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Blog Your War Stories

February 9, 2009
This one time, at an open house...

This one time, at an open house...

After a recent Lucky Strike Social Media Club dinner — the very first one, as a matter of fact, in which the club was formed — I had the pleasure of riding in a car with two realestistas.  Sarah Bandy (@sarahbandy) and Perri Feldman (@perrifeldman) are two NJ-based realtors who are just a joy to be around.

As we were rolling down the NJ Turnpike, Sarah and Perri started telling tales from showings that went akimbo and other war stories.

After I got done getting off the floor from laughing too hard, I said to them, “You know, forget about blogging market data and whatever else you’re doing.  Blog those war stories instead.”

Five reasons why realtors should focus their blogging on war stories.

Entertainment

First, war stories are fun.  Sarah’s story about the homeowner whose cat was on the toilet doing what humans typically do on toilets during a showing drew howls of laughter from me.  Perri’s tale of the one showing she did where the sellers forgot about the appointment and decided to… ah… take a mutual lunch break… and were discovered in flagrante delicto — that’s a classic story.

And I’m certain every realtor has horror stories, has funny stories, touching human stories — in short, entertaining stories.  Blog those.

Information

Second, war stories are educational.  I mentioned HeyAmaretto — a realtor named Diane Guercio — in this blog earlier.  I find her stories to be filled with information and things I didn’t know, as a consumer.  For example, here’s a war story of sorts from one of her posts:

The one which I will share was about a listing I have- a bank-owned property that had suffered from neglect and freeze damage. Some of the damage was repaired, but I wasn’t certain the extent of it. An interested buyer called me and requested placing an offer, and of course I disclosed this information. I had his mortgage person run me a preap, and it came back contingent on several items that I had told the buyer may be problems, among them being the heating system.

I told the mortgage officer this, and told him that this property was being sold as is. Apparently, this buyer had an issue with reserved funds. The mortgage officer asked me to “Please advice” (sic).

Fair enough. I have issues of my own with reserved funds from time to time. But selling this buyer the home would be plain irresponsible, to my way of thinking. Possibly everything would work out, but more likely I would get the listing back as another bank-owned property a year or two down the road.

Now, this may seem completely routine to professional realtors.  But to a consumer who is in the market every seven years on average, finding out some of this back-and-forth between a broker and a mortgage officer is fascinating.

Plus, now I know enough to ask how the mortgage could be contingent on the heating system.  And what the heck is a reserve fund?

I think war stories are a fantastic way for consumers to get really useful bits of information without being bored to tears with some earnest “10 Things To Do When Selling A Home” type of article.  Don’t talk about how you should stage a house properly; instead, tell us the story of the time when you showed a house that wasn’t staged properly and the hilarity that ensued therewith when the buyers saw the dominatrix-themed basement…

Do these people have any idea what it takes to make honey?

Do these people have any idea what it takes to make honey?

Education

Third, war stories make obvious what a realtor actually does.

It’s actually amazing how few consumers know what you realtors do for a living.  I know I didn’t know until I started to meet and talk with many of you.

None of us see the behind-the-scenes phone calls, negotiations with the other side, the wrangling with the mortgage officer, the calls to appraisers, to attorneys, etc. and so forth.  We have no idea.

All we know is what we can see.  And what we see is not very much.  You show up, get the listing, then stick a sign on our lawn.  Then maybe you hold an open house or two.  Miraculously, some weeks later, the house sells, and you take $45,000.  No wonder consumers think you’re all overpaid.

We don’t know about the eighteen hours you may have spent with the buyer’s agent, only to discover that the buyer’s husband absconded to another country at the last minute with the family funds.  We don’t know about the dozens of phone calls you may have made to other realtors in the area.  We don’t know about the arguments you had over the CMA report you thought was inaccurate because it didn’t reflect the unique value of the house having great sightlines out the back porch.  We just don’t see the work you do.  (Assuming, of course, that you’re a pro and you do in fact do some work.)

Again, if you do a self-righteous, whiny blogpost about how customers just don’t appreciate all the work you’ve put in… well, that’s a big turnoff.  But if you do war stories that happen to show all the work you do… why now that’s fun!  The message still gets across.

Unique

Fourth, war stories are unique.  Market reports are a baseline — you have to do them, I suppose, if you’re a realtor.  But know that every other blogging realtor — and pretty soon, that will mean every other realtor — will do them.  There are companies that will supply you with canned reports, and many MLS’s also supply them.

But war stories are uniquely yours.  It isn’t likely that anyone else had to walk a client through the second-floor cat… bathroom.  Is isn’t likely that another realtor had the exact same client with the exact same counterparty with the exact same set of circumstances.  All stories can be unique.

Boy, have I got a story for you!

Boy, have I got a story for you!

Personal

Fifth, war stories reveal the personality of the storyteller.

Different people have different ways of telling stories.  Some are animated and fun; others have a dry sense of humor; still others are earnest, but honest and authentic.

What makes so many realtor blogs unreadable to me is that the real voice of the person behind the keyboard is often stifled.  It’s as if many of you are looking at the blog as just another giant listings ad, or a professional resume, and are determined to use the most “professional” voice you’ve got.  Most of the time, that makes for dry reading.

War stories are inherently personal, inherently unique, and inherently reflect your storytelling voice.

The Value of Storytelling

It is said that literature began as a bunch of cavemen sitting around a fire telling each other stories of hunting trips, birth of their babies, and the like.  Storytelling is baked into our collective consciousness in a way few things are.  Some people, like Seth Godin, believe that all marketing is just telling a story.

So start telling stories.  It’s the most human of activities.

-rsh

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. February 9, 2009 9:48 am

    This one time, at band camp ….

    The stories are one of the best parts of the business.

    I agree with everything you wrote.

    But.

    Here’s the thing – telling some of these stories can breach client confidentiality.

    Also, if you tell these fantastic stories and then the subject reads them and recognizes himself/herself, the consequences could be profound.

    “Don’t ever work with xx Realtor” – he’ll write about everything you do!

    That’s not a risk I’m willing or able to take, unfortunately.

    We all have brilliant stories, and while some may be similar, there is no doubt that each Realtor has a good bakers’ dozen that would make for good reads.

    I have an unwritten policy –

    – If I’m going to write about client experiences, I get permission first.
    – I (almost) never write about current clients/transactions.
    – I anonymize (sp) details so that the point is made, but the “story” part is often lost.

    Some of the best stories will have to be relegated to the book we’re all going to write when we get out of the business. For now, though, much of my best storytelling is going to have to remain unpublished.

  2. February 9, 2009 11:20 am

    Jim –

    Great points. 🙂

    So it would probably make sense to blog war stories about the other side, heh.

    If you’re on the buyer’s side, blog the war stories about the unreasonable seller, the unprofessional listing agent, etc. — you’re not betraying client confidences then (as long as yer careful, of course).

    The reverse if you’re on the listing side. 🙂

    Would that work?

    -rsh

  3. February 9, 2009 11:30 am

    Actually, I’ve always told a lot of stories on my blog. But you do have to be careful. Often, I get permission to do so, withholding names and identifying characteristics. Or I’ll write it and hold on to it for a couple months. I don’t want to make my client angry, nor give away any of their negotiating position – there’s a lot of local agents that read my blog. I assume everyone involved in a transaction is watching and reading, and write accordingly.

  4. February 9, 2009 2:15 pm

    I agree about the stories but there should be a focus. The stories told should be about the problems people faced in the RE transaction and what the final solution was. If one client has had an issue an agent solved, it’s probably a concern for other prospective clients also. Telling these stories with the solutions shows how the agent is a proactive problem solver which is a quality most seek in their agent. To solve the issue mentioned above, it does not directly have to be about a problem one of your clients had but one in general

  5. February 9, 2009 2:45 pm

    We once did a special RE Horror Stories Carnival – Lots of good stuff there:
    http://realestatetomato.typepad.com/the_real_estate_tomato/2006/10/halloween_carni_1.html

  6. February 9, 2009 4:59 pm

    A real estate ghost story http://cli.gs/Ngyha8

  7. February 10, 2009 8:54 am

    Thanks Rob, Will be sure to send you more! In the meantime, wanted to share one of my favorites from YouTube:

  8. March 5, 2009 12:41 pm

    I think this is important, but of course brokers like me who have been in real wars always are able to step back from the craziness of our business. Real estate war stories should be told but I see them in the context of my own experience in Vietnam. Somehow the choices clients worry about often fail to resonate with me, come on, this business is important but not that important! Jim in San Diego.

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