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Monday, April 29, 2013

Taking Your Personal Fantasy To Personal Branding

The world of real estate offers the opportunity for real estate agents to 'recreate' themselves.  We can live out our fantasies, create an image of how we want the public to view us, market the crap out of it, call it personal branding and before you know it, you ARE it!

Goodwill 'Dorothy' Shoes
Want to work your life away in shorts and a T-shirt?  Sell ONE house on the lake.  Then identify yourself as the 'lake' man (or woman-though I think I would come up with something else if I went that route) put on some shorts, take a couple photos of your fine self smiling on a boat (a couple of nice fish on line)  - send out some post cards sporting a creative tag line.  Then USE IT, USE IT, USE IT.  Before you know it - THEY will be using it. Mr. & Mrs. John Q. Public will only know you as 'The Lake Guy'.  No one will raise an eyebrow when you show up at a closing smiling in shorts.  I promise.  Seen it all over Chapin, SC when I worked relocation in that market.   Just make certain there are enough properties ON the lake (or your chosen market) that are sell able so you can actually make a living doing that.  (and know HOW to fish)

I started about 7 years ago sending out monthly newsletters to my neighborhood.  Called myself 'Your Neighborhood REALTOR'.  But guess what?  I actually lived in the neighborhood.  Walked by their houses EVERY day, attended their yard sales, they saw me mowing my own lawn.  I don't market myself as the neighborhood REALTOR to the whole town for crying out loud.  That's just ridiculous, people know better. They know B.S. when they hear it, they don't have to smell it or taste it to know what it is.

When I emailed those newsletters I included a watermark so my 'work' couldn't be stolen easily. (by fellow agents)  I am flattered if they like it enough to copy certainly, but at least retype it or something.  Don't make a photo copy and keep as yours.  My watermark prevented such blatant theft.
My Yard Sale Pin
I found a cute pin at a yard sale, took a photo of it, and made it my trademark so to speak.  My website is and using those red shoes has been a cake walk to creative marketing!  Also allows me an excuse to purchase the much needed red shoes for myself as well.  Sparkly ones!

Friends are very thoughtful about finding 'Dorothy' items for me to use.  Some are helpful, some just make you roll your eyes but they ARE thinking of me and that is everything.

Creative marketing really isn't about the home.  It's about the agent.  Driving the business to YOU. Buyers
Dorothy In My Office
and sellers, so you can in turn make the deal.  Kind of like a matchmaker for real estate.  The days of one side against the other is soooo passe'. With financing and
Before NEW 'Dorothy' shoes
conditional issues as they are you will be dead in the water before you get started with that confrontational 'steal a house' attitude.

Personal branding keeps you geared up to a higher level when things are starting to stink, clients are a pain, lenders aren't getting it done and appraisers are begging for a beating.  You can regroup and focus on something positive, yourself.  Find your happy place and stay there for a few hours and before you know it, you no longer want to slam their face into the desk.  Trust me, it works.

A friend offered me the opportunity to set up a booth last Halloween and hand out candy at her daughters school.  That's me, in my Dorothy costume - purchased from Goodwill!   (I have since made some more fitting shoes) but it got the job done.  I gained a listing off that stint.  If you look closely you will see I am wearing the actual pin from my 'logo'.

As luck (?) would have it, our REALTOR Association performed a skit at our April Membership Luncheon for Fair Housing Month. Filmed and produced by our members and posted to YouTube.  Can you guess the theme?
See what has happened here?  I AM Dorothy.  A tad older to be sure, can't sing for squat...but DOROTHY nonetheless!

I think next year I would like to be Mrs. Nicholas Cage...

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Who Do Voodoo?

Real estate is full of nefarious practices.  In these trying times stories of the professional and unprofessional abound. The levels to which buyers/sellers (and their agents) will go can be funny, frightening and occasionally... unethical and even illegal.

I want to focus on some of the things that make you go hmmmm.

There are agents in this market that bury a St. Joseph statue in the yard of their sellers.  Face down, in the front yard, to elicit a faster sale. Typically this is done AFTER the home has been on the market some 400 + days, so I don't think it can be deemed very reliable. Keep in mind we are in the Land of Baptists so whether it is a lack of faith or last resort (maybe the Catholics have a different pipeline so to speak) who can say?   I would categorize it under the old school way of doing real estate called Practice the THREE P's.  Put a sign in the yard. Put it in MLS, and PRAY!
Who needs a market analysis?

Seriously, there is a website devoted to this whole practice   It just doesn't sound right to me, they don't even call him a SAINT.   There is an agent in our office who buys them by the case.  She gave one as an award to another agent during our Mandatory Tuesday Sales Meeting a couple of months ago because the other agent had a listing with the dubious honor of the longest days on the market.  Ms. So and So Realtor doesn't grant every listing a St. Joseph statue, just the reeealy long overdue to sell listings.  You have to wonder why she wouldn't bury them right off the bat?  If she invests in that many of them, why would she wait?  Could it be she subliminally doesn't WANT them to sell quickly?  Does she like having ALL THOSE LISTINGS?  Is she a collector or (gasp) a borderline hoarder?  I have to wonder what her sellers think when she shows up with the St. Joseph statue.  Do they imagine she has just thrown her hands up in the air?

Maybe, just maybe before pulling out the shovel one might take a look at the condition of the home and the list price?  Just a thought.

I started something totally innocent, but with intent, to be sure.  A GRATITUDE book.  It is actually a combination of gratitude and vision.  The intent was to help me to focus on the positive things in my life that are already in abundance, to express gratitude for them, but also to develop clear vision of  my goals - to draw the positive, joyful experiences I desire into my life.  Guess what?  I think it's working!

I just listed a home that is owned by someone who graduated from the same high school I did.  Three years behind me.  Now, keep in mind I lived in MAINE then, not South Carolina.  A town smaller than this one.  I had never even heard of this couple-didn't have the house they bought listed, and didn't represent them as buyers.   They just asked a colleague for the name of someone NOT local to sell their home, they were given mine.  They know all the same people I know back home.  Then a few days later I got a call from another man who found me on the Internet...wants to list some land in the area.  He doesn't live here.  He DID however live in Maine for 20 years.  And he is ITALIAN.  Almost no one is Italian here.  I can name one other person I have met in 22 years in Orangeburg that is Italian.  But he found ME.  And called ME.  We again traded stories about the lovely food we miss 'back there'.  REAL Italian food.  He was even wearing a ring almost exactly like one I wear every day (I think his is real gold - mine is silver).  All within one week.  Within days of my Tour of Italy and Real Estate gratitude pages.

I am sure there are people who would scoff at my 'Gratitude Book' as surely as people scoff at prayer ( I also practice this-goes hand in hand with gratitude).  Of course, I continue to aggressively market my
properties, monitor the sales in MLS, keep my market analysis up to date, investigate new trends and opportunities-all that good stuff.   But if something is's working.  We do what we do for that little extra 'edge'.  However, sometimes it may appear the agent has stepped over the edge of the cliff!

 What can I say?  

Friday, April 5, 2013

Picking a Scab

Scab?  Sounds gross, I know.

There is nothing quite as dismaying for a real estate agent as a scabbed house.  This is my own term.  Came up with it after a recent rant.  I had just returned from previewing an upcoming listing.  I sold the current sellers into the home a short time ago, they are moving again and called me since I helped them find the home.  It was a dollhouse when they bought it.

I LOVED this house.  Pushed it hard when it was on the market.  Agents do that.  Usually it's their own listing, but I will do it when I come across a property that I think is a particular value.  This home was that.  Was, it is no longer.  The warm fuzzy feeling has turned to cold terror.

The yard looked a little rough when I arrived but there had been a lot of rain and it was the end of winter.  I made excuses in my mind.  I couldn't uphold the delusion once inside though.  I am not a neat freak - not on any level.  And home maintenance is a chore for me too.  But seriously?  How can you completely trash a home in such a short amount of time? (less that 2 years)

From DOLLHOUSE to dog house.  Literally.  New puppy tearing through the house.  Cats, (don't let them out please) they only stay inside, AND eat on the counters (that's where their food bowls sit).  You can see them in the listing photos.  REAL special.

Keep in mind, just a short time ago, these sellers were buyers.  They picked apart homes left and right.  Opened closet doors, peered under cupboards and critiqued paint colors as viciously as a mad dog.  Now
the colors on the walls would send Martha Stewart into hysterics.

I can talk around most things.  I truly can.  But at a particular point a buyer shuts down, they stop listening.  Sensory overload.  The piles on top of the refrigerator, clothes (BRAS) hanging from door knobs, power tools in the family room.  They simply shut down, and walk away.  A buyer will suck up just so much and then will write off the house.  If the seller doesn't care enough about their own property to present it in an appealing fashion - why would they imagine that a buyer would find it something to invest their future in?  The buyer questions what is going on with the home that CAN'T be seen?

I have had to listen to 'feedback' from the showing agents  'Did they know we were coming'?  Buyers riding by to check out the location, 'It looks like rednecks live there'. The former owners (What happened? They were thinking foreclosure).  Even a call from an appraiser, 'uhhhh...did you price the home to sell while they were still living in it?' she asked.  'No', I said.  'I priced it to sell as soon as they move out'.  Somebody just slap me.

Do the sellers realize what their home looks like?  Yes, they do.  If they didn't they wouldn't say things like 'don't take pictures of this or that room'.  They wouldn't make comments about how 'Down to Earth' they are (I just loooove that one).   They talk circles around me in my effort to 'improve' the marketability of their home.

The home is not SHARK BAIT ( see previous BLOG), but a scabbed house.  What you see is the result of an infection.  The house is infested.  And because of that infestation it has scabbed over.  You know how scabs are... REALTORS, buyers and even appraisers are picking at it.

My poor listing.  She can't help it if she is sick and wounded.  I shall do what I can to the Visual Tour photos with PHOTO SHOP; crop, clone, EDIT the crap out of them...just as soon as I finish my coffee.