We can all agree that real estate is a relationship-based business, right?

We mine our personal circles of family, friends and acquaintances to procure the next deal. We invest time and money in massaging those relationships. And for most of us, I’d say it’s a natural talent; Realtors are, by and large, a group of "People-Persons."

Yep, take an informal poll of your office. I’d bet big money that 80 percent of the agents are Labrador retrievers, sanguines, extroverts, Southerners, fun country — it doesn’t matter which personality profile test you use, the results are always the same.

We’ve never met a stranger and we love a good party. I may make fun of the bright lipstick, big jewelry and flashy cars, but that’s only because I can see the humor in my penchant for disco balls and sequins.

I digress.

What I was going to talk about was the fine line we have to walk when it comes to working with close family and friends. Some people seem quite able to walk the tightrope without the fear of a fall.

Take, for example, the gal Realtor who drove two hours with her friends/clients to look at a home I had listed. After our scheduled showing they immediately headed over to Autzen Stadium to watch the undefeated Ducks take on Stanford.

I’m pretty sure I could do one or the other of those things really well, but not both. I’ll be honest. Given the same scenario, I’d have a hard time deciding when work time was over (is it ever?) and when fun time started.

Would they want to discuss the homes we saw during halftime? Would my raucous cheering and duck squawking annoy them? Would we drink beer and eat popcorn out of the same bucket?

Under normal circumstances you can bet I’d be the loudest cheerleader waving green and yellow. But when the line between work and play is blurred, I can’t help but think that everything we do until that transaction is complete is seen through business-colored glasses.

I learned that in the school of Hard Mother-In-Law Knocks.

I took on my in-law’s listing (cue ominous music).

It started out great! Mother-in-law and I both love houses (she dabbles in flipping), decorating and ice cream. What could go wrong?

Well, to start with, Mother-in-law spent two weeks moving furniture into the home for staging purposes. She spent another two weeks arranging the furniture and buying complementary accessories for every countertop and closet nook.

My suggestions were met with "are you kidding?" eyes. Staging the home, I learned, was her passion.  But I was getting a little impatient, to say the least. Didn’t they say they needed the home sold yesterday? Then why couldn’t we get it on the market? I planned a public open house to give her a deadline.

Come the morning of the party I arrived at the home only to find it in utter chaos. Sudden inspiration had demanded that the couches be moved and pictures re-hung in other rooms. The entire floral department of Safeway had moved into the kitchen, snipping roses and bunching snapdragons for spots of color.

I was beside myself because now she was treading on my passion: throwing a great open house and getting this house sold.

Next was the photo debacle. Mother-in-law strongly believes that when you stage a house for sale you should put only very tiny furniture (miniatures if possible) in every room, and shove all the pieces flush against the wall so there is a lot of space in the middle of the room. This looks weird to me.

I hired a photographer and went ahead of him into every room and moved the furniture around a bit to, well, make it look normal. And photogenic. She arrived in the midst of photography and blew a gasket. I was purposefully undermining her decorating and staging skills.

Three weeks down the road it was over. We both agreed that working together was not a great idea. Her expectations could not be met by a family member.

She couldn’t hear me as a professional, only as a daughter-in-law. Likewise, I was unable to clearly set my boundaries, ever-desiring to just do what she wanted, not what needed to be done.

Nowadays we’ve established better boundaries: We don’t work together. And now that we’ve got that covered, I can happily complement her every decorative nuance and she happily refers me business. Then, we go to football games together and eat popcorn, scream till our throats hurt, and act silly.

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