Thirteen whole years. That’s how long I’ve been in the real estate business. I remember the ﬁrst time I talked to the guy who would become my broker. He asked me what I did for a living at the time, and I let him know I was a computer consultant. “Why would you want to go and trade a nice business like that for a dirty, nasty business like real estate?” he asked.
I remember I laughed out loud; I thought he was joking. As the years have gone by though, it’s become abundantly clear though that he was completely serious. Turns out that real estate is, in fact, a dirty nasty business.
Perhaps you’ve seen “Million Dollar Listing” on the Bravo network – I’m a fan, of both the New York and Los Angeles versions (I prefer New York). I’m not so hot on the new Million Dollar Listing San Francisco, but I’ll give it time. These shows sure do make the business look fun and exciting – but rest assured, they leave most of the truly sordid details on the cutting room floor. They have to – because if the practice of real estate in L.A. and New York is anything at all like it is in my neck of the woods, there’s all kinds of stress, animosity, and incompetence which isn’t what I’d call sexy but, when you’re in the middle of it, can be plenty dramatic.
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After 13 years and hundreds of homes sold, I’ve ﬁnally gotten to the place where I am pretty well inured to it. I feel that any veteran agent pretty much has to be. Over the course of any listing – and especially during any actual transaction, when a buyer and seller are in contract – it’s very possible something could arise that might imperil the deal. And that’s when things can get ugly.
Most people don’t buy or sell a home more than a couple-few times in their lifetime – and usually not more than once every 5-10 years at the most. And things can change a lot in 5-10 years, so any one person’s past experience with the sales process may not be as relevant to a present-day transaction as they might expect. Given the amount of money involved, the fact that it’s usually someone’s home we’re talking about, and the average person’s typical lack of experience with the process, it’s not surprising that tempers ﬂare when something goes off track.
Buying or selling residential real estate is usually as much about emotion as it is about money. Actually, it’s usually a lot more about emotion than about money, but the money involved raises the stakes and brings tension to a fever pitch. And it turns out that it’s times like those where it’s really, really handy to have a calm, cool, and collected real estate agent in your corner, keeping you focused on what’s really important, and helping you meet your objective.
I spend a few minutes every week browsing the For Sale By Owner listings on Craigslist – looking to see if I can ﬁnd a good property for some buyer clients, or who knows, pick up a listing from a “for sale by owner” who is just testing the waters. I came across a FSBO ad the other day where the owner suggested that anyone interested in his property just come over and sit down with him, have some coffee, and they can come to mutually agreeable terms. He said he’d sold several homes that way, and they were the “easiest transactions ever.”
I believe him – but then, I also believe hey, maybe there really are UFOs – it can’t be proven one way or the other so I’m keeping an open mind. In my experience, relations between buyers can become, shall we say, fraught, and without an agent there to help cooler heads prevail, there’s many a sale that would fall through. Check out what this attorney had to say on Quora if you don’t believe me.
I know what you’re thinking – it’s the agents themselves who get in the way of the deal. Surely that’s what this FSBO would argue. They interject their ego, create mountains out of molehills, pull stunts to demonstrate their value in the process. Sure, that happens. In any profession, there are winners and losers, good agents and bad. But remember this – unless the deal closes, the agents get nothing. It makes no sense for an agent to do anything that would scupper the deal, unless they are so instructed by their clients. And yes, an agent could inadvertently do something to cause problems – but that’s an example of a bad agent, or a good agent who made a mistake. It happens.
Over the years I’ve been in the business, I have really grown to appreciate the value a good agent can provide. Being one of the cooler heads is just one aspect of an agent’s often-times crucial role.
While I agree that real estate can often be a dirty, nasty business, it’s also a rewarding one. Owning real estate is a major commitment. And being the guy who helps someone get into or out of that commitment can really be extraordinary.