Here it is, the Dog Days of summer. It’s that magical time when we spend our days basking on the beach, enjoying backyard barbecues, and sipping fancy drinks garnished with exotic fruits held captive by those cute little umbrellas.
I made that up. In Real Estate Land, that other magical place and the one in which I reside, it is crunch time. July is the month all eyes are on the egg timer. School is out; school will start again soon. It’s that seasonal window when more buyers are thinking about a move and more sellers are attempting to capitalize on the heightened interest.
An agents business is generally comprised of three components: Listings, escrows and showings. Where the latter is concerned, we have been in and out of the car so much in the past couple of 90-degree weeks that we have diaper rash. Our escrows currently include all flavors of fun – just starting, knee-deep in the middle of inspections, disclosures and appraisals, and on final approach. As for the listings, those remaining standing are being steadily shown but to a buyer pool for whom the price is never quite low enough or granite sufficiently gleaming.
And, somewhere in the midst of all of this, Steve and I have been struggling to slot in our mandatory continuing education courses lest shadowy figures from the Department of Real Estate whisk us from our beds one night for failing to renew our licenses on time. (Note: Effective yesterday, I am good for another 4 years or 5,000 miles, whichever comes first. My slacker husband, on the other hand, has procrastinated to the point that I am having nightmares about agency law, trust funds, formaldehyde and radon poisoning, and having to find a new licensed husband who will meet the termite guy for me.)
Call it coincidence, but one of the questions on his most recent exam was this:
Which of the following is NOT appropriate content for a real estate blog? (Mark all that apply.)
1. Information about neighborhood market trends and home prices.
2. Content not related to real estate.
3. Information about neighborhood amenities.
4. Content involving disparaging remarks about competing agents.
Number 4 was a “gimme.” While it is acceptable to talk constructively about competing business models, talking smack about people is generally frowned upon by the National Association of Realtors and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
I’ll give you an example:
Acceptable: Big brokerages that continue to see the agent as the customer, and not the home buyer or seller as the customer, and continue their time-worn practice of focusing on recruitment and retention while refusing to concede that all of those trappings of the workplace of yore – like bloated buildings and company sponsored faxes, printers, phone systems, collateral materials, corner offices, and trophies presented at annual banquets where everyone chases rubber chicken around their plates while they revel in their awesomeness – are not only unnecessary but really, really expensive, and in order to sustain a model like that, somebody has to pay for the stuff, and that “somebody” is usually the agents but sometimes the clients, because there is consequently the need to push affiliated services like Title and Escrow to pad the bottom line, yet all the customer really cares about is the professionalism, experience and skills of their agent, not how brilliantly the midday sun reflects off of the shiny building where the broker has a five-year triple-net lease with options.
Unacceptable: Agent Bob is a weasel who cheats on his taxes, has an affinity for Barry Manilow music, and thinks Alaska is a state.
Much to my surprise, however, the correct answer to Steve’s exam question about good blogging practices was both (2) and (4). Oops.
It seems that blogging about stuff that is unrelated to real estate on a blog that suggests it might be about real estate is a no-no, so I will attempt to salvage this post in a real estate-related manner that will make the Department of Real Estate oh-so-proud. Following are some helpful tips I picked up on my travels this week. And note that I have not made a single, disparaging remark about another agent – at least, not by name.
- Just because a listing is a short sale does not mean that it has to be a hideous house of horrors. Buyers won’t mind if you tidy up a bit. I promise. And it isn’t necessary to leave the nasty-gram on the breakfast bar for us to see, the one about how the water was turned off three months ago even though the owner is still living there. We saw the toilets. And the dead rats floating in the two-inches of water in the spa that had yet to evaporate (rats that my client’s son, thankfully, thought were fish). And the place where the grass used to be.
- When you have a home listed for sale, there is a presumption of intent to sell. Make it difficult, if you wish. Instructions like, “Show only on Thursdays before 10:00 am unless the Padres are on a home stand, but only with confirmed appointment with seller; no lockbox, seller will leave key in poison oak to the left of the briar patch, but only if you have asked nicely at least 93 hours prior; friendly pitbulls “Spike” and “Jeffrey Dahmer” in guest bedroom, may bark” can be challenging and even fun! But, if I am a gamer, please return my repeated phone calls. I know my clients are a little difficult, wanting to see the home and all before writing an offer, but you know buyers!
- If you are an agent, answer your phone. If you are an agent who is in an appointment or on the other line, return your messages as soon as you are able. If you are an agent who has a voicemail box that is full and cannot accept messages, you should be whopped repeatedly over the head with your signed listing agreement.
- When I call to schedule a showing appointment for tomorrow, please do not tell me to bring my clients by today instead. If they wanted to see homes today, I would have called you yesterday.
- Please change your voicemail message, the one that says, “The best way to reach me is by emailing me at ‘Bob sells the northern hemisphere hyphen homes number 4 sale underscore top producing agent at yahoo dot com.” Don’t do it for me; do it for yourself. You see, our clients speak all kinds of languages, and I might have been a client. Some prefer email, others texts, and others the old-fashioned speaking device. If someone is calling you, chances are that that is their preferred method of communicating. It’s not about you; it’s about them. Seriously.
(Note to the Department of Real Estate: Bob is not his real name. It was Bill.)