How much of your authentic self do you show? To clients? Colleagues? On social media? Regular Inman contributor and top-producing broker Nicole Solari talks through authenticity in real estate.
Nicole Solari is a top-producing broker-owner in Northern California whose regular bimonthly column, which covers real estate marketing, selling strategies and working with clients, publishes on Tuesdays.
“Be real,” our coaches say. The key to today’s social media is “authenticity,” proclaims the new light-heavy-weight politico in the Twittersphere, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
“Be who you are,” she advised when she appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. “If you’re old, don’t try to act young. If you don’t know what a ‘meme’ is, don’t post one.”
But, most of us aren’t 27 anymore. So, what do you do if you’re no longer a kid — actually not even youngish — but you also aren’t even remotely ready to retire? How do we each fit in? And what’s with all this “authenticity” stuff? We dived into this very topic with the agents at my brokerage, and the product of that conversation is this article.
Not a new debate
Real estate isn’t the only profession grappling with how to recognize genuine caring and authenticity. Just do a search for “authenticity in music” to display an array of feuds devoted to which musicians have maintained their “purity” and “original intent” versus those who have “sold out” or “gone commercial.”
Please realize this might be a new “label,” but it isn’t a new discussion.
“Authenticity” (aka “the standard of care” in real estate) has been a thing as long as sales has been a profession.
Hopefully, by now, we are all old enough to know who we actually are, what we like and don’t like and who we’re most drawn to as clients, colleagues and friends. We know what we will do for a buck and what we won’t.
We might track our success in numerical terms, but job satisfaction is an equally weighty, however immeasurable, factor for most of us.
If it wasn’t fun, why would we keep helping people find (and leave) homes they think — at the time, anyway — are “perfect” for them? And keep doing that 60-80 hours a week for a hundred different clients, year after year? No one, that’s who!
As usual, my office had a good time kicking this topic around. We decided quickly that — other traits aside — anyone in this business for long has an unquenchable desire to “help” others.
One agent, however, also confessed that their authentic self also has a “potty mouth.”
Everyone laughed. Because, let’s be real, the moment the client has failed — for the fourth time in one evening — to open and sign a file containing three vital documents, who the actual (fill the blank with your fave expletive) doesn’t?
But, we all concluded, exactly how much of our “authentic selves” anyone sees depends entirely on the agent, the situation and the needs of their client.
What clients want
Most of us show up for work with our authentic selves on fairly full display as long as we’re with our teams, colleagues and service providers — like lenders and title company officers. Our clients, by contrast, might not need or want the entire authentic-self package.
Pretty soon after we establish a bond of trust with our clients, we quickly discover which facets of our true self best suit each situation and personality. First-time sellers (or buyers), for example, might need our warm, reassuring, understanding but completely rational, in-command selves.
Investors, on the other hand, expect our highly polished professional selves to appear unruffled on-demand. (No matter who the client is, we never actually get to be irrational.)
Our clients — and we, as professionals — have ideas about what a professional should look like and topics we should focus on (or avoid). And those are broad-brushed and fairly easily achieved by most agents. (Appropriate dress varies by location. So keep your eyes open, and shop locally. And if you’re new: Do not talk about money, politics or religion at the dinner table or on your public social media!)
As a result, by the time they’d been in the business a year or two, most of our agents recalled that they had found their market “niche.” Part of the discovery process involved recognizing where their true self fit most readily along a personality and skills spectrum (and with specific market tiers) and which facets of their unique selves clients naturally responded to.
Authenticity is intrinsic
The word “natural” caught our attention because that seemed to get to the heart of the authenticity discussion. We decided that “as long as you’re not forcing yourself into someone else’s idea of ‘the right agent,’ your true nature is going to shine through.” And, if the agent finds those demands within their comfort zone, all is well.
That doesn’t mean setting boundaries around that “comfort zone” is easy. (Everyone reinforced that.) But where to set those boundaries was a highly subjective and individual choice. What one might be comfortable sharing with the world felt like complete over sharing to another.
But most agreed that clients in general do not, in fact, want to see the unpolished version of ourselves — you know, the one who’s preoccupied with the upper respiratory health of our offspring — or to know our toils and troubles.
They want some version of our “polished professional selves” — no matter how much they say they’re looking for authenticity — that is solely devoted to them, their needs and their toils and troubles.
That desire alone makes a compelling case for having “professional” social media pages along with private ones. Just because there are things that we share with family, friends and colleagues that we do not share with more public audiences, does not make us inauthentic (provided you can remember who you are).
Nor does it mean that real estate as a profession appeals only to extroverts ready to blurt out every detail of their lives to anyone remotely interested. Because so much of our work is done face-to-face with one or two clients at a time, real estate also appeals to many social introverts.
We can see this exact spectrum of personalities just in our own office, and you probably can too. What’s most important, everyone in our office felt, was that the market tier and clientele could be tailored by each agent to fit their own needs rather than the other way around.
Put simply: It takes all kinds of people to make the world go around — and to sell those people real estate! And all those public personas deserve airtime.
The core of being authentic in real estate
The fundamental traits that make a good Realtor are outlined in our Code of Ethics (first drafted in 1913). They begin with competency, integrity and trustworthiness. Add attention to detail, follow-through, persistence, reliability and good critical thinking skills, and that is who we must be as Realtors
When we bring mad skills in those arenas to the table, we are also being as real as possible. That’s just what comes naturally.
Nicole Solari is owner and managing broker of The Solari Group in Solano and Napa Counties in Northern California. Nicole runs one of the highest producing brokerages in all of Northern California.