The True Purpose of an Open House

Uh-Oh…
What is the true purpose of an open house?  If you said, “To sell my house,” then guess again.  The real answer is not what you think—and the truth is one of the best-kept secrets in the real estate business.” 

Realtor.com quote

You can imagine this article ruffled a lot of feathers of the real estate community. Prompting outrage from agents like John, wondering why  Open-House-Sign Realtor.com would ever publish this “secret” with the consumers that subscribe to the site for information—in other words, “This is our secret. It belongs to us. Where is your allegiance?”

As I write this, in fact, there are 26 pages of comments from outraged Realtors®. I, however, am not one of them. To me, and probably to you, this “dirty little secret” has never been a secret. The sham of the open house is a topic I’ve written about for years. It even occupies a section in my book, in Chapter 6, titled, “Fundamental Mistake #4: if it sounds like hot air and B.S.…”

The author of the article supports this point. “The real reason agents line up to do open houses isto recruit clients. Open houses are training and recruiting platforms for new agents, or agents who do not yet have listings of their own… Yes, they exist to sell homes, but they also exist to sell brokers… Your house is the agent’s best free marketing platform around.”  Obviously this doesn’t come as a surprise to you.

The author continues, “I spent 10 years as a real estate agent in Chicago, and weekend open houses were my rookie agent boot camp.” That sentence, I should point out, is indicative of the typical real estate agent who insists that an open house is a brilliant marketing tool. Most likely, they are just getting started—a rookie—and do not know of any better ways to promote clients’ homes. So, they work to convince homeowners (you) that open houses are a “must use” real estate tool. Even when experienced agents hold open houses, rookies are typically recruited to sit in the open house, because “it,” to them, is more an opportunity to demonstrate (to you) that they’re “working for you,” than to actually sell a home.

I know, hard to believe. But that’s the premise of the article. “It’s understood within the real estate industry that new agents cozy up to more successful listing agents, offering to host their weekly open houses, to pick up buyers.”

Stated differently, experienced agents know better than to waste time on open houses, but rookie agents, have not yet figured this out, so they’re happy to cozy up in your home for a few hours, if it means they could possibly stumble into a prospective client.

As the author of the article points out:

We agents would LOVE to see our Open Houses have this much traffic!

We agents would LOVE to see our Open Houses have this much traffic!

“Real estate websites have replaced them. Most buyers find houses online in the middle of the night, when the kids are asleep, comparing one listing site to the next, clicking through slideshows, and scanning every angle of every photo. Websites, virtual tours, and virtually furnished floor plans are all used to find houses buyers deem worthy of actually visiting.   Qualified buyers simply won’t waste time visiting houses they haven’t already checked out online.”

Of course you may ask do open houses have any level of success-rate? The answer is, sure. Occasionally the stars do align. If you’re looking for hard statistics, the author writes:

“The truth is, open houses are a waste of time. Don’t believe me? Ask the National Association of Realtors®, which reported that, in 2014, only 9% of buyers found the home they eventually purchased at an open house. That’s down from 16% in 2004—and the number of buyers who even    visited open houses has dropped accordingly, from 51% in 2004 to 44% last year. For the most part, open houses are a relic of the days when access to listings was restricted to those with a real estate license. Open houses were the best way for buyers to peek inside a prospective house without having to make a solid appointment with their agent. Open  houses were a way for buyers to see as many properties as possible in one day and get to know a community.

Today’s buyers save viewing properties IRL [in real life] for the fourth step in their buying  process, not the first. (The second step is meeting their agent and third is getting pre-approved.) According to NAR, 43% of buyers use the Internet for their initial home search. They get to know the prices, finishes, school districts, and comparable sales before they ever talk to an agent. Thanks to the Internet, today’s buyers are better informed than ever before.”

Here, though, I think is the most important sentence from the author’s article:

“But, please, don’t cry for the dying of the open house. It just means the role of the real  estate agent is changing. Homebuyers are smarter, so agents now have to work smarter, too.”

She is right. Homebuyers are smarter.

The problem of course is, many agents refuse to get smarter as well. They’re still peddling the open house as a miracle tool for selling homes. But this isn’t 1999. I’m denying that an open house can’t work. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in awhile. The  bigger issue for me though, and this is what upsets me, is the lack of transparency regarding the effectiveness of the open house. Why try to hide the data? Why try to conceal the truth?

If experienced agents actually believed in them, why would they recruit rookie agents to sit in your house all day? So for me, it’s an integrity issue. Exaggerations. White lies. Soon they become outright deceit. I’ve seen it too many times. Further, I’ve have seen the ‘traditional real estate approach’ i.e. open houses, etc. disappoint many of our clients, prior to when they found us.

This is why we’ve taken to studying the World’s greatest investor, Warren Buffett, and his investment philosophy, to develop a unique approach to selling our clients homes. Sounds crazy. But we’ve discovered that by treating your home as an investment, like a business with a “stock”-price—through a Value-driven Approach—a unique way exists to extract up to $30,000 or more of additional profit from any home on the market.

This is, I think, what the author meant by “…so agents must now work smarter, too.”

The first step though, is to conduct a series of tests that heed the information needed to best determine the client’s starting point in the race. The marketplace does not come without competition. Think of these tests as a pre-race    diagnosis. If the client’s home is the frontrunner, great! We can run that race. But if the home is determined to be the underdog, no problem, that is fine too. We just need to know. So we can tailor our race strategy in a way that still enables us to win. Plus, as I outline in my book, Chapter 1, Real Estate Greed, we must be certain that the client is protected from it.

If this article provides you one takeaway—the response from John, and the 26 pages of comments, from many other out-raged real estate agents—it is that self-interest is alive and well.

After all, if the consumer were the true priority; you and your best interest is what most concerned agents—to the fact that Realtor.com published this article—why all the hostility? To me, it doesn’t make any sense.

Sean and Cheryl Sig

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Faith, Trust and Alligators

He held his hand up to signal us to stop.  We pulled up to his four wheeler and cut our engines.  He  pointed to the pond on the left filled with lily pads.  “See the bubbles?”

We all stared into the pond searching for bubbles.  Sure enough, about 15 yards into the pond, right next to the patch of lily pads, we saw the bubbles.  There were only a few, but they were big.

We  nodded in unison.  “There’s a gator in that pond.  This is the same spot we saw the 10 foot gator last month.”

Ricky and Shelly slid quietly off their quad.  Shelly threw off her flip flops and walked towards the pond.  Ricky walked around to the back of the quad and began searching for something inside their storage pack.  He pulled out a 9mm handgun and walked to the broken down bridge overlooking the edge of the pond.

I looked at Sean and the others, then my attention went back to Shelly.  My mouth hung wide open.  I wasn’t sure I was believing what I was seeing.

Shelly was knee deep in the pond when I screamed.

Colorful Line

Sean and I met Shelly and Ricky a couple of hours ago.  When we left for a ride at 11 that morning, we were with Donna and Rick, Jan and Ron, and Tommy.

We decided to take it slow in the beginning because we weren’t quite sure how we would make out.  In the past few days, it had rained almost 5 inches, and the trails were abnormally wet.  But it didn’t take us long before we figured out how to navigate through the water.  It was turning into a great day.  The sun was shining, the sky was a brilliant blue with white fluffy clouds scattered here and there.  It was 90°, and blazing hot in the sun.  We rode through long streams, passed camps nestled back in the pine trees, and then into an area called the canopy.

The Canopy

The Canopy

The canopy is one of my favorite places to stop and take a break.  I’m not sure what type of trees make up the canopy, but they are enormous, with branches jutting out from the trunk in all different directions.  The foliage   covers the entire sky and makes the perfect canopy of shade; a great spot to take a break and sip on an ice cold beer.  The 7 of us were talking and relaxing when we heard another quad approaching.  As they got closer, Tommy waved his hands in the air to flag them down.  He caught their  attention, and they drove towards us, stopped and turned off their quad.

“Hey, Tommy.  We haven’t seen you in a while.  How’s it going?”

Tommy and Ricky shook hands.  Tommy introduced all of us.

Ricky, Shelly and Tommy have been River Ranch friends for almost 2 years, and they joined  into the       conversation.

They told us a little about themselves – married for 20 years, have a 15 year old son and live in the middle of the state near Lake Okeechobee.  They were country folk with the cutest southern accents.  You could tell that they are each other’s best friend.  They are a great couple and have a great sense of humor.

As we packed up and got ready to leave, we asked them to join us.  Ricky and Shelly seemed to fit in perfectly.

The 9 of us left the canopy to continue our journey.  We went through some swampy, muddy areas and then found ourselves riding through a huge pasture with cows hiding under the trees, trying to escape the sun.

Our next stop was on the far end of the pasture heading back into the woods.  We all sought out shade trees and stopped our quads to take another break.

We snacked on some beef jerky, opened another beer, and the stories started to fly.  The winners of the most  interesting and entertaining story were Ricky and Shelly.

They told us about an alligator they found on the side of the road.  They used duct tape to tie its mouth shut and loaded it into the trunk of their car to transport it to their little farm.

It was a funny story of one of their many alligator hunts.  But the story of that alligator hunt did not prepare me for what I was now seeing.

Colorful Line

I was screaming as Shelly continued further into the pond.  She was sort of hunched over with her arms at her sides, her hands fanned out, running them through the water as she walked.

“Shelly!  What are you doing?  Are you crazy?  There’s an alligator in there!”

Shelly stood up and looked at us.  She turned her head slightly to the left and pointed with her thumb.

Standing on the small broken bridge, above the pond to the left of Shelly was Ricky.  His eyes were squinting into the water – his 9mm gun cocked and ready.

She smiled and said, “I’m not crazy.  I have Ricky.  I’m not afraid when I have him to protect me.”

And then she bent back down into position, hunched over, hands fanned out, and continued walking deeper into the pond.

I still couldn’t believe it.  “Yes, but he is up there.  You’re in the water.  You’re the one in danger.”

This time she spoke as she continued walking.

“I trust him.  He won’t let anything happen to me.  He protects me.”  And she continued on her walk of faith and trust.

Darby and Brandon monkeying around in the canopy.

Darby and Brandon monkeying around in the canopy.

We watched in awe as Shelly walked through the dangerous waters, with Ricky standing to the side of her.  He watched her every move, he never let his guard down.  He guided her to the left – then to the right.  He guided her all the way to the far end of the pond.  As she moved through the dangerous water, filled with the unknown, Ricky was on guard and ready to protect Shelly in a split second.

In the face of all the danger, it was still very moving to watch.  The love, the faith, and the trust.

It’s amazing what one will accomplish when they have people they love and trust.  They can face dangers, go into uncharted territory, when they have someone on their side that they have faith in and trust.  Someone who will  protect them.

Colorful Line

Stacey was a 25 year old single woman who had a dream of buying a home.  She was a first time homebuyer.  She would be entering uncharted territory and she was afraid.

I met her at a First Time Homebuyer’s Seminar that I was hosting.  She hung around afterwards until everyone else left.  I thanked her for coming and asked her what she thought of the seminar.  She told me she really liked how I took time to explain the process of buying a home and she liked how I patiently and thoroughly answered everyone’s questions.  She told me she really felt comfortable with me and that she wanted to move forward with buying her first home.  She explained to me how she would be the first one in three generations in her family to buy a home.

I assured her that I would guide and navigate her throughout the whole process and protect her from any and all hidden dangers.

A week later, Stacey called me and said she was ready to go.

I explained to her that the first step would be to get pre-qualified by a mortgage company and that I could set up a time for the two of us to meet with a loan officer that I do a lot of business with.

Two days later, we sat down with Joe, the loan officer, and Stacey got pre-qualified.  That weekend we went house shopping, and Stacey found a great little home that she adored.  We put an offer in, and it was accepted.

The next step was the home inspection.  I guided her through the inspection and sat down with her to go over the report.  There were a couple of major issues on the report and she needed them taken care of  before settlement.

It was time for me to “draw my gun” and protect Stacey, making sure she was not going to be taken advantage of.  I negotiated with the seller and his agent and was able to get both issues repaired – and even got her a warranty on the repairs.  Stacey was happy that she wouldn’t have to worry about her hot water heater or her roof for the next several years.

The mortgage company worked on her loan for another two weeks and did a great job.  They were ready to settle right on time.  We scheduled the closing for the next Wednesday.

I reminded the seller’s agent that we still needed the receipt and warranty for the roof repair.  He emailed me a repair order with no receipt or warranty.  When I asked him about it, he said the seller’s cousin worked for a roofer and did the repairs for free.  No warranty.

I called Stacey and explained the situation to her.  She said she thought that it would be okay.  I had to “draw my gun” again.  If she settled for this type of repair, she would have no recourse if her roof started   leaking after settlement.  She’d have to pay for it to be fixed properly (if it wasn’t fixed properly by the seller’s cousin).  The cousin did not have a license, and he could not offer a warranty.  The seller agreed in writing to  provide her with paid receipts from a licensed contractor and the contractor’s warranty on the work.  That is not what the seller just gave us.

Darby and Brandon

Darby and Brandon

Stacey agreed and said she didn’t want to take the chance on having a leaky roof when she moved in.

Luckily, I knew a licensed contractor that had done a lot of repairs for me in the past.  He went to the home, checked the repair, and he said he would warranty the work if he could make two additional adjustments to the current repair.  The cost would be $125.

After negotiating back and forth a few times, the seller agreed to pay, and Stacey got the warranty as written in the contract.

The rest of the process went smoothly, and on Wednesday afternoon at 2pm, Stacey became the first homeowner of her family in three generations.

Her smile went from ear to ear, and her dark brown eyes welled up with tears as I handed her the keys to her new home.

For the past 60 years, no one in Stacey’s family owned a home.  It’s amazing what Stacey accomplished.  She trusted me.  She entered into uncharted territory, faced her fears.  She walked through dangerous waters.

I was on her side.  She trusted me.  And I protected her.

Cheryl Sig

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Top 3 Mistakes Made by Home Sellers (According to Realtors)

Real estate giant, ActiveRain, asked 1,000 real estate agents to rate the top three mistakes made by home sellers.

Top 3 Mistakes

The other results include: 21% “unwilling to negotiate,” 20% “Won’t make repairs,” and 28% said, “unpleasant odors” (presumably pet odors). In other words, according to the 1,000 real estate agents asked, “It’s all your fault,” with “you” being the home seller; the client.

My question is, if agents know these are the mistakes that home sellers make, why do they not step in and instruct clients of ways to avoid these mistakes?  Secondly, if they refuse, why does the agent accept that homeowner as a client? I mean, isn’t that the whole purpose of retaining a real estate agent in the first place, to make use of his experience and expertise? Why would any agent work with someone who ignores their best advice?

I was watching an episode of Botched the other day on the E! Network.  It’s a TV series about two plastic surgeons, Dr. Terry Dubrow and Dr. Paul Nassif, that fix the cosmetic surgery blunders of other plastic surgeons.

To start, each new prospective patient undergoes a rigorous consultation. This is where the investigative work is done. After the consultation, if the two surgeons don’t agree that they can help the patient, or they get the impression that the patient isn’t going to follow their strict instructions when it comes to recovery and post-op procedures, they refuse acceptance of that patient as a client.

Here is something I have learned about those at the top of their respective field. The true professional values his reputation more than anything else—even money or fame, or any kind of award or peer  recognition.Home Seller Mistakes

If the Botched plastic surgeons accepted a patient as a client that they knew was going to be worse off, either because they couldn’t help them or end up with a horrible result because they refused to follow post-op instructions, ultimately, who does it reflect poorly on? The doctor or the patient? Of course, it tarnishes the reputation of the cosmetic surgeon. After all, he is the authority and supposed voice of reason.

When asked, “Who did your surgery,” the patient is going to say what?  You got it.  They are going to say, “Dr. Terry Dubrow and Dr. Paul Nassif.”

This is why I refuse to accept just any homeowner as a client.  I don’t do listing presentations or give sales pitches, because I am not in the convincing business.  My business is getting clients the best result.  This means there is a checklist of agreements we must come to.  First on that list, we must agree to work as a team.  Too many agents and homeowners work in opposition.

Beyond that, unwillingness to address any of those items above is no different than a defiant patient, refusing to follow important post-op instructions. Unlike most agents, why would I ever accept a “patient,” who is determined to sabotage the success of their “procedure” i.e. home sale? I wouldn’t.

I don’t want that “botched” outcome on my record, any more than Dr. Dubrow or Dr. Nassif wants it on theirs.

Besides, there are solutions to each one of those “mistakes.”

For starters, by replacing the inferior price-driven approach most agents utilize when pricing a clients’ home with the more sophisticated Value-Driven Approach, the sales price of a home can quite easily be increased by as much as $30,000 or more (in rare cases, even more than that).  This is something I’ve written about many times, at least three times in others articles, prior to this.

The skinny of it is this: value dictates price.  There are at least a dozen different ways, depending on the “starting position” of the property, to manipulate a home’s value to elevate price. This, by the way, is something I learned from studying Warren Buffett’s proven investment philosophy. Turns out, Buffett’s “brilliance” applies to pretty much every aspect of selling real estate.  Something my clients have been benefiting from.

Secondly, if a homeowner won’t make time to show their home to a prospective buyer, I would fire that client.  Let’s face it, they deserve a sub-standard result.

For the record, this is not a “mistake.”  It can be explained as something much simpler: the homeowner is not serious about achieving the best outcome. So why would any agent ever work with that homeowner?  Any agent who cares about his or her reputation wouldn’t, certainly not me.

Of course, I suppose some agents reason that a poorly sold home, even if at a much lower sales price, is still a commission check, and any commission check is better than none. Hey – I can only speculate what goes through these agents’ heads. I can’t really understand it.

Third, a process known as scientific-staging—something required to be done, by almost every home seller before they are accepted as a client—is the solution to that “cluttered space” mistake.  And because scientific-staging is quite different than traditional staging, which typically amounts to no more than the rearranging of furniture, the ROI (return on investment) tends to be much higher.

At this point, if a prospective client hesitates or indicates an unwillingness to execute these first items, then we sit down, I run them through the investment numbers, and I ask, “How many times would you like to exchange $X, for $10X?”

I have found the reason most sellers are unwilling to do certain things is because they don’t understand how it is going to make them more money. Once they understand, though, by looking at the case studies, almost always we are off to the races.

If my unique approach that I adhere to like a religion, no different than Warren Buffett does his investment philosophy, didn’t deliver clients a better result, you can bet clients wouldn’t refer my services to their friends or family members. The fact that they do, though—in high numbers, might I add—explains why I refuse to budge or deviate from the methodology I have worked hard to test and perfect.

The real secret, though, is something talked about in Chapter 8 of the book, The Warren Buffett Approach To Sell Real Estate: A practical guide to protect yourself from Real Estate Greed & bank an extra $30,000 by taking a Value-Driven Approach—is getting an accurate and comprehensive Real Estate Diagnosis™, first, before ever thinking about  putting your home on the market. I know this sounds like common sense, but rarely is it done.

How can you do “surgery,” though, and get the best result if there’s no diagnostic consultation to investigate the best course of action?

You can’t.

This is why so many homeowners end up with Botched home sales. It is also the reason why so many real estate agents, like those surveyed in the ActiveRain study, blame clients for the “mistakes” they make. Sorry, but if you’re the professional—and the agent is supposed to be—then any sub-standard outcome is that agent’s fault, not the homeowners. The agent should own up to it.

Further, no rule states that any real estate agent must accept every client. On the TV show Botched, Dr. Dubrow and Dr. Nassif turn away just as many, if not more, patients than they actually accept.

If a homeowner indicates he is unwilling to do what is necessary to obtain the best result, the agent shouldn’t work with that client.  But, by all means, don’t accept the client then blame the homeowner for his mistakes because the home sale turned out Botched.

That is just poor etiquette!

The professional will always accept responsibility, because the client should be adhering to the professional’s tested and proven approach.  And, if the professional doesn’t have a tested and proven approach, then you must ask, “Is this person really a professional?”

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A Lesson In Honesty

I wouldn’t say I was the best student in the world.  I mean, I passed all my classes and got all the credits I needed to graduate, but I just didn’t like school.  I’d rather be outside fishing or hunting or playing basketball – or hockey.

It was a Tuesday in April, 1988.  Only one more month of school until I graduated.  I woke up at my usual time, 6:30am, and went through my normal morning routine.  I had a quick shower, said goodbye to my mom as she left for work, and then I went next door to Grandma Brown’s for breakfast.

As soon as I walked in, I could hear the eggs sizzling in her cast iron egg pan.  I walked into the kitchen, and sure enough she was making me fried eggs with toast.  No one could make fried eggs like Grandma Brown.  I think it was a combination of the egg pan that never got w2 friends fishingashed and the lard she fried them in. Grandma always had a tub of lard sitting next to her stove.  I sat down at the kitchen table, closed my eyes and breathed in the delicious smells.  My mouth immediately started watering.

The tea kettle whistled, the toaster popped up and by 6:45 sharp, my breakfast was served.

At 7:00, I was headed out the door.  It was a bit cool that Tuesday morning, in the upper 50’s, but the sun was out, and the clouds were white and wispy.  The temperature was supposed to get into the upper 60’s.  It felt like the perfect day for fishing.  Trout season had just opened.

My friend Brad pulled up in his black Volkswagen GTI.  I hopped in the front seat, and we took off for the river.  We had loaded our fishing poles and tackle box into his trunk the night before.  We made a quick pit stop at the Rutters to grab some sandwiches and drinks for lunch.  Twenty minutes later we were casting our lines out into the creek.

It ended up being a great day.  Brad caught 6 trout, and I caught 5.  At 3:00, the end of our school day, Brad dropped me off at my house.  As soon as I walked in, I saw my mom standing in the kitchen doorway, hands on her hips.

“Sean, did you go to school today?”

“No,” I said without hesitation.

The lecture started.  She was not happy with me, to say the least.  This scene played out 4 more times in the next month.  I’d skip school.  Mom would ask if I went.  I’d say no, and she’d be mad.

I could have lied to my mom and told her I went to school so she wouldn’t be upset, but it never really crossed my mind.  I always believed honestly was the best policy.  Even if it had temporary consequences, like my mom being mad at me.

I still believe honesty is the best policy.  Even if it has consequences – like Peter and Canella being mad at me.  They did not like what I was telling them.  They didn’t want me to be honest.  They wanted me to tell them what they wanted to hear.

Two years ago, I sat at the dining room table with Peter and Canella.  They had just given me a tour of their home.  You could see the pride on their faces.  Their eyes sparkled as they talked about their kitchen.  Their smiles spread across their faces as they talked about the family dinners they had at their huge ornate dining room table.  They thought they had the best home in all of Southwest Florida.  They loved it.  But things happen, and they wanted to move closer to their family in Sarasota.  They had to sell the home they loved so much.

I sat with them at their dining room table and told them the truth.  Their home was not worth $350,000 like they thought.  It was only worth about $275,000.  They were NOT happy with me.  They wanted me to list it for $350,000.  I explained why I don’t list overpriced homes.  My honesty continued.  I told them they wouldn’t have any trouble finding an agent who would list their home for $350,000.

And they didn’t.  Three days later, their home went on the market for $350,000.  Months passed.  They reduced the price to $340,000.  Then the months turned into a year.  Then a year turned into two.  Their home still had not sold.  It was now listed for $320,000, and had been on the market for two years.  Two years of being hassled by showings.  Two years of no offers.  Two years of wasted time.  Time they could have been spending with their family.

About 4 months ago, I was sitting at my desk when my phone rang.  It was Canella.  She invited me over for coffee and cake.

It was like déjà vu.  I was sitting with them at their dining room table, and they were mad.  Only this time, they weren’t mad at me.  They were mad at the three other real estate agents that had been lying to them over the past two years.  Each of the agents promised them they would market their property better than the last agent.  They would be able to sell their home at the price Peter and Canella wanted.

After two years of frustration, Peter and Canella realized that I had been telling them the truth all along. They were finally tired of hearing what they wanted to hear.  They needed the truth.  They missed their family and wanted to move.

They were ready to listen.  I told them the truth.  They needed to price their home at $299,000.  I wouldn’t take many pictures of thHonesty is the Best Policye interior of their home.  Their furniture was huge and ornate and made the house feel small and cramped.

Over the next 10 days, we had 6 buyers walk through the home.  Before each walk through, I spoke to the agents and prepared them for the overwhelming furniture.  I emphasized the large amount of square footage they had in the home, the most square footage for the money.

Exactly 12 days after listing their home for sale, we had a signed contract for $285,000.

Peter and Canella were ecstatic.  They had waited two long years for this day.  The whole process went smoothly, and 46 days after I listed their home for sale, they pulled out of their driveway for the last time and headed to Sarasota.

Two years ago, I could have lied to Peter and Canella so they wouldn’t be upset, but it never crossed my mind.  I believe that honesty is the best policy.  I believe in the end, honesty prevails.  I believe Peter and Canella would agree with me.

Sean Signature

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The Supervillains of Real Estate: The Gatekeeper

The Gatekeeper.  He is angry and filled with resentment that, for homeowners, he is no longer their primary source of property-information.The Gatekeeper

In previous columns I’ve written about The Cheetah, as well as Dr. Ego—a villainous creature whom always chooses his self-interest over the best interest of the client.  Today, we conclude this three part series.

Let me introduce you to yet another Real Estate Supervillain, a terribly resentful creature. His name? The Gatekeeper.

This is the most insecure of all Real Estate Supervillains, to the point his insecurity defines him. He feels so commoditized and so interchangeable by his prospective clients that he’s devised an “evil scheme” to restore the balance of power. He is, as his name describes, The Gatekeeper.

Want to know the details on a specific property? Just want to know the price of a home you’re interested in? Too bad – you must contact The Gatekeeper.

By attempting to control the flow of all real estate-related information, this Supervillain establishes himself as the “necessary middleman,” standing between you and what you want to know. And, just as is the case with most insecure people, this Supervillain jokes excessively, can’t enjoy silence, and is overly authoritative – all in a desperate attempt to make himself appear important.

But make no mistake. It’s the role of being the “middle man” this villainous character most relishes.

Secretly, he resents information-seekers. He hates this new “Information Age” and the internet, which has made it so easy for people to obtain the property information that was once reserved only for Realtors®.

“What happened to the 1970’s?” he says to himself, in his angry voice, “When only Realtors® had MLS information and EVERYONE had to come to me?!”

This Supervillain, it’s quite apparent, hates the fact that his role as a primary information source has been decimated – that his importance has been reduced to nothingness. So, he strikes back by protecting every last shred of information that he can think to safeguard.

And this Supervillain is EVERYWHERE. You need not look far, or search too hard, to find The Gatekeeper.

Want to see that latest list of foreclosure or bank owned properties? “Tough luck!” says The Gatekeeper, “Not without coming to me first. Call this #… Or text this #… Or visit my website…” – where of course, another “gate” awaits you.

Even the smallest of details that might interest you, like, “How many bedrooms or bathrooms does it have?  What is the square-footage?  Are there any pictures?”  Again, you find The Gatekeeper standing between you and what you want to know.

And truthfully, as the middleman, this Supervillain is more annoying than dangerous, and, as much as this Supervillain desperately wants to feel important and have power, being a “control-freak,” he doesn’t realize how “small” it makes him look. He hates being labeled a “salesman” too, but his pest-like behavior has won him six back-to-back Oscars.

Salesman. Middleman.

It’s just the role that he plays perfectly, and it comes naturally to him.  It should be noted, also, that this Supervillain’s secondary personality type is that of The Cheetah.

So as a word of caution, should you decide to engage The Gatekeeper – start running – because now that he has your contact information, he’s coming…

This Supervillain is a dual threat.

But what truly puts the ‘super’ in Supervillain, with this one, is his need to control and “keep” information from you.  In his mind, it’s the only way to keep you “dependent” on him, to keep you “needing” him. It’s sort of sad, but the simple concepts of trust and relationship are foreign to The Gatekeeper.  It’s precisely what makes him so dangerous…

You just never know if he’s telling you the whole truth. He may be keeping a trump card from you, because he thinks that is what makes him important and necessary—that he has information that you do not.

Shall Not PassThe solution? When you spot The Gatekeeper, and it’s not hard, realize you have someone in front of you who can’t be trusted.

Information is everywhere, you shouldn’t be held hostage simply to obtain what is readily available. If The Gatekeeper were smart, perhaps he’d pioneer a new approach to sell real estate, through research and testing, so legitimately he could better serve his clients.

He could even put those findings in a book, the accepted method to document knowledge. Not to mention, a much better way to convey value.

Of course, I’ve been saying that for years now. And for years now, this Supervillain has never changed course, so I doubt he ever will.

Again, thank your for reading this column.

I speak about the Real Estate Supervillains in a way that is, hopefully, entertaining and a bit tongue-and-cheek. I’m also quite serious about the frustration and danger and annoyance they cause, so protect yourself.

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Self-ish or Self-less?

Her legs relaxed, and she sat down.  For the first time in weeks, she looked calm.Pudgy 1

Her front legs started to give in.  Sean was embracing her around her shoulders.  He gently laid her down as tears wet his cheeks.  He sniffled and wiped his face with the back of his hand.  He laid her head down on the soft blanket and kissed her cheek.  “We’ll see you again soon, Pudgy.”

I watched – a sob caught in my throat and the tears slid down my cheeks.  I bent down, kissed her head and whispered in her ear – “Mommy loves you.”

Pudgy, our 13 year old Boxer, laid peacefully on the table.  The vet was thoughtful and put a nice thick comforter on the steel exam table to make her as comfortable as possible.  For the first time in weeks, she was pain free.  Her eyes, glazed over with the blinding disease, were still open.  She couldn’t see us, but she knew we were there.

Her paid was gone – ours had begun.

We pulled at the tissues in the box until our hands were full.  We thanked the vet, and the nurse, and we fled the room.  This was all surreal.  We walked outside and stood in the middle of the parking lot.  We were leaning into each other, holding each  other until we stopped crying.  “It was for the best.”

“I know.  She is up in Heaven running across the grass playing with all her boxer friends.”

Pudgy had been with Sean for 13 years.  She had been a member of our blended family for 7 of those years.  You couldn’t ask for a better dog.  She was faithful, obedient, loving, gentle and very friendly.  Everyone who met her instantly loved her.

Over the years, Pudgy had turned grey and her arthritis would bother her from time to time.  But for the most part, she was playful and youthful.  Then about 6 weeks ago her eyes started glazing over.  The vet said she was blind in her left eye and her right eye was not far behind.  We gave her eye drops to help manage the pain, but she still whined as she scratched at them.

We didn’t expect her to go completely blind as fast as she did, but when she started walking into the walls and furniture – we knew.  When we would let her outside, she became confused.  She didn’t know how to get back in.  Sean had to pick her up and carry her to bed.

We weren’t ready for her to go, but she was scared and in pain.  It was time for us to make an  extremely hard decision.  Time to think of Pudgy – not ourselves.

Selfish or SelflessPro Con 1

And we did.  She is now in a safe, happy, pain free place.

Doing the right thing, the self-less thing, for some people, is not easy.  In fact, for some, it is downright HARD.

Real Estate agents face these HARD decisions more often than they like.  Some make the self-ish decision, and others make the right decision, the self-less decision.

Two years ago, “Bob” and “Ali” were looking for a true Floridian style home.  They wanted a big covered front porch, and the back had to have a screened in pool.

Sean found them the perfect home.  The front porch was beautiful – dark plank flooring, high plank ceilings painted a light blue.  The huge white wooden rocking chairs completed this cheery outdoor space.  The Ranch style home was U shaped.  Each side of the U had wall to wall sliding glass doors that opened up the whole house onto the lanai.  The screened in lanai had a pool, a complete outdoor kitchen, and space enough to entertain 100 guests.

They fell in love with the house and put in an offer.  It was accepted, and they were super excited.

Sean was super excited too.  It was September.  We were just finishing up the “slow” season in the Southwest Florida Real Estate Market.  It had been a long couple of slow months, and this higher priced sale would be a relief.  Having 20 years of Real Estate experience taught us how to save and plan for these dips in sales.  And we do, but it is still a relief when we come out of the slow season.

All the paperwork was completed, and Sean scheduled the home inspection.  It was a bright, sunny Thursday morning, 88 degrees and thick with humidity – the kind of weather that brings in storms every afternoon.

All was going well with the inspection until the inspector stepped into the guest bedroom.  The carpet was wet and mushy.  You could hear the water squish under his feet with every step he took.  He took out his flashlight and moisture meter and began to investigate.  The old metal roof had been leaking for quite some time.  The ceiling was wet, and the walls were wet.  He finished the inspection and wrote up his report.  It was not good.  The buyers were confused.  They weren’t sure what to do.  They absolutely loved the house.  They asked for Sean’s advice.

Selfish or SelflessPro Con 2

This deal could have gone either way, depending on the advice the buyers received.

I never doubted what decision Sean would make.  He has always put his client’s needs above our own.  And good thing too.  This beautiful home with a bad roof and hidden problem sold months later.  It took the new buyers almost 6 months of work to repair the problems.  Day after day, week after week, there were constant contractor trucks in and out of the driveway.  The entire roof was replaced.  We don’t know how much the repairs cost, but it couldn’t have been cheap.  And considering these buyers paid market value and then had to sink tens of thousands of additional dollars into it, they ended up overpaying for the house.

It makes me wonder what kind of decisions other agents make.  Self-ish or self-less.  Especially when the average agents in our county only sells four homes a year.  They are making a poverty level income.  Imagine how desperate they must feel for each sale.  If a sale falls through because of a roof issue, they will be financially devastated.  They may not be able to pay their mortgage or rent for the month.  They may not be able to buy food for their children.

Is that agent really going to be able to make the HARD decision?  The right decision?  The one that puts their clients’ needs above their own?

That’s a good question to ask yourself next time you are going to buy or sell a home.  Can I trust that the agent I chose will give us the right advice?  Will make the self-less decision?

Doing the right thing, the self-less thing, for some people is not easy.  In fact, for some, it is downright HARD.

But not for us.

We did the right thing.  We do make self-less decisions.  Pudgy.  Our clients.

You will always come first.

Sean and Cheryl Sig

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