I was getting dressed this morning and realized I didn’t have a brown belt. My old brown belt barely hung on until the end of the day a while back, so this morning I was faced with the fact that I was in the market for a belt. I headed out the door fully dressed, except the belt, and headed to the store. All the belts were there for me to choose from and all that was left to do was complete the purchase and head to the office. The line for the Speedy Checkout was long, but moving at a decent pace. Sure there was an open lane down the way, but you can’t tell if someone is in there with a totally loaded basket. The Self-Checkout was a little further down, but like I said the “Speedy Checkout” was moving right along. Suddenly there was an issue with an item. Then someone unveiled a basket that was way over 20 items. The cashiers break time came so there was a changing of the guard and then the lady right in front of me wasn’t exactly sure how to use the card reader. Each passing minute brought the realization that I could have walked to the complete other end of the store checked myself out and been walking right past all the other people who had fallen for the “Speedy Checkout”.
What does this have to do with Real Estate you might ask? You may find yourself needing a new home. Everything is usually online for you to pick from, but how do you complete the purchase. If you don’t have a REALTOR® you know and trust, don’t just grab the first one you see or the one who seems to be doing the most business. Ask for referrals from your friends who have bought and sold. Go to your local Keller Williams office, preferably the one on W. Lake Houston Parkway ask for Tom Riggins, and interview somebody. This is the biggest monetary decision most people make in their life and they don’t take the time to check out all the possibilities for completing the purchase. That dream home just may slip away or the chance to make a great deal may pass. It seemed like a good idea at the time to just take the agent in front of you that seemed to be moving along smoothly, but find the ones who can show you they’re going to get the job done.
I just got back from a trip to my hometown Muskogee, OK. This is the place I will always call home, even if I never live there again. It’s not just the fact that I spent my childhood there, but my children were born there as well. My mom is resting there and I find a certain sense of rest when I go back. The town itself isn’t thriving, but it’s doing more than surviving. I talked to the mayor at a wedding and he told me there are exciting things happening, but I moved from a town of a little over 40,000 to one that is well over 4,000,000. What’s exciting to me has changed a little bit. I read the Muskogee Phoenix online almost daily and I live my small town life vicariously through all my friends on Facebook, but make no mistake I’m addicted to big city living. We’ve been gone a little over two years now, but when we walked into the First Baptist church we were greeted just as warmly as if we’d been there the week before. I want to go back, but without a house there, invariably I anxiously head my car South and make the long drive home.
So what’s this got to do with real estate? A lot actually. I found myself evaluating homes in Muskogee and trying to place them in Houston for comparison. The phrase location, location, location could not be more appropriate for this exercise. The homes in Muskogee aren’t built with any more or less quality than the Houston homes, but sentimentality can’t compare with sitting near one of the largest economies in the world. I got to visit with a local broker who I look at as my inspiration for even attempting this business. She retired from teaching and transformed herself into one of the well known agents in the entire area she works. I soaked up every little thing she said during my time with her, because real estate is real estate no matter where you are. The advice she gave me and the whole point of this post really is this, a home becomes a house when you put it on the market. Listen to your REALTOR® and let them help you decipher the market, because the market does not care about sentimentality or what used to be the hottest place to live. You will miss out on deriving the maximum value if you can’t separate the memories and the hype from the hard facts in todays real estate market. A good agent will get you there every time.
I got a wonderful piece of advice on generating business the other day. The only problem was I didn’t quite understand how to put it into practice. My general feeling was that advice had been given and there was nothing left for me to do but execute. I never know what to say at the exact moment someone gives me that kind of advice. I sometimes feel like a teenager working a part-time job. The supervisor walks up and says to stack boxes so you jump to your feet and stack, but at my age I’m looking for a little more clarification. Why are we stacking them, where are we stacking them and what’s the beneficial outcome of the stacking? I find that on many occasions we are ready to step out and give someone a little tidbit of knowledge from our own experience, but when the follow-up question of how to make it work comes we didn’t intend to have to go that far. The person receiving the advice can feel as though you care enough to give them some busy work that will generate a certain amount of success for them, but you’re not going to help them be productive enough to knock you off the top of the totem pole.
Helping out people who have just entered your business can be a rewarding prospect. You can watch them blossom and grow knowing that you provided some of the catalyst for that progress. The most important thing you must realize in that moment you decide to become a part of their journey is that no matter how confident they act or knowledgeable they seem, if they knew exactly what to do before you stepped in they wouldn’t have needed you to step in to begin with.
I don’t like fishing trips. I’ve gone out on a boat more than once, with people who have given me assurances that the fish are biting. I basically spent the day in a situation I couldn’t leave, remember we’re on the water, and nothing is happening. I’m using the same lures, mimicking the same casting moves as my more experienced boat mate, but I’m not having any luck. I realize there are many conditions that lead to a successful fishing trip and you have to be a student of the sport to make every trip produce some kind of result. I just don’t understand how a person can go out with knowledgeable partners and quality equipment, but never catch a fish.
Today was a fishing trip experience for me. Open House. I was in a great neighborhood (read lake full of fish), brand new home (read awesome bass boat), all the flyers and business cards I could carry (read quality rods and lures) but not a single bite. Just like being on a boat I couldn’t go anywhere else, at least when you’re fishing you can pull up anchor and try another spot, but on open house day it’s a commitment to the spot you dropped anchor. I’ve had plenty of talented agents give me advice on reeling in the big ones, but so far I haven’t netted a keeper from an open house.
I’m not going to quit open houses or any of the other techniques for cultivating relationships with clients. Today taught me that you must become a student of this business. Every time I cast my line is an opportunity to study the conditions, feel the tightness of the line and be prepared for the strike.
If I showed up at your door and asked the question in the title of this post you could see me in a number of ways. I could look like an extremely desperate real estate agent who is roaming around your neighborhood looking for a hand-out. I might seem like an ambitious entrepreneur who had the nerve to come to your door in hopes of providing a golden opportunity for both of us. I might just be stalling for time after you’ve asked me the question I thought I was prepared to answer and most assuredly am not.
The real answer to the question is, no. If I could sell your home I’d have a sign in the yard of every house I found marketable and I’d sell them based solely on the amount I found to be profitable to me. Real estate agents don’t sell houses. They provide information and marketing assistance to home owners who have decided to place their property on the market. Your decision to use a REALTOR® should be made with the same care that any business uses to hire a marketing firm. Perhaps an agent gave you the information about the current market conditions that led to your decision to sell, but make no mistake the sell is yours. The price point, marketing and negotiations of a competent agent should be a single-minded attempt to achieve your goals. If your approached by someone who says they’ll sell your home ask yourself why they think your home is theirs to sell in the first place.
Several days ago I was on a tour with a group of great agents from my office, which happens to be Keller Williams Northeast in Kingwood, Texas shameless plug I know. We entered a home that was priced in the right range for the area, had great architectural features and was on a cul-de-sac next to a walking trail and well it had everything going for it. The big problem facing this house was the paint. Every room had been painted and those choices had been BOLD. I know that a lot of time and money went into decorating, it all seemed to be very well done, and the home owners probably felt very much at home in each of these rooms. Yet here we were as experts in the field of finding homes lamenting how hard it will be to find the right buyer who will see all these colors as the right decor for them.
When do we make the decision to turn a house into our home? More than once I’ve anxiously waited for my own homes to be sold. The call comes back from the showing agent and we hear that the paint wasn’t right or some architectural or structural change we made didn’t suit the potential buyer. I’m sure that’s why my house is exactly the way the builder finished it and every wall is a neutral shade of off white. I can strip all the personality off the walls in an hour put a sign in the yard in preparation for the next couple to walk through and see their own vision without ever having to look through the haze of my decorating sense.
This isn’t the kind of advice that will win me any contests at the big home improvement stores, but the next time you finish watching that show. You know the one, “Change the entire look of your home with a roll of tape and a gallon of paint”. You have to ask yourself how long this will be your home? Styles come and go with the changing of a host on a cable channel and the one thing that will happen almost without question is when you decide to sell your home you will repaint the whole house a neutral color or you’ll give up money in the negotiations. It seems like the moment we buy a house we start trying to figure out what it will be worth at resale.