Thursday, April 26, 2007

The 'Hybrid Realtor'...(revisited)

I wrote this in a snowstorm late last December and posted it just before my wife and I vacationed in Cabo so to be honest, I'm not sure it got read by anybody. My statcounter only showed a dozen or so viewers for that entire week so now that readership has soared, I'm re-posting the piece. Four months later and deep into the heart of the Spring Real Estate market in Chicago, it's as pertinent and timely as ever.

There has been a lot of discussion lately in our Brokerage about the evolution of the Real Estate Agent in Chicago (or across the nation for that matter) Hybrid Realtor. Eric Rojas alluded to this in a previous post and I'm pretty sure our Broker/Owner Joe Pinto came up with the monicker during one of his many sleepless nights planning the future. Our agency is as much 'think tank' as it is Real Estate sales I believe, and this is one of the great freedoms associated with working in a boutique environment

My first experience with the traditional Real Estate process was on an out-of-state 'house hunting trip' in 1984 when I submitted an offer on a Baltimore rowhome for $84,000. I called the listing agent out of the Sunday paper and she agreed to meet me that afternoon at the property. She was a 'veteran' Realtor to be sure, and as she pulled up in her big fat Cadillac, dressed for church, fifteen minutes late and talking a mile a minute, I knew at once that I had already lost any little control I might ever have over the entire situation.

An hour later, trapped in her office (she insisted we take her car) I signed a full price contract. Less than 24 hours later I participated in my second and third Real Estate experiences--killing a deal (I'm certain the Realtor had a mini-stroke before my eyes) and then promptly submitting an offer on a similar rowhome in the same neighborhood for $10,000 less from a F.S.B.O. down the street. I ultimately backed out of that deal, as well---and it really goes without saying but I'll say it anyway; there were more than a handful of people that were hating me pretty badly by the end of that weekend, including my wife at the time and even myself on several different levels.

The thing is, the Realtor wouldn't let me look through her MLS book. I "wasn't allowed to," she scolded, clutching it tightly to her chest as if it were a purse and we were walking through an unlit alley. It's very funny now as I think back on the whole scenario. I was attempting to make the biggest purchase of my life from someone I hated, who apparently thought little of me as well and didn't even represent me. And then I took my newly found negotiating knowledge immediately into another deal where no one was represented and it ended just as poorly, if not worse because the second guy didn't want to give me my earnest money check back.

I subconsiously blocked out the next seven years of my life I believe, so I'm not really sure how it all even ended except to say I did wind up buying and selling from an array of Realtors over the next 15 years until 'Corporate America' quit transferring me around the country and abandoned me in Chicago where I'm presently enjoying the best years of my life.

My point being, I learned exactly how I didn't want to be perceived as a Realtor. I've met a lot of them. Almost all of them are what my Broker would refer to as traditional agents. Traditional agents are fine...I just don't want to be one. They tend to approach the business the way it was shown to them and it's...well, traditional--mailers, reliance on print advertising and assistants, an unhealthy dependance on referrals, magnets at Christmas, a lot of 'in the box' sales talk, etc. I am fortunate to have entered the business at the same time Technology entered the business. So let me make a short list about how I view myself and aspire to be, a Hybrid Realtor. And again, this is just my take on the subject.

*I traded my big fat S500 Benz for a Mini-Cooper after it literally cost me $100 to fill the tank with fuel. (I't's the coolest car {the Mini} I've ever owned and I've pretty much owned them all). My wife, being the great supporter that she is, promptly traded her Jag convertible for an X3 BMW SAV a week later. The Jag was a hog as well.

*I cancelled my Brooks Brothers credit card as there is nothing in the store that suits my fancy these days and while I still dress daily for work. think Italian--sans neckwear.

*If I were informed tomorrow that I could never spend another cent on print advertising or 'mailers' I'd probably just smile.

*If my connection to the internet gets interrupted, my PDA crashes, or my GPS navigation goes screwy in the suburbs, I immediately lose my mind---just kidding about the suburbs because I never go there although I hear it's quite nice.

*I strive to have 80% of my business come from people I do not know and have never met because everyone I do know is either a Realtor, or becoming a Realtor, or dating/marrying into a family where someone (other than me) is a Realtor. Several of my past clients have even become Realtors. In other words, the future for me does not lie solely in referral business even though I still receive them on a monthly basis.

*I do not need a personal assistant because the 'back-end' of our website is so powerful and advanced (in conjunction with my handheld devices and real time virtual access), it serves as my assistant.

*No more clunky 'sales talk' or catch phrases will pass through these lips (not that they ever much did): "I want to earn your business," "Unbe-liev-able" and all those other Real Estate 101 sayings that went out with the 'double windsor.' The consumer is over all that gab. (besides, its so un-hybrid!)

Because of my Blog and Web Page I'm open 24 hours a day, every day of the year, every remaining year of my life.

And finally, I realize that the general public has as much access to the Real Estate world as they care to have. I do not need to 'clutch' my knowledge like a purse in a dark alley. (And yes, my sister bought me a 'man purse' and what of it? Anyway, it's not the purse but what's on the inside that counts!) 'Transparency' is the way of the future. It's a wave I choose to embrace. It's a wave only The Hybrid Realtor will be able to ride, the way I see it.

image by science.uwaterloo

Geno Petro

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Needs and Wants, My Love...

Okay. This is a mouthful but I'm going to try and spit it out. It's a concept my Managing Broker Joe Pinto, refers to on occasion and in recent weeks, has played out more and more in my own daily routine of showing property in Chicago. The crux of the idea has to do with 'needs' vs. 'wants' in the present Real Estate market. The 'My Love' part, while fairly irrelevant from a Brokerage perspective, is the rational 'icing on the cupcake' from the Buyer's point of view. It's not all spreadsheets and basis points, you know. It's about balance in the marketplace.

Eventually, an overwhelming need to purchase a home just takes over, regardless of the market climate. Example: If I come home tonight and my wife informs me we are having triplets then guess what---I'm going to kick the bejezus out of the father. Ha ha. But really....we'd seriously be looking for a bigger place. Regardless of interest rates, regardless of 'bubbles,' irrespective of whether it's a Buyer's market, Seller's market, rain, sleet, snow, yadda-yadda, onomatopoeia...or whatever...we are sooo moving. And when we find the perfect place, even if I'm not being stabbed to death in a brutal negotiation by the Seller and the Listing Agent, we're paying the price. It's a need thing. Oh yeah, we're going to love it too. All five of us-- Then on holidays there are her parents and my parents; plus her son and his girlfriend; and my daughter and ...Wait!... I think I may have to move anyway.

By the same token, if the Witness Protection Program sends a Western Union saying I have to move to Fargo, North Dakota (also a Ha ha) by Tuesday then guess what again? When the Government calls...we run. Condo For Sale On Wolcott. Priced For Quick Sale. Dog and Cat Included. Best Offer Over Maximum Pain Level Accepted. Jimmy H is buried at...("I'm spilling my guts here to make this deal work....Would you care for a cool beverage? May I take back a second mortgage for you? ...There's a trap door in the basement and plenty of cash in the freezer...")

And again, again. It's a need thing. Want isn't part of this particular picture either. Want is a lesser force of Nature in Real Estate. It's an after dinner drink, that unnecessary 'must have' handbag in the Prada window. It's the Harley I never get. Need is the triplets I don't want but have to deal with.

Where I have seen a lot of want in the past year or so has been with Sellers with no sense of urgency or need to move in the first place. A lot of overpriced Listings on the market. A lot of 'testing' the price points to "see what happens." A lot of inventory. A lot of want. Not a lot of Buyers. But as my Broker is quick to add, "The demand for housing doesn't go away. It just gets pent up." And of course, I concur.

The way I see it, one may be able to squeeze an extra year out of a beat up Bimmer or 'pass' on a new pair of Ferragamos for one more season but eventually 'need,' ('want's' bigger brother and a greater force of Nature), is going to step in and take over the situation. Then, in due time, a funny turn of events begins to occur.

Some of the inventory, the best of the best, gets scooped up quickly. Another portion falls off the market permanently as people stay put. ('Test' results are in. No 'social promotion' this year for the house with the bad kitchen and beat to hell bathrooms.) Buyers jockey for the next 'best in show' Condo, and Multiple Offers become more commonplace. Property starts selling with quicker Market Time and people start surfing the Real Estate websites at work and attending Open Houses on Sundays and Saturdays. The inventory 'back-up' calves like a glacier so life can move forward as the housing cycle regains its momentum until the next global housing cooling scare. The circle will not be unbroken and when it does, there's an Inspection credit at Closing for the Buyer.

Need and Want I submit to you dear readers, form this elliptical cycle of Housing. It will most always be this way in a free enterprise system, I believe. Need is the dinner, the meat and 'taters. Want is the dessert, the creme de la creme brulee. And is never having to say "I lost you... in a multiple offer."

Geno Petro

Friday, April 13, 2007

We Don't Need More Dots...

"We don't need more dots..." I hear the red-faced, stock picking pundit scream into the CNBC camera as I glance up from my laptop. Late afternoon cable TV is how I home school myself on these occasional slow days in the Chicago Real Estate bubble, correction, vacuum, surge or whatever they're calling it this week in the media.

"Booyah!" counters the caller from Delaware.

"And a great big 'Booyah' to you, my friend."

. What a stupid word. Wikipedia defines it as a catch phrase of 'accomplishment' coined by ESPN personality Stuart Scott, but the only person I've ever heard say it is the vein popping bald guy in rolled up shirt sleeves I'm watching now, pacing around a studio sound stage of cow-bells, flat screen monitors, and bull horns. Him and of course, all his booyahnic buds.

Today, 'BooYah' is dressed like a Scotsman--tam, kilt, et al. Someone blows a bagpipe off-camera as the next caller inquires about a small cap 'Dog' (bad stock, apparently) with fleas (too many troubles to mention). BooYah starts pounding his desk with a rubber golf club..."Bad dog, bad dog..." More bagpipe then a commercial break for Cialis--the one with the 4 hour warning., quadruple booyah.

I glance back down at my own monitor and peck a few more keys before hitting Save and starting a new Word Doc.... "Things I say. "

I make a quick list of my own favorite sayings--phrases I'd like to think I'm known for, whether self-composed or simple perpetrations of things I've heard in passing and improved upon--sayings I've lent my own voice to or, twisted around to make my own. And since I'm big on analogies, metaphors and such (requires less communication skills than making the actual point), I often weave these verbal delectations into my Real Estate conversation when discussing a property. So in no particular order, with appropriate annotations and due credit following, I submit to you:

"Start with supermodel, and work backwards." (On showing the best property first but can really apply to anything if you think about it.)
CREDIT: Half mine, half someone elses.

"No matter how beautiful she is, there's somebody somewhere... who's sick of her." (On questioning why such a lovely home is up for sale, among other more trivial observations I've noticed on the E! Channel.)
CREDIT: Someone else.

"A third are coming, a third are going, a third are making up their minds." (On why there is such a lack of Agent/Broker loyalty in the Real Estate business i.e....Agency 'ship jumping,' so to speak.)
CREDIT: Some Recruiter I used to know.

"You can recruit yourself out of any situation." (On re-building a floundering Real Estate Brokerage i.e.... Sending higher commission split 'life rafts' for those who already jumped or are considering treason.)
CREDIT: The Recruiter who took the other Recruiter's place.

"Everyone thinks their baby is the most beautiful child on Earth...and their house is worth more than it is." (Speaks for itself, really.)
CREDIT: Me. I said it first.

"Life is short. You're dead for a long time." (On just 'going for it.')
CREDIT: An annonymous Madison Avenue copywriter and I think perhaps, God originally.

"Don't push the Publish button after midnight." (On Blogging and trying to be funny at the end of a long day in the Chicago Real Estate business.)
CREDIT: My wife.

And finally...the newest addition to my lexicon of Genoisms....

"We don't need more dots...we need to connect the ones we already have!" (On most anything, anywhere, anytime these my opinion.)
CREDIT: BooYah... and the boys.

Geno Petro

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

2323 W Montrose...SOLD IN 21 DAYS

It lives like a Single Family House. This Fitsgerald designed Duplex sits directly across from Welles Park in Chicago's Lincoln Square neighborhood. Original blueprints allowed for a 4 bedroom layout but the current owners opted instead, for a massive family room on the lower level. Beautifully appointed, this 2600 square foot Condo shows like a model---no...a supermodel!
Notice the all brick exterior accented with limestone and the west facing wall of windows that flood the unit with afternoon light. Chef's stainless steel kitchen appliances, maple cabinets and thick granite make entertaining a joy and preperation convenient. Look out the glass sliders to Welles Park or step out onto the balcony for a nightcap.
Offered at $574,900 this three bedroom, three full bath luxury Condo gives you space to live and room to grow. Of course, garage parking is included. Just steps to the restaurants and shops of Lincoln Square, the Chicago River, the Brown Line and Welles Park, 2323 W. Montrose is one to place atop your list on Open House Day---which, by the way, is this coming Sunday, April 15th from 1-4PM.... Or call Geno anytime for a private showing: 773-975-2130

*Click here for the Virtual Tour *

Geno Petro

Monday, April 02, 2007

Things You Don't Forget

The other morning during my daily walking (dragging) of the hound we noticed a new development on our block. It first caught the eye of my pooch as he put on the air brakes nearly yanking my arm from its socket. It wasn't so much a development really, but more of a twist--an evolutional 'baby step' for the neighborhood; a precursor of events to follow as residential life in the city plays out its hand--foreshadowing, at the very least.

While we technically live on the geograhic cusp of Lincoln Park and West Lakeview on Chicago's North Side, a new multicolored banner hanging from the lamp post (as they typically do) at the corner of Wolcott and Diversey has now declared our tiny annex of the city, Hamlin Park Neighbors. Some rogue neighborhood committee must have assembled its own group of condo-owning infidels while my wife and I were vacationing and captured the four block area through some back street ad hoc maneuvering our great city is so famous for. Last I looked, the Hamlin Park contingent had set up camp just south of Wellington but lacked the residential manpower to forge across Diversey. But this is just background music with perhaps, a few Aldermanic overtones.

The real story here is what first caught the eye of my dog on that brisk morning. It wasn't the hanging banner at all but rather, what we both witnessed coming toward us down the sidewalk. The banner itself was merely symbolism.

A young boy, maybe four or five years old, clad in helmet, elbow pads, knee pads, safety gloves, goggles and protective mouthpiece---patient 30-something father to his side with hand on shoulder--came weaving toward us on his virgin bicycle flight-- sans training wheels. Again, last time I looked, his mother was pregnant--with him. We both watched on.

I thought back 45 years to my own inaugural two wheeled mission, my own father's hand on my shoulder, with Salem in mouth and hint of Mennens aftershave lingering in the August air, guiding me with patience (yeah right) along. I think I was barefoot with no shirt in swimming trunks. It was my fifth birthday. Thinking back as I looked down at my attentive companion, that was many dogs ago.

What hasn't changed and what my point here really is---is...its 'five years and you're out' when you live in the city. The next steps for this young family down the block (mom is pregnant again) and I'm sure they already know some of this, is the For Sale By Owner sign on the black iron fence, followed in short order by the sign of my Brokerage most likely, then off to Lake Forest or Wilmette or some other bucolic Northern Chicago suburb for the next 15 or 20 years in a series of Center-Entry Colonials, before venturing back for the final city swing until finally, permanent retirement in a deep Southern state.

When one first witnesses the heavily armored five year old, father to the side, attempting to navigate the narrow sidewalks of Chicago on a mini mountain bike, one just knows a North Shore cul-de-sac with a more equitable (school district) tax basis is the next destination. Even my dog Elvis, with his two or three track mind, has an inkling that change is near for these young Hamlin Park Neighbors. Thinking back, I too lived in a fresh new house and attended a different, better school district by the time second grade rolled around. The main difference is my parents didn't vote to change the name of the neighborhood before they left.

image by all poster

Geno Petro