Jay Thompson is a former brokerage owner who spent the past six years working for Zillow Group. He retired in August 2018 but can’t seem to leave the real estate industry behind. His weekly Inman column publishes every Wednesday.
A few days ago, I had the honor and privilege to speak at a real estate conference in Lisbon, Portugal. To be honest, I had no idea what to expect. It was my first time addressing an audience of 600, none of whom were native English speakers.
I’m rarely nervous before an event. This one was different.
What made me even more nervous was the fact that I didn’t really know how real estate was transacted in Portugal. Of course I did some research, and the conference organizers did a fantastic job helping me with this, but still, it was pressing on my mind.
Sure, I could get on stage and discuss demographics, and how the on-demand economy affects and influences consumers; but doing it in front of non-native speakers and having little to no clue how they transact business violates the first rule of speaking: know your audience.
Turns out, I did know the audience and how they transact business.
You know why?
Because the audience was full of human beings that help other humans through an expensive, emotional, complicated, infrequent process.
Yes, real estate is local. But there I was, over 5,000 miles from home — which is about as far from “local” as one can get. I’d soon find out that real estate is local in Portugal too, but humanity is universal.
When I first walked into the conference, I was struck with how similar it looked and felt to every other conference I’ve attended in the states and Canada. If not for the language printed on the signs and being spoken, I could have just as easily been in Ottumwa, Iowa, as opposed to Lisbon, Portugal.
Agents were milling about, shaking hands, giving hugs, “cheek kissing,” and they appeared to be quite engaged in conversations, sometimes passionately — just like they do in the U.S. (well, maybe not the cheek kissing part, but you get the point).
I was onstage for an hour, encouraging the audience to realize that while there are differences between generations, people really all have the same basic wants, needs and desires.
Lunch immediately followed my session, so I was able to finally talk with some Portuguese agents.
Guess what I found out?
Real estate agents in Europe have the same wants, needs, desires and concerns as agents in the U.S. Sure, there are differences in how certain things are done, but the gist of it is the same, whether a home is being bought or sold in the U.S. or 5,000 miles away.
They worry about how to build their business. They wonder if their marketing, branding, social media usage and lead generation are effective. They are concerned about their clients and what their clients think of them, even though they take very good care of them.
Just like agents in the United States.
The agents I spoke with are keenly interested in what is happening in the United States real estate industry. They certainly knew more about it than I knew about their side. They feel that the U.S. is leading the way, and that technology developments happen here first, then move across the Atlantic.
Maybe that’s true, I don’t know. I have no reason to doubt that we tend to lead changes and tech development and implementation.
What I learned talking to local agents reinforced what I’ve already said above and have felt for years: We all have the same basic needs. We all want the same things — success, happiness, health, a world for our children better than ours.
Humans are humans, it doesn’t matter what country they live in, what language they speak, how old they are, how much or little money they make or what the color of their skin happens to be.
If you remember that and treat a fellow human — be that a competitor, client, vendor or anyone else — as you’d like to be treated, then you have the key to success.
That’s the golden rule, folks. It crosses dozens and dozens of religions and cultures and has been around since the Middle Kingdom of Ancient Egypt (over 4,000 years ago) for a reason.
Jay Thompson is a real estate veteran and retiree in Seattle, as well as the mastermind behind Now Pondering. Follow him on Facebook or Instagram. He holds an active Arizona broker’s license with eXp Realty.