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.

Spencer Rascoff September 24, 2010 at 2:01 pm

“Zillow sucks the big toe of a jolly green giant”. That’s the most creative way I’ve ever heard someone criticize our company. Impressive!

Zestimates aren’t perfect, and aren’t meant to be, and never will be. They’re called “Zestimates”, not “Zappraisals”. Agents or Appraisers will always be more accurate than a computer model.

– Spencer Rascoff, the toe-sucking CEO of

Elizabeth Newlin September 24, 2010 at 3:04 pm

Ahem. Yes, well, your sentiment is greatly appreciated, Sir Toe Sucker. If only those sellers who always tell me, ‘Well Zillow says my house should get $20K higher than that…’ had as much faith. 😀 (And obviously I am just jealous and bitter that I didn’t invent a gazillion dollar real estate website. )

Spencer Rascoff September 24, 2010 at 3:06 pm

Anytime a client tells you the Zestimate is more accurate than your opinion, you should point them to our accuracy page. We report on our accuracy and publish it quarterly here:

AdamMackWright September 24, 2010 at 4:58 pm

I will give the Toe-Sucker credit…that’s how you handle online criticism of your company right there. Model job.

“Chickens are best left uncounted.” might be the best advice i could give to a salesmen ever.

Laura Higginbotham September 24, 2010 at 8:30 pm

Lovely post. Thoroughly enjoyed reliving my career through your blog 🙂
Truth be told, Zillow is a thorn in this real estate agent’s side. I roll my eyes every time a client starts a sentence with, “well I checked Zillow and….”. But now I am pleased to be able to direct them to the accuracy table where they can discover just how incredibly inaccurate a Zestimate really is.

Ann Rhoads September 25, 2010 at 10:24 am

What a great blog/article and in such a creative format. Easy to read and really hit on the truth in Real Estate. I am sharing this with all my agents.

Bill Risser September 25, 2010 at 11:05 am

My favorites are w and x… No particular reason… Great job Elizabeth. Props to Spencer Rascoff for responding and having a sense of humor. That changes the way I think about Zillow…

Holly Mabery September 26, 2010 at 2:08 pm

Nicely said Elizabeth, thanks for reminding us Insanity & the Chickens…Amen for W!
As for Spencer, thanks for the info!

Scott September 27, 2010 at 5:32 pm

Great post! Probably the only one I’ve ever seen that told me to “Shut Up” in both the article and the author’s profile 🙂

Kristin LaVanway September 27, 2010 at 5:51 pm

I think I will spray paint this on my wall so I can be reminded of it every day – in fact, I can use the applicable letters du jour to form a word that describes my day…today’s word would be, let’s see…C for sure, F definitely, U, yup, N, oh yes….

FUN, C as in C how FUN it is to be a Realtor – guess I left off the capital W there…

Super post, Elizabeth

Off for more W…it is Monday after all

Kris Berg September 28, 2010 at 7:34 am

Awesome. That’s all.

Richard Bazinet October 4, 2010 at 7:39 am

I love it. Except I don’t wear high heels.

An Bui, DocuSign Social Media October 4, 2010 at 1:46 pm

Elizabeth – thanks for choosing DocuSign for your “D” – I’m glad you were able to use it to work with a client to success!! 🙂

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