Archive for January, 2009

Home Is Where Someone Thinks It is

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

No Place Like Home 

There is an unalterable reason that discount real estate companies are having a much tougher road to hoe these days than the traditional companies they were going to replace: the fact that they are discount companies.  That’s correct, they can’t escape the fact that they positioned themselves as discount companies.  Their problem isn’t that some other discount real estate company charges even less – their problem is they are stuck being a discount company in a buyer’s market.  That is a recipe for failure.

If getting a lower fee was what the public currently actually wanted right now it would be a boom time for discount companies, yet the exact opposite is the reality.  The discount companies, both national and local (that haven’t completely gone out of business) are selling much much less than they were.  You say, "But everyone else is too" and (with the exception of REO agents) you would be correct.  But "everyone else" seems to be selling about half as much as they were during the big seller boom. The discount companies are not up that high – not even close.  Looks more like 10 – 15% of what they were doing before.  One of the top local companies in Phoenix that was at the 170 million plus range is now at the 22 million range.  One of the top national companies that used to have 14 offices here is now down to 9 and the total combined volume of those 9 offices is barely more than half of what I’m currently doing. 

Why?  Marketing.  Not "the market", MARKETING.  The marketing they did when they convinced everyone they would do it for less.  They drove that fact home and it stuck.  Their brand represents, "less cost".  And it is never going to represent anything but, "less cost".  Right now, less cost isn’t the "go button", effectiveness would be more like it.  But can’t they add to their marketing, "we’re effective"?  Sure.  And watch how effective it won’t be for them to do that.  They are positioned as lower cost.  They went out of their way to position themselves that way and they "succeeded".

In marketing it makes very little difference "how you are", it is more a matter of how "people think you are".  No one (but a fool, or an employee of theirs) would argue that McDonalds were the very best and most delicious hamburgers on earth.  But no one can dispute their phenomenal marketing prowess.  McDonalds does not simply sell more hamburgers than anyone, McDonalds sells more hamburgers than everyone.  That’s right, their total sales, are greater than all of their competitors combined.  That isn’t due to "fantastic hamburgers" – it is due to fantastic marketing.

But even big, giant, successful companies make huge mistakes in marketing.  Here is one that is currently happening:  Domino’s Pizza is taking on Subway in the sandwich arena.  Subway is number one in sandwiches.  Will Domino’s get some great mileage out of this ad campaign?  Yes.  Will they sell a lot of "Domino’s sandwiches" as a direct result?  Again yes.  Will what they are doing tend to ultimately destroy their brand in a manner they have not even considered?  Again, yes.  But any "good" will be in the short run. In the long run, no good can come of it.  Click here to see the ad I am talking about

What prompted me to write this post about marketing was an email I received today about a print magazine Pragmatic Marketing sends me.  I didn’t want to just say (that would have been too simple!) the following: They are changing to an online version and while I was at their site arranging for a free subscription (which you can get too) I saw that all of their past issues were downloadable right now.  Thought I would pass that along to my friends.

Bruce Hahn and the American Homeowners Grassroots Alliance

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

Bruce Hahn Puppet

Like a beginner-level Carl Rove, there isn’t much of anything professional paid lobbyist, Bruce Hahn won’t say if it’s in harmonious alignment with the marching orders from his master.  No statement or idea is too preposterous or outlandish to be said with a straight face.  When Bruce Hahn submitted a paper to the FTC & DOJ regarding "Competition in the Real Estate Industry" in 2005 he claimed to represent 75,000,000 homeowners.  When Blanche Evans of Realty Times interviewed Bruce and asked, "Would you call yourself a lobbyist?", Bruce Hahn responded, "I call myself a consumer advocate".

Yes.  Yes.  A consumer advocate who represents seventy-five million U.S. citizens.  Sounds much better.  To be fair, their website now has trimmed that claim down to 70 million people. 

Here is a link to where you can see the annual lobbying expenditures for the American Homeowners Grassroots Alliance for the past four years.AHGA lobbying  Listed in the "Human Rights" category, the American Homeowners Grassroots Alliance has only one client they lobby for: the AMERICAN HOMEOWNERS GRASSROOTS ALLIANCE.

And it says right there at the bottom of the "alliance’s" website,

"AHF Privacy Policy: AHF does not disclose any information about  it’s members or customers to any other party under any circumstances."

Positioned as though this is some great advantage to everyone: donate freely – it’s safe, we won’t ever give anyone your name.  I am willing to bet that there only ONE source for all of the money.  If the money comes from 5,000 people, it is still ONE source.  One organization and a person there who has arranged the funding for everything AHGA contributes to and everything Bruce Hahn says and writes.  Someone wants Bruce to say and write this stuff but doesn’t want their name or their organization’s associated with it in any way.  They want it done but just don’t say we did it.  They seek hidden control.

He Who Pays The Piper Calls The Tune.  Bruce Hahn endlessly sings his master’s tune.  About a week ago Inman reported on a story about the ‘The MLS Bill of Rights’.  I would link directly to the Inman story but you have to be a paid member to read the comments.  Here is MY comment there to Bruce Hahn’s comment:

Bruce Hahn of the "American Homeowners Grassroots Alliance", an obvious front group for some organization whose identity continues to remain hidden, writes:

"Since home sellers and/or buyers pay for the MLSs, there should be a homeowners’ MLS Bill of Rights as well:
1. All listings must be posted on the appropriate MLS within 24 hours;
2. No MLS or MLS member has the right to refuse to put any listing on the MLS;
3. No MLS or MLS member should have the right to limit or restrict the dissemination of any MLS listing; 4. As a condition of MLS membership all members shall agree to carry all MLS listings on their consumer-facing websites, without exception"

His statement that sellers and buyers pay for the MLS is a *completely* false statement. Realtors pay for the MLS.

I would be far more interested in what Mr. Hahn has to say if he were more forthright regarding who pays him to make such statements.


A few short years ago when the chief economist for the NAR endlessly proclaimed, "Now is a good time to buy", it was fashionable for the not-quite-bright to protest how terrible it was for him to make these claims.  Although I fully agree that what he was saying was silly, I wasn’t at all upset that he was saying it.  Apparently,for him, "now" was a word that – once uttered – could float along in time indefinitely.  It was then always a good time to buy.  But as it was pretty obvious who he worked for, it should be pretty obvious why he would say what he said.  If the head of General Motors says, "Now is a great time to buy a car", only a paranoid fool would see anything other than a car salesman trying to sell a car.  This really IS my point here: Bruce’s master (or handler, if he does not deal directly with the big man himself) knows that if it got out, who he was, the messages he has Bruce saying would be somewhat discredited simply by everyone knowing who it is pushing those ideas.

If you look over the actions of just about anyone you truly admire what you will usually see is a high level of openness, honestly and transparency.  What you will see here is the exact opposite.  The exact opposite.

Naturally, Bruce has been on NAR’s radar from day one.  But lobbyists and organizational spokespeople (NAR has them too) don’t tend to go around calling other lobbyists out for their "misleading statements" or who they represent.  Like lawyers, there is a Lobbyist to Lobbyist Mutual Respect Rule.  I don’t belong to that club.  Here is what I know about those who have a hidden agenda and seek hidden control: THEY CAN BE COUNTED UPON TO ARTFULLY TWIST THE TRUTH TO THE POINT WHERE NOTHING THEY SAY SHOULD EVER BE ACCEPTED AS FACT.

When dealing with most people, one usually doesn’t need to concern themselves with why someone is saying what they are saying.  With others, failure to do so makes any communication with them an extreme liability.

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.