Last week I was riding the shuttle bus home from the Minnesota State Fair. The man in the seat next to me saw my camera in my lap and started up a conversation.
I know better than to say “yes” when I am asked if I am a photographer. When he asked, I just said that I was taking some pictures at the fair.
My seatmate proceeded to tell me all about his friend, who is apparently one of the greatest photographers in the world.
It is not possible to sit next to someone who does not have a friend or a relative who is an amazing photographer, because everyone knows someone who is a great photographer.
I kept getting a feeling of déjà vu as the man was talking to me. I realized I’d probably had the same conversation on the shuttle bus to or from the fair in years past. Maybe next year, I’ll stow the camera in the backpack before I board the shuttle so I don’t have to listen to the same conversation all the way to the park-and-ride lot.
If I’d said “yes” when I was asked if I am a photographer, I would have been asked if I photograph weddings, because that is what photographers do. Then I would have heard stories about wedding photographers.
I have no interest in photographing weddings. I am just not enough of a people person.
If anyone ever asked me — no one ever has — I could explain to them how I’m able to make money as a photographer without shooting weddings. There’s a whole world of photography out there that has nothing to do with weddings or stock photography, I would tell them.
It’s pretty much the same story when people ask me what I do professionally, and I tell them that I am a real estate agent-broker.
Everyone knows an extremely successful real estate agent who is a friend, neighbor or relative. So they all know everything about how to sell a house and, of course, what it takes to be a good real estate agent.
People who have never sold a house like to tell me how to sell houses. My resistance to their ideas just shows how backward I really am.
Some of the homebuyers I have worked with are just blown away when they find out that the process doesn’t resemble the homebuying process they have seen on reality TV. How would they know that real estate is local, and that TV shows about homebuying are purely for entertainment and seldom reflect reality?
People don’t really understand what it is we do, and few will ever ask us. Even fewer will look interested if we answered.
Being a real estate agent is more about prospecting than anything, and prospecting is not the same thing as lead capture or sales. I have said it before when working with clients — the job is mostly about problem solving.
Yesterday I saw a blurb for a great new product I could have used myself 10 years ago. But today the problem that the product solves isn’t a problem that I have anymore.
Since I am not an expert on what real estate agents need, my best guess is that agents in California still have the problem and will buy the product. I’ll predict that the company that makes it won’t be around in two years.
I am not sure what an entrepreneur does all day or exactly how it is that people become experts and authorities in the real estate industry. The bar for entering the real estate industry as an expert or consultant is even lower than the bar for entering as a real estate agent.
At least we are regulated by the Department of Commerce and are required to get some education, pass a test and get a license.
There are people who work in the real estate industry who are considered experts who don’t have any interest in what a real estate agent does. Yet they give expert advice on how agents should work with consumers or how we should market our services.
A list of 25 must-have apps for real estate agents that was created by someone who doesn’t understand what a real estate agent does ends up looking pretty silly from where I sit. I would rather read advice on how to shoot a wedding written by someone who has a neighbor who is a wedding photographer.
After many years of selling real estate I’ll admit that I don’t know as much about it as I did when I started. But I am willing to bet that I know more about it and about what I am doing than many of the experts who are giving me free advice.
Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.