Have People Lost Their Minds?

J Philip Faranda February 23, 2009

If I could work with first-time home buyers all day every day, I would. Given my other responsibilities, such as running a brokerage and servicing 45 or so listings, it is a rare pleasure. Today, I had that pleasure. I have a young couple who both work full time and are both in school part time. We have a pre approval, down payment, closing costs and every pre-purchase necessity well in hand. It’s beautiful.

Queens is not my primary service area, but I am a member of the Long Island Board of REALTORS and the MLS of Long Island, and I know the area fairly well, as my wife is from Rego Park. The great thing about working in Queens is that it lends itself to an energetic, fun day. If there is a gap between showings you can always go to a diner and have some laughs over a cup of coffee. Then after we are finished, I can head over to Flushing to H-Mart, the Korean Supermarket on Northern Boulevard and get all sorts of goodies for my wife and kids- kimchee (I have no idea if that is the right way to spell it), rice cakes, tofu, fresh fruit, and lots of other things that make opening the basement refrigerator an adventure.

First-time home buyers, Queens, H-Mart-so this is shaping up to be a great day, right?

Wrong. Disaster City, and indicative of tough times for both Queens brokers, who need to get their acts together, and sellers, who need a reality check.

Here’s the breakdown. Of the 20 or so 2-family homes my clients expressed an interest in seeing, about three quarters were short sales. 6 listing agents never called me back this week to answer my appointment request. In one case, the office REFUSED to give me another number for the agent, who never called me back or answered my emails. One vacant REO’s agent never gave me the courtesy of a call back with the lockbox information. Another 6 said “Can only be seen from the outside.”  Fewer than 10 listings responded normally to confirm an appointment, and of those, 4 confirmed. Of the 4, we got into 3 (the last one refused us at the door altogether). Of those three, one had occupants who were unaware of a showing but let us in. One had a unit we couldn’t enter, so we only saw part of the house. So, out of 20+ listings we contacted all week, we got ONE appointment where we were actually expected and saw the whole house.

This is after a week of trying to get in for today, Sunday, the biggest showing day of the week. I have a few observations:

  • That many short sales indicates that these sellers all bought relatively recently with over leveraged sub-prime loans. Many had little or no money invested. It shows- they act like people with no skins in the game.
  • Listing brokers aren’t just throwing mud on the wall to see what sticks, they are throwing poop. “Can only see from the outside” ?? This is allowed?
  • Listing brokers are not educating their clients that they cannot sell the house if reasonable requests to show are not accepted. In a short sale, showings are to be treated as being of an urgent nature.
  • Many listing agents just flat out stink. Sorry. Sue me. If you can’t call me back for a week or inform the tenants that I’ll be there to show the house, you suck. If the code of ethics didn’t forbid it, I’d name names just to shame them into cooperating.
  • Some REO brokers have become so stinking lazy and unprofessional that if I knew who their asset manager was they would be in for a hell of a lifestyle and attitude change.
  • In Westchester and the northern counties, if a listing is not available for showings for more than 72 hours it has to be taken off the active market temporarily. There apparently is no such rule in the Long Island MLS. The downside of that is that consumers see an active listing, assume it to be available to see, and when their buyer agent can’t get them in, they look ineffective. Some frustrated buyers will then call the listing agent directly, who in some cases will then kick it into high gear to get both ends. This is not cooperation, it is racketeering. 

My buyers will be fine. They heard my cell phone conversations with some of these offices and I cc’d them in on some emails. But what of other buyers who are caught up in this? Here we have a slow sales cycle, and the broker’s aren’t facilitating what few opportunities arise, to their own detriment and, worse, the detriment of their clients. Have they lost their minds? Don’t they have any idea how much damage this causes?

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