Just over a week ago, I decided to move. After spending a weekend in the mountains of Las Vegas (yes, there are mountains there, you blackjack-playing Luddite), I realized that I live too far away from them. Hence, you heard it here first: I am moving to Boulder, Colorado. A mere 30-ish miles away from my current abode in Denver but worlds apart in the world of real estate, I started looking for a place to rent. Knowing full well I’d be paying more (moving from Denver to Boulder is like moving from someplace in Jersey to Manhattan’s Gramercy Park), I set out to have a look at what my money would get me and the concessions (knowing there would be some) I’d be making to make this lifestyle move.
Holy Lindsay Lohans with Masters Degrees, Batman.
I pay a very reasonable $1250/month for a 1400 square foot 2 bedroom/1 bath house with full basement (partially finished), two car garage and a massive 12,000 square foot yard (which is, in and of itself, another fine fucking reason to move). For $1250/month in Boulder, I’m looking at a veritable shithole.
In fact, I’m looking at a shithole for anything under $1500/month. Boulder is a college town and college kids will live anywhere so long as there is beer in the fridge and a place to fuck. I get it — believe me. But that doesn’t give anyone the right to treat people like me — professionals with cash to spend, a potential customer — like unadulterated ass.
I’d found a fantastic sublet at a great value in a primo part of downtown and had everything dialed in to meet the landlord yesterday when I got a call over the weekend that, in spite of tenants in the building already having pets, the landlord was choosing to make the building a no-pets zone. Fuck me. It’s a tight market. They can do it. *waves by to that opportunity* So I kept looking.
I walked into a place on Saturday for a showing. It was a 2 bedroom garden-level duplex (the “garden level” aspect was artfully omitted from the ad as they generally command a lower rate for their subterrainian nature) listed at $1450/month. $200/month increase? I could deal. It was Boulder. Until I walked in, that is.
The carpet looked like something out of one of Axl Rose’s hotel room destruction days and the current tenants were (oh, what’s the word) slobs. Shit everywhere. And yes, the property was pet-friendly. So friendly, in fact, that the open litter box sitting on the floor next to one of the beds continued the theme of shit everywhere. I have no idea whether the kitchen had counters or not, what with all the crap piled on them. I bid the real estate agent goodbye, not even promising to be in touch.
The rest of the rental scene? Supremely shitty. See, vacancy rates in Boulder are astronomically low (under 1%) so people with properties listed on Craigslist and other sites can charge a metric shit ton for a hovel and get away with it. They can also let email inquiries fester for days and weeks on end without even the dignity of a reply. As someone whose inbox sometimes gets the better of me, it never gets the better of me when people are looking to hire me (unless I’ve recently changed mail programs…yeah, that happened recently).
So this? This is where you’re getting Bitch Slapped, because your customer service model sucks incomparable amounts of ass.
“Where the Fuck Else Are You Going to Go?” Isn’t a Sustainable Business Model
I have a full comprehension of the laws of supply and demand. While I’ll never quite understand the airline ticket pricing model, I know that scarcity will command a higher price. But fucking seriously? If you think that “Where the fuck else are you going to go?” is a sustainable business model, you need to think again. It is one thing to charge a fair price based on value. It is another to have absolutely zero respect for your customer’s time and say, “Yeah, this sucks. Want it? You won’t find anything better.”
If you find yourself operating in an industry where your service or product has a premium attached to it due to supply, a couple of things better goddamn well happen:
- You’d better be worth it – As business people, we have a neverending obligation to our customers to deliver. And just because demand is high doesn’t mean you can deliver a product that is anything less than a fair value. Murder scene carpet and kitty shitter surprises when you’re asking me for $1450 for a place to call my home is not offering a requisite level of value in any market.
- You’d better respect your customers – You know what was the most precious thing about Saturday’s hovel showing incident? The real estate agent had the unmitigated nerve to pitch me when I mentioned I was moving to Boulder with the ultimate goal of buying. Seriously – if this lady thought it was acceptable to show me a shithole and laud it for location, location, location when I was only renting, what on earth would she consider to be an appropriate level of service should I ever be her client to buy a home? Two things happened here: she disrespected the property owner AND a prospective dream tenant with excellent references and a checkbook in hand for a deposit. Imagine my surprise when I got an email on Monday morning saying they were lowering the price on the unit to $1450 from $1500 (when I had an email saying the rate was $1450 all along) as the owner was anxious to get a tenant in there. Really. Maybe you should have thought about that before showing me the set for Zombieland.
- You’d better know your market – Here’s the bitch of the $1450 hovel: the property around the corner. I walked into a gorgeous 2 bed/1 bath duplex with a yard and 2 car garage on Sunday for $1600 that was half a block away. If you’re going to have the audacity to make the argument to your customer that your product is worth the price in a competitive market, you’d better fucking know what the competition looks like. Arrogance is saying you’re worth it without truly knowing that you are…or not caring to find out.
- You’d better remember that everyone is a potential referral – If I ever see this real estate agent’s name on anything again, you can bet your skinny ass that I will run screaming and share with anyone who asks The Holy Shit Hovel Incident of 2012. Never give anyone a reason to say less than fantastic things about your ethics and work product. personalities don’t always mix, and that’s okay, but the quality of work and ethics involved in a business transaction should never surface as a sticking point. I continuously refer business to numerous individuals who do nothing but produce supremely brilliant work at fair prices for clients who can’t stop raving about them — even if they weren’t a fit for something that my business needed at one point. That’s because they’re great people with great products. This real estate agent’s product and attitude about it? Sucked.
After a mere week in the Boulder rental market, I picked up the phone and called a mortgage broker (do not pitch me that you have a great one — I thank you in advance) and am now looking to buy. In essence, I’m disgusted with the lackadaisical attitude of the Boulder rental market and have now decided to go around it. Ultimately, it’s a better decision, albeit one with another unpleasant process attached to it for a self-employed individual (The Mortgage Olympics).
But the events that led up to this Bitch Slap? Simply beautiful.
An entire real estate market demonstrated to me in merely a week how much it valued me (a qualified, cash-flush, ready-to-buy gal with 3.5 years of supreme landlord references) as a prospective customer. As a result, I will not ever become a customer. It’s also made me think about how I can step up my business’ game. How can I consistently assure that I’m delivering the best value for my rate? What needs improving? Who needs attention and how can I put systems in place to assure that it is delivered — and with enthusiasm?
We’ve all run into tight markets and maybe some of you are fortunate to operate in them. But “Where the fuck else are you going to go?” isn’t a sustainable business model. And if you think it is and choose to participate in one, you’re the asshole, not me. There are always ways to get around a jackass who has something that you need.
Me? I’m now buying a house when the right person could have had my $1500-some-odd-dollars locked into a lease for 12 months. A mortgage broker whom I’ve known for over a year now has a new client because he never acted like a dick who had more business than he could handle. Multiple real estate brokerages and property managers now have a gal who knows how she was treated when she was searching for a home — like an afterthought instead of a potential asset.
So thanks — it created the perfect storm for me to take the first step back into homeownership and avoid an industry that would have appreciated my business yet did nothing to earn it. And my landlord of 3.5 years is also a real estate agent. She’ll be earning a nice commission from a tenant who has appreciated her for valuing me as a tenant for the past 3.5 years.
I’m excited about moving this year and it’s everything I can do to wait and let the mortgage process take its course. But I’m quite grateful that an entire region came together with some supremely assholian business behavior and inspired one of the better decisions I’ve made.
Now — pull your head out of your ass and start offering an appropriate level of value for your rate. Value should exist (and persist) regardless of market conditions. Never forget that the email inquiries and phone calls could stop coming at any time. And if that happens, you are probably the reason.
You’ve been slapped.