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Talking With Tom Faison, The Poet Of D.C. Real Estate Listings

[Photos via RealEstateInDC.com]

Most real estate listings are pretty straightforward recaps of the homes in question. They'll list the number of bedrooms, the style of appliances in the kitchen and the presence of a walk-in closet but not much more. That's why when a listing hits the market that sounds more like a slam poem than a police report, it's probably courtesy of Tom Faison of Real Estate in D.C. Sometimes the writeups are ridiculous and occasionally he goes overboard, but as he reveals, that's all a part of the plan. Of the house shown above, Faison writes, "I've found the cause of global warming, fever storming over Rainbow's reforming the atmosphere here within a classic chassis on a story-book block, a calm in the eye of H-Streets' rolling tide." Check out our interview wherein Faison answers his strategy behind these writeups and his philosophy as a realtor.

Regarding your writeups, has that always been your style since you started being a realtor?

Trying to go outside of the box a little bit has always been my goal We promote a lot. Agents. We are egomaniacs with inferiority complexes. We want to be heard. We want to be paid attention to. But it's not really a business of promotion. It's attraction. And so I just screwed around with it a long time ago -- would try to make people pay attention, try to make people pursue a little further. And it's gotten ridiculous. It's gotten to where my goal is to say absolutely nothing about the house. That you can say nothing about what you can touch or see because it's redundant with all the other information in the listings. What really made me start doing it years ago was getting so tired of reading "This house has a front door. And a really nice stove." All this stuff that my brain really doesn't take in anyway. To me, that's like having a real estate agent following you around talking through every room. "Oh look, this is the master bedroom -- that you're now standing in. Imagine that! This is a kitchen!" So, there's that. If three or four people get it, they're usually the ones that buy it. Have you ever heard Diet Coke describe what's in their soda?

No.

No. But, you'll be skinny and beautiful and happy and on a boat if you drink it. But it doesn't have fructose -- they don't talk about that. Welcome to this curvy bottle with the syrup inside! It's so wonderful. So, that's that.

Does that also affect the way you give the house tours? What do you then talk to buyers about on those tours?

After teaching a buyer what's what, I then only want to know as we work through the process what their favorite house is. Then we keep eliminating and eliminating. If their favorite house in their first week isn't going to do it but they pick one that is their favorite, then I've established, "Anything below this is not going to work. Let's beat that house." [Fellow agent] Jesse [Hagopian] can walk through a house and tell you the dates that appliances and equipment were installed. So, it's very important for us for a buyer to know what systems are, get that all down and then help them explore areas -- especially if they haven't lived here before -- really help them explore locations that are outside of where they think they want to live. An old saying in real estate that buyers are liars. It doesn't mean they're bad people, it means they don't really know what they want until they start. So they can come in and say three bedrooms, two and a half baths and I really am not listening to them because what I want to know is how they live in a house -- what they do at night, what they do on Sunday morning and what they do when they get home from work. We even have a questionnaire on our website for buyers that really doesn't ask anything about the physical -- yeah, general areas that you may like -- but we really want to know is your house a purebred or a pound puppy? How you are. I want to know what happens at 6:00 p.m. when your friends knock on the door. They're all there. What do you all do? Do you go in the kitchen? Do they sit down and you serve dinner? What is it? Do you go outside? Do you smoke cigars? Are you Pabst Blue Ribbon or Pinot Noir?

When did you start doing the video tours as well?

About a year and a half ago. It's hard to schedule them. We'll have it shot for any house that merits it. I guess soon there will be drone tours. There are a couple of people already doing that. We just want to catch a vibe. I believe that we either have attention deficit disorder or in D.C. we have attention surplus disorder. Too much. We're focusing on too much. These photographs and videos -- it's a second. They don't read any of the stuff. There's no time to read what we write unless it's fun and you want to read it. And the agents -- I'm selling to them, too. And we have a decent reputation of our stuff getting sold. So, if you brand houses like that, every now and then even a house that's not fantastic will sell on that wave. The rule with those writeups -- they're 400 characters. That's the limit. It's a real estate tweet. And sometimes I'll run these and not put one piece of punctuation in it because I need it. I need the spaces. And then sometimes I'll end up at 398 and I'll do a bunch of ellipses or ampersands. But at the end of the day, you have to convey an idea. You get on an elevator with another guy and you try and sell him something from the sixth floor to the first floor and if you haven't gotten him by then, he's gone. You only have that much time. So, these writeups are fun. But we don't mind ugly houses either. They're kind of fun.

Didn't you have the one room house?

Oh yeah. That was really fun. Thirteen offers. Just a blast. I obviously love million dollar houses -- but that was the most fun house I sold all of last year. And the writeup was fun for me. Of the thirteen bidders, two were real estate agents and one of them got it. A single woman. Young women buy houses a lot more than young men, single. They're smarter, they have better credit, they don't mind settling down and attaching themselves to an area. It's really funny. Women kind of rule real estate.

Do you find there are more female realtors?

Definitely. It used to be much more so. You can't swing a dead cat in D.C. without hitting a real estate agent. There was always this phenomenon of the market getting real hot, a large group of people deciding to get in the business. Sometimes they get in and all of their friends and family give them business. Sometimes they wreck those deals and get out. In D.C. though, a lot of people stay. But there are so many real estate agents and the business is often based on friendship, acquaintance or whose magnet is on your refrigerator. Which is pretty wild to pay someone $40,000 because you had a beer with them at happy hour at the same bar for three years. That's fine as long as they're really good agents that's great. But for better or worse, and I think this is true in a lot of businesses, 10% of the players do 90% of the business. I don't resent the 90%.

How long have you been in the business?

24 years. 1990 was kind of the beginning of the crack cocaine epidemic and that was right when I started and crack was, until law enforcement got a handle on it, it was a drug you could get for $15, get really high, get kind of amorous after you get really high, and then really within an hour need $15 again. Badly. Which resulted in crimes against quality of life. Car windows smashed for $2.20. Tools taken from garages. That was the time period that I saw sellers losing big money. There were no short sales and there were no foreclosures because most of these people have money. So, I saw people losing a lot of money and that was tough and I've never let it happen again.
· Real Estate in D.C. [Official Site]
· A Look at D.C.'s Latest Elliptical, Rhyming Real Estate Listings [CDC]
· "Romantic Crash-Pad" Houses Twin Bed in Kitchen [CDC]