I’ve got a few things on my plate right now. There are the personal obligations such as the issue of where my younger daughter will be attending college in 18 months. Having determined only what she doesn’t want to be (a real estate agent), the field is wide open, and her current short list includes every school with "university" or "college" in the name. We will be visiting the electoral college over spring break just to rule it out.
Then there are the obligations that come under the category of "I’d rather be fencing in a bikini." Having tired of waiting for the tax genie to show up and sort through my shoe boxes, I am resigned to tackling this delightful first-quarter ritual on my own.
And finally, there is that job thing.
"What a nice sense of accomplishment and comfort. And what a great way to start the year," read the Washington Post article this morning. Granted, the article appeared in my local San Diego paper, but for hard-hitting news like this, we apparently have to look to the bigger daily rags. The piece, which consumed an entire page of what is now an impressive four-page "Homes" section, was talking, of course, about the importance of cleaning out one’s linen closet.
As one who has coincidentally been seeking a little comfort and accomplishment, I readied myself to devour the meat of the message. Two "linen experts" were quoted. (Yes, apparently there is such a thing.) "Organization means less stress," one offered. "It allows you to be more free if you’ve got a well-run, well-organized, fully serviceable house."
I want to be more free! Pick me! The problem is that when I was making my career choice, I chose "real estate agent," unaware that "soft goods storage adviser" was a viable option. Twelve years later the Washington Post has yet to quote me, which shows you how much I know.
Now, 12 years ago I might have been slightly less cynical and I might already have been knee-deep in fitted sheets. That’s because 12 years ago, being a real estate agent was so much simpler. We showed up. There were no blogs to feed and no search engines to optimize. I didn’t have a Web site constantly threatening to fall into the abyss of obsolescence; heck, I didn’t have a Web site at all. We sat floor time and, although it has been rumored that buyers and sellers still wander into real estate offices from time to time looking for that "free list of homes," in my market this practice has mostly gone the way of the stone tablet.
We had social networking, but it was called "the weekly office meeting," and everything I needed to know to really shine could be picked up there by osmosis. "Please refer to your three-page purchase contracts. Where it says ‘name,’ you will fill in the name, not the date."
Now, growing and sustaining a business in real estate is a wee bit more complicated.
A decade ago, it was easy to be the neighborhood specialist. It was our multiple listing service, darn it, and the customer had to ask our permission to get their hands on it. The process itself was also a trade secret. Now, that information has been set free. It’s great for the consumer, and it’s healthy for the industry, holding us all to a new, higher standard. But it wreaks havoc on the linen closet.
"People have items that don’t belong in the linen closet, and that just adds to the confusion," warned a second specialist. You mean, like sombreros? My linen closet is home to five, to be exact. And two sleeping bags. And a Crock-Pot. OK, I’m just speculating here, but the last time I saw the Crock-Pot, Case and Shiller hadn’t graduated yet.
If organizing the linen closet is the key to my peace of mind and my success, I’m all over it. I’m penciling it in for my day off. According to my "Decade at a Glance" scheduler, there is going to be some serious refolding taking place in April 2019.
"But you have to take a day off!" you are shouting. Sure I do, and new moms are told to sleep when the baby sleeps (mostly by people who have never had babies). While new moms are sleeping, who’s making the serviceable home? While I am enjoying a fruity beverage poolside, eight new stimulus bills will have made their way to the House floor and underwriting practices will have changed for the fifth time since breakfast. My clients want answers.
A dozen new listings just hit my clients’ feed readers, all of which they will be asking me to show them, one at a time, between now and Labor Day and usually during dinner, even though most of them back to a secondary treatment plant or the federal prison. My clients want action.
So rather than spending my free hours at the end of the business day enjoying a good book, I find myself sharing quality time with my husband discussing tax credits and agency-conforming loan limits. Admittedly it’s not all work and no play.
We also swap amusing stories about our respective days: "So now we get the BPO (broker price opinion) on the REO (bank-owned home), and when the negotiator returns from Cozumel in May … and then the seller threatened to liquidate his damages … and I said to the inspector, ‘You call that a weep screed?’ Ha, ha, ha."
Our roles have changed.
Finding our backlog of buyers with unmet needs, their numbers now so great that we need crowd control — now that is a priority. Getting new listings prepared for sale and promoted ranks higher on the hit list at the moment than seeing that the hand towels are associating only with their own kind.
Remember the old days, when marketing a listing involved taking a photo of the front of the house, having the film developed, ordering 200 reprints, and gluing each to the front of as many photocopied fliers? Now, new listings involve professional staging, professional photos, virtual tours and video, interactive floor plans, single-property Web sites, and a host of other higher-level marketing gymnastics. The bar is constantly being raised.
You are using aerial photography? I am skywriting! Today, Stephen Spielberg would have a hard time competing for a listing in my market. "Sorry, Mr. Spielberg. We believe Betsy’s masterful use of subtle back-lighting and clever action techniques demonstrates a superior grasp of cognitive-perception editing principles and will better showcase our double-oven."
Did you know that fabric softener creates a build-up of residue and is a no-no where towels are concerned? At least I got that right. The last time I thought to purchase fabric softener I also had a shopping cart full of vinyl records and carbon paper. And time off.
Kris Berg is broker-owner of San Diego Castles Realty. She also writes a consumer-focused real estate blog, The San Diego Home Blog.
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