Category Archives: Business Development

You Can’t Snow the Snowman

John and Jim

John Page could make my Dad laugh.  I mean really laugh.  You know the type of laugh that comes from deep inside your belly?  That’s the kind of laughter I’m talking about.  When the two of them got together the beer would flow.  Stories were told and new memories created.

That’s the two of them pictured – John to the left, my Dad to the right – smiles bright and faces flush from a night full of laughter and wine.

They met in the first grade and grew up together in Belvidere, Illinois – friends for almost 60 years.  John served in the Air Force during Vietnam, my Dad in the Army.  Although they were separated at times they never lost touch.  After my Dad moved our family to Arizona in 1977 John would bring his family here from Illinois to visit us.  Likewise, my Dad would take me, my Mom and brother back to Illinois every summer to visit our relatives – and of course, the Page family.

John’s oldest son, Brian and I are the same age.  And like our Dads we have also been lifetime friends.  Growing up not a summer went by that Brian and I didn’t see each other.  I remember one year in particular.  We had been up all night screwing around like teenagers do.  John wondered why we had slept in so late.  Brian and I gave him a less than honest answer and John quickly replied “you can’t snow the snowman!”

John was the life of the party and he had the funniest lines – so many in fact that his daughter, Jennifer, began compiling a list of them a few years ago.  If he was a guest at my home and I didn’t offer him a cocktail promptly I could be sure to hear “it’s dryer than a Baptist picnic around here!”

That’s why it breaks my heart to be writing about John in the past tense. On January 22nd, 2011 he died after an eight month battle with esophageal cancer.  Not a day has gone by since that I don’t think about, and pray, for him and his family.

John was a loving husband to his wife Mary.  He was a proud father of Brian, Andy, and Jennifer.  He was a doting grandfather to Wyatt.  And he was one of my Dad’s closest friends.  I’m blessed to have known John and his family all these years.

Me, John, Mary, Renee (Brian's wife), Brian, Ally (my daughter), Jim, my Mom (Brenda)

John’s passing has helped me focus on what’s important; creating memories with family and friends.  He’s even helped me out with my real estate business.  These days when someone presents me with a less than honest evaluation of a property I like to say “you can’t snow the snowman!”

At his memorial service a few weeks ago I spoke with one of John’s neighbors.  She told me that she was in the happy hour club with John.  She then paused for a moment and said, “Actually John WAS the happy hour club!”

I can’t help thinking that things must have been getting a little dull in Heaven.  John was needed to get the ultimate happy hour started.  I bet he even used one of his famous lines when he got there, “let’s party like rock stars!”



Filed under Business Development, Investing

Where Do You Do Your Best Thinking?

Yesterday morning I woke up at 5a.  That’s what time my alarm goes off in the morning.  I usually do my P90x workout – Thursday is my yoga day.  But that’s a 90 minute routine and I had a lot of work to do.  So I decided to skip it and get my day started even earlier.

I hopped in the shower and about 15 minutes later my wife, Linda, strolled by.  She wanted to know when I would be done.  Apparently my bride was anxious to get her day started too.  Our daughters would be awake very soon and she needed to get ready.  She pointed out to me that I take very long showers.  I couldn’t disagree.  I told her I find long hot showers to be very meditating.  I do my best thinking in there.

Linda then brought to my attention that several celebrities, including Jennifer Aniston, take 3 minute showers to conserve water.  As a matter of fact, Jennifer Aniston even brushes her teeth in the shower (that is, of course, if you believe the celebrity gossip magazines).

Now I’m all for conservation.  Our back yard has fake grass and we recycle everything.  But I draw the line at short showers.  Besides, I told my wife, Jennifer Aniston is a hypocrite.  She lives in a huge house in Beverly Hills that overlooks the ocean.  According to People magazine the master bathroom has a spa bath with soaking tub.  Her water and electric bill is higher than my entire neighborhood.

I had to laugh this morning when I came across a piece in the New York Times titled, Do Nothing (Impossible?).  The writer, Matt Richtel, discusses the benefits of doing nothing.  There’s even a website you can go to, do nothing for 2 minutes.  The idea is to clear your mind.  I tried it as soon as I got to my office today and it seems to be working.  How else can you explain my extra creative wittiness in this post?

Bob Proctor, one of my favorite personal development coaches, likes to say that 2% of people think – 3% of people think they think – and 95% of people would rather die than think.   I don’t know if he did a real survey to come up with these numbers but my guess is he’s pretty accurate.

So where do you do your best thinking?  In the shower?  At the gym?  In your car?  Do you ever turn everything off and clear your mind?  If you do so on a regular basis you’ll be in rare company.  According to Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich, some of the most successful people in this country, from Thomas Edison to Henry Ford, devoted time everyday to thinking.

I recommend you start out by devoting 5 minutes a day to this exercise.  Over time, see if you can increase it to 30 minutes.  You’ll be amazed at the results you get – in both your personal and business life.  But if you’re like me and do your best thinking in the shower then you may want to set aside some extra money each month to pay the water bill.

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Do You Suffer from Analysis Paralysis?

“The sense of paralysis proceeds not so much out of the mammoth size of the problem but out of the puniness of the purpose.”

–          Norman Cousins

Dateline:  Rocky Point, Mexico – March, 2010.  My business partner Manny Romero and I, along with a couple of buddies, headed four hours south of Phoenix for some sun, sand, golf and cervezas.  This would be our first annual guy-only trip – we called it a Mancation.

No detail was overlooked.  Manny set us up in an awesome resort condo right on the beach.  He booked our tee times.  I checked the weather – perfect conditions – and packed the cooler full of Pacifico beer.  The iPod was loaded up – Zac Brown Band’s Toes the first song on the playlist…

I got my toes in the water, ass in the sand,

Not a worry in the world, a cold beer in my hand,

Life is good today, life is good today.

It was a memorable trip.  We ate shrimp tacos and listened to mariachis.  I lost 17 golf balls in two rounds and nearly broke my 7 iron in half.  On Saturday night we jammed out to a cool Mexican rock band with a lead singer that looked like Jesus and had a voice like Chris Cornell.  All the while we barely noticed the college kids – it was spring break.  When Sunday morning came we wearily packed up the car with our golf clubs and empty cooler for the ride back home.

There was a wait –a very LONG wait – at the border checkpoint to reenter the United States.  It took more than three hours to get out of Mexico.  When I rolled down my window to greet the Customs agent he took one look at me, Manny and our two friends in the backseat and asked “what are you guys celebrating spring break 10 years later?”  I told him I considered that a compliment – we were actually celebrating spring break 20 years later!

Here’s the thing – we knew that our Mancation was the same week as spring break.   We realized it two weeks before we left.  Most middle aged men would have cancelled the trip, paralyzed by this new information.  Not us.  Our purpose was a good time, line at the border or not.

Analysis paralysis is an ugly disease.  It can kill a vacation or keep you from getting started in real estate investing.  Studying stuff like employment figures, vacancy rates, median incomes, economic diversity, contract ratios, median prices and absorption rates in your town is a wise thing to do.  Just don’t forget about your purpose – to make money.

Tom Ruff of Information Market and Mike Orr of Cromford Report know the Phoenix housing market better than anyone.  They have a way of analyzing complex data and drawing simple conclusions, without the doom and gloom.

In his January 2011 Housing Opinion Tom wrote, “We are living in the time after the crash, not the time before; Phoenix is now offering the same opportunities we saw in the early 90s. I haven’t heard anyone say, boy, I wish I’d have bought that home down the street in 2006 when I had the chance, but I’ll bet you, ten years from now when they look back at this unique time in history…”

In his January 16 mid month pricing update and forecast Mike Orr concluded, “So we see a generally gloomy picture for sales pricing and no sign of any improvement in the next four to six weeks. In fact we see continued deterioration. We do not get too concerned about this however, since sales pricing is a TRAILING INDICATOR of the market and is the last thing to show any turnaround. When we look at other measurements things are not so gloomy. This is because lower pricing results in increased demand which is certainly making its presence known at the moment.”

Remember your purpose.  Don’t over analyze.  Keep it simple.  If you can buy a home in this market and rent it for more than it cost to pay the debt service and expenses then you’ve made a smart investment.  If you can buy a home, fix it up and sell it for what you paid, plus another 12-25K in profit, then go for it.  Let the numbers guide you, not paralyze you.

Next week Manny and I will embark on Mancation II to Rocky Point – only this time we’re doing it Super Bowl weekend and are returning on Monday morning.  We’re expecting the line at the border to be much shorter this year.  What can I say?  Analyzing the numbers from last year’s trip I learned that we should go a different weekend.  I also concluded that I need to bring more golf balls and a spare 7 iron.

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Future of Real Estate Marketing guest blogger this week – Marty Boardman

I have a lot to celebrate this week.  On Friday, I’ll be catching up with my classmates at our 20 year high school reunion.  Sunday is my 12th wedding anniversary.    

I’m also incredibly honored to be chosen the Future of Real Estate Marketing (FOREM) guest blogger for the week. FOREM and are two of my favorite real-estate related websites.  Here’s a sneak peak at what I’ll be writing about:

  • Tuesday, 10/5 – 3 Steps to Writing a Better Blog
  • Wednesday, 10/6 – Facts Tell, Pictures Sell
  • Friday, 10/8 – The Man Who Mentored a Billionaire

 Your feedback is always appreciated.  I could also use a few suggestions on an anniversary gift for my wife.


Filed under Business Development, Finance, Homeownership, Investing, Loan Modification

Your Home is Not an Asset; it’s a Place to Live

I was standing at the checkout line in Target on Sunday with my 7 year-old daughter, Allyson.  She desperately wanted me to buy the spearmint Icebreaker breath mints.  Now I’ll admit…these things are good.  But, at $1.99 they are a want, not a need (unless of course I just ate Mexican food.)  I decided that this was an opportune teaching moment.  I explained to my daughter that Icebreaker breath mints are a liability, not an asset.  They cost a lot of money and within a few hours she will have nothing to show for her investment.  My comments didn’t stop her from wanting the breath mints but they did make her think.

I can’t really take credit for this clever parable.  It just so happens that I’m reading Robert Kiyosaki’s ‘Rich Kid, Smart Kid’ book.  Among the many lessons he writes about is the importance of understanding financial statements.  Poor people buy liabilities.  Rich people buy assets.  If we can instill this fundamental concept in our children can you imagine how much better off they will be financially as grown-ups?

As adults we frequently mistake liabilities for assets.  Your home is a perfect example.  How much are you paying to live there?  There’s the mortgage, utilities, HOA dues, repairs, taxes and insurance.  Yes, your home will eventually go up in value and if you’ve been paying down principal you may actually have equity.  However, when you sell and move away then chances are the next house you buy will have gone up in value just as much, thus negating the increase in value and reduction of principal in your old home. 

The same can be true in a real estate market moving downward.  My parents sold their house at the peak and purchased a new one closer to me and my family.  Within a year the bottom dropped out and they watched values in their neighborhood drop by more than 30%.  I did some quick research on their old neighborhood and found values there had dropped by more than 40%.  I explained to them that in the end they were no worse off – the market in both neighborhoods was almost identical.

Once you understand this it’s easy to see that your home is not an asset or investment; it’s just a place to live.  When you hear someone say your home is an asset they are not lying to you.  As Robert Kiyosaki points out in his book, your home is an asset – the bank’s asset. 

The bottom line is ANYTHING that costs you money is a liability.  I recommend getting in the habit of asking yourself these questions every time you reach for your wallet:

  1. Is this a want or a need?
  2. Will this cost me money or make me money?
  3. Is this an asset or liability?

More assets and fewer liabilities – that is how wealth is created.  It’s like Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad once said, “One of the main reasons people work so hard is that they never learned how to have their money work hard.  So they work hard all their lives, and their money takes it easy.”


Filed under Business Development, Finance, Homeownership

Know how to Talk Politics in a Crowded Room

“In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.” – Eric Hoffer

 They say never talk politics (or religion) in a crowded room.  These days there are rooms offline and online.  Take Facebook, for example.  That is one crowded room – over 500 million users as of last week.  Contrary to what “they” say, if you’re going to be a successful real estate professional you need to understand politics and you better be able to talk politics in public.

Why?  Because what is going on in your state and in D.C. right now will have a major impact on your business – today, tomorrow and 10 years from now.  The people you deal with in your community will have insight, opinions and predictions that may help you build a better business model.  It is in your best interest to know the issues and be able to talk about them intelligently without offending anyone.

In my state not a day goes by without a story in our major newspaper about SB1070 (today’s headline was Arizona’s U.S Attorney Part of Fight vs. SB1070.)  This is a law passed by our legislature that makes it a state crime to be in this country illegally.  Now whether you agree with this law or not is irrelevant.  If you or a customer are purchasing real estate in Arizona how the passage of this law impacts the housing market is the issue.

Frankly, I’m not nearly as concerned about SB1070 as I am about jobs.   Unemployment figures here mirror the national average of 9.6%.  I’m also watching the market to see how the expiration of the tax credit will affect pricing.  The Associated Press reported today that housing prices are likely to go lower.  This, they claim, is because of the expiration of the tax credit, unemployment and tighter lending restrictions.  And guess who has influence over these things? The President, our congressmen and women and the state governors, top the list.

Will the tax credit be brought back?  When will unemployment numbers start to go down?  Are banks ever going to start lending again?  Is Tiger Woods really going to get divorced?  For answers and updates to three out of the four of these questions I recommend reading your local newspaper first, and then branch out to the national publications.  Read them every day. 

And if you’re looking for dirt on Tiger, or any other celebrity, just visit the magazine stand at your local grocery store.  By the way, it doesn’t hurt to stay up on your celebrity gossip.  It will help you break the ice when socializing in a crowded room.

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Confessions of a Real Estate Schmuk

schmuk (shmŭk) A clumsy or stupid person; an oaf.

In 2005, I bought a $96,000 Mercedes Benz E55 AMG sedan, a $62,000 Correct Craft Pro Air Nautique ski boat, a $400,000 second home located in the cool pines south of Flagstaff, a $350,000 lot on a water ski lake west of Phoenix and an $8,000 Rolex watch.  Of course, I can’t leave out all the first class airline flights I took, the Ritz-Carlton hotel stays in San Francisco and Chicago and the Phoenix Country Club membership.  Yes, I thought I had earned it all. 

In the three years leading up to this I had knocked on more than a 1000 doors and had purchased and sold more than 60 properties.  I had net more than $280,000 in profit on one real estate deal in 2005.  By January of 2006, I owned $16,000,000 in real estate with over $8,000,000 in equity.  I had reached my goal.  If I had sold off a portion of my real estate portfolio I could have owned my own home free and clear, along with 10 rental properties and our second home.  My passive income would have exceeded $10,000 a month.

But I got greedy.  I was a real estate schmuk.  Consumed with the status that came with being a wealthy real estate investor I kept on buying houses after the music had stopped.  By August of 2007, the market had completely collapsed and I lost it all.  Even though I was buying houses for 70% of retail value it wasn’t enough.  The market would eventually correct itself by more than 50% in some areas.

With all of this failure you would think I would have sworn off of real estate.  Actually, I’m more certain now that real estate is the BEST way to accumulate wealth and achieve financial freedom than I have ever been. 

The funny thing about failure is that you learn from it.  I have learned far more through my failures the past two years than from any of my five years of success.  If I could build a $16,000,000 real estate business in arguably the hottest real estate market this country has ever seen, then couldn’t I do the same now that prices and interest rates are historically low?

At Sun Valley Community Church this past Sunday Chad Moore, our teaching pastor, discussed how arrogance and ignorance are intertwined, as are maturity and humility.  For me, success brought the arrogance and ignorance.  The failures brought me maturity and humility.  As I rebuild my business my primary focus is now God, my wife and my daughters. 

Don’t get me wrong.  I still love the finer things in life.  I’d much rather have a Mercedes than the 1995 Honda Accord I’m currently driving.  The difference now is that I understand the possessions didn’t make me a schmuk; it was the love of the possessions.


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