Becoming a real estate salesperson is NOT like becoming a brain surgeon. Being a brain surgeon requires skill and knowledge. Several years of schooling and experience. Money and/or the credit worthiness to go deeply into debt. I'm thinking it must require an intense passion to get you thru the long years of training.
On the other hand, becoming a real estate salesperson, at least in Florida, requires 10 days and two tests. A total investment of about $1500, not including those 10 days away from your waitressing job. Unless you waitress at night.
What you learn in those 10 days in NO WAY prepares you to advise ordinary citizens on how to make what will probably be some of the most important financial decisions of their lives.
What you do learn in those 10 days are the many ways you can go to jail for messing with the escrow account; how to figure a closing statement; and some other stuff I can't remember. My 10 days was mind-numbingly uninteresting, despite the fact that I am still madly in love with my instructor, Curtis Wild. Unfortunately, I am also in love with his wife, Marilyn. Just my luck.
Curtis made it as interesting as possible and kept me awake. I passed the two tests admirably (I think I was valedictorian of my salesperson's course.) Got my license and found a broker that I liked, still like, in fact, and started my new career. That was in 1995.
I knew NOTHING. Less than nothing. What I had going for me, and still do, is that I am unfalteringly honest and realistic. To say that I am direct would be putting it nicely: I am blunt. I cannot bear subterfuge, cannot bear denial of facts right there in front of you. I possess glaring character defects, just ask my family. Dishonesty and walking around with blinders on are not among them. Being too harsh in the name of honesty is on the list. I'm working on that.
This is not the case with all those in the real estate arena. Particularly in a falling market. I would say "crashing market" but that would be too harsh. I will just think it.
Not surprisingly, I am almost alone in this assessment when it comes to Key West real estate. This fact was reinforced beyond a shadow of a doubt over my last two weeks here showing property to Sam and Janet. Long time Key West visitors, they've been watching the market for the last couple of years. While here, we looked at and analyzed property six to nine hours a day. They made million-dollar, all-cash, within-20%-of-asking, 10%-in-escrow, close-when-the-seller-wishes offers on a couple of properties that had had no showings, no offers, no attention in months. Months. In a couple of cases, years. Yes, YEARS.
These good faith offers were snubbed, laughed at, and, in one case, completely ignored. Even though we made it clear that the buyers, while hoping the offer price might be accepted, would not be surprised to get a counter offer. The brokers and sellers who received these offers were indignant.
Are offers within 20% of asking price considered "low-ball"? Compared to the last three or so years, when selling prices were within 5% of asking price, when sellers picked a price out of the air and got it, sometimes more, when properties weren't on the market for more than five minutes without a showing and possibly a sale… in that market, yes, these would be considered low-ball offers.
This ain't that market. You don't need to be a brain surgeon to know that. You just need the willingness to take a hard look at the numbers. Your agent does need to be able to add. And to know that markets don't just go up.
Unbelievably, I've had local real estate salespeople tell me the Key West market will only go up. I have no reply to this statement. It seems so outrageous to me, I think I must be the crazy one. In an altered universe. On drugs.
Many of the properties on the market now are agent-owned speculations. To me, this is like a coke-dealer snorting his product. It can only lead to trouble. And intense denial.
Which is why we ran away. We knew the crash, er, "correction" was coming. I don't have a crystal ball. I have a husband who reads and studies markets and financial news and delights in rolling in the muck of it, deciphering it. Then explaining it to me even though my eyes roll back in my head. I try to understand it… after 15 years of listening, I can follow along pretty well. Fortunately, he's so involved and fascinated by the discussion, he doesn't notice when I've gone to sleep with my eyes open.
I am in touch with the hard realities. Like I hadn't had a closing in eight months by the time we stopped the bleeding. We were going on broke with no relief in sight. Looking forward only to living thru the breaking of many hearts and checkbooks. We are still going broke, just way more slowly now. Trying to decide what to do with our lives. Thank God, we don't own property that we have to sell. I'd rather be broke.
A NOTE: Don't worry about me, I'll think of something. This is not a plea for donations, common on the web these days. I wouldn't have my life any other way. AND I'm a very good waitress. I have a huge skill set. I am unafraid of being broke, even at 50. Even despite the fact I'm going to live forever, as evidenced by my dear Granny Boo who is hanging in there at 96. Clearly, I'm going to need to earn money for quite a few years to come…. Like I'm going to stop working. I have my health, my children, my family, my friends. Life does not get any better than this. If I hadn't had a reversal of fortune, I would not have gotten the opportunity to have this adventure, to re-think my priorities. To be so grateful for the gifts that have been so freely given me. I'd still be buying stuff. See? You wish you had my life, right?
For my last couple of days in Key West, I'm thoroughly enjoying my little hometown, forgetting real estate as best I can. I've been to three movies, with more on the list. Went to the ice cream social at the MARC House last night. Going to watch Skipper play at the Pier House tonight, maybe sing a song. I've seen EVERYONE – that has been swell. Denise at Camille's told me I always have a job, don't even have to fill out an application. So that's settled. No worries there.
Sam and Janet? They'll be back, me with them. They are not in a hurry, they are content to wait it out. They don't have to buy at the bottom, they said. They just don't want to buy at the top. Who can blame them? They want to negotiate, they want to pay a fair price. Are we wrong about the direction of the market? Is NOW the bottom? Who knows. Only time will tell.
Right now, I have to go help Uncle Brian move a tree. I guess I gotta change out of my white skirt, eh? Then off to enjoy the sunshine and colors of Key West. Oh, there's a lot to enjoy here; I have pictures and stories to tell. Stay tuned.