It’s funny how much what we do impacts others, and how easily we can forget that.
This week someone told me how she noticed that, in the latest Property Guide, I had advertised a starter home twice – once in a regular ad, and again on the opposite page as a quarter-page ad. It blew her away because it was a starter home for $115K. She knew how commissions work. She also knew how quarter page ads are generally used for higher-priced properties. That I would feature a starter – twice – spoke volumes to her about the way I really do treat all my clients the same, no matter what price point their house is at.
I don’t mean to say every listing gets a quarter page ad – marketing varies from house to house. But I’m talking about the attitude behind these decisions. I actually work for people, not houses. I do not bow down to price tags. THAT’S what she noticed. And I love that it is noticeable. All the quiet work of operating in integrity, even when it’s hard, is… well, quiet. But those seeds sown do reap a harvest, and it’s rewarding when I get to know about it.
Character is not something we can fake (for long). Our real values and motives are revealed by what we do. Even our smallest, most invisible actions end up revealing our character.
What do your actions tell your clients? Is it different than what you hope to communicate?
Once upon a time I was young, slender, muscular, and beautiful. Maybe even sexy. One day I decided to go through my photos to find pictures of myself when I was 30 something, young, slender, muscular, and beautiful. There were very few photos of me in those years. I knew why. A Single mother is always the one behind the camera taking the pictures. Sigh. I really wish that I had pictures of myself when I was 30 something, young, slender, muscular, and beautiful. That thought made me sad. Now I am the heaviest I’ve ever been and I’ve turned 50. I still have an hourglass figure- It’s just got a lot of extra minutes!
Then I had a new, fresh thought. Maybe one day I’ll be 70. I don’t want to say, “Man, I sure wish I had pictures of myself when I was 50.” Then I had a little argument with myself. One part of me didn’t want any evidence of how overweight I’ve become. But my reasoning side said this: Maybe this will be your before weight-loss pictures! Think about it. When I see before and after pictures of weight loss, the before picture is usually a really terrible picture. Those pictures emphasize the idea that we can’t feel beautiful when we’re overweight.
This is youngest I am ever going to be. I hope this is the heaviest I’m ever going to be. That being said this may also be the time when I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. And that my friend makes me beautiful.
So I booked the photo shoot. I told the photographer Ashley Kaboha that I want the real thing. No wiping away wrinkles. I want the real me. The me that people see. My hair and makeup the way I do it daily (except maybe on my day off). However, I didn’t want her to aim the camera at my rolls. I am not celebrating fat. I am celebrating that I can be happy and beautiful regardless of my age or weight. I have lost seven pounds since the photo shoot. I have decided to share the photos with you anyway.
MY FAVOURITE ONE I SAVED FOR LAST. This one has the best smile. This one may not be repeated when I am 70. I wish I had a bikini picture at 35 but I wouldn’t want one now. THIS ONE IS A KEEPSAKE. I am confident that anyone who remembers me from my years between 16-49 will picture me in stilettos. I hope I can learn to love two inch heals like I loved four inch heals.
I hope I have inspired you to remember your past you, celebrate your present you, and embrace the future you. Be yourself and feel good about it. Put a smile on your face. It’s the best camouflage for your not so good features.
Working in a rural setting, I’ve noticed that agriculture seems to impact every single transaction. It’s more than whether someone is buying an actual ranch or hobby farm – it’s the agricultural principles that permeate. We really do reap what we sow, and I love that it’s true no matter where you live or what kind of person you are. Like gravity, it applies to everyone.
I get a lot of comfort from it because, as intentionally as I sow seeds of kindness and integrity, the rewards are sometimes slow in the coming. A clear conscience is my immediate payoff, but often the cost is immediate and reward is slow. But it does come – that’s the promise of that principle – and when it does, it’s a sweet, sweet reward.
I savored such a reward recently. To tell you about it though, I have to back up to 1 ½ years before, when the seeds were being sown. A young couple was in the process of searching for their first house. I showed them one of properties I had listed, and then they called another agent. It’s common for some reason. The other agent they called ended up being one of those aggressive bullying types. Unfortunately this is also common. Fast-forward a year and a half, when the couple is now ready to buy (sometimes it takes awhile),and they called me. After all that time, they had remembered me – how I had treated them made an impact and they wanted to buy with me.
It meant a lot to me that they remembered me after all that time. It also strengthened my belief that it is crucial to treat others with dignity and respect, no matter who they are or what they can do for me. Had I treated them poorly -as though they were a waste of my time for example – I doubt they would have called me back. But I didn’t. I treated them with respect and set out to serve them well, results aside.
Maybe it’s that harvest season is approaching, but it made me think of that reliable agricultural principle. We will reap what we sow. Maybe not every seed will germinate and produce, but the kinds of seeds we sow will return a similar fruit. Disrespect will reap disdain, integrity will grow respect and trust.
What kind of harvest are you sowing for?
It was a gorgeous day – the kind where flowers bloom, birds chirp, and the sun shines like a spotlight on the empty deck chair. It was the kind of day that beckoned me outside to bask in it. It was also the kind of day that had me inside, at my desk, tapping away at the keyboard. Neighbors worked carefully in their garden, and I tried not to be jealous. A bird perched on the deck as though waiting for me. I turned my back to the window and kept typing. When I’d finally finished, the sun had sunk below the treeline, and the bird had long gone. I’d missed it.
Sometimes the day ends, and can feel like the whole thing was a waste of time. Sure, I was busy all day doing things, but what did I actually accomplish?
My clients were served well, emails and phone calls were exchanged all day, but no Real Estate deals were signed, no one found that perfect-for-them house. Did I really help them?
I chatted with family and friends, parting with smiles, but did I really encourage them at all? Did either of us leave more alive and refreshed for having been together?
These are what I live for. Did I accomplish them today?
I’m sure you don’t know what I’m talking about, and never experience this yourself.
But I’ve learned ‘waste’ is just a mindset. I know it might sound a little weird at first, but really – I challenge you to think of something that’s a “waste”, and you will discover even that had something useful come out of it. I’m not saying it’s always a beautiful or desirable process, I’m just saying it’s not altogether a waste.
I’ve taken this view with my work, and it’s been a huge motivator. Especially on days when I am tempted to feel like I’ve wasted my time, I consider what useful thing has come out of it.
Investing in a client, regardless of the result, is never a waste. It is my business card. I sow into my reputation with how I treat others.
Time with friends and family – even if it’s brief, superficial or frustrating – is never a waste. At the very least, I might learn how not to interact in the future. Or maybe they were uplifted by our time together and I just didn’t know it.
I don’t mean to say it doesn’t matter what we do, because all will be useful. The lessons we can learn from a tyrant like Stalin do not warrant becoming like Stalin to teach the nations. I’m talking about even when we’re trying hard to do our best, there are going to be times it feels like it’s all for nothing. In those moments we can be glad that nothing is wasted. All things really are useful.
I really cannot think of anything we would call “waste”, from which something useful does not come. Can you? Even years spend on video games instead of with people. Even war. Even garbage.
It’s pretty amazing, and I find it hugely encouraging on those days that just don’t measure up to my ideas of productivity and results.
I love my job, and I love people, but working with people has its challenges. Like when they lie. Most of the time I would expect that kind of thing from pushy agents, generally manipulative people, or maybe even a seller trying to hide a property flaw. Maybe. But sometimes it’s well-meaning people who lie. What happens when your clients – the people you’re trying to help – lie?
Let me share a story. Jo is a fictional client of mine. She needs to sell her house to buy another. We have checked out multiple houses together, she has asked me to give her a valuation on her house so she can sell. (a valuation is A LOT of work by the way). I devote hours of research and driving and effort to help Jo. I give her top quality, highly personalized service (that’s my thing you know) and then… it happens. I get the phone call that sounds something like this:
“Sorry Tina, I’ve decided not to sell or buy anything after all. Thanks anyway. Bye.”
Days later I hear her friends talking about how she – my supposed client- is in the process of moving. She lied. Not only that, she decided to pay someone else for my time.
Jo is just one of many clients who do this. I know I’m not the only one to whom this happens, but somehow it still surprises me every time.
Once I get over the initial shock of someone lying to me for no apparent reason, I stop to consider that they might actually have a reason. A reason doesn’t make their lying right or fair, but it helps me understand. And understanding someone else’s perspective reduces anger and replaces it with acceptance, maybe even love.
“Try to understand men. If you understand each other you will be kind to each other.
Knowing a man well never leads to hate and almost always leads to love.”
― John Steinbeck
So why would well-meaning people lie? The more I think about it, the more there seem to be two common reasons: to avoid pain to self, or to avoid inflicting pain on others. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? To save people from pain sounds a little heroic even? In Jo’s case, she might have been trying to spare me the pain of hearing, “Actually, I was just using you from the start. I never intended to pay you for your time. Bye.” (this is common by the way) Or maybe she was sparing herself the pain of admitting that truth. It’s easier just to lie and hope no one ever knows.
Why do people lie? Because truth is awkward and often painful. And we squirm from pain as much as possible.
How can we lovingly deal with people when we are certain we’re being used or lied to? As far as clients go, I serve them anyway. I treat them like they’re any other honest client, and give them a high standard of care and service. My service is my business card. I do not fly into a fit of rage, tear my card in half, and throw it at the clients. They all get the same, pristine business card. They all are treated with the respect that I would hope to have.
What they do with it is their choice.
Have you ever felt like someone’s every word was a lie? How do you deal with it?
Right around the time the kids venture out on their own, we get weird new thoughts about the future, don’t we? We wonder how long it will be before grandkids bless our home with their sticky little hands. We wonder if we will need a nursing home one day, and if anyone would come visit if we did. And we may even wonder how we can leave an inheritance for our kids, especially when the nest-egg and the interest rates on savings are both a whole lot smaller than we thought they’d be.
I have a suggestion. It’s not for everyone, but for those who dare, I highly recommend buying a second property.
Wait – hear me out.
A second property can, in a single swoop, accomplish…
- Providing you with a monthly income as a rental
Rent will cover all expenses – mortgage, insurance, taxes, maintenance. What’s left over is money in your pocket. Every month.
- Being the awesomest savings account ever
Property values generally climb. In this area, I have seen values go up, often by $100,000 in the last ten years. That’s a return you won’t find from a bank account.
- Giving you a free house
Tenants buy your house for you. After they live in it, providing you with that extra monthly income, you still have the house. Sell it, refinance it, rent it, or pass it on to the kiddos – so many options.
Also, you can include the second property in your life insurance coverage. With the right policy insurance would, upon your death, pay out the mortgage. This property could then be given, debt-free, to your children as their inheritance. (All on the tenant’s dime by the way!) Your children could choose to sell, live in it, or continue renting it out – they would have options and means.
But What If….?
I know, this can seem scary and there are lots of things to consider. But we can troubleshoot a bit with those…
Don’t want to deal with tenants?
Though you can, you don’t have to manage your property. Property managers can be hired for 5% of the rental income. You need never personally deal with a client ever.
What if there’s an emergency 5 years down the road?
If, for whatever reason, it doesn’t work out, you are not stuck. The mortgage may be for 25 years, but you can sell your property anytime you want or need to. (you will still be financially ahead with all the monthly income you’ve gained, and the property value increase by the way.)
When Investing Is A Bad Idea
Like I said, this isn’t for everyone. If you have great anxiety about it, and this kind of thing would cause you great stress, it would not be wise to inflict that on yourself. If this is going to rob you of sleep and make you unable to eat, this is not for you.
If this does sound like something you’d like to explore, I’d love to help with that! Call me, and we’ll discuss if over coffee.
Do you already have a rental as part of your nest egg plan?
Continued from Part I, please enjoy this fictional Real Estate tale.
The question hung in the air as Gary sat frozen with his calendar in one hand, palm pressed, tie arched. He gazed steadily into Celia’s eyes, waiting for her reply. Alexis perched on the edge of her chair and also made frozen eye contact with Celia. The silence thickened, and Celia’s eyes darted from one to the other.
“I’ll tell you what,” Gary broke in, taking on the tone of a friend, “if you’re worried about telling Ellie, I’d be willing to call her myself. We’ve worked together several times. I’m sure she’ll understand.”
“-After all, how else can you look at this property? It’s completely reasonable that you would allow me to show it. There’s no other way, and if she doesn’t understand that, then…” he shrugged.
“Oh, yeah… I guess that’s true…” Celia trailed off.
“So you would like me to call her for you?” He raised an eyebrow and pulled his calendar closer.
Celia sighed, and her gaze fell to the floor. “Sure”
“Great. Don’t worry about a thing. I’ll take care of it. And don’t worry – Ellie’s a good egg. She’ll understand.”
* * *
Gary smiled as he saw the ladies off. A wider, toothy grin spread across his face as he hurried back to his desk. He tapped Ellie’s number, eager to tell her the news. He had won, and she had lost. Again. Ellie had worked like crazy to break in to the market here, but she had no chance against old pros like him. And it was such sweet victory to prove it. He stifled a chuckle as the phone stopped ringing, and Ellie picked up.
“Ellie! Hey, listen. I just spoke with a mutual acquaintance – Celia. She asked me to call you.”
There was a silent pause, then, “Oh?”
“Yeah,” he grinned into the phone, “Celia asked me to let you know she’ll be working with me now. I assured her you would understand.”
Apparently recovering from a stunned silence, Ellie spoke sharply, “Gary, what are you doing? You know better than this,” her words gained speed, “She is my buyer. I’M showing her houses. I’ve been working with her for weeks! What did you say to her?”
Gary could scarcely contain his glee. He wriggled in his chair, and summoned his most gentle voice. “She came to me, Ellie. She was referred, asked me about a property, and requested that I call you to let you know.” A faint huff was heard from the other end. “I don’t know what you two had arranged, but she is making arrangements with me now. I thought you might appreciate the courtesy of a call.” He hung up, and leaned far back in his chair, nearly tipping it. The sweetest clients had always been the stolen ones. By this time, the major legwork had been done, and buyers were poised to buy. This would be a quick and easy commission.
They usually were.
I’m doing something quite different today. This time I just want to tell you a story- a two part fictional tale set in the grand world of Real Estate. Enjoy 🙂
Rain pelted the windshield as she sped down slick highways. She turned onto the gravel road, and slowed to maneuver around potholes and bump across wash-board patches. Even so, she arrived early at the little farmhouse her client wanted to see.
Ellie eyed the farmhouse as wipers continued to sweep the windshield. It was smaller than the other houses they’d seen – a lot older too. She opened a file folder and calculated how many hours they had spent looking at different houses – and they were different. They’d seen two new condos, two older bungalows, each in a different town, a log cabin in the boonies, a new build in the suburbs, and now this little farmhouse in the middle of nowhere. All these wildly differing homes did have one thing in common: research, driving, (oh, the driving!) and the actual showing itself, together took about 3 hours for each. She sighed at the math of it. As Celia’s car approached, Ellie tried to push from her mind the bills that needed paying, and focus instead on Celia and the farmhouse.
* * *
The next week, Celia set her sights on a two-storey house in the sticks. Her close friend Alexis insisted that they both go meet the listing agent, who happened to be Alexis’ REALTOR®. Not one to say no, Celia agreed. Now, as the two sat across from Gary in his huge office, Celia began to have doubts.
Celia shifted in the leather chair with an awkward squeak, and smiled sheepishly. Gary seemed to tower behind his desk. He leaned forward and grinned a wide, white smile. Even with her friend Alexis seated next to her, Celia felt small in his office, seated at the over-sized desk across from his looming frame. Alexis had been a client of Gary’s for years, and had insisted Celia come see him.
“Whatever questions you have about that property, Gary can answer them.” Alexis smiled, waving a hand across the desk in an oddly dramatic introduction. He waved and grinned.
“Thanks,” Celia offered a muted smile, “I don’t really have a lot of questions I guess. I really just wanted to look at the property, I-“
“-Absolutely!” Grinned Gary, checking his calendar, “When would you like to see it?”
“I’m already looking at properties with Ellie. I don’t know-“
“-I completely understand,” One palm clutched his calendar, and the other he pressed against the desk. He leaned forward, arching his tie, “Here’s the thing. That’s not going to work for the seller. They really only want me to show it, and don’t want other Real Estate Agents in their house, you know?” He smiled and cocked his head slightly to the side as one does when explaining the obvious. Alexis breathed a chuckle, and nodded in apparent agreement. Celia had never heard of such a thing, but wasn’t about to say so.
…Stay Tuned for Part II
By the way – how would you respond in Celia’s position?