Thursday, April 10, 2008

Sugar Makes a Real Estate Transaction Go Down.

In the 26 years I have been in real estate I have not seen a more aggravated and aggravating time for buyers, sellers and Realtors. These are stressful times. Realtors are being run ragged by a backlog of buyers spending lots of time with few actually buying. Listing agents have never worked harder and with less gratitude, as their best efforts fail to produce a buyer. Sellers are at the end of their ropes with properties languishing on the market after multiple price reductions, only to get unrealistically low offers. Buyers are hesitant, wondering if the market has bottomed out, and are making low ball offers wasting everyone’s time. I understand all of this. Sellers are carrying a huge financial burden, and buyers seem to think it will help their cause to kick them, and the Realtors, while we all are down. Disloyalty, lack of professionalism and plain old fashioned bad manners are showing there ugly faces like never before.

Maybe I have just been in real estate too long. Maybe I just have an old fashioned sense of how to behave toward others. Yes, I really do believe that manners- treating others as you would like to be treated, and about making others feel comfortable, is important. I believe in the power of ethical and polite behavior.

Many marginal Realtors have gotten out of the business leaving the seasoned professionals to suffer the amateurs. Veterans remember well the days when our professional relationships meant something. The pros know that we will deal with each other time and time again, and that has always nurtured camaraderie. For the most part real estate was a gentle business. It was a small community of Realtors that embraced ethics and the power of cooperation through the MLS. While there were still untrustworthy agents, we all knew who they were, and still do.

Today there are a huge number of new Realtors in the business who lack the basic fundamentals of business behavior. Market knowledge, professionalism, respect for your peers, empathy, ethical behavior and adherence to the Realtor Code of Ethics are keys, if not to success, then certainly to a respectable career that doesn’t abuse the rest of us.

The nature of the business has changed so that the traditional mentoring relationship that a broker had with a new agent doesn’t exist. How can we expect professionalism when franchise offices recruit new agents like mad in pursuit of a desk fee? I am amazed by the number of Realtors who lack respect for the value of other Realtor’s time. Please, let’s not ruin it for everyone. At the very least can you speak clearly on the phone, make appointments in advance during the business day, get familiar with a map, qualify your buyers and be on time? Is that too much to ask?

Then we have the buyers. I am fortunate that most of my clients are people who have and appreciate good manners. Even people who don’t know me get a sense of what I am about through my website before we even meet. People who want to be treated well generally see that I am the one to do it. What a pleasure it can be working with that understanding. If you are on of those buyers, for the entire brokerage community I want to say thank you!

Then, of course, there is the underbelly of the buying public.

You know who you are. You are the Big Time Waster. You are the people who ask for information but refuse to give any, even your name. The people who think that Realtors provide a public service and that we are here at no cost or obligation to them. You are the people who take advice, information, council and market knowledge, but will throw us under the bus for the slightest misstep, or because you think you may save a buck doing so. You are the people who can’t seem to fathom that you are not our only client, and that your needs may not be addressed immediately during a phone call from at any time, day or night. You are the people who reward your new realtor friend the sale for our hard work.You are the people who act angry and demanding and disrespectful toward anyone at any time, because you can. You are the people who look at house after house after house, and offer no clue as to whether your agent is getting warm to your needs, like a poker player, holding any feedback close to your chest. You are the people who think we are all out to trick and deceive. You are the people who, when the reality of a property doesn’t meet your expectation, blame us for misleading you. You are bargain hunting opportunist who forsakes all in the pursuit of the deal, ignoring the fact that the list price is already well under market, and making an offer sure to be turned down. You, in other words, are the Big Time Waster.

I believe that there are two ways to go from being a real estate shopper to a real estate owner. You can use and abuse every agent that will tolerate you, insult the seller, and beat up everyone in sight, often ending up with nothing but aggravation. You can be the Big Time Waster. Alternatively you can treat yourself with some respect and share that respect with others involved in your real estate pursuit. You can be loyal to a professional, knowledgeable agent who you choose carefully and respectful of their time and knowledge. You can be clear on your objectives and realistic about expectations. Understand you are not the only person demanding of your agent’s time. Use it wisely. Say thank you. Please, please! Do not find a reason to cheat the Realtor out of the commission. We really do this for the money. Yes, you have the power to throw your agent under a bus by not giving them the carrot. It’s easy to find some way to blame your agent for you doing that, but don’t. If your agent doesn’t buy you lunch, respond as quickly as you would like, read your mind or take your call right away at any time, that’s no reason to cheat them out of a hard earned fee. Yes, there are bargains to be had in foreclosures and short sales in this market, and a good agent will help you find them. Trust me; a professional agent will jump through hoops for you as a buyer to find you the best property at the best price if you follow some simple rules.

If you are in the market to buy and sell real estate, and you are interested in a mutually beneficial relationship with a professional Realtor and a gentleman, I’d like to hear from you.