Sept. 30, 2009

A behind the scenes look at a Bellingham Real Estate Agent's Day

Got a great call from my mom.  It's at 1:55 on a Tuesday afternoon, the kind where she asks what I'm up to, forgetting the time difference between Rhode Island and here. In her defense, and playing to my role as a good Irish son, my mom is not at fault here.  She has no idea what I do all day, from day to day, and it's nearly impossible to chart my hours.

The kicker? She worked in Real Estate for a while, but in what seems like a complelety different eon (not agism) with all the leaps and bounds technology has made in the last 20 years. 10 years. 5 years even.

If I were a doctor (she wishes), lawyer (ditto), or Indian chief (absent from Career Day), a call at 1:55 on a Tuesday would mean I'm knee deep in an operation, a court case, or negotiation for Cape Cod.  But who knows what a real estate agent does, minus the few hours you spend in his or her car? Your answer can be as different as your Starbucks order, depending on the over-caffeinated gal or guy you're working with.

So I thought a real, and I mean REAL look behind the scenes, here's what I do during the week to prepare for the time I get up, to when I fall asleep watching I, Robot for the 10,000th time at 11:30.

Client: Registers interest in the ether that is the Internet, in real estate in some shape or form.  Their info is sent to me via e-mail, phone call, or reference from someone who thinks I might be a good fit.

Me? Wake up, to the office at 8:00 to see what's happened during the course of the night in the way of A) homes on the market that are new, and B) have gone pending, pending inspection, or sold. If I were a listing-centric agent, I'd also check the expired and cancelled listings, in hopes of inviting the seller to a new conversation about their next move.

Then I'm checking stats; what have homes sold for in the past 6 months? Anything else is a different season, equating longer to checking the salmon season regs when it's deer season. Completely different animal. Unless you're in a higher price range, in which there's a longer period these homes are seasoning on the market. If I, haven't been checking the stats on a weekly, daily basis, there's no way to know this.

We're about at 8:30, at which point, as I'm human, I've already checked Twitter 400 times, Facebook on my phone to see what folks are up to, and Mint.com to see if I'm still financially in business.

From here? Taking a look at my East Coast clientele, and their folders of favorite homes they've saved in the last 12 hours, and planning my phone calls appropriately. Planning phone calls? Yup. I need to have updates, new possibles for you, so the call has actual value to you, and I'm not beamed back to 8th grade, where I call and say,"so, uh, what are you up to?" Then I'm making those calls, leaving messages, and setting new times to call. I'm calling so you don't have to remember to. It's to keep me in your mind, so when you DO decide this might be a move you want to make, I'm the guy who's been helping you, and I'm front of mind.

In between calls, I'm checking e-mail, and answering other calls from the previous day, because every home I visit, the listing agent and seller want to know what I think.  It's a good system of checks and balances, and beats the hell out of the impersonal e-mail where I fill out a survey.  E-mails can range from changes in banking programs, home warranty stuff so when your "new to you" dryer breaks, you're not cursing my name at Home Depot as they load in another $500 incidental you didn't plan for when you moved.

Then I'm out the door. Walking through homes clients have chosen as favorites, new listings on the market that have caught my personal eye, and property in hot spots in our area.  I'm more inclined to preview Fairhaven condos than Vacant Land in Maple Falls, because that's not where the lion's share of business resides. I'm taking photos of the interiors of some to keep them straight in my head, giving my clients a better idea of the layout, and sometimes because the photos online? Not so good. They've either been touched up more than Mickey Rourke's Glamour Shots, or just haven't given an accurate depiction of the property as it sits today. Anybody with a home on Alabama Hill who listed their home in August, and has a green lawn in the photos, knows what Willis is talking about.

This takes me to lunch. Where I sleep a good 4-5 hours. Martinis do that.

The reality? I work through lunch, because my clients don't. This may be that time where they're at work browsing for homes, and if I can talk to you while you have real estate on the mind, I jump back into the circle of people trying to help, rather than get you to sign up for Quickstar.

I'm also sending out info on school systems, neighborhood info, recent political news, like land grabs off the Guide, how to correctly navigate roundabouts in Cordata without indirectly paying for someone's four years at WCC, whatever it takes.  I'm a concierge for Bellingham and Whatcom County, and love that part of my job, as it keeps it dynamic.

Now I've got a showing. Just get in the car with my list and unlock the homes. Nope. I'm making appointments, ensuring your 45 pound dog is allowed in the building should you love this place, checking that the house feeds into the high school you want. And putting this together as sweetly as possible without the aid of a Trapper Keeper so it doesn't look like the cluster it could be. Because two homes into the tour, we might find out that your needs are completely different that we originally talked about. But I've spent the morning previewing other possiblities, so we re-adjust the flight pattern, and keep on keeping on.

Right about now, my mom has called twice. And texted. Because my brother thought it was a good idea to open that Pandora's box to a string of "Lerve you.whts the 411?" messages. Yet my concentration is on the client. Because this might be the only chance I get. I've gotten an e-mail during our tour letting me know the loan program we're using is expiring soon, so if today's a bust, we're going back to formula.

Back to the office after the tour to debrief what we liked, disliked, and I'm keeping notes to make sure one home doesn't blend into another. The contracts here can be up to about 4,000 pages long, depending on the situation, which is great, because it protects the parties involved. But we're going through it line by line, because this is the largest financial purchase you're going to make in the next 5 years;  you had better know it back to front. I've memorized these forms, and broken it down so it's understandable in a previous morning, so I'm not bumbling through this meeting like Mr. Furley at Spacecamp Orientation.

Putting the offer together, and coordinating the delivery, then back to the office to catch up on calls and e-mails that have come in during the last 4 hours or so. And rest.

Plan out tomorrow in my head so I can sleep. Then carry on with the rest of my life. This day would be ideal.  But much like all things planned, I'll reschedule in the middle of the day at a moment's notice to make sure my client's needs get met. That's my job. That's my day.

And during all this, I'm taking care of my marketing department, my accounting department, fun department, and generally working on staying a good guy. Because no one wants to work with a tool, save Bob Vila.

The point?  You're going to see a calm and collected person, excited to find your next place or property, in an organized fashion, because you need to know that throughout all the mess that's going on in the world, you've got someone who's going to make it okay.

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