Naked In The Real Estate Jungle

moss-2I recently received a lead on a potential home buyer, and as is my customary practice, I promptly placed a phone call to not only introduce myself, but also to verify the accuracy of the narrative in the lead. If the information is correct and they are not already represented, I ask the prospect if I may be of service to them. Not surprisingly, this particular call went to voicemail, and I recited an oft-rehearsed introduction with an invitation to call me. An introductory e-mail went out immediately, briefly touching on how my background and commitment to outstanding service might help them realize their real estate goals.

This morning, I found a response to my inquiry in my Inbox, reproduced here: “The house I want is not listed and be sold directly to me without a bunch of costs. Thanks. Xxxxxx” (Xxxxxx being the prospect’s first name – – which I will not print here, but a name which also did NOT match the information initially provided to me).

If you or I walked into a professional’s office, let’s say a neurosurgeon, and said “Well, performing surgery on my back will take you about an hour and require about $1,000 in supplies and medication. How about doing the surgery for $1500? That way, you’ll make $500 for that hour, and I won’t have to pay for all those costs that everyone else pays.”, how quickly do you think that surgeon is going to set an appointment for your $1500 back surgery? (If your answer is “the 12th of never at 2:00AM sharp”, you can move on to the bonus round. Their response would likely be unprintable here.) To put their response into perspective, my back surgery in 2008 was billed at over $40,000, and I can assure you, I didn’t have any heart-to-heart conversation with my surgeon about doing the work at cost.

The old joke that real estate agents are often rated only a notch above toothy-grin cigar-chomping checkered sportcoat-wearing used car salesmen carries a sting of reality at times, and while I like to think that I have a thick skin, sometimes this dismissive treatment of those of us in the real estate business actually hurts. This arena in which we operate was not created by $49 correspondence school courses and hour long infomercials, and consider this: It is a highly regulated profession in which nearly every governing authority in existence, Federal, State, County, Local, DBPR, EPA, DEC, DOJ, etc., has a hand . . . . but all of it for the CONSUMERS’ BENEFIT, so where is the disconnect?!? Oversight is a good thing when it serves to reduce bad behavior in the industry, and it should boost people’s perception of the industry as being one of professional service by trained and qualified individuals overseen by guardians of the public’s best interests.

Whether buyer or a seller, there are going to be costs, and the lack of a real estate professional on your side of the transaction doesn’t eliminate those costs. In point of fact, what you may appear to save by working without a real estate professional may be outweighed by surprise costs for which a real estate professional could have prepared you. Worse than that, however, would be paying too much for a home because you didn’t have a real estate professional provide you with a well-crafted Comparative Market Analysis. A house is usually the largest single investment that anyone makes in a lifetime. Would you let your favorite meat market butcher perform a heart transplant just because they are good with a knife and would do the work for half the price of a trained heart surgeon? Of course not. And if you were falsely accused of murdering someone, would you want a fresh-faced 22-year old law student defending you in a murder trial? Ridiculous, right?

Real estate agents are trained professionals, having accumulated a body of knowledge, demonstrated familiarity and mastery of the skills necessary to navigate the thorny path of home buying and selling, and ready to use the experience gained in every transaction to benefit the next customer. Those who have come from different backgrounds often bring with them additional skills and talents, which also benefit their customer. And while you may see a multi-thousand dollar commission as a lot of money for a 1-hour long closing on a home, that skilled individual will have certainly invested several dozen hours in the weeks and months leading up to the closing, they will have paid for licenses required to do business, attended continuing education seminars and classes, and consulted with their broker on trends and new developments in the industry. In addition, they will have incurred many costly expenses to conduct real estate business such as broker fees, business insurance, costs of computer software and supplies, sales and marketing resources, and automobile expenses. Television’s portrayal of real estate sales as simply a part time job conducted from a room in their home with a phone and a computer is the equivalent of a grade school play held on a gymnasium stage with cardboard scenery. The real world of real estate is exponentially more complex than television’s simplified illusion.

Many years ago, a college accounting professor of mine was fond of saying “It’s a jungle out there!”, frequently reminding us that the working world is a dangerous place. He was a very wise man, and I’ve never forgotten his words. But in the jungle of real estate, a real estate professional is the equivalent of a consumer’s tour guide of the jungle, helping to keep them safe, and assisting in navigating the often-complicated terrain.

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