The real estate industry, along with buying and selling a property itself, can be a confusing, stressful, exhausting, quirky and weird conundrum for both agents and consumers. It is often perceived as less than transparent at times, and it is also easy to theorize or assume things that are not the case based on observation or circumstantial evidence.
At a time when the industry is under tremendous scrutiny, it is critically important, now more than ever, that the public understand (as well as would be real estate agents) about the challenges we have to continually confront in our business.
11 realities of today’s market
1. It is always harder than it looks
Like most things, it is never as easy as it seems. There is so much that goes on behind the real estate curtain that the consumer will never fully know. Putting the real estate transaction aside for a moment, the agent’s journey just to connect to the buyer and/or seller may have taken years before a sale or listing could ever happen.
The path to working with the consumer often entails delays, being “not quite ready yet,” “almosts” and offers made but not accepted, offers turned down or a buyer walking away due to some reason. There could have been multiple trips to show a property or revisit market values, prep-for-sale advice with no action taken. Rinse, repeat and do-over again and again and again.
With regard to the real estate transaction itself, it is often a landmine full of unknowns, all waiting to be discovered between the property, the buyer and seller.
Takeaway: Many transactions may have some sort of skeleton in their closets; it is just a matter of when the information will come out. Most skeletons can be overcome, but some cannot. The skill of the agent working with the buyer or seller will be critical in moving through all the unknowns that may arise.
2. If it can go wrong, it will
Trust me on this. No matter how smoothly a transaction may seem to be going, or how much on the same page you may seem to be with a buyer or seller, Murphy’s Law is alive and well. The other shoe is always ready to drop at a moment’s notice.
Don’t ever feel too comfortable about a transaction or that the buyer or seller has your back and will follow your advice or be loyal. The minute you feel a little too complacent is when the bottom falls out.
3. The bad, the ugly and the weird
As you move through your real estate career, you’ll encounter this on some level and it’s nearly impossible to avoid because it is real life. Whether it is dealing with people, other agents, all of those vendors who touch a transaction as well as the property itself, there will be things that happen that are beyond your control and that no one could predict.
Some agents experience much more than their fair share of these situations vs. others, but those experiences often teach the best lessons. Nevertheless, most people cannot top the stories that real estate agents have.
4. There is no such thing as loyalty
Is there really any loyalty today? Whether it is with consumer brands, stores, services and airlines, the needle is continually being moved and in many cases service is being diluted or is more costly for less product. Just look at what Delta Airlines recently did to their frequent flier programs which affected even the most well-traveled customers.
Unfortunately, in real estate, not everyone is loyal or even understands what that is. You can keep in touch and do all the right things, but sometimes the consumer will go in a different direction and do something else.
Speaking of lack of loyalty, ghosting is real. People you thought you had a genuine connection with will stop responding to you or simply fade away into the abyss. You won’t know where they went or why they couldn’t respond to a simple check-in asking how they were doing and what their real estate status was regarding buying, selling, relocating, etc.
It will seem like you are talking to a wall at times only for the person to get back to you several months or perhaps years later with no explanation as to why they have been MIA; all of a sudden, they will be ready to buy or sell immediately. Sometimes you will feel like you are in the middle of a story trying to assess what needs to happen for the client to move forward but not getting all the pieces of information needed.
Conversely, agents can and do ghost consumers. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. Perhaps the consumer was giving off a strange vibe or their criteria and expectations simply can’t be met.
Maybe they are looking for the impossible in an already impossible market and won’t compromise their search to look at areas that would deliver what they are looking for. Maybe they can’t articulate what they want and it becomes a continual guessing game of asking specific questions that don’t really get answered and providing a variety of options that meet some of what they said.
A consumer’s situation could be beyond complicated and messy, and the agent is not up for taking on that “mission impossible” knowing they would have to devote a ton of time trying to “save the world” for this client. A seller may expect a nearly impossible price that the agent knows the market won’t deliver.
7. Smoke and mirrors
In real estate, nothing is ever as it seems. Take what other agents and consumers say with a grain of salt. Whether they are talking about their production, achievements, money made, whatever it is, don’t be so enamored by a lot of bragging rights. There is always more to the story.
Some people are good at conveying a larger-than-life business but there may be hidden cracks and fissures behind the overt success.
The numbers consumers talk about often don’t add up. They say they make X amount of money and should have no problem affording a home of a certain amount, but when the lender vets them out, their actual reported income for tax purposes isn’t enough to approve them, so they may have to look at other lending programs that put them in the non-QM space which means higher interest rates and payments they aren’t comfortable with, despite them bragging about how much money they pull in a month.
Alternatively, they may say they have X amount of carrying costs on a property (that you see they paid off years ago, haven’t taken out any subsequent loans) and what you estimate between taxes, insurance and HOA dues doesn’t nearly come close to what they claim they have had to spend, therefore they are not willing to adjust the price because they “need” to make the carrying costs back.
And the proverbial favorite: They paid X amount for the property and spent an additional amount doing A, B and C and therefore they aren’t going to take less than a certain amount of money.
8. Real or fake?
Ever wonder why it can be increasingly difficult to reach an agent? There are an inordinate number of scam and solicitation phone calls and texts that agents receive multiple times a day every day, whether it is the texts from alleged people trying to sell agents health insurance incessantly, mortgage lenders cold calling or doing “sly dial” and leaving messages, along with investors who are looking for “off-market” fixers and flips.
As if agents would route any highly coveted opportunity we know of to what seems like an internet “bot” of some sort sending out mass text messages.
Add to that fraudulent closing statements, wiring instructions and running interference with people attempting to pose as legitimate customers saying they want to buy a home at a multi-million-dollar price point — the catch is you can only communicate with them through What’s App.
There are even people posing as the agent’s brokers asking if you are working today or if you can do them a favor and buy several gift cards; the scams and schemes are endless, and there’s a new one, it seems, every day and every week.
9. Safety is underestimated
Real estate is a contact sport. As an agent you aren’t supposed to think of all the bad things that could go wrong with each interaction because if you did, you might not get out there to meet people and start making connections. The reality in 2023 is that agents must think through everything they do, the potential risks they face and the precautions they must take when meeting someone they don’t know, whether that is to show a property, sell a home, host an open house, door knock or even host some kind of event.
Danger is alive and well and those looking to take advantage of agents are out there. There is an inherent stress no one talks about, but agents feel during these situations because you never know what you are walking into.
Could someone be lurking in a vacant house and rush the door as soon as you enter, therefore locking and trapping you inside, following you to your home, office or elsewhere and worse yet, cyberstalking you on social media, email, text or strange phone calls?
The public can get annoyed and impatient when they call about a property and the agent attempts to vet them on numerous levels when all they want you to do is “hurry up and show me the house.” Heads up general public: It doesn’t quite work like that. Any other profession would do some screening before setting up an appointment with you. When people push, are in a hurry and are extremely insistent, that can appear to be a red flag.
Sorry, general public, but we aren’t going to throw carelessness out the door for the sake of a potential sale. The one time we trust that all will be OK will be the one time we wish we hadn’t, and it may be too late.
10. There are no boundaries
We live in a society that expects instant answers (agents included) because we are in an extremely time-sensitive business. I love hearing clients tell me they are trying to reach their attorney and were told they were on vacation, and they will get back to them in a couple of weeks when they return, or they are tied up today and will have to call them back sometime in the week.
It is interesting that it is totally acceptable for attorneys to typically bill clients each time they call, text and email, yet the public expects instant responses from agents who may never get paid for all their work with a client and being available 24/7 for them.
Going on “vacation”? I put the word “vacation” in quotes because it can be an arbitrary term. You can bet new buyers, buyers who have been on hold, and new sellers will all come out of the woodwork and will need to see a property or list their home right this second. While on a “vacation,” perhaps better referred to as simply working remotely as needed, it is nearly impossible to relinquish control or involvement in the business happening at the moment.
While some agents may be able to completely turn it off and turn it over to someone else, the minute you are out of touch is when a big opportunity may come or when a problem or multiple problems develop that need your immediate attention. At that point, the client only wants to talk to you, not someone else saying they will relay the message to them.
We hear stories from colleagues on various Facebook groups talking about consumers who thought nothing of blowing up the agent’s phone on a preplanned special day such as a wedding (or other celebration) or, unfortunately, during times of serious illness or a funeral. Agents do this to each other as well, with little regard for the situation at hand.
I remember receiving an urgent request because of a “Tidewater” situation on a VA appraisal on one of my listings while heading into a funeral service for the unexpected death of my aunt. No one seemed to understand when I said I was literally sitting in a church pew at a funeral service and would provide the comps needed, but it would be a few hours later.
This was not as simple as delegating this off to someone else to help as I needed to carefully review the information I was sending with explanations.
11. People want what they want, period
Along the lines of no boundaries, people want what they want and don’t care about anything or anyone else. I get it. We are all human and tend to have selfish tendencies, so we have to prepare ourselves for consumers who are rude, short and totally self-centered.
You know the ones who love to siphon information from you and would never use you but feel totally comfortable contacting you with various questions or to “run a scenario” past you. After a few times of being a little too helpful, you realize you have little if anything to gain from this except being their 411 for all things real estate and your vendor list.
The industry is on the verge of incredible change
Real estate will be vastly different than it has been. The story is still evolving with more questions than answers, but a significant shift is upon us.
What happens will test the best of us and the ability to pivot, adapt and reinvent how we do business will be critical to serving consumers going forward. Consumers will likely need a re-education on how the industry works and what the new rules of the road will be.
Cara Ameer is a broker associate and global luxury agent with Coldwell Banker Vanguard Realty in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. You can follow her on Facebook or Twitter.