A drawback to being a short sale listing agent in Sacramento is the fact that the inventory stays on the market a minimum of three months before closing, which means my lockboxes can't be reassigned every 6 to 8 weeks. In a faster selling market, an agent can take 20 listings and use 10 lockboxes, because as they sell, lockboxes can be removed and reassigned to another home. Not so with short sale listings.
I had no choice yesterday but to sit in the slow moving traffic on Business 80 crossing the American River and hope I could make it in time to the Sacramento Board of REALTORS® store. As I inched along, staring at the back of a Toyota pickup -- I really dislike having the butt-end of SUVs and pickup trucks slammed up in my face -- I wondered what I would do if, when I got to the store, all the lockboxes were gone. I tried to find used lockboxes among the agents at my Lyon office in Midtown, but nobody had any extras to sell.
How do those REO agents do it? Some list more than 100 foreclosure homes, and each must, according to board rules, have a Supra lockbox. Those things cost $115 each, and Metrolist doesn't give discounts for buying in bulk. Those agents spend more than $10,000 on lockbox inventory. That thought made me feel better about the cost of those lockboxes.
I finally arrived at the REALTOR® store 40 minutes later. Just as I yanked open the door and entered the store, my phone rang. I went back into the parking lot. It was the seller of one of my short sale listings. He wanted to know why several buyer's agents who showed his home thought it had a pool. Oh, yeah. His next-door neighbor has a pool, and I had included a photograph on MLS, which showed that view from his balcony. I was very impressed by the beautiful landscaping, pool and spa. It gave one a feeling of being on vacation, surrounded by palm trees and water features.
Of course, I noted in the caption that the photo captured the yard next door. Just for giggles, I added that if the new buyers got to know those neighbors, maybe the neighbors would let them use their pool and spa. And if not, it was a nice view, regardless.
You know what's coming next, right? The next-door neighbor had called me the day the listing went into MLS. She was furious. She was "appalled" that I would suggest she would let anybody use her pool and spa. She doesn't know my sellers and, in fact, doesn't care to. I listened to her rant for a while, wondering if I should tell her that Google has placed a photograph of her back yard online. It also occurred to me that because the homes in this subdivision were built about 4 to 5 years ago, unless every home owner put down substantial amounts of cash, most are upside down right now, mortgage-wise.
Perhaps this was what pushed that neighbor over the edge? You'd think she'd be more concerned about her equity position, but to keep the peace, I promised her I would remove the photograph from MLS. I don't need the neighbor feeling resentful toward me nor my seller. And I shared this story with my seller. Yup, the photograph in MLS was gone, so now agents can't get confused because they don't read the captions. Problem solved.
I walked back into the real estate store. Ordered my lockboxes and stood at the front desk, pondering a rather large sign on the cash register. It informed customers that the clerks cannot offer proper assistance if customers are talking on their cell phones. As I waited, a guy strolled in the store, yakking his fool head off on his cell. He stood about 3 feet away from me. Yak. Yak. Yak. I caught the eye of the clerk and said, "I don't think that guy read your sign."
"They don't care," she shrugged. "None of them care." What's worse, she says, is when she's ringing up a sale for an agent and the agent answers his phone. Then agents stand at the cash register talking on their cell while other agents are lined up behind, she complained, inferring that real estate agents are a rude lot.
For once I was glad that I had walked outside to take my phone call.
The Short Sale Savior, by Elizabeth Weintraub, coming to a bookstore near you.
Photograph: Pool at Cabo San Lucas and not a short sale listing, by Elizabeth Weintraub