How much is your time worth? It’s a common real estate industry debate between brokers and agents and daily water-cooler fodder.

Agents are forever doing the math — calculating their hourly wage per transaction versus what they think they should have gotten paid. You’ve done it, haven’t you? Reached for the calculator and tallied up your efforts for one weekend of work:

  • 25 hours of home touring
  • 2 lunches @ $15 per person ($75 including tip)
  • 5 coffees at Starbucks ($35)
  • Gas (1.5 tanks)

Oh! But you didn’t count the hours you just put into those three listing presentations on Sunday afternoon! Those count too, y’know: Binders, pens, color brochures and the full-bleed CMA in a leather portfolio, a take-home DVD on what an awesome agent you are,  plus a good wax job on the car. …

All those calculations add up to a little bit of frustration, don’t they? Maybe we should be charging hourly! Or, at the very least, per service or transaction. Maybe then our clients would respect what we do for a living!

I know I’ve never been so fried as when I spent four weekends in a row with Mr. and Mrs. Indecisive-We’ve-Changed-Our-Minds-AGAIN only to find out they were also shopping in another vacation city and had written an offer there without telling me.

Not only had they wasted my valuable time, but they had insisted on lunches out and I had willingly obliged, wanting to show these out-of-towners exceptional customer service.

Were they sorry? Uhm … no. They figured my gas money, lunches out and time was just part of the shopping experience and my obligation as a Realtor. You can bet I shook my fist into the air as I did my own lost-money calculations.

So anyway, in an unrelated event last weekend, I took my mom downtown for an afternoon of fun. We parked in a pay lot and walked around in the sunshine, trying on shoes, browsing little boutiques and enjoying overpriced lattes. But my bright attitude was quickly brought low when we arrived back at the car and found a blue ticket attached to the windshield.

"What time is it?" I (quite literally) screamed.

"4:32?" replied my mother.

Indeed. The meter maid dinged me $30 for a two-minute infraction.

That’s $15 a minute, if you don’t have a calculator handy.

I yelled, I raged, I stomped my foot! I did all the things a grown-up should NOT do. Especially in a public parking lot.

But I was mad! $30? Two minutes? By whose watch? Three days later it came to me: It really doesn’t matter whose watch was used. It also doesn’t matter that they charge $15 a minute. They set the rules in their own parking lot and whether I think it is fair or justifiable is very uninteresting to them.

Here’s the parallel I’m attempting to draw: that our time as Realtors is really only worth what we determine it is worth. It’s not an issue of fairness. We know the rules, so we should learn how to make the rules work for us, not against us.

This is a very difficult truth (especially for the girl who actually wrote out an invoice to Mr. and Mrs. Indecisive-We’ve-Changed-Our-Minds-AGAIN) to accept. Unless you change the rules, either for yourself or your company, your time is worth nothing until you close a transaction. Period. Zero dollars.

With that in mind, your every action should become valuable to your bottom line, and beneficial to your client.

The water-cooler debate will never end. We’ll always have those take-advantage clients to gripe about … loudly. But the truth is, as Ruler of Your Own Domain, you make the rules in your own parking lot. So if you’re charging nothing for your overtime, that’s your own fault. Maybe you should rethink your overtime rates. It’s worth considering.

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