Jay Thompson is a former brokerage owner who spent over six years working for Zillow Group. He’s also the co-founder of AgentLoop. He “selectively retired” in August 2018 but can’t seem to leave the real estate industry behind. His weekly Inman column is published every Wednesday.
Just a few hours after Russia invaded Ukraine it started to happen; the real estate social media groups began to light up. Questions rolled off keyboards.
“I just talked to one of my sellers. They’re nervous about this Russia thing and want to take their home off the market! What can I tell them to keep my listing active?”
“Buyer freaking out about the Russia-Ukraine war and thinks it’s not a good time to buy. How do I convince them this isn’t an issue?”
Then came the answers. Who knew so many agents were experts in the global macroeconomic impact of a land war in Europe? A war that was only hours old.
“War always improves the economy!” one agent “expert” opined.
“That war is halfway across the planet. It will have no impact on us,” chimed in a newfound geopolitical guru.
People are nervous
Regardless of where you personally stand on the events in Ukraine, be cognizant of the fact that many are upset and nervous. There is a tremendous amount of uncertainty in how this will develop over time. Now is not the time to simply dismiss people’s feelings.
The simple fact is, with the possible exception of Vladimir Putin, no one knows for certain how far this action will go. And no one, including Putin, knows how it will ultimately end. Of course, the mainstream media reports are already conflicting, headlines are blasted and retracted, and this uncertainty makes some people nervous. Be aware, be empathetic and be patient.
You are not an expert
The last thing you need to be doing is proffering advice, whether it’s solicited or not. The odds are high that anyone reading this article is nowhere close to being an expert in the macroeconomic impact of a land war in Europe. That’s OK, no one expects their real estate agent to be able to predict the outcome of geopolitical events. You’ve probably built up trust and credibility with your clients, and understandably, they seek your thoughts and opinions.
This is where good listening skills kick in. Listen carefully to your clients’ concerns, and tell the truth — you aren’t an expert in this area, can’t predict the future, and aren’t in a position to tell them what they should or shouldn’t do. You can empathize with them, exercise patience, focus on them and not your potential commission, and stay in touch should they ultimately decide to back out of the market during this crisis.
If a client tells you, “I’m concerned about world events and not sure if I should be buying/selling right now,” and you respond with, “Eh, this is no big deal, the market will be fine,” you’re dismissing their fears and concerns, and frankly, you might look like you’re in it for you, not them. Reply with an absolute statement like, “the economy always grows in war,” and there’s a reasonable chance you will wind up being quite wrong. You have no idea if the U.S. economy will grow.
“I totally understand. These are crazy times, and there is a lot of uncertainty. None of us can predict the future. I’d encourage you to investigate this further. Please let me know what you discover, and I’ll share what I find, too.”
This shows you’re listening, supportive and understanding. Sometimes that’s all people need to move forward. Sometimes, they’ll want to back away. It’s hard, but if that’s what they decide, you shouldn’t try talking them out of it.
Avoid spreading misinformation
Uncertain times are ripe for misinformation to flourish. Although it’s never a good idea to spread misinformation, the negative aspects of doing so are amplified in times like this. Practice good techniques for avoiding misinformation sharing.
This is not a marketing opportunity
Finally, you should be closely examining your marketing and branding tactics and posts. You may have scheduled posts weeks ago that, given what is happening, are no longer the best, most appropriate messages. Double-check your messaging.
Now is also not the time to jump on the bandwagon. Slapping your logo over an image of a Ukrainian flag isn’t showing support for the citizens of Ukraine. It’s tacky, and it looks like you’re taking advantage of a trying situation.
You want to help your clients, that’s totally understandable. Good in fact. You need to remember, though, where your expertise lies, and it’s not in predicting the future of a very volatile situation. Stay in your lane, listen closely, show empathy, and be ready to follow up if you have a client who decides to stop, breathe and change course.
Jay Thompson is a real estate veteran and co-founder of AgentLoop living in the Texas Coastal Bend. Follow him on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. He holds an active Arizona broker’s license with eXp Realty. Called “the hardest working retiree ever,” as the founder of Jay.Life he writes, speaks and consults on all things real estate.