3 common mistakes real estate agents make

Fashion do's and dont's, writing tips and talking points

How often do we receive and digest honest feedback? It’s difficult in any industry, let alone real estate. Unlike other jobs, real estate agents rarely have a "boss" giving yearly performance reviews. Sure, you have sales numbers to reflect upon — and they do say a lot about your effectiveness as a salesperson — but they don’t tell the whole story.

This past week you might have heard about Oprah Winfrey’s interview with Bobbi Kristina Brown, Whitney Houston’s daughter, related to the singer’s death. Some criticized the interview as soft and smarmy, rather than informative and deep. When asked about the critique, Winfrey appeared dumbfounded that it had been panned at all — which led some commentators to question whether any among her staff were willing to give her honest feedback at this point in her career.

Criticism is never pleasant. But every once in a while, it is beneficial.

I didn’t have to look far for some honesty in my life. My 15-month-old daughter held the first mirror to my face this week. She marched into the kitchen, dragging my purse, and meaningfully approached the dog.

With her finger wagging in its face, she babbled some loud and boisterous directions before turning on the cat and repeating her performance. Then, she marched out of the kitchen, returning for a second round a moment later. Is that what I look like to her? A benevolent dictator sweeping through the house and pointing a lot? Obviously.

Maybe only close friends and family can really call us on our shortcomings. But there are three general areas in which I see real estate professionals making dumb mistakes, and I’d like to call them out.

1. Use correct punctuation in correspondence and listings.

You don’t have to be a genius to write acceptable copy. For example:

  • Hi! How are you! I know you are always supposed to be peppy and ‘on your game,’ but don’t use exclamation marks after every sentence you type!
  • Don’t Capitalize odd words! It gets Loud! And Creepy! And it rarely Makes sense! Especially when you are just telling us that the Kitchen has a Nice Farmhouse Sink! And it has a Big yard with a Garden! PLUS a family Room! With a big Screen! See? Crazy!

2. Don’t dress like your teenage daughter and/or son.

If you have a real estate license, you are probably over 18, so there’s no use trying to fool us with those uber-skinny jeans and babydoll T-shirts. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the fashion police, but I think we can all agree that a professional does not bare midriff, sport "whale tails," or (for the men) wear toes-out sandals.

Also on the do-not-wear list:

  • Spaghetti straps with bra showing.
  • No bra at all.
  • Tube tops. Miniskirts.
  • Platform Mary Jane shoes.
  • Tank tops for men.
  • Early Justin Bieber haircuts.
  • New Jersey Nets sports jerseys.

If you seriously disagree with any of these casual suggestions, please send me pictures of respectable professionals rocking these looks. I’m happy to be proven wrong.

3. Stop trying to interject real estate in every single sentence.

In my early real estate career I would try to work real estate into all my conversations. I was ready to give market stats in the grocery line or even in the bathroom. Going to a fancy dinner party at my husband’s work? Snap that franchise name tag on the cocktail dress. It goes with everything!

But really, it doesn’t. Most people don’t appreciate having their Oscar-winning-movie conversation torpedoed into a comparative market analysis of Hawaii’s oceanfront cottages. Relax. When the time is right, you’ll have your pouncing opportunity.

There are other areas in which to improve, to be sure. For example, know your own market stats. Do be aware of school boundary lines. Have a tidy desk to work from when writing up a contract with a client. Those are things that will never show up on the state exams, but will be tested nonetheless.

But I’ve drawn the line with my three easily fixed faux pas, which really have everything to do with improved communication skills — something Realtors cannot live without, even more than an iPad.

Alisha Alway Braatz is a buyer’s broker for Coldwell Banker Advantage One Properties in Eugene, Ore., and a real estate humorist.

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