OpinionAgent

Agent/broker perspective: Keeping politics out of real estate

It's best to avoid political discussions with buyers, sellers and colleagues
  • Election years are historically challenging times in real estate.
  • Opinions about this year’s presidential election are difficult to avoid, either through the media, social media, out in the field or even in the office.
  • Agents and brokers must focus on the task at hand, maintain professionalism at all times and keep opinions to themselves when representing the company.

AnthonyAskowitz In this monthly column, Anthony Askowitz will explore a hypothetical Miami real estate situation from both sides of the broker/agent dynamic.

This month’s situation: The heat of the 2016 election season is hitting a busy and successful Miami real estate agent from all sides. Out in the field, there is a seller who insists on sharing political views and actively tries to engage the agent in political discussions. Back in the office, the agent is butting heads with colleagues over the election. Sides are forming, relationships are fraying and the tension is getting uncomfortable.

Agent perspective

Is it November yet? It seems like I can’t get away from the intensity of this election season no matter where I turn. It is one thing for politics to be front-and-center on my social media feeds and TV news — at least in those cases, I can keep scrolling or changing channels — but it is quite another when I am just trying to do my job and sell some houses.

The first problem is the seller of this very important listing who is also an active and passionate supporter of one of the presidential candidates. When we should be talking about prospects and ways to improve sellability, the seller is peppering me with questions about my positions or blasting the other candidate. (I have somehow managed to withhold comment, but that doesn’t slow anything down one bit.)

Furthermore, this client also insists on posting a yard sign supporting a candidate along with the “for sale” sign, against my explicit advice.

Things only get worse when I return to my brokerage. The election is on everyone’s mind (and radio, laptop, tablet, smartphone, etc.), and factions are becoming entrenched in their positions. Things have turned hostile, and colleagues who have gotten along with each for many years simply cannot accept each other’s support of a particular candidate, as if doing so is counter to one’s core values and identity.

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And it’s only July — there are five more months left of this nonsense.

Broker perspective

Every second, minute or hour of our day is fraught with obstacles to maintain our professionalism. From serious matters like the health and well-being of our family and selves to trivial things like avoiding the distraction of just one more game of Candy Crush, it’s a wonder that we are able to get as much work done as we do.

That being said, we simply must remain focused and vigilant in our efforts to help customers solve their real estate problems. This year’s intense election and political atmosphere are certainly causes for serious thought and conversation, but should be avoided in discussions with clients and fellow agents.

In general, agents should stay away from discussing any and all controversial things, like politics, religion, sex, etc.

In the case of my agent’s candidate-obsessed seller, the agent needs to take control of the situation and politely insist that politics cease being a topic of discussion. If the client refuses, the agent has a decision to make.

Back when I was an agent, I walked out of listing appointments where I felt uncomfortable for a variety of reasons. I was not rude; I simply excused myself and said to the seller, “I do not think I am the best for the job/position of selling your home.”

With respect to the yard sign for one party/candidate or another, the agent must make it clear that it will make 50 percent of the population (potential buyers) immediately not consider the house. There’s an old saying in real estate: “A person lives in their home, but sells a house.”  The house needs to be a fully marketable item.

As for the atmosphere in the office, that is my responsibility, and it appears I have some serious work to do. While people should feel comfortable expressing their opinions (to a point), it should not be to the detriment of a positive and comfortable working environment.

I will do some research into which agents or staffers are the “ringleaders” of the various factions and try to calm things down with both private meetings and public statements.

How to meet halfway

Election years are often challenging for everyone in real estate. Historically, buyers and sellers take a “wait and see” approach, which can slow down the market. In times like this, customers need the advice of trusted real estate professionals more than usual, and that advice needs to be completely non-partisan.

If the agent is having real trouble tamping down the passions of the politically charged seller, perhaps the broker can step in to reinforce the importance of presenting a “neutral” home to prospective buyers and help reset the seller’s priorities.

If political tempers are flaring in the office, the broker needs to address that situation immediately, especially with so much time between now and election day. With both actions and words, the broker should make it absolutely clear that the office is a place of business, not political discourse. Specifically, the broker can provide guidelines which prevent any in-office political displays (such as computer screen savers) or expressions of support on company-branded social media.

Anthony is the broker-owner of Re/Max Advance Realty in South Miami and Kendall, and also a working Realtor who sells more than 150 homes a year.