Professionalism in Tough Times

These 12 simple things can make a big difference.

April 1, 2010

If your market is teeming with short sales and foreclosures, you may find it rare to run across a transaction that goes off without a hitch. But by following these unspoken rules of real estate, submitted by real estate professionals, you can help your deals move along with much more grace.

1. Leave it the way you found it. "If the lights were on when you got there, don’t turn them off when you leave. On vacant staged homes, we generally have all the plug-in lights on timers. We turn on table lamps, floor lamps, and under-cabinet lights in the kitchen, and we want them on for all showings. Otherwise, most agents tend to forget to turn on the accent lighting." −Pangaea, Pangaea Interior Design, Sandy, Ore.

2. Keep your MLS status up to date. "Don’t have your MLS listing show as ‘active’ when you have 32 offers on the property. It’s time-consuming to talk to the buyer about the property, handle their excitement, and finally track down the listing agent only to hear, ‘They’re still accepting offers.’ I’ve yet to encounter a buyer that wants to be the 33rd offer." −Vic Steele, Valet Real Estate Services, Orange, Calif.

3. Respect vacant homes. "This one’s a biggie, as more homes are vacant now: Make sure clients don’t use the toilet in an empty home. Often, the water is shut off. I always place signs that say ‘do not use,’ but you’d be surprised how often buyers will dismiss the sign—and their agents don’t stop them!" −Mary Strang, ABR®, GRI, broker-owner, RE/MAX Hill Country, Viroqua, Wis.

4. Don’t be a no-show. "We need to understand that real people live in homes for sale—real people who may be sick or elderly or have small children. Making showings easy is a necessity, but when you’re the buyer’s agent and running late or not going to keep your appointment, please call." −Margaret Rome, HomeRome Realty, Baltimore

5. Keep your cool. "Real estate transactions are stressful, even in the best of circumstances. Someone needs to play the part of the grownup when things get all wild and woolly. That someone is you. Tendencies toward melodrama are better explored in community theater." −Coleen DeGroff, Coldwell Banker M.M. Parrish, Gainesville, Fla.

6. Test the keys. "In the real estate business, we depend on keys so much. Have the keys made by a reputable locksmith and make sure they work. We can’t sell a house if we can’t show it." −Sybil Campbell, SRES®, Long and Foster, REALTORS®, Williamsburg, Va.

7. Practice the Golden Rule. "As always, treat people the way you want to be treated. We all have bad days, but don’t bring it to work with you. Keep your professional courtesy and leave your emotions at the door." −Bridget Cella, e-PRO, RE/MAX All-Pros, Turnersville, N.J.

8. Provide accurate property descriptions. "I can’t stand it when a listing says ‘needs TLC’ and you get there to find it needs complete renovation. It ends up wasting my buyers’ time. Can the listers of foreclosure properties be a little more specific when it comes to what work needs to be done?" −Catherine Kierzek, RE/MAX Realty 100, Milwaukee

9. Know your stuff. "One of the most frustrating things for me is when agents don’t understand the ins and outs of short sales yet are still representing buyers and sellers in those transactions." −John and Kasey Boles, Jon Gosche Real Estate, Boise, Idaho

10. Set schmoozing aside. "On showings where the listing agent has to accompany me and my clients, I want them to keep it straight and not schmooze my clients about what they do for a living, where they currently reside, and why they are buying in this locale. Respect my client relationship." −J. Philip Faranda, J. Philip Real Estate LLC, Briarcliff Manor, N.Y.

11. Do the required reading. "It’s annoying when I clearly state something in the MLS and the agent doesn’t even bother to read it before calling to ask about something I’ve already included in the comments section. I list a lot of REOs and there’s actually information in the comments you need to know, so read them!"  −Kristy Baker, Century 21 Act III Realty, Gray, Tenn.

12. Be happy. "It’s nice to remember that there are a lot of courteous, honest real estate agents who return calls in a timely manner, provide accurate information in the MLS, treat our clients and theirs with respect, and are just nice to work with. Thank them when you have a good experience—it will bring them a smile and it’s so much more fun to be happy. The world needs more smiles." −Warren Schutt, RE/MAX Unlimited Real Estate, Danbury, Conn.