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Ask An Ambassador: Even Pros Make Big Mistakes

Real Estate Agent with Transaction Alliance 513.520.5305 www.LizTour.com SAL.2002007747

Our home is surrounded by woods, and with woods comes the need for periodic tree maintenance.  Emerald ash borers have been lethal to area ash trees over the last couple of decades, and our woods are no exception.  We had three trees that needed dropped, one was a threat to our bee yard, another to our parking area, and the 3rd was close to the garage side of our home, and clean-up was needed for a 4th tree that had fallen in the side yard a couple of weeks ago after a storm.

There's a well-known local tree service we've used over the years and always with good results.  Any time someone in the local Facebook group asks for a recommendation, this company is the most recommended.

Thursday we had an appointment for them to come out and drop the 3 trees.  The first tree and a hanging branch from another tree were handled with no difficulty, so on to the tree by the garage.

The leader of the crew used their cherry picker to go about 2/3 of the way up the tree to top it.  He made his initial cuts, tied off the top part to the bottom trunk before finishing his cut.  Under normal circumstances, that rope would have controlled the fall of the top part of the tree, but as I watched from the back deck, what happened next wasn't normal.  As the top part of the tree came down, the rest of the trunk disappeared from sight just behind the peak of the roof.  I could see one of those "Oh _____" expressions on the cutter's face as I heard a WHOOOOMPPP sound that didn't match the normal sound of a tree hitting the ground.  Instead, the tree had snapped at the base and kicked towards our home, impacting the front edge of our roof just over the garage.  Net result:  damaged siding, a big hole in the roof and three damaged trusses.

Now here's the difference between hiring amateurs and pros.  Amateurs might have packed up their truck and left in a big hurry.  But pros?  They quickly called their boss, took pictures to forward to their boss and the insurance rep for the tree service.  Shortly after the insurance rep called and was reaching out to two roofing companies to get someone out to tarp the damage before the afternoon storms arrived.  Within an hour a roofing company was out and performing damage control.  Plywood and tarp installed, and we've been fine despite some strong thunderstorms rolling in over the last few days.

We're in the midst of our insurance company and their insurance company working through the process of getting fully repaired.  I'm expecting before it's all said and done we'll have a newly shingled roof and siding/truss damage fully repaired.  Whether we wind up out of pocket for our deductible or not is TBD, but I suspect the tree service company will do the right thing by us.

Silver lining, when we next sell our home the buyers should have a roof about ten years newer then our current roof.  While this may be a bit inconvenient, it could have been a LOT worse.  We'll disclose on our property disclosures for later this year sale and it shouldn't be an issue to scare off potential buyers.  Accident caused by pros, fixed by pros, no further issue.

Now as real estate agents, we can make mistakes.  The newer we are in the business the more likely we'll make a mistake, and maybe even a BIG mistake. 

If we're smart, we use our past experiences to avoid future mistakes, or at least minimize them. 

How we react to making a mistake with our clients makes all the difference in maintaining client trust.  Do we seem like amateurs, or professionals in how quickly we react and how quickly we fix what went wrong?  Do we keep our cool when things hit the fan?

The reality is I know things can go wrong, even when in the hands of skilled people.  Based on how the tree service company handled a big mistake, I'd still recommend them, and still have them return to my house for more tree work if needed.

Until next Tuesday, just Ask An Ambassador if you need help,
Bill & Liz aka BLiz

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Serving Warren County Ohio & Adjacent Areas

The Liz Spear Team of Transaction Alliance
Elizabeth Spear, ABR, Ohio License SAL.2002007747

William (Bill) Spear, Ohio License SAL.2004011109  Kentucky 77938
Ask for us by name if you visit the office!

Bill Direct:  513-520-5305
Liz Direct: 513-265-3004     
Fax: 866-302-8418

MailTo:  Liz@LizSpear.com

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Alan May
Jameson Sotheby's International Realty - Evanston, IL
Cicadas are coming! Cicadas are coming!

I have always said: "Everyone makes mistakes.  But how we handle those mistakes can set us apart from everyone else!"

Doing it properly (or as you call it "the right thing" can gain us clients-for-life, or create serious Yelp! bombs if we don't!)

May 28, 2024 05:16 AM
Liz and Bill Spear

I try to learn from my mistakes, and with so many NEW mistakes that can be made, why repeat the same mistake?  :)

May 28, 2024 05:25 AM
Michael Jacobs
Pasadena, CA
Pasadena And Southern California 818.516.4393

Hello Bill (and Liz too) - Yikes!  As you stated, it could have been much worse.  And therein lies an important message about choosing the right representation for whatever the job may be.   I am hearing a well-known John Denver song playing in my mind. . .  

May 28, 2024 05:17 AM
Liz and Bill Spear

Our house is still (mostly) intact, the kitty that lives in the garage loft didn't get squished or have anything more than a small ceiling crack impact her living space.  With our zoo, it's not like we can just head to a hotel if our house were more severely damaged, so I'll take the silver lining.

May 28, 2024 05:28 AM
Randy Mitchelson,APR
Marketing Advisor & Squeeze Mortgage - Bonita Springs, FL
First Impressions are made at First Click

We are all human and mistakes are an unavoidable part of life. If you take accountability the come back will be greater than the setback. 

May 28, 2024 05:50 AM
Liz and Bill Spear

At least for rational people there's hope of recovery.  Those clients that have someone else whispering in their ears make me a bit more anxious about ability to recover.

May 28, 2024 05:57 AM
Roy Kelley
Retired - Gaithersburg, MD

Thank you very much for sharing this experience. It is smart to use reliable contractors.

May 28, 2024 06:59 AM
Liz and Bill Spear

There are certain things I'll do myself, and certain things I won't.  Dropping a tree that close to the house is on the "won't list".

May 28, 2024 07:14 AM
Dr. Paula McDonald
Beam & Branch Realty - Granbury, TX
Granbury, TX 936-203-0279

Such a great post on this topic. Yes, all make mistakes. When we do, we must step up, admit our mistake, make it right, and move on!

May 28, 2024 07:35 AM
Liz and Bill Spear

And I find sometimes it's a clearer path to just take a hit that I don't feel I deserve (e.g. pointing out to a client you have 3 emails with the details they said you didn't provide is probably not going to help the situation).

May 28, 2024 08:20 AM
Mike McCann Nebraska Land Broker
Mike McCann - Broker, Mach1 Realty Farm & Commercial Land Broker-Auctioneer Serving Nebraska - Kearney, NE
Farm & Commercial Property For Sale 308-627-3700

Dang it...I should not have read your post...or maybe it is good I did.  We have a 19 year old cottonwood that needs to come down due to size and proximity.  This tree is huge as it has been well watered since it sprouted on its own.  Not worried about my house but the neighbors. 

State Farm has assured me that I am not liable if it would fall on their home from a storm...but I am still worried/cautious.  My old neighbor suggested I cut it down way back in 2006 but me?  Nah, I love cottonwoods.  He is still saying I told you so!!

I may be paying dearly for that love.

I hope all ends well with you repairs and settlement.

May 28, 2024 08:04 AM
Patricia Feager, ABR,CRS,GRI,MRP
Selling Homes Changing Lives

Liz and Bill Spear 

Bill, this is a GREAT story! I love how you structured your blog post! A good introduction followed by some foreshadowing in paragraph three kept me interested. I just knew something was about to happen. And it did! The problem was revealed. The person who caused the problem took responsibility and acted quickly. It takes a well-trained, mature individual to know exactly what to do immediately. By knowing who to call when you need help and be skilled at managing damage control is a sign of a confident and competent person.

Bill I was really impressed with how the story unraveled. Behind every dark cloud there is a silver lining! 

May 28, 2024 10:07 AM
Liz and Bill Spear

Ironically, one of the things the Navy trained me for was shipboard damage control.  Assess the issues, correct, adjust, and keep on keepin' on :)

It may take some time to work through the issue and see if we'll have a fight with the insurance companies over how much is covered, but with a discontinued shingle style/color, logically I'd expect an entirely new roof vs. "we'll do the front and it doesn't matter if the back side isn't an exact match for color or age!".

May 28, 2024 11:52 AM
Patricia Feager, ABR,CRS,GRI,MRP

Liz and Bill Spear - Your Navy training is so interesting. Hmmm.... I'll bet a real estate class called Ship Shape Training from a Shipboard Damage Control Pro would be perfect for Real Estate Agents! I'd probably even fly to wherever you taught the class to learn more! 

Insurance Companies are never quick. In 2023, I was rear-ended twice. New car, of course! As soon as it got fixed (which is very unusual these days), another person texting rear-ended me, and my car went back in for repairs. The two insuranace companies I dealt with from the people who hit me were not in a hurry.

As for home insurance, having a house fire before moving to TX was excruciatingly painful, even when it was no fault of mine. The builder built the house with aluminum wiring in 1972 and about 20 years later, the house caught fire. Lucky for me, I made a good sale but I didn't live there long enough to enjoy the renovations because the company I worked for relocated me to TX. 

I wish you a great sale when the time comes to move! It sounds like you may have some challenges and a fight on your hands for sure! Insurance Companies always charge more for insurance but are stingy when making things whole via insurance claims. Stand your ground and do a through cost benefit analysis.

I'm learning many insurance reps in my area are fleeing the business and those who stay are now working out of their homes. I really think Customer Service has suffered because people are not going into the Office anymore and there is nobody minding what employees do. 

The roof is a very essential part of the building process and has to stand the test of time with quality performance. I wish you good luck, sincerely. 

Jun 01, 2024 06:49 AM
Liz and Bill Spear

I do expect it to be a slower process than I'd like, but that's the process :)  I'll deal with it as I have to to get the end result we need.

Jun 01, 2024 09:22 AM
Dorie Dillard Austin TX
Coldwell Banker Realty ~ 512.750.6899 - Austin, TX
NW Austin ~ Canyon Creek and Spicewood/Balcones

Good morning Bill,

Good story and because you used professionals they will do the right thing and make it whole again. Understanding mistakes are made but ownership is taken and the right thing will be done. We all make mistakes but its how we remedy those mistakes that makes the difference...your clients will understand.

May 28, 2024 10:51 AM
Liz and Bill Spear

I have the same company out today taking care of our flower bed clean ups. I'm atrociously behind in maintaining them, and what has been done so far today is 100% better!

May 28, 2024 11:53 AM
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Hi Bill:

Mistakes happen but it's the response to the person or vendor making them that makes a difference. No wonder you recommend this tree company and will continue to do so. They handled the mistake and solution promptly and efficiently which is exactly what you want and expect.


May 28, 2024 04:52 PM
Liz and Bill Spear

Seeing the way they maintained their cool during the incident was good to see.  I'm sure they expected me to come out all fired up, but what would have been the point?  Stay cool, let's get this fixed.

May 28, 2024 08:31 PM
Kathy Streib
Cypress, TX
Home Stager/Redesign

Hi Bill- I love this story!!! Kudos to your tree company! what they did speaks volumes about the professional service they provide.  Who doesn't make a mistake? Rather than point fingers they focused on a remedy. 

May 28, 2024 06:38 PM
Liz and Bill Spear

And the nature of their work puts them in a risky position.  Trees don't always play to our expectations.

May 28, 2024 08:31 PM
Brian England
Ambrose Realty Management LLC - Gilbert, AZ
MBA, GRI, REALTOR® Real Estate in East Valley AZ

I only have one big tree at my house and it is in my backyard.  I usually get it trimmed once a year, but I skipped last year since the dumpsters weren't scheduled for our neighborhood as they usually are, haha.  I need to get it trimmed fairly soon though, it is getting a bit out of control.

May 29, 2024 05:27 AM
Liz and Bill Spear

Nature doesn't like to be controlled :)

May 29, 2024 03:20 PM
Wanda Kubat-Nerdin - Wanda Can!
Red Rock Real Estate (435) 632-9374 - St. George, UT
St. George Utah Area Residential Sales Agent

How professionals act during adverse times, determines their futures. Glad the tree company will do right by you, Bliz!

May 29, 2024 03:15 PM
Liz and Bill Spear

We still have to work through the insurance process, and that's where things will get interesting.  Whole new roof?  Partial roof?  Depreciated value?  What about the deductible?  The next month will tell the tale.

May 29, 2024 03:23 PM
Anna "Banana" Kruchten
HomeSmart Real Estate - Phoenix, AZ

Bill great lesson and story  and I'm sure the ending will  turn out good for you guys. I can always tell a strong professional when there's an issue or two that pop up and they handle it with dignity and strength rather than going down the blame or wine game path - and they find a workable solution. After so many years in the business it becomes second nature to know how or what to do for each situation.

BTW we had our entire roof replaced due to a storm that knocked out 300 to 400,000 roofs. Our insurance agent and roofers were top notch. And it didn't cost us a dime.


Featured in BananaTude!


May 30, 2024 03:26 PM
Liz and Bill Spear

Our roof was replaced last because of hail damage, minor out of pocket for us to upgrade the shingles at the time.  We'll see how this go round works out!

It definitely pays having experience in real estate and being able to be calm when something goes sideways.  I imagine the tree guy probably expected me to come out the front door releasing a torrent of expletives, but it wouldn't have accomplished anything, so stay calm and look for a solution :)

May 31, 2024 08:28 PM
Hannah Williams
HomeStarr Realty - Philadelphia, PA
Expertise NE Philadelphia & Bucks 215-820-3376

Wonderful story, Liz and Bill Spear. You and they have handled it well. The bottom line is when you sell your house, it will look fantastic, though right now, you are inconvenienced.  Everyone and anyone can make a mistake it is how we handle the mistake that counts 

May 31, 2024 08:09 AM
Liz and Bill Spear

Fortunately it's an inconvenience I can live with as long as our roof is patched and the rain stays out.  Hopefully we get it fixed fairly soon.  The roofing company has crews available to do the siding and roof quickly once given approval.

May 31, 2024 08:29 PM