Discovering the Undiscovered Talent

I am hoping to get a little crowdsourcing love here. 

I am working on a project and am seeking fresh new real estate social media and blogging talent.  It can of course be someone who has been doing it for a long time and just isn’t known to me, that is still fresh to me. If you know anyone who you think is interesting, insightful, doing something new or using the platforms well, would you mind pointing them out in the comments below?  Sharing them with me and here shares them with everyone. I would love to find at least 20 “fresh” people (fresh is open to interpretation).

There are two purposes to this.  The first is that I want to connect with those people and read their blogs.  The other is an opportunity to be a on real estate panel at an upcoming event.

The more the merrier!! I hope you all can help.

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The Listing Appointment: Setting Expectations

When I first started in real estate I was not confident enough in my own experience and skills to properly set expectations at a listing appointment.  I often didn’t “win” the listing or ended up pricing it improperly at the sellers request.  Gaining that level of confidence is the most important thing a real estate agent can do, but it isn’t easy.

Some of the things I have learned and use in my appointments help set me apart from other real estate agents. Sellers have told me they selected me because I had a sense of confidence. That confidence was hard won from experience pure and simple.

Here are some of the things I do for all listing appointments:

  1. I do research. I run comparables and study them. I drive by the house before the appointment to help me get a sense of curb appeal.
  2. I check the previous records in the MLS and even pull any available public records to see when the current owner purchase it and what the mortgage situation might be.
  3. I preview any comparable properties in the same neighborhood that are also for sale. The seller will ask me about those when we review the active properties, I like to be able to answer the questions with authority.
  4. Discuss pricing. I also tell my potential clients what my pricing strategy, experience and theory is before we even discuss price. That seems to help them understand my reasoning and support it. But we decide together. I am not opposed to testing a price slightly higher than I recommend as long as the client is clear in understanding a review after 7-10 days is a must and quick adjustments might be necessary.
  5. I explain how I market the house. The websites I list on: where, how and why.  I explain the difference in some real estate sites in how they accumulate listings and information.
  6. I always discuss the “offer” process, reviewing what they will see and expect.  Including reviewing “Buyer Assistance” so they are prepared for it.

I often leave an appointment with the listing, but sometimes I leave with the expectation of hearing from the Seller at a future point. I often do and sometimes I don’t. I watch those houses I don’t list – especially when they had an unrealistic price expectation – and I watch the price drop while the days on market increase.

Do your best setting expectations and your job will be easier.  It pays off when there are market changes as your client is more willing to listen and trust you.

What do you do differently to set expectations at a listing appointment?

Why Do You Socialize?

I wrote a post yesterday about my experience and feelings on automated direct messages and people failing to “engage” so today I want to know, why do you socialize?

One of the comments I got on yesterdays post was that everyone is selling something. Are they? Are you? What are you selling? I think there are a lot of people that are selling or promoting intentionally but how they do it is what makes the difference in my opinion.

If you own a business and you use social media to build a network of people who might be interested in your service and humanize those efforts I think that is great.  If you are a business that just sends out your URL and nothing more, offering no value or reason for people to notice you, I think that isn’t great.

I never started interacting in this space to build business; I started because I like people.  In the last two plus years has that changed? Yes it has, as I discovered that I could do both at the same time, a much more effective use of my time.  I have fun and I get to help people with real estate and now with social media. I learn something new every day.

The most difficult part of social media I believe is that a lot of people don’t “get it” – get how to interact, engage and grow. I am a people watcher and I enjoy analyzing what other people are saying and doing. I observe the patterns and the nuances. I look at their bio’s and blogs; sometimes I pick a specific person and try to find the “secret” behind their interactions.  It is just what I do and how my brain works, I enjoy figuring things out.

We all have something to sell. Whether it is a product, service or ourselves as human beings – we each put something out there hoping someone will respond and show interest.  The human need for validation is strong. I talk about “own it” a lot, to me that means coming to terms with the things we are not comfortable with, no matter what that is. So maybe it is time to own your own reason for being here? Sales isn’t such a bad word is it?

Why Not Be Social? When Social is Lost.

Sometimes I wonder if people really understand why they are using any social media platform.  Are they there because they were told they should be? They were told it was “cool”? To sell something?

Most people seem to get it.  They converse, share and work together to build a new community.  The key word in the

This is what it is all about. This crowd is gathered as a result of social media.

term social media is “social” not media, in my opinion. I see the reasons for being there is to engage, interact, build a community and establish a network of new contacts. People are interesting, meeting new people is fascinating.  At least that is how I view it.

Over the past few months I have sought to find interesting new people to connect with on Twitter who I might not ordinarily encounter. In doing so I have been asked by some why I followed them, how I found them or what I want from them.  I reply – I am curious, I am interested and nothing more than to learn.

The genuine purpose of being in the social media venues for me is to learn, grow and make new friends.  That enriches my life. From reading what others say, from having conversations and a variety of interactions I get so much. The ones I often like the most are the people who are the least like me, who bring me insight into a world I might not ever have encountered. Those that share their stories, triumphs and dreams are the ones I find the most fascinating.

There is a lot of talk about transparency in social media. I am not sure how true that transparency is, yet there is really no way to measure or judge another person’s “transparency.”  I just choose to accept the people I meet and the stories they share as truths. The inherent trust in the space is the reason why we all tend to do that.

There is something bothering me.  So many times I receive a “Thank you for following me!” automatic direct message on Twitter.  I usually ignore them, but I do see them and think “they don’t get it do they.”  Once in a while they are just too much.  Of the 100+ direct messages I receive a day – at least 70% are auto generated in response to a new follow I added.  I want to lecture each one, to explain to them what they are missing.  I don’t have time and my words may fall on deaf ears.

Lately I seem to be getting a lot of “If you are really human and not a spam-bot please follow me on facebook…”.  Why?  You sent me an automated message and asked me to follow you somewhere for interaction. If you truly got the whole reason for being here, wouldn’t you take a moment and SEE who just followed you?  You send me an automated message and ask me to prove I am human?

I unfollow those people when I notice now.  Let’s not forget the “twitter validator” types.  If you don’t care to discover people and be here for the right reason, I don’t need to clutter my stream with what you might have to say.

To those I say rethink and reexamine your reasons for being on any social platform. I know I am reconsidering why you are there as I trim you from my stream of friends.

Do you look at it differently? Disagree with me? Totally agree? How do you handle those “engagement failures”?

Maybe I am Wrong?

It happens occasionally – I am wrong once in a while. When I am, I am always happy to admit it!  I hope I was wrong in my “doom and gloom” predictions of last week (too early to tell).  That would be the best “wrong” ever!

After price reductions on a majority of my listings last week, I have seen a sharp increase in showings. I am also seeing an enormous upswing in my Internet based inquiries, five since Friday.  It might be too soon to revise my predictions (I am still confident in their accuracy) but I am very happy to see more activity in the market.

Or, it could be that the price adjustments made were just the right medicine and the desire result of those adjustments is what I am seeing in the market activity.

Added Note: At an office meeting, the increase in activity was seen throughout our market, all were also in agreement it was “dead” prior to last Thursday or Friday. (3:42 pm Eastern)

How about your market? More activity?

Is It Time to Toss Your Real Estate Agent?

I am going to tackle a question today because I think it is a question that a lot of Sellers ask themselves.  My friend Katie, whom I know from co-hosting a community WAY back when on iVillage, sent me this question.

“My sister is struggling to decide whether to toss her agent and get another one. How do you know? Could be the market, could be the agent. Her house has been listed since April and no offers. She gets about one showing a week and most are not her agent doing the showing. The agent has admitted that her hard core days of selling are over, that she “doesn’t need to sell 70 houses a year” which to me isn’t something you tell a client necessarily. She’s thinking about polishing the house up a bit with new siding (it’s the old 8″ aluminum now), regrading the driveway, etc. Trying not to put too much into the house that she won’t get back. Her main prob is NO A/C but they have a very efficient window unit that cools almost the entire house and it sits under huge shade trees. The utility bills are very low. That’s the one thing she hears back from realtors, that and no dishwasher! Argh!! It’s a perfect starter home with beautiful hardwood floors and this wonderful mature shaded lot and it’s perfectly priced (to me). I don’t get why it isn’t selling in our area.”

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard this question “When do I toss my agent?”  I have also been that agent, if any real estate agent tells you they have not – they are not likely telling the whole tale.  You can’t be all things to all people, but that really has little to do with this sort of situation.

My listing in North Wilmington

Why won't a house sell? Many reasons, sometimes the agent too.

When a house doesn’t sell, the easiest person to blame is the agent. Whether they have done the right things, or not, more often than not the Seller isn’t at fault – in their opinion.  This holds true for so many things in life.  When things do not work out we cannot possibly be to blame, it must be someone else who holds the blame.

In this case blame is likely on both sides of the fence.  The agent is probably to blame for not setting realistic pricing expectations for your sister when she listed her home.  Then the market changed, without regular “relisting” appointments, or conversations, where you review the market conditions and comparables your sister would be in the dark.  It is difficult for a seller to know what is happening without expert guidance.  There is so much information available to us as real estate professionals to interpret, even predict, market conditions there really is no excuse for not having that regular contact.

What likely happened is that your sister’s home was priced too high for the market in April, when it was booming with tax credit buyers.  I would also surmise that it didn’t have the amenities that the buyer is seeking today.  You mention the lack of central air conditioning and a dishwasher, those are quite often two things a buyer MUST have when purchasing a house.

Air conditioning is something my clients ask for, so I end up putting that into my MLS search parameters, in which case your sister’s home is not getting the same exposure as an identical house with air conditioning.  People don’t often search for a dishwasher but they certainly look for one when they get into a house.  If it isn’t present – but could easily be placed – that isn’t an awful expense for a buyer to consider undertaking themselves after settlement.

It is most definitely a buyer’s market today and a seller needs to meet the buyer, not vice-versa.   As for the agent telling your sister that they don’t need to sell 70 houses a year – well it isn’t something I would tell a client, but it might have been intended to convey that they are selective about the properties they choose to list.

On the topic of showings,  I often refer buyers who contact me directly about one of my listings as the dual agency conflict can be difficult, in some markets it is not even legal to represent both sides of a transaction.  I wouldn’t put a lot of weight in who is showing it and more in whether it is getting showings.  I think once a week is too few, but it could be none.  When you are looking at the time line here – having listed in the tax credit frenzy and not sold, the slowdown in July, what becomes apparent to me is that the issue is very likely price.

I often tell my sellers if they are priced right they will sell in the first few weeks on the market.  I might be adjusting that expectation as the market conditions change, but you should at least have a nibble on the house if priced right.  Agent feedback should also indicate price opinions, what are they saying about price?  I would review that very closely.

Agent feedback is often one of the most valuable tools we have in reviewing what a house needs to sell.  I think you hit the nail on the head with the air conditioning and the dishwasher, both are easily resolved.  I don’t think aluminum siding is a deterrent for most buyers.  If she wants to spend money – price out the air conditioning and if affordable do it, if not throw in a few window units with the sale.   Do investigate whether it is feasible to add a dishwasher.

Before all else – review the market conditions and pricing very carefully.  I believe every house will sell at the right price no matter the amenities.  Throwing $15,000 to change siding, add air conditioning and a dishwasher, or drop the price $15,000?  I think that is the first choice to be made, not whether to toss the agent.  Your sister needs to do the following things immediately:

  1. Meet with her agent and review the current market comparables (properties that have sold in the last 30 days).
  2. Look at the market absorption rate (her agent can provide her with that number and explain how she calculates it).
  3. Review agent feedback.
  4. Act according to what you see in the first three steps.

After that, the direction or action, will be clear.

Hope that helps!  And what do others think? How would you handle this question differently than me?

I Don’t Need an App to Tell Me Who My Friends Are. Do You?

Maya, Chris Drayer and Gahlord Dewald in San Francisco

I love a bit of fun as much as the next person.  I have a twilk background on my Twitter page and it is fun to see it change over time as it looks at those I have interacted with the most in my Twitter stream.  I like that Twilk digs deep and goes back a bit or so it appears.  Then there is the new “Who are your Twitter BFF’s” craze going on.

I did it.  I won’t tweet it, but I did it because I was curious about how it calculated it.  I know who I interact with the most, it got two of those people right – but only by coincidence.  Based on the results I got when I did it I am fairly sure that the BFF program only looks at the last day, maybe two, of interactions and bases it on that.  That doesn’t work at all does it?  My list included three people I had only had one conversation with – ever.

I find it amusing and am glad so many people are finding the entertainment value – but maybe when you are doing that instead you could promote a cause like to “Help Bring Noor and Ramsay Home”  I think that might be a much better use of your time.  That link could do a lot of good.

If the “BFF” folks really want to do something that might even show a real result, or pretend to – they should consider looking at a one week sample of your tweet stream or better yet a percentage of your total Tweets.  Only looking at the very recent and only a small sampling doesn’t really prove anything or is accurate. Well, at least for me – but maybe it is right for your BFFs?  Do I have too many “friends”?

Were your results accurate?

Something Wicked This Way Comes, part Deux

I wrote about it yesterday as I put the pieces of the puzzle together and saw the pattern develop.  Today while finishing a report for a corporate client I had to calculate an absorption rate a specific price point in a popular zip code in a geographically desirable area of North Wilmington (DE).  What I found really drove the point I made yesterday home.

Real estate markets vary greatly within the United States.  I just want to be absolutely clear that what I am seeing in my market has no impact on what you may be seeing in Buffalo, New York.  Our market has been somewhat insulated from the bubble prior to this time period because of a lot of relocation in and out, corporations are always adjusting and moving in a changing economy.  Additionally in NO way am I saying now is not a good time to buy real estate.  Now is a WONDERFUL time to buy real estate IF you are buying for the right reasons.

Now, how about a definition of what a real estate absorption rate is, per Answers.com this is the definition:
“The number shows the rate at which the inventory of homes for sale are being sold. A declining figure indicates people the inventory is decreasing as more homes are being sold than are coming onto the market. A rising absorption rate implies that there are more homes coming onto the market than there are buyers willing to buy at the market prices.”

Before I proceed further let me give you a little more information on market definitions.  To define a “Buyer’s Market” vs a “Seller’s Market” depends on the resulting absorption rate numbers. Essentially any absorption rate under 6 months is typically a Seller’s market, meaning the supply of homes does not meet the demand of the buyers.   Over 6 months is indicative of a Buyer’s Market.

For everything I will now reference I am using the strongest market segment in my particular market.  The most active price in the last quarter was just about $299,000.  The calculations I did today were on a price range of $275,000-325,000 in the 19803 zip code.

In Northern New Castle County Delaware in the first 6 months of 2010 I was seeing rates that were typically between 1-4 months depending on price point and market.   In April I calculated the absorption rate in a comparable area at 3.7 months.  Today my calculate was truly frightening, 18 months.  If a Buyers market is anything over 6 months and I am staring at an 18 month absorption rate how do I ask a real estate professional, in my market, interpret that?

Buyers are on the fence.  Interest rates are incredibly low, prices are very good (our market is sitting with prices similar to between 1999-2005 depending on the location) and everything out there says “Buy!”  So why are the buyers today on the fence?  They are hesitating to buy because they don’t want to see the market slide lower.  The irony of this is that they are creating that exact situation by not purchasing.  They really are only hurting themselves in the long run.

A real estate purchase is not a quick nor short term investment.  If you will regret what the price may be in three months or a year, then you need to rethink whether you are really ready to be a homeowner.  Homeownership is an investment and like any investment there is always a risk.  If you are planning to stay in your home for five or more years then stop being so myopic and purchase.

If you aren’t sure if you want to take off to Timbuktu next year then rent.  It really isn’t a tough decision.  Buyers need to be brutally honest with themselves at this time and make an informed decision and not being swayed by the perception of “status quo”.  There is nothing wrong with renting, IF you can find a rental.  Certain markets have extreme rental shortages due to the high foreclosure rate.  Depending on where you live you may want to talk to a financial advisor and look at the actual cost of ownership versus renting.

If the current Buyer pool does not make a commitment to begin buying in the next few weeks here is what we will see with the blame placed squarely on their shoulders (again, MY opinion).   The real estate market will begin a second drop, we are the front line so after the wave hits us it will proceed on through the economy.  House purchases stop and most other spending stops too.  We will see another economic downturn and it will be bigger than the last.

The only way to prevent this is for the buyers to see the extreme values in the housing market, recognize their own motivation and move forward with a purchase.  The time is right to buy and even better to move up.  I have said it before and will say it again and feel free to read my previous opinions on buying and selling.  My house is still worth 70% more than when I purchased it in 1999.

What’s your opinion?

“Something Wicked This Way Comes”

If you like my upbeat and relatively snarky but often positive posts, this one might not be a favorite of yours but as a business woman, I noticed a few puzzle pieces coming together today.  So my apologies for being a downer.

We are in the cross-hairs of a rather large storm.  Late last Fall I started warning my friends in real estate to batten-down-the-hatches – there’s a big storm a brewing.  I did not want to be right.  It appears as though I might be right.

The numbers for home sales in July came in recently.  Ouch.  Down 36% from June.  That is a bit terrifying in my opinion as a real estate salesperson.  I had begun giving my prediction of this year in October of 2009, when I first got wind that the Government incentives and tax programs were going to go away or be modified.  I had taken the position that come July 1, 2010 we would be looking at some big trouble.

It’s Here…
The last two weeks have perked my ears up a bit.  Looking at the showing appointments on my listings, the responses from calls to “active” buyer clients as well as other general indicators, definitely piqued my interest.  The Storm is here and is at least a category 4 with the current barometric readings we may be looking at category 5.

Mortgage rates are ridiculously low. Home prices are still close to bottom (or so we thought).  Those two factors alone usually indicate a strong buying market.   Then there are these other indicators: Sales are down, showings are down, refinances are up.  Not quite the perfect storm, but darn close.  How can those two sets of indicators exist in the same market?  Aren’t they normally completely contradictory?

Apparently not. I am not an economist but I am a natural observer of the real estate market.  What I see is potentially a devastating storm, and turn of circumstances.  The Government has decided to no longer back the dream of homeownership.  People are predicting further tightening of the mortgage industry.  There seems to be a lot of doom and gloom, and for a normally “shiny happy” person, it has made me rather pensive.

Predictions are Worthless
My crystal ball is a bit foggy at the moment.  What I can see clearly is trouble on the horizon. Real estate agents – time to make like a boy scout and be prepared.  To weather this storm you will need to be seasoned in a variety of market conditions and have the financial means to wait it out.  There will be further attrition in the ranks, which is still needed, that in turn will lead to what we saw in 2009.

After the 2007 downturn began there was a veritable “rats fleeing from the sinking ship” effect on the industry.  Many of the fair weather real estate agents left the business.   One of my previous brokers made an astute prediction in 2005, he saw it coming,  and  wisely said “[then] you just had to be there, now you have to be good.”  In 2009 I had a record year in a down market, 2010 has been nice to me as well.   Based on my past experience 2011 should be a record year.

First, we all have to weather the storm.  It will take till October to see the attrition start industry wide, but it will get here.  I predict that many of us will see record setting years showing their evidence by April 2011.  The difference between the last great real estate exodus and this one is what the social media platforms, and dominance, offer some of us. Survival of the fittest.

We will see if I am correct.  Personally I hope I am wrong about it all.  I am not usually wrong.  Just ask my Husband.  Now if you will excuse me, I have to go blow up my water-wings.

What are your predictions?

What Social Platforms Do You Use and Why?

Aside from the top platforms, Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, Linked-In, etc. what other Social Media platforms, or related do you like to use?

I am working on some documentation and I want to include some other platforms that I might not use well, or often. I would like to be able to share their function and use with others, so if there is one in particular, or more, I would love it if you would take a few minutes and post a comment and tell me the platform, the URL and why/how you use it.  And extra points for creativity!  So I can think of quickly – tumblr, flickr, buzz, and so on.

If you are in Real Estate this is obviously of special interest to me.

Thanks for sharing and helping!