When we wrote about the post Douglas Heddings' penned for his company's True Gotham Blog last week, we probably should have expected the response it generated. It doesn't take too vivid an imagination to realize that something called "Hamptons Market Philosophy is Bass Ackwards" is bound to get people in the real estate industry talking.
It was a bold pronouncement that was met with an equally impassioned response from Curbed readers. We touched base with Mr. Heddings via Email interview to see if he could explain why his post was able to ruffle so many feathers.
Were you expecting your post to generate so much attention?both negative and positive?
I began writing TrueGotham in 2006 in an effort to raise the bar in the real estate industry and dispel some of the negative perspectives of the real estate profession. Having said that, I was expecting a healthy response, since this is a controversial issue. However, I was disappointed there weren't more positive comments - anonymous or otherwise - from the plethora of big firm agents who completely agree with me. I know this as a fact, having heard from many the same comments that I made in my post. It shows there is a level of fear about this topic and a general fear of change as well as an acceptance of the status quo.
Why'd you feel the need to write it?
Writing on my blog is not only a means of expressing my perceptions of the market; it is sometimes a cathartic process. That was the case here.
Couldn't you have just lead by example without making any grand pronouncements about the state of the industry?
I don't think it was a grand pronouncement. We are walking the talk, but as a small boutique agency, neither the public nor our colleagues are aware of what we are doing unless we have the good fortune of coming in direct contact with them. And, often, when we do meet with buyers and sellers, they are so skeptical of our promises because of their previous experiences with agents. I didn't expect Curbed to pick up my blog post, but I'm thrilled about the additional exposure because, as you can see, this is something I am very passionate about. It deals with the reputation of an industry of which I am proud to be a part. We, the industry, should be strong enough to accept constructive criticism, especially when the problem at hand contributes to the negative perception with which or industry struggles.
What do you find the biggest problem is with the agents out here?
First of all, my post was not criticism for criticism's sake. I wanted to start a dialogue about what I consider to be a huge problem and offer my thoughts to a solution. I am frustrated with the bad apples who make it difficult for all of us to do our jobs. Unfortunately, the inner workings of the market have just become acceptable and status quo for some. Many agents, with no experience in other markets, don't even realize that it is possible to do things differently and still succeed. There is no one big problem, but rather an overall lack of cooperation and cattiness that is all too prevalent out there. I have never bashed my competitors in my 20 year career in Manhattan. Out East, it seems like common practice, in which I and my agents just will not engage.
What do you find the biggest problem is with the sellers?
They frequently don't trust anyone and therefore often believe that they are the most qualified to price their property. There is a legitimate demand for high-touch customer service from sellers who want to feel like their best interest is at hand.
What has your company been doing differently?
Many things, but just one example of many is that we share...with EVERYONE...GLOBALLY! We invite any licensed real estate agent ? locally, nationally and internationally ? to list our property on his or her site in an effort to cast the widest net to attract a qualified buyer. We are also long-sighted and consistently deliver on our promises to sellers in an effort to procure them as clients for life. Once we have worked with them, they don't hesitate to use us in the future and refer us friends, family and business associates based on the relationship that we have worked very hard to forge with them.
One commentor offered the following hypothetical: "What exactly do you tell a client who wants to list his house for 10 million and you know that its worth around 7.8 Million... How do you get him to list it for 8 Million ?" Do you think that's a fair question? How do you respond?
It is a very fair question. If a seller demands a higher list price, we do one of two things: we walk away from the listing (which happens a lot); or we will agree to accept the listing at the higher price for a set period of time ? in writing in an exclusive agreement and usually no more than 14-30 days. After that period elapses, we will adjust the price to a more realistic ask. I truly don't see the benefit for the seller or agent in taking an overpriced listing. I would rather be the second or even third representing broker who actually sells an appropropriately priced home.
How many listings are you currently working with?
In addition to the buyers with whom we are working, we have a plethora of open listings on our site (some of which we refused as an exclusive because they are ambitiously priced and we don't collect listings). We currently have three signed exclusives with another $20M in the pipeline.