Archive for May, 2010
My job is not subject to hourly requirements.
This is a fancy way of saying that I can work when I want to, within certain boundaries. I do have to work, unless there is nothing going on. I never have to come to work and sit there. There are no time clocks. I hate those things, anyway.
Fact of the matter is that I don’t do that much real work. I don’t do ANY real work in the old-timer sense, where I have actual physical labor that I perform. No, I push paper around and rearrange pixels on a computer screen. Still, the work of connecting people that need money with people that have money pays, so it must have some value. Problem is, it’s very hard to quantify that work. Can I do it in 10 minutes a day? Can I do it in half an hour? An hour? Two? Five?
I didn’t know. A month ago it became important to me to discover how much time I was really spending working at my mortgage business in any given week. This is time exclusive of Rotary meetings, exclusive of teaching school, exclusive of Heart-2-Home Board meetings, even exclusive of time I spend at work but surfing the Internet. So I counted, and I’ve been counting for four weeks.
No, I will not share the results. They embarrass me. And I think I came a ways toward discovering one of the reasons that my success has not been as incandescent at it otherwise ought to be.
With all due respect to Tim Ferriss, whom I admire greatly, right now it is important to me personally to put some time into my business. I want always to make that time more productive, but at the moment all I’m counting IS productive time, so that takes some care of itself. I made a commitment to a partner that I would work – really do productive work – for at least a certain number of hours a week, even though I don’t strictly have to. It’s been interesting.
But the reason for this post is that today was a victory. I was a few hours short coming into this morning, as in, in a normal workday I would not get to my commitment for the week, which would necessitate my working on Saturday, a thing I almost never do (for good reasons). When the baby got me up at 4:30, instead of going back to bed, I got dressed, went downstairs, and began to work. Not at all coincidentally, I was able to make progress on some things that have been neglected, things that I believe will allow me to generate more work for myself and more business for the company. Being a creator, I saw that this was good.
It would never have happened if I hadn’t set a time commitment for myself, and that would never have happened if I hadn’t started measuring what I was actually doing with my time. It’s only one day. But this thing might actually work.
In no particular order:
- I have an article in the April edition of the Scotsman Guide, one of the largest mortgage publications in the industry.
- I do not think that the $8000 tax credit’s expiration will have very much effect. Spring is a much larger factor in the increase in home sales. Well, Spring and the massive decline in property values. Markets rebound. It’s what they do. If prices are allowed to fall far enough, then buyers will re-enter the market. It really is that simple.
- My prediction about mortgage rates not exploding when the government stopped buying mortgage- backed securities proved to be right on. I think this is the first time I’ve made a prediction like that, so I’m gratified to find that I’m not a complete idiot.
Over the past few weeks, in doing a re-evaluation of my business, I’ve come to the conclusion that there really is a “why” to what I do here, and that the business is not just something I do because I get paid. Others have famously come to that conclusion much earlier than I, but I’m slow, what can I say. We believe that the way we do business should reflect how we should treat each other as people: we should care more about each other than we do about the next buck, we should be more interested in the long-term health of people’s families than about a quick fix, and we should be willing to extend ourselves to do what we can to help other people be successful.
To that end, we have designed our products and our systems to make sure we are treating people with the utmost respect, that we have available not just mortgage products but avenues to other things that they might need to get themselves financially well, like credit repair, mortgage modification, inspection services, financial and tax advice, etc., and that we always act for the long-term benefit of the client, even if that makes the short run not as pleasant for us.
To do all these things, we close mortgages. And we are damn good at it.
We’re always a work in progress, but there has been some serious progress recently. I just noticed, and thought I’d share.
Markets: Bonds are up again today, up about 18bps (which is .18), and that puts us right on the lows of the year. Rates have not responded quite as exuberantly, but we’re touching 5% again. Even lower on some programs.
Analysis: Rates are sticky down, meaning that they stick on the way lower and don’t mirror market conditions exactly. They are also slippery up, meaning that they rise faster than you would think when the market deteriorates. I think that might explain the hysteria about interest rates, with everyone and their dog predicting a gigantic surge in rates when the Fed stopped buying mortgage-backed securities at the end of March.
Okay, not everyone. As you know, faithful readers, I predicted that rates would not go higher, at least not by much. And for once, I was right. It just didn’t seem rational to me that with the global debt overhang we would have a massive flight out of mortgage-backed securities causing a huge rise in interest rates. It has, in fact, not happened. Rates remain in the range they have been for 18 months.
Additionally, there isn’t going to be any significant fallout – not for the next few months – from the expiration of the tax credit for homebuyers. The market will adjust. There was an extra $8k built into pricing on homes, which will now slowly vanish, and lower prices will start pulling the same buyers back into the market. Not all of them, of course, because many of them were getting an $8000 “gift” from mom and dad that they were going to pay back from their government largesse, and that is gone. But there will be other incentives. The market wants to move. Real estate wants to move. And it will.
Action: if you’re in the market, stay there. We’re about to see the best prices for houses and the best rates we’ve seen in many years. Get with us, get into the PerfectHome program, and we guarantee when you find the house you want to buy, you’ll be able to buy it. That’s right. We guarantee it.
This is yet another of a Series of Short Takes, about the salient issues of the day. This one is explicitly political, and even pointedly concerned with the GOP in Utah, something I almost never do, but because of my position in local politics, I felt I ought to. Be offended if you like, but really, why bother?
I wanted to take just a second and address a comment made on a Facebook post about current law. Here’s the problem as I see it: while I agree that future law should be based on a correct interpretation of the Constitution, surely you agree with me that laws are made by men and those men don’t seem to care about your interpretation. Or mine. Or Mike Lee’s. They get assaulted all the time by people waving a copy of the Constitution as if it had some talismanic value, like a sprig of wolfsbane.
In point of fact, the fastest way to get a sitting Senator or Congressman to tune out what you’re saying is to invoke the Constitution, as if it were a piece of the True Cross. People don’t buy WHAT you’re selling, they buy WHY you’re selling. First you have to make them care. First you have to get them to see that following the Constitution is good for THEM, and for the people they allegedly serve. That does NOT take debate. Debate is rarely a good way to convince – especially public debate. Mostly what that will do is entrench people against you.
Even worse, once you get them to care about the Constitution, you have then to persuade them that your interpretation of it is correct, and if you think that can ever be done by citing precedent and quoting John Locke, then you’ve never been part of a deliberative body.
What it takes is back-room private persuasion. It takes tedious, personal, intimate relationship-building. It’s a lot less sexy than the Big Speech. It makes terrible television. But it works, and in my experience – which is long, in this arena – it is the only thing that does.
In this election, perhaps as never before in my experience, we have a choice between a debater and a persuader. Mike Lee’s experience is legal and judicial. He has a good understanding of the legal arguments, and, indeed, is reputed to be formidable in a court of law. That is an arena for debate, where a question is to be decided in a public forum, yea or nay, and where the voting is done secretly, and often has a universe of just one (Lee’s experience is almost entirely judicial, instead of juridical, meaning that only one man has to be persuaded), and where that decision must be justified by a blizzard of argumentation.
Legislation also uses debate, but the debate is almost entirely for show. The decisions are made long before the speeches are made, and they never have to be justified to anyone. NO ONE has ever changed his vote on a piece of legislation because of the speech his opponent made on the floor. The very idea is ludicrous. The Facebook poster wants a debate on the Constitution; so do we all. But the poster is mistaken if he thinks that debate will do anything useful about legislation. It will not. Legislation is affected most significantly by private negotiation, not public posturing. It lends itself to a much less visible strategy, something that looks a lot like running a company or a political party and a lot less like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (much as I love Frank Capra movies).
If you want a fiery Senator that will make great speeches and accomplish absolutely nothing, then apparently Mike Lee is your man, because that is exactly what he has done. If, however, you want a man that is willing to muck in the trenches and move things in the direction we want them to go, who accomplishes things without needing to be the center of attention, then I submit to you that Tim Bridgewater is the guy you want, because that’s exactly what HE’S done.
Obviously, I think what the country needs right now is Bridgewater, and not Lee. We have elections to see who is right. I’m looking forward to this one.