Saturday Cup of Joe #92: a lending and tech(ish) newsletter

Friends & Colleagues,

SCOJ92. A successful birthday week for the kid. I’ll be honest. I did not know what 16 four- and five-year-olds in our house would be like. In a word, loud. The piñata was a hit. Get it? Sorry; couldn’t resist.

And then, the Eagles won the Super Bowl. It was an interesting and fun game. First, it was just flat-out entertaining football. Second, Goliath fell to a backup quarterback and brand new coach. Third, Rocket Mortgage had a commercial in the second quarter; I spent the game at the Quicken Loans watch party with our marketing and social media teams. Our rapid response on social media helped propel the commercial to #11 on USA Today’s Ad Meter and created the largest purchase business day in the history of Rocket Mortgage on Monday. Smiles and success all around.

By Wednesday, it was all about efficiency and productivity. It felt like a full week in the best possible way. Family. Fun. Work Hard. Play Hard.

Fittingly, CareerBliss ranked Detroit the second happiest place to work in the country.

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Detroit Riverfront at sunset

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“The largest supercomputers in the world are inside of two companies — Google and Facebook — and where are we pointing them? We’re pointing them at people’s brains, at children.” -Tristan Harris in “Early Facebook and Google Employees Form Coalition to Fight What They Built

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Included this week:

· Of Interest — Future of the real estate industry. Where are the ideas going to come from?

· Power of storytelling — Streetwear exemplifies extreme consumer behavior

· Valuable Lesson — An assortment of articles that didn’t fit anywhere else

· For your consideration — Monaco ran out of million dollar listings, so they turned to the sea.

· NextBelt — Suburban sprawl is not the answer it used to be

· Quirky Story — Argentina found a new sport called padel

· Today’s Thought & the Quote

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Making the complex simple #UnderstandFully (Pictured: an actual elevator)

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Of Interest: Readers of Saturday Cup of Joe know that I tend to focus on the big picture. One of my colleagues said, “I know from reading your newsletter that you’re philosophical.” It was a compliment for sure. It was also a reminder to continue to try to weave together the big picture to actionable value that we can all put into practice as leaders in our companies and organizations.

Sometimes the best actionable advice leaders can offer is to identify a deficiency and issue a challenge. There is value in simply articulating the problem, especially from the right platform. Recently at a real estate industry conference, Pete Flint, the CEO of Trulia, demanded that real estate prepare for a revolution. If you ask me, that revolution is already in full swing. Brad Inman followed up Flint’s bold statement with an op-ed that rallies leaders to the cause. In thinking about this challenge, I had to set aside my personal opinions of how most real estate agents function in the typical transaction. In doing so, though, I tried to focus on what aspects of real estate could survive the technological advances of online listings, 3-D tours, and remote, keyless entry into smart homes. For instance, consumers still want to feel like a big deal. We want the personalized service. Also, we prefer the personal touch, but not at the expense of speed & cost. The way to innovate in real estate is to focus on concierge service for each client that leverages technology to allow for lower costs and enhanced, personal attention. Better negotiations, faster closings, and confident buyers & sellers.

I don’t believe the real estate industry accomplishes this by hoarding access to information, erecting more protectionist barriers, and railroading opposing parties. Transparency, speed, and attention to the personal is the way to go. It will not be easy. As Flint said on stage last month, “It’s a slow-moving industry. There’s a 10-year window here. But the majority of traditional real estate companies will die.”

Obviously, the most likely real estate companies to “die” will be those that never attempted to evolve and change with the technology. Historically, real estate has been a conservative industry overall. So much so that entire areas of law have been passed to force landlords, real estate agents, and lenders to play fair. Over time, the industry has attempted to address this lack of diversity.

Real estate has been one industry that has supported women entrepreneurs. As the real estate industry looks ahead to the next evolution, it will be interesting to see how real estate and real estate finance maintains strong support for women leaders. The MBA has launched mPower, a conference and year-round resources dedicated to supporting women in mortgage finance.

We are at a critical moment in our industry as the real estate markets come to terms with technology advances and changing cultural norms, not to mention new risks like cyber-attacks or fraudulent payment methods. More questions than answers but with questions comes opportunity…especially for those looking to lead this industry into the next generation.

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Power of storytelling: Supply and demand might be Economics 101, but the cool factor is almost impossible to learn. It either exists or it doesn’t. There is one thing you can do to help make a brand or item “cool”, and that’s make it scarce. Scarcity cannot be the only element of your plan, but it can act as the urgency or desperation consumers need to shift from browser to buyer. Admittedly, I’ve never been hip to the coolest shoes (I’m on my 8th or 9th pair of the same model of Adidas Rod Lavers tennis shoes) or rarest clothing line, but I’ve always been interested in what makes people loyal to Apple or Coca Cola or Subaru or Louis Vuitton. If you’ve ever wanted an inside look at streetwear, sneakers, or boutique fashion brands, this BBC article does a good job talking about those products and the collectors who love them. My sense is that it’s about the story. It’s about the narrative we tell ourselves about what we buy. We want to be a member of the exclusive club. It’s part of the value we’re paying for. Some portion of the price (however large or small) of everything we buy should be seen as a return on the investment (ROI). The ROI is the enjoyment or pride we get in the thing. If you are selling anything to consumers — mortgages to sneakers to cars — it’s critical to know your customer so you can know their story. Sell the story, sell the narrative, and stick to it. True fans will follow.

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Valuable Lessons:

1. Always be prepared for anything. Imagining a potential future occurrence helps you prepare in case it happens. Here’s a photo essay of what homes might look like if humans disappeared.

2. Proving a negative is hard and gets even harder when all eyes are on your reputation. Ginnie Mae, the nation’s investor of government-backed home loans, threatened several mortgage lenders who appear to have abused the VA mortgage program. Now it’s on those companies to prove the lack of a pattern.

3. Know thyself. Here’s an interesting website that catalogues the stories of young couples, families, and individuals who have left the city to live on their own in the country. Check out Urban Exodus.

4. Think before you sign. And when it’s half a billion dollars, maybe consult a lawyer too. Lottery winner in NH cannot remain anonymous after signing the back of the ticket.

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As seen on Twitter, a map of ICE enforcement zones which means ICE has search and seizure jurisdiction within 100 miles of the US border. Apparently, that’s all of Michigan and Florida.

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For your consideration: The second smallest country in the world is running out of space. Luckily, Monaco is also the country with the most millionaires per capita, as well. Those millionaires have to live somewhere. Research from Knight Frank shows house prices in Monaco now “top the world market with prices between €53,000 ($67,000) and €100,000 ($142,000) per square metre.” What’s a crown prince to do? Expand in the ocean, of course. The £1.5 billion ($2.1 billion) Offshore Urban Extension Project will add 15 acres of landmass to the principality by 2026. Portier Cove will include a harbor big enough for 30 ships, a landscaped park, and luxury residential buildings with plans for 120 new homes.

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Next Belt: Since moving to Detroit, I’ve learned a lot more about the importance of housing and retail density in urban planning. Specifically, cities are more efficient when residential density increases. In many ways, it was Detroit’s auto culture that created far flung suburbs here and in many metro areas around the country. I remember when I left York, PA for college in Fredericksburg, VA and despite being 2 ½ hours apart, both areas were potentially within DC’s commuting range. In fact, just after I moved to DC, people were starting to commute DAILY between Gettysburg, PA and Washington DC. These expansions are, in part, based on the cost of housing in our major cities and in part the generational need to have a single-family home with land and space but with access to employment in the city.

According to CityLab, “America’s real housing problem — and a big part of the solution to it — lie in closer-in single-family-home neighborhoods that were built up during the great suburban boom of the last century, and that have seen little or no new housing construction since they were initially developed.”

In fact, both fast-growing cities like Atlanta, Dallas, and Phoenix and lagging cities like Cleveland and Buffalo have modest or minimal densification in their urban core. The only difference is that fast-growing cities are expanded outward while lagging cities are not.

The bottom line is that “most of the housing stock and most of the land area of America’s metro is made up of relatively low-density suburban homes.” This pattern has wide-ranging social and economic effects and we’re only beginning to understand, just in time for it to change as millennials begin to move back to urban or urban periphery neighborhoods.

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Quirky story: Tennis mixed with racquetball, outside, with plexiglass walls and no “top.” According to the video embedded in the link, there might not be an out of bounds either. The sport is called padel and it’s apparently really popular in Argentina. Check it out.

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Today’s Thought: Perception versus reality. Usually when I write about perception versus reality, I’m writing about managers and leaders who want something to be right or perceive something to be right, instead of looking at what actually is right. Widening our considerations — data sources, data analysis, diverse feedback from all stakeholders, asking the tough questions — generally produces better decision-making processes. A blog post on Medium.com this week looks at perception versus reality in a totally new way. The author asks “If everything is a perception, what is reality?” Unfortunately, the author was not so bold as to answer the question. For me, it raised interesting questions and potential journal topics on my “Why?” Does thinking of everything as my own subjective experience of the thing really change how I live? The answer is no. The bottom line is that everything we do must be about people: either ourselves, “our” people, or other people. Since being about people also means that everything will end up being a subjective, fun, selfish, exciting mess and because people do not change that much, it will always a mess. In the best way. Therefore, whether I’m perceiving things like science, love, or religion as they actually are (whatever that means) or through my own subjective, messy lens (more than likely), that’s all I know. And that’s all I can offer. I embrace it and the great news is that that’s enough.

Spending time reflecting less on perception and more on the impact of my emotions and actions is far more beneficial in the short and long run. And it should be enough for you. Fulfilling your own perception of yourself and your world is how we embrace our contribution and our happiness. This week, I’m using this article as a reminder to “think small(er)” and try to be content with my own perceptions and emotions so that I can focus on what matters — people.

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Quote: “Dictators never invent their own opportunities.” — Richard Buckminster Fuller

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Bonus Content: Would you eat ice cream made from peppers? Carolina Reapers? This ice cream shop in Scotland is offering exactly that…with a waiver, of course.

Continued success,

Written by

Thinker, curious leader, once an attorney…always trying to answer well.

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