Realtors. A changing role… but to what?

Realtors: Why they matterRealtors. I love teasing my fellow practitioners of this fabled art – lets face it, there is lots to laugh about! For the most part we are a really stereotypical bunch, with big hair, gaudy Cadillac’s and giant day-planners – and as such, ought to be heckled a bit. We deserve it.

I got into real estate in 2002, just as things were heating up and getting crazy. I was young, full of energy, and thought I was the most-needed commodity out there. I’ve remained in this business for 11 years, so I’ve run the gamut of ups and downs, and seen some incredible technological changes in how our services are delivered and perceived, and think its worth scribbling down the ramblings…

Many of the most common questions I get from prospective buyers could be summed up by a single theme: “What are you going to do for me that I cannot do myself?” I’ve heard other, older brokers and salespeople become somewhat offended by the question – as if our role is fixed in the world order, and should be self-evident to everyone – but the reality is, that the question is entirely valid. In fact it’s a darn good question!

The fact of the matter is, that our role has changed tremendously, and if we continue to operate and market as we once did, we will put ourselves out of business – and fast! In the 1980’s, 1990’s and to some extent even the early 2000’s our primary role was that of home-finder. We had the tools and know-how to locate potential properties for our customers, and provide them with access that they otherwise would not have. To be sure, we still have that ability, but now, so do the buyers.

Lets be honest – we can talk shop around the water cooler and try to tell ourselves that we have special tools, and MLS, and property records and other information that the buyer doesn’t have access to, but by and large that’s not the case anymore! Like it or not, it’s a brave new world, and nearly all buyers have a great array of information and analysis tools at their fingertips!

The role of a Realtor (BTW, this is pronounced Real-tor…NOT Real-a-Tor!! Pet peeve.) has transitioned from finding homes for buyers, to advising buyers. I for one think this is great! There was never anything more frustrating for me than to try and tell a buyer what they wanted, and fit them into my “options” for them. It just never seemed right. I love the new world! For the most part, my buyers show up with houses that they found and would like to see – what they want from me is access, advice and expertise.

My advice to my fellow practitioners: Embrace the new reality, and STOP grumbling about it! Embrace Zillow! Use Trulia! Don’t try to keep your customers from the big brokerage company websites and all of their AWESOME web capabilities. Instead, harness all the work and expense that they have done and use it to YOUR benefit!

At a group showing recently, I saw another salesperson really taking a strip off of her buyers. Lets forget for the moment the fact that she was doing this publicly (always classy), and consider what she was barking at them about. She was absolutely incensed that they had printed the listing sheet from a competitors website. I knew both the agent and the competitor, who happened to be a large corporate brokerage, with an very good and capable website, and found myself thinking, “What would I have done?”

First, if a buyer wants to use someone else’s website, they will. None of our whining will change that. The fact is people go where it is easiest and most helpful. Let them. Our value is in our experience, advice and relationship. So they visit the big name website, do their research, and print their sheets – at the end of the day, if they still call their Realtor to setup the showing, what a coup! Close the sale, and laugh all the way to the bank!

Secondly, I decided that this reinforces the reality that this is more about relationships and niche experience than ever! Know your stuff, and know it well, and you will be providing a value-service that FAR exceeds anything that the Internet offers and anything we ever did as “house finders.”

The take-away is simple: The consumers have spoken – and they want to do the finding themselves. Lets focus on giving them what they want. Focus on customer service, honest analysis, advice and expertise that average folks simply don’t have – regardless of how well read they are, of how many forums they digest from the interwebs!

Embrace the role of expert advisor instead of that of home-finder. Your job will be more natural, and in fact, easier. The customer experience will be more natural and enjoyable. More deals will close. More customers will be happy. More referrals will be made. The cycle goes on.

 

Doing Video Tours Right!

Real Estate Video Tours

Real Estate Video Tours - Brokers Saugus Massachusetts

Promoting and marketing terrible quality home video tours are, in my view, one of the most harmful things a Realtor can do during the sale of a clients home.

For many potential buyers, the video tour is the only exposure they will ever have to that home, and unfortunately, bad quality, poorly produced videos are the norm! Check out this Hall of Shame compiled by my video tour provider to show just how terrible some of these products are!

Selecting an agent and brokerage that understands the value and importance of effective video marketing is critical in todays’ market. There is no other marketing tool that can have as much of an effect on your home sale than an effective video. It’s an open house, online, accessible to every potential buyer 24/7/365. In todays connected, media reliant world, much of our marketing is dependent on using social media to effectively promote, share, market, and ultimately sell your home. To this end, we understand the importance of hiring a professional to produce our video tours, and the results speak for themselves.

 

Here is my challenge to you..

Watch the aforementioned Hall of Shame series – then come back and watch our professional Real Estate Video Tours below – I guarantee you’ll be hooked!

10 Vinegar Hill Drive, SaugusOpen Video Tour in New Window

7 Powderkeg Way, SaugusOpen Video Tour in New Window

Decorating a Contemporary Dining Room

Decorating a Contemporary Dining Room

This is a great post I came across on Yahoo Voices, and it touches on something that folks often ask me: “How can we  make our dining room more modern and contemporary?”

The problem most people have, especially those in their 50’s or 60’s, is that their furniture, is, for the most part, older and more traditional, and there simply is no way of making a 9-foot, 1200-pound Queen Anne dining hutch look contemporary. Ditto for the 14-foot mahogany claw-foot table that was passed down from Grandma Sue. These pieces are often well built, detailed, intricate and full of character – but they are most definitely not modern, contemporary, or minimalist.

There are however lots of tips and tricks, and a whole lot can be accomplished by the right use of color, the de-cluttering of the space, and some minimal artistic additions.

Take a look, and enjoy the read – you might be surprised at how easy it can be!

Read the Article Here!

Building the Perfect Home Theater Room

Building the Perfect Home Theatre

Gone are the days of just slapping a semi-decent flat screen on the wall and calling it a home theater. Today’s new homes, and many renovated older homes are beginning to feature this use-specific room, and it’s worth spending some time looking at what will make it not just a home theater, but a GREAT home theater!

First, plan it out. My father used to tell me (when doing just about any project) that the prep work was more important than the finish. Think model cars, painting, real cars, dirt-bikes – whatever. The principle holds true to home theater rooms as well. There is nothing more annoying than seeing cables running outside a wall, speakers mounted incorrectly, and components that don’t play well with others. (well, maybe there are a few things more annoying – like people who leave the clear screen protectors on their remotes and electronics, but I digress)

A properly planned out theater room should encompass every aspect of the finished room. Consult a professional – they really do know what they are doing, and will save you hassles and headaches down the road. Even if you opt not to seek professional help, just sit still for a minute with a blank piece of paper and think through everything. Where will your cables run? Where will the TV be mounted? Where will the speakers need to go? Can all the components be hidden? How much seating will I need? What type of sound insulation barrier should I use? What about the acoustics in the room?

Second, think a bit about (ergo PLAN!) the end use of the room. Sometimes people can get lost in the gear – they want the double woofer doohickey with blue-tooth controls and a data link to the mars rover – and in the end, don’t know how to use any of it, and only got sucked into it because a guy with think glasses at Best Buy said it was the best. Really? You going with that guys advice on life decisions?

Instead, focus on what your are going to do in this room, and build it around the activities. Do you watch movies or listen to music? Is it an intimate setting, a family area or will it be used for extensive entertaining? Is it going to be only a theater or are you planning on having a pool table or a mini-bar involved? Your plans should take into account the size of the room, the type of equipment that is going into it, and the number of people that may be in the finished room. Focus less on gear, and more on use, and you’ll be much happier with the end product.

Finally, remember these little tidbits of wisdom and you’ll be in good shape: 

1. If you don’t need it, don’t have it. (Think DVD players… 🙂

2. If you can see it, hide it. (OK, OK, I’ll give you a waiver for the TV or the screen)

3. More than 1 remote is unacceptable. (Yes I am serious! Get with the program and buy a good digital universal remote)

4. Dimmable lighting is a must. Stop worrying about the turtles and the ozone layer and make sure you have good dimmable lights. No curly-cue fluorescents or harsh LEDS, unless they are dimmable!!

5. Data, Data, Data. Your room should be smart, not dumb! Every componant should have access to hardwired or a good WiFi data source internet access. (Hulu+, AppleTV, Netflix – these are the future. Embrace them.)

6. If you do nothing else, HIRE A PROFESSIONAL to hook up and calibrate the final set of equipment. (Yes, yes I understand that you are a regular MacGyver when it comes to building a shed or replacing the valves on a 57′ Deville, but unless you are Edward A. MonsterCable himself, then you have no idea how to setup that gear properly. Hire someone!

Adding Granite to Your Luxury Kitchen

Adding Granite to Your Luxury Kitchen

Probably the most common question I get asked by sellers is “Should I install granite in the kitchen? That will make the value go up right?

Here is the deal. If you are living in the home, and not talking about sale value here, then adding granite is a no brainer. It is a fantastic countertop material in that it is durable, long lasting, and looks great with very little maintenance! For that sake of this article, when I say granite, you can read granite, silestone, quartz, etc etc.

From a resale perspective however, there are more factors to consider. Adding granite countertops to your kitchen is a great way to add value in certian circumstances – but in others, it is a complete waste of time and money, and will only lead to disapointment when you get down to a final selling price.

Notice the title of this post – Adding Granite to Your Luxury Kitchen…

Luxury. If you have a luxury kitchen without granite, get it. Your home will lose all the value of that nice kitchen just beacuse you have an inferior counter material. Your $20,000 kitchen without granite is worth nothing in the minds of most buyers, at this level, and in that price range, simply because of inadequate countertops.

But lets say we aren’t talking about a luxury kitchen per se, and just an average kitchen, with average cabinets, in average condition. It’s probably still worth it to add granite. With prices starting at $40/sf for granite, most kitchens are doable for a couple of thousand bucks – this will translate into several thousand more in resale value. Granite is one of those visceral items that buyers see and love – especially in homes where the competition doesn’t have granite. If I had a penny for every time I’ve heard “Ooooooh honey, this one has granite” I’d be… well…. I’d have lots of pennies anyways.

Finally, what about my old drafty victorian built in 1860 with paperboard cabinets installed in 1945 by neighbor Ed when he had some time off? Probably not worth it – adding granite to a kitchen that is in all likelihood going to be gutted by a new buyer is a poor choice. Better to just let it go, sell it as-is, and invest the money elsewhere. Like a jet-ski. It will pay off about the same as the granite would in that case.