The Truth About Real Estate; An Agent’s Manifesto

IMG_20190926_164201.jpgAn Agent’s Manifesto

The truth about Arizona real estate is that you don’t need a broker, an agent, or a lawyer to do business here. First of all, human beings in this industry can’t possibly keep up with all the data technology that lets everyone search for homes on lunch breaks. Nor should we try

More than that, however, the laws of this truly progressive state were written in a time when the voters believed everyday people should be allowed to transact property on their own. Of course, there is always the adage: “He who represents himself has a fool for a client.” 

Spoken from first-hand mistakes in more than just real estate situations, I’d advise a wise buyer or seller to at least sit down with an industry expert before signing anything legal. I shudder to think what opportunities and rights people are waiving – perhaps swiping away – unknowingly on apps, or by letting invisible and often out-of-state companies advise their real estate decisions. In my opinion, technology has proven Arizona real-estate agents more useful than ever, because, “It’s not so important what you know, it’s whom you know.


Still, let’s not forget what we agents know: Licensed Arizona agents (at least those who understand the law) have relatively broad powers. We enter private property at will; we negotiate, write, and sometimes even sign contracts for our clients; we execute those contracts; and we’re even allowed to represent those transactions in court if needed. 

While that last practice is almost unheard of in the current era, it’s still on the books, and for good reason. An Arizona agent’s legal authority can really help cut down attorneys’ costs, and maybe more importantly, enables us during negotiations. The point is, it’s our job to keep Arizona’s courtrooms available for problems that can’t be solved with a win-win attitude.  

Real Arizona agents can help clients in more ways than one, so shop around. 

With all that agents can see and do, in addition to showing homes, it boggles the mind why any homeowner, or even the causal home-shopper, would not sit down with one of us and ask some questions before making a decision. Or why that same buyer or seller would hire someone who doesn’t fully understand an agent’s power, especially in a state where construction is one of, if not the dominant industries! 

It’s true, there are a lot of people who prefer assembly-line thinking, but really…ask some questions! 

I recently consulted with two well-informed air conditioner technicians, one of who told me he bought his home without the help of an agent. I wanted to know why he felt he did not need a guy like me. “It’s really about how much time you have,” said Sean, who didn’t want to use his last name. “I mean, I spent a lot of (expletive) time on Google reading up on how to do this.” 

(Good for you, bro, sincerely.)

Sean later went on to explain that he enjoyed having his downtime in winter to research the law, financing options, the market, and set up appointments to see homes. In the end, however, he still sat down with someone who told him where to sign.

“I found a title agent I liked and she took care of it,” he said. “I write contracts for a living so I had an idea of what I was signing.” I stopped short of asking Sean why he didn’t become an agent himself.

(I mean, there’s already plenty of us.)

And that’s when Sean’s colleague Kelly shared with me a unique perspective on the residential market, one that I don’t think any agent could see: “The last summer that we was this slow (air conditioner repair) was in 2008,” Kelly said, referring to what was arguably the trough of the Great Recession. “That’s why I want to sell my house now, because equity doesn’t mean anything until it’s in my bank account.”

Kelly said he learned to take less sooner, when he was more sure, than be dazzled by the lure of unknowns.

I couldn’t have put it better myself, at least in philosophy. 

Pretty much the entire developed world had learned by 2010 what happens when hundreds of millions of American and international investors put all their eggs in one basket, and then mysteriously lose the paperwork for whose eggs belong to whom. Most people in 2019 agree “The Bubble” was a combination of systemic failures by regulators to catch outright fraud (people writing things on paper they knew were false).

But that’s really a conversation for a different time. 

Perhaps Sean is overconfident, and perhaps Kelly is overcautious in our current market, but like Arizonans for generations, they both know what they know, and what matters to them. Zillow, Trulia, and numbers simply weren’t a part of this conversation! 

Kelly and his buddy Sean are individuals, not statistics. They live in Arizona, one of the first states to bounce back from the Great Recession. Why? Because buying and selling property is pretty straightforward, here

That doesn’t mean you should do it alone. 

Negotiation is about positioning. What you don’t see can hurt you, even if you never find out. I grew up watching this city and state dance with developers from around the world. We’ve gotten pretty good at making people from everywhere a lot of money. This is more of an international city than we currently get credit, and its reputation is changing, fast. 

Suffice-it-to-say, there are a lot of factors at play in the price of an Arizona home at any one moment in time, and while “averages” and “medians” might make pretty graphics, they don’t mean much when discussing one specific property. This is Real-Estate 101, and I’ve a master’s degree. So, please don’t let mainstream news media or industry apps guide your plans.

We all suffer when people agree to bad deals.

I’ve been practicing real-estate since 2014 while also filling Phoenix elementary school teacher vacancies. I’ve made clients tens of thousands of dollars by showing them neighborhoods – not just houses – after school. I haven’t represented everyone as their “agent of record.” Some have just given me cash to help them better understand what’s going on around their investment. Afterall, who knows a neighborhood better than a teacher? 

Allow me to be clear: I’m not your run-of-the-mill agent, nor do I want to be. 

But I did host a local radio show in 2015 about all these plans for buildings you now see in midtown Phoenix. In 2017 I published a neighborhood magazine in one of our most unique barrios, where I still live and still blog, keeping an eye on some of the people and events who affect all those market numbers that get everybody so excited. Not to mention, I do own undeveloped land in downtown Phoenix, and I know the owner of land next door to where I live. 

You’d think I’d be in a higher tax bracket, wouldn’t you? 

Sadly for me, Shawn didn’t want me and Kelly didn’t need me. Like everyone else in metro Phoenix, he too has a relative who’s also an agent. Alas, even the people who live next door to me hired someone else, who does not live anywhere near us, does not hang out in our neighborhood bars or cafe’s, and does not go to the public meetings that affect us, like I do. 

(Go figure, their house still hasn’t sold.)

Arizona real estate is about people, not buildings.

I can’t speak for other places, but when things go wrong here, it’s because the professionals involved get this backward. No app can ever replace the human factors of a major purchase or sale, be it residential, commercial or otherwise. Per law, a valid real estate transaction requires a meeting of minds. Tech can help, but it can’t think for you, nor will a professional.

Numbers can lie, and apps can’t feel.

If you’re ready, and want to skip the hand-holding, go for it like Sean did! Practice your rights as an individual in a state that will hopefully always protect your freedom. But, if you’d like a little guidance on how to purchase or sell property – (land or anything attached to it) – I will gladly help. I love practicing in this state, when people let me. We can figure out how I can help you, on your time and your terms. I’m not a full-time agent, nor do I want to be. I don’t have a Biltmore office or a fancy car, but I am a Realtor(R), a writer, a teacher, a bilingual world traveller, and I live here.

“Brian, you were awesome; we never expected anyone to teach us what you did,” – Katie, my most recent client.

Why would I ever give up this practice?