Do you believe in magic?

Do you believe in Magic?

They say, “If you meet an asshole in the morning, then he’s an asshole. If you meet assholes all day, then maybe you’re the asshole.”

That is a harsh way to start a blog post. Sorry about the bad language. It is a paraphrased quote from Raylan Givens, Elmore Leonard’s character in Justified.

“What can be measured, can be managed.” 

That’s another quote.

I keep track of things. What works, what doesn’t work. What clients will buy. What houses will sell. I’ve been a Realtor for long enough now to have gathered a lot of experiences.

I woke up this morning thinking about a recent conversation.

I was contacted through my website by a lady who wanted to sell her investment property.

“Sure”, I said, “please give me some details so I can get started”.

After our conversation, I looked up the address and got started. We have great statistical information as Realtors, not only the MLS info, but also title information from Property Line and Geowarehouse. The property that the lady wanted to sell was previously listed and expired after six months on the market. It was overpriced in my quick estimation by hundreds of thousands of dollars.

It does me no good to take on listings that I don’t think will sell. Some agents have ad space to fill, or staff to keep busy holding open houses. Some agents will take any listing at any price, it seems. Why? I don’t know. To keep busy? To work the listing? To work the client? In the chance or possibility that the one-in-a-million buyer will show up with a suitcase full of money and no brains in his head? I don’t know.

I’ve been the second-time and third-time listing agent a few times. It never works out.

The first time, the home sellers thought that their first agent was too new and that their second agent didn’t care. As their third agent, I did my best to over-communicate, and to do everything above and beyond what listing agents traditionally do to get that sucker sold. The issue, as it turned out from all the feedback, was not the agents’s fault. It was that the luxury condo townhouse in a 55+ community, listed at about $450,000 had a one car garage. That was a market limiting factor, a fatal flaw. “It only has a one-car garage”, everyone said. If the sellers were not prepared to wait it out, wait for a buyer just like them, one with one car, (or to lower their price), then that unit was not going to sell. We eventually got an offer, but it was low and we could not put a deal together. The listing expired. It did not sell that third time.

The second time that I was the third-time lister of a property, things did not go any better. The seller in that case had listed twice before over the past couple of years but thought my brokerage could attract Toronto buyers.

We couldn’t.

After six months on the market, that listing expired without selling for the third time too. In that case, it was a unique property that the seller had renovated extensively to meet his needs. It simply did not fit any other buyer’s wants and needs at the time. It was not the fault of the agents.

How do I fire my real estate agent?

“How do I fire my real estate agent?” is the 12th most read post on my blog. It has been read 6,833 times since I wrote it in 2013. I often get emails, phone calls and chat messages from people who are unhappy with their agents. Maybe, I’m a little jaded, but often (not always) these people seem a somewhat unreasonable (and sometimes shrill). I had to put a message on the bottom of the post asking them not to contact me as I had no more to say on the subject. You have a contract. You cannot get out of it unless the agent/broker agree to let you out of it. Maybe, ah hem, they have given you good advice that you have failed to take? Maybe you should give up control and let the people who do it for a living make the decisions?

A broker I know says that everything sells eventually. I’m not so sure. That statement implies that you just have to wait it out. But if most homes sell in the first 21 days, who wants to wait 21 months or 21 years? Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Here is another quote.

Insanity is doing he same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. 

That’s from the same guy who said E=mc2.

All things being relative, if mass and energy are the same thing, re-listing a house at the same price with a different agent goes against nature. It goes against the universe. You can’t win that one.

 

Home buyers too

It is not just home sellers that are unhappy with their agents, home buyers too find reason and want to ditch their agents. My experience with them is about the same as with the home sellers. If they haven’t bought with their first agent, they likely won’t buy with their second or third agent. When I’ve been the second buying agent, my clients haven’t been successful finding their dream house with me either. Eventually, they give up, leave the market, vanish, maybe to look for their next agent to pick up the baton one more time again and continue their run around the track. Home buyers like these tend to be indecisive, afraid that they will make a mistake. They want to see everything. They vacillate. Sometimes they are at odds with each other, or reality. They fail to act when the right house comes up, and then, they compare the houses they view for the next six months to the one that got away. They are looky-loos, see-mores or deal seekers.

Of course their are no absolutes with buyers and their agents either. Some agents, unbelievably sign their buyers up to six months buyers’ agency contracts and then cut them loose with, “when you find the right house, let me know and I’ll put the offer together.” That’s not right. But that is rare.

Some agents fail their home buying clients for other reasons too. Maybe they are part-timers or working outside of their home market, maybe they are too busy with other clients or maybe they just aren’t that connected to reality either.

 

Other learnings

Investors think they want to invest but aren’t emotionally connected to the purchase. They have read some books or gone to a seminar. They will screw around for some time with a kind of real estate equivalent of shiny object syndrome, they will ask lots of questions, gather lots of information and then soon move on or maybe lowball a couple of listings against the advice and good guidance of their agent and then move on.

Number questions are a dead giveaway. When someone attending an open house asks about the price or taxes, they aren’t buying. When a potential home seller only wants to talk about commission and/or listing price, they aren’t listing. When square footage is inquired about, that is a red flag. So is, “how many days has this house been on the market?”

 

So let’s be fair

It is easy to complain about real estate agents. Some of the time, much of the time, we bring it on ourselves. Some of us are new. Some of us are too busy, some not busy enough.

Some of us don’t qualify their clients and then have to disqualify you.

There are lots of agents out there, just like there are lots of buyers and sellers out there. Sometimes it just isn’t a good fit. Sometimes it is the fault of the agent. But let’s be fair. Sometimes it is the client who needs to be fired.

 

Do you believe in magic?

I wrote this post, like I do most as a big mind dump, in one sitting, spilling out what I think.

Then I thought about it and thought about it some more. For several days, I read it and reread it and considered deleting it without sharing it here. I though, “this post is going to make me look bad. It talks about a few isolated experiences with difficult clients. What could I possibly hope to gain by posting something that is anti-client?”

To be honest, I’ve posted things before about how the “brokerage model” of real estate is broken. I’ve posted about inexperienced agents and how they are bad for the industry and I’ve posted about private home sellers and the many mistakes they make. I’ve also posted about FSBO brokerages but I don’t do that anymore because every time I do I get a cease and desist order from their lawyers in London.

When I’ve posted those posts there was nothing to gain. Those posts, like this one  are just “notes from an industry insider”. They don’t need to be posted, but I guess I just have to post them.

That said, I don’t want home buyers and home sellers to get the wrong idea. I’ve worked with hundreds, maybe thousands of clients over the years and the vast majority are fabulous. The same is true for fellow real estate agents and brokerages and even some private home sellers. The successes far outnumber the failures. I just noticed that the failures I’ve taken on over the past couple of years have failed before. They are looking for a silver bullet. They are looking for magic. But, like most jobs, there is no magic in real estate. Before you change agents, take a good look at yourself, maybe you are partly to blame.

2 Comments

  • Jeff says:

    Hi Keith,
    Great blog. Would you have any advice for buyers on choosing the right buyer agent for them?

    • Keith Marshall says:

      Choosing the right agent, most people say is a matter of like and trust.
      Further to that, I personally like agents that are direct and brutally honest. All we have is the knowledge we know and the service we give. It is vital for us to share, not sell. I think being a real estate agent forces you to become who you really are. There is too much BS in business and real estate is no exception. The best agents live and breath real estate.
      How’s that?

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