"This is a time for serious people…"

“This is a time for serious people…and your fifteen minutes are up…We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, I promise you, (X) is not the least bit interested in solving it. He(/she) is interested in two things and two things only: making you afraid of it and telling you who’s to blame for it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you get elected.”

Whether it be quotes from The American President above, or Jerry Maguire or any number of movies that hold you to a higher standard, there is no mistaking that Hollywood plays its part in elevating one’s ideals.  I was once accused of being “The Jerry Maquire of Real Estate Agents”, but in these serious times I am looking to Andrew Sheperd for inspiration.  It is not enough in this market to have “heart” or to “care about your clients”.  Serious times call for serious leaders, and we are the leaders on the ground in the everyday real estate transaction.

If you are an agent who is attending classes on “how to convince people to buy” in this market, then I say to you “your 15 minutes are up”.  These are serious times, and the order of the day is helping both buyers and sellers make good and best choices in these difficult times.  If you are watching the news or waiting for a vote to solve your everyday real estate concerns, then maybe it’s time for you to get a job until this rainy day passes.

Time and again over the last few days I see people looking at the various bailout proposals for answers that will help the individual buyers and sellers.  The reality is that our leaders are in the awkward position of needing to be elected.  The reality is that there is no leader for an agent to turn to for answers, because in the room YOU are the leader.  Whether you are helping a buyer make the difficult choice of WHAT to buy and what to pay for it should someone be inclined to buy, or helping a seller decide whether or not to sell…YOU are the leader in that room.

These are serious times and this is a time for serious people.

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ARDELL is a Managing Broker with Better Properties METRO King County. ARDELL was named one of the Most Influential Real Estate Bloggers in the U.S. by Inman News and has 33+ years experience in Real Estate up and down both Coasts, representing both buyers and sellers of homes in Seattle and on The Eastside. email: ardelld@gmail.com cell: 206-910-1000

64 thoughts on “"This is a time for serious people…"

  1. Fear mongering. That Reid guy yesterday commenting that he knew of a major insurance company about to go bankrupt is reprehensible.

    The only definition of what he did last night is “terrorism.”

  2. Kevin,

    Capitalizing on people’s fear IS reprehensible, but unfortunately there’s so much of it going around that anyone in the media who doesn’t jump on the bandwagon is going to be left in the dust.

  3. Are there really classes on “How to convince people to buy”?

    I suspect if Seattle prices ever get low enough to really make sense without counting on appreciation there will be a flood of buyers similarly minded to me. I don’t know how many will use full service agents because of the perception (correct or not) that all agents are really working for the seller.

  4. cautious buyer,

    The better values are almost always more hidden. Finding a property today selling at tomorrow’s reduced price is better than waiting for the herd to be right. Once there is a green light and the herd comes forth, the bargains will disappear.

    Yes there are such classes. There are very few if any classes on how to help a buyer wait, or how to help a buyer overlook 201 active listings and find the one that represents a good value in today’s market 🙂 These classes are most often geared to helping agents set and meet their personal goals. They remove all the mirrors from the room before the class starts LOL!

  5. Not really Rhonda. There are many times over the last 18 years where going out to look at houses is lots of fun! Self indulgence is in high gear, worries are few. Not so today. There is no buyer buying in today’s market that isn’t feeling the full weight of the decision and no agent who doesn’t feel like the weight of the world is on their shoulders.

    Conversely, there have also been many times when I knew if I worked for a couple of weeks in advance for a seller, that I’d have the place sold for top dollar in 18 hours or so.

    I haven’t seen serious times like this since the early 90s. Like “the mentalist” you have to pay extra close attention to every detail because the margin for error is slim to none.

  6. “I don’t know how many will use full service agents because of the perception (correct or not) that all agents are really working for the seller.”

    I have never had a buyer client who felt that I was working for the seller. In a hot market it doesn’t much matter. But in a market like this it’s worth the extra effort to go with a full service agent that you know has your best interests in the forefront. It’s a tough market for me to find a good value among the many, and often that good value is found by probing and not obvious on the surface. I’m all for people doing some and much of the work themselves, but this is not a market for simple negotiation techniques.

  7. On the classes topic, I have to take classes both to remain an attorney and to be an agent.

    The attorney ones are probably more informative, but less necessary. What attorneys learn in school is how to learn. They don’t really need to take classes to learn. I used to typically take classes that were outside my field, although now I tend to take classes related to real estate, because I don’t get a real opportunity to do my own research much, or extensive research when I do research.

    The agent ones are probably more necessary, but there are a lot of fluff topics. The required courses are typically good, and if anything should be required earlier in a career (core curriculum and/or practices can now be taken almost two years out from getting a license), or more frequently (e.g. ethics). The rest is largely fluff, or worse (inaccurate information, selling a service, etc.). You could probably create a clock hours course on how to use a GPS and get it approved.

  8. Ardell –

    One would hope so, I guess we will have to see how the Processed Salmon and Tuna Economic Stabilization Act of 2009 plays out.

  9. I wasn’t talking about you Ardell, you seem like one of the agents who truly care about all your clients. Almost all of the information I find from the real estate industry, including blogs like this seem biased only for the seller. I can understand that based on the fact that agents are humans and empathize with those like themselves and those they spend time with, meaning people with an interest in selling real estate.

    Almost everybody in a agents vs attorneys debate cites examples of how agents help sellers, even when asked specifically about buyers agents

    There is great sympathy for anyone affected by foreclosure, and rightly so. I have never sensed even a whiff of sympathy in any real estate source for people in who were priced out of homeownership in the price run up. Many places even openly insulted anyone posting about inflated prices. ie. “You probably are just jealous you can’t afford a home in Seattle”

    Low prices are universally classified as “Doom and Gloom”. Higher prices are classified as a “Real Estate Boom”

    Someone went so far as to author a post on PI Blog on how buyers were most at fault for the current economic crisis.

    The general tone of almost all comments betrays a heavy interest in what sellers need, with an adversarial tone towards buyers.

    I can understand why most agents would have these points of view. A simple loyalty to past clients would drive you to want them to see huge profits from their purchases. But I hope you can understand why someone who sees it through my eyes has trouble believing most agents have my “best interests at the forefront”. I believe you, Ardell, are a rare case who has both your buyer clients interests at the forefront and the skills to work for those interests, but I don’t think you work in my area.

    I just want to get your point of view here.

    If good deals are out there, why aren’t we seeing more sales volume?

    Wouldn’t you say the “herd” of owners waiting for the green light to sell is much bigger than any “herd” of qualified buyers waiting for the green light to buy?

  10. Agents would tend to have a bias for the type of client they represent. Some only represent buyers, some sellers and some both. Those that only represent one will tend to think from that side.

    Back when I was an attorney, in the bankruptcy field there were three types of clients: Debtors, creditors and trustees. Those attorneys who mainly represented one of the three classes tended to think the other two classes were scum.

    Personally, I think you’re better off with someone (agent or attorney) who represents more than one category, and doesn’t just stick with one type of client. They understand the world from both (or all) sides.

  11. Speaking as another cautious buyer, here’s my first ever pro-agent comment. What I’m noticing right now is that prices are murky — some sellers haven’t lowered prices that appear on the MLS, but if you drop by, they suggest offering $40K less. Buildings have available units that are not on the MLS. Other properties seem to be in limbo, maybe being rented maybe not. Suddenly, in my case, a whole tier of properties that were out of reach are maybe possible. If you don’t have time to sniff around, an agent could be a pretty good investment right now. Of course in the current situation a lawyer is a good idea too, because it’s more likely that various parties might not come through on commitments.

  12. I read something a long time ago…the only person who brings money to the table is the buyer. Everybody at that table gets their money from…the buyer.

    At that table, it’s in EVERYONE’S best interest – except for the buyer- for the buyer to pay more money than less. Yes, the buyer’s agent is supposed to work in your best interest. BUT – the buyer’s agent also has bills to pay. What’s in your best interest? Why, no buyer paid commissions, of course! See? You saved money! Saving all the money you can would be best for the buyer’s interest, would it not? I suspect quite a few buyer’s agents look at the “what am I getting out of it” aspect vs. “best for my client aspect.”

    I’m not saying that is inheritantly wrong. I’m not here to work for free…and neither are they. You gotta be able to feed your family, too.

    ************************************************** **************
    ….it does make you wonder how hard some work at bargaining on your behalf, though.

  13. I agree with everyone here, as you all raise good points.

    To 70Ford I say, of course you have to feed your family. So along those lines, how often do you send your wife out on her back to get $100 bucks to buy dinner? That you have to feed your family is clearly not justification for all things.

    Your comment is “off topic” in that it brings us back to Jerry Maguire and “Did you have the conversation, Jerry?” Until all agents acknowledge their client in the room and have the conversation, I will beat the dead horse. I never tell you what to charge your buyer clients or your seller clients. I simply say they deserve the dignity and respect of “the conversation”.

    Did you ever once in your life say to a seller client, don’t worry about the cost of my services because it’s included in the price we set for the house? Of course not. So why do agents say that to buyers?

    No, FREE is not always in the best interests of any client. FREE food is often rotten.

  14. This is a great post, and it makes me sick every time I head “Right now is the best time to buy – it’s a buyers market – etc etc” because you’re trying to evoke an emotional buying decision and that’s not where your house decision needs to be.

    “Less clients, less money, more personal service” as Jerry McGuire put it, makes a lot of sense in todays market. Personal service is what makes a transaction work, and guiding clients down the right road to making a “sane and economical decision”

  15. Tor,

    What makes it a buyer’s market is all the buyers who know it’s not the right “time” to buy and all the agents who are counseling their clients that there is no good property on market that is priced to sell.

    If you stop to think about what “a buyer’s market” really means, you know how serious one must be to make a good choice in a buyer’s market. In a seller’s market the buyer gets to answer one question very quickly: “Do you want the house or don’t you?”. No buyer’s agent can do much for a buyer in a market like that except get their first and win the multiple offer.

    Getting a good deal in a buyer’s market is pretty easy. Getting the right house in a buyer’s market is a very difficult choice and self indulgence is often an incorrect motivation for the agent OR for the buyer.

  16. Colin,

    I recently saw something about a $200,000 price drop. I did a quick valuation and the house is still overpriced by $200,000. Price drops are not a good indicator of value.

  17. Sorry to hear about your bad day, Sandy. Glad to be of help. I have to say that rarely do I run into an agent who doesn’t know what they are doing these days. Most of those have left the business. That has been a plus in my everyday activities.

  18. Roger,

    I swear McCain’s line during the debate about “see this pen” was a direct quote from Alan Alda in West Wing during a debate with Jimmy Smits.

  19. I don’t think I suggested price drops did indicate value, but no matter. What interests me is haziness of price information.

  20. Colin,

    Price information is always hazy in that agents often share with one another what a seller will take or that a seller has reached a point where they need to sell more than they did when they first listed the property. They shouldn’t share that with one another, but they do. Agents are less likely to say that to a buyer than to another agent. So if you are hearing it sometimes, we are hearing it at least 10X as many times.

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