Being a realtor isn’t about houses

You’d think being a realtor would mostly be about houses, but it is really about relationships.

One of the things I am the most proud of is how many of my clients have used me multiple times. I always look forward to working with them over and over again. Since I have become friends with most of my clients, it doesn’t even feel like work.

Part of this relationship can sometimes be about keeping secrets. People often move when their life changes. I am often the first to know about a marriage proposal, job promotion, pregnancy. I am also sometimes the first to know about the less fun life events like a job loss, divorce and even a death.

I get lots of texts or calls about renovations. I’ve had people standing in the flooring isle at Lowe’s and asking me which floor will add the most value to their home. If you’re wondering, I usually tell people that if you think you’ll be in your house for more than 5 years, get whatever you want since styles will change and it won’t be brand new by then. If you think you might be there for less than 5 years, lets go with something buyers will like.

I get asked for contractor referrals a lot. This has gotten harder and harder to do since nobody seems to want to work any more. I recently had somebody who seemed promising at first and turned out to be a total loser. I am thankful that I have found a great handyman who was actually referred to me from a client. That doesn’t happen often! My HVAC person has faithfully been serving my clients and me for 13 years. Everybody loves him.

I get asked “What’s my house worth?” Sometimes people want to move. Sometimes they are considering refinancing and need to first know a number to see if it is worth it. Sometimes people just want to know how much equity they have in their house. Occasionally people have me over just to see their home after a renovation. It is always nice to get to see them, their home and have a cup of coffee with them.

Being a realtor is really a lifestyle. Yeah, its a business. It’s a job. But it is really about getting to know people and helping them any time they need something. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

What to expect from me for the next 17 years

It feels so strange to think about how real estate has changed over the course of my 17 year career.

Back when I was a newbie, agents hung around the office. We had like 14 phone numbers on our cards and one of them was a fax number. We dressed up….well, others did. I wore shorts year round back then. We licked the back of stamps and mailed people silly stuff like calendars. I did it once but thought it was pointless. All I’ve ever done is Christmas cards.

Then the PDF came along and changed it all. It was so much easier than a fax. There was nothing and I mean NOTHING worse than getting a fax from somebody that was illegible after several rounds of counter offers. Then electronic signature programs made it even better.

The biggest change has been to everything being online and consumer driven. When I got into this, many old school realtors back then didn’t realize that being online meant they were dealing with the public. The MLS had mostly been just for realtors. Before computers, they had books that came out once a week with listings. Since space was limited, you got stuff like “Cute 3/2 on unfin, dining room chandelier does not convey. Lockbox on backdoor.” A lot of realtors were putting that in the marketing remarks still. Also, there was one tiny black and white picture of the outside.

While so much has changed, some things remain the same. At the core, this business is really about people more than about sales or houses. It’s about helping and advising people on something that most people think they know a lot about but don’t really. I often describe my job as “Talking people into good decisions and talking them out of bad ones.”

I’ve probably got at least another 17 years left of my career. The trendy things (like the short lived QR codes) will come and go since the next generation always wants to reinvent the wheel, but I am sure that the core of this business will remain the same. I will be talking people into making good decisions and talking them out of bad ones and I will still be wearing shorts (at least on warm days).

Best way to get top dollar

It’s sort of a given that almost any house is going to get multiple offers, but how do you get buyers to do even better than the offer they submitted?

Common these days is the quickly becoming old school way of having a deadline for submitting offers. That makes it easy for the realtor, but doesn’t really give the buyers much motivation to get an amazing offer in as quickly as possible.

What I like to do is have the deadline, but add that the seller reserves the right to accept their ideal offer at any point prior to that.

This does a few things: 1. It gets you an offer in hand fast so that when realtors ask “Do you have an offer yet?” you can say yes! 2. It usually gets at least one buyer thinking they might get the house if they throw out a crazy high offer. Sometimes this works if the offer is higher than the seller and I expected or if it is that high and cash. 3. It also helps you if you don’t get more than one offer at all…..but more on that in a minute.

If I have more than 3 offers, I will let the realtors who sent the offers know I have several offers and I will highlight some of the best terms. You have to have 3 or more offers to do this though since each realtor knows what their offer was. I might say “I have 3 offers, all over list price, 2 of them waived the home inspection, etc. This lets realtors know that somebody has a better term than they did on their offer. I usually can get realtors to revise their offer with more competitive terms.

From here it is mostly waiting for the deadline.

But what do you do if you only have one offer and it isn’t that good? Well, a few hours before the deadline, you call up the realtor with the only offer. You let them know that you are willing to cancel the remaining showings and not wait for the deadline if they agree to whatever counter your seller wants to make. I have NEVER had a realtor not take me up on this. If you wait until the deadline and then try to counter, you have lost all leverage because they know they had your only offer. There has to be the fear that one of those remaining showings could be the buyer who outbids them.

So that’s it. It has never failed me and unless every realtor in town reads this, it will be our little secret.

Good John Rice vs. Evil John Rice

Sorry to be clickbaitish with the title of this post.

There really is a Good John Rice and there really is an Evil John Rice. Both are realtors too.

(I am the Good John Rice by the way!)

How do I know this? Because I often have to prove I am not the other John Rice. When you are a party to an FHA or VA loan transaction, the underwriter has to submit everybody’s name to see if they are on the Naughty List of banned people. You get on this list by doing something shady. Once you are on this list, you can’t be a party to FHA or VA transactions again.

It was about 17 years ago when this first came up. Back then, just about every time I sold a house where the buyer was using FHA or VA financing, I had to give my social security number or driver’s license number so they could verify I wasn’t Evil John Rice. I started putting my middle name on the contract for FHA and VA sales and that helped a little bit.

I hadn’t had to prove I am not him for quite some time, but it happened again this week. I had to write an email stating I am not Evil John Rice of Lake Providence Louisiana……which is better than my social security number or driver’s license number floating around out there with half the mortgage companies in town.

I hope I never meet this Evil John Rice. He has caused me to prove I am not him for my whole 17 year career. I might punch him right in the nose if I ever get a chance, lol.

Here is a letter I had to write to an underwriter several years ago. I decided that I should at least have a little fun with proving I am The Good John Rice.

Off to a great start!

You know two of the absolute best parts of being a realtor?

One is making friends with your clients and the other is when they call you back to work with them again.

If the past couple of weeks is any indication, my 2022 is going be a really fun year!

I’ve got a client/friend I don’t get to see all that often who needs me again. We have had Indian food for lunch twice to discuss the plans. It is always nice to get to see people face to face after mostly keeping up online.

I have another client/friend who is leaving town. I will miss them. We have had so many good times and drank a lot of coffee over the years.

I woke up this past Saturday morning to a text from a client/friend. It was actually my own contact information, so I figured she was probably trying to send it to somebody she knew. Sure enough, once I got out of bed, I got a text from her mother wanting to see a house that had just come on the market. I have met her mother before and really liked her. Her and her husband bought the house and now I get to help them out. I absolutely LOVE it when I become the Family Realtor and get to know everybody.

I closed a house for some out of state sellers who I have worked with a few times. Unfortunately one of them is in poor health. I did everything I could to not only make it a smooth transaction for them, but I also tried to handle some things along the way so I didn’t need to bother them. One of those was a home inspection repair. We only had one item on the list, which was an HVAC thermostat problem. I sent my HVAC person over and told him to do whatever is needed to satisfy the buyer. Then I paid him for it. I only filled the sellers in after it was all said and done since I didn’t want them to have to deal with it. I wasn’t expecting to be repaid, but they insisted. After the closing, they sent me a nice gift and a card. They wrote “John, please accept this small token of appreciation for all the extra help you did every time we needed you! Thank you for being not just a realtor but a wonderful human being. We really appreciate you and everything you’ve done for us during this difficult time.”

Reading that card meant so much to me. I remember when I was in my early 20s, I was as lost as anybody that age about what I wanted to with my life. I really enjoyed helping people out back then. Stuff like helping people move, shoveling their snow, pet sitting, dropping off/picking up people at their mechanic and such. I remember sitting in my basement apartment on Redding Road thinking “I wish just helping your friends was a career“.

Turns out that was a viable option after all!