In Groundswell, her 2008 best selling book about social media, Charlene Li taught us that being a critic was one of the favorite activities connected with our contemporary society. She pointed out that at any given time, only about 18 percent of individuals interacting through social media channels were engaged in creative and innovative thought while a whopping 25 percent were focused on being critical.
So it has come to pass in our public dialogue about real estate agents. Whether in attempts at constructive criticism, self-marketing or just plain meanness, it seems as though the majority of what is being written about real estate agents these days is negative and critical.
I recently had an opportunity to witness the gold medal-level performance of a world-class real estate professional named Judy as she charged and fought her way through an inspiring four-month campaign to market and close on a residential property in our community. This experience and the amazing competency she demonstrated serves to remind all of us of two important concepts: the realities of the current marketplace are more than just metrics, statistics and comparisons about how real estate markets used to be. Success in today’s complex market requires an exceptional professional with complete skills, tenacity and a courageous heart.
The circumstances of this transaction were not particularly remarkable. The sellers were prime-time boomers attempting to escape the growing danger of their waterfront McMansion-based lifestyle into what their “Y” generation son called a “sustainable” lifestyle. The property to be listed had represented the zenith of their “Yuppie” existence and had for more than 10 years served to give notice to the world of their relative professional and social success.
Of course, the sellers were totally Internet savvy and had, by the onset of the listing, made themselves experts on the contemporary real estate market situation. They were convinced that the listing agent would be a mere formality and that the priceless treasure they offered for sale would be snapped up within days by one of many interested and eligible consumers circling the marketplace.
The statistics told a much different story. At the time of listing, there were 87 properties listed in the price range of $1 million to $1.5 million. Based upon the existing absorption rate, it should have taken almost two years to successfully market the property.
Predictably, client-generated problems emerged almost as soon as the listing was penned. The sellers, basking in their self-proclaimed expertise, were convinced that the listing agent should be a fountain of new and innovative tricks and creative marketing techniques to reach the hundreds of potential buyers in the marketplace. The fact, gently pointed out by their broker, that only seven such properties had sold in the past year in three counties were lost on these optimists. The sellers became an unending source of new and untested approaches for ads, advertising, receptions and gimmicks all that would certainly sell the property in short order. The seller’s frustration grew as each “perfect” solution failed to produce a buyer.
Finally, after 60 days, the joint effort was darkened by the appearance of Mr. Big. Demonstrating one of the most disgusting features of the current market, this dirt gambler roams the marketplace looking for sellers who he deems to be desperate and unstable. Those who meet this description are rewarded with an offer that is suspended half way between insulting and predatory.
The first chapter of this saga came to a dramatic end 90 days after the original listing when, at the seller’s request, the broker agreed to terminate the listing so the then-manic sellers could rethink, refinance and recommit to the Yuppie dream. It was here, however, that the real story began.
Four days after the listing was taken off the market, Judy called the sellers to say that an eligible buyer had emerged. Would the sellers entertain a showing? As if by divine intervention a few days later, a purchase agreement was negotiated and the saga was hurtled into its next phase.
A major complication in today’s real estate marketplace is the fact that consumers have little or no idea just how complex and downright hostile the current transaction has become. Consequently they have no idea about the wide range of skills and competencies that agents must utilize to successfully close a transaction. Given this situation, imagine the impact of the following factors on the course of the transaction:
• The home inspection covered 35 pages and disclosed matters that arose from the initial construction of the home.
• The sellers demanded a special survey product that cost almost twice the normal service
• The good news was that the buyers agreed to a price that was only four percent under listing price; the challenge was that they subsequently expected that all matters of concern no matter how minimal to be resolved in their favor.
• The buyers’ agent had set a standard of professional performance that made every point of negotiation a matter of personal achievement.
• The sellers’ commitment to the sale and a new lifestyle fell 10 degrees short of cooperative behavior on several occasions during the transaction.
• The sellers’ perception that theirs was the perfect property didn’t match up to what the out of town buyer’s had in mind for their dream recreational property.
• The mortgage process remained uncertain until six hours before closing do to the appearance of a shadow tax lien from 1974.
It was perhaps the perfect setting for greatness to emerge because that is exactly what happened. During a more than three-week period, agent Judy, like a knight of the proverbial round table, stood in the middle of a circle of conflict and doubt parroting off each threat and attack on the transaction with an amazing level of grace and balance. With one hand she maintained control over the sometimes out-of-control egos of her clients while with the other she worked to maintain an environment of transactional fairness and balance in the face of an aggressive buyer’s team. Throughout this period and apparently with her right foot she orchestrated a vast cast of closing, appraisal, utility, township, mortgage, contracting, cable, heating, painting, refinishing, plumbing and the myriad number of other experts and vendors required to close a transaction in today’s marketplace.
It was indeed a pleasure to watch Judy receive a commission so well earned and deserved.
Oh, by the way, where did that buyer come from? It turns out that when she is not otherwise pursuing the details of other transactions, a successful career and a positive personal life Judy maintains a tight network of contacts among other agents in the marketplace that deal with high value properties and affluent consumers. It was a result of this practice, just one more amazing skill set, that the buyer was located and attracted.
If this article has sounded like a tribute to great real estate agents, it has been. Thank you, Judy, for reminding all of us about the fact that great real estate professionals are unique, valuable and irreplaceable. May 2011 be a year of wonder for all of you.