When I had been a journalist for about 15 years, I got hired to launch a new Saturday section at the New York Post, one that would be entirely about real estate.
With the help of my deputy Andy Wang and a really talented team of people, we created something that was part sports section, part personal finance advice, and part dream-home catalog. The section was new and different, and sales of the Saturday paper shot up. For two years I covered real estate so closely that I lived and breathed it, and that changed my outlook.
I thought of people’s life stories in terms of the buildings that they lived in, or could possibly live in. As I put it at the time, "When you have a hammer, everything looks like a house."
Then I just couldn’t do it anymore. You try working on the same thing over 100 times and tell me how much passion you have left. Besides, I was pretty jealous of the people I was covering, glamorous super-brokers who wore fancy suits and made millions. I decided that I wanted to quit, and right around that time I had dinner with Brad Inman.
To those of you who read Inman News without having a mental picture of Brad, let me say this: he is courtly and fast and funny all at the same time. If his intentions were ill, you’d have to watch your wallet, but since his intentions are good … well, I ended up working — let’s see — six Real Estate Connect conferences and writing a column for him.
The idea was that the column would be called "Diary of a Real Estate Rookie," because a similar column had been written for Inman News once before, and been popular, but the writer had ended up quitting real estate.
The way Brad explained it, I would just have to do the things I was doing in real estate, and tell my stories once a week, and hopefully not quit. …CONTINUED
I guess I got the not quitting part right. At the beginning, everything else went wrong: I had trouble investing and terrible clients and tripped over my own feet. But every now and then I had a win. My first year in real estate was my first year of marriage, so I would write about fighting with my darling husband Ivan and then ask him to copy-edit it.
There were weeks when the column was all I had. At the beginning it was a sorely needed paycheck, and at the end it was a way to be emotionally connected to other people who did what I did and loved what I loved, in a world where it felt like, well, most people revile real estate agents.
As time went on, the column gained fans — and to everyone who ever wrote me, thank you — and then became a book of the same name which got kudos in Newsweek. Thank you Karen Murphy and Matt Wagner — you changed my life. My real estate career grew too, to the point where I suddenly knew how to do stuff, and the wins started coming a little more often.
In fact, I haven’t quite been a "rookie" for some time now. This is column 183, which means I’ve been writing it for nearly four years, during which time I’ve worked with people from Boca Raton and Dallas and Hollywood and Norway, and gotten them all housed.
I’ve gotten some big paychecks and I’ve lost some big paychecks — I refer to the afternoon where I missed a $4 million deal as "the $150,000 Mets game" — but maybe now it’s time to graduate. I intend to keep writing (you can find me doing some blogging about real estate for CBS Interactive) but I’m not going to tell any Rookie stories for a little while.
I do, however, want to say thank you: Thank you Brad (and the Inman News crew).
And thank you readers: we know that you have a choice of airlines and thank you for flying "Rookie."
In return, I’d like to try to give you some words to live by out there in the real estate jungle. The words in my head are kind of funny and sad and smart all at once, which I know is confusing, but maybe you’ll let me get away with it, just this time: …CONTINUED
- The clients that you get most excited about are the ones you do the best job for.
- You know when you’re doing the right thing; it’s not an SAT test.
- Not every time is a good time to buy or sell a house. There are some really awful times to buy and sell houses, and if you call ’em that when you see ’em, your clients are more likely to be loyal when you call the good times.
- Two heads are more enthusiastic than one.
- You can convert nonbelievers into ordinary customers, and ordinary customers into referrers, but you can’t make nonbelievers into referrers. Find them the perfect house, turn water into wine — on their next transaction they’re still for-sale-by-owners.
- If my mother had called "stand up straight" the "Law of Attraction," she would have made a lot of money.
- Don’t forget Fran Leibowitz’s motto: "You’re only as good as your last haircut."
- New technology is incomprehensible, but you have to try.
- To quote Matthew Haines, the founder of PropertyShark.com, "data is not brokerage." Knowledge adds value. Expertise adds value. And so, for that matter, does joy.
- The faster you send a thank-you note, the easier it is to write it. I’m not one of those sorority girls who pre-writes her thank-you notes before she goes out for the evening, but I wish I were.
- From Gil, my sponsoring broker: "People don’t change. Easy customers stay easy and tough customers stay tough." Corollary: Really mean and crazy people are mean and crazy to everyone, not just you.
- No one needs to see 100 properties to decide what to buy. Let the alarm bells go off after the first 10.
- From Michael Yang of Yahoo: "The consumer feels like the Internet is just a big hallway where Realtors are beating them with sticks and the first customer to fall gets dragged in the door." In other words, just because it’s the Web doesn’t mean you can forget your manners.
- Revenge is never as satisfying as you think it will be, but it’s not bad.
- From Dan, my other sponsoring broker: "I hear what you’re saying you would like the situation to be … but what are the facts of the situation?"
- A good salesperson sells all the way up to the close. A great salesperson sells through and after the close.
- Remember, there’s always another property.
Alison Rogers is a licensed salesperson and author of "Diary of a Real Estate Rookie."
Editor’s note: This is the last installment of "Diary of a Real Estate Rookie." Thank you, Alison Rogers, for sharing your stories, and for inspiring and delighting Inman News readers. We wish you well!
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