By Bill Primavera
You’d never know it to meet me today, but I was born with some kind of neurological condition that resulted in my reaching the age of five without speaking a word.
That was in the days before so much was known about autism spectrum disorder. Certainly, there was no treatment available for kids like me who were non-social, withdrawn and didn’t verbalize.
But from what my mother told me, I recovered from whatever the condition on the final day of a novena she made at St. Donato’s Roman Catholic Church in North Philadelphia. After hearing this story, I never questioned reports of miracles, because I started verbalizing at the end of the novena and haven’t shut up since.
While I was able to speak, I still had to challenge myself to become more socially interactive in school. I debated and wrote for the school newspaper, then once out of college, my first job was as a newspaper reporter. After that, a public relations practitioner, all requiring verbal communication.
But only when I ventured into real estate, did I find myself talking all the time. From what industry pundits say, that’s a good thing.
At a real estate convention I attended early in my career, one of the keynoters impressed me when he identified the chief “irk” that sellers and buyers have with realtors – and it’s all about communications.
Specifically, he said that the most common real estate situation that negatively impacts realtors’ clients is inadequate disclosure. He went on to paint scenarios which might convince potential homebuyers and sellers to have frequent heart-to-hearts with their realtors to learn as much as they can about the entire process, particularly what is likely to happen next.
In defense of myself and my fellow realtors, I would say that out of self-preservation, we’re way ahead of the game. I’ve never heard any group of people who talk as much as realtors do to inform their clients. Whenever I’m in the office, there is a cacophony of voices on the phone, all explaining to clients what is happening and what to expect.
But real estate purchases and sales is a complex process and such an all-encompassing discipline that the totally unexpected or unknown can happen at any time. It’s the realtor who can get blamed for lack of disclosure on the matter.
There are the standard disclosures which sellers and realtors sign when taking a listing: the disclosure of agency that identifies the relationship of the realtor to the seller; a lead disclosure if the house was built before 1978; and the affiliated business disclosure, so that sellers can be aware of the other businesses which the realtor’s company owns.
The big disclosure that most buyers and sellers relate to is the property condition disclosure in which the seller identifies all the known defects of a house to its buyer. While it is required in many states, such as California where the code is particularly stringent, in New York, the seller may choose not to issue such a disclosure but rather pay $500 at closing to the buyer. The overwhelming majority of sellers choose this option, rather than risk being liable for serious house defects.
Beyond these expected disclosures are those that require a simple explanation before the fact, rather than after. Nobody likes surprises when it may be too late to be informed. This is best accomplished by the realtor preparing a list of frequently asked questions, such as whether a lawyer is needed and who pays the commission?
Besides asking such questions, it is suggested that realtors also present a list of what sellers or buyers can expect along the way. Sometimes, realtors who make appointments to show your home will sometimes be late or not show up; know that the HGTV shows are scripted; expect that the closing date will be delayed; and expect that you won’t know until the last moment how much money you must bring to the closing.
The more realtors paint a realistic picture, especially accompanied by stories of personal experience, the better sellers and buyers will feel empowered to make informed decisions. That kind of clear and open communication is what helps avoid problems in the form of misunderstanding, missteps and/or unlawful acts.
Not so long ago I was in Philadelphia and happened to pass the church where my mother told me I was granted my ability to speak. It brought a lump to my throat, nudging alongside my voice box that has had a lot of practice in the years I’ve worked as a realtor who blabs on and on to clients about what’s going on.
Bill Primavera, while a publicist and journalist, is also a Realtor® affiliated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc. (www.PrimaveraPR.com). To engage the services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.