I admit, I am fairly new at this game, but it seems to me that we’re all getting a little bit too computer-dependent.
In Ye Olden Days, my sponsoring broker tells me, when a listing came in you put it on an index card. When a client walked in who needed to be housed and you didn’t have an appropriate listing, you called the other brokers in the neighborhood and jawed with them until you found the thing that was just right.
Apparently, they got used to talking on the phone with you, and didn’t try to bite your head off.
Now, there’s no need for anyone to talk to anyone else because everything’s “on the computer.”
I have one client I’m doing buyer representation for who is going to take a long time. It’s a first-time home purchase for him, and he’s young enough (30ish) that he can’t project his circumstances. Is this going to be a good year for bonuses — and thus his income — on Wall Street? Should he buy something he feels comfortable carrying by himself, or something that’s a bit of a stretch, but with room for his girlfriend if things move along?
My response to his uncertainty is to try to show him a lot of properties, so he can “try them on” in his head and figure out what feels right.
That means weeks go by when we don’t see anything — or each other. I am mindful of the last clients I had in this situation — who slipped away at the last minute, taking a five-figure commission with them — so I try hard to stay in touch.
On the computer, of course.
And it’s working pretty well; the weeks we don’t see anything we e-mail or we IM (instant message) chat. But on the slow weeks especially, I am always looking for potential properties, just so I can have an excuse to be in contact with him.
So I was doing my scanning yesterday, and I found something with potential. It was in his price range, a two-bedroom, two-bath. (If you’re selling in the suburbs, be aware that that’s a pretty big starter for Manhattan — imagine that it’s the equivalent of putting your starter clients into a medium-sized Ranch house).
Best of all, it had just come on the market that day.
Well, I clicked on the link to get the floorplan and photos, and nothing happened. Went to the agent’s Web site, and found that she didn’t work at the firm listed. Went to nytimes.com, our local classified, and found that it wasn’t listed there. Did a search on streeteasy, which is a listings aggregator, and finally found it, but with a broken link.
And a notation that the listing agent worked at a different firm than the one mentioned on my computer system. So I tried that firm’s Web site, and the listing wasn’t up there, either.
We have this old-fashioned device called a telephone, and I decided that it was high time that I had better use it. So I called the listing agent, and she said they’re having an open house this Sunday.
“Cool,” I said. “I’ll bring my client. By the way, the link to your listing’s broken.”
“What do you mean?” she said. “Of course it’s up there, it’s listing number 123456.”
I tried again, but she just didn’t believe me that I had looked for her listing in every conceivable place — her firm’s site, our MLS site, the local classified site, a big listings aggregator — and that the details just weren’t there.
I feel like this is the kind of thing that somebody else in her firm will solve between now and Sunday, because they’ll have to bulk upload all their listings for the classified ads. But it did amaze me that she was so dead certain that things were where she thought they were going to be, just because she had filled out a form on the computer and clicked “send.” She was absolutely, positively convinced that her computer worked, despite the evidence from another agent.
I pinged my client (via e-mail, of course) and told him about the open house and set up an appointment for Sunday.
“I saw that on streeteasy and was annoyed that I couldn’t see the link,” he wrote.
So that’s the message of the week — take five minutes to doubt your computer. Call another broker you haven’t talked to in a while, just to say hi. Make sure valued e-mail isn’t hitting your spam filter. And, take a minute to be a customer and check your listings — from the outside. It doesn’t matter if you can see them; can the buyer see them?
Alison Rogers is a licensed salesperson and author of “Diary of a Real Estate Rookie.”