My youngest daughter recently asked me, "Do you love your job?"
"Well, if I have to work, I suppose I do," I answered honestly. "What would you do if you didn’t have to work?" she replied.
Probably this. The truth hurts.
Our family took a little vacation last week. Now, for the kiddies preparing for their fall SATs, I will remind you that vacation is to real estate agents as disco music is to a Latin dance master. In either case, one enjoying the other is not only criminal but effectively impossible.
First, there are our clients. They are not particularly keen on having their selling or buying needs gone on 72-hour leave, nor do they typically embrace the concept of someone other than the agent they hired holding down the fort. This is a service industry, and service is delivered 24-7 — or else.
Second, there is the reality. Much like I explained to the San Diego Superior Court recently: If I do not work, I do not eat. In years gone by, I have been juror number two, seven and nine. In this market I am still a patriot and all, but a patriot who does not enjoy employer-provided health care.
Regardless, we are now recovering from one of those vacation things that I have heard so much about. My oldest college-bound daughter is leaving the cuckoo’s nest in one week, so we somehow managed to convince ourselves that we deserved a last hurrah at our little mountain cabin.
After making sure the cat had plenty of food and water, and then (inadvertently) shutting the cat in the closet for the duration of our five-day adventure, we headed off. Unfortunately, I didn’t make that part up. Fortunately, we had a cat sitter coming mid-week. Regrettably, we returned to a chipper note from said cat sitter saying that she couldn’t find the cat. "She must have been hiding, but I made sure her bowl was full!" it read. Thankfully, Fluffy has eight lives remaining and is resting comfortably.
But, back to the vacation. We did what every healthy family does when they get away from it all. We ignored each other. Before we had unpacked the car, we had plugged in the fax machine, sent the offer, answered the calls, and checked the e-mail. That was just the adult contingent. Our Jonas Brother fan club of two, meanwhile, was busy lamenting the fact that the next-door neighbor had apparently secured his wireless network since our last visit and, feeling naked without their Facebook, proceeded to spend the balance of their trip jockeying for my laptop (the one with the lone broadband connection). Ah, the memories.
So husband Steve and I worked. Sometimes, we really worked, and other times we just talked about work. But at least we were able to enjoy the early evening hours away from real estate — each crouched over our own copy of Homes and Land Magazine. We always grab two. We don’t share well. It’s a sickness.
"Did you see page 37?" Steve screamed. "They say, ‘If a picture is worth a thousand words, these pictures will leave you speechless.’ What is that supposed to mean?" I dutifully retorted, "What happened to the agent with the big hair? I guess the market is bad up here, too." When we tired of the Make Fun of Mountain Agents game (most of them are probably out-earning us by a factor of 50), we took a walk down the street to a new home under construction. "I would have built a fireplace on the balcony," he said. "I agree," I agreed. "Change order!" we both yelled in unison. "That was scary," Steve muttered.
To fully understand the appeal of Homes and Land here, you have to understand this particular mile-high community. They seem to be living in a time warp. They have a closed multiple listing service, meaning that while all other Southern California associations cooperate and allow access to outside brokers, theirs does not. The only way you get to poke around in their listing world is by hanging your license at an office in their ZIP code. And, the Internet revolution appears to have done an end-run on this town. Sure, a few agents have Web sites (of sorts), but their marketing campaigns continue to consist primarily of print advertising in this one colorful monthly. The coverage of the listings I could find online was mostly of the "Submitted by Homes and Land, address withheld" variety.
How do they survive with Web 0.5 in a Web 2.0 world? Quite nicely, thank you, which left me revisiting the whole concept of print marketing being dead. When I returned home to my very skinny cat and checked our local MLS "hot sheet," I was reminded that even in my hip, progressive little San Diego suburb, my would-be clients continue to respond best to the familiar print advertising. I mostly tend to forget this, all puffed with pride at my shear genius, thinking, "I am so darned forward thinking in focusing so much of my marketing attention online. Take that, you direct mailers!" At other times, I recognize that the vast majority of the listings are still going to the guy who litters our front stoops with leaflets sharing 4-year-old testimonials, and the woman who spends thousands a month mailing what Steve and I call the "big head" postcards (no homes, just a big picture of her head and the requisite call to action).
The fact that my mountain neighbor got around to securing his wireless network tells me that the customers there are getting it. We all are getting it. We search and surf, we study and chat, but when it comes time to take the leap, we tend toward what is familiar, memorable and close to home. So, I’m off to feed the cat and prepare a long overdue print marketing piece, but not necessarily in that order. It’s good to be back to work.
Kris Berg is a real estate broker associate for Prudential California Realty in San Diego. She also writes a consumer-focused real estate blog, The San Diego Home Blog.
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