Category Archives: Selling Real Estate

Client Knows Best

bfde9ad766297d20f829ded2996ab3c2Selling real estate can be one of the most rewarding careers around. What other profession affords its members so many opportunities to become proficient in a variety of disciplines? Brokers and agents alike often find themselves wearing many hats during the course of a transaction. Aside from being a parent, I cannot think of many jobs that require the level of flexibility and expertise that real estate professionals do. 

I frequently work with first time home buyers. They are my favorite to serve but often require a greater scope of expertise than a seasoned home buyer. As real estate agents, we must be prepared to adapt and deal with a variety of emotions, situations, and circumstances each time we meet a new client.

Keeping abreast of the changes in real estate law and with new ways to stream line business is something most of us do without thinking. Being skilled and informed in these areas is the key to achieving and maintaining a successful real estate business. However, we also need keep in mind the important role that our approach to each client plays and also be mindful of the importance that strong interpersonal skills play when working with people of all types.

Taking steps to learn and understand as much as we can about what makes each individual client tick often makes the difference between a successful close and a lead that drops of the radar. Listening to a client who may be afraid or unsure will go a long way towards them feeling comfortable with their decision to sell their home. 

What approach works for one, will not work for others. The aggressive sales approach often will frighten a new buyer who is in the beginning stages of their journey. Letting the client dictate the pace and rate that information is disseminated is something that we all need to consider. Some clients do not want to be contacted immediately when a lead comes in.  Others call every ten minutes with a question or concern.

Shifting our approach is not easy, but is a critical part of the equation. The range of people we encounter can vary from those who know everything to those who are clueless. 

Being able to add the skill of discernment to successfully meet a client wherever they may be in their process is sometimes more important than having all the right answers about a home’s features or the steps involved with buying and selling a home. Remaining mindful of their needs is a sure fire way to keep buyers and sellers feeling confident in not only our abilities as agents, but in our abilities to relate to them on a personal level.

Agents who understand that the job is equal parts business operations, law, customer service, and psychology will be in an excellent position when their referral business begins to grow. Word about how we interact and our level of patience and understanding will get around. Creating connections with our clients does not mean becoming their therapist, or best friend. That is a completely separate blog.

It means doing everything we can in our power and scope to leave every customer feeling like they are the only one. It means holding their hand, offering guidance as the transaction moves along, and giving a high five at closing when the keys are handed over. Every effort agents make to this end will increase the chances that when they pass along your name to their friends and family it will be done with a smile on their face.

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Unspoken Laws of Real Estate Agents

7c8e965bca0a1cc5001a2ae35cd9ba9eTypically, the end of the year for those of us who make a living selling real estate can be slow. Usually by November, potential buyers and sellers put their home plans on hold to accommodate the busy nature of the holidays. This has been my experience for the past few years anyway. We drop our super hero capes off at the cleaner and take the time to rest and recharge our selling super power muscles until the early spring selling begins.

After a very productive fall, I assumed that the slow down would follow. I was never more pleased to be wrong in 2015. Naturally, I decided to plan some vacation time right before the holidays expecting that I would be able to put down the phone and just enjoy a well-deserved break.

I was reminded very quickly that the laws of real estate are as unpredictable as a lender making a decision about a short sale. When I assumed that I would be less busy during the holiday season, I broke the first law of real estate, expect the unexpected. 

This law should appear front and center on the membership card for the National Association of Realtors. I was both surprised and grateful when my calendar from the beginning of the New Year included closings that I had not anticipated but could not help to chuckle a bit as I sat at a river house and answered email and scheduled inspections.

My spouse did not find it as entertaining as I did, but thankfully she understands what the life of a real estate broker is like, and is especially understanding of the inconvenience when the bank account grows after a successful transaction closing.

Which brings me to the second law of real estate. Planning a vacation is the sure fire way to guarantee that unexpected contracts or listings will materialize. This is as certain as the laws of physics. I have taken informal polls of my fellow agents and all agree that this one is a given. We all also have come to the consensus that there are worse things to deal with than having to be on the phone and answering email while on vacation.

I am seriously considering the risk benefit analysis of scheduling vacation at least once a month, but suspect that testing this law may be a sure fire way to tempt fate and render the law ineffective. Which brings me to the third law real estate.

Do not attempt to manipulate laws one and two. Never. Doing so increases the chances of inviting another well known law to walk right in the front door of your real estate career. Murphy’s Law is a terrible guest in any home, business, or situation. I am positive we can all agree on this one. For those who need a refresher, Murphy’s law states if anything can go wrong, it will, and usually at the worst possible time.

As real estate professionals, we deal with this law more times that we can count and often on a daily basis. It comes primarily in the form of difficult and uncommunicative lenders, indecisive buyers, and unrealistic sellers but can pop up at any point during a transaction from any number of possible sources. For example, I once had a meddling mother in law kill an entire deal because the “feel” she got in the house was not acceptable. You just cannot make this stuff up.

We all know the dread of waiting for an inspection, appraisal, or final loan commitment while sitting at the closing table or Title Company’s office. Definitely not the most fun aspect of what we do. I believe that this career is not for the faint of heart, or the impatient, but I also believe that there are few career that are as rewarding as real estate.

Most agents I have encountered agree and believe that this group is among the more determined class of workers. I also mention that as a group we have very healthy egos, which works for us, most days anyhow.

As we begin the process of creating and implementing our carefully thought out marketing plan for the upcoming year, I implore every real estate agent, broker associate and broker/owner to remember and consider these laws. These particular laws, however tongue and cheek they may be, exist to remind us all that while the job of a real estate professional may be challenging and often times frustrating, it is also ripe with countless opportunities for growth and success.

My business plan for the upcoming year definitely includes a heavy dose of gratitude for the laws of real estate land and a healthy respect for each of them. Wishing my fellow real estate super heroes a healthy and prosperous 2016!

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Firing A Buyer in Real Estate

Firing a buyer is never pleasant and is one of the most difficult decisions a real estate agent can make. The concept of caveat emptor is as old as dirt and I bet there are few out there who are not familiar with its meaning. Real estate professionals are well aware of this phrase. Buyer beware. It is a simple concept that speaks to the need for due diligence prior to any purchases.

The burden of information gathering and sound decision making rests on the shoulders of all who find themselves in the position to buy something. But what happens when the real estate agent is the one who should beware?

In real estate, the nature of the contracts we use afford buyers numerous opportunities to make certain they understand every detail of a property. Home inspections are a key example of this. Buyers who choose to forgo a home inspection are the poster children for the buyer beware club. Most buyers are very diligent in their efforts when they are purchasing a home. It is my job as their Realtor to impress upon them the importance of home inspections.

This week I “fired” my first buyer. The experience got me thinking about the concept of Caveat Realtor. Realtor beware. When a buyer contacts a real estate professional they have an expectation that we will offer our services, time and expertise to help them navigate the often stressful and unpredictable road to home ownership.

First time home buyers are my favorite buyers to work with. They rely upon me to explain the process and help them achieve their dream of owning a home for the first time. They are often terrified but full of enthusiasm. There is no greater feeling than watching first time homeowners receive the keys to their first home. This is the feel good part of selling homes.

Other buyers can be a challenge. The ability to work well with different personalities is a critical skill and is not mentioned very often in the real estate textbooks. There are many kinds of buyers. Some are more active in their home searches, others take a passive approach. I have worked with them all over the years. I never thought that I would have to decline working with a buyer. I am very good at adapting to demanding and difficult personalities. Last week that changed.

The buyer was adamant about what she estimated the value of homes to be. My comps did not matter. For three weeks I did my best to educate and present information to support why her low ball offers were not being accepted. She required that I respond immediately to her texts, emails and phone calls. I complied. We looked at many homes and submitted a few offers, all of which were rejected. I was blamed for the rejected offers. The price range of the homes she was interested in made it worth my time to suck it up and deal with the demands. The entire time I was professional, realistic and accommodating.

She let me know that she was also conducting her own search and that if she found something that I did not show her that I would not be the selling agent.  I had hoped to convince her of the benefits of committing to one agent for her search, she was not convinced. She would contact listing agents directly on the properties that I had shown if I did not respond to her immediately.

It was a bit of a nightmare. A day after the last rejected offer, she called to let me know that she had found a for-sale by owner that she would be putting a contract on. I cautioned her about the risks and she thanked me. I was not surprised by this. I was disappointed, but not surprised. Mea culpa.

Three weeks after later she contacted me again to let me know that the FSBO fell through and that she wanted me to resubmit an offer on a HUD home. I told her that I would be asking her to sign a buyer agreement before we went forward. I explained that I had numerous buyers and sellers in my pipeline and I was unable to continue working with her if she was going to continue the search on her own at the same time. She refused.

Simply, spending the amount of time and energy that she required would not be the best use of my time if she found something on her own again. I got burned once before and it made sense to cut her loose. I gave it the old college try. I never like to end a relationship with a potential buyer. There was no other option with this particular buyer.

As real estate professionals we must be able to work smarter and harder, but not be willing to run in circles without a commitment from a buyer. There are exceptions to every rule and the vast majority of buyers we deal with are not like this one. However, understanding that there are times when the situation dictates letting a buyer go is the perfect illustration of Caveat Realtor in practice.

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Choosing a Brokerage

Which Brokerage is Best?

When I became a full time Realtor, I spent quite a bit of time thinking about whether or not I would choose a larger, national real estate brokerage over a smaller, independent one. While their overall function is similar, I found that the business models varied significantly from one another.

As a real estate agent, I am in a constant state of evaluating the state of my business. Do I need more listings? Am I spending wisely on effective marketing?  Could I be doing more to improve my bottom line? Of course the answer is always yes to each of these questions.

My suspicion is that each of us who have made real estate our line of work are also ruminate on these questions as well quite frequently. These line items can take up quite a bit of mind space, especially in the slow times.

During those slow times, that we all experience from time to time, I have to admit that on a few occasions I wondered if I had made the right decision. It was then that I would reach out to fellow agents who hung their licenses with the larger brokerages to check in to see if they were slow as well.

Without fail, I would be encouraged by the fact that my fellow agents would validate my belief that a lull in the market or inventory was the cause and not a result of being with a small brokerage.

Among the things I considered in my choice of broker were initial cost, commission structure, flexibility, training opportunities and overall feel of the office. I interviewed quite a few brokers before I ultimately made the decision to go with a smaller, locally based broker who was well known in the area. A few years have since passed and I have realized that this decision was the best for me.

The first day that I went into the office I was offered the opportunity to take over seven short sales that he had on his plate. He literally handed me the files, gave me background, told me what stage they were at and what needed to be done. It was my introduction to real estate agency or as we later joked trial by lenders.

Some may have said no way, but I accepted the challenge after many, many moons had passed I closed all but one of them in the end. Looking back, I am grateful for this opportunity. This could have easily resulted in the shortest career in the history of real estate. These were by no means fun to handle, at all. I learned more by doing these than I could have learned sitting for hours in training seminars.

I have found equal evidence on both sides when it comes to understanding the advantages and disadvantages of working with an independent broker. Personally, my decision to sign with a smaller “outfit”, as one of my charming elderly customers once called us, has been perfect for me. It has been an education and forced me to seek out training not only from my broker, but from other avenues that I may not have had access to had I gone with a big brokerage. It has also pushed me to become very resourceful and creative in marketing my business.

I have had numerous opportunities to spend one on one time with my broker and have enjoyed very quick response times when I have needed guidance when one of the many possible odd issues have popped up with contracts, inspections or closings. Our entire office has a team mentality, which means we are each other’s biggest cheerleaders and competitors. It is a great environment given our individual personalities and interests and it works.

 

Figuring out the kind of brokerage that best fits an agent can be a daunting task. If agents are able to spend time understanding the environments that they naturally feel most comfortable in they will certainly be set up for success. I was lucky, I discovered which was best suited to me on the first shot out of the barrel. I know that as I prepare to take the broker’s exam in a few months that my experiences will definitely be valuable when I create my own brokerage in the future.

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Realtors Survey Says…and the number one answer is trust.

If you are like me, the start of a new year is a great time to take stock of the things that worked the previous year and to make adjustments for the coming year. Evaluating the annual budget for our businesses is a large part of what we do on a daily basis. Allocating dollars for marketing and advertising is one of the most critical activities that needs to happen in order to chart a path to success. It is true that 20% of the agents do perform 80% of the work in our industry. Of course, the business end of the spectrum is what many often focus on. Expanding our network and contact list is key to guaranteeing ongoing success in this line of work.

As Realtors, the importance of how we manage our business is one part of the whole puzzle. Recently I created an informal survey that asked what qualities buyers and sellers found to be the most important in choosing their agent. Surprisingly enough, not one response had to do how they marketed, budgeted or long term planned their business.

 

Dawn Waters Debary Realtor

I found overall that the most important thing that buyers and sellers considered in choosing their agent was trustworthiness. This is not something that appear in any business plan that I know of. As agents, we are not only selling properties, we are selling ourselves. The ability to convey trustworthiness is directly related to how we deal with not only buyers and sellers, but with the other professionals that we interact with. I believe that our customers, regardless of which side of the transaction they may be on, are like children. They are sponges that get a sense of how we do business by watching and listening to how we speak and the amount of confidence that we show in our ability to get the deal closed.

Having an honesty first policy is something that has been key to my success as an agent. This approach is often overlooked when evaluating what should be first on an agent’s to do list. There is much to be said for implementing this practice in all things. I was surprised that things such as knowledge of the area, negotiating skills and the ability to accurately reach a listing price were mentioned after honesty in my informal survey. I believe that being found to be trustworthy and honest played a role in whether or not customers expressed confidence in the other areas.

When we pause and reflect on the things that make past clients more prone to refer their family and friends to us, we are reminded of the intangible qualities that our customers are most likely focused on. Remembering the simple things and occasionally looking at things from the customer’s vantage point is an activity that I highly recommend. When Realtors practice the art of trustworthiness we benefit on all levels. On a business level, aa Realtors ability to be honest with their own marketing plan is just as vital to our success and presenting that honesty in our dealings with the public. Staying focused on these things keeps us honest and reminds us that our success is based on more than a marketing plan or our advertising budgets.

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LONG STRANGE TRIP

As a Realtor, I am fortunate enough to meet many diverse people on a daily basis. Between networking with potential customers and keeping up with past clients there is never a shortage of interesting people. I have been working with out of town customers for almost two years now as they search for the perfect Florida home for their family. Working with this family has become somewhat of an adventure. We have had the good fortune to find some amazing properties together, however none have panned out up to this point. There have been many opportunities but for some reason not all of the stars have aligned for them to this point.
The Monastery
They are not cookie cutter kind of people. From our first phone conversation I knew that these buyers were not representative of the typical kind of buyer that we all work with on most days. From the start, I knew that they were looking for something unique, and in Florida, aka the land of subdivisions and HOA’s, that this was going to be a challenge. They wanted acreage, a workshop, a pool and something that they could put their own stamp on. Together we have toured a vacant monastery, complete with bell tower and a chapel that was missing portions of the roof. Initially they considered opening, renovating and operating a bed and breakfast property that could also double as a residence for their family.

Given that these clients are from up north, they have had to make special trips down when they have had time to get away. We have built a relationship over the past two years and at this point I pretty much know what they want and do not want. Last summer, we put a contract on their perfect home, however there were issues with the financing given that it was a VA loan. We named this one the EPCOT house as it was a custom home built in the 1980’s and literally looked like something from Future World. This broke both of our hearts for many reasons. Even now, this home is still the measuring stick for what their new home should feel like. Throughout this search I have always reminded them that when the time and place were right that things would fall in place and become a reality.

EPCOT

To date this has not happened. Each go around we have made more progress toward the goal of homeownership for them in Florida. As a Realtor, I often hear complaints from other agents about working long and hard and not having a commission check to show for it. I have also been told that some agents have dropped clients because on paper they were losing money in the end because the time spent with them had not yielded a pay day. I suppose I could be one of these agents. I am not. I am honored and rewarded by the fact that these clients have chosen to stick with me this whole time. My business model has always had loyalty and hard work as its top priority. Sure, it has taken some time to find them something that feels like home and fits their needs, but all good things take time.

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On their last trip down a couple of weeks ago they wanted to tour a home about 90 miles from my main area. A home that was dome shaped and a peachy flesh color. We agreed to refer to it as “The Boob” home. It seriously looked like a boob. We all got a middle school chuckle from this property for sure. Did I mention that these clients are perhaps one of my favorites of all time? They felt awful about my having to drive so far to show them this home. They even gave me the opportunity to refer them to a new agent given that their latest round of unique properties were out of the immediate area. They let me know that they wanted to continue working with me, but understood if it would be too far for that to happen. Their consideration is something that I truly appreciated. Of course, I let them know that I would be happy to work with them. When you invest time in high quality and kind buyers, you have no problem going the extra mile, literally, to show them homes.

At this point I am just as invested in seeing this happen for them as they are. I love a challenge. Weeding through properties trying to find that one unique home out there that was meant for them is high on my list of things to do. The lesson that I have learned with these particular buyers is that selling homes for a living is much more than paperwork and commission checks. Realtors work with humans, with wish lists, and questions about schools and inspections. We console disappointed buyers when contracts are not accepted or banks change things and financing hits a wall.

Our need for patience with the deals that may take years to complete is something that cannot be stressed enough. Our job depends on our ability to remain as loyal to our long term clients as are with us. I have had more fun with these buyers over the course of the past two years than any other to date. It hardly seems like work given the relationship we have built while we waded through muddy fields, laughed at odd floor plans and discovered really awful record collections in dilapidated workshops with no electrical wiring. Working with this particular family has been a long strange trip indeed and I am certain when their buying journey is over that my compensation will include not only a commission check but things that money cannot measure.

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Old School Real Estate

Recently I realized that there is no better way to test the skills and commitment of someone who sells real estate for a living than to work with a customer who does not travel on the information super highway, at all. As real estate professionals, we rely upon technology, the internet, our smart phones and the variety of time savers known as CRM systems on a daily basis. The art of selling real estate is evolving not only for our customers but for us as well. Each month I come across many articles and suggestions about how other Realtors are utilizing the latest Apps, email marketing plans, advertising, or leads management systems. The business model is changing and adapting as more informed buyers and sellers quench their need for information at lightning speed. Social media has become an invaluable tool in staying connected to our sphere of influence and in communicating with the public. These are all wonderful things and greatly enhance our overall productivity on most days, but what happens when your client is 100% unplugged?

This is what I call Old School Real Estate. I have been working with a very lovely man, who happens to be an octogenarian. He sought me out specifically as a result of an old fashioned mass mailing that I grumbled through at the beginning of the year. My reluctance was related to how expensive it seemed at the time and that I did not believe that it would yield any real leads or contacts. I especially questioned my decision as I sat at my dining room table for over 6 hours folding, stuffing and stamping over 1200 envelopes with a personal brochure and a letter. No one in the family would help me, so I was on my own on this one. I was certain that after this I could say that this kind of marketing method was going to be a bust. Come on, it is the age of technology. Who does mass mailings anymore? I came to find out that he had gone into our small office and spoke to my broker and informed him that he was only interested in working with me. I was pleased that the information contained in my mailing made that much of an impression on him. Within moments I quickly found out that he was completely unplugged. No computer, internet, wi-fi, smart phone or even a fax machine. This is a very common situation when working with elderly customers.

I set an appointment, got the listing, brushed off my old school real estate suit and began the work. For this customer, my typical way of operating was not going to work. I have to say, that overall, I prefer this way. The act of selling his home and finding him a new one was one of the most challenging and enjoyable I have had in months. We communicated by phone and I used no less than 12 reams of paper as I printed out listings and disclosures for weeks. Each time I called I was greeted with a “What’s up doc?” and every time we hung up he would tell me “Over and out.” It was sweet. In the end, after sending apologies to the forest that was sacrificed for this sale, we toured a total of 5 homes. He was relying on my judgment in choosing the homes based on what he had expressed as important features. I had to listen more and talk less. I realized that I was his only way to get information. He was a very sharp gentleman and I had to be on my game. I was both pleased and humbled when he said to me, “You done good” at the end of the day. That is a good day as a Realtor if you ask me.

I have noticed that when working with this age demographic things that may cause 90% of younger buyers to voice an objection, i.e “I wanted granite, stainless, open concept”…blah blah blah…are not in play. This generation is concerned with functionality and actually enjoy a home that may be deemed outdated. Wallpaper, border print, mauve walls are just not that big of a deal. Where they may be more laid back in terms of décor or layout the opposite is true when it comes to their expectation of superior customer service, patience and professionalism. In dealing with this transaction I was reminded of the value in returning to the old school way of selling and helping customers buy.

When I was a teen, I helped clean my uncle’s real estate office for extra money. The one image that has forever stuck in my mind was the table that housed the giant machine that was used to input listings. I also remember the room with the 7 inch thick books with listings in them that were the only way an agent knew what was on the market. It was a labor intensive process to sell homes in the “olden days,” as my kids would call it. Real estate sales has come a long way since I was a kid and as a Realtor I am grateful for the role technology and social media play in today’s marketplace. Even though technology is changing how we work, in order to be truly successful we must remember that we can still be “Old School” in our relationships and effort with each customer. There is no substitute for good old fashioned hard work, customer service and listening to our customers. Over and out.

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