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Op/Ed

The texting sin to never commit with your clients, period

(EDITORIAL) Clear communication with clients is important (and that’s an understatement). This study found one error that separated the sincere text from the insincere.

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I have enough issues making myself understood when I speak with someone face-to-face. Now I need to pay attention to how I text so as not to be misconstrued.

According to the latest findings from Celia Klin, associate professor of psychology and associate dean at Binghamton University’s Harpur College, the mere use of a period (.) can make a person seem less sincere compared to say, using an exclamation point (!), which, by the way, ranks higher on the sincerity meter.

The study, led by Celia Klin of Binghamton University, and published in Computers in Human Behavior, suggests ending your text messages with a period makes them seem less sincere to the receiver.

Participants in the study read short exchanges with responses that either did or did not contain messages that ended with a period.

When the messages were in text message form, as opposed to handwritten notes, the messages that ended with a period were generally rated as being less sincere than messages that didn’t end in a period.

Klin points out that “Texting is lacking many of the social cues used in actual face-to-face conversations. When speaking, people easily convey social and emotional information with eye gaze, facial expressions, tone of voice, pauses, and so on.”

Instead, adds Professor Klin, people who text rely on what they have available to them: “…emoticons, deliberate misspellings that mimic speech sounds and punctuation.”

I’m not sure what the alternative to texting is. Lifehacker.com recently published its findings of what it feels are the five best alternative texting apps. But at the end of the day (or end of the sentence in this case) you are still texting and thus still setting yourself up for the dreaded improper use of a period (.)

That said, Lifehacker’s survey revealed that WhatsApp leads the pack. WhatsApp is a cross-platform messaging system that supports Android, iOS, Windows Phone, and Blackberry devices. WhatsApp is popular because the service is backed by hundreds of millions of active users, and allows you to send text, photo, and voice/video messages to individuals and groups for free using mobile data or Wi-Fi. And there’s not a Period (.) in sight. You can see the rest of the top five contenders by clicking here.

In terms of expressing myself, the use of emoticons works perfectly for me. Trouble is, within a professional context the cartoon-like emoticon looks out of place. That’s OK. It’s the next best thing to speaking in person (which I’d rather do anyway) and it sure beats worrying about period (.) misuse.

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Op/Ed

The portable safe every conference goer must consider

(EDITORIAL) Going to conferences will fill your brain with new info, but are you distracted and an easy target? Probably. There’s a solution.

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masterlock portable safe

The madness that is the annual SXSW conference begins this week, and with it comes thousands of people, some of whom will be opportunistic criminals seeking to steal easy-to-grab items such as wallets and phones from unsuspecting attendees. But you can prepare yourself now so you can fully immerse yourself in the experience without worry.

In addition to practical advice such as writing down the serial numbers for all the electronic devices you’ll be toting around and installing tracking software on them, there are other simple ways to protect yourself — and your belongings — at conferences and conventions.

Of course, the simplest way to avoid one of the most common types of theft is to keep smaller items such as phones, keys and wallets on your person at all times. But for those instances when you need to be unencumbered — maybe you’re presenting to a packed conference room or boogying down on the dance floor — you might want to consider a portable, relatively inexpensive lockbox just big enough to fit your credit cards, cash, keys and phone.

The Master Lock 5900D is portable enough to lug around a conference all day, but heavy-duty enough to deter would-be thieves.

It’s important to remember that criminals and competitors see these large conferences as prime opportunities to steal — whether it’s information or your electronic devices. Threat Stack offered up several tips to keep you, your valuables and your business safe when attending conventions and conferences, including:

  • implementing strong passwords;
  • setting up auto-lock on all electronic devices;
  • avoiding unsecured public Wi-Fi networks;
  • being extremely careful about what you post on social media, especially photos;
  • and remaining hyper-aware of what you discuss about your business in public, where someone nearby could easily eavesdrop.

Of course, these security tips aren’t only for conferences and conventions. If you’re a serial coffee shop worker, the portable lock box can keep your smaller valuables safe during those inevitable bathroom breaks when there’s not a trustworthy person around to ask to “keep an eye on” your stuff.

And if you’re worried about bigger items such as your laptop, there are affordable security solutions for those, too.

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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.

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Op/Ed

Get off of Facebook and sell my friggin’ house already

(EDITORIAL) We all have to be online, but how do you balance dominating the web with farting around on Facebook?

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I’m not anti-social media

Yes, that was a baited title and No, no one said that to me.  But they could if I don’t do my job as a listing agent first and foremost.  I am NOT an anti-social media advocate (not at all, I <3 love social media!) but I AM a consumer advocate and if you are an agent your consumers are buyers and sellers, period.

Do you want to know what the awesome sauce of being a top listing agent is? It is servicing a listing as you would want your own home to be serviced.  Think about that for a minute.  If you had a home for sale, what would you expect the listing agent to do?  You may not have even thought about it in this perspective before, but it can be a pretty handy tool to up your game and build client loyalty and provide your consumers, your clients, with the type of service they RAVE about.

I would EXPECT my Super Star Ace Listing Agent to:

1) Dominate the Internet with my listing, including maps, pictures, details, school info etc.  I’d want to be able to Google my address and find my listing in many different locations.

2) I would want to be able to reach my listing agent quickly, in my preferred communications manner (text, email, phone).

3) I would expect detailed updates each time they showed the house (feedback) and monthly updates on all the marketing my listing agent has done that month for my property (and I’d like to know what is working and where the traffic is coming from, technically and geographically).

4) I for SURE want to be assured that when someone wants to see my listing, that the listing agent makes it very easy and accommodating for it to be shown.

5) If I saw my agent on Facebook, Twitter or other social media, I’d be cool with it as LONG as they were doing the above first.  If they haven’t had time to update me, show my listing or give me feedback, they sure as Heck don’t have time to be on any social media site.

6) I’d EXPECT my listing to be on my listing agent’s blog or website (I would not take kindly to the idea that my agent’s blog or website is NOT the place for my listing to be, so if you, Blogging Purist Agent, don’t have a main site where your listings are highlighted, I’d rethink that strategy, my main clients are my listing clients, not blog visitors who don’t want to see my listings, this is a REAL ESTATE BLOG and I SELL MY LISTINGS).

7) I would NOT want to know that my listing agent has a bad reputation for spamming anyone.

8) I would expect my listing agent to be fully abreast of my competition not only when they list the property, but monthly so that we  can make decisions together regarding price changes based on informed knowledge.

9) I would want to know that my listing, regardless if it’s lower than the rest of my agent’s inventory, is getting the same treatment that all of the others do.  If they wanted my business, then respect it. Don’t just take my listing to build your inventory book and treat me like a red-headed step child.

10) Finally, I’d want to know that my agent is knowledgeable, approachable, professional and dedicated to selling my listing as quickly as possible for the highest the market will bear.

Have you done your job?

If you, fellow agents, have some disgruntled listing clients or clients who don’t want to reduce their price even when the market indicates it should, look at the above and see if you have done your job as you would have expected it to be done for your own property.  Where did you fall short?  What can you rectify now?  Build your business around the desired consumer experience and expectation and you can’t go wrong.

You might do all of things, you might do more, and they might seem elementary.  If so, Great, go have a blast on Facebook and bring in more great business from great clients, but if not, get your own house in order before looking for more houses to sell. No pun intended.

PS: I have seen agents (and even myself in moments of weakness) not provide the service above, and when I look back at my less-than-perfect self, I just shake my head, pull up my bootstraps and get back to being that agent that I want to be.  Where I most often fall down is simply letting the clients know what is going on.

I somehow forget that they don’t KNOW their single property site has been viewed 5,000 times, or that there is a foreclosure in the neighborhood that wasn’t there before, etc.  I need to always keep them as informed on their listing as I am so they can feel secure and up-to-date.  That is exactly what I would want to be if it were my home on the market….

This editorial was originally published in 2010 on The American Genius by Janie Coffey.

#giterdone

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