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 Lessons from the Atlanta Snow Storm of 2014

Lessons from the Atlanta Snow Storm of 2014 – by Dana Sparks 

The Great Atlanta Snow Storm of 2014 will not soon be forgotten!  Now that all are home safely, what lessons may we glean for our real estate business?

Many got caught unprepared by the timing and severity of the storm that hit Atlanta this week.  It took some hours to get home, some never made it home, cars were abandoned in the middle of the road and school children were stranded at schools or worse on school buses.  During the “heat of the moment,” thoughts and actions were singularly focused on safety, warmth and basic necessities. Now that the crisis has passed, we pause to reflect on the good, the bad, whom to “blame” and how to prevent being caught unaware in the future.  This snow storm represents potentially every real estate transaction you enter!

You begin each encounter with potential customers the way you started Tuesday morning, January 28, 2014.  You start with your normal routine prepared for each new day of finding new people to help and entering into new contracts. Your clients are excited to work with you and listen to your “forecast” of what to expect throughout the deal.  Then something unexpected occurs (i.e. house doesn’t appraise, Buyer not qualified for loan, repair issues not handled properly, etc.)

Take this week’s weather as a guide to become a better real estate professional!

  • Be Prepared
  • Be Proactive
  • Research the Situation
  • Stay Informed & In Communication
  • Accept the Kindness of Others
  • Don’t Try to Place Blame
  • Know that This Will Pass

Be Prepared:  Whether you are working with Buyers or Sellers, prepare yourself and your clients for what may happen from finding a home, negotiating a contract and getting to the closing table!  Make sure your clients understand every facet of the legally binding contract they sign.  Write out all of the dates / time frames pertinent to that contract and the responsibilities and consequences surrounding each of those issues.  Setting proper expectations is absolutely the key to a great relationship with your customers.  What they need to do during the Due Diligence time frame, what happens if the property does not appraise, how to address repair issues, etc. People are much better equipped to manage bad news when they are not “blindsided” by the occurrence.  As I heard from one of my colleagues, “From now on, during Winter I will always have a coat, some bottled water, gloves, a pair of boots in my car and a cell phone charger!”

Be Proactive: When you first list a property, have the Seller get a termite clearance letter, service the HVAC, make necessary repairs, complete a Seller’s Property Disclosure form, put a Home Warranty on the house, etc.  Have your Buyers get Pre-Approved with a lender, make plans to stay in their current residence until after the closing date, have money saved, etc.  As an agent, find out what you can from the Listing agent, the Buyer’s agent, stay in touch with the Buyer’s lender, secure a copy of the HOA covenants and conditions for the Buyer, don’t wait until the end of the time frame to negotiate through issues for your client (i.e. last day of Due Diligence) know the comps, etc.  Think how much better some would have been had they had a full tank of gas in their car or left work a little sooner, or had gone to the grocery in the morning rather than waiting to go “on my way home from work.”

Research the Situation: What are the comps of an area, what is the reputation of the schools in a neighborhood your clients pursue, what is the best way to get new business, etc.  Do you have a “niche” market?  Do you have more than one niche?  Do you market by phone, email, internet, mail or combinations thereof?  Where are your Sellers moving to and what is their time frame?  What if your Buyer’s closing gets delayed?  Tried and true methods of practicing real estate create the foundation of your business, but always seek new neighborhoods, methods, price ranges, etc!  Last Tuesday, did you only check out one weather report or did you research several?  Do you know more than one way to get home?

Stay Informed and In Communication:  Be and stay the expert in your field!  Houses are sold daily and prices change thereby changing comps for a particular property!  Mortgage rules and regulations change on a regular basis! Contract forms are continually updated and revised!  Buyers desires and price ranges change; Sellers motivations and situations change.  Stay on top of your market, your contracts and in constant communication with clients, customers (past & present) and other parties involved in the transaction (lenders, appraisers, co-op agents!)

Accept the Kindness of Others: We all heard many negative stories of stranded motorists and we also heard a myriad of heartwarming acts of kindness by total strangers!  People at stop signs helping cars get up a hill, stores opening their locked doors for people to use restrooms, grocery stores giving free food to school buses full of children!  you are not alone in your real estate business!  Reach out to others for assistance!  Lenders, colleagues, attorneys, brokers and co-op agents will likely assist you when asked!  In any one real estate transaction, all parties on “both sides” of the deal are working towards the same end result… transferring ownership of the property!

Don’t Try to Place Blame:  The “Blame Game” is now beginning in Atlanta!  The Governor should have done more!  GEMA should have acted sooner!  The schools should have cancelled schools or released the children earlier!  The Mayor should have sent out the sand/snow trucks sooner!  The weatherman should have been more accurate!  After the damage has been done, finding who is to blame is a futile effort.  After an unexpected issue / situation has occurred, look for solutions rather than fault!  We cannot change the past so how may we address the issue now to move forward? Can we get the appraisal reviewed, can we find another lender with different underwriting criteria? Will the Seller purchase a home warranty to cover a hot water heater that could not be tested? Can we extend the Due Diligence time frame until the house is de-winterized?  “Sorry won’t change circumstances.”  Again, all parties are working towards the same end result so let’s look for workable solutions!

Know that This Will Pass: What was a harrowing experience on Tuesday, turned quickly into a fun “snow day” on Thursday!  Most of the roads were cleared, ice had melted, school kids reunited with parents!  Friday returned to “work as usual” except perhaps for the time on hold with the insurance company!  Remember that your real estate career is exactly that… a long term profession!  Real estate is not a one shot transaction!  There are more houses to sell, more Buyers to help, more co-op agents to meet, more closings to have and more commissions to earn!  When you are in the middle of your “worst transaction ever,” your focus is narrowed and it can be difficult to catch your breath & look at the bigger picture.  Your deal will either close or it won’t!  Your Seller will sell the house to another Buyer or your Buyer find another home to love!  Your clients will love you in spite of the compromised transaction or they will find a new agent & you will find a new client!  If you approach every day by consistently finding new people to help with their real estate needs, then no one failed transaction will be devastating to you financially! (Kind of like having a full tank of gas in your car in a massive traffic jam during a snow storm!)

You won’t soon forget a disaster of a transaction, but you will take lessons from that deal to make you a better agent for future clients!

 

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