Tuesday, April 25, 2006

April Real Estate Market Beats Forecasts, Surprises Analysts

When the entire financial market thinks that real estate is slowing down, the real estate industry always seems to beat forecasts. Sales of existing homes rose 0.3% last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.92 million units. According to the National Association of Realtors, the March increase followed a bigger 5.1% jump in February. The two months are the first advances after 5 consecutive months of decline.

What it means for the seller
Price your house according to market trends and you'll be able to sell.

What it means for the buyer
Don't expect for prices to come down any time soon. Buy now as the appreciation continues to climb. The median price of a new home rose to $218,000 last month -- that's a gain of 7.4% from a year ago. This is despite the slowdown in a lot of markets. Slow sales doesn't necessarily mean a drop in home appreciation.

What it means for the agent
Treat your customers with respect, buyer or seller, small or big properties.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Fishing Report: Gulf of Mexico 04/16/06, Sanibel Causeway 04/17/06

Easter Sunday was a great day for fishing!

My church has services on the Sabbath (Saturday); hence, we were one of the few people that were boating. The Gulf of Mexico was clear of the usual boat traffic and the water was crystal clear. We set the course to an artificial reef and caught American shad all day long! It seemed like every cast was a fish. They were biting so hard, I was finding myself opening the fish bucket over and over again. I caught three fish with the same live shrimp. We kept roughly about 30 fish (10 per person limit). I returned more than I could count... A duck in the middle of nowhere saw me throwing some fish back and took one of them.

After heading home, two of the group went to fish the Sanibel causeways/canals and caught some snook, and ladyfish. Three of the group hit the river and landed some sheepshead. Sadly, I couldn't join them on their late night fishing adventure as I had some work to do at home.

If you want to eat the best tasting fish -- seek out the American shad. You can catch them with shrimp. Their meat is so soft and sweet! The scientific name for this fish is sapidissima, which means very delicious or most savory.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

You need a Sabbath rest

Every day we put our bodies to the test. If you're like most workers, you work 5 days a week and average at least 40 hours a week. Or if you're a student, you go to school and average roughly about the same amount of time in the classroom. Put social, financial, and family matters into the mix -- your putting your body through a physical, emotional and mental overload on a weekly basis. And the bad part is, you may not know it because you're used to it.

Your body needs rest from the daily activities and the daily stresses of life. Every week, I take one day off from everything --- from working, from schooling, and yes, even from fishing. This one day of rest, I concentrate on spirituality and on family. This one day of rest is referred to as my "Sabbath".

The history of the Sabbath
Have you ever asked why we have seven days in a week? If you don't know why we have seven days in a week, don't worry, most people don't know either. In fact, most historians disagree how it really started. What they do agree on is that one of the most earliest texts regarding a seven day period can be found in a Hebrew book called Genesis. In that book, it describes the world being created by God in six days and in the seventh-day, God rested and made it holy.

God showing us an example
Why did God make the seventh-day holy? Why did He have to rest? The answers to these questions are simple. He wanted to show us an example that we need a healthy, weekly rest from our daily work and our normal pleasures. In fact, on the seventh-day (Saturday), He proclaims in other books like Exodus (ch 20), that the seventh-day is to be kept holy and that you should remove yourself from your worldly worries. In the book of Isaiah, chapter 58, He asks you to remove yourself even from your normal pleasures (ie: golfing, fishing).

Did you know the Sabbath is in the Ten Commandments?
Most scholars agree that the majority of the laws created by our forefathers are based on the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments' influence is global -- millions of rules and regulations try to instill the spirit of the Ten Commandments so society can be civilized.

You may not know this, but the fourth commandment is to keep the Sabbath holy, six days you will labor and on the seventh-day, you will rest. So is breaking the Sabbath considered a sin? Yes.

Sabbath made for mankind
In the book of Mark 2:27, it states that the the Sabbath was made for mankind (the Greek states mankind; hence, not for Jews alone). And man was not made for the Sabbath. In other words, God created the Sabbath as a gift to mankind -- an allowance of rest. It is not to limit you, but to enhance your life. It shouldn't be considered a hindrance. The ability to rest for one day, to get rid of thoughts of work, financial issues, and schooling is a blessing.

People that observe the Sabbath is marked as God's people
In the Old Testament book of Exodus, God declared that the Sabbath was the sign between Him and His people. That sign or mark still continues on today. In the New Testament, in Hebrews 4:9, it states, "There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God"; hence, it applies to Christians of present time. In fact, the word described as Sabbath-rest in this New Testament verse is sabatismos (Greek for seventh-day rest).

Why do Christians rest on Sunday instead of Saturday (Sabbath)?
Most Christians go to church on Sunday because they base that tradition from the Catholic Church. In the early years of the Catholic Church, they chose Sunday as the false Sabbath to get away from Judaism. Pastors now will say it is due to a celebration of Jesus' resurrection, even though the Bible doesn't say to celebrate the first day. Some will say we will never know because the calendars were changed, even though that's a false assumption as seven day weeks remained constant and only the dates changed.

Most Christian pastors that have historical knowledge understand that the true Sabbath is Saturday. In over 60+ languages, Saturday is considered the Sabbath. For instance, in Spanish, Saturday translates to Sabado (Sabbath). The truth is, Sunday keeping is so in-depth in the layers of Protestantism, most congregations would have to admit they were in the wrong all this time.

My pastor told me the Sabbath is no longer needed due to Calvary
Aside from love, why did Jesus have to die for the world? Because He could not get around the Law. Either He had to condemn everyone to eternal destruction or He had to make a sacrifice. The Law still exist now. Christ dying on Calvary was to fulfill the law's requirements -- either man had to die eternally or God had to sacrifice Himself. In the New Testament verse of Matt 5:17, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them."

Respectfully tell your pastor to read John 14:15 -- "If ye love me, keep my commandments." You may want to also introduce him to Isaiah 66:22-24 when it talks about worshiping God in heaven from one Sabbath to the next: "...from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me," says the LORD.

If the Sabbath was only limited in the Old Testament, why is it in the New Testament? Why is it in the future heaven? If "every day can be holy", how come God specifically outlines this day to be kept pure from normal work?

Rest on the seventh day from your typical work and keep your mind away from your worldly distractions, and from your own pleasure. If you are still young and you have a lot of energy to give, I suggest you do what Jesus did -- volunteer to do good things on the Sabbath such as helping with charities or find a place to celebrate nature and enjoy God's creation.

I celebrate my Sabbath using the same method God setup in Genesis (sunset to sunset), which starts on Friday evening and ends Saturday evening.

I can honestly tell you, as I have grown older, I've found the benefits of the Sabbath to be priceless. Not only does it reduce my stress level, it enhances your personal relationship with God and with your family.

Did you know? Sabbath keepers are also considered by modern scientists to be one of the longest living groups in the planet. You should check out National Geographic's study on why Sabbath keepers seem to live longer than the rest of the general population.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

News: Why socialistic France is rioting

You may have seen the latest riots going on the news about France. Across the country, unions and other rioters are protesting against new market reforms that's being pushed by the government. If you are flipping the channel and not learning anything, STOP!

There are valuable lessons to be learned from this situation: a lesson of capitalism vs. communism/socialism.

What law is the French government trying to pass?
French labor laws protect employee interests significantly through union and trade agreements. Even if you're a smoking pothead and you don't do any work, your employer still can't fire you. The government is trying to change this because businesses are not hiring or are outright leaving the country.

Businesses want to have the ability to terminate non-performing employees without being hindered by union or trade agreements. Specifically, the new law will let businesses have better control of hiring and terminating if they are tenured less than 2 years.

Why are the people rioting?
The Communist-backed labor unions are upset and have launched violent riots against the French government. Their point of view: the government should take care of workers regardless of their performance.

Why should we care?
So we identify what socialism is and not seek after it. We should not let the government control how people should be hired or fired. French socialistic policies have given them 23% unemployment among their young adults and an overall of 9.6% unemployment across the nation.

The United States, despite its debt, is the most economically powerful country in the world. This is largely due to its people's attitude about freedom. People want freedom to leave their companies if they want to and vice versa, companies want to terminate workers if they want to. Our economic success shouldn't be credited to Clinton or Bush, but through our comprehensive and collective set of employment laws designed and modified throughout the years.

The United States has found the right balance of employer and employee responsibilities. Our unemployment rate of less than 4.8% in the nation is a testament to this. We let market forces (supply and demand) work through the economy. Anyone can setup a business in the United States. But in France, new businesses tread carefully -- if at all.

But welfare just sounds so good!
Essentially, that is what the French has. If you don't want to work, don't worry, you're covered -- your employer still has to pay you. We need to avoid this idea that the government or the employer should be taking care of us. The people that you should be depending on is God, your family, and yourself.

Anything else is a communistic dream of equality, and in this sinful world, it won't happen. In fact, it'll just be abused.

Socialism is bad.
Communism is bad.
Labor unions that support either of the above are bad.

France: 9.6% unemployment (23% unemployment of young adults)
USA: 4.8% unemployment (4.2% unemployment of young adults)


Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Business Tip: Measuring Customer Satisfaction

If you ever worked in a customer service oriented business, you know the importance of measuring customer satisfaction (CSAT). By in large, most industries want happy customers to get repeat business and better word of mouth marketing. What's a company with no repeat business and bad word of mouth marketing? A bankrupt one. Whether your company is a clothing store, or a computer store -- you want to know what the customer thinks of you.

Proper steps of measuring customer satisfaction (CSAT):
1. Find your customer population.
2. Get a random sample.
3. Survey the random sample.

Find Your Customer Population
Let's take for example that you own an Internet service provider with 1 million customers. You want to measure whether your customers are happy with the service. To find the correct population, you need to remove yourself and other non-paying accounts (ie: employees).

Get A Random Sample
A random sample is a subset of the population that is non-bias and represent all possibilities. Let's take for example the ISP company that has 1 million customers. We need to get a sample size from it without choosing from a "bias" approach.

A common "bias" mistake that ISP companies use to measure CSAT is to survey only the customers that contact the help desk or customer service desk. This approach is flawed. The majority of the people that contact the help desk or customer service desk has problems and they are already not satisfied in one way, shape or form.

Survey the Random Sample
Surveying requires proper wording, and proper timing. Your wording and scoring should be easily understood and should be non-biased against or for the company.

One of the worst CSAT scales I've ever seen came from a former client where they measured CSAT surveys from 1 to 10. This subjective measurement does nothing for you. Many people consider "5" as adequate and "6" as good. A preferable approach is: "Bad, Fair, Neutral, Good, or Very Good".

Timing also is important. For instance, if you're doing phone surveys -- you really don't want to survey your customers when they are at work and they are not answering their home phone. Neither would you want to survey people when they are eating dinner or sleeping. For mailings, you would probably want to survey customers right after the peak seasons, where you want to measure your "true" customer base.

Surveys can be a great and positive tool for your company, especially if it is done right. Consult with a statistician or a math professor if you think you need to start surveying customers. A math wiz can tell you about other survey factors such as margin of errors and confidence levels. If you fail to consult a credible third party before you survey, you may fall into what I call the "survey trap" -- where you make decisions on flawed data.

On a personal experience, I've seen clients in the survey trap and I think to this day, they are still in it. They are constantly terminating contracts, employees, and other problems for the sake of percentages and numbers that show up on their computers. There are legal consequences for these issues as well -- terminating employees for bad survey data can cost millions in unemployment hearings, wrongful termination suits, and co-employment lawsuits [co-employment is when a company has some control in a contractor's business/employees].

Monday, April 03, 2006

Iran Shows Off Its Weapons

For the past couple of days, Iran has stepped up its propaganda. Fearing that they may be invaded in the near future, they started demonstrating their new weapons. They claim their weapons technology can hit vehicles and buildings, and is undetectable by radar.

I went ahead and tried to verify Iran's claims on whether they had this capability. I went and added all the descriptions they gave on TV and Google'd it. This is what came up:

The United States trembles in fear.