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Words to Avoid in Real Estate

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electric-chair

YIKES!

This post in UnReal Estate was inspired by a recent conversation with an agent who told me that the house on the hill above was slipping, “but only a little.” I live in earthquake territory, folks. There’s no such thing as “slipping a little.” That’s like being “partially pregnant.” Thus, I asked around and gathered some contributions to the Words to Avoid list. Please enjoy:

First, the Absurd…

“Oh, heck, we all grew up with black mold.” (Is that why your eyes roll inward and your tongue hangs out?)

“They had a pot-bellied pig that ruined the carpet.” (I had a pot-bellied husband that ruined the couch.)

“The old lady next door is crazy but nice.” (So I should ignore the face in the window?)

“The place was busted because the owner’s father had a brewery in the basement.” (No problem – my grandmother had a meth lab in the bathroom.)

“The heating lamp in the bathroom needs attention.” (No wonder your hair is on fire.)

“This was used as a grow house.” (No wonder I have the munchies.)

“The four dogs next door seldom ever bark.” (Then I will “seldom” ever use my tranquilizer darts.)

“The lights flicker and dim sometimes, but it’s nothing to worry about.” (Sell that to the guys on Death Row.)

“It may be showing some wear and tear, but it’s obviously not going anywhere.” (That’s what they said about the Titanic.)

And now, the Sublime…

“A little baking soda will get rid of the smell.” (But will it get rid of their bad taste?)

“The lime in the crawl space is to absorb moisture.” (So what’s with the hatchet and the duct tape?)

“The odor was from something that got trapped in the crawl space.” (Has anyone found the agent?)

“Although it’s filthy, they never had vermin.” (Oh yeah…that explains the 14 morbidly obese cats.)

“The house isn’t bolted, but it’s very secure.” (No problem -The buyer is with Indymac – they’re very secure.)

“His score is low…but he’s working on it.” (My patience is low…so get outta my face.)

“That’s a pine cone in the pool.” (And I suppose that’s lemonade in the toilet.)

“The cracks in the foundation are small.” (So is our offer.)

“You should see the garden when it’s lit.” (You should see my uncle when he’s lit…)

“Can I still get zero per cent financing?” (Let me explain the signs of mercury poisoning and its effects on the brain…)

“The soggy area above the septic tank is from the sprinklers” (You’re full of crap.)

“All those steps will keep you in shape.” (So why are you carrying that defibrillator?)

“The pool leaks.” (So does Aunt Bea when she sneezes.)

“The lawn sprinklers don’t work.” (Then call Aunt Bea.)

And Those Words We Hear Most Often:

“Can you reduce the size of your commission?” (About as easily as I can reduce the size of my butt.)

“It’s been sitting for months with no activity!” (So has Aunt Bea, but she doesn’t complain.)

“I think we’re backing out of escrow.” (Fine. Now grab this frayed wire and touch your tongue to this metal pole and…)

Thanks to my colleagues at Sotheby’s International Realty and my friends at Coldwell Banker and Keller Williams for all your funny stories.

I wear several hats: My mink fedora real estate hat belongs to Sotheby’s International Realty on the world famous Sunset Strip. I’M not world famous, but I've garnered a few Top Producer credits along the way. I also wear a coonskin writer's cap with an arrow through it, having written a few novels and screenplays and scored a few awards there, too. (The arrow was from a tasteless critic.) My sequined turban is my thespian hat for my roles on stage, and in film and television, Dahling. You can check me out in all my infamy at LinkedIn, LAhomesite.com, SherlockOfHomes, IMDB or you can shoot arrows at my head via email. I can take it.

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38 Comments

38 Comments

  1. Joe Loomer

    May 29, 2009 at 5:24 am

    Gwen,

    Thanks for ruining my monitor this morning – had to plug the spare in after shorting out the other with my coffee snort after reading this post!

    Not as funny, but here’s couple I’ve experienced:

    If the offer’s right, they’ll get rid of the cars (all 14 of the derelicts in the back yard – where are the owners?)

    The homes shares a septic field with the next door neighbor (what the hell’s a septic FIELD?!?)

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

  2. Ken Brand

    May 29, 2009 at 7:13 am

    Nice. What others say if funny. What you’re thinking in ( )s is beyond funny. Don’t you wish there was one day a week when it was perfectly acceptable to reply to “dumb ass” with equal or greater “smart ass smack”.

    What fun that would be. I nominate your “pine cone/lemonade” retort #1.

    rock on

  3. Lani Rosales

    May 29, 2009 at 12:42 pm

    size of my butt… LOL!!!

  4. Gwen Banta

    May 29, 2009 at 1:13 pm

    Your description made ME snort coffee, Joe – you are very funny!

  5. Gwen Banta

    May 29, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    Yes, Ken – I am constantly replying with smart ass smack, but I usually have to keep it silent. My blog allows me to rant and rave with impunity. Incidently, the pine cone comment actually happened to me. The really hysterical thing was that the pool was surrounded by palm trees. I have no idea what the floater really was, but it wasn’t a pine cone, and it wasn’t a Baby Ruth!

  6. Gwen Banta

    May 29, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    Hey Lani, My butt has always been a source of humor. I’m thinking of taking it on the road and working the club circuit. I’ll bill myself as Buns ‘o Fun. See you in Austin!

  7. Joe Loomer

    May 29, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    I’ll be in Austin for MegaCamp at the end of August, Gwen.

    I’ll bring my snorter, you bring those Buns o’ Fun. I may even explain what a “Shart” is….

    I’m with Ken on the pine cone/lemonade vote as #1…..

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

  8. Joe Loomer

    May 29, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    Good googley moogley – just read your 15 May entry, and proceeded to shart myself…..

    This is now going to be required reading for the Agent Leadership Council at our Market Center.

    Navy Chief, Navy oh what the hell, I’m still laughing too hard…..

  9. Lani Rosales

    May 29, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    Gwen, I think you should tour at real estate conferences and just have bar shows after the expo closes and charge a cover, why not??? I’d totally go!!!

    Can’t wait for you to visit us here in the awesomest city ever 🙂

  10. Gwen Banta

    May 29, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    Yay – I’ll be looking for you in the audience, Joe and Lani. I can’t wait to see Austin. I’ll call my tour “Real Estate Road Kill, starring Buns ‘o Fun.” I’ll drag my weary, buzzard-pecked carcass up onto the stage and tell the world what we agents really have to go through to sell a house without losing the remaining morsels of our sanity. It may look easy, but Escrow Street is paved with broken Pradas, crumpled listing sheets, and smashed Blackberries adorned with tread marks. For my Road Kill Tour, my theme song will be TAPS. Maybe then the public will realize that we actually DO work for our money! (Of course, everyone in the audience must be pre-approved…I ain’t as dumb as I look.)

  11. Joe Loomer

    May 29, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    Just call me buzzard 😉

  12. Gwen Banta

    May 29, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    LOL!!!!!

  13. Allison Crow Flanigin

    May 29, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    I’m so late in on this conversation…actually standing outside and laughing hysterically over what I’m hearing. I SO????

  14. Allison Crow Flanigin

    May 29, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    ???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

  15. Allison Crow Flanigin

    May 29, 2009 at 4:58 pm

    Those were not my comments…. I was saying that I was SO in need of FUNNY REALTOR today…thanks for the laugh.

    Allison.

    Don’t know where the heck all the ?s came from.

  16. Gwen Banta

    May 29, 2009 at 7:45 pm

    I’m really glad to hear from you, Allison. Actually, all the question marks are so very appropriate, even if unintended. They serve as punctuation commentary for those head scratching remarks I referred to in the post. I think it’s great that we can all laugh together at this wacky world we work in.

  17. Lisa Foster

    May 31, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    In an add for a Russian River, CA area home “Never flooded above first floor!” Always loved that.

  18. Matt Stigliano

    May 31, 2009 at 7:34 pm

    Gwen – Wait, did I hear real estate related comedy tour? Where do I get my ticket?

  19. Gwen Banta

    May 31, 2009 at 10:55 pm

    That’s great, Lisa. I saw one recently that said, no washer/dryer, but hooker in garage.” This business is not for the faint of heart!

  20. Gwen Banta

    May 31, 2009 at 11:09 pm

    Hi Matt – Tickets are free, but there’s a 10 drink minimum. I figure all agents deserve a night to get completely toasted. And because I love your posts so much, only YOU will receive a souvenir glass that says, “If I can survive the Road Kill Tour, I can survive any Escow – so bring it!”

  21. Matt Stigliano

    June 1, 2009 at 8:10 am

    Gwen – You call that a minimum? Haha. I like the idea of my souvenir glass, beats one from the Hard Rock any day.

  22. Paula Henry

    June 2, 2009 at 7:08 am

    Once you’re completed the tour, you should put it all in a book and use it for training new agents. If they laugh and have a sense of humor, they get to stay and have a wonderful career. Otherwise, they get the boot, cuz, they won’t make it anyway.

    Another Classic!

  23. Louise Scoggins

    June 2, 2009 at 11:15 am

    Very funny post!! I have had my share of laughs in the past 30 minutes cruising around AG. You guys are funny!!!

    I get this one all the time (adding to the “Words we hear most often” category), “I’m already working with an agent but she’s out of town. Can you show me this house?”

    Or,

    “The last agent I spoke to said we could list it for (insert inflated unrealistic list price)”

  24. Gwen Banta

    June 2, 2009 at 2:19 pm

    Thanks, Paula. I think laughter is the antidote to insanity!

  25. Gwen Banta

    June 2, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    I’ve heard those same comments, Louise. My favorite was, “If the other agent said she can sell it for (inflated price), then why can’t you?” to which I silently responded, “I could…if you jack up this piece of c__p and put another house under it!”

  26. Louise Scoggins

    June 2, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    I guess at this point we should all be glad we have a filter between what we think and what we actually say!! Lol

  27. Gwen Banta

    June 2, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    You give me too much credit, Louise. I think my filter is due for replacement!

  28. Gwen Banta

    April 3, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    Thanks, for the mention, Memphis!

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Business Marketing

How Instagram’s latest redesign is more sinister than it seems

(MARKETING) Instagram’s latest updates have all but repurposed the app into an online mall – one that tracks everything you see, say, and buy on it.

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Woman in hijab taking photo on her smartphone for Instagram, affected by the redesign.

Instagram started the new year off with a makeover in their latest redesign. The notifications button teleported to the top of the screen in the app’s new design, and now the “Shopping” button is in its place.

It’s a subtle yet insidious switch. You’re much more likely to select the marketplace out of habit, by accident, when searching your next dose of online validation.

The app has always been a vital tool for artists, craftspeople, and small businesses to promote their work — including myself. And the new redesign is intended to boost the visibility of those groups. At least, that’s Instagram’s argument.

In an article for The Conversation, Nazanin Andalibi of the University of Michigan School of Information provides a glimpse of what’s going on behind the scenes.

“By choosing to make the Shop tab central to its platform,” she writes, “Instagram is sending its users a message: This platform is a business, and interactions on this platform are going to be commodified.”

As an advertiser, Instagram’s popularity has exploded in the last decade. Even big pharma is in on the surge, with seventy pharmaceutical companies purchasing ads on the app in 2020. (That made it the fastest growing pharma advertiser of the year.)

As we know, Instagram not only runs ads, but also uses user information to filter who sees what advertisements. Now, shopping is explicitly a central function of the app. It sometimes feels like a digital mall… And that’s not really what people signed up for.

I’ve had my account for since I was a teenager, and the experience I have using the app today is totally different from what it once was. For one, it’s increasingly difficult to differentiate paid ads from regular user content on Instagram.

And second, I use Instagram to promote my work, but I don’t feel comfortable sharing personal details about myself anymore.

Because, to use Anadalibi’s words: “Sharing or seeking information about a difficult, personal experience on a social media platform and then having the platform capitalize on an algorithmic understanding of the experience–which might or might not be accurate–is problematic.”

That goes doubly so for youth, who may not be fully aware of that engineering.

For instance, a teenager searching for body positive posts might receive personalized ad results for weight loss programs. A human would probably realize that’s an inappropriate, even triggering suggestion. But algorithms don’t think that way.

Alongside the redesign update, Instagram has also faces recent criticism for their Community Guidelines, which prevent suggestive and explicit images and speech.

And whether you agree with the guidelines or not, don’t be fooled. Instagram isn’t concerned with uplifting its creators, or protecting its young users. Their only goal is protecting their new bottom line, and staying as ad-friendly as possible.

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Business Marketing

Ghost Reply has us asking: Should you shame a recruiter who ghosted you?

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Ghost Reply will send an anonymous “kind reminder” to recruiters who ghost job candidates, but is the sweet taste of temporary catharsis worth it?

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Stressed woman at a laptop with hands on head, considering if she should send a Ghost Reply.

People hate to get “ghosted” in any situation, personal or professional. But for job seekers who may already be struggling with self-esteem, it can be particularly devastating. Ghost Reply is a new online service that will help you compose and send an email nudge to the ghoster, sending a “kind reminder” telling them how unprofessional it is to leave someone hanging like that.

Ghost Reply wants to help you reach catharsis in all of this stressful mess of finding a job. Almost all of the problems and feelings are compounded by this confounded pandemic that has decimated areas of the workforce and taken jobs and threatened people’s financial security. It is understandable to want to lash out at those in power, and sending a Ghost Reply email to the recruiter or HR person may make you feel better in the short term.

In the long run, though, will it solve anything? Ghost Reply suggests it may make the HR person or recruiter reevaluate their hiring processes, indicating this type of email may help them see the error of their ways and start replying to all potential candidates. If it helps them reassess and be more considerate in the future and helps you find closure in the application/interview process, that would be the ideal outcome on all fronts. It is not likely this will happen, though.

The Ghost Reply sample email has the subject line “You have a message from a candidate!” Then it begins, “Hi, (name), You’re receiving this email because a past candidate feels like you ghosted them unfairly.” It then has a space for said candidate to add on any personal notes regarding the recruiter or process while remaining anonymous.

I get it. It’s upsetting to have someone disappear after you’ve spent time and energy applying, possibly even interviewing, only to hear nothing but crickets back from the recruiter or HR person you interacted with. It’s happened to me more than once, and it’s no bueno. We all want to be seen. We all want to be valued. Ghosting is hurtful. The frustration and disappointment, even anger, that you feel is certainly relatable. According to several sources, being ghosted after applying for a job is one of the top complaints from job seekers on the market today.

Will an anonymous, passive-aggressive email achieve your end? Will the chastened company representative suddenly have a lightbulb go off over their heads, creating a wave of change in company policy? I don’t see it. The first sentence of the sample email, in fact, is not going to be well received by HR.

When you start talking about what’s “unfair,” most HR people will tune out immediately. That kind of language in itself is unprofessional and is a red flag to many people. Once you work at a company and know its culture and have built relationships, then, maybe, just maybe, can you start talking about your work-related feelings. I believe in talking about our feelings, but rarely is a work scenario the best place to do so (I speak from experience). Calling it unprofessional is better, less about you and more about the other person’s behavior.

However, it’s unclear how productive Ghost Reply actually is. Or how anonymous, frankly. By process of deduction, the recipient of the email may be able to figure out who sent it, if it even makes it through the company’s spam filters. Even if they cannot pinpoint the exact person, it may cast doubts on several applicants or leave a bad taste in the recruiter’s mouth. It sounds like sour grapes, which is never a good thing.

There may be any number of reasons you didn’t get the job offer or interview, and they may or may not have something to do with you. Recruiters answer your burning questions, including why you may have been ghosted in this recent article in The American Genius.

Ultimately, you will never know why they ghosted you. If it makes you feel better or at least see the issue from both sides, the amount of job candidates ghosting recruiters after applying and even interviewing is equally high. Some people simply either have awful time management skills or awful manners, and at the end of the day, there’s not much you can do about that.

Focus on your own survival while job hunting, instead of these disappointing moments or the person who ghosts you. It will serve you better in the long run than some anonymous revenge email. There are other ways to deal with your frustration and anger when you do get ghosted, though. Try the classic punching your pillow. Try taking a walk around the block. If it helps to put your frustration into words, and it very well may, then do so. Write it on a piece of paper, then burn it. Or type it all in an email and delete it. For your own sake, do NOT put their email address in the “To” line, lest you accidentally hit “Send.”

The sooner you can let it go, the sooner you can move on to finding a better job fit for you.

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Business Marketing

Free shipping is everywhere… how can small businesses keep up?

[BUSINESS MARKETING] Would you rather pay less but still pay for shipping, or pay more with free shipping? They may cost the same, but one appeals more than the other.

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Person standing over pacakge, sealing with masking tape.

When it comes to competing with huge corporations like Amazon, there are plenty of hurdles that smaller businesses have to cross. Corporations can (and do) undercut the competition, not to mention garner a much larger marketing reach than most small businesses could ever dream of achieving. But this time, we want to focus on something that most people have probably chosen recently: Free shipping.

How important is free shipping to consumers? Well, in a 2018 survey, Internet Retailer discovered that over 50% of respondents said that free shipping was the most important part of online shopping. In fact, when given a choice between fast or costless shipping, a whopping 88% of those surveyed chose the latter option.

Part of this has to do with the fact that shipping costs are often perceived as additional fees, not unlike taxes or a processing fee. In fact, according to Ravi Dhar, director of Yale’s Center for Customer Insights, if it’s between a discounted item with a shipping fee or a marked up item with free shipping, individuals are more likely to choose the latter – even if both options cost exactly the same amount.

If you’re interested in learning more, Dhar refers to the economic principle of “pain of paying,” but the short answer is simply that humans are weird.

So, how do you recapture the business of an audience that’s obsessed with free shipping?

The knee jerk reaction is to simply provide better products that the competition. And sure, that works… to some extent. Unfortunately, in a world where algorithms can have a large effect on business, making quality products might not always cut it. For instance, Etsy recently implemented a change in algorithm to prioritize sellers that offer free shipping.

Another solution is to eat the costs and offer free shipping, but unless that creates a massive increase in products sold, you’re going to end up with lower profits. This might work if it’s between lower profits and none, but it’s certainly not ideal. That’s why many sellers have started to include shipping prices in the product’s overall price – instead of a $20 necklace with $5 shipping, a seller would offer a $25 necklace with free shipping.

This is a tactic that the big businesses use and it works. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, right?

That said, not everyone can join in. Maybe, for instance, a product is too big to reasonably merge shipping and product prices. If, for whatever reason, you can’t join in, it’s also worth finding a niche audience and pushing a marketing campaign. What do you offer that might be more attractive than the alluring free shipping? Are you eco-friendly? Do you provide handmade goods? Whatever it is that makes your business special, capitalize on it.

Finally, if you’re feeling down about the free shipping predicament, remember that corporations have access to other tricks. Amazon’s “free” prime shipping comes at an annual cost. Wal-Mart can take a hit when item pricing doesn’t work out. Even if your business isn’t doing as well as you hoped, take heart: You’re facing giants.

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