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Opinion Editorials

Good Question [What Would You Do?]

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edited photo courtesy of esterase


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

Basic tips on how to handle common (and ridiculous) interview questions

(EDITORIAL) There will always be off the wall questions in an interview, but what is the point of them? Do interviewers expect quick, honest, or deep and thought out answers?

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We’ve all been asked (or know of friends who have been) some ridiculous interview questions:

  • What type of fruit would you be in a smoothie and why?
  • If you were stuck on a deserted island, what is one item that you couldn’t live without?
  • Could you tell us a joke?

Sound familiar? You may have worried about stumbling in your response, but the reality is, you will receive questions in an interview that you may not know the answer to. Many of us sweat bullets preparing for interviews, trying to think through every possible scenario and every question we might be asked. Usually the hardest part about these questions is simply that you cannot prepare for them. So how do you approach questions like these?

First and foremost, you have to be comfortable with the uncomfortable and do your best to answer them in the moment. Interviewers are not expecting you to know the answer to these question. Instead, they are literally looking to see how you handle yourself in a situation where you may not know the answer. Would you answer with the first thing that comes to mind? Would you ask for more information or resources? What is your thought process and justification for answering this question? Please know that how you answer this particular question is not usually a deal-breaker, but how you handle yourself can be.

Now, with more common questions, even though some can  still feel ridiculous, you have the opportunity to practice.

“What are your strengths and weaknesses?”

They want to be able to see that you have confidence and know your strengths – but also that you are human and recognize where you may have areas of improvement, as well as self-awareness. This isn’t a trick question per se, but it is an important one to think through how you would answer this in a professional manner.

If you’re not feeling super confident or know how to answer the strength question, it may be worth asking your friends and family what they think. What areas of business or life do they feel comfortable coming to ask you about? Were there subjects in school or work projects that you picked up really quickly? This may help identify some strengths (and they can be general like communication or project management.) One great way to delve in to your strengths is to take the CliftonStrengths Test.

“Your CliftonStrengths themes are your talent DNA. They explain the ways you most naturally think, feel and behave.” It gives you your top 5 strengths (unique to you), as well as a detailed report on how those work together and amongst groups. Per the research from Gallup, they say time is better spent on growing your strengths than trying to overcome your weaknesses.

The thing with the “What is your weakness?” question is that you cannot say things like “I really cannot get up in the morning!” or “I absolutely hate small talk!” – even though those may be true for you. They are looking for a more thoughtful answer demonstrating your self-awareness and desire to grow and learn.

They know you’re human, but the interviewer is looking for what you’re doing to address your weakness. An example of a response may be, “I have struggled with advanced formulas in Excel, but have made sure to attend regular workshops and seek out opportunities to practice more functionality so that I can improve in this area”. Another example might be, “I have a very direct type of communication style and I have learned that sometimes, I need to let the other person share and speak more before I jump to a decision.” Many times you can also find some great insights in self-assessment tests too (like DISC, Myers-Briggs, Enneagram for examples).

“Why do you want to work for this company?”

Let’s be real. Companies want people that want to work there. They want you to be interested in their products/service because that usually means you will be a happier employee. You should be able to answer this question by doing some company research, (if any) drawing from your personal experience with the company, or getting “insider insight” from a friend or colleague who works there and can help you understand more about what it’s like to be employed by that company.

“Where do you see yourself in five years?”

All companies have goals and plans to make progress. They ask this question to see if you, a potential future employee, will have goals that align with theirs. Jokingly, we are all curious about how people answered this question back in 2015…but in all seriousness, it is worth asking yourself and thinking through how this company or role aligns with your future goals. This question is similar to the weaknesses question in that you still have to remain professional. You don’t want to tell them that you want to work there so you can learn the ins/outs to then go start your own (competitive) company.

Take a few minutes to think about what excites you about this job, how you can grow and learn there, and maybe one piece of personal (hope to adopt a dog, travel to India, buy a home) but it doesn’t have to be anything super committal.

When it comes to behavioral interview questions, these are also much easier to prepare for. You can take out your resume, review your experience, and write out 3 examples for the following scenarios:

    • Handled a difficult person or situation
    • Decided steps (or pulled together resources) to figure out a problem/solution that was new to your team or organization
    • Brought a new idea to the table, saved expenses and/or brought in revenue – basically how you made a positive impact on the organization

These are very common questions you’ll find in an interview, and while interviewers may not ask you exactly those questions verbatim, if you have thought through a few scenarios, you will be better conditioned to recall and share examples (also looking at your resume can trigger your memory). Bring these notes with you to the interview if that makes you feel more comfortable (just don’t bring them and read them out loud – use it as a refresher before the interview starts).

Practicing is the best way to prepare, but there’s always a chance that you’ll get a question you might not know the answer to. Do your research and consider asking friends (or family) about how they’ve handled being in a similar situation. Ultimately,  you have to trust yourselves that you will be able to rise to the occasion and answer to the best of your ability, in a professional manner.

Whatever you do, please also have questions prepared for your interviewers. This is a great opportunity to help you decide if this is a right fit for you (projects, growth opportunity, team dynamics, management styles, location/travel, what they do for the company/what are they proud of/how did they choose to work here). Never waste it with “Nope, I’m good” as that can leave a bad final impression.

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Opinion Editorials

Be yourself, or be Batman? A simple trick to boost your self-confidence

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) “If you can’t be yourself, be Batman.” We’ve heard it before, but is there a way that this mentality can actually give you self-confidence?

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Batman symbol has long been a way to boost self-confidence.

The joke with scary movies is that the characters do stupid things, and so you scream at them. No you dumdums, don’t go FURTHER into the murder circus. Put down the glowing idol of cursed soda gods and their machine gun tempers. Stop it with the zombie dogs. STOP IT WITH THE — WHAT DID I JUST TELL YOU?

We do this as the audience because we’re removed from the scene. We’re observing, birds eye view imbued ducklings, on our couches, and with our snacks. Weird trick for horror movies to play — makes us feel smart, because we’re not the ones on meat hooks.

But if a zombie crashed through our window, like RIGHT NOW, the first thing we’re going to do doesn’t matter, because that thing is going to be stupid. So so stupid. You can’t believe how stupid you’ll act. Like, “I can’t leave behind my DONUT” stupid, as a zombie chomps your arm that was reaching for a bear claw you weren’t even really enjoying to begin with. “Oh no my DOCUMENTS I can’t leave without my DOCUMENTS.”

There’s a layer of distinction between those two instances — removed versus immersed. And really, this colors a lot of our life. Maybe all of our life. (Spoiler: It is all of our life.)

It’s Imposter Syndrome in overdrive — the crippling thought that you’re going to fail and be found out. And you tell yourself that all the little missteps and mistakes and mis…jumps are entirely your fault. Feedback loops reiterates, and then you get paralyzed. And man, what a time to be alive — what with the world on fire — to start up a self-deprecation engine shame machine. No way our self-confidence is suffering now, right?

The point is: You — as a being — experiencing things first hand is the perfect time to see your shortcomings. You can’t help but do it. You are living in your skeleton meat mecha human suit, and all the electronics in your head strangely remember all the times you struggled. And weirdly, if you look at someone else in the exact same situation you were just in, you suddenly have this powerful insight and awareness. It happens naturally. It’s why you think I would never head on down to the basement in a creepy mansion. Watch any cooking competition show to see this in action. Armchair quarterbacks, hindsight 2020. It’s all the same.

But when it’s just you and you’re doing things in real time? You lose focus, you stumble, and you wonder why it’s suddenly so hard to make rice, or why you fell for the really obvious fake punt.

So where does that leave you? How do you solve this problem? There are ways. But the journey is arduous and hectic and scary and difficult. Time tempers your soul over and over, you harden in ways that build you up, and you become better. The process is ages old.

I bet you’d like at least… I dunno, there’s gotta be a small trick, right? Life has secrets. Secrets exist. Secrets are a thing. Let’s talk about one to boost your self-confidence.

Stop seeing things in first person, and instead, talk to yourself in the third person. Yes, just like George did in that episode of Seinfeld. Don’t say, “I need to finish the project today.” Say “Bob needs to finish the project today.” If your name is Bob, I mean. Substitute in your name. In effect, you are distancing yourself from the situation at hand, as you begin to view it from outside yourself.

Studies have shown that doing this causes a fascinating side effect — an odd insulating barrier that can give someone just enough distance from the problem at hand, which in turn lets someone more calmly examine the situation. Once that is achieved, a plan can be written and executed with great results.

There’s some research demonstrating this concept, and as truly crazy as it sounds, marked improvement in behavior has been measured when participants are told to think of themselves as a different person. It’s like the “fake it ’til you make it” principle — suddenly you’re sort of cheering on this other person, because you want them to succeed. It’s just that in this case, the other person is still you.

I’ve heard the concept also said that “your current self can give your future self an easier life if you work hard now.” It seems like distancing functions on that wavelength — that by thinking you are supporting some other entity (and even when that entity is still you), some empathetic mechanisms spring into play, and your natural desire to see success rebounds back onto yourself. This is you eating your cake, yet something still having cake.

So that’s magic in and of itself, right? I want you to try it. Don’t think in terms of what you have to do, but what you watching yourself will do. All these fun tiny benefits concurrently happen — encouragement, pressure removal, controlled thought, drive, momentum, and motivation. It’s all there — a trail mix built out of emotions and psychological buffs. And they’ll all fire off at once and you’ll start noticing how much better you feel.

Here’s the best part — we can take this further. At least two different studies have shown with children that thinking of an alter ego and then distancing creates even stronger outcomes. Now we’re not just hyping ourselves up — we’re hyping up an impressive figure. Batman is already taking down jerks. So what if you say you are the night and combine that with self removal? Even in children, the conclusion was fascinating. When they were given a menial task to complete, those who were told to believe they were Batman had an improvement of 23% in focus and productivity over a group who was given no directive. Even without the consequences of adult life and its inherent complexities, children naturally showcased that they work harder if they undergo an alter ego transformation. Now you’re not just there for yourself, you’re there for Batman himself.

“But that’s just children.” Ok, well, it works in adults too. Beyoncé and Adele would psych themselves up by creating onstage personas that were confident, successful, fearless versions of themselves. It’s an act within an act, with a performer further elevating themselves away from reality through the substitution of a personality built and engineered for success. Set aside that these are powerful, fierce, intimidating entertainers in their own right; the focus here is that they also used this mental trick, and it worked.

(There’s an aside here that I think is worth mentioning — in the midst of performing to a crowd, you are 100% in control, and I think this simple realization would help scores of people with their fear of public speaking; a concept to write about another day.)

Distilled down: If you think you’re a hero, you’ll act like one. Easier said than done, but give it a try by taking yourself out of the equation, even if for a moment. You’re not changing who you are so much as you are discovering the pieces of innate power you already had. You aren’t erasing yourself — you’re finding the hidden strength that’s already there. Having a way to kickstart this is perfectly fine.

The ultimate goal with all of this is to build the discipline that lets you begin to automatically engage this mode of heightened ability – that you’ll naturally adopt the good parts into life without the need for ramping up. Armed with that, you’re unstoppable.

Life — as a series of interactions and decisions — can be gamed, to a degree, with tiny and small shifts in perspective. Dropping a surrogate for yourself gives you enough room to have the chance to take everything in, and augmenting this concept further with the thought of having an alter ago creates even wilder possibilities. Psychologists are finding that this sidestep phenomenon can potentially help in different areas — improved physical health, learning how to better handle stress, emotional control, mastering anxiety, and a host of others.

So put on a mask, and then put on a whole new self. It’s almost Halloween anyway.

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Opinion Editorials

Don’t forget about essential workers in a post-COVID world (be kind)

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) As the world reopens, essential workers deserve even more of our respect and care, remembering that their breaks have been few and far between.

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Tired essential workers wearing an apron leans against the doorframe of a cafe, eyes closed.

Anxiety about returning to work post-COVID-19 is real. Alison Green, of Ask A Manager, believes “much of that stems from a break in trust in the people and institutions that have shown they can’t be counted on to protect us.” Green also goes on to remind us that a lot of people don’t have the luxury of returning to the workplace – the essential workers who never left the workplace. The grocery store clerks, janitors, garbage collectors, and healthcare providers, just to name a few. As the country reopens, we have to be more sensitive to these essential workers, who often are left out of the discussion about safety, work norms, and benefits.

Essential workers got lip service during the pandemic

At the start of the pandemic, the essential workers were hailed as heroes. We appreciated the grocery store workers who tried to keep the shelves stocked with toilet paper. We thanked the healthcare workers who kept working to keep people healthy and to take care of our elderly. I remember being more appreciative of the person who delivered my mail and the guy who came and picked up the trash each week. Now that the pandemic has been with us for more than a year, these workers are still doing their jobs, just maybe not so tirelessly.

Some of these workers don’t have sick days, let alone vacation days for self-care, but they are still making it possible for their community to function while being treated with less than respect. They’ve weathered the pandemic while working in public, worrying about getting sick, dealing with the public who threw tantrums for policies beyond their control, and managing their health while employers didn’t enforce safety measures. I’d hazard a guess that most of the C-level executives didn’t bring in any of their essential employees when writing new policies under COVID-19.

Bring essential workers into the conversation

In many cases, it has been the workers with the least who are risking the most. In Oklahoma, even though Gov. Stitt deemed many industries as essential, those same workers had to wait until Phase 3 to get their vaccine. Please note that elected officials and government leaders were eligible under Phase 2 to get their vaccine. Society pays lip service to the essential workers, but in reality, these jobs are typically low paying jobs that must be done, pandemic or not. In my small rural town, a local sheriff’s deputy contracted COVID-19. The community came together in fundraising efforts to pay his bills. It’s sad that a man who served the community did not have enough insurance to cover his illness.

As your office opens up and you talk to employees who are concerned about coming back to the office, don’t forget about the ones who have been there the entire time. Give your essential workers a voice. Treat their anxiety as real. Don’t pay lip service to their “heroism” without backing it up with some real change. As offices open up to a new normal, we can’t forget about the essential workers who did the jobs that kept society going.

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