Dear Realtor, What Is It That You Actually Do?
Ah, the joys of property hunting!
It was only a few short years ago that I came to this freak of a city, looking for a place to call home. Granted, I was (and still am) renting, but I knew it couldn’t be an impossible dream to find a cozy little place to settle down for a spell. I still remember the first property that E, my realtor (and, yes, I refuse to cap that allegedly “professional” title) at the time, showed me.
I step out of the car onto well-worn asphalt whose border can’t be deciphered from the gravel known as the complex’s “yard.” A child’s plastic trike sits, faded and long-abandoned, near a staircase leading up to one of the units of the gray two-story building. We walk up the steps, which I swear are bending beneath our every footfall. We get to the door, and wouldn’t you know it? The code to the lockbox wasn’t working! Good thing the door was already kicked in at the bottom; we could practically see the whole place through the gap!
I had one thought running through my head at the time, and it went something like this: Seriously, E, what made you think in a million years that it would ever be a good idea for Little Ol’ Petite & Very Single Me to live in a place like this? I understand not being biased against certain neighborhoods, but I also understand catering to your client’s taste and not wasting one’s own time.
Fast-forward a little over two years. Having avoided an inevitable shanking at Casa de la Scary by living with my mom, sister, and sister’s bestie instead, it came time to embark on my solo once again. I decide to give E one last chance to redeem himself by showing me some places I might actually feel safe living in. It became clear very quickly, however, that E was not going to be of much help, as it took him nearly a week just to respond to my voicemails. Perhaps he could squeeze me in to view a property once I had all my boxes packed and truck loaded.
Enter K. Deciding to do my best to take matters into my own hands, I did what any desperate computer owner does: I started contacting people off the Internet. Finding a place a mile or two down the road from my family’s, I call the number associated with it and meet up with K at the condo.
I realize quickly that the pictures online did not quite capture the overall ambiance of the community, to put it euphemistically. But K is kind, asking me if there’s any way she can help me find someplace I’d feel comfortable coming home to.
K becomes more than a realtor to me; she becomes my friend. She tells me about the different neighborhoods we visit. She tells me about the different property management companies in town — who’s reputable and whom to avoid. She even tells me about the guy she’s dating and gets me a housewarming gift when I do find a great place.
Things are good for the time I’m in that condo. I have a good landlord who gives a crap about her place, and I take good care of it for her. The property management official who comes to check in on the unit from time to time, G, even says it looks like a model home. My new boyfriend says it looks like I don’t even really live there; is this my second home — the one I take my secret lovers to — by any chance?
It isn’t, though, and soon my new boyfriend is just my boyfriend, and we decide to move in together. It’s time to go a-huntin’ again. I know the perfect person to call now, though, right? So I give K a ring.
Mysteriously, K seems to think I got my name changed sometime during the past two years we’ve been out of touch. Starting it off with an M instead — and keeping it that way even after my boyfriend corrects her — she gets the news that “Megan” is now looking for a place for two.
This Megan character, however, is apparently not too particular, because K only sends a list of, like, 10 properties that have to be to both my and my boyfriend’s liking. Needless to say, Raegen asks for a bigger list; we have no problem narrowing it down ourselves.
What we do have a problem with, though, is getting our selections to actually match up with what the pictures have depicted. One unit hasn’t even been cleaned; razors have been left in the shower, and the countertops in the kitchen have a peculiar stickiness to them that none of us dared touch with a bare hand, lest we catch some communicable disease (like the herp).
The majority of properties we see are actually like this, though they daringly call themselves “move-in ready.” For whom — poo-flinging monkeys? And who are these alleged “management” companies — composed of realtors and their minions, mind you — and what were they doing (you know, besides not managing properties)?
So we look. And we look. And we look even more. So many properties were ruled out as soon as we opened the door. Still, I don’t blame K for getting frustrated with me after four weekends of searching. I was tired of the whole thing, too. But I just wasn’t about to get myself into a situation for a year or more with a company that obviously didn’t know what property management was.
But I did, and I did it even though I thought I was making the safest move I could possibly make; I did it by sticking with my current property management company. In a moment of desperation, I called the company I was currently renting a place from. It had a property available that had recently opened up, and it was even willing to cut the rate for me, I’d been such an exemplary tenant. My boyfriend and I saw the place and immediately fell in love with it.
Unfortunately, as you may recall from a blog I wrote earlier this year, it turns out I’m renting from a slumlord. And the property management company, also disgruntled with this difficult client they could’ve easily turned away (but chose to represent instead), refuses to manage the property properly as a means of passive-aggressively getting back at her — only there’s no sidestepping taking things out on us as well in the process. A conversation about it back in May went a little like this:
S (looking at our pictures of the damage from a leak): Wow, I had no idea it was this bad.
Boyfriend: S, why haven’t you come to see it for yourself? I mean, don’t you at least have to take pictures for your records?
S: It’s not my property.
Boyfriend: But it’s your listing.
S: But it’s not my property.
Boyfriend: But it’s your listing.
S: But it’s not my property.
(Insert awkward silence among the three of us.)
Which brings us to our current state of affairs. The boyfriend and I are looking for a new place, which will hopefully be managed by a company that actually knows the definition of property management and which we will lease from someone with a decent sense of pride of ownership. Because being duped into thinking we were working with a good management company by virtue of having a good landlord associated with a previous rental obviously worked out well for us.
So here we are, starting from scratch… but not quite. Armed with Dr. Gunther VonStractenburg (my computer) and the Interwebs, I contact at least 20 realtors on Zillow (kick-tush site for those in search of homes to buy or rent). I’m feeling pretty good about being able to finally take matters into my own hands, at least to a degree.
But what do I get from reaching out to people myself? 5 responses, people. 5.
At first, this rate seems pretty decent, though, right? But it’s not just quantity, folks — which, by the way, I haven’t really gotten, either, if only a quarter of 20 replied back.
The first reply does seem promising enough, though. We go to check out the property, and it’s doable, but we’re not ready to commit quite yet, since it’s the first property we’ve seen this round. I ask F, the realtor, if he shows properties besides those his company manages. He tells me yes, but then goes on to say that it really isn’t worth his while to take the time and help us out by doing so, because he only makes $250 in commission off the rental of someone else’s property.
Pause. Let me just break that down for you, for those who might’ve missed it: He gets $250 just to open a door and show someone a place he doesn’t even have to manage, then he gets to claim credit and collect cash for referring that person to the company that is managing it. But it’s not worth his time.
Another, W, calls me, too… but I’m pretty sure he’s completely wasted every time he does — which is a lot, actually, because he can’t seem to decide whether or not he’s available the days he says he is. We’re allegedly going to see one of his company’s properties this Sunday after 10. That’s the most I could get him to commit to — probably because he’s not sure how hungover he’ll be that morning yet.
One tells me the property isn’t available anymore. Doesn’t even sign a name. Almost as classy as F and W.
One tells me to contact the office. I do and never hear back.
One is actually a Zillow inquiry about whether I ever got a response from a real person regarding a property. I reply no, thinking I just busted someone out, so I’ll definitely hear back from someone at that office regarding the rental now. I still hear nothing.
Granted, I don’t stop at that, because I still need to find a place. I reach out to someone who’s been recommended to me (since this whole Zillow thing doesn’t seem to be something most realtors can handle) and get that person lined up for some viewings, but there’s a lesson to be learned here, folks.
After living 4+ years here in this Battleborn state, I’ve gleaned something very important: 99% of realtors (who typically also have or work for property management companies) do nothing. As in zip. Nada. Niente. Well, except perhaps stand there with an open, outstretched hand, waiting for you to put money in it for no reason. They may very well be slot machines in human form — except slot machines are way more fun.
And I apparently got into the wrong line of work.
“But what about No. 5?” you may ask. The last one — the generous 1% that has crossed my path recently — finally does the right thing. Realtor M, whom I contacted via Zillow, wrote back, “This property has been leased out. Would you like me to help you look for something else?”
Why, yes, M, yes, I do. Let’s get to work this weekend.