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Op/Ed

Dropping everything to unlock a door for a buyer damages the profession

The real estate profession is unique in that everyone is on call, but until better practices are put into place, the profession will suffer.

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Consider the following scenario:

“Welcome to Burger House may I take your order?”
“I’d like a Big House Burger, a large sweet tea and I’d like to buy 1915 Main St.”
“Great would you like a home warranty with that?”
“No. Just the house.”
“Will you be paying cash or getting a mortgage?”
“Cash.”
“Your total is $196,521 please pull forward to window 1 to pay. Your food and keys are at window 2.”

Well now that’s a silly scenario. Who buys a house at a fast food drive through? That’s ridiculous, isn’t it?

Not really, if you consider how buyers call in on properties and expect real estate agents to “serve them up” a house sometimes with no notice, no appointment, and very little exchange of basic information. Here’s what a typical phone call is like to a real estate agent:

“Hello this is Jane. How may I help you?”
“I’d like to see 123 Main Street.”
“Okay great. The list price for that is $125,000. What is your name?”
“John. When can I see it?”
“Okay John and in case we are disconnected what is the best phone number for you?”
“I am in front of the house now I’d like to see it as soon as possible.”
“Well that house is occupied and we are supposed to give the owner 24 hours notice. Can you tell me a little about what you’re looking for?”
“It doesn’t look occupied. I walked around the outside and I don’t think anyone lives here now.”
“Actually it is occupied. The owner still lives there. I need to call and request an appointment. Even if it’s vacant we still do need an appointment. Have you been looking a long time or did you just start looking?”
“I have been looking a few months. When can you get here?”
“Okay I need to call to set it up. Are you working with another agent?”
“No I just call the listing agent when I see something. I’d really like to get in now. I only have an hour so can you get here quickly?”
“Let me call the seller John and get approval. I need to clear it with him first. What’s your last name?”
“Are you coming now to show it to me or not? I don’t have time to answer all these questions.”

I hear the buyer’s frustration – he wants an appointment right now

He’s not willing to give up personal information in exchange for an appointment. But the agent has a stranger on the phone who wants to meet right now, we don’t know if the person is qualified to buy – or even his last name.

The agent taking the call is trained to screen buyers to make sure (1) they are qualified to buy and (2) they are not working with another agent. This is standard practice in the real estate business. But the caller is having none of the vetting process – he just wants to see the house and see it immediately. See the disconnect here?

The next step the caller typically takes is to ask the agent, “Do you want to sell the house or not? Because I want to buy this house.” He hasn’t seen it yet, we don’t know if he can financially afford it, yet he wants the agent to jump in the car and rush over to open the door.

It’s a scare tactic. The buyer thinks agents are so desperate to make a sale they will risk their own personal safety – and waste of time – versus not sell a house.

Pulling the “safety” card

Whoa – yes I just pulled the “safety” card. To those who are not in this industry who may be reading this, answer this question: “If it was your wife or mother or little brother who was being asked to hop in the car, to meet a stranger at an empty house, perhaps at 10 am or 8 pm, would you be so quick to judge?”

Because that is exactly what real estate agents are asked to do every single day.

Get a call, meet a stranger, maybe sell the house. Maybe we lose more than a few hours of our time. Maybe we lose our lives. I know it’s a sobering thought – but in what other industry does the phone ring, and the person on the other end run to meet a stranger outside the office without screening them for the ability and motivation to buy? It happens every day in real estate.

Just meet them at the office, right?

You may be thinking, so meet them at the office and then take them out. Spend a week in this business and you will realize just how hard that is to implement. The house may be on the east side of town and your office is on the west side. The buyer doesn’t want to drive to the office when he’s already in front of the house.

You’re already in the car when he calls and it’s just a few minutes to run over to the property anyway. Who wants to inconvenience the buyer and the agent who are both on the other side of town from the office?

Those are not even the best arguments for not going back to the office to meet the buyer. The best arguments come from the buyers themselves, who are trained or conditioned NOT to treat real estate agents as true professionals. We’re just door openers, people who get buyers access to the house.

Try quizzing a buyer about his wants or needs or motivations and you’ll find that many buyers don’t think they have to answer questions at all. They are so used to agents just making the appointment that when an agent tries to ask questions so he or she can advise and counsel that person, they resist.

“Just get me in. I just want to see the house,” is the mantra.

How practitioners can change this game

Things won’t change until agents stop playing the game and won’t make the appointment until meeting in person at the office, or at least answering a few basic questions. I would love to see every agent stop dropping everything to show a house to a buyer “just in town a few hours” on the chance the buyer is “the one” who buys the property.

Yes it’s a gamble, but in 15 years of doing this, I find it’s rarely the buyer who throws a tantrum and insists in instant access who is “the one.”

Buyers who are serious will answer our screening questions. They understand that we are professionals who need appointments to show them houses. And they respect our time and brains in the counseling/advising process. Those are the buyers we want to work with. Those are the buyers who deserve our time and attention. Not the buyers who pitch a fit when they call an agent’s cell phone late Friday night and get no answer. Not the buyers who are sitting in front of a home and demand an agent show up within five minutes.

I wish every agent working with buyers would read this and agree to stop caving in to buyer demands to instant access to houses and agents.

But if agents deny access, unfortunately the consumer will just pick up the phone and call the next agent on the list. And chances are that one agent on the list will be hungry enough, desperate enough, or just naive enough, to hop in the car and show the house.

Until we train our agents and enforce an office policy that discourages “Pop Tart” agents, consumer behavior won’t change.

This editorial was originally published in March of 2015.

Erica Ramus is the Broker/Owner of Ramus Realty Group in Pottsville, PA. She also teaches real estate licensing courses at Penn State Schuylkill and is extremely active in her community, especially the Rotary Club of Pottsville and the Schuylkill Chamber of Commerce. Her background is writing, marketing and publishing, and she is the founder of Schuylkill Living Magazine, the area's regional publication. She lives near Pottsville with her husband and two teenage sons, and an occasional exchange student passing thru who needs a place to stay.

Op/Ed

10 small things you can do for your business while Netflixing

We know the holidays are a time to relax, but before normal working hours have returned, you can still do things for your business in between episodes on Netflix. Here’s 10 simple things that won’t cut into your holiday.

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For many real estate agents, the holidays can slow business down. It’s time for some #ProductivityAndChill.

Instead of spending all day binge-watching Hulu or Netflix, in between every episode take 10 to 15 minutes to do something for your business. Here are some great ideas for things that don’t take long, but provide some long-lasting benefits.

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Productivity and chill

1. Get inspired by your favorite websites. Where do you like to shop or get your news information? Browse through their site with one purpose in mind, to see why it draws you in and how you can implement their methods into your own business.

2. Catch up on the news. Read some articles here or at The American Genius that you might have overlooked or passed by because you thought they didn’t pertain to you. Keeping up with various industries can benefit you.

3. Use your social media tools to set up posts on Twitter or Facebook.

4. Improve your webpages by writing new product descriptions or to optimize images for SEO.

5. Go through the App Store to find new apps which can help make your life easier.

6. Learn to use a new social media platform to reach out to new customers.

7. Go through your social media feed. See what people are talking about and what’s trending. Make notes when you get inspiration.

8. Clean up the documents in your laptop. Organize them more effectively so you can always find what you need.

9. Clean up your email. Unsubscribe from newsletters that you don’t ever look at. Delete messages that are old. Set up folders to save information that you may need at a later date.

10. Customize your email. Set it up to pre-sort emails into different folders to allow you to work more productively when you get back to work after the New Year.

These little tasks can eat away at your time when you’re busy trying to get things done, but when you’re relaxed and just want to feel more productive, take a few minutes to do something that won’t overtask your brain, but needs to be done to keep you more organized throughout your week.

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Op/Ed

How calendars can stop your procrastination, boost productivity

(PRODUCTIVITY) As the old method of pen-to-paper planning comes back in style, see how its use can help with time management.

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writing pen paper productivity

My favorite part of writing for this publication, by far, is the fact that it always has me keeping my eyes and ears open for inspiration. The simplest comment from a friend can snowball into an idea that becomes beneficial to others.

Such was the case this past weekend when my best friend, Haley, stopped by to help me unpack my new house. Haley is a graduate student, pursuing a master’s in interpersonal communication, and is a much smarter version of myself.

We got to talking about what was on tap for Haley’s final semester and she told me about a workshop she’s creating for the graduate school on the topic of how using planners/calendars helps with time management. The girl has an affinity for pen-to-paper planners, and has created an organizational structure for her daily life through their use.

Naturally, I thought, “hey, sometimes I attempt to give people advice on time management and planning, let’s bounce some ideas off of each other.” Haley then gave me a rundown of the bullet points she’s planning on covering for her interactive workshop.

1) Take everything as it comes. As a new task pops up, put it down on your calendar (whether paper or electronic) so that you don’t forget to do it later.

2) With these tasks, schedule deadlines for yourself. It can be tough to be self-motivate and have tasks completed by your own assignment. However, putting them down in writing will help you stick to them.

Only work on something if you’re being productive. If you stop being productive, you should take a step back and work on something else for a while,” says Haley. “This is why my personal deadlines help because it makes me work harder but I still have my own time.”

3) Schedule out your week starting with events that you cannot change. Start by writing down your work schedule, then appointments, meetings, etc. Then schedule in tasks that have more flexibility in time.

4) After doing this, take all of these tasks and prioritize what must be completed first and assess how much time each task will take. Be sure to give yourself an appropriate amount of time for each task.

5) For bigger projects, considering breaking them down a bit. “For bigger projects I break it down into steps, normally using a concept map to understand the core aspects of my task and what needs to be accomplished within each of those to make it more digestible,” says Haley. “Once I have the pieces, I place the pieces into my weekly schedule of events I cannot change.”

All of the pieces of this puzzle come together to create a calendar that will help you juggle every aspect of your life and boost your productivity. By implementing these ideas in my own planning, it has definitely helped me to become more of a self-starter.

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Op/Ed

5 reasons teaching your kid magic could inspire them to become a Realtor

(EDITORIAL) Teaching your child could inspire their career track, perhaps even inviting them to follow in your footsteps!

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magic

There’s nothing quite like a good magic trick. You know there must be a solution, an easy explanation, but putting your finger on exactly what sleight of hand just happened can prove difficult with a seasoned magician. If you are the magician, you know it takes a great deal of practice, confidence, and persistence to keep an audience engaged in your magical wonders.

As captivating as magical skills are, many of the same skills that make a great magician, also make for a great Realtor®!

Here are five amazing ways learning magic as a child (or adult) can actually help someone become a successful real estate professional:

1. Build confidence

To skillfully and successfully pull off any feat of magic, you must have confidence in what you’re doing. No sleight of hand or magical illusion will be effective without the confidence of the magician. By practicing magic, you are in fact, practicing and reinforcing confidence both within yourself and your audience. A confident magician will create a confident audience – an audience that believes the magician is capable of impossible illusions, magical machinations, and captivating concealments.

This same skill set can be applied to real estate. You must have confidence in your ability to find the right home for your client. The ability to foster your clients’ trust is essential, or they will likely go elsewhere because let’s face it, the competition in the real estate world is nothing short of fierce. Starting your children out early in something like magic, builds confidence and having confidence in any industry they choose to venture into is always a good thing.

2. Hone social skills

Again, look at the audience – a good magician will have an audience practically mesmerized. The audience will be so transfixed on what the magician is doing or saying, they miss the sleight of hand. A good magician can read their audience. They know what the audience expects and will deliver appropriately. Many magicians also become well-versed in the art of nonverbal communication as well; reading people’s body language and social cues are an important part of an effective magic illusion.

Not surprising, these skills are also part of being an effective salesperson. A good Realtor will know and understand their clients’ requirements for a home, their budget, and how to effectively get them to their end goal with the fewest obstacles. Interacting with an audience is much the same as interacting with clients daily; be personable, be confident, and know your stuff.

3. Develop an eye for detail

Along with improved dexterity from manipulating cards and coins, magic routines can help improve hand eye coordination, timing, reflexes, as well as develop an eye for details. As new tricks are mastered, the eye becomes more sensitive to details of the objects being used and the magician’s surroundings. The same keen eye can readily be applied to real estate.

An attention to detail can help when staging homes, gauging your clients’ reactions to their surroundings, minimizing errors on contracts, and ensuring your safety when entering a new area. Attention to details means less errors, which in turn means happier clients and more sales completed – a win-win recipe.

4. Research

One area that you may be surprised to learn that magic can help you improve upon is research. Magicians are constantly researching new tricks to add to their routines or watching other magicians perform to see if they can implement any of their gestures or tactics to their own routines. After all, we wouldn’t remember Houdini as the greatest of all time if current magicians weren’t constantly reinventing and revisiting his tricks.

In real estate, you may be researching what your fiercest competitor is doing differently that you might be able to adapt. Are they using a different marketing platform? Are they networking in a different manner? Is there something they’re doing (or not doing) that might make a difference in your sales figures? The ability to research an adapt is another great tool to have in your box of skills.

5. Self-discipline and an ability to take criticism

When you’re first learning any new hobby, you typically “practice” on your family. They give you constructive criticism and you take that criticism and use it to improve. The more you practice, the better you get. After a bit of practice, you’re ready to give another practice run. Through continually trying to improve your skills, you’re learning self-discipline as well as the ability to accept and implement constructive criticism.

These are both skills that are necessary to excel in the professional world. You must continually hone your craft if you want to continue to excel. Continuing education, professional seminars, and workshops all exist so professionals can receive criticism on what they’re currently doing and learn what they might do better to improve themselves and their business. While you’re never too old to learn, beginning to lay the foundation for these skills in your youth with a simple hobby like magic, could be giving you more than just a way to entertain friends and family.

The takeaway:

Magic isn’t just for children; it’s never too late to have another hobby. If you’ve never dabbled in magic before, you might find you really enjoy it. If nothing else, you may find that magic teaches you and/or your children some patience, coordination, or at least a few good laughs. If magic teaches you nothing else, remember what Rumpelstiltskin said, “all magic comes with a price” and so does real estate – so hone your skills with some magical fun; you never know when it’ll come in handy!

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