The year was 2005. The market was hot. White hot. Jump up and down, and yell I’m a pony! hot. Everyone within the city limits of Scottsdale AZ had or was in the process of obtaining their Real Estate license. By July, I had lost former clients to chiropractors, dentists, doctors, doctors’ spouses, doctors’ spouses’ doctors … I thought I had experienced it all. Mind you, the prevailing thought at the time was that a chimpanzee with a business card could sell a house. And he probably could have with a Multiple Offer Addendum and a cell phone, but I digress. One day while running my daily search of the new inventory in McCormick Ranch, I see a suspiciously familiar address. I pull up the listing and do the whole Is that …? No, can’t be. But it looks …? NOOOO!!! bit.
Sure enough, it was the lovely couple I had sold the home to a few years back and had only recently visited over the holidays. My mind raced.
What did I do wrong? Are they upset with me? Did I fail to keep in touch? Did I keep in touch too much? Is it because I mangled their son’s name that time we ran into each other at the coffee shop?
After letting my stomach churn over the myriad ways I could have potentially brought this upon myself, I finally picked up the phone. After two rings, a familiar voice answered. Mindful to make sure that I did not say anything that could be construed as tampering with another agent’s listing, I simply blurted out, “What happened?”
Long story short: The wife’s hairdresser had recently gotten her Real Estate license to use on the side. Now, in my opinion, the words “hairdresser” and “Realtor” should never collide in the same sentence, but apparently not everyone agrees. No one would ever in a million years sit down at a chair and let me go to town with a pair of clippers and #2 attachment, but my highly educated clients made the decision to help her out by listing a $500,000 asset for sale and purchasing a million dollar property with her.
Now, I will not pretend that I did not first take the news personally and selfishly. That is a big chunk of business to lose to a hobbyist, and it stung. The value proposition of hiring a full-time, active agent did not outweigh the desire to help a friend get started in the industry. That is not an easy pill to swallow. What’s worse and ultimately paramount, however, is the disservice such a choice can do to the consumer him or herself. When you don’t engage in the practice of selling Real Estate but once or twice a year, if it all, you put the people you represent at an immediate disadvantage. You simply don’t know what you don’t know.
And sadly, in this case, my former clients … ultimately got a bad haircut.
It serves as a reminder that it doesn’t go without saying to the general public that all agents are not interchangeable. The effect of the misconception that we are can have a monumental effect on your bottom line and long-term satisfaction. As such, I try to use such experiences as teachable moments.
Remember, folks. We all want to help our friends and family members when and where we can, but think carefully before employing someone to guide you through a home sale or purchase if it is just their “side hustle.” This is not a profession that requires an advanced degree or special skill set over and above modest intelligence, tenacity, and a willingness to leverage your knowledge and experience for the benefit of your clients, but it does require practice. Experience. Repetition. Like any other human endeavor performed exceptionally, if never perfectly.
I don’t begrudge anyone the opportunity to make a little extra money in their spare time, but I firmly believe there is value to hiring someone who is working in their primary field of expertise. Hire your neighbor’s kid to pull your weeds. Hire your nephew’s girlfriend to walk your dog.
But when you have a major service need, I would advise the following:
- Need roof work done? Hire a roofer.
- Need your transmission serviced? Hire a mechanic.
- Need a haircut? Hire a barber.
- Need to buy or sell a home? Hire a Realtor.
And not a moonlighter. An active, full-time Real Estate professional who has been there, done that, and won the cheesy t-shirt in a home tour group raffle.
After all, if you don’t want me fixing your fade after spending my evenings learning the craft via YouTube, you probably don’t want your hair stylist selling your house.
Paul has been selling the greater Phoenix area as a full-time Realtor for over 20 years now. For all of your Scottsdale AZ Real Estate needs, please visit him at www.scottsdalepropertyshop.com
“Friedster, what the hell are you doing with that chicken?”
Startled, Ned Friedgen looked up to find his moon-faced boss hovering in the doorway.
“Oh. Hi, sir,” the design engineer acknowledged. “Just fiddling with the ‘Nequity’ algorithm again.”
“What’s with the blindfold,” Baron Schlumpf pressed as he eyed the fowl.
Ned’s brow wrinkled in confusion as he gnawed on a piece of vending machine jerky.
“Exactly,” Mr. Schlumpf responded, pulling up a lime green, ergonomic bean-bag chair and plopping down uninvited.
“I understand that this is your first week here,” he said over the chair’s protesting contents. “It’s only natural that you want to ease into things, feel your way around a bit before sticking your neck out.”
He chuckled at his own pun.
“I just don’t understand why-” Ned began.
“We didn’t bring you on board to play it safe,” Mr. Schlumpf continued over him. “If there is one thing we here at Umilleau.com are all about, it’s taking risks. We want you to be bold. We want you to be outlandish. We want you to be the guy that we hand-picked out of the World of Warcraft chat room for this position. We don’t want Ned Friedgen. We want the Friedster.”
Ned hung his head; a palpable air of defeat overpowering his liberally-applied Axe Body Wash as the chicken pecked at his vintage Converse All Stars.
“Ah, don’t take it so hard,” Mr. Schlumpf consoled. “You’ll get the hang of it. The most important thing to remember is that we don’t think outside the box, because there is no box. Take your wildest idea, and make it even wilder. That’s the Umilleau way.”
“There is no spoon,” Ned intoned, affecting his best Keanu Reeves impersonation before biting off another succulent hunk of jerky. He thought it might be bison, but that didn’t seem quite right.
“Take your chicken here,” Mr. Schlumpf continued. “Teasing the plumage into a rockabilly pompadour was a fine start, you just need to dial it up a notch to really take it to the next level.”
“Next level,” Ned asked.
The bird tugged at a red shoelace. Ned decided to call him Elvis.
“We don’t just want a chicken,” Mr. Schlumpf answered. “We want a blindfolded chicken.”
“Is that even legal?”
“We don’t just want a blindfolded chicken,” Mr. Schlumpf pressed on, his loose jowls threatening to consume his skinny, black tie as his excitement grew. “We want a blindfolded chicken that navigates an electrified hopscotch grid with randomly assigned corresponding numbers.”
“Oh my God!”
“Most importantly,” Mr. Schlumpf concluded. “We want it by Friday.”
“You want me to completely redesign the home evaluation metric by Friday,” Ned squealed in horror.
His boss nodded.
“We’ve had a good run with the blind donkey we have been using to select property values from a top hat,” Mr. Schlumpf confided, shifting gears.
“Are you serious,” Ned questioned. “I looked my house up on the site last night, and the value was off by a hundred thousand!”
“An all too familiar refrain,” Mr. Schlumpf admitted. “Alas, Blinky had to die.”
Ned’s hazel eyes bulged out of his head in near perfect imitation of the image of John Belushi under the word College on his grey t-shirt.
“You killed a donkey because he picked the wrong values out of a hat?”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Mr. Schlumpf retorted. “I’m not an ogre. We didn’t send him off to the great barn in the sky because of the ninety two percent margin of error.”
“Then why,” Ned asked, perplexed.
“Money,” Mr. Schlumpf answered. “The damn thing wanted more money.”
“So what, um … what did you do with him?”
A gleam rose in Mr. Schlumpf’s eye.
“How’s the jerky,” he asked with a wicked grin.
Horrified, Ned spat the last few strands onto the bamboo floor.
Mr. Schlumpf bowed his mostly bald head and made the sign of the cross in mock reverence.
“Couldn’t you just ship him off to the circus or something,” Ned asked, trying to wipe the oily taste from his tongue.
“And set an example for the chicken that contract holdouts are rewarded,” Mr. Schlumpf demanded. “I think not!”
Mr. Schlumpf’s eyes narrowed as he wagged a bloated finger at his underling.
“Don’t you go getting too close to the talent, kid,” Mr. Schlumpf warned. “Your predecessor made that mistake. Couldn’t handle the inevitable eventuality. That’s why it falls to you to get a new fortune-telling beast trained up before the East coast FSBO market starts crawling our site this weekend.”
“Can I ask a stupid question.” Ned ventured.
“There are no stupid questions,” Mr. Schlumpf assured him with a conspiratorial wink. “Just stupid people eager to be manipulated.”
“Why don’t we just implement a reliable analysis of a home’s true worth?”
Mr. Schlumpf erupted in wet laughter, ending in a coughing fit.
“Sure,” he croaked between spasms. “While we’re at it, we can call ourselves ‘appraisers,’ or ‘Realtors!’ Maybe catch a plane to look at each individual property we evaluate from two thousand miles away?”
“Look,” he lectured the newbie. “We are creating our own niche here. To survive online in this day and age, you can offer something reliable, or you can offer something revolutionary. We offer revolutionary.”
“Even if it doesn’t work?”
“Especially if it doesn’t work,” Mr. Schlumpf stressed. “Consumers want ‘right now’ more than they want ‘right,’ so they’ll keep coming back as long as the lie is too brazen to doubt.”
“Seems like a business model with a limited shelf life,” Ned argued, deciding he wouldn’t list this career detour when he updated his resume for Monster.
Mr. Schlumpf grudgingly nodded.
“Once the novelty wears off and the public starts looking at your service critically, investor capital dries up faster than a Danny Bonaduce comeback.”
“So you need a shiny, new gimmick,” Ned intuited. “Or a feathery one, as it were.”
They both looked at the quizzical chicken, which was now pecking at its reflection in the funhouse mirror on the exterior wall where a window should have been. Mr. Schlumpf was right. Elvis didn’t strike Ned as particularly captivating.
“How about a card-counting baboon with a purple ass,” Ned suggested at last.
“Now you’re getting it.”
I have seen my share of thumbs down houses over the years. It’s a sad truth, but for every summer blockbuster, there is a Real Estate Gigli. Properties that look so promising in the MLS trailer fall flat despite the star-studded cast. Granite counter tops, stainless steel appliances, new carpet, manicured back yard … a quick read-through of the script tells you that the home should be a smash hit. Only when you see it on the big screen do you realize that the photos omitted the faux oak paneling throughout the entire downstairs, or the sunken conversation pit in the living room. You never know where Rosemary’s Baby may be lurking behind the pleasing marketing facade that a savvy listing agent has erected to entice showings.
Enter the Real Estate sneak preview.
Knowing all too well that I am performing preliminary recon, sellers will occasionally grill me as to my intentions when I arrive for a preview appointment. As I circumnavigate the home, they give me the unabashed hairy eyeball treatment reserved for ex-cons, Realtors, bankers, lawyers and ill-mannered guests who don’t sit on the plastic. Believe it or not, though, the preview does not merely serve as an arbiter of a buyer agent’s pass/fail verdict. It is a crash course in product awareness.
To those who would disallow Realtor previews because they anticipate the reports will discourage potential buyers from viewing the home, allow me first to offer a mild rebuke, and then to assuage your fears. First, disallowing preview appointments will have the opposite than desired effect. Like the producer of straight to DVD smut who would sooner pay a personal assistant a livable wage than allow an advance screening for critics, you are telling wily Real Estate agents that the house is a total clunker if you won’t let them in for a quick peek prior to an actual buyer showing. Thou doth protest too much, Ed Wood.
Moreover, you do you and your home a disservice by limiting Realtor previews. Salesmanship requires a deft touch. It is just not that easy to sell what one hasn’t seen. When I come through with my client, you want me to focus on the features with which I became acquainted during the preview rather than blundering about blindly. Knowing what specific hot buttons light my buyer up, all parties are best served if I have direct, first-hand knowledge of such. You know, the stuff that doesn’t necessarily make it into the MLS.
Is the second bedroom close enough to the master to make a suitable nursery?
Is the kitchen open to the family room or a candidate for expansion?
Is the yard private, but not overwhelming?
Worst case scenario? The home is not a fit for my clients, and I save everyone time. Surely you don’t want any more strangers stomping around your home than absolutely necessary, especially if there is zero chance that the property will work for them. To boot, I just might remember your house as a possible fit for the next buyer I meet.
Want to sell your house? Heed the marquee:
Coming soon … to a home near you … Realtor Paul Slaybaugh!
Pretty please, let him in.
The collection of hats in a Scottsdale Real Estate listing agent’s closet grows at an exponential rate. We alternately don the garb of property evaluator, pitchman, marketing pro, receptionist / showing coordinator, contract prep specialist, home inspection consultant, appraisal jouster, loan oversight committee (of one), repair foreman, closing editor, schedule contortionist, marriage counselor, dime store psychologist, balloon animal fashionista, etc, etc, etc. With the advent of Internet marketing, you can add a couple more titles to the overflowing job description: Google Engineer and Social Media Cruise Director.
Before you place too much importance on these latest additions, make sure your virtual Captain Stubing has what it takes to avoid the icebergs of an honest to goodness Real Estate transaction.
The great equalizer, the cyber-world provides the blank slate upon which even the most novice agents can paint a colorful picture of expertise. Years of experience trumped in the search engines by weeks of keyword optimized content. Those with their hard hats on in this soft medium can easily be mistaken for proven veterans of the Real Estate world. As such, even the most obstinate curmudgeons have yielded to the inertia of technology and joined the online fray in the ever-expanding global search for the next business prospect.
While we here at the Scottsdale Property Shop are ardent followers of the Internet prophets, we realize that this shiny new(er) medium is only the latest and greatest hat to hang on our business rack. The fixation with getting to the top of the pagerank heap has distracted many agents and consumers alike from the actual job of selling Real Estate. Think getting the most online exposure possible for your home is key to the probability of a sale? Well, you’re right. That said, raw exposure in the absence of ability is tantamount to brain surgery via an enthusiastic first year med student with a text book, albeit it one with exceptional illustration.
If you are reading this, you already know that we are adept at getting our services and our properties in front of a target audience. What you may overlook, however, is the fact that this is but one minute portion of the job. You must fully vet the agent(s) you choose to employ on all facets of the service, not simply the “Cool, my house will be on page 1!” factor. Click through the articles, peruse our thoughts on the state of the market, review our credentials. Only then, if you believe we’ve got the chops to handle the full responsibility of listing and selling your Scottsdale home, give us a call to move into stage 2 of the vetting process: a personal consultation.
While the Internet is a valuable tool, there is no magic Real Estate bullet or panacea for an overpriced or under-represented property. Your agent should know the community, the builders, the amenities, the home sales, the effective means of procuring a buyer, the nuance of negotiation, the ability to close and how to effectively navigate the escrow to the finish line. Google and Facebook will do none of those things for you (him). To add another clumsy metaphor, consider the various legs that prop up your home sale. If your agent does not have adequate experience with / knowledge of the product, the integrity is suspect. If your agent cannot effectively close buyer leads, the integrity is suspect. If your agent cannot, or does not know how to handle the various hurdles of the escrow process, the integrity is suspect. And yes, if your agent does not leverage the proper media for attracting suitors for your property, the integrity is suspect. Ask any particular leg to support more than its burden, and watch the entire structure collapse.
While I know a few terrific agents who have been in the industry for relatively brief durations, I am aware of all too many Internet marketing wizards who lack the first clue about the process of selling a home. It seems that the only thing taught in new agent training these days is how to leverage social media and/or drive traffic to one’s site. Valuable tools, but am I crazy to posit that learning to actually do the job is every bit (or more) as valuable as tracking hits?
I see such agents in my keyword Google alerts often enough to know that they have the marketing portion of the job wired, but who exactly are they? For all of that search engine juice, I’ve never seen their names on a sign in the communities they target. I applaud the promotional efforts, but cringe for the consumer who hires the Internet warrior out of mistaken belief in his/her expertise. After all, are we Real Estate professionals who market on the Internet, or Internet professionals who occasionally dabble in Real Estate?
I can buy dominant online position for a particular neighborhood for about $20/month, but I can’t buy ability. Even in the 24/7 virtual “what have you done for me lately” world, a track record is always in vogue.
Consumers … choose your weapons wisely.
*Now, because I am a full-time Real Estate agent who moonlights as on online personality, you may follow me on the social network of your choice via the icons in the footer. One more Twitter follower and I win a free chicken!
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There are things that you, as a home buyer, want to know about a prospective new neighborhood. Are the schools top shelf? Is there shopping nearby? Do the neighbors hold a semi-annual Scott Baio look-alike contest? For the most part, your agent can help you find the answers to your questions (though determining a victor in that last one seems dubious given it has been a couple of decades since Charles was last seen in charge). There are some matters which may be pertinent to your purchasing decision that I cannot field, however.
Fair housing doctrine is the result of a noble pursuit to ensure that all consumers enjoy shared basic rights and equal housing opportunity. The so-called protected classes against which housing discrimination is strictly prohibited include race, color, religion, gender, national origin, persons with disabilities and familial status (having children under 18 years of age).
(Note omissions such as job description and political affiliation from that grouping. Don’t like Realtors? Democrats? You don’t have to sell your house to one. Of course, green is the only color that should matter to a home seller, and rejecting any potential suitor for a reason other than unacceptable contract terms is not only foolish, but an invitation for trouble. Protected class or not, this is America. You can sue or be sued for virtually anything.)
Now that we have established who cannot be barred from housing opportunities for no other reason than certain personal attributes, let’s take it a step further. A frequent criticism of Realtors is that we won’t answer your direct questions when you are trying to get the skinny on an area. Your pointed questions are met with milquetoast answers such as, “There are all types of people in this community,” or “You should go to the police department website to research that on your own.”
It’s not because we don’t want to be helpful. We do. Believe me. Many times, we are constrained by overbearing legalities that make it difficult to effectively advise our clients. While laudable, fair housing doctrine in practice can be maddeningly frustrating, too. I cannot tell you how many Christian families live in the neighborhood. I can’t tell you if a subdivision is kid friendly. I can’t tell you if an area you have inquired about is a “bad part of town” or not. I can’t give you the wink and a nudge as I drone on about not being permitted to discuss such matters.
When you, as an unknowing consumer, stray into the no-fly zone, the exchanges often go something like this.
Q: “Are there a lot of minorities in this area?”
A: “There are people of all kinds in this neighborhood. I am not at liberty to discuss such things. Please get out of my car you intolerant ape.”
Q: “Are there more families or singles that live in this neighborhood?”
A: “There are people of all kinds in this neighborhood. I am not at liberty to discuss such things. If you are trolling for a date, I suggest the local pub … maybe Facebook.”
Q: “Is there a lot of crime here?”
A: “That depends on whether you consider vice a victimless crime … er, I mean, you would need to check the local PD’s website to review those statistics.”
Q: “Are there any agnostic Madagascan women who walk with a limp and have six adopted Inuit kids nearby?”
The thing to remember is that we agents deal in properties, not people. Ask me about the community amenities, the builders, the values. Shoot, you can ask me for the square root of the Pythagorean Theorem for that matter (the answer is “F,” by the way). Just don’t ask me to lay out the area demographics for you. There are resources available to you should you wish to perform your own investigations, but as a licensed agent, I cannot steer you to or from a particular area based on criteria that either closely treads or firmly stomps on a protected class.
Of course, it would be naive to assert that no agent has ever flaunted these guidelines to provide a client with the information sought. Were it me in the consumer’s shoes, I’d worry where else said agent would be willing to bend the ethical spoon, but I digress.
Are there times when I feel constrained from fully doing my job and properly advising my clients about both the positives and negatives in a community? Absolutely. As a safeguard that prevents agents from feeding into arcane prejudices and stereotypes, however, it is necessary to ensure that we don’t artificially impact values or deny opportunities. You can, and should, do all pertinent investigations regarding the property you aim to call home for the next who knows how many years. You are not restricted from obtaining the information you seek. Just know that your helpful agent will not be able to abet certain fact-finding missions.
You can ask me if the house is far enough away from the meth lab down the street to withstand the inevitable explosion (it’s not). Just don’t ask me to speculate whether the aspiring chemist within is here legally or not.