I like ideas — good ones, bad ones, ones that escape me. I’m fascinated by the sparks that fly as ideas light up. I’m blown away by anyone who cultivates ideas, invests in them, tests them and embraces the ones that come from others as tightly as those of their own creation.
There are no bad ideas — just bad attitudes about ideas. Every time I’m proven wrong, every time an idea is rejected, I grow.
Ideas are strung like blinking Christmas lights across the dark eaves of real estate. They twinkle brightly atop an often-unwelcoming façade. As each new idea lights up, as the room brightens, we can also begin to make out whose fingers are on the off switch.
Clap on, clap off
Last week someone clapped off an idea of mine. It came as a rebuttal to my last article, which offered an idea for how a brokerage company might take advantage of the current market mess to chart a new course. (See “Time to pick up after housing mess.”) My critic, using a familiar trope, began by informing me of my free speech rights as an American. She then exercised hers and informed me that I “do not know the first thing about working with clients” much less the real estate business.
She detailed the 12-hour days she works with clients at “the expense of my health and personal relationships.” She detailed her commitment to old-fashioned practices because “my clients have no access to fax, e-mail and other progressive technology.”
At the close of the e-mail, I was advised to stay out of this business and “just write about something that you are an expert in.”
Clap on, clap off.
I’m an expert on nothing
The older I get, the more I realize what I know pales in comparison to what I don’t know. The best I can hope for is to accumulate enough experience to make me, in time, qualified to comment intelligently on a few things.
Real estate brokerage is one of those things — as is being one of its clients. I am part of a large crowd of home buyers and sellers who have contributed billions of dollars in commissions to real estate agents and their brokerages. We might not be experts but we do know a few things.
We are qualified to notice, considering how so many of us are now mired in real estate problems into which we were guided by experts, that the term seems quite overrated.
We notice that our yard signs don’t have Web site addresses for the passersby to visit. We notice when agents don’t shoot virtual tours or list homes with lots of pictures. We notice when agents’ blog posts veer towards vanity rather than representing our needs. We notice how many of the best ideas in the real estate business built by outsiders who want to help are overlooked — and how brokers and agents think we don’t notice.
As clients, we may not be experts but here’s what we know: One day we’ll need one of you.
When that time comes, we’ll choose someone who’s open-minded, trustworthy, honest and humble. We’ll seek someone who listens and offers creative advice — someone who has the knowledge and skills needed to make our transaction move along as efficiently as possible.
We’ll choose someone who views that transaction as our deal, not their deal.
If that’s you, we hope you have the guts to truly represent our needs and tell us to our faces when our perception of what our home is worth is insane. We hope you can be truthful even if the truth hurts. We hope you can walk away from taking a listing because you value your time, your money and your expertise.
We hope the person we hire also values his or her health and personal relationships enough to never jeopardize them for the sake of a client. We don’t expect that and never asked for that guilt trip. This is a real estate transaction, not an earthbound asteroid from which you must save humanity.
When it’s time to choose, we’re going to want the best. We’re all looking around right now. We’re seeing what’s out there, weighing the options. We know that while the market is slow now, it won’t be that way forever.
In the meantime, I’m going to stick around this business for a while, lend some commentary and maybe do a few more deals. It seems like a good tradeoff, a partnership — customer and industry. Frankly, I think we make a pretty good couple.