Connected Neighborhoods

I moved into a young neighborhood with lots of kids and families. Someone clever took the opportunity to make a Facebook page for all the neighbors to organize events, warn others of suspicious activity, looking for lost pets, and post baby sitters jobs etc..It made everyone feel more connected.

Most of us are often in need of babysitters, pet watchers, and various odd jobs.  It’s very convenient for teens and retired people to post their availability for different types of tasks. Our neighbors are your natural customers. And when I’m looking for a real estate agent, or a mortgage banker, it would be nice to know your neighbor is in that business too.

Neighbors could organize discounts for various services, from raking leaves, to window washing, to pool and lawn care, to house cleaning.

TaskRabbit is an online and mobile marketplace that allows users to outsource small jobs and tasks to others in their neighborhood.[1] Users name the task they need done, name the price they are willing to pay, and a network of pre-approved TaskRabbits bid to complete the job.

It is based on the idea of “neighbors helping neighbors.”

March Madness Stats

There’s no escaping the buzz about sports and data and March Madness. Here are some interesting tips.

1)  look at wild-card players vs teams, is a better way to go when “predicting upsets. Try to garner information from the games you’ve watched over the past several days.

2) Last 5 years, of the 2 of 20 Final Four teams,  had a winning streak of 10+ games (2010 Butler, 2013 Louisville). Of those 20, 7 of them were no better than 6-4 in their 10 games prior to the Tourney. So it appears that last 10 games are not a great indicator. Last year, both Michigan and Syracuse were 5-5 in their last 10 entering the Tourney and reached the Final Four. So historical performance may not be a good trend to analyze.

3) Don’t pick your favorite team to win it all.

4) Shooting percentage on three-point field goals is the most frustratingly unreliable statistic in basketball. I think it’s a crap shoot.

5) Location and Timing.  If  an underdog  West Coast team playing an early afternoon game against a favorite East Coast team that traveled half way across the country…   would you shy away from that upset pick? Maybe for every mile traveled – 3 hour time difference = less time played.

Maybe statistical brackets based on proximity to the location where the game is being played might be a good trend to look at. Maybe not.  It’s not a perfect predictive model, but if the game still feels like a coin flip, this is a data point that could be valuable.

We don’t have the sabermetrics that baseball has, but there are a lot of data points out there to consider. Check out what the experts are saying with the Predict-O-tron..

More opinions on the pursuit of happiness…

I am sure you have seen the movie, Pursuit of Happyness. There are many examples as to how people in humble beginnings persevere to a higher level. We all know that journey. I can relate because I had previously  pursued credible and challenging sales jobs with a very meager lifestyle earlier in my life. It wasn’t all that bad, but it was enough for me to get out of my comfort zones and pursue something more. It took lots of second jobs, patient landlords, dozens of job interviews and endless networking. I can comfortably say,  I feel developed and every step and obstacle along the way had its purpose.

In the movie, a salesman, Chris Gardner became homeless and broke while raising his son, played by Will Smith and his son.  Chris worked to become a top trainee at a brokerage firm. He persistently made calls to prospective clients and his efforts finally paid off when Gardner passed his exam and became a full time employee of the firm.

Was his pursuit  lucky?

Was it strategic?

What made him persist and overcome?

I think the pursuit of happiness is real. It is an authentic desire of our nature. Our personal Constitution. In our pursuit of happiness it is important to recognize which paths are illusions and which are dead ends. Some are misleading and some are authentic.  Sure, there are basic things, like eating healthy, being positive, exercising, treating people nice, having meaning and goals.  All of it is to ultimately chase opportunities, create happiness…to pursue happiness. Like Chris says, to his son…” You want something? Go get it. Period. You need to protect it.”

Chris started thinking about Thomas Jefferson on the Declaration of Independence and our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. He says, “I remember thinking how did he know to put the pursuit part in there? That maybe happiness is something that we can only pursue and maybe we can actually never have it. …No matter what.” If we label happiness as a highly unattainable lifestyle or a few unique events or an emotion that comes and goes or a disciplined mindset…is pursuing our version of happiness something we need to prepare for? Or is very little needed to make a happy life? I think if you strive for happiness in a meaningful and authentic way and connecting that happiness to others, it could be effective, long term and continuous. That’s what the experts say..right?

But, what about the ugly surprises, the obstacles and the unpredictable problems? We tell ourselves to be happy when it’s a smooth, easy ride, and  we  even try to stay happy when challenges and obstacles arise too. But, when we push away or surround fear with positivity, we eventually are caught off guard,  unprepared and have no basic steps toward resolution, except to maintain a good mood. By not even considering about negative potential problems or future scenarios, we never develop or utilize the skills of being able to handle them. We have no experience. Everything is unfamiliar. So, the (fake) happiness we hold on to never regenerates and becomes irrelevant. Some will disagree.

We all have our own way of engineering our own pursuit. We can follow some simple, basic, fundamental laws or rules out there that we can adopt and learn to vastly improve our lives and maintain that good attitude. All those books and seminars say so. Right?  We can also wake up, stop suppressing our fears and stop creating manufactured, false states of happiness when we feel otherwise.  We can become more capable and dynamic with solving problems. Our own and others. The experience is in the pain. Not in the positive thinking. ( debatable)

But……… It’s too hard.

The fight is hard.

The chase is hard.

Life is hard.

Maybe happiness is not a new car, or fancy clothes or social acceptance or cheap gratification. We know that. Maybe it’s a moment of clarity. An optimistic view of the future.  Maybe, it’s a culmination of many things. Maybe happiness just can’t be defined with words … which is why the ending of this movie is so good.

Before this scene: *IRS takes all his money

*Chris and his son are evicted, becomes broke.

*They are homeless, and are forced to stay in a restroom at a subway station.

*Chris develops a number of ways to make phone sales calls more efficiently and never reveals to clients that he is homeless or broke.

* His manager finally reveals after weeks of training, he is hired as a full time broker and repays him the money Chris had lent him earlier.

At the end of the movie…Chris says, ” ….and this little part of my life…this little part… is called….happiness.”

Being happy is good. Being continuously happy is great and pursuing happiness is a reminder of how far we have come but a reminder to how we need to improve  when it all goes wrong. Do you view happiness as a continuous struggle or a chase? A chase we should be pursuing no matter how bad or good it gets? Or, is happiness something we deserve continuously and we should handle problems as they come? Was it the positive attitude that helped Chris get this moment? Or was it all the fear, sadness, depression and ugliness that contained the key to his own liberation?

I think we don’t need to improve our happiness. It is what it is. Happiness will be there waiting for us,  when we are ready for it. Maybe we need to improve, change or alter our view of what we really think our happpiness is and how it fits into our own puzzle. We need to stop pounding square pegs into circles.

Is it just a day to day emotion? Is it a standard of living? Is it a destination to where we want to go? Or is it only meant for the lucky? Maybe only then…will we learn how to really pursue it…most importantly when we  lose it, learn how we can find it again…to make it a repeatable process.

Banks, Real Estate and Home Design Software

the Future of Banks

My wife and I recently discussed the idea of buying a new car. But, in my experience the car-buying process is a huge disappointment because the car I had my heart set on can’t be found on any dealer’s lot. I am sure this happens because the dealership selects a predefined set of a cars that they think will sell the most of, which didn’t include my prototype.

Before I knew it, we were on the Internet, building and customizing our own car. It only took 15- 20 minutes and the car was built and ready to be bought. The whole point of custom-ordering a new car is mainly to feed your ego, strengthen your identity and give yourself a sense of personalization and taste. You actually feel like you designed it. It was actually easy to figure what your next vehicle will be and how you want it equipped. When you’re done, you’re ready to buy.

Also, I was told I would wait at least 3 months to get my car. Ughhhh. But consider this: Your car is likely the second most expensive purchase you’ll ever make, which brings me to the future of the banking industry. I figure if we can customize a 40 or 50 thousand dollar car, why not walk into your local bank, get a pre-approval letter, digitally build a prototype of a house, customize it and keep it their database until a Realtor has a match. Maybe, you put an offer down on a house and it was counter offered by someone else and they took it. It would be very frustrating to start the buying process all over again. You could literally slide your debit card into the ATM, enter your pre-approval pin code, touch the screen and use your finger to customize a house right there, dragging and dropping new guest rooms or making the living room bigger. They save the information with a touch screen button. Sq footage, number of rooms, style, lay out etc. Sure, there is plenty of 3D/home design software already out there for builders to download and tinker with on their computers and maybe draw one up for a project, but usually it stops there. They are protective and do not share their designs. I say, take the existing technology we already have and take advantage of it and implement it in the bank’s systems.

If we as car buyers can build our own car without a mechanic or auto industry expert, why not build a house without an architect or bank consultant? The real value is making the pre-approval /qualified process quicker, more customized and accurate based on taste and needs of the future homeowner. Simple. Instead of listing hundreds of different houses, why not list 40 or 50 based on the most popular prototypes. Open Houses would be more relevant and useful. Maybe the market would pick up too.

Maybe, you are a parent with three kids and quality family time is very important to you and all three of your kids are always in three different parts of the house doing three different things. Maybe, you could customize a big room that would serve 3 different functions all at once. Maybe, you are more focused on your pets, or being a weekend entertainer. Maybe, your kids are at college, but you are looking to downsize the size of your house, but looking for a way to accommodate your son or daughter when they return from school. You could make sure your den could easily transform into a guest bedroom. Or if you are entertaining the neighbors, you need to make sure your living room borders the kitchen. All of this is possible and this kind of technology already does exist, but to a bank or lender it’s non existent.

What if a bank analyzed the data of their local market and the result was that 80% of new local home buyers wanted solar panels? Would this sort of information be helpful to local sellers? What if a sunroof in the kitchen was the only thing that was needed to solidify a buyer’s signature? But there wasn’t a sunroof. What now? As a buyer, do you renegotiate a lower listing price with your realtor? Do you call a local builder you do not know?

I think banks need to get smarter and more diligent, but this would be a great base line as new technology can now cater to future maintenance and repair fees for a seller or a buyer. Maybe, you want to make changes before you sell your house or you plan on cashing out some equity to add on a deck or new addition. You customize your new house and your bank would tell you how much your new loan would be, before talking to any builders or contractors. Or maybe, you talk to a builder first, he gives you a quote and then you walk to your local bank, put your ATM card in the machine, modify your house based on new square footage and see if his quotes compares to theirs. Banks need to execute this kind of reassurance to their customers, in order to win them back. I think the auto industry has made more of an effort to be more efficient and effective after their bailouts. But, maybe that’s because people buy more cars in their lives than houses. Let’s talk about this.

Let’s say I go to my local bank, make a deposit, develop a prototype of my first house, picked a location, punched in my prequalified loan amount, and it showed me my rate and payment, taxes and insurance. I went back home and sitting in my email inbox is listing of a few houses not too far from my location, my payment was pretty close to what I could afford and had the specific space and yard that I wanted. Some of my choices are new construction houses and some of them are older models..

I am pretty happy right? Ebay meets home mortgage loans.

But a few years later I get married and buy. A few years later, I have two kids and need to sell. Two years later, I add on a bathroom and deck. Five years later, I get divorced and sell again. Two years later I get remarried and buy. Eight years later my kids want to go to college and I need to cash and refinance. And twenty years later, I want to downsize and sell. Thirty years my kids inherit my house and sell.

I am not sure about the numbers…but my wife and I attended 15 open houses for 1 purchased home. For 1 home mortgage, we spoke to 5 other banks. For every home upgrade…. we will need to speak to multiple builders too.

If reliable bank technology exists to give us an accurate, version of the truth…. we will no longer need 2nd opinions.

A morbid thought on the Future, Social Media, Data & Digital Family Trees


I was wondering last night, when I am 90 years old and I die hopefully of natural causes, I am going to leave all this data behind. Pages from Facebook and Twitter. I hope my accounts stay” as is”, but I think memorializing an account in the future won’t be that simple, especially for rich, famous people. It will be equivalent to an estate or a will. There will always be interests from a 3rd party on how we all should be remembered.

By then there will be all these laws that protect these big social media companies, just like banks now and allow them to  sell the accounts back to a family to make more money or just preserve them through lots of fees and some complex legal process.  Then, my great grandchildren can read  all my tweets, find out what my interests were and look at all my pictures and see if I was related to any other people with other preserved accounts too.  I think after awhile, it would get boring. But, everyone would have their virtual tribute. With enough money, the newer generations wouldn’t just be an administrator of their account, but for  a whole family tree of accounts that were once owned by their relatives many years before.  It would be a really a morbid Timeline to some. But, a true learning experience to others.


Social Media is preserving history and is recording it more accurately. Maybe in the future, when really smart, important, rich people leave their fortunes, mansions and money to their families, some will also have to leave the keys to their Facebook and Twitter accounts. Social Media is important to us now, when we are alive and well. But, will social media remain just as  important to us when we are old or to our survivors? When we are on our death beds, will these types of decisions have to be made?   Right now, our social media accounts are the virtual roots of our family tree.

We are the  first generation of social media users. Sure, we post pictures of our babies and friends, but what about the people that have a very limited time being here?  Maybe we have an older relative, or a very sick friend with no social media or digital footprint at all. Besides going to an hour long funeral or spending time before their last days…How could we pay tribute to them and make their lives immortal through social media? Maybe all we have is old photo albums, or used i-phones. Where can we go and digitize the milestones and moments in their lives, celebrate their life and share those moments across our current networks of family and friends? That exact memorialized account will be waiting there for future connections and family members with future facebook accounts to see and experience. Eventually photo albums will go obsolete and more people will turn to some kind of digital platform meant for preserving and saving memories that will ultimately be held accountable by the surviving family members..

I keep hearing, “the Internet is Forever.” And if the majority of people will want to preserve their digital lives and the ones around them, who’s decision will it be to make sure it’s executed? We should use our existing photos and videos and put them to good use and find someone in our lives that we can celebrate right here and right now.

Here is my business idea:

I would like to start a service called, “Virtual Tribute,” or “Immortalized”- where I use your existing data from your iphone, photo album or computer, mainly photos hat leads up to an event or milestone of the present.  It could be an expecting mother’s due date, or a son or daughter’s wedding. Maybe a 50th anniversary or a grandmothers 90th birthday. Maybe a son’s first day of school or college graduation. Or a life of someone that has passed. Instead of reading an obituary and reading the achievements and milestones of someone’s life, why not visualize it? Let’s dedicate a majority of our social media experience to others, not ourselves.

My Services would ensure a real, customized, personable story TOLD by you. Not a picture worth a thousand words with different interpretations, or a thousand pictures that are only seen once or twice but a video that speaks the right words. A real collaborative effort to make sure what is told, is told accurately and can be told again and again.

Maybe in the future, when really smart, important, rich people leave their fortunes, mansions and money to their families, some will also have to leave the keys to their Facebook accounts. Social Media is important to us now, when we are alive and well. But, will social media remain just as important to us when we are old and our survivors are asking us for the keys? Eventually photo albums will go obsolete and more people will turn to some kind of digital platform meant for preserving and saving memories that will ultimately be held accountable by the surviving family members. When Facebook accounts of the deceased get deleted or deactivated.. what does one do? When memories are in boxes what does one do? While we all are grieving, who can we turn to and celebrate and share a life or an event in a timely manner? Everyone deserves their own virtual tribute..

Some problems that might arise, is the use of somebody else’s data. Once I find my customers, I will not share their virtualized tribute to get new business. I won’t advertise it, post it on Facebook or Youtube without their permission.  Once the video is complete, it is out of my hands and you can decide what you want to do with it.

To give you a better idea, here is a video I made and shared on Facebook.

Mortgage Mysteries need to come clean

Do people trust mortgage consultants? Or do we just go with one because it’s a necessity? ( I was one many years ago) As a consumer, we spend almost all our time making sure a certain bank has the better rates compared to another, then we need to dedicate all of our time after that making sure that we will actually get that best rate they were promoting to begin with. Who wants to chase the bait, only to get hooked? No one.

Mortgage experts let us know our debt, credit score, assets and income are factors to getting the best rate possible. But today, people need to know, you either qualify or you don’t. It’s a conforming loan or an FHA loan. That’s it. Many consultants give off the illusion that the rate or fees are higher because of your shortcomings. After the bubble popped, mortgages went back to basics. Common sense. Just know what you can afford and commit to it, like anything else. If you are confident in the payment, everything else should work out.

First off, it is not that hard to write, submit, sell and close a loan. It may require some sales skills, basic math, knowledge of the market, trust from the customer and a good relationship with underwriting. That’s it.

The big mystery is:

1) how consultants get paid.

2) how you link all these different products to your financial goals

3) And how amortization works.

When I was a consultant, one of the biggest factors in winning a customer’s business / trust was telling them flat out how and why I was charging them, instead of secretly increasing closing costs before the loan closed. It’s called the “bait and switch.” Banks do not do loans for free but consultants are capable of overcharging at the end. If you are in an adjustable rate, your payments are going up and you are refinancing into a fixed mortgage, take your new, expected monthly savings and compare them to the consultant’s fees. Maybe you are saving $400.00 a month and the fee is $3,000.00. Will you break even in 6 months? 1 year?

The secret to the magic trick is…  the more volatile or higher the rate they sell you on, the more the bank will pay out to the consultant. Look up yield spread. Some banks don’t allow it. Some do. And then they can charge whatever they want up front in closing costs. Remember pay option Arms?

Learn how and why they get paid. Do their charges/fees match to the value of the loan? If a consultant is giving you cash out, fixing your rate and saving you money… do his up front fees sound reasonable? Or should you get a 2nd opinion? A consultant does need to make money, but is the cost transparent?  1) Always get a time frame in place as to when the loan is closing. 2)  hold them accountable to what they are selling you on. ( rate, fixed, savings, fees 3) Are they educating you on the loan?

Why the bubble didn’t get everyone?

Five, six years ago, their was a housing bubble. Everyone was buying with cheap credit. The people that got screwed got into Arms and crossed their fingers while pursuing the American Dream. They had lots of debt already, got a mortgage w/ no money down, values went down and eventually drowned in rising interest. The smart and truly qualified buyers did get fixed rates and some opted for adjustable rate mortgages too. They had very low fixed rates for a short amount of time,  had good credit, had minimal debt,but put money down BUT used their ARM as a vehicle. As a tool.  The smart, qualified buyers paid down their loan with least amount of interest,  knew their budget all along,  improved their credit more …all before their rates went up. NOW, they are most likely in a 30 year fixed mortgage, maybe  in their second home or dream house and can see themselves living there in the long term. That’s how you use an Arm. That’s how you transition into a 30 year mortgage. An Arm will get you where you want to go, but it has a time frame. You need to know when it’s up.

Where are you? What are the next steps? How do you envision your housing situation withing 5 years? What do you need to do to leverage your first house or existing home to get to Point B ? Maybe it’s putting a kid through college, adding an addition to your home or simply to save lots of cash.  After you achieve those milestones… are you ready to start actually owning your home? Maybe a 30 year fixed mortgage is the right time. Maybe you don’t want to go back to another 30 years after being in a mortgage for 10 years ( that’s 40 years) ..maybe you refinance and are more focused on paying more money to the principal and roll into a 20 yr or a 15 year fixed mortgage, closer to owning your home free and clear.

Understanding Interest/ Amortization

Paying interest on a loan is very tricky, personal and complex. That’s the most complex thing about mortgages. Why? Because “they” want it that way. Lots of interest and complexity.


Educate yourself on where your money goes the first 5 years of a mortgage. It’s mainly interest. No principal. ( look at chart) Do you want to refinance back into another 30 year after NOT paying off any of your mortgage balance for the last 5 years? Educate yourself on bi- weekly payments too. You can knock off the life of the loan by doing so. Understanding and extending or reducing the terms to your mortgage and the effects it will have in the long run can save you cash.


One of the best ways for indecisive buyers to make decisions on financing is to understand the incentive of the consultant and what the bank secretly wants us to do. Do they want us to keep refinancing? Do they want to see no loan depreciation at all? Just to keep paying interest? Do they wants us to keep going back to a 30 year mortgage?

Maybe all of the bank’s fees and costs are still existent, because of manual/paper labor and lack of efficiency.  Processing, originating, documenting, verifying etc is all work. When will be the day, when we can stick our ATM card in a machine, hit a refinance button, choose a rate, term and estimated closing cost fees and be done with it. Right now, we can call or go to any cellphone/mobile store, cable company, internet provider and have them compete for our business. We can upgrade, change our accounts, cancel or continue our services with no hassle.

What makes them more timely?

Maybe bank financing won’t get more efficient as time goes by. Complexity is their “secret sauce,” and having, lightening, quick technology to make choices visible and easy to understand will go against their real agenda. Choosing a bank, consultant and loan are all inter-twined together. The bank is the brand, the loan is their product and the consultant is the price. Once we overestimate and misunderstand the value of work of somebody else… we get screwed. Any profession.

**** I just want to say I have worked and know some credible, trust worthy mortgage consultants. Their agenda is not always aligned with the bank. This is not to bash all consultants..everyone needs to make a living. The first step toward choosing better decisions when it comes to finance is understanding the whole process. Low rates and cheaper closing costs doesn’t mean there is value. And the complexity of banks and finance doesn’t mean they are working any harder for us.