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Businesses make promises to its customers.  A brand promise spells out what customers can expect from the organization’s product or services.  Those promises are communicated verbally and in writing in a multitude of ways every day.  For example, a company’s website or app lists details about the products or services.  Marketing materials such as flyers, brochures and ads tout visually and in writing what is special about the company’s offers.  Employees talk up the organization’s purpose.  Signs scream the business’ intent.  The mission statement communicates the company’s promises.  So do corporate filings for publicly-traded entities.  And Contracts and Sales Agreements spell out in legally-binding detail the particulars of the brand’s commitment.

That is just the tip of the ‘brand promises’ iceberg.  Brand promises are also communicated through professional oaths as well, like a physician’s Hippocratic Oath to “do no harm”.  Attorneys take an oath when they are admitted to a State Bar Association. And CPAs take an oath after passing the exam.  For example, the North Carolina CPA oath says:  “I will support the laws and regulations of the State of North Carolina and the United States. I will perform my professional duties to the best of my ability and abide by the rules of professional ethics and conduct; and I will uphold the honor and dignity of the accounting profession by serving with integrity, objectivity, and competence.[1] That communicates what a CPA in that state has committed to do. That professional designation implies brand promises to clients.

There are a myriad of other actions and representations that spell out what a brand pledges to do or provide for its customers.  Those promises are sometimes legally-binding and ethically-binding, but they are always socially-binding.  There is a social pact between a seller and a buyer based, in part, on the brand’s promises.  Companies are expected to live up to their brand promises.

For example, for many years Bounty paper towels proclaimed that it was the “quicker-picker-upper” in its ads and on its packaging.  Introduced in 1965, this Procter & Gamble brand touted fast absorbency as a key selling point.  In 2010, they changed their brand message – and thus their overall product promise – to say the “clean picker upper”.  The package also says “One sheet keeps cleaning” and, on the back of the wrapper, it says “thick and absorbent Bounty helps you clean up quickly and easily, so you can get more out of each day.”  Procter & Gamble’s marketing team felt that consumers wanted a competent clean they could trust on surfaces their families encounter every day so their brand’s promise shifted to a “functional benefit” rather than how fast Bounty could pick up spills.  Bounty promised that a single sheet of their paper towel was strong and absorbent enough to get surfaces clean. The subtext was that they were promising to be cost effective for frugal shoppers who watch how many paper towels they use each time there is a mess that needs to be wiped.   And, for the most part, Bounty is a solid brand that has lived up to its promises.  But, what happens when a company fails to live up to one or more of its brand promises repeatedly?  Routinely?  On a regular basis?

Do Companies break promises regularly?

In a 2001 Gallup research and development survey of more than 3,100 customers, less than half of current customers felt that the brands they use keep the promises they make.  Specifically, just 38% of U.S. bank customers felt that their bank always kept its promises, while only 31% of auto owners felt that their car’s manufacturer always kept their promises, and a mere 22% of the previous year’s airline customers felt that the airline they flew most always kept its promises.[2] So, sadly, customers have become accustomed to companies breaking promises.  That may be, in part, because only 27% of employees report that they always deliver on the promises they make to their customers.  So most companies break brand promises and their customers know it.

Of course, no company is perfect because companies are comprised of people, and people are not perfect.  To err is human.  So, it is understood that brand promises are sometimes broken unintentionally due to human error and because of issues beyond a company’s control.  For example, airlines cannot control the weather but they take the blame for flight delays due to ice, snow, hail and lightning.  Also, logistics companies Fed Ex and UPS deliver nearly 6.5 billion packages a year, 99% of which are on time and undamaged, but some packages get lost or damaged or both.  It happens despite massive, intricate systems that protect against such errors.  No company is perfect and none gets it right 100% of the time.

That said, every organization should be committed to doing its level best to uphold the pledges it makes to its customers.  But, as the Gallup poll indicates, many companies aren’t doing that.  So, what happens when companies regularly fail to live up to the promises made?   After all, if most companies are breaking promises and people expect it, is that really a problem?  Simply put, yes, it is a problem in the way that a ticking time bomb is a problem.

Several things that happen when a company breaks its brand promises.

  1. Customers are disappointed.
  2. Customers feel disconnected from the company and its employees.
  3. Customers learn not to trust the brand.
  4. Customers feel disrespected.
  5. Customers no longer feel a sense of loyalty to the brand.

When that happens, brand dismantling begins.

What is Brand Dismantling?

Brand dismantling is what happens when a company regularly breaks its brand promises.  It can happen to any brand that consistently or cavalierly fails to deliver on the commitments it makes to customers.  So what exactly is brand dismantling?  It is the corrosive and ultimately destructive effect that broken promises have on the strength and stability of a brand.   Sometimes the effect is slow and is not felt right away.  Over time, customers slowly reduce their business or remove their business altogether, taking with them friends, family, and colleagues.  The attrition is like a slow leak.  In the case of a company that sells a product, customers might start trying competing products in search of one that is better.  Or, if the brand promises broken were by a company that provides a service, customers might start asking for references to other vendors.  The decline happens bit by bit.

However, thanks to social media, brand dismantling is happening more quickly now than ever before.  Betrayed customers not only suddenly and abruptly disappear — taking friends, family, and colleagues with them – but they also take people they don’t personally know but are connected to through social media.  The bigger the person’s social media platform and megaphone, the more devastating the impact to the company.  Broken brand promises can destroy a company with alarming speed, especially when one tweet has the potential to be retweeted ten thousand times over and viewed by over a million people within a matter of minutes.

Case in point.  Chipotle’s brand promise is that they make food with integrity.  Their entire brand was built on the promise of serving fresh, local food that is ethically grown and locally sourced. Their website even proudly claimed that the company used only vegetables grown in healthy soil.   So, it was more than a shock when hundreds of consumers across 13 states were sickened after eating contaminated food from Chipotle in 2016.  The news spread on social media like wildfire.  It sent the company’s stock, which had hit a record high in 2015, spiraling downward 40%.  It also launched a federal criminal investigation because Chipotle could not identify the source[s] of the contaminated ingredients that went to stores at specific times.  They broke brand promises by having an outsourced supply chain, which meant they lacked end-to-end visibility of the food from the source to store delivery in the chain.  This allowed the contamination to spread.  The lesson?  Be careful what thy promises to thy customers.  It wasn’t just that they made hundreds of customers sick, it is that their main brand promise had been badly broken and customer trust was crushed.

Though scarce, trust in brand promises is universally a top priority for consumers in determining whether to do business with a company.  That trust is in very short supply, and it cannot be bought, stockpiled or artificially made.  It must be earned by organizations through their actions daily.  It is not something that is ‘one and done.’  Consistency is a key factor in gaining and keeping consumer’s trust in a brand promise. It is not about fulfilling the promise once and moving on to the next exercise, effort or engagement.  Only routinely kept promises will nurture brand reputation and generate customer loyalty.

Over the next few weeks you will see Blog Posts not only from me but from our Referral Partners-HIGHLY EDUCATIONAL in our world today!

As always please let me know if you need to speak to me!  I am always available!

It’s finally possible for self-employed borrowers or independent contractors who have difficulty documenting their income to actually get a stated income loan to buy a non-occupant property for investment purposes.

The “debt-service-coverage” loan program helps these investors, house flippers and landlords who have multiple expense write-offs on their tax returns to buy investment properties without having to document their income.

The new option – use the anticipated monthly rent as income to qualify for the loan.

No Income Stated or Verified

If you have been aggressive with deductions on your tax return but have adequate cash flow, this type of loan may be for you.

The debt coverage ratio measures the ability to pay the property’s monthly mortgage payments from the cash generated from renting the property.

Lenders use this ratio as a guide to help them understand whether the property will generate enough cash to pay the mortgage expense.

The debt coverage ratio is calculated by dividing the property’s month net operating income (NOI) by a property’s monthly debt service. The monthly debt service is the total of the mortgage principal and interest payment, taxes, insurance, and any HOA fees.

Investors can qualify if the net operating income from the property is equal to or greater than 1.0 times the monthly debt service.

So, if you have a property that can generate $2,000 per month in rent, investors can qualify with an “all-in” mortgage payment of $2,000!

Debt Service Coverage Ratio (DSCR) Investor Loan

  • Loan-To-Values up to 80%
  • Credit Score down to 600
  • Qualification based upon cash flow of subject property
  • Interest only option available
  • 5/1, 7/1, and 30-year fixed options available

Non-Owner Occupied and Investment Purposes Only

This is only for Non Owner Occupied properties for investment purposes.  You will be required to sign a statement that states you live in another property that you own.

Please do contact Tom Bonetto for more specific information regarding qualification!

Here’s the link to the article: https://lendingcoach.net/debt-service-coverage/

As I’m sure you’re aware, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA) was enacted at the end of last year. It’s the largest tax overhaul since the 1986 Tax Reform Act and will affect almost every business in the United States. Considering all the changes that took effect this year, It may be appropriate for us to meet as early as possible to discuss how these changes might affect your 2018 business tax return and to nail down any actions that may need to be taken before the end of the year.

Here’s a quick recap of the new rules, followed by some thoughts on steps we can take to reduce your 2018 tax liability.

  1. New Business-Related Tax Rules for 2018

The business-related provisions in the TCJA are permanent and generally take effect beginning with 2018 tax years. For businesses, highlights of the new law include: (1) an increase in amounts that may be expensed under Section 179 and an increase in the bonus depreciation deduction; (2) a 21 percent flat corporate tax rate; (3) a new business deduction for sole proprietorships and pass-through entities; (4) the elimination of the corporate alternative minimum tax (AMT); (5) modifications of rules relating to accounting methods; and (6) several changes involving partnerships and S corporations. The following is a brief overview of some of the more significant aspects of the new tax law that may affect your business.

Section 179 Deduction. For 2018, businesses can write off up to $1,000,000 of qualifying property under Section 179. The theory is that the money a business saves on taxes, as a result of deducting the full amount of equipment and other business property, can be reinvested back into the business. Additionally, writing off an asset in the year it is purchased, saves you the time and money it takes to keep track of the remaining basis of an asset after its yearly depreciation. The $1,000,000 amount is reduced (but not below zero)

by the amount by which the cost of the qualifying property placed in service during the tax year exceeds $2,500,000.

In addition, the definition of property that qualifies for the Section 179 deduction has been expanded to include certain depreciable tangible personal property used predominantly to furnish lodging or in connection with furnishing lodging, as well as any of the following improvements to nonresidential real property: roofs; heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning property; fire protection and alarm systems; and security systems.

Bonus Depreciation Deduction. The new tax law extended and modified the additional first-year (i.e., “bonus”) depreciation deduction, which had generally been scheduled to end in 2019. An enhanced bonus depreciation deduction is now available, generally, through 2026. Under the new rules, the 50-percent additional depreciation allowance that was previously allowed is increased to 100 percent for property placed in service after September 27, 2017, and before January 1, 2023, as well as for specified plants planted or grafted after September 27, 2017, and before January 1, 2023. These deadlines are extended for certain longer production period property and certain aircraft.

The 100-percent allowance is phased down by 20 percent per calendar year in tax years beginning after 2022 (after 2023 for longer production period property and certain aircraft).

Another new provision removes the requirement that, in order to qualify for bonus depreciation, the original use of qualified property must begin with the taxpayer. Thus, the bonus depreciation deduction applies to purchases of used as well as new items.

Additional Depreciation on ‘Luxury’ Automobiles and Certain Personal Use Property. Another benefit of the new tax law is that it increases the depreciation limitations that apply to certain “listed” property such as vehicles with a gross unloaded weight of 6,000 lbs or less (known as “luxury” automobiles). For luxury automobiles placed in service after 2017, an additional $8,000 deduction is available, thus making the write-off for the first year $18,000. The deduction is $16,000 for the second year, $9,600 for the third year, and $5,760 for the fourth and later years in the recovery period.

New Deduction for Qualified Business Income. One of the biggest changes for 2018 is the new qualified business income deduction. If you are a sole proprietor, a partner in a partnership, a member in an LLC taxed as a partnership, or a shareholder in an S corporation, you may be entitled to a deduction for qualified business income for tax years beginning after December 31, 2017, and before January 1, 2026. Trusts and estates are also eligible for this deduction.

While there are important restrictions to taking this deduction, the amount of the deduction is generally 20 percent of qualifying business income from a qualified trade or business. A qualified trade or business means any trade or business other than (1) a specified service trade or business, or (2) the trade or business of being an employee. A “specified service trade or business” is defined as any trade or business involving the performance of services in the fields of health, law, accounting, actuarial science, performing arts, consulting, athletics, financial services, brokerage services, including investing and investment management, trading, or dealing in securities, partnership interests, or commodities, and any trade or business where the principal asset of such trade or business is the reputation or skill of one or more of its employees. Engineering and architecture services are specifically excluded from the definition of a specified service trade or business.

However, there is a special rule which allows you to take this deduction even if you have a specified service trade or business. Under that rule, the provision disqualifying such businesses from being considered a qualified trade or business for purposes of the qualified business income deduction does not apply to individuals with taxable income of less than $157,500 ($315,000 for joint filers). After an individual reaches the threshold amount, the restriction is phased in over a range of $50,000 in taxable income ($100,000 for joint filers). Thus, if your income falls within the range, you are allowed a partial deduction. Once the end of the range is reached, the deduction is completely disallowed.

For purposes of the deduction, items are treated as qualified items of income, gain, deduction, and loss only to the extent they are effectively connected with the conduct of a trade or business within the United States. In calculating the deduction, qualified business income means the net amount of qualified items of income, gain, deduction, and loss with respect to the qualified trade or business of the taxpayer.

Qualified business income does not include any amount paid by an S corporation that is treated as reasonable compensation of the taxpayer, or any guaranteed payment (or other payment) to a partner in a partnership for services rendered with respect to the trade or business. Qualified items do not include specified investment-related income, deductions, or losses, such as capital gains and losses, dividends and dividend equivalents, interest income other than that which is properly allocable to a trade or business, and similar items.

If the net amount of qualified business income from all qualified trades or businesses during the tax year is a loss, it is carried forward as a loss from a qualified trade or business to the next tax year (and reduces the qualified business income for that year).

W-2 Wage Limitation. The deductible amount for each qualified trade or business is the lesser of: (1) 20 percent of the taxpayer’s qualified business income with respect to the trade or business; or (2) the greater of: (a) 50 percent of the W-2 wages with respect to the trade or business, or (b) the sum of 25 percent of the W-2 wages with respect to the trade or business and 2.5 percent of the unadjusted basis, immediately after acquisition, of all qualified property (generally all depreciable property still within its depreciable period at the end of the tax year).

The W-2 wage limitation does not apply to individuals with taxable income of less than $157,500 ($315,000 for joint filers). After an individual reaches the threshold amount, the W-2 limitation is phased in over a range of $50,000 in taxable income ($100,000 for joint filers).

In the case of a partnership or S corporation, the business income deduction applies at the partner or shareholder level. Each partner in a partnership takes into account the partner’s allocable share of each qualified item of income, gain, deduction, and loss, and is treated as having W-2 wages for the tax year equal to the partner’s allocable share of W-2 wages of the partnership. Similarly, each shareholder in an S corporation takes into account the shareholder’s pro rata share of each qualified item and W-2 wages.

The deduction for qualified business income is subject to some overriding limitations relating to taxable income, net capital gains, and other items which are beyond the scope of this letter and will not affect the amount of the deduction in most situations.

Changes in Accounting Method Rules. The new tax law has also expanded the number of businesses eligible to use the cash method of accounting as long as the business satisfies a gross receipts test. This test allows businesses with annual average gross receipts that do not exceed $25 million for the three prior tax-year period to use the cash method. A similar gross receipts threshold provides an exemption from the following accounting requirements/methods: (1) uniform capitalization rules; (2) the requirement to keep inventories; and (3) the requirement to use the percentage-of-completion method for certain long-term contracts (thus allowing the use of the more favorable completed-contract method, or any other permissible exempt contract method).

We need to discuss whether or not your business might benefit from these changes. If the answer is yes, we’ll need to file tax forms with the IRS to initiate the changes, as well as set up your books and records to appropriately reflect the new methods being used. The sooner we do this, the better.

Carryover of Business Losses Is Now Limited. Beginning in 2018, excess business losses of a taxpayer other than a corporation are not allowed for the tax year. Under this excess business loss limitation, your loss from a non- passive trade or business is limited to $500,000 (married filing jointly) or $250,000 (all other taxpayers). Thus, such losses cannot be used to offset other income. Instead, if your business incurs such excess losses, you must carry them forward and treat them as part of your net operating loss carry forward in subsequent tax years.  In fact, net operating losses carried over from a prior year can only offset current business income up to 80%.

New Interest Deduction Limitations. You may have heard about a new limitation on the deduction of interest expense. Effective for 2018, the deduction for business interest is limited to the sum of business interest income plus 30 percent of adjusted taxable income for the tax year. However, there is an exception to this limitation for certain small taxpayers, certain real estate businesses that make an election to be exempt from this rule, businesses with floor plan financing (i.e., a specialized type of financing used by car dealerships), and for certain regulated utilities.

The new law exempts from the interest expense limitation taxpayers with average annual gross receipts for the three-taxable year period ending with the prior taxable year that do not exceed $25 million. Further, at the taxpayer’s election, any real property development, redevelopment, construction, reconstruction, acquisition, conversion, rental, operation, management, leasing, or brokerage trade or business is not treated as a trade or business for purposes of the limitation, and therefore the limitation does not apply to such trades or businesses.

Elimination of Entertainment Deduction. The new tax law also eliminated business deductions for entertainment. As a result, no deduction is allowed with respect to: (1) an activity generally considered to be entertainment, amusement or recreation; (2) membership dues with respect to any club organized for business, pleasure, recreation or other social purposes; or (3) a facility or portion thereof used in connection with any of the above items.

Under prior law, there was an exception to this rule for entertainment, amusement, or recreation directly related to (or, in certain cases, associated with) the active conduct of a trade or business. This is no longer the case.

In addition, no deduction is allowed for expenses associated with providing any qualified transportation fringe benefits to your employees, except as necessary for ensuring the safety of an employee, including any expense incurred for providing transportation (or any payment or reimbursement) for commuting between the employee’s residence and place of employment.

A business may still generally deduct 50 percent of the food and beverage expenses associated with operating their trade or business (e.g., meals consumed by employees during work travel). If meals are combined with entertainment, the meal portion needs to be separately stated in order for the business to deduct the meal expense.

Changes to Partnership Rules. Several changes were made to the partnership tax rules. First, gain or loss from the sale or exchange of a partnership interest is treated as effectively connected with a U.S. trade or business to the extent that the transferor would have had effectively connected gain or loss had the partnership sold all of its assets at fair market value as of the date of the sale or exchange. Any gain or loss from the hypothetical asset sale by the partnership is allocated to interests in the partnership in the same manner as nonseparately stated income and loss.

Second, the transferee of a partnership interest must withhold 10 percent of the amount realized on the sale or exchange of the partnership interest unless the transferor certifies that the transferor is not a nonresident alien individual or foreign corporation.

Third, the definition of a substantial built-in loss has been modified so that a substantial built-in loss is considered to exist if the transferee of a partnership interest would be allocated a net loss in excess of $250,000 upon a hypothetical disposition by the partnership of all of the partnership’s assets in a fully taxable transaction for cash equal to the assets’ fair market value, immediately after the transfer of the partnership interest. This could necessitate the adjustment of the basis of partnership property.

Fourth, TCJA modifies the basis limitation on partner losses to provide that a partner’s distributive share of items that are not deductible in computing the partnership’s taxable income, and not properly chargeable to capital account, are allowed only to the extent of the partner’s adjusted basis in the partner’s partnership interest at the end of the partnership tax year in which an expenditure occurs. Thus, the basis limitation on partner losses applies to a partner’s distributive share of charitable contributions and foreign taxes.

Lastly, the rule providing for technical terminations of partnerships has been repealed.

Changes to S Corporation Rules. Several changes were also made to the tax rules involving S corporations. First, income that must be taken into account when an S corporation revokes its S corporation election is taken into account ratably over six years, rather than the four years under prior law. Second, a nonresident alien individual can be a potential current beneficiary of an electing small business trust (ESBT). Third, the charitable contribution deduction of an ESBT is not determined by the rules generally applicable to trusts but rather by the rules applicable to individuals. Thus, the percentage limitations and carryforward provisions applicable to individuals apply to charitable contributions made by the portion of an ESBT holding S corporation stock.

International Tax Changes. TCJA makes sweeping changes to the United States’ international tax regime through a series of highly complex provisions that are beyond the scope of this letter.

  1. II. Year-End Tax Plannin Section 179 Expensing and Bonus Depreciation. As discussed above, the Section 179 expensing and bonus depreciation rules have been generously enhanced under TCJA. These changes may create new opportunities to reduce current year tax liabilities through the acquisition of qualifying property – including property placed in service between now and the end of the year.

Vehicle-Related Deductions and Substantiation of Deductions. Expenses relating to business vehicles can add up to major deductions. If your business could use a large passenger vehicle, consider purchasing a sport utility  vehicle weighing more than 6,000 pounds. Vehicles under that weight limit are considered listed property and deductions are more limited. However, if the vehicle is more than 6,000 pounds, up to $25,000 of the cost of the vehicle can be immediately expensed.

Vehicle expense deductions are generally calculated using one of two methods: the standard mileage rate method or the actual expense method. If the standard mileage rate is used, parking fees and tolls incurred for business purposes can be added to the total amount calculated.

Since the IRS tends to focus on vehicle expenses in an audit and disallow them if they are not property substantiated, you should ensure that the following are part of your business’s tax records with respect to each vehicle used in the business: (1) the amount of each separate expense with respect  to the vehicle (e.g., the cost of purchase or lease, the cost of repairs and maintenance); (2) the amount of mileage for each business or investment use and the total miles for the tax period; (3) the date of the expenditure; and (4) the business purpose for the expenditure. The following are considered adequate for substantiating such expenses: (1) records such as a notebook, diary, log, statement of expense, or trip sheets; and (2) documentary evidence such as receipts, canceled checks, bills, or similar evidence. Records are considered adequate to substantiate the element of a vehicle expense only if they are prepared or maintained in such a manner that each recording of an element of the expense is made at or near the time the expense is incurred.

Retirement Plans and Other Fringe Benefits. Benefits are very attractive to employees. If you haven’t done so already, you may want to consider using benefits rather than higher wages to attract employees. While your business is not required to have a retirement plan, there are many advantages to having one. By starting a retirement savings plan, you not only help your employees save for the future, you can also use such a plan to attract and retain qualified employees. Retaining employees longer can impact your bottom line as well by reducing training costs. In addition, as a business owner, you can take advantage of the plan yourself, and so can your spouse. If your spouse is not currently on the payroll, you may want to consider adding him or her and paying a salary up to the maximum amount that can be deferred into a retirement plan. So, for example, if your spouse is 50 years old or over and receives a salary of $24,500, all of it could go into a 401(k), leaving your spouse with a retirement account but no taxable income.

By offering a retirement plan, you also generate tax savings to your business because employer contributions are deductible and the assets in the retirement plan grow tax free. Additionally, a tax credit is available to certain small employers for the costs of starting a retirement plan. Please let me know if this is an option you would like to discuss further.

Increasing Basis in Pass-thru Entities. If you are a partner in a partnership or a shareholder in an S corporation, and the entity is passing through a loss for the year, you must have enough basis in the entity in order to deduct the loss on your personal tax return. If you don’t, and if you can afford to, you should consider increasing your basis in the entity in order to take the loss in 2018.

De Minimis Safe Harbor Election. It may be advantageous to elect the annual de minimis safe harbor election for amounts paid to acquire or produce tangible property. By making this election, and as long as the items purchased don’t have to be capitalized under the uniform capitalization rules and are expensed for financial accounting purposes or in your books and records, you can deduct up to $2,500 per invoice or item (or up to $5,000 if you have an applicable financial statement).

S Corporation Shareholder Salaries. For any business operating as an S corporation, it’s important to ensure that shareholders involved in running the business are paid an amount that is commensurate with their workload. The IRS scrutinizes S corporations which distribute profits instead of paying compensation subject to employment taxes. Failing to pay arm’s length salaries can lead not only to tax deficiencies, but penalties and interest on those deficiencies as well. The key to establishing reasonable compensation is being able to show that the compensation paid for the type of work an owner-employee does for the S corporation is similar to what other corporations would pay for similar work. If you are in this situation, we need to document the factors that support the salary you are being paid.

As you can see, a lot is going on with respect to business income and taxes for 2018. The new tax law provisions are quite extensive and also quite complicated.

Please call me at your earliest convenience so we can discuss how these changes will impact your business, and what kind of strategies we can adopt to ensure that your business gets the best possible tax outcome under the new rules.

Sincerely,

Anne Cornelius, CPA

 

Part of the reason the media companies are so successful marketing to real estate agents is because real estate agents believe in magic. Just sign up for a premium account, buy a ZIP code, and you will get “leads.”

To many, being a real estate agent seems to be all about lead capture and buying leads.

I remember back a few years ago the common wisdom was that the lead aggregators would go out of business. I guess some of them did, but lead capture isn’t all that different. Instead of buying the leads that the aggregator captures, agents capture their own.

Agents like to be able to have automated processes so they can capture leads and send out canned marketing emails. It doesn’t cost much or take a lot of time to send out a zillion email messages to thousands of leads.

When Facebook and Twitter first came on the scene, some real estate agents and experts viewed social media as the new way to get lots of leads cheap. A Facebook page was like magic. Some agents took marketing to a new level, putting automated tweeting properties on the Internet to drum up some business for themselves.

Sure, we would all like to just put our feet up and let the business roll in. We can automate and can every task using the wonderful technology that we have.

Each time something new comes on the scene, it’s treated as if it were invented just for real estate agents. We can just put pictures of our listings on Instagram and the business will come in. I remember reading articles about how you could use Vine to market real estate. Apparently short looping video of stationary houses was the next big thing.

 

“Each time something new comes on the scene, it’s treated as if it were invented just for real estate agents.”

When Instagram rolled out its time-lapse video stabilization tool “Hyperlapse,” right on cue an industry expert wrote about how it can be used for marketing homes for sale. Super-fast videos of homes for sale and of everything else are apparently the next big marketing tool.

 

This year drones are magical. We can throw a drone at a property for sale and apparently it doesn’t matter what the video looks like or what it shows. It just needs to be taken by a drone.

 

When I started my blog, it seemed like blogs were considered magical, too. Agents would start a blog and then post some statistics every other day and pictures of their listings and wait for the good times to roll.

 

Then, agents discovered that writing blog posts is work. It takes time, and is not a path to instant success. So agents gave up on the idea of blogging — unless they could do it on a platform where they got lots of comments and plenty of praise from other real estate agents.

It is work to tweet in person instead of just using auto tweets. It’s harder to write a separate email tailored to each situation, instead of using canned messages. And it is working to publish unique content on a blog that is about local real estate.

Sometimes it is even all right to pick up the phone and have a conversation that isn’t scripted, but where we listen and respond.

The spam that hits my inbox is often from companies offering magical solutions that will easily lead to unimaginable wealth. If I were selling products or services to real estate agents I would use the same type of sales pitch, because it works. Many real estate agents believe there are easy magical ways to use technology to make a lot of money with little effort.

Sometimes we lose touch with the fact that real estate is still a relationship-based business. It doesn’t matter if we build relationships by direct mail or through Twitter. It’s the relationships themselves that bring us business. Those relationships are not generic or magical. They take time and effort and are usually built one at a time.

Successful agents who have been successful for longer than a few days or years all tell me the same thing: They work hard. When they have been working hard for many years, then the magic happens.

I rise at 3 AM almost every morning-I go to bed early, but I get a TON of work done before anyone gets out of bed!  This is the way I like to work. I do use all the current media tools to do my job, but I firmly believe that picking up a phone or better yet meeting in person is the way to establish a relationship.  My Clients absolutely know that I want a long-term relationship not a one-off deal.

Today I am packing to go to Toronto for CoStar. Out of 65,000 Commercial Brokers I am privileged to have been asked to this meeting. As I understand this there is only 13 Brokers going to Toronto.  CoStar is bringing their video team from London to shoot videos-stay tuned for more!!!

Listen to Learn

I had a very trying week, and yet I’m glad it was. The problems that arose helped teach me that I still have some work to do on my listening skills. I’m betting that you might too, so I’m sharing. Building and selling Real Estate for the most part is pretty rewarding. Everyday the team at my company interacts with clients who use our tools to be more productive. The goal is to maximize the technology so folks can either make more money or save time. So it’s really rewarding for us. Now that doesn’t mean that it’s always a ball of fun anymore than your work is, but for the most part what we do is really rewarding. And when things get troubling or difficult, I try to step back and find the cause. Not always easy. And while I hate to admit it, problems arise most often because of poor communication. Communication can be internal or customer facing, it doesn’t matter, the outcome is the same – someone’s upset or at minimum, not delighted.
I didn’t tell you anything new did I? Communication has always been hard and it’s getting harder because printed words – emails and texts, aren’t very conveying. Come on, can you really tell my mood right now? Of course not. So I’ve laid out a problem or issue. So how do we make progress towards something different? How do we improve communication? Simplistically we know the answer. Listen more and speak less. Easy to say. Hard to do. I have an idea. How about we all act like 3 or 4-year olds and ask question, after question, after question? That way we put ourselves in a position where we can actually spend more time listening and less time talking. And guess what? It’s almost impossible to ask questions via email. It’s too tedious – all that Send/Receive, Send/Receive, Send/Receive!
Here’s the catch. You have to really be curious and want to know the answers. You have to really want to hear the other person’s answer or point of view. You can’t be contrite. And while you may be reading this thinking that I’m talking about the people we work and interact with frequently, it’s just as valuable or even most valuable to have conversations with your customers. The satisfied ones are full of advice and knowledge they can share and the unhappy ones can give you direction.
Today I often hear that people don’t want to call or stop in to see someone, because they feel they are being intrusive. A “pre-email” or text is thought of as polite; maybe. But if what you want to learn holds value for all parties, I find a call or in-person meeting is welcome. Problem is people on the calling side are many times acting in a self-serving way. Bad, very bad. I talk to a lot of people about communication and connections. I’ve learned so much. It takes a lot of practice. It isn’t always easy for sure. I’m convinced we can do better. We can be “connected” AND benefit from the amazing tools we have to share and connect. Remember the ice bucket challenge? How about we come up with a challenge for people to listen more than they speak? I have no idea what that might look like as a “game” or “challenge,” and I’m hoping all you smart folks might. I ask you. Am I off base? Is communication just fine? I’m anxious to listen. You can even call me if you like. 602-688-9379. Oh my! How novel. I ANSWER my phone.
Happy 1031? IPX1031


NO TRICK: A Treat for Unsuccessful 1031 Exchanges!

A treat from the IRS? Taxpayers should not be spooked if they are unable to complete their 1031 Exchanges. A treat may exist for a calendar-year taxpayer who initiates a 1031 tax-deferred exchange during the last few months of this year only to find that the exchange fails (they are unable to purchase new replacement property within the time periods set forth in Section 1031). Since the exchange period will go into 2018, the IRS provides an option called “tax straddling” which allows most taxpayers to pay the tax that is due on their 2018 return as opposed to their 2017 return.

Of course the major benefit for a taxpayer who successfully completes a 1031 Exchange is 100% deferral of taxes and the ability to invest all of their equity into new property. Unfortunately, if a taxpayer is not able to purchase new property to successfully complete the 1031 Exchange, the taxes associated with the sale of their investment property will be due. However due to “tax straddling” the taxpayer may receive a one year tax payment deferral thanks to the coordination between IRC §453 and §1031 provided in the §1031 regulations.

How does this work? If a delayed 1031 exchange begins in the latter portion of 2017, the exchange period may run into 2018. If the exchange fails or if the taxpayer (having a bona fide intent to do an exchange) receives cash boot in 2018, the 1031 regulations treat the exchange as an installment sale allowing the taxpayer to consider that the exchange proceeds were received (and are taxable) in 2018.

However, if a taxpayer prefers to pay their taxes as soon as possible, in accordance with IRC section 453 (d) a taxpayer may “elect out” of the installment method. By electing out, the taxpayer can recognize the gain in 2017 instead of 2018. To elect out, the sale should be reported on Form 8949, Form 4797 (or both) and not on Form 6252. The election must be made by the due date, including extensions, for filing the 2017 tax return. For more information about the procedure and forms to use, see IRS Publication 537 and consult with your tax advisor. Additionally, tax straddling does not apply to all sales and any gain attributed to debt relief will have to be recognized in the year of sale.

The IRS does not penalize investors for attempting to complete a 1031 Exchange. Tax straddling provides an added incentive to taxpayers selling investment property at the end of the year. Why not attempt to complete a 1031 Exchange when a one year payment deferral is available as the back-up plan?

Please call us at IPX1031 to discuss tax straddling and other valuable tax-deferral solutions. Be sure to consult with your tax advisor before participating in a 1031 exchange.

Commercial and Residential real estate transactions have become a focal point for hackers to access emails and steal information, which leads to stealing money.

 

These thieves hack into escrow participant’s email accounts to obtain information about upcoming real estate transactions. Once in they see information from brokers, attorneys, lenders and title companies. They will monitor the email account to determine about when the closing is scheduled and then alter original documents from the participants to change the closing and/or where the closing funds are to be wired.

 

The Buyer will get altered documents telling them there has been some kind of bank problem and they are now asking them to wire their closing funds to a new account. The Buyer is the only one that sees this email, even though this altered document originally could come from their attorney, broker, lender or title company. Unless the Buyer calls their title company to verify the wiring instructions there is no way to protect them or recover their money once it has been send to the thieves.

 

INQUIRE BEFORE YOU WIRE for any real estate transaction YOU are involved with. You could make the difference between a successful closing or a terrible loss.

 

Please let me know if you have any questions.

If you asked 100 Professional People to name the top three challenges, time management would be in the three every time. Calls, emails, texts, and social media demand immediate attention. Even the most focused people can be distracted!

The absolute KEY to managing your time is organizing your calendar and STICKING TO IT. This will really keep you on the path and help you complete your tasks every day. Here is how I do it and I am told that I am one of the most organized Professionals in the industry.

 

The Night BEFORE

I always start my day the night before. I use a task program that is free and so easy to do. I add everything that I want to accomplish-phone calls, mailing, items to get done and yes even picking up dry cleaning. If I see that I have more to do in one day than I know I can get done-I prioritize them.  With my task program if I do not complete an item, I can add notes (if I have started the task) and change the date.

As I go down the list, if I find that something is time sensitive, I add it to my google calendar to be sure not to miss the time.  I also am sure to set the reminder appropriately.  For example, if I need to drive for 20 minutes I put the reminder at 30 minutes so I leave my office and arrive on time.

First Thing when you start your day

Whenever your day starts (mine is usually 4 AM) resist the urge to jump on email or social media. Put your cell on DO NOT DISTURB. Now get to work on your To-Do List.  Take time to complete items that can be done without email and phone-usually marketing, blogging etc.

The exception to NOT checking email is if you are expecting a contract as contracts always take precedence. Do not open every email but take a quick scan to make sure that highly important items are taken care of.

Morning

Your concentration, will power and discipline are always best in the morning.  I usually make sure if I am doing a financial analysis on properties that I do this in the morning. This is always the best time to knock off the to-do list.

Late Morning-Noon time

Usually when I need to come up for a bit of air, maybe a snack or cup of coffee; I get up from my desk and take a minute.  Now, it is a good time to evaluate or even reprioritize the rest of my day. Have I completed the high priorities?

If I have the day under control, this is the time that I look at market items or industry news. Keeping the day organized will let you have the time and energy to take on the unexpected items that suddenly become urgent.

Afternoon

I always put tasks in the afternoon that do not take as much energy or perhaps not as much concentration. It’s a great time to answer all phone calls, emails and texts. Social media takes this time as well.

If the To-Do list has been knocked out or completed as much as possible and you are looking for ways to make your day more productive make calls to your data base or polish your marketing.  Prepare for appointments, etc. In the professional world, the successful Professionals do not use the task list completion as the end of the day.

Late Afternoon/Evening

Have a quitting time! You may still take phone calls or check emails. Before you wind down and compete your day-take a minute to go over your tasks one more time to make sure that you have completed all that you wanted to or needed to.

Remember to add your personal time or family time as actual appointments on your calendar!  You are not effective unless you have true and enjoyable down time. Someone said to me recently, who will be at your funeral?  Prospects or family?  This is not to end this on a negative note but to help you stay focused on the items that are important to you!