As a real estate agent, there are some things that you don’t want to learn by mistake. Not that I haven’t made some of these mistakes myself. But if I did have big lungs, I would certainly not have violated the first commandment:
First commandment: No lungs!
Many years ago, my brother the Realtor came home from his first day of kindergarten and, in answer to Mom’s question, “How did you like school?” he answered, “My teacher is really nice, and when she bends over you can see her lungs!” Lungs can definitely distract clients from a lack in other areas of competence … for a while.
Second commandment: Be honest.
Honesty is always appropriate. Except when a white lie is prudent. If someone who has her home listed with another agent calls to borrow your garage sale signs and asks, “Oh, by the way, can you drop them at my house?” it’s OK to lie.
Third commandment: Enthuse.
To be a successful Realtor, it’s helpful to be type A, anal retentive, a wolf (they’re not all bad) in sheep’s clothes who protects her own fiercely, the iron fist in a velvet glove — Attila the Honey — with a warm and fuzzy smile.
You must display enthusiasm. I always try to have a smile in my voice, so first thing in the morning I reach for my bottle of caffeine pills, grind one up with a mortar and pestle, and down it in juice. I call it “artificial enthusiasm.”
Fourth commandment: Observe the “golden rule.”
Because God (or the other agent) will get you.
Fifth commandment: Do not engage.
I learned this from my husband the engineer. He can stand amazingly still, with a faraway look on his face, while someone (not me) delivers the most challenging assault to his patience problem-solving ability.
I have adapted his strategy to real estate. My challenges usually come to me over the phone, so I must convert the gaze into words. I say, “Uh huh. Ummmmm. I see.” Mostly I let the other person talk. If I don’t get the right results, I tell the caller that I need to process the information and will get back to him that evening. And then I do. By that time, he’s usually figured it out himself. I could have told him the solution earlier in the day, but he wouldn’t have been ready to hear it. Sometimes you have to let the balloon deflate.
Sixth commandment: Look like you care.
It gets you halfway there. I must have missed the memo about shorts. Once, a homeowner greeted my client (clad in her Spandex biking pants) and me at the door with “Which one of you is the Realtor?” OK …
Seventh commandment: Be yourself.
When I had my last business photo taken, the photographer said, “There, that ought to do you for another 10 years.” He was not complimenting me on my youthful preservation; rather, he was alluding to Realtors’ propensity to use the same photo for the rest of their professional lives. I beat his estimate — mine lasted 15 years, and the only thing that changed was my hairstyle (that I could detect).
And in these times, male agents especially need to resemble their photos if they want to get through the homeowner’s door.
Eighth commandment: Don’t look dumb.
It’s natural to want to present your best face. But if you would rather be an attorney than a real estate appraiser, do not call yourself an “appraiser at real estate,” as one of my associates did. Just go be a lawyer. And for heaven’s sake, don’t name your hydroplane speed boat “Your 6 Percent.” I think that was the same agent whose outgoing phone message was, “Hi, this is Susie. I’m out making a killing in real estate. Leave your name and number and I’ll get back to ya.” (I couldn’t make this stuff up.)
Ninth commandment: Something to do with cars.
Cars bore me to distraction. Before I became a Realtor, mine had fruit flies in it. But since real estate agents have to put other people in their cars, keep them tidy and look successful, I was forced to clean up my act. My first real estate car was a Honda Accord. I learned that no matter how modest an image you project, you can’t click with everyone. Like the fellow who said, “It must be nice to be able to afford a new Accord.”
Tenth commandment: Stop talking.
There are two times when you should not talk: When you’re talking to a client on the phone, and when you’re talking to a client face to face. Because, let’s admit it, they don’t want to hear about us. They want us to listen to them. Which is only fair — they’re paying.
Cathy Turney is a top-producing real estate broker and award-winning humorist.