Close your eyes. Relax. Think back to a simpler time—a time before cell phones, before email, before PDAs and internet search engines. Think back to a time when real estate agents had glamour-shot photographs on their business cards and online was not around.
Now, ask yourself these questions: How did real estate agents look up properties in the MLS? How did they know a house was for sale? How did they know which house was for sale or a bank foreclosure? How did they know if the house had 3 or 4 bedrooms? The answer to all these questions could be found in an invaluable source real estate agents called “the book.” Yes, the Austin MLS published a book once each month that contained all the listings. So, if real estate agents wanted a virtual tour, they had to drive to the property to take an actual, visual tour themselves, take notes with pen and paper, and then run to the nearest payphone to call their clients to let them know they had found a house for them to preview. Talk about putting some miles on your car!
This lack of instant connection did, however, work in the favor of the real estate investor. Less-than-serious buyers were quickly weeded out of the system; and, rather than having the convenience of viewing hundreds of homes from the comfort of their own homes, real estate agents had to actually drive to a house to preview it. The competition for homes that were great deals was furious and cutthroat!
A couple of years ago a good friend and a long-time realtor told me the story about a home that he had sold back in those days to one of his clients. At that time most people would not even consider writing an offer on a house unseen. Therefore, the agent had to coordinate a meeting of all the parties involved to preview and, hopefully, write an offer if the house was what the client was looking for. My friend said that back in the old days each listing had a lock box; and, if the agent knew the combination, he could open it to get the key to the house. This was also true for both bank and HUD foreclosures.
My realtor friend told me this story: As he was looking through the listing of HUD foreclosures that had just come out, he noticed a home that met all the criteria that one of his clients had specified—great location, great price, and all the desired amenities. He quickly jumped into his car and drove across town to actually see the property to make sure that the house was in good shape. However, as he pulled up to the curb, he saw not one but two of his competitors there; they were also previewing the home. Like my friend, they had just seen the listing for this foreclosure and came to the same conclusion he did—this home was a great deal!
After completing his assessment of the home, my friend realized that this was the perfect house for his clients. He needed to get them there to preview it and write an offer. However, as he was leaving, he overheard one of his competitors saying that her client was coming to see the house that afternoon; if the client liked it, the competitor would write an offer on the spot. As a result of his observations my friend was feeling a little despondent, knowing that his clients were not going to be back from vacation for a few days. After a few minutes of thought, though, a wonderful idea popped into his head!
My friend remembered that he had seen a dead cat by the side of the road just a few blocks away during his drive to preview the house. He drove to that spot, picked up the dead cat, brought it to the house, and placed it strategically on the front porch. He then left, hoping that seeing the dead cat on the front porch would dissuade the competitor agent’s clients from making an offer on the house.
A couple of days later, when his clients were back in town, my friend checked on the status of the house with the dead cat on the front porch. It was still on the market, and there were no pending offers; so he immediately drove his clients to see this gem themselves.
When they arrived at the house, the dead cat was still on the porch. My friend immediately retrieved a shovel from his car trunk and removed it. His clients—unfazed—stepped across the threshold into this lovely home that, in fact, met all their desires and more. It was the perfect house at the perfect price. A little suspicious, however, the couple looked at my friend and asked if they were overlooking something. Was there anything wrong with the house—something not visible? There must be something wrong if no offers had been made on such a wonderful property. After a little reflection my realtor friend responded with this perfect little sentence:
“I guess they couldn’t see past the dead cat!”
This simple response has given me much joy over the years for this reason: If we think about it, any time we buy real estate we tend to exercise emotion rather than common sense. All those people who had previewed that house before my friend’s clients got back in town responded emotionally by thinking only about the dead cat and not considering the beautiful home and great deal that lay beyond it.
How many great opportunities are lost on a daily basis because emotion has gotten in our way? My realtor friend’s story illustrates the importance of this simple principle:
Sometimes we need to see past the dead cat to see the real opportunity that lays beyond it!
Till Next time –