The highs and lows of parenting and real estate.

Soul Killing: A Tutorial

Number of Failed Marketing Campaigns This Year: 5

Stuart Smalley Mantras I Have to Repeat to Get Out of Bed Some Days: 11

Material I Must Be Currently Made of if What Doesn’t Kill Me Really Does Make Me Stronger: Titanium

In real estate we have a saying, ‘Listers last.’ Basically, it makes more sense to be an agent who primarily represents sellers because in theory it can be less time consuming for the same amount of money. If you have to show a buyer 50 houses to find ‘the one’; it can take two months of driving around burning gas, but if your listing has to be seen by 50 buyers to get a contract (first of all it’s way overpriced, but regardless), that can be done while you, as the agent, sit by the pool sipping a Mojito. There’s obviously more to it than that, and I haven’t met many agents who would look a gift buyer in the mouth, but the general idea is that listings are a better offensive game, vs. the defensive game of buyers.

To be a successful agent and actually make money, you can’t just sit around waiting for the opportunities to sell to come rolling in. You need to have a plan of action for how to drive in new business. This doesn’t mean you can always (or ever) control how much you have going on, but doing nothing generally gets you nothing.

So at the beginning of this year, a colleague I collaborate with and I sat down and tried to figure out where the smart business is for 2010. Clearly, a huge portion of the properties on the market are short sales or bank owned. In this day and age, equity is not a super common thing, and those who do have it tend to be more conservative, and thus, not willing to part with their deflated equity at the moment. Since my colleague and I don’t have the bank connections to be a foreclosure agent, we brainstormed ideas for how to be that go-to agent for people who want to short sell their home.

We started with a whole elaborate mailer campaign. We designed 5 mailers to be sent a week apart, with 12 new potential home-sellers added per week. The theory behind it was that we were mailing FIVE times to each person, not just once. They would remember us. They would trust us. They would know we really cared. They would know we really had their best interests at heart and that we were smart, hardworking ladies who would fight for them and would hire us immediately. So basically we ended up with a cycle that involved sending 60 mailers per week. We did this for four months, spending $422.40 in postage and countless hours contemplating, designing, assembling, labeling and mailing this project. Each. So how many calls did we get, you ask? How many listings? How many paychecks? Zero, zero and zero. Each.

In light of that shocking lack of success, we went back to the brainstorming table to figure out why it had failed. Was it the quality of the mailer (I am not a graphic designer, and my fancy pants artist husband didn’t help me on this project)? Was it the frequency of mailing (is five weekly postcards too much? Not enough?)? Was it the information on the postcard? Size of the postcard? Are we just not cool enough? Do they only like us as friends and not in that special Realtor/client way?

After having a ‘No you’re prettier’ fight to make each other feel better about the client-rejection we decided that we needed a face-to-face approach to really see results. We also concluded that we needed to get to homeowners as soon as possible. We get a list of houses in foreclosure from a title company every day. We came up with the plan to pick three houses daily from this list and stop by and bring short sale information to the home owner in distress as soon as possible.

In our minds, this should be an easy stop by. We weren’t trying to talk anyone into anything, just offering help. We could keep them out of foreclosure and help get a handle on the situation. We see people in foreclosure and general financial distress all the time, and I think at some point we became a little desensitized to the emotional stress and embarrassment of it all. So many people we know and love are going through this, and we don’t think any less of them. It just is what it is. The economy is lousy and people are struggling. So heading out to do the initial door knocks, we were re-energized by our new plan and hopeful; cheerful even.

My first clue this wasn’t going to be as easy and successful as it seemed was a text from my colleague as I was headed out the door. She had a jump on me and had already done her three houses for the day. “I just got called a vulture and had the door slammed in my face.” Was all her text said. And that’s pretty much how it went for me. After the first couple of, ‘NOT INTERESTED’s followed by a dirty look, head shake (indicating utter disgust at my lecherousness) and door slam, I was sufficiently terrorized. The last house I winced at every knock and was actually relieved to find no one home.

I know there are some hardcore agents out there who would shake this off and barrel through. These Teflon-hearted folks would continue to knock, because at some point someone might want help and some might changed their minds. I, however, am not cut out for it. Before we started all of this, my colleague and I had a conversation about how we just need to generate business. Things were getting thin and it was no longer an option. We both needed houses to sell or buyers to sell them to or whatever. We were determined to do what it would take to generate business and have income to feed our families, no matter the difficulty or drama involved. After that day of door knocking, I realized that statement is just not true. This was my line: harassing people who are about to lose their homes for business. They didn’t see me as help, as the knight on a white steed rushing in to save the day. No, as far as they were concerned, I was just another scavenger of their ruins. They didn’t care about avoiding foreclosure, they cared that they weren’t going to have their house anymore, and there’s nothing I can do to stop it.

But that’s ok. I have short sale clients who I’m helping who do want the short sale. Plus we have a few other, less invasive marketing tricks up our sleeves. We are nothing if not innovative and willing to try again (at, you know, something else that doesn’t destroy our wills to exist). And I have a family who is celebrating their one year home anniversary today, who loves their home and is happy. So for today I’ll focus on the positive. No, you’re prettier. No, really, you are. No, you.

4 Responses to Soul Killing: A Tutorial

  1. Good insights…I just lost my home so I know where the “You are a vulture” comments come from. You cannot imagine how many solicitations distressed homeowners received (check out this vid I did a while back: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ViJ5uqiOiEQ&feature=related

    It’s hard to recognize the good guys from the sharks because it’s definitely shark-infested waters once you fall behind…

  2. Of course, it’s your ability to quickly see how your approach is viewed from the potential client’s perspective that demonstrates you’re *not* one of the vultures.

    Great post. And really, you’re prettier.

  3. Oy, Kristin. Yeah, I have another friend, a Realtor, who said the same thing. Horrible. we’re all just rats on a sinking ship trying to figure out who to eat first to survive.

    Love the vids, btw. The honesty is helpful and it’s so great that you put a face to the situation. bravo. the public needs it.

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