Attention to Detail Matters Even in Shredding Files
When you are studying to obtain a Virginia real estate license, one of the details is that is ingrained in you is that our licensing entity only requires brokerages to hold onto files for three years. That works well with the Virginia Statute of Frauds having a two year expiration from the time fraud was committed. Of course, our commonwealth law is not the only law that can apply to a real estate file.
Over ten years ago, while representing a buyer, I uncovered what appeared to be mortgage fraud. A fly-by-night investor who had taken a course in buying up distressed properties that were headed to foreclosure was crossing many lines in selling homes. State laws were being broken and ultimately, when reported to the FBI, it was the federal laws broken that mattered. Turned out, the Federal Statute of Frauds time limits are different. In the case of this investor, the statute of limitations for bank fraud was five years.
When the Federal Prosecutor called me before the Federal statue of limitations had expired, I was fishing through email for remnants of the file since the paper copy had been shred. Let me tell you, that’s not a great feeling. None the less, with what I had turned over to the FBI nearly five years earlier, was enough to kick off an investigation that would land this investor in Federal Court and ultimately, behind bars for five years.
As I shred files from 2014 and move into 2015, I realize that I am not a typical Viriginia real estate licensee. My experience in this career has taught me so much more than a lot of my fellow licensees care to even entertain. Attention to detail is the most important thing a real estate licensee has, but if they are trained to the bare minimum of details, it is their clients that pay the price. This is an industry where the required level of training does not even begin to cover how an agent can truly benefit their clients, industry and society at large. Being inquisititive and learning the ins and outs of contracts, mortgage, title and insurance are what make the agents that do attain this level of knowledge invaluable to their clients.
If you require more than the bare minimum from the person guiding you through your home purchase or sale and reside in or around the areas on my chalkboard to the right of this post, I would love the opportunity to help.
Two nights ago, I was sitting at my desk and curious. What does a Top Bristow/Gainesville Real Estate Agent like myself do when they are curious? Search the MLS for properties. Curiosity about having a beach property was stirring, as was the desire to move onto some land in the outer reaches of Loudoun or Fauquier County.
Let me tell you that the lack of professional photography on listings was driving me crazy. Beach condos with dark rooms, crooked shots and hard to decipher floor plans were immediately “out” in my theoretical beach property hunt. The point of listing photos is to show as many people what you are offering in as much detail as possible. Amateur photography never achieves that goal. Thankfully, there were enough agents in the Worcester County, MD market that understand the necessity of professional photos for me to get an idea of what was available.
After looking at some properties in Loudoun and Fauquier Counties that met my desires of uprooting my household and moving to land, I did the impossible search. Daydreaming in the MLS, I searched for what amounted to the most expensive estates in the area. There were some GORGEOUS properties. Then, there were agents that had properties listed in the multiple millions whose listings appeared to be photographed with a cell phone that in some shots, was even out of focus. Are you kidding me?!!!
Professional photography elevates enthusiasm on a property. I was not at all enthusiastic about amateur photos on inexpensive beach properties. Do you think a buyer with tens of millions to spend on an estate in Virginia is going to feel any more enthusiastic about their prospects when they see the blurry, tight shots? NO!
Lack of enthusiasm going into a property rarely gets over ruled in person. Just this past weekend I met first time buyers at a property who inital impressions were made with amateur photos. None of us were excited about the home, but found that in person it blew our doors off. Yet, no offer was made. Lack of enthusiasm from first impressions prevailed. These buyers were not at all psyched about the property when they pulled up, which made getting over the thresh hold to make an offer less likely. The feeling those first crappy listing photos left were of projects needing completion, despite anything but a deck really needed on my buyers part.
When you list with me, professional photography is a must. I even hire the pros to photography my rental listings now. Your bottom line depends on creating the best impression up front. Whether a rental or a multi-million dollar estate for sale, my sellers are getting stellar results from professional marketing. Any property will sell in a seller’s market, but not for as much if you don’t create enthusiasm.
The other day I saw a buyer on a local Facebook group looking for a Buyer’s Agent. Apparently, the rebate agent she had hired was not doing her any good, probably because the firm she hired works differently than traditional brokerages. They pay agents by the hour to show homes. Then another agent writes up the deal. There’s no investment of networking on anyone’s part. It is an assembly line model, as much as you can get in the real estate business. And after losing out on house after house in multiple offer scenarios, this buyer was looking for an agent that could deliver results. After all, that rebate she was promised only mattered if she actually ever got to closing.
Then came every licensed agent in the county to put their name in the ring. Overwhelming. And how do you know who is worth hiring? My comment, after putting my name in the ring, was that agent network and reputation among their peers is going to be critical in a low inventory situation. I then called out two agents with different firms that are strong network connections of mine who were recommended as well. We have sold each other’s listings and gotten heads up on what’s coming up with each other for years. That stuff matters in a seller’s market more than ever.
Last year, I was able to leverage my network and get a lead on a home that worked perfectly for my buyers, who were just about to give up and move into an apartment. Had I not worked my network, those buyers would still be looking for a home.
Just as important, yet connected to the idea of an agent’s network, is an agent’s reputation among their peers. There are agents that get excited to see certain agents on the bottom of offers submitted. Why? They are known as professionals who make sure their buyers are qualified, well counseled and serious. They are not drama stars that stir up a mountain out of a mole hill. They respect their fellow agents, know the contract and how it works and that is why, if all else is equal in a multiple offer situation, a listing agent may say, “Go with this one. They are represented by a very professional agent.”
I know this because it has happened. Years ago, in seller’s market conditions, I had buyer who made their very first offer and were in the midst of a multiple offer storm. I submitted the offer to the listing agent, who I had trained. We respected each other. She called me and gave me the heads up that if my buyers would waive appraisal, she would tell her sellers to work with ours because I was on the other end and she knew it would be a smooth deal. Not everyone gets that opportunity. Agent reputation is massively important.
If you are a buyer and looking for a great agent, if they don’t have success stories to share about the strength of their network or reputation, that clients or agent referrals can back up, keep looking. This is a competitive business, but great agents in the market know there is enough for all of us and we need each other to be successful.
When I was a cubicle warrior, commuting into DC and Arlington, I hated Mondays. Friday, of course, was my favorite day of the week then. TGIF is a common phrase, so I was not alone. Something changed in my attitude and weekly outlook when I became a real estate agent. Monday became my favorite day of the week.
It’s not that Monday is a real estate agent’s “Friday.” It’s the day I get to sit down and catch up with the paperwork that my transactions and marketing generate. I know what you’re thinking, “Paperwork? She likes paperwork?” Paperwork is not great, but what is my job as a Bristow/Gainesville Real Estate Agent. I love my job. As a result, I love Mondays. It’s a day to clear the decks and prepare for the week ahead.
This particular Monday, I spent time going over my numbers from this year. By numbers, I calculated how much I sold, where my leads came from and how much money I spent getting those leads. Again, it’s amazing what you will do when you love your job.
Not surprisingly, the biggest source of my business continues to be my past clients, friends and family. This year, I was blessed to have nine repeat clients, three of which did multiple transactions. And an additional seven clients were referred by past clients. Such a compliment to get repeat clients and referrals from past clients.
During the end of the first quarter this year, all hell broke loose with COVID. Despite that, I managed to sell more homes than I have sold in any other year since starting 2005. I can only imagine what’s in store for 2021. Well, imagine and plan.
If you have plans to buy or sell in 2021, let’s talk and figure out how to get what you want in a purchase and get you the most money in your sale.
It Takes a Great Agent to Recognize Another Great Agent
If there is one thing that I have learned about the real estate industry since becoming a part of it in 2005, it is that not everyone licensed to do this job bring the same level of seriousness and professionalism to it. It’s the same in any job really.
I remember when I was working my way through college at a local restaurant–Chesapeake Bay Seafood House. My time at CBSH started as a busgirl when I was 16. Then I became a hostess/cashier at 17. By 18, I was waiting tables. And whenever the need arose to pitch in somewhere else, be it the dish washing station, food line or service bar, I did it. Taking the opportunity to learn the many things that needed to happen under that roof made serving my customers as a waitress that much easier. The saying, “If you want something done right, do it yourself,” applied when staff was absent, slow or slacking somewhere.
Back then my income depended on tips. Some wait staff would fold their arms and flat out refuse to do anything that wasn’t their job. Their tips reflected how long it might take for the person whose job it was to get a load of plates through the washer, or to put the food on the plate, etc.
While being a real estate agent is an entirely different proposition and I can’t just jump in to help with underwriting a loan, or getting title work processed, it doesn’t mean I can’t strive to understand how every aspect of the home buying and selling process work, even in areas outside of my sandbox. It makes communicating with loan officers, title processors and many others much easier. Also helps me to get my clients to the person in the process they need at the moment, or even to anticipate that need and get the communication initiated.
The need to know how the whole thing fits together defines how I do business. And an agent like me can spot another agent like me in a heartbeat….even in another market. I don’t like referring my business to agents who are only interested in the things directly under their control. Nope. I like referring business to agents who know more about title work than the average agent. Who know the ins and outs of the loan process. And agents who have knowledge about the peripheral aspects of our industry can’t fake it. They may not always know the exact answer, but the want to find out and reasoning to put the items together they do know is evident.
Surrounding myself with the geeks of the real estate industry may seem dull to some, but not me. Having a conversation with agents about the ins and outs of ethics and contract law, and situations that twist your brain to think through the various angles…well…that’s what I call a good time.
Like what you’re reading but notice I’m not licensed in your state or that I don’t serve your area of Virginia. Get in touch with me because my network is vast. I can put you in touch with an agent like me in another market within a matter of hours. If you are in my service areas, lucky you. You have no idea what a great real estate agent representing you can mean in a transaction.
There is no doubt that 2020 is one of the trying years many of us have lived through (years marked with personal tragedy aside.) Each day it seems the news is focused on things that divide us. Our differences are pointed out daily in an attempt to get factions of society grouped against other factions. Be it political party, race or even whether or not someone believes in wearing masks. The day I stopped watching the news and spending a lot of time on social media, I became a happier person with a way more positive outlook. What I am left with in the majority of my days is helping my clients in my real estate business and real life interactions with my family and friends.
Where does my love of being a real estate agent come into all this? Well, that’s simple. Without finding commonality or having the ability to compromise, real estate deals don’t work. That means, I work in an industry where great agents strive for win-win situations. They look for common ground that unites both sides of a transaction. They understand the ability to compromise is a must. So different from the “my way or the highway” mentality we see play out on the news and social media day in and day out. You don’t get very far in real estate thinking everything has to go one way and the other side is always wrong.
And then there are the people I spend most of my time with when working…my clients. They have made 2020 feel as normal as any other year. They invite me into their homes for listing appointments and to review multiple offers. They are always hospitable. They get me out of my home office and out into the world to view properties. And even though it is work, we find ourselves smiling, laughing and enjoying our time together. We don’t focus on what is making this year crazy, but the task at hand.
The real estate industry has been governed by Fair Housing laws since 1968. Again, the focus on equality, not differences makes this industry great. And for the majority of agents that are also REALTORS®, we are governed by a Code of Ethics. We are tasked with even treating the public at large fairly and honestly. And our duties to our clients are even deeper.
This is a fantastic business and I can’t imagine 2020 without it.