The cost of disruption

The tech world and its pundits talk about which industry will be disrupted next. Travel agencies are a mere shadow of their former stature. Many industries (banks for example) have consolidated wealth and market share and are doing well with far fewer employees. The taxi cab industry is a recent example of disruption, as is the lodging industry. Real estate has some proximity to lodging in that residential (and commercial) properties may be purchased with the goal of short term rentals in mind. You know the names: VRBO, Airbnb, etc. Not everyone lives the glorious life of an owner-occupant that never has house guests. Some open up one bedroom and one bath to paying visitors, sharing the kitchen, while others take a vacation from home and lease their castle for 10 days, making enough money to pay 3 months of mortgage payments. This cost of disruption is still being calculated, as opponents to short term rentals in residential areas fear the end of their peaceful and safe living environment. Those in favor see a better experience in the area they are visiting and are glad to pay rent to a homeowner instead of a international (or local) lodging company.

Certainly some people who lease for a short time are potentially bothersome to the nearby homes and residents. The popular “bad” image is a group of frat boys partying all night with loud music and shouting, leaving beer cans strewn about the yard, Yes, that can happen, but likely most people are families or couples vacationing in an area they want to visit. They will dine out and visit shops, galleries, cultural sites and museums, imbibe at the local pubs, hike the Dale Ball trails and hopefully take home some merchandise. Maybe more importantly they will want to return again in the near future.

Is the real estate sales industry ripe for disruption? Well, let’s think about that. Can you buy a home online? Yes. Can you buy a home without seeing it in person? Yes. Should you do that? There are some concerns about doing things that way, but if you want to, go ahead. What do real estate professionals actually do besides unlock a door to a home? If you have to ask, and truly do not know the answers to that question, we need to talk. Realtors, the majority of salespeople are members of Realtor organizations, have state license law to up hold and follow, along with a time-tested Realtor Code of Ethics. Backing up the code is a Standards of Practice document that compiles best practices for Realtors. Those serve as rules we live and work under. A quick example: we shall not falsely represent a property when marketing it. Another: we must disclose any potential conflict of interest or if we are going to be receiving compensation from more than one party.

So yes, we have lockbox keys. And we have access to a database of all properties listed for sale in our MLS. Our source is more precise and current than the compiling sites such as Zillow. We have access to attorney-prepared forms for use in a transaction and we have resources galore of third party vendors that can help a buyer learn about the home they are about to buy, or get a mortgage loan approved to allow the purchase. We have errors and omissions insurance in case we make a mistake. Sadly, many attorneys use that coverage to sue us for money when they are solicited to help an aggrieved buyer or seller. It doesn’t even matter if we did something wrong or not. We still get named in a lawsuit.

What else? How about our role as dog-sitter? Marriage counselor? Palm reader and mind reader? Tour guide? Source of info about anything they want to know about…homeowners associations, restaurants, schools, churches, zoning laws, roofers and radon testers, property managers, surveyors, materials for remodeling and consignment stores. Tax-deferred exchanges, water well permits and flow tests, paint stores and flooring specialists, septic pumping vendors and medical professionals, too.

Many Realtors will tell you they become friends with their customers and those are the people they end up having dinner with and sharing stories with. We are citizens and residents of this area, we pay taxes, raise children, order pizza and go to gallery openings. You will see us volunteering at the Folk Art Market, riding our mountain bikes on Cerro Gordo, taking a class at the Santa Fe School of Cooking and helping a visitor find the Plaza. We can be thought of as greedy parasites to real estate deals, but many deals would not happen but for the involvement of a professional real estate salesperson. The level of talent and knowledge required to be a successful Realtor is staggering. All this and we are considered a lowly profession, maybe just above used car salesmen and divorce attorneys. Not that there is anything wrong with selling used cars.

We have been waiting for the computer to replace us. I am 65 and I can work as long as I like. There will always be a place for me at the table, in my lifetime anyway. Hopefully some younger professionals will get into the business so that I and others can share our decades of experience and lessons with them. As if they want to listen anyway, the whippersnappers!!

Enjoy the market today because it is changing. The Santa Fe NM residential real estate market is not at the front of the pack, but we are moving into a healthier market and it is an interesting time to buy or sell depending upon your personal needs. We will help you and assist you. We will listen when you rant and rave and we will smile back at you when you get a rush of excitement about the successful closing you are about to have. We will continue to wait to the very end and then another day or two before we get paid. If you use us and don’t pay us, we will remember, but will likely do it again tomorrow for the promise of helping someone, even you, and getting a check for the trouble and effort. And maybe a new friend.

Always ask a few more questions than you think are necessary. Insist that your Realtor is an expert and don’t be afraid to move on if you are not happy with the first one you meet. It takes guts and brains and thick skin and a sense of humor to be a Realtor. If you want a robot, I know someone for you, but it is not me.

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