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Archive for February, 2011

It won’t go to print until this Sunday’s paper, but the article that Iblogged about expecting is now live online. Entitled “A For Sale Sign with Brains,” the piece discusses how real estate brokers are embracing technology to sell property. The story behind the article is actually not one of the reporter finding my blog, but rather, another broker at another company who is.

Barry Kramer, broker owner at Westchester Choice Realty and my friend, was contacted by the reporter and he suggested that she contact me because he considered me a tech savvy agent. She did. We had a good interview where I told her how I saw our technology toolbox evolve since my entry into the business in 1996, and the photos were taken two days later.

For the shoot, a filmed a walking tour of the home at 374 Quaker Road in Chappaqua, put it on Youtube, and then, on my mobile printer, created a brochure with a QR code that would connect a smart phone to that Youtube tour. This would enable the consumer to see the house and get questions answered without having to make a phone inquiry. I am in the process of doing more of these walking tours on other listings. They work, as the listing where we did this tour has already been given an offer.

The piece has three photos of me in the online version, plus a great one of the house, and we’ll see what makes the paper Sunday. I am of course very humbled that Barry would suggest me to the reporter, and while I still encourage Barry himself to blog because I think he’d be great, I am happy he reads my work.

 

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Rob Hahn has written an extremely thought provoking piece on the role that broker commissions play in the pricing of real estate. It isn’t what I originally thought when I read the title- I was expecting a “commission is just a markup” but it wasn’t about that at all. It did get me to wonder aloud, however, if there is a seller out there that would, in exchange for no commission, retain a broker and then just pay billable hours until the house sold.

I am in the field. Rob’s article is eye opening. If I were to charge $X per hour for my services, would the seller have the house sit out there speculating on a high price? Or would we skip months of messy rooms, denied showing requests, subjective speculation pricing and get serious? I think if they paid billable hours, the answer would be the latter.

Essentially, the commission I charge is categorized under the risk being proportional to the reward. Low risk, low reward. High risk, high reward. Which is why the broker fee line item in a transaction I broker is among the larger numbers. In forgoing the commission for billable hours, the seller essentially shares the risk. If the house sells fast, there is a huge savings. If it does not sell quickly, the seller could pay as much or more. Facing that reality, they would be far more likely to be proactive participants, keep the house clean, price realistically and accept all showings.

Less than motivated sellers often figure that they lose nothing if the broker fails to sell the home because commission is only paid at a closing (they actually do pay a hefty price in the form of a stale listing, but that is for another post). That explains overpriced listings, denied appointments and a host of other things that drive Realtors batty.

If the seller shared the risk and traded commission for billable hours, overhead would plunge- less time on market, fewer hours devoted to pushing overpriced listings, far smaller marketing budgets, and a more streamlined process. The only caveat here is that you couldn’t go half and half with some listings on commission and others not, because you’d have the worst of both worlds- the commissioned listings would not sell and the hourly deals would have their profit eaten by the overhead of the stale stuff.

Will sellers share the risk? Or, more likely, as much as they bristle at the line item of the commission, do they know it really is the price of they pay to have brokers roll the dice the way we do now? I believe in the power of market forces. An organically better idea would spread like wildfire if it truly had merit. Billable hours, while a great theory, will never work so long as the vast majority of sellers would see trading the commission for higher personal accountability as out of their comfort level.

 

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Verbal Offers Aren’t Smart

Unlike most of the US, in Westchester and the surrounding areas of New York real estate contracts are prepared by attorneys only after a process of offers, inspections and due diligence. Other than mortgage, contracts are non contingent. There is not even a deposit of any kind until contracts are signed. It is not at all unusual for an accepted offer to wait 2 weeks for fully executed contracts.

Most of the time, therefore, offers are submitted on company letter head with terms specified and accompanied by a pre approval. The more specificity, the better. Sellers are rightly very reticent to accept any offer without assurance of the buyer’s ability to perform, especially since we are required to disclose an accepted offer per the code of ethics even with nothing signed.

Every so often, I get an offer from an agent over the phone. They say they are buyer agents, but I really don’t see how a verbal offer, without clear terms and a pre approval, sheds the best light on the buyer’s ability to perform. If anything, it makes the agent seem indifferent and the buyer either unforthcoming or uncooperative.

The old rationale that “I don’t want to waste my time writing up an offer if it isn’t going anywhere” is ironic- the best way to make sure an offer goes nowhere is to make a halfhearted, verbal offer with a mystery buyer. If you want to make that sale, you have to do work- it isn’t a waste of time, it is your job.

I wish I had a nickel for every time this has been said in our industry, but it has never been more relevant than now: put it in writing.

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