About fourteen years ago, I was living in an apartment with my two sons. They shared a bedroom, and not only did I want them both to have their own rooms, I wanted a more permanent home, one where I wasn’t subject to my landlord’s rent increases and refusal to fix things; one where I could paint the rooms any color I wanted and could replace carpets that were grungy beyond belief. So I took the plunge and looked for a home to purchase.
The short story is that I found a three bedroom co-op that was within walking distance to all the schools, the baseball field, the park, the pool and shopping. The end.
Well, that’s obviously not the entire story. The real story is that this first transaction on my own taught me a lot about what not to do as a real estate agent.
At the time I had no inkling I would someday become a real estate agent, but as I worked through this transaction, I paid attention. I now realize a lot of what I experienced in that deal helped shape some of the behaviors I practice now that I am an agent.
Responsiveness: The agent I worked with was horrible at responding. She didn’t respond to my phone calls or voice mail messages. She didn’t respond to written communications. It would take days or a week to get her to even call me back.
I am the total opposite. If I can, I answer my phone when it rings. If I miss a call and someone leaves a message, I listen and call back as soon as I am able to. If someone sends me an email or text, I answer asap. Ignoring a request for communication is simply not an option.
Thoroughness: I was buying a co-op, and at one point, I was provided with a huge package of information that I needed to complete in order for the co-op board to set up an appointment to approve my request to purchase. The package of information I received had disagreeing forms, questions that were not clear, data requests that didn’t make sense, different requirements for fees that didn’t always agree, and more. The agent I worked with had no desire to assist me with the package. My questions, when answered, were more often than not met with a “I don’t know” and there was no offer to assist me in completion. I had to do all the research and make all the calls to the management company myself.
I often remember the frustration I felt with this process. My goal as a real estate agent is to explain everything; if there is something I can’t explain because I don’t understand it myself, I do the research required to become familiar so that I can explain. If a client has a question with any part of the process, I feel it is my responsibility to find out the answer. I wouldn’t ever let a client feel the way I felt in that transaction.
Compassion/Empathy: A week or so before my scheduled closing date, I found out the seller decided she didn’t want to leave the home before Thanksgiving, and in fact, she didn’t want to leave for two additional weeks. Despite my lawyer’s attempts, my pleas to keep our original closing date fell on deaf ears (I don’t remember the agent even responding to my calls). My landlord wouldn’t let me stay in my apartment, even though they didn’t have new tenants moving in for another month. This meant I needed to move all my stuff into storage, and take my two children and go live in a motel for two weeks. A one room motel with no speaker phone or mute button where we were stuck during a snow storm and I had to participate on conference calls with two young hyper children running around yelling. The fire alarm went off almost nightly and we had to all truck downstairs at 1 or 2am. We wound up sleeping in our clothes every night. I still get feelings of anxiety just thinking about the experience.
In my role as a real estate agent, I’m not dealing with transactions. I’m dealing with people. People just like me who may be in a difficult life situation who really want this process to be as stress-free as possible. I take that role seriously. I’m on my client’s side and if they need my assistance, they have it. I’m here to solve problems that might arise between falling in love with a new house and moving into their new home. I don’t ever want a client of mine to feel the way I did.
Partnership: In hindsight, I’m sure at the time I bought this co-op there was no buyer agency. The agent was representing the seller. Because I never received calls from her, and because she couldn’t help me with anything, I was totally on my own. I kept hoping I was doing things right but I really had no way of knowing what I didn’t know. The transaction took a lot longer than it probably should have and I wasn’t helped at all.
When I am representing a buyer, we become a team. There is no way I would let my client feel alone in the deal. I help them understand and get through the offer, inspection, contract, mortgage application, mortgage appraisal and closing processes. I’m available throughout the process to assist in any way I can. And when the closing is over, my assistance continues with information about the area, assistance finding resources, and whatever else I can help with.
My first home buying transaction was not fun. It was incredibly stressful and frustrating. My agent was unresponsive and unhelpful. This experience taught me a lot about what to do and what not to do as an agent, and I think of that experience often as I assist my buyer clients. They’ll never feel the way I felt as I muddled through that home purchase. So in hindsight, that crummy experience was actually an awesome learning experience!