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’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.
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.
Once upon a time my sellers suffered a break-in. Things were stolen.
Guess who is the first person accused in such a situation?
After all, they have keys and access. Maybe the agent left the door open; maybe they didn’t watch a potential buyer as they toured through the house. Maybe someone got a hold of the keys that shouldn’t have. It’s a logical conclusion, and the agent would have little luck disproving any of it.
Luckily, I had invested in a lock box. They’re not mandatory, but I wish they would be. Because I had taken this step to protect the property, I was not held responsible for the items stolen. I did everything I could to protect my client.
The story could have ended differently.
Imagine an agent showing a property without a lockbox. Even if it were someone else’s listing, if something goes wrong, the showing agent could be accused of theft, trespassing, and other avoidable things just because some agent wanted to save themselves a few bucks.
TIP: Risking your reputation, the reputation of your peers,
and the safety of your clients
is the stupidest way to save a piddly $130.
A lockbox is only as good as its lock, though.
It may be tempting for people to come back when the realtor isn’t around and take another look at the house. We can’t control where buyers go after showings.
If a broker uses the same four-digit code on every single lockbox on every single one of their listings for example, how secure is that? It doesn’t take much for a buyer to peek over an agent’s shoulder and clue in. Even these four-digit coded lockboxes aren’t that secure.
That’s why I’m thrilled about the Real Estate Board’s new Bluetooth-operated lockboxes.
First, to access the lock, an agent must make an appointment to see the listing, and I confirm.
When they show up and open the lockbox, I immediately get an email saying that so-and-so from ABC Realty has entered the property.
I always know when someone is there and I always get a notification.
The best part is that it locks them out.
They can’t re-enter the property repeatedly, and no one can sneak back in later without an appointment without being noticed.
These new lockboxes are ultra-secure, and only cost $130.
It’s a small price to pay for protection of self and others.