Of the six homes my buyers and sellers currently have in escrow, one is a bank owned home, one is a HUD home and the other four are traditional sales. Which means that in four these six transactions, I have the chance not only to practice what I like to think of as real estate but also to deal with agents who are more than automatons doing the bidding of a lender.
But those other two (and the two cancellations on bank owned homes so far this year) … those are decidedly different stories:
- On the HUD home, the buyers and I performed the final walkthrough this morning. Guess what? The townhouse is completely locked up but now the oven, which was present and tested at the home inspection a month ago, has been removed. I call the agent and essentially am told, “deal with it – HUD won’t do anything.” I’m now contributing to the cost of an oven so my folks still have a place to use as a second home this week after spending money on inspections, appraisals, CondoCerts fees, etc.
- Same place, a termite tube was discovered. Call the listing agent … “Have you talked to XYZ, the asset manager?” No, oddly enough, I called the listing agent since technically, you know, you’re supposed to represent the seller. Sorry to interrupt your putt on the 16th, pal.
- Bank owned home, lender accepts a VA offer and we discover a handful of mostly cosmetic-type issues that VA needs rectified so the home would rate as “average’ and the loan will go forward. Check ahead of time with the listing agent and said while repairs are not automatic, they’re usually negotiable. We send the list and are told the seller won’t do a thing. I guess “not a chance” counts as negotiation these days.
- Another bank owned home, get the offer accepted and then receive notice that the roof needs to be replaced at some point. Listing agent seems a bit surprised that the buyer is less enthused to learn the house he purchased at essentially market value needs considerable roof work – the kind of thing you can’t always see looking from the ground at first glance.
Contrast this with the four transactions that were not bank owned:
- Buyer makes an offer, seller makes a counter offer, we agree on price. In some cases it took a day, in some cases it took a few days of give and take, discussion and negotiation – all the kinds of things that never happen with agents on bank owned homes. And in all four cases, we came to an agreement.
- Needed repairs were discovered and needed repairs are being made. Stunning.
- If something goes sideways, such as some paperwork regarding a well on one of the homes, there’s an agent I can reach who can think independently and work toward a solution rather than telling me “deal with it.”
Time was when many of us believed the post-apocalyptic real estate world would be one in which many so-so agents washed out of the business because they lacked the requisite skill sets to get by. If only. Instead, we’ve seen the rise of real estate agents as secretaries for the banks – judge the property’s value, stick a sign in the yard and call it a day while waiting for the check to come in.
Some go a step farther, assuming the lender is willing to make the slightest effort to make a home truly sellable; others don’t seem willing or able to lift a finder to do a thing to earn that paycheck once the initial work is done.
I’d like to think many of these folks too will disappear once the bank owned homes disappear and legitimate negotiation is needed again, but it won’t happen. Darwin seems to be right on that score.
And all of it makes me wonder if all the grand education efforts being foisted upon the industry by those on the outside – Inman News’ Agent Reboot, Trulia’s new education program, RE Tech South and the dozens of agent-cum-gurus telling us how to use Facebook and Twitter – are missing the larger point …
It’s not new technology the real estate business at a whole lacks. It’s the old-school soft skills of selling, negotiating, communicating and thinking that need to be revisited.
After all, your iPad is cool at cocktail parties but it ain’t gonna help you when your buyer and a seller are separated by $5,000 and are digging lines in the sand. Or when the stove that used to be present isn’t … unless you use it to check HomeDepot.com.