I don’t have a burning desire to draw pictures today, but if I did I think I would draw a lizard.
Admittedly, I haven’t been thinking much lately about lizards. If I’m honest, reptiles have been the furthest thing from my mind (ignoring, of course, the bank’s short-sale processor we were most recently assigned).
Until this morning, if you had asked me to draw something I might have whipped out a rendering of an appraiser driving a stake through the heart of my latest transaction, or even a quick sketch of me feeding a couple of offers into the shredder because they were missing zeroes.
Those are the things that have been steadily rolling across my mental ticker tape — not lizards.
Why now the obsession with our scaly friends? Because my media told me I should be thinking about them, and it sounded like more fun than the other headlines.
My Google top news stories are downers: a bunch of stuff about death tolls, typhoons, and health care. Their business news intimidates me; it seems that the three lonely applications on my BlackBerry qualify me as a PDA loser-extraordinaire who had better get cracking.
This latest and curious installment from their "Tips of the Day," however, speaks to me. And look at those page views! Nearly 12,000 people can’t be wrong!
So, draw a lizard I must. Am I misguided? Nah, I prefer to think of it as informed. Sure, I could have focused on the article about how to transform black hair to bright blonde (I am guessing it involved bleach), but I don’t have black hair, so it’s not relevant.
"How to Clean a Digital Camera Lens with a Vacuum Cleaner" (I am not kidding) lost me on the third word. What I latch onto and how I interpret it is a process of selection. I cherry-pick that stuff that most applies to me and I filter the stuff I don’t need or want to hear.
My informed clients are getting it from all fronts. It’s a great time to buy, and it’s a great time to sell. Prices are dropping and they are increasing; sales are up and they are down. The recession is both over and far from it. My clients, too, are cherry-pickers.
Buyers come in two flavors this week. First, there are the buyers with their hair on fire. The $8,000 tax credit to first-time buyers may be a limited-time offer, they are told. The promise of "free" money has inspired them to spring into action, and too often prices in this entry-level segment float to some artificial value place where an appraiser has to thump some reason back into the process.
The problem here, and I am living this, is that the sellers of these homes, when faced with multiple offers, suddenly have visions of sugar plums and dollar signs. So what if it didn’t appraise? Make them bring in more money, or maybe just put it back on the market. The next appraiser will "get it." Just look at those page views, after all. Twelve people can’t be wrong!
Then there are the buyers who simply latch onto the news of the housing price crash. They have been waiting for a bottom, and they read somewhere that while we are close, we aren’t quite there. But there are so many of these former fence-sitters now storming the field that it is rare to get even a glimpse of the end zone.
"No worries," they say. "We are patient." So, together with our clients, we head out each day to see one home at a time, which is never both nice enough and cheap enough. For months on end we churn, waiting for the media promise to be fulfilled.
The seller’s feed reader is a different one. Home prices are rising, sales are up, and the recession is over. Yippee! Many of these folks are oh-so-patient as well. "We’re in no hurry," they tell us. And when we remind them that the home has to appraise, we are suddenly about as welcome as Kanye West at a Taylor Swift concert….CONTINUED
Our news is not as pleasant as the other news they have been hearing about, and sellers have the ultimate weapon: "If we don’t get our price, we’ll just rent." Unfortunately, this is late-breaking news to us, and the sound bite is usually only delivered after many weeks or months and a couple of thousand dollars thrown in the marketing kitty. So we wait, because Case-Shiller "said so."
And if the news seems all bad, the tendency is to proactively find someone who will rewrite the story. I received one of those all-too-frequent calls this week in which I had to deliver an unwelcome message.
To the nice man, I explained how the market value of his home was less than the amount owed on his loans — by a lot. "I understand," he said. "I’m patient." Next came the part that, in retrospect, I would come to enjoy the most. "Thank you for your honesty. When I am ready to sell, I will call you."
The following day, his home debuted on the MLS with another agent, complete with professional photos, a visual tour, and evidence that it had undergone professional staging.
Now, since I doubt he and his agent worked through the night armed with headlamps and several pots of Columbian roast, I must assume that he was just looking for validation. He was hoping that I could give him the news he wanted to hear. I couldn’t, so he proceeded on course with the guy who would.
In yet another example of discretionary censorship, a selling client informed us this week that he would not be accepting anything less than full price for his home. Sure, as we poured through the data at his kitchen table approximately 200 brochures ago, we all agreed that the probable sale price would be asking price minus some number.
Since then, however, it seems that he has been conducting his own research, and every area agent he has surveyed has said that he is priced "just right."
Unfortunately, he failed to consider that the last thing most "cooperating" brokers want to see is my listing selling quickly, especially when they unsuccessfully competed for the job.
Considering it poor form to point out this quirky nuance of our profession, I am now relying on the next headline of waning showings and extended market time to make my case. I’m hoping he won’t be too busy drawing lizards to read it.
There have always been buyers who expected to pay too little and sellers who expected to fetch far too much. This is nothing new. What is new is that the disconnect is greater than I have ever seen. Maybe that’s what they call volatility, and market stabilization will bring us back together.
I think it has much more to do with the growing number of voices in our heads — the overabundance of information in a world where every individual represents a news source. There is something for everybody out there if they look long enough and dig deep enough, which makes our jobs as real estate agents that much more difficult.
It is hard play interpreter when we are all speaking different languages.
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