Real estate is like politics
Many react positively more to fluff than to substance
Recently, I found the following article that I wrote and was published in BANG publications in September, 2008. I was amazed at how everything I wrote still appears to apply, except for the comment about our economy being a “mess.” Although it still has a ways to go, it is clearly much improved over eight years ago.
As our U.S. presidential election sweeps into high gear, various pundits pontificate about the differences between the candidates and parties. One thing is quite clear – our country is about evenly divided between those who value identifying serious concerns and how to solve them, and those to whom likeability is most important. It struck me that what we see in politics is paralleled in real estate.
Questions for politicians and agents
Do politicians really need to know anything, or are glib sound bites and generalized responses to unclarified issues sufficient? In real estate, is an agent’s eagerness to help you buy or sell enough reason to work with him/her, possibly risking a bad financial and/or personal outcome?
In this Net-centric world, many licensees work in areas in which they are barely, or totally, unfamiliar. Local agents are aware of pricing, the difference between excellent, fair and marginal neighborhoods, geologically sensitive areas (e.g., earthquake fault zones), government regulations such as rent control and numerous other points. Why then do so many buyers and sellers commonly choose out-of-area Realtors?
Is it important for a future president to understand the country’s history, including past mistakes, in order to make informed decisions now? Would you prefer your real estate salesperson to know local real estate trends and values for the past 20-plus years, or try to fake it by relying on Multiple Listing Service (MLS) data that are not relevant to your situation?
Foreign treaties and alliances between countries are in writing; they have protections and consequences for violating them. Is any citizen who simply meets the standard to be president qualified to handle foreign relations in our troubled times?
Are all Realtors equal in their experience, knowledge, facility with and ability to communicate about the purchase contract and related forms? How much have you inquired about these skills, or has a winning personality diverted your attention? Is a nice smile or an enthusiastic nature a substitute for knowing how to write a contract, or recognizing and countering clauses that could be negative to you? Regarding Liquidated Damages, financing contingencies and inspection rights, do you care if your agent is fuzzy or uninformed? How would you know?
If contingencies are not handled properly, do you, as a buyer, risk not getting your deposit back? Must you go to court? Would the Liquidated Damages Clause apply? Are these questions being asked?
What about disclosures? Do we know all we should about the candidates and their past? Have they been consistent, forthright and honest?
Are the legally mandated real estate disclosures on the property comprehensive and complete? Does your agent know and explain the critical nature of these documents? Can he identify insufficient information, problems and/or inconsistencies and tell you the implications?
In a house, condition refers to the functioning of various systems, such as foundation, drainage, roof, electrical, heating and plumbing. Buying a property with an unknown foundation and/or drainage issue can be an expensive mistake.
In the U.S., condition is heavily related to our economy. What is your candidate’s plan for fixing the mess we are in right now? How will that impact the Federal deficit and affect your personal financial situation?
Regarding real estate, buyers are limited by their income, credit scores and available cash. What factors go into your agent’s analysis to come up with particular recommendations of where and what you should buy? What are the other alternatives?
The most important qualification
Which candidate will truly work in the best interests of the country? Who is in touch with what Americans really require from government in order to improve their lives?
Do you commit to an agent because he knows what you need, even if you are not sure what that means? As an example, will your agent advise you to take a pass on buying a house that is not a good value? This is the right thing for you, but could mean a delayed or, possibly, lost commission. Many in the business make the choice of pocketbook (theirs) instead of protection (yours).
Over the years, I have observed that a relatively small percentage of buyers and sellers carefully choose their agent based on the characteristics I have described above. Some get lucky; others find out too late why competence and caring trump appearance and personality. Whether in politics or real estate, too many do not even suspect how much they can be damaged by making the wrong choice.