Blog contributions are provided exclusively from Luxury Real Estate members throughout the world.
By Robert Lockard
A while ago I stepped back from writing about luxury real estate to discuss a terribly destructive force that threatens to destroy families and make people miserable: debt. I would like to discuss something that I find to be just as dangerous as addiction to debt – the illogically high cost of earning a college degree.
I read a potentially explosive story on CNN yesterday about a bubble in the cost of higher education that makes the real-estate bubble or the tech crash in 2000 look tame in comparison.
I’d like to start by talking about my experience in college. When I attended college not too long ago, tuition and book costs were already getting out of hand, although they were manageable. I attended a community college in Washington state for my first two years to obtain my Associate’s degree. I had hoped to transfer to the University of Washington to complete my Bachelor of Arts in Communications, but the cost was prohibitive and, even though I graduated with honors and on the Dean’s list, I still had to wait a long time to enter that college.
Instead, I decided to accept a scholarship at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah and that turned out to be a very smart decision. In addition to the positive environment that beautiful campus offered, the cost of attending there was relatively low compared to my other options and I was able to pay for my entire education without going into hardly any debt. I am one of nine children, and my parents wisely told me that I would have to find a way to pay for my education by myself. Through a great deal of hard work and tight budgeting, I made it through without having to burden my family members.
During my time in college, I kept my mind focused on why I was there. I wasn’t there to waste time or take frivolous classes; I was there to finish my degree as quickly and as meaningfully as possible so that I could put my skills to use. I am grateful for the opportunities my college degree has opened for me. However, education costs are rising so fast that there might not be much reason for people to attend college in the future.
I would probably be sympathetic to colleges if the reason for the rise in education costs was because they were improving their education techniques or doing other things that would warrant such cost increases. But the truth is that this is not the case. Many colleges are increasing tuition costs for no other reason than because they want more students to apply. It seems to defy logic, but it’s true. Colleges appear to be playing a game that they will eventually lose. When they raise prices, people assume that they must have done so because they are more prestigious or offer better learning opportunities and so the colleges usually receive an increase in applications. This pattern cannot last forever.
Education is extremely important. It allows people to rise from humble circumstances and it also helps them make informed decisions about where they want to go in life. By making education worthless, colleges are doing a great disservice to their students. By worthless, I mean that the cost far exceeds the rewards. Greater cost does not always mean greater return on investment.
Increases in healthcare, energy and real-estate costs don’t even come close to touching the rise in education costs, as you can see in the graph in the CNN article. Knowledge is power, and if the cost of education becomes so high that that the benefits of earning it become small in comparison then we will be in big trouble. I am not suggesting that college degrees be easier to obtain or that unqualified people should receive an education without working hard. I am suggesting that colleges are in danger. They spend much of their increasing amount of money on frivolous amenities that do not improve their educational services or make their students’ diplomas any more valuable. Posh restaurants, nicer dorms and other foolish perks are unimportant for students who are simply hoping to receive the education they need to progress in life.
At some point people are going to realize that an education is not worth living under such an extreme amount of debt to obtain. When that day comes and colleges must cut their tuitions drastically, many cherished institutions will most certainly be unable to cope with this dramatic shift and they will come crashing down. Destroyed by their own pride and haughtiness. They will discover that they have spent their money on things that have no value and they are unable to offer students what they promised: an honest education.
I dislike focusing on something so negative as this, but I think it deserves special attention. Thank you very much for your comments. Feel free to let me know what you think of the state of higher education.
Robert Lockard is the Public Relations & Media Specialist with LuxuryRealEstate.com. I am Robert. I create all of Luxury Real Estate’s newsletters, write the editorials in LuxuryRealEstate.com Magazine and much more. I apologize again for sounding so negative. I am a very hopeful person and I trust that things will turn out right in the end. The photo of the bleeding wallet is from www.flickr.com/photos/adobemac/161319144 and it is the copyright of adobemac. The photo of the door is from www.flickr.com/photos/ben-zvan-photography/468487548 and it is the copyright of Ben Zvan.
By Michael Marquette
From his blog: Luxury Homes Fail to Sell at Auction
It has always astonished me how many real estate agents advise everyone they meet to auction their home home. In Regional cities like Newcastle this happens all too often with the inevitable result of the property passing in, and in most cases not even receiving one bid from a potential buyer.
The process is horrendous for vendors who quite often have their hopes set high only to have them come crashing down on auction day. Potential purchasers use the fact that the property passed in to show that there is little if any interest in the home and accordingly offer much less for the property or just wait for the price to continue falling in the hope of snapping it up for a bargain price.
This is even truer when looking at luxury homes in sort after suburbs in Newcastle like The Hill, Bar Beach and Merewether. Twenty-seven homes were put to auction in the Hunter yesterday with only eight selling, for a clearance rate of just 30 percent. Even more interesting is that the highest price paid for a property sold at auction yesterday was just $452,000!
It is more important than ever to choose an agent with the experience, qualifications and knowledge of the luxury market when selling your home. The one-size-fits-all approach simply doesn’t work when selling luxury properties and is even more important when selling property in Regional cities.
Michael Marquette is the co-Founder and Director of Marquette Turner Luxury Homes in East Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Founded on Australia Day 2007 by Marquette and Simon Turner, Marquette Turner is a property consultancy company covering the Australian states of New South Wales and Victoria. Marquette has a background in medicine and a large retail and wholesale business. Very interesting. An inexperienced real-estate agent might not know the best way to sell a home in the current market, so it’s important to choose wisely. Otherwise, buyers might not bother to pay attention to sellers’ efforts. The photo above is from www.flickr.com/photos/rickmccharles/2269842297 and it is the copyright of Rick McCharles.
By Andrew Harper
Many people have a list of places they’d like to visit before they move on to the next world; here are a few American suggestions of my own.
For conversation’s sake, I have avoided the obvious targets, but a stroll across the Golden Gate Bridge or a trip up the Empire State Building is still definitely worth it.
Though we are lucky to live in a beautiful country, I have focused on smaller, man-made locales, simply because a catalog of pretty American places could stretch on forever.
This list is admittedly subjective, but it comes from 30 years of professional wandering. Some places are more well-known than others, but all share a sense of tranquility and wonder.
And since I review small boutique hotels for a living, I have included nearby recommended places to stay. Happy travels!
Madison Valley, Montana
Montana’s Madison Valley, which runs between the Madison and Gallatin ranges down to West Yellowstone, is magnificent Lewis and Clark territory. This is unspoiled land, vast and uncompromising – everything you hope Big Sky Country will look like. Harper Recommended Hotel: The Lodge at Sun Ranch.
San Francisco de Asis Church, Ranchos de Taos
Famously painted by Georgia O’Keefe and described by her as “one of the most beautiful buildings left in the United States by the early Spaniards,” this handsome adobe mission a few miles outside of Taos Pueblo yokes together a staggering five centuries of American history. Harper Recommended Hotel: Casa de las Chimeneas, Taos.
Whaling Museum, Nantucket
At its whaling peak during the first half of the 19th century, the small island of Nantucket had 88 ships scattered across the oceans. The Whaling Museum is wonderfully evocative of this era (plenty of scrimshaw and rusty harpoons), and out-of-season Nantucket Town, with its Greek Revival mansions and cobblestone streets, is equally enchanting. Harper Recommended Hotel: The Wauwinet.
Battery District, Charleston
The historic Battery District of Charleston, South Carolina, home to dozens of stately antebellum mansions, is one of the prettiest American neighborhoods I’ve ever explored. Follow the promenade along the shores of the Charleston peninsula; Fort Sumter, where the first shots of the Civil War were fired, sits broodingly across the Cooper River. Harper Recommended Hotel: Planters Inn.
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston
Housed in a charming Venetian-style palazzo, this gem of a gallery displays works by Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Whistler and Sargent. It’s small enough to tour in an hour or so, and you can spend the rest of your time enjoying the sunny, flower-filled courtyard. And if your name happens to be Isabella, you get in free. Harper Recommended Hotel: XV Beacon.
The Four Seasons Restaurant, New York
If you had to choose only one restaurant in New York City to visit, the Four Seasons Restaurant would be the one. The city’s prettiest dining room was designed by architects Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson, and astutely hasn’t been touched since its introduction in 1959. The Pool Room is a study in muted sophistication, despite some of the outsized egos at the tables. Harper Recommended Hotel: The Lowell.
The Rothko Chapel, Houston
This small, non-denominational chapel located just off the Menil gallery in Houston’s Museum District seems unassuming at first, but spend some time surrounded by the 14 mysterious paintings by Mark Rothko, and it may start sinking into your skin. Harper Recommended Hotel: St. Regis.
The Huntington Gardens, San Marino, California
Mr. Huntington did quite well in railroads, and he’s left us with a wonderful afternoon escape just outside of Los Angeles. After admiring some of the spoils of his industry – a Gutenberg Bible, a Shakespeare folio, Thomas Gainsborough’s “The Blue Boy” – venture out into the superb botanical gardens, home to dozens of unique environments: an almost eerily authentic Japanese garden, a lily pond straight out of a Monet painting, and an entrancing collection of cacti. Harper Recommended Hotel: Hotel Bel-Air.
Robie House (Frank Lloyd Wright), Chicago
The Robie House, the world’s first modern home, was designed in 1908 by architect Frank Lloyd Wright, and still seems startlingly contemporary 100 years later; with its broad horizontal lines and sleek art glass windows, it looks like a modernist yacht. Wright himself showed up to protest the planned demolition of the house (it was to be replaced by a seminary dormitory) at the ripe old age of 90. Harper Recommended Hotel: Four Seasons.
The Oregon Coast
Highway 101 along the Oregon Coast swerves through 360 miles of jagged cliffs, rocky outcrops, sweeping dunes and temperate rain forests. The coastline lacks deep harbors, so there are no large cities here – just old logging towns, fishing villages and the occasional artist colony. And the entire coast is public land, which makes for excellent picnic opportunities in rugged and remote spaces. Harper Recommended Hotel: The Stephanie Inn, Cannon Beach.
For more information on this company, contact Margaret Temple, the Business Development Manager at Andrew Harper in Austin, Texas. Andrew Harper is an exclusive partner with Luxury Real Estate. This is some great advice for travelers seeking great deals. For more than a quarter century, Andrew Harper has explored the world as an incognito traveler. Always paying his own way, his unbiased reviews of the finest hotels, villas, yachts, restaurants and culturally authentic travel experiences are legendary. Through a variety of media, complemented by highly personalized travel planning services, members of Andrew Harper’s luxury travel club enjoy the resources to dream, plan and realize an unparalleled level of globetrotting. This blog entry is chock full of great information, just like Andrew Harper’s previous blog entry. Be sure to keep checking back at the Luxury Real Estate Blog for scoops like this!
By Michael Marquette
From his blog: View from the Bridge: Michael Marquette’s comments to the Australian Financial Review
Homeowners and investors have welcomed suggestions that the Reserve Bank of Australia will cut interest rates this year, but will the banks pass the rate cuts onto borrowers?
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has told Australians to change banks if they fail to pass on rate reductions. The banks have had no problem increasing rates to levels higher than official rate increases and have even increased rates despite the Reserve Bank keeping them on hold.
In an interview with The Australian Financial Review last week I was asked what it would take to restore confidence in the market. I expect buyers to remain cautious until the banks show that any rate reductions will be passed on. I believe a rate cut of around 1 percent is needed to restore buyer confidence as I’m hearing increasingly that buyers and vendors are skeptical that banks will pass on the rate cuts. A reduction of 100 basis points will result in the market reacting in a positive way, even half a percent will be looked on cautiously.
So the question is buy now or wait? The answer is simple. There are some fantastic buys in the luxury market at the moment and this will continue for the foreseeable future. As the stock market wobbles, dividends decrease and share prices drop bricks and mortar will become a major focus for many investors.
If you find the right luxury property at the right price and choose the right lender, your decision is an easy one to make. My only advice is to ensure sure that you keep your lender honest, and if “changing banks,” as PM Rudd suggests, make sure you are aware of all fees and costs that may apply.
Michael Marquette is the co-Founder and Director of Marquette Turner Luxury Homes in East Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Founded on Australia Day 2007 by Marquette and Simon Turner, Marquette Turner is a property consultancy company covering the Australian states of New South Wales and Victoria. Marquette has a background in medicine and a large retail and wholesale business. When banks charge unfair fees for their services, they are not building good relationships of trust with potential clients. I prefer kindness and openness when working with people. Thanks for the insightful blog entry, Michael! The photo of the Australian dollar coins is from www.flickr.com/photos/astro-dudes/913087028 and it is the copyright of Claire L. Evans.
By Michael Marquette
From his blog: Australian Auction Clearance Rates Crash!
Auction Clearance rates for the week ending July 27, 2008 indicate a property market in crisis. Sydney’s Clearance rate of just 36.5 percent is indicative of the disparity between vendors and buyers, with some real-estate agents caught in the middle.
Luxury real estate agents’ skills in both marketing and negotiating homes are being put to the test and many are being found short. Agents with reputations for overpricing properties (the practice of overpricing is used by some agents to win listings) are struggling to match the prices offered by buyers with the price expectations of vendors. Agents with the ability to communicate the best strategy at the time of listing are best placed to negotiate the highest price for vendors in the current market – well before a property is seen to become “stale.”
Getting the right agent is the key to successfully selling your home. Given that the total number of sales is down and the list of unsold properties is increasing, it is more important than ever to ensure that your luxury home is in safe hands. Given that spring, and the usual seasonal increase in the number of listings, is beckoning I stress the importance of making the right decisions the first time!
Michael Marquette is the co-Founder and Director of Marquette Turner Luxury Homes in East Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Founded on Australia Day 2007 by Marquette and Simon Turner, Marquette Turner is a property consultancy company covering the Australian states of New South Wales and Victoria. Marquette has a background in medicine and a large retail and wholesale business. Some markets are facing tough times, and it’s good to be aware of potential issues as well as opportunities. The photo of the crashing wave is from www.flickr.com/photos/victorgeere/24539591 and it is the copyright of Victor Geere.
By Robert Lockard
Jim Walberg, the co-Owner/Broker of The Bay Area Team in San Francisco, told me something really cool a few days ago. He said, “Bloggers are the most open and sharing community I have found on the Internet. They want every blogger to win!” I have definitely found that to be true.
As a blogger, I often find myself learning a great deal about what is effective and what is not from other bloggers with more experience than me. I have received a lot of positive feedback and support in my blogging from Eric Kodner, a luxury homes Broker with Wayzata Lakes Realty and Madeline Island Realty. Eric is an awesome blogger, and he has more than 110,000 points on ActiveRain.
In addition, I just did a simple search on ActiveRain for “blog tip” and I found a whole bunch of great ideas for improving my own blog posts. I particularly like Ronnie Roach’s Blog Tip of the Week. He confirmed my suspicion that I should use a different term than “blog” to describe each post I write. Another great resource is the Daily Blog Tips Web site.
There are many other examples out there, but these show how helpful and open the blogging community is. Jim is right! He’s been blogging for two years and he currently has two blogs, one called Caribbean Islands Realty and another called East Bay Real Estate. He also contributes many of his blog posts to the Luxury Real Estate Blog, which I appreciate very much.
I appreciate all the people who take the time to let me know when they agree with what I write and those who share their disagreements, too. Feedback is very helpful, and bloggers are often happy to give it. In fact, I hope you feel free to let me know if you think I’m a little naïve on this topic or to share your own experiences with helping fellow bloggers or receiving help from them.
By the way, Jim shared this quote with me as I was writing a news release about his upcoming presentation at the 13th Annual Luxury Real Estate Fall Conference on effective blog strategies and tactics and the positive effects that can come from blogging. This event will be in Philadelphia on October 11-14, 2008 and you're welcome to attend.
Robert Lockard is the Public Relations & Media Specialist with LuxuryRealEstate.com. I am Robert. I create all of Luxury Real Estate’s newsletters, write the editorials in LuxuryRealEstate.com Magazine and much more. You can share your blog entries on the Luxury Real Estate Blog by emailing them to me. Thank you very much! The photo of Rosie the Blogger is from www.flickr.com/photos/notionscapital/2493066577 and it is the copyright of Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com.
By Brian Langhorst
Each year some of the best tennis players in the region and country come to the Seattle Tennis Club on the shores of Lake Washington for the 118th Washington State Open.
John Brian Losh and the Ewing & Clark – Our Distinctive Home Shop team have been one of the headline sponsors for this notable event for over 10 years. Jane Powers, Betsy Losh and John Brian Losh all very much enjoy being a part of the Seattle and Madison Park communities. Together, they sponsor several key events throughout the year.
Brian Langhorst is LuxuryRealEstate.com’s Membership Manager. He meets members’ unique needs through the dynamic services LuxuryRealEstate.com provides. There are so many positive events like this going on and I’m pleased to hear about all of them. Philanthropy should be an important part of every business that hopes to succeed. People recognize true kindness when they see it and I think it builds trust just as much trust and goodwill as successful track records and financial performance. Be sure to show how much you care!
By Jean-Yves Piton
The classic marketing mix, with its 4 Ps (Product, Price, Promotion and Place), is evolving to meet current global business needs. It now includes 3 more Ps: Positioning, Packaging and People.
Keep in mind that Positioning should not be confused with Promotion. Although advertising efforts are inherently part of both Promotion and Positioning, the latter P mainly focuses on your competitive position within the marketplace and image amongst consumers.
Are you and your firm positioned as “the luxury real estate expert” in the marketplace? You must ask yourself this question to better compete in the global struggle for differentiated products, services and brands.
How are you and your firm’s products and services perceived by your prospects and clients? In essence, your positioning strategy should assist you with your brand recognition in the marketplace.
Your advertising efforts support your positioning strategy, which, in turn, builds your brand equity.
For instance, BMW has used the slogan “Ultimate Driving Machine” for over three decades now, positioning this tagline as the ultimate one in the automotive industry. BMW clearly advertises its passion and talent for top innovation and engineering, which positions its brand as one of the finest amongst luxury consumers.
In fact, Jack Pitney, Vice President of Marketing, BMW North America clearly articulated that: “BMW has carved out a unique niche in the industry by placing a premium on constant innovation and inspiration and this campaign will reveal the company behind The Ultimate Driving Machine.”
To that effect, while crafting your marketing plan you should carefully select your advertising initiatives to reach and appeal to your targeted audience. Your advertisements should unmistakably position you and your firm not just as “a luxury real estate expert” (one amongst many others), but as “the luxury real estate expert” (the best).
Jean-Yves Piton is the Global Services Membership Manager for LuxuryRealEstate.com. He assists Bente Madtsen, the Director of Global Services, in expanding the LuxuryRealEstate.com brand into even more countries around the world. What a great discussion. It’s definitely important to position yourself, through word and deed, as a standout performer. The photo of the blog apartment building is from www.flickr.com/photos/paytonc/925383449 and it is the copyright of Payton Chung.
By Janice Ridge
There are studies that indicate that both buyers and their agents are attracted to online listings that include photos. In fact, when I am searching MLS for a property for a client, I won’t even look at a listing that doesn’t have photos! And I am a real-estate professional! Truth is, most MLS photos are not that good. That’s why most real estate professionals go directly to the agent’s website to see better photos. I imagine the online consumer does, too.
In general, you would think that with the huge marketing opportunity of presenting photos online the quality would be better, but it isn’t. At LuxuryRealEstate.com, we are committed to making our photos stand out. I think we do a great job, don’t you?
But what I want to know is this: Does anyone know of any studies that show that videos on the Internet help to sell real estate? Is this something in which LuxuryRealEstate.com should invest for our members’ listings? Or are you as happy as I am with the quality of the online photos on LuxuryRealEstate.com?
As the Director of Membership & Relocation at LuxuryRealEstate.com, and herself a licensed REALTOR®, Janice Ridge is devoted to coordinating the efforts of all of the LuxuryRealEstate.com membership and Account Managers, so that each of our members is given superior service. Photos are essential for advertising luxury homes for sale, whether in print or online media. I can’t think of a better photographer than Ilya Moshenskiy, the Principal Photographer of Ilya’s Photography. He is one of the finest luxury photographers in the business, and he can bring out the most amazing qualities in your homes. Jim Walberg recently gave some wonderful praise for Ilya’s fine photography. The photo above is an example of Ilya’s work and it is copyright of Ilya’s Photography.
By Robert Lockard
I hope this doesn’t sound too prideful, but I really like what I write. And I do a lot of writing as the Public Relations & Media Specialist for LuxuryRealEstate.com.
While my blogs on ActiveRain and the LuxuryRealEstate.com Blog are sometimes quickly written and they don’t have the benefit of as much outside editing as I usually receive for my other work, I think they give you a taste of my writing skill and style.
My mind is constantly working before, during and after the writing process. I think about what is interesting about the story I am currently writing about. I ponder why my target readers would bother to read what I’ve written. I try to decide which points are most important and how best to convey them. I only have a limited amount of time to create my news releases, newsletters, magazine articles and other works, so I need to make quick decisions.
For the Week in Review newsletter I create each week, I receive a lot of news releases from members of the LuxuryRealEstate.com network. I am very grateful for that fact because it helps me keep our newsletters filled with great material. Many of the stories I receive are really interesting while others are about new employees, anniversaries and other topics that don’t seem too interesting at first. However, once I go through a news story, I can usually find something remarkable in it and I usually rewrite the headline so it’s much more eye-catching.
With these thoughts in mind, I’d like to talk about my recent experience writing a news release on a seemingly average topic: a Ewing & Clark, Inc. broker celebrating her 20th anniversary. I don’t mean that the broker, Jane Powers, is average; I’m just saying that I’ve read many stories similar to hers. As I approached this story I tried to remember that this is an important moment for her, and she has many great stories to tell after 20 successful years in the Seattle luxury market.
So I sat down to write about her story. Many times when I write I have a sudden inspiration that I know did not come from me. This time was no different. I suddenly had a thought that I should look up remarkable events that occurred in July 1988, when Powers started with her company. As it turned out, I discovered that a little movie called “Die Hard” debuted in theaters the same day that Powers began working at Ewing & Clark.
I was ecstatic by the creative opportunities opened up by this coincidence.
I am a big movie buff and I couldn’t pass up this chance to add some really unique flavor to Powers’ story. So that’s exactly what I did. You can see the final product here. I wrote the first and second-to-last paragraphs first and then worked on the rest of it. I had a blast writing this story.
I got butterflies of nervous excitement when I showed it to Powers herself for approval. Luckily, she liked my take on her story and I got to distribute it through my usual PR sources.
I believe any story can be interesting to read. I could have written Powers’ news release in a really boring, run-of-the-mill way, but I found that little something special that turned it into a great story. I hope that you can find the greatness in your stories and, as long as you’re a LuxuryRealEstate.com member, I’d love to post them in the Week in Review!
Robert Lockard is the Public Relations & Media Specialist with LuxuryRealEstate.com. I am Robert. I create all of Luxury Real Estate’s newsletters, write the editorials in LuxuryRealEstate.com Magazine and much more. By the way, John Brian Losh is the Chairman/CEO of Ewing & Clark, which is a member of the Luxury Real Estate Board of Regents. The copy of the “Die Hard” movie poster is from www.flickr.com/photos/nickslidepics/442646618 and it is the copyright of Nick Slide.
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