Please return phone calls.

It all starts with a phone call.

Whenever I get a new agent with my company, or whenever I first work with and independent homeseller or FSBO, I try to impress on the this one thing at first.  Nothing happens in this industry without a conversation.  Nothing ever gets sold without a conversation.

We carefully select the nicest looking primary photo for the MLS for one purpose only.  We want the looker to take the next step.  That step is to click on the picture and go to the media page where there are more pictures.  We want all of those pictures to be very nice-looking.  In fact it is good to have captions under those pictures.  All to encourage the looker to move on to the next step, which is to actually go inside the home.  This natural flow is a process that can be interrupted and therefore, usually ended.

The step that actually gets that prospective buyer through the front door of the house involves calling for and setting up an appointment.  The buyer may be calling the seller by himself,  or if he’s working with an agent, the agent will generally be doing the calling.  But that is a very important step in the sale process.

Phone calls rarely come at a perfect time.

It seems that I can be working beside my silent phone for hours, and the minute I walk away from it, it rings.  Sometimes if I am eating, it rings.  It has been known to ring while I am watching a movie, working in the garden, or even taking a nap.

In a perfect world, we would be sitting at our desk or table with a tablet and pencil and calendar when the phone rings.  On the table we could also have all the specs on our house and all the utility bills in little piles around us in case the caller asked about those things.  So it is just not going to happen that there even exists a perfect time.  There are only two times.  When you can answer the phone, and when you cannot answer the phone.  Let’s say you work eight hours and you also sleep eight hours.   So the odds are that the prospective buyer will not talk to you, at least when he first wants to.

How does your voice mail message sound?

I have been on the receiving end of answering machines/voicemails that are not very helpful.  I want to be encouraged that even though I picked a bad time to talk right now, eventually I will get to speak with a person who can answer my questions.  Too many times instead I am greeted by adorable, but hard-to-understand children, lengthy musical selections, or someone eating a cheeseburger while recording the outgoing message.

Listen to your outgoing message.  Write down what you are wanting to say on your message if you need to.  Practice it a bit before you record it.  Go get your neighbor to record it for you.  Just don’t leave  people with the initial impression that if it’s this hard to talk to you when you’re not here, how hard will it be to talk to you when I CAN talk to you.

How often check and how quickly return?

Check for messages often.  Maybe every half-hour or so.  If you are at work and can’t check for messages until 6, say so on the outgoing message.  Don’t have your message say you will be gone all day, but rather that you will be in and out and promise to return any phone calls at 6.  the best surprise is NO surprise.

Customers and buyers today like things to be immediate.  If they know they won’t get a call-back until six, that’s one thing.  Otherwise they will be getting cranky in about seven minutes if they haven’t heard back from you.

Phone tag.

There is always the very good possibility that as you are returning a phone call you call at a less-than-perfect time for the OTHER party.  Just leave a short message identifying yourself and saying that you are sorry you missed them.  Now they can never feel that you have slighted them by not returning their call.

And now you are back at square one.  Rinse and repeat.

Are you working with a Realtor?

This should be one of your first questions when you finally do speak to the prospective buyer.  This will determine the next step.  I will deal with some tips and dialogs you need at that point in other articles.  But for now you have succeeded in the First Conversation step.  Some people never get there, but you have,  Congratulations!

Flat rate MLS Services

Real Estate Service Spectrum

Continuum of Service Levels

There exists in my company several different levels of service I offer to my customers so they can decide exactly what they want.  After all, our motto is “Don’t buy what you don’t need.”  It’s been that for years.

We have always offered the traditional, full-service type listing where we do all of the work involved marketing, showing, negotiating and selling people’s home.  It is self-contained and it is fairly expensive.


We also offer a Minimum service listing where we work as a team with the seller.  We put the house in the MLS and we help the seller with the process to get the house ready, answer the phone calls, show the house and negotiate the sale.  The seller does the work, we just teach them how.  And answer questions when they come up.  We review offers if they want us to and help with negotiation if they want us to.  We are a bit like training wheels, but the seller does the pedaling.


There is another level of service that is like that last one except gold-plated.  It has professional photography, weekly phone calls from me, and three groups of emails, each a flyer to about 7000 Realtors, and a lot more.

On-line MLS entry-only

Then we also have an on-line level of MLS-entry only.  It includes fewer pictures, a shorter term of service,  very little involvement on my part as far as advice, tips, or negotiating help.

The different levels of service, of course, cost different amounts.  If our standard level is a steak, and our Premium is like a prime rib, then probably our MLS-entry-only level is our hamburger.  Many of the people who order and pay for the hamburger get disgruntled and upset when they don’t receive a steak.  That is very awkward to explain to customers, and from time to time I wonder how people think the way they do.


The worst part is when one of my customers who didn’t know any better and never asked makes a mistake on his contract .  I’ve had a customer tell me “I didn’t know I could do that.  Nobody told me.  Can I go back and change that?”  And, of course, they can’t.  I know I shouldn’t worry, but it does bother me.  I can’t save them all, and I am not the pushy type, but sometimes people don’t realize they don’t know what they don’t know.

I had one customer ask me one time, “OK, I’ve got it in the MLS, now what can I do to actually go ahead and sell it?”  That bothered me because I didn’t want to say to him that he should have sprung for the level with more help.  So I am writing a book just for him.  I will send it to him.  He probably wanted a quick answer to his question, but it’s not that simple.  I have spent three decades answering that question.  But that topic will have to wait until our next session.


Don Martin, Martin Properties (615) 973-8970

Agency is a Hot-Button Issue for the FSBO

A sense of FSBO pride as well as savings.

A FSBO, someone who has the fortitude and courage to sell his house For-Sale-By-Owner,  generally has confidence.  Sometimes they just exude confidence.  Sometimes they are confident to point that when they discover something about the real estate world they had not yet been exposed to, they argue.  They simply don’t know what they don’t know.

Some learn quickly, but some enter various stages of denial over some of the necessary paperwork, but, it all usually works out.  There is much commission to be saved doing the work yourself.  And in the end, the FSBO can, does, and should feel very good about themselves.  FSBO pride is natural.  But it’s not easily shared.

Enter the MLS agent

If you want to sell your house, you NEED to have it in the Multiple Listing Service.  The MLS is like a big ol’ country club.  It may have great food.  It may have a championship golf course.  But you can’t enjoy any of it unless you are a member or you are WITH a member.

You can’t enjoy the MLS unless you ARE a broker-member or you are WITH a broker-member.  And if you are WITH a broker-member, you have an “agency” relationship.  Maybe not the old-fashioned “exclusive right to sell,” list and move in together relationship, but maybe the newer “exclusive agency” team relationship, but there must be some kind of agency relationship.  Otherwise, any broker could possibly list and put in the MLS 100 homes today, if we could just go through a phone book and not worry about having to have a pesky relationship with the sellers.

Definition of Agency

To have an agency relationship around here there must exist two forms signed by the seller and the member-broker.  One is a Confirmation of Agency form, and the other is a listing/permission agreement spelling out what broker and seller will and won’t do, the length of time (expiration date,) the asking price, and the commission being offered to a cooperating MLS member-broker, expressed as a flat amount or a percentage of the GROSS sale price of the house.

Sometimes the FSBO thinks that since he sold his own house without an agent, he resents having to sign a form admitting there was an agent involved.  But we have to observe state law and country club rules.   Regardless of the level of real estate service you have used, you will still have to observe the rules.  This is not optional.

Incidentally, there is a spectrum of real estate service that we will deal with later.  There is full-service, limited-listing service, and MLS entry-only service. They each demand different levels of need and sophistication in home selling,  It is important to know the difference, because one might seem like a great price, but then not include contract review, or selling help, which you assumed every agent would give you.  Ask questions. Be clear.  Try to anticipate your level of knowledge.  Don’t be like two sellers I heard this week say, “Nobody told me about that!  Is it too late to add that to the contract?”


Feature House – 3968 Kristen St.                 Spring Hill, TN  37174

3968 Kristen St. FSBO

 3 bedroom, 2.5 bathrooms, 2393 sq ft – $229,900

Flat rate MLS ServicesCall me if you need to talk some real estate.

Don Martin , Martin Properties 615-973-8970

The MLS is not just a glorified TRADER’S POST or CRAIG’S LIST.

MLS is made BY Realtors FOR Realtors.

In the beginning, the group of real estate agents who held themselves to a higher standard of ethics and practice, and called themselves Realtors, realized that they needed to be able to share knowledge of each other’s activities.  When Realtor A was engaged to sell a property, he often depended on the help of Realtor B and Realtor C so the total of all their efforts would be more effective.  The Multiple Listing Service, the MLS was borne out of the necessity for communication of the different Realtor’s efforts one to the other.  When Realtor A listed a property “For Sale” the details about it was available to the other members of the MLS

Then along comes the For-Sale-By-Owner, FSBO, who decides to sell his property himself to save the commission he would otherwise pay to an agent to do the job.  Not all real estate agents are Realtors and therefore not all agents are members of the MLS.  But it is becoming more and more necessary that, to sell quickly, it must be in the MLS.  The FSBO can’t be a Realtor or a member of the MLS either, of course, but they still need that exposure.

Enter the flat-fee, limited-listing broker who will let the homeowner sell his own house and still have the details about it available through the MLS by way of the membership of the flat-fee, limited-listing broker.  The FSBO now has a huge exposure for a lot less commission.

What the MLS will do for you.

In my area, just being in the MLS gets your house in front of 5000 pairs of Realtor’s eyes.  Some of them may be currently working with a prospect who would be perfect for your house.

Almost as importantly, this information is gathered by secondary and tertiary websites that expand the exposure.  These days, when people are looking for a new house, the often enjoy searching these secondary sites on their own from their living room.  Then, if they like a particular house, they proceed from there.

There is no telling how many tens or hundreds of thousands of eyes see your house on those sites.  And the speed of the home sale is often directly associated with the amount of exposure.

What you can’t do.

People are occasionally surprised and even a bit disappointed by two factors.  Their contact number will not be placed where anyone but other Members can see it.  The whole purpose of the MLS is for its members.

The homeowner is confined to the template of the MLS.  They cannot include long, flowing descriptions when the area they want it to be is a very limited area or even a multiple-choice pull-down menu.  Sometimes the pre-conceived idea gets whittles down to the bone.

Flat rate MLS Services

If you are interested in speaking about your house, please call me.  I am Don Martin, The Reasonable Realtor.


Dirty Little Secret behind the Biggest Real Estate Magic Trick

The FSBO Seed of Doubt

It’s there.  You know it’s there.  It’s been there since you were in grade school.  Self-doubt.

Just a bit of self-doubt acts as a regulator as we are growing up.  Sometimes it keeps us from doing foolish and stupid things.  It keeps us in line a bit.  But there also must be a balance.  Too big a seed can cause us to be shy and unwilling to take the normal chances involved in childhood.  We may be viewed as introverted or, worse, unsocial.

Most of us get that bad seed under control sooner or later, and we learn to live with it.  Only in rare circumstances, those that might be new or strange to us, does it surface and cause us any trouble.

Selling your own house is one of those circumstances for some people.  It is not an activity one does each day.  And some parts of it are complicated.  But when you decide to sell your own house, something inside you asks “what if you can’t?”  Sometimes your friend or neighbor asks you if you have gone crazy.  They may tell you about a person they heard of who tried it and lost a fortune and ultimately ended up selling to an axe-murderer who tried to kill them as a part of the negotiation process.

So you doubt yourself in the beginning.  A little.

Here Comes More Doubt

Then agent after agent contacts you, trying to get you to list your house with them.  They tell you the horror stories and the war stories, and they tell you that in the end you will get sued anyway.

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