It’s a daily challenge that we wrestle with in almost every aspect of our lives: We often have much higher expectations than what is achievable. By setting our expectations so high, we’re setting ourselves up for inevitable disappointments and “failure.” What if we established realistic expectations right from the beginning?

Expectations versus reality. It’s a daily challenge that we wrestle with in almost every aspect of our lives: We often have much higher expectations than what is achievable, and by setting those expectations so high, we’re setting ourselves up for inevitable disappointments and “failure.”

In the practice of real estate agents, it happens — a lot. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing time and time again and expecting a different result.

So, by that definition, most Realtors are actually quite insane. As they say, recognition is the first step to recovery. So ask yourself: Are you an insane Realtor?

What if we established realistic expectations right from the beginning? Let me help you to at least try.

1. Establish boundaries

Stop letting your boundaries be fluid, or you will lose your shit eventually!

OK, this is the biggest, most important and critical expectation you can set: What are your boundaries?

Is it OK for a client to call you at 1 a.m.? Should you be expected to respond to texts and emails 24/7? Are you supposed to be taking care of your sellers’ cat while they go on vacation?

Seriously, what the heck are you doing?

Your time has tremendous value. So does your spouse. So do your kids. So, why would you let a client violate those boundaries and infringe upon your time for yourself, for your family, for your business — and for your sanity?

I guarantee that if you don’t set boundaries, you will burn out or get divorced or miss your kid’s birthday. Something bad will happen if you don’t establish boundaries in your professional life with clients upfront.

Boundaries are good – they set the expectation of service and availability.

Practice this line now: “No, I will not watch your cat while you are on vacation, but here is the number for a local pet-sitting service.”

See how easy that is? You don’t always have to say yes. People will respect you more when you set boundaries and stick with them.

Don’t want to work on Sundays because of religious reasons? Good for you. That’s your choice — stick with it. Establish this boundary with your clients. They are choosing to work with you, and they will honor that boundary.

Don’t want to take phone calls or respond to texts and emails after 8 p.m.? Perfect, that is your choice and your boundary – stick with it.

And don’t let your boundaries “creep.” If you set the time, don’t make exceptions “just this once.”

You realize nothing is really going to change at that time. If you respond the next morning during business hours, you actually can effect change and help with whatever the situation is.

Responding just to respond just creates more work and makes your boundaries fluid, which resets and reframes expectations, setting yourself up for failure or discomfort.

So stop!

2. Stop setting unreasonable pricing

Stop it — just stop it!

The dirty little secret in the industry is setting unreasonable expectations for achieving maximum pricing, or, in other terms, “buying the listing.”

Even in great markets, this is a time wasting, fruitless endeavor. The market sets the pricing. Just because a seller “needs this price” doesn’t make it the marketable price.

We have all seen it happen: You go on the listing appointment, you are honest with the seller about marketability and pricing, you feel like you did all you could.

Two weeks later, you see it listed for $30,000 higher than you told the seller they could go. The home sits on the market long past the averages, and then (BAM!) they reduce to the price you told them to, and it goes pending in short order.

“I told you so” doesn’t pay the bills now, does it? And setting unreasonable pricing expectations has hidden costs to not only the seller (extended time on market, incurring additional taxes, Home Ownership Assocation fees, utilities, etc.,), but also the longer a home sits on the market, the more likely a lower than asking price offer will be the result — a double whammy on costs.

For both the seller and the listing agent, time is money and setting unreasonable pricing expectations costs everyone. Should we all just tell the seller what they want to hear so we get the listing every time? Absolutely not! Agents need to stop doing whatever the sellers bid them do without discussion. Instead we need to be trusted and professional guides.

We need to lead our clients to the desired goal which is, of course, maximizing the sales price while reducing time on market and making the transaction as seamless and painless as humanly possible, which is not an easy feat. But you can rely on your expertise, professionalism and solid planning to win the listing.

Don’t just buy the listing!

There’s a a counter-point to this practice that needs to stop: Purposefully pricing a property too low to set off a feeding frenzy.

This, my friends, is also a less than professional practice that has hidden costs. Its causes undue stress for your clients, typically results in the wrong buyer-seller match, doesn’t always facilitate an offer that is that much above market, and when it does, it typically misses appraisal because of the discrepancy between list price and purchase price.

A side effect is all the agents and buyers that don’t get the property because of multiple-offers creates agent fatigue and buyer fatigue. Have you ever thought about how many buyers give up searching for a home after missing out on yet another house?

Yeah, that’s your fault. You caused your fellow agent to have wasted a colossal amount of time by causing their client give up in defeat with the dreaded: “Maybe we should just rent for a while” reaction.

3. Be the rational, calm and informed expert

Additionally, you owe it to your clients and prospects to sort out the news — to distinguish fact from fiction. Explain how national news matters, but local data rules.

Your ability to sort out the differences between what they hear versus what is actually going on in your marketplace matters. Sorting out what is actually going on and what is truly accurate in your local market will set you apart — and it will help you to establish reasonable expectations.

People tend to only hear what they want to hear, but you owe it to yourself, your clients and your continued success in business by being the expert of your local market.

Understanding the news and explaining how it affects your client and their property is your job! By doing your job and helping clients understand how to separate a news “sound bite” from the reality on the ground will help you align your clients’ expectations with reality.

Don’t let the media tell the story for you — inform your clients and explain how you see things so you aren’t fighting artificial headwinds and expectations.

4. Make (and follow) a plan

Why create a plan if you aren’t going to follow it?

From business plans to marketing plans, we tend to talk about planning a lot in this industry.

Plans are expectations set forth. And in many cases we tend to write a plan, but we often fail to follow through with the plan.

Every fall and into the winter there is a flurry of articles written about business planning for Realtors. Don’t get me wrong: I am a firm believer that a written business plan is invaluable, and it should be a living document that changes with the market, changes with the goals and aspirations of the agent, and changes with what is successful and what is not.

The worst kind of business plan is one that is written and then placed in a drawer never to be looked at again until the following fall when the agent realizes goals weren’t met, which then sets off another flurry of planning.

The act of not following your plan is you establishing expectations for yourself and then not meeting them for yourself, which is — the worst!

You have execute to see results. No, not everything will work. Sometimes your business plan is, in essence, a complete disaster. But that’s OK. You must be accountable to yourself and conduct a post mortem. That’s how we learn; that’s how we grow.

Sometimes, only way to succeed is to find all the ways to fail. But if you don’t lay out a plan, and you just play it safe so you don’t fail spectacularly, then you will never actually achieve the success you are looking for.

Treading water in a good market is the surest way to guarantee you will be looking for a new career when the market shifts. Without a plan that outlines benchmarks for success, you are just treading water at best.

Your marketing plan is your word and your reputation, which is your brand. In my opinion, Realtors really have three main things to offer: Their time, their expertise and their reputation.

All three have tremendous value, so don’t risk them by setting unreasonable expectations that reflect negatively on you!

When you present a marketing plan to a seller for listing and selling their home, they are trusting you, the expert, to follow through on the plan you said would net them the desired result. So, follow the plan — trust the plan you created, and actually carry it out.

Far too often an agent will go in with a fantastic, detailed and well-thought-out marketing plan, only to decide haphazardly to execute on only on a portion of that plan. Why do that? Set the expectations for what you will and will not do, and stick with them.

Following the plan enhances your brand — pure and simple, it’s a reflection of you and your service and professionalism — so execute on your plan flawlessly and relentlessly until you achieve the goal. Any time you don’t do what you committed to doing you affects your reputation. You might cost yourself time, and you create a question as to whether or not you really are the expert.

Don’t set unreasonable expectations just to win the listing if you never actually intend to follow through. It hurts you, it hurts the seller, and ultimately it will affect your reputation for the long-term.

Speaking of planning, you plan your vacation, right? Well, don’t forget to plan how your business will operate while you are on vacation. Please, take an actual vacation which literally means stop working.

I know, I know, the best way to kick your business into high gear is to go on vacation because inevitably you will be on the plane, and your phone will go berserk and offers will come raining down on you every damn time!

But have a plan, plan for a trusted agent to cover your business while you’re gone and let them fly the mission. Working 24/7 and never taking time off has been proven to have diminishing results. You are better for yourself, for your family and for your clients if you truly take time to recharge and reset.

So take a vacation, an actual vacation. You deserve it!

5. Don’t half-ass your due diligence!

Seriously, stop it! We have all experienced this. So. Many. Times.

A buyer’s agent showing a client houses that they are never going to buy because they haven’t been approved isn’t doing his or her job and protecting everyone’s time.

I see this practice in all facets of our industry. Don’t be a professional “door unlocker.” Do your research, understand every aspect of your client’s ability to buy including financial capabilities, configurations and timing.

And this is the most important part: Make them a client! Stop showing houses without a representation agreement. Stop showing houses to buyers who haven’t done the work to get approved. Do it with them, guide them, but stop putting in the time and effort with people who won’t put in the time and effort!

When it comes to new construction, even more diligence is required. Don’t book meetings with a builder and then have the client say at the end of the meeting: “We will be ready to think about building two years from now.”

That is the worst violation of time and trust you could achieve. The builder has an expectation that you have done your due diligence and have fully vetted the client’s ability to buy and their timing.

There’s no point booking a meeting just because they want to meet the builder but have no intention buying in the immediate future. And you will have ruined your reputation with that builder. Time is a limited resource so protect yours and protect your colleague’s time at all times!

At the end of the day, expectations will set you free. Your practice of establishing reasonable expectations that you flawlessly meet will make you a consummate professional who will be trusted by prospects, clients and colleagues.

Your business will thrive when you focus on setting and achieving expectations. Good luck out there!

Jeff Martel is the Broker / Owner and Chief inspiration Officer of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate 43° North in Boise, Idaho. Get in touch with him at:

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