Friday, January 30, 2015

Radical "Change" (shiver) is coming to Real Estate???

Or so says "Inman News" in my morning inbox . . . though you may have to be a subscriber to read their entire article (to the tune of $199 per year!)......oh well, it's only money!  :(

Nonetheless, they question, "Will you survive it?"  It reminds me of a book that came out in about 1980 entitled, "The Real Estate Revolution -- Who Will Survive?"  And it discussed the major franchises as to which one(s) would be around by 2000.

In the last 40 years, all kinds of real estate models have come and gone, many have stayed.  But real estate is still bought and sold the same way today that it was in 1975 when I started.  Yes, there's more technology, but does technology replace people and relationships?  Some online services would like for you to think that it does.

After all, iPhones replaced Blackberry's.  Starbucks replaced donut shops.  Tablets and laptops replaced desktop computers.  All very radical......all very quickly.  These are some of the points that the author made in his Inman article.  (I guess he/she left out how the internet replaced travel agents, but that one has been repeated ad nauseum.)

So, they pointed out a terrific decision model for investing into the future (no matter what your business) -- the same model used by Steve Jobs to move toward iPads and away from desktops.  They took a risk and made some radical changes.

It made me think and question myself:  "what radical changes am I currently making to grow my business?"  "What radical changes am I willing to make to grow my business?"  "Do I have the cojones (at this late age) to do it?"  "If so, what would they be?"  The "old guard" wants to maintain the status quo . . . wants everything to stay "as is."  But that is certain death.  My business philosophy has always been, "grow" or "die."  There is no status quo.

And so . . . I'm going to make some radical changes going forward.  Interestingly, I've already made LOTS of them.  Once I started thinking about this, I realized my entire success in real estate has been because I've been willing to change and take risk.  Will you join me?

If the thought of "change" makes you shiver, get over it.  It's coming.  Be a part of it. . . . and be part of the movement.  -Sam Ferreri, Director of Vision at RE/MAX Top Realty, where "Top Realty" is our brand, "RE/MAX" is our cannon.  

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Converting a Home to a Rental

Home to Rental.png
A simple decision to rent your current home instead of selling it when moving to a new home could have far reaching consequences.

If you have a considerable gain, in a principal residence and you rent it for more than three years, it can lose the principal residence status and the profit must be recognized.

Section 121 provides the exclusion of capital gain on a principal residence if you own and use it as such for two out of the last five years.  This would allow a temporary rental for up to three years before the exclusion is lost.

Let’s assume there is a $100,000 gain in your principal residence.  If it qualifies for the exclusion, no tax would be owed. If the property had been converted to a rental so that it didn’t qualify any longer, the gain would be taxed at the current 20% long-term capital gains rate and it may incur a 3.8% surcharge for higher tax brackets.  At least $20,000 in taxes could be avoided by selling it with the principal residence exclusion.

Depreciation, a tax benefit of income property, is determined by the improvement value at the time of purchase or at the conversion to a rental whichever is less.  If the seller sold the home and took the exclusion and then, bought an identical home for the same price, he would be able to have 60% more cost recovery and avoid long term capital gains tax.


It is always recommended that homeowners considering such a conversion get advice from their tax professional as to how this will specifically affect their individual situation.

There are lots of people who hate me . . . surprised? Not surprised!

TEACHINGS OF A SUCCESSFUL REALTOR, by (prophet) Sam Ferreri  (lol)

And they usually fall into one of several categories.  But first, how did they get such a hate-on? Well I only have some theories, because I think I'm so lovable!  

The first is "jealousy and resentment."  There's an old saying, "it's lonely at the top."  My late (wealthy) aunt taught me this one . . . the more successful you get, the more people you leave behind who become jealous and resentful of your success.  Well, as touting myself as "Number 1" for years, I built up a plethora of haters.  

This is an interesting category of haters, because they fall into several sub-categories including those who work in competing offices, those who moved far away and work in other brokerages, and (my favorite) those who hate me but still work with me!  There are one or two entire brokerage companies that exist with nothing but Sam-haters!  It seems to fuel them.  

Sometimes, you may think, these guys aren't really "haters," they're just "competitive types." Maybe so, but they seem to feed on hating the number 1 guy.  I wonder if I'd be hated in such a fashion if I were a typical producing agent?  

I look around for the answer and realize that many (if not most or all) of the tip top producers in the Houston market are hated . . . hated by people who don't even know them!  Aha!  Aunt Joni was right!  They hate their success and the aura that it brings!  

But I guess I can't overlook another category of haters.  Those who know me, maybe have had a relationship with me, and have run away screaming, "I hate you, you @#$%@@!!!"  Hmmm....... maybe I better not go too deep with that one!  

Oh well, out of the adage, "if you're not pissing people off, you're not doing anything!"  

Monday, January 26, 2015

You told a little story . . . mama's gonna be mad!

TEACHINGS OF A SUCCESSFUL REALTOR, by (prophet) Sam Ferreri  (lol)

Not my mama!  She encouraged story-telling.  (Of course, she was a long-time real estate agent who began this business in 1961.)  In fact, the best salespeople in the world are those who "sell without selling," by rather "sell by telling."

You see, you and I can role-play all day long -- typically, a strategy for learning what to say in the real estate business.  And this is the first step toward becoming "professional."

So, let's look at the typical listing presentation role goes something like this:

"Well, let me show you what we do to get your home sold:  first, we put a sign in the yard.  Then, we put it in MLS.  Then, we hold open house.  Then, we make pretty flyers -- with nice, smooth paper. We'll make sure it's in all the major websites.  Blah Blah Blah.  Now, can we get started?"

But ok, we, as good Realtors, MUST know what it is we do!  So this type of role play is get started.

How do you tell YOUR story?
The best listing agents move into stories about how we helped others, not what we're going to do to help you!  For example, "I am about to close a listing on which I am the third Realtor.  The sellers were a bit aggressively unrealistic in their expectations, but with some time and finesse, I was able to secure an offer that met their needs when other Realtors before me couldn't.  The difference?  I listened to them, and didn't react the way they reacted.  When presented with an offer lower than they wanted, they were angry and upset.  I calmly told them a story about how we can get buyers to increase their offers if they consider the situation.  This calmed them down, and I was able to turn their "no" into an "ok."

It's about telling stories, folks.  Practice it.  Write a blog.  Tell your stories.  First, learn the scripts, then incorporate them into your true-life stories.  This is the winning combination.

Sam Ferreri, MTL, RAA, is a 40-year veteran of the real estate industry and is currently the Director of Vision for RE/MAX Top Realty, the largest RE/MAX office in Houston, Texas.  If you'd like to learn more, visit the Top Realty University Professional Development Center where agents work in a creative, collaborative culture daily.  713-558-2555.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

To be successful at anything, you must learn to . . .

. . . turn "rejection" into "acceptance."  Never accept "maybe," always always always go for "yes" or "no."

TEACHINGS OF A SUCCESSFUL REALTOR, by (prophet) Sam Ferreri  (lol)

The corollary to that rule, from Tom Hopkins' early mentoring, is "never see failure as failure, but as an opportunity to learn and grow."  You will fail far more than you will succeed in the real estate business, so you must learn to grow from each experience.

I love to talk about my successes, but what failures did I learn from?  Very recently, a lady called me dissatisfied with her current real estate agent.  She needed to get her home sold, and he was dawdling. So she said that she'd terminate with him by Friday, and would call me back to meet with her.  (red flag)
A week went by, she didn't call.  So I called her, and left a lengthy voice mail.  (red flag 2)
Yesterday, the home was terminated by that prior agent and listed with another agent, all in the same day.  (failure on my part)

OK, I think of myself as a fisherman -- I never focus on the ones that get away, but the ones I catch. However, here is an opportunity to learn and grow.  What did I do wrong?  (I'm tempted to end this blog here, just to see what kind of responses/comments I'd get to this from fellow agents.)  But, in the interest of never dwelling on failure, let's diagnose, learn, grow, and move on.

The Leverage Summit - read the fine print below
First of all, I let this end on "maybe."  The cardinal rule of any telephone call is "set the face-to-face appointment."  I didn't do it, I didn't ask.  I did, however, follow up, but never asked for the appointment.  With leads, you must be relentless to obtain a yes or no.  We have methodologies in place for that with online, phone-number-less leads, but this should have been a score.  I didn't go for the appointment.

So now, I can discuss a success or I may mope all day!  (not!)  I'm in a face-to-face listing conversation, and the clients asked if they could call me next week and get started.  (In other words, this is the classic "we want to think it over" objection.)  This is one of the most common objections in any selling situation . . . think about it . . . I bet you've used it in department stores, car dealerships, from small items to large items . . . I need to think about it.  "OK, I'm sure you have many unanswered questions," I went on, "can you share those with me?"  (In other words, what do you want to think about?)

"Well since I'm here, why don't we save yourselves some time and get the paperwork completed, then we'll be ready for the market when you are?"  In other words, you need to sell your house, I'm here, most people (something like 70%) hire the first Realtor they meet, so the odds are in my favor to get this done.

(Frankly, I posed this objection to several agents, and most were satisfied to let these guys call them next week, and responded, "OK, I'll be ready when you are!"  Hmmm......

But, I took the "Sitting Bull" approach and thought, I'm here, I'm at your table, you like me, I like you, I'll just sit here until I gain agreement.  We did.  We laughed.  We hugged.  We became good friends.

What would YOU have done?  What will YOU do next time?

Want to learn more from the prophet?  (lol)  Join us on Monday, 1/26/15, from 2-4pm at the TopRealtyUniversity campus for our FREE program on Team Building.  Register here: . . . We'd love to have you attend!  

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Live it up!


"Worry" is my most wasted emotion.  Why worry?  How will it help?  It won't.

Monthly, I face my own mortality each time I visit the kidney doctor.  The new one I met yesterday said, "your labs are crappy, but you look like a million bucks!"

To which I replied, "well, I take care of myself . . . I take my pills, I workout, I follow the kidney diet, and I'm not on dialysis."

But I'm only buying time toward the inevitable.  So, when the Astros ticket salesman called, I said, "yes, I'll take two season tickets in the club section, behind home plate, please."  Why not?  I love, love, love going to the Astros games . . . I have since I was a boy and the Astrodome first opened.

Last night, I went to see "Book of Mormon" that was touring with the Broadway Series.  I say, "Yes!  I love the theater!"  Why not?

Go.  Live it up.  Work hard.  Help others.

Go to that game.  Go see that play.  Why not?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

If it walks like a duck . . .


. . . quacks like a duck . . . guess what?  It's a duck.

A corollary to that is that "if it seems too good to be true, it is."

Recently, in my office and at a real estate event, some carpetbaggers from the north came down offering to turn mole hills into mountains.  As the Houston economy is going through its Reconstruction Era, these guys came in to "partner" with us lowly agents to help poor renters become home owners.  In return, instead of miserly rental fees, we lowly agents were to get sales fees at substantially higher rates!  What else could an agent ask for?

The premise seemed "too good to be true!"  Uh oh.  First clue.    

The lowly agent is supposed to turn his/her client over to their new partners, with no further communication.  And, any further communication is punishable by this new kangaroo court's self-imposed judge and jury.  Further, the methodologies and the "rules" change on a whim.  Whatever one of them tells you is not upheld by the others.  

(The quacking begins here.)  After further examination, it appears that this could be a giant set-up, possibly a legal/insurance scam. I'm not sure . . . but it's quacking loudly.  

And then, the "good cop - bad cop" game begins.  (More quacking.)  

It meets all the tests -- walks, quacks, looks -- seems too good to be true (at first) -- good cop/bad cop -- insurance questions -- it's all there.  

I think I'm playing poker with Kenny Rogers:  "you got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, know when to run."  Read this prior blog: 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Get Ready to Garage Sale

garage sale2.png
A well-planned garage or yard sale can make room in your home, get rid of unused items and make some money but it needs some planning to be successful.

  • Start early to research and plan
  • Promotion is key
  • Display items attractively
  • Price items right
  • Organize checkout

Saturdays are generally the best day but there may be some exceptions.  Experienced garage-salers believe that a well-planned one-day event will do as well as a multi-day event.  Serious purchasers will look for the “new” sale and most people don’t come back multiple days.

Advertise in local newspapers and free online classified sites like craigslist.  If several families are going together for the sale, mention that in the ad; it will be a big draw.  Mention your bigger-ticket items like furniture, equipment and baby items.

Garage sale signs can be purchased or made at Staples, Fedex Office or Kwik Signs.  Signs need large lettering so they’re easy to read while people are driving. Most important info: Garage or Yard Sale, address, date and time.  Directional signs are also important.  Balloons and streamers to attract attention to the signs are very helpful.

Consider using the service Square so that you can take credit cards.  The cost is 2.75% per swipe and can be done on your smartphone or iPad.  You’ll need to sign up at least two weeks in advance to receive your reader.

Unless you’re having an estate sale, keep your home locked.  You don’t want people wandering through your home while you’re outside.  If you start to accumulate a lot of money, take some of it inside.  Don’t discuss how much money you’ve made during the sale or how successful it has been.

People will want to bargain; it’s the nature of the game.  Consider this strategy: less negotiations early in the sale and possibly, more toward the end of the sale.

Making soup is good for my soul . . .


My parents divorced when I was 7 years old and I went to live with my father.  He soon remarried a wonderful lady who had two children -- a son who is 2 days different in age than I am (he's older!) and a daughter who was 3 months younger than my sister.  (Both sisters are 5 years older than us boys......go figure!)  We were definitely part of a new culture in America -- the dysfunctional family!
My stepmother ran a beauty shop in Conroe, my father worked in a machine shop in Houston.  So, they bought a brand new house about mid-way between the two off of I-45 and West Mount Houston Road in a subdivision called "Hidden Valley."  The six of us lived in a 3-2-2 that had just under 1200 square feet.  (Imagine that today!)

My stepmother (whom I love to this day, as she is the last living semblance of a parent) was off on Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays.  But I learned to cook somewhat from my father, who really did most of the cooking.

My father's family immigrated here from Italy and, like most Italians in those days, were in the grocery business where he learned to never waste food.  That was the beginning of my propensity to make soup.

You see, Thursdays were my stepmother's late nights at the beauty shop . . . she didn't get home until 9 or 10 pm after lacquering all those blue-haired Texas women's tops all day and into the evening. These were the worst nights of all at home.

My father routinely took every bite of leftovers -- no matter the scrap -- put it all into a pot, and boiled it.  And just like a box of choc-lits, (a Forrest Gump-ism), you never knew what you were gonna git.

Mine has no clams or mussels
And so, I flew with this concept in my later life . . . and take great pride in turning all my leftovers into TASTY soup.  You see, the "good-for-my-soul" part is my ability to make this pot of leftovers highly desirable!  Usually, I take them to the office and the entire pot is gone by day's end, every time.  (Of course, what food-stuff ISN'T gone in an office?)  I remember the first broker I ever worked for in 1975 who could scrape green mold off of anything in the refrigerator and eat it cold. Yuck!

Nonetheless, I am known for bringing tasty soups to the office.  Now you know -- it's all Joe Ferreri Leftover Stew.......thanks, dad . . . I knew there had to be something I gained from you, other than Italian cuss words!

Today, however, agents/staff at RE/MAX Top Realty can anticipate "fresh" soup -- made without a single leftover.  "Italian Cioppino" today, or "Italian Seafood Soup," chock full of octopus, squid, shrimp, and a variety of other chopped bits from the sea.  My soul is nourished . . . .

Monday, January 19, 2015

Capital Gains Tax Increase? Still want to be a landlord??


For crying out loud, I just woke up to hear that President Obama is going to propose a significant bump in the capital gains tax in his "state of the union address" tomorrow night.  In fact, the news anchor's speculation is that he will propose a raise from 15% to 28%.  That's what President Reagan did during his term.

Who in the world will want to invest in America with a tax rate of 28%?

More importantly, what about those of us who own rental properties or invest in real estate?  If you sell it, your tax rate will jump significantly.

Consider you own a rent house that you paid $100,000 for.  You've spent $30,000 to remodel it, so you now have an investment "basis" of $130,000.  You've taken depreciation over the last few years, so your basis is now $110,000.  You sell it for the new market value of $150,000 . . . and boom . . . capital gain of $40,000 (less selling expenses).

Current capital gains rate:  40,000 x 15% = $6,000 tax due.

Speculative capital gains rate:  40,000 x 28% = $11,200 tax due.  (Really?)

(Note that this probably doesn't affect your primary residence which is exempted in gain for the first $250,000 for a single person, $500,000 for a couple.)

But what about those people who decided to rent rather than sell in the last few years?  Now you want to sell?  Do it NOW before this tax rate hits you.  Call me, I'll help you figure this out, as I'm in the same boat.

Ugh . . . moral of this story:  Uncle Sam is your business partner and he gets paid first.  Taxes always go up.  After Reagan, capital gains were lowered, but other taxes were raised.  (What if government had to run like a business?  When I'm short on dough, I have to cut spending......hmmm.....novel idea.)

Sam Ferreri is a 40-year veteran of the real estate industry, and has bought, sold, and brokered nearly 10,000 single family houses in his career.  832-200-5656   RE/MAX Top Realty

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Only fat people drink diet soda . . .


I was motivated to write this blog this morning after reading about the "5 foods you should never eat" which include sugar substitutes, margarine, soy milk, orange juice, and whole wheat bread.  It was a weird premise from a "certified nutritionist," but it made me get up, go to the gym, and eat a non-processed breakfast (I think).

Having been a morbidly obese person most of my life, I reflected on every diet that I've ever been on  -- including successful and unsuccessful ones -- and realized some truths that I needed to share.  (And no, I'm not a nutritionist, health nut, jock, or exercise physiologist.  I'm just a man who has lived through the huge ups and downs of dieting.)

Most diets I've been on restrict intake and make you feel deprived.  Don't "go on a diet."

Take care of your body.  Every doctor recommends that you get exercise . . . but how much?  How many gym memberships have I had in the last 30 years?  How many exercise machines have I owned?  How many personal trainers have I paid?  Too many.

Once, when my daughter was born (about 28 years ago), I was about 350 pounds and got motivated by a late-night infomercial touting "The Neuropsychology of Weight Control."  This was the beginning of one of the most successful plans I ever followed.  It's recommendation is to walk 1 hour each day at a brisk pace -- of course building up to this with whatever you can do now -- and consume only 20% (or less) of all calories from fat.  This combination worked well for me, and I become "member of the month" at the Downtown YMCA after losing 86 pounds.  They even put my picture on the wall!  I ultimately went down to 225, but no lower.  I also increased my cardio workout to 2-3 hours each and every day, and began competing in long-distance bike races and biathlons.  (No, I never won . . . I was still rather large.)

Then, I stopped working out so much.  I ate more fat.  I ballooned up to 400 pounds.

In January 2003, I had gastric bypass surgery and lost 225 pounds.  This seemed to be the answer!  I could eat whatever I could possibly consume, and still lost weight!  Yay!  The magic answer.  However, after a few years, I gained about 25 pounds and retained it for about 3 years.

Then, I discovered Weight Watchers (again) last year, with NO meetings, an iPhone app, and a sensible approach.  I joined 24-hour fitness.  This is the easiest of them all to follow.

So, digressing, here are my rules of life and health:

1.  Condition your brain.  Chicken-fried steak with mashed potatoes and gravy are no longer an option.  But, with proper conditioning of the brain, they are no longer desired.  Yes, you can learn to love salad just as much -- pretty much the same way you learned to love chicken fried steak:  by eating it.  (Consider your friends who dislike Indian food . . . what if they'd grown up in India?)  It's all about conditioning.

2.  Condition your body.  I've now been hanging out in gymnasiums for 30 years . . .  (hmmm, that doesn't sound right) . . . but . . . I'm always amused by the old/fat people who start and want to look like those guys who are always there with pumped up bodies . . . moving the weights to some crazy level, spending lots of time on the elliptical machines, etc. etc. etc.  They last about a week.  Take it easy!  Body building is not so good for your body!  My workout today includes 7 minutes on the bike, 10 minutes on the treadmill, and about 20 minutes on the circuit machines for a 37-45 minute total workout.  I keep the weights low and the reps high.  Easy and enjoyable, not punishment.  (For heaven's sake, don't punish yourself!  You'll never come back!)

3.  Drink alcohol, but not too much.  (enough said)

4.  Take your pills.

5.  Tell the truth.

6.  Do what you say you'll do . . . especially, "to thine own self be true."

7.  Reduce your consumption of processed foods.

8.  Drink green tea in lieu of coffee -- lots of it -- google-search the health benefits of this one.

9.  Condition your spiritual self.  Meditate.  Pray.  Get on the living channel.  Help others -- help yourself.

And last, don't drink diet sodas.

Friday, January 16, 2015

All this talk of "Success" makes me leery of it . . .


I am intrigued with the idea of "success," but I'm also wary of all the different interpretations given to the notion!  I mean, really, what does "success" mean?  I've learned that everyone interprets this concept differently and everyone's definition of "success" is probably valid.  So, round and round it goes.

Darren Hardy, publisher of SUCCESS magazine, spoke at a convention I attended recently.  He was quite interesting to listen to, as he's not the first publisher of this magazine, but a successive publisher in a lineage that stretches back to the 1800's.  What I took from his discussion was that his magazine and all of its publishers have interviewed most of America's most successful men and women, per their own definition (which, incidentally, was never made clear).  However, they interviewed all the presidents, business people including Andrew Carnegie and the like, and hundreds of others.  As he's read ALL of those interviews as publisher, he found only ONE COMMONALITY amongst all those people when asked "what made you successful?"

Though there were lots of answers, the one thing that each of them said was, "hard work."  Thus, the belief system at my own company was founded by this one thing:  "the pathway to success is paved with hard work."

And so, I set out to define "success" for RE/MAX Top Realty and REALTORS in general.  And the best way to look at this that I've found so far comes from my Abundant Coach who says, "success in real estate is two-dimensional -- ability and willingness."  He further goes on to coach me that I can only help other agents (which is my personal and company mission) in one of those dimensions -- ability.  In other words, as president of one of the largest RE/MAX offices in the world, I must focus on helping agents become consistent, efficient, and proficient in their ability to serve consumers in their real estate needs.

Thus, I must provide an office support environment that supports a complete agent development system that appeals to real estate agents at every level of their career -- from beginner to extreme producer.  The elements of that program must include consulting, coaching, training, evaluating/accountability, and MasterMinding (or networking).

The "willingness" dimension is completely up to the individual agent.  My focus is to inspire, coach, encourage, and model desired willingness behavior, but each individual decides whether or not to do it on his/her own.  Thus, our motto at The Top, "NIKE."

If you're interested in working in a collaborative environment (and soon in a professional development center), you owe it to yourself to investigate the opportunities that await at The Top.  -Sam Ferreri, 40-year-real-estate-veteran

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Sometimes, you have to burn a bridge.


You're in the real estate to build and maintain long-term relationships with lots of people.  Your job is to be the "go to" person for real estate for as many of your friends, family and their networks as you can possibly infiltrate.

And long-term relationships are the best.  And like a marriage, there are good times and bad times, and you learn to take one with the other.  Often times, you find yourself in the role of "peacemaker" between husband and wife, family members, other agents, buyers and sellers, and many others that creep up on you.  In fact, you are paid in direct proportion to the amount of problems you can solve!

So what I've learned is that it's always best to keep everyone communicating and try to keep your own emotions in check so as not to burn bridges.

But have you ever encountered someone who can't be helped?  I mean, the more you try, the less interested they become?  In fact, many become downright nasty?  Fortunately, this is the exception rather than the rule and this ugly occurrence rears its had rarely.  But when it does, it's best to escape with everyone (including and especially yourself) unscathed, if you can.

But sometimes you can't.  It's like playing cards with Kenny Rogers -- "you got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, know when to run."  Refer the needy to the Wizard of Oz, and move on.  Drop 'em.  Burn the bridge.  As my Spanish-speaking friends say, "muchos pescados en la mar."  Go get someone nice, friendly, who wants to work with you.  Keep your chin up!  You're what makes it all worthwhile!

You're what make it all worthwhile for me!  Thanks for reading this short blog series about my 40 years.  As a learning-based person, I try to learn something new every day . . . and usually do.  Anytime I feel like "I've seen it all," I see something else!  I love this world!  And I love the real estate business!  -Sam Ferreri, RE/MAX Top Realty

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Never stop. And Never say Never.


All my life I've heard, "when the going gets tough, the tough get going."  (Maybe that was an ad for military recruiting?  Hmmm.....the memory is gone.)  Oh well........

Nonetheless, nothing could be truer.  And the real estate business is tough . . . full of disappointments!  That listing you're sure to get has someone else's sign in the yard tomorrow, that buyer who's ready to make an offer on the house you showed does so, but with another agent, your best friend calls you so excited to tell you about the new house she just bought (without you, of course) . . . and on and on.  This shit hurts.  (excuse the vernacular)

Sweathorses Collaborative Environment
I've seen this "stuff" shut agents down, ruin their attitudes, and darken their spirits.  Yes, it is a natural human reaction.

But you have to get over it.  Shrug it off.  Shake it out.  Don't stop -- immediately work on the next buyer or seller.  Don't let it get you.  Keep going.  Call 10 more expired listings, send out 10 more absentee owner cards, call all your past clients who love you and ask them for a referral.

99% of the responses you'll get as a Realtor are "no's" or "negatives."  You'll thrive on the 1% who say "yes!"  Go get those "no's!"  You must put those behind you to get to the "yes's."  Do it.  Start now.  Don't stop.

For agents who need structure, moral support, and comradery to start and never stop, join our Daily Sweathorse Workshops at RE/MAX Top Realty.  Call Tim at 713-558-2555 for details.  Work your way out of your funk!  -Sam Ferreri, President

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Downsizing Might Make Sense

downsizing.pngWith roughly 12.5% of the population over 65 years of age, it is understandable that some of them are thinking of downsizing because they may not need the amount of space they did in the past.  There is something to be said for the freedom acquired by divesting yourself of “things” that have been accumulated over the years but are no longer needed.

Moving to a less expensive home, could provide cash that could be invested for additional income or savings for unanticipated expenditures.

Savings can also be recognized in the lower utility costs associated with a smaller home, not to mention, the lower premiums for insurance and property taxes.

Going from the home where you reared your family to one of the new tiny homes may be a bit extreme but downsizing to 2/3 or 50% of your current home may certainly be reasonable.  In some situations, your interests may have changed so that a different area or city might be a possibility.

At one time, IRS had a once-in-a-lifetime exclusion of $125,000 of gain from a principal residence but it was changed so that homeowner’s are eligible for an exclusion of $250,000 of gain for single taxpayers and up to $500,000 for married taxpayers who have owned and used their home two out of the last five years and haven’t taken the exclusion in the previous 24 months.

Homeowners should consult their tax professionals to see how this may apply to their individual situation.

Never take your eye off the ball, by Sam Ferreri


It seems there's a new "cycle" in real estate -- technology.  Buyer and seller markets change about every 5-10 years, and now technology, which revolutionized our business, is revolutionizing itself over and over again!

Apps, websites, CRMs, SEO, aggregators, listings, leads, on and on . . . so how does one stay up-to-date?

Frankly, this challenges me.  I did not grow up with a computer, but rather got my first Apple IIe with dual floppy drives in about 1981.  Prior to that, my only experience with a computer was learning to program in Basic with a Control Data-accessed computer tape terminal......sheesh!

Advanced Technology
I read that your iPhone has more power and capability than the computer that President Kennedy used during the Cuban Missile Crisis!

Kids who grow up with iPads, computers, smart phones, smart watches, and the like will have a distinct advantage over the rest of us . . . unless we manage to somehow keep up.

What I've learned is to surround myself with those "kids" and watch what they use:  Facebook, Instagram, text messaging, and online reviews -- both good and bad.  Be extremely mobile.  Learn and use the tools that they use.

Continue planning your day as always, but in your "professional development" time, include study and use of new technology.  Yes, real estate is a "relationship" business -- but build and solidify your relationships with technology in the mix.  Keep up!  As they told Forrest Gump when he was learning to play ping pong, "the secret is to never take your eye off the ball!"

Interested in learning more about cutting edge technology?  At RE/MAX Top Realty, we offer daily workshops on our leading systems and strategies.  Become part of something big.  by, Sam Ferreri

Monday, January 12, 2015

Real Estate Teams -- Win? or Lose?


Real Estate "Teams" have become the "norm" in our marketplace nowadays.  But are they really effective?  While many have tried to organize the best team "models," few have succeeded.  Most teams seem to be highly inefficient in their organizational structure.

Many agents believe that the "first" thing to do is build a team.  In fact, some of our competitors encourage that because it adds more licensed agents to their roster.  So, an inefficient agent hires another agent to work on his/her "team," and now you have double inefficiency.

The correct procedure is to identify the vital activities of a successful real estate agent, and divide those activities into dollar-productive and non-dollar-productive (or administrative) tasks.  The primary agent begins his/her career by handling ALL of the activities . . . but when he/she becomes so busy that tasks are getting overlooked, it is time to hire the first team member to assist (probably) with the admin activities.  Then, the growth can begin.  

Every team should have a well-structured system in place with each members duties and procedures carefully outlined so that there are no stones unturned, and everyone on the team knows his/her responsibilities.
Master, Team Leader Designation

I've learned to help teams build these structures with my designation-based program, "Master, Team Leader."  To earn the MTL designation, one must build his team leverage system using tried and proven techniques, with the ability to remain unique.

Interested?  Earn your Master, Team Leader designation over the next year or two at The Top!  Call Tim or myself at 713-558-2555 for details.    --by, Sam Ferreri, RAA, MTL -- RE/MAX Top Realty

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Stay "light on your feet" is the best advice


Yesterday, I had the privilege of being an invited guest on the "Real Estate Rat Pack" radio show on FM 100.7.  The panelists pointed out that during my 40 year tenure as a Realtor, I've lived through some of the most dramatic changes in the market in history.  So the question was, "how do you deal with the changing market?"

Since I'd made some notes during 2014 of what I learned in the last 40 years, I was easily prepared for the answer:  be light on your feet.  In other words, be very adaptable to change.

In my notes, I'd written, "the market always changes -- no matter how good or bad it is today, it will soon turn the other direction without much warning."  Wouldn't it be swell if we had warning (like the sign) to warn us when change was about to come?  Better yet, if it would signal exactly what the change would be and how to get ready for it . . . we could easily plan our adaptation!

But that's not the case . . . we have to be ready to adapt and turn on a dime.  If the market is new homes, sell new homes.  If the market is distress sales, become a distress sale expert.  If the market is foreclosures, get some foreclosure clients.  When a hurricane hits, put together a reconstruction team. In other words, do what you must do . . . quickly.

But you know what?  This advice extends way beyond real estate.  I think about getting older, though I refuse to acknowledge it!  (lol)  And typically, as we age, we become more resistant to change . . . we want everything to remain the same.  But alas, this is not the case.  So, as we age, staying "light on your feet" becomes one of the biggest challenges, and the biggest advantage for those who do it.

If you're a real estate agent who needs a change, maybe a career at The Top with other like-minded career professionals is in store for you!  Our new professional development and agent collaboration center may be just what you need.  -Sam Ferreri, RE/MAX Top Realty, the largest RE/MAX office in Houston, Texas . . . and growing to serve the 7-county area that comprises "Greater Houston."  Be a part of a winning team.  Call Tim at 713-558-2555 for a confidential interview.  

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Always negotiate from a position of strength . . .

. . . no matter how desperate you may be!


You don't get what you want, you get what you negotiate.
How many times have you or I been in this situation?  You need the closing because you need the money.  The bill collectors are calling, or your car payment is due, or the IRS is breathing down your back.

And now, in the 11th hour, your client goes berserk.  The seller took the curtains, the buyer lost his job, the buyer got married over the weekend (before the Monday closing) to a partner with a 250 credit score, the seller wants more money, on, and on, and on the list of actual issues I've experienced continues!

This is when you spend 15-30 minutes "getting on the negotiation channel," putting all your woes out of mind, and get in there and negotiate a solution.  Summon all your inner strength, and never let 'em see you flinch.

When you can achieve 95-100% successful negotiation outcomes in the most stressful situations, you've "earned your stripes" as a Realtor!  (Maybe you're ready to join The Top!)

(by, Sam Ferreri, Director of Vision at RE/MAX Top Realty, 832-200-5656)

Friday, January 9, 2015

Sometimes, cheaters win. And I am usually on the losing side of that.

What I've learned in 40 years in the real estate biz, part 2, by Sam Ferreri

Sometimes cheaters win.  Despite the fact that I was always taught that "cheaters never win," alas, sometimes they do.  Now maybe they get what's coming to them through karma, but some people have become so good a cheating that they win their battles or they claim their successes when everyone knows they cheated.  I hate this fact of life.

The Helmsleys, Harry & Leona
Long ago, I adopted a philosophy from hotel magnate, multi-billionaire quaker, Harry Helmsley. (I'm sure you remember his infamous wife, Leona Helmsley, "the queen of mean" who ran his hotels after his death and subsequently went to prison for income tax evasion.)  Nonetheless, Harry's quaker philosophy was "I will outsmart thee, but I will never cheat thee."   Frankly, I live by that rule.

Play fairly, squarely, by the books.  Go to the line, but never cross it.  Use your brain.  Use your wit. Use your skill.  Use your God-given talents.  But do not cheat.

If you follow this line of thinking, then we should talk.  Whether you want to buy or sell real estate, or join a successful real estate office, you owe it to yourself to give me a call at 832-200-5656.  -Sam Ferreri, RE/MAX Top Realty

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Thursday, January 8, 2015

What I've learned in 40 years as a Realtor, part 1

Every real estate transaction is different, and every buyer, seller, agent, lender, title closer, et. al. is unique and different, too.  Part of the Realtor's job is to help balance everyone's testy emotions and bring -- and keep -- everyone together from start to finish.  So what I've learned is that "no deal is done until the money is in your hand."

That may sound harsh, but it's only the rule.  And it means that things can sometimes go bad at the last minute if all of the pieces of the complex transaction don't come together properly.  It reminds me of a line from a movie, "it's never over 'til the fat lady sings."  (Anyone know the origin of that line?) Oh well . . .

The corollary to this "rule" is that all parties need to be happy and content at the end, too.  The money is not the only test of a successful agent's transaction, but how satisfied the clients are at the end. Usually, once its over, most people's emotions "let go" of the stress they just endured and become their usual "warm and fuzzy" selves again.  But not always.

I've learned that real estate transactions are very stressful for everyone involved, and that the stress can sometimes lead to hard feelings and disappointment.  Fortunately, this unfortunate phenomenon is rare and occurs less than 2% of the time.  (That means that 98% of the transactions end on a positive note!)  This is where the Realtor "solidifies" the ongoing relationship with the client.  Of course, a relationship has been building from the first contact . . . but no matter how great it seems, it only solidifies into a long-term relationship at the successful conclusion.

So maybe the rule should be, "no deal is done 'til the money is in your hand AND the client is satisfied."  But is it really over?

Sam Ferreri, 40-year Realtor, 832-200-5656.  RE/MAX Top Realty, the largest RE/MAX office in Houston, Texas.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

My 40th year as a Realtor . . . by Sam Ferreri

It is hard to believe, but this month marks my 40th year as a full-time real estate broker.  I began when I was 17 years old and junior in high school.  There are still a few folks around who remember my mother, Lou Johnston, who began her real estate career in 1961 (when I was just a boy) and died in 1988 after suffering a brain aneurysm on her way home from our (then ERA) office.  Because I was a very fat boy, she insisted that I get a real estate license because, in her prior experience as an employment agent, "no one would hire a fat boy."  I needed to learn to work for myself.  So I did.

The fat boy
My efforts to prove her wrong went in vain, as I worked and paid my way through Houston Baptist University by selling houses.  When I graduated with my BA in 1980, I went to an employment agency to get "a real job."  The employment agent, a young blond female, interviewed me and asked, "do you really think anyone will hire you at your size?"  As I left, I can still remember thinking, "I guess ma was right . . . I'm too fat to get a job.  I guess I'll continue to sell real estate."  And I did.

As I face the final years of life, I mean, seriously, I'm 57 . . . it's the last quarter!  Now it's time to make the most of it.  Actually, these years seem to be the best!  And so I don't see my job as "selling houses" any longer . . . oh no . . . I realize my job is to help people -- buyers, sellers and real estate agents -- to grow their personal wealth in real estate.

And so, over the last year, I've written a collection of my thoughts of "what I've learned in 40 years of real estate."  Stay tuned . . . read my blog each day as I add more!  -Sam Ferreri, RE/MAX Top Realty 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Reducing Interest Expense

Debt Free Home.png0% financing has induced car buyers into taking the plunge because it doesn’t cost anything to use someone else’s money.  While mortgage rates are not at zero, they’re close enough that many buyers are applying similar logic.

Qualified mortgage interest is deductible on taxpayers' returns subject to the maximum acquisition debt of one million dollars.  For the fortunate homeowners who have paid off their mortgage, their acquisition debt was reduced to zero and only the interest on a maximum home equity debt of $100,000 is deductible.

If you have to pay interest, deductible interest is preferable because it reduces your actual cost.

Consider the following example of a taxpayer with a $500,000 debt-free home.  If they did an 80% cash-out refinance of $400,000, $100,000 would be considered home equity debt and the interest on that would be deductible on their income tax.  The other $300,000 of debt is considered personal debt and the interest is not deductible.

However, because the rates are currently so low, the loss of deductibility of the interest doesn’t have as much impact as if the rates were higher.  The key is to have a good purpose for the money that would offset the actual cost of the interest.

Paying off a higher rate debt such as credit cards, student loans, possibly, business debt could all have significantly higher interest rates.  Refinancing a home and eliminating debts like these could be a big savings.

All lenders are not the same.  Call for a recommendation of a trusted mortgage professional.