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Know When to Walk

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It is much more difficult now

Our real estate market here in the twin cities has changed quite a bit in the last couple of years. It is much more difficult to sell a house than it used to be. Last year I made some mistakes that I decided not to repeat this year. I will publicly admit that not all of my listings sold.

I was beating myself up, but…

For a time I was beating myself up a bit over it but it wasn’t me not doing a good job. In every case the home owner was upside on a mortgage and the asking price for the home was too high. I would show my clients numbers and local sales data and recommend a price reduction but they would tell me that they couldn’t reduce it. I canceled two of those listings myself.I watched as one of those listings I canceled listed with another agent, six months later she listed it with yet another agent.

It is still on the market listed with agent number four. The price has been reduced slightly, mostly by agent number three but the property is still on the market and has been for the last 15 months. The property is worth less money today than it was the day I originally listed it. If she would have accepted my recommendation she would not have had to make fifteen months worth of mortgage payments, pay a years worth of taxes and insurance on an investment property that she is upside down on.

When did you buy it?

This year when a home owner calls and asks me to list their home I ask them when they bought it. The question is less personal than asking a total stranger that just contacted me how much the owe on their home. If they purchased the home after 2003 my questions get a bit more personal. Sometimes I give them a kind of lecture and ask them if they really have to move and if they have ever considered renting the place out. I have been able to help a few people find good tenants. I don’t make any money that way.

Some people call me and I do a market analysis for them and then they tell me how much money they have to have for their home and I tell them that I won’t list it for them. I explain that I can not sell it for the price they want to ask but assure them that there are plenty of Realtors in the Twin Cities and that they should have no trouble finding someone who will list it for them.

The same goes for buyers

It is pretty much the same with the buyers. After I have determined if they have talked to a lender I ask them how long they plan on living in the home. If they give me an answer of five years or less they are advised that buying and selling real estate that often may not be the best use of their resources. I explain typical buying and selling costs.

Last week I had a couple ask me to discount my fee because they owe about as much on their property as I can sell it for. I told them that I wanted to work with them, and I meant it, but that I could not reduce my fee. They explained that they do not have a lot of money and they need as much as they can get from the sale of their home. My heart goes out to them but I also have bills to pay, and selling their condo is going to be a lot of work. I explained the value of my services and the ways that I will save them money. I also told them that they can find an agent who will charge less. They signed a contract with me last Saturday, and their home will be on the market this week.

I’ve said “no” just as often

In the last couple of months I believe I have said no to new clients at least as often as I have said yes. I still have some tough listings but I am confident that I can sell them. It isn’t easy saying no. When I started in the business I worked for one of those huge real estate companies. They would encouraged me to get listings at any cost and we were all thought that some commission is better than none. We were discouraged from discounting our fees but in the end the company would rather see us take less than get nothing at all.

A woman who called me last week spent some time trying to “sell” me on the idea of listing her townhouse. The answer was still no. I did feel some compassion for her and her situation but I have learned that if I don’t remain some what emotional detached from my clients and their problems I end up wearing myself out and doing a lot of work for free. She has her unit listed with another agent. I asked if that agent had ever suggested reducing he price. The caller said yes. I told her that she should listen to her agent.

Learning when to say no

Learning when to say no is important. Last year I spent too much time and money trying to sell homes that were over priced. Now I am not afraid to say no, I think I have had enough practice now so that I am good at saying no. It just kind of rolls off the tongue and I enjoy saying it. It makes me feel like I am running my business instead of letting it run me. Every hour spent trying to sell and over priced listing is an hour that could be used for activities that will lead to revenue generation.

Full time REALTOR and licensed broker with Saint Paul Home Realty Realty in St. Paul, Minnesota. Author of StPaulRealEstateBlog.com, Columnist for Inman News and an avid photographer.

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16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. Missy Caulk

    April 8, 2008 at 6:09 am

    Teresa, I have to keep my emotions out of it too. I have potential clients telling me after I show them the market value, “Well we’ll just sell short?”
    Is the the big catch all?
    Last time, both had excellent jobs and were transferred out of state, good investments. This freaks me out that so many are reading the papers and think that is a way to go and don’t care about credit.

    I told them to go back and renegotiate with their employers, for more benefits or to make them whole.

  2. Kevin Sharkey - IBR Broker

    April 8, 2008 at 7:30 am

    Teresa,
    Great post as usual. There are many opportunities out there to choose from, especially for an agent like yourself. I agree with your whole idea of being more selective in who you choose to work with. Ultimately, you will generate more revenue because of being more selective.

    There are other agents who do not have as many options as you, and are more likely to “chase leads”. Others get emotionally involved and will reduce their fees to help out. As a broker, I am conflicted by some of this activity. On one hand, there will probably not be a closing for my bleeding heart agent. On the other hand, an agent will get more experience, an opportunity to work with marketing a home in a down market and maybe someday have enough experience so they can become more selective in who they work with.

    I think this may just be part of the whole growth cycle of an agent. The better the agent becomes, the sooner they can take control of their business. Clearly, you are at that point. Thanks again for the great words.

    P.S. I still have the other red mitten. It wants to join its mate.

  3. Bill Lublin

    April 8, 2008 at 8:07 am

    Teresa: Great post- and what courage to address an issue that so many agents keep in the closet- Its always better to take a listing that will sell then just to take a listing- and if its needed, its better to be the second agent when the listing doesn;t sell. As far as fees go, if you can;t negotiate for the fee to feed your family, how well can you negotiate on behalf of the seller when it comes time to actually negotiate the sale of the property? You have the skills and knowledge that the consumer needs, and you are well worth the cost of that service 🙂

  4. Kristal Kraft

    April 8, 2008 at 8:18 am

    Wise advice T. The last time we had a bad market I get very good at asking people (with a straight face), “How much money can you afford to bring to closing?”

    Eventually they got the message after hearing it from agent after agent. Seller’s realized we weren’t miracle workers and to sell their home it would take money out of their pocket.

    Once agents realize this is the way to make it happen for the seller, the market will turn around. Or at least they will be able to sell their home and move on to the next destination.

    The good news is, sometimes what they perceive to lose on the selling end them may gain on the buying end. It may not be as bad as it looks.

    Of course if the homeowner doesn’t have to sell right now, they shouldn’t. This too shall pass. Really!

  5. Teresa Boardman

    April 8, 2008 at 8:30 am

    KK – I often question sellers on how badly they “have to sell” and advise against it if they are upside down or close to it.

    Bill – I learned that line in real estate school and never use it. I just know that to stay in business I need to make a profit and that my time and experience is worth money and sold to people who will pay for it.

    Kevin – loved the mitten! Will call, my right hand is getting cold.

    Missy – hate the idea of a short sale for people who just want another house. i am seeing agents in my market encouraging it. I won’t.

  6. Greg Cremia

    April 8, 2008 at 9:20 am

    Over the past 2 years I have turned down more listings than I accepted. There is a wall right next to my desk that I can bang my head against if I ever feel the need to.

  7. Andy Kaufman

    April 8, 2008 at 11:29 am

    Learning how to say “no” is a valuable skill and one that I’m still perfecting.

    I also spent a good portion of last year caught in non-dollar productive activities that drained me mentally, physically and financially, but I feel that it’s almost a rite of passage that one needs to go through to in order to learn the lesson first hand.

    The challenge lies in that it’s a lot easier to say no when you’re drowning in business and are forced to pick and choose rather than when you’re sitting around the office most of the day and working with that ‘on the fence’ buyer or seller that will happily devour your time & energy if you allow it, just for ‘experience’

    I’ve learned a few lessons from those clients. Most notably how to identify and either incubate or steer clear.

  8. Vicki Moore

    April 8, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    Thanks for reaffirming the position I took recently. A close friend told me of a neighbor who wanted to list their house for far above its value. They gave me all of the details, including that the seller didn’t care if it took over a year to get her price. It became quite a conversation. I told them that I was in the business of selling houses, not listing them, how much it would cost me to retain a high-end listing for over a year and that the likelihood is that by then both the seller and I would be sick of each other and I wouldn’t make the sale anyway. They had arguments for every position that I took and I’m sure that the seller would have too. However, it’s my business. I’m the one taking the risk. I have to choose where to put my time, money and efforts.

  9. Teresa Boardman

    April 8, 2008 at 2:47 pm

    Andy – I have said no when business is bad and it is hard to do but I remind myself that the time that I would have been working on something that is not going to generate revenue could be spent making money. I am not in the business to show houses or to list them, if I want to make money I need to sell them. I am willing to work hard and market the hell out of each and every listing but I am not willing to work with sellers who will not cooperate for any reason.

    Vicki – the more you say no, the easier it gets.

  10. ines

    April 8, 2008 at 2:52 pm

    I’ve never had a problem saying “no” – now Rick…..that’s a different problem (I know that’s mean). Rick and I sat down today to discuss which listings we are not renewing – it’s important to know where you are spinning your wheels and where you are getting results. It’s also important to identify which customers you work well for and who really appreciates your expertise.

  11. Mike Farmer

    April 8, 2008 at 3:13 pm

    I have about four in the wings now I’ve convinced to wait to sell. They are all making improvements to their homes waiting until the market is more favorable.

  12. Teresa Boardman

    April 8, 2008 at 5:28 pm

    Ines – I don’t renew them all. 🙂

    Mike – I hope yu gave them some chocolate so they will remember you and list with you. 🙂

  13. Matthew Rathbun

    April 8, 2008 at 8:10 pm

    T,

    This is one of the most important mindsets that an agent can have in this market. You’ve done a great job of using your experience to help other agents. That’s one of your most endearing qualities. I really appreciate your openness and willingness to share.

    The concept of having a business plan and only taking on those clients who fit into that plan is a great risk mitigation tool. It all starts with being determined to say “no” if you the client isn’t realistic and you aren’t a good fit.

  14. Teresa Boardman

    April 9, 2008 at 6:20 am

    Mathew – you bring up another point. The “good fit” thing is why I sometimes say no to buyers. A personality quirk of mine but I have to feel comfortable with the people I work with. I spend a lot of time with my buyers and do a lot of hand holding as many are moving from other states or are first time buyers. If I don’t trust them or feel like they don’t trust me, I just can’t do a good job so I end up interviewing buyers after they get done interviewing me.

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Opinion Editorials

Before you quit your job, ask yourself these 5 questions

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Frustrated at work? Here are 5 ideas utilizing design thinking and exploration tactics to assess if you really are ready to quit your job.

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Man reclining on beanbag with laptop, thoughtful. Considering tactics before you quit your job.

We have all been there. We are in a job that just doesn’t feel right for us. Maybe we strongly dislike our manager or even our day to day work responsibilities. We find it easy to blame everyone else for everything we dislike. We question life and ask “Is this what life is all about? Shouldn’t I be spending my time doing something I am more passionate about?” But, we probably like the regular paycheck… Thus, we stay there and possibly become more miserable by the day. Some of us may even start to feel physical symptoms of headaches, stomach aches, and possibly depression. We also may go to the internet like this person seeking answers and hoping someone else can tell us what to do:

“I feel conflicted but I want to quit my job. What should I do?

I was thinking of quitting my job because I dislike what I do, and I feel I am underpaid.

However last week my colleague tendered her resignation too. Needless to say, if I leave too, my whole department will fall into a larger mess and that causes some feelings of conflict within me.

Should my colleague quitting affect when I want to leave too? How do I go about quitting now?”

We can definitely empathize with this – it’s really uncomfortable, sometimes sad, and hard to be in a position where we feel we are underpaid and we aren’t happy.

So, how can you navigate a situation like this? How do you figure out if you should just quit your job? How can you be an adult about this?

Here are some exploratory questions, ideas, and some design thinking activities to help you answer this question for yourself.

  • Before you up and quit, assuming you don’t yet have your next opportunity lined up, have you considered asking for a raise – or better yet, figure out how you add value to the organization? Would your supervisor be willing to move you in to a new role or offer additional compensation?
  • If you don’t have a job lined up, do you have the recommended AT LEAST six months of living expenses in your savings account? Some would recommend that you have even more during a global pandemic where unemployment is at an all-time high – it may take longer to find a new position.
  • Do you have a safety net of family or friends that are willing and able to help you with your bills if you don’t have your regular paycheck? Would you be willing to put that burden on them so you can quit your job?
  • Why aren’t you job searching if you are unhappy? Is it because the task seems daunting and the idea of interviewing right now makes you want to puke?
  • What would your ideal job be and what would it take for you to go for it?

Many people claim they don’t like their job but they don’t know what to do next or even worse, don’t know what they WANT to do. To offer a little bit of tough love here: Well, then, that’s your job to figure it out. You can go on Reddit all you want, but no one else can tell you what is right for you.

Here are some ways to explore what may be an exciting career move for you or help you identify some areas that you need to learn more about in order to figure out where work will align with your skills, interests, and passions.

  1. Consider ordering the Design Your Life Workbook that provides writing prompts to help you figure out what it is that you are looking for in a job/career. You may also like the book Designing Your Work Life which is about “How to Thrive and Change and Find Happiness at Work”.
  2. Utilize design thinking to answer some of your questions. Make a diamond shape and in each of the four corners, write out the “Who” you want to be working with, “What” you’d like to be doing, “Where” you’d like to be, and “Why” you want to be there or doing that kind of work.
  3. Conduct informational interviews with people doing work that you think you might be interested in. Usually these conversations give you lots of interesting insights and either a green light to pursue something or validation that maybe that role isn’t right for you either.
  4. Get your resume updated. Sometimes just dusting off your resume, updating it, and making it ready gives you a feeling of relief that if you did really want to pursue a new job, you are almost ready. Consider updating your LinkedIn profile as well.
  5. Explore what you can do differently. A lot of what we can be frustrated about can be related to things out of our control. Consider exploring ways to work better with your team or how to grow to become invaluable. Tune in to Lindsey Pollak’s podcast, The Work Remix, where she gives great ideas on how to navigate working in current times where there are five generations in the workplace. There may be ways you need to adjust your communication style or tune in to emotional intelligence on how to better work with your supervisor or employees. Again, focus on what is within your control.

You may decide that you need to quit your job to be able to focus your energy on finding a better fit for you. But at the same time, be realistic. Most of us have to work to live. Everyone has bills, so you may continue working while you sort out some of the other factors to help you find a more exciting prospect. Either way, wishing you all the best on this journey, and the time and patience to allow you to figure it out.

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Opinion Editorials

New USPS duck-shaped truck design has mixed reactions

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) The USPS is getting a fleet of electronic delivery vehicles. We’re wondering if the actual design got lost in the mail.

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New USPS truck in a fictional neighborhood delivering mail.

So the USPS is getting new trucks and they look like ducks and maybe that sucks… or maybe it wucks. Like “works,” if a duck said it. Just give me this one please.

Anyway.

I don’t know how mean I can be here – there has to be something said for objective journalistic integrity – but I have a feeling most people are going to have a rather sarcastic reaction to the new design. I’m not so sure I can blame them – it has a kind of stubby little nose with a shortened hood and a boxy frame and super tall windshield, which gives the wheels a disproportionately large look compared to the rest of the silhouette. It’s sort of like a Nissan Cube but less millennial cool, which A) is discontinued (so maybe not so cool), and B) is not the car that had those giant hiphop hamsters running around, but I’m still going to link to it anyway.

Elon Musk must be breathing a sigh of relief right now.

The contract was awarded to Oshkosh Defense (which I was thrilled to find out is NOT the adorable kid’s clothing company, even though I personally think that would be hilarious if there was a factory making overalls for tiny humans alongside tactical defense trucks) and officially announced on February 23rd, 2021 to the tune of $482 million. Seriously though, someone is going to mix those up for the rest of all time and eternity; I’d never not think about my own baby pictures if some contractor from Oshkosh Defense showed up.

The release mentions that, “The historic investment is part of a soon-to-be-released plan the Postal Service has developed to transform its financial performance and customer service over the next 10 years through significant investments in people, technology and infrastructure as it seeks to become the preferred delivery service provider for the American public.” It’s called the NGDV – Next Generation Delivery Vehicle, which I happen to adore, and will pronounce as Nugduv, and you can’t stop me anyway. The old one was called the Grumman, by the way.

Some credit this as a radical change, and keeping in mind that radical doesn’t necessarily denote positive or negative, it seems like the perfect word to use here. Then there are those who correctly identify “a mixed bag of responses,” sort of like when you get a bag of candy at Halloween that has at least one thing no one likes. Some call it strange, while others defend it as something every new big vehicle should look like (this is where – as one of many – I found it called a “duck” which oh man do I love, quack quack).

We can also hit up the ever fair public opinion of Twitter, because why wouldn’t we?

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This is how I would draw a car. That is not a plus for this design

I really can’t get over that last one. But I mean, whoa. That’s quite the spectrum. There’s less disagreement on pizza toppings I think. But luckily I think we’re safe there – Domino’s makes people drive their personal cars.

Taking a step back and putting snide commentary away for a moment, there’s some areas that should be discussed. First – and what should probably be obvious – there was a laundry list of requirements and restrictions from the USPS, which made Nir Kahn – design director from custom carmaker Plasan – offer up his own tweets that give some insight on dimensions and design:

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I was involved in an early proposal for the USPS truck so I know the requirements well. They pretty much dictated the proportions – this package sketch shows that to meet the ergonomic and size requirements, there wasn’t much freedom 1/2 #USPS pic.twitter.com/Fk35g98Z83

Kahn mentions that “there wasn’t much freedom,” but also that “it could have looked much better,” and this sort of underlines the entire discussion I think – there were goals in place, and possibly some more aesthetically pleasing ways to meet them, but the constraints won out and drove (hehe) the design more than style did.

Certainly, there are other concerns – the ability for USPS drivers to reach a mailbox while seated is paramount. Others have pointed out that this design – with its large windshield and shortened front – should help with safety around small children (all the better if they are wearing Oshkosh B’gosh, because that implies they are tiny and may not be at all concerned with the dangers of streets). The open field-of-vision will aid in making sure drivers can navigate places that might be frequented by any number of pedestrians, so that’s a plus.

Further, if you get struck by one of these, you’ll basically “just” get kneecapped versus taking it square to the torso. The duck article is the one making this call, and I think there’s some merit there (though it makes me question how the USPS fleet is going to do against the SUVs and big trucks out in the wild). It then goes on to point out that this design has more cargo space, fitting into the idea of “rightsizing,” where the form and function of the vehicle meet in a way that is downsized, but still punches above its weight.

“From smaller fire engines to nimbler garbage trucks, making vehicles better scaled to urban tasks can make a huge difference, not only for keeping other cars moving on narrow streets, but also to ensure that humans on those same streets can access the bike lanes, sidewalks, and curb cuts they need to get around.”

I didn’t try too hard to find stats on crashes in mail trucks, but seems like something that should be addressed.

Maybe the biggest point here is that we sort of have to get new trucks – they are outliving their 24 year expectancy and catching on fire. On FIRE. I mean a mail truck might be the worst place for a fire. I’m not even sure I can’t think up a better answer… Ok maybe toilets would be worse.

The new vehicles can be either petrol or electric powered, have 360 cameras, airbags, and automatic braking. Oh, and air conditioning, which the old vehicles did not have. So yes, literally the worst place to have a fire. But due to the taller vehicles, someone can stand in them now! So escape is even easier! Hooray!

A series of delays pushed back the introduction of new vehicles from their 2018 projected date, with poor initial prototypes and the pandemic being major setbacks. Aggressive bidding led to extended deadlines, which had been narrowed down to a small list of candidates that included Workhorse (who unfortunately suffered a large stock plunge following the announcement). It’s been in the works for at least six years.

In the end, I don’t think we can discount all the advantages here – more efficient vehicles that are safer and provide drivers with modern amenities. That’s a LOT of good. I think once the initial goofy shock is over, the design will be accepted. Everyone thought Nintendo’s Wii was a hilarious name (still pretty much is regardless of being in the public book of acceptable nomenclature), and Cybertruck sales are brisk, so I think we can set a lot of this aside. The Edsel these are not.

So hey, new USPS vehicles in 2023, like an exceedingly late birthday present. All I want to see is a bunch of baby ducks following one of them around oh please let that happen. The USPS kind of has an identity crisis in the modern era, so maybe a funny little cute silly boxmobile is just the right way to get some attention.

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Opinion Editorials

Declutter your quarantine workspace (and brain)

(EDITORIAL) Can’t focus? Decluttering your workspace can help you increase productivity, save money, and reduce stress.

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decluttering

It’s safe to say that we’ve all been spending a lot more time in our homes these last few months. This leads us to fixate on the things we didn’t have time for before – like a loose doorknob, or an un-alphabetized bookshelf, or that we’ve put off ‘declutter’ on our to-do list for too long.

The same goes for our workspaces. Many of us have had to designate a spot at home to use for work purposes. For those of you who still need to remain on-site, you’ve likely been too busy to focus on your surroundings.

Cleaning and organizing your workspace every so often is important, regardless of the state of the world, and with so much out of our control right now, this is one of the few things we can control.

Whether you’re working from a home office or an on-site office, take some time for quarantine decluttering. According to The Washington Post, taking time to declutter can increase your productivity, lower stress, and save money (I don’t know about you, but just reading those 3 things makes me feel better already).

Clutter can cause us to feel overwhelmed and make us feel a bit frazzled. Having an office space filled with piles of paper containing irrelevant memos from five years ago or 50 different types of pens, has got to go – recycle that mess and reduce your stress. The same goes with clearing files from your computer; everything will run faster.

Speaking of running faster, decluttering and creating a cleaner workspace will also help you be more efficient and productive. Build this habit by starting small: try tidying up a bit at the end of every workday, setting yourself up for a ready-to-roll morning.

Cleaning also helps you take stock of stuff that you have so that you don’t end up buying more of it. Create a designated spot for your tools and supplies so that they’re more visible – this way, you’ll always know what you have and what needs to be replenished. This will help you stop buying more of the same product that you already have and save you money.

So, if you’ve been looking to improve your focus and clearing a little bit of that ‘quarantine brain’, start by getting your workspace in order. You’ll be amazed at how good it feels to declutter and be “out with the old”; you may even be inspired to do the same for your whole house. Regardless, doing this consistently will create a positive shift in your life, increasing productivity, reducing stress, and saving you money.

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