New NAR Initiative Forces Realtors to Update Avatars

(Washington DC) – In a statement released this morning, the National Association of Realtors® announced a new initiative aimed at curbing abuse in photographic representation amongst its membership in the virtual sphere.

“This initiative has been ten years in the making,” according to NAR spokesman,Trevor Null. “Ever since Realtors entered the online space en masse, we have been fielding complaints from the public about misleading avatars.”

Jane DeVannon of Surprise, AZ filed one such complaint back in 2009.

“We were nervous first time buyers,” Mrs. DeVannon explained. “Having never been through the process, we had no idea what to expect and knew that we needed to hire a Real Estate agent we could trust to guide us through the process. So we did what we always do when we have a critical decision to make. We Googled it.”

With over 87% of today’s home buyers starting their searches online, per NAR statistics, the DeVannons’ story is a common one.

“We settled on a nice looking gentleman, about forty or forty two, with two darling children in his profile picture. Imagine our surprise when an obese seventy five year old with a goiter the size of an Olsen twin showed up to our first appointment. We tried to make the best of it, but we could just never get past the initial lie,” Mrs. DeVannon related.

“We have long had a reputation problem with the general public,” Null admitted. “Grossly misrepresenting our appearances in online marketing has only served to exacerbate the institutional mistrust. I mean, when you think you’re hiring Gary Cooper, and you get Gary Coleman, it’s a problem.”

According to Initiative UB-FUGLY, all Realtors® will be required to update their avatars monthly, without benefit of Photoshop or similar photo editing software that can alter true appearance.

“And none of this downward pointing camera angle bullshit,” Null expanded. “If you have three chins, the consumer needs to see three chins.”

Penalties for failing to comply with the new requirements will be severe, including mandatory use of DMV photos for first time offenders.  Proof of ownership for any/all pets and children in a Realtor’s avatar must be furnished prior to Internet use. Nieces and nephews are off limits.

The news comes too late for the DeVannons, but they are hopeful that future buyers will be spared their painful lesson in what the NAR refers to as “photo synthesis.”

“We think he rented the kids,” Mrs. DeVannon added.

 

– Filed by Paul Slaybaugh, BSRE News © 2011

 

 

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Failed Business Slogans

As I prepare to place a new business card order for the first time in forever, certain aspects of its predecessor can stand some revision. After years of template neglect, for instance, I’m humiliated to admit that my email still reflects the AOL address I acquired in college. While not amongst the technology snobs (you know who you are) that mock those still utilizing the America Online paradigm, I made the switch to a branded gmail account several years ago. I’d say I never looked back, but that would be a gross distortion of the truth as I have to log in sporadically to ensure I haven’t missed any correspondence from a holder of one of the 3″ x 2.5″ instruments of disinformation I continue to dispense with impunity. Or for confirmation of my Nigerian lotto winnings (funny, I don’t recall purchasing a ticket …). While ironing out such inconsistencies, it’s probably not a bad idea to include passing reference to the website to which I’ve devoted THE LAST TWO YEARS OF MY FREAKING LIFE either.

So I can be somewhat resistant to change, sue me. One person’s hoarding is another person’s preparedness. Roll your eyes if you must, but don’t come looking to borrow my red parachute pants when breakdancing comes back.

Amongst the myriad changes that Business Card 3.0 will entail, I figure it’s time to roll out a new tagline. You know, like Hasta la vista, buyer, or I’ll be back … with a standard AAR purchase contract. Just updated to have a relevant, modern edge. Given the changes in the industry over the past few years, I need a blurb that tells people I am hip to the new jive. Let’s try a few out.

Transparency, it’s all the rage in modern internet marketing. With that in mind, we could always cut straight to the quick with, You need a house. I sell houses.  Boom, done.

Post-Bubble Apocalyptic: Leg stuck in a negative-equity bear trap? I have a saw.

Partisan: Freaking Obama. (alternate version: Freaking Boehner)

Short Sale Negotiation: Don’t call me, I’ll call you.

The Foreclosure Specialist: Predators, Incorporated. You need’em, we bleed’em.

The Roger Waters BPO: Hello, is there anybody in there?

The Lawrence Yun: It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia

The John Merrick: I am not an animal, I’m a licensed Realtor!

The Full Monty: I’m broke. Buy something!

The REHarmony.Com: Deep Levels of Compatibility with Your Money

The Ike Turner: Slapping the taste out of value’s mouth since 1999!

The British Petroleum: Your guide to housing values that have fallen by 2%. Okay maybe 5%. 15% tops. Alright, 60%, but it’s not like you can’t go commune with a cactus in the Gobi, you bunch of moisture-starved jawas.

The Chilean Miner: Trapped in an underground mortgage since 2006, and I all got was this lousy t-shirt.

The Baby Jessica: Posers.

The Max Von Sydow: Your REO Hellhole Exorcist

The B of A: Your One Man Foreclosure Moratorium

The FED: Going Out Of Business Sale, All Rates Must Go!

The Realist: Paul’s House of Puppeteering, Magic and Real Estate

The Obscurist: When your donkey brays in fiscal agony, don’t let it bleed out on the berber carpet

The Serial Market Killer: Have you checked the Zestimate? (alternate: It puts the charge-off on its credit)

On second thought, maybe I should just let the marketing talent at HA Media save me from myself.

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What’s Mean and Grey and Stupid All Over?

There are dragons lurking in the dark recesses of your property listing.  Mean dragons.  Scaly, grey, mean dragons that might rise up out of their lairs and go all Godzilla on your potential showings if left unchecked.

And what, pray tell, is the name of these marauding reptiles?

“REALTOR Remarks”

Ah yes, that hobgoblin of good intentions in the multiple listing service that provides for private communication amongst local Realtors.  It gives me a good shudder just to type the name of the foul beast.  Suburban legend has it that if you say it three times in front of the bathroom mirror with the lights off, you will doom yourself to a lonely stint on the market.  Why?  Because the private portion of the Arizona Regional Multiple Listing Service which is intended to impart “eyes only” information to the Real Estate sales force is home to some of the most spectacular lapses in judgment this side of New Coke.

“Do not approach cage, monkey will bite!”

“Disregard water damage in hall bathroom shower.”

“Bring me an offer, seller needs to sell NOW!!!”

From the laughable (“House is better than pictures make it look”) to the horrific breaching of client confidentiality (“Divorce situation: husband not cooperative”), one little notation in the private remarks of the listing can torpedo the price you command for your home, if not endanger the sale altogether.  Alarm codes, additional showing instructions, agent to agent disclosures – all are intended fodder for the REALTOR Remarks section.  The mistake that is often made, however, is that anything goes so long as it remains hidden from the prying eyes of the public.

The moral of the story?  Read the full property listing before your agent inputs it into the MLS. While you will most likely view a copy of the completed listing once it hits the system, you will not be able to see what is privately disclosed to other agents.  You will want to see a copy of the FULL listing to ensure that your best interests have not been compromised by a few careless words.

You priced the home well, staged it to look its best, had it professionally photographed, toured and dispersed to the far reaches of the Internet.  Don’t blow it now, kid.

Of course, if you want me to avoid your home like the plague, make sure your agent denotes that it “smells kind of funky, but no known presence of mold.”

In the mood to receive offers that are 50% below your list price?  Instruct your agent to notify fellow Realtors to “Bring me any offer and I’ll get it accepted!”

Unless the Stargate in the study presents a clear and present danger to those who would tour your home, best not to mention the possible credit for intergalactic species remediation.

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I Do Not Have a Magnet On My Car (Redux)

I have been told that personal branding is a vital part of a successful Realtor’s marketing toolbox.  Ad nauseum.  To an extent, I agree.  As any production-based entrepreneur will attest, competence is only part of the equation.  If the general public does not know you exist, you will starve.  It’s as simple as that.  That said, there is a fine line between marketing your wares and losing yourself within a caricature.  Personally speaking, I’d much prefer to be the guy whose name is passed amongst friends, family and co-workers than the floating head on the side of a bus.  Appealing to the lowest common denominator strikes me as misadventurous in terms of cost (somebody, namely future clients, will have to take the expense of the ME ME ME based advertising on the chin) and reputation.

My choice?  I choose anti-branding as my brand.  In disavowing the frivolous and the cheesy, I opt for a quality over quantity approach to client acquisition and retention.  In short, I hope for my service to speak in place of the glamor headshot on a bus stop bench.

Some chase the ambulance.  Some let the ambulance chase them.

As such, I have assembled a loose collection of industry pet peeves which may help you determine whether or not my substance over style approach to the industry will mesh with both your disposition and expectations for your choice in representation.

I do not wear a nametag. This should be reserved for Walmart employees, mechanics and the truly forgetful.

I do not carry a clipboard.  If you believe you require a prop to look more professional, odds are high you are right.

I do not wear a suit and tie.  Nothing wrong with dressing for success, but a guy in a tie wants to sell you something.  I want clients and customers to feel comfortable around me.

I do not have pictures of my pets on my business cards.  “When the time comes to sell your most valuable asset, you can trust Paul Slaybaugh … and his kitty cats!”

I do not press said business card into the hand of every neighbor on my block.  Probably a bad business decision on my part, but I never liked the idea of my neighbors ducking inside their homes to avoid “that guy” when they see me walking down the street.

I do not inform buyers, “This is the kitchen!” when showing a house.  You’ve seen this agent on House Hunters.  She doesn’t trust your ability to bridge the convection oven + refrigerator = kitchen divide.

I do not sell insurance or loans.  Or pomegranate juice.  Or encyclopedias.  I sell houses.  That’s it.  If I’m good enough at it, there is no need to branch out into repping energy elixers on the side.

I do not work a good ‘ole boys referral network.  I refer my clients to the best service providers I know with expectation of neither reciprocation, nor compensation.  Too many great guys, but bad practitioners out there to gamble my client’s best interests with a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” relationship.  If I provide an affiliate’s name, it’s a name worth knowing.

I do not turn off my cell phone. I’m not always available to field a call, but the phone stays on.  Some emergencies can’t wait for normal business hours.

I do not introduce myself at parties as “Paul Slaybaugh, Realtor.” Rest assured, you can let your guard down when we are off the clock without fear of a never-ending solicitation.  I am a whole person.  Real Estate is what I do, but not the entirety of who I am.

I do not sell houses. I help houses sell themselves.  I can sell you a pen if you already have four, but I cannot sell you a house that you don’t want.  Many agents put on a show for their clients in an effort to demonstrate just how salesy they can be when promoting their home.  It’s a mistake.

I do not treat lenders, title officers, stagers or contractors as if they work for me.  We’re all a team, with the client as captain.  It is my goal to create an atmosphere in which all professionals involved will be eager to work with me again upon the successful conclusion of a transaction.  It doesn’t serve my clients’ purposes to have the network of providers I rely upon cringe when my number flashes across their caller ID.

I do not put balloons on my open house signs.  I don’t juggle or have pie-eating contests either.  We are selling a HOUSE here people, not a set of Goodyears.

I do not drop client names around the office.  Or around other clients, for that matter, in an attempt to convince them of my importance.  Aside from valuing your privacy in this modern TMZ world, who really cares?  “Famous by association” is entirely overrated.  I’d rather attain my promised 15 minutes through merit.

I do not attend tour groups for the scones and gossip alone.  I’m there to work.  The scones are great, though.

I do not advertise sales, incentives or gimmicks for the use of my services.  I offer competitive fees, but I will not trick you into working with me.  If you select your professional representative based on the allure of a complimentary fruit basket or shoulder massage, God speed.

And I do not have a magnet on my car.

If you think we would make a good professional match, drop me a line.  It would be my privilege to represent you in the purchase or sale of your Scottsdale home.

*ACT NOW!*

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1988 Called.  It Wants Its Sign Riders Back.

1988 Called. It Wants Its Sign Riders Back.

There is nothing the Real Estate industry loves more than a good cliche.  The more hackneyed the slogan, the more likely we are to roll it into our marketing campaigns.  Take the expressions which appear on an old industry stalwart, the sign rider, with frightening regularity.  Intended to separate a listed house from the herd, many of the verbal gutterballs instead relegate their hapless charges to the back of the pack.  You’ve seen the repeat offenders and mocked not only their stunning lack of originality, but more to the point, their inability to inspire … well … anything within your consumptive little heart.

If you will humor the presumption, I’d bet my license that my attendant impressions from the following gambits jive with those of today’s buyer to the tee.

“I’m Beautiful Inside” is henceforth redubbed “Coyote Ugly from the Street,” or “Look Past My Goiter and Love Me For Me.”

“Very Special!” is not outwardly off-putting, but it carries a stunning lack of associative context.  While I happen to be very special to my mother, the man on the street just might cut my throat for the eight bucks in my wallet.  If one can’t think of anything in particular that is worthwhile about the property, “Very Special” seems to fit the vanilla bill.

The insecure younger sister to the first member of our list, “I’m Gorgeous!” is a tired refrain from a house who doth protest too much.  When was the last time that the person who regaled you for hours on end with tales of a jet-setting fashion model’s life was a true American beauty?  It just doesn’t happen.  Such a lovely has learned that his/her stunning visage requires no hyperbolic self-aggrandizement. This house, on the other hand, is the eight foot sasquatch with bad skin who won’t shut up about herself.

“Terms” – While agents generally know this to mean there may be some kind of owner financing available, this one is just patently confusing to the general public.  Of course there are terms.  Whether you are selling a home or Pet Rock, all transferences of ownership come with terms.  Such as, “You pay X, I give you house.”

“Voted First On Tour!” – Congratulations, you beat out two other houses for the distinct honor.  Seriously, if the agent’s colleagues were so taken with the home, where is the procession of buyers?  My first reaction to such a proclamation is to surmise that the home has hung around the market long enough to make it into a tour lineup.  Must be overpriced.

“Pool” – What else needs to be said?  Some might argue that isolating any one feature of the home is pointless without the rest of the details, but I say who cares how many bedrooms, bathrooms, square feet, etc this home has?  It has “Pool.”

“Extra Special!” – Oh snap!  Take that “Very Special!”

“Pride of Ownership!” – For every abortion of a house out there, there is a proud homeowner.  Shoot, that same owner is likely just as proud of his forty year old kid who still lives in the basement.  Forgive me if I don’t lean too heavily on the hubris of persons unknown.

“Original Owner” – The decor has remained hermetically sealed within this time capsule since 1958.  Forensic anthropologists will break down the door in the year 2200 to study the long-term effects of asbestos on shag carpeting.

“Won’t Last!” – Wanna bet?

“Look Here >>>” – I love this one.  I mean, I absolutely love this one.  If you somehow managed to notice the evidently insufficient “For Sale” sign, you are prompted to look at it.  By a rider whose visibility requires you are already looking at it.  A paradoxical delight.

“Neighborhood Specialist” – Silly me.  Here I thought the idea was to promote the house.

I ridicule the use of trite slogans on Real Estate sign riders only because I have been there, done that.  I am not exempt from this carnival of pie-throwing derision.  At some point along my professional arc, I have tried just about every silly rider there is to get the attention of passersby.  Through trial and error, I have come to realize the only one that is consistently effective is a website address.  Rather than trying to sell a home in one to three words, it’s best to utilize that space to send prospective buyers somewhere they can get all of the property details.  Properly designed, said website will catch your fly in a sticky web of additional buyer tools and resources.  The idea is to keep them coming back for more, with your home top of mind all the while.  Don’t tell a buyer how beautiful you are inside as they pass by, direct them to a resource which shows them in painstaking detail.  Don’t distill the core value of the home all the way down to “Pool.”  Funnel them to a place where the pool, 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, upgraded kitchen, hardwood floors, new A/C and half acre lot share equal billing. This is how you best leverage a rider to trade up to its penultimate incarnation: “SOLD!”

Or you can continue to try to reel them in with your “Carpet Allowance!”

Your choice.

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