The agent in the mirror.


Have you forgotten who your agent is, old “what’s his name?” You need only look in the mirror. That’s where you will often find her likeness, holding a camera in an attempt to capture all the glory that is your guest bathroom. And you won’t have to look far. This one picture will be reprinted on seventeen thousand web sites on your behalf.

Now, I’m not exactly Science Girl Extraordinaire, but I have picked up a thing or two over the years. And one thing I have come to learn is that mirrors reflect – always.

You’ve read the chatter about “professionalism” in the industry. But what in the h-e-double-hockey-sticks does that mean? says that professionalism is “Meticulous adherence to undeviating courtesy, honesty, and responsibility in one’s dealings with customers and associates, plus a level of excellence that goes over and above the commercial considerations and legal requirements.”

Forgetting for a moment ethics and competence where negotiating and contracts are concerned, and even putting aside the whole crazy courtesy concept, it’s the “excellence” part that tends to be the real bugaboo for agents.

First, I’ll offer a little disclaimer. I (gasp) make mistakes. I have been known to misspell a word or dangle my participles on more than a few occasions. Look closely, and you will likely find a dozen examples in this post alone. But this post was not written for the express purpose of marketing an $800,000 home for which I will be paid five figures. Potato, potahto.

Even in my multiple listing service inputs, I have goofed on occasion. That’s what normal, fallible humanoids do. I have been known to click the wrong water district from the drop-down menu in my haste. Oh the horror! Once, I even promoted my client’s soaking tub as a “showing tub,” at which point he laughed, promising to buy a bigger bathrobe and keep the blinds drawn.

But there is a difference between a boo-boo and outright sloppiness. One is a mistake, while the other tells you I don’t care enough to engage the old frontal lobe on your behalf.

I live in a community called Scripps Ranch. It is not “Scripts” Ranch, as I saw it portrayed in a recent listing. The first rule of representing a selling client is to know where their home is located. I was searching for properties for a client in Solana Beach last week, but considered showing them the “Solona” Beach home just in case.

Note to recent buyer of home in Scripps Ranch: It is located in the Americana neighborhood, not in Kensington as the listing agent suggested. And if you are still wondering where the moving truck is, the cross street is not Spruce Street, it is Spruce Run Drive. Buyer beware.

To the listing agent for another, new offering, your client’s home cannot be both “zero lot line” and a condominium. Pick one. (Answer: Condominium.)

Those are just input details, however. Who reads this stuff, anyway? What are really important are the remarks, like these very real remarks from a recent listing.

This is real life and I didn’t bother to check to see how my empirical evidence aligns with the actual statistics since my clients are suffering through the real life situation.

I’m not sure what’s more wrong with this one – the “comps, schmomps” part or the “I didn’t bother” confession.

But a picture tells a thousand words, and so many I see are just cursing up a storm. Granted, in the old days when we took our own property photos, before it became routine to hire a trained professional to do it right, I was known to occasionally leave my purse in the shot, or take a picture of my thumb along with the gourmet-style kitchen. The difference is that I didn’t use these outtakes in my marketing materials.

The photos I saw for a listing this morning made me grimace. There might be a case to be made for cutting corners on the short sale, the one where the seller doesn’t give a flip about maximizing the proceeds (because they aren’t his proceeds) – or not. But this wasn’t one of those. So, I ask, how long could it have taken to do any of the following?

  • Remove the dirty bath towels from the master bath
  • Temporarily relocate the cars curbside or, absent that, at least shut the garage door
  • Turn off the television set (because, as much as I am a fan of the work our military is doing, the soldier on the screen is a distraction)
  • Hide the dirty dishes, the car keys, the remote control, and other random personal items in the oven long enough to snap the kitchen

That last one, of course, requires that you remember to remove said items before you preheat the oven the following day for a batch of Toll House cookies, thereby nuking your entire Tupperware collection (I speak from experience), but I digress.

Maybe the agent was pressed for time, or maybe they just “didn’t bother.” Either way, the result is they have cost you, their client, money. That’s not OK, and it’s not my definition of “professionalism.”

I can proselytize all day long about excellence, but ultimately it is in the consumer’s hands. So, I beg you – please demand excellence. I don’t care if you hire the Neighborhood Specialist or Uncle Rupert to represent you; I don’t care if they are charging you $1.95 or $195,000 for that representation. Each owes you their best. It matters to you and your bottom line, but it also matters to me. Every time you enable this kind of mediocrity (or worse), it reflects on every good agent out there who cares about their role and their obligation to professionalism.

As the customer, you are empowered – by information and by choices. Please don’t sell yourself short. And remind your agent to look in the mirror.

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