Last week I opened two escrows and closed two escrows. It was a fruitful week in real estate for me, which is nice, because it also marked my decadiversary as a Realtor. That’s right, I’ve officially been a Professional Lunatic for 10 years of my short (Ok, medium) life. I was going to announce it online and wear a special sparkly outfit or something to commemorate the occasion, but then I had to go to inspections and signings and deliver keys and before I knew it, the official date had come an gone. No matter, we’ll celebrate now. To mark my 10 years in this nuthouse of a profession, I have for you 10 things real estate has taught me in the last 10 years:
1. Get that shit in writing.
Sure, we’re all gentlemen here. Sure we can shake hands and agree. You can totally trust me. We’re all mature and trustworthy right up until we’re searching for a loophole. It’s never a deal until it’s signed, sealed and delivered.
2. Success is about properly managed expectations.
Buying and selling houses is, generally speaking, an enormous clusterfuck of unknowns, risk, compromise, and paperwork. You will not (WILL NOT) get through a deal without becoming at least slightly irritated about signing your own name. In my experience, the success of the transaction hinges on everyone having his and her expectations firmly within achievable bounds. If a buyer who’s qualified for a loan up to $120k is expecting to get a 2000 square foot house with a pool and granite counters in Chandler, she’s going to be extremely disappointed with the 1200 square foot fixer-up townhouse she can afford. If a seller has the idea he should have multiple full-price offers in the first week his house is on the market, he’s not going to be pleased with 5% under after four weeks.
50% of a real estate agent’s job is to assess the situation and get everyone’s expectations in a place where we can hope to satisfy them, every step of the way. Which is why I regularly tell my clients: This is going to be an enormous pain in your ass for at least the next month. Get used to it.
3. Real Estate Voodoo is a legit thing.
I’m an atheist and a skeptic to a fault. I don’t believe your grandma’s house was haunted by your uncle who died as a young child. I think your essential oils smell nice, but they aren’t curing your chronic pain disease. I feel confident you and your husband didn’t fall in love at first sight. Just walk away from me with your homeopathic meds, right now.
BUT, if you tell me you calculated your commissions on the three deals you have in escrow and you’re going to spend them getting your kitchen redone, I will cross myself, throw salt over my shoulder, knock on wood and run far from you because you just totally jinxed all your deals. You can’t count your chickens before they hatch! Dude. That is Rule One; what are you thinking?
Real estate is as much about luck and good juju as anything else. A deal that’s ugly from the start is only going to have 87 more abnormal problems with it before it closes. A house that’s sat on the market for two months with no offers will bizarrely have 3 offers come in within 4 hours. I recommend regularly sacrificing a gold jacket on the altar of the real estate gods to keep them happy.
4. How to calculate showing timeframes.
This one won’t matter to 99% of anyone, but I’m pretty proud of my algorithm and maybe some rookie agent will come across this and get some use out of it.
Part of the job of a buyer’s agent is to set up a series of house showings for the buyer. Generally, some of the houses will be occupied. It’s customary to give the sellers a one hour window in which you will show up to view the house, so they don’t have to spend an entire day wondering when you’ll stop by. This can be a challenge to narrow down if you have, say 12 other houses to show. How can you know how long each house will take to look at? And driving times? They do not teach you this shit in real estate school.
After 10 years, I’ve come up with a pattern that works 90% of the time if I’m showing houses within a 25 miles radius (so it’s not going to be good if you’re showing in both San Tan Valley and Surprise). I’m pretty sure it’s brilliant and I’m a genius. I start by putting the houses in a logical order by area. Then, I give the first two the same one hour window, starting at the time we’re meeting. After that, I bump the window forward one half an hour every two house until we’re done. It looks like this:
- House 1: 9-10AM
- House 2: 9-10AM
- House 3: 9:30-10:30AM
- House 4: 9:30-10:30AM
- House 5: 10-11AM
- House 6: 10-11AM
- House 7: 10:30-11:30AM
- House 8: 10:30-11:30AM
- House 9: 11-12PM
And now that I’ve typed all that out, it’s really dumb and obvious. You’re welcome.
5. It’s not personal.
Some people choose me as their agent because they’ve known me their whole life and they trust me. Some interview me and pick me because they like my information the best. Some come by me because a coworker personally recommended me. Some saw me on the internet and believe that thing about how people who swear are more trustworthy. Some want a front row seat for when I’ll embarrass myself next.
Some people don’t choose me because their mom is a Realtor. Some have a family agent they’ve all been using for years. Some prefer to keep their business separate from their friends. Some don’t like the numbers I gave them. Some think blue hair is unprofessional. Some are over my #circusshit.
The point is, some people will use me, and some won’t. Getting worked up over-analyzing why someone decided not to ask me to represent them is an enormous waste of time and emotional energy. Which is why I Let It Go, Elsa-style.
6. Always carry the keys from the lockbox with you when you’re showing a house.
Because this could happen. Don’t be all, Oh that wouldn’t happen to me. You’re just tempting the real estate gods.
7. Always be ready to apologize and potentially write a check.
Mistakes will be made. Things will be over-looked, or misinterpreted. In my career, so far, I like to think I’ve been careful, and that I’ve made good choices and well-represented my clients. That said, I’ve also gotten really super-duper good at apologizing. Sometimes, I apologize even when nothing is my fault, because it helps to hear someone is sorry for what you’re going through. Real estate is hard.
I have also written my share of checks. In a business with a million moving parts, it would be impossible to never miss something. Just a few months ago I paid for an appraisal out of my own pocket, before close of escrow, because I missed that a very-rarely marked box for the seller to pay for the buyer’s appraisal, was marked, and I hadn’t advised my clients it would be something they’d have to pay for. It was my fault, I paid for it. I remember buying a fridge for a listing back before the contract was clarified and the buyer’s agent and I weren’t on the same page about whether it was to stay or go.
If you can’t admit when you’re wrong, this isn’t the business for you. You’re going to be wrong.
8. People have strong feelings about Arizona Rooms.
I wrote this post more than four years ago about why I think Arizona Rooms (walled-in patios) are generally a terrible idea out here, and I still regularly get comments on it ranging from indignant to furious. Sorry guys, sometimes the truth hurts.
9. Sometimes you’ve done everything you could and it still wasn’t enough.
Real estate isn’t a business where you are always in control. Sometimes there’s an amazing house for clients you really love that you know would be just perfect for them. You were in the door the first day and you put together your strongest offer, but you’re up against two others. Situations like this used to keep me up nights. I felt like the world would end if we didn’t get the house. I stressed over clients who wouldn’t take my advice. I wrung my hands when the market got dry and I was left pacing, waiting for the next client.
It’s possible I’ve become desensitized to the constant stress of unknowns, but in the last few years, I’ve learned that at some point, you take a deep breath and say (out loud, in front of your bathroom mirror after splashing cold water on your face), “I’ve done all I could do.” And then you move on.
10. Don’t take pictures of people’s puppies in their houses you’re showing (regardless of how cute and photogenic they are) and post them on the internet without asking permission from their owners.
I saved this one for last just so you know I’m always learning new lessons here in the wacky world of real estate.
Here’s what will happen if you do: Even though you only have like 400 Instagram followers and really only ever post pictures of your circus selfies and kids skateboarding, the daughter of the sellers will somehow (curse you, real estate gods!!!) see the picture of their puppy you posted with the hashtag about how you wanted to steal him and be super creeped out by this invasion of privacy. They will call their agent, who will call your broker and ask you to remove the photo. You will be both personally and professionally mortified by your misstep. And, of course, the clients you were showing the house to will want to buy that house, so you’ll need to put all of the skills you’ve learned over the years pertaining to number 7 to use, just so the sellers don’t think you’re a psycho with no personal boundaries and hold it against your clients who couldn’t be nicer.
So, you know, don’t do that.