My husband was talking to another agent about the latest drama in our little real estate neighborhood. It involved one more in the steady stream of personnel changes we have become accustomed to in this market.
"Did you hear that (Agent ‘X’) left (Company ‘A’) to team up with (Agent ‘Y’) at (Company ‘B’)?" he asked.
Agents change logos all the time; this is nothing new. In a challenging market like ours, in fact, the anomalies are the agents who actually stay put. It’s that grass-is-greener syndrome, and right now, we are all staring at some pretty brown turf.
First, there are simply too many agents chasing too few customers. According to the Census Bureau, the number of people moving last year was the lowest since 1962 — when our country had 120 million fewer people.
Now consider, and I haven’t thoroughly researched this, that there are 982 quadrillion more licensed agents than there were back when Walter Cronkite was anchoring the evening news. That’s some tough math when it’s time to pay the cable bill.
Second, there is the increased level of difficulty. My husband and I have actually enjoyed our best year since 2003 — best, that is, it you consider goofy things like "closed transactions" and "total sales volume."
But the real estate agent of 2009 is aging about as gracefully at Keith Richards. You think being a U.S. president causes graying around the temples? Try pushing an FHA buyer through a short-sale process.
But back to our local news. This neighborhood specialist — the one who had recently moved his three-hole punch to a new brokerage, trading his "X" for a balloon — has been on a tear. By all appearances, he has been blowing the doors off of his earnings pro forma and is vacationing in a new tax bracket this year.
So, why move? More importantly, why team up with someone else when he is doing fine on his own? To my husband, the other agent explained, "Real estate can be a lonely place."
I was watching an interview with Google CEO Eric Schmidt last night. I didn’t hear anything he said, although I think it had something to do with magic power grids that will someday deliver my blow dryer unto me more efficiently.
Instead, I was thinking, "I am him." Granted, if our brains met on the playground, my frontal lobe would soon be short its lunch money. But I am him because I am in charge of my own little business. He runs a huge public company, and I am in the "misfortune 500"; we aren’t all that different — except, he has people. …CONTINUED
It’s hard to brainstorm at a table for one. I am the poster child for this concept. Back in the early days of my career, I actually mailed a postcard to a very large number of homes that read, "Is the market hot, or is it just Kris?"
For some reason known only to clinical psychologists, I did this on purpose. I thought this was a good idea at the time. Had I enjoyed Mr. Schmidt’s "people," someone might have stopped me before I hurt myself.
Before you say that this makes a case for the large vibrant office filled with tens or hundreds of little CEOs, remember that at the heart we are all competing. It’s like a Miss America contest where we are all asked to participate in the dance number, yet all we are really focused on is hiding Miss Wyoming’s hairspray and getting our paws on that crown.
If someone were to ask what the single biggest turning point was for my business, I would have to say that it was the day my husband quit his day job to join me. It wasn’t because there were now two of us to meet the termite guy; rather, having a partner to bounce ideas off of and to help with the strategic planning made me more effective.
I still visit the stupid zone on occasion, like the time I showed up at a listing appointment with "comps" for the seller’s neighbor’s home, and only after showing up at his very confused neighbor’s home first. (Hey, they had the same first name!) But now I have someone with whom to share the misery and help pick up the pieces. I have someone to laugh about it with.
And when I do arrive at the right house for an interview, having two personalities at the table is invaluable. It took me a while to realize this, but my marketing plan, my superior knowledge, and my awe-inspiring experience are often just noise to the customer.
Our business is one of emotions, and if the client doesn’t like my shoes or my sense of humor — doesn’t like me — it won’t matter how glossy my brochures are. It’s easier to pass the baton than to morph into someone I am not.
There was an old "Saturday Night Live" skit in which Will Farrell’s George W. Bush, sitting in his new chair in the Oval Office, blurted in astonishment, "Daddy, this job is hard!" That has become a well-worn battle cry at our house.
Make no mistake, our job is hard. But it’s a little bit easier when we have someone on our side who can appreciate the punch line.
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