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  • Writing for Your CRE Site: Writing Tools

    Time to get crackin’ slugger

    So we’ve covered the basics of a WordPress site, we’ve discussed the types of articles to write, and we’ve worked on the five steps to a blog post. What’s next?

    Pen to paper. (Or fingers to keyboard, as it were.)

    As you compose your Pultizer-worthy prose, you should be efficient with your time and effective with your writing habits. The tips I’m about to suggest may seem excessive, but, as I’ve said before, we are trying to create good habits for ourselves. Over the long run, these good habits and tools will make us more effective with our time and therefore more productive than our competitors.

    Here are a few tools I have picked up since becoming a writer that may help you speed up the process or focus in on your writing . . .

     

    PlanMindManager, Mindo, and Popplet

    Before you write down a single word, you should plan out what you will write, how you will write it, and how long it will take. This 5 minutes of planning can save you hours of staring at a blank screen figuring out what’s next. Use an app like MindManager, Mindo, or Popplet. All three of these are just apps for brainstorming or thought-clouds. You can use them to plot out the themes and resources of your post and they are all available for the iPad or iPhone. So you can do this on MARTA, ordering your food at lunch, or just waiting on the elevator. This takes all of 4 minutes for me and I usually do it while I am waiting around for a sandwich or the elevator. Once this is done I am ready to attack the article and bust it out in a few minutes.

    Really makes my life easier.

    TargetGoogle Analytics, Alexa

    Who are you writing to? Who will read this post? Why are they looking for your information? When will they look for it? This is what I call “targeting” for your posts. You have to figure out 1) who your readers are, 2) what they are looking for, and 3) when they will be looking for it. Unfortunately, I don’t have a tool to help you with figuring out the “who.” Use your brain. The other two are much easier.

    Google Analytics and Alexa will show you traffic patterns and search patterns within your niche. Google Analytics has a benchmarking tool to show you the traffic patterns of searches and web traffic in your industry. Alexa pretty much does that same thing. The “when” part is slightly more complicated, but there are some great, free tools for Twitter and Facebook that show when to post for maximum exposure to your followers. We will cover that when we go over social media.

    The best. And free.

    FocusOmmWriter, Manuscript, q10

    When you are going to start writing, you need to eliminate all your distractions. Focus on effectiveness and being efficient with your time. If you are looking up every two minutes at the “bing” of your Outlook, that article is going to take you 3 hours. Bust it out in twenty minutes of straight-forward, focused writing. Then you can go focus on your emails, phone calls, etc. 20 minutes of sustained, intense focus on writing will be more productive than two hours of multi-tasking. You lose all momentum and thought-synergy when you stop to jot a quick email.

    I use OmmWriter . It’s a cool iPad app that has serene backgrounds and soft music to keep you focused. Two other highly recommended apps are Manuscript and q10. They both do the same thing as OmmWriter, but Manuscript is a little more robust with built in Google, Dictionary/Thesaurus, and Wikipedia on the page. So you can seamlessly integrate your post with info from the web and you can check your wording. It comes with a price ($6.99!!!) where the rest of the apps are free. q10 is basically the same as OmmWriter but has a little different user interface. So you may prefer that to OmmWriter depending on your screen, noise, and color preferences.

    OmmmmmmmmWriter

     

     

    So now you have your wonderful article ready to publish, right? Wrong. Now you get to fill it with images and great links that add value to your reader.

    Check back with the APJ for our next post where we will discuss where to find and download useful and FREE images for your post. Later we will be discussing the right link architecture for your posts and how to set them up as efficiently as possible.

    Stay tuned.

    – Duke

     

     

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  • APJ Morning Links 6.14.12

    The US housing market has undergone dramatic changes in the last three years. How does this affect how our cities will develop? Find out on the Saporta Report.

    Cutting edge high school will open in north Atlanta. The school is an 11-story building that was once held IBM offices. How will they deal with moving 2,400 students up and down 11 floors? The architects are ready to face that challenge.

    From NREI’s 21 annual Top Lenders Survey, here are the top ten Financial Intermediaries in Commercial Real Estate.

    Paces Station in Vinings has changed hands. The 610-unit apartment complex was bought for $57 million.

    Want a non-traditional way to invest in real estate? Check out these 13 Bizarre Real Estate Investment Opportunities.

     

  • Millenial Manifesto: Sustainability

     

    Good spot for a shopping mall, right?

    To continue my rant on my generation of young men and women, I thought I take on a topic near and dear to all of us in CRE: sustainability.

    In my experience, I have found that many of the more shrewd investors in the commercial property market tend to think of sustainability as a marketing ploy or gimmick. On the other end of the spectrum, there are those who think that any commercial building with the slightest carbon footprint is obviously the work of the devil or evil corporate greed and wall street is trampling on main street, blah blah blah.

    Forgive me for not occupying something, but my feelings toward the environment aren’t quite so militant. I also don’t buy the stance of the first group who think sustainability is a fad that will die away like the pet rock. I think it matters, but it isn’t life or death.

    Perhaps the simplest way I can put my stance on sustainability is:

    I want to leave Atlanta better than I found it.

    Simple enough, right?

    Not so fast my friend. Everyone seems to have an opinion on the definition of “better.” Is a Silver-rated LEED Atlanta better than I found it? Well, yeah, but it’s not as better as Platinum LEED. So how much better do I want to leave Atlanta?

    Simple again.

    I will try to improve my city using sustainable practices as much as makes financial sense.

    I suppose I could build a shopping center out of hemp. That would be very “green” and “sustainable” and “environmentally conscious” of me. But I would also never be able to lease any of the space, I would lose the property to the lender, my investors would lose all their money, and I would get punched in the neck by a large Italian man. No, thank you.

    That may seem like a silly example, but my jest carries a simple truth: sustainability works to a certain point. Right now, that point is financial feasibility. If I lose money by implementing “green” retrofits or using sustainable materials to build, then there had better be one heck of an additional benefit or externality that I can quantify. Otherwise, I’m just losing money on my project so that fluffy bunnies can prance in this imagined utopia. Not happening.

    So, let me wrap this in a nice little package:

    I want to create and maintain sustainable properties and use sustainable practices to build buildings in Atlanta as long as it doesn’t bankrupt me or my investors.

    So, having made clear my stance, let me weigh in briefly on a few sustainable topics:

    Green Space – Heck yeah we should set aside some space to be green space! I don’t live in NYC, nor do I want to. Let’s keep some spaces for parks, keep plants around our buildings, try some green roofs, etc. I see no downside to this other than the opportunity cost of building an income-generating building on the space, but I never asked for a park on a pin-corner or even with street visibility. That’s where retail centers, office buildings, and apartments go. Put the green stuff everywhere else.

    Rain water – This seems so simple it’s stupid. It’s free water! Let’s keep it! Use it to water plants or grass or cool off hot stuff. I don’t care what it’s used for, just collect your (FREE) rain water and use it. It may take a while to figure out the most efficient way to collect and redistribute it, but it seems silly to waste even a single drop of water when perhaps the largest questions facing our children and their children is: Where will they get fresh water? (glares menacingly at Alabama and Tennessee)

    Motion Sensitive Lighting – Do I really need to justify this one? Why would you keep the lights on when no one is around?

    Low Flow Toilets, Showers, and Sinks – I can’t remember the last time I went into a bathroom and proclaimed “Wow, this would be one great restroom if only the urinals flushed harder.”

    Trees– I like trees. If I have to chop one down to build or renovate something, I will gladly plant another. Why not? They are cheap, look cool, make oxygen, and I can climb them

    I better plant some trees or Al Gore will turn the world purple

    and stuff.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Electric Vehicles – I like the idea, but this won’t make sense for me until I can’t notice a difference in the performance of my Chevy Tahoe and the Chevy Leaf Tahoe. When the electric version can tow, haul, transport, and off-road as well as my gas-guzzler, then I’m a buyer. Until then, I will continue sending my paycheck to Shell every two weeks.

    Trash – We dig a big hole and dump our trash in it? Seriously? That’s the best we can do after 230 years of innovation? Are you kidding?

    Glass – Show me how your fancy double-paned, low-emittance glass will save me on the power bill. Give me a dollar amount. If I can say that I will hold the building for as long as it would take me to recoup the mark-up on that glass over the regular stuff, then I’m a buyer. If not, go fish.

    Solar – Money! I am a buyer when it becomes cost effective. I’m not going to use the sun to power the HVAC system in my office building if it costs me 5 times as much as my electric HVAC system. I’m told that with the advances in carbon research and nanotechnology, solar tech will become much more affordable and efficient over the next 20 years. Cool. Keep me up to date. In fact, I actively keep tabs on Suniva up in Norcross because of some of the cool solar tech they have been rolling out. But until it becomes cost effective, I’m just a fan from afar.

     

    Do you see the trend in these little musings? I use my brain (I have one, I promise). If it makes sense from both an environmental and financial perspective, I’m down. If not, try again later. I will always be open to new ideas and technologies and I hope that sustainable technologies evolve so that commercial properties only improve the local natural and human environment. Until then, I will keep one eye on the advances and one eye on the bottom line.

    – Duke

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  • APJ Morning News 6.13.12

    Two Intown projects have revised their designs. This writer doesn’t think all the changes are positive.

    First mayor of Dunwoody weighs in on Brookhaven becoming a city. For Dunwoody, becoming a city was the beginning of a great new community.

    State and federal tax credits can help businesses with their bottom line. Here’s how to make sure you are getting the full benefit.

    Buying foreclosures and selling them as rentals has become big business for some. A San Francisco company have already raise millions.

    Companies are building portfolios with international properties. Sydney-based Westfield Group expands across the globe by acquiring businesses in Brazil. Will this trend continue?

     

     

     

     

     

  • APJ Morning News 6.12.12

    Is Atlanta one of the fastest gentrifying neighborhoods in the United States? Petrilli lists the 25 zip codes in the US with the largest change in the white share of the population.

    Where you work affects how you work. How does office space impact your work?

    Decatur Plaza has been sold to a Boston-based company. The building is fully leased to The Emory Clinic, INC.

    CRE pros can manage their portfolio with an app called Property Capsule. The app is iPad, web, and mobile compatible.

    Over the last 20 years, convention space in the US has increased by 50 percent. Is it time to stop building convention centers?

     

  • Writing for Your CRE Site: Tell Secrets

    Write interesting stuff and I will hang around

     

    To continue our discussion of best practices in writing for a CRE site or blog, let’s discuss content.

    I have been asked  about what types of information to reveal and what types of knowledge to share. I don’t think there is one answer to that question and it certainly depends on several factors. For instance, if you work for a law firm, you may need to be very careful about your opinions and the insights you share. King and Spalding may not appreciate you telling about their unreasonable practices with their billable hours (I’m sure their hours are reasonable and fair, by the way).

    But I will say that, in general, more sharing is better. In fact, I would go ahead and advise you to tell your secrets and best practices.

    The reason I say that is pretty simple: Readers like interesting content. Reusing the content of others is fine, but nothing will drive content to your site like original content. And I would argue that the most interesting types of original content are “insider knowledge” and “trade secrets.”

    If you don’t believe me, think about your favorite articles. Are they news posts? (This deal happened at this property.) Are they product reviews? (I like this widget for business.) Maybe.

    My favorite articles are the ones that give me an inside look at something or a little known secret of the industry. I once read a great article from the New Yorker about elevator malfunctions and a history of people being trapped in elevators. The article was like 15 pages long and took me the better part of a half hour. But it was fascinating and I loved it. I read it 3 years ago and I still remember it.

    Those articles draw eyes. And lots of them . . .

    Telling secrets, sharing insider knowledge, pointing out what everyone else has missed, those are the articles that really distinguish your voice as interesting and insightful.

    I can already hear the push back:

    Duke, if I tell all my secrets, I will have no competitive advantage and my readers will take deals from me.

    Two things wrong with that feeble complaint.

    First, I never said tell ALL of your secrets. If you found the greatest way to source equity in the history of the planet and no one has figured it out but you, then by all means protect your intellectual property. If it is that revolutionary, patent or trademark it and make money off it. You can patent it, then write about it, and then charge others to use your idea.

    But the vast majority of secrets and best practices are known and shared by the top tier of professionals in a niche. So you really aren’t sharing anything all that revolutionary. You’re just taking info from the upper echelon and distributing it to everyone else.

    In essence that’s what most journalism entails. Since none of us sit in the White House every day, we watch CNN to hear what their reporters gather from the upper echelon of politicians. These politicians are part of an exclusive circle of information and we depend on reporters to find out what they are talking about and what they are thinking in order to remain informed about the direction of our nation’s politics. Your CRE post is no different. You are sharing privileged information with the masses.

    So don’t think that sharing little-known information is new or controversial. Reporters and journalists do it every day and we eat it up.

    The second problem with your intellectual property conundrum is that you probably overestimate your audience both in size and retention.

    The whole point of a blog is to share interesting information with a group of like-minded people. They don’t want to come to your site for info they can get elsewhere. They want original insights and great information. Chances are you won’t have a billion people reading your post; just a few interested parties. The APJ caters to commercial property professionals in Atlanta, GA. How many people is that? A few hundred? Maybe a few thousand? However many it is, I’m not sure it’s enough to change the planet forever with my tricks on how to get a loan or how to manage multiple brokers.

    I think that’s why TentBlogger has tens of thousands of followers. Not only does he tell you how to create great content for your site, but he also tells you how to monetize it. He even told his readers how much money he makes blogging and how he makes it! That is proprietary knowledge that he is sharing with thousands of potential competitors. Have any of them put him out of business? Nope. Will they? Probably not, because he has established a reputation as a knowledge leader and knowledge dispenser. I just mentioned him on this site and linked to his articles. Because he was so forthcoming with info, I mentioned him, linked to his site several times (boosting his SEO), and recommended you read his work. Sounds to me like telling secrets has helped him a great deal . . .

    ProBlogger does the same thing. It’s a blog that makes money while teaching others to make money . . . blogging.

    In fact, thousands of people use this method. Paula Deen isn’t afraid of being out-cooked by someone who buys her cookbook. Eric Schmidt isn’t afraid Google will be overtaken by rivals with the publishing of In The Plex. I doubt Ted Williams was afraid of being out-slugged by some young hot shot when we co-wrote The Science of Hitting.

    All of these people are achievers who shared insights about themselves, their companies, or their recipes. Did they fear being overtaken by a rival by sharing this secret or privileged information? Probably not. There is a huge difference between “knowing” and “doing.”

    I have read Good to Great by Jim Collins at least 3 times in the last 2 years. In a debate on Corporate Strategy and Business Excellence, he would destroy me and make me look like a child. If there were a moderator in our debate, his response to my comments may be something like this:

     

    All kidding aside, it’s a little silly to think that the consumer of information can match the distributor of information. If you learn a trick, share it with the world, and then are overtaken by those who read your trick, then I would assert that they would have overtaken you eventually anyway.

    Think about the people you know who still cling to best practices from 1985. Are they industry leaders and market drivers? Absolutely not. The best of the best are constantly learning, changing, and adapting. If your secrets, tricks, and insider knowledge are the same as the secrets, tricks, and insider knowledge you possess in 10 years, then you will have already been passed by.

    Sharing a secret/trick/insider tip you have about the best way to conduct a property visit, or the best practices for stream-lining construction loans , or 5 tips on obtaining equity financing, will NOT hurt you in the long run and I would argue that it will only help your reputation with your audience and followers in the short run.

    So, if sharing secrets and insider knowledge doesn’t hurt you in the long run and only helps you in the short run, why are you still protecting that intellectual property? Share it with the rest of us, let us tell you how smart and wonderful you are, and then we will forget it and you can still be the expert. Just teach me something interesting and I promise I will come back hungry to learn more. Teach me something I could learn elsewhere and I will just go wherever is easiest or best looking.

    Secrets and insider knowledge make your posts unique and interesting. If you don’t share them, then (eventually) someone else will and I will just hang around on their site.

    – Duke

     

  • APJ Morning News 6.11.12

    Here are some great pictures of midtown commercial property. They are done in a time lapse form to capture the changing beauty of the skyline. Enjoy!

    Upcoming TSPLOST referendum is asking to raise sales tax to help relieve Atlanta traffic congestion. One writer gives 3 reasons why he doesn’t think that will happen.

    Law firms are banning together to drive sustainable initiatives. These firms hope to draw more clients and improve the public view of the firm. This philosophy is changing how law firms practice law and how they run their business.

    Stock market decline, recent decline in REIT’s and several large investments are updated in the Commercial Real Estate Week in Review for June 2-8.

    Buckhead shopping center Powers Ferry Square could get nearly $900,000 in renovations. The building permit was requested on Friday. Powers Ferry Square is owned by Regency Retail Partnership.

  • Weekly Financial Market Update: June 4-8

    APJ is pleased to announce a new weekly article!

    Every Friday, our financial markets expert will be posting on the latest market trends from the past 5 days. If there are any metrics or maret trends you wish to hear about, please let us know in the comments!

    This week’s update:

    Equity markets: The S&P 500 rose 3.7% on the week. There wasn’t any great catalyst for the move. Optimism grew that the Federal Reserve will do another round of quantitative easing if financial conditions worsen. China cut interest rates this week, leading people to think they could begin a new round of stimulus programs. More importantly, after a nearly 10% market decline since the beginning of April, it looks like the selloff from the weak May payrolls report may have finally shaken out enough investors to lead to at least a short-term bottom. We’re now in the stock market’s summer period following Memorial Day, and news flow will be light until the economic data at the beginning of July and Q2 earnings season starting in the middle of July, so any major developments out of Europe may have even more of an impact than normal.

    Bond markets: The 10-year treasury yield rose 0.19% this week, from 1.45% to 1.64%. Again, this was driven by a reduction in fear given the stock market rally, positive developments from the Federal Reserve and China, and a lack of bad European headlines.

    Currency markets: The dollar was little changed on the week, falling about 0.4%. Over the past few years stock market rallies have coincided with dollar selloffs and vice versa, so this is the most logical explanation.

    Interbank markets: 12-month LIBOR was unchanged on the week at 1.07%.

    Next week: News flow will be quiet until Friday, when May industrial production and the Empire Manufacturing reports will be released. Additionally, with Euro 2012 underway (June 8th – July 1st), it’s possible that Europeans will be too distracted to try to crush the US economy over the next few weeks. All in all it should be pretty quiet until the elections in Greece on June 17th.

    – The Earl

  • Book Review: The Power of Habit

    The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

    Image courtesy Amazon.com

    If you’ve read any of our past reviews, you will know that I’m a big fan of habit formation and business psychology. So it shouldn’t come as any surprise that a book called “The Power of Habit” would catch my eye.

    I bought and listened to the audio version a couple weeks ago and I really enjoyed it.

    The basic premise is that there are certain patterns that have been scrutinized surrounding both positive and negative habits. You can imagine that this is a blossoming branch of science as habitual smokers are desperate to quit, over-eaters crave self control, and habitual gamblers try to walk away from the slots. Intuitively, the business of habits, both how to form the good ones and how to break the bad ones, is potentially worth billions of dollars.

    The book, by Charles Duhigg, walks through a dozen stories that illustrate the newest and most innovative thinking on habit formation and deconstruction. Duhigg has a gift for navigating controversial issues with science. Much like Gladwell claimed that Japanese children were good at math because of ancestral rice-farming and Levitt claimed that abortion led a decreases in crime, Duhigg uses facts and science to avoid moral debates on habitual gambling or other socially questionable addictions.

    One basic take-away from the book is the basic routine of any habit. Duhigg delves deeply into the brain and it’s functions in the various steps of the process, but for my purposes I was really only interested in the process itself. It is as follows:

    Queue – Response – Reward

    Something will queue your action. According to that queue you take some action. Because of that action, you get a reward.

    Let’s use smoking as a quick example. Say you start smoking when you feel stressed. In that habit cycle, your queue would be stress. You feel stressed and your trained response to that would be to grab a cigarette. After lighting up, you would get the brief buzz of the nicotine. So the stress queues the action of smoking which delivers the reward of the buzz.

    Interesting right?

    Try to apply that to your life or your customers . . .

    Better yet, let Duhigg do it.

    My favorite example from the book actually involves a retailer in a mall setting. Cinnabon is a national purveyor of molten, gooey cinnamon rolls that seem to melt in your mouth. They may be one of the most unhealthy foods on the planet, but they are just plain fantastic. Cinnabon knows this and uses habit to bring in customers. In their case, they know that the queue for someone buying their naughty treats is the smell of a fresh baked cinnamon roll. That enticing aroma of doughy cinnamon can bring a man to his knees. So, Cinnabon tries to maximize that aroma for its potential customers. They will actually pick their location within a mall to maximize the delivery of that aroma.

    That’s why you will see Cinnabon a good bit away from the food court. Amidst the odors of teriyaki chicken and beef burritos, the alluring cinnamon can be lost. So Cinnabon will locate a good bit away from the food court and put their ovens close to the window. That way the maximum amount of smell is wafting out of their store front and it isn’t muddied by other smells.

    It’s half evil and half genius. They are tapping into the queue of the smell to get the action of purchasing the roll for your reward of the taste.

    Beyond the implications of retail, I think habits are what make our daily lives. As the saying goes: You are what you repeatedly do. In the end, our actions are just a collection of habits. And all of us have some habits we would like to correct. So, you can use the Queue-Action-Reward process, alter any one of the three, and create newer, better habits. Or, if you are perfect, use the knowledge to help your customers or clients (as Cinnabon did, kinda).

    This book and its concepts may not be a life-changer like Compound Effect or Win Friends, but I think it’s a great read full of interesting anecdotes and well worth your time.

     

    Power of Habit in Two Sentences: All habits, both positive and negative, can be broken down into three steps: Queue – Action – Reward. If you wish to change a habit (i.e. the “Action”), then tweak the queue or the reward and watch your habit either improve or disappear.

    Pros: Interesting read with good anecdotes to illustrate points. Very good personal and professional applications if you chose to use the information that way.

    Cons: A bit scientific and cerebral. May be be a little overwhelming for those uninterested in brain biology and cognitive habits.

    Target Audience: Anyone who has habits, I suppose.

    This book is best for: Those stuck in the grip of bad habits (or a single bad habit), those looking to cater to or manipulate the habits or others (retailers), or those ambitious to improve their habits

    Overall Rating: ♦♦♦♦ (out of 5)

    Here is the Amazon link to buy this book:

    Ratings Guide

    ♦ = Not worth your time

    ♦♦ = May be worth your time if it is specific to your industry or interests

    ♦♦♦ = A decent book and worthy addition to your library depending on your interests

    ♦♦♦♦ = A great book and an excellent addition to your library.

    ♦♦♦♦♦ = One of the all time classics. A must-read for anyone and everyone.

     

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  • APJ Morning News 6.8.12

    Chinese developers create a clone of an Austrian town. Although there was some opposition, the town was completed just outside of  Huizhou.

    Google street view apps are helpful in the office and out. Adding a Google street view map to property listings is simple to do.

    Atlantic Station has a new advisory board. The board will help improve Atlantic Station’s relationship within the community. The board includes business and civic leaders from the Atlanta area.

    Business owners, and contractors,  should be aware of two Georgia court cases. The results of the case will have an impact on worker’s compensations in the future.

    Myrick Commercial Real Estate has joined with Bullock Mannelly Partners . Myrick will serve as the managing director for the land brokerage and investment banking group.

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