Friday, October 31, 2008

Down to the wire!

So, in 3 days I have the school test and one day later the state test! Did I mention I HATE tests?!? I am completely capable of understanding concepts, I can even wax poetic or expound on them (note a couple of my previous entries inspired by one class or other)as I go on my journey toward obtaining my license.

But give me a bunkload of information to memorize and regurgitate back on a test just because it's on the test not because it will help me necessarily in real life and I'm LOST! I learn to live - I learn to apply - I don't learn for tests! There IS a difference! Can anyone else understand me?! All I know is I need to pass that test and I need to get to work! So many possibilities ahead and yet I hang in limbo as the coundown continues...I hate waiting but here I am...waiting...

There's a reason I'm supporting Fiona's school's Principal as she goes against the Board of Ed to allow kids to be "tested" on more than just so called "standardized" formats...(who the heck standardizes these things anyway?) I don't have time so I won't even get into the things that do and don't make sense in regards to Laws and standards set at Municipal all the way up to Federal levels...I'll get to it in a later post, I can feel it coming on...for now, there's a little girl that waits for me, so mommy's gotta run...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Law of Agency - Buyer's Brokerage

Have you ever contacted a real estate person to help you find an apartment/house? Have you called them “my agent”? Have they corrected you or not? Why are these very good questions?

I’ll tell you why…because if you are part of the majority that speaks in the vernacular - not Real Estate lingo, and are not aware of the politically correct, or rather, lawful and binding terms under which a Real Estate professional must operate, you will really not truly understand that the agent that is showing you that apartment/house does not owe loyalty to you no matter how nice and helpful they are. And no, they are not YOUR agent.

Have you signed that form as they quickly rattled off without breathing, “Irepresenthesellerjustsignhere” and you signed it thinking yeah whatever...not knowing that you just signed away that person’s loyalty to another person? It’s not as bad as it sounds. It’s standard practice, and by law, even though you signed that form and the salesperson/broker tells you that they are working for the seller, they DO owe you honesty and courtesy and it really behooves them to be helpful in whatever way they can without being disloyal to their client, the seller, so that even if they represent the other side, that does not give them the right to lie to you or be rude or unhelpful. They have to present the apartment/house with all its imperfections noted no matter who they are loyal to. However, they do not have to disclose things to you that are not necessary.

I keep saying that it is fascinating stuff to me these days, learning everything I can about Real Estate and it is! But for some reason I am stuck on Buyer Brokerage. If you are a typical NY’er you probably don’t know about Buyer Brokerage. Why? Because it is not really practiced here in the State of New York.

Before we get to Buyer Brokerage let’s cover the main concept known as the Law of Agency. I will put it in laymen’s terms here as you can go online anywhere and find that whole ”FIDUCIARY” lingo stuff. I do like the way it is laid out here though so you can CLICK HERE and see a nice rundown of how agency works.

If you have a property to sell, and contact a brokerage firm (real estate office) and a salesperson comes to you and draws up a contract which you then sign, to list your property, this has now created what is known as an Agency Agreement. Now that brokerage firm owes you their loyalty and will try and either sell that property themselves or have another brokerage firm send their salespeople over with prospective buyers until at last your property has been sold. Throughout the process you can count on them working FOR you. Trying to get you the highest price they can as well as selling it as soon as is possible.

The customer that walks into the same real estate office comes in and says they are looking to buy a house, and it just so happens that your house meets their needs perfectly. Right away the Salesperson that talks to the buyer/customer has them sign the form that says they represent you, the seller. Then they go and show that property and before you know it they are in love and they buy it! Throughout that process, the salesperson has been helpful and working WITH the customer but if you notice they are not working FOR the customer. At the end of the day, both sides are happy and all’s well that ends well.

So why am I stuck on the other side? Why do I want to talk about the Buyer/Customer? Maybe because of my many years of customer service, maybe because I am a people’s person and it is in my blood to owe loyalty to people as a whole not just one side. But then I have never been in the business where I would be in the predicament of owing my loyalty to both sides, where both customers are my clients. This is what is meant by Dual Agency. Buyer Brokerage can easily result in a Dual Agency situation. See the 3 diagrams I put together below then read on for more real estate in my vernacular. It is really annoying how the pictures do not come out good here but click on the link below each graphic to see the full images with all my little notes. (These were inspired by Mr. J Watson, in my humble opinion, the best of the instructors at The New York Real Estate Institue.)

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Click here for full Graphic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic
Click here for full Graphic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic
Click here for full Graphic

In New York, Buyer Brokerage (also known as Buyer Agency Agreement) is not practiced very much. To figure out why, we have to look at some of the advantages and some of the disadvantages in this type of agency.

Advantages for the Buyer/Client:
~ The broker owes you 100% of their loyalty. (i.e. help you negotiate a deal that is in your best interest not the sellers)

Disadvantage for the Buyer/Client:
~ Owe loyalty to the broker - as with any agency agreement when you sign that form, you are now in contract with the broker. (i.e. If they in good faith help you find a house and then you turn around and go straight to the owner to negotiate the deal, you will be in breach of contract and still owe the commission to the broker.)

~ Dual Agency - if it just so happens that the house you want to buy was listed by the same broker that you have a buyers agency agreement with, in order to make that purchase you have to give up your right to 100% loyalty. Dual agency has just reared its controversial head. As the good book says, you cannot serve two masters. So, in this case, it is understandable that if the seller and buyer BOTH have an agreement with the broker that neither one can expect their due loyalty from that broker, though it is a given that the broker will try and do the best for both to make sure both sides are happy with the final negotiation.

Advantages for the Broker:
~ Buyers Loyalty - most buyers are not “loyal”. In other words they’ll go out and just shop around with as many brokers as they want and all the work you did for them does not matter if they end up buying something on their own. Under this agreement, you are working hard FOR them but now have their loyalty to boot. They will find what they are looking for with your help and you will get your commission on the sale when everything is said and done.

Disadvantages for the Broker:
~ Dual Agency - We all know that we want to avoid the big D.A.. This is the main and #1 reason brokers may not be in love with buyer agency agreements. Every broker wants to keep as much of the commission they can from any transaction. So, if they list the property, they would love to also be able to sell that property. This keeps it all in-house as it were. When a buyer is simply a customer, that is doable and perfectly alright. If a customer insists on a buyer’s brokerage contract then the broker has to try and find that buyer a property that was not listed by them so that they are not representing the seller as well. This is not the optimal situation because now the broker will automatically only get half the commission he could have gotten had he done that complete transaction in-house. And of course, if it just so happens that the buyer mentions a property they want to see and lo and behold it happens to be listed by this same broker, then the dual agency form must be filled out and both buyer and seller must agree to what that implies.

I wonder what people think - in light of all this, would you or would you not practice Buyer Brokerage? I know some people that swear by it. It’s true on the most part they are investors that really don’t have the time or will to go out and/or go online to search listings to find that perfect next property. For the typical first time home buyer, or someone looking to rent an apartment, it may not really be that option that makes sense…but for some it will really be in their best interest.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Politics, Real Estate, etc.

It’s been a few days since I’ve written in my little blog here, but figured after that looooong entry on The Mystery House, a break was necessary. No, actually I have been crazy busy with my job, and school but I have a few blog entries already in my head…just a matter of having some time to put it all down. Will have to get back to it later…

In honor of the constant over saturation of media coverage on the coming elections, I suppose I have to write a little something on politics…

My 7 year old Fiona comes home from school the other day and says, ”Mommy, who are you voting for? John McCain
or Barrack Omama ?” Hey don’t laugh, she was close! I can honestly say I never gave a hoot about politics at 7 years of age…I think I just made it clear I still don’t beyond the unfortunate necessary fact that politics does affect the American quality of life.

I am watching the election coverage on the news and have to wonder. How is McCain better than Obama or vice versa? They both promise the salvation of our country’s sick economy. They promise tax cuts and they promise reforms. Apparently McCain is more of a trickle down effect kind of guy or maybe it’s the stigma of being a Republican?...but a better bet for National Security, while Obama is all about money to the working people but weak on International Policy ... Who the heck is one supposed to believe?

Personally, I cannot bear to vote. In my book, politicians have let us down left and right, year after year…how many of those promises are real and how many are just propaganda? I don’t want to be responsible for the puppet in office so I say people of America…good luck! In the meantime I am hoping the lesser of all evils wins out and we get a little break here and there…

Speaking of propaganda, and back to real estate…

In school we are bombarded with recruiters that come in and promise us they each will be the single best brokerage firm to work with after we get our licenses.

The big firms argue that they are so wonderfully equipped with all the training tools that we could possibly need. The smaller firms claim their “boutiquey” size allows “real 1-on-1” training, aka “hand holding” which of course is an attractive quality to a new salesperson going out into the field. But then with so many large, middle and small companies coming in and out every day…I have to say…I am confused if not a little overwhelmed!

How on earth do I know which is truly going to be the perfect fit for me? Well…all I DO know is that on the 3rd of November I have the New York Real Estate Institue school test and on the 4th , the NY State Real Estate Salesperson Test. THEN comes the moment of truth…I will have to go out there and test the waters and if necessary jump ship from one brokerage to the next until I find the one that fits me like a glove. No, I am not that picky…it’s all about clients, listings, customers, and closings folks. If I get a few of those fairly early in the game…I am one happy camper…until I can afford a house that is. ;o)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Mystery House Chronicles - First Time Home Buying

I have been promising a mystery house story from my very first blog entry. It’s about time to spill the beans – we will use first letters and not full names to protect certain parties. If you recall from my previous entries this is the adventure that brought me back to real estate after having tried to interest myself in it 5 years previously...but with no success...just could not get into, it's a different story...

Warning: This is going to be really long, I just can’t tell a story in 3 words…so don’t read this if you can’t read it from beginning to end. One day when you are having your coffee or you’re bored and in-between doing something more important…have a seat and let me take you into my world for a quick spin. As always…it’s the scenic route.

On my daily commute to and from the city, while others were reading the Wall Street Journal, or the Daily News, I was reading John Ghrisham, John Saul, Dean R. Koontz, Robin Cook, Sidney Sheldon, and Jeffrey Archer just to name a few of the authors that I have also favored since the 8th grade.

I had survived the Sep 11, 2000 travel market crisis, and even given myself a raise while the rest of the company grumbled because they believed the CEO’s speech of doom. “You all should consider yourselves lucky to have a job, we cannot give anyone raises this year!” he proclaimed, and combined with a very stern expression stared them all into submission.

Being a slightly different breed myself - told him to go to suck a lemon, in the quiet recesses of my mind and went out and interviewed with other agencies, and found I could make about 15k more a year at 2 other companies. When I came back to my manager and told her, all it took was 30 minutes to have them agree to match the salary so that I don’t leave and go elsewhere. Having been the only one that got a raise that year, and of course having been admonished to keep it a deep dark secret, I kept quiet - even as I had to listen day in and day out, to my fellow co-workers whine and grumble about the costs of living going up and salaries not keeping up to match.

Why can I never just get to the point without taking the reader on a scenic route I don’t know but the point I wanted to make above is that while Real Estate and the financial market made me yawn…I just survived through good old fashioned hard work and street smarts.

Enter my friend - very interested in buying a house. I ignored him as he went online and browsed different websites to find a house that he can sink his savings into. Finally he asked me for help. “You are the internet fiend, can you help me search?” In other words, he does not have the patience for research. I, on the other hand, while short on patience in many other departments, have a curiously long suffering patience when it comes to research.

I started to look and compare, still not more than slightly, remotely interested. Soon enough we made an appointment to view a house that for some reason really grabbed my eye. We went to see the place and I got bit by the “Real Bug”! Yes I am coining the term - it’s as close to the love bug as I can think of. The house was in ruins, the foundation sinking in 2 corners but I saw potential! I saw the back yard overlooking the Hudson River and in my minds eye, I saw that beaten down house newly restored and looking like the regal beauty it must have looked like back in the day!

No, we did not even make an offer on that house, (all work aside. the taxes in Yonkers are downright criminal) but I was hooked!

We did a few more searches and saw a lot more houses until we found one on Craigslist. A 2 family at the incredible price of 270k…hmmm sounded like a good deal. We called the broker. It was in the Morrisania area of the Bronx. (Note: This area is going through a "gentrification" phase while at the same time still falls under a special census tax bracket which means you get a little break in the mortgage rate; in short, this is apparently supposed to be the best of both worlds.)

“No, there are no photos for this place but it’s a GREAT deal" the broker stressed to us on the phone, "You just have to come and see it and just remember the outside is no big deal…just a fence and some plastic to make it a private area where the old lady of the house can sit outside in front of the house without worrying about anyone bothering her. It’s all cosmetics really, otherwise the house is a rare find, you’ll see!” Well with sky high hopes and flying balloons…we were raring to go and see this “treasure” she described!

We saw a lot of brand new houses on the block, hmm, this area seemed to be building up…very nice! Then we saw it…the only eye sore on the block.

The stairs that used to be a beautiful natural brick were painted a dark green that was peeling from all angles. The front of the house sure enough was almost hidden from view when you looked at sidewalk level by this hideous makeshift shed, made up of a green fence and plastic covering. But hey…remember…we have our rosy glasses on and we know that these are simple things that must be hiding the true beauty that is the inside of that there house…a simple cosmetic procedure or two and she’ll be shining bright!

A little belated here but a basic layout…2 units. One studio and one duplex.
~ Street level – 1 Studio, with a nice sized country kitchen and small bathroom.
~ First floor – 3 bedrooms no bathroom
~ Second floor – 3 bdrms and a bathroom (one bedroom supposed to be a kitchen)

We walk up the stairs and greet Agent B. She is all hyped up and immediately introduces us to the lady of the house. Her name was Mrs.B (hey I didn’t come up with these names and no they are not related). Mrs. B looks to be about as old as the house. She speaks fondly of her home and the many, many years she’s lived there. We look at each other and smile; nice lady, surely she must have lived here for 30 years or so.

I know I am almost 5’10 and not exactly thin, and maybe that has something to do with it, but my first impression…ye gads!…the stairs inside the hallway past the front door were SO narrow I think if I weighed one pound more I’d have to go sideways! The hallway – same thing. Add to that…something I’d never seen in my life…a cloth in the ugliest shade of burgundy you can imagine covering the entire walls of the house’s hallways. (Saving money on paint I guess but made one wonder what on earth one would find if that layer of covering was removed.)

Oh but it gets better…apparently Mrs.B had done all the cooking for the family so the only kitchen existed on the street level (read that as alternative to basement level) and the rest of the two floors, no kitchen. Ah, but then a correction, yes, there HAD been a kitchen upstairs in that last room there but when the grandson was going to college they needed that extra room for him so they covered up the gas and plumbing fixtures and converted it into a bedroom. But when we look at the room we see that ALL 4 walls have some plastic covering on them like something is hidden on all sides…so there seems to be a mystery as to which side is hiding the “kitchen” requirements.

You’d think from reading this that we were all disappointed and just went home. Oh no…we are optimists…we pride ourselves on seeing beneath the exterior…not judging a book by its cover…ok you get the idea. We saw the p-o-t-e-n-t-i-a-l.

There is one more detail that bears mentioning. The back yard was covered up too apparently and Mrs.B kept telling us to look at the top of the “shed” from the window and see what it looked like. Um…ok that did not give any indication as to what was inside the shed or what kind of mess we’d find there…I’m thinking tools, junk and spiderwebs…

The door to the shed however was locked and apparently no one could find the keys. We were told by the good lady that this was put in by her son years ago because people kept throwing things from the top of the buildings and into the backyard.

Anyway…we left in good spirits and that night I emailed Agent B and made her an offer on behalf of my friend. Things started to move along rather quickly after that. Agent B recommended a few mortgage brokers/lenders, among them Kitty Dearie of Dearie Mortgage Group.

She is the best I have to tell you…totally lives up to her name too in terms of being the sweetest person alive! Add to that an extremely efficient staff, and it's been nothing but a pleasure to deal with her.

On that note I also did some research on my own and came up with the attorney that would represent my friend. Lo and behold she happened to be in the same building as Kitty up in Riverdale! I saw some online reviews that said she was the best at her job and great at hand-holding, so you can imagine first time homebuyers…yeah we’d need some hand holding alright! So far she has lived up to her reputation…you’ll see in a bit…she is Errika Kalomiris, Esq.

Everything was going along well and we called in the inspector…this time recommended by Errika (what a bunch of helpful people I tell ya!) Dov Herman of NY Inspect a big bear of a man with a pretty sharp wit. He wasted no time and we got to inspecting the house along with him. This is where it gets interesting…

First of all, in the glaring light of day the whole house seemed to really take on an ominous appearance. At night it sort of blended in but in the daytime you could see how dark it really was inside and how small. Also how filthy it was. Ok ok…we could clean that up no problem…but a damper still…

We start on the top floor - first thing Dov notices - there is no way to the roof…he asks the ladies of the house (today there were 3 of them) and they shrug and say we don’t know. There is a locked closet next to the bathroom, he is pretty sure there might be a way to the roof through that closet but again we get a very uncooperative “Don’t know where the key is we never go in there…”

“But ma’am we need to know what is in there, that is what we are doing today, an inspection,” we insist.

To which she shakes her head and walking away mutters…”Even we don’t know everything about this house that’s why we’re getting out of here.”

Say what?!...

We turn to the first room and see that it too is locked. “Ma’am, we need to look at this room especially since this is supposed to be the kitchen. Can you open this door?”

“I don’t have the key, my granddaughter has it” we are told. This is another elderly lady that we are not sure as to her actual name or relation. “Let me call her”.

A few minutes later the key appears as if by magic. We enter the room and look around. We ask about the kitchen area and we are told it’s behind one wall. Another lady says it’s behind another wall. We are confused. More than a little bemused we decide to let it drop for now and move on to the other rooms. Then on to the floor below and finally to the street level.

As we walk down the stairs and into the street level studio apartment, we see this area too is full of a lot of junk which certainly does not add any appeal. We make our way to the backyard “shed” and lo and behold it happens to be open! I decide I am not going in there…sorry, my phobia of any creepy crawly thing with more than 4 legs just has me beat. Dov enters first and I watch from the kitchen doorway…

”WHOA!” he exclaims, “what have we here?!”

Needless to say I am intrigued…I gathered my wits about me and bugs or no bugs had to see what he was seeing.

“Wow” I breathed…“this is something else!”

It turns out that the so called shed was actually a cover for an actual cement bunker!!! Complete with a windy hallway/tunnel and a little area at the end that housed a bed covered by a blanket as well as an electric heater nearby.

Immediately our creative imaginations went into overdrive…

We are all throwing out our theories:

“You think they have people here on bread and water? Or maybe they’re making an extra $100 a month and renting out this place? This looks like it was built 3 years ago not a long time ago like they claim…what do you think is going on here?! This thing is not in the plan of the house this can be a problem…” and on and on we went.

You want to see what we saw?

Here you go:

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Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

We walked back outside of the bunker and notice a small run down bathroom wedged in a tight space on the outside. It was obviously not a working bathroom and yes there was some kind of pan on the floor…

“Ugh I don’t think you need me to tell you what THAT thing is used for…actually I don’t even want to know!” one of us remarks.

We start to see some colorful looking characters walking in and out of the house by that time. See, turns out Agent B never told the lady of the house we are going to do an official inspection she thought we’d just drop by for a few minutes to take another look at the house on the outside. According to Agent B there was never anyone there but Mrs.B and her daughter and granddaughter every time she went, but after we told her the people we saw coming and going she realized why she’d been told she had to give 24 hour notice before she came by every time. To hide whatever was going on which I still don’t even want to speculate on. Suffice it to say, things were looking mighty shady…

We went outside to where the real makeshift shed had been built at the front of the stairs to allow Mrs. B some private outside time and as we continued speculating about the discovery we just made - I warned the other three just in time, and we all jumped aside as right over our heads, where you have the porch for the floor above street level, the family pet apparently found his favorite corner and let loose both number 1 and number 2.

“That does it for me…I’m out of here!” Dov jokes. We went back inside nice and quick.

I could not resist asking Mrs. B…“How long have you lived here?”

“8 years dear…” I’m amazed…according to Agent B and even on our last visit she had talked like she’d raised her entire brood in that house.

“When was that shed put up out there?” I have to ask again…

“Oh that was before we got here dear”.

Huh?! Last time we were here she told us it was put in by her son to cover the backyard, this time when she realized we had seen what was there she changed her story…I did not push...better to leave it alone...

By the time we left we had already made up our minds. The rosy glasses had turned a very smoky hue - downright dark. Luckily we had yet to sign the contract…

Errika calls back the next day and drops another bombshell. Apparently the seller’s attorney had been operating under fake pretenses. He had been disbarred since 1987 and not only that, was working under the name of his deceased partner! (Told you she’s good!)

The common refrain we have heard from all professionals involved has been…

“I have been in this business for (15, 20 etc) years and have never seen a situation like this!”

What can I say…this is my first adventure in real estate…there are a LOT of lessons to be learned from this and I may post those another time if I have not lost your interest yet…

Somewhere in the middle of all this, I had my epiphany - I am going to become a real estate agent! I had seen the good, the bad and the ugly for the most part in this deal that went sour and yet it only served to whet my appetite and further entice me...

Have to quote Mr.Watson...

"In this business, if Real Estate was just Real Estate was just Real Estate...I would have been bored to tears and doing something else by now...the thing that keeps it interesting is that no two deals are alike...something always happens differently and I just love to see how each one will turn out."

I second the motion.

Sellers Market or Buyers Market?

In the spirit of learning on the fly, as the countdown to my license continues, I have started to immerse myself in reading and learning about the market and how it affects real estate. To those that know me, this kind of talk would elicit a "Who are you and what have you done to Laura?" kind of comment. It's all about cycles folks...I have begun a new phase and this is now utterly fascinating stuff to me!

Some of the reading I've been doing...

The Real Deal
According to Mr.Watson, there is more to this magazine then just a lot of advertising, and he's right.

Housing Predictor
According to their website, “Housing Predictor provides independent real estate market forecasts for more than 250 cities in all 50 U.S. States and housing news.” They have some great articles to read up on too.

I have also started to keep up with some blogs. One that I enjoy not only because of the information but the tone, very tongue in cheek, in which it is written, is called URBANDIGS . One article I think is very interesting to read as we process the latest market crisis is ” Bidding in a Market That Buyers Feel 'Should' Be Fearful”. I am going to quote the first part of that blog here to get you started.

"Almost all other markets outside NYC are experiencing fierce seller competition where battles take place to be the most aggressively priced property on the open market. The result is asking prices some 20%-30% below peak levels. Yet in Manhattan, this is not the case. This leaves buyers wondering why the Manhattan real estate market is not filled with more fear, considering the events we are facing. It also leaves sellers in a state of 'wishful thinking' and 'hope' as their competition is priced at or near peak levels. This combination is likely to lead to the adjustment phase.

I can't stress enough the role that hope/anchoring & confidence play in a housing market in times like these. Anchoring affects the sell side while confidence affects the buy side. The combination of these two mental forces lead to real changes. When I say anchoring, I mean the psychology of sellers to anchor themselves to a fixed point (in this case a price, perhaps from a previous higher sale), even though that point has no more relevance in today's marketplace."

If any kind soul happens upon my blog and would like to recommend other sources of information by all means leave a comment or email me.

Monday, October 13, 2008

First Day of School! has been YEARS since I've had that statement personally apply to me! I told my daughter, mommy's going back to school can you believe it?! Then I remembered my 7 year old is just like me. She is not fond of school...ok she is more social than I was back then (but then try to go to class and you don't speak a lick of english and everyone makes fun of you, of course it makes perfect sense that I had to schedule a few fights after school and beat up some of those boys until they learned to respect an immigrant Romanian girl, but I digress)...

So, I'm glad she has her friends, and she really does enjoy school but she is not fond of waking up in the morning. However, once she is in school she is in full swing - let's hope that lasts for a while! Speaking of which...

Let's just say I subscribe to the school of life theory. Learning more through experience than in a classroom. Don't get me wrong, you have to educate yourself. To date, I have read over 20,000 books, fiction and non-fiction in every genre imaginable - it's amazing what you can learn on your own when you put your mind to it. However, school that is concentrated on the topic I want to learn about and filters out all the rest of the fluff - that, I am definitely up for.

So I started classes yesterday at the New York Real Estate Institue and I am very psyched! The teacher a Mr. J Watson, also known as the Long Island Realtor, loves what he does, knows what he does and furthermore, knows how to teach it! You have to understand, back to my aversion to math, I did not speak any "finance lingo" before this class... Fannie Mae could have been someone's aunt for all I knew. (Ok Ok I live in the real world and realized it HAD to be something investor related but what exactly it was and how it affected my world, that I did not bother to really look into). I can only imagine the face of any person with even a little bit of financial background reading this blog...

But it gets better, I spoke to someone that has been working for a bank for years now...and I asked him, "Do you know what Fannie Mae , Ginnie Mae and Freddie Mac are?
"Sure" he said, "they give you mortgages right?"
"They buy the mortgage from the bank that gave you the mortgage" I told him with my new found knowledge just waiting to spill out of every pore of my body!
"Huh, that's interesting I did not know that!" he answered me.
"Oh, and did you know that you don't get a mortgage from the bank, you give the bank the mortgage and they give you the money to buy the house, many people don't know that is the politically correct way of putting it", I could not resist to add that and other pearls of wisdom to the mix.
"Wow, and you learned all this in one day?" he remarked sounding amazed.

Ooops I almost forgot the underlined part of the lesson as per Mr.Watson "I am going to teach you things your own real estate colleagues and brokers may not know...but don't tell them...don't try and correct them if they say otherwise...just remember what I tell you".

I have to give credit where credit is due...Mr. Watson you rock! And I am on a roll!

P.S. Yes, The Mystery House story is still pending I am waiting for the photos before I post's a good one waiting to be told...

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Salesperson - The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

People in sales have to have a pretty thick layer of skin. We are the ones on the front lines. I have heard people say, “Well you are good with words, after all you work in sales”. Sounds ok right? Except it is often said with a negative undertone to imply you are making things up. Let’s take a step back shall we? Do you have to be good with words to be a decent salesperson? Sure, after all, communication is key and you have to know how to lay out the pros and cons of the item the consumer is interested in.

However, people don’t realize the most important part of sales…it is not in talking to the customer but in listening to them. We need to know the customer's need in order to fill it. Once we have their story, then we can qualify them and help them out. Yes, I said help. And no, a true salesperson does not lie…as misrepresentation is actually against the law people…DO some salespeople lie? Yes! I have seen that ugly phenomena in person, when I was on the other side of the counter and knew full well that what I was being told was a lie because I knew about the product as well as the salesperson. It is unfortunate that the reputation of the hardworking, honest to goodness, people loving, helpful salesperson is marred by the shameful few that abuse the trust of the customer.

In my experience over the years, I have had the pleasure of dealing with great customers that ended up on my friends list…and I have also had to take the heat for things that were not in my control…but at the end of the day, it is in empathizing with the customer and in the validation of their concerns that I know I made a difference.

Back in the day as a travel agent, I would have a traveler get to the airport and find that the flights were all cancelled due to horrendous weather. I’d get that call and try to edge in a couple of words in-between the irate customer’s tirade to explain, “No sir, I’m afraid I cannot get you on any plane that is taking off the ground because none of them are taking off the ground, but believe me if I could stop the hurricane and get you on a plane right now I would!”

In the world of online jewelry retail, I was always ready to help people find what they were looking for…maybe they were too lazy to type in the info on the website themselves or maybe they were afraid to order without speaking to a human being on the phone, but for the most part, I have had some great conversations and have heard some great stories - from Grandma Beulah’s cooking to the retired General’s escapades. It got incredibly frustrating though, when lo and behold, something went wrong in fulfillment. When the customer received their item and it had something wrong with it, or did not match what they had seen in the picture on the website. It was my job to take the heat, never mind that I had nothing to do with creating the item or shipping it to the customer. I was their advocate, negotiating a discount for them from my superiors for their bad experience and sending them a new item in perfect shape at a lower cost. My customers loved me, my bosses too at first, until they started to hem and haw and then resent me because I was on the customer's side rather than the company's.

I realized in all this, that the bane of my existence was having to depend on others to do their work right. If they did not have the same work ethic and mentality as I did, then no matter how much I put in the effort it was pointless. Yes I made the customer feel better, but at a big cost to myself. A frustration that has built and built till it is ready to explode.

Yes, I admit it! I am a salesperson - the old fashioned kind - that likes to help people not rip them off. They say good people finish last and the cold, calculated business people are the ones that make all the money. Somewhere in the back of my mind I know I’ll never be rich, I see someone is suffering I have to help…if this customer tells me a sob story and I believe them I want to be able to help them afford what they want…give it to them for free even…na├»ve I know…but I like to believe that by helping others I will be helped myself.

Real estate, it’s a tough world out there and everyone is telling me I am crazy to go into this field. The economy is bad, people can't make it only selling real estate they have to also have a steady job and the critiques go on and on. Let me tell you something...I have sold people trips and jewelry in worse times and still people spent their money, though in my book, those two things are for the most part luxury commodities. Why not a roof over their heads?...I don't care if the economy is good or bad, people need a roof over their heads - why should I not help them find one? (That said, it is of course imperative to know the economy and know how to meet the needs of the house hunter or seller, to know how to market properties and advise the buyer/seller accordingly.)

Quite frankly I have stuck to fixed salary paying jobs till now because taking care of a little girl and paying the bills on time tends to require a nicely stable income. I don’t want to play it safe anymore, yes the next few months are going to be scary, but I have to believe that my drive, and relentless perseverance to help each person, as they look for a place to live or help them sell their home (complete with the memories it bears), will inevitably be my greatest reward.

This time, it is my work ethic that counts and no one else’s. If I work as hard for myself as I have worked for others it is a given that I will do well. To bear the customer's trust on my shoulders, is something I know will be a perfect fit.

I did not forget that I still have a story to tell...the catlyst that has launched this new purpose of mine...the final straw of hay that broke the camels back…the reason why NOW after years of contemplating it…I am pursuing with every fiber of my being…my career in Real Estate…

The Mystery House story, all true and in print with a couple of pictures to boot in the next blog…stay tuned!

Cross of Changes...

By nature, and generally speaking we are creatures of habit. I find myself resistant to change, even when I know things will go better for it. Yet, it's always amazing to me to find how quickly I adapt once I accept the fact that it is a necessary course of action.

A little belated here but...Welcome to my life!

I have helped people travel (10 years as a leisure and corporate travel agent) , helped them buy those special jewelry gifts for their loved ones, from engagement rings to baby jewelry (online jewelry company for the last 3 years) and now find myself in the most important position of my sales career yet...Real Estate.

I will be honest and tell you right off the bat, I am not fond of numbers (long story short, was GREAT in math up till 8th grade, was put in NY Regents program and all. My first sequential course I had SUCH a bad teacher that I lost interest in a major way and ever since then have hated math). This is very important because this is what has held me back from real estate for the past 5 years.

Now, there are things happening that I shall endeavor to tell without boring one and all to tears but here you have me folks...ready and anxious and impatient to start my real estate career! There is a nice long story that goes with that...but I will write that a little later. For now, suffice it to say, that I am starting my Real Estate Course classes tomorrow and this dear reader is only the beginning...

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