I can’t explain the physics of it — I can only report that by including a baby and a dog in a weekend trip renders a mid-sized SUV useless for the transportation of any more than two small adults. Diapers, chew toys, car seat and stroller; I find it hard to believe I used to show property in this vehicle.
But instead of attempting to pare down or pack more efficiently, I did what most people in America do: I went shopping for a full-size SUV. We stopped in five local dealerships to kick tires and try to talk the sales force into letting us do test drives with the car seat installed and the dog kennel in the back.
You know what? Four out of the five salespeople who I spoke to had either worked in real estate or the construction industry. And that got me thinking. I have heard that car sales is a feeder industry for real estate. Is that true? And vice versa? To find the answer, I Googled it.
Boy, oh boy, did I open up a can of worms. I never could find the answer to my original question. Instead, I happened upon a treasure trove of commentary on Realtors and car salespeople. There were 1.98 million-odd entries, leading with: "Real Estate Agents vs. Used Car Salesmen: The Scum of Society."
I don’t think I need to go into any depth explaining the content of these websites and blogs. I’m pretty sure you already know what they said. No? Oh, OK. Here goes: We Realtors are underprepared and uneducated about our markets, we rely on buyer’s agent incentives and bonuses to move properties, and our job can be boiled down to "basic facilitator" of a transaction.
We also are known to jump all over people and stick to them like leeches, ask too many personal questions, make too much money for the amount of actual work involved, and wear lipstick that’s way too bright. OK, I made up that last one. It’s still true, though.
I also came across some really funny jokes. This one made me giggle: "The devil tells a real estate agent, ‘Look, I can make you richer, more famous, and more successful than any real estate agent alive. In fact, I can make you the greatest agent who ever lived.’
" ‘Well,’ the real estate agent says, ‘what do I have to do in return?’
"The Devil smiles, ‘Well, of course you have to give me your soul,’ he says, ‘but you also have to give me the souls of your children, the souls of your children’s children and, as a matter of fact, you have to give me the souls of all your descendants throughout eternity.’
" ‘Wait a minute,’ the real estate agent says cautiously, ‘What’s the catch?’ "
You laughed, I know you did! Why? Because ultimately, humor comes from tragedy — and our industry is in peril of becoming a parody. Many of us do take the time to educate ourselves about our markets and take pride in negotiating a win-win transaction for our clients, but there are some real estate professionals out there … who are the butt of such jokes.
I think we need industrywide reform. I think we need a few more gatekeepers in between wannabe agent and licensed agent. And oh, there are so many other ideas! And while I’m the kind of girl who would like it to start from the top down, the change actually starts with you and me. Am I making sure that every impression I leave on those with whom I do business is both positive and professional? Did I really do my best to listen? Did I know the answer to the question about in-ground septic tanks, or did I just make up an answer that sounded good? Did I wear fuschia lipstick again?
OK, so I never found out whether there was a direct correlation between car salespeople and real estate professionals. I also refrained from buying a new SUV (although new-car smell and the soft touch of Napa leather was tempting). Instead, when I arrived home I cleaned the interior of my car carefully with dust cloths and polished the wheels. I emailed funny real estate agent jokes to all my friends. And then I rededicated myself to being prepared — and dare I say it — proud of what I do for a living.
But shhhhhh! Just don’t tell anyone I’m a real estate agent, OK?
Alisha Alway Braatz is a buyer’s broker for Coldwell Banker Advantage One Properties in Eugene, Ore., and a real estate humorist
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