"Hi, I'm Julie Gardner," I said to the white-haired and slightly disheveled gentleman as he opened his door and I handed him my calling card. "I work for The GRUBB Co."
I had spotted an unexpected "Home Open" sign while driving down Grand Avenue last Sunday afternoon so promptly made a U-turn and parked. (Knowing the available inventory is critical to my success - as well as yours.)
"I'm keeping the door closed so my cat won't get out," the owner informed me as he hurried me in.
"I'll be quick," I said apologetically.
"Are you selling the home yourself?" I asked, confused by the generic sign, his casual appearance, and a totally empty open, except for a curious neighbor that I mistook for his wife.
"I'm not related!" she quickly corrected me. (She knows dysfunction when she see it.)
"Yes I am," he replied, "I'm not just the Seller and owner of the house, I also have my Broker's license!" (Really?)
The picture was starting to come into focus . . .
While it's not my call, this FSBO (For Sale By Owner) had made ALL of the classic mistakes . . .
"Danger Will Robinson!"
To begin with, the photo above was taken by me, so yes, there were
actually piles of trash outside, next to the store-bought sign.
Once inside, not much improved . . . although the rooms had been emptied, the Seller was clearly still living in one bedroom - with the cat - bright red wall-to-wall carpeted the hallway, and the backyard patio was overflowing with the cast-off junk from the house, which had yet to make its way out front, or better yet, to the county dump. Oh dear; where do I begin to count the ways? "I'll have it on Brokers' Tour next Thursday," the Seller instructed me. "Tell your gang to come by."
"Except that our tour day here in Piedmont, is on Monday," I kindly suggested. "You may want to change the preview if you hope to get a better turn out."
"I don't really care," he responded defensively, "the house won't be ready tomorrow and people will want it anyway." (So much for first impressions.)
He may be right, given the lack of available inventory, but I suspect, it will cost him dearly. Please note, not ALL listings are receiving the same enthusiastic response or results. It only seems that way in the wake of stories of record-setting offers. In this - or any market - PRESENTATION MATTERS!
Contrast this lackluster showing to the next home I saw in Wildwood Gardens where the agent exclaimed that she must have had more than 250 people come through on what was probably the hottest day of the year. Beautifully staged, strategically priced, and appropriately advertised, this sort of "packaging" is the difference between multiple offers - and none at all.
Back at the FSBO, I hadn't even broached the subject of disclosures or point of sale ordinances and beat a hasty retreat with nary a flyer or an MLS sheet to reference later on. (There weren't any.)
On a scale of 1-10, we were looking at a zero. This was clearly a case where the Seller had no clue as to standard protocol, nor any sense of how his home really looked to the casual observer, let alone another REALTOR. (It wasn't good.) Frankly, I couldn't believe he qualified for a license.
I was reminded of an old joke:
"Miss I'll need to see your real estate license," the officer said upon stopping the young woman for a traffic violation.
"Don't you mean my driver's license?" she innocently asked, correcting the highway patrolman.
"Well," he said . . . " not everyone has one of those!"
(Ba-dum . . . thank you folks, I'll be here all week.)
Regrettably; getting a real estate license is as simple as a multi-week online course and passing the requisite test with an acceptable score. Answer the questions right, and you too, can sell homes for a living. Sounds easy, right?
It isn't. (See the narrative above.)
Even with a Broker's license, it's a HUGE mistake to believe that we can be objective about our own homes. (We can't.) All Sellers (licensed or not) benefit from a fresh set of eyes, third-party negotiations, and another, qualified agent at the helm.
While I am willing to concede that the Internet makes posting and finding new inventory almost a no-brainer for anyone with a computer in today's world, that's not really where an experienced Realtor's skills come into play, nor how we ultimately earn our keep.
Preparation, presentation, timing, investigation, packaging, disclosure, pricing, negotiation, and escorting a Seller through the escrow process are all part of the process that go along with bringing a home to market and then selling it for TOP dollar.
On the buy side, we educate, recommend lenders, meet and show properties, keep Buyers current as to comparable sales, follow the competing interest, inform, write offers, thoroughly investigate, negotiate back on new discovery, and once again, guide you through the escrow process once in contract.
Whether buying OR selling, it's an incredibly complicated gig - AND no, not all REALTORS are created equal. What you experience as a Buyer or a Seller, is truly, just the tip of the iceberg.
After more than a decade of helping my clients achieve their goals, I'd venture to say that a real estate education doesn't come in the classroom - and it certainly isn't earned online.
The necessary skills are actually eared through years on the battlefield, in hard-won victories, in understanding the needs of your clients, in listening, adjusting, and advocating. They are built by establishing rapport, sustaining important relationships, staying abreast of the interest rates, building a dependable vendor list, being an ongoing resource, and in thoroughly understanding the marketplace - both on the micro and macro level. Given the unrelenting hours, it helps if you are also incredibly passionate about what you do!
Granted real estate isn't rocket science, but buying or selling a home is extremely serious business and it's also typically, one's single largest investment. Good Realtors take this responsibility very seriously (even if they happen to write humorous, cheeky, informative essays from time to time) and that's no joke!
How can I help you?
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.