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Good Question [What Would You Do?]

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On Trulia Voices, Chris Freeman asks:

I have a buyer looking for homes about an hour away.

They are prequalified for $95,000, but they keep sending me listings to look at that are $130,000. Many of these listings are already price reductions, are not bank owned, and are close to the prevailing price in the area. I keep telling them that they need to send me things closer to what they are approved for, (or at a minimum) bank owned because a longshot lowball might at least fly in that instance.

Their reply is You never know if they will accept it. On the contrary, I know they won’t! These clients are very nice people, but they just are not listening. I have tried many things with them, but I can’t break through to them. I want to help them, but I am wasting a lot of time and gas taking them to places that they can never buy (I subtlely expressed this to them as well).

What are your thoughts, readers? What do you do when your buyers are unrealistic? Do you patiently drive to the farthest stretches of the earth on their whim, do you tell them after viewing several homes that perhaps you are not the match for them as together, the communication isn’t on target if they’re still hunting? Do you hold their hand while they dream of unrealistic homes or do you cut them loose?

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius - she has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. Jim Duncan

    March 19, 2008 at 11:42 am

    Don’t waste your time, gas and efforts on folks who clearly do not have reasonable expectations. Give them another chance to re-evaluate their (and your) expectations, and if they still continue to aim higher than they have achieve, respectfully cut them loose, wish them well and work with your other buyer clients who have said reasonable expectations.

  2. Matthew Rathbun

    March 19, 2008 at 12:12 pm

    Referral, referral, referral…. Find someone closer to the area who doesn’t mind driving Ms. Daisey.

    It’s hard for everyone to give up clients, but don’t just factor in your gas, but how much is your time worth? You need to know your market area. In our local market, it is reasonable to see folks come down $50,000 from asking, but it’s only been recently in our depressed market that this is possible.

  3. Steve Belt

    March 19, 2008 at 12:13 pm

    I think this is actually an ethics question as much as a financial one. You can tell your client that ethically you are not allowed to show them property they are not qualified to buy. As an alternative, you could draw up a buyer-broker’s agreement with a retainer. If they want to look at homes they don’t qualify for, ask for $1500 as a retainer, and you’ll be glad to play taxicab driver for a month. Otherwise, you need them to be realistic and stop wasting your time.

    Personally, I’m highly selective in working with a buyer. They need to be highly motivated and they need to be realistic, or I’m going to attempt to refer them to someone else.

  4. Daniel Rothamel

    March 19, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    “You never know” is only true is you never try. If you have taken your clients to all of these listings, and not written any offers to find out if they will fly, then you truly will never know. You will, however, waste a lot of time. I have had clients that were unrealistic until the reality of a rejected offer smacked them in the forehead.

    If they are taking you to listings out of their price range, AND not making offers on them, then you are REALLY wasting time.

    From the question, it is hard to tell if the agent has suggested any properties or not. It is true that our clients direct the journey, but sometimes they need a little guidance. Sending them listings that are attractive AND within their price range might help. Plus, if they honestly believe that an owner will take an offer for $40K less than the listing price, the $100K listings should look really sweet.

  5. Vicki Moore

    March 19, 2008 at 12:21 pm

    You have to have your own criteria, your own max tolerance level. I tolerate it to a point. But if they aren’t realistic about their purchasing power, I will tell them that I’m not the right agent for them.

    Here’s a tool I use: (If I remembered where I got it, I would give them credit.) The point is you have to have boundaries in all areas of your life, including your professional life.

    Client must score 5 points total. This form must be posted in the buyer’s file.

    1. Do I like the client?
    (_) Yes (+2)
    (_) Sort of. They’re OK. (+0)
    (_) No (-2)

    2. Does the client trust me? Do I have great rapport?
    (_) Yes, a lot (+2)
    (_) Yes (1)
    (_) Somewhat. So-so. (+0)
    (_) Not much. Doubtful. Skeptical. (-1)

    3. Does the client have realistic expectations?
    (_) Yes, definitely (+2)
    (_) Yes, I think so (+1)
    (_) Wishy washy. Dreamer. (-1)
    (_) Unrealistic (-3)

    4. Is the client level-headed, even-tempered and “normal”?
    (_) Yes (+1)
    (_) I think so. Not sure. Seems like it. (+0)
    (_) No (-2)

    5. Can the client get a loan?
    (_) Yes. Pre-approved (+2)
    (_) Yes. No problem. Going in for pre-approval. (+2)
    (_) So-so. I think we can get him a loan. (0)
    (_) I hope we can get him a loan. There is a chance. (-1)

    Total Score_______
    9 = Outstanding 7 = Very Good 5 = Fair/Marginal
    8 = Excellent 6 = Good 1-4 = No! Stay Away

  6. Charles Woodall

    March 19, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    I agree with Jim. It is so easy to get caught up in chasing the commission, rationalizing that “I’ve spent so much time with them that I can’t stop now”. You gotta stop the insanity at some point.

  7. Missy Caulk

    March 19, 2008 at 1:02 pm

    Here is what we tell them, home prices in MI have already come down. Yes you can make an offer but you won’t steal a house, we have been in a recession since 2001, the sellers are realistic in their pricing.

    We say pick your top 5 houses for one day, and top 5 for another, then pick you will chose your top 3 from that and you can decide.
    No I won’t or let me team drive people around all over the county and 2 counties over if they are not serious. I know this sounds harsh but Realtors need to get control of their buyers from the get go.

    People I have found are really looking for guidance and if you are confident in what you tell them you will not be taken advantage of. Occasionally we will get a stubbern buyer who wants to offer 180K below on a 690 house that was just reduced from 790K but not often.

  8. Larry Yatkowsky

    March 19, 2008 at 3:41 pm

    “I know they won’t! –
    they just are not listening –
    I have tried many things –
    I can’t break through
    I want to help but………..”

    Read my lips : >()

    Time to move on!

  9. Jay Thompson

    March 19, 2008 at 6:17 pm

    Not much to add to these great comments.

    Here is one key though, quoted right from the question:

    “I subtlely expressed this to them as well”

    Don’t be subtle. Be firm and direct. You certainly don’t need to be nasty by any stretch of the imagination. Be direct, with supporting data. Most people will respect that. Those that don’t, well, you can’t please everyone. Let ’em go.

  10. Benjamin Bach

    March 19, 2008 at 8:11 pm

    My acid test: Would my family think this is a productive use of my (our) time ?

    If I have to tell Sarah that I showed *another* property to an investor who isn’t under Buyer Representation… it would be bad news bears for me.

    BenjaminBach.com

  11. Ines

    March 19, 2008 at 9:35 pm

    Great discussion here – LOVE Vicki’s questionnaire – I personally don’t have the patience and I am also highly selective of our buyer clients (Rick is a lot more patient than I am). I’ve gotten good at being able to tell who is wasting my time and who isn’t and I am straight forward with them, never rude but direct (as Jay stated above).

    This is also a very personal thing – you, as an agent, are the only one who can tell if you are willing to waste your time or not. Sometimes I have so much fun with certain buyers that I don’t really care how long it takes them to buy and we become great friends.

  12. Greg Cremia

    March 20, 2008 at 7:00 am

    These unrealistic expectations are not the buyers fault. Buyers these days try to be educated about the process and they are being told by other authoritative sources (media) that this is how the market is and they should make low offers to find a deal.

    If they are serious buyers then write up a couple of low offers. After they get rejected a couple of times they will come to the realization that the media is not actually the authoritative source they thought it was.

    OR, write up a couple of low ball offers and one of them might just work. My wife was ready to cut one guy loose after 3 offers when the 4th one hit pay dirt. The buyer got the house for $150,000 less than the last comp which sold for $675,000. The sellers would have been better off to let the bank take it but there are some people out there who would rather take the hit in their pocket than on their credit report.

  13. Bob

    March 20, 2008 at 11:06 am

    >On the contrary, I know they won’t!

    No you don’t. Every seller situation is different and things frequently change. The first rule of negotiation is to never make the decision for the other party.

    I have written offers that didn’t have a snowball’s chance, only to see them accepted as written. I have had sellers tell me they won’t accept a dime less than X only to have them take an offer 15% less 24 hours later.

  14. Larry Yatkowsky

    March 20, 2008 at 3:21 pm

    I suppose you could start with a close something like – “Sir,- if you really love your wife you would take this offer and help relieve her pain”. .>0

  15. Seaside Florida Vacation Rentals

    March 21, 2008 at 5:23 am

    Just expalin to them that is why they have hired you to be there agent and would they expect when they sell a house for realtors to waste there time with people who don’t qualify. You should tell them you will only show homes and give them the range that is within reason that a seller may lower to and only look at those houses. You can also suggest they wait and save the difference since they seem to be interested in a higher value house. Good Luck! I got it tell them to meet you there and they will also tire of using there gas to go to these places.

  16. Florida Waterfront Real Estate

    March 22, 2008 at 6:28 am

    This can be frustrating and more than once should not be allowed to happen unless they are trying to decide to go for a better house and wait and save for the difference. Good luck we have all had this happen at one time or another and nip it in the bud if it’s just a wild goose chase.

  17. Blue Ridge Cabin Rentals

    March 23, 2008 at 6:04 am

    I think it’s kinda funny for years realtor got the bad rap for showing house not in the range buyer is looking for and here it is the other way around.

    I remind clients that there lender has set the limit and her obligation is to show homes to qualified buyers not lookers. So I am not able to show a house not in there buying range. Problem solved.

  18. lake mary florida remax

    March 24, 2008 at 5:19 am

    You are there to show them homes they qualify for and that is what sellers want not just anyone walking thru their home. A buyer should understand when they go to sell there house someday they would feel the same way to.

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Opinion Editorials

Popular opinion: Unemployment in a pandemic sucks [EDITORIAL]

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) I got laid off during the pandemic, and I think I can speak for all of us to say that unemployment – especially now – really, really sucks.

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Stressed man thinking over laptop about unemployment.

Despite not being in an office for what feels like an eternity, losing my job stung. Holding onto work during The Worst Timeline was rough, considering Rome was burning all around. My job was the boat of sanity I could sit in while the waves of bullshit crashed all around. Pre-pandemic, I had just separated from my wife, so my emotional health wasn’t in tip-top shape. But then millions of people go and get sick, the economy took a nosedive, and well, the world changed. When everything around you sucks, and people are on the news crying about unemployment and potential homelessness, you’re thankful as hell that you’re not with them – until you are.

I was writing for a startup, one that came with a litany of headaches thanks to fluctuating budgets and constant directional pivots, but it was steady work. When the Coronavirus hit, it was a scenario of “we’re going to get through this,” but as we switched gears again and again, I started to get an unsettling feeling: I’ve seen this story before. When you live in Austin and are in the creative field, you’ve worked with startups. And there are always trappings on when something lingers in the air – hierarchy shuffles, people aren’t as optimistic, and senior folks start quietly bailing out. Those are the obvious moves that make your unemployment-related Spidey sense tingle, but with COVID, everything is remote. There aren’t the office vibes, the shortened conversations that make you, “I know what’s happening here.” Instead, you’re checking Slack or email and surviving like everyone else.

We were happy to be working, to see the direct deposit hit every two weeks and sigh, knowing you were still in the fight, that you might see this thing through.

We saw our entire business change overnight. Leadership rose to meet the challenges of an old model rooted in hospitality, restaurants, and events, which died with a viral disease shotgun blast. Because the infrastructure was there, we managed to help out workers, and grocery stores work together to keep people fed across the nation. It was legitimately a point of pride. Like all things, though, the market settled. We bought time.

In July, I had a full-blown depressive episode. The weight of the divorce, the lack of human interaction, my work having less value, my career stalled felt like a Terminator robot foot on my skull. I couldn’t get out of bed, and everything I wrote were the smatterings of a broken man. And to my ex-bosses’ credit, my breakdown was NOT my best work, I could barely look at a computer, let alone forge thoughts on an entirely new industry with any authority, or even a fake it till you make it scenario.

When the CEO put time on my calendar, I knew it was a wrap. Startup CEOs don’t make house calls; they swing the ax. When you’re the lone creative in a company trying to survive a nearly company-killing event, you’re the head on the block. Creatives are expensive, and we’re expendable. Site copy, content, media placements, all that can kick rocks when developers need to keep the business moving, even if it’s at a glacial pace. When I was given my walking papers, it was an exhale, on one hand, I’d been professionally empty, but at the same time, I needed consistent money. My personal life was a minefield and I’ve got kids.

I got severance. Unemployment took forever to hit. The state of Texas authorized amount makes me cringe. Punishing Americans for losing their jobs during a crisis is appalling. Millions are without safety nets, and it’s totally ok with elected leaders.

There are deferments available. I had to get them on my credit cards, which I jacked up thanks to spending $8,500 on an amicable divorce, along with a new MacBook Pro that was the price of a used Nissan. I got a deferment on my car note, too.

I’ve applied to over 100 jobs, both remote and local. I’ve applied for jobs I’m overqualified for in hopes they’ll hire me as a freelancer. There are lots of rejection letters. I get to round two interviews. References or the round three interviews haven’t happened yet. I get told I’m too experienced or too expensive. Sometimes, recruiters won’t even show up. And then there are the Zoom meetings. Can we all agree we’re over Zoom? Sometimes, you don’t want to comb your hair.

I’ll get promised the much needed “next steps” and then a rejection email, “thanks but no thanks.” Could you at least tell me what the X-Factor for this decision was? Was there a typo? Did you check my Facebook? The ambiguity kills me. Being a broke senior creative person kills me. I interviewed President Obama and have written for Apple, but ask myself: Can I afford that falafel wrap for lunch? Do you think springing for the fries is worth that extra $3? You’ve got soup at home, you know.

I’m not unique. This is the American Experience. We’re stuck in this self-perpetuating hell. We keep looking for jobs. We want to work. There are only so many gigs to fill when there’s constant rollercoaster news on unemployment recovery. And as long as unemployment sucks, there’s going to be a lot of people bracing for impact come Christmas. Hopefully, the brass in Washington can pass a few bills and get us back to work. At least get Americans out of the breadline by pumping up what we’re surviving off of – across the board. Working people shouldn’t have to face getting sick to bring in an income, while casualties of the Corona War should be able to look at their bills and not feel like the assistant on the knife throwers wheel.

I’m about to be a line cook to make extra cash till an intrepid manager hires me. Who doesn’t want a writer working the grill who reads French existentialist essays for enjoyment? I’d rather sit on park benches and day dream, but that ain’t reality. I’ve got bills to pay in a broken America. Who wants a burger? Deep thoughts come free but an extra slice of cheese is extra.

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Opinion Editorials

7 ways to carve out me time while working from home

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) It can be easy to forget about self-care when you’re working from home, but it’s critical for your mental health, and your work quality.

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Woman in hijab sitting on couch, working from home on a laptop

We are all familiar with the syndrome, getting caught up in work, chores, and taking care of others, and neglecting to take care of ourselves in the meantime. This has always been the case, but now, with more people working from home and a seemingly endless lineup of chores, thanks to the pandemic. There is simply so much to do.

The line is thinly drawn between personal and professional time already, with emails, cell phones, and devices relentlessly reaching out around the clock, pulling at us like zombie arms reaching up from the grave. Working from home makes this tendency to always be “on” worse, as living and working take place in such close proximity. We have to turn it off, though.

Our brains and bodies need down time, me-time, self-care. Carving out this time is one of the kindest and most important things you can do for yourself. If we can begin to honor ourselves like this, the outcome with not only our mental and physical health, but also our productivity at work, will be beneficial. When we make the time to do things we love, our body untenses, our mind’s gears slow down that constant grinding. Burnout behooves nobody.

Our work will also benefit. Healthier, happier, more well rested, and well treated minds and bodies can work wonders! Our immune systems also need this, and we need our immune systems to be at their peak performance this intense season.

I wanted to write this article, because I have such a struggle with this in my own life. I need to print it out and put it in my workspace. Last week, I posted something on my social media pages that so many people shared. It is clear we all need these reminders, so I am paying it forward here. The graphic was a quote from Devyn W.

“If you are reading this, release your shoulders away from your ears, unclench your jaw, and drop your tongue from the roof of your mouth.”

There now, isn’t that remarkable? It is a great first step. Let go of the tension in your body, and check out these ways to make yourself some healing me-time.

  1. Set aside strict no-work times. This could be any time of day, but set the times and adhere to them strictly. This may look like taking a full hour for lunch, not checking email after a certain hour, or committing to spending that time outdoors, reading, exercising, or enjoying the company of your loved ones. Make this a daily routine, because we need these boundaries. Every. Single. Day.
  2. Remember not to apologize to anyone for taking this me-time. Mentally and physically you need this, and everyone will be better off if you do. It is nothing to apologize for! Building these work-free hours into your daily schedule will feel more normal as time goes on. This giving of time and space to your joy, health, and even basic human needs is what should be the norm, not the other way around.
  3. Give yourself a device-free hour or two every day, especially before bedtime. The pinging, dinging, and blinging keeps us on edge. Restful sleep is one of the wonderful ways our bodies and brains heal, and putting devices away before bedtime is one of the quick tips for getting better sleep.
  4. Of course, make time for the things you absolutely love. If this is a hot bath, getting a massage, reading books, working out, cooking or eating an extravagant meal, or talking and laughing with a loved one, you have to find a way to get this serotonin boost!
  5. Use the sunshine shortcut. It isn’t a cure-all, but sunlight and Vitamin D are mood boosters. At least when it’s not 107 degrees, like in a Texas summer. But as a general rule, taking in at least a good 10-15 minutes of that sweet, sweet Vitamin D provided by the sun is good for us.
  6. Spend time with animals! Walk your dog, shake that feathery thing at your cat, or snuggle either one. Whatever animals make you smile, spend time with them. If you don’t have pets of your own, you could volunteer to walk them at a local shelter or even watch a cute animal video online. They are shown to reduce stress. Best case scenario is in person if you are able, but thankfully the internet is bursting with adorable animal videos, as a backup.
  7. Give in to a bit of planning or daydreaming about a big future trip. Spending time looking at all the places you will go in the future and even plotting out an itinerary are usually excellent mood-boosters. It’s a bit different in 2020, as most of us aren’t sure when we will be able to go, but even deciding where you want to go when we are free to travel again can put a positive spin on things.

I hope we can all improve our lives while working from home by making time for regenerating, healing, and having fun! Gotta run—the sun is out, and my dog is begging for a walk.

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Opinion Editorials

Improve UX design by tracking your users’ eye movements

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Research shows that the fastest way to determine user behavior and predict their response is by watching their eyesight. Use this data to improve your UX design.

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UX design being created by a designer on a laptop.

By design, an ice cream truck is meant to entice. It is colorful, stupidly loud with two whole songs from the 30s (usually off key because no one is left alive who can service those bells), and lots of colorful stickers that depict delicious frozen treats that look nothing like reality. If you need an off model Disney character that already looks a little melted even when frozen, look no further.

This is design in action – the use of clever techniques to drive engagement. Brightly colored decor and the Pavlovian association of hearing The Sting in chirpy little ding dings is all working together to encourage sales and interaction.

These principles work in all industries, and the tech sector has devoted entire teams, agencies, companies, groups, and departments to the study of User Experience (UX) explicitly to help create slick, usable applications and websites that are immediately understandable by users. Tools to improve utility exist by measuring user behavior, with style guides and accepted theories preached and sang and TED-talked all over.

The best way to check behavior is to observe it directly, and options to check where someone clicks has proven invaluable in determining how to improve layouts and designs. These applications are able to draw a heat map that shows intensified red color in areas where clicks congregate the most. An evolution of this concept is to watch eyesight itself, allowing developers a quicker avenue to determining where a user will most likely go. Arguably the shortest path between predicting response, this is one of the holy grails of behavioral measurement. If your eyes can be tracked, your cursor is likely to follow.

UX design can benefit greatly from this research as this article shows. Here’s some highlights:

Techwyse completed a case study that shows conversion on landing pages is improved with clear call-to-action elements. Users will focus on objects that stand out based on position, size, bright colors, or exaggerated fonts. If these design choices are placed on a static, non-interactive component, a business will lose a customer’s interest quickly, as their click is meant with no response. This quickly leads to confusion or abandonment. Finding where a person is immediately drawn to means you should capitalize on that particular piece with executable code. Want it boiled down? Grocery stores put Cheetos front and center, because everyone want them thangs.

Going along with this, Moz found that search results with attractive elements – pictures and video – are given much more attention than simple text. We are visually inclined creatures, and should never undervalue that part of our primal minds. Adding some visual flair will bring attention, which in turn can be leveraged usefully to guide users.

Here’s an interesting study – being that we are social animals, follow the gaze of others. If you’ve ever seen kittens watching a game of ping pong, they are in sync and drawn to the action. Similarly, if we notice someone look to the left, we instinctively want to look left as well. While this sounds very specific, the idea is simple – visual cues can be optimized to direct users where to focus.

The Nielsen Group says we look at things in an F pattern. I just think that’s funny, or at least a funny way to describe it. We follow from left-to-right (just like we read, and as websites are laid out using techniques first developed for newspapers, it naturally makes sense that we’d do the same). Of course, cultural or national differences arise here – right-to-left readers need the opposite. Always be sure to keep your target audience in mind.

Of course, there are several other findings and studies that can further promote idealistic layout and design, and it should always be the goal of designers to look to the future and evaluate trends. (Interestingly, eye tracking is the first option on this list!)

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