Flying By the Seat of Your Pants is NOT Good

Real Estate Agent with Long and Foster REALTORS®, Gainesville, VA VA License # 0225089470

Flying By the Seat of Your Pants is NOT Good 

Unless you are, or know a pilot, you might use the phrase, "Flying by the seat of your pants," and not even realize what it literally means.  You know from the way the phrase is used that it means not having a plan in place, or winging it.  What it refers to in reality is the importance of ignoring your instruments when you can not see the ground when operating an aircraft.  

My husband had a private pilot's license and used to love the gray, rainy days that Bristow has been experiencing for weeks.  It was a great time to get up in his plane and practice IFR (instrument flight rules.)  That type of flying requires absolute faith in your instruments and a mind that can ignore the feeling when your body senses it is in a turn.  Flying by the seat of his pants is how John F. Kennedy Jr. ended up crashing his plane.  He didn't trust the instruments and instead, listened to what his body was telling him about where the plane was relative to the horizon. He corrected for a turn he wasn't in and corkscrewed the plane into the ground.

When you can't see the ground, you must trust your instruments.Having been in the plane with my husband in the clouds, I can tell you that feeling that you are in a turn when your instruments are telling you are straight and level is no joke.  An outstanding pilot keeps focused on the instruments.  It is the only thing that is important when your body is in disagreement with them.  

Believe it or not, I do have a point to make about real estate in all this.  When you are a real estate agent, your frame of reference that never changes is the contract.  Any real estate conflict between buyer and seller ultimately comes down to the question, "What does the contract say?"  You would be stunned at how many agents operating in your local market don't even know.

Agents, just like pilots that feel the need to fly by the seat of their pants, get a sense of what they think the contract says and operate from that internal belief.  Why actually read the contract?  Here's an actual example.

In recent contract negotiations, where I was representing the seller, we needed to clarify some conveyances in the contract.   While the buyer's agent had checked that playground equipment did not convey, my sellers wanted to make absolutely certain that the buyer understood that the basketball hoop in the front yard was leaving with them.  They also wanted to clarify, after reading the conveyance paragraph that drapery rods, hardware and blinds conveyed that they would be taking the drapes and drapery rods in two rooms.  Window treatments as a conveyance item to check yes or no, then was simply fabric treatments as it was the only thing left that the preprinted conveyance language didn't cover.  So my sellers checked no to window treatments and then called out the two rooms where drapery rods would not remain.  Simple, right?   Simple until you meet an agent flying by the seat of their pants following a set of internal criteria, and not what is actually written in the contract.

The buyer's agent lost it.  First of all the basketball hoop was something the buyers expected to convey.  Why?  They had checked NO to playground equipment.  The agent said, "Playground equipment means items in the BACK yard."  Hmmm.  I asked her where she found that clarification in the contract and she was dumb-founded.   "Everyone knows that."  If you guessed that the contract didn't contain that language stating a difference between front yard and back yard playground equipment, you would be right.  

Next up, the drapery rods.  The written clarification that the drapery rods were not remaining in two rooms, seemed to rock her understanding of the contract to the core.  "I have always felt that window treatments refers to drapery rods and drapes.  Why are you calling those out?"  Well, you can go with that feeling, or you can actually read what the conveyance paragraph tells you.  Drapery rods and hardware, blinds and shades automatically convey.  Since there are two rooms that are not staying, my sellers needed to get the buyers to agree.  

Flying by the seat of her pants had this agent writing in terms that put in HER definition of window treatments, which was the final initial in the contract.  Her buyers had already initialed the two rooms where these items were not staying.  Therefore, this definition counter made no difference to what was already in the contract in terms of what was staying for her clients.  Nonetheless, the counter was made so she would be right.  And when the sellers were not able to get those intials done ASAP, she became upset that the contract was not wrapped up.  There is high demand for homes in our area and this unnecessary counter put her buyers at risk of another offer coming in while this counter was out for signature.   She was correcting a turn she wasn't making and corkscrewing her clients into the ground.

Thankfully, my clients made the intial and we ratified the contract, but all of that posturing was absolutely unnecessary.  It was also wholly a result of flying by the seat of her pants.  If she knew her contract, she would be able to have wrapped that deal up for her buyers two days earlier.

When you are ready to buy or sell your Bristow home, hire an agent that knows that contract and the local market.  Give me a call and let's get started.


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Richie Alan Naggar
people first...then business Ran Right Realty - Riverside, CA
agent & author

Everyone loses it until they learn not to lose it. Meanwhile, toughen up

May 22, 2016 12:17 AM #21
Mike Cooper
Cornerstone Business Group Inc - Winchester, VA
Your Winchester, VA Real Estate Sales Pro

Chris Ann, I think I've worked with this agent. We have our share here in the valley too. As far as flying through clouds, when I was in pilot training, that was one of the most challenging parts. With these big mountains sticking up all around me, those clouds can hover below the peaks. It was always difficult to trust the instruments, but I'm still here to say that. 

May 22, 2016 12:25 AM #22
Kathleen Daniels
KD Realty - 408.972.1822 - San Jose, CA
San Jose Homes for Sale-Probate & Trust Specialist

Chris Ann, Clients just rarely realize their agent is flying by the seat of their pants. So many do not understand the instrument (contract) that guides the direction of the parties … buyer and sellers.  When things go crashing to the ground … the agents hide and protect their self and often blame someone else. 

May 22, 2016 12:31 AM #23
Dick Greenberg
New Paradigm Partners LLC - Fort Collins, CO
Northern Colorado Residential Real Estate

Hi Chris Ann - An excellent analogy and example of something we ll run into a lot more than necessary. Even after 20+ years, Mary and I take a contracts class every year just to ensure we know and understand what each paragraph actually says - money and time well invested.

May 22, 2016 02:56 AM #24
Hella M. Rothwell, Broker/Realtor®
Carmel by the Sea, CA
Rothwell Realty Inc. CA#01968433 Carmel-by-the-Sea

Many agents don't even read the contract, they just fill in the blanks! Some of the provisions are all encompassing which is not good if you have some specifics only you want to include.

May 22, 2016 05:29 AM #25
Wanda Kubat-Nerdin - Wanda Can!
PK Real Estate Utah South - St. George, UT
So Utah Residential, Referral & Relocation REALTOR

Savvy agents know the contents of the Real Estate Purchase Contract and will refer back to it during a transaction in progress if and when necessary. Others will make it up as they go along to change terms and conditions to benefit their clients...not acceptable!

Congrats on the feature Chris Ann.

May 22, 2016 12:13 PM #26
Paul McFadden
Paratex - Seattle, WA
Pest Control, Seattle, WA.

Thanks for the post. It pays to be prepared!

May 23, 2016 01:30 AM #27
Nicole Doty - Gilbert Real Estate Expert
Zion Realty - Gilbert, AZ
Broker/Owner of Zion Realty

I preach the importance of contract writing day in and day out with my agents because whenever there's a disagreement I too ask the question, "what does the contract say?"

May 23, 2016 01:46 AM #28
Lottie Kendall
Today | Sotheby's International Realty - San Carlos, CA
Serving San Mateo County and San Francisco

"What does the contract say?" is the answer. A properly, carefully written contract is essential to keeping misunderstandings at bay. 

May 23, 2016 11:33 AM #29
Ed Silva
RE/MAX Professionals, CT 203-206-0754 - Waterbury, CT
Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally

If there are questions about the wording in the contract it should be discussed at the beginning of the transaction, not try to get an interpretation along the way when things are not going as they would like

May 23, 2016 11:56 AM #30
Liz and Bill Spear
RE/MAX Elite 513.520.5305 - Mason, OH
RE/MAX Elite Warren County OH (Cincinnati/Dayton)

Chris Ann, I ran into that not so long ago.  Buyers agent doing a final walkthrough wanting to know where the refrigerator had gone.  I told her it didn't convey and the sellers had taken it.  "But ALL appliances conveyed!"  Uh, no, the contract says BUILT-IN appliances stay, and the frig was not a built-in.  It must have been a bit embarassing for her to have to admit that, but yelling at me wasn't going to change the contract.  Bill

May 23, 2016 12:11 PM #31
Mary Ann Smith,
Keyes 786-278-6598 - Kendall, FL

Awesome blog.  Far too often we find agents who fit this category and then they want to get upset when things do not go their way.  What an excellent reminder.  Just today I had this conversation with an experience agent.  Thank you very much for sharing.

May 23, 2016 12:18 PM #32
Patricia Kennedy
RLAH Real Estate - Washington, DC
Home in the Capital

Chris Ann, I'm amazed at the number of agents out there who are totally clueless when it comes to details.  Some are newbies, and some will always be newbies.

May 23, 2016 12:24 PM #33
Praful Thakkar
LAER Realty Partners - Andover, MA
Andover, MA: Andover Luxury Homes For Sale

Chris Ann Cleland strange but true - some buyer's agent want to prove their worth by negotiating things that are not important - even for buyers!

Yep, flying by the seat....they do!

May 23, 2016 01:00 PM #34
Fred Sweezer Sr.
Hud Certified 203K Consultant - Long Beach, CA
Certified Home Inspector

ok, I get it, never do things by the seat of your pants! even in a real estate transaction, thanks for the post! 

May 23, 2016 07:03 PM #35
Gary L. Waters, Broker Owner, Waters Realty of Brevard, LLC
Waters Realty of Brevard, LLC - Rockledge, FL
... a small office, delivering big service!

I play golf by the seat of my pants because all I can lose is a few bucks.  With a house, that is way too much at risk!

May 24, 2016 12:38 AM #36
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
your real estate writer

It's not just agents who don't read. I recall a potential buyer who was incensed when someone else purchased the lot he wanted - simply because he didn't bother to sign the counter offer. His agent told him that could happen, and he had signed his name under a paragraph stating that until all counters were signed, he didn't have a contract, but ...

Meanwhile, thanks for that definition. I had no idea that's why Kennedy crashed. 

May 24, 2016 02:58 AM #37
Theresa Akin

Every year there is new verbiage in the different contracts. You have to keep updated. I personally like the classes for the participation and experiences of the different agents and brokers.

May 24, 2016 05:27 AM #38
Carolyn Shipp
Source 1 Real Estate - Mineral Wells, TX
Mineral Wells Texas Real Estate

There are so many agents in our area that neither understand or know contracts.  I take a contract class every year to freshen up.  Based on how badly so many contracts are written, I do believe a contract class should be mandatory for CE.  

May 24, 2016 07:31 AM #39
Mary Hutchison, SRES, ABR
Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate-Kansas City Homes - Kansas City, MO
Specializing in Brookside, Waldo, Prairie Village

Although I have several years' experience, I still go to my broker with questions to clarify contract language and how to handle certain situations. Always learning!  And not afraid to tell clients  'I need to check procedure on this one'

May 24, 2016 11:22 AM #40
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Chris Ann Cleland

Associate Broker, Bristow, VA
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