We Really Appreciate You, Not.


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I think “We really appreciate everything you are doing for us” is the tritest and most meaningless phrase in the English language these days, especially as it relates to the real estate industry. Yes, I have clients who really DO appreciate my expertise and what I do for them, sending me flowers, gifts, thank you notes, or even just saying thank you so much, that shows me the appreciation, I get that but then there are the ‘others.’

Swarthmore - stairway

Round and round we go…

Who are the others? The others are the clients who say that, or something similarly trite, because they think it is the right thing to do, but don’t mean it. How do I know that is the case? If they really appreciated, or respected, the expertise of myself or another real estate agent/broker/professional then would they really have us running around showing them houses they aren’t actually prepared to buy? I think half the problem is that the general population doesn’t know how a REALTOR gets paid.

I don’t have an expense account.
I had a listing last year, I spent hundreds of dollars on marketing materials, food for a brokers open, gift cards to give the attending agents, and I asked the clients outright if they thought the broker I worked for paid for these things, they said yes. The client actually told me they thought I had a company credit card that paid for all my expenses, gas, and I got an hourly pay rate for my time. I nearly fell on the floor laughing – fortunately, I had worked with these clients before and knew them and felt comfortable enough to discuss this with them. I explained simply no, we are 1099 independent contractors, we only get paid after a closing, and sometimes that can take a few days (depending on the state and company procedures).  Oh, and those clients, relisted with another agent at the price I told them they should be at and eventually sold, greed isn’t always good, so I lost more than $500.00 on that deal, no one made me whole.  Maybe I should start billing clients if they don’t go to closing, my expertise is worth a lot.

We don’t get paid until after you close on your new home.
Real estate agents don’t get hourly pay, nor benefits, they don’t get paid vacation, sick leave, FMLA, or maternity/paternity time, we are independent contractors we only make money when our clients close on their homes. That grand total you think we get, nope – that 3% of that total price breaks down between the brokerage, the agent, franchise fees, office fees, desk fees, and most of the time double social security since we are independently employed.

Why does it matter?
When I spend two days driving all over the county with a client who needs to make a purchase, that is ok, that is my job and I enjoy sharing my decades of experience with those people. When the clients don’t need to buy, whether in a lease, or just considering their options, but pretend like they are serious and I run them around, then spend time putting together papers for an offer while they double back and say they want to think about it, then tell me “we really appreciate all your hard work and patience” that is just pandering and condescending. If you REALLY appreciate my time and expertise, then respect it and don’t waste it. Those are full days I could have spent with my children, or cleaning my house, or doing something for one of the organizations I volunteer for, or knitting, or just enjoying life. When I have to prioritize your need to find a house when the need isn’t truly urgent, you are getting my respect but you are showing very little consideration for me, or your agent, and their family or community.

Next time, before you say you appreciate someone or something, make sure you REALLY do and really understand what it is they are doing for you.  What motivates me is helping people find their dream home, seeing the joy and excitement, or the reward of the flexible schedule to spend time with my kids when I need to, except when some people who “appreciate me” steal that time. Then I wonder why I even bother with this industry. Who do you appreciate and why?


Tweeting Responsibly: We ALL Have an Obligation


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I love Twitter.  Twitter was where I began my modern social media life in 2008 (otherwise I was a BBS rat in 1981+) and where I find the most joy and engagement.  The ability to convey a message in under 140 is a challenge, a puzzle and a very difficult skill to master.

Tweet ResponsiblyUnderstanding the nuances of your message, and the many ways in which it would be perceived by the intended audience is part of the challenge and the best way to demonstrate skill.  Some of the top Twitter users are likely the most underrated for their eloquence, simplicity, and temperament.

Yes I said temperament.  Temperament is important.  I learned this the hard way, I used to be perceived as an “angry” person, and I was at one point, years ago.  Time and maturity, as well as experience, benefited me greatly in growing my patience and understanding.  That doesn’t seem to come easily to all people, and some people just don’t seem to get it.

There is an art to crafting a tweet, to executing a powerful message in 140 characters or less. That power is in what is not said, what is implied, or what is left open ended for the reader to consider and interpret.  When Twitter is used badly, as evidenced by a lot of recent media coverage, it is very dangerous, the power of the reach of a tweet to it’s intended audience, or even the unintended audience is enormous (or HUGE as some offenders might prefer to say).  There is great responsibility in the power of a super user of Twitter.  I always consider how I intend my message to be read, and the multitude of ways that it might actually be read, sometimes that double entendre is what I find most enjoyable about a tweet.

What I have always found the most terrifying about the power of Twitter is the assumed trust and credibility of the tweeter and the tweet.  I have seen true sociopaths create great platforms to attain goals of celebrity, with the focus being to manipulate the perception of the masses, and advance their careers. I have seen corporations, individuals and governments fall for these messages, from the sociopaths, psychopaths and the every day people as well.

With the proliferation of media, and the blurring of the lines between urban legend and real news, the power of the tweet becomes even more apparent. The responsibility of the tweeter is often overlooked, people post in a moment of high stress, emotional upset, anger or frustration which should never be done.  I have preached the
“Rule of 24” for all the years I have used social media, that rule is akin to the old 24 Hour rule of letter writing.  If you write something in the heat of the moment, wait 24 hours before mailing the letter, in the case of social media wait 24 minutes before posting the message.  You can not take a tweet back, or any posting for that matter, delete as you wish but someone has seen it and a server somewhere has indexed it.

Backpedal as much as you wish, the damage will be done even if it was only public for a moment.  In 2017 there is no such thing as privacy, and no such thing as deletion, everything is indexed, backed up, and stored on a server somewhere.  The social media platforms are a safe place for the masses of bullies around the world, people can spout hatred, anger and frustration, and others will be out there waiting for that message because someone stronger was willing to say it.

With a Twitter account comes great responsibility, understanding the potential that each message can carry is not a difficult concept, but not everyone seems to be able to grasp that.  When an elected government official can’t filter their own thoughts, and posts bullying attacks, unfounded statements of hatred, that is scary, and that is what is happening now.  We do not tolerate bullying in our schools, yet  the President Elect is permitted to attack great civil rights leaders like Representative John Lewis, who HAS acted his entire life, taken stands and been nearly beaten to death for such stands. To proclaim this great man as “talk, talk, talk” is arrogant, erroneous and the first step toward the decline of civilized government.

We would not stand for anyone else doing this, yet the President Elect is permitted to spout rhetoric, lies, and “false information” and is exempt from responsibility?  Someone needs to take his Twitter account away from him quickly, before the rest of the world decides that the entire United States is a disaster and we are faced with some sort of cyber-attack or invasion.  Would Kelly Ann PLEASE take Trump’s cell phone away?  Enough of this already, I mean the slanderous words of the President Elect couldn’t possibly lead to impeachment could they? One may only dream…  I hope he proves me wrong and learns to filter, be kind and Tweet responsibly, and becomes an amazing President, if not… g-d help us all.

Excuse me Canada, how do I apply for a Visa?

Music, Meaning, Mankind: The Legacy of Prince


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Maybe I take some things for granted. The sun will rise, the sun will set.  Maybe the two copies of 1999 on cassette tape that I burned through in 1982-1983 were a sign of the times.  Music has always been a focal point of my life. My memories are connected to songs, when I hear things I become a time traveler, immediately back at the moment – I feel as I did then, I can smell the air, sense the energy, feel the teen angst, and sometimes the butterflies are too much.  Flashing back to being 12 or 13 isn’t necessarily a fun thing to have happen frequently.  When the song that brings me back is a Prince song, the memories are always good, powerful, energetic, positive… fun or funny.

Prince performs during the “HitnRun” tour opener at The Louisville Palace on March 14, 2015 in Louisville, Kentucky. Chelsea Lauren / Getty Images for NPG Records 2015

In 1983 my Family moved from Palo Alto, California to Old Westbury, New York.  We went via an extended trip to French Polynesia after a month at camp in Santa Barbara. I felt new after my stint at “fat camp” where friends shared my love of music – we played our Sony Walkman(men) all the time, sharing the songs – or soundtracks – of our lives.  My soundtrack was the album 1999.  I had been obsessed with radio and music for years, but rarely did I listen to an album from start to finish, 1999 was the first, and since then every Prince album has followed suit.

The Summer of 1983 Prince was my best friend, my constant companion. The message was fun, joy, life is short, celebrate, be yourself, be free, be creative. A powerful combination of messages.  He gave me strength, energy and confidence to move forward in a huge life changing time. I was 13, I was moving 3,000 miles to an unknown place to start high school and all my friends were back in California.

Don’t worry, I won’t hurt you, I only want you to have some fun…” Prince, 1999

There was something in those songs, in every piece of music Prince wrote (those that have been released, I am sure the same is true for all the songs in the “vault” that will follow soon, expanding his powerful legacy) that connected with the human spirit, condition and consciousness.  He was a genius, self-taught, a prodigy of the magnitude of Mozart or Beethoven.  A true genius, if you research some of the conversations he has had with people you realize his mind was swimming with ideas, concepts, and images.  Those kinds of minds are not common, those are the ones who connect with something higher, and don’t fear it, don’t tell it to stop because of the loss of control. Those are the spirits that press on and change the world.

It takes a loss sometimes to make you realize what we had, to truly appreciate the power of the talent, message, meaning or contribution.  I have mourned the loss of many icons of my childhood, the musicians touch me the most, but none has felt like such a huge void as the loss of Prince Rogers Nelson. He was remarkable, he was one of a kind, he was truly a real human doing what he loved and not compromising himself or his identity, for fame.

I did not know Prince personally, but all I can think is that he had so much more to give, and will give. He was an artist, or The Artist, he gave and he also drew the line clearly in the sand. He had courage, strength and passion, in a diminutive frame.  The power was too great, now it is everywhere.

Thank you Prince. You are missed.

Real Estate and AVMs: The Deviation from Reality


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Courtesy of EstateSocial.com

If you have been a REALTOR for more than a week I am sure you have had to overcome the “AVM Objection” or as some call it the “Zestimate Objection” from a client or consumer. Whether Buyer or Seller, it’s a fact of real estate today – the consumers trust the Zestimate far more than we trust a real estate agent. The best way to overcome the danger of the Zestimate mystique is to better understand what an AVM is and why the RVM is your best tool to help you demonstrate why an AVM isn’t the be-all-end-all of real property valuation.

I am going to attempt to keep this simple, so it’s as easy as possible for us all to embrace and master our nemesis – any AVM really, but mostly the AVM’s presented on consumer facing websites which then in turn sell advertising.  I will try to explain some of the methodology behind the process, and also the “median error” or the “acceptable” margin of error that’s in the “small print” most people don’t read.

AVM or Zestimate?
The Zestimate is a form of an AVM, so to understand it lets first look at what an AVM is. AVM stands for Automated Valuation Model. It is a computer software program that combines data which is publically available such as assessed value for taxes, public records of property transfers or sales. The program calculates a value for a property based on the data collected.

The use of AVMs began as a business tool to automate the process of valuing a real estate portfolio. Governmental organizations, high-volume mortgage lenders and Freddie Mac were some of the first to implement use of AVMs. This led to the consumer facing models of the AVM when media companies (such as Zillow) saw the opportunity to monetize the data, by presenting an AVM as a “fact” on consumer facing websites, intrigued consumers were more likely to take the “bait” and request more information, leading to the pay-per-lead model or advertising models that we are familiar with today.

The high consumer demand that began in about 2003 to know what the “true value” of real property was led to the growth and reliance upon these consumer facing AVMs. The problem with these models is that they don’t take into account the “local” nature of real estate values or the actual condition of a property, it would not be efficient to customize the AVM for each market, so a general model – frequently based on broad top level categories like zip codes – is used with a much higher “acceptable” (to the website owner) margin of error.

The problem with the use of public data is that it has two critical data issues:

  • Timeliness: There may be a lengthy delay in public reporting of property sales and transfers.
  • Availability: If there is a lot of data available the AVM can have a better success rate, whereas in an area with few sales or transfer, it can be incredibly inaccurate. In some non-disclosure states it is even more difficult to get an acceptable accuracy score.

Proving the True Value of Real Property:
AVM websites know their accuracy rate is low.  As an example, Zillow rates their accuracy on a 1-4 scale. The scale is tied to the Median Error for a specific geographical area. The AVM is run whether or not there is enough data to produce a reliable result. The Zillow AVM assumes average condition for all properties, to normalize the results. It is unable to take into consideration improvements, or deficiencies in a specific property.

Definition-MedianAs of May 19, 2015 Zillow lists that their current Media Error is 8% but then further down the page they state it is 6.9% – to read the entire explanation you can go directly to that data on Zillow.com or I will try to briefly explain what it means. If you remember “Mean, Median and Mode” from high school math, then you will understand what Median means.

Median in mathematical terms is the middle number within a particular set of numbers, this means that there are an equal amount of results before and after the median result. Without stepping into the mathematical argument of whether the median or mean is the “better” (depending on purpose) number typically when a Mean (average of the data) is calculated the Median (middle number of all available data) will be a “better” result for the desired purpose. So if you wanted to spin information to appear more accurate you might not want to go with an average, or the Mean.


Click to view full size

Median Error Points Based on the information Zillow Provides on their Website:

  • Whether the correct number is 8% or 6.9% that means that 50% of Zestimates on properties are within 8% or 6.9% of the final selling price of the property, and the other 50% of the Zestimates are further off (above) the indicated percentage of 8% or 6.9%.
  • Zestimate Within 5% of Final Sales Price: Zillow states that rate is currently 38.4% (61.6% therefore are 6% or more off final sales price)
  • Zestimate within 10% of Final Sales Price: Zillow states that rate is currently 63.6% (36.4% therefore are 11% or more off final sales price)
  • Zestimate within 20% of Final Sales Price: Zillow state that rate is currently 83.1% (16.9% therefore are 21% or more off final sales price)

What does that mean? That means that they have a REALLY HUGE acceptable margin for error, in my opinion one that borders on inane and unacceptably inaccurate. Are consumers reading this information before they start waving the Zestimate flag? Is Zillow actively promoting their acceptable Media Error rate? Of course not. A side note, Zillow lists that they have 110 Million properties in the system, that statistics was dated in March of 2013.

How-Zestimate-Calculated-051915 (Note: I emailed Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff on 5/19 to ask for an updated number as of May 2015, a PR representative from Zillow replied later that day inquiring what my deadline was and was researching and would get me results the next day. I did tell her I did not have a deadline but as of 19:15 EDT 5/21 I have heard nothing further, I will update with a footnote when the information is received)

The National Association of REALTORS to the Rescue!
I know I am not the only one who has had a hard time demonstrating why the AVM is not the definitive answer, even Zillow recommends that consumers consult a real estate professional for more detailed and accurate pricing and information, but people don’t read these days. So how can we best overcome the Zestimate objection with a more accurate AVM model and our area expertise? Quite simply with the RVM and RPR.

A Little History: The Birth of RPR and the RVM
In 2012 RPR became a dues-funded member benefit for all REALTORS. The development of the RVM was focused on creating a modern AVM model that could help REALTORS accurately identify, visualize and convey accurate and current market information and trends to use in their business. By incorporating the MLS data – which includes historic records, as well as the most current information the RVM has proven to be the most accurate AVM available.

As of today, RPR is showing that it has over 129 Million parcels in the data, 1.8 Million Active Listings and 222,000 distressed properties, all ONLY available to REALTOR Members.

The RVM overcomes the two critical data issues that AVMs have:

  • Timeliness and Availability: The use of the real-time MLS data via strategic partnerships with MLSs ensures accuracy that has never before been available to an AVM model.
  • Accuracy: With the RPR provided tools, REALTORS can refine an RVM to properly and accurately reflect the value of a property. By being able to make adjustments for property condition, market condition and improvements, you are then able to portray the true story of a property’s value.

By using the RVM as a starting point, we are able to refine the value – make adjustments and present a powerful report – choosing from a few options. There are Sellers Reports (similar to a traditional CMA), Buyers Reports (which include Neighborhood data which is derived from sources such as The United States Census data showing a variety of demographics that are usually of high demand to your clients).

So the next time someone tells you what their Zestimate is, be sure to know what the Median Error is for your area, and perhaps even print a copy of that data onto a PDF and keep it on your phone to show the consumer. With the RPR Mobile application you can pull up any property and if it has an RVM you can refine it and create a CMA as well as email it to your client all while you are in the subject property.

The value of data is in the accuracy of the data, but the marketing can trump true value and lead to the “Rule of Perception” overcoming truth and creating trust. It’s a danger of the digital age. Now, hopefully, you are better equipped to handle the conversation.

The Zestimate is a registered Trademark of Zillow Group.
Source materials include The National Association of REALTORS Realtors Property Resource materials;  Zillow Group.

On Being Broken…

As I sat in the Jury Room today at the Superior Courthouse, I chatted with a lot of people and listened to a lot of conversations – all diverse, all intriguing.

There was the young woman who obviously didn’t have many friends, who wanted desperately to connect with someone – we chatted, she followed me around like a puppy and she was a good person which was very obvious.

There were the intellectuals in the rows in front of me, talking about bachelors degrees, courses of studies and graduate work, comparing notes on the Professors styles and qualifications to teach.

There was the young woman, her first time called to Jury Duty obviously nervous and uncertain.  She had forgotten she had a boxcutter in her pocket until it was too late and she had to throw it out before the metal detectors.  She sat in the back of the room, hoping to hide in a crowd of nearly 180 people.

Each person took a seat, most with one chair between themselves and the next person.  The seats are uncomfortable, and that is generously giving them any credit for comfort.  We sat and we waited and we talked, and listened, and read.

A side view X-Ray of my left fore-arm, a few months after the accident.

A side view X-Ray of my left fore-arm, a few months after the accident.

I brought yarn with me, in hopes of knitting the long promised scarf for my youngest, but the Capitol Police told me they probably wouldn’t permit plastic knitting needles into the Courthouse.  I creatively cast-on to my index finger on my left hand, and knitted eight stitches between it and my middle finger for the first hour and a half.  This was both mesmerizing and physical therapy for my hand, a never ending saga it seems.

They say you listen better when your hands are occupied, and I think I did.  I forced myself not to interject comments in conversations of which I had some expertise, deciding it was time to abide by the adage “Not my circus, not my monkeys” and just passively listen.

People settled in, and began to read books or magazines they brought with them.  A room full of people without electronic devices in this era is certainly an awkward one.  Whenever I got up to stretch my legs and hip I would instinctively go to where my phone would be to check it, but there was none there.  People were asking others if the knew what time it was – there are no clocks in the Jury Room, as the head of the room  told us, it makes time pass faster if we are not staring at the clocks.

A lot of people don’t wear watches, I noted this today.  I was glad i had mine, but couldn’t recall if it was five or seven minutes fast which was confusing each time someone inquired what time it was.

As I prepared to go to Jury Duty last night, I thought I would bring my headphones, in hopes that would deter people from talking to me.  With no electronics permitted there was no real reason, and also a great reason – if I wore my headphones would anyone even realize I wasn’t listening to anyone?  It might be a great way to study peoples conditioned behavior in relation to people with headphones.

As the time slowed moved forward and noon approached a group of Bailiff’s came into the room from a side door and walked up front.  I announced “They must be calling the first group” to the young woman seated nearby.  The intellectuals sat up a little taller and glanced at the door that the Bailiff’s had gone through, to the desk where the staff was seated at the entry to the Jury Room.

Each time the door opened I would glance up hoping it might be time for a group to be summoned to a Court Room, or it could be my Attorney stopping in to visit as he was there for other clients with personal injury cases today. Neither came to pass, but the conversation around me turned to one which held my interest.

The intellectuals began to share their prior Jurist experiences, the cases they heard, the circumstances and their thoughts.  It seemed they all thought little of those in personal injury cases, that they were “lazy” and “seeking damages to live the rest of their lives on” – one even said “How bad can it be? It was only a minor rear end collision and the damage to the car was less than $5000.00.”

As my personal injury trial date approaches last this Summer, it was intriguing to me to listen to the conversation.  These people had obviously never been injured in an accident that was no fault of their own.  These people didn’t live with the daily pain, or the life changing circumstances of what a moment can do to someones life.

I glanced down at my left forearm, looking at my smooth keloid scar from where the surgeon had placed a bridge and bone slurry – with 12 screws to hold it all together – in hopes of replacing the bone that had disintegrated in my arm.  It ached, it tingled, it looked awkward, and it was a daily reminder of how my life changed on December 23, 2011.  I stretched my left leg to try to shift the pressure off my hip, where the screw stabs my muscle near my hip causing it to bleed and calcify, and causing me near constant pain.

What did they really know of what it takes to “recover’ from an accident, when you can’t recover – never truly – but merely acclimate to the new normal.  From their conversation they knew very little.  I had been weighing my thoughts on the upcoming Court ordered mediation between our side and the defense in my case.  All that has been taken from me, and more importantly all that has been taken from my children, but the irresponsible and callous business owner of the ice rink where I skated.

My youngest would never know the Mom that had jumped and bounced, climbed and danced – she only knew the Mom who had to sit in her La-Z-Boy chair because nothing else was comfortable.  The Mom that was sad, depressed, or despondent from being overmedicated to ease the pain of nerve damage. Having the ultimate adverse reaction to Gabapentin.  The struggles financially that should never be a part of their lives.

I was fighting so hard to do something amazing when it was all taken away by the carelessness of a greedy and irresponsible business owner.  I was so afraid I would lose my clients that I never shared my story at the time, that I kept the seriousness held tightly to my bosom.  For four months I couldn’t bear weight on my left arm – and I am left handed.  I am an Artist, and the detail I would once use when sketching or drawing is now something that evades me completely.

I can’t do far more things than I can do, but I look healthy, I look able bodied.  I am not healthy, I am not able bodied, I am broken – put back together with titanium parts and bone slurry, my life forever a prisoner to pain and the thoughts of what should have been.  After 12 days in the hospital I returned home to receive a letter stating “We have decided to move forward with better qualified candidates” for my dream job, the one I had fought so hard to get, that finally existed.

My surgeon reviews my X-ray of my hip at a follow up visit months after the accident.

My surgeon reviews my X-ray of my hip at a follow up visit months after the accident.

My third interview was to be the day after my accident, but I was missing – I was not available, and I never responded.  All my hopes and dreams seemed to vanish in an instant.  I was so doped up on pain medication in the hospital I barely remember the first six days there.  Shadows of memories of people who visited me, and my best “stoic face” to appear to be fine.

I wasn’t fine.  I am still not fine.  I don’t know what fine is, I just know I want a break, and not the physical kind that I already have had – I want a break from all the bad things that seem to keep piling on, not because I can’t take them, but because my children don’t deserve to have this childhood.

As the intellectuals spoke, I cringed, was this what I would face if I had a Jury Trial? People who have no sympathy, legal restrictions on what can be found for damages.  No amount of money can give me what I want, no amount of money can make it better or right.  My Children will forever be affected, and all that we had worked to provide them and teach them, couldn’t make up for the pure hell they went through.

I listened intently to them, and when they were done, I said…

“No offense to you all but I wouldn’t want you on my Jury when my personal injury case comes to trial.  Pain isn’t a lifestyle I would wish on anyone, and no amount of money can compensate someone for the damages done.

I broke my arm and hip in December 2011, and my life has  been forever changed, and people don’t understand the effect until they are in the shoes of someone who has been injured.  I don’t wish it on anyone, and if I could have one wish it would be to give my Children back the innocence and pure joy they lost.

Maybe you don’t think the victims in your court cases deserved compensation for their injuries, but you don’t realize the impact that a moment can have on an entire life, and the lives of those around them.  Be grateful, and please don’t be on my Jury.”

On December 23, 2011 I broke my hip and shattered my forearm when I was ice skating.  My daughter saw what I hit on the ice, which stopped my skate and led to a rotational fracture of my hip and the destruction of my forearm.  I had loved ice skating, and I still do.  I started when I was four years old, and I felt freedom, joy and love when I skated.  I skated because I loved it.  I was aware of the normal risks of skating, I taught my children the first rule of figure skating – how to fall on your backside and tuck your head.

As I fell forward in that brief moment I thought “Oh shit, this won’t end well” having no idea I had broken my hip until I awoke post-operative and the surgeon informed me he had placed a “screw” in my broken hip.  On being broken, I wouldn’t wish this on anyone – but yet there is some light.

Over the next few months I will share my story, the story I never have shared, because I didn’t want pity, I didn’t want sympathy, I didn’t want to hear “You poor thing” but sometimes you need to hear that, or you need help and support.

I am broken physically, and at times it feels like spiritually, but I fight every day and never give up hope. Someday it has to get better right? I hope so, and I hope that my story will help whomever reads this to be more empathetic to someone else, to offer compassion and to care.  I might not look broken, but I live every moment in pain and I miss the things I had worked so hard to be healthy enough to do, to share with my Children and to give to others.

No amount of money can replace health and wellness.  I just want my life back.  I always gave to others, and love to connect and help others – why does it feel like no one wants to do the same for me?  I know I am not alone.

The Content is Coming Back


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Maya Paveza creator of the persona mayaREguruSince I don’t have the patience or time to deal with my web host where mayaREguru.com is hosted, I am just going to bring my blog back over here.

So, heads up, it’s going to get “wordy” around here again. And I have a LOT of stories to tell, starting with the day my world and life was shattered – literally. Stay tuned… the story of what happens when a movable force hits an immovable object coming soon.

(It includes a rotational fracture to a hip and a shattered forearm, as well as 4 months “offline” and two plus years of nerve pain and overmedication).

Welcome back to my blog.

I Finally Moved my Blog!

It has taken me what feels like an eternity to do it, but I finally have my blog set up on my own domain using WordPress. MyHosting.com made that set up super easy, so thanks to them – I have been using them since 1997 for hosting services. I am working with Jeremy Blanton from 210Consulting.com and getting it set up, so pardon any little FUBARS that occur along the way. Also a huge thank you to Jeremy for putting up with my demands at reasonable and unreasonable hours as we hammered out design and layout and still do – as a former Sr. Web Designer and Developer I am probably a nightmare client for him, okay definitely a nightmare client. #ownit 😉

I originally intended to use Genesis for the theme, but Jeremy wants me to use Headway on this (it is great), so I will use Genesis for my pure real estate site – their agent theme is awesome, I just don’t have the time to do my own customization right now. Thanks to my friend Chris Brogan for introducing me to Genesis (you can get Genesis through an affiliate link on his site like I did).

So – stop by and visit, watch it evolve too! http://www.mayaREguru.com


My Kids Don’t Get It

Lindsay in her Moonbounce - courtesy of Laurie Bick

Today was one of those days. My kids don’t get it. They don’t get how fortunate they are. They have a roof over their heads, clothes on their back and food on the table. I try to remind them they should be grateful, to tell them what others don’t have.

It doesn’t work really well. I need to find a new method. A better way to show them what life can be how others are not as fortunate as they are. Gratitude is essential in life, I want them to be grateful and thoughtful. To have the right perspective.

I have been wrestling with ways to try to bring these very real facts to them, instead of the vague concepts they only have. Exposure is the answer. Tomorrow I begin planning for that exposure by contacting organizations that service those in need. To give back even more.

My family is going to make a weekly commitment to volunteering at a shelter or soup-kitchen. To help feed and care for those less fortunate than we are. There is a very fine line in today’s economy between the “haves” and the “have nots” – the edge is so close to so many. I want my kids to appreciate life, be grateful for all they have and generous with others.

I hope by showing them a little more of the world they might have a greater sense of their place in it. To never forget, to always be grateful, to always be thoughtful and always be generous.

That is the commitment we are going to make. How about your family, what commitment will you make?

You Call THAT Clean?

Most Sellers spend a lot of time preparing their homes to list on the market. Decluttering, packing up the things they can live without and cleaning the house, all to make it ready for sale and give it that unrealistic “No one lives this way” appearance that a buyer wants to see. I laugh when I arrive at a Sellers home for a listing appointment as they profoundly apologize for the “mess” they feel their home is, I remind them that part of my job is helping them identify what needs to be done for final sale prep and that they have not seen my house.

No one lives like this. A kitchen staged for sale.

Real estate agents are trained to look past the contents and see the house, so never worry about the condition it is when we get that, instead seize that opportunity to ask us what you need to do. Be sure to have a pen and paper ready.  I am in the process of creating a check-list for my sellers to use for final prep.

What I find the most interesting though is how I find a house when I am showing it to a perspective buyer. Floors swept, carpets vacuumed and raked, counters gleaming, all the obvious details are handled, but not the overlooked “forgotten” bits that whether consciously or not are noticed by a buyer.

Before you declare your home ready for showings, stand in the center of the room and turn slowly looking from floor to ceiling and back again. I bet you would be surprised what you missed. The following is a list of the top 8 most overlooked items, in my experience, I see in many listings that should be cleaned.

Top 8 Most Overlooked in Cleaning

  1. Quarter-round molding and floor molding. People just don’t seem to notice that part of their home. They sweep, vacuum, scrub and prep the floor surfaces but don’t give a thought to the molding. The buyer notices this and psychologically it can impact their opinion of how well the home was cared for. Depending on the surface I recommend the following; wood surfaces – clean with a wood cleaning product with orange oil, it really makes it look new (careful along carpeting) spray the cleaner on to a rag or paper towel to apply, for painted wood I like Formula 409, it is a great cleaner, use a rag or paper towel, if you find a really tough mark try the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser but use it sparingly as it will remove paint.
  2. Carpet edges! Your vacuum has an edging tool for a reason. If you have never used it you might want to call in a professional as it might be beyond your vacuum cleaner at this point. I find that if you edge your carpet once a month it will keep it as clean as the rest. When you do edge be sure to also vacuum the molding thereby preventing the need for the first item on my list.
  3. Doors. Most people don’t seem to realize that those lovely 6-panel colonial doors have surfaces that will catch and hold dust. Go look at yours, I bet unless you are the best housekeeper in the world you will find dust. In bathrooms it can be worse as the moisture will congeal the dust into something more. I like using antibacterial wipes, or Formula 409 works well too.
  4. Light switches. May I just say “ick” to what I see on light switches sometimes. They are touched so often and get particularly filthy. They require a bit more work to clean – I go with my default Formula 409 but also bring cotton swabs into the mix to get the tougher to reach places.
  5. Ceiling fans. I don’t care if you keep them on at all times (I do in my house), they still collect dust. I like the Swiffer Dusters for this task, but if you have a cathedral ceiling and no ladder you might need to call in some help.
  6. Architectural details including those lovely looking yet useless ledges found in some of the newer and grander homes. Nearly every time I show one of those style homes I find a lovely layer of dust.
  7. Walls! If you have pets or kids check your walls, especially corners if you have cats. They love to rub a corner and will leave marks. I use anti-bacterial wipes on those regularly to eliminate them.
  8. Kick plates on stairs. If you have white kick plates check for scuffs from shoes. Use the Mr. Clean Magic eraser for those and stop wearing shoes in your house!

It is amazing the psychological impact these little details have, I could go on with many more but lets start with the obvious.  A few not so obvious: air intake on the refrigerator (also improves performance and energy efficiency), the oven, blinds and I could go on.

Is there anything you notice that I missed?

Heading to your First Real Estate Bar Camp? Here’s a Primer

With a couple real estate bar camps this coming weekend (Raleigh, NC; Rye, NY and Ocean City, Maryland), the OCMD team wanted a blog for the site to help people get a flavor for what to expect, so here is my contribution, hope it helps!

You registered (or didn’t go ahead and show up anyway) and are ready to head to your first Real Estate Bar Camp, what next? It can seem like a potentially intimidating experience, not knowing what to expect or who to expect to encounter. What do I bring? What do I wear? How do I prepare for an “unconference”. All those thoughts and more pour through the head of a first time attendee, I know because I was once that attendee. So let me walk you through the process a bit.

When you first arrive, look for signs that direct you to the event – sometimes they are professionally printed but more often hand-written on poster boards. If you aren’t sure or don’t see signs, ask anyone your see, chances are they will know are looking for the REBC event themselves. When you arrive head right over to the registration desk. Volunteers will be there ready to welcome you and check you in. Depending on the individual camp (they are all run slightly differently at registration) you will get a badge to write your name on. On the badges they typically have at least two places to write your name, the first for your real name, the next for your Twitter name (don’t worry if you don’t have one, you aren’t required to), often there is also a spot for your hometown.

Bobbi Howe and I hanging at the bandstand at REBCSF in July. Casual and comfortable.

After you have checked in and received your badge, there is usually an area where the “Board” sits. The board is what will form into your schedule for the day. It is a living document, people fill out 3×5 note cards, or similar, with what the session title is and their name then they pick a time and location. Sessions often run from 30-50 minutes depending on the camp and the schedule.

In theory everyone attending should be prepared to lead a session, but don’t worry about that. Just watch the board and take note of the times and places of the sessions you want.  Remember it is a living document so it will change.  A final visit before the opening of the event is a good idea, but people filter past the board all day long.  You will notice that at the end of each session, people checking locations and changing their choices.

Your organizers will have an opening session. Usually your organizer will introduce the team and give you some brief overview of that days event, sometimes they have a someone do “opening remarks”, but not always.  They will review the concept with you and anything special or specific to the venue. There may be some space restrictions like which rooms are not available for use. Once that is over you are on your way.

If you identified the first session you want to attend this is when you will head over there. Find a seat, chair, floor, window, wall-leaning, whatever you want – it is all casual.  Once the session begins the person leading the session will introduce themselves and anyone else who might be there to offer assistance.  Once the session begins if you feel as though the topic isn’t what you thought it would be, or you decide you aren’t interested it is ok to get up and leave. In bar camp that is called “voting with your feet”.  It is accepted and understood. Not everything is the right fit for everyone.

The whole point of being there is to get information you find useful and meet new people, expanding your personal community and network. People will “lobbycon” which means they might sit in the main hall talking, you should feel free to step into any conversation.

Everyone should feel comfortable and welcome, the real estate bar camp events are inclusive of everyone.  No matter your experience level don’t be afraid to offer a though, or participate in a session.  If someone is doing a session you have some expertise in step right up to the session leader and offer your help.  The more the merrier.

That is really the basics of the event, now for the less pressing questions.  I am often asked “How do I dress?” “What should I bring” and many more questions of similar context.  As for attire – comfort is key, some might wear business clothes, business casual, depending on personal style.  I am often found wearing jeans and a t-shirt at bar camp so when I find that perfect spot on the floor I am comfortable (if you see me on the floor like that, don’t worry I love sitting on floors and get tired of explaining that every time a thoughtful person offers me a seat, so thank you in advance for your courtesy).

What to bring? I often bring my laptop but rarely take it out, if I had an iPad I would have it with me everywhere, or a netbook.  I definitely bring my Sprint Hotspot to share a wifi connection if someone needs one. A notebook is the best thing to bring so you can jot down any notes or great ideas you get from a session. A camera or flip is fun to bring too, to capture photos or video of sessions you really like.

So that is really the essence of real estate bar camp, pretty simple and casual. Everyone is there to interact with each other and welcoming. Don’t think twice about introducing yourself to someone.

My 5 Essentials for Real Estate Bar Camp:

  1. Wear a smile and comfortable clothes
  2. Everyone is a human being, all on equal footing in the universe. Don’t be shy.
  3. Be ready to participate
  4. Ask lots of questions! If you don’t get it ask.
  5. Have lots of fun.

Got any questions or did I miss something important, please feel free to comment and add your question or insight! The more the merrier.

Photo courtesy of Deb Madey