By Jason Nagy Some people may consider our real estate business as nothing more than a sales job filled with stereotypical, overly extroverted, slick sales agents who act like cut-throat, commission-earning, used-car salespeople. I would like to change that mindset. Instead of a pushy, self-promoter who is convincing people against their wishes, I tell the agents at our company that the way to win new clients is to reframe the situation and think of yourself as a servant and professional consultant who is reaching out to people with valuable housing market data, such as property trends and inventory updates. Unfortunately, our culture defines greatness in terms of power, possessions, prestige and position. We live in a “me-first” era. But, I believe greatness is measured in terms of service, not status. Thousands of books have been written about leadership, but only few on serving. That’s because people would rather be generals than privates. Seeing our role as servants in real estate will help win new clients. Ask yourself: Who out there needs my help out today? I believe the answers will lead you to new clients. Here are a few other tips: “I am not a salesperson.” Your clients want to work with a real estate profession, not just a salesperson. If we want to be regarded as a professional then we should act like one. The difference between merely a salesperson and a real estate professional is that a salesperson focuses on the end result, namely the commission; therefore, their actions are driven by a result. However, a real estate professional earns an income as a result of representing the best interests of their clients. Earning an income is a direct result of representing the best interests of my clients. Yes, there are times when I am selling, such as when I’m negotiating on behalf of my client or I’m asking the listing agent to accept my client’s offer. But, I’m in sales with a client only before they become my client, such as during a listing presentation or buyer representation presentation. Once the documents are signed, then my client has a high-qualified professional on their team. Good leads come from a good database. The most important information you have to win new clients as a real estate professional is your database of previous, current and future clients. Without your database, you have no leads, and without leads, you can’t expect to close any deals. It’s crucial to keep your database current with updated information about people. Whether it’s a new phone number, new job or new email address, or perhaps somebody got married or had a child, all these tidbits of information are important to include within your sphere of influence. At least once a year, you should reach out to everyone in your database to say hello, get updated information and ask them if they know someone who needs an answer to a real estate question. Ask the right questions with potential clients. A real estate professional will win new clients by asking the right questions to new prospects and then listening carefully. One of the most common causes of frustration and friction in relationships is that we don't really listen to each other. Too often we talk at each other rather than with each other. It’s better to be present in the moment with somebody’s wants and needs. Listening is a form of kindness. The best questions are open ended that start with such phrases as “tell me about” or “what are your goals.” You become a good listener by asking creative questions. Approach the conversation from a standpoint of curiosity: “Do you own or rent? Do you view your home as a place to live or as a retirement investment? What would cause you to move to a new house?” Since you have positioned yourself as the source of valuable information that will benefit the client, then tell them, “I promise not to bother you, but based on what you’ve told me, I would be happy to share with you information on homes so that you’re the first to know. Would you prefer a text, e-mail or phone call? Before you share your side of the story, you need to let the other person know you understand where he or she is coming from by paraphrasing what they’ve just said. Explain the entire process ahead of time. When I spend the necessary time to completely explain the entire transaction process upfront, the result often is a new client. I will tell a new client, “If you choose to work with me, you will know everything that’s happening. I will layout a road map of what to expect and possible pitfalls to watch for. And, I promise to return phone calls within 24 hours.” I may need to explain the process again, which is okay because repetition creates a level of stronger comfort and confidence for my client.
This is t the latest is a series of occasional articles on “Professional Standards” from Rick Snyder, NSDCAR Professional Standards Committee 2018 chairman.
By Rick Snyder
Technology is more important than ever in our real estate sales business. In our digital age, high-quality photos can help consumers personally tailor their home search. Indeed, listing photographs can be the most important part of the home sale listing. It’s true that buyers are relying increasingly on images of listed properties to make informed decisions and determine whether they are really interested in the home. Plus, photos can help REALTORS® save time so they give more attention to only their most serious buyers.
However, with a variety of today’s sophisticated photo-editing and enhancing software on the market today, ranging from the popular Adobe Photoshop to such others as Phase One Capture One, Serif Affinity, Cyberlink PhotoDirector and MacPhun Luminar, photos can be easily altered to portray a property as more attractive than it actually is. Retouching may seem innocent, but it can have a profound effect on the real estate business. REALTORS® should be warned that problems exist when you try to remove a tree, cracks on walls, utility lines, fire hydrants and satellite dishes that exist on the property, as well as enhance the landscaping.
This practice of REALTORS® altering photographs of properties with post-production techniques must be undertaken with care. There’s a difference between enhancing the quality of the visual images of the properties and altering the photographs that may result in a misrepresentation of the condition of the property. Photographs should accurately represent a property’s condition. The condition of the property is a material fact that affects the value and desirability of the property. The concept of misrepresentation must be understood and recognized by REALTORS® in the presentation of information relating to the listed property.
In fact, doctoring photos may be a violation of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) Standard of Practice. Using Photoshop software can land you in hot water with an ethics violation on your record.
I recently attended a NAR Professional Standards Committee meeting. We approved amendments to strengthen Article 12-10 utilizing the following language:
REALTORS’ obligation to present a true picture in their advertising and representations to the public includes Internet content, images, and the URLs and domain names they use, and prohibits REALTORS® from:
1) engaging in deceptive or unauthorized framing of real estate brokerage websites;
2) manipulating (e.g., presenting content developed by others) listing and other content in any way that produces a deceptive or misleading result;
3) deceptively using metatags, keywords or other devices/methods to direct, drive, or divert Internet traffic; or
4) presenting content developed by others without either attribution or without permission, or
5) otherwise misleading consumers, including use of misleading images.
Photo altering not only misleads consumers who rely on photos in the MSL or on websites, but damages the credibility and integrity of REALTORS® and our industry. REALTORS® have an obligation to present a true picture of the condition of property in their advertising and representations to the public. If the public loses confidence in the ability of real estate photos to tell the truth of a listing in an honest, straight-forward way, then we’re all discredited.
This year could be your best career year ever in real estate. That’s the message from an economist with the California Association of REALTORS® (C.A.R.). C.A.R.’s Jordan Levine recently delivered a “2018 Housing Market Outlook” presentation to Association members.
“The economy is strong, unemployment is low, home prices are up and demand is still high as people still want to own their home,” said Levine. “We’re seeing demand from a variety of clients, ranging from millennials, babyboomers and immigrants to foreign investors and even gen Xers who want a bigger house. There are still many challenges and headwinds, but there’s still no reason why 2018 can’t be the best year ever for REALTORS®. Be prepared and you will rock.”
Levine noted that California’s unemployment rate of 4.1 percent in December was the lowest in more than 40 years. Also in year-over-year comparisons between December 2017 and December 2016, job growth increased 1.4 percent. The growth for specific industries included: Construction, 7.1 percent; Educational Services, 5.3 percent; Leisure/Hospitality, 3.8 percent; Healthcare, 2.8 percent; Management, 2.0 percent. “We’ve seen job creation reflect a good mixture of both high- and low-wage jobs. California is firing on most cylinders,” said Levine.
President Trump’s tax reform is expected to have its biggest affect on higher-end properties, said Levine. The reform caps mortgage interest deductions for primary and secondary residences at $750,000 (down from $1 million), while capping state and local tax deductions (SALT) at $10,000 (previously, there was no cap). Also, the corporate tax rate was lowered from 35% to 21%. Individual tax rates also are now lower at 0%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35% and 37%. The standard deduction was doubled, to $12,000 and $24,000 for individuals and married couples, respectively. The child tax credit also was doubled $2,000, with up to $1,400 being refundable, which means people could get money back if the credit exceeds what they pay in taxes. “With a much higher standard deduction, there’s less incentive for renters to own,” Levine said.
Regarding housing market trends, Levine said, “A tale of two markets continues to be the theme of California’s housing market with the lower end of the market bearing the brunt of the housing shortage. At the other end of the spectrum where inventory is less constrained, homes priced $1 million and higher are posting solid sales gains, especially in the $1.5 million-to-$2 million range. Also, prices have almost doubled since 2012, but active listings are down, continuing a four-year trend. Still, there’s been lots of action in the starter home market.”
In 2018, Levine said housing availability will remain a challenge. “Supply takes the blame, we’re dealing with a supply and demand mismatch,” he said. “Existing homeowners aren’t moving. We ended 2017 at the lowest level since June 2004. In 2018, shrinking inventory will continue to be a major factor shaping the 2018 housing market.”
Demand is expected to continue because clients will still be eager to buy real estate because home prices are appreciating and it’s a safe investment over the long haul. Other causes for demand including millennials need a home to raise their families, households formation is rising, flips of older properties will continue to provide returns and foreigners are still eager to own U.S. property. Plus, the economy is expected to steadily improve under the Trump administration. In January 2018, the median number of days a home in San Diego remained unsold on the market was 21 days, compared to 18 days in December 2017 and 25 days in January 2017.
Also in 2018, mortgage rates are expected to remain affordable, Levine said. “The 30-year mortgage rate may inch up to between 4.3 and 4.5 percent for a standard, 30-year loan in 2018, which is still affordable for many buyers,” he said. “The combination of higher home prices and higher interest rates means mortgage payments will be higher in 2018 for the same home, which means a decline in affordability. Rising rates will hurt and eventually hit, probably due to volatility in the stock market. Still, perspective is everything. When my dad bought a home in 1981, the interest rate was 15 percent.”
Levine said it’s important for REALTORS® to get involved in their local communities, especially with planning and land use groups. “We don’t build enough homes in California and planning groups need to realize this,” he said. “We need to play catch-up. We could use another 100,000 new units annually.”
There has been a fluctuation of phone calls relating to the presentation of offers. Selling Agents are calling to inquire about what can be done to confirm that their offer has been presented. Does the Listing Agent have an obligation to prove that the offer was presented to the Seller? The Code of Ethics does not require that the Listing Agent provide proof that the offer was presented. Although the Code of Ethics doesn’t require the Listing Agent to provide proof that the offer was presented, there is an obligation to present the offer to the Seller objectively and as quickly as possible. This obligation is addressed in Article 1, Standard of Practices 6 and 7. Article 1 When representing a buyer, seller, landlord, tenant, or other client as an agent, Realtors® pledge themselves to protect and promote the interests of their client. This obligation to the client is primary, but it does not relieve Realtors® of their obligation to treat all parties honestly. When serving a buyer, seller, landlord, tenant or other party in a non-agency capacity, Realtors® remain obligated to treat all parties honestly. (Amended 1/01). Standard of Practice 1-6 Realtors® shall submit offers and counter-offers objectively and as quickly as possible. (Adopted 1/93, Amended 1/95) Standard of Practice 1-7 When acting as listing brokers, Realtors® shall continue to submit to the seller/landlord all offers and counter-offers until closing or execution of a lease unless the seller/landlord has waived this obligation in writing. Realtors® shall not be obligated to continue to market the property after an offer has been accepted by the seller/landlord. Realtors® shall recommend that sellers/landlords obtain the advice of legal counsel prior to acceptance of a subsequent offer except where the acceptance is contingent on the termination of the pre-existing purchase contract or lease. (Amended 1/93) To learn more about Article 1 and the REALTOR® Code of Ethics, click here
Is housing affordability improving? What’s the overall affect after months of severe housing inventory shortages? According to the California Association of REALTORS®’ (C.A.R.) “Housing Affordability Index” (HAI), home affordability statewide improved only slightly in the fourth quarter 2017. In the fourth quarter of last year, C.A.R. said only 29 percent of California households could afford the state’s $550,990 median-priced single family home, up slightly from 28 percent in the third quarter 2017 but down from 31 percent in fourth quarter 2016. In San Diego County, only 26 percent of households could afford to purchase a median-priced home in the fourth quarter, which remained unchanged from the previous quarter. C.A.R. said it was the 19th consecutive quarter for its HAI index to be below 40 percent. Home affordability statewide in the 3rdQ 2017 dropped to its lowest level in a decade. California's housing affordability index hit a peak of 56 percent in the 1stQ of 2012. C.A.R.’s HAI measures the percentage of all households that can afford to purchase a median-priced, single-family home in California. The index is considered the most fundamental measure of housing well-being for homebuyers in the state. To afford the statewide median-priced single family home of $550,990, a household would need to earn $111,260 annually to make the necessary $2,780 monthly payments, according to C.A.R. The payment includes principal, interest, and taxes on a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage with a 20 percent down payment and an effective composite interest rate of 4.17 percent. The effective interest rate in the 3rdQ 2017 was 4.16 percent and 3.91 percent in the 4thQ 2016. C.A.R. also said that the affordability of condominiums and townhomes also dipped slightly in the 4thQ. C.A.R. said 37 percent of California households earn the minimum income to qualify for the purchase of a $449,720 median-priced condominium or townhome, down from 38 percent of households who could afford to purchase the $446,800 priced condo or townhome in the 3rdQ. In the 4thQ, an annual income of $90,810 would be required to make monthly payments of $2,270. Meanwhile, on Friday morning, Feb. 16, C.A.R. released its January homes sales and price report. C.A.R. said January’s statewide median home price was $527,800, down 4.0 percent from December and up 7.3 percent from January 2017. In San Diego County, the median sole price of an existing single-family home was $590,000 in January, 2.5 percent lower than the $605,000 sales price figure for December 2017 and $550,000 in January 2017. In San Diego, the median number of days a home remained unsold on the market was 21 days in January 2018, compared to 18 days in December 2017 and 25 days in January 2017. C.A.R. said single-family home sales statewide in January 2018 totaled 388,000 on a seasonally adjusted annualized rate, down 7.6 percent from December (420,960 homes) and down 2.9 percent from January 2017 (400,580 homes). The month-to-month decline was the largest in more than two years. The 388,000 total marked the first time in nearly two years for California’s housing market to drop below the 400,000 level. In March 2016, the statewide sales figured dropped below 400,000. “A persistent shortage of housing inventory and continued affordability crunch is beginning to eat away at the market as buyers struggle to find available homes for sale,” said C.A.R. President Steve White. “A tale of two markets continues to be the theme of California’s housing market with the lower end of the market bearing the brunt of the housing shortage as sales of homes priced under $300,000 declined by 17.2 percent from a year ago,” said C.A.R. Senior Vice President and Chief Economist Leslie-Appleton-Young. “At the other end of the spectrum where inventory is less constrained, homes priced $1 million and higher posted solid annual sales gains, especially in the $1.5 million-$2 million range, which jumped 24 percent.” C.A.R.’s statewide home sales totals are based on information collected from more than 90 local REALTOR® associations and MLSs. In other recent real estate news, some housing analysts expressed a more positive outlook on the market, according to news reports. “If you look back at 2017, it was a robust year,” said Mark Goldman, finance and real estate lecturer at San Diego State University. “Interest rates were quite good, the economy was continuing to barrel ahead, wages were strong, employment was strong and millennials were aging into the homebuying market.” “The economy is solid, unemployment is low,” said Alan Gin, economist at University of San Diego’s Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate. “People hear that housing prices are going up and they want to jump in before it gets out of hand even more.” Also, California was home to 13 of the nation’s 20 “hottest” housing markets in January, with San Diego ranking sixth, according to Realtor.com., the officials website of the National Association of REALTORS®. Realtor.com said the typical home was on the market just 46 days in San Diego, compared to 89 days nationally. In San Jose, the center of Silicon Valley, the market moved even faster with homes selling in 33 days.
By Chris Voss
Everything in life is a negotiation. Sometimes, the stakes are quite low. Other time, people can feel like they have life and death on the line. During my 24 years with the FBI Crisis Negotiation Unit as lead international kidnapping interrogator, I used many different techniques in life-and-death negotiation situations. Let me share a couple of important words that REALTORS® can use when negotiating a transaction.
First, a common misconception is to want to hear the word “yes.” Our culture seems to have an addiction to hearing “yes.” However, if you want to be a great negotiator, stop your desperation for “yes.” The problem with “yes” is that your client may think that you’re trying to get them to agree and they perceive it as a trap.
Instead of “yes,” let me emphasize the power of empathy, or what I call “tactical empathy.” Whether you’re dealing with threats to company assets, people or general business dealings, empathy is one of the most powerful tools. Listening for insight into your counterpart’s point of view can give you an opportunity to connect with them and change their mindset.
So, rather than “yes,” your goal should be to hear, “That’s right.” Those are magic words. When someone believes what you have said is the unequivocal truth, their reply will be, “That’s right.” And they are confirming they feel empathy from you. It's the confirmation that you've met the objective Stephen Covey set out for us: “Seek first to understand, then be understood.”
If you can understand someone’s perspective so well that you can summarize it back to them to the point where they say “that’s right,” then you’ve laid a foundation for trust-based influence and a successful negotiation. Practice getting those two words in your conversations and I think you’ll be pleased with the results. For example, we used this technique during hostage negotiations with a terrorist in the Philippines. When the negotiator demonstrated his complete understanding of the other’s perspective, it entirely changed the terrorist’s mindset so dramatically that we were in a completely different negotiation.
Another word that can powerfully change negotiations is “fair.” It’s so powerful that I call it the “F-word.” As human beings, we’re swayed by how much we feel we’re being respected. Human beings need to feel they’re being treated fairly. People will sign the agreement if they feel they’ve been treated fairly, but they will lash out if they don’t.
A decade of brain-imaging studies has shown that human neural activity, particularly in the emotion-regulating insular cortex, reflects a degree of unfairness in social interactions. Even non-human primates are hardwired to reject unfairness. In one famous study, two capuchin monkeys were set to perform the same task, but one was rewarded with sweet grapes while the other received cucumbers. In response to such blatant unfairness, the cucumber-fed monkey literally went bananas.
However, be careful when you use the word “fair.” One of the most destructive ways to use the word is to say, “I only want what’s fair” or “we just want what’s fair.” It’s a judo-like defensive move that will destabilize the other side and break rapport. It is a harmful form of manipulation. For example, think back to the last time someone made this implicit accusation of unfairness to you, and I bet you will admit that it triggered feelings of defensiveness and discomfort. These feelings are often subconscious and can often lead to anger.
Another way not to use “ fair” is to say, “this is a fair offer” or, “we’ve given you a fair offer.” When someone says this, it’s basically accusing someone of being dense or dishonest. It’s a jab that distracts your attention and manipulates in ways that end up being harmful to the relationship.
If you find yourself in this situation, the best reaction is to simply mirror the “F” that has just been lobbed at you. “Fair?” you’d respond, pausing to let the word’s power do to them as it was intended to do to you. Follow that with a label: “It seems like you’re ready to provide the evidence that supports that,” which alludes to opening their books or otherwise handing over information that will either contradict their claim to fairness or give you more data to work with than you had previously. Right away, you have declawed the attack.
The best way to use the word “fair” is by saying, “stop me if any of this sounds unfair.” This way is positive and constructive. It sets the stage for honest and empathetic negotiation.
Here’s how I use it: Early on in a negotiation, I will say, “I want you to feel like you are being treated fairly at all times. So please stop me at any time if you feel I’m being unfair, and we’ll address it.” It’s simple, clear and sets me up as an honest dealer. With that statement, I am letting people know it is okay to use that word with me if they use it honestly. As a negotiator, you should strive for a reputation of being fair. Your reputation precedes you. Let it precede you in a way that paves success.
Chris Voss is the founder and CEO of the Black Swan Group and author of “Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended on It.”