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Matt Stigliano's Blog

By Matt Stigliano | Agent in San Antonio, TX
  • Agents - Ever Consider How Late You Are?

    Posted Under: Agent2Agent in San Antonio  |  August 6, 2009 6:00 PM  |  2,405 views  |  No comments
    Running late, the scenery is flying by.An unpopular thought.

    I've never been know as one to shy away from speaking my mind and this time I wonder what the reaction will be.  I'm not here to tell you how to run your business, but I still feel the need to speak up.

    At Trulia Voices there is constant controversy over what is the "best" or "right" way to respond to questions.  I have plenty of opinions about that, but you'd probably be shocked to hear some of them.  I'm not as single minded as you may think.

    When you join, what do you do?

    When you first joined Trulia (much as I did), you probably clicked around the site and began to see what was out there.  I saw a lot of interesting things that I thought I could use to help build my business.  One of the things I enjoyed the thought of was Trulia Voices.  A way for end users to get some ideas or help.  An opportunity for agents to get in front of buyers and sellers and begin building relationships - social media 101.

    Most agents seem to gravitate towards Trulia Voices much like I did.  And when you first get here, you wonder - who can I help?  You're eager, you're excited, and ready to take on the world of Trulia's visitors hungry for your knowledge.

    So you start answering questions.  You reply to 3 or 4 in your first sitting.  You hope to see a reply from the visitor who asked the question or better yet, receive a phone call as you're still typing.  You pour your heart and soul into an answer and you know you've written a masterpiece.

    Tick, tock.  Tick, tock.

    You're late.  You've been waiting for a reply or a phone call and nothing has arrived.  It's quiet.  Know why?  That question was asked a month ago, two months ago, a year ago.  It's old news.  A dead topic.  A lost cause.  But you just brought it back to life and to the top of the list...so another agent jumps on it and answers it.  They give their pitch for business (a whole other topic that is hotly debated on Trulia) and...guess what?  Rinse and repeat.

    I did it too when I first started.  But I've learned that to use Trulia to it's fullest, you need to be talking to people who are here.  Internet users tend to move quickly, from site to site.  Sure they might come back, sure another person might read the question and find your answer interesting, but you're late to the party and it shows.

    That's not to say you can't participate and some questions deserve follow up years after they were written (after all, the laws change from time to time, so updating those questions is a great idea).  I think if we work harder to provide pertinent content in the "here and now" instead of building our answer counts, we can actually make Trulia a better place.  Yes, I'm idealistic.  Nothing wrong with that in my book.  When you do answer an old question, think about writing an answer, not a sales pitch...that answer will sit there forever (and be linked back to your profile where users can learn more about you without the "call me" answer).

    If we work to bring more timely info to Trulia users, we can bring more users to Trulia who come to rely on your expertise, not your advertisement.

    That's my two cents.

    This post was inspired by a recent rash of answers to an older question here in San Antonio and an agent's comment asking if this was indeed an old topic.  Just got me thinking.

    photo courtesy of imagesbyk2 Photography
  • Trulia Voices - Helping Out Leads To Buyers

    Posted Under: Using Trulia in San Antonio  |  August 5, 2009 1:59 PM  |  2,603 views  |  2 comments

    photo courtesy of PrimeImageMedia.com

    I didn't sell this house.

    But I am in the process of helping a great couple buy one.  Just submitted a second offer (our first one had some issues, so we had to walk).  Oh and there was that one a month or so ago (entirely different story on that one).  That's not much to brag about really, but in fact - it is.

    Both of these clients were random strangers in the not too distant past.  They never heard of me, I never met them.  Just a few people out there, searching the internet for property information.  And they found it.  On Trulia Voices.

    Trulia Voices - Ask questions, get answers.

    I've been using Trulia Voices for almost as long as I can remember.  At first I jumped in and screamed "pick me, pick me!"  It was the only way I understood when I first became an agent - I thought that's how agents got their business.  Thanks to a lot of reading, a little soul searching, and some great Realtors® who really helped me get my start in the business; I realized that was not the way to go about things.  So I calmed down and started answering by being helpful - letting the chips fall where they may.  I wasn't after one client, I was after building a reputation as an agent who would help and could be relied on if ever needed.

    And that's how I've maintained my presence on Trulia since then.  Just popping in from time to time and giving my two cents, educating someone on how this or that works, or showing them what they were looking for, but just couldn't seem to find.

    How I managed to get two strangers to talk to me about real estate.

    We all get strangers to talk to us about real estate, that's what we do for a living, but these two were great examples of how to use Trulia Voices (at least to me - plus @trulia told me to blog about it or he would give me a "thumbs down" on every answer I ever wrote*).

    The first one was simple and nothing spectacular in terms of what I did.  A user asked a question and I anwered it in plain English.  Just gave them the facts and went on my way.  My phone rang after I hit "post."  It was the user who had just asked the question.  We signed a Buyer Representation Agreement the next day.  We put in offers on three hours (all but one was a short sale) before getting an accepted contract, but it was worth it.  A huge house for a very nice price.  Unfortunately, the day after our inspection (which went great), he was called into his military office and they informed him they were shipping him to a new station.  No warning or anything.  The client and I remain good friends though and they have already referred business my way and plan on returning in two years or so.

    The second client was a little more exciting as far as how it unfolded.  There had been a spate of listings with poor info (typically correct info with the wrong photos).  The photos were huge places with all the amenities, but the descriptions, addresses, and MLS numbers didn't match up.  A little research and I often found the true information and would post it so that users could see.  I answered a lot of questions about houses like that during that week (I think Trulia's computers went on strike or something).

    One of the questions about these houses went unnoticed by me.  I was busy, didn't have a moment to get to it and forgot about the question altogether.  I can't be everywhere at once.  The following day as I perused the recent questions to see who had answered what, I saw that questions and noticed some agents who had responded.  Not a single one them told the person that the house they were seeing wasn't the house they were reading about.  I was a bit concerned by that.  Nearly every answer was of the "give me a call" variety, but didn't offer an real sustance.

    It was now over 24 hours since the question was posted (with a phone number I might add) and you know what they say about contact after 24 hours.  Problem was, I had a nagging feeling that I had missed this question and missed the opportunity to tell this person about the photo/description problem.  I picked up the phone.

    Answers online, answers on the telephone line.

    A voice answered and I introduced myself.  I basically said something along there lines:

    "I know you've already been called by a bunch of agents at this point, but I just wanted to let you know that the home depicted in the images does not match the home in the address.  I just wanted you to know that, because it's been a problem lately at Trulia and I don't want anyone to get their hopes up, only to find that it was based on the wrong photos."

    Turns out, the couple were in their car, just heading towards the highway on a 1 to 1 1/2 hour drive to San Antonio to preview the house on their own.  They wanted to scope out the home and neighborhood before calling an agent and signing an offer.

    They were relieved that I had called and saved them the trip.

    I never sold them on my services, I didn't get them to drive down and sign up, and I didn't tell them how great I was.  I helped them.

    The next day they called me, had me run a search for them and drove down to sign a Buyer's Representation Agreement.  We're currently awaiting a response from a seller and we've made a great offer.  They have been great to me and have trust in me ever since that one little call - not to sell myself, but to offer them a bit of information that everyone else had forgotten to mention that was crucial to their buying.

    Don't sell, just show.

    The need for selling yourself isn't as strong as it once was.  Now it's more important to show youself.  Be yourself, express yourself - show yourself to be the agent they want.  They will know it when they see it.  Whether in person, on Trulia Voices, via email/fax/phone, your website, your blog - anywhere - just show the world who you are, let them judge the rest for themselves.  If you're the person they can trust, they will see it and be your best clients (loyalty and trust are strong).

    *Rudy from Trulia didn't actually threaten me, but since he is pretty powerful I figured he had that power anyway and thought I'd just avoid it by imagining he said it.
  • How to choose a real estate agent that's right for you.

    Posted Under: How To... in San Antonio  |  April 2, 2009 12:15 PM  |  2,504 views  |  No comments
    Multiple real estate signs on the 101 North in California.
    photo courtesy of TheTruthAbout...

    Not terribly long ago I came across this question on Trulia Voices.

    It's a great question really...how does one truly choose the best agent?  It's a question I have faced myself when buying and selling a home before I became an agent.  There's no simple answer and no answer will ever be right for everyone, but I'd like to provide a bit of insight (as a consumer and an agent).

    Where do I start?

    My first suggestion (and one that most agents would agree with) is to speak with your family and friends.  Has anyone bought or sold a home recently?  Do they rave about their agent?  If so, you might be able to end your search already.  A referral is always a good source for any product or service.  As agents, we strive to make our clients happy and one of the biggest gifts we can receive for a job well done is the referral.  Armed with your referral, you should speak to the agent in person before joining forces with them.  There's more to selecting an agent than just the word of a good friend.

    When you speak to any agent (referred or not), you want to look for several things.  Personally, I think the most important factor to be mindful of is comfort.  The fact is, you'll be spending some time with this person and if you're stuck in a car for an 8 hour day with an agent you're not comfortable with, you're going to have a miserable experience.  We don't want that now, do we?

    Of course, you'll want an agent who knows what they're doing.  How can you tell?  There's a lot of ideas that get floated around on this issue.  Look at their experience.  Check their education (many states allow you to look an agent's education - here in Texas you can check it at The Texas Real Estate Commission's website).  Ask how many homes they've sold this year.  Pick a company first, then select an agent from that company.  Google their name.

    All of these are valid positions, but I think there's a much simpler way to go about it...

    Ask questions.

    You're interviewing the agent.  You know you're comfortable with them, but now your concern is the actual transaction.  Will they be able to help you navigate the ins and outs of buying or selling a home?  There is only one way to truly find out - asking educated questions.  If you're an investor, ask about the cash flow potential of a property.  If you're a first time home buyer, ask about benefits of buying a home as someone who hasn't owned one.  If you're buying a ranch, ask about agricultural aspects of the property.  If you're buying a new office building, ask about lease rates and current zoning.  There are many questions you can ask - the best bet is to ask them.

    By asking the questions relating to your particular purchase, an agent will show you all of the things mentioned previously.  For instance, I am not a commercial agent, so if you asked me about the current zoning of your new office building, I wouldn't be qualified to answer.   A good agent should be willing to tell you that as well.  "I don't know" is not a bad phrase.  "I don't know and I don't care to find out, but will still precede with your transaction" is a very bad phrase.

    Experience is not always a condition of quality.

    I'm a relatively newer agent.  I don't mind being called "new" in this business.  Some agents try to avoid that fact, because they fear it is a stigma.  There is nothing wrong with being a little green if you have a great support system.  For me, I have a great broker and a close friend who is an excellent agent.  My support lines don't end there, but those two combined can answer almost any question I throw at them.  And asking them questions is something I do regularly.  Real estate licensing is great for the basics, but there are so many ins and outs to real estate that even the most experienced agents I have ever met said they learn something new on every contract they've done.

    In my time as an agent, I have met some experienced agents who did bad work and some who did amazing work.  I've seen some who care and some who don't.  We're all different in the way we run and handle our business, so there is no way of calculating who's the perfect agent by their years in the business.  I have seen new agents who won't last a month and some who I think might some day be the top producers of their areas.  It really is about the individual.

    Individuals or the company they keep?

    Agents are independent contractors, we work for ourselves, but work under a broker.  Many of these brokers go by familiar names - Century 21, Coldwell Banker, Exit Realty, RE/MAX - you get the idea.  There are also plenty of local non-franchised brokerages (Bob's Realty, Jenny Home Finder Company, etc.).  Does it matter what company you choose?  Although many working for some of these companies would give you reasons why their company is the one to choose, I would have to disagree.  Each company is run by a broker who has their own opinions on business and probably has trained their agents based on those opinions.  In many towns there may be multiple offices of any given company, some of which are run by different brokers.  I work for Exit Realty North-San Antonio - we are not the same broker as Exit IH10 or Exit Slater.  So although we share the Exit name (franchise name), we do not share the same broker.

    The broker is an important part of any real estate transaction as although you may be "working with" an agent, you are actually working with the broker.  The agent acts on behalf of the broker when you sign a listing agreement or a buyer's representation agreement.  Does your agent have a broker they can turn to if they need help or have a tough question?

    In addition to having different companies under the same franchise name working through different brokers, each agent is free to make choices on how to run their business.  Many agents in my office aren't as into the tech-side of things as I am.  I love technology, so I use it heavily in my business plan.  Some agents would prefer to do print advertising.  Its a very individualized world when it comes to real estate.  This is a good thing, because there's an agent out there that matches your needs.

    You need to interview and be interviewed.

    Much like you're interviewing the agent, they should be interviewing you as well.  They should be asking questions about your needs, goals, dreams, and desires.  If they care to ask and listen to you closely; you're on your way to a good match.  An agent should want you to succeed and find the home you're looking for or sell at the price you want, but they should not be afraid to tell you the reality of the situation either.  A good agent will be your friend, your advisor, and someone ready to guide you through the transaction.

    Ask the questions and you might just find yourself with an agent for life.

  • HUD Homes - Texas

    Posted Under: Foreclosure in San Antonio  |  February 17, 2009 6:48 PM  |  2,726 views  |  4 comments
    US Department of Housing And Urban Development
    photo courtesy of teofilo

    What is a “HUD Home?”

    Recently several people have asked me what a “HUD Home” is and how it becomes one, so I thought I’d take a few minutes to explain.  A “HUD Home” is defined by The Department Of Housing And Urban Development (HUD) as “a 1 to 4 unit residential property acquired by HUD as a result of a foreclosure action on an FHA-insured mortgage.  HUD becomes the property owner and offers it for sale to recover the loss on the foreclosure claim.”  Basically, this means someone bought a home using an FHA-insured loan, didn’t pay their mortgage, and HUD foreclosed on the property.  The property is now owned by HUD and they want to sell it, so they list it as a HUD home.

    Who can buy a HUD home?

    HUD homes are offered to owner-occupants (person who buys the house must live in the house) and after a period of time, if they are not sold, they are available to investors.

    How do I find HUD homes?

    HUD develops relationships with certain websites that maintain lists of HUD homes.  These sites can be searched by the public and an offer may be submitted by a real estate broker registered with HUD. Our local site for San Antonio, TX HUD homes is handled by the Southwest Alliance of Asset Managers (they handle Texas and New Mexico).  You can also find these homes listed on our local MLS.

    Can anyone make an offer on a HUD home?

    All offers must be made through a real estate agent registered with The Department of Housing And Urban Development.  A Realtor® needs special keys to gain access to the homes for showings.

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