Open Book: Alison Rogers on how to go from unemployed to super agents

Welcome to WalletPop's new book club, where we will have an author-in-residence to give us a peek into a new book and be on hand all month to answer reader questions. Our inaugural writer is real estate expert Alison Rogers, who was the founding editor of the New York Post real estate section and a licensed real estate broker. The following is a Q&A with her about her book,
Diary of a Real Estate Rookie, which was called "must reading" by the Wall Street Journal and a "Witty bunch of horror and success stories mixed with real advice for other Realtor newbies" by Newsweek.

ZB: You went from Harvard to Fortune magazine reporter to New York Post editor to real estate agent. How did that happen?

AR: I graduated from Harvard summa cum laude, at the top of my class -- and then I couldn't get a job. It took me a year to get hired on Wall Street. That was the beginning of a long love/hate relationship with corporate America.

Bascially, the Wall Street gig was a two-year in-and-out, so after I did that I decided to try journalism, and I had a connection at Fortune. That was a great job; it really trained me to write and think.

I then developed a sort of specialty in business-oriented publishing. When the New York Post needed an editor to launch the real estate section, I said, you know, this is the kind of publishing I do, and I love real estate.

Remember, if you've got questions for Alison Rogers, you can ask them here, or below in the comments field. What is it about real estate that draws you in?

That was a question the New York Post asked: "how much do you love real estate?" And I said, "on my own, I've done seven closings in six years."

It was a line that my staff got tired of hearing, but that's one reason the section was so successful -- I had done a lot of the things -- bought a home, been a landlady -- that I told my readers about.

What made you want to move on?

That section made a lot of money for the paper, and yet I got my budget cut. It made me itch to get into a field where the rewards would be linked a little more directly to my hard work and success.

So first I got my license and first started investing -- which flopped -- and then I ended up as a straight-up agent. That's the story of my book.

There are lot of real estate books out there and a lot of gurus offering advice. What makes you different?

I'm a working agent. I've got my boots (ok, actually my sneakers) on the ground -- I'm out in the market every day, and I get a daily experience of the problems of buyers and sellers.

But besides that, I'm a journalist, so I'm trained to look at facts and figures. I'm not just a buy-some-real-estate-it's-a-sunny-day agent.

And I think my advice is really sensible; it's the advice you'd give your Mom or your Aunt Jane, not just your brother-in-law who likes to take a flyer on things.

With home prices on the decline all over the country, real estate agents have fallen out of favor. Why should people work with a realtor?

I think when real estate agents should have fallen out of favor was during the recent boom, when they encouraged people to buy houses they couldn't afford. In my book I wrote a year ago I mentioned that I thought the number of people buying with no down payment was crazy -- my exact words were "Pass the crack!" and now look what's happening -- it's coming home to roost.

But now that the market's slow, Realtors are actually more valuable than ever. Buying the right home in a financially sensible way, selling a home for a high price in a reasonable timeframe -- those are skills that are suddenly more in demand.

And what should they look for in choosing one?

I have a whole shtick about choosing an agent, which begins: interview three agents. You'll learn a lot about both your home and different agents just by sitting through three pitches.

Then, pick somebody you feel comfortable with. This is about money, so don't be afraid to discuss topics like what they're going to charge and whether you can have a discount.

And don't necessarily pick the agent who tells you that your home is worth the most -- that's an old Realtor trick we call "buying the listing.'

Alison Rogers is a summa cum laude graduate of Harvard, Rogers is a licensed salesperson at the Manhattan firm of DG Neary Realty, where she specializes in high-end rentals and the neighborhoods of Greenwich Village and Tribeca. In addition, she offers consumer information through her website,
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