Be Kind to a Realtor Week

Have you noticed your agent behaving strangely? Maybe he has been a little testy, a tad grumpier than usual. Perhaps she walked through the walk-through with glazed eyes and a look of befuddlement, not really seeming into the whole discussion of how to operate the irrigation timers. Or, it could have been the odd encounter at the open house that tipped you off, an open house lacking cookies, a guest register or, most curiously, that coveted “free list of homes.”

If you have never before felt compelled to be kind to a Realtor, I beg you to dig deep this week. Muster all of the compassion you can. Your Neighborhood Specialist has been Tempo-ed.

Last Wednesday, the curtains came down on our local Multiple Listing Service (MLS) software. May 28, 2008 will be date forever etched in the memories of San Diego agents as the day the music died. Tempo 3 was killed dead and, in its place, Tempo 5 was born.

“What happened to Tempo 4?” you ask. I am wondering the same thing; the missing link is probably the software that actually worked. At a time when agents everywhere are otherwise indisposed, distracted with thoughts of just how they will eat in July and generally working three-to-the-ninth-power times harder for a fraction of yesterday’s paycheck, our Board of Realtors decided it was time to better serve us.

Now, this isn’t about agents being disinclined to embrace change. Every new lunar cycle brings a new statute, a new form and a new lockbox vendor, the latter requiring tens of thousands of soldiers defending the American Dream to converge at some random convention hall to take advantage of the limited time trade-ins. With each conversion comes a few weeks of confusion, but we have always managed to survive. That was then. Tempo 5 is Armageddon.

Here is my own analysis of what is wrong with our new Tempo 5 MLS software: It doesn’t work.

The gory details follow:

  1. First we will assume that your computer runs on Internet Explorer, because Tempo 5 only runs on Internet Explorer. Before you can safely enter the system for the first time, you need to change your screen settings, download ActiveX controls from a site that cannot be accessed, a site that perpetually returns a “404 Error – Site not found” message, adjust your Internet security settings, enable pop-ups, and add a total of four sites to your “trusted sites.” This doesn’t seem insurmountable until you consider that the average agent can’t back out of their driveway without a Thomas Guide.
  2. The old system required each agent to log in with a special password, one that was updated each month for security purposes. It seems that some bad apples were sharing their special passwords, however, so a new, safer system was clearly needed to ensure that only licensed, dues paying, authorized users can gain access to the proprietary data — You know, the data that you can find on Zillow or Trulia or Redfin or or…  So, now we have a little key fob. Logging in requires a Member Number, a Password and a randomly generated Access Code obtained by punching the button on your key fob thingy. Where is this key fob? In my case last week, it was in my purse on the Louisiana Swamp Tour, while Steve was in San Diego needing to input a listing.
  3. The new software is as intuitive as the Bush administration. For a profession where the barriers to entry include a number two pencil and an opposable thumb, we have a software system seemingly developed by a rabid badger holding a Doctorate in quantum physics and a grudge.
  4. We need a bicycle, but the Board delivered a space shuttle — one with defective O-Rings. Search result screens without scroll bars, even the blank “white screen” variety which Steve has been enjoying of late, were initially an irritant, but are actually becoming welcome sights. It beats the heck out of “Internet Explorer has encountered a problem and must close,” which is the screen I have most often enjoyed. If one is lucky enough to keep their connection for any measurable length of time (say, a nanosecond), they are confronted with load speeds roughly equivalent to the gestation period of the African Elephant.
  5. We can make this easy, or we can make this hard. We made it hard. To input a new listing requires 125 distinct inputs. The basic search screen offers thirty different search fields, and the advanced search page is the page where only the bravest dare go. While I am spending my month of June trying to get a new listing entered or narrow down the active listings to just the homes with an upstairs laundry closet with gas hook-ups and a community pool but homeowner’s fees less than $72.95 a month, every would-be buyer west of the Mason-Dixon is out signing a contract on a home they found on Craigslist.

I have only scratched the surface of the Realtor’s anguish this week, but hopefully it is enough to inspire you to be kind to your agent. Run, don’t walk, to Hallmark. Offer your sympathy and your support. Your Top Producer is going through difficult times. And, whatever you do, don’t ask us about homes currently on the market. We have no clue.

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