Cutting the Cord, tee hee hee

News is hitting the investment platforms, finally, admitting that cable is hemorrhaging customers and the stock is starting to roll down the hill.  By this time next year they can post a counter.  And I have to say I’m glad about it.  I don’t own the stock, and wouldn’t on principle.

Some radio show hosts call cell phone customer service providers “customere no service”, but that really should apply to cable companies.  Think about it.  If you are brave enough or unfortunate enough to go TO the brick and mortar shop, you get to take a number and wait an hour, while six to eight employees take turns offering three service providers to the crowd.  It would be nice if all eight of them would get it in gear, but until NOW, they haven’t had to.  You and I know they are slow dancing in a burning room, but they still saunter around and enjoy building a frustrated backlog of trapped customers.  This tells me the ‘customer servants’ can’t see the writing on the wall, or can’t read it, not sure which.

I felt SO GOOD the day I canceled my cable service, and while I was at it I fired their internet service too.  Icing on the cake.  Why?  Oh.  Glad you asked.

Once about 8 months ago I called to cancel cable because they were raping me on the cost AND they were charging that ridiculous amount to show me COMMERCIALS.  When I called  to fire them they asked, “So, why do you want to cancel your cable?”

I replied, “Because I am not going to pay to watch commercials.”

Now, I had some time and I knew they would do the shuffle to reel me back in, and I was curious how that would go.  So, smiling, I went along for the ride.  By the time she was finished, she had RAISED my already unacceptable bill by THIRTY DOLLARS.  So I said, “Hmmm.  Does that actually work with people who are calling to fire you?”

“What do you mean?” she asked.

I said, “People want to cancel because the bill is too high, so you RAISE the cost and they actually agree? Does that really WORK?”

She got very quiet.  Until she started typing again to try to make me happy watching commercials for a lower price.  Well she gave me some free movie channels and lowered my bill, so I stayed a while.  But when the free stuff ran out?  The bill was AMAZINGLY high.  In other words, they made up for free stuff in a big way…or thought they would.  I am not stupid and neither, as it turns out, are more and more customers.

So I fired them.

Here’s the deal.  Cable companies have raped their clients for years and they got away with that AND horrible customer service because they could.  Then when Hulu, Netflix and Youtube came on the scene they thought they could stick it to us again by hiring FRIENDLY people to rape us.  Once upon a time, that would have worked.  But NOW…we have other options.  Lots of them.

So cable is one market segment, the demise of which I plan to watch while I kick back, prop up my feet, pour a glass of red wine and celebrate.  I’ll be smiling, thinking about the jerks sweating bullets and scrambling to make it…you know, like we CUSTOMERS have done for years.  Only, I could turn in my cable equipment; they can’t turn in their mansions.

Good riddance cable.  Won’t miss you at all.  Oh and you other guys?  The replacements?  Learn something.  Because some of us have gotten used to no TV at ALL much of the time.  Tick tock.

Wanted: Experienced Realtors…

Just like other areas of life, there was a recent push to replace experienced real estate agents with “millennials”.  The thinking was that millions of home buyers would be people in this age cohort, that they would be THE buyers and that they would want to work with agents who were their peers.  Well that wasn’t on target, to put it mildly.  Many of the younger buyers are renting and paying off college loans, or even staying at home with Mom and Dad…not buying.  Real estate planners shouldn’t feel bad; retail made that mistake too.  Many of the millennials are educated, savvy, street smart and skeptical about anybody wanting their sparse cash.  They want details, they want to know their agent has a solid knowledge of the market and is well capable of walking them through the jungle of tasks associated with buying and selling a home.  In other words, millennials expect to be leaders and as such, their real estate agent had better be qualified to take that lead.

Millennials who do buy are not usually in the higher end market; rather, they are usually in the first time buyer and first time move-up buyer price range.  They, and other who ARE buying in the high end market do not want a “millennial” guiding the transaction.  Well, I’m a 10,000 foot view person.  I saw this stumble coming a mile and a half away.  Don’t get me wrong; I love young people.  The ones I get to meet and work with are very smart, very motivated and very sensible about buying.  They give  me hope for the future.  But young real estate agents are not well rounded, confident and knowledgable about the market just yet.  They deserve to grow and build a skill base, yes; but that doesn’t negate the value of experience.

So some of the same companies who were nudging the older agents aside are now actively recruiting experience.  It’s a shame that experienced agents are often overlooked by the ‘planners’ of the future of area market movement, and that that experienced agents are re-noticed only when the cavalry is needed.  But that’s how it goes.

My advice to you is this: Realize that you are making one of the largest transactions of your life, and that you should put that transaction in the hands of experience and knowledge.  That doesn’t mean someone who made a high score on the test, although that’s important.  It means someone who understands the nuances of the market beyond what the publications say.  It means someone who understands that prices in neighboring communities can be very different and why.  It means someone who has experience with inspectors and builders.  It means someone who knows how to spot hidden potential issues.  It means someone who knows what’s worth worrying about and what is not.  It means knowing the importance of pricing and how it impacts the overall market.  It means knowing how to put the most cash in your pocket at the end of the day.

I decided to write about this subject today because I have been working on a market analysis for the last several days, in a new growth-spurt area, where prices have jumped significantly in the last year.  I want to push my list price as high as I can…and be able to have it appraise at that value when the time comes.  This of course prompted a deep dive into that area and into that community, and a subsequent spreadsheet…mine, not a canned product.

One of the values I use, LOOSELY, I might add, is price per square foot.  And while this is the WRONG WRONG WRONG value to use in pricing a home, it does give you a nice snapshot of market activity at-a-glance, and it can be quite eye opening.  It was for me.  In my area of interest there were 3 of 14 homes I studied, which had VERY much lower sold price-per-square-foot.  This prompted me to look at the listing agency AND agent, and each case, the agent was inexperienced.  This costed the home owners/sellers a lot of money they could have made on their transactions and it hurt the overall market.  These low-ball prices will be put into the “comp” pot, and will be used by appraisers in pricing other homes for mortgages.  And this tells me nobody’s guiding these agents appropriately and nobody has told them the value of strong pricing.  Nobody has shared with them that listing with strong prices raises the entire market, which is actually our job…to protect the market.

So, while other home sold in the 118.00 price per square foot, these homes sold at around 108.  That adds up.  To loss for the sellers.  The moral of the story is this: If you hire inexperience, it will cost you.  You may never know it…which would be the best scenario.  If you do know it, you have to wonder where else you got short-changed.

I need to also say that sometimes it pays to price low if a quick sale is needed…for the SELLER, not the agent.  And that’s all I will say about that.

Bottom line: Be sure your agent is experienced enough to be a strong, successful advocate for you.  That’s what you are paying for.  This isn’t an opportunity to be trendy; this is your money at stake.  Experienced agents will understand that.


Real Estate and Millennials

I just read an article that says it’s hard to get ‘Millennials’ into the DIY stores these days, but hope springs eternal as the older ones in the cohort are reaching the median age for home buying.  That’s a mouthful.  It’s true that they are aging like the rest of us, and it gives me something else to watch swirl around the drain as the marketing folks miss the mark again.

Millennials are buying new homes much of the time, not old homes that need work, and their DIY days are way ahead of them.  I’ve watched business after business change their paradigm to cater to Millennials and fail miserably at it.  Why?  They don’t have a clue.  They read the articles that say Millennials are at shopping age OMG!  Well heads up people.  Millennials don’t shop.  They save, they pay student loan debt and they are not baby boomers who live beyond their means.

The impending focus by the big box DIY stores toward Millennials is just another example of how people get on the cart path, so to speak, trying to change things to satisfy the media hype, rather than paying attention to their clientele.  Look around you in the DIY stores.  There are no DJs or Wifi boutique areas.  It’s a big old tool and garden shop.  It smells like plywood and there’s always an aisle full of guys on their knees searching through the bin for that perfect screw or bolt.  Which still makes me go hmmmm.  And I don’t see any Millennials! Not one!  Could you envision one of them being interested in the LEAST about that perfect bolt?  Not unless you hide a cell phone in the bin as a prize.

It would benefit these businesses to look at JC Penney, for example, who tried to change everything to cater to the young people.  Look at their stock price real quickly.  I’ll wait.  See?  Disaster.  When JC Penney shut out their foundation clientele you could hear the toilet flushing their income stream.  It’s the older generation who are the bread and butter, the ones who made these stores ‘big box’ to start with.  They can change things around to be ready for Millennials to arrive, and they can listen to crickets chirping…you know like JC Penney did.

For DIY stores, it’s a bad idea to negate the needs of the foundational clientele, because they are older folks (and I mean over thirty) who have kids who need a nice yard in which to play, kids who make you need to paint, grandkids who break things and flush things that shouldn’t be flushed.  And Millennials don’t have kids or are just getting started and they don’t need yards.  But all of that aside, the Millennials are not shoppers. Not yet.  Electronics?  Yes.  But that’s about it for now.

They are not ready for big box DIY.  They couldn’t care less about planting a flower bed and if they do, chances are it will be neglected and die because…they have other things to do!  Fun things! They go to their friends’ weddings, or their wedding.  They go clubbing, they go biking and hiking, they date.  Or they get ready to date, or they start a family.  It’s that time of their lives.  DIY and flower beds are way out there on the radar, if at all.

Some of my all time favorite clients are Millennials.  They exhibit true partnership in choosing a home and defining a price range.  They never want to max out their purchase power; rather, they stay conservative and realize that they also want to continue to play, or think about starting a family.  They don’t need a palace to start with.  Don’t get me wrong, they want a nice home, but they are smart about it.  They plan to HIRE people to fix things because they are on their computers and iPads and iPhones…or Samsung Galaxies.   Millennials budget in repair people! They do not plan to be one.

Oh I know they WILL be one, but they don’t know that yet.

Millennials are tech savvy, not circular saw savvy.  They are VERY okay with electronic interaction, including documentation…which is my absolute preference…and they are fun.  They also have a true partnership.  They think about things together, each has input, and I swear, one person NEVER makes the decision without looking at the other and saying, “What do you think?”  And…you might find a Millennial doing some DIY but it’s usually because his father is helping him and Dad is the one shopping for plywood.  Young son has researched the issue online so he knows what’s going on, but it’s DAD who is doing the work.  Trust me.

On the flip side: There are some Millennials who buy fixer-uppers, but its to save money.  And when something breaks, they freak out.  They don’t run to the DIY center; they call Dad or somebody they know “who does this stuff”…usually NOT a Millennial.  True! Usually a parent or older friend with kids and a big truck and lots of bills who does this work to make extra money…not a Millennial paradigm at all.

And another thing: Better to start catering to women in these places because the Millennial women are strong and smart and engaged.  They will be one half of all buying decisions about those nuts and bolts when the time comes. That’s the cohort behavior.  A great idea would be to look at how many women are already shopping there and cater to them.  Right now.  The Millennials will be there in 15 years but if you look around, you will see a lot of  women in these places right now…but you won’t see them at the bolt bin. To us a bolt is a bolt.

I know, men think all casserole dishes are the same too.