By Jeff Stern
It was 10:40 a.m. on a sunny Saturday when my phone rang. It was someone I didn’t know, wanting information. “Hi, I want to know how many bedrooms that house has.” This part is normal. It’s also the part where the real estate professional can feel that twinge of suspicion in their gut.
It’s the feeling you get when someone you have (thankfully) not seen or talked to in decades suddenly catches your eye in the mall, walks up to you with open arms, and says a big loud hello as though a long-awaited reunion is taking place. After the initial cringe finds the base of your neck, the first thoughts are somewhere along the lines of, “What do you want?” and “What are you trying to pull?” Know the feeling? It’s a bit like that. Here’s why.
In my almost 30 years in this industry, I’ve found that the stranger who calls an agent with whom they have no previous connection is usually coming at it with a hit it and quit it attitude. They want information, not connection. Access, not relationship. They see the agent to be the key person and nothing more. And they have no idea they’re missing out.
We don’t become real estate agents simply to unlock houses for strangers and let them have a peek. It was never our dream to be Google personified, dispensing information like a soulless vending machine. And it sure as heck isn’t for the money, either. Ask anyone who’s been doing this for five years or less and they’ll testify to that.
We typically have the heart of a counsellor; someone with empathy, who wants to walk someone through a difficult or challenging situation. We have a genuine, heart-level desire to connect with and help people. And, often, we have a secondary passion for something related to homes; interior design, architecture, investing or a particular zeal for the roots one puts down in a home.
Real estate, for us, is not an occupation, it’s a lifestyle of helping and a mission of the heart. We serve. We protect. Defend. Empower. This is our creed.
So, when someone calls saying, “Please pass the keys”, we cringe because we know the person on the other end needs help but isn’t aware they do, or is just not ready to receive it, and thus are the people most in danger, which only makes us want to help them more.
In contrast, I got a call on a property the other day. I asked the young lady my regular questions: “Have you been pre-approved, when would you like to be in your home, how long have you been looking” to better understand how I can help her. She answered them happily, seeming to appreciate how invested I was in helping her. The call morphed from an information exchange into a conversation – the kind mutual sharing humans enjoy.
At the end of the call when we were arranging to meet, she said, “I can see you really do care. I really appreciate that. You are definitely who I want to help me.” Those are the calls agents live for.
As a home buyer or seller, I want to encourage you to test us on this. Open yourself to the heartfelt assistance of a real estate professional and see if you don’t discover the empathy and problem solving prowess I’m talking about. Then watch your agent work their magic as they get you out of pickles, help you side-step landmines you didn’t even know were there, and get you the most perfect house for your current and future needs.
Test them. I’m serious. I teach this to soon-to-be-agents the Manitoba Securities Commission Pre-Licensing Course in this province and cover this in my lecture and I’m telling you – this is who agents are. They’re superheroes in a dress shirt.
If you’re an agent, I want to encourage you to keep giving your best to those who will receive it. They’re out there, those who are truly open to sharing and learning. I know because I’ve found many of them! Don’t get discouraged. Don’t stop trying to help.
The majority of my clients – around 95 per cent – end up living in their homes longer than they thought; they don’t sell them in the typical five to 10 years as is about the average in Canada. I think that’s a testament to our working together in that optimal, ideal way – to their sharing their true motivations and needs and listening to my advice, and my listening to the heart behind their words and understanding who they are and what they really need. Sometimes, even more than they do.
When clients and agents strive for that genuine connection, both walk away satisfied and enriched.
But it’s true what they say; it really does take two. Superman’s power is only really worth something if he has someone to rescue. Without that, he’s just a guy in spandex.