Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Flip HD camcorder on sale!

Looking for a quick camcorder? The Flip HD camcorder is now on sale at Amazon.com for only $162! Great deal!



Thursday, August 20, 2009

New Credit Card Act doesn’t help everyone

Before I begin, let me first say that I am fully supportive of the new Credit Card Act.

The new Credit Card Act of 2009 becomes official today. They sound good for consumers, but will they really help you? Just to recap, banks must comply with parts of the recently passed Credit Card Act of 2009 by:

  • mailing bills to their customers at least 21 days before their due dates (change from 14 days) and
  • providing at least 45 days' notice to their customers before making a significant change to their rates or fees (change from 15 days)
  • Credit card consumers will be allowed to avoid future interest-rate increases and pay off any outstanding balance over time under the original rate terms.

Credit card companies like to segment and compartmentalize everything, including people. The basic method of segmentation is by credit score (Sub-Prime, Prime, Super-Prime), and spend habits (transactor, revolver).

The credit score segmentation is defined by:

  • Sub-Prime – People with credit score up to 640
  • Prime – People with credit score from 640 to 720
  • Super-Prime – People with credit scores over 720

Nothing new there. But, within these different credit score segments, there are two main types of spend categories:

  • Transactors – those who pay the full balance each month, and
  • Revolvers – those who carry a balance each month
  • Of course, hybrids (Trans-volvers) do exist but we’re not considering that group here.

Credit card companies make money from:

  • Each transaction – each time you use a Citi/Amex or any other credit card, that bank makes a fraction of a penny
  • Interest charge from revolving balances – this is pretty clear
  • Fees – again, pretty clear

Most of these you may have know already. However, what you probably didn’t know is that credit card companies make the most money off the Sub-Prime population, while the Super-Prime population gets all the benefit of great interest rates and rewards! In fact, Super-Prime customers, on average, only generate $200-800 in profit over the entire lifetime! That’s because Super-Prime customers have lower interest rates and great rewards that minimizes profits. That’s why credit card companies try to make most off their Sub-Prime customers.

Now, let’s look at these rules one by one:

  • 21 day bill notice – this rule is really intended to help the Sup-Prime population. By giving consumers more time to pay, credit card companies generate less fees from those who pay consistently late (Sub-Prime population – otherwise their credit would be better). However, this rule can hurt all revolving population, depending on how they perform these transations. By giving consumers additional 7 days to pay their bills, that means additional 7 days to charge those who are revolving. That’s a whopping 23% jump in additional interest generated from the additional 7 days, which means that your payoff of any revolving balance will take LONGER because you’re paying down a smaller portion of your balances. Some companies may have better functionality where this happens only once, however, the minimum balance is determined by the total amount due when the bill is produced, and the additional 7 days still have interest that's not stated in the minimum balance. So, this really helps those who pay their bills in full.

Further, we also don’t know why the Sub-Prime population pays its bills consistently late. Is it because they don’t have the money or because they are poor money managers. If latter, the additional seven days won’t help them.

  • 45 day interest change notice – I think this is actually a good bill, but one that really only help those with better credit. For example, if you have a $10,000 balance on your credit and you get a 45 day change of rate notice from your credit card company. What will that person do after receiving the notice? Will that person pay off the full balance? Probably not. The best case scenario is to open a new card with lower interest rate and do a balance transfer……but again, these are available to those with better credit.
  • Old charges under old rate, new charges under new rate – I believe this is the best part of the act. We (consumers and credit card companies) made an agreement when we signed up for a new card, and that included the interest rate. Sure the companies should have the right to change rates, but not on the items consumers already purchased under the old terms. I love this rule. However, which population is more likely to get a rate change? That’s right, Sub-Prime!

Now, credit card companies now slashed their profits and they have to find ways to make up for the loss. Thus far, companies have already increased interest rates while reducing credit limits on many of their customers. Some are now changing to a variable APR model that sounds good now since the interest rates are so low, but can increase interest rates easily. Finally, any companies are slashing, or cutting back, their rewards programs. Not only that, companies will find other ways to add fees to your cards. The people who are hurt from this? The Super-Prime population. They won’t get the high rewards and the low interest rates they’re used to getting. Don’t get me wrong, I’m fully supportive of these changes that helps the Sub-Prime group, but I thought you should know the consequences of this seemingly Rosy rules.


Ray was a former Analyst with a major credit card firm developing various financial models and marketing strategies for the credit card firm. Ray has also sent millions of mail solicitation to potential customers, and chances are, some of you received some from Ray.


Monday, July 20, 2009

Missing Link: polarization of real estate groups (part-1)

Generally speaking, people are usually divided into two groups when dealing with technologies. The “Baby Boomers”, who are middle age + who are well short of being experts in technology, and the “Generation X’s”, who are the younger generation who’s very in tune with technology and social media.The real estate industry is really no different; it has people who are traditional Realtors, and then there are others who are active in many internet communities, from Activerain, Facebook, BarCamps, Inamn, and even Tech South. The problem I see right now is 1) the polarization between the two groups and 2) the forgotten group who’s fit’s neither in these categories and are desperately trying to find their identity.

Maybe problem is too strong of a word, but definitely an unresolved issue. First, let’s talk about polarization between the two groups of “Baby Boomers” and the “Generation Xs” in the real estate industry. As all of you know, the real estate industry has a very low barrier of entry which entices many people to pursue a career in this field. Because of this, many, many people pursue a career in real estate only to struggle to get started. Sellers and buyers, want more “established” Realtors, and the combination of two situations have created a subset of “super-agents” who comprise of 10-20% of the population but earning 80-90% of the overall profits. I’m not concerned with the uneven distribution of money (this is capitalism and I’m all for it), but rather that the 10-20% of the population seem to be the ones who are NOT connected to those who will lead the real estate industry in the future; specifically, those you see frequently in Activerain, Facebook, BarCamps, Inman, and Tech South. Therefore, we’re in danger of losing some great insights and information from these “super-agents.” We’re in an information age, and these “super-agents” have great knowledge and information about the real estate industry, both locally and nationally. While we do have some representatives who connects to both worlds but that connection is too limited.

I was recently at NVAR’s social media panel and sat next to a broker (we’ll call him John Doe) who was interested in this social media buzz and wanted to learn about it; more importantly, John wanted to learn how this would help his business. As a former financial analyst, I quickly recognized his analytical intelligence and talked to him through out the session. One of which was the effectiveness of social media in terms of sales. During the panel, he downloaded all the “experts” business performed in 2008 and 2009. He then turned to me and said “if I sell the same amount the panel members do then I’d go broke. I’d have to combine all their sales volume to meet mine.” A shocking statement when you consider that the panelists were very well known in the social media and real estate community, and sell quite a few homes. I then tried to explain to him the segmentation of home buyers and sellers; specifically that majority of the panel’s businesses come from the internet world, while John’s business comes from the traditional world. Therefore, customers gained through the social media are not from the same group of people that John’s current business comes from. Meaning, cannibalization would not occur and his aggregate sales volume would actually be compounding sales not supplementary sales. John agreed, but then said “but why would I re-invent the wheel?” His main concern was why not just be great at what he does now and not change? I wanted to disagree with his comment sooooooo much!....But I couldn’t. John’s in his mid 50’s and he could probably continue doing what he does and be very successful until he retires.

John’s not the only agent who feels this way; I know many others including a former GCAAR Realtor of the year. Many of us would identify these people as “disconnected”, but they are very much connected……..with each other….the ones who generate majority of the sales.

The issue, as I see it, is the lost knowledge from these “super-agents” to those who’s building the industry. Information is very powerful and I don’t see many connections bridging the two groups. I’m not saying there aren’t any, but we need more. One can argue that the real estate industry isn’t that difficult so we really don’t need to bridge that gap. However, isn’t the real estate industry like everything else? Easy to learn and difficult to master? We can learn 90% of the business quickly but getting to that 99% is very, very difficult. That’s why I’d love to hear people’s views: first, is this a problem? Second, if so, then how do we solve this problem?

In part 2, I’ll discuss the “forgotten group.” They’re not quite young enough to be a “Gen X” and they’re not quite old enough to be the “Baby Boomers”; they’re not completely disconnected from technology, nor are they connected 24/7. How these agents adapting to the changing industry and how these clients are selecting agents?

VideosByAddress.com - Real Video Tours; not just flying photos.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Do I need a Camera/Camcorder light?

Video lighting is always an issue so I decided to purchase a camcorder light from Amazon.com for less than $35; an LED light (Sima SL-20LX Ultra Bright Video Light). The cost is reasonable so it was a no brainer for me to buy and test. As you can see from the picture, this light is very bright. Still, the question is, can this light be an effective tool when shooting a room where the objects are 10-15 feet away. I took my point-and-shoot Samsung NV24HD camera, which can shoot HD videos (from, where else? - Amazon.com. I know...I'm starting to become an Amazon.com spokes person....but I really do shop quite a bit at Amazon and don't get any special treatments), and took three video clips. First is a completely dark storage room with no light turned on; second is a basement with minimal lighting; and final of a room with lots of windows. All these videos were shot around 6:30 pm on a cloudy day to maximize the effects.

First, not so well lit basement:

This is a storage room without any windows and the overhead room light wasn't working. Also, because the room is so dark, I adjusted the exposure setting and you can barely make out images, but the image is also very grainy as you can tell in the first image - with the camera light OFF. But, the image with the camera light ON - WOW - just look at the difference! What's even more amazing is how the spreads to all sides of the room really well.

The only concern with this shot is that you really won't be taking many videos of completely dark spaces (at least I hope you don't).

Second, dark basement room with two windows:

Because you probably won't be creating videos of rooms that are completely unlit, I took another video of a room that is fairly dark. I again adjusted Samsung's exposure and white balance settings to work under those conditions. The room is actually much darker than it really is and just adjusting the settings presents the view really well. Again, the dark room means more noise as you see in the first image when the camera light is turned OFF. With the camera light ON, you can barely tell the difference in the picture but you can tell the difference if you watch the video of the two .

If you notice the picture with the camera light OFF, you see that the window the right is a big light source so the areas around the window are fairly well lit but not so much for everywhere else, making the image inconsistant. However, with the camera light ON, you can clearly see how the camera's focal point (the treadmill here) is very well lit. While the entire shot insn't pefectly lit, the shot is more consistent with the camera light ON. On the flip side, on problem I did notice is that the light is a little too bright and the light casts a hard shadow behind the treadmill.

Finally, the living room with lots of windows:

Again, this is around 6:30 pm on a cloudy day. One more thing about this shot is that the camera is about 18 feet away from the back wall, whereas the first shot was about 12 feet away; so this is a good test to really see the camera light's strength. The image with the camera light OFF again shows bright windows with not so bright room, but the image with the camera light ON shows the rest of the room (walls and furniture) much better.

Conclusion? For $35, you can't go wrong!

I think most people prefer to purchase a better camera/camcorder than buy accessories like this, but I say buy a cheaper camera and buy lighting accessories like this one. There's no need for you to go buy an expensive HD camcorder when majority of people won't be able to view them. Web video playback technology is still lacking so there's no need to get the most expensive camera right now. Buy a budget camera now, wait a few years until the technology catches up and then buy an expensive HD camera/camcorder.

VideosByAddress.com - Real Video Tours; not just flying photos.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Adding Video Virtual Tour is so easy even a caveman can do it!

Think creating a Video Virtual is hard? Think again. With VideosByAddress.com, creating a Video Virtual Tour is so easy, even a cave man can do it! .....and not we're not sponsored by Geico :)

Anyway, to create a Video Virtual Tour, all you have to do is follow these simple steps:
To create a video tour, you need to do is:
  1. first take some photos and create a video of your lising. If you're not sure about the listing, then check out our helpful videos on creating video virtual tours.
  2. Email us at FreeVideoTours@VideosByAddress.com with the subject "Free video tours".
  3. In the body, just include your contact info, the property address, and MLS number.
  4. You will then get an email from us to upload your photos and videos.
  5. Upload your photos and videos and you're done!
  6. We'll send you a proof for you to approve but it's that simple!

VideosByAddress.com - Real Video Tours; not just flying photos.

3 keys to a great Video Virtual Tour

We already discussed, in a long version, how to create a great Video Virtual Tour. This time, we're going to discuss the short version - or the 3 keys to a great Video Virtual Tour.

The video below will go over the three importnat keys when creating a Video Virtual tour:
1. Select a time to shoot your video when the house gets the most sunlight (morning sun vs. evening sun).
2. How to shoot a steady video (the most important compponent of a Video Virtual Tour).
3. Good practice on shooting speed and video length.

VideosByAddress.com - Real Video Tours; not just flying photos.