I, Alison Rogers, am not smarter than a fifth-grader.
I know this because I was watching the Fox network game show while I was making dinner (rice and beans) and I flunked the one-million-dollar question: “What was the name of the first U.S.-launched satellite?”
To be fair, the show is set up so you can take the money and run at the half-million-dollar mark, and I certainly would have quit right then and there. I know what I don’t know.
And to be even more fair, the show’s actual fifth-graders aren’t smarter than fifth-graders either. If they had been the contestants, they wouldn’t have even reached the half-million-dollar mark. A couple of them thought NASA stood for National American Space Agency; many of them were convinced that “Common Sense,” the pamphlet that helped spark the American Revolution, was written by George Washington and not Thomas Paine. (I don’t want to be too hard on the fifth-graders; after all, one of their parents may need help finding a condo.)
Still, it was a worthwhile exercise because dinner involved a lot of chopping (onions and celery) and because it knocked me out of my everyday broker existence, where it’s assumed I know everything instantly.
With the rise of spider-driven sites like Trulia and Streeteasy, my clients know price changes before I do. That’s the way the logistics work — I’m often out showing client A an apartment while client B is noticing a price change and going “aha!”
But I have to remember not to be ashamed of it. I am a nerd and a completist, but I have gone into a field where I just don’t know the current data on every apartment and the answer to every single question. For one thing, I’m always chasing market information, and the market changes way too quickly. If I did have the capacity to hold all those data points in my head I would be a Bear Stearns trader instead, or maybe an air traffic controller.
Instead, I have this amazing ability to say, “I’ll get back to you,” and look stuff up. Just today, an “A-line” apartment came up in a building that a client is interested in. She doesn’t love the layout — who can blame her, the second bedroom and the dining nook are pretty small — and asked if there were any other two-bedroom lines in the building.
Um, um, um, “I’ll get back to you.”
Thank you, data people (that’s On-Line Residential) for providing me with the ability to point out that the “C-line” would definitely provide her with a better layout when it happens to come up. She’ll get a balcony off the master bedroom, and a better dining area.
However, the exposure won’t be as good, so I could say with confidence that you can’t beat the “A-line” views. We’re going to go see it on Sunday after Mother’s Day brunch.
It may still not be the apartment of her dreams but at least I’ll get her in the door. So that’s become one of my themes for the month: when you’re asked a question, take a deep breath and remember that you’re not on a quiz show.
The first U.S. satellite, by the way, was “Explorer,” launched during the Eisenhower administration. Don’t worry if you didn’t know it; you could look it up.