Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Old News from Big Sources?

The New York Times editorial column has decided to jump onto the ‘doom and gloom’ real estate bandwagon with a recent editorial about slumping home prices.

The article, printed February 17th, relays many of the facts that we already know. The record-breaking slump in 2006 after record-breaking rises during the previous two years. Nearly half the nation’s top 150 markets recording falling prices. The rising inventory and slowing new construction. These are all factors of the stymied market that anyone who’s remotely involved in real estate already knows.

But does that mean the market is unfruitful? Well, not necessarily. The editorial board chose to use its pedestal to plead to lenders and regulators not to raise mortgage rates and further instigate mortgage defaults – but maybe that’s preaching to the choir. Instead, why not take power in your own hands to help right the ship? There are markets that are still warm out there, money to be made, homes on the rise – if only you know where to find them.

Find where with online IDX tools from XoomPad.com and keep up with the latest in real estate news at UrbanTango.com.


Monday, February 19, 2007

A Tale of Two Neighbors

An overconfident, under-informed homeowner asks, “Who needs an agent, who needs technical support, to sell a home today? In this market, they virtually sell themselves.”
“Not so,” says his less-than-savvy, but well-informed neighbor. “I used an agent who utilized online IDX Solutions, satellite mapping, interactive MLS listings, and high website traffic to get my house noticed.”
“It must of cost him a fortune. Sucker.” The first neighbor mumbles to himself.
Not even a penny, thinks the second as he pulls the “SOLD” sign out of the front lawn.

Who needs an agent, support, and technology to sell a home these days? Nearly everyone – especially those who are not as experienced in the real estate industry. As the market gets tighter, smart advertising gets more and more important.
That’s why innovative tools like XoomPad, which allows agents to offer better information to more buyers, are so important for sellers. Its ability to focus on specific neighborhoods, target different types of buyers/sellers, and successfully market this information to a broader audience makes home buying simpler for the agent and the consumer. The power of Google and one-of-a-kind SEO content coaching can’t hurt either.
See for yourself at XoomPad.com and keep up with the latest in off-the-cuff Real Estate news at UrbanTango.com.

Remember to sell smart, not stubborn.

Paul Tretter


Sunday, February 18, 2007

Like the Heart of an Oak...

Sometimes this world offers you just a fleeting glimpse of its inherent splendor, which makes you stop for just a moment and reevaluate some things.

Mine came on a beautiful sun-drenched Saturday, flying in a Cesna 421, high above the Olympic Peninsula. Circling above the smoking remains of Mt. St. Helen's, the magesty of Mt. Rainier, the beauty of the icy blue sky and the rocky, green land below - this all reminded me of a story of one intrepid Frenchman, inspired by the natural world around him. (Story below)

It reminds us of the simple things we can do to celebrate this world and our place within it. So go plant a tree, or ten. Get outside, enjoy the fresh air, the snow, the sunshine, the flowers. Take a deep breath. We return to Real Estate IDX Solutions 101 tomorrow.



Jean Giono tells the story of a man who - for no reasons but his own -
began planting oak trees in the South of France.

"About forty years ago I was taking a long trip on foot over mountain
heights quite unknown to tourists in that ancient region where the Alps
thrust down into Provence. All this, at the time I embarked upon my long
walk through these deserted regions, was barren and colourless land.
Nothing grew there but wild lavender."

There were few trees and fewer men in that desolate area. But a solitary
shepherd had an idea. He began carrying with him a bag of acorns and a
heavy iron rod. As he tended his sheep, he poked the iron bar into the
ground and dropped an acorn into the hole. This he did for decades. There
was no re-forestry program. There were no government grants. There were no
parks commissions, no botanists, no taxes, no fees. There was just a lone
shepherd, aged 55. Mr. Giono met him before World War I.

His name was Elzeard Bouffier. He had only the company of his sheep and
his dog. He had never studied environmental science, nor perhaps ever even
gone to school. But he could see that the land had changed since his
youth. The area had been rich in grass and trees...animals...and human
beings. You could tell because whoever had once lived there had left
behind their stone houses on the hillsides. They had apparently overgrazed
the grass and overworked the land. Worst of all, they had over-cut the
forests that once grew there. Of the twisted oaks that used to provide
shade and hold the moisture close to the ground...only a few remained.

Bouffier asked no one's permission. He put no issues or referendums on the
ballot. He rallied no citizens and spoke to no town meetings. As far as we
know his name never appeared in the paper - until after he was dead. But
he went about the work that he had taken up himself...with no pay, no
thanks, and not even any notice.

He planted thousands of oak trees, many of which died at first. And for
the rest too, progress was as slow as an oak. But gradually, more and more
took root. And each one provided more shade...more moisture...and a more
hospitable place for other life to take root. Animals returned...and then
hunters...and then game wardens.

"In 1933 [Bouffier] received a visit from a forest ranger who notified him
of an order against lighting fires out of doors for fear of endangering
the growth of this natural forest," Giono reported. "It was the first
time, the man told him naively, that he had ever heard of a forest growing
of its own accord. At that time Bouffier was about to plant beeches at a
spot some twelve kilometers from his cottage. In order to avoid traveling
back and forth - for he was then seventy-five - he planned to build a
stone cabin right at the plantation. The next year he did so."

The re-growth of the 'natural forest,' was a wonder to everyone. In 1935 a
government delegation came to examine it. They didn't know what to make of
it. They merely placed it under government protection.

By now the oaks were 20 to 25 feet tall. The slopes were covered with
them. And the old man was still at work, planting his stealth forest.

"I remembered how the land had looked in 1913," Giono wrote. "A
desert...[but] Peaceful, regular toil, the vigorous mountain air,
frugality and, above all, serenity in the spirit had endowed this old man
with awe-inspiring health. He was one of God's athletes. I wondered how
many more acres he was going to cover with trees."

By 1945, another war had passed. Bouffier was 87 years old and still at
it. He had spent the second war as he had spent the first one. While
millions of armed men tried to improve the world by killing each other,
the good shepherd continued to improve his world. And in the process he
improved ours.

"In 1913 this hamlet of ten or twelve houses had three inhabitants. They
had been savage creatures, hating one another, living by trapping game,
little removed, physically and morally, from the conditions of prehistoric
man. All about them nettles were feeding upon the remains of abandoned
houses. Their condition had been beyond hope. For them, nothing but to
await death - a situation which rarely predisposes to virtue.

"[Now] everything was changed. Even the air. Instead of the harsh dry
winds that used to attack me, a gentle breeze was blowing, laden with
scents. A sound like water came from the mountains; it was the wind in the
forest; most amazing of all, I heard the actual sound of water falling
into a pool. I saw that a fountain had been built, that it flowed freely
and - what touched me most - that someone had planted a linden beside it,
a linden that must have been four years old, already in full leaf, the
incontestable symbol of resurrection.

"On the site of the ruins I had seen in 1913 now stand neat farms, cleanly
plastered, testifying to a happy and comfortable life. The old streams,
fed by the rains and snows that the forest conserves, are flowing again.
Their waters have been channeled. On each farm, in groves of maples,
fountain pools overflow on to carpets of fresh mint. Little by little the
villages have been rebuilt. People from the plains, where land is costly,
have settled here, bringing youth, motion, the spirit of adventure. Along
the roads you meet hearty men and women, boys and girls who understand
laughter and have recovered a taste for picnics. Counting the former
population, unrecognizable now that they live in comfort, more than 10,000
people owe their happiness to Elzeard Bouffier.

"When I reflect that one man, armed only with his own physical and moral
resources, was able to cause this land of Canaan to spring from the
wasteland, I am convinced that, in spite of everything, humanity is
admirable. But when I compute the unfailing greatness of spirit and the
tenacity of benevolence that it must have taken to achieve this result, I
am taken with an immense respect for that old and unlearned peasant who
was able to complete a work worthy of God.

"Elzeard Bouffier died peacefully in 1947 at the hospice in Banon."

Rest in peace, good forrester.