Salesmanship is NOT a dirty word!

 Posted by at 6:43 am
Nov 282011

For a long time now I’ve been “preaching” to those who will listen–“It’s high time for those of us in the real estate industry to realize we are not in the business of selling houses; we are in the business of helping people make intelligent decisions regarding real estate.” I would call your attention to the fact that I said “selling houses.” I didn’t say “We are not in the business of selling.”

Some years ago I wrote a short booklet called Salesmanship Is Not a Dirty Word. I can assure you that I’m not “anti-sales.” I happen to think that selling is an important skill–even if we have to call it something else to make it palatable. 

So this morning I read an article on RIS called Warning: Your Sales Techniques May be Under Fire. It’s actually a pretty good piece. The author notes that while brokers have traditionally been “selling information” (because of the historical emphasis on the multiple listing system) things have changed. Buyers now have all that information available to them thanks to the Internet. (I wonder how that information gets there… hmmm.)

Therefore, he somewhat rightly concludes, buyers of real estate are looking for someone to “assist and consult.” But, like all good ideas, when you push this to the extreme it doesn’t work. “No dialog, technique, or pitch needed,” he goes on to say.  That’s where the author lost me.

 This is the age-old debate–it’s not a new one based on some new paradigm. Every industry has always had salespeople who put their personal gain before their customer’s. Real estate is no different. Well, except for one thing, maybe.

If you hire me (or somebody else) to “assist and consult” with you… wait. How are you going to decide to hire me? Will you draw my name out of a hat? Should we develop software that is a random broker generator to pick your broker for you? (Banks are doing that with appraisers these days–interesting back story there.)  No, I think we’re probably going to have some dialog and while we may not like calling it that, I’m going to “sell” you on the value of hiring me.

Let’s assume, however, that somehow you do manage to hire me without any influence on my part. So if we assume I’m not supposed to use sales techniques, let’s consider what that means. If you’re a buyer and you decide to make an offer on a home I’ll just submit the offer and we’ll see where the chips fall? Or maybe you are about to make a truly “bad” decision… you don’t want me to try to talk you out of it, right?

See, when we write articles like this we can afford to be conceptual and puristic. When we’re out in the trenches we have to deal with reality.

If you’re entering the real estate market as either a buyer or a seller I think you absolutely need a broker who knows how to sell and is pretty darn good at it. Remember, it’s about perspective. He or she is supposed to be using that skill on your behalf–not on you for his or her own gain.

Unfortunately, the information aspect of this business makes it very easy to end up working with a broker without much thought. You call a number on a sign because the house looks interesting. You don’t think about selecting your broker. You’re leaving that to chance. Wouldn’t it make sense to find out what that broker’s perspective is?

I often tell students that they’ll make their biggest mistakes in the business when they are broke. Why? Because it’s about perspective. It becomes very easy to put the transaction (sale) ahead of the client when you can’t make your mortgage payment.  Just like in dating; desperation isn’t pretty. Don’t hire a desperate broker.

Customers and clients really do need a sensitivity to this–is your broker truly working in your best interest? Extreme cases are relatively easy to spot because you feel “pressured.” 

There are two questions you should be asking yourself constantly:

  1. Do I feel like I am making my own decisions with all the information and options available to me?
  2. Do I feel like my broker is my partner-working with me?

If the answer to either question is not a resounding “yes,” it’s time to reassess your relationship.



Home Inspections…

 Posted by at 6:40 am
Oct 112011

Home inspections are always a good idea for buyers… and they actually can benefit sellers! But a home inspection is not a pancea–there are things that can go wrong with the process. The “House Detective” is nationally syndicated columnist Barry Stone–he writes a great blog and answers some tough questions. There’s some interesting reading even if you’re not considering buying a home!


Bugs in the Well?

 Posted by at 9:38 am
Jul 072011

Buyers who are purchasing a home or camp with well water are wise to make their purchase contingent on a satisfactory water test. There are, of course, various types of tests for different substances. The most common problem we see with these tests is the presence of bacteria–particularly in systems that have been idle (such as camps) for sometime.

Even if you aren’t considering selling your property, an occasional water test is a good idea. You’ll find some easy to understand information at the University Maine Cooperative Extension website–you can download two brochures for free. One will explain the testing process–this can be a “do it yourself” project. The other will explain the process used for disinfecting your well if bacteria is found. The direct links to the well information are:

How to test your well.

How to treat your well.

“Disclaimer” — One of my volunteer positions is president of the executive committee for the Piscataquis County Extension. Even so, I can say with some objectivity that your local extension office is a great resource… as is extension in general. In fact, that’s one reason I agreed to accept the positon. If you’re thinking about moving to a new area, visit the chamber of commerce and the extension office. There’s lots to learn!


Seller Financing Caveat

 Posted by at 12:26 pm
Nov 102010

The Secure and Fair Enforcement for Mortgage Licensing Act of 2008 (SAFE Act) was passed in 2008 as part of the federal Housing and Economic Recovery Act. The act required states to establish a registration/licensing process for loan originators. Maine enacted its versionwhich will take effect January 1, 2011.

 There are exemptions for seller financing of the seller’s principal residence and for financing provided to family members. Thus owner financing of the sale of the owner’s home is exempt and parents financing a child’s purchase are exempt. But a buyer who is fixing up and reselling homes would need to be licensed to take back financing. Previous exemptions based on a maximum number of transactions are gone. The purpose of the law is clearly to disallow or at least discourage private, unregulated financing.

Those considering seller financing beyond the previously noted exemptions should check with the Office of Licensing and Registration.


Can We Bribe A Buyer?

 Posted by at 5:56 am
Aug 012010

While I’ve never been asked exactly that question, it’s sometimes implied–especially given the slow moving market we’re experiencing. There’s an obvious temptation to “get creative” when property goes on the market. After all, what was the tax credit? (And for the linguists: what is the difference between an incentive and a bribe?)

Definitions aside, recent changes in the mortgage industry have an impact. For all practical purposes, there are severe limits on what sorts of  (and how much) incentive sellers can offer a buyer. Savvy buyers are often leery because they recognize gimmicks and the risks associated with “rebates” in any form.

Some of the things that do work :

  • Realistic pricing… there’s very little reason for a buyer to pay more than fair market value and it’s easy for them to have some sense of what that is.
  • Curb appeal matters and the old “one chance to make a first impression” logic applies. Keep the lawn mowed and trimmed, plant a few flowers.
  • Keep the inside neat and fresh. You don’t need to create a sterile look, certainly… but neatness counts.
  • Part of neatness is “decluttering.” Pack up and store 1/3 to 1/2 of your “stuff.” It’ll make the house look bigger and you might discover you don’t miss it!
  • Think “exposure.” Don’t be bashful about letting people know your house is for sale… and make sure the information about it is complete and accurate. Facts are important, but presentation makes a difference.
  • Be patient. At least one study showed that it takes as much as 21 showings to sell a house.

These are “safe” and relatively inexpensive buyer incentives. Remember that an incentive is only an incentive if the buyer wants it! At the same time, understand that once a buyer falls in love they may drive a hard bargain.  Be prepared for low offers even if you’re priced right. A lot of buyers are using the “nothing ventured, nothing gained” approach.