Real estate professionals: May I ask you a personal question about your experience? No, it is not about your sales numbers or how many years you have been a Realtor. It is about something much more important than that.

It is about families in your area who are about to lose their homes and do not know what to do, don’t understand the process, and are frightened and confused.

They do not want to sell. They do not want to buy. They just want to get out from under the daily pressure of living with worry and uncertainty about how to resolve their housing problems. They may not know where they will be living in the months ahead. You know the seemingly never-ending drill.

According to David Crowe, chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders, there are 2.1 million "unformed" households, which he defines as potential buyers who are living with family, friends and relatives. He adds that others have estimated the number to be more than 3 million.

The question

Have you personally been through foreclosure, or any special refinancing programs? Did you have to "unform" your household and move in with family and friends?

What is proposed here is that you, the real estate professional, offer free advice to those going through what you have been through, or to those who are going through something you hope never to experience yourself.

These could be present clients, prospects, and those you sold. Or they may not be a prospect at all.

The country needs to hear from you. What mistakes did you make? Did you understand the process? If you didn’t understand it, how can others be expected to understand it?

We have heard of Realtors’ cars being repossessed in the office parking lot, foreclosure notices delivered, and frantic homeowners told by some to ignore the notices: "It was just a procedural thing," and on and on.

If you are a real estate professional who has experienced housing distress yourself, are you willing to share it with those consumers who are in desperate need of help and encouragement … and to do it as a free service to the homeowning public?

This could be done discreetly with a note, a phone call or email.

The challenge is to do this with no other motive other than to help and encourage the many homeowners who are facing the most devastating scenario they will ever face: potential loss of their home.

How did you get through it? How is it working out now? What resources did you lean on? Are things turning out better or worse than expected? What advice can you give based on your own experiences?

For starters, maybe the owners who want to list should not sell. Maybe there is an alternative, or they need more time to pursue other options.

Who better than you, the "been there" real estate professional, to share a possible solution or preferred outcome to such a housing crisis?

There is no end to the "who is better than you" questions, because they trust you and know that as a real estate professional you were better equipped to go through what you went through than they will ever be.

They don’t know what do to or whom to ask. Attorneys are important for legal matters, of course, but before they spend money they don’t have for legal counsel, they need a friend who will be honest with them.

How do you do this?

Well, there is one thing we know: Real estate agents know how to help people. It is in their DNA.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Offer your free services on the Internet. Offer to tell your story. Or prepare a video and tell it. Sponsor a workshop with "been there" panelists.
  • Share how things turned out. What would you do differently? Offer to be a guest on local real estate radio shows. Casting this type of bread on the waters may or may not return financial reward. But that is not the point.

This is a great opportunity for professionals in real estate to show the world that Realtors care about their neighbors.

It is not about real estate professionals feathering their nest — it is about helping troubled families in their communities protect and keep their homes.

If you have already offered up your services as a true helper, with no immediate financial incentive in sight for doing so, share your story in the comments section below. I want to hear about your experience and how it turned out for you.

Or contact me directly. I’ll share your stories in upcoming columns.

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