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Archive for the ‘Tales from the Trenches’ Category

I closed 2 deals this week. Both were first time home buyers. One bought a home in Patterson, NY and the other closed on a short sale in Monroe, NY.

Eve and Ryan bought in Patterson and were one of the fastest FHA deals I have ever witnessed. They have great plans for this home, as it sits on a beautiful private piece of property. I will remain in touch with them for sure. They were very motivated buyers from the first day we met. They were all about finding the right place, and once we found the place, they took my coaching on negotiation and we ended up getting a $399,000 listing (which had just been reduced from $450,000) for $350,000.

Michael and Stephanie were referrals from an old high school classmate who is Michael’s older brother. They had been out looking for a while, and a prior agent had written an offer for them which didn’t work out. They didn’t have a good experience with this agent, and it did help that Mike’s brother vouched for me. We found a short sale which took almost 4 months to get closed, as short sales do take a long while, and it almost looked for a while that the deal might die. Luckily, when the approval came through they had their act together, and were able to close a day ahead of the lender’s deadline. The closing itself was not without drama, as the seller’s attorney was never on point and our lawyer had to do some fast work that morning to make everything come together. The closing lasted 3 1/2 hours. But close it did.

I have at least 2 more pending transactions which should close this month.

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Yes, real estate brokers fire listings. It is a rare occurrence for me, but if a client is particularly uncooperative, self destructive, or a liability to the company’s well-being, the listing has to be cancelled and the client given the opportunity to seek their fortunes with another broker.

Today, after months of acrimony and headaches, I gave a seller client her release. The ironic thing is that she is a retired real estate broker herself, and someone I thought would be collegial to work with. She wasn’t. Just scheduling showings was like performing a miracle, filled with drama and angst. It was a short sale file, no easy task to begin with, and an offer has been on the table for about 2 weeks. My client refused to submit the offer to the lender for approval, and has been obstructing my efforts to affect a short sale.

This afternoon I got a call from an agent who could not schedule a showing; I called my client to get to the source of the issue. It was a tempest in a teapot. I am not showing a lack of empathy, believe me. If Ed McMahon showed up at your door with a check for $1 million, would you refuse the money because his tie and socks didn’t match? An offer on a short sale is important, precious, and not to be trifled with. For a veteran of our business to obfuscate important issues with pedantic obsessions with process is not something I can work with.

My hope is that this will be a wake up call to the lady that she needs to get serious about avoiding a foreclosure. For me to continue things the way they were going would be enabling destructive behavior and subordinate my diginity to earning a commission. Even in this market, that is something I cannot do.

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10. Abbreviate.  This is especially useful when you have the room to write more in your remarks but you still feel the need to call a living room an LR and a master suite a mstr ste. It really makes for easy reading when each sntce has mltple abbrvtns. Way to sell!

9. Misspell.Nothing builds your credibility like refridgerator, especially when the error lasts 4 months and your MLS has spell check. And while I’m at it, thanks for keeping that picture of the house under a foot of snow. It’s September; my clients were curious as to what the place looks like in the winter. 

8. Voicemail is for selling yourself! That 45 second sales pitch about your  commitment to excellence and your website URL, complete with spelling, enriches my day when I need to leave you a message. You’ll always get bonus points for repeating the whole spiel in Lithuanian. 

7. Who needs square footage? “0” works for me. “2000” or “1450” only make for preconceived notions before a showing. Keep ’em guessing!

6. We really care what the taxes were in 2004.It keeps us on our toes to figure out your listings taxes by triangulating the last 4 school budgets and the rate of inflation. 

5. Keep your cell phone a state secret. Want the hot market to return? Act like it’s here already! The buyers will line up if you behave as if you are inundated and need insulation from the hordes looking for houses! So keep that cell number off the MLS printouts! Standing in the rain with no key in the lockbox builds character! 

4. Who needs email? I take dictation! When I am driving across town and am late for an appointment, it relaxes me to add writing your list of questions from yesterday’s home inspection to my multi-tasking. No need to email them so I have them saved on my hard drive; email is for spam, not business. 

3. Mascots and fertility build credibility. The public needs to know that you have a dog, a kitten, or children. Make sure you put them in all your advertising. Before people list with you, they want to know you have spawned, or at the very least have brought pet dander into their home. 

2. I love homework! Your client likes my listing but wants to know the setback rules for an addition they might want to build? Don’t call the building department silly, just call me! I’ll be happy to be the liason between your client’s idle curiosity and the grump at the building department. My clients are just as curious about building an addition. That’s why they’re selling! 

1. Just call me back whenever. We Americans are too fast-paced. My clients doesn’t need answers to their questions too fast. Let them wonder for a while before getting back to me. Quick follow up is overrated; play hard to get. It worked for my wife. 

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As those of you who have done a relo deal know, relocation companies can be a pain in the rear with due diligence that resembles a colonoscopy. In addition to paperwork that releases them from even a whisper of liability or risk, they always want to see the mortgage commitment and contract for the buyers down the chain. If you are selling your house and buying a relo, the firm won’t go forward unless you provide them with information that verifies the solidity of your sale. I have never seen it otherwise.

Today I got a call from my client’s lawyer informing me not to provide the relo company with my clients’ buyer’s mortgage commitment or purchase contract. I asked why. “I have a moral, ethical and legal issue with providing the relo company with material that is none of their business,” he told me. While I was assured that he wouldn’t kill the deal (cough cough), he felt it time that someone make a stand with these unreasonable demands made by relo firms, who, in fairness, position themselves as God in a transaction.

He has a small point- our purchase is not contingent on mortgage or sale of my clients’ home so their buyer’s information is actually immaterial. However, I really think that this guy has too much time on his hands. If the buyer’s of my client’s home were selling a home too, I’d want to see their buyer’s mortgage commitment and contract as well. It is part of advocacy and having a handle on the deal.

Watching an attorney duking it out with a relocation company is like watching  a termite fight with a cockroach; you kind of hope they both lose. Here in New York, attorneys are too often self aggrandizing pains in the caboose who create more problems than they prevent. While I dislike the sometimes draconian lengths relo companies go in a transaction, it is part of the landscape we are all used to. Not only that, the only real outcome of this line in the sand the attorney is drawing will be to delay the closing at best, and possibly tank the deal. Observing this fight between the termite and roach make me wish for just one thing: a giant magnifying glass.

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This guy did…sort of. Oh, he kicked them out all right. They just weren’t buyers.

I ask when they were looking to buy and when they were planning on moving down to NC from “XX”.

Then I got the answer I was not looking for.  “Oh, we are just down here visiting cousin Joey.  We did not have anything else to do today, so we are going around just looking at homes around the area and none of us are moving down here.”  I ask, “So none of you are actually looking to purchase a home.”  Then the straw that broke the camels back.  One of them says, ” We were just bored, so we started calling around to see who would let us see homes.” 

I cracked and said..”Ok, Let’s all just Stop.  No one is looking to Purchase”  Got a resounding and echoing “No”.  I then lay in and say “It is time you all leave, You have just waisted an hour and 1/2 of my time, and two gallons of Gas at $4.20 a gallon, you had my sellers leave the home and me leave my family, so your family could be entertained at my expense…I do not think so.

He absolutely did the right thing.

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US News and World Report lists 6 warning signs. I could list 7-20 for them but the first six should suffice in weeding out plenty of those who hurt the profession. Sign number one is also my pet peeve:

If the communication isn’t there, the relationship won’t work. So if your agent doesn’t return your phone calls in a timely fashion or disappears without warning for weeks at a time, you should probably find someone else. Some real estate agents will block out a single window of time—say, between 4 and 5 p.m.—in which to return all of their phone calls for that day, says Jay Thompson of Thompson’s Realty in Arizona. “I’ve never really understood that,” Thompson says. “That’s not necessarily good if your seller or buyer wants to talk to you at 8 o’clock in the morning—they end up waiting a whole day.”

Sometimes the call later in the day can’t be avoided. That said, I have been waiting days to hear from the other side on deals I have going right now. Days.

The most common excuse I get once we finally catch up is that they don’t have anything new. That don’t hold water. Sometimes the update is there is no update. So you take 30 seconds and say “nothing new. I’ll keep you posted if that changes.” In this age of text messaging, no communication is inexcusable. The great thing about texting is that you do not have to be held hostage in a protracted conversation.

We chose this profession, so, inconvenient as it may be, an 8pm phone call is part of the deal. Not only that, most agents in this market simply do not have the volume of pending business to claim they are too busy. US News was right to put this at the top of the list.

I added my own hypothetical #7 to the list in the comment section:

Very good list. My personal suggestion for a hypothetical number 7 is the carrier pigeon agent. This is a “professional” who shuttles messages between their woefully underadvised client and the other side in negotiations, without ever actually coaching their client as to the absurdity of their demands. They could work for the buyer who thinks that everything should be discounted 30%, or represent the seller whose house (with the harvest yellow, formica-laden 1978 kitchen) is overpriced by $100,000. In either case they display a remarkable lack of backbone in coaching with their own client.

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Troy VanderStelt, a 33 year old married father of two was shot in the head at point blank range in his office this week by a former client.

Prosecutor Tony Tague said Johnson was upset that he could not sell a home that he had purchased through VanderStelt in 2005, so he went to Nexes Realty on Tuesday and shot VanderStelt in the head at point-blank range with a .22-caliber semiautomatic handgun that police recovered.

The perp, a monster named Robert Johnson, had been informed that his house was worth less than the price he had purchased  it for in 2005, at the height of the market. He must have felt that VanserStelt was negligent in his duties by not foretelling the future at the time he sold Johnson the house.

This is yet another example that we agents do not sit behind a desk and manipulate money to earn our living. Stockbrokers only deal with people who have money to invest. Insurance agents only deal with people who have an insurable interest. Everyone gets sick, but doctors have the insulation of the hospital, nurses, support staff and security. We have no such buffer. We deal with all types at the far end of the sanity curve, because everyone has to live somewhere. Virtually every day I am in the basement or den of a complete stranger. My wife is always reminding me keep a record of where and with whom I meet.

In the late 90’s I was asked by a client to meet at his house. While there, the guy flew into a rage that his home wasn’t sold, and accused me of not following up on inquiries. He was wrong of course, but that didn’t stop the guy from physically attacking me. I escaped unhurt but shaken up.

We earn every penny.

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