Fusionpartners - Creative thinking for the real estate world



From the MBA Centennial Video: Helping launch the big dig. The team that knows how to shovel it!

I just received a glossy, full color 44-page “President’s Report” from the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties.  I wonder if these guys have gotten the memo.  Their members are hurting.  The New Home Industry is under siege!  I’m more optimistic than the next guy about good things lying ahead, but right now, I have to wonder why I’m paying these guys big dues so the “President” can report in the most old-skool of ways.  Here’s a suggestion:  try the Internet for Sam’s sake!  Email your report.  Post on the Association website.  Put it on Sam’s Facebook page.  Anything but print and mail a 44-page slick report that actually does little to address the core issues that face our industry.  And  if any MBA’ers are thinking I’m being a little harsh?  Be damn glad I didn’t choose to pick on the wretched, self-serving excess of that thick hard cover you published this year for the 100th Anniversary.  Can I find anything GOOD to say about the Pres’s report? The orange on the back cover is pretty nifty!

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Facebook is Not Free

facebook1 Facebook is Not Free

“Facebook is Free.” So is Twitter, your Blog and those incessant email blasts we send and receive.That “Free” thing is quite far from the truth, actually!Access to these services may be at no-charge, but using them correctly and effectively is far from free.

That is a good thing.

The typical consumer does not value FREE. We are attracted to free. We are enticed and tempted by free.For years consumer research has shown that the average consumer cares more about products and services they have to pay for than those they don’t invest in.So the fact that “Facebook” has a cost is a good thing.

What is the cost? It’s the cost of creating good content and management.An effective Facebook, Twitter, blog or other Social Media campaign requires commitment and investment.A company and its leadership must treat Social Media like any other communications investment. Put enough resources against the job to do it right, or don’t do it at all.The resources can be the management time needed to state some goals and scratch out a posting schedule on the back of a napkin.It can be the staff time needed to research and add posts.The time it takes to respond to friends, fans and customers.The resolve to promote your Social presence in other places such as on your website, business cards, email signature, literature and packaging.The costs may seem quite reasonable compared to a major advertising or public relations campaign, but when we know we’re making an investment, we’ll take much more care in making it pay off.That is a good thing.

There is also another cost that we often do not see. That is the cost to our audience. I am sure we all put a high value on our own time and attention.We hate meaningless interruptions and rude intrusions on our attention.Remember that when you post.Your friends, fans and customers are investing their precious time and attention in reading what you have to say. Say it well. Say it concisely and move on.

I hope that’s what I’ve done here.

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Your 2nd Chance to Score a 1st Time Buyer Tax Credit

firstkiss Your 2nd Chance to Score a 1st Time Buyer Tax Credit

FIRST KISS: There’s a First Time for Everything! Is now the time for YOUR first new home?

Al Doyle, Fusionhappens, LLC November 5, 2009

Hot off the presses: the Senate offered final approval last night, the House of Representatives chimed in this afternoon. Legislation passed containing an extension and expansion of the homebuyer tax credit. President Obama should sign by tomorrow (November 6).

If you have any interest in the new home market, helping people and the economy recover, or just plan have a pulse when it comes to real estate…help get the word out.Details will be sparse for a day or two, but here are some early highlights:

  • The legislation takes effect December 1 and is not retroactive.
  • Only for primary residences, no second homes or investments.
  • $8,000 homebuyer tax credit for first-time buyers will be extended through April 30, 2010.
  • Buyers get an additional two months, until the end of June, to close.
  • First-time buyers who are in the process of making a purchase will no longer need to worry about qualifying for the $8,000 credit if they close after the November 30 deadline.
  • The income limit for couples is now up to $225,000, nearly a $55,000 increase above the level in existing law.
  • A $6,500 maximum credit is available to existing homeowners who have lived in their current home for five of the prior eight years.
  • Tax credits good for the existing homeowner are on homes worth $800,000 or less.

Most report that the National Association of Home Builders was a big help. For up-to-date reports, visit:firstnewhome.com or thenewhomecouncil.com

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The Hidden Motivator Behind Most Luxury Sales

A theory…

Embedded in human nature is the need for approval.

People are often motivated by the deep-seated pyschologic need to be liked and respected.We are conscious of our place in the social order of family, work and the world at large. This hidden motivator often deeply drives our behaviors. What kind of car we drive makes a statement about our values.We dress so others will think well of us.Our manners, our speech patterns are often easily seen as attempts to gain the favor of others.With me so far?

I have often believed that one of man’s greatest drivers is his mother-in-law.

This became clear when I tried to understand the motives leading to the purchase of a luxury home.

Why would one be motivated to spend $3,000,000 when $1,200,000 would provide a perfectly adequate dwelling.And when actually maybe $500,000 would meet the true temporal needs of the well-off family.

Then I thought of the mother-in-law effect. What is it going to take to convince that old bat you are not the loser jerk she has always perceived you to be?Not every quite good enough for her precious princess?

That’s it! The mansion on the hill. The ultimate “hey look at me, I must be OK” statement for the whole world to see.Especially for the maternal grandmother of your well clothed, coiffed and educated children.

Once and for all, Christmas dinner with the mother-in-law’s side of the family in a home that takes a GPS to find the nearest power room, should do the trick.Finally, she’ll see her little darling really did make a good choice in her man.

Appearances count.We can never forget that when marketing luxury goods. Behind the purchase is a need to make a statement of some kind, so someone significant in the life of the purchaser.Everything the marketer touches must support the outward statement the purchaser is trying to make.

….I’m just sayin’

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We may be living in one of the greatest eras of opportunity in recent history.  It may look grim right now, and we have fond memories of the early 2000s, when sometimes all it took to win was just to show up.  But the good news is the current economy presents an opportunity to rethink and reinvent our industry.

If you want to make your mark from here on out, you’re going to have to put it all on the line: your finances, your intellect and your guts.

So, are there any risk-takers out there still with me?

Think hard about it.  We are part of an industry that is ripe for innovation. The recent market conditions have taken away the proverbial low hanging fruit, but the need for shelter will grow as we continue to have babies and keep our doors open to immigration.

What will it take?

If you’re an architect, is it time to design differently?  Will it be more sensible size designed to minimize impact on energy and environment going forward? Is it time to explore the creation of denser clusters, and perhaps introduce community in places you have never thought about community before?

If you’re a builder, is it time to get over stick built?  Does anyone want a “stick built” car?  Toaster?  Are you ready to rethink how you put a home together?  Push the envelope on efficiency. Open up new markets with amazing affordability.  Get local governments to get in on the game of creating more housing and less “mitigation”?

Can we learn to market more efficiently?  How long are we going to depend on the newspapers? Whine about how much we spend on monthly new home glossy magazines? And then complain about how poorly all of it works, while we come back for more of the same, year-after-year?

Today, Fusionhappens pushed the reset button.  We’ve moved ourselves back to the waterfront home where we began this adventure a number of years ago, co-located with our friends Mithun in Seattle Pier 56.

Business for Fusionhappens has actually been pretty good lately.

Why?  Because we’re finding new ways to help our clients reach their customers.  We’ve taken the plunge and made our investments in social media.  We are teaching our clients how to build websites that empower them to do their own updates. We’re creating new tools to track leads and to radically improve the Search Engine performance for our clients’ websites.  We’re finding new and more efficient ways to create marketing materials.  And we are insisting that everyone we work with (especially clients) adhere to the mantra “waste nothing; measure everything.”

Sorry that today’s blog is a commercial, but today is a big day for us as we settle in our new work space.

Please accept our invitation and our challenge to take what the market has handed us and make something truly new, fresh and IMPORTANT.

Lives are shaped in the homes we design, build and market. Let’s do more than our best.  Let’s do something new.


Pier 56
1201 Alaskan Way, Suite 200
Seattle, WA 98101


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Builder Magazine Weighs In On Nation’s Top Housing Markets

As this year’s PCBC conference wound down and the the winners headed home clutching their hard -earned Gold Nugget awards, Builder Magazine went live with a review of the nation’s top 15 new home markets.  It’s a real eye-opener.  They also amuse (or depress) us with their review of the 15 top losers.  It was very interesting to see where markets like Seattle and Washington D.C. fell.  I guess the democrats are good for biz if you consider a growing number of government workers all need a new place to live.  Read it here.

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Going For The Gold!

goldnugget 228x300 Going For The Gold!

Come June 18th, the tension in the air in the San Francisco Convention Center will be palpable as the finalists and industry leaders await final word on who will take away this year’s Gold Nugget awards in various categories.The Gold Nugget Awards, established in 1963 and for a long time known as “Best in the West,” have gone international and are now considered by some to be the most prestigious award for architecture and building.In acknowledgement of the growing ties between the U.S. and its neighbors who also touch the Pacific Ocean, the competition now includes major Pacific Rim participants such as Australia, Canada, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Singapore and Thailand.

The judging was completed at the end of last week with 375 entries reviewed by a blue ribbon panel.As always, Lisa Parrish of Peter Mayer Productions carefully watched over the proceedings!All finalists are presented with a Merit Award.

Winners in Fusionhappens�� backyard include:

Architect Ross Chapin and Conover Commons, a great example of sustainability, planning and a ‘less is more’ approach to living with their amazing right-sized homes.Conover Commons received Merit awards for Outstanding Neighborhood Site Plan up to 20 Acres, Outstanding Single Family Detached Home – Any size on a Compact Lot under 3,200 Sq. ft., and Sustainable Residential Neighborhood – Detached Home.

Weber Thompson’s Fifteen Twenty-One Second Avenue by Opus NW Development L.L.C.,
 a classy condominium using GREEN quite strongly in its marketing, received two Merit Awards.One for Outstanding Attached Project – High Rise For Sale and the second for Sustainable Residential Neighborhood – Attached Home.This 440 foot tower is aiming for LEED® Silver, and according to their website, has been selling at the rate of one home per week since January.

The full list of finalists is now on posted on the Gold Nugget Awards website, along with information on how to register for the awards luncheon, if you’re headed to SFO for the Pacific Coast Builders Conference.

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Facebook and the Art of New Home Sales

facebookmay5 300x245 Facebook and the Art of New Home SalesSocial Media in the Workplace

One of the perennial questions for large companies these days is what to do with the emerging Social Media phenomenon.With the advent of Web 2.0, larger IT departments have placed some very strict limitations on the access their employees have to outside Internet sites.Being strong proponent of hiring adults, and then treating them like adults, puts me immediately at odds with that Old Skool line of thinking.(Of course, I disclaim: I have never had to manage an organization that numbered in the many hundreds, if not thousands.)

With that said, let’s get specific.You are running a new home sales team and now have to decide how approach a brand new tool: Social Media.We’re all familiar with the oldest tool, the intake form, registration card, welcome form, or whatever you call that sheet of paper where you try to capture information about your prospective buyer.We ask for a name, and some contact information.Maybe a price range, a number of bedrooms, an ancillary preferred feature or two.Where did they hear about us?Was it the website? Our expensive newspaper ads?But, of course, the only box most of them check is the one about “the signs.”Our next tool is discovery — the process in which we attempt to bond and learn more about the customer so we can professionally direct them to the right home at the right price.Here we want to know about interests, family, commute, favorite recreation activities, etc.Only when we do the discovery process correctly are we best equipped to serve our customer.

Now imagine the value of knowing even more about our prospective clients.Maybe before they visit, or when they return for a second or third look.What if they wrote us a long personal letter, shared who they were friends with, displayed photos of their last vacation and the awesome 10th Birthday Party for their grandson?I’d venture that a new home sales professional would jump at the chance to glimpse that deeply into the lives of their customers.

What I’ve just described is Facebook!Now add to that the family videos posted on YouTube, the photo albums displayed on Flickr.com and the professional contacts shared on LinkedIn.

When a builder of new homes, a planned community or condominium community enters into a professionally managed Social Media campaign, the doors are opened wide to new kinds of relationships with their best prospects.Because of the public nature of the medium, those relationships extend beyond the prospects to include their best friends, family members and the people to whom they turn for validation.If you’re now thinking that sharing all that personal information is a little creepy, note that Facebook, if it were a country, would be the be the 5th largest in the world, with 200 million active members who have an average of 120 friends each. One hundred million visit Facebook every day.*Remember that the information users post about themselves is voluntary. They want YOU to know about their lives.

Facebook (and Social Media, in general) can help you get to know your customers.As a two-way conversation, Social Media can help them to get to know you as well.

Now, back to the IT staff which wants to restrict access.My advice:it’s time to embrace Social Media, give employees access and open new doors for your company.Let senior management set some reasonable expectations for representing the company online and in public, then encourage your sales teams to get social.It’s the next step to getting more business.

groundswell 216x300 Facebook and the Art of New Home Sales

For a wide angle view of integrating the Internet into the daily flow of business, I suggest reading Groundswell, by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff.

* Source: http://www.facebook.com/press/info.php?statistics

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Toast the Future

cocktail Toast the Future

Over the generations, just how much of our body of useful knowledge was traded at the neighborhood pub or bar?

One of our Fusionhappens, Bruce Woodstrom, was catching up with long time pals, Susan and Al Sipe. Bruce has this thing for the Zig Zag, a quiet and venerated bar between Seattle’s Pike Place Market and the waterfront.  Also home to Murray, Seattle’s favorite bartender. Recently, Susan has been asking a lot of questions about Social Marketing. She’s responsible for marketing many hundreds of new condos in premier buildings represented by Williams Marketing, a regional legend in condo sales.  Midway through their second round of cocktails (Murray’s Old Fashions are seductively good), Bruce noticed a group in the next booth.  Mixed ages, mixed genders, mixed ethnicities.  A perfect sampling of the metropolitan condo audience.  Here they were, face-to-face, and each member in the chatty group was also riveted to their iPhone or Blackberry.  “Those are your buyers, Susan,” noted Bruce, “and look how they’re connecting.”  Being the ultimate student of marketing, Susan seized the opportunity to join the table next door and conduct an impromptu focus group on the media habits.  The conclusion: it’s all about the “three screens”! If you want to reach the future (meaning this afternoon) buyer, you need to engage them on one of their three screens:  the iPhone, Blackberry or cell phone — always with them; their computer — where they spend the most time; or their television — where you can only conduct a one way conversation.

So, my question of the day is:  why the heck do so many of you still insist on dumping all those budgets on ineffective newspapers and glossy magazine ads?

Maybe it’s time to find your own local Zig Zag and conduct some person-to-person market research.

Results may vary.

Image by Free-StockPhotos.com

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What’s Your Mental Age?

george and billboard What’s Your Mental Age?

Six years ago George Johnson arrived at work to receive his birthday greeting. He’s still showing up for work. (If housing market doesn’te get better soon, we’ll all be working at 96!

The real estate marketing world is changing at a fiber-optic space. The newest uses of technology invented yesterday are spreading like a viral video of Susan Boyle.

New business models are being designed around Twitter, which itself is only a little over two years old. (I blogged earlier this week on “what” Twitter is.)  Ponder for a moment these life questions: Are you ready to change everything?  Are you mentally and emotionally agile enough to plunge into the Internet age with wild abandon?

If you’re in your 40s, 50s or 60s do you sometimes question your place in the Internet era of marketing and selling new homes?

To find the answer we had to find America’s oldest realtor.

Our Internet maven, Carleigh, lives in a charming Seattle neighborhood called Ballard.  It’s known for its roots in lumber and fishing, both industries attracting a hardy Scandinavian stock from the Old Country, particularly Sweden, Norway and Finland.  I grew up there in the 50s and 60s when a Volvo was known as a Swedish Cadillac.  Our high school yearbook listed many Erics, Ingas, Svens and Torvolds.

It just happened that Carleigh spotted a local Ballard blog article and television feature about George Johnson, 96 years old, and still going strong.  George has been selling homes since 1937 and still shows up at his Ballard office, dapper as ever in a suit and tie. He lays claim to being America’s Oldest Realtor.  Who’s to argue?

George Johnson has a website and an email address.  I do believe therein lies the answer.  It’s not chronological age, it’s mental age and an understanding of the principles of real estate and people — principles that transcend technology.  People want the honest truth.  So if the Internet helps you provide the facts faster and more completely, embrace the technology.  People want prompt, polite, caring human interaction.  If email, instant messaging and text messages make you a better communicator, claim it!  Can a Tweet from you on Twitter about a new listing, or open house reach your following of several hundred local agents — then become a Twit!

I encourage you to read the My Ballard blog article about George, and watch the KING TV interview.  George is a cool guy and an inspiration to all of us!

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