Between you and me, it wasn't a terrific break. I started off the holidays with the flu and then our college-age son, Tristan, arrived home for winter vacation and promptly got sick as well. Goodbye 2016; I'm looking forward to a clean slate in 2017.
Gratefully, Tristan finally turned the corner midway through his stay and better yet, our older son came home to roost as well (that young man seems to be perpetually on the move). In fact, Case has relocated to North Carolina now, having accepted a job at a micro-brewery in the Smokey Mountains. While it's a step closer to his aspiring career, I get the sense that this new job is not all he had hoped it would be . . .
When pressed about what's missing, he responded that he thought the brewery would be larger, would host social events and tastings, and would be more active overall. Instead, it's a very intimate operation. Expectations aside, it didn't help that Case hadn't asked any of the pertinent questions before signing on to this new endeavor. Instead, he'd jumped at the chance to learn the brew craft and assumed all operations were the same (they're not). Oh dear, that's where experience comes into play.
Not that I knew anything at 25 (I didn't) but from where I sit now, it isn't enough to just seek a solution, when what we really need to find along the road of life, is the right "fit." Moreover, we are going to need to define what we really seek as well. In other words, what are the goals and the end game and how best do we achieve them?
Which means that as consumers, job-hunters, adventurers, brew masters, AND home Buyers and Sellers, we are going to have to ask some clarifying and often, difficult questions before making such fundamental choices. Ironically, when it comes to the tough decisions (jobs, family, love, real estate) most of us either feel too intimidated to ask what we really want to know ("What's the size and scope of your operation?") or don't know what to ask in the first place. ("What is your current client load?")
While I suspect that avoiding uncomfortable questions is common to most of us in a broader sense, when it comes to selecting your REALTOR I think the pertinent questions are really rather critical (but may not be so obvious to you). Since it's the start of a new year and we're sharing our secrets, here are some of the basic questions to ask before you select your Agent and enter the fast-paced world of Real Estate.
1) How many years have you been selling Real Estate and what is your process and experience? Where is your territory? (Avoid out-of-area Realtors, especially your well-meaning friends and relatives, and make sure your Agent has some "hands-on" experience before handing over the keys to the castle. There are a lot of inexperienced licensees out there. Respectfully, let them cut their teeth on someone else's property.)
2) Do you own your own home and when is the last time you sold or bought a property for yourself? (Realtors should be homeowners themselves, just as financial planners should own the products/stocks/bonds they encourage you to buy.)
3) How many other properties will you be representing while selling ours and are there any conflicts with the timing? (Any good Agent will be juggling several listings at once, but how they space them is vitally important to you.)
4) Do you work alone or with a team? If so, who does what and who is the point person? What can I expect from you and how often will you keep me informed? (Good news; as the client, YOU get to set these rules to best accommodate your needs be it email, text, or a good-old fashioned phone call. AND most importantly, how much support do you really need? Don't assume your Agent intuitively knows - communicate your expectations loud and clear.)
5) What are the costs to sell my home and how does the commission break down between the buying and selling sides? What should I budget for marketing and preparation? (Apart from any physical improvements, plan to spend about 8% in transaction fees, which should include transfer taxes, prorated property taxes, and commissions, among other expenses.)
6) What is your specific marketing plan and calendar of events for my home? (Homes don't sell themselves; they require a sound marketing system and a strategy. Make sure your Agent has those firmly in place.)
7) What is your online presence and how do you plan to strategically leverage the Internet to sell my home? (Nearly 95% of all home buyers begin their search on the Internet. If your home has no "World-Wide-Web" presence, you're missing out in a BIG, WIDE WORLD WAY!)
8) How "hands-on" is your Broker and what is his/her involvement in the transaction? (Does the Broker sit in a corporate office somewhere out of reach, or is he local, informed, and engaged? It's the BROKER that actually owns your listing, not the Agent. You want to know they'll go to bat for you.)
9) What are your beliefs around "duel agency" and do you represent both Buyers and Sellers on a single transaction. ("Duel Agency" wherein a single Agent represents both sides of the transaction can create an obvious conflict of interest and isn't generally a good idea. Keep your listing and buying Agents separate and your own interests will be far better served.)
10) What sets you apart from your competition and how do you differentiate yourself? (Here's the $64,000 question and make no mistake; all REALTORS are NOT created equal. It's absolutely fair and reasonable to ask for references, to look online for reviews, and to explore an Agent's website to see how current and relevant both the site and your Agent are.)
Listen, if you're not making these inquiries, you may be jumping to all kinds of assumptions that, like my son, leave you feeling a little less than enthused about the journey once you arrive. Lots of Realtors are great on the front line, but leave much to be desired on the back end.
BUT if the details of selling your home are as important to you as the theatrics (successfully selling a home is a full-scale production), I suspect it's the questions you didn't think to ask that are going to leave you somewhat dissatisfied when all is said and done.
As I've often stated, selling or buying Real Estate is stressful under the very best of circumstances. With so many qualified Agents from which to choose, there's no reason you shouldn't find the right "fit" before you step into the arena. AND with so much at stake, it helps to have a fully-qualified and competent advocate on your side as well; and one that can comprehensively address your concerns. So use us to your advantage. (We're waiting for your call.)
Am I always the 'right fit'?
I'd like to think so, but to keep it real, I have often found myself in competition for the listing and that's as it should be.This is a big decision and a very personal journey; thus you should choose wisely. Results aside (and yes, everyone wants to know how much they can expect to sell their home for; however, it's not the whole story by a long shot!) Selling or buying a home is a collaborative activity that works best when trust and faith lead the process. Perhaps the question I need to ask you more often is: "What do you need from me today in order to secure your faith and trust?"
So let's ask each other the important questions . . . just as all jobs, employers, journeys, (craft beers), are not the same, neither are all Realtors, Buyers, or Sellers. With that in mind, I'm ready and willing to provide the answers when you need them and if we're a match, so much the better. If not, I'll happily refer you to someone I think is a much better "fit." I'm here to serve.
Cheers mate. Here's to a productive, successful, and healthy 2017!
How can I help you?
(To check out my Instagram page, go to: instagram.com/piedmontrealtorgirl)
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 years and has published more than 600 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.