Friday, February 8, 2013

The Difficulties, Challenges and Problems Of Teleworking, Telecommuting and Working at Home

Working at home, from home, in your pajamas, in the nude, at the beach, working from bed or the easy chair - these are all the images and joys of home working that Kate and I enjoy and many others too. Kate and I sell Real Estate; that is perhaps the most popular telecommuting, work at home; pick your own hours job, in the country.

There are some difficulties that go with working at home. Perhaps half of the people who start working from home don't succeed, mostly due to lack of personal discipline or family discipline.
There are freedoms of working from home and along with freedoms go responsibilities. Those freedoms of working at home can also be challenges to responsibility which will lower your production and moral as you fail to meet deadlines and quotas.

I have been telecommuting or teleworking; since we imported the term teleworking from the Brits and it's now used by our Federal Government; and believe me I would rather work from home and my car than from a cubical. Since I entered the work force, I prefer me as my boss and get more done that way. I get to decide importances and have seldom found a boss that is not prone to wanting sillier busy-work than I'm willing to do.

One boss I had, my brother, had over 150 pieces of paper to fill out for selling a mobile home. On my own, I used two - the sales contract and the certificate of title. In the 8 hours it took me to fill out the 150 pieces of paper, I'd get "interrupted" by sales calls and showings of homes, so the paperwork of one sale took a week at times.

As a home-worker I get to determine what works and what doesn't. One boss I had, a client who bought about 50 properties from me, was convinced that I should advertise her properties for sale with no price - so I would get calls. That was, and is, stupid. I did not want calls. I wanted prospective purchasers.

One of my clients wanted me to run these blind ads, ads with no price and I wouldn't do it. So, he placed an ad in the New York Times and another in The Wall Street Journal. "Waterfront home, 3 BR, 2BA, Fireplace, Boat Dock, Scrn Prch, at the Beach -- $39,000" and put my phone number on the ad. I got several hundred phone calls and not one, that's right not one, was a prospective purchaser. Why? Because it was a trailer on a rented lot in a trailer park and it was 500 miles from New York City. His idea was to make the phone ring; an altered priority. Now, when you go to my web site you will find properties for sale that tell everything about the property and usually with a map.

You see I don't want calls that are not interested in what I have to sell at the price I need to get. As my own boss I do the ads my way and not based on somebody else's "idea" of what is right or workable. These freedoms, chief among them the freedom FROM idiocy of bosses, are precious. However, I also have to find out what works and take chances without a boss to blame the errors on.

Working at home is great, but not easy. To excel; to make it even, you must have exceptional personal discipline, organizing skills and persistence. Those who work less at home than in the office will certainly make far less working at home than working in the office. In the office you may take a thirty minute coffee break and not get caught. At home, with that sort of discipline, your coffee break may go on for hours or even days. Or you may just sleep in and not even get up to make the coffee. for hours, days or weeks. And there goes the rent or mortgage payment and there goes the house.

Working at home is freeing. There is no dress code. You can work in your pajamas, your shorts, or even work at home in the buff - naked. However, we all know that when we dress up, at least some of us act more professional. And with no bosses slipping by the cubical to check over your shoulder - what are you working on?

I will tell you this: when I did some work as a business consultant for a large consulting firm - the PRIMARY CAUSE OF BUSINESS FAILURE WAS COMPUTER GAMES. Believe it or not, almost every one of the businesses that was going under and had to hire us had one or more people playing Solitaire or some other computer game dozens of hours a month. Most of the time it was the boss, his wife, his girlfriend, or all three that were bankrupting the business with solitaire or Doom. When no one else is forcing you to produce - some people won't. Here are some reasons that those who have failed at telecommuting have failed.

Lack of Family Discipline: When you work at home you can also tend to family and that is great. I love it. However, it also allows for magnified interruptions. Child care can easily consume more than an entire day, if you don't learn to discipline your children in an effective and nurturing way. If you just yell "Be quiet I'm working." They will find a way to get your attention - no matter what - and it will often be at just the wrong time - like when Mr. Big is on the phone, or when you have procrastinated and the deadline is NOW.

If you must fix dinner for your husband, change the baby, take the other three kids to all those dozens of lessons, meet them at the bus, do the dishes, vacuum the floors, do the laundry, wax the floors, oil the antiques, sweep the driveway and talk to your several unemployed friends on the phone. then you won't likely succeed as a telecommuter.

Older kids are even more of a challenge if you are not willing to raise disciplined kids - and there are very few of those these days. If you have no kids, but have dogs, parrots, hobbies, books, TV shows, and all sorts of other interests that take you away from production - you won't make it either. How would you like to employ someone who could only work when there was nothing else taking a senior priority in attention?

Food: Snacking, gourmet cooking, coffee making, refrigerator door swinging and ice-cream eating can take a huge amount of time in a day. And, then you either must set aside twice as much time for exercise, or set aside money for the new and larger wardrobe. Many people, who work at home, could be said to be working Chip-Side. Chips, dips, sodas, candy, a few extra snacks beside the computer and soon you will need a larger, wider, more powerful chair and reinforcing slats under the mattress. The upside is that your social life will die and you'll have more time to work and pay for the food and larger clothing. Can we say Tent Clothing?

Sloth: Laziness, slow motion, procrastination and self-interruption are killers of the home worker. If one of your motivations is to sleep in, you had better be similarly motivated to work late. You will need to learn to produce, to promote yourself, do market yourself and your product and procrastination is self-destructive. Snooze and loose. One of my very productive friends sleeps until 2:30 pm every day. He calls me on his way to his first cup of coffee and I welcome him to the day with "Good morning Lee!" he chuckles but in about 7 minutes he is off the phone and planning his day over his next cup of coffee. He allows no interruptions from any phones until 5:30 pm and works every night through until about 3 am when he answers his e-mail and then goes to bed a little after 4 am. He is a home designer and his clients are builders who take care of building during the day and talk with him from their home to his, at night. He is not sloth. He just works the night shift and does it well.

My youngest son is an artist, a very successful one: He works best from afternoon to early morning as well. There are many who work at home that work the graveyard shift and find that working when others sleep, allows them to be more productive and creative. So sleep in if you will or take off early if you will, but doing both will knock you out of business. When you work at home, you work from to-do lists, appointments scheduled, and goals set. But, if you don't get enough work done in a unit of time, you won't get paid well. You must learn to plan your work and work your plan, or else.

Communication Sins: If you spend any time on frivolous e-mail, phone calls, faxes, meetings, stops at the coffee shop, golf, tennis, poker - and they are not planned to produce income - you will soon chat, gossip, play and fritter your income, savings and life away.

Yes, I WORK at a coffee shop nearby. They have high speed network lines for my laptop. I also wear my Logo hat, my business name pin on my chest, and have a large name and business card taped to my computer lid, so that it can be easily read from a distance as I work. I also make a couple of phone calls a day to those in related businesses, such as my friend the home designer.

I do a lot of e-mail and anyone who sends me forwarded junk is chastised, every time. Anyone who sends me hoaxes is sent back the hoax reference and I send it to "Reply All" as the sort of people who send that stuff send with everyone's address visible about 99% of the time.

I also get quite a little bit of email, unsolicited, from some of my contacts about things which I'm not interested in. I thank them and let them know what I AM interested in and that I only want that, in a nice way. I get a few hundred SPAM a day. My filters handle all but a few. The rest; I speed read most of it and often find something I can use for my own marketing, not often, so I spend an average of about 2 seconds on each mailing.

I stopped by another home-worker a few months ago and he was playing solitaire, taking calls about jokes and gossip, and was constantly involved in frivolous e-mail. Last week he got a salaried job, at just about minimum wage, he made almost nothing working at home.

Communication sins include incoming and outgoing communications. Television, talk radio, music, telephone, entertaining web sites, porno, dating sites and chat, social calls coming or going, are all time stealers and production killers.

Slovenliness: When you work in a multi-tiered, hyper managed, upper-management, middle-management, worker bee, hierarchy and each level checks and double checks all the levels below and edits everything on the way up the line or out the door - you may find much of that missing when you work at home. You must learn to be your own editor. You must learn to be your own manager. You must learn to be your own Quality Control and Efficiency Expert. If you let slovenly work out your door, off your desk, in the mail or e-mail; you certainly and simultaneously send a bad message about your worth and professionalism. Doing slovenly work will result in slovenly pay.

Home Sweet Home Syndrome: If you are accustomed to turning off the productivity switch when you arrive home, it may be nearly impossible to learn that home is where the job is. If you are used to kicking off your heels, slipping on your robe, lounging in a hot tub with a book and candles, lying on the couch with the paper or any of the myriad activities of a leisure home life; you may not be able to work at home productively. And we get right back to the crux of it all - self-discipline.

Drugs, Alcohol, Tobacco, Sex and Even Music: A glass of wine at home, after work, can be wonderful. A glass of wine while you work at home can be horribly anti-productive. A smoke break at work is at worst embarrassing, at home, you can easily develop a two, three or four pack a day habit and you slide into chain smoking and larger and larger ashtrays. If you are a "recreational" drug user and work at home, you can easily get "hooked on that feeling" and that feeling is not one of accomplishment.

And, oh the wonders of staying in bed with your lover, of afternoon delight and hot nights - but it can soon eat up the day. Many, many folks enjoy relaxing to music, dancing to a tune or otherwise letting good music of their choice take their mind into the sublime. That is not where work gets done. If your mind is on the music, it is not on the job. Concentration is a primary requirement of working at home and without it you will soon be incompetent and unpaid.

Workaholism: Workaholics are often stressed out and need to go home once in a while for a break, or perhaps a break-down. If you are driven to work day and night, as I am, make certain that you love your work so much that you'd do it as recreation. Fortunately I love my work so much that it is not work to me at all. Part of the reason is that I only do the kind of work I love and not any other kind; there are a few things that other Realtors do that I don't do. But, I take the energy that I could use doing those things I don't like and put that much more energy into the other 99% of my profession that I love.

Yes, I'm up before dawn and work often past midnight - today is one of those days - but there is no part of today or many other days that I do anything I don't love. Yes, I was out with a prospective client from 5 pm to 9 pm, came home to 83 e-mails and now I'm pounding out another article and NOT ONE SECOND of that time was I unhappy about what I was doing. I love it all. Darned good thing!!!

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Best Time to Inspect Your Home!

Home inspections conducted prior to a home being placed on the market is one of the wisest moves a seller can make. The initial response from sellers when approached with the idea of an inspection done as the home is about to be put up for sale is most always the same - "What?!"

Let's review a few of the most common concerns about Pre-Listing Home Inspections.

1. "The buyer will not accept an inspection done for the seller."

That is correct! The inspection done for the seller is not intended to replace the inspection done for the buyer. The purpose of the pre-listing inspection is to put the seller in control!

Given that no good surprise can come to the seller during the home inspection, regardless of when it is done or whom it is done for, it makes perfect sense to get every strand of information as soon as it can be gotten. Bad news doesn't get better with time.

If there is some bad news, or more correctly, some items that needs attention or might have an impact on the home's value, who better to receive that information than the seller? And when is a better time to receive that information than before the home is placed on the market?

The simple fact is this - a home inspection at the time of listing will put the seller in the best possible position. With the complete and clear view of the home's strengths and weaknesses, the home can be marketed to the best benefit of the seller.

2. "I don't want to pay for the inspection."

This is certainly understandable. The seller generally perceives that the inspection is intended for the buyer, hence, should be a buyer's responsibility. But to have the benefit of the information it must be paid for. Never have we had a complaint from a seller about the value of the inspection! In every case at the conclusion of a pre-listing inspection, the seller felt they had made a good choice in spending the money to get the inspection done.

In most cases, the seller's feel good getting the peace of mind of knowing that no major event or expense will be uncovered by the buyer's inspector. And on the rare occasion when it is discovered by the pre-listing inspector that the roof is completely shot or there is some other big expense or danger, the sellers, while not happy to have the problem, are glad to have discovered it on their own terms. The small expense of the inspection is always less then the cost and aggravation of a hurried hunt to get something repaired or replaced after the home is under contract.

Save the pain, spend the money. Get every home inspected prior to putting it on the market!

3. "The home is selling 'as is'."

This may be the best reason of all to inspect at listing! If the home is being sold "as is", reduce your risk and liability as the seller by getting a pre-listing inspection. In order for the home to sell quickly and at the highest price, disclose every condition of the home. The inspection gives both the buyer and the seller the comfort of knowing that the home "is as it is". With a pre-listing inspection, there is a high likelihood that the home is as represented.

Even in an "as is" contract, the buyer may still have their own inspection performed. If these two inspections are similar in content, it is rare the buyer will walk or counter offer. That, in fact, is the goal of the "as is" sale.
Another concern of sellers is that they will have to repair every item that is discovered to be discrepant on the inspection report. This is simply not true. It would be true that every discrepant item needs to be disclosed, and those disclosures may impact value and hence asking price, but nothing need necessarily be corrected.

Amazing as it may seem, homes inspected prior to going on the market have two very significant attributes:

1. They sell faster than homes not inspected until the buyer has made an offer.
2. They sell closer to the asking price than homes not inspected until the buyer has made an offer.

Why the heck does that happen?

When the buyer makes an offer, there is an assumption made by the buyer, reasonable or not, that there is nothing wrong with the home! If there was something wrong with the home that the seller knew about, but did not disclose, shame on them, it is about to cost them money. Most often, though, the items that come up on the inspection by the buyer were unknown to the seller. Sur-prise, sur-prise, sur-prise! And we've already established that surprise is not good in real estate. So how is it that the inspection for the seller makes the buyer pay more for the home and do it in less time?

Let us create an example of a 20-year-old home that has a fair market value of $100,000, just to make the math easy. That value assumes that nothing is wrong with the home. When the buyer has the home inspected it is with the assumption that anything discovered to be wrong will be corrected by the seller or a price concession will be made.

Now, let's consider that the buyers inspection revealed the need for a new roof, several plumbing leaks, and the need for replacement of three exterior doors. When these discoveries are made by the buyer's inspection, the clock is running and running fast. These items need to be corrected before the sale can be completed. This time crunch puts the seller at a disadvantage when dealing with the contractors. When time is critical, you have fewer choices and the costs go up. Additionally, the buyer often wants to have input on who does what work.

This situation is always tense and expensive. It can be avoided!

Let us now assume that the inspection result occurs, but it is for the seller as the home goes onto the market. The seller is now in control. Armed with a clear picture of what is wrong, the seller can choose to shop calmly for the best value in repair contractors, offer a credit at closing or adjust the sales price to reflect the diminished value. They can even make the necessary repairs, then increase the price of the home to reflect the increased value!

No matter the choices made, the seller, on the seller's time frame, makes them. This actually makes for a neater, simpler buying decision for the buyer. The buyer knows better what condition the home is in and knows what issues to base the initial offer on. The buyer will still in most cases get the home inspected, but this is a breeze. It is rare that any additional items of significance arise.