Archive for the ‘Professionalism’ Category
Friday, June 27th, 2014
I was engaged the other day on Twitter with someone who had made an interesting comment on a post I made. In response to my comment that I am an optimist, seek out positive aspects and make things happen, the person answered, “when did a lawyer become an optimist?”
I thought about that comment most of the day. A few things about it were disheartening. First of all, it confirms the notion that many people form opinions about entire groups of people or a profession in general. Usually this is born from a bad experience the person had with someone in that profession. When they share their bad experience it may be confirmed by another person who also had bad experiences with people in that profession. It is human nature but it is unfortunate.
When I first started working as a real estate agent many years ago, a close friend of mine laughed and said “now you represent 2 of the professions people hate the most – lawyers and Realtors. All you need to do next is sell cars!” I laughed at the time, but the comment is sad. I made a promise to myself that no one who ever worked with me would have a bad experience. That is a promise I have kept for 11 years in this business, because it is important to me and because it makes me feel good to know I made someone happy.
It doesn’t matter if you are badmouthing attorneys, car salespeople, wall street brokers, teachers, doctors or anyone else (personally I can name some bad people in each of those categories, and I am sure you can too). Anyone who has a negative experience with a professional is obviously not working with the right person.
People will continue to stereotype professions until the end of time, but the fact is that there are good, ethical, professional and dedicated people in every industry. If you take the time to find one – and yes, that may involve paying more money so you have to decide which is more important – then you will have a great experience.
I continue to work in the real estate industry because I know I am in it for the right reasons – to give my clients a wonderful experience…because buying or selling a home, a legal transaction that involves one of the biggest decisions in life, should be a positive experience. Certainly there are things that are beyond my control, but I do my best to keep it positive. I hope that my professionalism and dedication will inspire others in the industry, and that one by one others who are like-minded will help turn the industry around into one with a great reputation.
Friday, April 18th, 2014
Most people think all real estate professionals do is sell homes. Those of us in the industry, or should I say those of us who view real estate as a profession and not just a part time job, understand that as agents and brokers we really wear many hats – we educate, help plan, offer designing and staging advice, research, market, and counsel…which has many subcategories, from advisor (of course being careful never to offer legal or financial advice, unless you are an attorney or financial advisor) to therapist.
Taking great care of clients requires a variety of skills, including patience, dedication and the ability to teach and communicate. Most importantly, it involves compassion – those who excel at client care see every real estate sale as not just a paycheck, but as a big decision for their clients, and the clients’ needs and concerns are and should be the top priority. This is not as easy as it may seem, and sadly there are agents who are not able to properly care for their clients.
Here are some great ways to make sure you are giving your clients what they need from day one:
1. Communication is key: phone calls, email/text reminders. Communication is obviously key to a successful relationship. Find out how your clients like to receive information and call or send (or both) reminders a few days before, such as when paperwork is due, inspection dates, or when contingencies need to be removed.
2. Provide a playlist. No matter who your client may be – a first time homebuyer, second home buyer, investor, seller or distressed seller – everyone benefits from having a list of what to expect. From the start it is helpful to provide a playlist of what your client can expect from you and how the process works. When you list a home or open escrow with a buyer, you should present your client with a list of dates and timelines, highlighting what will happen and what is needed from the client at what times. I also include what I will be doing in these lists. Of course, a list for a first time homebuyer will likely contain more information compared to one for an investor, but nonetheless this is a great tool.
3. Calendar. I like to include a calendar with my list, with each item from the list entered on the calendar, since people have different preferences as to how to decipher information. It may see redundant but it is a visual aide and many people like this.
4. Let clients know how to reach you, and be available. Believe it or not this is very important. Clients want to feel that they can get a hold of you if they have questions or concerns. I have had several people tell me they didn’t like their last agent because s/he was hard to get a hold of.
Helping others is really the crux of the real estate business. Buying or selling a home is one of the biggest decisions of many peoples’ lives, and agents need to keep this in mind. Help your clients to understand the process. If there are concerns, figure out how to address them so that the clients can decide whether to proceed or not. If you do the right thing you will be rewarded far beyond expectations down the road, and you will enjoy your work.
Monday, May 7th, 2012
Unethical people stink. We can find them in every profession, including real estate. I certainly have seen my share of such types and I know many other agents who have stories of their own. The frustrating fact is that many agents do not report ethical violations, and these people continue to work in such a manner. What can we do about it? It’s simple: REPORT THEM.
For those who are unaware, real estate agents and brokers, like many other professionals, are bound by a strict code of ethics. If you have never read the code you should – it is built on the idea that we are dealing with legal situations and that we represent others in these situations. It promotes professionalism and respect for our colleagues, and asks us to strive to do right by our clients, colleagues, our profession, and by society. It is something we should each read at least once a year.
There are a few ways you can report violators:
1. Report to your local association. This is the quickest way to deal with an ethics violator. Associations may differ in their processes, but my local association has a simple way of doing so. First, a complaint form is filled out. It is submitted along with a written statement and any documentation that the complainant might possess. The complaint is reviewed by a committee, and then is scheduled for a hearing if found to warrant such (the complaints are deemed to be factual). The respondant is notified, has 15 days to respond, and then both parties attend the hearing.
Many agents do not bother reporting violators because they do not want to face the respondant, or because they do not want to go through the time the process requires. But it is worth it to do so, because these unethical people will just continue to do what they are doing, and you could prevent innocent people from being hurt or damaged due to such actions.
Punishment: The local associations do not have the authority to take a respondant’s license away, but if they feel there are issues of public trust involved they can report the issue to the Department of Real Estate (DRE), which does have authority to revoke licenses.
The local boards can place a letter of warning in the respondant’s file, levy fines, require them to take ethics classes, and suspend membership from the association. If the agent’s association membership is suspended it will be published in the national database, where everyone can see it.
2. Report to the DRE. The DRE’s role is to investigate potential violations of real estate law, such as financially related scenarios (e.g. where an agent/broker took monetary kickbacks), or loan fraud. Punishment is stricter, as the member could lose his/her license.
Check your agent’s status! You can check whether there have been any issues with your real estate agent/broker by clicking here. For agents and brokers, click on “Real Estate Brokers and Salespersons,” and them enter the required information.
If you are a buyer or seller and feel your agent may have committed an ethical violation, contact his/her broker. You may also want to contact their association and see what options you have in reporting them.
As professionals we need to report violations by other agents. If you are in a transaction and there is something fishy going on, you need to save all copies of communications with the other person, and any other evidence. Do not worry about getting involved in an investigation – we as a profession are only as strong as we choose to be. If we do not report those who don’t follow laws and rules, we are only hurting our profession and ourselves.
Friday, April 20th, 2012
Real estate agents or any professionals, take heed: Do you edit everything you send out? Do you read EVERY document the other side sends over involved with a sale? Do you read the contract (even better yet, have you EVER really read the contract in it’s entirety)?
In the real estate profession, as well as many others, there are those who are detail oriented, those who are completely sloppy, and just about all kinds of people somewhere in between. But it will never cease to amaze me when agents do not check their work product before sending it out. There is absolutely no excuse, as you are dealing with contracts that have legal ramifications.
If you represent somebody in a legal transaction, you better make sure you do the following – not only is the risk of a lawsuit great, but your entire reputation is on the line. As an agent, you are required to represent your clients to the best of your ability. If you cannot do so, you may need to seek another profession.
1. Read. This is so basic a requirement, yet it never ceases to amaze me how many agents do not read contracts, both before and after they have written them. First of all, if you have never read the required forms, you should! Once you have filled it in on behalf of a client, make sure you go over it with a fine tooth comb and fill in items you may have missed, change those that need changing, etc. If you forget to check or uncheck a box, it could cost your clients money, heartache, loss of a sale or subject them to a lawsuit. They are trusting you!
2. Explain. It is important to go over the contract with your clients before and after it is written. Explain to them what the terms mean, and make sure that you have conveyed their wishes properly.
3. Proof/edit. This instruction applies not just to a contract or other document you have written, but to everything you do. I am often dumbfounded by some of the marketing pieces I receive in the mail from real estate agents – typos, improper grammar, unfocused photos, blurry words…I would never send anything out like that! Even some big agents in my area do, and it usually makes me both laugh and feel angry…after all, it doesn’t raise the bar too high for the rest of us, does it?
4. Put all communications in writing. As a lawyer I know how important this is – even if your client is your family member. If you have a conversation with a client, make sure to send a message referencing what you discussed, and keep all communications in an email folder. If anything happens down the road, like a lawsuit, this is the only way you will be able to prove what was discussed.
5. Admit when you don’t know the answer, and get help or advice! It is ok to not know the answers sometimes – we all face this issue, and we are only human. Admit that you do not know and then find someone who does. This applies to tricky situations too, where you have to make a call. Getting the feedback of another whom you trust (like your broker, or if you are the broker, another trusted broker or attorney) could be a major difference in the outcome. The California Association of Realtors (C.A.R.) has a free legal hotline for members, as most associations do – take advantage of it.
6. Do your homework first. No matter what you do you need to investigate before submitting any offers, taking any listings, or venturing into a short sale or lender owned property. Contact your title representative and find out if title is clean and find out about liens on the property. Contact the listing agent and make sure s/he knows what they are doing if it is a distressed property. Pull up the assessor record. Don’t ever jump into something blindly without knowledge of what you may be getting into – it simply isn’t fair to your clients.
7. Always act professionally. This applies not only to your interactions with your clients, but also to fellow real estate agents and brokers. There are too many people in many industries who do not treat others in a professional manner. Eventually you will sink yourself with a bad rap if you can’t be a true professional. Real estate agents all know whom they don’t want to work with in their area…you don’t want to be that person.
As in any profession, there are always bad seeds who will tarnish things for the group as a whole, but if we all make sure that we do right by our clients, colleagues and by ourselves, we will not only make others happy, but we will also feel happier and have a productive career.
Monday, December 5th, 2011
No matter what business you are in, if you work with people there are some things you should always do if you want to be successful. By successful I don’t mean financially, although if you do possess these qualities that will follow, but successful in making your clients truly feel well cared for. For Realtors, it’s not just about closing the sale, but making sure our clients are represented properly, are informed throughout the process, and that they have a strong partner and watchdog from beginning to end.
If you want to make sure you are giving your clients the best, you need to possess the following traits. This by no means is the entire list, but those which I feel are the most important.
1. Listening skills. If you cannot truly listen to your clients than you may want to find another business. Listening is key to understanding your client’s goals and desires, their fears and insecurities. There is nothing more important than being a good listener, since you are representing your client’s interests. It will also give you an understanding so that if you need to tackle tough issues you know how to approach them without offending your client, creating anger or stress, or coming across like you do not care. In our fast-paced world it is easy to want to move along quickly, but take the time to really listen…you will be amazed at how much easier it makes your job, AND how much happier your clients will be!
2. Honesty and humility. Honesty and trust must be earned, and that is especially true in fiduciary relationships, like Realtor-client. Explain everything, take time to point out the possibilities and consequences of each action, even if your client is an experienced home buyer or seller. If a client asks to do something that does not feel comfortable, let them know. Trust your instincts. Always be humble and use praise as a tool – compliments are wonderful, and you should be happy. But also tell yourself that you need to keep learning, keep educating, so that you can continue to provide the best service as the market fluctuates and needs change.
3. Accessibility. Nothing makes me more frustrated than a representative who is inaccessible. If you are helping me through something, you better be there when I have questions or need something! So many Realtors do not heed this advice, and I think this is one of the biggest mistakes one can make. You surely are not helping your clients or colleagues if you don’t answer your calls, emails, and texts in a timely manner.
4. Respect for colleagues. It’s not just about your clients, but also your colleagues – other Realtors, escrow officers, mortgage professionals, title reps and others with whom you work. If you have a listing you need to call people back, provide information that is requested. Not doing so has a big impact on your own clients, and on your reputation in the industry as well.
None of the above traits are any you have not heard of in the past. But it is important to remind ourselves, especially in such a crazy world and an evolving market, that beneath it all we are simply human. Sure, we all want to make a living, but the only way we will survive this business is by putting our clients first and treating everyone with respect (even those peers who don’t seem to deserve it), including ourselves.
Wednesday, August 17th, 2011
Like most hardworking Realtors, I look through MLS listings daily, and often I am surprised at what I see Realtors doing. Here are some of the things that really make me wonder whether the seller knows things could be better, that they deserve more, and why the agent is doing business in that way.
Know the facts! If you take a listing, make sure you verify all the facts before publishing it to the MLS. I showed a home last year that had the wrong zip code/city listed. My client had asked about a home in a particular neighborhood, and it was not coming up in local searches of the neighborhood. If your home has a “peek” as opposed to a view, be honest about that. If you don’t know something and cannot find out, state in the listing that the answer is not known. I have seen all kinds of data mistakes over the years, so it is imperative to be careful.
Listing photos: Every agent should use a professional photographer to take photos of a listing. There are a few exceptions, but the majority of properties just show better if a professional photographer takes the shots. Lighting and special lenses make a huge difference. Today I saw a few listings that had pictures that were blurry, dark and just hard to see. This does no justice to the property, and there is evidence that buyers who look online will not click on listings that have bad photos, or only a single photo. The money you spend on a photographer who can also provide a virtual tour (people love videos) will pay off.
Using comments to create a sense of urgency: “This one won’t last” and “hurry” may seem like a good idea to some, but this type of posturing wouldn’t make me want to see the home, especially in a buyer’s markets. Instead, you want to use descriptive language to really highlight the home’s features and make the buyer feel that the home is special. If the home sits for a while with no bites you may want (aside from a possible price reduction) to change your descriptions.
Typos and grammar: Maybe it’s the writer in me, but when I see a listing with grammatical errors and spelling mistakes I cringe. If I were the seller I would NOT be happy if my home were listed in this way. Seriously, if you cannot proofread, or if English is not your first language, please have someone proof your comments for you before you post the listing to the MLS! Not only are you doing your seller an injustice, but you are also making yourself look unprofessional.
Some photos have an expiration date: If you listed a house before Christmas and you have photos of the living room with the Christmas tree and stockings, there comes a time to take new photos. No one should see that tree or snow in the yard in August. Again, it’s not helping your seller or your reputation.
List and pray technique: As the majority of us know, if you have a listing you can’t just put it on the MLS and hope to get offers. Believe it or not there are many agents who do this! This is a blatant failure in client representation, and in my eyes it is a breach of the duties we owe our clients. A client recently told me he “knows that listing agents don’t really do much.” Well, I don’t know about you but if I got paid for the time I put into each listing I would be a happy camper. An agent should be working his/her tail off to sell a listing. It involves not only money but a lot of time, hard work and creativity. Sellers should realize they deserve this – they are paying for it!
There are slackers in every profession, and there are those who are successful but seem not to work too hard. I believe that you are only as good as you feel – if you can truly believe that you worked as hard as you could to help a client, you are doing the right thing. If not, learn from your mistakes and do better next time. There is always something to learn, and always ways to improve.
Tuesday, June 28th, 2011
Sound unbelievable? I actually borrowed the words in the headline from a fellow Tweeter (thank you @sd_mls_photos!), who wrote them in response to my Tweet on the phenomenon of online coupon/deal sites commingling with the real estate industry. It definitely made you stop and want to read on, right! How ridiculous would it be if banks made such an offer?
There is one broker in Chicago that had much success in offering a Groupon to prospective buyers – they offered cash back at the close of escrow, and sold 200 deals. Some in our industry believe these types of sites are a good way to market real estate services. I do not agree.
I believe that being a Realtor means you are a professional. Sure, there are those who dabble in it, rarely sell homes, work part time, don’t take it seriously…but you will find people like that in any industry. The serious agents – those of us who work full time and work hard for our clients – we are professionals. Offering an online coupon for services cheapens those services.
I believe that a prospective client needs to meet an agent and talk to him/her before deciding to work together. Likewise, I like to meet clients to decide if I want to work with them (yes, as a professional I do have that choice, and there have been times I have chosen not to work with people…it’s not about the money – integrity and saving one’s sanity come first).
Apparently Groupon and some other sites have recently put working with Realtors on hold. Many are trying to figure out why, but my legal mind senses potential liability – people wanting their money back (maybe they are dissatisfied, maybe they found out they couldn’t qualify for a loan and thus cannot purchase a home, or other reasons). This could undoubtedly create a problem for online deal sites, even though I am sure somewhere in the fine print it must say the purchases are non-refundable.
If you are a homebuyer you need to shop carefully for an agent. Do not choose someone solely on the basis of a coupon. Meet them, check out their credentials, ask what they will do for you and why you should work with them – this is a service industry and you are the client, so you deserve to be well-cared for.
Don’t get me wrong…I am sure there are some very good, professional agents who would opt to use coupon sites to attract clients. But just because you get a deal doesn’t mean you will click with the agent. If a deal is important you can discuss it with an agent who does click with you!
Sunday, February 27th, 2011
Real estate, like any sales business, thrives on competition. But it is the nature of the competition that can give the industry a bad name. There is a time for competition, which can be healthy, and a time for colleagues to cooperate–and actually they can exist simultaneously. So whether you are “the top producer” in an area, someone who sells just a few homes a year, or somewhere in between–listen up.
Realtors are a different breed of business people. True, our business involves sales, but realistically we provide much more: we are guidance counselors, teachers and personal trainers. We don’t just hand someone an apple from the bunch and take a quarter, so to speak. Purchasing a home is one of the biggest financial decisions a person makes in his or her lifetime. It is not something that typically happens quickly, and there is a lot of work involved. The Realtor who only cares about a paycheck will not last long, especially with technology driving change in our industry. We have to be smarter, more connected, better equipped to assist our clientele and each other.
In such an atmosphere there is one mantra that needs to be followed: we all need to cooperate. No kidding, you say, right? But honestly, there are many agents out there who still think it is all about themselves. Of course, we do compete with each other, but we also need to increase the trust in our industry, and that cannot be done unless we all respect each other and perform our duties in the most professional manner.
Every industry has it’s complainers, it’s sour pusses, it’s bad eggs. Look at lawyers–the general opinion seems to be that they are disliked, but if you are arrested or sued you would be calling one faster than a speeding bullet. There are many amazing lawyers out there, but the bad eggs spoil the perceptions of the industry. The same is true of real estate.
So, get out there and respect your competition. Join industry chats, follow other agents on Twitter and Facebook, read Realtor blogs, share your knowledge with other agents. Return agent phone calls and emails. It doesn’t mater how many houses you sell or how much money someone spends on marketing. If you do the best you can do with what you have and you are happy, you can only get better by cooperating with others and paying it forward.
If you want to take it one step further, keep in mind that cooperation is important but you also need to watch what you say–both to colleagues, clients and online. To read more about this click here: http://realestateandwomen.net/2011/02/23/the-importance-of-watching-what-you-say/
Monday, January 10th, 2011
Actually, it never went out of style, but judging from the behavior of some professionals in the real estate industry you wouldn’t know that. To be fair, this can be said of any industry‚Äîthere are always those who slack off, try to get more done in less time at the expense of the details.
The fact of the matter is that with the addition of technology the real estate sales industry has become a more difficult playing field. Buyers and sellers often do a lot of work before they even contact a Realtor. Gone are the days when you stuck a sign in the front yard and waited for offers to flow in, or when you picked a few homes to show in the area to a client who relied solely on your advice. Nowadays clients know the areas, neighborhoods, floorplans. They understand the comparables and why one property may command a higher price than the one down the street. You have to be savvy and actually keep up with them to succeed in real estate now.
Yet, despite all the knowledge available at customer fingertips there are still many agents who throw professionalism out the window on a daily basis. I have heard it from many clients and from the agents themselves! I have seen it on offers written by agents that were clearly not checked over and over again before being submitted.
Here is my list of simple ways to strive for more professionalism in the real estate industry.
1. Return phone calls, including those to other agents. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard or read of buyers who say they called a listing agent with questions, only to never receive a call back‚Äîunbelievable! This could be the person that presents an offer on your listing, or uses you to purchase another home, not to mention this is a violation of your fiduciary duties to your client/seller.
Oftentimes agents call other agents with questions on listings on behalf of their clients‚Äîreturn these calls immediately! If I don’t hear back in a reasonable time I won’t show your listing. This just happened to me a few weeks ago with a pretty big area brokerage‚Ä¶no call back. Well, they lost a showing with an all-cash client. It is about your reputation with clients AND within the industry, and believe me other agents know who are the non-responsive agents. Do you want to have this reputation?
2. Make sure you proofread all your emails and communications. This seems so simple but spelling and grammar errors are a reflection of YOU! This should also be applied online when writing blogs, commenting on other blogs or posts, and even with social media. Again, what you put out there in internet land is permanent and is a reflection of you! Use spell-check and grammar check programs on your computer.
3. Proof your marketing materials, people! You may say, ‚Äúduh!‚Äù but I get flyers and materials in my mailbox almost every week from other agents that are filled with typos, grammatical errors and terrible, grainy photographs. Again, if you are trying to get new clients this way and you send out pieces that look bad, why would they want to call you? Personally I would rather not send out any materials than send out those that look bad.
4. Look professional. This one is a no-brainer. True, everyone has his or her own style. BUT you can dress casual and still look professional . There is a difference between dressy-casual and the ‚Äújust came from the gym‚Äù look. Again, how you present yourself makes a statement about who you are. You don’t have to wear Armani or Prada but you should look like you take your business seriously.
5. Send a hand written thank you card to the client, other agent and escrow officer at the close of escrow. This is often overlooked in the age of texting and instant messaging, but honestly a handwritten thank you is still the best compliment you can offer. Those agents will remember you next time they show your listing or receive an offer on their listing from your buyer.
It really doesn’t take much extra effort to be professional, but if you don’t have time to do these and other things to maintain your professionalism you need to rethink your goals, expectations and your career path. Not only do our customers expect us to be professional, they deserve it.