How’s the Market? Lessons from 3 Recent Short Sales

“Should I buy a short sale?”

I’ve heard that question a lot lately.  Dreams of scoring a killer deal on an incredible home that would otherwise be out of your price range have attracted home buyers who might otherwise be sitting on the sidelines.  Combine the promise of 2003-era (and before) pricing with historically low mortgage interest rates (between 3.75% & 3.95% as of this writing), and buying a home sounds like a great option for many.

In fact, the world-famous investor Warren Buffett just this week said he would buy a couple hundred thousand single family homes as an investment if it were practical.

So just what is a “short sale?”  Basically, a short sale is when the owner of a home owes more on the loan than the home is worth and asks the lender to accept less than what is owed as a payoff to the loan.  You can learn all you need to know about short sales here, but for this post I’ll stick to my recent experience in the San Diego market.

Chapter 1 – Downtown San Diego Condo
A buyer was looking in the 92101 area (downtown and Little Italy) and found a great 1-bedroom condo in a great complex.  We made an offer that same day and waited to hear back.  Since this one was priced very well for San Diego, it’s no surprise that we go beat out by an all-cash offer.  In fact, there were two other all-cash offers on the table.  With our financing (even with 20% down), we didn’t stand a chance.

Lesson learned:  Jump on it while you can.  We could have made an offer when this place was first on the market, but we instead waited for them to drop the price.  Lately, I’ve encouraged my buyers to be ahead of that price drop, which has been a more successful approach.  In this case, we’ll continue to hunt for that great deal, but will certainly pounce as soon as we see it.

Chapter 2 – North County San Diego
A buyer late last year was interested in finding a single family detached home in North San Diego County – specifically, Carlsbad.  We looked at several homes and finally found one that was a perfect fit for their growing family.  We made a quick offer the very night we saw the property in person, and got a fast response from the seller.  The offer was $10k less than the list price, and we later learned that there were several other offers in a range that was only about $10k less than where we were.

Lesson learned:  You’ve still got to pay for the really good ones.  I’m not saying you have to over-pay – only that when you see a property in great condition in a great neighborhood, don’t be surprised if your lowball offer gets rejected.  The San Diego real estate market is still somewhat tight, and there are a lot of people who have been waiting in the wings for quite some time.  If you see a home you love, step up and make a solid offer.

Chapter 3 – North County San Diego
I had another buyer interested in a home in South Escondido that was on a 1+ acre lot, huge yard, sparkling pool, and the home itself was in great shape.  Again, I encouraged them to make an offer slightly above the asking price, since we recognized that even above the list price it was still a fantastic deal.  This one has been a waiting game – over two months and still no approval from the short sale lender.  Luckily, my buyers are in a position that they can wait it out – especially for a deal like this.

Lesson learned:  Be ready to wait.  Everyone thinks they’re prepared to wait during the short sale process.  Lenders tell us that 60-180 days is the “norm” for getting approval and closing on a short sale.  Once you get past 60 days and still haven’t heard anything, believe me, you will start to get antsy.  You will wonder if this purchase will ever happen.  Be patient, be prepared to wait, and have faith.  In my experience, I haven’t seen a ton of short sales that don’t get approved.  Instead, it’s the buyer who changes their mind and causes the deal to fall apart.

Seems like I’ve been busy on the weekends a lot lately.  The buzz around San Diego is that the market is definitely heating up, and my recent experience supports that idea.  If you’ve been waiting for the right time to buy a home, this certainly may be it.  Don’t let these interest rates and prices pass you by.

Advertisements

A New Chapter

After nearly five and a half years at the University of San Diego, I’ve decided to leave for a new job with Vistage International.  This move for me is bittersweet, since I have enjoyed my time at USD and I’ve built so many great friendships.  My new role will be as a marketing manager for a program called Vistage Inside, and I’m really excited about the new challenges I’ll face there.

My work with the MS in Global Leadership program has touched the lives of more than 350 graduate students in 24 cohorts  (myself included, as I graduated from the program in 2008).  I’ve become friends with many of these alums, and continue to enjoy hearing how they’ve made an impact in the world.

Our word-of-mouth marketing has remained a strong part of the recruiting strategy, and stands as a testament to the quality of the program and the level of satisfaction of our students.  We’ve made great strides using social media to communicate with alumni, students and prospective students.  More than two years ago we established a student-written blog and created more ways for them to tell the world about their experiences in a graduate business program that strayed from the traditional MBA.

I’m leaving behind a business school that has built a lot of momentum in the past few years.  The part-time MBA program was recently ranked #14 in the US by Bloomberg BusinessWeek and many of the same A+ faculty from that survey teach in the MSGL program as well.  As the USD school of business administration continues to gain attention on the national stage, so does the MS in Global Leadership.

My time with USD included two trips to China (Beijing and Shanghai), two trips to Buenos Aires, and numerous recruiting trips around the US.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

My time at USD will always hold a special place in my heart, since it was during these five years that I met my wife, got married, and welcomed our first child into the world.  I’m thankful for the time I’ve been able to spend with my son during his first (almost) two years, and the work-life balance I’ve enjoyed has been a situation most could only hope for.

Moves like this don’t happen without a lot of help.  And help shouldn’t go unrecognized.  So many people have been a part of my professional network for the past few years – offering advice, making introductions, writing recommendations, and providing encouragement.  Bob Schoultz, Dean Dave Pyke, and Stephanie Kiesel were instrumental in my professional development over the past several years.  Their support of my learning and development in the marketing community has been incredible.  Special thanks to Bob for giving me the opportunity to work at USD in 2006 and for his support, guidance, leadership, and friendship for the past 5+ years.  Thanks to the rest of the MSGL team – Stephanie, Sam, & Suzy for always having my back.

There are so many others I could (and should) thank here – but my word count tells me I’m already beyond 500.  If we got together for coffee, had lunch, exchanged emails, talked on the phone, met at a conference, grabbed a beer, tweeted, LinkedIn, Facebooked, or traded business cards – you deserve thanks.  It’s highly likely that your influence helped me reach this point in my career and I’m happy to have you as a part of my network.  If I can ever return the favor…

Most of all, thanks to my incredible wife Danielle for all your love and support.  I love you.

Stay tuned as I embark on my next adventure.  I’m anxious to get started, but first – let’s enjoy a great holiday season!

7 Facts About Content Sharing on the Web

It’s no secret that the American Marketing Association hosts great events to educate, support, and connect marketing professionals.  I’m continually blown away by the quality of the content I get at each of the events, and this past week was no exception.  [Disclaimer: I’ve been an AMA member since 2008 and currently serve as VP of Membership for 2011-2012]

Thursday’s event featured Kristin Kovner, Senior Director of Marketing, AOL Advertising.  Kristin’s presentation, “Is Content the Fuel of the Web?” included recent findings from a case study done by AOL and Nielsen on internet users’ habits and attitudes on the major social networks.  In a nutshell, she broke down what types of content people share, with whom they share it, and on which social networks this is all taking place.

Here are my top 7 takeaways from Kristin’s data-filled presentation:

  1. Email is not dead.  Despite what some people will tell you, email is still the most popular place that internet users share content.  66% of internet users share content by email, as compared with only 28% on our beloved social networks.
  2. Industry-specific conversations get the most love.  Research showed that 60% of social media posts (mainly Facebook and Twitter) that are industry specific include an explicit brand mention.  Tweets from industry-specific conversations contain a link to some type of content (usually product information) a remarkable 73% of the time (as compared with only 42% of the time for conversations not related to a specific industry).
  3. 99% of people sharing via social networks are sharing via multiple platforms.
  4. Social network sharers are 17% more likely to be femaleexcept on Google+ (which wasn’t included since this study was done in Q1 of 2011).
  5. People tend to share with their close networks of trusted friends – not publicly (despite Facebook’s continued efforts to make privacy settings so confusing you don’t know who you’re sharing with).  This one may be a little harder for power users on Twitter to understand, since they sometimes tend to broadcast everything to everyone.
  6. Only 4% of shared content links back to a company website.  This one is important.  Businesses have to realize that conversations about their brands are happening in places other than their site and most of it never sends consumers to a company URL.
  7. Marketers can capitalize on people’s sharing habits in two ways.  1). Produce branded, sharable content (think videos with your products in them that are easy for people to share – like the Coca-Cola happiness machine campaign); and 2).  Be present with display advertising when the conversations are taking place away from your website (think display ads on YouTube for viral videos not produced by your company/affiliates, but related to your product or industry).

All in all, it was a great presentation – a flurry of numbers, but great information for those of us looking to “engage” consumers where they interact most.  The full report (along with other great research presentations) can be found on the AOL Advertising site.

Does anything above surprise you about how content is shared on the web?

My Blog: A Year in Review

Last week marked my 1-year anniversary of starting my own personal blog.  Since I’ve actually stuck with it and kept somewhat of a regular schedule, I now have a lot to look back on.  Thanks to all of you who have read, commented, and linked to my blog this year.

My Family at Grand Canyon - Sometime in the 80s

When I started my new blog, I set out with only a couple of specific goals:

  1. Write about subjects that interest me, such as marketing, technology, social media, travel, music
  2. Write at least one post per month.

As for the first goal, this one was easy.  I find a lot of interesting things on the web and I like to stay current on the newest social media trends.  I didn’t write much about music (besides recapping the concerts I’ve attended), but maybe I’ll do more with that in the next 12 months.

With 34 posts under my belt, goal number two was easily met.

So what were my favorite posts?

Ty Webb Has Real Klout

My personal favorite (mainly because it includes a strong reference to the movie Caddyshack) was my short blog on Klout, the new service that measures online “influence.”

My most visited post was written about what we can learn from the Chilean miner rescue from a leadership standpoint.

I also enjoyed writing (and re-reading this week) all my posts about my family and travel.  Honorable mention goes to my posts on marketing and related events I’ve attended.

So where will the next year take me?  Who knows.  I just hope you’re able to come along for the ride.

Lunch with 3 San Diego Agency Creative Directors

You may already know that I’m currently serving as VP of Membership for the San Diego Chapter of the American Marketing Association.  You may also know that I regularly attend the local AMA events: lunches, happy hours, board meetings.  What you may not realize is how much value I’ve gotten from these events and the relationships I continue to build.

Today was certainly no exception.  I attended a panel discussion with roughly 50 other San Diego marketers and we heard some great insight from three creative directors at local marketing/advertising/branding agencies.

First, the panel:

Screen shot from BASIC Agency's Website

I took a few notes on what I found most interesting from the discussion, so here goes.

Global Approach
The moderator asked a question along the lines of, “how do you manage branding and marketing campaigns in today’s global market?”  The panel’s response highlighted the importance of having solid market research for different segments, cultures, and regions.  What works in one culture may not resonate with another.  Matt pointed out that they work on finding a common story to tell for a particular brand and then localize that message when needed.

Marketing Trends
The panel was asked to provide their perspective on recent trends in marketing, related to their life in an agency.  Daiga explained that she’s currently seeing clients ask for a 3-5 year road map for campaigns, showing that businesses are increasingly tying digital marketing results to their overall business strategy.  Michael pointed out that clients these days are enamored with buzzwords and what’s hot.  He continues to remind them that the newest tools (namely, social media platforms) aren’t the cure to all problems, but instead can be integrated into an existing marketing mix for better results.

Quotable moments
“Strategy will never be a commodity.”  — Daiga, when asked about her thoughts on the future of digital marketing

“We don’t always base decisions on research only.  Testing is important, but it doesn’t always reveal true sentiment – especially with new technology.” — Matt Faulk, when asked about the importance of market research

Once again, a completely insightful and enjoyable afternoon with the San Diego Chapter of the American Marketing Association.  Thanks to our esteemed panel and moderator for keeping the discussion lively and interesting.  If you’re interested in becoming a member, talk to me.  Or you can just show up at a future event and see what we’re all about.

What are your thoughts on the Creative Directors responses?

The New Rules for Content

My content is crap… sometimes.  That’s what I learned this morning at the Social Media Breakfast San Diego (#SMBSD).

Local radio and creative professional Chris Cantore teamed up with Ryan Berman, founder and chief creative officer of Fishtank Brand Advertising to give us a no-fluff primer on creating content for the web.  Here’s more of what I learned.

1.  “Find your brand.  And whatever you do, defend it.”  — Ryan Berman.  This is a good one for me to remember.  If it doesn’t support your personal or company brand, why add to the digital clutter by re-posting, re-tweeting, or otherwise giving it time?

2.

3.  Cantore related the new ‘rules’ of social media to his early days in the San Diego radio scene:  “It’s not about you, it’s about connecting with the fans.  Stay authentic and true to your own personal brand.”

4.  Berman highlighted an incredibly successful campaign that his company created for Puma Golf, where players and fans can actually ‘talk’ to the game of golf on the Puma website.  This out-of-the box thinking recently helped Berman and Fishtank win “American Marketer of the Year” (AMY) Award from the local chapter of the American Marketing Association.  Another great example of creating interactive content and a visual identity that speaks to the target consumer and bucks the traditional golf branding and advertising model.

Screen shot from Puma.com/golf

5.  A Flip cam with great content can be extremely effective for small businesses with little or no video budget.  Create content that resonates with your audience and gives your brand life.  [See my own epic Flip cam production]

6.  Look at other industries who are doing great work with content creation.  For great video integration, check out “digital storytellers” Emota Inc, today’s sponsor and brains behind some incredible visual content.  Other shouts went out to the Foo Fighters, Conan O’brien — and locally to Smashburger, NBC San Diego, and the Fox 5 morning show as good examples.

I enjoyed meeting a few new folks and having the chance to chat with Berman and Cantore, both of whom are completely down-to-earth guys with whom you’d certainly enjoy having a beer and fish taco.  I also enjoyed the fact that the focus was on the content – not the platforms/delivery.

Those were my take-aways – if you were there, what did I miss?

Never Eat Alone: Who Wants to Join Me?

If you’ve read my blog for any amount of time, or if you’ve been lucky enough to meet me in person <grin>, you know that I definitely value my personal and professional network.  Twitter, for example, has opened doors for me that I couldn’t have imagined.  I continue to meet and converse with so many incredible people that I wouldn’t have otherwise known.  Call me a fan.

So I started thinking this past week about how life always seems to get in the way of keeping up with some people.  Even some of my best friends I don’t see very often and I regret falling out of touch with those who live outside of San Diego.  Facebook has made it too easy to feel connected to others without much (if any) real-life social interaction.

For these reasons, I’m making a concerted effort to reach out and reconnect with my network these days.  I’m also interested in meeting some of the folks I’ve conversed with on Twitter, but haven’t had the privilege of meeting in person yet.  In connection with that, I’d like to have a standing lunch appointment with anyone who would like to join me every Wednesday.  Topics of conversation may include marketing, technology, career moves, music, travel, kids, family, or all the above.

Author's note: actual lunch venue may vary... do they even have these places anymore?

Author Keith Ferrazzi has a book out from a few years back called Never Eat Alone.  The title pretty much sums up the idea for me.

So here’s a link (I’m experimenting with Google calendar appointments) for you to let me know you’d like to join me:  http://bit.ly/kwKDYL

Or you can just reach out on Twitter or leave a comment below to say hello.  I’m hoping this will eventually become a group thing – not with any specific agenda or purpose other than networking.

For now, who’s with me?

Is 2011 The Year of Mobile?

If you’re in marketing, you may have heard that this is the year of mobile… every year since 2006. While mobile phones have been around for quite some time, it seems we’re only now hitting critical mass with respect to smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices. ComScore recently reported that 50% of all mobile phones purchased in the US are smartphones (the other 50% are called feature phones).  Add to that the growing number of tablets being sold, and we just might be in the middle of the year of mobile.

I’ve had the unique opportunity to hear a couple of mobile marketing experts speak recently – one at an American Marketing Association lunch event (these are always great, by the way), and the other at Interactive Day San Diego.

First, Mike Schlegel from a company called Millennial Media provided some interesting insight from his work in the mobile space in recent years.  Here are the biggest takeaways I got from his presentation:

  1. Browsing behavior varies greatly by platform.  Mobile phone users search, browse and interact differently than tablet users, for example.  This means there is no one-size-fits-all solution for mobile marketers.
  2. Mobile activity spikes happen on weekends, holidays, and during special events (think Super Bowl) – and during the primetime hours on weekdays.  Mike was careful to point out that marketers shouldn’t ignore the ‘other’ times during the week, but instead embrace those as an opportunity to target specific user behaviors (i.e. restaurants offering coupons during weekday lunch hours).
  3. Don’t forget about the feature phone users.  Sure, it’s trendy for marketers to pay attention to the latest Android or iPhone users, but Mike reminded us of the feature phone users who also have needs (some of whom can be reached by simple SMS campaigns)

I also had a chance to hear Dan Flanegan speak at Interactive Day San Diego on June 1.  Dan’s company, Brand Anywhere, is a leading San Diego-based mobile marketing company.  Dan gave some great examples of targeted mobile campaigns that have resonated very well with consumers.  Working with major brands, Dan has helped some big names in advertising create and leverage successful mobile campaigns to foster brand loyalty from consumers who could possibly become life-long repeat users of that brand’s products.

So how can mobile advertising be useful to the consumer?  Imagine standing in a store about to make a purchase.  If you didn’t do your research (or if things have changed since you left home), how do you know if you’re getting the best price on what your about to buy? Using a mobile app like Shopkick, you can now find coupons, incentives, and even be rewarded for your loyalty at a particular store.  As you scan a particular bar code, marketers can serve up ads that make sense for you – whether that’s a coupon, a competitor’s store, or a pitch to buy the same item online for less.

In a rapidly-evolving mobile world, the possibilities are endless – both for marketers and for stores and brands to provide real value to consumers.  To me, mobile marketing seems to be a very crowded space right now, but I’m anticipating some breakout mobile apps to take the lead within the next year.  With the amount of growth in the segment, there’s still room for lots of players to do well – at least for now.

What do you think?  Is 2011 the year of mobile?

What is a QR Code?

What is a QR code?  I saw this question recently from a self-proclaimed “marketing consultant” I follow on Twitter.  Got me thinking that this might be a good post topic, since Quick Response (QR) codes aren’t quite mainstream… yet.

What is it?

First, the required Wikipedia definition:  A QR code is a specific matrix barcode (or two-dimensional code), readable by dedicated QR barcode readers and camera phones. The code consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background. The information encoded can be text, URL or other data.

Scan the QR Code with your smart phone for a surprise... really, try it!

How do I use it?

Great, but what does this mean for your marketing plan?  Well, for starters – a lot.  I’m starting to see QR codes appear more often in airports, major retailers, and even places like the San Diego Zoo.  QR codes are popping up in advertisements, on store windows, and even large in-store displays.

QR codes can be used for almost anything:  directing consumers to your website, Facebook fan page, Twitter, Google Places page, a YouTube video, a coupon, a contest entry page, a photo, a lead capture form – the possibilities are endless.  Smart marketers are keeping things simple in the early days of QR codes, knowing that even though smart phones are taking over the US market, consumers are still learning about QR codes.

When you scan a QR code with your smart phone, you must use a special QR code reader app.  There are several of these available for the iPhone and Android.  I use QRReader, by TapMedia LTD.  Many consumers won’t automatically know this, so you may consider including something in the display about downloading an app.

Often times, I see directions on how to “use” the QR code accompanying the promotion, which helps educate the consumer on how to proceed.  Remember, keeping it simple is the key.  An example might be:

  1. Download a QR code reader app for your smart phone
  2. Scan the code
  3. Enter your email address for a chance to win a $1000 shopping spree!

A promotion like this would allow you to capture an email address for use in an email marketing campaign, plus add an interactive element of fun to your in-store displays.

Since you can put a QR code virtually anywhere, feel free to get creative.  I’ve seen QR codes on business cards, billboards, t-shirts, and even as temporary (or perhaps, permanent) tattoos.

What not to do

Here’s an example of a QR code I saw at a music venue recently that I thought could have been used a little more effectively.  I attempted to scan this code, but must have been too small because it wouldn’t register with my phone.  It’s buried in the bottom left corner on an already busy poster with no directions on how to use the code, or more importantly, why I should scan the code.  What’s in it for me?  Would have been nice to see some indication of what happens if I do scan the code.  Can I buy tickets there?  Is it the artist’s website?  Is it a discount or promo code?  Keep these points in mind if you plan on using QR codes for your own marketing.

Can you spot the QR code? Exactly my point.

Watch for more QR codes in 2011, as I think they will become more and more mainstream.  What are some good examples of QR codes you’ve seen?

Inside SCVNGR: My tour of one of the hottest mobile apps in higher ed

On a recent trip to Boston I had a unique opportunity to learn about one of the fastest growing mobile apps for the iPhone and Android:  SCVNGR.  In just under 9 months, SCVNGR has seen some pretty impressive growth, reaching 1,000,000 registered users in late February and partnering with too many companies and institutions to name.

My gracious host, Jeffrey Kirchick, invited me to come by the SCVNGR offices after I tweeted that I’d be visiting Boston within the next few days.  I gladly accepted the invitation, not really knowing a lot about the company. Boy was I in for a surprise.

I arrived at the SCVNGR offices in Cambridge around 5pm on a Thursday and saw a bustling, energetic group of folks – most of whom weren’t even close to packing up and heading home for the day.  This place was just how I imagined an internet startup would be:  modern workspaces, young faces, white boards galore filled with numbered lists, and of course, an espresso machine.  I even got a peek inside what they call the War Room, though I wonder if any of them have seen Dr. Strangelove and really know what that reference means.


After a brief tour of the spaces, Jeff and I sat down to discuss the exciting things that SCVNGR is doing in higher education.  Partnering with universities and colleges, SCVNGR is able to help schools create an unforgettable mobile experience for new students, which, in turn helps forge a more positive initial impression for a lasting relationship between the student and the institution.

What I liked most about SCVNGR is that they are carefully positioning themselves, not as a foursquare competitor (as you might expect), but instead working to carve out their own niche in mobile gaming.  In a couple of my previous posts (here and here), I’ve been pretty up front about my disappointment with foursquare.  It was great to see SCVNGR taking a new approach, and I think they’re seeing the results of making their app less about the check-in and more about the shared experience.  They’re also aggressively seeking corporate and education partners to help them get to the next level.

All in all, I think SCVNGR is a company poised for more exponential growth in 2011.  Backed by Google Ventures, they secured an additional $15M in funding early this year and they’re getting lots of attention in the mobile app world.

Thanks again to Jeff for showing me around and introducing me to a great new mobile platform.  I’ll be watching in the coming months to see how things progress.

What are your thoughts on mobile gaming and the future of SCVNGR?