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Russell Shaw, Speaking Clearly (and a personal story too)

Feb 24, 2009 Michael Wurzer

Russell Shaw just posted a great series of articles I highly recommend to agents, brokers, MLS execs, and anyone else involved in real estate:

  1. The Discount Realtor Rain Dance
  2. Invitation to the Realtor Ghost Dance
  3. There is Real Joy in Doing Meaningful Work
  4. Odd Times for John (this one isn’t formally part of the series,  but it fits right in anyway).

This series from Russell is a tour de force demonstrating the value of good real estate sales people.

To add my own small twist, here’s a personal story that evidences many of Russell’s points:

My brother and I (and our spouses) own a lake cabin on West Battle Lake in Minnesota.  It’s a nice little cabin on a small lot, and we love to spend our summer weekends there.  Frankly, it’s too small for our two families but we make do because it’s all we can afford given the value of lake property these days.  Nonetheless, we’d often boat around the lake and fantasize that some of the places we liked would come up for sale, which would rarely happen because our lake is really great.

The last few years, we became even more serious about getting something bigger because our kids were getting older and wanted to bring friends down, and there just wasn’t room.  So, we had an agent sending us updates from the MLS system (yep, a flexmls Web system!) to keep us apprised of what was coming on the market.  Typically, we’d get the emails and pass them around with our spouses, exclaming, “Sheesh, can you believe they want $X for that place?” or something to that effect because our place was always better.  Because we thought we’d never find our perfect place, we decided to add on a few bedroooms and a bathroom this last fall and the construction is nearly complete now.

Last week, however, we received an update that a nearly perfect lot (with a tear down cabin) had come up for sale on the best beach on the lake.  The lot was on the same beach as some of our relatives, was twice as big as ours, and had the same ideal combination of level lot to a sandy lake bottom that we already had.  This was our dream lot come true.  My brother and I rushed down there to meet with the listing agents, Pat and Connie.

I had not previously met Pat or Connie, but they exemplify the “joy” Russell describes in his “doing meaningful work” post.  Pat and Connie made a great team, had a lot of passion for selling lake property, which passion translated into a lot of knowledge about the development history of West Battle Lake (and, I’m sure, the other lakes on which they sell).  Our extended family has owned property on West Battle Lake for something like forty years and yet these agents were able to tell us a lot we didn’t know.

They also knew how to price the property.  Want evidence?  In the dead of Minnesota’s winter, with a tear down cabin, the property sold in less than two weeks on the market.  As Russell said to John, “If it is in MLS correctly, on lockbox and not sold it is overpriced.”  Clearly, this property was not overpriced.  (Even in this down market, there is still a lot of demand for quality lake property.)

Ah, you might be wondering, did we realize our dream, were we the buyers?  No, we chickened out at the last minute.  After having a two-family heart-to-heart that evening, we realized that we were happy enough with our place and that investing twice what we already had and going through the process of building something new was more investment and work than we wanted.

However, if we had moved forward, we would have had Pat and Connie list our property, even though we also would have been dealing with them as the seller representative of the property we were buying.  Would that have created all sorts of crazy conflicts?  Sure, no doubt, but there’s little doubt in my mind it would have been efficient and worth every penny of commission to both us and the seller of the other property.  Would a discount broker have provided that same level of value?  I wouldn’t have been interested in going through the hassle of trying to find out.  I just would have wanted the deal done, and done quickly.

So, as I read through Russell’s posts linked above, they all rang true to me.  Read through them yourself and go comment on Russell’s blog.  It should be a good conversation.