Saturday, February 25, 2006

Saying Goodbye To Your Home

Have you ever had to say “goodbye” to a close and dear friend? Can you imagine how sad you would feel if you were never going to see that friend again and did not have a chance to say goodbye?

Everyone knows that moving from one home to another takes a lot of time, planning, and emotion. You work hard getting the house ready to show and sell, and then even harder sorting and packing. You have friends and neighbors you won’t see any more after you move and need to take time to say your farewells to them. What no one talks about is the last step, the final goodbye that you need to say…to your house.

The home you are leaving is part of you no matter whether you’ve spent five months or 50 years living there. Each room holds memories of people and events, happy times and not-so-good times. Just as you need to say goodbye to people so you can move on to the next phase in your life, so you also need to say goodbye to the home that has sheltered you.

Take a few minutes in each room, think about the things that happened there, acknowledge them, cry or laugh if that’s what you feel, and say your farewell. It’s a kind of grieving, and you must get emotional closure. You invested more than just money in your home; you invested yourself. Give yourself time to say goodbye. You'll feel better and move on with comfort.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Alphabet Soup – Those Letters After My Name…and the Two Letters You Don’t See

When you read all those letters after a Realtor®’s name, do you have any idea what they mean? I certainly didn’t before I got into the business. But they are important because they can tell you a lot about the person’s training and proven ability. That alphabet soup after my name can be confusing, and we’ll get to sorting the letters in a moment.

But first, there are two letters you do not see that refer to part of my life that has an enormous influence on who I am today and how I work with my clients. Those letters are…R.N. That’s right, in an “earlier life” I was a registered nurse; a pediatric nurse, in fact, and the youngest Head Nurse of Pediatrics at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore. The people skills I learned through formal training, and on the job, are at the core of who I am today. I learned to understand what people needed even if they didn’t or couldn’t tell me. I learned that a small gesture of caring can be just what someone needs to get through a difficult time. And I learned that kind deeds circle around and come back to you tenfold.

Listing and selling houses is a different world from the life-and-death reality of a metropolitan hospital. But people still need expert help, assurance, and kindness. You won’t find R.N. in my alphabet soup, but it’s there in everything I do.

Now to decode some real estate designations for you as we go through my list:

  • ABR – Accredited Buyer Representative
  • CRS – Certified Residential Specialist
  • e-PRO – Internet Certification by the National Association of Realtors®
  • GRI – Graduate, REALTOR® Institute of the National Association of Realtors®
  • LTG – Leadership Training Graduate of the Women’s Council of Realtors®
  • PMN – Performance Management Network designation by the Women’s Council of Realtors®
  • RECS – Real Estate CyberSpace Specialist designation of the Real Estate CyberSpace Society. I am also the Chair of the Baltimore Chapter.
  • RRC – Referral and Relocation Certification from the Women’s Council of Realtors®
  • CyberStars® - Allen F. Hainge CyberStars® meet high standards of professionalism, technology use, and client service. There are 1.5 million real estate agents but only 200 CyberStars. Each CyberStar is a proven leader in their market.

You probably won’t recall what these all stand for. All you really need to remember is that they mean the Realtor® who bears these credentials is trained, experienced, and dedicated to standards of excellence.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Answers or Indicators – What Will Z Be?

In the last few days, a new Web site launched with great fanfare but spotty performance. When CNN included a story about it on their evening news, the site couldn’t keep up with the hits.

Why all the fuss? Zillow promises to give homebuyers and sellers up to date and complete information about the value of their home and comparables in their area. Some have suggested this will make real estate agents obsolete because people will be able to price their own homes to be competitive.

The early returns are that the site’s information is incomplete and sometimes wrong, which makes the suggested price ranges they give hard to justify. In some cases, the range is optimistically high, and for others, I’ve negotiated sales higher than their top amount.

The site depends on public records for its data. But public records will not show factors, like recent additions and improvements or the condition of the interior, that affect price. Public records can also be wrong; a friend of mine checked her house and said she wants that fireplace she’s supposed to have, but will not give up the second bathroom they didn’t count. If the information about a house is wrong, how valid is the price estimate? In time, the site will undoubtedly improve, but for now – caution.

There is no question about real estate agents becoming an endangered species because of this or any other site. Price is only one factor in buying or selling your home, and getting to the settlement table means avoiding traps and overcoming obstacles. A top agent will be experienced at:

  • negotiating the terms of your contract,
  • making sure only qualified buyers troop through your home,
  • meeting and dealing with appraisers, and
  • working with home inspectors and title companies to be sure you are protected from start to finish.

Buying or selling a home is an emotionally-charged transaction. Now more than ever it pays to have an experienced professional on your side. Embrace the benefits of new technology, but don’t fall into the trap of believing it will replace market knowledge and personal service.

The end of real estate agents? Not any time soon.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Have Tablet Will Travel

We haven't talked about my favorite techno-tool yet: my tablet PC. In the few months I've had this wonderful machine it has become a part of me. My work life has changed dramatically, and in time I'll tell you about all the ways it makes things better for me and my clients.

Today I'm using one of my favorite features - handwriting. That's right, good old-fashioned pen to paper writing. Except now it's stylus to screen. The first time I tried writing on my tablet's screen I was laughing like a kid with her first Magic Slate. My handwriting, right there, on the screen! And I can make it bolder, change color, and even erase.

So what happens next? Can a computer really read and save my writing? Yes, it can read and convert my writing to printed text. But what's even better is this:

That was written on my tablet and sent by email to end up in this article. Can't you just see the possibilities? Signed listings and offers on the spot. A personal note of thanks to an appraiser or inspector. A quick message to a friend. I use this feature every day and still get a kick out of it. And on days like this, which I'm on the road a lot, I think this tablet is one of the best investments I've ever made.