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ON THE JOB

The Berkshire real estate market keeps changing, but veteran Realtors like Pam Roberts know how to roll with the punches

PITTSFIELD — It was a lifestyle change that led Pam Roberts to originally became a Realtor. It turned out to be a good decision; she's still selling homes almost 40 years later.

Roberts also runs her own agency, Roberts & Associates Realty in Lenox, with her daughter-in-law, Tiffany. As someone who has both sold real estate and run her own brokerage Roberts is a perfect person to describe the kind of work that a Realtor actually performs. Those whose idea of selling real estate is based on reality television shows where million dollar properties change hands very quickly will be disappointed. There's a lot more to the job that the public doesn't see.

We asked Roberts to describe her profession for us and talk a little about her running career. This is what she said.

Q: Why did you become a Realtor?

A: For me it was a life change back in the mid-80s. I was working for my next door neighbor who ran an antique stores. As the market began to get stronger we got this idea that he would build houses and I would sell them. 

Q: What does a Realtor's job typically entail?

A: That's what's interesting. Truly, no two days are exactly alike.

Q: What do you mean?

A: We do a lot of collaborating, working on transactions. It doesn't matter if you're representing a buyer or a seller; there are a sort of standard set of paths to get a property across the finish line. So a lot of it is whatever side of the transaction you're working on. There are steps to what you're accomplishing on any given day. But a lot of it is just helping to fully educate our consumers and send them on the path to success.

Q: Tell me about the collaboration part of the job.

A: For example, there's two sides of a coin. If I was working for a seller, maybe you get a call from a past client or someone who you don't know who's auditioning you to potentially work for them and market their property. So that would involve doing a thorough analysis of the methods, giving them some recommended price points.

Every so often they want additional direction perhaps on repairs that would make their house more saleable to address or cleaning out or emptying out their property before it goes live on the market.

On the flip side, if you're working with a buyer we have disclosure so you're always disclosing who you represented. If I'm working with a buyer there's a listening session to really get an understanding of what that buyer's looking for and how we can best manage their expectations in changing market dynamics, like what we're dealing with right now. So there's a lot of listening and involving and assisting, assisting in all the various steps. Once an offer has been agreed to by the parties it's just the beginning because there's many steps and it takes 45 to 60 days of work to get that transaction across the finish line.

Q: So there's a lot more going on than what people see?

A: That is absolutely correct.

Q: What else does the public not often see?

A: I'll digress and say that sometime we do ala carte real estate. I'll get a call from someone who says I want to sell my house in my neighborhood, can you help us? All we know is they're willing to pay what we want and we don't know what to do. We want to do what's customary, what's normal.

There's so much more. ... We're capable of overseeing customary inspections, whether it's a licensed home inspector evaluating the property, or somebody coming in to evaluate a sewer line ... helping them with an appraiser, if there's a mortgage, and an insurance inspector. There are a lot of different inspections.

Q: It appears that you really need to know a lot about several different processes in order to do this job.

A: I think we are on the job learning something new literally every day. You never know. In my office we try and promote a culture of I'd rather have an agent ask the same questions 10 times then go off and do it potentially wrong. So there's a lot of sharing of information. Even for us who have been in the business for decades, there's a lot that I don't know. 

Q: How has selling real estate changed since the mid-1980s?

A: The end result is the same, putting buyers and sellers together and hopefully getting them across the finish line. What's changed is how we deliver the product. The internet has really changed not only the way consumers get the information but the lightning speed with which they get that information.

Back when I started there was no internet and computer. There was a book that came out once a month. Now when we list a property we put it on the market as part of our local MLS (Multiple Listing Service) and it is on the market within 48 hours. We can do that because the photos are done digitally, the assessor's database is online, and the registry of deeds is online. So we can gather data quickly.

The minute [a property] is put into our local MLS, it's literally through syndication distributed across the country through partners like Zillow and Realtor.com. The public often knows about the listing faster than the Realtor if they're getting text alerts. So the market is moving very quickly.

Q: It's obviously faster to do business this way, but is it harder?

A: I think it's better because there's a tremendous opportunity to have a really good paper trail and to quickly envelop the partner. For example, when you have a transaction there are typically two Realtors, two attorneys, one for each side, perhaps a lender. All the parties need to be able to get that information and at the push of a button they can get that information in real time when they need it.  The flip side of it is you're either available 24/7 or you make sure you have someone covering for you. When a book came out once a month there was a lot of waiting time.

Q: Are the consumers more educated now?

A: Absolutely and that's what's really changed. Years ago the Realtors were the holders of the information. Someone would come to us and we would show them what was available. Now, especially with out-of-town buyers, they may have done a lot of their own research before they even arrive here and they may say, "these are the 15 house that I want to see." So, they've done the homework for us.

Q: In the Berkshires and elsewhere the demand for houses far exceeds the supply. Have you ever seen it quite like this before?

A: This is the third seller's market that I've worked in. I think the difference with this one is the immediacy. A property may be put into multiple listings. On Thursday evening, it wasn't even 20 minutes (after the listing went up) and I had a text from someone who wanted to see the house first thing Friday morning. So the market is moving very quickly. ... Right now there are more Realtors in our local association than there are houses for sale. 

Q: What advice would you give someone who wants to be a Realtor?

A: Real estate looks very easy on paper. So I always say to people, and I do a lot of meetings with folks who are just exploring a career change, to understand what it involves. We're basically independent contractors and we're compensated when a transaction crosses the finish line. I think that's a big thing for people to understand there are a lot of upfront costs. Even if you were fortunate enough to put a property under agreement in your first day on the job, it could be 60 days or longer before see any compensation from that and many times those transactions don't get to the finish line. ... It's an easy career to get started in but a lot of folks don't make it to the five-year period. ... If it fits someone's passion, it's always worth taking a chance. 

Tony Dobrowolski can be reached at tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6224.

Business writer

Tony Dobrowolski's main focus is on business reporting. He came to The Eagle in 1992 after previously working for newspapers in Connecticut and Montreal. He can be reached at tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6224.

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