Thursday, January 22, 2009

On Being a Realtor

I am posting tonight in response to a query this morning from a lady who asked me just what it was that a Realtor does. I have given the matter some thought and it is a very reflective question. I have concluded that a Realtor is a generalist who coordinates, counsels, directs and aids compliance to the rules and regs surrounding a real estate transaction. I represented DuPont for 30 years, mostly as a sales representative. What I did then and what I do now are as different as night and day.

Practicing Real Estate is loosely connected to sales skills. Rarely do you take a person into a home and pitch them on features, advantages and benefits of a particular house in an effort to get them to make a decision to buy. If you are lucky enough to attract a buyer there is a process whereby you lead them to a choice. You conduct the buyer's interview to establish their wants and needs. Then you search the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) to match up their wants with particular houses that seemingly fill that need. You then schedule some showing time and take them to see the property. Once in the property the house must "sing" to the buyer, on its own. The property must convince the buyer. Rarely is it necessary for the Realtor to "sell" the property.

In selling a listing the Realtor is a counselor and advisor. The Realtor advises the seller how to stage the house for it to demonstrate its strong features to a prospective buyer. If the seller is unwilling to clean, paint, plant, de-clutter, etc. no amount of selling skills on the part of the Realtor matters.

A Realtor is a licensed professional. He must take hundreds of hours of instruction and then pass numerous tests, many quite difficult, to become licensed and stay licensed. The process is expensive and time consuming. He must be a member of a local association that will coordinate the cooperation of all agents in a geographic area in maintaining the MLS, continuing education and other matters. He is licensed by the Florida Real Estate Commission (FREC) which operates under the Department of Business & Professional Regulation. FREC sets forth all rules and regs that surround the practice within the state. FREC maintains a probable cause element that polices and disciplines those who would play fast and loose with their license.

A Realtor is somewhat of a traffic cop in that in the midst of a transaction he must be able to direct all the matters that will consummate in the successful transfer of Title. A Realtor must stand ready to recommend Title companies, Home inspectors, Termite inspectors, surveyors, Insurance providers, repair people, structural engineers, mold experts, attorneys, Home warranties, etc. The Realtor must be prepared to react quickly and competently when snags arise within the transaction. Most transactions are subject to exact schedules. The Realtor must assure that all parties adhere to timelines.

A Realtor is somewhat of a paralegal. Special emphasis on contract law. All aspects of the transaction are strongly tied to the sales contract, a legally binding instrument. He must be knowledgeable in how to complete this 7 page document plus all disclosure forms. He needs to know how and when to amend the contract via addendae.

Probably, above all, a Realtor must be a negotiatior. The more pronounced an agent's negotiating skills the more valuable he is to the party he represents. Agreement must be reached, most importantly, on sales price. Additionally there are concessions that can be asked for and granted relating to closing costs, repairs, warranties, closing dates, etc. When a fight erupts you want the most eloquent, smartest and coolest advocate you can find by your side.

A good Realtor is a good communicator both verbally and written. He should keep careful records as to what has been agreed upon in a deal and all correspondence between all parties. A good agent is patient, kind, thoughtful, available and consistent. To a practicing Realtor no one is more important than his client, outside of his family. He will lay it all on the line for his client.

I operate as a sole proprietor. I must have a Leon County Business license, a City of Tallahassee business license and of course, a State of Florida real estate license. I am a Broker which requires one to have a year of being an agent under a broker and then class time and passage of a tough, tough exam. I have to adhere to continuing education requirements. I must carry error and ommissions insurance. You do not want a Realtor who does not carry that insurance. You also do not want a Realtor who does not maintain a very pronounced presence on the internet. Most buyers go online to search property first before they ever contact a Realtor. I am a member of the Tallahassee Board of Realtors, Florida Association of Realtors and the National Association of Realtors.

Overall, I would say that the practice of real estate is quite satisfying. One has complete flexibility of time. The bottom line is that Realtors really help people to accomplish the dream of home ownership. A good Realtor keeps his finger on the pulse of current trends in the business and the development of new avenues. A good Realtor's success is tied to the numbers of people he has competently and effectively helped to achieve the purchase of a home or the sale of their home.

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Losing weight

I will now post on a subject that I am an expert on. LOSING WEIGHT. I have lost 1000 pounds over the course of my lifetime. Unfortunately, I have gained back 1050. I am a 62 yoa white man with hypertension, diabetes and hyperlipidemia. Statistically, I am a ticking time bomb. I have had a couple of cardiac scares, one resulting in a heart cath. You would think that all that would motivate me to lose weight. NEGATORY. In fact I recently put on another 5 pounds over the holidays just to assure that I remain in as miserable a state of health as is possible.

The thing that I am not expert in is FINDING THE MOTIVATION. You see I have a chromosomal deficiency that causes me to be unable to lose weight. Let's just call it the fat gene. Yes I could choose to live a normal life and not go to Brickyard Pizzeria and buy that 16" beauty with the extra cheese, pepperoni, italian sausage and eat most of it myself. However, you see, I am compelled in that direction. Something deep in my dna drives me to overindulgence. In the midbrain of the normal human being there is a delicate balance of GABA, dopamine and endorphins. All stay at acceptable levels when they are ingesting food. I have a deviated mid-brain. Ah Hah, you say, " I knew that guy was not normal."

When I put the first bit of food substance in my mouth my mid-brain fires endorphins across my synapses. That is called the pleasure phenomenon. I experience a "high" just as real as the one that Corky the Cocaine addict does when he snorts his first line of cocaine. I am compelled to continue to shove pie in my pie hole in a piteable attempt to keep the endorphin level where it provides the euphoria I seek. It is not my fault that I have to sit with my pants unzipped and open at night as I sit in my recliner in order to breathe properly. I am a poor victim of a food addiction.

As Cheech and Chong, the great philosophers of my youth once said in one of their ballads, " I need help, ladies and gentlemens. I need someone to set a pick for me at the free throw line of life." ( Basketball Jones, circa 1972 ). I have been through 12 step programs. Notably Weight Watchers where I have lost a huge portion of my 1000 pounds. I have read the books. Been on the fad diets, grapefruit, sugar busters, etc. etc. The list drones on and on.

I used to be a smoker. After I moved to Tallahassee in 1972 I was well on my way to quitting. Then my Father flew into Tallahassee and we undertook a trip to Springfield, Ohio together. We were going to visit my Uncle Fred who was dying of lung cancer. My Dad was a prolific smoker, about 2 packs a day of Kools. I fell into temptation and bought myself a pack of Winstons and made like a chimney for a couple of days. I really looked cool with that cig hanging out of my pie hole. Sort of like the Marlboro man.

My Dad and I got up after our first night in the motel and made our way to the hospital. Now the last memory I had of my Uncle Fred was of a large 220 pound man with the vitality of a salesman. Here in front of me is my Uncle. He weighs about 90 pounds. They have already performed the thoracotomy and he is getting along with one lung. Here he sits on the side of his hospital bed, chain smoking unfiltered Camels. Joe Camel he did not remind me of. More like a prisoner of war. He is so hopelessly addicted to those cigarettes that he cannot take a breath without one in his mouth. My Dad and I left the hospital, I took the pack of Winstons out of my pocket and dropped them into a waste receptacle. My Uncle was dead two weeks later at 52 years of age. He left a widow and three children. He left an indelible image in my brain. I have not touched a cigarette in 35 plus years since the moment I threw away that pack of Winstons. Anytime I was tempted I conjured up the image of him in that hospital, sucking on those Camels. My slight addiction was forever more solved. I was MOTIVATED.

From whence cometh motivation? It is as elusive as the prize on American Idol. We have occasions of resolve. We last a few days and in my case, I walk into our home and smell the fragrance of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. My wife will then stumble over my pulsating form sitting in the corner with hot cookies on my breath and cold milk all dribbled down the front of my size 3x Lipscomb Lions Tee shirt.

Motivation is there. It lurks somewhere deep inside of us. It just needs an Uncle Fred to connect the dots for us. One of the great motivational speakers of all time was Zig Zeiglar. Zig would do this bit about the fact that we were all victims of "Stinkin Thinkin".

Well for me, my next stop is Nutrisystem. That is the well advertised program where you go on this prepared and carefully measured, portion control program. My motivation? Chris Berman, the Boomer, on ESPN. I saw a picture of this guy last summer in a Golf magazine. He was in a golf shirt and his stomach protruded out providing a landing pad for a Chinook helicopter. Now I see him on the Nutrisystem ads and he has lost 40 pounds. If the Boomer can do it then so can I .

We will see how it goes. This program is not cheap. You are buying breakfast bricks at the rate of $10 per. I figure if I have skin in the game it might just MOTIVATE me. The thought of having a heart attack that will cost me and my insurance provider $100,000 plus ain't getting it done. We shall see.

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Chech and Chong, set me a pick: