National Association of Realtors’ Twitter Strategy: Update

A few weeks ago, I wrote an open letter to NAR asking them what their Twitter strategy delivers to their constituency. My point was to highlight the fact that NAR dubs itself “The Voice of Real Estate” yet they did not give Realtors a voice when on the social media site Twitter.com.My original post “National Association of Realtors’ Twitter Strategy” shows the following screen shot of NAR’s Twitter account:

nar-twitter-account

The date of this shot above was February 17, 2009 and it shows that NAR was follow 0 as in zero Realtors on Twitter.

Strategy for NAR:

The best strategy for NAR would be to follow what well known pundits like Guy Kawasaki and companies like Starbucks do with their Twitter strategy: follow everyone. On Twitter the best method to recognize your audience, and that is the main focus or should be for NAR, is to follow them when they follow you. Here is an example provided by Starbucks Coffee:

starbucks-twitter-page

Starbucks follows all the people and companies that follow them. They engage their audience and provide their audience, consumers, and evangelists the opportunity to directly communicate with them.

3 Benefits For Following Everyone Who Follows You on Twitter:

You can’t receive DM aka direct messages from your audience of Realtors UNLESS you follow them back. Simply put when a Realtor follows you, the ettiquette and strategy of following them back immediately opens the lines of communication. This allows you 3 advantages:

  1. You can receive feedback on your products and services
  2. You can measure your marketing and social media campaigns
  3. You can open a direct dialogue with the audience you claim to serve

Update on the “New Strategy” at NAR

Apparently somebody is listening but not really understanding. Whoever is in charge of the NAR Twitter strategy decided to follow roughly 6% of the Realtors and professionals who follow them. Here is the NAR Twitter page as of March 3, 2009:

nar-twitter-page-march-09

A Step in the Right Direction

Although this is a step toward the strategy they should consider, following 42 out of the 743 followers that are your direct audience and constituency seems a tepid effort at best. At least NAR is making progress in the right direction.

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10 Best U.S. Housing Markets: Only Two in California

forbes-nyc

Courtesy Forbes.com New York City

Chicago Sun-Times published this deansguide article 2-27-09

FoxBusiness.com published this deansguide article 2-27-09

According to a new Forbes.com report “10 Best and Worst US Housing Markets” California only has two markets rated in the top 10 Best: San Diego #5 and Los Angeles at #9. The most surprising fact was San Francisco’s ranking as the #5 Worst housing market in the nation.

The 10 Best Housing Markets in the US

  1. New York, NY
  2. Washington, D.C.
  3. Charlotte, NC
  4. Portland, OR
  5. San Diego, CA
  6. Denver, CO
  7. Boston, MA
  8. Dallas, TX
  9. Los Angeles, CA
  10. Seattle, WA

Ed Okun Victim Cautions LandAmerica Victims, Challenges Government, Admonishes 1031 Exchange Industry

Note of Disclaimer: The following comment, story, and opinion(s) are that of the commenter Elizabeth Callanan and not that of deansguide or the author of deansguide Dean Guadagni. Those of you who have read this blog in the past know where I stand. I am a victim’s advocate and simply creating a place for victims or industry pro’s to communicate.

The following are opinions, experiences and stories of the trials and tribulations of the 1031 exchange industry from long time contributor and commenter Elizabeth Callanan one of the 350 “Trainwreck Victims” of the Ed Okun 1031 Tax Group Ponzi scheme. This is a warning, it is a plea, and it is her argument for the complete overhaul of the 1031 exchange industry–or it’s outright Abolishment.

Note: Not all of the 1031 exchange companies are bad, fradulent, or subversive. There are well respected, honest, and worthwhile 1031 exchange companies doing business.

——————————————-

To Daniel Lowe and the other victims of the LandAmerica debacle,

You have my most heartfelt empathy.
Having been myself a victim of Ed Okun’s embezzlement of exchangers funds on deposit with the 1031 Tax Group, I truly feel your pain. I’m not an attorney, an accountant, and have no expertise apart from what comes of painful firsthand experience. It was in the hopes of warning other potential exchanger/victims that I started posting on Dean’s List and elsewhere.

At the end of the day, though, I agree totally with Yaco Tiamo, who has posted here. The entire 1031 industry is superfluous and that aspect of the IRS’ 1031 regulations should be expunged. It is a wildly unregulated industry that answers to no government oversight at any level (apart from some half-hearted oversight incorporated in a couple of recently enacted regs by a handful of states (Nevada, California?) and, as evidenced, by the recent spate of embezzlements or gross mismanagement puts all exchangers at great risk for no good reason. Doing a 1031 isn’t brain surgery. The forms are pretty standard and the process pretty simple, really.

Since the IRS has shown no interest in overseeing, licensing, demanding accountability from, providing meaningful insurance for (as the SEC does) or otherwise regulating the industry it created, it should kill it – NOW!

As to the LandAmerica victims, my (personal, not professional!!) advice in terms of investing in legal help is two-fold and in both cases I would act only collectively (except for those whose funds were held in traceable segregated accounts, who will no doubt make a serious (and perhaps successful) run at retrieving those funds, I see little point in acting individually — certainly not in bankruptcy, a self-funding and self-perpetuating legal and financial train wreck for everyone involved except the court appointed functionaries. (If you want to see the extent to which such a process can drag on ad nauseam with many billable hours just check out the history of the 1031 Tax Group case on either of these sites: http://www.committeeinfo.com/1031/index.htm (the official website for our Creditors Committee) or http://trustee1031taxgroup.com/component/option,com_frontpage/Itemid,1/ (the Trustee’s website).)

However, I WOULD hire a legal firm (on contingency if you can – since, by definition, you no longer have any money!) to:

1) GET YOUR CASE OUT OF BANKRUPTCY COURT!! That is a deep dark hole that will suck up every dime of funding available until there’s nothing but dust left. In the 19 months since Ed Okun put the 1031 Tax Group into “bankruptcy” (it was a criminal embezzlement plain and simple now being tried in a US Federal Court in Richmond which was known at the time the bankruptcy was filed in May 07 — the Feds having raided the offices in April 07 — and should never have been accepted as a legitimate bankruptcy to start with!) all of the various court-appointed functionaries have claimed MORE THAN $30 MILLION IN SO-CALLED “ADMINISTRATIVE FEES” and victims have received not one penny of their escrow funds. In fact, in an amazingly brazen and twisted miscarriage of justice, the Bankruptcy Court authorized attorneys for the so-Called “Debtors” (ironically the Dreier firm whose owner embezzled millions in escrow funds himself) to pursue a legal action to retrieve the only escrow funds that Okun himself had not been able to steal and the settlement cozily agreed to by the attorneys on both sides (and approved by the Court) provided for payment as well to the attorneys DEFENDING the bank where those funds were on deposit — the end result of which is that the costs of BOTH SIDES of that court case will be paid by Okun’s victims. (So, to our point of view we were mugged first by Okun and then by the Bankruptcy Court!) The only way to get that Bankruptcy action derailed is to get the Committee itself on board (not easy since the Committee’s attorneys will understandably vehemently argue against the prospect of losing their cash cow), but I’d consider that a first priority.

2) Get a class action going to pursue all the parties involved, including especially LandAmerica to force them to use the proceeds from the sale of its other two arms to repay the exchange funds it squandered on worthless investments.

I sincerely hope you are more successful than we’ve been to date in retrieving even a dime of our life savings. The key is acting collectively and getting a junkyard dog of an attorney who is willing to work on a contingency (which means you’ll get 25% less than you otherwise might, but most of Okun’s victims would happily settle for that today!). Unfortunately in bankruptcy there is absolutely NO incentive for settling anything quickly. It’s all about billable hours — for attorneys, for management companies, for accounting firms, and all the other hangers-on who can get their licks in. If I were you, I’d follow the lead of the creditors in the Southwest Exchange Case – which happened just a few months prior to our’s and in which there’s been a settlement of $92 million of the $97 million lost (minus the contingency and other costs incurred by the attorney) while WE HAVE NOTHING and dismal prospects ahead.

You’ve gotten off to a better start than we did, it appears. You have a website (noted above by one of your fellow victims), your Committee seems to communicate with you (our’s has maintained a nearly absolute silence and shares NO information whatsoever for reasons none of us can fathom), and I understand you’re collectively discussing a civil class action which I encourage you to pursue.

Good luck to you all — sincerely.

New $330 Million Class Action Suit Targets LandAmerica 1031 Exchange Services and Sun Trust Bank

Chicago Sun-Times news service published this deansguide article 1-21-09

In what must be the most frustrating of 1031 exchange collapses, clients of title insurance mainstay LandAmerica have filed a $330 million class action suit against  the failed LandAmerica Exchange Services, part of LandAmerica title, and Sun Trust Bank. According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch story the charges specifically focus on actions of “defrauding clients by using their money to pay off other clients.” That would sound like an old fashion ponzi scheme and have we not heard this story before in the Ed Okun 1031 Tax Group travasty?

Two Principles Named

According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch’s Emily C. Dooley, two top executives for LandAmerica 1031 Exchange Services were named in the suit a Stephen Connor and G.William Evans. “Evans is also the chief financial officer for LandAmerica Financial Group” according to the story.

The Final Final

According to Dooley’s report “The lawsuit claims that LandAmerica used money from new customers to pay off older customers whose money had become inaccessible because it was invested in auction-rate securities, a type of credit that froze in February.”

Remarked Robert L. “Rusty” Brace  California attorney for one of the victims: “Once that market failed, [LandAmerica Exchange Services] should have shut down.  .  . Our money was used to pay those other exchangers.”

Economist.com City Liveability Rankings: Vancouver, British Columbia #1

The well respected, if not sometimes controversial, economist.com came out with their Liveability rankings or what they describe as ” world’s most liveable city.” The findings provided by the “Economists Intelligence unit” rank 140 cities worldwide. The winner and #1 most liveable city in the world this year is Vancouver, British Columbia. Not one American city appeared in the top ten cities. It is interesting to note that three Canadian cities, Vancouver-Toronto-Calgary, were all ranked in the top 10 most liveable cities in the world.

Methodology

First the economist “quantifies the challenges” that might be presented to an individual’s lifestyle in 140 cities worldwide.They then score each city on 30 qualitative and quantitative factors over these 5 broad categories:

1. Stability

2. Health care

3. Culture and environment

4. Education

5. Infrastructure.

The Intelligence unit then assigned scores based on a 100 point system with a score of 100 being the most ideal, liveable city in the world and a 1 being the worst. The following are the rankings of the Best and Worst cities:

Courtesy of the economist.com Intelligence unit:

LandAmerica Exchange Services Victim: “Any Class Action Lawsuits Yet?”

Reuters.com published this deansguide article 12-12-08

Another deansguide readers, in the growing line of LandAmerica exchange victims, has spoken out. The message from Cathy is loud and clear. How do victims, who have lost their entire or majority life savings, pay for legal assistance in pursuing their “stolen” monies?

The Conundrum

1. Spend Money: pursue “lost” life savings by using what little money you have left or going into debt to attempt to pay for legal representation.

2. Chalk It Up: chalk it up to experience. Do not pursue recovery by spending money. Hope for the best but do not chase your money with more money. Allow LandAmerica to skate free of charge.

3. Legal Action: hope for a class action lawsuit where no investor’s money is required to possibly recover lost monies.

Cathy’s Comment

“I, too, have a big chunk of change stuck in LES. Now, I know I have to file my proof of claim, but who can afford a lawyer, now? Are there any class action lawsuits going on yet against LES? Hate to give what little I have left to an attorney.

thanks for anything.”
Cathy

LandAmerica LES Victim Speaks Out: Victim’s Google Group

Another victim of the LandAmerica debacle, Vivian Hays, has stepped forward to lend her voice of warning. If you are new to the Ed Okun 1031 Tax Group swindle or this latest bankruptcy by LES aka LandAmerica’s Exchange Service, consider these stories a warning. Perform extensive due diligence before taking on any 1031 exchange investments. Good luck to all!

I am one of the latest victims in this unbelievable fraud by LandAmerica. I want to say thank you, thank you, to the author of the article “Okun victims speak out on LandAmerica”, for the concise, if depressing, assessment of the situation. I personally would rather be informed than befuddled, or deluded. I have circulated your article to as many of the other victims as I can find. If you are a victim and want to get in touch with others who are taking action got to: landam1031exchangers@googlegroups.com

People really need to be warned that anyone planning such a transaction is completely without protections or safeguards under any current law. Once caught up in purposeful fraud, or bankruptcy by the 1031 “accomodator”, you will likely never get your money back, or get pennies on the dollar. The victims of this blatant money grab are in for a huge, costly, gut-wrenching fight in a system they do not understand and cannot afford. Senators do not return phone calls, Congressmen are “not available” ( all but Senator Dodd, thank you very much!) the IRS has no answers, but attorneys are very happy to talk with you…for $300 to $500 per hour…plus expenses….so take warning and do not believe anything you are told by an exchange rep…they are probably lying to you and will not be held responsible even if they are. My money was taken in by LandAmerica 5 business days before they closed their doors. They did not even send me my paperwork, I have had to request it from the title company. These people were grabbing all the money they could and knew that they were going to declare bankruptcy, but we, their victims, will be held to contracts that they do not have to honor, and that the parant company supposedly fully guaranteed. My business is probably sunk, my health insurance, which I must have due to diagnosis of breast cancer will probably be lost, and I still have to try and pay a tax bill on money I will probably not ever see, and I may not even be able to write it off as a loss, since the claim won’t be in the same tax year. Mine is only one of the many, many sad stories. I guess I am about to find out if justice is really blind.