Dec 252015
 

Holiday Greeting

My best days are still the ones when the phone rings early in the morning and I’m needed at school. The kids haven’t run out of things to teach me. They may be small people, but they really do have big brains and it’s fun to look ahead and imagine a world run by these future leaders.

I’ll never forget the day “Johnny”—a fourth grader with a fifty-year-old outlook—stopped by my classroom after most of the kids had left. It seems he wanted to have a “mature” conversation on a wide variety of topics. At one point he informed me, “Pre-k and kindergarten were the best years of my life.” When I asked for further explanation, he added, “Because I really didn’t have to do much.” I decided not to suggest that the best years of his life might be yet to come but they probably wouldn’t be about “not doing much.”

Have a meaningful holiday and a new year filled with health, happiness, and prosperity. It’s a busy time of the year and you probably have a lot to do, but you can still make these the best years of your life!

All the best,

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Sep 022015
 

figure_trips_custom_text_13907There’s a little girl at school who I’ve known for several years. She’s a great kid, smart, and fun. If I were allowed to have favorite students, she could qualify. The one troubling thing about her is that she often cries when she realizes she’s made a mistake, even a small one.

Today, I know how she feels. I made a mistake yesterday and missed an event I was scheduled to speak at. (Fortunately I wasn’t the only speaker!) I can say in all honesty, this is only the second time in my career I have missed a speaking or teaching assignment.

Perhaps I can balance my sadness by telling the story of the time I almost missed a teaching assignment. Actually, I didn’t totally miss it and it’s a sorta funny story. Let me explain.

I was conducting a series of supervisor training classes in conjunction with a project at a client’s site. I was on site, working in a spare office. One of the other consultants, Bill, stuck his head in the door and announced, “You know there are a bunch of supervisors waiting for you in the training room?” I immediately realized I’d forgotten I had a class scheduled and jumped up in panic.

Bill started laughing. You have to be creative and flexible in the consulting business. Bill was certainly not an exception. He motioned me to sit down and then told me the rest of his story.

“I was walking by the room and noticed them all in there… so I walked in and asked them what was going on. One of the students explained that they thought ‘Walter is punishing us…’ When I asked why, they explained that many of them had been late for the last class and they were pretty sure you were showing them how it felt by not being on time yourself.”

Now it would be great if the story ended there. But Bill had more to tell me.

“I asked them how the class usually started and they explained that they usually reviewed homework as a group. So I suggested they start without you. That way they could show you that they were learning to accept responsibility and becoming self-starters. So if I were you, I’d give it a couple more minutes, the stroll in casually and act surprised.”

I did just that.

When I walked into the room, one of the students was standing at the flipchart recording the group’s answers while another student was facilitating a discussion of the homework. After that portion of the class was over, I thanked the self-appointed leaders and continued with the rest of the class as if I’d actually planned it that way. We “debriefed” the process and decided to rotate the responsibility among the students for the homework discussion during future classes.

Thanks to Bill’s quick thinking we truly made lemonade from a lemon. My reputation remained intact, the students learned something, and future classes were actually improved.

Unfortunately, I haven’t come up with a similar solution for this time. I suppose I could call Bill to see if he has any ideas, but it’s probably too late. Due to distance and time there was no way I could make it by the time I received the phone call asking where I was. It didn’t occur to me to cry, but I did (and do) feel really bad.

Today I’m trying to remember some of the things I say to my young friend when she cries. “Making mistakes is okay… sometimes what you think is a mistake isn’t… we can learn from our mistakes…” Ultimately, it is about perspective, right?

The shared story happened about thirty years ago. So if I can go another thirty years without forgetting a teaching or speaking assignment, I guess that’s not a bad record, really.

Wait! I didn’t actually miss that class thirty years ago–I was just late. So if I can go this long before I miss another teaching or speaking assignment, that will be a pretty good record. And I’ll also be really old!

 

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Aug 302015
 

anxious_scared_figure_400_clr_8434According to a recent study by Redfin, buyer’s worries have changed slightly. Of course, that makes sense because we all know the market changes constantly. Last year (2014) buyers were most worried about inventory. This year “prices” are in the number one spot. Actually, the worry seems to be more about prices rising and affordability becoming an issue.

Some will suggest that reflects an improving market with good news for sellers. Others will suggest it buyers are showing a lack of confidence in the general economy.

According to the survey of 3,500 buyers, the top five worries this year are:

  1. Prices (prices are rising or too high)
  2. Competition from other buyers
  3. Inventory (there aren’t enough houses to choose from)
  4. Selling my current home first
  5. Having enough for a downpayment

You might find it interesting to compare that with the top five worries last year. It will not take too much creativity to support your current opinion of the state of the market and the direction it’s taking. But you’ll have to rationalize some things. For example, the fourth worry of buyers last year was that mortgage rates might rise before they could buy–that didn’t make the list this year. Another concern last year that didn’t make the list for 2015 was “fatigue” — referring to buyers finding the process difficult and tiring.

Most know that all generalities are false. In this case, that’s especially true because “worries” are very personal. So while how those 3500 people felt is mildly interesting, real estate licensees should be much more focused on a much smaller number–the number of clients you are working with.

You want to know a lot about your client. Most of those things are basic and concrete. The questions you ask probably include things like, “What is your price range?” and “How many bedrooms?” and “How much land?”

Those are certainly important conversations. But why not ask “What are you worried about?” Some will say, “Nothing,” partly because they are overwhelmed with excitement and haven’t thought about the concerns. It might be tempting to accept that answer. But aren’t there some things a buyer should be worried about?

One of the saddest listings I ever took involved a couple in the middle of a divorce. The short version of their story was they visited Maine and fell in love with our great state. They spent the last few days of their vacation finding a real estate licensee and then a house. It was a very smooth and speedy transaction–their agent handled “everything” while they went home to pack. The realities started showing up after they were settled in their new home. One spouse was forced to return to their home state to find employment that wasn’t available in the vacation area they’d bought. The other found work, but it involved a long commute with resulting childcare and expense issues. Thus began the breakdown of the family. The home they purchased was not an “easy sell” so by the time they realized their mistake, the market was not in their favor.

A little “worrying” during the process might have made a world of difference in the outcome. Personally, I think the licensee who represented them in the purchase should have noticed there were some things they weren’t worried about and raised some of the issues they weren’t seeing.

Of course, licensees also find themselves representing worriers. Folks in the real estate business like to focus on “making it easy” and “getting to closing.” If that’s the case, remember that it’s easier to smooth the road if you locate the bumps and potholes. No matter how you cut it, a discussion of worries with clients (buyer or seller) just makes sense.

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Mar 032015
 

There are plenty of jokes about California… while avoiding all those (including the observation that all crazy ideas start there and work their way east), here’s a link to a post originally mentioned in Oakley Signs “Tuesday Tactics.”

Before you go to read… Note that I actually may have asked you the wrong question at the title… While what you think is certainly interesting and important, what are prospective customers and clients going to think? Not too many would argue the need in our business to become more client focused.

There’s a case to be made here that this is not so much about creating a “new” business model as it is about developing an approach that maximizes the use of technology in response to amazing leaps in technology as well as changes in the way people are using technology.

Be sure to read the comments… noting the fact that debating semantics aside, there are apparently versions of this approach to the business located around the county. That would suggest there’s a third question: How are rapidly developing technology and changing consumer preferences going to impact the traditional real estate model?

Here’s the link to the article: Open Listings Allows Buyers to Purchase Without Real Estate Agents (Note that “Open Listings” is the name of a company, not the type of listing agreement.)

Here’s a link to the company: Open Listings

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Feb 162015
 

Necessity never makes a good bargain.

attributed to Ben Franklin

Ben was a rather practical fellow and in this case I think he wanted to remind us that necessity can reduce our leverage and make us too impulsive. During the sales agent licensing course, I often describe “pop-tart” agents–usually newly licensed, they sit at the “up desk” waiting for the phone to ring or someone to walk in with at least a remote interest in real estate. They then “pop” out of the chair thrilled with the opportunity to demonstrate their new skills. “Let’s go look at some houses!”

But are they demonstrating their skills and value, really?

Oh no! What have I done?!

Oh no! What have I done?!

I recall some years ago watching this happen. In less time than it takes to tell, a newly licensed agent took a highly motivated buyer on a showing, wrote an offer and got it accepted. You can well imagine her excitement. But she only had twenty-four hours to celebrate her luck and skill before the designated broker found himself negotiating cancellation of the agreement after it turned out the buyer was afflicted with oniomania or CBD (Compulsive Buying Disorder). CBD is characterized by an obsession with shopping and buying and is believed to affect nearly 6% of the population. Fortunately, the seller was sympathetic and understanding.

We can certainly dissect Ms. Poptart’s performance and come up with a number of places where she probably went wrong. It would make for an interesting case study or group discussion and I suspect the answers would include comments about qualifying the buyer, asking for proof of funds, etc. All good points.

But note that those types of answers are actually defensive in nature–geared to avoiding something (such as a failed contract). While preventing problems can be an important part of the role of the agent in a transaction, it’s actually a very narrow focus. A comparison: do we use a GPS to keep from getting lost?

Many agents come to understand this difference after a few transactions. They learn to love calls from buyers or sellers that come way in advance that’s when they can do my best work for their clients. That best work is to devise a pre-buying or pre-selling action plan. These agents start their client relationship with questions like

  • “Have you bought and sold real estate before?”
  • “What did you like best about the experience/transaction?”
  • “What did you find least enjoyable about the experience?”

These are data-gathering questions that allow the agent to work with the client in a relatively unhurried and relaxed environment and build an approach everyone can can work with. One of my personal favorite questions is “Have you considered how you are going to go about this?” More often than not, the client doesn’t understand the question which suggests the answer is “no,” and this points up the need to for a plan. You may be good at preventing and solving problems, but you should be even better at planning!

Everyone benefits from good planning. I recall an agent telling me she had shown a potential buyer sixty properties. I’m guessing the buyer had a plan that didn’t really include buying. Clearly the agent did not have a plan–other than to go with the buyer on showings.

There’s a difference between a motivated client and an impulsive client. Impulsive clients can sound very appealing, but they can also be a nightmare to work with… and are often prone to the dreaded “buyer’s (or seller’s) remorse” Another observation you’ll hear in my classes is “You never want to get a call from a client that starts with ‘You never told me…‘”

Unhappy clients rarely blame themselves for what happened. Since you are the likely target of blame, why not accept the responsibility for what happens by creating a plan? Just remember, it’s not your plan. It’s a shared plan, developed with your client. You may slow down those impulsive clients. You may speed up those unmotivated or fearful clients, but it’s all part of the plan. Necessity never makes a good bargain, but intelligent planning often does.

 

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