I’ve never wanted to say this.
Last week, I lost my home of three years. Despite my best efforts, on Tuesday January 5th, 2010, my house appeared on the Bexar County Courthouse steps and was sold for less than I paid for it. As you can imagine, I was quite upset about it, but I must admit I’m handling it much better than I suspected I would. I can hear some readers out there thinking “why would you tell us this – why would you put it out there for the world to see?” I thought long and hard about whether or not to turn this into a blog post. In the end, I remembered my point and focus in The Stigliano Chronicles – to talk about my real estate experiences from the perspective of a new agent. This mandate, given to me by Benn and Lani back in 2008, has always been my focus and will be, even after I’ve been in this business longer than Bill Lublin (he was born with a license, wasn’t he?). It’s not always easy to write these posts as I do sometimes forget some of the stress and strain of being a new agent, but I do always try to think back to myself in 2008 and add in the knowledge I’ve gleaning since.
As a new agent, I was told time and time again to be prepared to have some very lean months. I was told everything from two months to two years. In retrospect, 2008 wasn’t exactly the best time to leave my career as a musician (that often paid very well and when it didn’t, at least allowed me to squeak by) and join the Realtor® ranks, but I had chosen to do so for a multitude of my own reasons. I had a plan for my life and wanted to follow it, instead of spending time regretting it. Because of my relationship with the band, I had been able to save up quite a bit in a savings account, so I was prepared for the so called “building of my business.”
It wasn’t easy to build a business in 2008. While many of the seasoned agents I knew were struggling, I was just trying to figure it all out and get involved where I could. I certainly didn’t make a fortune that year. Instead, I slowly ate through my savings, trying to hang on to what I had as tight as I could. As the bank accounts dwindled, my royalties from the band also dried up. Although we continued to generate royalties, I was in a position where I was paying back the band’s corporate accounts (as we had borrowed against royalties during our own lean times). With little coming in other than my wife’s salary, we conserved everywhere we could and were doing fine until 2009, when we began to get behind occasionally. We would get a month behind and pay two, get three months behind and pay one, get two months behind and catch up. It was a constant cycle of getting behind and getting back to even.
Late in the year, I lost two transactions. Both were to simple causes (and not a case of the client dumping me), but nonetheless, that was two commissions I could have used. At the same time, my wife left her job (to save her sanity) and was unable to get work for two months. I got a bit more behind than I had expected and in turn, the mortgage company made their move and began the foreclosure process in late November. In an effort to “do the right thing,” I spoke with the lender and the lawyers and worked on my “loss mitigation package” to get into their hands.
We should have been a dream case.
Looking through my hardship letter, it was pretty clear to see what got us from Point A to Point B. No wild spending sprees, no million dollar home, no boats…even our car was modest (we actually traded in our BMW for a Honda when we moved here). We just hit an unfortunate set of circumstances and were making ground on them, but not fast enough. This year looks to be a great year for me as a real estate agent (in my past six months at my new brokerage I was named “Mr. Zero-To-Sixty in Thirty Days” because of the complete turn around in my business compared to the first half of the year with my old brokerage). My wife got a temporary job after two months of looking day in and day out and that job is now turning to a permanent position – one with with a nice raise. We could pull out of this with some help from the lender.
Unfortunately, we were like so many others in the middle of a foreclosure, working uphill against a lender who was flooded with tons of people just like us. Although they tried to escalate my case to get a decision before the auction, we never got a chance to have them review the package.
As you can imagine, my wife and I are upset. What upsets me the most? Losing the deck on which we had some fabulous BBQs with great friends. Not being able to finish the projects that I wanted to do to the house. Knowing that I won’t have my neighbors anymore. The idea that we’ll probably move to a smaller space. Are any of those going to kill me or stop me? Of course not. In fact, my wife and I have managed to put a positive spin on it all and in some way are looking forward to a new place to live (we typically move once every three years).
So where’s the new agent tie-in?
There’s actually two sides of this as far as a “lesson” goes. First, for the new agent just getting started in the business – please, plan ahead and then double your plan. You may have success right out of the starting gate. I know a girl who took a phone duty call her first day and sold a $500K house to that caller. Not a bad start to the business. I also know plenty of agents who have been in business longer than I have who are still striving to get their feet moving. Real estate is not a piece of cake. It’s hard work and sometimes, no matter how hard you work, you still won’t get anything for it. Being prepared to make sacrifices and having a cushion to fall back on will serve you well. Even if you get that $500K buyer on day one, keep your plan in place.
The second thing I want to stress is not just for new agents – it’s for all agents. The concept I want to stress? Compassion. The people you work with all have stories. They have their reasons, their beliefs, and their hopes and dreams. Be mindful and compassionate towards those stories. Take the time to get to know your client, you never know how much they might be just like you or be in need of your help. If you’re working short sales and foreclosures, be even more compassionate. If ever there was a time in a person’s life when they needed someone to lean on – this is most certainly it. The flood of emotions, the anger, the frustration, the depression…they’re all powerful emotions that can literally freeze your clients in their tracks. Try to be understanding and helpful. Reach out to them and let them know you’re not just looking for the next commission check. Do this through your actions, not your 100-page bio telling them how you “care for your clients.”
My wife and I are resilient. We’ll work hard for the next few years and try to pay off some of our other debt with the money we’ll save. We’ll enjoy a new home in a new part of town and make new friends. We’ll continue our lives and not dwell in the past. We will survive and come out the other side better than ever. And I will have a new lesson under my belt that will help me understand my clients better than ever before.
photo courtesy of respres (probably one of the most referenced photos about foreclosure I’ve ever seen)
Austin tops the list of best places to buy a home
When looking to buy a home, taking the long view is important before making such a huge investment – where are the best places to make that commitment?
Looking at the bigger picture
(REALUOSO.COM) – Let us first express that although we are completely biased about Texas (we’re headquartered here, I personally grew up here), the data is not – Texas is the best. That’s a scientific fact. There’s a running joke in Austin that if there is a list of “best places to [anything],” we’re on it, and the joke causes eye rolls instead of humility (we’re sore winners and sore losers in this town).
That said, SelfStorage.com dug into the data and determined that the top 12 places to buy a home are currently Texas and North Carolina (and Portland, I guess you’re okay too or whatever).
They examined the nerdiest of numbers from the compound annual growth rate in inflation-adjusted GDP to cost premium, affordability, taxes, job growth, and housing availability.
“Buying a house is a big decision and a big commitment,” the company notes. “Although U.S. home prices have risen in the long term, the last decade has shown that path is sometimes full of twists, turns, dizzying heights and steep, abrupt falls. Today, home prices are stabilizing and increasing in most areas of the U.S.”
Average age of houses on the rise, so is it now better or worse to buy new?
With aging housing in America, are first-time buyers better off buying new or existing homes? The average age of a home is rising, as is the price of new housing, so a shift could be upon us.
The average home age is higher than ever
(REALUOSO.COM) – In a survey from the Department of Housing and Urban Development American Housing Survey (AHS), the median age of homes in the United States was 35 years old. In Texas, homes are a bit younger with the median age between 19 – 29 years. The northeast has the oldest homes, with the median age between 50 – 61 years. In 1985, the median age of a home was only 23 years.
With more houses around 40 years old, the National Association of Realtors asserts that homeowners will have to undertake remodeling and renovation projects before selling unless the home is sold as-is, in which case the buyer will be responsible to update their new residence. Even homeowners who aren’t selling will need to consider remodeling for structural and aesthetic reasons.
Prices of new homes on the rise
Newer homes cost more than they used to. The price differential between new homes and older homes has increased from 10 percent traditionally to around 37 percent in 2014. This is due to rising construction costs, scarcity of lots, and a low inventory of new homes that doesn’t meet the demand.
Are Realtors the real loser in the fight between Zillow Group and Move, Inc.?
The last year has been one of dramatic and rapid change in the real estate tech sector, but Realtors are vulnerable, and we’re worried.
Why Realtors are vulnerable to these rapid changes
(REALUOSO.COM) – Corporate warfare demands headlines in every industry, but in the real estate tech sector, a storm has been brewing for years, which in the last year has come to a head. Zillow Group and Move, Inc. (which is owned by News Corp. and operates ListHub, Realtor.com, TopProducer, and other brands) have been competing for a decade now, and the race has appeared to be an aggressive yet polite boxing match. Last year, the gloves came off, and now, they’ve drawn swords and appear to want blood.
Note: We’ll let you decide which company plays which role in the image above.
So how then, does any of this make Realtors the victims of this sword fight? Let’s get everyone up to speed, and then we’ll discuss.
1. Zillow poaches top talent, Move/NAR sues
It all started last year when the gloves came off – Move’s Chief Strategy Officer (who was also Realtor.com’s President), Errol Samuelson jumped ship and joined Zillow on the same day he phoned in his resignation without notice. He left under questionable circumstances, which has led to a lengthy legal battle (wherein Move and NAR have sued Zillow and Samuelson over allegations of breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and misappropriation of trade secrets), with the most recent motion being for contempt, which a judge granted to Move/NAR after the mysterious “Samuelson Memo” surfaced.
Salt was added to the wound when Move awarded Samuelson’s job to Move veteran, Curt Beardsley, who days after Samuelson left, also defected to Zillow. This too led to a lawsuit, with allegations including breach of contract, violation of corporations code, illegal dumping of stocks, and Move has sought restitution. These charges are extremely serious, but demanded slightly less attention than the ongoing lawsuit against Samuelson.
2. Two major media brands emerge
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