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Hard Habits To Break

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This is about habits …

Not the kind of habits that Catholic nuns would wear, either, but the habits that are hard to break. Although maybe you could get a post out of the Catholic nun habits, I just don’t know enough about them to really make it work. Another day, perhaps …

I’ve been thinking a lot about my business habits lately, specifically those that have prevented me from being as good an agent as I could possibly be. See, I started in real estate in 2004, late to the party but still one of those markets where things were pretty easy. Not that I didn’t work hard to try and be as successful as I could be, but 2004 was still a strong market, at least here the bustling metropolis of Southwest VA. Sellers were entertaining multiple offers, and buyers were putting their best foot forward, every time, or they risked losing out. It was a good time to start because it gave me the confidence that I needed to really take off – each year was a record year for me, and I had it made. I did everything by the book, I was confident that I was making the right decisions in guiding my clients, and everything was good. This real estate thing was easy!

Or so I thought.

Stinking It Up

It probably happens to all of us at some point, but we get ahead of ourselves and things fall apart. In my case, I got a little complacent, a little sloppy, and then I started making mistakes. Case in point … I once listed a home that had a completely different school system than what I represented. Completely different! There was an elementary school ½ mile down the road that I assumed was the school that served this neighborhood, but later discovered it was all wrong. Not so big a mistake, but it was still something that if I had used the resources available to me and taken just two minutes to call the school board and verify, I wouldn’t have made it. A quick change in MLS, and all was right with the world again. Sometimes the lessons weren’t so easy to flush away, however.

A couple of years ago I listed a home that I was sure would sell quickly, and it did – first day on the market, first buyer who saw it bought it. Cash. Quick closing. Awesome! Not quite. Two days before closing, the buyer discovered that the property was on a septic instead of a sewer, as I had entered into the listing. Uh oh. Big mistake. Didn’t check my resources, and it stunk the place up. The buyer and his agent held my feet to the fire, and in the end the buyer got a house with a new connection to the Town’s utility system, while I came up several thousand dollars short at the end of the year. (No, E&O wouldn’t cover it but that’s a story for another day.)

There have been many more mistakes along the way, of course. I’m not naïve enough to think that they’re not going to happen, but my point is that I can be a SLOW learner. It’s one thing to make a mistake because I get ahead of myself, or I’m just not paying attention; those things happen to everyone, it’s normal. It’s another to do it multiple times and not take anything away from the situation. That’s my one bad habit – sorry, typo, that’s ONE of my bad habits. For me, it’s easy to say “well, if only they’d have taken care of that crack two years ago when they saw it”, or “if they would’ve gotten a stronger preapproval then their offer would have been accepted”, but if I’m not changing my habits to make sure that the sellers have adequately prepared their home for sale, or that my buyers have an airtight preapproval from a reputable local lender before making an offer, then I’m not being the best agent I can be. If I’m not striving to be my best then my clients are getting shortchanged. I don’t want that – I want them to walk away from the transaction knowing that I and my Team do everything we can to make things go as smooth as possible.

Give It Your All

Lately it feels like bad habits have popped up far more often the good ones and I’ve beat myself up over them, but I know that there are good ones as well. There’ve been a couple of times recently where I’ve had to go back to a client and say “I screwed up, here’s how we’re going to get back on track.” Learning from my errors hasn’t been easy, but I’m trying. My assistant Aaron is great at learning from mistakes, and while she doesn’t make many she is always quick to take action to resolve it – in fact, I don’t know that I’ve not seen her make the same mistake twice. I really admire that, and I’m really trying to get better at it.

Maybe that’s one of the things that can make us good agents, as well, the desire to keep working and keep trying, to fight the urge to give in to the bad habits and keep striving to give clients everything we have. Because in the end, that’s what they want – our best.

Okay, I feel better.

Writer for national real estate opinion column AgentGenius.com, focusing on the improvement of the real estate industry by educating peers about technology, real estate legislation, ethics, practices and brokerage with the end result being that consumers have a better experience.

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13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Bill Lublin

    May 13, 2008 at 11:57 am

    Jeremy- Great Post and very perceptive. We all make mistakes. The trick in life is trying not to make the same ones over and over again- After all there are plently of new ones ot be made 🙂

  2. Toby & Saide

    May 13, 2008 at 12:01 pm

    I’ve been doing the same thing. Finding myself getting discouraged and not following through on the efforts that have worked. My goal now is to create a positive environment and stick with it. Keep doing it for 30 straight days. Have a plan and stick to it.

    It doesn’t matter if you are a fast or slow learner, just that you are a learner.

    Welcome to Agent Genius and we wish you the best of luck!

  3. Heather Elias

    May 13, 2008 at 12:10 pm

    Good agents always feel like there is more that they can do for their clients; always striving to provide better service, have more experience and expertise. The willingness to quickly make it right and to learn from your mistakes will ultimately make you a better agent. (And you are already a very good agent!)

    Congrats on your first AG post…

  4. Lani Anglin-Rosales

    May 13, 2008 at 12:13 pm

    Jeremy, you’ve bravely voiced what many of us privately feel- we all make mistakes that could easily be avoided and we’re not perfect.

    My favorite line:

    the desire to keep working and keep trying, to fight the urge to give in to the bad habits and keep striving to give clients everything we have

  5. Matthew Rathbun

    May 13, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    Awesome start. “Keeping it real” as the cool kids say.

    I am reliving my first days as an agent through my wife who is far more detailed oriented than I am. I am super excessive-compulsive and NEVER felt that I had covered all the bases. Even with the two of us double checking everything, there are simply too many things that can go wrong or be missed.

    The big difference between you and a lot of others is that are learning from omissions and honestly working to do better for your clients. This is one great example of why consumers should look for experienced agents, they’ve made and hopefully learned from their mistakes.

  6. Vicki Moore

    May 13, 2008 at 1:24 pm

    Your rants are good here. They always make me feel better too.

  7. Jeremy Hart

    May 13, 2008 at 2:40 pm

    Bill – thanks for giving me something to look forward to! “plenty of new mistakes to be made”? Great, fantastic! 🙂

    Matthew, isn’t it funny how we work so hard to not make mistakes, and then find it so difficult when we have to admit them? Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve found that to be the case. And in most situations, when I’ve had to admit it the person hasn’t been bothered by it. I made it all up in my head to be much worse than it really was. Did the same when I was a new agent – scared to death to admit it because I thought people wouldn’t want to work with a rookie when in reality, I got nothing but slaps on the back.

    Tobe (and Saide) – I look forward to hearing how it goes for you. Consider me you’re cheerleader, I’ll be checking in on you.

    Thanks, everyone, for the welcome!

  8. Aria Schoenfelt, Austin Luxury Homes

    May 13, 2008 at 3:27 pm

    Welcome, Jeremy!

    It is definitely important in this business to remain humble even after an amazing deal. You’re on to something great here that many of us lose sight of in the hustle and bustle of our daily businesses. I’ve been surprised in dealing with some of the “big names” in my area. Sometimes I swear they make everything difficult to prove that they can handle difficult situations. But the next breed of Realtors® is likely to be one that keeps everything simple for their clients. It’s one thing I strive to do. It’s nice to not sweat the small stuff, but a true professional knows to quietly pay careful attention to it.

  9. Ricardo Bueno

    May 13, 2008 at 5:46 pm

    The fact is, we’ve all made mistakes! Hey, no one’s perfect right… I’ve made mistakes with clients too but the biggest mistake I’ve ever made is not addressing my error soon enough.

    A client once said to me: “Look Ricardo, you’re a great guy and hard worker…I know that. If you messed up, big deal. We all do! But just tell me that you did and how we can fix it. That’s all I want…”

    It felt like I was in a relationship. But that’s what it is really, we’re in a relationship driven business. And we’re going to make mistakes…but if it’s an open relationship and we discuss things, it’s a stronger relationship and we’re all the better for it.

  10. cindy*staged4more

    May 13, 2008 at 7:12 pm

    Hi Jeremy,

    Welcome!

    Great post. I am not an agent (I am a pro home stager), but I feel the same thing. I am definitely going through that lull phase right now (just zoomed by “complacent,” now moving onto “frighten.”) in my business. It’s definitely a hard habit to break, but I think the most important thing is to recognize those flaws and bad habits and like you said, keeping it real & give it our all 😉

    Cheers,
    Cindy

  11. ines

    May 13, 2008 at 7:52 pm

    @NRLiving (I’m going to have to make an effort to break out of THAT habit) – I think what makes us better people is the fact that we can look back and recognize our flaws and do something about them.

  12. Irina Netchaev

    May 13, 2008 at 8:39 pm

    We all make mistakes, but the trick is to learn from them and take responsibility for the consequences. Sounds like you’re doing both. Great job and a great post!!!

  13. Jeremy Hart

    May 13, 2008 at 9:43 pm

    Ricardo, I love that story. “It felt like I was in a relationship. But … we’re in a relationship driven business.” That’s so true, and I think one of the things I REALLY love about this. When you really connect with a client, when you really understand what they need from the transaction – I think that’s a great place to be. Some of my clients have become some of my best friends here. THAT’s really a blessing.

    Ines – don’t fight Twitter. It’s where it’s @. 😉

    Cindy – doesn’t matter what we do, does it, but so easy to get down when things aren’t going as well as we’d like. Did you see this article? https://mioaklandcounty.com/blog/2008/05/12/hgtvfailing-to-stage/

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Coaching

Reality checking real estate market conditions – feelings, perceptions and facts

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My perception of reality isn’t always factually accurate.

Mostly I’m a positive guy.  But every other day or so, I think and feel like opportunities are scarce and market conditions outside my control make success elusive.  Do you ever have thoughts like that?

When I think thoughts like that, my perceptions limit me.  When I feel like business is slow and scarce, my spirit saddens, I roll  uptight tense and I struggle.  As a result my attractiveness dims and my effectiveness dulls.  People and opportunity don’t seek out and choose the dim, dull and struggling.  Opportunity gravitates toward the positive, not the sad and negative.

To succeed, it’s important that I understand the difference between what I perceive and feel, and factual-reality.  So, I have this daily Reality-Check thing that I do.  It keeps my head on straight.

Here’s how I Reality-Check myself and my real estate market.

I consciously suspend my perceptions about my market.  I don’t consider how I’m feeling or what others are saying.  I flip my logical thinking switch to ON, suspend my beliefs and go directly to the MLS to see what’s really happening in my market.

Here’s what I do:

I search listing activity for the last 30 days.  How many new listing came on the market per day?

I search pending/contracts written activity for the last 30 days.  How many listings went under contract per day?

Running these simple searches give me the facts about actual activity in my market place.  With the facts in hand I’m not poisoned or paralyzed by the negative opinions, speculation, conjecture or feelings of other people.  What I discover is that no matter how well or poor I perceive my market to be, there are always available opportunities and possibilities.  Always.

Whether I’m feeling flush or frustrated, every day sellers decide to sell and new listing come on the market.   Every day buyers are buying.  This daily Reality-Check sets me straight.  People buy and sell everyday.  The only question is, who will they choose?

Understanding the facts gives me hope and inspiration.  Business is there, if I want it.  It doesn’t matter what other’s report, believe or perceive.  It only matters what’s really happening in my market, and what I’m willing to do to attract, discover and earn what I want.

I run my reports every morning.  When my feet hit the street, I know what’s real and what is possible.  I know the only thing holding me back is me.  If I take action, I can sieze opportunity and change my future.

That’s how I Reality-Check.  How do you Reality-Check yourself?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Cheers and thanks for reading.

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Coaching

Is it time to bury the past and rise up? Is it time to advise “buy”?

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It’s 2011.  Not 2010 or 2009.  Viva 2011

What’s your real estate market like this week?  Is it better than it was a year or two ago?

Back then we had the difficult task of sharing mostly bad news.  A rational Fear Of Loss kept buyers who wanted to move from making a move.  It was simple logic, buy too soon and home values might fall, resulting in a financial loss.

Last year the Federal Homebuyer Tax Credit artificially stimulated 1st Quarter home sales.  The free-money party ended in April of 2010 and real estate sales activity went from gangbusters to bust.  It pretty much stayed crappy until January 2011.

From what I can see across the inter-webs and personal experience, the unstimulated 1st Quarter of 2011 is equal to or better than the artificially stimulated 1st Quarter of 2010.  Which means that most likely, the balance of 2011 will be way better than 2010.  Not a month to soon, amen.

But I’m worried.  Real worried.

I’m Worried About Shell Shock

It’s been so crappy for so long, some us may be suffering from Shell Shock.  When someone asks if now would be a good time to buy, we start mumbling, our shoulders slump and the light in our eyes dim. We hem and haw.  Because we’ve been so beat up for so long, our answer limps from our mouth to their ears.  On occasion we allow past emotional scaring to over ride current intellect and logic. This is normal human behavior, but we’re not paid to be normal.  We’re paid to perform.

People are counting on us for unbiased and expert real estate opinion and analysis.   When they ask the question, “Is now a safe time to make a move?” they expect a thoughtful and intellectual answer.  Not an emotional reaction steeped in Shell Shock.

It’s Time To Bury The Past and Rise UP

Note from the editor: The video at the top of this article is of Maya Angelou’s “And Still I Rise,” particularly relevant to the theme of this article.

The Fear Of Loss is perpetually valid.  Yesterday, the likely hood of suffering a financial loss by buying in falling market was high.  Today’s and tomorrow’s market is 180 degrees different.  If our buyer clients want to make a move and they don’t, waiting may cause them financial loss.

It’s a new day and a new market. Let’s think, advise and act like it.

Let’s start by reviewing and sharing a few important factors with our homebuyer clients.

Price & Value and Cost & Expense Factors

Advising our buyer clients to Not-Buy-Now because home values may go down, and they will have lost money by overpaying, is an example making a decision based on the Value & Price factor. Last year in many micro-markets this was smart, simple and logical.

Today, if we’re sincere about helping our clients avoid financial loss, we’ll want to include Cost & Expense factors in our advisory analysis.

Unless our buyer clients are paying cash when they buy, they’re going to use mortgage financing.  Their mortgage interest rate determines the Cost & Expense of buying and has a bottom line effect on whether waiting to buy will result in a financial Win or Loss.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:

Here’s how we can use both Value & Price and Cost & Expense Factors in our advisory analysis.  To figure out if it’s better to wait or make the move, consider alternate future outcomes.

Three What If Scenarios

Keeping in mind that our local and national economies are improving,  inflation is real and mortgage interest rates, are rising, We can evaluate the financial risks by asking ourselves which of these three scenarios is most likely:

  1. Home Prices stabilize and mortgage rates rise. Using the example in the picture above, if mortgage rates rise to 6%, waiting may cost our buyer clients the extra expense of $175.86 more per month.  If the value of the properties they’re interested in don’t drop more than 13% in value before mortgage rates inflate from current rates to 6%, the decision to wait would create a financial compound fracture.  Waiting would mean they’ve lost on two fronts, Value & Price and Cost & Expense.
  2. Home Prices drop more than 13% and mortgage rates rise to 6%. 
  3. Home Prices drop and mortgage rates stay the same or fall too.

If you believe that home values in your market will fall faster and further than mortgage rates will rise (2. or 3. above), then advising your buyer clients to stay put is the way to go.  Keep your eye on the market and when you see a favorable entry point, advise them to make their move.

If you think prices won’t drop more than 13% before mortgage rates rise to 6%, then your logical left brain will tell you it’s wise to advise your buyer clients,

Because home values are less likely to fall more than interest rates will rise, now is a safe time to make move you’ve been waiting and wanting to make.

Do your homework on property-value-trends for your micro markets, consider the implications of rising mortgage rates, Rise Up and advise with confidence.

Here’s what I think about my micro-market. . .

I think home values are stable and some neighborhoods will enjoy a rise in prices/values.  Mortgage rates have risen about 1% in the last four months and will continue to creep up.

When my clients who would like to move, ask me if it’s a safe time to move, I would discuss Price & Value and Cost & Expense factors with them. Afterwards, we’d be out the door dream home shopping.  Pronto.

What do you think?

What’s happening in your market?  What are you advising?

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Cheers and thanks for reading.

 

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Coaching

Was Einstein Wrong About The Definition Of Insanity?

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The Classic Definition Of Insanity Is Wrong

Ok, it’s not wrong-wrong, it’s half wrong.   Here’s the classic definition of insanity:

The definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over again, expecting a different result. ~ Albert Einstein

It’s true.  For example, you can’t lose a dollar on every deal and make it up in volume.  I think we’d all agree, if what we’re doing isn’t working, we need to make dramatic changes. Right? But, what if what we’re doing is working?  What if we’re not lazy?  What if we’re the opposite – we’re successful?  Should we keep doing the same things over and over again, expecting the same successful result? You’d think so.  But doing so would fall into the insanity category as well. Here’s why.

The Other Definition Of Insanity

Because the expectations of our prospects, suspects and clients are steadily rising and savvy competitors are constantly upping the ante, doing the same things that made us successful yesterday will leave us in the dust tomorrow.  Where would Apple be if it thought their first iPhone was such a big hit they didn’t need to change it or improve it?  You know, what if their mindset was, if it ain’t broke why fix it?  They’d be pipsqueaks instead of what they are now, right?  It’s the same for you and me. If Einstein was alive today, I believe he’d approve of this second definition:

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting the same result.”

You see, to succeed tomorrow,we have to reinvent and relaunch ourselves today and everyday.  If we don’t, we fall behind.  Then disappear.  I bet you can think of a two or three formerly famous companies that fell on hard times because they didn’t change with the times.  For example Blockbuster comes to mind.  Renting DVDs was all the rage once, you know? What will you reinvent and relaunch this week?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Cheers. Thanks for reading. Photo Credit

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