Steinbach Real Estate Agents
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.
When I arrived, I found her hunched over a box, in tears.
She had been packing, getting ready to list her house. Well, their house.
They had lived there for decades. Now the marriage had come apart at the seams, and she was left to tie up the loose ends. She would pack up the house and ready it for sale.
It looked like about the hardest thing she’d ever had to do.
There, with tears still streaming down her cheeks, she held a stack of photos in one hand and a wad of tissues in the other. She still wore her wedding ring.
When someone in a happy marriage looks through photos, it’s a refreshing, satisfying time of reminiscing. Laughter and tears of joy accompany the cozy memories. But when a person is in the midst of separation – especially one they don’t want to happen – it is anything but cozy. Each memory stabs the heart, leaving a gaping ache for what will never be again.
I’ve been there. I know the deep grief of separation.
As I put a hand on her shoulder, a fresh wave of tears flowed from her eyes. Her head hung as though a weight were tied to it.
As I scanned the room I realized she would never get the house packed in time without some help. Little was packed, even less was cleaned. Grief overwhelms. At that point, a simple task like putting photos in a box or sweeping the floor can be too much to even think about, much less accomplish.
Just then, she looked up at the wall and sighed a heavy, hollow sigh.
I followed her gaze to a photo on the wall. There, in an ornately carved wooden frame, their wedding photo hung, looking as though nothing had changed since the day it was taken.
After a moment of thought, I removed my hand from her shoulder, walked over to the photo, and lifted it from the wall. For a second, I felt like an art thief.
“Let me help you,” I said, looking back at her for any sign of disapproval. Her mouth parted slightly, as though to speak. Then she closed her eyes, nodded, and hung her head for the next wave of tears.
The offending photo was turned to face the wall, and tucked behind the sofa. Then, together, we packed a few boxes.
“See if you can get some friends to help you with this,” I suggested, “It’s a huge job on a good day but it’s overwhelming and feels impossible when you’re going through separation. You need help.”
She nodded and, before I left, called some friends to help her pack up what was left of her married life.
People sell their homes for all kinds of reasons, but there is a unique dynamic when the sale is due to a separation. And it raises all kinds of issues for everyone – the sellers, buyers, and the agents caught in the middle.
Oddly, no one really talks about it.
Which is why I’ve written this series of posts about selling due to separation. It’s important to talk about it so we can understand when the issues come up, and know what to do about it. Maybe we’ll have some compassion or be able to avoid surprise attacks if we’re aware.
Wherever I’ve been, professionally or personally, it’s been because God has led me there. Helping sellers in the midst of separation is just another such opportunity I see Him giving me. I am not afraid of crisis. Lord knows I’ve had my share of it. And I’m honored that He uses me to serve others in their own crises. Whether it’s to help sell a house, pack boxes, or just pull a photo off the wall.
No one wants to talk about it.
But it’s happening more and more.
People are selling their houses due to marital separation.
I’m not sure what’s worse though – the crisis many couples are in while they try to sell their house, or that no one is talking about the swirling mess of issues that come up as a result.
I may not be able to rescue anyone from crisis, but I can sure initiate a conversation. Hopefully it helps dispel a few myths, open a few eyes, or foster a bit of compassion and understanding for those who are hurting and either ruined by the pain or lashing out as a result.
Over the next bunch of posts I’d like to talk about selling during a separation.
Can I be honest with you about the games people play during the sale to control, manipulate, or exact revenge on their spouse? This isn’t about being gossipy or telling juicy stories. People in crisis have a hard time seeing what’s going on. Also, after years of marriage, one doesn’t anticipate how separation can stir up a vengeful beast. So, when the games start, they come as a shock. Let’s talk about it so you can be prepared.
So you’re not shocked out of your socks.
So you can recognize a gamer’s ways and protect yourself.
I’d like to tell you why I removed one woman’s wedding photo from the wall – and why she didn’t do it herself. The stages of grief are not reserved for death.
Sometimes people will get into a heated argument, even shouting at the top of their voice, over a dining set. But in a separation, it’s never, ever, ever about the dining set.
Then there’s the experience of a real estate agent caught in the middle. I’m not allergic to helping people through crises, and I’ve certainly been through my own.
Maybe I’ll even talk about the time a couple decided not to sell their house, and how it saved their marriage. That was the best money I never made, and I’m thrilled every time I see them together.
Separation is like a fire – it blazes with red hot emotions, damages everything it touches, and people get burned. I know. It hurts. It’s gut-wrenching. And it changes your life forever. It’s also isolating.
That’s why we need to talk about it.
And, maybe by talking about the many issues that flare up, we can minimize the damage and put a bit of salve on the burns.
I recognized the address right away. I had been there before. The foundation was in deplorable condition.
I knew they would not buy it.
But, I booked the appointments anyway. We saw five houses on a beautiful Saturday afternoon.
Once they saw the house with the crumbling foundation they exclaimed they would never invest in a house like this.
“I know,” I said. “I knew about the foundation, and I knew you would never ever buy it.”
They looked confused. “Why did you take the time to show it to us then?”
“Because I respect your need to make your own decision. I will not filter the choices based on my opinion, but on yours.”
They nodded, and seemed to appreciate that.
It had only been our second time shopping. They did not know me well, and this was a perfect way to demonstrate that they can trust me. I knew that if I tried to prevent them from seeing a home they wanted to see, they may question whether I had my own agenda.
Eniko and I don’t choose to show only homes that offer the highest commission.
We don’t limit the buyers shopping to only listings through the brokerage we work for. (Even though we have a lot of inventory to choose from). We respect our buyers’ decision to choose, and furnish them with all the options they request.
Once buyers get to know us though, something changes.
Suddenly we’ll get texts asking, “What do you know about this property? Have you shown it?”
Once we have developed a trust relationship and we get asked these questions, we can avoid unnecessary showings.
It’s at this point in the shopping experience we tell the buyer, “The house is beautifully redone and has a lot of character however, the basement is built on blocks and is horizontally caving in. There is constant water in the basement as a result of the shifting of the east wall of the basement.
We all save time when that happens. But saving time is always secondary to integrity.
By the way, that home with the theoretical basement on blocks that’s caving in? We may not recommend it to one buyer, but we might just call the concrete worker we know who said he was looking for homes where he could raise the house and redo the foundation.
There is a buyer for every house at the right price.
ACCREDITED BUYER REPRESENTATIVE
Online house hunting can only do so much.
You cannot smell a house online.
Or open that mysterious door in the basement, or inspect the walls and ceilings for water damage.
You can rule out many homes online, but there are things about a property that you won’t know till you arrive.
This is where, with your own personally retained agent, you begin looking at houses. Lots of them. Sometimes lots and lots of them.
One such (fictional) couple was at the stage of looking. They had smartly retained me to represent them, and off we went looking for that perfect-for-them house.
Here’s how their search went down.
House one: He loved the garage but the master bedroom wasn’t big enough for her.
House two: She loved the kitchen but he didn’t want to be bothered with making the basement windows bigger so the children could safely sleep downstairs.
House three: The wood stove was something he had always wanted but she thought it was not safe for the toddler to be around. I suggested they could remove it but that would create a renovation project they didn’t want to pay for.
House four: She loved the character in the old house but he wasn’t interested in a property that only had a holding tank. It would be an added monthly living expense that they didn’t need.
House five: The floors had all been replaced, which was hugely appealing to both of them. However, the laminate floors had been poorly installed and already had areas separating and swelling from moisture. They both were super disappointed.
House Six: The backyard was amazing. They could both see themselves enjoying summer out here. Too bad the ceiling had been dripping and was causing mould in the upper level of the one and a half story home. Their son’s allergies would not work with that.
House seven: The ad in the magazine said it was a few minutes from the city. It took forty-two minutes to drive to the property and there were eleven miles of gravel road to travel. It was just too far to drive.
House eight: The open-concept living area appealed to both of them. She loved the large windows… until she saw who lived next door. She would not live next door to his ex-girlfriend. Not happening.
House nine: The smell of cigarette smoke was so strong they never even looked through the entire house.
House ten: The backyard photos were the reason they wanted to see this one. The towering apartment blocks next to the home put a damper on the private backyard life they had imagined. They ruled it out before we even looked inside. That was a quick walk though.
House eleven: Ten acres. Finally. They could have horses and other pets. The current owners enjoyed pets also. They just were not very attentive about cleaning up the cat litter. The rugs were torn in the doorways and in the stairs, apparently having been used as a scratching post. There were snakes, lizards, ferrets, hamsters, dogs, and birds living in the house.
The grass on the ten acres had not been cut in years and the grounds had become a dumping ground for old car parts. They certainly could not see their son playing on these grounds. How long would it take to clean the place? I think I saw her gag at the thought.
House twelve: They wrote an offer. They just wanted to move already. We went back to do a home inspection and when we arrived we found the basement flooded. There was no sump pit or sump pump.
The spring melt was coming up through the floor and the beautiful new rug was soaking wet. Thankfully, because they had the offer subject to a home inspection, they were able to get out of the deal.
Houses thirteen to thirty one: They compared each of these homes with the one they had fallen in love with and written an offer on. None of them compared. After a while, all the houses started to look the same.
House number thirty two: Adequate size. Treed yard with a garden. Finished basement. Bi-level with large basement windows. The floors were about five years old but they looked nice. The garage was not insulated but it was attached to the house and they liked that. The kitchen wasn’t as big as she wanted but it had a huge walk-in pantry. They could picture their life here.
I watched them as they quietly took it all in. They were in no hurry to leave. They started picturing where they would place their furniture. It all just made sense. Finally, they had found their home.
You might be wondering if I’m exaggerating. I don’t actually show that many houses before closing a deal, right? I must have just gotten caught up in the fictional storytelling.
YES, I’ve absolutely shown upwards of thirty houses to a single client. It’s happened a few times.
The fact is, house-hunting takes time. Lots of time.
If you take anything away from this story, I hope it is an appreciation of the buyer representative who dedicates themselves to you and your process.
We work hard, and are glad to show you loads of listings, regardless of whose sign is on the yard.
Accredited Buyer Representative
Sutton Group-Kilkenny Real Estate
What do you rely on when life is scary?
Is there anything you can trust?
As a real estate agent, changes in the market or a flood of new agents to the scene can be cause for worry. Competition heightens. Available houses become fewer. Suddenly you find yourself asking, “Will I make it?”
It makes me think of how a bird can perch on the very top of a tree. They park their entire body weight on what, from the ground, looks like a twig. I always think that surely the branch should break beneath their weight.
But the bird is not afraid of the branch breaking.
The bird does not depend on the tree. It depends on its own ability to fly.
As agents, so much is out of our control. The value of a home, the market in general, or how our colleagues treat us can all impact our daily life. There are a heck of a lot of things that are scary about being an agent. High gas prices. Slowing markets. Clients who think you can wave a wand and sell their house. When the number of agents in your area doubles in the space of two years. Spending loads of money on marketing without any guarantee at all of ever getting it back. Bullies. Liars.
But we can’t be scared witless. If we are afraid, it shows we’re relying on those things to make or break us. Which would be a bit like a bird relying on a tree to hold it up.
We can’t rely on externals for our happiness or success.
Well, we can, but we’ll be constantly disappointed and success will evade us.
As real estate agents, our confidence has to come from somewhere else. Our instincts and unique abilities will be with us no matter what circumstance we’re in. It’s those we need to rely on.
Can you be a quick problem solver? Do you have the ability to inspire? Can you adapt?
If the ability is there, the circumstance doesn’t matter as much.
Stop looking at what could happen and start trusting your instincts.
Like the bird, trust in your ability to fly.
In what situation are you relying on external things? How could you start trusting yourself instead?
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Showings can be scary.
And a little… overly personal.
Some things are better left unseen, you know?
Want to sell your house? Start hiding stuff. Well, unless you want to frighten away potential buyers. Then by all means, leave out the diapers and sour milk.
Things Buyers (And Agents) Don’t Want To See:
An old-style gun rack is a scary sign to a buyer. If it’s full of guns, you look armed and dangerous. If it’s empty, they’re wondering where you hid your artillery. Either way, the thought of negotiating with you may well scare off buyers.
The handcuffs hanging from your bedroom closet door are way too much information. Be who you are in the bedroom and enjoy it, but announcing your fetishes to the buyers walking through your house may not help your sale.
It’s wonderful if you are blessed enough to have a pair of shoes for every day of the year. But every pair doesn’t need to be in the entrance, does it? Tripping on shoes and being unable to see the floor kind of puts a damper on a showing. (We won’t even talk about the smell.)
From the moment we enter, the buyer is annoyed and distracted.
… that’s not what you were going for, was it?
What You Eat
I’m constantly baffled by how common it is for sellers to host a showing while the dishes and food have not been cleared from the table.
Look, buyers don’t care what you had for breakfast. They do, however, connect the dots between a person who does not take care of food and a person who then probably does not take good care of a property.
Tip: It is generally a good practice to put the milk back in the fridge before you all leave for the day.
Little Tommy is getting potty trained, is he? We can tell. We’re glad it is going well and celebrate your success. … but please don’t leave the evidence of his failures lying about, stenching up the place.
Soiled underthings tend to impact the ambiance and detract from the buyer experience, you know?
Basically, try to avoid anything personal, messy, stinky, or inappropriate being visible during a showing.
When it’s for sale, it’s not your home anymore. It’s a product. And your product needs to be presented attractively in order to sell.