"I’ve been in this business 23 years," started the agent, clearly irritated. Uh oh, I thought. Here we go.

The last time I made a visit to my doctor (although, being a member of a managed health care plan, I’m not entirely sure who "my doctor" really is), I don’t recall having been delivered a verbal resume. Why is that?

"I’ve been in this business 23 years," started the agent, clearly irritated. Uh oh, I thought. Here we go.

The last time I made a visit to my doctor (although, being a member of a managed health care plan, I’m not entirely sure who "my doctor" really is), I don’t recall having been delivered a verbal resume. Why is that?

"In the 37 years and three months I have been practicing medicine, during which time I have administered thousands of Ebola vaccines, I have never had someone whine so much about an open-house sign stake lodged in their left temporal lobe," my doctor might say.

But what would really be the point? To put me on notice, I suppose. To remind me that I am but a mere babe in the ways of the world, outgunned by someone possessing more knowledge and influence — more power — than my tiny and currently compromised brain might ever fathom. Or to make me go away.

I know it’s tiresome, this tendency of real estate agents to compare themselves to doctors when attempting to make a point about their work, but forgive me. That’s all I’ve got. I go to the doctor and I work. Oh, and I go to the grocery store once in awhile.

I am what you might consider a grocery-shopping veteran, yet I have never been slapped upside the head with the checker’s credentials, nor have I ever felt compelled to remind her of mine.

"We have a combined 98-to-the-46th-power years of experience ringing up purchases, and I say that those are Gala, not Red Delicious," she might posture. But then that would be just silly. Because at this point I might have to remind her that in my nearly half-decade of visiting the mecca of the Bountiful Harvest Mart, I have never once argued that her "12 items or less" sign is grammatically incorrect. I digress.

At least once a week, I encounter an agent who somehow feels the need to tell me how highly he ranks on the agent actuarial table. It’s annoying, it’s childish and it is entirely irrelevant. And each time it happens, I know I am in big trouble. The pitch is usually delivered during the negotiation stage of the transaction, and it is my signal to batten down the hatches for the long and blustery approaching storm.

So, during my most recent "negotiation," my colleague pulled her numbers out of her hat in the hope that I would rethink my client’s repair request list. "I’ve been in this business for 23 years," she said, "and I have never had anyone make such a big deal about mold!"

At this point, I think she fully expected me to say, "Oh, never mind. I am sorry to have troubled you. Perhaps the seller would sculpt the fuzzy green stuff on the bathroom wall into the shape of whimsical elephants to complement the buyer’s planned circus motif prior to close of escrow … please."

The real message in all of this was that the whole repair negotiation process was bothersome to my counterpart. The home was "sold," for goodness sake, and the idea that there was unfinished business was cutting into her free time to go slam another home into contract. I was left with the impression that, like a scene from the movie "Groundhog Day," she had done this so many times that with each new day the process had become more mechanical and more meaningless. …CONTINUED

If you have to tell me how experienced you are, then maybe you aren’t that good at what you do. And if you think you know it all because the license number on your framed certificate is in Roman numerals, then you could definitely learn a thing or two. Every single day at the office is different and new. No two homes are alike, nor are any two clients. Experience is important, but we experience something new on each outing, and years of service alone do not equate to competence. It is how we deal with and respond to both the familiar and the new that is the measure of our abilities.

I had an agent, one with a whole bunch of rings around her tree, tell me this week that she prefers the phone to e-mail, and she checks the latter only once every couple of days. She bought one of those scanner things, she continued, thinking she would try to "use the computer" to send her documents like a lot of the younger, more hip agents are. But then her computer crashed, so she reverted back to the familiar.

Granted, there are oodles (there I go with the numbers again) of old-guard agents who are tearing it up with forward progress, who continue to perform at the top of their class — but there seem to be too many others who think that longevity is their hall pass.

Back "in the day," perhaps it was enough to just show up, to work the front end of discovery and showings and the back end of cashing the check while forgetting about all of the real "work" in the middle, because our work was mysterious, our multiple listing service a closely guarded secret, and our customers didn’t know any better.

Today, all we really have is the middle, and I don’t care if you have been in this business 30 years and 30 minutes. Neither does the customer. Whether you are supposed to be working with us or for us, we just care that you know what you are doing and that you are able to do it very, very well.

Our roles are being redefined, and this is an exciting opportunity for a young generation of new agents who truly want to excel and thrive. But, you are only as young as you feel. It is an equally exciting time for veteran agents willing to reinvent themselves. For the others, clinging to the calendar is no longer enough.

One of my first jobs was at a coffee shop. The woman hiring me appreciated that I had no food service experience. "It is easier to train you in our procedures than to break you of old habits and start over," she said. That’s what we are seeing now.

The new, wide-eyed agents just may have the upper hand. If you have been at it for awhile, unless your exit strategy is already intentionally in play, it’s time to start over — with a new mindset and a fresh approach. Otherwise, your days will be numbered. Count on it.

Kris Berg is broker-owner of San Diego Castles Realty. She also writes a consumer-focused real estate blog, The San Diego Home Blog.


What’s your opinion? Leave your comments below or send a letter to the editor. To contact the writer, click the byline at the top of the story.

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