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Monthly Archives: September 2012

All Your Dreams and Wishes Won’t Come True

I think it’s time to clarify something about real estate agents.  Although we go to school and learn about the law, contracts, ethics and such, we don’t take a class in magic.  I wish we did, it would be beyond helpful and fascinating all at the same time.

Unfortunately, more times than I thought possible, people will get in touch with a realtor and expect to find the impossible.  I am all for tracking down a person’s dream house.  It would make my day as much as the customer I would be working with.  That said, sometimes the criteria that people come up with is just not going to help them find a place to live.

Let me give you an example.  I spoke with someone recently that called about a home for sale.  The home was pending, so I offered to find them another place to look at.  I began to go down the list of information needed to find them a home.  When I asked about the price range, they said they could not say because they only knew what they would pay for a condo.  So I asked them what was the most they would consider paying for any place.  The answer was nothing more than $25,000 but only for a condo (strange answer. but true).  I then asked them if they had been pre-approved.  They said that they would not be getting pre-approved, they would be paying in cash.  So of course, that answered the question of how much they were willing to pay.

They gave me information on what cities, how many bedrooms and bathrooms and time frame.  Basically, they could buy at any time, but were in no rush and had a place to stay until they found something.  OK, so I asked for an email.  This way, I could put in their criteria and they would receive an email whenever something matching their description was listed.  If they liked what they saw, they could call me and I would set up an appointment for them to view the home.  This potential customer had no email because it didn’t work out well for them (whatever that means) and said they would call me if they saw anything they were interested in.  In the mean time, if I came across any condo’s for $25,000 or less in the area they were looking at, I could give them a call.  There was just one final detail.  They wanted a deal and only wanted to look at short-sales and foreclosures.  The place would have to be move in ready with very minimal amount of work needing to be done (painting for example).

I spoke with another person recently who had to have at least three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a minimum of 1600 sq ft, a basement, garage and if I could find a pool it would be preferable.  They didn’t want to pay more than $85,000 and had a list of only the most upscale neighborhoods to look at.  Nothing else was reasonable to them.  I couldn’t tweak the criteria for a one and a half bath or a home without a basement.  Neighboring cities were out of the question.  I put all of their information together and showed them that nothing was available.

This family had a deadline of sixty days before they would be without a home.  They also felt they should be able to get a deal on a short-sale or foreclosed home in move in condition.  I showed them that with a few tweaks to their criteria they could get a fabulous move in ready home in their price range with the square feet they wanted.  The response was that they knew that if they waited it out the right home would fall into their lap.

Look, I don’t want to see any family end up homeless.  I suggested they look into an apartment while they searched for the home of their dreams.  Maybe it is out there, somewhere.  Who am I to judge?  I can only go off of what our computer program pulls up for homes on the market.

In the end, if someone is looking for a home, they might want to consider a few things.  Foreclosures and short-sales are often not nearly the deals people think they are.  Months can go by after an offer is accepted and then the deal might fall through.  Having a short time line of when you need to be in a home pretty much cancels out trying to get one of these “supposed” bargains.  Another thing to consider is that most of these homes are truly wrecked and need professional help to restore them.

Housing prices in general are going up at a fairly good clip.  What you saw a few months back is not the price you will get on that same home today.  The last thing I would like to mention is that some concessions might need to be made.  Make a list of the most important traits a home should have.  Sure, reach for the sky and try to get everything you would like.  At the same time, be aware that everything is a pretty tough thing to find and that having a few items you are willing to give up can make the difference between getting a home or living without one.

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Posted by on September 30, 2012 in career, lifestyle, opinion, people, thoughts

 

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Taking Charge of My Style

In the last post I wrote of finding your personal style.  Staying true to yourself in my opinion makes the difference between a successful salesperson who will enjoy their career for many years and the robotic salesperson who will dread their job and burn out quickly.

Since firmly deciding that I would concentrate on my own voice and what I know works for me, I have been feeling more comfortable and excited again about my career choice.  I have to admit, I was losing my focus and enthusiasm from a forced effort to accommodate my trainer’s ideal of the “proper” way of cultivating a sales career in real estate.  Their way of going about gaining clients might very well work for them, but it made me feel slimy.

I have spent the week reworking my schedule and tweaking some things to announce that I am a real estate agent smartly without any sales pressure attached to it.  The first thing I did, was to put in a good signature on my emails.  Sounds obvious, but it was something that was never discussed in my program, but carries a definite punch.  I made sure that my signature contained the name and address of my office, my cell number, email address and personal website.  I also made sure to include my picture.

I got to see the power of this unassuming way of advertising when I wrote a few emails this week.  One of the emails I wrote was to a group of parents at the school regarding a volunteer opportunity.  It was wonderful to be able to announce what my career was to my target audience in a way that caused no one any amount of uneasiness.

This week has been my volunteer week.  To get out in front of people is priceless.  On top of that, I get to enjoy what I’m doing.  Volunteering feels great.  I love being able to do something good, enjoy how I’m spending my time and mention what I do for a living in the most unassuming way.  This weekend I will be volunteering at a city event.  My sales pitch is nothing more than some brightly colored football schedules printed on some heavy-duty card stock.  In the top corner of each schedule is my picture and office information.  That’s it!  $14.00 for 250 sheets of card stock, .25 per colored copy, total spent, $26.50.  Truly an easy sales pitch with a very minimal amount of money spent.  I will have a pile of free schedules at the information booth I will be working.  No mention of the schedules will be made.  People can take one if they are interested.  If it creates a conversation, great!  My picture is on the schedules so it is obvious that I am the realtor.

This brings up a point I’d like to touch on briefly.  I am very careful with the amount of money that leaves my pocket.  I know some agents who have spent a fortune on fancy products to make them more efficient and systems to help them increase their sales.  They have done no better gaining leads or making sales than me.  I have spent to date just under $50.00.  Besides the card stock, there was some office supplies I bought (because it is your own business in a sense and office supplies are up to you).

In the end, as I am wrapping up my week, I am feeling good about my decision and my new plan of action.  I have a feeling of excitement which will translate to a happy, confident person when faced with potential customers.  I will let you know how this new plan of action works out.  I hope my experience has helped you consider how you would like to approach your own potential customers. Also, please think carefully about purchases you make and if they are really worth it.

 
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Posted by on September 28, 2012 in advice, job, life, opinion, style, thoughts

 

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Embracing Your Personal Style

I feel like agents at my office are often times on similar wavelengths.  This last week I had some similar conversations with a few different agents.  What made the experience unusual was that the subjects were brought up to me in the course of the conversation by the other person.  You know that feeling where you say, “that’s so funny, I just had that same conversation with so and so.”  Yeah, that was me last week.

As some of the newer realtors are becoming more comfortable, me included, the subject of selling style has come up.  I love the different types of people who work at my office.  The personalities are fabulous.  There are boisterous, outgoing types of agents.  I know some laid back go with the flow never rattled types.  There are the magnetic personalities of the polished professional and so on.

I love that as a new agent there are opportunities to learn about different ways of going after business.  It’s always fortunate to be in a position to learn ways of doing business that have never occurred to you.  Unfortunately, I think that sometimes people can have a very narrow focus on what does and does not fit as a selling tool for each individual person.

Everyone is different.  I personally embrace this concept and I’m grateful to know this to be true.  If not, I would be dreadfully bored by the sameness in each person.  As different as each person is, so to is their style of approaching their career as a real estate agent.  Look there is no one size fits all method.  The wise person is aware of this.  They are the ones that are open-minded to different techniques, try them out, and then settle into the fit that is most comfortable and authentic to them.  You need to be true to yourself by maintaining your personal integrity and the way you are comfortable doing business.  You should want to be proud to announce that you are a real estate agent.  If you can’t find your rhythm and personal style, you will come across as artificial and cold.  People respond to truth, values and care.  When you are able to find a way to do business that maintains those abilities, you will find success.  Authenticity is everything.

So my advice is to find your personal style.  That style that says this is who I am and this is how I lead my life. I do believe that you will be happier for it.  I also believe that you will attract like-minded individuals who appreciate your style.  This is a win-win situation in that you will enjoy what you are doing, how you approach your career and will get enjoyment from the people who are attracted to your style.

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2012 in advice, career, lifestyle, opinion, people, style

 

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A New Plan of Action

I have been going through a training program at work.  The idea behind the program is to get you acclimated with the various ways you can drum up some business.  A quick overview of the plan goes something like this:

In a given week, pick from this list and prospect off of it for the week.

1.  FSBO (for sale by owner)
2.  Short Sales
3.  Foreclosures
4.  Expired Listings

Here’s the problem for me, this is a list of people to cold-call.  When I signed up for the program, I thought I was well qualified to be an agent because of my sales background.  I had won many contests and had wonderful relationships with my clients.  The problem for me is that I am a face-to face type of person.  I’m not talking about the type of person who will show up at your door unannounced.  I offer my services in a laid back unthreatening way.  I am not a pushy sales person.  Honestly I don’t even like the title “salesperson.”  I prefer to see myself as a consultant who is available to help a customer navigate down the road to a new home or out of the home they own now.

I have spoken with several agents in the office.  The training program is helpful in that you are shown several ways to possibly find new clients.  The idea being that if you touch on each area each week, something is bound to come through for you.  Basically it’s a numbers game.  It’s a starting off point that none of the agents I spoke with use.

I have given an honest effort towards making cold-calls.  For me, it has felt like a huge waste of time.  It is the amount of research and general downtime needed before calls are made that really get to me more than anything.  Lets say you want to call expired listings.  You have to look up the listings, cross-reference for a phone number, cross-reference that with the do not call registry, and then make the call.  In 23 calls I made, I got two people who answered.  One person no longer owned their home, the other was just not interested.  It had taken me almost three hours of cross-referencing before I could make the calls.  All other numbers on that list were either fax machines, answering machines that were full or disconnected numbers.  This is what I call a huge waste of time.

I am in the process of overhauling the way I do business.  I prefer to go with my gut.  I know what works best for me.  I want to come across as the authentic, honest person I am.  I don’t want to appear robotic and seeming to talk from a script.  When I make cold-calls, I never know what to say.  I seem clumsy and inefficient.  The response is bad and then my self-esteem goes down the tubes.  I really love real estate and know I would be a great person to work with.  That being said, I am throwing out all the techniques aimed at spinning your wheels.

I am going for the human approach.  This means that I will be going in to places such as attorney’s offices, caterers and senior living centers to see if there is an opportunity to pass out some cards.  I am also doing some more volunteering.  I would prefer to spend my time doing something I love and hope to spark some interest along the way than be stuck in a chair for hours making calls to uninterested people who get overloaded with calls from agents every day.

I’ll get back with you and let you know how this new way of going about business works out for me.  In the meantime, as always, thanks for stopping by. 🙂

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2012 in career, lifestyle, opinion, people, personal

 

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Finding the Needle in the Haystack

Working in sales as a Real Estate Agent is different from the sales jobs I have encountered in my life.  To say I am in a place where I am fighting to get through all sorts of uncomfortable feelings is an understatement.  I used to sell wine and spirits to local restaurants, country clubs and bars around town.  I loved my job and was rewarded for my hard work and honest nature with a good list of clients and productive days of selling my wares.  Real Estate is the exact opposite of my old sales life.  When I was selling wine and spirits, I would go into a restaurant and have an easy time getting to the decision maker.  It was expected that I would be popping in to represent my company.  I had items to offer that were in demand and needed at each place I went.  Seriously it is the rare restaurant that won’t buy Absolute Vodka from you.  It’s too popular and a needed item that most places will carry.

Even if I went to a restaurant that bought exclusively from another vendor, it wasn’t to hard to get a special red and white wine of the week placed in the establishment.  I could make up some nice cards to insert in the menus recommending the wines and usually it was enough to establish the beginnings of a long-term relationship.

In Real Estate, I never realized that you would be chasing after a potential client.  The main form of contact is cold-calling.  I have never had to cold-call.  Well, I’ll take that back, I would call a newly opened restaurant to set up an appointment to come in, introduce myself, and help the new business stock its shelves with our products.  These places expected you to call, so I wouldn’t really label it a cold-call.

There are a few ways to get business through a cold-call.  This last week I was tasked with calling on people who had expired listings.  Basically, they had their home on the market, the contract with the Real Estate Agent ran out, and I was calling to see if they would like to relist their property with me.

Sure, it sounds simple enough, I mean if one Realtor couldn’t get the customers for the seller, maybe I could get some movement on their home.  It should be easy enough, I mean the seller had already decided to list their home so it should be a no brainer.  Well, it’s not quite that simple.

As I went down the list of potential clients, I found that the majority of phone numbers were disconnected, a fax machine (I’m not kidding), or an answering machine would come on saying that the messages were full and there was no way to leave a message.  The remaining people had either decided not to sell after all, had sold their home (and it had been marked down incorrectly on my expired listings list) didn’t live there, or had not lived in that home for some time.  There was not one positive call out of the bunch.  Either I couldn’t get through to the person, or I got the quick explanation followed by the phone being hung up.

This week I will have a one on one meeting with my manager.  I will have to tell her that I was unable to even get an appointment with a potential client.  I feel horrible thinking of going in front of her and admitting that nothing of any significance happened in the last week.  All I can do is get over it and keep pushing ahead.

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2012 in career, job, life, personal, thoughts

 

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Change Your Perspective and You Will Change Your Life

I have been helping a close friend find a home.  My friend has had a hard life and numerous struggles she has had to overcome.  She has worked hard, been extremely brave and determined to create a good life for herself and for her children.  Because of the significant amount of adversity in her life, she has had a hard time recognizing good times.  She tends to get suspicious when things are going well and looks for ways that the bottom might fall out.  It’s been sad to watch her absorb herself with bad moments and ignore or fear the good times.  That being said, this way of thinking has become a problem for her while she is searching for a new home.

The home that this friend has been living in is incredibly small.  There are two bedrooms, a tiny front room and a  kitchen big enough to fit two people comfortably in it.  There is no kitchen table because there is no room in the home.  My friend has slept on a sofa for at least eight years so that her children each had their own bedroom.  Recently it was found out that the foundation of the home is falling apart.  There has always been water problems and the air in the home has gotten toxic from mold that is forming.  The home is worth next to nothing.  The value of the home is in the land alone.

My friend had an incredibly lucky break.  She was able to sell the home herself to a builder she knew of.  She got  a shockingly good amount of money for her home.  She owes very little on her mortgage and will have enough money from the sale to put down half the cost of a home if she’d like.  On top of this good fortune, the builder gave her an extra sixty days in the home rent free after he buys it so that she has time to get into another place to live.

Everything has fallen into place and I am thrilled for my friend.  There is just one problem, she is so afraid that there must be some catch that she feels as though she might have made a mistake.  She questions the amount she got for the home, how she will pay for a new place and can she really afford to be in a different home.

To make matters worse, her list of expectations for a new home are not even close to being realistic.  I keep hearing that she should be able to grab up a short-sale or foreclosed property for a few thousand dollars.  If not, she is sure she can get a deep discounted price on a residential home.

My friend has seen so many shows where people get deals on homes and then only have to slap a coat of paint on the property and it becomes move in ready.  The honest truth is that many of these homes are in horrible shape.  There is cement poured into the pipes or electrical wiring stripped out of many of these homes.  Disgruntled homeowners being foreclosed on sometimes trash their home before they leave.  There is the issue of squatters which is becoming more common.  You can buy a home, find out that squatters are living in it, and spend months in court trying to evict them out of your home while you pay the mortgage on your new property.

Short-sales and foreclosures alike can take months to get, and half the time, the deal falls through and you don’t end up getting the home.  My friend has sixty days to find a home.  If you find a home you want and the seller accepts your offer, it is common for the closing to still take 30 days to complete.

I have mentioned time lines and the risks of going after short-sales and foreclosures with my friend.  She then blew my mind when she gave me the laundry list of things she had to have in a new home and how much she was willing to pay.  She wanted a home in Rochester Hills.  The home needed to be a brick ranch, three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a basement preferably finished, good-sized backyard, 1,600sq ft. minimum, garage and she would really like a pool.  I’m not joking, this was her list.  Oh yeah, and she didn’t want to pay more than $85,000 for it.

Realistically, it won’t happen.  I had to talk with her about looking at other cities and slimming down her list.  I decided to send her daily emails with the latest homes to hit the market.  The only criteria I used was the three bedrooms, $85,000 and at least 1,000sq ft.  I also broadened her choice of cities.  Under these circumstances, there were many homes to choose from.  She came back saying that she would accept a home in Beverly Hills, Birmingham, Rochester Hills or Bingham Farms.  She also insisted that the home could not be a bungalow (which is what most of the homes sent to her were) it had to be a brick ranch.  There needed to be at least a bath and a half and the price had to stay at $85,000.

Again I had to explain to her that finding a home like that wasn’t a strong possibility.  I asked her if she would be willing to rent a home for a while.  That way she could save more money for a home that was more her dream home than a home she was just settling for.  She decided to try a rental, but the criteria would stay.  She wanted a rental home for no more than $600.00 a month.  Rentals are going fast these days.  There are so many people who were unable to hold onto their homes, can’t afford a home or have bad credit that rentals priced well are off the market as soon as they are listed.

The average price for a rental with three bedrooms, one bath and 1,000sq ft. in an area like Royal Oak, Berkley, Clawson or Troy is $1,200 a month.  The cities she is interested in are much more expensive.  I found one rental home in Troy that had 1,500 sq ft., three bedrooms, two baths, basement, garage, brick ranch and an inground pool to boot but it was going for $1,500 per month.

Unfortunately the days of rentals going for $600.00 are gone.  My friend has turned an opportunity at a new start in a safer, healthier home into a tragedy of perfection equalling a homeless situation in sixty days if she can’t bend her requirements for a home.

I know that a home is an enormous financial obligation and shouldn’t be taken lightly.  I know that when someone commits to buying a home, they want it to be their dream home.  Homes on the market are more reasonably priced than six years ago. From that perspective it is a deal to get buy a new home.  That doesn’t mean that you will necessarily get the dream home that people seem to get on these home buying shows.  If my friend could just change her perspective, she could change the course of her life.  She could find a home that compared to what she was used to living in would be a dream come true.

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2012 in advice, career, economy, housing, lifestyle, thoughts

 

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Sometimes the Stories you Hear will Break your Heart

Recently it seems that the people I have been speaking with are all in bad situations financially.  Honestly, these stories have been breaking my heart.  I spoke with a family who owed more on their mortgage than what their home was worth.  This family wanted to sell their home and buy a cheaper place to live with a smaller mortgage payment.  They were stuck because they had hoped to use extra money from their current home as a down-payment towards a new place to live.

I have talked with several people going through foreclosure, panicked about finding a place to live.  Because of the foreclosure, their credit is shot.  Because their credit is shot they are terrified no one will rent to them.  They have a family.  There are children who have had the same home, neighborhood, school system and friends.  The parents are broken over having to tear their children out of the place they have called home for so long.  They have no idea where they will go or if they will have a roof over their head.

I got a floor call recently from a man who said that he just needed a place for him and his son to lay their heads at night.  I had asked him for an email address so that I could send him some information.  He didn’t have an address.  I hadn’t realized it, but he was homeless.  All I could think was how horrible I felt for him and his son.  I worried about his son and wondered how old he was and how they were getting by.

Rentals are the big thing these days.  People can’t afford a down-payment on a mortgage.  Most have credit that is pretty roughed up.  Because of the demand, rentals are going for higher and higher prices.  The average rental home with three bedrooms in Oakland County is going for an average of $1,300.  With many jobs offering minimum pay, where are many of these people going to find a place to live?

This is the rough part of working as a Realtor, at least for me.  If you are thinking of becoming a Real Estate Agent, there are going to be some great enjoyable moments, but there will also be a lot of sad stories, especially since the economy tanked.  I wish all the best for those going through hard times.  For those who are doing well, I hope you know how fortunate you are.  For those who are struggling, please know that you aren’t alone.  There are many families out there going through the same hard times.  For those reading this post, if you know of any place offering assistance to those who need help with their home, food, jobs etc… please leave the information in the comment section.  Hopefully someone will read this post and get some help if they need it because of the information you left.  Thank you.

 
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Posted by on September 11, 2012 in career, economy, housing, job, life, people, stories

 

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