CommentaryReal Estate Tips May 14, 2012

Regarding Agents Returning From Hibernation

We recieved two voicemails from an agent who had called to show one of our listings. They were so over the top nasty that my Queens-native wife and I looked at each other stunned that a licensee would leave a permanent record of such hostility. I recorded the messages and sent them as an attachment to her manager. We’ll see if that gets any response. I’d certainly want to know if one of my team were to act so unprofessionally.

The details were unimportant except to point out that Centralized Showings, the company we use to set appointments for our listings, had the gall to ask this associate broker for her license number to verify her identity. She balked at this, and a big part of her message to me was that her license was not something she typically carried around with her. In looking her up on the MLS, the bulk of her career has apparently occurred prior to the real estate decline. She has not become acclimated with the New Normal like the rest of us who have been working in this environment since 2007 when the sub prime domino was the first to fall.

Some agents are not primary bread winners. They can go into hibernation when the market goes pear-shaped and return when the coast seems clear. The problem in 2012 is that when your experience is all with low-hanging fruit and not the current, more difficult climate, the return is not easy. And yes, that even reaches something as seemingly simple and mundane as setting up a showing. In January of this year, three boards merged to form our current Hudson Gateway Association. This caused some difficulty with 3rd party vendors who rely on membership databases, but the remedy, taking 3 minutes to verify your identity, is simple and harmless. Unless of course you are out of practice and you are still operating like it is 2005.

But the details are unimportant. The next thing that those of us in the industry have to be mindful of is that as the market levels off and improves in some areas, that part time and inactive agents will be returning to the fold with a frame of reference that is completely unfamiliar with the current landscape. And they will be neophytes about new mortgage requirements, short sales, and all the other obstacles that are another day at the office for those of us who have been around. They will get their sea legs under them at the expense of clients who are unaware that they have been primarily on the sidelines for years, as well as those of us who will be on the other sides of transactions with them.

Forewarned is forearmed. Beware the agent returning from hibernation if you are a consumer or an agent who may close a deal with one. As I tell prospective clients all the time, the operative question to ask an agent you are considering doing business with is what they have done the past 12 months. If they make a vague reference to Tommy John surgery or a pilgrimage to a Tibetan monastery, ask about the past 24 months. I wouldn’t want to undergo surgery with a doctor who hasn’t held a scalpel since 2009, nor would I want my life defended in court by an attorney who just returned from 3 years in a cabin. Real Estate transactions can have life changing consequences. There are some agents who have not been very active since 2007 or 2008, and they should be upfront about it.