How to navigate a devastating crisis

These 3 tips will help you assist your clients in hard times

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When someone you know receives a terminal cancer diagnosis or loses everything in a fire or flood, your compassion as a human being coupled with your skills as a Realtor can be a blessing for everyone involved.

Even in the best of times, agents walk the tightrope of balancing the emotions, fears and actions of their clients plus all the other individuals involved in closing the transaction.

You’re not only expected to be the expert in real estate — you are often babysitter, hand-holder, peacemaker and miracle worker. This holds especially true when someone you know faces a devastating crisis.

Do you want to be an ambulance chaser?

Two weeks ago, my former fiance, who had Alzheimer’s disease, was placed in hospice care. He died Memorial Day weekend. Not long before that, two close friends were diagnosed with cancer. One nearly died from an embolism on the operating table, and the other friend’s cancer has spread throughout his body.

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During this same period, I received two emails from a company soliciting my business with their innovative approach to prospecting. Here are two of their ideas:

“Track the obituaries. When someone dies, be the first to contact the family and get the probate listing before some other agent does.”

“The elderly neighbor whose husband just died can no longer afford to keep her home. What a great opportunity for your investor clients. Buy the property at a bargain price, do some quick upgrades and flip it for a nice profit!”

When someone is experiencing profound grief, the last thing that person needs is an ambulance chaser who is only concerned about his or her pocketbook.

How you can help

When you hear about someone’s loss, share your condolences. Next, offer to have their house cleaned, care for their pets, pick up their mail or provide them with gift certificates to their favorite restaurant.

It’s also important to let them know this fact: When people hear about another person’s loss, most will immediately try to empathize by explaining what they went through when they lost a loved one.

This interaction only adds to the person’s grief. Advise your clients to say, “I’m sorry for your loss” and end the conversation.

If your client loses their loved one, continue to stay in regular contact. Let them know that when they’re ready, you’re happy to put them in contact with a cleaning service, repair people, probate attorneys or to help them with any other resources they might need to navigate what must be done.

In terms of the elderly woman who could no longer afford to keep her house, perhaps she actually can keep her home. If she has at least 50 percent equity in her home, she can obtain a reverse purchase mortgage (not a traditional reverse mortgage) for up to 50 percent of the home’s value.

This action eliminates her mortgage payment and reduces her holding costs to just the taxes, insurance and utilities. Preventing someone from being forced out of their home is one of the most powerful ways a Realtor can help an entire family.

Pray for sunshine, be prepared for rain

We never expect a devastating crisis to happen to us. Nevertheless, you can help your clients be as prepared as possible for the unthinkable. Here are some steps to take:

1. Remind your clients to keep up-to-date insurance coverage

Many clients assume that their homeowners policy will cover flood losses or earthquake damage. To have coverage, you must purchase flood and earthquake coverage separately.

Also, jewelry items with a value of over $1,000 usually require an appraisal and a separate rider to cover any loss.

Finally, have them make sure their home is covered for full replacement value at today’s costs.

2. Create a disaster-preparedness kit

Several years ago, there was a major fire directly across the canyon from where we live. Many residents had less than 10 minutes to evacuate.

Encourage your clients to back up all their important documents in the cloud, as well as having the actual documents safely stored together in one place. Relevant documents include birth certificates, wedding license, insurance policies, lists of medications, emergency contacts and more.

3. When the unthinkable occurs

In her book “From Hiccups to Hospice,” Betty Garrett catalogs her journey as her husband was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, their experience with hospice and his subsequent death.

This detailed guide can help anyone dealing with cancer or hospice to navigate the process. The book outlines specific steps to take, how to help loved ones cope, plus providing numerous lists about how to work with the patient’s medical team, insurance, financial issues and more.

There is also an excellent glossary and other resources as well. If a family member, friend or client is going through this ordeal, it might be the best gift you could give them.

When someone you know faces a tragic loss or illness, be there to support your loved one, friend or client. Although it’s never easy, as real estate agents you’re used to being the calm in the storm and solving problems.

There’s no better time or place to use these skills than when someone you care about faces a significant loss or crisis.

Bernice Ross, CEO of RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, author and trainer with over 1,000 published articles and two best-selling real estate books. Learn about her training programs at www.RealEstateCoach.com/AgentTraining and www.RealEstateCoach.com/newagent.

Email Bernice Ross.


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