I just closed rental deal number five. For those of you keeping score, that means I’ve turned five rental sides and a sale in 10 months, not bad since I’ve been writing nearly half time.
But it also means I have no renters to play with right now. My one active rental client is in L.A. for the Oscars, and the market moves so quickly here it’s not even worth searching till she gets back. I’m working on two sales deals and I stoke those fires lovingly, but it’s not the same as the slam-bang excitement of trying to see 10 properties in a day. In fact, some days, it means there’s no client contact at all.
Which can easily translate into no social contact if I let it. That’s the thing I miss most about working at an office job: the water cooler. (I mean figuratively, of course, because my last company was literally too cheap to have a water cooler.) I now have lots of tedious desk work to do — assembling clean mailing lists for a postcard drop, categorizing my expenses for my taxes — and that means sitting amidst heaps and heaps of files, furiously chewing gum and trying not to play too many rounds of Mansion: Impossible. Where are the other people? All at their desk jobs. I have my little electronic routines, of course: I watch the local news; I read Doonesbury; I read our MLS-equivalent’s inventory update; and I hang out in the real estate forums.
Is that working or playing? I’d say 75 percent playing. I wrote here eight months ago that I thought the Web was useless for me as a tool to market luxury real estate, and I still think that. The Goldman Sachs guys — and they are, for the most part, guys — are not sitting around reading this column or Curbed San Francisco or Realtor.com. Their wives may be on the Web, but they’re there to meet their own needs for community, which seem to prioritize raising children over raising condos. Perhaps when I am reborn as one of them $50-million-listing goddesses, like Paula Del Nunzio or Shari Chase, I will feel differently, but for now, if I want to find more $13,000-a-month rental clients, I’ve got to do a mail drop.
For more moderately priced real estate, though, the Web is great. It’s a font of news and information, and I can always find someone on a community site who will tell me what’s going on at their local school or what the local construction looks like.
But it’s a source of something else, too: camaraderie. Sure, I go into the office of my brokerage firm a couple of times a week, but like at any real estate office, agents are rushing in and out, always in the pursuit of a transaction. I can call my friends at office jobs, but they have deadlines to meet and staff conferences to go to. Hello, Internet! On the Web you can find people who are actually taking a break, and if you’re real-estate-obsessed enough they will talk to you about floor plates and floor plans.
The flip side of this is that, just as in the real world, you start to become part of a group. Hanging out begets hanging out.
Sometimes I have to remind myself that it’s playing. When you work a client-oriented job, you don’t want to spend too much time socializing with people who aren’t your client base. People in office jobs can’t spend eight hours a day at lunch, and I can’t either.
But on the flip side of that, I remind myself that I am allowed to go to lunch. And, electronically, I go to the same place every day. So the people there are my pals, just like the regulars at a diner. These “water cooler connections” are superficial, but they can be very satisfying.
I really felt this the other day when I was on wirednewyork and one of the senior members IM’d me — it was like that day in high school when, after you’ve been a freshman for months, an upperclassman finally taps you on the shoulder.
Of course if you were at an office job, and one of your water cooler friends got ill, it would be a drag. I remember five years ago, when I was working at a newspaper and a colleague of mine got Crohn’s disease. She was in; she was out; I felt bad for her that she was sick, and selfishly bad for myself that I didn’t have her to talk to.
Well, electronic water cooler friends are the same way. It’s a drag when one of them disappears, especially if it’s someone who says supportive things like, “I feel inspired” and “Happiness trumps everything.” Worse still when you find he’s been hit by a car! So, BrooklynRider — Rob — here’s hoping the surgery works like a charm on Monday. Between now and then, I will have jumped out into real life and had lunches with friends and lattes with clients, and I know that you’re frustrated that you can’t. But soon, you will — soon!