Saturday, 19 October 2013

Fried

Up before the sun again this morning.  This is turning into a habit!  Usually, I rather like it but this time it's just because I can't shut my brain down.  I know that sounds silly.

Had probably the toughest real estate closing of my 12 year career yesterday.   A week ago I met with my Buyers at the house and we identified some pretty major deficiencies still outstanding.  With a week until close and with assurances from the listing agent for the Seller that everything was being taken care of, my Buyers eagerly counted down the days until they could get the keys and move in.  Rightly so.  This is how it works when all the major players are actually checked in.  

Well, It was apparent during our pre-close inspection Thursday evening that the builder had run into difficulties as every single outstanding deficiency was still outstanding and not complete.  It had been inspected for occupancy and was not given an occupancy permit.  This resulted in calls to my Buyers lawyer for guidance on what to do. We decided to send a list of deficiencies to the lawyer and to the listing agent that night and in the morning, close as scheduled and request a sizable holdback ($15,000).  The upgrades tacked on to the purchase price (over and above list price) alone that weren't done totalled about $9,000.  Then there were many other little and not so little things that weren't done that we added the extra money for. 

Things went South pretty quickly yesterday.  Not only did the Builder not complete the house according to the terms of the contract, his lawyer felt a holdback of only a couple of thousand dollars was more appropriate.  Keep in mind that my Buyers paid over and above the list price of the house for agreed upon upgrades ( appliances,  electric heat pump, etc) that were not done, not to mention the other basic construction deficiences.  To say that my Buyers should only request a couple of thousand dollars to be held back to ensure the completion of these items by the builder was ridiculous.  My Buyers' lawyer and the Builder's lawyer went back and forth all day and finally settled on a more appropriate holdback amount.  My Buyers got the keys to their house at 4 PM after keeping their moving van on the side of the road all day at a pretty hefty hourly charge.  After a few tears, too much headache.   They had no place to go back to as the new Buyer of their condo was in the process of moving in.

 I was so glad that certain things were written into the contract along with quoted dollar amounts and that months ago I asked the listing agent to change the listing cut to reflect the updates and price with updates, it made our case with the deficiencies much stronger.   I had to step back and let the lawyer do his thing.  My Buyers were in good hands but I don't like that I had to turn them over and then step back and watch this unfold from a distance and not interfere.  I'd warned them the night before that according to their lawyer this is what I had to do.  But warning them and then actually having them go through it are two different things.  All I could do is sit on the sidelines, make myself available for comments or questions and return each and every text or phone call as promptly as possible.
  
I hated it.   And I felt helpless.   And I felt so bad for my Buyers that they were going through this.  And I felt betrayed by the Builder and the listing agent.  And then I just felt mad.   Lots of things were not disclosed to me that should have been, both concerning the status of the listing agents themselves and concerning the deficiencies and the situation in general.  Had certain things been disclosed weeks ago my Buyers would have had more options, such as extending the closing dates of both this house and of their condo, or even walking away and finding a new home.  This mess on closing day could have been avoided with proper disclosure.  I feel that they took away my clients right to choose and that just does not sit well with me.  

So I was on pins and needles most of the day yesterday and then in the evening and through most of the night I've been replaying everything in my head.  I can't shut it down.  I'm mentally tired and just need today to chill out and regroup and figure out what I can do in the future, if anything, to ensure this never happens to another one of my Buyers.  I am so thankful to their Lawyer and his paralegal,  and to my broker for all their guidance and help. 

I will not name names but I will do my best to avoid working with this Builder and these two agents in the future. And that upsets me as well....we as Realtors have to battle negative public perception all the time.  No wonder the public feels as they do.  I am discouraged.   And yet it makes me all the more determined to just do the best job that I can for my clients and protect them the best that I can and just be there for them as much as I can.  
And you can help too... it's so important, as consumers, to speak up through and to the proper channels when things aren't right.  Feedback is how we improve, grow and fix what's wrong.  On the other hand, when you encounter a product, service or professional that blew your socks off (or even just did a great job) let others know.  Word of mouth testimonials from friends and family carry so much more weight than any other form of advertising or marketing out there.  

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Ramblings on Saturday Oct 12, 2013

Ah...an early morning and a steaming hot cup of coffee.  Pure joy.  I actually slept in a bit this morning, if you count getting up at 7 sleeping in.   So I've been rambling around the house for a bit, got some laundry on, coffee made...watched the sun come up.  And now the bluejays are fighting each other at the feeder outside my window.

I've played around a bit more with that new database/customer relationship manager program that I downloaded.  It's called RealtyJuggler.  I currently use Top Producer with my team but I needed to get a program of my own and I wanted to compare the features of both before I made up my mind.   Top Producer has more bells and whistles.  To be honest it has so many that it's a bit overwhelming and I just don't need them all.  It's also not as user friendly.  Putting in reminders for a client's birthday, anniversary, house purchase anniversary and other special dates is rocket science compared to how easy it is to do on RealtyJuggler.   However, RealtyJuggler has two major drawbacks for me.  It just doesn't look as good.  I know that sounds odd...but when I sign in to Top Producer the page I land on is a dashboard that shows all my important business at a glance.

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As you can see (or maybe not) by the screenshots I land on a dashboard page that shows my "to-do's" for the day, my listings, my closings, and my prospects and a contact list all on the main page.
By contrast when I sign into RealtyJuggler, I see this:

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So, I can get to the information but it's buried a bit in comparison to Top Producer.   I know, it's a little thing but it is a bit of a time saver to have it all there laid out for you at a glance.

The other major advantage Top Producer has over RealtyJuggler for me is the ability to input my income and expenses and have it print out reports.  I use that a lot at income tax time and for calculating my quarterly HST payments.   To be fair, I haven't played around with that function in RealtyJuggler but at first glance it does not seem as comprehensive as Top Producer does in what it can do tracking income and expenses.   So the jury is out on that right now.

However,  RealtyJuggler is so much more user-friendly.  Entering clients and contacts and their information is a breeze compared to Top Producer.  I can enter showings on listings and have the program automatically send Thank you emails to the showing agents with a form to complete and submit online requesting feedback.
I think what it comes down to for me will be the money right now.  Top Producer is approx $500 a year.  RealtyJuggler is $99 a year.  I just have to decide whether having all my info at a glance and financial reporting is worth the extra $400 a year.  Or I may take the time to seek out an alternative financial program and learn that.  No biggie.

A small group of REALTORS from my office got together last week and went over things in our own personal businesses that we'd like to improve on or have been procrastinating on or need to do.  It's just a little "support" group, for lack of a better name, designed to encourage each other and bounce ideas off of each other and to hold each other accountable.  My thing that I wanted to get done before the next meeting was to get my client database provider figured out so I'm well on the way for that.   In fact that was pretty much the goal for all of us, so it will be interesting to see how the other agents did with deciding what program they want to use.   There is one agent, a woman long-established in the real estate industry, who  has all of her clients on index cards in a little box.  And that has worked perfectly fine for her.  I think it's just about getting your own system down and sticking with it, be it recipe cards in a box or a big brand name software program with all the bells and whistles.

On the home front, today my 17 year old son, Ben, starts his first day volunteering with Hope for Wildlife.  He's so excited and I'm excited for him.  I dropped him off this morning bright and early.  I hope he has a great time and takes some pictures of the critters.

Matthew came home from university yesterday for the Thanksgiving weekend and we took him out to dinner last night.  It's good to have him home again.  I'm lucky he chose to go to university so close to home that I can see him so often.

After dinner we went to do a bit of grocery shopping.   I needed the fixin's for Thanksgiving dinner so we arrived home with a turkey and pies and the works.  I've invited one of my sisters over for dinner but I don't know if she'll be coming, she's so busy at work...which for her is a good thing.     Regardless, I'm looking forward to the day and the dinner and spending time at home with the family.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Saturday October 5, 2013

Another early morning.  I'd love to be able to sleep in.  However, as long as I'm up I'm trying to make better use of my time and channel some of it towards back-end stuff with my real estate business.  Unfortunately this morning all I've been able to muster up so far is a hot pot of coffee and a little bit of Facebook time.   I did acquire a new contact manager program yesterday though that I want to play around with a bit more.  It is called Realty Juggler.  Up until now I've used Top Producer but have been looking around at other options.  If any of my readers have had experience with either, comment and let me know your thoughts.

Wow, is it ever getting crisp outside in the morning.  As nice as the weather has been for this time of year, Fall is definitely in the air.  It seems like a week ago I was wondering when the leaves on the maples on my property would start to shine their reds and oranges...and I looked out yesterday and there they were, like they'd changed overnight.  Now, we both know that's not how it happens but there you have it.

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There are still the odd strangler of the flower variety (aka Weed) left but I imagine they will soon be giving up the ghost as well.

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We have this bird feeder that is suctioned to the outside of our living room window.  We fill it daily and our regular visitors seem to be of the Blue Jay variety.  They aren't neat eaters, putting it mildly.  They'll sit at the feeder and take big swipes at the pile of seed looking for "the one" good enough to eat.  They seem to think it's a game to shove the rest of the seeds out onto the ground.  It's frustrating as we never intended to feed the Blue Jay population but they seem to have bullied all the rest of the birds away.  Not sure what to do about that.    The one perk of the Blue Jay's bad table manners is that we seem to have attracted a few pheasants who are more than happy to help themselves to the table scraps.

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I think it's funny that he keeps looking up at the living room window to see if he's being watched when all the while I'm downstairs at one of the basement windows snapping away.

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We have a few flocks of pheasants around the neighbourhood.  They make the rounds, probably other neighbours are feeding them as well.  We've seen many babies.  This year there seemed to be a bumper crop and we thought for sure most of them were female however over the past couple of weeks the males have been starting to show their colours.  I think they are gorgeous.

On the family front, I was able to see Matt a couple of times this week which was nice.  I'll take it.   I'm glad he chose to go to university in Halifax instead of further away.  It's looking likely that Ben is leaning towards Saint Mary's next year as well, but it's early yet and time will tell.  The universities are just starting their open houses and Ben is showing more of an interest in his future schooling so I'm hoping he will want to attend a few of the open houses.

Speaking of Ben, he is going to start volunteering with Hope for Wildlife.  For my readers outside of the Halifax area, Hope for Wildlife is a wildlife rescue center in Seaforth just outside of the City.  They take in sick, orphaned or injured wildlife of all types and nurse them back to health and otherwise care for them until they are well enough to be released.  If it sounds familiar to you, yes they are the same Hope for Wildlife featured on the TV series.  Anyway, he applied as a volunteer for credit in his high school Leadership course.  He finally got a call back earlier this week from them and he is to go in next week to start training and to take a bit of a tour.  They think that since he's a high school student that they probably won't train him on the animal care but I think he'll be happy just being there and being able to see the animals, even if he is just cleaning up or helping with tours and birthday parties.  He has such a soft spot for animals and critters.  He pretends to be all gruff but he's a pretty caring guy.  I thought that he'd make a great nurse or a vet but those don't seem to be career options that interest him.  Maybe having this exposure to wild animals at Hope for Wildlife will light that spark I see inside of him.