Making ends meet in real estate

Commentary: Serving up cheeseburgers, listings

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I’m sad to admit that I used to be one of those Realtors who scorned part-timers. You know who I’m talking about: the guy who worked evenings at Home Depot, or that gal in the office who also pulled cappuccinos at Java Jungle. They weren’t dedicated agents. They didn’t have staying power. Hacks.

Some of us even incorporated our "dedication to the profession" in our listing presentations. We were 100 percent available any day or night to do real estate — and real estate only. You wouldn’t find us selling shoes at Big 5; we were ready to give you a CMA (comparative market analysis) at the drop of a hat.

And we paid our dues. Lots of dues. On time, too. Hundreds of dollars per month in desk fees and add-ons. Why, it was almost a badge of honor! "Can you believe it? I spent $450 on postcards this month! I’m crazy busy, man!" Hmm. Things have changed a little bit, huh?

Sure, I know there are still some of you out there who cling to your full-time status. And we honor you. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I think. Or head you toward divorce … but who’s judging?

At the beginning of this year I found myself in quite a predicament. I’d followed my husband to a new job in a new town, where I signed up with a new brokerage. A very big brokerage with a big name and a big marquee, and I had a very big office all to myself. Of course, I was also expected to pay big desk fees — but I was gung-ho. New town? No problem.

Watch me sweep up. All those other sad sacks will wonder, "Who is she and where did she come from? Why, all our business is going to her!" And I would be a successful 24-hour Realtor.

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The principal broker approved of this plan wholeheartedly. Why, I’d be No. 1 in no time, she said. Hmmm.

Six months later I found myself in a hole. A gaping hole. Things hadn’t exactly panned out as planned. I watched my business account draining down to about, oh, I’d say $14, when I finally went back to the broker and tried to renegotiate some of those pesky desk fees that were eating up my "start a new business" fund. Of course, there is little negotiating room with the Big Boys. The advice I was given was to work harder, stay later, and make more phone calls.

Go to more meet-and-greets. Hold other people’s open houses for them. Be more available. This kind of advice is very easy to give — especially when you have more than $14. But is it realistic?

I went ahead and applied at a local restaurant and started serving dinner shifts. Now, I’d never done it before, but it’s a lot like real estate, actually. You meet strangers, try to get them to like you, and deal with a lot of jerks. Funny! And I paid my dues. Plus gas money. And I earned a little extra to get a treat at TJ Maxx every now and then — hey, I’m a girl.

It wasn’t even a few weeks later that I was skipping across the brokerage parking lot heading into my big office, when a voice behind me shouted, "Hey, waitress!!! Yeah, waitress!!! Can I have a cheeseburger? Got any three-bedroom houses on special?"

It was one of those full-time agents, darn it. I’d like to say that I turned around and did some funky kung-fu-thing on his ass, but in reality, I cried a little bit. Not everybody can win every time — and sometimes the best and most honorable thing to do is get the job done.

Whether that means serving ungrateful oafs dinner or pumping their gas. We do what we know needs to be done to make ends meet for our families — that’s really winning. That’s 24-hour service.

Alisha Alway Braatz is a broker with RE/MAX Integrity in Eugene, Ore. Her website is HighEndOregon.com.


  
    
      

    

   

   

      

   

  

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