- The ERA Career Mixer (I was scheduled to speak) has been rescheduled to Thursday, March 16–same time, same place.
- The Bangor Board of REALTORS® membership meeting and continuing education course has been rescheduled to Tuesday, April 18–same time, same place.
At least one of those two days might be a good day to curl up with a book–bonus points if it’s educational and relates to real estate!
The Maine Association of REALTORS® has been made aware by the City of Bath Police Department that a male with an extensive criminal history of theft and fraud (Christopher Heath) has been contacting REALTORS® in the Bath and Hampden areas over the past week. This person has claimed to be a retired firefighter and a potential cash buyer looking for upscale properties. He has a history with law enforcement in Florida, Washington, Virginia, Vermont, and New York and may be accompanied by a female. Please contact the Maine State Police or your local law enforcement if you have had any suspicious interactions with this couple.
A best practice reminder for REALTOR™ safety: Always schedule first meetings with new clients in the office, verify their identity (take a photo of their driver’s license), and introduce them to a colleague.
I recently read an article about the business model of real estate brokerage that suggested we are, in general, bolting technology and “new” practices onto a fundamentally outdated model. One company (they’re almost always in California for some reason) has indicated they are “turning home selling on its head.”
The company’s stated mission is “to simplify real estate” and their website goes on to explain, “Moving is one of life’s most stressful events, with months of uncertainty. We believed we could empower people with a simpler, more thoughtful approach to selling their house and buying their dream home.”
That’s not just rhetoric. They claim it’s possible to offer a seller a closing in three days from first contact. You read that right, three days.
But wait, there’s more! How about offering buyers a “30-day guarantee.” In simplest terms, if a buyer is unhappy with their purchase during the first month, the company will buy it back!
If I’ve piqued your interest, you’ll want to explore their fairly simple website–it’s very clean and to the point. Thier approach is certainly not for everyone–it appears to require significant capital and currently is offered only in major metropolitan areas. But it’s the sort of thinking that could revolutionize real estate brokerage as we know it.
“Chance favors the prepared mind.”
Three years ago chance circumstances meant a last minute opportunity to invite two young friends to attend a Christmas performance of the Nutcracker with us. We had a grand time and ultimately decided we would at least in some form repeat the tradition the next year. When we started discussing our plans, I’ll admit that I was a bit surprised when the girls’ choices were all repeats of what we’d done the first year. They wanted to attend the same performance and go to the same restaurant–even to order the same food! Their explanation was “It’s our tradition.”
I joked that I didn’t realize it was possible to establish a tradition by doing something once. But why not? After all, this is a season of traditions. Our annual event changes very little. We’ve all come to look forward to what some might see as repetition, but there is comfort and much excitement in it.
Another tradition is counting the number of houses decorated with Christmas lights on the way to the theater. The Christmas Season is about sights and sounds and, in a word, beauty. It’s a time to engage in tradition and enjoy the opportunity to see and hear beauty that ranges from a ballet to decorating our homes to how we (well, some of us) wrap gifts. For some, baking cookies becomes an art form. This truly is a season of beauty.
Several weeks ago I paused to stuff a few dollars into a Salvation Army kettle. When I commented that his kettle was pretty full, his smile widened as he said, “It’s the third one I’ve filled one today.” We chatted for a few minutes and I learned that this young man schedules his vacation every year so he can be a bell-ringer. That’s just as beautiful as the music and decorations.
Last year I stood and listened to over 200 individuals perform the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah, accompanied by a symphony orchestra. It gave me chills. This year I got to hear some high school kids (the Mount View Chamber Singers) perform a cappella and was equally moved.
Beauty comes in many shapes and sizes. While it wasn’t meant as a Christmas gift, I have a paper captain’s hat sitting on the shelf in my office. The kid who made it for me labeled the brim “Captain Boomsma.” As paper hats go, it’s a nice one. But the real beauty for me is that he made it for me and gave it to me.
My wish for you is that you see and experience much beauty during this season of opportunity. Make seeing and experiencing it a tradition (habit). Your world will be a better place.
My wish for the world is “Let’s make more beauty.” There will be no winners and there will be no losers. We’ll make our world a better place.
PLEASE TAKE NOTE! A female Bangor agent was contacted today by a buyer named “Doug”. The call sounded suspicious, as he refused to give his last name and said he could not receive emails because his server was down. He said he is a hairdresser and looking for a $400-$500K property in the Greater Bangor area because he has a grand opening for a salon next week. She Googled the number and found it was from Massachusetts, and there is a REALTOR Safety Alert regarding his activity, which is copied below.
IF YOU GET A CALL FROM HIM, PLEASE CALL THE POLICE. DO NOT AGREE TO MEET OR SHOW THIS MAN ANY PROPERTIES.
REALTOR SAFETY ALERT: SUSPICIOUS CALLS IN MEDFIELD MASSACHUSETTS:
September, 2014: In February of 2013, we learned that a suspicious individual, identifying himself as “Doug” and calling from phone number 508-816-1064, had been contacting female agents indicating an interest in looking at vacant properties for a hair salon, calling it both “House of Doug” and “Hair by Doug”. Last week, he contacted several female agents of an office in Medfield, with the same story and phone number, interested in properties on the Natick/Framingham line. When asked for an e-mail address by agents he says it is still being set up, which was what he also said in February 2013. The police have been contacted and have reached out to him, and we urge all members, male and female, to exercise vigilance if contacted by anyone who may appear to fit the description above, and always take extreme precautions in performing your duties as a REALTOR®. Please contact your local police if you receive a call so that there is a record.
An item on the list of “maybe future projects” is a workbook covering real estate math. Students often say they “get it” when we do it together but have trouble when working on their own. A book with explanations and samples might be just the ticket!
Here’s an apology to those who’ve tried to reach me by cell phone today… or have tried to have a conversation that lasted more than a few minutes. According to my carrier, the last cell phone call I made was “dropped” eight times! A couple of factors:
- I’m typically in a “fringe” signal area even on a good day. (The current problem is less severe in other areas).
- Beginning last night, we’ve had some rather violent weather that included lightening strikes, power outages, and downed trees. (The good news is the river looks better and the grass is really green.)
I’m told that some eight cell phone towers in my service area suffered some damage starting last night… and the engineers expect to have everything “back to normal” within 24 hours. Your continued patience is appreciated.
As an instructor of pre-licensing courses, I’m of course intrigued and interested in the future of my students… I’ve not done any scientific analysis certainly–partly because success is one of those spongy terms that people actually get to define for themselves.
My sense is that many of the students who go on to acheive some level of success (defined here as staying at it for more than a year or two) do have some common characteristics:
1. Most have at least SOME experience in a service oriented job working with the public… waitressing, hair styling…they’ve learned a service mindset and how to deal with the public.
2. Most have a large degree of self-responsibility… they realize that success and failure are not things created by the brokerage company or employer. They have trouble whining.
3. Most have a decent sense of self-awareness. It may not always be accurate (“Will there be much math? I’m bad a math!”) but they are at least thinking about themselves and their skills. (As an instructor, one of my greatest joys is watching a student discover he or she can do something they thought he or she couldn’t.)
4. Most are almost obsessively curious… they WANT to know things well beyond the requirements for any state or course exam. I will always remember the returning licensee who matter-of-factly cited a large number of closings his first year. He later cited an equally large number of continuing education credits he’d earned even though they weren’t required. Gee, you don’t suppose there’s a correlation here, do you?
5. Most (particularly in the current market) are not dependent on real estate income for their survival. (My prophecy to future sales agents is ” the biggest mistake you will make is to not have money because it will make you stupid.”) Maybe a more accurate way to describe this is that most have a value system that forces them to put their clients’ needs first consistently.
Some would say you have to be an entrepreneur, but there is a difference between being self-employed and being in business and, at some level, successful people come to understand this… what I find interesting is that some alumni start out being self-employed and end up with a business. But I also know licensees who’ve been at it for a lot of years who are really still just self-employed–they leave the business to the agency/brokerage, ride along, apply their social and interpersonal skills and make a living. I’m not sure one approach is right and the other is wrong.
Can you succeed at real estate? For most the answer will be “yes,” once you determine how you will define that success.
Many recent students have said that they think it’s a great time to get started. They understand that while the market is tough, that also means they will have to truly earn the business and they’ll have time to learn and develop at a slow and deliberate pace. That makes a lot of sense if you think about it. We might illustrate this with a “learning to drive” example. Would you rather get spend some time in class before getting behind the wheel or jump into a car that’s already traveling down the road at 50 miles per hour?
Classes are starting this fall!
A few years ago I wrote an article regarding how often I was asked “How’s the market?” I hadn’t realized it until last night, but I’m not getting the question so much anymore.
I realized that when a client commented, “You know, I probably know as much about the market as you do.” He immediately apologized and explained his position even though I agreed with him. His point was not who was smarter; his point was it’s darn tough to understand this market and almost impossible to make predictions.
Unfortunately, this is not a case of clients getting smarter (nor for that matter is it a case of me getting dumber!). The media is doing a great job of keeping information about “the market” in the news. We can debate the quality of the information; we can disagree with the conclusions… but the point here is that folks have a much higher awareness of the economy and market events. They truly don’t have to ask; they know. The problem for all of us is, in part, we mostly know that we don’t know!
An interesting example of this was a major story that hit my inbox just yesterday morning. Corelogic (a company that collects mortgage and property data) issued a press release stating that “Statistics published by the National Association of Realtors appear to be overstate sales of existing homes by 15-20%.”
If you thought it was bad before, this number gets your attention. In practical terms, NAR says the unsold inventory on the market last November represented a 9.5 month supply. CoreLogic says it’s a 16 months supply.
NAR’s response to CoreLogic’s claim is that it’s “premature at best.” You probably don’t want to hear the explanations. Most of us would prefer to think this is not rocket science but rather a simple counting exercise.
My point is that assuming my client and I both read this article we both know:
- Sales are down, NARs thinks by 5%–CoreLogic says 12%.
- The glut of homes on the market represents either a 9.5 month supply or a 16 month supply.
Of course what’s especially interesting is that none of these numbers are of particular interest or value to a buyer or a seller. More localized numbers might be, but even those numbers are just that: numbers.
Market’s don’t buy and sell real estate, people do. And I still “sell” properties (admittedly far less than in the past) the same way I always did: one at a time.
I’m not suggesting we should ignore the “market.” But if you — for whatever reason — are in a position to buy or sell property, you should focus on your objective. Almost all of this “market data” is history and a lot of it is at best “spongy.” If you want to buy or sell it’s important to remember that history doesn’t create the future and you are not the victim of history; you are creating it.