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Referral – Let the Interview Begin – Thursday WTF

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Every Agent Should Read This and Be Prepared

Just before new years, I received a referral from R.com – wow.  It came in the form of an email from a husband and wife who stated they had a builder selected, a location narrowed down, and a floorplan they loved- neat!  They requested that they be in contract no later than December 31, 2007 – fantastic.  They requested that I call them and schedule a meet to discuss negotiating and writing the contracts- groovy.

Based on the area (and more specifically the builder they had chosen), I opted to send the best man for the job- George.  George has a specialty in dealing with this builder and even further, he plays golf with the regional sales manager.  Even more, George plays poker with the lead sales agent of the community in which the buyers had selected.  Taking his credentials one step further, George has sold numerous build-to-suits, resale, and inventory homes in this same community, and had they asked, George has a degree in International Business as well as in Communications, is fluent in several languages, and has been in business 10 years.  It’s a slam dunk on qualifications- George obviously has an edge that these buyers will sincerely enjoy all the way to the bank.

George called and arranged a meeting to “set up the offer” and write the contracts with the buyers, made an initial contact with the builder, got a list of available inventory, prices, and did a CMA of the area to give the buyers some additional edge in options with the builder.  George arrived at said location, met the buyers, and sat down to empty the contents of the folder on the table to present the buyers with some outstanding options.

Before George could get a word out, the buyers said, “we’re not here to hire you today.”  Perplexed, George asked, “then how can I help you?”  The buyers basically told George that he was there to be interviewed along with five other agents.  George casually filed the folder back into his bag and listened- never once being asked about his qualifications.

As the buyers talked incessantly through the meeting, leaving very little room for George to talk, he learned very quickly that this meeting was about commission, and not about any of George’s qualifications, nor about what George could do for them on pricing, nor was it about his established relationships with the folks at the builder’s office that might lead them to a hotter buy.  The buyers flat out lied about their intentions in meeting George, and they honestly did not care that they had offended a rather well connected, well seasoned professional- honestly, being the professional he is, they probably never even caught on that they had offended him. 

All I can think is that it is a sad sad day when buyers have been led to believe that the only thing they’re paying an agent to do is “write a contract.”  I sincerely doubt that this is going to improve any time soon as long as the techies have anything to say about it. 

Needless to say, the buyers still have not contracted, nor have they hired George, and even if they decided they wanted to, George would not hire them.  The reality is, what George brings to the table is George’s to sell or not, and George has every reason in the world to move down the road away from buyers who are liars

So, here is a tip for anyone who wants to use this method of interviewing over commissions- don’t.  That should be the very last reason to interview an agent.  Qualifications run more deeply than the commission- the commission is what the qualifications are worth- a conversation George was most willing to have.   

I wish these two buyers much success in their endeavors and pray they find an agent worthy of their approach.  I hope from my heart that they save a couple thousand in commissions, and can negotiate blindly a sales price they can live with.  We support the idea of interviews of agents and their qualifications, but we do not support the idea of being lied to in order to do it. 

Benn Rosales is the Founder and CEO of The American Genius (AG), national news network for tech and entrepreneurs, proudly celebrating 10 years in publishing, recently ranked as the #5 startup in Austin. Before founding AG, he founded one of the first digital media strategy firms in the nation and also acquired several other firms. His resume prior includes roles at Apple and Kroger Foods, specializing in marketing, communications, and technology integration. He is a recipient of the Statesman Texas Social Media Award and is an Inman Innovator Award winner. He has consulted for numerous startups (both early- and late-stage), has built partnerships and bridges between tech recruiters and the best tech talent in the industry, and is well known for organizing the digital community through popular monthly networking events. Benn does not venture into the spotlight often, rather believes his biggest accomplishments are the talent he recruits, develops, and gives all credit to those he's empowered.

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11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Kelley Koehler

    January 10, 2008 at 3:16 pm

    I’ve had a similar experience, although I managed to sniff out his true intentions after a couple of email exchanges, and before we actually met in person.

    He found a site that will give a 1% rebate of the buying side commission, which would be about a third of the total commission from the builder he liked. But – he wanted someone with local knowledge to drive him around and teach him about the other builders, make sure he was making a good choice. And for the privilege of helping him, all he wanted from me was half of my commission.

    He didn’t want to go with the anonymous website rebater, no, he wanted to deal with a human agent, have all of my knowledge and experience, and expected me to give up more of my hard earned money than even a website referrer was willing to give after putting in absolutely no work.

  2. Benn Rosales

    January 10, 2008 at 3:46 pm

    So why not call the website company and have them show the house…

  3. Corey K

    January 10, 2008 at 4:48 pm

    While I can agree being lied to about the meetings intentions is not cool. One thing I have learned in my many years of sales experience is, “Buyers are Liars”. This will always be the case.

  4. Charleston real estate blog

    January 10, 2008 at 4:56 pm

    Benn, I’ll take a page from Jeff Brown and write a short essay with a slightly different twist on buyers in today’s market:

    I received this email from someone who had been registered on my website. As you’ll see, they didn’t choose to use me but went the do it yourself route instead.

    “My husband and I have signed an agreement on a new construction home in the Charleston area and agreed to go with their lender and closing attorney. Now we feel we may have jumped in too quick, as this is our first home buying experience. We are realizing that their lenders may not always act in our best interest and would like to have someone with experience on our side. Does this sound like something you could help us out with? We initially signed up with an internet company where we found the listing for the development but again not sure if they are really in it for us. Thanks.”

    The only help I could provide them at that point in time was to suggest they seek the advice of a good real estate attorney. But it illustrates the do it yourself, know nothing at all kind of mistake that many buyers have made and will continue to make trading by competency for a rebate.

    Until the consumer public understands the real value a real estate agent can bring to the transaction, many will choose to skip the service or attempt to reduce the cost of the service and in this case sadly, at a much higher price. Our real job is to communicate the value that we offer to the client; failing to do that will cause many agents to be cut out of the deal or be forced to reduce their fees.

  5. Benn Rosales

    January 10, 2008 at 4:59 pm

    great example…

  6. Benn Rosales

    January 10, 2008 at 5:23 pm

    Corey, sure, thats always been true, even myself as a buyer will lie about income if it means I get less on a sales price. I’ve never been honest about what I’ll pay on something, but this is just a new low and very unnecessary…

  7. Kelley Koehler

    January 10, 2008 at 5:27 pm

    See, I was hoping this wouldn’t go there. I hate that phrase. Most of the people I work with are not telling me lies. It’s rare for me to come across someone who is lying to me to try and maniuplate something. I know they exist, and I’ve run across my share. But the majority of my buyers have honest intentions.

  8. Charleston real estate blog

    January 10, 2008 at 5:31 pm

    Kelley, I agree with you, to call all buyers liars is unfair to the very nice people we have all been fortunate enough to work with.

  9. ines

    January 10, 2008 at 10:06 pm

    I just shook my head back and forth while I read this. It’s a sad day when buyers feel like they have to manipulate a situation to get what they want.

    They will ultimately end up working with someone that will manipulate them into overpaying, and overlooking important factors.

  10. Benn Rosales

    January 11, 2008 at 12:58 am

    Kelley, I cringed when I saw that comment, I’m just making the point that regardless of the phrase, it’s still a new low.

    To your point, when you are an actual client, there isn’t a REASON to lie- it would make representation moot. It is those who do not want to be sold or closed by someone selling them somthing that tend to lie, as I said, I am guilty of that phrase, that doesn’t make me a liar by nature- I’m actually being defensive.

  11. Kelley Koehler

    January 11, 2008 at 9:58 am

    Benn – yah, I understand that wasn’t your point, and I agree with you. Also about fibbing when defensive. It’s not Buyers are Liars, it’s Buyers are Liars because their agent has failed to ____________. I hear that phrased tossed around about current clients, and it infurates me to no end. 9 times of 10, it’s not them, it’s you, dummy.

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Opinion Editorials

Ways to socialize safely during quarantine

(EDITORIAL) Months of isolation due to quarantine is causing loneliness for many, but joining virtual social groups from home may help fill the need for interaction.

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Quarantining, sheltering in place, staying home. We’re tired of hearing it; we’re tired of doing it. Yet, it’s what we still need to be doing to stay safe for a while longer. All of this can be lonesome. As the days turn into weeks and weeks into months, the alone time is getting to even the most introverted among us.

Solitary confinement is considered one of the most psychologically damaging punishments a human can endure. The New Yorker reported on this in a 1992 study of prisoners in detention camps in the former Yugoslavia, as well as Vietnam veterans who experienced isolation. These studies showed that prisoners who had experienced solitary confinement demonstrated similar brain activity to those who’d suffered a severe head injury, noting that “Without sustained social interaction, the human brain may become as impaired as one that has incurred a traumatic injury.”

We aren’t meant to be solitary creatures. Your “pandemic brain” is real. That fogginess, the lack of productivity, can be attributed to many things, including anxiety, but being kept apart from other humans is a big part of it too. Be kind to yourself, give yourself grace, and join others virtually. Be it an app, a class, a Facebook group, a chat room, or a livestream, someone somewhere is out there waiting to connect with you too.

The good news? We are lucky enough to live in an era of near limitless ways to interact socially online. Sure, it is different, but it is something. It’s important. The best thing about this type of social interaction is being able to hone in on your specific interests, though I’d caution you against getting caught in an online echo chamber. Diversity of interests, personality, and opinion make for a richer experience, with opportunities for connecting and expanding your worldview.

Here are a few suggestions on ways to socialize while staying home and staying safe. Communicating with other humans is good for you, physically and mentally.

Interactive Livestreams on Twitch:

Twitch is best known as a streaming service for video game fans, but it offers multiple streams appealing to different interests. This is more than passive watching (although that is an option, too) as Twitch livestream channels also have chat rooms. Twitch is fun for people who like multi-tasking because the chat rooms for popular livestream channels can get busy with chatter.

While people watch the Twitch hosts play a video game, film a live podcast, make music or art, mix cocktails, or dance, they can comment on what they’re watching, make suggestions, ask questions, crack jokes, and get to know each other (by Twitch handle, so it is still as anonymous as you want it to be) in the chat room. The best hosts take time every so often to interact directly with the chat room questions and comments.

Many Twitch channels develop loyal followers who get to know each other, thus forming communities. I have participated in the Alamo Drafthouse Master Pancake movie mocks a few times because they are fun and local to Austin, where I live. Plus, in my non-quarantine life, I would go to Master Pancake shows live sometimes. The chat room feels familiar in a nice way. While watching online is free, you can (and totally should) tip them.

Online trivia in real time:

There are some good options for real-time online trivia, but I’m impressed with the NYC Trivia League’s model. They have trivia games online on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. The NYC Trivia League seems to have figured out a good way to run the game live while keeping answers private from the other teams. They run games on Instagram Live with a live video of the host, and participants answer via the question feature. Clever!

Online book club:

First I have to shout out my Austin local independent bookstore, BookPeople, because they are fantastic. They run book clubs throughout the year, along with readings, book signings, and all things book-related. BookPeople hosts several online book clubs during these lockdown days, and most people will find something that appeals to them.

I’m also impressed with this list from Hugo House, a writer’s resource based out of Seattle. This list includes Instagram and Goodread book clubs, book clubs for Black women, rebels, and poetry lovers. The Financial Diet recommends the Reddit book club, if you are comfortable with the Reddit format. Please note that it’s a busy place, but if you like Reddit, you already know this.

Cooking class or virtual tasting:

This is doubly satisfying because you can follow these chefs in real time, and you end up with a meal. There are a couple on Instagram Live, such as The Culinistas or Chef Massimo Bottura.

You can also participate in virtual tastings for wine, whiskey, or chocolate, though you will have to buy the product to participate in the classes (usually held over Zoom or Facebook Live). If you are in Austin, Dallas, or Houston, I recommend BeenThere Locals. The cost of the course includes the wine, spirits, or cooking kit in most cases, and all of the money goes to the business and expert hosting the class.

Look for your favorite wine, spirits, cheese, chocolate makers, and chefs that are local to you to find a similar experience. Most either prepare the class kit for pickup or delivery within a local area.

Quarantine chat:

To interact with another quarantined person seeking social interaction, there’s Quarantine Chat. Quarantine chat is one of the ways to connect through the Dialup app, available on iOS and Android devices. Sign up to make and receive calls when you want to speak with someone. The Dialup app pairs you randomly with another person for a phone conversation, at a scheduled time, either with anyone or with someone with shared interests.

Quarantine chat takes it a step further with calls at random times. When your quarantine chat caller calls, you will not see their number (or they yours), only the “Quarantine Chat” caller ID. If you are unable to pick up when they call, they will be connected with someone else, so there is no pressure to answer. It’s nice to hear someone else’s voice, merely to talk about what you’ve been cooking or what hilarious thing your pet is doing.

Play Uno:

Uno Freak lets people set up games and play Uno online with friends or strangers. Players do not need to register or download anything to play. Uno Freak is web-based.

Talk to mental health professionals:

If your state of loneliness starts sliding toward depression, call someone you can speak to right away to talk over your concerns. When in doubt, call a trained professional! Here are a few resources:

  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): The NAMI HelpLine can be reached Monday through Friday, 10 am–6 pm, ET, 800-950-NAMI (6264) or info@nami.org.
  • Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to this text line 24/7 for someone to text with who will also be able to refer you to other resources: U.S. and Canada: 74174, U.K. 85258, Ireland: 50808.
  • Psych Central has put together this comprehensive list of crisis intervention specialists and ways to contact them immediately.

There are many ways to connect even though we are physically apart. These are just a few real time ways to interact with others online. If you want something a little more flesh and blood, take a walk around the block or even sit in a chair in front of where you live.

Wave at people from afar, and remember that we have lots of brilliant doctors and scientists working on a way out of this. Hang in there, buddy. I’m rooting for you. I’m rooting for all of us.

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Opinion Editorials

Working remotely: Will we ever go back? (Probably not)

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Now that the pandemic has opened the door on working remotely, there’s no way we’ll put the genie back in the bottle. But, here’s some ways you can adapt.

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Woman working remotely on her couch with a laptop on her lap.

When it comes to working remotely, will the toothpaste ever go back in the tube?

Mark Zuckerberg recently said, “We are going to be the most forward-leaning company on remote work at our scale…” By 2030, Zuckerberg anticipates that over half of Facebook’s workforce will be remote. Many other companies are jumping on the work from home bandwagon. Working remotely has helped many businesses manage the pandemic crisis, but it’s unsure what form remote working will take over the next 10 years.

We know that employees are responding positively to WFH, as reported in this article – Employers: Lacking remote work options may cause you to lose employees. As offices transition to a post-COVID normal, here are some things to consider about your office and remote work.

What does your business gain from allowing workers to WFH?
The future of remote work depends on a conscious application of WFH. It’s not just as easy as moving employees out of the office to home. You have to set up a system to manage workers, wherever they are working. The companies with good WFH cultures have set up rules and metrics to know whether it’s working for their business. You’ll need to have technology and resources that let your teams work remotely.

Can your business achieve its goals through remote work?
The pandemic may have proved the WFH model, but is this model sustainable? There are dozens of benefits to remote work. You can hire a more diverse workforce. You may save money on office space. Employees respond well to remote work. You reduce your carbon emissions.

But that can’t be your only measure of whether remote work fits into your vision for your organization. You should be looking at how employees will work remotely, but you need to consider why employees work remotely.

The work paradigm is shifting – how will you adapt?
The work environment has shifted over the past century. Remote work is here to stay, but how it fits into your company should be based on more than what employees want. You will have to work closely with managers and HR to build the WFH infrastructure that grows with your organization to support your teams.

We don’t know exactly how remote work will change over the next decade, but we do know that the workplace is being reinvented. Don’t just jump in because everyone is doing it. Make an investment in developing your WFH plan.

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Opinion Editorials

The truth about unemployment from someone who’s been through it

(EDITORIAL) Unemployment benefits aren’t what you thought they were. Here’s a first-hand experience and what you need to know.

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Have I ever told you how I owed the government over two grand because of unemployment in 2019, and only just finished paying it back this year?

This isn’t exactly the forum for memoirs, but this is relevant to everyone. So I’ll tell y’all anyway.

It all started back in 2018 when I came into work early, microwaved my breakfast, poured coffee, and got pulled into a collaboration room to hear, “We love you and your work, April, but we’ve been bought out and you’re being laid off.”

It was kind of awkward carrying my stuff out to the car with that Jimmy Dean sandwich in my mouth.

More awkward still was the nine months of unemployment I went through afterwards. Between the fully clothed shower crying, the stream of job denial, catering to people who carried rocks in their nostrils at my part-time job (yes, ew, yes, really), and almost dying of no-health-insurance-itis, I learned a lot!

The bigger lesson though, came in the spring of the following year when I filed my taxes. I should back up for a moment and take the time to let those of you unfamiliar with unemployment in Texas in on a few things that aren’t common knowledge.

1: You’re only eligible if you were laid off. Not if you had quit. Not fired. Your former company can also choose to challenge your eligibility for benefits if they didn’t like your face on the way out. So the only way you’re 100% guaranteed to get paid in (what the state calls) “a timely manner”, is a completely amicable split.

2: Overpayments have to go back. Immediately. If there’s an error, like several thousand of Texans found out this week, the government needs that cash back before you can access any more. If you’re not watching your bank account to make sure you’re getting the exact same check each time and you have an overpayment, rest assured that mistake isn’t going to take long to correct. Unfortunately, if you spent that money unknowingly–thought you got an ‘in these uncertain times’ kinder and gentler adjustment and have 0 income, you have a problem. Tying into Coronavirus nonsense is point three!

3: There are no sick days. If ever you’re unable to work for any reason, be it a car accident, childbirth, horrible internal infection (see also no-health-insurance-itis), you are legally required to report it, and you will not be paid for any days you were incapacitated. Personally, my no-health-insurance-itis came with a bad fever and bedrest order that axed me out of my part time job AND killed my unemployment benefits for the week I spent getting my internal organs to like me again. But as it turned out, the payment denial came at the right time because–

4: Unemployment benefits are finite. Even if you choose to lie on your request forms about how hard you’re searching for work, coasting is ill-advised because once the number the state allots you runs out…it’s out. Don’t lie on your request forms, by the way. In my case, since I got cut from my part-time gig, I got a call from the Texas Workforce Commission about why my hours were short. I was able to point out where I’d reported my sickness to them and to my employer, so my unpaid week rolled over to a later request date. I continued to get paid right up until my hiring date which was also EXACTLY when my benefits ran out.

Unemployment isn’t a career, which is odd considering the fact that unemployment payments are qualified by the government as income.

Ergo, fact number five…

5: Your benefits? They’re taxed.

That’s right, you will be TAXED for not having a job.

The stereotype of the ‘lazy unemployment collector burdening society’ should be fading pretty quickly for the hitherto uninformed about now.

To bring it back to my story, I’d completely forgotten that when I filed for unemployment in the first place, I’d asked for my taxes NOT to be withheld from it–assuming that I wasn’t going to be searching for full time work for very long. I figured “Well, I’ll have a tax refund coming since I’ll get work again no problem, it’ll cancel out.”

Except, it was a problem. Because of the nine month situation.

I’d completely forgotten about it by the time I threw myself into my new job, but after doing my taxes, triple checking the laws and what I’d signed, it was clear. Somehow…despite being at my lowest point in life, I owed the highest amount in taxes, somewhere around the 2k mark.

Despite being based on a system that’s tied to how much income you were getting before, and all the frustrating “safeguards” put in place to keep payments as low and infrequent as possible, Uncle Sam still wants a bite out of the gas-station Hostess pie that is your unemployment check. And as I’m writing this, more and more people are finding that out. And even as we enter 2021, there is still more to be aware of – we’re not out of the woods yet.

I’d like to end this on a more positive note… So let’s say we’ve all been positively educated! That’s a net gain, surely.

Keep your heads up, and masked.

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