Quickly zipping through the hills on my way to work the other day, I abruptly slowed down when I came around a corner and I saw a sign that read: "Tree Trimming Ahead." A few blocks later, a second sign warned, "Curves" and at the next intersection, yet another shouted, "STOP!" When you look around, there are signs everywhere guiding us through our busy days and telling us what to do . . . "Sign, sign, everywhere a sign. Blockin' out the scenery, breakin' my
mind . . ." It got me to thinking about how much easier my job would be if my clients and colleagues wore signs as well (Come to think of it, how 'bout my kids?). I'd like to see GIANT capital letters that spelled out exactly who they are and how they operate in the world. Here are a few suggestions: "USE CAUTION," "SPEED BUMPS AHEAD" or "NO TRESPASSING!" (That would certainly clarify the relationships - don't ya think?) Unlike many jobs where one transacts business with the same customers or co-workers day in and day out, Real Estate is a series of primarily short-term projects with new players at every turn. Just as you need to get to know me, I also need to get to know you AND I need to do it relatively quickly.
This isn't just true of my clients, it's also true of the other agents I work with, the buyers or sellers they represent, the mortgage bankers and lenders, the appraisers, the title officers, the escrow coordinators, and the like. Other than a few key players on which I often can depend and control, I am frequently meeting many new personalities with each and every transaction. Without bold signs with which to guide me, the trick is managing all these complimentary, competing, or conflicting interests with care - "Yield to oncoming traffic?"
"Do this, don't do that - can't you read the signs?"
To a large extent, I can successfully read the signs. Directing traffic is part and parcel of the world of Real Estate. To be truly effective, an experienced agent should not only be adept at this skill, but excel in it as well. It begins by asking the right questions: "What are the sellers' motivations?" "What are the buyers'?" "What are their respective time lines?" "How quickly can the lender perform?" (And to the appraiser) "Are you familiar with the area?" "How long have you had your license?" With careful sleuthing and sometimes, unapologetic frankness, I need to accurately read the signs in order to best serve your needs.
So speak up and declare your intentions. The more signs you give me, the better off we both are. (It's the clients I don't hear from that I worry about.) Not only are you able to quickly retrieve the answers you desire, but I am more committed to the relationship with each phone call and email we exchange. (Aren't you?) "And the sign said you got to get a membership card to get inside, UH! " To a certain degree that's true. While markets are no longer exclusive thanks to the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) there are still high-end homes that really do require careful client vetting. Despite the undeniable access the INTERNET has now made possible, your position is greatly improved when you connect early and often with an informed agent. (No, not ALL agents are created equal.)
"Open for Business? " You betcha. Didn't you see my sign? Trivia time: Who wrote and sang the song, "Signs?" Complimentary lattes from Mulberry's Market to those who answer correctly OR to those who send me back their "sign" (astrological signs don't count).
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.