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A Sorry Mess

Apr. 2, 2011
Categorized in: Business of Real Estate

You're going to have to forgive me.

I usually avoid a lot of inside the real estate industry talk. This blog is meant to be educational to people interested in buying or selling homes or even just owning them. It's not focused on talking to the real estate industry.

Today is different.

NAR (National Association of REALTORS) has decided to raise it's dues in order to spend more money on its lobbying efforts.

Every citizen ought to be upset about this and the underlying causes.

As a member I am outraged and frustrated.

I completely understand why they've decided to do this. The Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court last year means there is now a no-holds-barred arms race in terms of political contributions. (There ought to be a sign outside the Capitol reading "For Sale Here: Legislators") NAR is concerned that banks, long wanting to get into the real estate business themselves (and not just as owners of foreclosures) could use this opportunity to get laws changed in their favor. They're worried about possible assaults on the Mortgage Interest Deduction and with what will take the place of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Their solution is to have a pile of money with which to influence the outcomes.

I believe that the influence of money is destroying our democracy. Giving to the PAC (Political Action Committee) that REALTOR associations use to influence politics has always been voluntary and I have always declined, believing that it would be hypocritical to decry the influence of PAC money but become part of the problem when it seemed in my best interest.

Now it seems that my only options are likely to be let NAR use my money for purposes that I am ethically opposed to, or leave the National Association of REALTORs. The way the system works, that would make it much harder for me to work as a real estate broker.

This decision is not yet final and I'd urge anyone in the industry to plan on attending the NAR mid-year meeting in DC to protest this decision. The meeting on this is May 11th at 3:30.

For those of you not a part of the industry, I'd urge you to get involved in working to limit the influence of $$$s in politics. (Changing the Supreme Court make up would be a good start!)

I'm curious to know, if you're a real estate agent or broker what do you think? If you're a member of the public, are you concerned about the influence of money in politics?

The Lockbox Mess

Dec. 11, 2008
Categorized in: Business of Real Estate

There's a change coming.

The local REALTOR associations have negotiated new lockbox agreements with various suppliers.

If you're not familiar with what lockboxes are, it's what a real estate agent puts on your front door to allow other agents access for showing your home when it's for sale. There are a variety of these devices out there and, of course, they're completely incompatible.

For the last few years, all associations have used the same equipment. So, if I was based in Warrenton and had clients who wanted to see a home in Leesburg, there was no problem showing them that house.

All that changes in the next few months. The association I belong to GPAAR (Greater Piedmont Area Association of REALTORS) has chosen one system. The Prince William Area association and the Northern Virginia area will be on the same system. The Dulles Area and Blue Ridge Area associations have gone in a different direction.

It's not that agents won't be able to show homes in both areas. They can buy both sets of equipment and still be able to show anything, anywhere. But in a tough market where every cost is scrutinized, not every agent can or will foot that bill.

And, so, on behalf of my fellow REALTORS, I apologize to you our clients. This is clearly a disservice to all of you. I believe we need to keep out clients in mind as we make decisions and clearly you all were not our primary focus here. In a market where it's already hard enough for the average seller to get a buyer to come and look at their home, we've just added another obstacle.

I'm not pointing fingers at anyone association or at any group of individuals. We all share the blame here and should have found a way to get this right.

So, a big "I'm Sorry" and a promise to my clients that I'll do everything I can do to protect you from this mess!

Virginia Homeowners Alliance

Nov. 24, 2008
Categorized in: Real Estate Legislation

The Virginia Association of REALTORS has founded an organization dedicated to protecting the interests of Virginia homeowners. It's called the Virginia Homeowner's Alliance. Their web site provides a place to get information on how to improve the value of your home, lets you monitor what's going on in various government entities that may impact you as a homeowner, and will also provide you with an easy way to contact government about your concerns.

With the flood of paid lobbyists at all levels of government this seems like a terrific idea. Citizens come together to make their voices heard. It's one of the things the internet does best.

Once you go to the site and sign up you will not be flooded with a ton of spam! But you will have access to information that I think will be useful to you. In addition to giving you a voice in governement, it also provides useful information on neighborhoods and schools and practical information on things like lawn care. By the way, the site is relatively new. It will continue to grow and expand and your suggestions on how to do that are welcomed!

Now I have a favor to ask. If you do go to the site and register, it asks for the name of the REALTOR who referred you. I'd like to ask that you please enter my name. In the interests of full disclosure this enters me in a drawing for things like an iPOD or a Wii.

But I hope you do this for yourself! And I'll be interested to hear what you think of the site!

Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice

Aug. 1, 2008
Categorized in: Business of Real Estate

There's a new trend among local real estate agents. It's the sign that says simply:  


There is, of course, a company name and phone number on this sign. But only a first name. Clearly, the agents using these signs are either convinced they're so famous that they're a household name or they're hoping to be.

If Cher ever decides to go into real estate, she can get by with putting just "Cher" on the sign. Same with Prince.

For the rest of you...

There are about 770 real estate agents in the local REALTOR association. I'm not the only Julie. You're probably not the only Bob or Carol or Ted or Alice. Get over yourself and put your whole name on the sign!

And, by the way, have you filed that "Doing Business As" form with DPOR allowing you to use just your first name in advertising?

Who's Protecting Who?

Jun. 18, 2008
Categorized in: Business of Real Estate

I had an interesting incident with another agent recently. I wrote about that in another post. When I wrote it I promised to reflect in a later post on some of the larger industry issues involved.

In many professions there's a tension between the desire to protect the public and the desire to protect the members of that profession. And so, while the Hippocratic oath has doctors promising to "First do no harm" there is also a very strong taboo against criticism of other doctors.

It's really no different in real estate. (Although the stakes are a lot lower!) Part of our code of ethics says that we'll speak no ill of another agent. And, most agents are careful to adhere to that. I have no problem with not indulging in idle gossip about my peers. And, it's certainly much too easy in a very competitive industry to decide it's your job to cast aspersions at those you deem less "professional" than yourself.

But you can carry this too far. It's a thin line you walk and I think we've leaned too far towards protecting our colleagues at the expense of protecting the public. When another agent thinks I have a greater responsibility to protect her and her business than to be honest with the consumer, I think it's a problem.

The thinking in the industry is that my responsibility is to clients who have hired me. The agency relationship with them obligates me to put their interests first. However, even to a customer (otherwise known as the general public) I still owe the duty of honesty.

You can ask whether "honesty" is defined by answering direct questions with honest information or whether it obligates volunteering information for which we weren't directly asked. I'm going to suggest that splitting such hairs is the kind of behavior that makes real estate agents rank very poorly in polls that gauge trust by profession.

As I said, the line is thin. But I think it's time to start leaning the other way!



May. 30, 2008
Categorized in: Business of Real Estate

I hope this is who I am and what I bring to every real estate transaction.


Tom Peters on Passion! from Tom Peters on Vimeo.

(But I bring the experience with it!)

A rare Saturday post as birthdays put me in a reflective mood! (And, clearly a self-indulgent one!)

The Good Guys!

Feb. 6, 2007
Categorized in: Buyers

I got a call yesterday from another agent. This gentleman has been in the business a long time and is very successful. And yet, he's always eager to learn more and he's open to learning from anyone and everyone. I've always been impressed with this man's professionalism.

He called me because a former client was ready to make a move but was worried about using his services. You see this man is in a business networking group with me and felt bad about not giving me the business. But his family's relationship with this agent goes back decades.

I was touched by the call for a couple of reasons. First of all, the other agent certainly didn't need to call me and see if I was OK with his working with this family. But it was certainly courteous and generous of him to do so. We had a great chat and I was happy to tell him that I'm a firm believer in abundance and that there's plenty of business out there without fighting over it!

And I was honored that his client respected me enough and valued our relationship enough to worry about offending me by taking his business elsewhere. I'd love to have his business, don't get me wrong! But no networking group is going to replace decades of loyalty and good service!

These are two great guys trying to do the right thing, the honorable thing. It's not a quality we get to see every day and I am impressed! The real estate industry could use more people like this! But then, what industry couldn't!

Too Many Agents

Oct. 26, 2006
Categorized in: Business of Real Estate

As this blog is designed for consumers, not real estate agents, I try to stay away from the navel gazing! After all, it's always too easy to focus on internal industry matters that don't matter at all to you!

However, there's something I came across today that definitely has a bearing on you as a consumer as well as on the industry and on me! This letter was released recently by the Minnesota Association of REALTORS to their agents members.


This letter makes the case that there are simply too many real estate agents. The volume of business can clearly not support that many agents. It's bad for the industry but it's also bad for the consumer.  And, since this is focused on you, the consumer, I'm going to focus there.

The average real estate agent clearly does this as a hobby.  If they do, say, an average of 3 deals per year, clearly they're not making a living at this. The problem is that a real estate transaction is an increasingly complex deal. Someone who does three deals a year is not well prepared for the bumps in the road, the inevitable obstacles that occur. Now, should you use a hobbyist as your agent and you have a deal that goes smooth as silk, you'll probably never know. But that's a pretty large risk to take with a financial transaction of this size! Three transactions in a year is less than a lot of professional agents do in a month!

It gets scarier! The amount of training required to get into real estate is woefully inadequate. Most agents have their license and do not know how to write a real estate contract! And, while they work under a supervising broker who should have the knowledge and experience to help, there's often too little supervision. And, the system usually puts the burden of asking for help on the agent. Let's face it; some people are great about asking for help as soon as they need it and some will wait until they're drowning! If it's your transaction they're drowning in, that's a problem!

And, it's a problem for me on many levels. If you have a bad experience with one of these agents, it will color what you think of my profession. And, when I work on a transaction with an inexperienced agent representing the other side, it can make my job a lot harder!

We as an industry should definitely continue to encourage people who are not serious about this to move on. We should also be working to require higher levels of education prior to entry into this profession.  But this affects your wallet too!  And the consumers should absolutely be screaming for higher standards!

I'd love to hear what you think of this Minnesota article and if you've had any experiences that reinforce what it's saying!

Piedmont Real Estate Blog

Blog by Julie Emery
Amissville, Virginia

An ongoing dialog on real estate news, opinion and trends in Northern Virginia and the greater Piedmont area. Julie is an Associate Broker at Frankly Real Estate Inc, 6304 Crossroads Circle, Ste 102, Falls Church, VA 22044


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