In this column, real estate agents across the nation share stories of the lessons they’ve learned during their time in the industry.
There’s a reason bi-coastal real estate agent and Inman contributor Cara Ameer is so good at writing about policy, procedures and the regulatory environment for real estate professionals: Prior to her career in real estate, she worked in the United States Senate and for the American Bar Association.
Born in Delaware and licensed in California and Florida, she is an award-winning Realtor, real estate media commentator, author, columnist, industry thought leader and speaker. Ameer is currently working on a book aimed at enlightening and empowering the consumer about all things real estate.
Name: Cara Ameer
Title: Broker associate and Realtor in Florida, sales associate and Realtor in California
Experience: Bi-coastal agent, licensed in Florida and practicing 23 years; expanded business to California in 2020
Location: Orange County, California, and Jacksonville and the beaches in Northeast Florida
Brokerages: Coldwell Banker Vanguard and Coldwell Banker Realty
What’s one big lesson you’ve learned in real estate?
You can never overprepare and anticipate curveballs. People can and do change their minds. What a buyer said they originally wanted to buy often ends up not being the case. This may especially be the case with out-of-area buyers. While you can do a lot of advance work to prepare buyers so they are well educated on your market before coming to look at property, they may decide they want something completely different.
Always come with an “A” list, a “B” list and a “C” list of various options, and have your laptop with you so you can quickly pivot. Many times, the buyers have a very limited time to look at properties; it may be they decide to pull the trigger on something immediately after they see it and they want to write the offer up right then and there.
You don’t want to interrupt to rapport and momentum by having to “go back to your office” or fetch your computer. The consumer expects you to be prepared and ready to go at all times.
What’s the best advice you ever got from a mentor or colleague?
Two situations stand out. Prior to going into real estate, when I was working as a paralegal, my boss, who was the lead attorney I worked with, said it was typically the little things that made people upset, more than the big things. Those thoughts really set me up well to transition into real estate.
Many times, it is really the seemingly small things that can get people unwound in a real estate transaction. Sometimes it is going to look at a home and what was supposed to be a private showing has a parade of other buyers going through the property (never communicated by the listing agent that there would be other showings), or the small powder room mirror that the seller said they would leave with the home and was written into the contract is MIA when the buyer goes to do their walkthrough.
I have learned that what may appear to be a minor issue to one person is a huge deal to another, so as an agent, all concerns should be handled with the same care and attention.
Also, my first broker told me that if you aren’t solving problems then you aren’t selling real estate — as a brand new agent that was refreshing to hear, because I thought a real estate transaction had to be “perfect” and free of problems.
After my first two transactions that seemed rather problem-free, my real estate honeymoon was over, and I learned otherwise as my third transaction had about every challenging real estate problem you could think of from a bad septic tank, settling issues, termites, old roof and low water pressure. And yes, the buyers still wanted the house.
After hearing a lot of chatter from experienced agents around me sharing their “war stories,” I realized every real estate transaction has one or a multitude of challenges to work through, and that will likely always be the case.
Even if you try to be as proactive as you can to anticipate and try to prevent some things from happening, there will always be unexpected things that may arise. As a result, I embrace solving problems and now thrive on it.
What would you tell a new agent before they start out in the business?
While not everything in this business is a true emergency — meaning the immediate life, health or safety of someone or something is in danger, this business has a high sense of urgency to it all times.
Everyone you will interact with — whether agents, buyers, sellers, prospects, lenders, title and escrow, etc. — will expect prompt responses. Even if you can’t fully respond to an email, text or take a phone call at the moment it comes in, it is important to acknowledge that you have received their communication and let them know when you will get back to them.
Working in real estate is a lifestyle business, meaning you can’t leave your phone behind when you are doing something non-real estate related. This is not a “get back to someone the next day” kind of thing unless you told them that ahead of time. Opportunity does not wait, and it comes to those who will be able to quickly respond. In addition, your professional perception is also affected by how quickly you do or do not communicate.
What do clients need to know before they begin a real estate transaction?
They need to stop putting the cart before the horse. Too many people casually start to look at properties, then find something they want to put an offer on and thus a fire drill ensues. They haven’t been preapproved, don’t have all of their required documents teed up ready to go (proof of funds, etc.) and haven’t taken the time to fully understand the process and all that will be required of them to buy. It then becomes a race at the 11th hour, and they are half-prepared, trying to make an offer on something they likely won’t get because there are other buyers already well ahead of them.
They also need to understand a real estate transaction can be a confusing conundrum for a consumer, and it can be full of highs and lows, an incredible sense of urgency, and some unexpected twists and turns. The best thing they can do is let go of preconceived notions and expectations of what they think should happen because it rarely transpires that way.
You are entering into the single largest transaction you make in your life, crossing paths with another party who shares something hugely important in common — the property that is being bought or sold. In most cases, neither the buyer nor seller know each other and often forget they have more in common than they do apart, particularly when they are arguing over a refrigerator or patio furniture staying versus going.
What is the one thing everyone should be doing to make life and business better?
Absolutely prioritize your health and wellness — physical and mental. Real estate can be a very stressful and toxic business dealing with a plethora of people and situations not caused by you. A real estate transaction can bring out alternative personalities of the most seemingly rational clients.
People love to unload their stresses and problems on their agent. Study the benefits of certain foods, and focus on food as medicine. Take time for physical exercise, meditation and relaxation so you can be your best for yourself, your family and those you serve.
If you could do anything other than real estate, what would it be?
I would love to be a news anchor, lifestyle show host, moderator or commentator of some sort.
Tell us about your most memorable transaction
There have been many over my career, so it is tough to pick just one, but I had a higher-end listing pre-pandemic that was very difficult to sell at the time. Although the home had a tremendous amount of space and was more traditional in nature, it needed a substantial amount of work. It was a below market opportunity with tremendous upside potential due to the lot, location and community it was located in.
I literally worked with the listing for two years trying to sell it, and it had been off and on the market with other agents/companies prior to that. The sellers became like family, and we joked that I was going to have to move in the home to get it sold.
I worked every possible angle trying to get it sold, obtaining a contractor’s estimate and design plan for improvements based on buyer feedback, including an estimate for moving the grand bridal staircase many did not like. We freshened up the property with some paint and new furniture pieces and submitted it as a candidate for a local symphony showhouse that needed a very large home, and lastly, I was able to get it on a segment of the local news called “Ponte Vedra Cribs.”
At the time, I was doing real estate segments for a lifestyle/morning show on this channel and the sports reporter, who also did some feature pieces, was looking for ideas as the channel was going into a sweeps rating period. He loved it, and I helped him line up the homes to feature, one of which was this listing.
We created fun scenes to bring the house to life, playing cards in the seller’s bar/game room area and threw a pile of play money over the seller’s game table after rolling the dice. Lastly, the reporter, who was musically talented, ended up composing a catchy tune about the sellers and their house while playing the sellers’ grand piano.
Next thing you know, the sellers and myself were his backup singers, and we locked arms swaying behind the guy while he belted out the song, and we sang the chorus. All of this was made into a lively and entertaining news segment, became the buzz of all of the sellers’ neighbors and their community, and this “crib” sold shortly thereafter.
We had a lot of fun, the sellers were amazed at how I put all of this together, and honestly, it was a very human moment putting aside the “sales” of real estate and focusing on bringing joy, excitement and hope to a seller who was really getting discouraged about whether their home would ever be able to sell. The sellers were older and needed to downsize as the husband had health issues. I was glad we could bring this to fruition shortly thereafter.
Troy Palmquist is the founder of DOORA Properties in Southern California and director of growth for eXp California. Follow him on Instagram or connect with him on LinkedIn.