The ABCs of What I’ve Learned in Real Estate

by Elizabeth Newlin on September 24, 2010

Alphabet Print

Image courtesy of Flickr user kvanhorn

A – Appraisals aren’t the black-and-white system of valuation I thought they were before I got into real estate. And they can kill a deal faster than you can indignantly shout, “But that comp backs to a major road!”

B – Basements are like four-leaf clovers here in Arizona: almost impossible to find, and even when you do, not as great and exciting as you thought it was going to be.

C – Commission checks with small numbers are sometimes more satisfying than the illusive five-digit ones. Collecting a check for that short sale you spent a year crow-barring through the system can make the measly $1500 you take home feel a bit inflated.

D – DocuSign has saved my life. If I had to actually sit down with one particular client every time in the last 18 months he wanted to write an offer on a short sale he was going to eventually cancel on (23 offers, people!), I would have FUDed him a year ago. Luckily, we DocuSigned all but the first one, and now we’re finally closing on a property.

E – Empathy goes a really long way when things start to get rocky. Most people just want to feel like someone understands what they are going through and that their emotions are legitimate. A little bit of empathy can usually calm the most irate client.

F – Flats are vital. High heels are for hookers and real estate agents in the movies, not actual agents who have to troop through the rocks on the side of each and every house they show to get the lockbox open. Nicely sculpted calves are not worth landing on my butt in the spider-webby weeds around the hosebib.

G – Granola bars in the glove box. These have saved me from swooning face first into a murky green pool many a long showing day.

H – Health insurance was a luxury I should have appreciated more when I was working the corporate 9 to 5.

I – Insanity generally runs along a genetic line. So if you’ve encountered it in someone, expect to find it in her brother when he’s referred to you.

J – Juggling is not a circus act. It’s a survival technique.

K – Kindness begets kindness. That pushy lady on the PTA could be your next client if you play your cards right. Probably best not to slash her tires after the meeting because she shut down your proposal for a cotton candy booth at the fall festival.

L – Land-leases are totally asinine. Stay far, far away from them.

M – Money can fix a lot of things about a property, but far from everything. Money can’t make a house not back to a busy road, make a backyard big enough to put in a pool or raise low ceilings in a two-story house.

N – Never calculate your paycheck before the house has closed. Doing so will only cause the deal to fail in new and spectacular ways. Chickens are best left uncounted.

O – Open houses account for not even 5% of what I actually do–contrary to my impression of what real estate agents do before I became one.

P – Price is king. You can’t get away from it. Any properly priced property will eventually sell. It’s determining the proper price that’s the tough part.

Q – Quality wins against quantity in any circumstance: houses, clients, square footage. (Well, except for wine. But that goes unsaid, right?)

R – Restroom breaks in vacant houses are a bad idea. It’s best to wait for the next occupied house where you can be sure to find running water and toilet paper. (Yes, I’ve learned this one the hard way. Shut up.)

S – Sewage smell. No, nothing died in here; the water hasn’t been run because it’s vacant, so the sewage traps dried out and you now smell the sewer. Doesn’t it make you grateful for the convenience of modern plumbing?

T – Termites. They’re the only thing that can kill a deal faster than a bad appraisal. And unfortunately, no property is immune to the creepy little tunnel-building creatures.

U – Unicorns are more common than buyers who you’ve met on the internet who are coming into town for one day and will actually buy a house like they are promising. You will give them a free tour of the valley from Surprise to Queen Creek and never hear from them again.

V – Vacations breed deals. Schedule a vacation, and you will be immediately inundated with work that cannot wait. It can’t be a fake vacation, though; that doesn’t work. It has to be one you put a huge deposit down on and can’t cancel.

W – Wine cures all ills. (I was going to use W for water in copious amounts during showings, but who are we kidding? Wine is more important to my sanity.)

X – Xanax. What wine can’t cure, it will. (Negotiating real estate is not for the faint of heart.)

Y – Yard size is totally relative. A buyer in from Wyoming is bound to be horrified. One in from New York will be thrilled.

Z – Zillow sucks the big toe of a jolly green giant. And yet the general public will always believe what the computer-generated algorithm thinks a house is worth over the agent they hired. This will remain one of the great mysteries of real estate.

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