Client Etiquette aka trying not to be a Bitter Realtor

The life of a Realtor can be challenging at times. When the economy is good, it seems the number of real estate agents grows quickly, increasing competition. New agents, or people contemplating becoming agents, appear to think it is an easy way to earn a living. After 34 years of being a Realtor, I would like to comment that it has its highs, but also has its lows, and those can be very low.

Low Stories:

Agents currently seem to be a dime a dozen, competition is rampant and inventory available for sale is scarce. There seems to be no tried and true path to getting business. For many years, I felt like friends, people that got to know you well, were the best source. Recently though, a potential client told me she never does business with friends. What do you do with that? I thought good friends would want to help you out in business, especially if they gotten to know you enough to determine you are capable and honest. Perhaps she felt that listing her property with me could be a setup for potentially ending our friendship, but her statement and the fact she used another agent to list her home, did not help our friendship either. If you cannot count on your friends to use your business services, then do you just cold call? If so, I am in trouble as that is not my forte…

This past year, former friends decided not to re-list their home with me for unknown reasons. I felt like I had done a great job while it was listed, that the house had some inherent problems that became apparent through agent feedback from showings, and that we had missed the hot spring market last year. Unfortunately, I think some sellers tell themselves all kinds of reasons their house is not selling, rather than accepting the reported negatives as being the main problems. After taking my advice and making improvements needed, the sellers chose to relist their property with a larger agency instead of mine, during the best time of the market, at an asking price quickly reduced to less than agreed to while I had it listed! It eventually sold for less money than an offer I presented to them while it was listed with my firm! Sometimes, you are definitely better off being the second agent…

So, after reading the above, why do you think I stay in the business?

High Stories:

During 2018 a former client and friend referred a young couple to me, that had never bought a house before. They had a bad experience with a buyer’s agent that they had broken ties with. I listened to their needs and hopes, and eventually found them a house that met their criteria. It was particularly rewarding, as they got it even though the market was very competitive. The sellers were great too, and the whole experience was very satisfying. My buyers let me bring my strengths to the table, they listened to me, and did not try to tell me how to do my job. I recently got invited to their wedding, and I hope we have developed a lasting friendship. It was rewarding to me to have helped them accomplish finding their first home and make their dream come true.

Also, a few weeks ago an acquaintance I had shown a few homes to over the years contacted me and asked to see a specific property. It was not the one for her, but I had found a couple other listings nearby, and she fell in love with one of those. We just closed on that sale, and the buyer and seller were great to work with! I think she is very happy that I found this home for her, which met the criteria she had in mind.

Finally, there was a family that contacted me a couple years ago to sell the home built by their parents. Although their Mom did not live there anymore, she still owned it, and did not want to see it torn down. It was situated in a very popular neighborhood, where tear-downs were the norm. I brought her two offers immediately. One was from a contractor who planned on demolishing the house. The other was from a couple planning on renovating it, but it was for $15,000 less. She, and the family, chose to accept the lower offer, in order to save the house! It is now renovated and looks beautiful. It helped my faith in humanity to see sellers that would actually accept less money for their property than they could have gotten, in order to save it.

So, I try to concentrate on these and many other good experiences, rather than the bad experiences I have had as a Realtor. I have even received thank you cards from clients, and sometimes even from other agents that I had a cross-sale with! Many past clients have used my services again and again, which is also very gratifying.

We all have to appreciate our own strengths and successes. Years ago, my former business partner who was my Broker-in-Charge at the time, told another Broker-in Charge that I was one of the best agents she knew, which was much appreciated. I will never forget that.

Buyers and sellers: please choose a Realtor you can trust and who is capable of doing their job in a professional and well informed manner. It doesn’t matter if they are your friend, you shouldn’t eliminate them because of that, if they will do a good job. Also, please don’t blame your listing agent, if your property is over priced or has flaws the market will not accept at the current price. The grass is not necessarily greener at another agency! Use your Realtor’s knowledge and appreciate their strong points. They want to sell your property as much, or more, than you do! Please have some loyalty and appreciation for the work your Realtor has done. We don’t get paid until it sells…

Fellow Realtors: please don’t let the negative experiences get you down!  Eventually, a Realtor high point will come along, if you keep believing in yourself and continue to do the best job you can. Be well informed and competent. Listen to your clients, but also know you bring a lot to the table. The client is not the Realtor. This is what 34 years of experience has taught me, and as the Sondheim song goes: “Good times and bum times. I’ve seen ’em all, and my dear, I’m still here!”

Bob

 

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Estates in the Hudson River Valley

It is interesting to be able to visit once private homes built by owners with no or very high budget restrictions. Recently, my partner and I went on a tour of some of the Hudson River Valley estates. We had traveled to New York City several times over the years, but never seemed to leave the city much to investigate other areas in New York state. We took a train from Grand Central to Tarrytown, about a 45 minute ride and rented a car to travel the valley area. Our first stop was Kykuit, the Rockefeller estate. I think it may have been my favorite of the houses we saw on this trip. It was a wonderful, comfortable home with amazing details and a fabulous modern art work collection both in the house and throughout the gardens. In addition, the views of the Hudson River and surrounding grounds were amazing! No interior photos were allowed, but the exterior and grounds provided many opportunities. Our guide, Peter, was very knowledgeable, had volunteered there for years, and obviously loved the place. The Selected Highlights Tour let us see the interior of the house, as well as several of the gardens. Four generations of Rockefellers lived in the house before they turned it over to the Historic Hudson Valley organization for public tours.

I suppose I also find this house attractive because of the use of natural stone in the construction of the house and many of the garden walls. There are amazing details everywhere including the grotto room and tea house, both of which are unique detached structures.

Art featured in Kykuit garden

Art featured in Kykuit garden

Tea House at Kykuit

Tea House at Kykuit

Abstract sculpture in the garden

Abstract sculpture in the garden

 

Front façade Rockefeller house

Front façade Rockefeller house

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Mid-Century Houses in Demand

Living Room (2)As many people know, mid-century houses are making a come back recently in urban areas. They may never have gone out of vogue in California or Florida, but for many years it was difficult to sale a mid-century home in Charlotte, NC. Arts and Crafts homes seemed to be all the rage, as did the two story brick Georgian. I think the media, obviously, had a lot to do with this change of interest in mid-century homes. It started with the popularity of the TV series Mad Men, and then suddenly, we began seeing more mid-century homes in several movies and commercials. Now, the inventory of mid-century homes for sale is low in Charlotte, and agents that formerly had no interest in them have suddenly become experts at marketing them. Charlotte now holds a mid-century home tour, during which many people toured our house, and the compliments were amazing!

My partner and I made the transition from our Arts and Crafts bungalow in the Elizabeth neighborhood to our current mid-century home ten years ago. We loved our old house, but wanted more room to garden, more windows, an attached garage and a pool with spa. We got all of these things with the 1953 ranch we chose to buy, and the commute to uptown, though not important to us, is only 15 minutes. One of the trade offs we made was eight foot ceilings in many rooms, but having lived with the ten foot ceilings in the bungalow, we knew that keeping warm in an older house was not easy. Also, we have been to a few Frank Lloyd Wright homes, and found that he loved to play with ceiling heights many times; having some low ceilings, and some high ones. We immediately had a modified trey ceiling built in our large living room, which you can see in the photo above. At the highest level it is now ten feet, and I think it is quite a surprise for most people, that enter our house for the first time. We kept the old metal casement window, because we love it as a focal point of the room, and it lets in great southern light, which makes it my favorite room to read in.

Our house has two of the original bathrooms, with ceramic tile we both love, and pedestal sinks on chrome legs. We will not be ripping those out. We have added two modern baths in other areas, as well as a brick fireplace on a diagonal in a den that was not part of the original house. Our house has been expanded greatly by previous owners, but they did a good job, and hired an architect who appreciated some of the original details, like the hipped roofs. He used them in the additions and also filled the house with light through numerous windows that overlook our pool and garden.

For us, the transition to a mid-century modern house from a bungalow was easy, and we were ready for it. We love entertaining here, and the large rooms, that are wide open to each other, suit entertaining well. A few of our friends have made the same sort of transitions to mid-century houses in the last few years. It is interesting to me to think of the fact that we are the second generation to do so. The original owners of these homes many times moved into them from older homes, as a way of modernizing back in the 50’s and 60’s. I guess if a house is fortunate enough to remain standing over the years, it will usually reach a time when its design style is once again appreciated!

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Martin Boyer – A Charlotte Treasure

2208 Sherwood Ave-22208 Sherwood Ave-1Martin Boyer (1893-1970) is well known by architectural historians in Charlotte for the beautiful homes he designed in many of our most prestigious old neighborhoods. His family moved to Charlotte in 1908 from Virginia. Opening his own design firm in 1920, he worked in Charlotte during the 1920′s to 1960′s and blessed us with a wide range of classical and mid-century designs. Some of his most prestigious designs include Carol Hall, near Queens college built for the J.L. Snyder’s in 1901 and called Pinehaven at that time, the Hamilton C. Jones III house on Cherokee Road and the Major Stuart Cramer house on Hermitage Road.

A favorite recent listing of Rossier Realty is a Martin Boyer design at 2208 Sherwood Avenue, in Myers Park, built in the 1930’s for Irving Bullard, a prominent textile executive. It has many wonderful, unique features including a two level entry hall, plaster moldings inspired by the textile industry, and original wrought iron work on the front porch. Although the front facade is a classic Georgian design, the rear facade appears more like a French country house with two projecting wings topped by hipped tile roofs. There are even two original Juliet type balconies facing the rear yard.

One of the many things of interest to me about Martin Boyer was his wide range of work. Not only did he design several prominent homes, but smaller, unique houses too. I used to live on Westfield Road, just off of Selwyn Avenue, and the adjacent house was a wonderful small Spanish revival home designed by Martin Boyer. It was definitely not typical of Charlotte, NC, and looked like it had been transplanted from Hollywood! What a charming house with a great sunroom on the front, and yet not a large mansion. The current owners love this unique home, and are taking good care of it.

Other houses in Charlotte that Boyer designed cover a wide variety of styles: Tudor Revival, Spanish Colonial Revival, Colonial Revival, Georgian Revival, and late in his career, mid-century Modern! Not only did Martin Boyer design homes, but the old S&W Cafeteria that stood on Trade Street was one of his wonderful designs.

The special collections department at the UNCC library has a wonderful collection of Martin Boyer house plans. Many of the drawings show architectural details that are fascinating. I will be the first to admit that many of Charlotte’s historic buildings have been demolished, but thank goodness several of Martin Boyer’s wonderful homes remain and are being appreciated by their current owners!

 

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Changing Market

I have completed several Market Conditions Addendums for appraisals during the past year in Charlotte, relative to neighborhoods throughout the city. This report tracks values for residential properties within a defined neighborhood for the past year. It takes into account sales, listings and houses under contract. The good news is that during this past year, this report has consistently shown that many neighborhoods have stabilized in value in the Charlotte, NC area.  That, along with positive reports from the Board of Realtors relative to recent increases in home values, seems to indicate that we may be pulling out of the recession in Charlotte, after several rough years.

A quick search on the Carolinas Multiple Listing Service comparing all sales in the Charlotte region during October of 2011 to sales during October 2012 indicates an overall increase of 8.5% in average sales prices between the two years. This is comparing average sales prices for the entire area. Some individual neighborhoods may have increased more, or less, but the overall news appears to be good!

This may explain why we are starting to see builder activity again, both with new construction, and with additions and remodels to existing homes. We just completed a renovation of our own kitchen in our mid-century house, and a large new custom home has just been finished and occupied across the street from us, in Mammoth Oaks, which is near Fairview and Providence Roads. A small existing house near us on Preston Lane has recently been remodeled and enlarged, and went under contract very quickly.

My general contractor friends seem to be getting busy again, and a quick drive around a few Charlotte neighborhoods will show you that renovation and construction projects are happening all over the city

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