The Deal Doctor

The buyers knew the tenant was going to be an issue from the get-go. Everyone made sure of that.

Their agent had referred them to an attorney who specialized in local rental ordinances before they even wrote on the place. The sellers, or course, had signed enough disclosures to indemnify Satan.

The plan wasn’t exactly fun, but it was purely a matter of process. Once the transaction closed, the buyers would pay the attorney about $5,000 to shepherd them through the city’s eviction process. It would take three months, but they’d be in their new home soon enough.

Then things got messy.

The tenant, who had had time to think about her fate, started to make noise about getting an attorney of her own. She was in a protected class and the landlord selling out from under her didn’t seem right.

Then the furnace died over Christmas, two days before closing. Nobody wanted to deal with it. This didn’t exactly help matters with the aggravated tenant.

The buyers, a twenty-something couple, freaked out. This wasn’t what they bargained for. They were going to sue pretty much everyone.

Someone had damn well better fix this. NOW.

Someone did: The Deal Doctor.

The buyer agent’s office manager put on his gloves and got to work, getting the furnace taken care of, providing insight on the process with the city, and generally getting everyone to calm the f**k down.

Things are back on track.

True story. Happened to an agent friend of mine over the holidays.

It got me thinking about all the disruption talk that comes up around the turn of the year.

How will the industry change in the next twelve months? Will the mind-bending, incumbent-smashing innovation swirling around us touch down in our own front yard? What can we learn from company X, or technology Y?

I’ve grappled with these questions again and again over the years.

Sometimes I think I can see, faintly, some new way of buying and selling real estate in the distance.

Then it vanishes – a phantom, summoned by hype.

Both Marc and I used to write a lot about the industry’s most provocative weaknesses, asking, particularly during the crash, how it could be possible that big changes weren’t imminent. You can get a taste here, here and here.

Nothing really happened.

I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t really know where disruption might come from, or when it might come. And that’s kind of the point, right?

But the one thing I am pretty sure of is that whatever rough beast may slouch toward real estate to bring forth the day of reckoning is going to have to supplant the Deal Doctor.

The Deal Doctor is the experienced agent, office manager, broker/owner or team leader that fixes messy transactions like the one I described above. The degree of messiness varies, but the messes are very common.

Uber – a company from which I have always thought real estate could learn very little – employs thousands of people to manage a network of drivers and riders.

How many people, and how much money, would it take to replace the Deal Doctor?

What kind of algorithm could talk two freaked-out Millennials through a holiday meltdown involving a failed furnace and a litigious tenant?

These are the questions anyone that wants to rock real estate needs to be asking.

I’m not trying to make you feel better about the status quo. I just think that’s the heart of the matter. Not portals. Not forms. Not new compensation models. Not some other company in some other industry.

It’s the mess.