In the beginning was the blog

No amount of Facebook (now the #1 social platform on earth), no amount of Twitter (my first social media passion), no amount of LinkedIn (despite its professed business world domination) will ever replace the humble blog. I look at the amount of time I devote to social media–Facebook and all the rest–and there is still nothing more central to the social media universe than blogging.

I love passing time with my online friends. Some of these friends are flesh-and-blood companions from my younger years.  Most are acquaintances from the past that I’ve been drawn closer to because of social media–again–mostly Facebook. Any other serious online activity–reading news and the sort of article I might have once read in magazines, doing research or merely “surfing”–I do mostly on (in?) blogs. I have one or two favorite blogs where I get the latest in the field of healthcare, a couple more where I follow the real estate and financial markets and some that I gravitate to purely for entertainment. Occasionally, I’ll respond to a post by leaving a few words in the comment section. But mostly I just read!

All the blogs I’ve chosen, the ones I read regularly, provide value that I just don’t get from Facebook! Not that Facebook hasn’t got value. I’ve vowed on more than one occasion to quit “FB”, yet for me it’s still one more way of “keeping in touch”.

Do you still have a favorite blog or two?

Swinging into fall…

I love fall. Late summer evenings get cooler, then chilly. The green in the trees around the lake is starting to shift ever-so-slightly to golds and russets. Dawn is later making an appearance. Dusk is earlier.

I guess the good is that I am maybe getting a little more sleep. The bad is that I’m just a little more resistant to getting on the treadmill or taking the dogs around the lake. I really don’t want to rush anything. I sometimes think that in a previous life that I might have been a tree. That time of the year to consider going dormant.

Not that my days are any less busy. It’s just that I’m maybe just a little more selective (away from full, omnipresent greens, to a little more of a variety of bright pastels).

Health-wise, I’m also becoming just a little more selective. And ready to set aside the not-stop snack food out on the deck, in favor of maybe a little more substantial and nutritionally sensitive meals around the dining room table. My mom’s homemade apple crisp recipe.

Okay. Now I’m hungry. Time to do some baking.

How does fall make you feel?

Are we in a real estate “shift” or no?

real-estate-market-bubbleLike my friend, a long time Washington realtor told me to today, I LOVE real estate. It’s just about all I’ve ever really wanted to do. Buy and sell houses.

In the past few weeks we’ve seen a bit of a shift in the local real estate market. What had been a very solid seller market, has further solidified to where not much at all is moving.

All the buyers have gone home (or have taken up tasks other than home buying—getting kids back to school for instance). Sellers that came to the party late, or got greedy and priced their prized estates too high, are sitting.

The financial institutions, after appraising everything at top dollar for the past few months, just to get deals to go through, are saying, “What the heck are we doing? This doesn’t make sense.” Suddenly, they’ve become much more conservative.

Here we are. The busy selling season is over. Kids are back to school—most of them next week. Listings are sitting, expiring or being cancelled.

The good news? There are still quite a few deals in the works—lots of “pendings” on the MLS. There will still be quite few more closings in the next month or two. (Real estate transactions often take a long time to complete.)

I’ve been reading articles on various pundits, and what they think the real estate market is doing right now. Gary Keller, one of the founders of Keller Williams is predicting a major shift in the market and is not bullish about economic and housing market conditions.

At speech before thousands of KW leaders, Keller said, “It wouldn’t take much right now to push us into a buyer’s market.”

Hmmm. Cause for concern? It’s a moot point, as they say. Matthew Gardner, in response to Gary Keller’s bullish prediction, has another view.

Gardner says, “I would challenge this notion and suggest that the inventory that is stuck on the market is not what buyers are looking for… Additionally, total months of supply – a better indicator as to the strength of the housing market – remains at about 4.5 months, which indicates that it is still a seller’s market.” Gardner relates further data as evidence that the market really hasn’t “shifted” at all.

So, market shift or no? The coming months will tell I think. Last year, sales were robust all through the fall and winter months. Things moved ahead nicely despite some new consumer protection regulations coming into effect that (temporarily) slowed down the closing process on home sales. These snags have resolves (slowly) over the last six months.

My view?

I can see locally that Gary Keller’s analysis seems most likely. Overall, the drought on suitable properties for first-time home-buyers (the biggest contingent of buyers) seems to be easing. Prices, which were rising astronomically in some nearby markets, seem to be stabilizing. To Matt Gardner’s credit, the local inventory does seem somewhat shopworn. Sellers, hoping to catch up the sellers’ market (!) aren’t generally doing a lot to get their properties ready to sell. Not many upgrades, and quite a bit of deferred maintenance. That would have played a few months ago, not now. Short version, there is a lot of very over-priced junk on the market.

I have no crystal ball. I don’t have the experience or the audience of a Gary Keller or a Matt Gardner. I read a lot and what I see is that things are changing. There is a real estate cycle. Most economists say it’s a 7-10 year cycle. Let’s see 2008 plus seven to ten years?

Hopefully, any changes that are coming down the pike won’t be as quick or disastrous as the 2008 “bubble years”, but it doesn’t hurt to be prepared.

Hardly got time to think


Ever since this year started, I have been sooo busy. Not a good busy. Just a very frazzled, nonsensical, crazy busy. The kind of busy that generates a lot of smoke, but very little light.

I have a small house deal that started at the end of November. I thought, “Okay. Easy in, easy out.” Not so. With some of the financing oddities and the strangeness of the inspections and appraisals, this one has just taken forever! My seller has been as good as gold, and buyer’s agent has been a pleasure to work with. But the whole thing just goes on and on. Now it looks like the deal might close in the next couple of days, but nothing is cast in stone. It’ll be over when it’s over.

I did make a discovery earlier on this month. Just after we got back from our family vacation to Maui, I started looking at a Kickstarter item I’d ordered. It’s call the Productivity Planner. It’s put together by the same guys that brought us the Five-Minute Journal in 2015. (I liked the Journal so much, I bought the Productivity Planner too!)

The discovery I just made about the Planner is that it is designed around a couple of concepts (more than a couple really). One of these concepts comes from Gary Keller (and others). Keller in The One Thing talks about identifying the One Thing, which if you accomplish it, will make everything much easier or even unnecessary. This is one of the grounding concepts used in the design and implementation of the Productivity Planner.

The other concept or tool is Pomodoro. I had stumbled on the term Pomodoro in the past. I knew it had something to do with a small, tomato-shaped timer. What I didn’t know was the Pomodoro was a technique or tool for improving personal productivity. I’m not going to go into a great detail here about Pomodoro. However, discovering it here in the Productivity Planner, and having a chance to play with it, I can see where Pomodoro is slated to become a great tool for me. It just fits!

So, here’s to a productive 2016. My Productivity Planner–the print version–should ship the end of this month or early in February. I’ve had a “preview” with the PDF version the Planner’s creators sent out, so I’m raring to go. And practicing Pomodoro in the meantime.

How to do real estate?

I’ve been in the real estate business on and off now for a little over 45 years. My first investment property was a small house that I bought in Saskatoon Canada. I lived in myself for a few months and then rented it out to a family member. It was a great little house. It was on the South Saskatchewan River and had a wonderful view. I bought it for a little over $50,000 (about 45 years  ago) and today the property is probably worth about $750,000. Of course a lot of water is passed under the bridge since then. My lesson though was that real estate, like many other vehicles for investment, is a long-term commitment and has to be looked at that way, from beginning to end.

Later in life, several years after my first experience with investment property, I had the opportunity to go into the real estate sales business in the lower mainland of British Columbia, Canada. My office was in Surrey BC in my real estate sales activities to be as far west as Richmond BC and East along the Fraser Valley, out to Langley, Chilliwack, and almost to the western border of the Rockies. I had a delightful partner named Graham. We became great friends, as well as business partners. Together we made each other better and together we were a success.

When Jan and I started buying rental homes a few years ago, that was my third “phase” in my investment phase career. Again, I had a partner–my wife–who knew as much or more about business and as much or more about owning rentals. We got into the rental investment market at a great time.  The real estate market was still recovering from the “crash” of 2008-2009. There were still a lot of comparatively cheap houses (short sales, foreclosures) on the market. The first two houses we bought were instant money makers.  The third as well. When we bought our fourth rental house, the market had nearly recovered and we realized that the acquisition phase was drawing to a close.

This is where it gets tricky. Our most desirable property–the first one we bought–also has the most equity in it. If we sold one of the rentals, that would be the one where we’d get the most cash. The second one we purchased would be second most profitable–and so forth. However, after taxes, if we sold the fourth home (our last purchase) we’d stand to make nearly the same after taxes, since our capital gains tax wouldn’t be as high. Have I lost you yet?

I was thinking about all this this morning. I thought back to my first home purchase, back in the late 70s. Why sell? The equity is fine where it is. We’ll likely need that cash later (in retirement) when the capital gains

Closing thoughts on 2015

The year 2015 has been a year of new things and breakthroughs for me. I started a new business (real estate). I’ve been focusing on developing new habits.

In the past few weekfive minute journals–about the last three months of 2015– I’ve started something called The Five-Minute Journal. For those of you not familiar with this little book, the Journal is a guided journal, designed I think for people that have never done journaling before, or otherwise need prompts to guide them in their journaling activity. I fall into the last category.

I really do need something to get me going with my journaling. The Five-Minute Journal has been than tool. It’s become a daily routine or habit. Looking ahead to 2016, I can see that this something I will be doing regularly.

The first section of the Journal is a how-to. How to complete each days entries. They are identically the same for each day. You do the journal first thing in the morning, and last thing at night. In the morning: Three things I’m grateful for, three things that would make the day great, and daily affirmations. In the evening: Three amazing things that happened today and things that could have made today better.

After doing my journaling for the first few weeks, it was the last item that started giving me trouble. How could I have made today better? The first few weeks, I was picking on myself! After a couple of weeks of doing this, I came to the conclusion that each day was just a “good” as I could make it. I really couldn’t go back and consider things I could have done to “make today better”. So I decided to begin doing an identical entry each day in answer to this question. My answer? “Today was perfect.” What else could it be?

Each day is what you make it. No point going back and trying to fine tune it in retrospect. Each day is perfect. I don’t have the ability to go back and change it, so why dwell on it?

Each day there is something to be grateful for. Often I find more than three things, so I’ll scribble in a fourth or even a fifth! I very often have some small goals or tasks to achieve each day that, having achieved them, it would make my day great! Again, often I find more than three, so I’ll fill up the white space with numbers four and five.

Daily affirmations? Each day in The Five-Minute Journal has a quote. Quite often that quote will give me an idea — for something to be grateful for, for something that would make today great, or an affirmation. My global affirmation for each day is, “I am kind and wise and prosperous.”

Do you journal? Do you have a daily affirmation? Please share in the comments if you like.

And have prosperous 2016.


I really do need to start blogging again

Every time I am just about to write these days, something so important comes up that whatever I was about to write dims in comparison, and I put it off (yet again) for another day.
Lack of discipline? Just about certainly. Lack of things to write about? Just about never. There seems to be more and more “content” in my life than ever.
One thing I’ve discovered is that the ideal vehicle for getting my writing done is my iPhone! I always have it with me. It gives me instant access to my WordPress blog. And once I’ve started writing an article, it’s easy for me to keep going until the piece is completed! Perhaps even more so than if I’m sitting at my computer.
I’m writing this on Saturday morning, still snuggled in my bed. I have a hugely busy day ahead, but I’m actually getting this done!
iPhone. The ultimate blogging tool!