“I’ve been thinking about getting into real estate.” I hear this a lot. Over the years, I’ve helped, championed, and even mentored plenty of newbies in this biz. It can be a good gig, at times. Sometimes it’s not. But it is always exciting.
Once a newbie receives their real estate license, I’m asked, “How do I become like you?” I laugh, at this, because it has taken years of personal and professional folly, near successes, slam-dunk deals, a lot of research and many closed doors and slipping through cracked windows to get where I am. And I am not exactly a “top producer.” Being a top dog with my name on signs, billboards, in magazines, isn’t really my thing anymore. Today, I am happy to see someone else in real estate make a splash with all of that. Yeah, in the beginning, I used to get-off on being mentioned in the press and seeing my name on a sign and receiving all those fancy awards. I was all about THE BRAND of me. In your face, I’m your girl. But just like interest rates, I’ve changed—realizing that form of blast branding isn’t for me nor does it deem beneficial for my clients. Eventually, all of that over-the-top splash seemed cheap and tacky, to me. So I put a halt to it, and my business methodology evolved–tailored to fit my clients and me. I like to fly under the radar, selling and renting and market consulting. As a wonderful result, I have attracted the kind-of clients who appreciate “under-the-radar,” and I am thankful for it.
There are plenty of seminars, blogs and books to help new agents thrive in this business: How to make a big name for yourself and become a millionaire. Self-branding is important to a degree, especially if you are new to this business; but there’s more—so much more if you want to endure—for the long haul. And let’s face it, the real estate climate is changing, particularly in the luxury market which has been declining over the past fifteen months in the US and shows no signs of swinging up, anytime soon.
So, here’s eight things I’ve learned over the last seventeen years—in bad and hot markets—and not included within the pages the those know-how real estate books:
If you don’t know something, say, “I don’t know. But I’ll find out,” and find out. So many people in sales don’t like to admit that they don’t know something, so they spin bullshit. We hear enough BS in this biz. And most clients are not idiots so don’t bullshit them. When you are honest, saying you do not know, they actually trust you more. And when you finally “find out,” delivering the goods to them you become credible.
DON’T PLAY THE BLAME GAME
When others in your deal are not pulling their weight or f’in up, never blame them or bitch about them to your client. NEVER. I don’t care if the agent you’re co-brokering with lied or if the attorney and the mortgage lender is a moron or if the relocation company hasn’t signed the contract yet or even if the management company is slacking with the board approval, NEVER pass the blame onto another. Your client does not need to hear about who screwed-up. Be a leader and drive the deal home. Find-out how you can help that other professional do their job and do it for them if you have to. I don’t want you ever to think or say, “But that’s not my job.” It is your job. It is your job to manage the process of buying, selling and renting your client a property. If you have to blame another, then you are not very good at your job.
You’d think this would be a given, but it isn’t. If you tell someone you will do something or send the information in twenty-four hours. Do it. Even if you don’t have all of the data within that twenty-four hour time limit, still contact them and inform them that you are still working on it. And if you made an error, admit it and correct it.
You need to have the mentality that no one is beneath you. Not the door man, the porter, the secretary, the taxi driver or the busboy who is refilling your client’s water at lunch and so on. Show everyone respect and value them. Having an entitlement mentality is not attractive nor will it get you very far in business or in life. Years ago, I was working for a real estate developer from Los Angeles. I wasn’t the only broker with whom she was working with. After we closed the deal, “Do you know why I chose to go with you, Heather?” I didn’t. She informed me that I was the only broker who was nice to the cab drivers.
In NYC we’re privy to our clients’ salaries, investment portfolios, bank accounts, years of tax returns. Keep your mouth shut, even if you’re amazed by their wealth or lack of it. And if your client is a celebrity or a well-known 1%, never tell anyone about their deal or that you are or have worked for them. That’s just self-serving—to make you, the agent, feel important. If the press calls you asking if so-and-so purchased 123 Main Street, don’t return the call. And after the deal is closed and you’ve received the commission and the confidentiality agreement you signed is void, still don’t disclose any information to anyone. Even if your client is not on the Forbes list or a movie star, never discuss their finances or personal information with anyone. Finally, do not drop the name of a current or past client, with another client. True discretion will get you very far in this world of real estate. Trust me.
YOUR CLIENT IS NOT YOUR FRIEND
That’s right. Once you start becoming chummy-chummy with your client, you’ve tarnished your mystique of real estate expertise. You are no longer viewed as a practiced professional when you start disclosing details of your personal dramas—wayward husband, financial woes and so on. IT IS IMPORTANT TO REPEAT: Once you start being that open with your clients, like they’re your best friend, you are no longer seen as “Tour de Force in Real Estate,” in their eyes. Tell your best friend your woes, not your clients. Be an expert, not a pal.
SEND A NOTE OF WOW
If someone has gone above their duty to help you with a deal, find out who that person’s boss is and send them a note or email of “Wow and appreciation.” I have done such for porters, building contractors, management company secretaries, receptionists and others who have gone above and beyond, including agents who are my competitors. A little note of praise goes a long way…It’s just good business and people should be recognized for their big and small acts of kindness and professionalism.
Don’t become blinded by the bubble you work in. The real estate WORLD is so much bigger than the 4 mile radius you call your “niche” of suburbia. Know what’s out there. Study different markets, not just market reports, but economies and history and cultures. Pay that relocation referral, for the corporate employee who is relocating to the US from Shanghai. You’ll learn valuable information that will help you in the future. If an opportunity arises, that’s different from your day-to-day routine, embrace it, even if it costs you a bit of money. In addition to selling homes in Cleveland with septic systems and swank condos in NYC, I have consulted on real estate projects in China and Western Africa. Have those projects deemed a big paycheck to me? Not really. But I know so much more today because I was “open” and threw myself completely into something that wasn’t part of my typical “farming.” Being diversified, in many aspects of this business, is going to set you apart. It definitely has for me. (Will being DIVERSIFIED lead me next to Dubai? Who knows…but it is a thrill to know that’s an option.)
In conclusion: Your brand, dear agents, should not just be limited to your logo, your head-shot, your super long e-signature line with multiple links showcasing how great you are or even the “look” of your website or your flashy clothes. Your brand, more importantly, is how you conduct business without advertising it to the masses. This is an exciting profession if you allow it and have the courage weather the storms.