For most of us in the real estate sale and financing industries, the last 8 years have been a professional and economic hell. Since the second Great World Depression started in 2008, our “New Normal” has been a world where the old ways don’t work anymore. One festooned with almost hourly news stories of yet more failures, closures, layoffs, crises, calamities, collapses, bankruptcies, defaults, duplicities, depredations and disasters—and these by people, entities and systems that were once famous for their long-term prosperity, foresight and resilience!
No more. For the middle-and-lower-class-employed, the unemployed, the historically poor, aged, disabled, the vets, white collar laborers, blue collars, business owners, even law, finance,accounting and banking professionals–in general for most of the broad-based lower and middle classes—the 99-percenters, the “societal backbones” who used to exist and prosper by hand work and education on the “wealth elevator” once common in the U.S.–these last years have been nothing but a downward spiral to poverty at numbers and across education and skill levels never seen before except in places like wartime Bosnia or Stalingrad. To those classes, souls and traditional wealth-building systems, these last years have been the very worst years they and this country have ever known. And for those who still resist change of the “new Normal,” the catharses in their lives and businesses are only beginning.
It is more than a shame that this once bountiful and prosperous land–where upward mobility was a reliable product of sustained work, education, intelligence and incentive–languishes now as a dispirited, directionless financial wreck where the top 1-percenters enriches itself seemingly by looting the ruins of the rest and now runs the world with an autocracy and omnipotence never seen in the history of any prior period. It is almost inconceivable, but true, that all of the Kings, Pharaohs Czars and Caesars of yesteryear did not collectively wield as much wealth and power over the Earth and do as the new “1%-errs” who now, after 2008, have come to own 70% of all 2 worldly wealth and with a flick of their finger now move all the economics of the entire earth and the fate of billions of people on it. The fact is: This malaise has now prompted many of us to get up every morning dreading but expecting the negative drop of yet another economic shoe. And every day we are rarely wrong. The point, however, is not so much what has happened as that transition has already happened. The point is, instead, what we elect to do about it.
ADAPT AND PROSPER; RESIST AND WITHER
It is, indeed, the world’s first trip to this confusing place. After repeated and failed national tries to go back to the sudsy times of 2007 and before, it seems obvious now that from this point on the old rules don’t work anymore. The “new Normal” has redefined economic principles and closed off the old routes to and products for wealth and security for at least the next 20 years (the projected remediation times of the DFA/CFPB, see below) and perhaps even permanently (hard to change “provisional rules” when they harden over 20 years.) The choice then is to sit and wait for the doom of doing nothing or to get up and do something to cope with and survive under the regime of the “new Normal.” For those who are unable or unwilling to adapt, to learn and do what is necessary, it’s a direct march from here to the social and economic scrapheap. Many are there now and more are heading there. We read about them in the Journal and, to a smaller extent, meet them every day. They are going nowhere by choice and becoming irrelevant by nondecision and they seem strangely oblivious to it. Some are tired and perhaps like a slow vaporizing.. But one has to assume that some don’t. They understand that “sitting and waiting for the phones to start ringing again,” is business suicide and just plain downright stupid. They want to roll with the punches. They want to take action. It’s to those intelligent few the text which this Preface covers is addressed.
For those who stop their resistance to change, and are willing to, and do adapt themselves and their products to the economies of the rimes, will not just survive, but prosper. And, if they perfect their adaptation abilities and product-rebuilding, they will learn the new rungs to ascend the new ladder, make their new fortunes and perhaps with steady vision become one of those “1%-ers” who will be the next scions of the New Prosperity (but hopefully, by the challenges of the climb, be more enlightened about the duties of social consciousness that goes along with great wealth and power).
THE DODD-FRANK ACT AND THE CONSUMER FINANCIAL PROTECTION BUREAU
By far the largest and hairiest Gorilla in the “new Normal” room for those of us in real estate, finance and investment is the Dodd Frank Act (”DFA”) and its “brainchild,” the new omnipotent Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”)—the US government’s misguided answers to Global Meltdown. In 2010, as a direct result of the financial and fiscal implosions, above, the US government promulgated these radical laws, essentially identifying the entire financial world as the culprit and taking all of it to the woodshed for a retaliatory thrashing. Put modestly, these laws and the central authority that runs them now constitute the 3 most centralized control of the United States, its economy, you, your family, your customers and clients and just everyday lives than ever before in history, unless one uses police states as an example. What you do, how you will do it, likely where you live to do it, whether you or your kids can go to college, how much money you and they will make and have, where you and they will need to spend most of it to satisfy debts and taxes, whether your business will be permitted, how large of home you will buy and business you will have, how much credit you and your clients will be permitted to have and what you will pay for it, what you will be permitted to invest in and with whom you will be able to do business and on what terms and with money worth what—all of this and more will be a product of a matrix of rules and limitations unseen outside of authoritarian governments. But it is here now and the more gifted minds out there deal with it.
There is no voting on the DFA/CFPB edicts. The actual rules of the agencies and the bureau are put under the control of the executive branch of the government and are not subject to Congressional input or veto nor subject to your vote or even an advance disclosure of their policies and implementations. They are simply edicts issued centrally and having instant effect from Washington D.C. to your and your clients’ living rooms and abroad. And the penalties for ignorance or breach of the rules are as harsh as they were in ancient times for failing to bow to your King when you enter his presence: Subjects suffered fines, loss of business and licensure, torture, imprisonment. It’s like a permanent “Elmstreet” and our national leadership and new financial titans have become “Jason”—roaming and stabbing at will and impervious to every lick of the victim’s self-defense.
It all means this: As citizens and business-people we will each live and wait in fear there….if we sit and let it happen.
THE “GOOD LIFE” POST-CRASH
I have a number of friends, colleagues and clients who have been deeply involved in real estate sales and financing before and after the Crash. They are among those few who have decided AGAINST “sitting and lettering it happen” to them, their children, their lives, their clients and customers. Instead of fighting reality or ignoring the “new Normal,” they decided to learn how it works and creatively cope with it. They have done well at that objective and made MORE money than they did before and in the following text they have decided to share some of what they learned about the New Normal with others such as you. Though not as bright as some I know and respect, I include myself with those who “bent with the breeze” and found themselves in more post-crash clover than poison ivy by doing so. At a time when no one can seem to buy a house, building or business without a lot of “combing the weeds” for customers and product and many uphill battles, these few are finding, selling and buying them; at a moment when no one can get finance, they are getting it, and when no one can get yield, they have it. And all in COMPLIANCE with the DFA/CFPB and all BECAUSE OF 4 the “new Normal.” Their secret? They don’t try to invent dangerous and often complicated and self-deceiving “paths around” these “obstacles.” Instead, they learn the laws, all the way from the inner wheels to the outer pulleys that make these laws work, and then they creatively GO ALONG with and USE them! In sum, they make money not by DFA/CFPB (mostly imaginary) “detours,” but by following its path; not by DENIALs, but by FOLLOWING THE RULES! A pretty creative idea in the Post-Crash world of creative finance, yes? But, in my opinion, as an attorney in these trenches (and more) for 40 years and knowing first-hand what they are putting in their pockets right now, the right one; reading more from our Archives at our website, http://www.eckleylaw.com , starts at the first logical step for those who wisely wish to abandon the Don Quixote instinct to tilt at impregnable windmills—fighting huge and humorless departments of the U.S. government—and to instead follow the better path of the enlightened few who “really get it.” that starts at asking “what are the rules of the “new Normal?” And then finding out from some other sources than the pack of website charlatans who the formation of bizarre Rube-Goldberg-like legal devices and papers which they allege will “beat” the rules, that the only “beating” anyone will get with those is the sound financial and penal thrashing the government will administer to anyone they catch who dares to try them! Take it from me-You really don’t want “Butch” as your new bunkmate. One cannot deal with the rules if one does not know what they are and for the most part that describes 90% of those out there who work in the same sales and financing arena as they do. Perhaps it is just my practicality as a lawyer who has had to work with The System for four decades and in over 10,000 deals, but in my impression, like the school yard bullies, only the ignorant tend to resist the “Principal’s Play–Yard Rules”(and end up expelled) by start gratuitous fights. The smart tend to work with those rules—perhaps even bringing the Principal an apple. And there are so many easy and far-more-advantageous ways to do that in life! For my firm, knowing the rules here and abroad and helping clients to comply has taken our once sleepy little banking practice department and, in 8 years of the DFA/CFPB, watched as it was made into one of our major Firm practices, nationwide! Indeed, we do “practice what we preach.”
The DFA and CFPB rules now constitute over 12,000 pages of reading (and are growing daily).The state complements to some of them are interlaced in byzantine manners. One can read those and try for months to decipher them. Or one can use the far cheaper, faster and more effectively expertise of those few Masters in the sales, finance and law businesses who have already taken the time to do that and to sharpen their mastery to a clean cutting edge for profit.
You, by being here, have already elected NOT to be one of those 90% who are waiting for the “Horn of Plenty” to open for them on its own. You rightly and wisely wish to tease it open with the deftness of your own knowledge and craft. Start that adventure now. And always be sure to get your paperwork and deal blessed by a good DFA/CFPB- experienced attorney. It’s a good safety belt for the financial ride. There is a good comparison in the use of 5 lawyers to that adage they used to recite in those auto-safety classes you watched in high school driving class, “remember, drive carefully, look both ways before crossing dangerous intersections, use your seat belt…As the life you save may be your own!(!)” J. Robert Eckley
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: J. ROBERT ECKLEY is a multi-state real estate, agency, construction and banking attorney, successful litigator, popular writer, educator and national speaker with an immense personal and professional involvement in forefront issues over the past four decades. He has established precedent at the Supreme Court and co-founded transactional laws, rules and forms that guide practitioners today. He has been named in the prestigious The Marquis’s Honor List of “Who’s Who in American Law.” He was a real estate licensee for three decades, 5 years of which were with the Beverly Hills Board of Realtors®, 10 with the Phoenix, Scottsdale and Portland Associations of Realtors®, and is now an affiliate member of the North San Diego County Association of Realtors®. He was named numerous Commissioner’s Advisory Committees, He was a Director for 3 years of the Central Valley Chapter of Oregon Escrow Council, has been a 15-year Member of the American Society of Certified Fraud Examiners and is a 20-year member of the International Association of Financial Planners. He has received a host of leadership and instructor awards, is a CCIM Affiliate. He has received leadership awards and honors from the late former California Governor and then U.S. President Ronald Reagan and former Arizona Governor and Secretary of U.S. Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, to cover just a few of the miles he has gone. He was recently named to the prestigious International Bar Association in London, England. He is a member of the Arizona Bar Association, the Oregon Bar Association, the U.S. District Court bars of various jurisdictions, Beverly Hills Bar Association and Los Angeles County Bar Association in California. He is a “been there, done that” type who is often as entertaining as he is practical and enlightening! See more at http://www.eckleylaw.com. If you want to be on his “Counselor’s Corner” monthly hotline e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or call toll-free 1-800-999-4LAW and ask for the help you need or to get on the hotline.
UNIFORM DISCLAIMER: THE MATERIALS AND INFORMATION HEREIN IS FOR EDUCATIONAL USE ONLY AND NT THE RENDERING OF DIRECT LEGAL, REAL ESTATE, ACCOUNTING OR FINANCIAL ADVICE. PROPER TECHNICAL ANSWERS VARY GREATLY FROM CASE TO CASE AND THUS REQUIRE SEPARATE AND DIRECT ANALYSES IN EVERY EVENT. ALL LEGAL, ACCOUNTING AND GENERAL ADVICE AND OPINIONS SHOULD THEREFORE IN EVERY CASE BE SOUGHT DIRECTLY FROM A COMPETENT, DULY-LICENSED PROFESSIONAL.