Adwerx CEO Jed Carlson put a client’s toughest question to real estate agents: “Why do I need you?” His answer was that agents are like Sherpas: they reduce the risk of the transaction, they help carry the load and they comfort the client along the way. With this mindset, no amount of technology or automation can ever disrupt the role of a real estate agent. “Be the Sherpa,” he said.
We asked leading real estate agents to share a particular moment when they got to #BeTheSherpa.
For Chicago real estate agent Andrea Geller, the most potent ingredient of each real estate transaction is the emotion.
“Buying or selling a home is a change of life that is both financially and emotionally impacting,” she said. “And it can involve a lot of factors: marriage, divorce, death, new children, aging children.”
Part of what real estate agents do is help manage that practical part of the transaction while balancing that emotional part. “These are huge financial decisions, whether you do it once or many times.”
So understandably, Andrea has a strong reaction to the idea that a real estate agent might become irrelevant in today’s marketplace. And she’s seen many changes over the years, having been an agent since 1999.
“When you hear things like ‘on demand’ and the ‘uber-fication’ of real estate, I find it funny,” she said. “You can’t just click on something, and let people show up at your home to buy it.”
Two particular experiences stand out for Andrea Geller, exemplifying the kind of role the real estate agent plays in the unforeseen. And with all her experience, she knows it’s all unforeseen.
When sellers want more than the market will bear, until it’s too late.
The clients were an elderly couple in a co-op in Chicago. They had no children and wanted to move into a senior lifestyle community. There, they would have their own apartment with a full kitchen, and they have access to medical care and services.
There were two options at the community: pay one monthly cost without owning anything else. Or move in for a certain amount of time without cost while interest accrued.
The sellers were set on a course to sell their co-op first, then buy the new apartment. Despite the rough co-op market, Andrea brought them offers. The sellers were unimpressed with anything under asking. Their neighbors were telling them it was the most beautiful apartment and was worth much more.
The sale went on for two years.
Then, tragically, the wife of the couple passed away. Andrea Geller remembers her client. “His wife ran the household. Suddenly he was alone, and of course didn’t want to live there anymore. I asked what is more important — staying or moving on? He said he should have listened and he’d already be living where he wants to be, instead of carrying on the stress and saving a bit of money that wasn’t worth it.”
The seller lowered the price, and Andrea got him where he needed to be to start the next phase of his life.
Three homes. Two babies. One frantic search.
It’s a typical urban love story: two condo owners meet and fall in love at a time when condos weren’t selling. So they worked with Andrea to buy a townhome for two and rented out their respective condos.
Looking ahead, the couple imagined they might have two children in that townhome. In the interim, they’d take their time to unload the condos.
“One condo was totally under water,” said Andrea. “But the other had enough equity to sell. We listed it for rent or sale when the lease was up.” Then Andrea got the call. “She was pregnant — with twins!”
The timeline just accelerated.
Andrea knew the financial details were tricky, with the couple having to be contingent buyers. The search began.
Then, while she was on a much-needed vacation, the couple let Andrea Geller know they found a new construction house they liked — one they hadn’t mentioned before. While she was steps from the beach, Andrea did some digging.
“It turned out the property had recently dropped in price. I told them that they needed move fast, because there would be multiple offers,” Andrea recalled. But the couple wanted to wait until after Thanksgiving holiday. “So what happened? We were in a multi-offer situation and they were contingent.”
But the offer was accepted.
Between Thanksgiving and the middle of the following February, Andrea kept every party — buyers, sellers, builders, attorneys, lenders — in line by just keeping communication open and often. Her clients focused on getting ready to welcome their twins in their new home.
“These are the kind of stories that make me ask, do you really want to do this yourself?” says Andrea.
Because she knows that her role isn’t to supply data. It’s to shoulder the burden and to be a guide through an uncertain landscape. It’s to help at every stage in the circle of life of real estate and it’s to #BeTheSherpa.