Two rather shocking things happened this past week. First, my daughter wore a $20 dress to the Grammys. Big deal, you say? Then you are a man.
Because if you are of the female persuasion, you recognize this for what it is: a crime against humanity. And when I say "humanity," I mean both human beings and Lady Gaga.
If that wasn’t enough, my husband, not to be outdone, spent the better part of his week successfully talking a single client out of not only buying a new home, but out of selling a second, investment property. It was magical! Now you see several mortgage payments — now you don’t.
Both, it turns out, did the right thing.
We’ll start with my youngest daughter. She is frugal, and I don’t mean frugal as in "responsible." I mean Depression-era, "I don’t need new shoes; that’s what staplers are for" cheap. So when she announced that her years of training as a seat filler for lesser award shows had finally landed her in the big time, I laid down the law.
"Please! For once, buy yourself a really nice dress. I’ll pay!" I begged.
Buy a dress she did — a frock, I was told, that had been commandeered between classes from the "Ye Olde Shoppe of Disposable Clothing." It was a cotton dress that wouldn’t know a synthetic fiber if it was wearing a name tag — a dress that set me back the equivalent of approximately two staplers and a glue gun.
I was demoralized. I had visions of my little seat filler being assigned to the lady’s restroom for the duration of the broadcast lest a camera accidentally capture her in all of her dime-store glory.
For a moment, I forgot what my daughter has always, intuitively, known: It’s not the dress, it’s how you wear it.
She also knew, from her experience at more than a half-dozen similar Hollywood events, that it’s important to understand and embrace your supporting role. It’s not about you, and you never upstage the talent.
"I just talked them out of buying the house!" my husband beamed.
This is where I would like to say that I expressed shock, dismay and a sense of debt collector foreboding. Instead, I mumbled something remarkably poignant, like, "That’s nice. Did you take the dog out?"
OK, so I wasn’t listening. But if I had been listening, I would have just figured he had his reasons. He likes to eat as much as the next guy.
He continued, "And they aren’t going to list their vacation home with us either. Yay!"
Now he had my attention. That’s two transactions down the tube, and I did some quick math. The payday rug he just pulled out from under us would have been sufficient to buy my daughter approximately 750 Grammy dresses, with money left over for a utility bill or eight.
But having a real estate license is not about the clothes; it’s how you wear them. It’s about the "talent," and in our case, the talent is the client. It’s the client’s night.
I’ve typed my fingers bloody in the past about my disdain for our tendency to see homebuyers and sellers only as "leads," and I’ve frequently written about the danger of approaching real estate as a job vs. a career.
Yet, I’ll say it again: Wishing for luck or being unable or unwilling to look beyond the next paycheck — seeing your role as one of "salesperson" or only as the holder of the house keys — is not a winning business plan.
It bodes well neither for your long-term prosperity nor for the collective reputation of our industry.
There has been a lot of debate lately about listings syndication — so much so that my head is starting to hurt, so I don’t want to go there today. But much of the debate has centered on what is good for the consumer, and that is worth talking about.
The customer’s access to listings data, whether it is on one website or 10,000, is not the issue. The data is out there, and they will find it — or their agent will help them find it.
The argument about how far ajar we leave the multiple listing service door is ultimately just noise. And if we make this the central issue, then we concede that we are, in fact, just tour guides with our value measured by the last update of our lockbox keys.
What is good for the consumer is that we always hold their interests above our own. Not so coincidentally, that is eerily similar to the definition of a "fiduciary," and when we enter into an agency relationship, we become one of those.
Putting your own personal interests on the backburner can be difficult, I know — particularly when you find yourself staring down the barrel of a challenging market. But that is what you are hired to do.
Our clients are the talent; we are in a supporting role. The show is about them.
As for my husband’s clients, they were past clients. They returned because they trusted him implicitly, and he delivered. The details aren’t important. Let it suffice to say that the transactions they were prepared to enter into did not make sense for them, at least not now.
In a year or two, a sale and a purchase will make sense, and will be here. In the meantime, we will sleep nights knowing that this payday came in the form of our clients’ respect, appreciation and ongoing loyalty.
And my daughter? I wasn’t really surprised when, as I watched Adele’s "album of the year" acceptance speech at the Grammys, there she was, hanging front row center with Bruno Mars and his very well-heeled entourage.
I learned later that it was, in fact, Adele’s seat that my daughter had been keeping warm, on a budget no less.
Our clients entrust us with tremendous responsibility. An enormous financial transaction involving a full range of emotions hangs in the balance. We do this for a living, but it is the work that matters. It is the clients that matter.
Never forget that, know your role, and wear it well. Only if you let them shine will you ultimately stand out.
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