The highs and lows of parenting and real estate.

Yearly Archives for 2009

The Upside to Being Your Own Boss

Miles Driven: 0
Phone Calls Aborted By Failing Technology: 9
Things I Ate Which I Would Never Allow My Children: 3
Times I’ve Run Upstairs to Reboot The WiFi Router: 6

I got up this morning, and as is my daily routine, came down to get a glass of water and check my email before I took a shower. I’m one of those agents who is easiest reached by email, and most of my clients are email people too, so I often get late night emails from clients wanting to see property the next day, or who have an urgent question of some variety.

Anyway, when I opened Outlook this morning I didn’t have a single new email past just after midnight. So the dilemma then facing me was: Should I be grateful that there were no new fires to be extinguished first thing Friday morning, be nervous that no new clients were clamoring to see properties this weekend, or be suspicious that something more sinister was afoot, because PUH-LEASE, 6 hours without a single email? Not even spam? Ding Ding Ding! We have a winner!

Yep, Cox is having serious system-wide issues today and my internet should be renamed ‘intermittent’ for the day. Seeing as how the plan of action for the day included printing and scheduling showings for Saturday and using an online system to setup a property inspection, this development threw a bit of a wrench in the works. Here’s how it went for about an hour:

Pull up inspection website, begin filling out information on the property, hit ‘Next’ button to advance screens, page goes nowhere because internet is down. Hit back button and carefully filled out property info has disappeared.

Step away from computer, attempt to make a phone call on cell phone and am thwarted by lack of Verizon cell service in the foothills of Northeast Mesa (every time one of those commercials comes on with the army of geeky/helpful guys in black and red following people around I curse the TV, point my finger to the satellites circling the Earth and shout, ‘WHERE IS MY ARMY OF VERIZON PEOPLE? I AM ALONE!!).

Pick up landline phone, discover that it has a dial tone, call listing agent I need to discuss an issue with, explain issue, only to realize I have been talking to air because the landline has gone dead again.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Finally, when it became clear the universe and my Verizon army had conspired to ruin my productivity for the day, I gave up and watched the Grey’s Anatomy two hour season premier from the night before while laying on the couch and eating frosting out of the container with a spoon. It. Was. Heavenly.

The joy of peace and quiet and the ability to eat a handful of chocolate chips right out of the bag without having an eagle-eyed five year old say, ‘can I do that too?’ almost brings a little tear to my eye. Sure, I have lots of days filled with chaos and a litany of tasks, but I also have days where I get to declare a ban on usefulness and wallow in brain-rotting TV and sugar.

Please Ignore the Screaming and Continue Speaking

Miles Driven: 0
Emails Sent: 29
Decibels My Screaming Child Has Reached: 92

Today was a ‘weekend day’ for me. Because I tend to work a ton of weekends and evenings, I structure my weekly schedule so that, if possible, I have appointments Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday and I have Jonas (my 2 year old) home with me on Tuesday and Thursday.

Unfortunately, if I’ve been doing a ton of showing and running around the valley on my ‘working’ days, I often end up returning emails and phone calls and gathering paperwork on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Today was one of those catch-up days where I spent 90% of it attempting to chase the Tiny Tornado around the house while simultaneously fielding calls and returning emails.

I should have known it was going to be one of those days from the very start. When I couldn’t actually get through the act of brushing my teeth without having to spit and answer my phone, that should have been enough warning. What I should have done was abandon all attempts at productivity and taken the monster to the mall. I’m a glutton for punishment; however, so instead, I sat down and made an extensive to-do list.

Number two on the list involved calling to check in on the progress of a short sale and waiting on hold at the bank. When Jonas’s screeching reached the correct pitch that it actually caused the phone system to believe I had made a selection to move to a new menu, that was a new low.

Why is it that my two year old, who doesn’t know enough to not stick his own hand down his diaper and pull out a handful of poo and rub it on his own chest (which he did tonight during dinner) is smart enough to understand that I will be more likely to give him what he wants if he screams at the top of his lungs while I’m on the phone? Evil geniuses I’m raising, I tell you.

The most humiliating thing about being a Realtor/Mom (a Momter, if you will) is the fact that I’m fully aware when I speak to agents and clients and I’m at home; they can hear every shriek in the background of the call. I’m positive most of them must think I’m either grinding the heal of my stiletto into the eye socket of one of my children, or ignoring him as he sticks his hand into the garbage disposal and turns it on accidentally. When, in fact, what’s actually happening is that he is standing at my feet, clutching the bottom of my skirt, sobbing his eyes out because I have refused to give him his 18th ‘dra-dra’ (AKA: cracker) in the last 6 minutes because I would like him to eat his lunch instead.

People always say, ‘oh it must be great to be a Realtor and have so much flexibility so you can take care of your kids too.’ ….Right…. Ask my kids how successful that is when they come home from school, I toss them all in the car and we drive 30 miles to a vacant, unairconditioned foreclosure property to meet a client who has to get in to see it ASAP. Those are the days when I feel like I’m failing at both. I’m a cruddy agent who brings her kids to show a house and a cruddy mom who drags her kids to show a house.

The days where I silence the Blackberry, grab the diaper bag and head to the zoo with my own personal monkeys in tow are the days that make it all worth it. The Phoenix Zoo is free all the Wednesdays in September. Next week I’m going to make it a date. (It will give Jonas the opportunity to learn poo-flinging techniques from the masters.)

Sellers, Please Evacuate the Building

Miles Driven: 137
Minutes of Video Recorded: 32:46
Spider Webs I had to Brush Out of the Way With My Sandaled Foot: 3

I’ve been videoing houses (mansions, really) for an out of town client lately. We are trying to get a good number of possibilities identified for them so when they come into town next, we’re not seeing the obvious ‘no’ houses, just the fabulous, amazing, ‘no, I love this one MORE than the last one!’ houses.

Friday I jumped in the GOV and ran a couple of errands in Queen Creek and Gilbert and then circled the southeast valley and headed up the 101 to North Scottsdale to preview and video four more for this particular client. You’d think, with my amazingly climate controlled super fantastic minivan, that this would be a fairly comfortable drive, but I still exited my orange-mobile with a severe case of sweaty bum. Like I’m not sure Febreze is going to help. Do they make Fahurricane? Not attractive, is what I’m saying.

So this weekend, after I had posted my videos to Youtube and emailed the links to my clients, they sent me an email thanking me for the videos with the comment that they can always tell by my voice if the homeowner is standing over my shoulder. This I completely believe.

I think the general public does not understand how incredibly awkward it is for a potential buyer to be viewing a house when the home owner (or even the other agent) is hovering over our shoulder. Several of the houses I saw on Friday, the agent and seller were both there. Which is understandable and acceptable because I was just previewing the properties, but still not comfortable.

Take, for example, the third house that I saw on Friday. Sure, the yard was spectacular and the house had enough rooms and the correct kind of layout for my clients, but there was a gigantic British flag painted on the wall of one of the kids’ rooms and a huge tree across the other one and a sky ceiling. The clients I’m working for have grown children and no interest in repainting and/or renovating almost anything. They have a big budget to spend, and they expect it to be move-in ready. But what was I going to say as I’m moving around this house with the agent literally two steps behind me (smiling creepily in several sections of video when I turned to pan around the room and caught him) and the mom/seller rushing around the house picking up laundry and putting away groceries?

Possible narration: “Um, you guys are totally going to hate this house. It’s messy and not organized and the kitchen is not even very fabulous or upgraded. Plus it has a great room… EW. And the laundry room? OMG, don’t even get me started…”

What I actually ended up with: “So…. This is the kitchen (gesture to the island, pan around, try to avoid creepy Realtor)….. it has counters over here. And the laundry room. There appears to be room for a washer and dryer in here (slow pan over the itty bitty laundry room with laundry spilling out of it).”

Vacant houses are really my favorite. They give me the opportunity to marvel outloud at some of their crazy features, like this pool:

Sweaty bum, creepy agents, gas drain and all, at least this job is entertaining.

Diary of a Mad Realtor

Miles Traveled: 104
Houses Viewed: 6
Frantic Cell Phone Calls Made: 14
Probable Gallons of Sweat I Oozed: 3

I had a plan today. It was a good plan. It was a logical plan. It would have worked… if I was any other person who had not apparently angered the God of Chaos in a former life.

This was the plan:

7:30 AM – Pick up co-op produce.

10 AM – Attend free yoga class in Chandler (because free is my favorite word. Sometimes I go to my weekly office meeting only for the free breakfast. I get the super cruddy paper towels that fall apart when you use them and you have to use another good paper towel to clean up the mess at the grocery store just because they’re free with a coupon. And I love yoga. Free + yoga = Happy Pants Dance).

Noon – Pick up buyers in Chandler to take to Maricopa to see 6 houses.

3:30ish PM – Meet with sellers to present offer I received yesterday.

5ish PM – Home

But I’m not that person who the God of Chaos ignores and doesn’t want to screw with. So instead, this is how it went:

Co-op produce went fine (because I sent The Webmaster [husband]).

I headed out to the yoga class with my showings printed and organized and a change of clothes and makeup touch up. I usually take classes at the Red Mountain Multigenerational Center, which is awesome and cheap and close, and I love it. It is, however, geared to the local crowd. The average age in my classes is me + 35 years. I really think the stretching is reducing my joint pain and increasing my range of motion and the strength training is totally helping me operate those hard to turn child-proof medication bottles.

This yoga studio, on the other hand, looked like a Scottsdale dance club. It had stunning hardwood floors, color-lighted ceiling that changed every 2 minutes and gorgeous frosted glass walls. The average age of this place was clearly me – 10 years + more hipness than I’ve ever achieved.

I had showered and put on makeup before class in anticipation of a quick wardrobe change after to ready me for an afternoon of property showings. After and hour and a half of headstands, tree poses and curling my knees back over my ears, however, I was dripping with sweat and inappropriately greasy for showing houses.

I did my best to freshen up (resisting the urge to apply deodorant/antiperspirant to the back of my neck) and headed out to the GOV (Giant Orange miniVan). I stowed my things in the back of the car and discovered that my car battery was as dead as a doornail.

This realization set off a rapid-fire sequence of damsel in distress phone calls and texts to clients, friends and family.

The eventual ‘solution’ to the problem was that my poor clients, who had expected me to pick them up in my giant showing-friendly van, picked me up from the parking lot I’d been standing in for 30 minutes (furthering the greasy, excessively and inappropriately sweaty problem) in their two-door convertible coup. And thus, the four of us rode the 28 miles to Maricopa and viewed 6 spider web riddled, occasionally so stinky we couldn’t go upstairs, hideously painted (I’m not exaggerating, on this, one living room featured the attractive color pairing of yellow and brown; I affectionately think of it as the #1 and #2 house) abandoned foreclosures and short sales. At one point, we decided that it would be easier for all of us to get in and out of the tiny car if we drove with the top down. In 105 degree heat. This lasted all of two houses until their eleven year old daughter started begging to be dropped off at the Dairy Queen so she didn’t pass out from heat exhaustion.

After this drippy and odorific portion of the day, I was dropped back off at the god-forsaken battery killing parking lot to meet a lovely friend who agreed to give me a jump.

I was also forced to reschedule the presentation of the offer to my sellers, kicking off the karmic retribution that can only come with a day like this: rescheduling the appointment allowed time for two more offers to roll in on the property. I now have three to present tomorrow.

So I’m home now, alternately swigging water and wine (to help with the eventual soreness from the non-elderly yoga). And I suppose all-in-all, despite the Chaos God hurling his lightning bolts down from the sky at me, the day was a success.

To DocuSign or Not to DocuSign

I’m trying out a new system for signing paperwork with my clients. It’s called DocuSign and instead of the usual chaotic method where I email paperwork to my poor clients and they scramble around looking for a printer and scanner or fax machine and the whole process takes hours, this system is set up to allow people to electronically sign documents and send them back to me in minutes.

So basically, the way it works is that I upload my documents to the ‘envelope wizard’ and then I mark, with little virtual sticky tabs, where my clients are to sign or initial (it even has a feature for checking boxes). I then input my clients’ email address and it sends all of this over to them with a tutorial and explanation of the process.

I had a little user error issue (on my part) with the placement of the sticky tabs the first time I used it, but otherwise it was extremely intuitive and quick.

I have two issues with DocuSign as a whole at this moment:

1. I usually feel more comfortable explaining documents that I’m having my clients sign in person the first time. When I’m writing a first offer with a client (especially a first time buyer), there are a ton of nuances about the contract and process that I likely won’t have had a chance to go over until we are signing the offer. So that’s something that DocuSign can’t circumvent.

2. I’ve been told by my Wells Fargo gal, Tekla, that her underwriters won’t accept electronic signatures. So we will have to go back and have all of these docs for the transaction I’m currently working with her resigned in person (and tragically, BOTH sides are using DocuSign. *SIGH*). That seems like a giant waste of time and more effort than signing in person originally.

So while I love the quickness and user-friendliness of the DocuSign product, I’m not sure I’m completely sold. We will have to see.

A Picture Ain't Worth Bupkis

I have a confession to make: I almost never look at the pictures of the houses I’m showing.

I know my clients obsess over the photos in the portal I set them up with, and their hearts are won and lost over these houses based only on the pictures. When I pick them up with my list of houses in hand, they always have one they are absolutely confident is The One, because the pictures were so perfect and nice and they even liked the furniture.

I do not believe that any of my clients have ever actually purchased the house they thought was The One from the photos. We usually get to that house and it backs to a major road, or the layout is terrible or the rooms are tiny. The really important stuff in a house is so difficult to photograph.

I’ve also had it go the other way, especially on the high-end houses. I often think houses look guady or over done in the pictures, and then when I get into them they are fabulous and have amazing features that weren’t at all visible in the photos.

I’ve seen enough houses and enough pictures of houses that I’m just so over the photos. I almost never even glance through them and I definitely don’t eliminate houses I’m showing based on photos. A house is so dependent on the quality of the photographer portraying it. Some agents are too cheap to hire a professional and some are even too lazy to do anything but photograph the front stoop. None of this is a reflection on the actual quality of the house.

Now a video tour… that I can get behind. Here’s one I did for a client last week:

This Week, We May Have Overdone It

Last week’s co-op produce was almost completely consumed (we have some romaine, a tomato or two and 3 carrots left, I think), so this week, when I was ordering, I decided to throw in a couple of extras. They were offering an Italian Ingredient Pack that I had seen the week before and it looked pretty good, and a Guacamole Pack. I am a sucker for all things Italian and even more so for The Most Perfect Food: Guac. So I ordered both. In addition to the regular basket. It was $30 and this is what we got:

Yes, that’s:

6 ears of corn
6 potatoes
1 bunch of bananas
15 small apples
4 tomatoes
1 butternut squash
5 pears
8 peaches
1 bunch of black grapes
1 HUGE eggplant
1 head of romaine
5 jalapenos
1 bunch of green onions
10 avocados
1 box of mushrooms
1 bag of Italian herbs (rosemary, basil, etc)
2 zucchinis
1 huge red onion
1 lemon
5 limes
4 yellow onions
2 heads of garlic
1 bunch of cilantro
1 bunch of Italian parsley

um…. holy cow what are we going to do with all this food? I need to rework my weekly menu. Anyone want to come over for dinner?

My Name is Elizabeth and I'm a Coupon-Junkie

I dreamt about grocery shopping last night. In my dream I was getting everything for free, and the grocery store, instead of being chaotic and confusing, enticing me to purchase expensive items I don’t need, was perfectly clear. I knew exactly what I needed to purchase and how to get it for free. I could see the pricing traps for what they were and had no interest in them.

I’m pretty sure I dreamt I was Jennifer Clarke.

We had Jennifer over to our house last night (all the way from West Siieede!) to do a tutorial about Coupon Sense, a website I joined about a month ago to help cut down our grocery/food costs.

The Coupon Sense website is basically a database of all of the sales and coupons out there at the major grocery stores at any given time. I’ve been really impressed with the results that I’ve had with using the site just at face value, but after Jennifer came by and explained what she gets out of coupons, I was utterly inspired.

Jennifer is about my age and has four children. Her kids are younger than mine and closer together, but otherwise, I feel like her family is pretty comparable to mine. She said that she spends between $250 and $400 a month on groceries. Um, WOW. I’ve been really impressed with myself over my $175-$200 A WEEK bills lately.

I could go on and on about the interesting stuff she told us about grocery shopping, coupons, food and supermarket chains, but what it comes down to is that I was completely sold. We grilled that poor girl for about two hours and she had an answer for everything. And she drove all the way out to meet with us even though she had to be up at 4AM to film her weekly coupon segment for channel 5. Jeez Louise.

There were a bunch of people I had emailed about her tutorial who weren’t able to make it last night. She has told me she would be happy to come out to the East Valley again, maybe in October if we can get a good group together. I think this is a fabulous idea. I would like to have a few months to attempt this system in earnest and then talk to her again (about what I’m still doing wrong).