The Most Revealing Real Estate Post in History


Nine years ago today, I activated my real estate license with the Arizona Department of Real Estate. That was a couple of months before the bubble struck, when you could sit inside a real estate course and hear the instructor and class debate whether it was a balanced market or a sellers’ market.

Truth is, I’m not sure three-quarters of the people who were in my classes could find their way to a supermarket, much less identify real estate market conditions – all anxiety I had about my competence for this line of work disappeared when I saw folks who couldn’t translate inches to feet to yards in order to compute square footage. Little did I know that someone scary slice of society also would appear in the real estate world.

After nine years, here’s the one thing I can tell you unequivocally … I am the least full-of-shit real estate agent you ever will find. No, really.

If I think a buyer can spend less to get the house they want, I’ll tell them and work to find the less expensive house. If I think a seller’s totally unrealistic in what they want to do, I pass on the listing and let someone else spend their time and money and bang their head against the wall.

So far, I’ve fired more clients than clients have fired me. My favorite firing remains the couple looking to move closer to work who a) accused me of holding back on them because I didn’t mention Buckeye – 40 miles the opposite direction of where they wanted to go and b) then purchased in Buckeye, adding an hour to the wife’s commute when the entire point of moving, as they told me, was shortening her drive.

Can’t do much when you’re facing logic like this.

So much has happened in the nine years I’ve been doing this, it’s virtually impossible to recount all of it. So, instead, I’m going to tell you about all the mistakes I made my first year in the business … this should serve as a cautionary tale for anyone who’s about to use their cousin’s friend’s brother’s aunt’s boyfriend’s hairdresser’s son who just got their license.

Termites Out of the Box

Very first sale ever and the house had earth-to-wood contact that had to be remediated. Buyers never requested any such repairs but were using an FHA loan. For all the training I’d received at my first brokerage, the idea that FHA needs a clean termite report never came up. Seller did nothing. Deal almost didn’t close. Turns out the buyer’s agent was working part-time in a hotel gift shop and had no more clue than I did. But, eventually, we got it done.

Haven’t had that problem since.

The Microwave in the Listing

Simple mistake in the listing – I thought there was a microwave and there wasn’t. Fortunately, the MLS says it’s up to the buyer to very everything. On same listing, the buyer called me (even though I was the listing agent) livid that the refrigerator and washer/dryer weren’t left behind even though they were in the listing and demanding retribution. Fun trip at Medieval Times cut short as I panic, something I regret to this day – not the buyer’s confusion, my cutting short a fun family event to deal with the confusion of another agent’s client.

I call the agent, who can’t understand why they weren’t left behind. Because, I said, the buyer didn’t ask for them in the contract. We considered that a negotiating point on your end to move your deal to the top of the pile.

Haven’t encountered that problem since.


No mistakes here. Was working with buyers who’ll forever be known for their screaming. They screamed at each other and everyone around them when ordering a Coke through a drive through. They said they were done signing paperwork. I told them what they could do with the paperwork and walked out of their house.

Two hours later, husband calls and asks what he needs to sign. We closed a week later.

I’ve become a little more particular about my clients since then.

Final Walkthrough Fiasco

Conducting final walkthrough with buyers and the items that were supposed to be done weren’t done. This left things open for what I likely should have seen – the buyers really weren’t emotionally ready to purchase this home. Buyers wanted to cancel, which they couldn’t if the seller was to complete the repairs. Buyers insisted that under no circumstances would they close escrow and they lost their earnest deposit, as I told them would happen.

There are about a dozen things I could have done better; my biggest error was not seeing negotiation as the art of creating a win-win scenario for all parties involved.

That’s not happened to me since.

* * *

Keep in mind, those all happened in my first six to nine months selling real estate. Nothing teaches someone like experience, and experience can’t be had unless you’re in the market, helping people buy and sell homes on a full-time basis. Real estate is not at all like falling off a bike.

In the past nine years, I’ve watched the market rise and fall and rise again.

I’ve watched Zillow, an advertising company looking to reach into my wallet, redefine online real estate search despite having consistently faulty data.

I’ve watched banks rewrite the rules of the real estate transaction to their own tastes, watched agents get rich becoming data-entry clerks for the banks and since get out of the business.

(One of my favorite washouts is the agent who offered a 4 percent co-broke commission on a property and then balked when, after getting only 3 percent “because the bank said that’s all they’re paying,” I told them the MLS rules say they owe me a check for the other 1 percent. My broker got the check with a note that said “greed will get you nowhere.” Our response, unsent, was “and stupidity will get you broke.”

This agent, incidentally, no longer sells real estate for a living. Turns out we were right.)

I’ve gone from being one of the first real estate bloggers to being one of the few originals who didn’t take a 9 to 5 job and get out of the business.

I’ve made and lost friends over debates about Zillow and Trulia and the usefulness of NAR and a longer list of other items than I care to remember. We in the online world seem to generate more high-school level drama than my freshman daughter.

I’ve played the role of the enforcer – attacking patently stupid concepts, as I have little patience for them – and at the same time, sticking up for friends when I see them wrongly attacked somewhere in the online space.

* * *

There’s a more than decent chance I sound jaded and I own that. But I’ll tell ya, I can summarize why I do this in an experience that happened just last night.

I’ve got a seller whose English is a little rough. Okay, more than a little rough. She called me, panicked, because she was looking at her preliminary title commitment and confused the title insurance as being a lien on her property.

I drove over, explained to her what the paperwork said, gave her hug and left her smiling and no longer shaking.

Helping someone move forward in life, whatever shape that may take … buying, selling, investing, renting … that’s what makes this job worthwhile. All the rest of the drama of bubbleheads and so-called econ experts who post as bloggers and fans of the companies trying to dictate how we advertise and generate leads … all of that pales in comparison.

It’s been one hell of a ride. Here’s to another nine years. Or to a winning lottery ticket. Or Olivia Wilde, on third pleasing mention, adopting me as her cabana boy.

* * *

While you’re here, check out some of the homes for sale in Stetson Hills in northwest Phoenix …

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Jonathan Dalton

Jonathan Dalton is a 40-plus-year resident of the Valley and has been helping folks buy and sell homes since 2004. He can be reached at 602-502-9693 or info at