As real estate professionals, we love to talk about “the American dream of homeownership.” We use it as a kind of shorthand for all of the ideas that go along with having a little piece of ground that belongs entirely to you. It speaks to the rugged individualism, financial goal-setting and freedom that are all part of the American character.
Depending on where you fall on the gender, economic, cultural, educational and other spectrums, however, the American dream of homeownership can sound remarkably hollow. As people work longer hours for money that doesn’t go very far and home prices soar along with interest rates, it can feel impractical if not impossible to conceive of a future that includes property ownership.
I think this year, a lot of us realize in a whole new way that the American dream goes beyond homeownership. It’s about autonomy. It’s about somebody being able to make their own decisions, whether it’s about buying a house or about their own body.
As Realtors, it’s up to us to do more than talk the talk. We need to walk the walk and help others do so as well. This is not about handouts. It’s about putting hands and feet to the things we say in our marketing materials and on our blogs. It’s about being action-oriented instead of sitting back and waiting for a moneyed buyer or cash-rich investor to reach out to us while ignoring people who may require a little more time and effort.
It’s also about staying educated so that we can combat the pessimism and negativity that’s out there. This isn’t 2008 and the market isn’t crashing. There are opportunities for everyone, but it requires a shrewd understanding of the market and the variety of strategies and options that are available today.
Here’s how we can help people get their own piece of the American dream while also growing the businesses of our dreams.
Get smart about alternative financing options
Not everyone has perfect credit, a fat bank account and a perfect situation. Some people are operating on a single income and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Some people have lost a partner, either through death or divorce. Some people simply need help getting their financial ducks in a row. Ask questions. Talk to your leads and potential clients about their financial needs and have a number of lender colleagues to call on for a variety of situations.
Look for homes and neighborhoods that need some love and match them with buyers
Yes, you have buyers who want all of the bells and whistles and are willing to bid tens of thousands over asking for the “right” neighborhood, but there are also plenty of buyers out there who just want an opportunity. Get smart about neighborhoods and home options that are more affordable and be a true matchmaker for budget-conscious buyers.
Become solutions-oriented with a focus on those who need your help the most
As the market shifts, there are some agents who’ve been able to sit back and pick and choose their clients who will now need to put in the work. Work with buyers who need help and come up with solutions that make sense for their timeline and budget. Help to educate them and fill in the gaps in their real estate and financial knowledge. You’ll create appreciative clients and referral sources for the rest of your career.
Develop a professional network with a heart for everyone in your market
Get to know lenders, title companies, moving companies, community leaders and non-profit organization directors. Expand your professional network beyond the power brokers and look for ways to plug in your expertise to reach the people in your market who would benefit from your insight and advice the most.
Partner with and participate in organizations that share this vision
Who is working on issues of affordability and housing in your area? They need you and the knowledge that you have to offer. Get involved in a way that allows you to truly add value and use your passion for the greater good.
Dump your cynicism
You may have some negative attitudes that you’ll need to check at the door in order to make a difference in the lives of your clients and communities.
Will it be more challenging working with someone who needs some help and education as opposed to someone who can just write a check? Yep.
Is it worth it to use your expertise to help an individual or family find a place to call theirs? You bet.
Understand the meaning behind homeownership
We live in a time when people are losing their individual liberties. They’re scared and, quite frankly, they don’t feel that the promise of America, the American dream, has much to do with them.
Allowing the majority of our population to feel disenfranchised and to feel that they have no stake in our neighborhoods is not only wrong, but it’s also dangerous. For the American dream to work, you need buy-in from a lot of people, and right now, a lot of people don’t see the system working for them.
As an agent, you need to be working for them. You need to provide guidance and insight, to help them invest their time, energy and money into their own piece of the pie. It’s vital for maintaining the health of our nation, our economy, our neighborhoods and our industry.