I finally found time to get to my flower garden.
The sun was shining, ground moist from recent rain, and I was ready to clear out tall weeds to reveal beautiful, black soil.
Down on my knees, as I pulled weed after weed, I saw a particularly large dandelion. Wanting to pull it out by the root to remove it completely, I grabbed my handy root-digger-upper tool and had at it.
Just when I thought I had it, I heard and felt the root snap off.
The dandelion plant and some of the root came up. I looked into the hole. There it was, deep inside, a portion of the root that would stay.
I continued pulling weeds out by the root and when I was finished, the soil looked black and beautiful.
But I knew that, underneath that beautiful, pristine surface, were roots that would sprout weeds again – especially that one, big dandelion root. I didn’t remove it, I didn’t kill it, the weed is still there.
And it got me thinking about us, about me, and how we can have a certain appearance of goodness or having it together, but still have issues. And if we don’t take care of those deep down inside issues by finding and removing the root, they will keep cropping up.
I tossed weed greens aside and continued pulling others as I wondered about one of my own issues. In recent months, I’ve been prone to feel angry inside. I don’t act on it, let me be super clear on that – I don’t retaliate when I feel wronged, I don’t jump to verbally defend myself, and don’t become offensive or defensive in my speech or actions.
I want to be clear because this is my blog as a professional, but I’m also a human who experiences emotions. And I want to share that with you. I want to be real with you.
As I pulled weed after weed, root after root, I wondered what could be at the root of my anger. Was it a healthy response to injustices? An indicator that I need to find a way to de-stress? A response to physical pain? I wasn’t sure. So I became prayerful about it, driven to search my motives. I want to grow, not just in my skills as a professional, but also in my faith and character as a woman.
Here’s what I know about weeds. They’ll always be there. Remove one, and another will crop up.
But if the weeds in our personal lives leave us in search of understanding of ourselves and others, they’ve benefited us.
When we discover hidden roots in our lives, ignoring them only makes them come back stronger. When we do the work of exploring and unearthing them though, we’ll grow stronger in faith and character. Our garden won’t just have the appearance of being weed-free, but it will, more and more, truly BE weed-free.
While we’re talking about faith and gardening, I’d like to let you in on something my friend Kim is doing.
In the meantime… what is one insight you’ve discovered in your garden this year?
This tale might be fictional, but it’s based on several real, local people and events.
On things that actually, really happen around here.
Bill had been turned away from every brokerage in town. No one was willing to sell his house for him.
No agent, whether moral or shady, would touch it.
And it wasn’t because of the property; the home and yard were in great shape.
The problem wasn’t the location. Actually, it was a highly desirable place.
Buyers were searching for a property like his.
Still, no one would list it.
Why? Because Bill insisted on selling it for double its value.
What was worth $300,000 in the local market, he decided he would get $600,000. And he was completely dead serious.
So he left office after office, unable to find the agent who would invest their marketing dollars in such. No one was willing to torpedo their own reputation by listing such an impossibility.
Bill returned to his home and promptly stuck a sign in the yard. If no one would help him, he would do it himself.
Two things can happen at this point, and neither is a good thing.
- Bill could sell the house to an unsuspecting private buyer who doesn’t realize it’s a horrible deal. Because ‘hey, it’s a private sale, so it must be cheaper’. Umm, no.Either the buyers come up with cash for the inflated price and buy something without any promise of equity for years and years and years or, more likely, the bank looks at the deal, and refuses to fund the mortgage. Because paying double is insane.
- Or, most likely, and what happens most of the time, the property sits. And sits. And sits.
Because people aren’t stupid. No one will pay double. Or even 30% more than it’s worth.
Look, if this forewarns you about anything, let it be this.
- Beware: private sales aren’t always on the up and up.
- Buying without an agent to protect you is risky
- And, if you’re selling, for Pete’s sake, remember people aren’t idiots – not buyers, not agents – and be reasonable. People (and banks) will only pay what things are actually, legitimately worth. Anything more is flat out greed.
Have you ever purchased an over-priced home? Why?
There are a lot of weird things about the real estate profession.
Like working side by side with your direct competitors under the same unified banner.
You’re on a team, but you’re also not.
Sure, there’s camaraderie, all of us being members of the real estate ‘sisterhood’, but here’s the thing.
Sometimes sisters fight.
Insecurities, miscommunication, and outright jealousy and fear can cause a lot of problems among humans. Even real estate agents. Even competitors.
We can’t avoid it, really. So the trick then isn’t to avoid competition or miscommunication, it’s trying to figure out how to disagree like grownups, and compete with sportsmanship.
I’ve seen my share of office feuds, both between agents in the same office and agents in different brokerages. Sometimes it’s frustrating to watch, other times it’s heartbreaking to watch someone flush their reputation and professional relationships down the crapper for a measly paycheque.
I’ve seen people huff and puff about ‘how dare so-and-so talk to THEIR client’ when the truth is that was never ‘their’ client. (Because first, people are not property to be claimed by real estate agents and second, saying hello to someone in the store does not a client or piece of property make) *rant over*
I’ve also been to countless meetings with other agents and was met with snarky attitudes, snide comments, and outright belligerence. Once I got over the shock of a fully grown adult behaving like a toddler in wingtips, I stored it in my memory as evidence of an important truth – one we all need to learn.
Agents, we need to get it through our thick, competitive heads, that we don’t need to steamroll and pull each other’s hair to make it!
We need to realize other agents are our not our enemies – they’re our best customers!
Why Competing Agents are our BEST Customers
1) They Cover You on a Day Off
Without some degree of teamwork (or shirking our clients), we won’t get a day off. We need each other. If you expect another agent to do anything on your behalf, you’d best maintain those relationships.
Someone whose client you poached, whose deal you tanked, or who you simply treated with disdain is not going to jump to help you.
2) They Bring Referrals!
Referrals from other agents is a huge resource for leads. Winnipeg agents occasionally send me leads so they don’t have to drive all the way to Steinbach for a showing. I absolutely want those! But, when I sell a house as a result of that referral, I absolutely give a referral fee to that agent. I treat them well and reward them for their efforts to work with me. And the people they send my way? I treat them with excellence too. Know what happens? Those agents don’t hesitate to send me referrals in the future.
(If I’d choose to be snippy, cheap, or treat their would-be clients poorly though, I could not expect that referral source to keep flowing!)
3) They Understand Loyalty
Some people put a lot of energy into ‘protecting’ their clients from being ‘snagged’ by another agent. I have a list of problems with this. Why would any agent put so much work into keeping someone who is so apparently disloyal (clients aren’t objects to be kept on a shelf anyway), when it’s so much easier, efficient, and rewarding to work with people you like and who like you – clients and agents.
Cultivate those relationships, and reap loyalty. (and so much more.)
We need every office to be willing to work with us – to be willing to bring offers and show our houses.
If another agent thinks you’re a pain in the a#$ to work with though, they might just resist showing your houses. They might just try to steer their clients to other options to avoid the unpleasant, sarcastic, snarky-attitude-ridden experience that is meeting with you.
4) Repeat Business. Like… A LOT.
Another huge reason other agents are our best customers is because they can repeatedly write offers on our listings. A buyer or seller will only do business with us once every few years at the most generally, but a realtor can do business with us many times!
Bottom line: We need each other. Let’s act like it.
It was the end of a long, frazzled day.
Showings here, demanding clients there, and a list of time-sensitive tasks that needed to be done ‘asap or else’ had chased me to the end of my time.
But there was one more to go.
That evening I met with an older couple, in their eighties, to show them a house.
I had no idea the surprise that awaited.
We walked into the vacant 1960’s home with its original wood doors and trim stained that awful kaka yellow. The countertops were original too, with their brightly colored laminate. It was one of those moments where, for just the teensiest split second, I was sorry I could see. Amazingly, the home had not been updated at all. It felt like we had stepped back in time.
While this modern-day REALTOR® was shaking her head, wondering how such a severely outdated place like that would sell, my elderly clients had other thoughts. They caressed the laminate counter tops and wood door frames.
“Look at this – they have wood doors!” She said to her husband.
“Oooh, yes,” he said, coming up beside her and running a hand along the door also.
They did that in almost every room. It was sweet and also a bit weird. But it was the era they came from, and, outside of museums, they probably hadn’t seen such a well preserved 1960s relic in decades. I imagined I might likewise caress metal window casings or rustic log furniture one day. And if I did, I hoped it would be sweet too.
“How much is it? And does it have a basement?” The husband asked. We’d talked about it a few times, but he was forgetful.
“It’s $215,000. And yes, it has a basement.” She answered politely, as though it was the first time he’d asked. “The door to the basement is by the kitchen.”
“Ah, $215,000. Okay.” He walked over to the door by the kitchen and opened it. “Is this it?”
“No,” she said, “that’s a closet.”
“Oh! A closet! How lovely!” he said, and closed the door. “Where’s the basement then?”
Without a sigh, grimace, or any single sign of impatience, she walked over to him and showed him where the door was.
“Oh! A basement! How lovely.” He said, “And how much is it?”
Her patience with him seemed limitless. She calmly answered his questions several times over, each time as though it was the first they’d spoken of it. There was no, ‘Remember??’ or “I already told you”. There was no exasperated head shakes or eye rolls. In no way did she ever shame or embarrass him or even seem impatient or inconvenienced at all.
Her response stunned and humbled me.
I imagined, in her position, I would definitely let a sigh escape if I had to do that all day every day. I found myself wanting to be more like her.
They didn’t end up taking the house, which I think is great because it means I get to spend more time with them looking at others. They’ll look at houses, and I’ll look at them.
Which made me realize something else.
No matter what we’re doing – no matter how mundane or unimportant or invisible the task at hand, there is always someone watching – someone noticing how we live and respond. And hopefully, what they see is something that inspires them. Or encourages them. Or just makes their day a bit brighter.
It’s scary to be ourselves.
It’s risky to admit to others that we are depressed sometimes, that we love Jesus, or that we’re rednecks who like celebrating Christmas by firing guns.
After all, if others knew us, or even caught a glimpse of who we really are, they’d drop us like third period French. So we wear masks. We smile and pretend and post only the happiest, most winning comments and Facebook updates. And we most definitely avoid anything slightly controversial or off color.
The problem is not just the isolation it causes or how fake we feel. The biggest problem with our mask-wearing is that it keeps us from being ourselves, or even exploring who we are.
Years back, I used to berate myself a lot for the way I looked. I was embarrassed by my weight and size, and wished every day to look different. Younger and thinner like I used to. I didn’t like how my body had changed. It was difficult to look myself in the mirror everyday and dislike what I saw. And I didn’t really talk about it, either, because I was sure others thought about me like I did. I was afraid they’d say the hurtful things I said to myself. So I put on a smile and went about pretending I was okay. It was isolating, which only deepened my pain.
On my long journey to becoming comfortable in my own skin, I learned from a few people the value of being yourself.
Leigh Brown is one of those people. She happens to be a Remax Broker and salesperson in North Carolina, and I had the chance to hear her speak a few times at the National Association of Realtors Conference. From the first time I heard her, I knew I was about to be blown away.
She is like no one I’ve ever met. Her personality is big and strong, and she lets it show. She doesn’t wear the stuffy masks like most of us do. She doesn’t filter her words through a bland sieve of diplomacy. As an example, one of her YouTube videos is called, “Sh*# Leigh Says”.
Her boldness and energy reminds me a lot of one of my favorite Bible teachers, Beth Moore. Both of these women are who they are, and they like it that way.
It’s women like these who inspired and motivated me to work through removing my masks and let my colorful personality show too. Now, as a (more) confident woman who’s (more) comfortable in my own skin, I (am still learning to) love who I am.
I wear moccasins to work, cloak my ipad in wild zebra print, and tell buyers that a major benefit of a deck off the master bedroom is for “those who like to smoke after”. Our Christmas tradition includes shooting Targets, and I’m not ashamed to be both tech-savvy and a redneck all at once. I love integrating my faith into my work, calling out bullies, and advocating for seniors and the brokenhearted.
But here’s what I didn’t expect.
Accepting and loving ourselves as we are AND as we would be is important, but something even more wonderful happens when we can do that.
The time and energy previously spent on hiding, second-guessing, and maneuvering around our insecurities suddenly becomes available for other uses. Suddenly we can empower and encourage others, adding value to their lives.
And here I learn a critical, hidden cost I didn’t realize before. By wearing masks and avoiding rejection, we don’t just miss out on being the awesome people we already are – others actually miss out too! When we put down the masks and forget the fear, we can take all the good stuff we do have to offer and offer it.
So get out there and be awesome.
Like you already are.
If you are an agent reading this, you may want to listen to this video of Leigh Brown on personal branding called The Art of Being You. Be inspired to be yourself.
Vans and semis zoomed past me on the highway shoulder.
I sighed and dialed my client. “I’m sorry – I’m going to be quite late for the showing. I’m stranded with a flat tire.”
We can’t choose what happens to us. We do get to choose how we’ll respond though.
I could choose to be angry about the guy who fixed my tire last, or whoever left nails on the highway.
I wondered how my client would respond. He’d really wanted to see that house today.
“Where are you?” he asked. When I told him, he said he’d drive out and fix my tire.
I couldn’t believe it. Within a half hour, he arrived, fixed the tire, and off we went to the showing. My hero.
It was an additional bonus for me that he wrote an offer on that house and it was accepted.
The funny thing was that it wasn’t the only time I was rescued by the kindness of a client or stranger.
There was the frozen winter day when I had just finished listing my client’s country property and was about to leave. But my tire was flat. I was stuck. Again. Before I could even call someone about it, the man of the house noticed, and just took care of it. The wind was biting, and snow felt like ice pellets, but he rescued me anyway. I was so grateful.
Another time, I went to show a brand-new house in a new neighbourhood in Oakbank. It was my listing and the person who asked to see it was a complete stranger to me. Just before arriving, I got my car lodged in a snowbank by the road right in front of the house.
We could have done the showing while waiting for a tow truck. Instead, this complete stranger started pushing my vehicle. Immediately one of the neighbours showed up too. It didn’t take long for them to free my vehicle from the snowbank. Their kindness blew me away.
Stuff happens. Sometimes a lot of stuff and all at once.
It can wear us down, making us bitter or jaded.
Life’s hard, and bitterness is contagious.
That’s why it’s so important to celebrate the awesome stuff. We’ve got to consciously choose gratitude and hope every day, and remember the good things.
If you’ve ever struggled to find something to smile about, or if your faith in humanity is lacking, this is the remedy. Remember the good stuff. Be thankful. And celebrate them often.
Being a rural real estate agent is a big, weird adventure.
Icy country roads are a regular threat.
Moccasins are part of my winter attire.
And then there was the time I nearly got shot.
My real estate agent career is riddled with stories. One in particular haunts me every now and then. I’d been on the hunt for properties for my client when I came across one I thought she’d be interested in. It was an old 1-1/2 storey, and it was vacant, in the process of being repossessed by the bank.
“Yes, you can see it,” they’d said, “but you’ll want to bring flashlights.” We’d been warned.
The first thing we noticed when we arrived at the property was the pile of broken drywall and lumber just beside the house. Before walking into the house, I asked, ‘You’ve got your flashlight?”
“Sure do.” She smiled and waved it.
“Okay,” I smiled too, “Let’s go!” I felt a wave of excitement as I turned the knob, but also a twinge of fear. I’d been to enough vacant, abandoned, and rental properties to know unpleasant surprises sometimes await us.
We entered to discover, thankfully, that most possessions had been cleared out. Even some of the light bulbs. That seemed overly thorough, I thought. I was glad the smell of mildew and cat litter was only faint.
Scanning the living room, it was clear someone had been renovating. Whether things were pulled apart or being put back together though, neither of us could tell. Across the room, one wall featured a smattering of painted images, from clowns to fairies. The painting skill was definitely there, but the sense of interior décor was definitely not.
“Why don’t we check out the basement?” I suggested, hoping to save the upstairs, which I assumed was the best of the floors, for last. She agreed, and we headed for the basement door.
I opened the old wooden door to the basement and, though I knew there was no hydro, was still surprised by the darkness of the stairwell. We clicked on our flashlights and headed down the old plank steps, guiding ourselves with a hand on the concrete wall.
Suddenly a cobweb strung across my face. I tried not to sound panicked as I clawed it away with both hands. Without a hand on the wall or pointing my light, I nearly lost my balance there in the dark.
As we descended, the musty litter smell intensified. In the darkness beside me, I heard her hold her breath. We stood at the bottom landing and pierced the darkness with our beams of light. Low ceiling. One large room. Concrete floors. Dingy.
“Yeah… I’m good.” She said, and hurried back upstairs.
Once back on the main floor, we headed to the stairway to check out the upper floor. They looked rickety. Dirty too. I was the REALTOR®, though, so went first. I gripped the wooden banister and it wriggled in my hand. I froze, looked back at my client, and said, ‘Careful…” and shook it again. How the poor banister had been worked into such a state, neither of us could imagine.
Despite it being mid-afternoon, daylight did little to brighten the house. With flashlights in hand, and feeling rather sleuth-like, we crept gingerly up the stairs. My heart pounded a bit faster as the carpeted steps snapped and popped beneath our weight. The banister continued to wobble. Instinctively, we each put a hand on the wall and moved a little faster.
The second floor was dark. Our small beams of light revealed the space to be vacant except for an overturned cardboard box, and a broken chair in one corner. The carpet throughout appeared to have had sand or gravel ground into it. I shuddered, glad to be wearing shoes. As the floor creaks echoed in the empty rooms, she moved to a bedroom window and inspected it.
“I don’t know…” she sighed and shook her head. “I wanted a fixer upper, but this place needs more than I really want to give it.” She shone her light at the floor and ground the carpet with the tip of her shoe. It made a crunching sound. “And what is that? Not only does the place need a lot of work, but it’s also pretty gross and creepy. I’m about done.”
“No problem. I’m glad to get out of here myself.” I shivered, remembering the cob web.
She cocked her head to the side, seeming to suddenly notice the closet door. “I love those old glass knobs.” We both shone a light on it as she approached. She cradled the knob gently in her palm before giving it a twist. She pulled the door open and shrieked. I jumped, startled.
“What is WITH this place?!”
I hurried over to see. There, in the beams of our lights, stood an old metal trunk. Atop the trunk sat a small plastic person, staring back at us, wide-eyed.
“Wow. Yeah, I’m about done too.” I said.
In moments, we had slapped the door closed, creaked and popped our way down the rickety stairs with our little flashlights, and exited into the rubble-filled yard.
Maybe we’d both seen too many scary movies. Maybe it was the ugliest doll in the creepiest place that got to us. I only know the place gave us both the willies. I wouldn’t trade it though. After all, what’s life without some adventure?
In 2016 Tina Plett made the top ten list in the office at Sutton Group and made the top 10% list of the Wpg Realtors.
The banker adjusted his glasses as he looked over the couple’s finances.
“You’ll need an appraisal,” he said, setting the papers down, “every mortgage requires an appraisal be done.”
The woman asked, “Where do we get that done? And how much does that cost?”
“Appraisal companies charge a few hundred dollars,” he said. Then he leaned forward and smiled. “But you don’t need to bother with that. Just call a real estate agent. They do them for free.”
The couple left the bank, delighted to have saved a few hundred dollars. They did not ask or wonder why one person would do hundreds of dollars of work for free and the other never, ever would.
Somewhere, moments later, a REALTOR’s® phone rang…
Real estate is this weird industry where people expect highly trained professionals to work for free (or less). It’s not just family and friends either, like you might experience in your job – it’s this broad expectation from all of society – bankers, lawyers, buyers, sellers – that real estate agents can and should work for free.
For over seven years, I was that REALTOR® getting the call for a free home evaluation. (thank you, Mr. Banker, sir. May I have another?) I’d eagerly take the call, invest the hours, drive all over tarnation, and tromp through snow and mud – and all for free. It took me a while to realize I don’t actually have to do that to myself.
Why It Used to Be a Good Idea
In fairness, free home evaluations are a valid way of drumming up business. It was a great way to meet people who were interested in buying or selling houses, and start a conversation about their needs and how we can help. We could even demonstrate how reliable and effective we were before asking to represent them.
Why It’s Not a Great Idea Anymore
Things have changed. (They always do)
What was once unique and creative is now commonplace. That means a few things:
- It’s so common it’s actually an expectation. Why pay when you can get the milk for free? It makes a person wonder if it undermines the level of professionalism realtors could otherwise be known for. If realtors were a house on a city block, would their being free make them the cheaper house, or the high-value, more desirable house, for example? Something to think about.
- People who have REALTOR® representation will still use another agent’s free home evaluation offer. Why? Because they don’t want to “bother” their own agent who they’re paying. It’s more courteous to make some other random agent work for free for no benefit. I know it doesn’t
make sense. I also know it makes no dollars.
- Marketing is about standing out. Doing what is common does not stand out. I’m learning that the more I do things others don’t, the more I set myself apart. (Blogging, going mobile (instead of the brick-and-mortar office, offering 3D Virtual Tours of my listings, Professional photos (oh, the number of people that don’t do that, but really, really should…), and charging for home evaluations to name a few) The more attention I (and my listings) get. Which is kind of the point, no?
Why I Only Give Free Home Evaluations to Clients Now
I’ve learned my lesson. I will not work for free for strangers for no benefit. I’ll work like a Clydesdale for my clients though, and it’s for them I reserve my resources, energy, and time. To give it away to anyone else is to take it away from them. Priorities, you know?
A few other reasons I don’t offer free evaluations to any Joe Blow are:
- Clients like it.
I can’t tell you how often people have called me up asking for a straight-up evaluation.
“I’m calling you because you’re known to be professional” they’ll say.
“I want a home evaluation, but plan to sell privately. Can I just pay you for the evaluation and not have to have the conversation about representation?”
The answer is yes. They respect my time, and I respect their needs. It’s an awesome arrangement. And, often times, that speaks to my professionalism more than offering the service for free. (Counter-intuitive, I know, but it works)
- I don’t work for the bank or the mortgage broker.When they send people to take advantage of me, (er, I mean use my services for free), they get paid, their clients get a mortgage, and I get nothing. It puts no food on my table. No, sorry. I do not work for the bank. (Not at those prices!)
- I’m Not New at This.
I’ve invested thousands of dollars in my professional training to become the best at what I do. My multiple Specialist certifications came at a price. My edgy technology and professional team members come at a cost. And my years of experience are priceless.
None of this is offered by a new kid on the block. It’s unreasonable to expect I’d work for newbie wages. (Would you?) And the adage is true – you do get what you pay for. That’s why I pay, and why you should too.
- To Raise the Perception of our Industry Real estate agents are professionals. We are resented for our seemingly large commissions (here’s a peek at how our commissions work), we’re presumed to be rich, and are expected to work for free as penance. (Just ask the stranger who asked me for thousands of dollars out of the blue) It’s an unfortunate, and unjust perception.By charging for my professional time and service, I hope to communicate the respectability of being a REALTOR®. It is a profession, and one that ought rightly to be paid for.
I have no grand notions of changing the industry single-handedly. Free evaluations have always been done and they’ll continue to be done. And, especially in the beginning when one is eager to connect with people and get their face and name out there, it can still be a viable prospecting method. But I do think there comes a time when a person needs to shed old ideas and embrace new ones.
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