”

This is something I’ve known for many years, actually, but growing up here, you learn to embrace the culture. And it’s actually very difficult to tell as there are so many beautiful women here. Of course my wife is the most beautiful woman in Salt Lake, and she’s all natural- go figure?

The Six-Word Story

six-word-story.png 

Came across this really cool post about Steve Jones, a teacher at the North Carolina School of Science and Math, and his assignment to his students.

The assignment: to write a compelling, six-word story. As the legend goes, Ernest Hemingway once did this—some say he wrote it to settle a tab, while others think it was a bet. His story: “For sale: baby shoes, never used.” He claims it was the best writing of his life.

Here are some of mine…

Hello… (heart beats fast)…I’m sorry.

Never again! Unless… well, maybe someday

Get in, sit down, hang on…

Here kitty kitty… Here kitty- Ouch!

Once in a lifetime, once again.

Real estate template websites suck, sorry.

From the contest- these are incredible;

Spoon shopping, needs shine. A smile?

You took my hand; hello, future.

A call: action scene, explosion out.

Jailed, “murdered,” became the world’s superhero

Found a heart. Wasn’t broken. Weird.

Wrote story. It sucked. Started over.

Sixty years of love. Suddenly alone.

“Do it again…no thank you.”

I wake, see and enjoy, sleep.

WORLDWIDE POWER OUTAGE! Details at 11.

I abandoned the earth’s last person.

Despite consequences, last night worth it.

“Once upon a time… the end.”

for sale: baby, with new shoes

You’re good. Unfortunately, we want great.

Harry met Sally. Sally met John.

Lost man meets wolves, finds brothers

Warning, zombie rampage. Protect your families.

The One? *Aortic rupture.* World waits…

What’s that!? I only get six?

Why Do People Move?

people-move.jpg 

According to the 2006 Census Bureau American Housing Survey, more than 19.3 million Americans moved last year.

3,051,000 moved to establish their own residence (1.2 million changed from renter to owner)

2,869,000 needed a bigger place

2,308,000 moved for a new job or job transfer

2,330,000 wanted to be closer to work or school

2,792,000 wanted a better place

476,000 moved because they got married

588,000 moved because they got divorced

53% had their expenses go up when they moved

23% had their expenses go down

24% stayed the same

5,335,000 say they chose the neighborhood based on it’s convenience to work

4,375,000 chose the neighborhood because it was close to friends or relatives

4,916,000 liked the look of the neighborhood

Factors in selecting the home they moved to were;

6,733,000   Financial reasons
5,819,000   Room layout/design
1,264,000   Kitchen
5,013,000   Size
2,463,000   Exterior appearance
2,614,000   Yard/trees/view
1,926,000   Quality of construction
1,285,000   Only one available
4,047,000   Other

Of about 109 Million homeowners in the survey, over 58 Million say they pay less than $99/month for maintenance and upkeep of their home (3.5 Million say they spend over $200/month).

The Median Household income in America is $44,503

12% of the people in the survey bought their home with no money down

Square footage of 76,936,000 homes in the survey;

622,000       Less than 500 Square Feet
  1,775,000   500 to 749 
  4,959,000   750 to 999 
18,135,000   1,000 to 1,499
18,035,000   1,500 to 1,999
12,559,000   2,000 to 2,499
  6,565,000   2,500 to 2,999
  5,932,000   3,000 to 3,999
  3,662,000   4,000 or more
  4,691,000   Not reported
      (1,795  Median Square Feet)

Heating Supply

32% of homes are heated with electricity

58% of homes are heated with gas

1.3% of homes are heated with coal or wood

15,000 homes are heated with solar power
 

Healthiest States in the Nation

united-health-foundation.pngamerican-public-health-foundation.png partnership-for-prevention.png

According to a report launched today by United Health Foundation, the American Public Health Association (APHA) and Partnership for Prevention(TM), the overall health of the nation is down .03% from last year, but has remained relatively the same for the past six years.

The report shows there have been modest gains in reducing the rates of cancer and cardiovascular mortality, however other factors have stayed the same or risen, including increased obesity rates, increasing numbers of uninsured people, children in poverty and the persistence of risky health behaviors, such as tobacco use and violent crime. All of these factors contribute to the overall healthiness of the nation and are all determining factors in the rankings. Other factors include smoking, violent crime, binge drinking, infectious disease, health status and several measures of mortality.

 components-of-health.png

Utah ranks sixth in the nation for the second straight year and Vermont takes the top spot from Minnesota, which falls from first place for the first time in five years, to second place overall. Utah was particularly strong with it’s low levels of violent crime and low levels of binge drinking. The state also has a high graduation rate, which factors into the report.

According to the US Census Bureau, the number of Americans who are uninsured has increased from 13.4 percent in 1990 to 15.8 percent of the population today- meaning that over 47 million Americans are without health insurance (including over 9 million children). The Institute of Medicine (IOM) attributes 18,000 deaths per year to people under age 65 due to lack of insurance coverage.

Since the first report in 1990, the nation’s health shows an overall improvement of 18.4%, most stronlgy attributed to the reduction of several health determinants, such as infectious diseases, smoking, infant mortality, cardiovascular deaths and violent crime, and fewer children living in poverty.

Over the last six years, however, the nations health has stayed relatively the same, with this year showing a .03% decline from last year’s report. The biggest concerns continue to be the nations obesity levels, which have risen from 11.6% of the population being obese in 1990 to 25% meeting that classification today. Obesity, of course, contributes to heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and cancer.

The average life expectancy of Americans (77.9 years) is now at it’s highest level ever, yet is still lower than 43 other countries. Japan leads in the world in life expectancy at 82 years.

The complete rankings are below;

health-rankings.png

health-rankings1.png

Visual Aid of Real Estate 2.0 Companies

real-estate-20.png

If you’re wondering who the players are in online real estate today, you’ve just been given a new tool. 1000WattConsulting has put up a visual aid showcasing the top players in the RE2.0 space, complete with categories and links.

Real Estate 2.0 is like Web1.0 for the rest of the world because the real estate industry as a whole, didn’t really embrace the internet until about 13 minutes ago. And most Realtors and brokers are still confused about how the whole thing works. Understand, most real estate in America is still sold by agents who got the job because they either knew the seller or were referred to them. There are over 50,000 real estate agents who blog now, but there are over 2 million real estate agents. That’s less than 2.5% of the agents that are blogging. I read somewhere that 12% of agents have websites now, but most are crappy template sites (same website, different agent photo).

So this isn’t just a visual showcase of the Real Estate 2.0 companies, it’s a showcase of the innovators and pioneers in an industry that has long needed them.

web20-real-estate-companies.png

PS- Thanks for the nod…

(h/t to FoREM)

Where are all the Singles- 2007?

 best-places-to-live.jpg

Money magazine has it’s new list out with Best Places to live and such (the Best Places is a compilation of smaller cities). The top Utah city on the list was Cottonwood Heights at #100. I live in Cottonwood Heights and I think it should be much higher, but it’s not my list…

They also claim that you’ll find the most singles in State College, PA, Durnam, NH, and Amherst Center, MA (all college towns of course). But they might all be fatty’s as the skinniest people live in Marin (north of SF), Blaine(Idaho), La Plata (Idaho), Teton (Wyoming), Garfield (Colorado), and the last two counties I lived in San Francisco (CA) and Boulder (CO)counties.

Counties with the fastest growth over the last 6 six years has three northern Utah counties at the top with Tooele county (next to Salt Lake to the West) at the top spot with 112.5% growth (!), followed by Summit and Wasatch counties (next to Salt Lake to the East) at #4 and #6 respectively. I have a feeling Salt Lake county might be making the list soon with all the jobs we have coming into the county.

The youngest list is obvisouly a list of towns, not counties, or Salt Lake would again be at the top. But for youngest towns, northern Utah had three at the top, with Eagle Mountain (#12), Cedar Hills (#16), and Oquirrh at #23.

There’s No Room at the Top for Wimps

reach-the-top.png 

We’re all prone to having our moments of weakness, where things aren’t going our way or everything seems to be falling on us at the same time. Especially in a sales industry like real estate, with the financial ups and downs and the pressures that come with it, it can be draining emotionally.

Sometimes I need to retreat and spend time with family just to keep my sanity. Sometimes the pressure turns to anxiety and it’s tough to stay focused on the road ahead. But I know that’s precisely what I need to do to make things right and take care of my responsibilities.

This is one of the traits that I believe seperates those at the top of their game from the rest- the ability to focus under pressure. We’re all busy and we all have pressure, but it’s what we do with that pressure that makes the difference.

wimp.png

Do you fold under the pressure or do you focus?

Most people fold. They crumble and become less useful in every area of their lives. Most people have the inherent flaw of retreat during those times that they are most needing to perform. But in business this causes anxiety and stress and simply furthers the problem. Curling up into the fetal position and bawling like a baby will not help things get better, and while I can understand the natural tendency to do so, and can even relate to some degree- I keep a discernable barrier from the emotion of it all because I choose a different way of handling my pressure.

I see people throwing their hands in the air and giving up all the time in this business- sometimes for a day or a week and sometimes for good. People leave the business or go into hibernation because a deal went south on them or several deals fell apart at the same time. Or because they are going through a tough stretch with no business.

I have these same stretches where business seems to flow in rapidly and times when it seems like things are slowing down. When things aren’t coming in though, I go out and I get business. And I think others who are at the top of their game, and the best in their fields do the same. They get out there and they take the bull by the horns and get things done.

pinnacle.png

-If you find a man at the top of a mountain, he didn’t fall there-

I don’t know who first said it, but I like it. Here are some things that I personally do to push through pressure…

Stay flexible in my approach but focused on my result.

I decide what the result is that I want and become determined to make that result happen no matter what. It’s imperative to stay focused on the result I am looking for so I have direction and a way to clearly see whether or not I am moving toward that result.

My approach might change several times. Think of water finding it’s way down a canyon side. It’ll change direction a bunch of times but eventually it will find it’s way to the lowest ground- and that’s how I look at my approach and the way I reach my result. If something isn’t working I’ll change what I’m doing and then change again and again as long as I’m moving toward that result.

Take time.

When things catch up to me and the pressure gets heavy I take time, maybe ten minutes, maybe two hours, to relax and clear my mind so I can return to the issues from a different perspective. Sometimes I’ll go to a movie in the middle of the day to forget about everything for a while and then when it’s over I’m calm and can look at things again more clearly. Sometimes I take ten minutes and sit at a park or at home in silence and just think about the stillness and how big the world is around me and remember how small these problems are to the rest of the world. Somehow putting things in perspective against time and history helps me look at them in a better frame of mind.

Utilize my energy.

The pressure and stress I feel is all energy and I can choose to take that energy and use it to make me move. Sometimes I take that energy and turn it into anger because anger is such a strong emotion. I wouldn’t suggest doing this unless you can compartmentalize well (as I do) so you don’t end up taking out stress on those around you, but I’ve been able to take my energy and use it to get me off my butt and out there working.

Swallow my pride.

Sometimes I don’t want to do the work because I don’t like it. I don’t like cold calling or knocking on doors anymore than the next guy, but when I need business I’ll go out in the rain and knock doors asking for business if I need to. I’ll call five hundred people in a day or hand out business cards to everyone I come across that day. There are usually more productive ways to spend my time, but I will exhaust every option and do whatever it takes to keep things going strong. This is the business I am in- sales. And in sales I am responsible for my own success- I have to go find it and that’s what i signed up for when I took the career I did.

Reach high.

I don’t suffer from low amibition. Sometimes I like to take a break and spend more time relaxing, but I keep my standards high and I maintain results that I can be proud of. Some people reach their goals well, but their goals are far too low for their ability and situation. Hey, if you need more- go out there and get it. Having high standards motivates me and keeps me from being feeling average.

Don’t whine.

I can’t stand when people stand around whining about how unfair things are and expect their lot in life to improve without putting in the work. Don’t stand there and shout about it- get up and do something about it. I’ll raise my voice if I think it’s going to help my cause, but I’m not going to complain just to complain- I’ll have a solution or some opinion I think will help the discussion. Whining is for suckers and the people ot the top of their game don’t have time for it.

Keep my frame of mind.

It’s important for me to stay in the right frame of mind and sometimes that means to just toughen up and stay numb to some of the distractions. I try to remember my talents and why I believe in myself. Not affirmation- dedication. And this can make all the difference in the world for me.

There will always be people out there that does more business than I do and make more money and have more time and blah blah blah- so what? I work hard because it makes me feel good taking care of my family and having success. And I like my work. Big reward often comes with big risk, and being in a commission-only sales position is risky, but rewarding for those who get off their butts and take charge of their career.

No matter what area of your life you find challenging right now- decide to change it and go do the work. If you expect to reach the top, any “top”- your “top”, whatever that is for you, you can’t be a wimp getting there.

Driving in Utah

drivers3.png

Ever since the Vatican released it’s list of ten commandments for driving, there has been discussion around the issue. KSL.com also has a discussion going about Utah drivers and their opinions about it. I’m going to take this opportunity to publish my own list of ten commandments for driving, specifically directed toward Utah drivers.

When I was a teenager I wrote music with friends and we even recorded a bunch. Mostly it was sappy love songs or extremely hard thrashing metal with distorted guitars, drumming as hard and fast as we could play, and screaming over the top. This was good music to us, mostly because we addressed the most pressing issues of the world in our songs. One of the songs I wrote was called, “Get the F@#% out of the Passing Lane”. This was a moving song. (pun intented).

It was mostly aimed at minivans because I’ve long been curious about how minivan owners seem to drive by a different set of rules than the rest of us, but it applies to everyone. One verse went like this;

drivers1.png

It’s elegant, refined, and drives home the frustration a teenager  with a sports car feels when driving behind slow vehicles. Utah doesn’t have the worst drivers in my opinions, but some of the crap that flies for acceptable driving around here is pretty lame. AOLAutos ranks it’s top five best and worst drivers as

drivers.png

So here is my own Ten Commandments of driving;

drivers2.png

I remember in Colorado I would guest host a Saturday radio program and the first time I was introduced I said, “Hello. I appreciate the chance to be here and I would like to take this opportunity to say- the left lane is called the ‘passing lane’ for a reason.”

For the most complete, and entertaining list of driving pet peeves- you must see Real Lans

Redpin on 16 Minutes

16 Minutes does an in-depth interview about Redpin and their clients…

Microsoft Announces new Surface Computer

Microsoft announced their new surface computer  today (actually yesterday- it’s after midnight) at the D: All Things Digital  conference in San Diego. Be interesting to see what sort of applications can be made to utilize this new technology.

The Power of a single…

vocabulary.png

word.

Does Your Website Make the Grade?

appleondesk.jpg 

Most of us who own websites like to get as much feedback as we possibly can, especially if it’s from someone we don’t know. Well, here’s an online website evaluator that will test your site in less than 30 seconds.

Testing BlueRoof it says that the Google pagerank is 0, when it’s actually 3, but other than that it’s probably pretty accurate about its assessment (which is obviously an on-paper assessment, not taking into account design, UI, or programming).

(H/T Newspapergrl)

Homes of the Future

  

homedesign.png

Home designs, architectural styles, and how we use different rooms has all changed. Since 1973 the average size home has grown from 1660 to 2459 sqaure feet, backyards have become an extension of the living space, and the kitchen/family room, or great room, has become the main room in the home. Ceilings have become vaulted, closets have become walkable, master bedrooms have morphed into suites, and garages have become monsterous.

Home owners have come to want and expect different things from their homes and the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) tries to stay on top of these changing trends by conducting surveys and doing studies.

So where are the trends going now? Reported in Digital Home Online, Gopal Ahluwalia, staff vice president for research for the National Association of Home Builders, said the home of the future will be two stories, with a one-story entry foyer, and either no living room, or one that will end up serving more as a library or parlor. Consumers buying upscale homes will want two master bedroom suites and an outside kitchen stocked with all the latest amenities — all standard. Ahluwalia also projects the size of an average home will decrease to 2,330 square feet by 2015.

        

walltv.png

Respondents to an (NAHB) survey said they will want more of these amenities:

76% said more counter space

74% said more cabinet space

72% want double sinks

70% said larger table areas to eat in their kitchens

66% want outdoor kitchens

64% expect bathrooms to have double vanities

For buyers of upscale homes, the expectations increase to include high-quality appliances (96%) and they want more cabinet and counter space. 94% say they want walk-in pantries, 62% say they want two master suites in their home and 66% want an outdoor kitchen. And 80% of these future home owners want upgraded electronic features including multi-zone controlled HVAC, multi-room audio systems, whole-house automation systems, monitored burglar alarms, and programmable thermostats.

  

homesoffuture1.png

Steam showers, portable aromatherapy spas and natural sinks made with granite, stone and darker woods are also hot for the near future. Kohler’s new bath, complete with rushing rapids, and many companies’ automatic sinks are also expected to be popular.

Christopher Sanderson, of The Future Laboratory and Richard Brindley, of the Royal Institute of British Architects, look deeper into the future with a project  looking into the movements of future living and say one of the main factors affecting future homes will be the continually changing climate. Colder winters and hotter summers will demand better insulation and blinds, canopies and air conditioners.

Mr Brindley says that as major cities grow, space will be at a premium and homes will have to be adaptable, with the same rooms used for many purposes. He says that technology already exists to build houses with movable walls, which could run on tracks to enable the same space to be arranged in different ways for different functions.

    

pod.png

One great example of this would be Jade Jagger (Mick’s daughter) is a co-owner of 16 West 19th  in New York, which uses pods for kitchens and baths. The website describes these as, “jewel-like lacquered boxes that seem to float in each residence. Enclosed within this single cube are your meticulously laid-out kitchen and bathroom. When opened, the pod reveals a glamorous interplay of sparkling tiles, vivid colors and textures.”

Glass technology is also changing, and future homes may utilize “smart glass”, or chromogenics, which is clear but turns opaque when you run an electrical current through it, making it useful for closing off areas.

Small homes will need more adaptable furniture, such as convertible sofa-beds and furniture which can be neatly stacked away when not in use, and entertainment at home may change to accommodate our changing lifestyles.

Mr Brindley says: “A flat screen on your wall could double up as your front door intercom, your computer and be used to watch films. He continued, “You will also be able to do things like switch machinery in the home on and off from on holiday and that sort of thing.”

      

homesoffuture.png

Refrigerators may begin using Radio Frequency Identification technology (RFID), which is widely used in supermarket check-outs to identify when home owners are low on items. These fridges could even suggest recipes based on items on the shelves and suggest complimentary items for your shopping trips.

The two also believe sound-wave technology will be used to assist water in cleaning. This technology already exists on the market for cleaning contact lenses and it is being explored for uses with dishwashers and washing machines.

And then, of course, there are the robots. Mr Brindley thinks that we will begin to see micro robots to perform functions such as cleaning toilets and opening your blinds for you.

Futurist Joseph Coates, author of “2025” (Oakhill Press), sees the day when homes are totally automated, with furniture that adjusts to your body’s shape at the mention of your name, robotic chefs and diagnostics that call for necessary repairs. Coates predicts homes will have rooms that know who enter and will automatically change the temperature to suit their preferences. He also sees sensors that will monitor indoor air pollution and health conditions, and systems that allow home owners to review and change their energy-use patterns for greater efficiency.

Microsoft has developed technology  for interactive wallpaper that can display artwork, websites, and photos.

     

sok.png

Whirlpool tubs are being replaced with deep, comfortable soaking tubs and those may be replaced soon with infinity tubs, or Sök’s. These tubs have an infinity overflow that lets the water drain slowly over the tub edge into a catch basin, where it is reheated and effervesced (bubble massage) and recirculated into the tub. As featured in this photo, they can also have the water enter from out of the ceiling for greater effect. There’s also remote-controlled “chroma-therapy,” which alters the color of built-in LED lights in the tub to fit — or set — your mood.

Paint colors may turn to so called “chameleon colors”, or colors that change with different lighting and from different angles.

Kitchen  floors today are cherry, oak and walnut. Soon we may see much more anegre, bamboo, teak and even cork, according to Dan Myerson, of Bacon Veneer, one of the leading wood veneer suppliers for high-end office and residential applications.

glasscounter.png

Counter-top trends may move more toward concrete, glass and metals such as copper and zinc. Diane Bryant, sales director for Philadelphia condo development, the Ritz-Carlton, predicts that granite will not lose much popularity but other stones – limestone and sandstone for example – will gain.

The maximizing of space and the ever-changing face of our individual environments will continually intrigue us and inspire us, but most importantly, these spaces will continue to give us access to the most important place we know, home.

Top Ten Gadgets for Realtors

gadgets.png 

 I see the reviews of new stuff coming out all the time and I’ve read Realtor Magazine’s new gadgets for real estate, but I just see a bunch of new phones and computers. So here is my list of the…

Top Ten Gadgets for Realtors

 

 10- Advertising from your car 

Realtors are famous for their ubiquitous vanity plates, window clings, and automobile advertising paint jobs, so why stop there? Having a scrolling message would bring attention and give you an adjustable ad everywhere you go.

9- GPS systems with traffic updates (Also see voice-activated and 3-D)

GPS systems are all over the place now and they’re getting cooler and easier, but getting traffic updates in real-time along with the navigation is awesome. Every agent who works with buyers knows the frustration of setting appointments in a sequence and then needing to call to push back appointments because you are running late. Voice Activated makes it easier to keep your eye on the road, and 3-D is just cool.

8- Color printers for your mobile phone

No more running to the office to print out some new flyers for your listing- just plug in your mobile phone and print them up- and how impressed will your clients be?

7- GPS on your mobile phone

Call in for directions or get GPS on your phone without the cumbersome extra equipment- you have your phone with you everywhere you go, and this way you can have GPS everywhere as well.

6-Reading your voice mail

Need to know when to pick up your kid but can’t stand hearing your ex’s voice? Get your voice mails as text messages on your mobile phone. Also good for scrolling through to get to the important messages when you’re busy.

5- Viral Marketing

Think of a television commercial that will run for years, reach a large audience, and does not cost you anything. Is that something you would consider doing?

4-Client motivation detectors 

Ever put your ear up to the window after buyers leave your open house, trying to hear what they are saying about the house?

Here’s your spy gear to finally get the 411 *

3- One-Shot Virtual Tours

Create a virtual tour without being a photo-shop expert. Just one click captures a full virtual tour, ready to go. Save time, frustration, and the cost of the photographer.

2- Searchable Conversations

Ever heard the saying, “The longest memory isn’t as good as the shortest pencil”? Well, even better than a pencil is this little device that will record all of your conversations and let you search them. Remember all the details your client told you, laugh at the other agent with your co-workers after they have left the office, and improve your language skills.

1- Cup holders that do more

When you’re in real estate you live in your car, doing everything mobile. We are the most dangerous drivers on the road. Talking on our mobile phones while eating a cheeseburger and making a U-turn as we look for an address.

This is why when we shop for a new vehicle we don’t ask how fast it goes or care about the luggage space- we want to know three things- gas mileage, turning radius (for our U-turns, and how many cup holders does it have.

And these cup holders will turn your real office into a more efficient place, and probably save lives.

*This is only a joke- I don’t promote spying. And even if I did I would not suggest breaking out a big ole’ listening device and stick it out the window at people as they leave an open house.

Top 150 American Architectural Structures

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) lists the top 150 favorite American structures, beginning with;

empirestatebuilding.png

#1- Empire State Building

white-house.png

#2- The White House

washingtonnationalcathedral.png

#3- Washington National Cathedral

jeffersonmemorial.png

#4- Thomas Jefferson Memorial

goldengate.png

#5- Golden Gate Bridge

Other Structures of (my) interest include…

chrysler.png

#9- Chrsyler Building- NYC- Tied for coolest skyscraper in the country (TransAmerica)

the-gateway-arch.png

#14- The Gateway Arch- Impressive, and a cool elevator to the top

brooklyn-bridge.png

Brooklyn Bridge – Hey, you gotta problem with that?!?

bellagio.png

#22- Bellagio- My favorite place to stay in Vegas

denver-international.png

#57- Denver International Airport- Airport as art

transamerica.png

#61- (Shamefully low)-TransAmerica Pyramid- San Fran- Tied for coolest skyscraper in the country (Chrysler)

wacker-drive.png

#62- 333 Wacker Drive (Chicago)- Curves with the Chicago River

salt-lake-city-public-library.png

#69- Salt Lake City Public Library

There are so many incredible structures on this list, you really need to check it out to see your own favorites.

Top Ten American Houses

CNNMoney presents us with their top 10 favorite houses in America, selected from the American Institute of Architects list of the top 150 American Structures.

vanderbuilt-ii.png

Biltmore Estate (Vanderbilt Residence)- By Richard Morris Hunt

monticello.png

Monticello – Designed by Thomas Jefferson

falling-water.png

Fallingwater – Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright

taliesin.png

Taliesin- Frank Lloyd Wright’s residence

hearst-castle1.png

Hearst Castle- by Julia Morgan

gamblehouse.png

Gamble House by Charles Sumner Greene and Henry Mather Greene

glessner-house.png

Glesner House- Designed by Henry Hobson Richardson

dana-thomas-house.png

Dana-Thomas House- By Frank Lloyd Wright
taliesin-west.png

Taliesin West – By and For Frank Lloyd Wright

douglas-house.png

Douglas House by Richard Meier

Top Ten Cities for Beer Lovers

         beer2.png         

MSNBC lists its top 10 cities for beer lovers;

1. Amsterdam- Serving “pils” with two fingers worth of head on top

2. Berlin- the first week of August is devoted to Bierfestival, when the city center turns into a 1.2 mile-long beer garden hosting 240 breweries from 80 countries, representing 1,750 different brands of beer

3. Brugge- Over 450 unique varieties of Belgian brew.

4. Burlington- Vermont college town between Montreal and Boston.

5- Dublin- Irish people drink?

6- Mexico City- Home of warm pee Corona

7- Montreal- Order your beer by color

8- Portland- 28 local breweries

9- Prague- Home to U Fleku, world’s oldest brewpub

10- Sapporo- Beer from vending machines in Japanese setting

usabeer.png

Celebrator lists it’s top 10 American Cities for beer;

1- Salt Lake City- With it’s incredible brew pubs and much-drinking populas guzzling from free-flowing beer fountains throughout the city, Salt lake earns (once again) the top prize! Okay, I’m kidding- the top spot goes to Portland.

2- San Francisco- Totally cool city for pretty much everything you can imagine. Is there anything that San Fran isn’t in the top ten for (other than lowest cost of living)?

3- Denver- Sports-crazy town with all four major sports and a brew-pub for every ten people (it seems). Great place to be during any championship season.

4- Seattle- Techie geeks can pound back the brew- how else could someone get through 56 straight hours on the computer programming?

5- Philly- City of Brotherly drinking

6- San Diego- Beach parties account for 90% of beer consumed

7- DC- Lots of drinking on the hill? This explains a lot.

8- Boston- Celebrations are up since the Red Sox took the Series

9 & 10 (tie) New York- There’s a lot of everything in NYC

9 & 10 (tie) Chicago-It’s all those speak-easy’s

drunk.png

Forbes ranks America’s drunkest cities

1- Milwaukee

2- Minneapolis

3-Columbus

4- Boston

5-Austin

6- Chicago

7- Cleveland

8-Pittsburgh

9- (tie) Philly

9-(tie) Providence

11-St Louis

12- (tie)San Antonio

12 (tie)- Seattle

14- Vegas

15- Denver/Boulder

*Salt Lake City is the least-drunk of American cities and we have the best-looking girls (well, other than these ten cities). Plus, the best mountains, the best real estate website, the best people, the best soil, the best…. um… dancers, the best singers, the best musicians, the best plants, the best- looking pets, the best top ten lists… and the best blog. And people are very polite here, well, unless they’re driving.

Understanding Credit Scores and Credit Reports

credit.jpg

Love em’ or hate em’, our credit scores affect our lives.

Your credit score is a number that is calculated based on your credit history to help lenders identify the level of risk they may be taking if they lend to you. Scores range from 300-900. The actual formula for exactly how the score is calculated is proprietary information and owned by Fair Isaac (FICO).

Your credit report is historical information about how you pay your bills and repay loans, how much credit you have available, what your monthly debts are, and other types of information that can help a potential lender decide your credit worthiness.

Credit scores are reported by over 1000 credit bureaus across the country, but most are affiliated with the three large bureaus, Experian, TransUnion and Equifax.

Equifaxwww.equifax.com

  • To order your report, call: 800-685-1111 or write: P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
  • Experianwww.experian.com

  • To order your report, call: 888-EXPERIAN (397-3742) or write: P.O. Box 2104, Allen, TX 75013
  • TransUnionwww.transunion.com

  • To order your report, call: 800-916-8800 or write: P.O. Box 1000, Chester, PA 19022
  • Our credit scores help determine how much we pay, or if we even qualify to buy, almost everything. They are used by our insurance companies, banks, even HOA associations and clubs to assess membership qualifications. Your credit score says a lot about you. It tells a story about what you have purchased and how you have handled your responsibilities in paying your debt. It’s definitely not a perfect system, but it’s not going anywhere so you better learn the system.

    ficochart.png

    Your FICO is made up of ;

  • 35% – An individual’s history of making credit payments on time
  • 30% – The total amount of debt being carried along with available credit
  • 15% – The age of an individual’s open credit lines (more history is better)
  • 10% – The frequency with which someone applies for new credit
  • 10% – Wild card factors such as the types of credit lines
  • Avoid these 4 pitfalls that lower your FICO score.

    1. Late Payments – Late payments and your payment history are the largest single factor of your credit score. Paying bills consistently on time shows you take your debt seriously and that’s what lenders are looking for. Extra weight is placed on recent payment history.

    2. Debt levels Too High- Don’t max-out or charge near the limit of your credit cards and equity lines. Carrying more than 25% balance hurts your score, and over 50% hurts it even more. Potential lenders want to see that you don’t spend all the money you have available to you.

    3. Debt-to-Income Too High – Carrying too much debt for your income hurts your score. Typically lenders have their own calculations for figuring your debt-to-income ratio (some include mortgage payments, etc) and often lenders have their own standards for what interest rates to charge based on your score. Certain types of loans (signature loans, loans for luxury items) may require you to have a lower debt ratio.

    4. Closing credit accounts- It may sound strange, but closing your credit card accounts can hurt your credit score, especially in the near future. Lenders look at your payment history and the history and duration of your accounts. Cancelling credit cards take away that history, and hurt your credit.

    ficochart1.png

    The higher your score, the lower your interest rate. Here, you can see the difference in interest you would pay with different scores. You can see that the difference between a score of 650 and 720 is about double the interest rate. To help understand the true effect your credit score can make, let’s use an example;

    You buy a home with a loan amount of $300,000 (nice round number). If your credit score was good, say 730, you could expect to get an interest rate around 6.125% and have a payment of about $1822 (Principle and Interest). If your credit score was 640 you could expect an interest rate of around 6.65% for the same loan, resulting in a monthly payment of $1926.

    You would be paying $104/month more simply because of your credit score. And let’s say you want a new car. Assuming a loan amount of $30,000 your 730 credit score could get you a monthly payment around $589, while that 640 score would result in a payment of $670, or $81 more/month.

    Let’s say you keep the car and the house for 5 years and then sell them to move out of town. You would have lost $11,100 just by having that credit score difference. And that 90-point drop in your credit score (from 730 to 640) could be caused by something as simple as missing a couple mortgage payments (One 60-day late). Or activating two new credit cards with a $500 limit each and maxing them both out. That $1000 would have actually cost you 10 times the amount.

    In the real world, your credit score and credit report can effect dozens of decisions over a five year period, resulting in a more significant difference than this example shows. Check your report a couple times each year to make sure it’s accurate. The $20 or so you’ll pay to check it could save you $thousands.

    If you’re a student, a young adult, or just don’t have a credit score yet, there now some help. Fair Isaac now offers the FICO Expansion Score, which helps you raise your score a little faster.

    How Blogging Changes People

    anyonethere.png 

    Reading Seth Godin’s blog I came across a post titled If no one reads your post, does it exist? It’s a short post that discussed how blogging changes people and it has a great message for bloggers.

    I agree, and as I alluded to in a previous post, I think writing a blog can change how you approach a topic, and eventually even change why you blog in the first place. When I first began blogging a few years ago it was some sort of cosmic thing, like I was putting my thoughts out into the cosmos or something, and then as people began blogging more and people actually started to read my blog I sat up a bit and thought more about what I was writing.

    When I started BlueRoof and began this blog I knew I wanted to be less filtered than some other company blogs I read, but I became more aware of what I was writing about. I have probably written 50 or 60 posts that have eventually been deleted without being published because of the content, or because I just re-read it and decided it wasn’t good material.

    Several times I’ve come across posts on other blogs that I thought I had written about, but I had only began writing about it and had no posted it yet, or I had only thought about writing about it and just didn’t get to it.

    Sometimes I feel more inspired to write and sometimes I feel like I haven’t published anything for a while so I should. I really enjoy blogging. And I like that people read my blog, and it really does give you a sense of humility when your traffic is down for a couple days. Blogging has changed my daily routine and has caused me to spend much more time researching things than I ever did before.

    There have been days where I’ve began writing many posts and saved them to be finished or published later. Sometimes I begin writing about something and then think, “this will bring more heat than I want,” so it gets deleted. Other times I post about random stuff that I’m sure has little purpose, other than I find it interesting.

    Blogging has changed me in a few ways. I think about topics now, I notice business practices and industry events more and I’m much more informed of new business models coming into the indrustry now.

    Blogging also changes some people who don’t blog themselves. Some people seem to be professional commentors or critics. They troll around criticising and judging, but not writing their own stuff. Some people have become really great participators, adding to conversations and giving different perspectives. And many just read the information they are looking for and move on, but (many times) with a broader understanding of the topic they were researching.

    I’ve probably learned about more new companies in the last year by reading TechCrunch than I have the rest of my life combined. And I’ve definitely learned a lot more about the real estate industry and certain markets because of blogging.

    Search engines have richer results and we can find more information about subjects due to the blogging community. When I was looking into a new hosting company for a website, I found the best research on blogs where people gave their experiences and opinions about different companies. It’s good to read the pros and cons from other people.

    Blogging connects us and brings ideas together in ways that cannot be accomplished otherwise. Having a topic discussed and commented on and having it go off in different directions, you really get to learn about topics in many ways. When you really think about it, blogging has changed how many of us communicate, learn and instruct. Blogging has changed the internet and it is beginning to change business practices in general.

    And that has an affect on all of us.

    Most Searched For Terms in Real Estate

        search.png        

    When it comes to real estate in America, what do people search for? Before I began writing this I made a list of my own to see just how close I could nail it. I mean, after all, I’m a real estate vet with years of experience and I run a couple of the most-visited real estate web sites in Utah, so I should have some pretty good guesses, right?

    Here’s my list of what I thought the most searched for terms that drove people to my websites would be (excluding the website names):

    1-“real estate”

    2- “homes”

    3- “homes for sale”

    4- “realtor.com”

    5- “real estate for sale”

    These are generic terms and not area specific. My top list of terms searched for in northern Utah, my market would be:

    1- “salt lake real estate”

    2- “Salt lake city real estate”

    3- “real estate salt lake city, ut”

    4- “utah homes”

    5- “salt lake homes”

    Both seem like fairly straight-forward lists, so how close am I?

    PropBot says:
    terms.png

    This is interesting because on thier site you basically just type in anything, like a search engine, so a lot o fpeople probably search for things like 3bd, 2 bth home in Tulsa. What’s really interesting is that a specific home is ranked #7.0

    Escape Homes says the top terms on their site are:

    terms1.png

    According to HitWise, the top-searched real estate terms are:

    terms2.png

    A lot of people use search engines to type in domain names instead of putting the domain name into the address bar- just out of habit or for the spell-check or something.

    RealtyTimes columnist Jordan Glogau did some reasearch and found:

    terms3.png

    This is some great research because it shows how people search in different categories. I would think more people would search for California then New York, with more people living there and so many more homes there.

    And then for BlueRoof.com. During the last 30 days here are the top search terms people typed into all search engines to find BlueRoof. Of course this is not a list of the top terms searched for- rather, it’s a list of the top keywords that people searched for and then were taken to BlueRoof- it’s still interesting to see which keywords have been used most frequently. I’m sure most sites have the top terms as being their site name, but the top search terms bringing people to BlueRoof.com are:

    terms4.png

    So, again many people use the search engines to type in domain names instead of the address bar. And if you take out the people who actually searched specifically for BlueRoof the top keywords would be:

    1- homes for sale in Utah

    2- salt lake city real estate

    3- utah homes

    4- real estate utah

    5- homes for sale utah

    6- real estate in utah

    7- salt lake real estate

    8- salt lake city homes

    9- homes for sale in salt lake city

    10- salt lake city homes for sale

    So most people are searching for similar terms when coming to BlueRoof. When I look at my other website, which doesn’t have a brand name like BlueRoof does, the top terms for the last month are:

    terms6.png

    The main surprise to me is how few people actually searched for the keyword MLS. I would think many more people would. If anyone has any additional stats on keyword searches or on your own website acitivity (you don’t need to share numbers like I did) please share them or give a link where we can see them. 

    Top 200 Websites for Your Attention

    compete.jpg 

    Compete.com gives us a new metric for measuring websites- attention. The Compete Attention 200 is a list of the top 200 websites for length of visits.

    MySpace, YouTube, eBay- I understand how people spend a long amount of time on these sites, but what are people doing on paypal that takes so long?

    Realtor.com is the only real estate site on the list at #66- most of that time is spent trying to figure out how to find the addresses of properties and/or contact info for the listing agents, which, of course, doesn’t appear unless the agents pay for it- and obviously most don’t.

         attention200.png

    Hat Tip to Seth Godin

    Measuring Distances with your Camera

    iphotomeasure.png

    iPhotoMEASURE is a software tool that enables you to measure anything in a photo taken with your digital camera.

    From their site: iPhotoMEASURE delivers an innovative dimension to accurate and efficient measurement. By simply taking a picture with your camera, you collect all the measurements you need. There is no need for a helper to hold the other end of the measuring tape or take risks on a ladder measuring out of reach areas.  Bring measurements to your computer in a picture.  iPhotoMEASURE software enables you to measure everything you need for quoting, evaluation and appraisal – plus – the measurements are permanently archived for reference. Above and beyond accuracy and convenience is the power of Remote Measurement provided by iPhotoMEASURE. Simply have your customers or associates e-mail you photos of the project, and save critical time and money by not having to go on-site yourself.

    iphotophoto.png iphotophoto1.png

    See a video tour of the product HERE. This is a great way to send info to prospective buyers who are out of town and want to know more about the dimensions of certain rooms. (H/T Appraisal Scoop)

    Real Estate Revolution Not For Sellers

         square_peg.jpg

    Taking a look at the Real Estate industry from the perspective of an involved real estate blogger who does a lot of reading, research and speculating about the industry, I can tell you that at times I have been excited, optimistic, frustrated, and hopeful about the “Revolution” happening in the business. But when I look at the reality of it all, without judgement, I’m mostly amazed and here’s why;

    Everything is still the same

    At least when it comes to listings. Sure, there are a few more companies and some new models, but when you look at the market share of these new models- they seem to be taking their business from other new models and smaller shops, not from the large brokerages. In my area the large brokerages are growing and although there are tons of small companies popping up every day, the don’t become relevant and they aren’t taking away market share from the established companies.

    There is a pool of consumers (25%) that are going to use alternative models, go the FSBO route, and use the lowest-bidding agent they can find and that’s just the way they are. They would rather “save” on commission then make more money with a higher sales price.

    And that pool of people are selecting between those smaller brokerages and new models, but the majority (75%) of consumers are just not buying into it. They are going to use a large full-service brokerage no matter what is going on in the industry and no matter what “special deals” there are. They don’t care so much about “saving” money- they care about the job that gets done.

    So newer models and smaller shops are all competing over 25% of the market and the major brokerages are all competing over 75% of the market. There are some cross-overs here and there, but this is the same ratio we’ve probably had for the last ten or fifteen years and it doesn’t seem to be changing much.

    I like the new innovation. In fact I happen to think I have the best real estate search on the planet  (BlueRoof.com). I feel this way because I’ve been told this by a lot of people and my clients feel this way, but mostly because it’s just my own opinion. I’m building it to be what I want in a real estate search. Of course there are tons of things I am still adding to it and improving on it- that’s how websites are. But as much as I like the new innovation and the new sites popping up- the consumers are still listing with big brokerages.

    Seattle seems to be a hot-bed right now of real estate tech, with Zillow and Redfin and about ten other new models, but isn’t JohnLScott  and Coldwell Banker still the biggest and growing?

    Buyers are finding agents on the internet, but sellers aren’t finding their agents that way- the RE 2.0 market is a buyers market- not a seller’s.

    Used to be that you had to “List to Last”- meaning that to last in the business you had to get listings. Not so anymore- now you can have buyers come to you by using other people’s listings on your website. But the listings aren’t coming so much from internet.

    At BlueRoof we’ve taken a lot of listings (about one every 2-3 days average) and we’ve had quite a few of the clients contact us from the website after reading about us or hearing about us or just finding us. But the amount of buyers we get compared to sellers is huge. My other website is even more so.

    What thisall means to me is the consumer is enjoying the internet search and innovation when they look to buy a home, but when it comes to selling, the new “revolution” is pretty much the same as it has been.

    My Thoughts on Zillow Before they Launched

         pregnant.jpg 

    Earlier today I was cleaning up some documents on my computer and ran across a blog post of mine from one of the blogs I have from the past (I have several), back before anyone was really reading real estate-related blogs.

    Anyway- this was a blog I started called Zillow- Another Data Company and its first post (of just three) was on December 19, 2005, or a few months before they launched.

    Here’s my take on Zillow right after they launched last February;

    So Zillow is now up and it’s secrets are all out. So, what was all the secrecy about?

    Zillow will let you find out how much a home is worth!

    Wow- that’s what we’ve all been missing. Like you can’t go to about a million sites and get a FREE (and accurate for that matter) value of any home. Realtors have been giving these free home value’s for decades.

    So they got $32 Million and this is what they came up with?

    What’s next? Maybe they can revolutionize the restaurant business by telling us what the ingrdients are to over 60 Million entrees. That will show those chefs…

        

    It’s interesting to me how much the industry has evolved in the last 14 months, but it’s also all relative. There are hundreds of thousands of Realtors out there who don’t know anything about Zillow or any other “New, Innovative Real Estate Model”.

    They, and their clients, just go on day to day buying and selling homes and it’s business as usual.

    Sometimes I forget that most real estate agents really don’t know or care about any online models. For many, the only website the even know of is their company site, if their company even discusses it with them, or even has a site at all.

    My thoughts at the time were mostly about how Zillow was just another data company and more data doesn’t matter much. And I still mostly agree with myself, but I think there is a thirst for more, and better, information from people who are in the process of buying a house or thinking of selling and are doing their research.

    Zillow gives us more data, and it is usually not very correct, but it’s a fun site to play with and it gives people something to look at while they are thinking about real estate. I think about real estate all day long every day, even when I am trying to not think about it. But the average person only thinks about it when someone else brings it up or when they are looking to buy or sell a house, and that usually only happens every five to seven years.

    Anyway, I thought it was interesting to see what I wrote back then and I thought I would share it with anyone interested…

    BlueRoof + Sellsius =

      sellsiusblueroof.gif

    A photo- op apparently. 

    And I still can’t figure out to get that cool little degree symbol at the end of their logo. So Rudy comes in town to ski in Park City over holidays and we get a drink. And he tells me about Sellsius (degree symbol) and shares some of the company’s history, which is interesting.

    So we all got the Meme that was passed around a couple weeks ago but this is my reverse meme

    Five things you don’t know about Rudy Bachraty III at Sellsius (degree symbol)

    1- Rudy hasn’t worked in a year

    Dude must be loaded- can you imagine taking a year off? I can hardly manage five days at a time for a vacation. A full year would be… well, I dunno what it would be- but Rudy does.

    2- Rudy actually knows how to make little symbols in text

    It’s like putting emoticons into his blogs and emails. Even in personal emails there it is- that cool little degree symbol at the end of the company name. When I asked Rudy about this he had an answer about how to do it rather than say what I would said, “I have no idea, my web guys put it there.”

    3- Sellsius has some pretty cool marketing materials ready to go

    And I’m not just talking about the shirts (thanks by the way). The promotional items he left with me looked pretty good until I got home and realized that it opened up even more and the gloss and print was great- and then it hit me- they’re actually serious about this company thing they’re doing. And his wife designed the marketing so they’ve got access to a great designer who probably cares about doing a good job for them (and may push him to get to work sometime this year).

    4- Rudy is a pretty cool guy

    Once you get past the fact that he is about seven feet tall (maybe 6’5) which is taller than me, you realize that he’s a down-to-earth guy that’s fun to hang out with. We’ve all been to conventions and got into a conversation with someone and wished for an emergency reason to leave. And with the internet you never really know how socially adept someone is going to be because some people can hide behind cleverly thought out text and their studied and spell-checked blog posts but can’t hold your interest for five minutes. Rudy’s a fun guy to get a drink with and he seems like he really cares about what he’s doing, and I don’t just mean he cares about not working all year (he probably cares about that, too), he cares about promoting other people. He wants to be the voice of promotion for anyone who needs/wants/deserves it.

    5- He knows how to work a meeting

    He brings me a bag of gifts (good first impression), remembers things about me from my blog (does homework or has good memory), chats it up (not socially retarded), remembers to bring a camera (I always forget), clears the drinks off the tables for the picture (there were many) so we don’t look like drunks, and then remembers to blog about the experience right afterward (he has nothing else to do all day).

    Sellsius (degree symbol) was already one of my favorite blogs and now I like and respect them even more. Their business model seems like a good idea and the marketing I’ve seen looks great so I wouldn’t be surprised to see them on the cover of Realtor magazine soon, either for establishing the blog and company, or for showing how long people can actually go without working, which would totally appeal to the Realtor crowd.

    Happy New Year from BlueRoof

    fireworks.jpg

    This has been an eventful and interesting year for me and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It started out with a bang and it’s ending with bang and in between I’ve enjoyed the ride. Some highlights from my year include;

    A trip to Hawaii (Hana)

    With my incredible wife. I’ve been to Hawaii before but this trip was amazing- I probably felt more fully relaxed than ever before. It was in January after all the holiday travelers had left and we had the entire resort to ourselves (well, it felt like it at least).

    Taking our entire family on a cruise

    We all went down to Mexico for over a week and tested the limits of one huge ship. This was the first cruise for all of us and we all enjoyed it a ton. We call it the “ice-cream” cruise because every time we saw one of the kids they were eating ice cream. I enjoyed the alone time with my wife, the excursions and the piano bar was a blast.

    Launching BlueRoof.com

    Everything about it has been exciting- from the inception and pushing it through to the TechCrunch party in Seattle where I met some real entrepeneurs, to the Inman Connect where we got some attention and began a pretty cool little company story. It takes a lot of energy and effort to build a website and it takes a lot of energy and effort to start a company. Doing both can be very expensive, a big pain-in-the- @ss, and pretty exciting. There are a lot of pressures that come with owning a company and knowing that families and careers are depending on you. Change can bring out the best or worst in people. Of course there are many variables, but some people seem to handle change well while others do not and it’s been interesting to see how different people react and handle different things. The company has also brought my wife and I closer than ever. We have worked together for years now, which is really cool because most couples can’t stand to be around each other very much but we can be together all day and still want to be together all day tomorrow, and this entire experience has only made us want to be together more.

    Making our Home

    No, not building our home. We bought the place last year and we loved it then, but this year we’ve really made it ours. It’s a relatively big house (almost 5000 square feet) and finishing each room off in our own style and taste, a lot of remodeling  and adding our own personal touch has made it our home. We still have a lot that we want to do to it, but this is why I would never want to rent again- we’re making our home as we go and it’s all ours.

    The Holidays

    Every year I love the holidays, especially Thanksgiving, but this year (probably because of all the pressure we’d been under) I really enjoyed my time off with family and savored every moment of it. Christmas is always fun when you have a bunch of kids and seeing them have so much fun is magical and it reminds me of what life is all about- enjoying the ride.

    And this year I have really enjoyed the ride…

     Here’s to 2007- I hope it’s as exciting and fun as 2006 has been,

    Cheers!

    Could Google’s Success Be Its Undoing?

    cookie-cutter.jpg 

    Google became successful very fast because it offered a simple solution to a problem we all had, namely finding results on the internet. It gave us the best results and it was extremely simple to use. And these reasons for success could also be ways for someone else to take that business.

    Today there are many search engines that do the same job, and some arguably give better results than Google. And they are all just as easy to use and offer a similar UI.

    This is why Google is investing in so many auxillary programs such as spreadsheets and money managers, and offer them for free- so people will continue to go to Google for their needs.

    Dharmesh Shah has a post about this topic which is very interesting. It really would be easy to switch from using Google to another search engine for most consumers. Dharmesh brings up some good points about why it would be so easy to switch;

    Low Training Investment:

    Low Customization Investment: 

    Easy Experimentation:

    Better Results Are Obvious:

    Obviously other search engines have been trying to woo people away from Google, but they’re offering a similar product. What if MSN or Yahoo or Ask or another search engine actually developed a better user experience with better results and promoted it- would it be difficult to move away from Google?