My stress level usually climbs a bit before major holidays, because I am working hard to tie up loose ends so I can have guilt-free time off that I can enjoy without interruptions.
Before I got my real estate license, I would never have believed that there is such thing as a "real estate emergency."
Now I know better. But I’ve also learned how to avoid some of the characters who roll into town on holiday weekends and want to take up all of my time before they leave, never to be heard from again.
There is the holiday caller who never planned on visiting, or he would have called ahead of time, but has somehow ended up in town and needs to see a home for sale on Memorial Day. He sounds as though he got into the car in a trance-like state and drove for hours before realizing where he was, and now there will be dire consequences if he cannot see a loft immediately.
Sometimes a caller has to see a home for a son, daughter, brother, sister, girlfriend, mother, father or boyfriend who has to buy a home right away. I just say no to these callers.
Sure there is a chance that it could lead to business. But there is a greater chance that I could win the lottery and never have to work on a holiday again. So I’ll head to the closest store that sells Powerball tickets before I’ll meet a total stranger in a vacant house.
There are legitimate, preapproved-type homebuyers who are ready to buy, who happen to see a home for sale while they are out walking on the holiday weekend. But they never mention that they are under contract with another agent who happens to be out of town over the weekend when they call. To them, I am a the convenient "Realtor," and they make me feel so used.
It is only after I ask a lot of questions that I find out about the contract and the agent. If it’s my listing, I get the name of that agent and contact him or her. Usually they would prefer that I not show the home and show it themselves a couple of days later.
I still remember my first year in the business and my first Memorial Day. The manager of the brokerage told me to be available and to respond to emergencies. I was told I might get the business that other agents wouldn’t take. Looking back, I realize there isn’t a downside or cost to the brokerage if agents work on holidays, but there is an upside if that work results in a sale.
There are stories or legends that we have all heard about new agents who had a quick, easy sale because they happened to be sitting by the phone on Memorial Day, and responded to some stranger with half a million dollars burning a hole in his pocket who was just in town for four hours on the holiday right during the family barbecue.
The heroic agent sets down her spatula and her beer and takes the buyer to see a home that the buyer loves, and makes a full-price, noncontingent cash offer on because it really is an emergency or part of an elaborate money laundering scheme that no one will figure out until long after the agent’s commission check is cashed. The seller accepts the offer with no counters, and the agent becomes the poster child for customer service or "experience," as it is now called.
Sure it could happen. But it probably won’t.
But the need for time off is a sure thing, and we all need it. Time away from business makes us healthier and smarter, and our families appreciate the attention. Time off should be planned ahead of time, and guilt-free. It is my best defense against the stress and insanity that comes with working on a 100 percent commission basis.
Let’s not forget that the same electronic devices we use so that we can be always be reached are also great for screening out the people who will make us crazy. They usually have off buttons.
I won’t feel guilty about not responding to real estate emergencies. Serious buyers and sellers have a plan. They usually don’t work with the first agent who picks up the phone on a holiday. That agent is an agent of convenience, and is just used to unlock a door. She isn’t the agent who gets the commission, or even a contract that could lead to a commission.
Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.
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