Friday, April 10, 2009

Win Win?

How spoiled I've been, working with kind win-win Realtors, clients and vendors. And how sharp is the juxtaposition of their opposition. When I was changing careers from massage therapy to real estate, a number of my fabulous clients and friends -- those who knew me well, or who had had a less-than-gentle experience -- warned me. "It's a cutthroat business. Your sensitive heart will get broken." And oh how I have learned. Six years of learning. The real estate business is many things. Difficult, expensive, exciting, occasionally completely fulfilling, frustrating and intense.

I was absolutely blessed to have found, immediately after obtaining my license, THE most incredible company to work for. Keller Williams is known in the industry as various woo-woo titles... a pyramid scheme (because of its brilliant profit sharing plan), a cult (because the values are truly spiritual, garnering fierce loyalty), and it was absolutely the right fit for me. Working in an environment of kind people committed to learning and service, I was surrounded by a culture that nurtured each member and was dedicated to teaching every newbie to succeed. Along the way I saw its dark side as well... as in every business there are sometimes personalities that climb their way to the top with ugly power ploys. As is my wont, I did my best to avoid the political gossip.

Not long after joining KW, I was introduced to a fantastic coaching group: Buffini and Company. Brian Buffini is a second generation Irish gent, self-made multi-millionaire who teaches with delightful wit and warmth. His message is simple and also completely resonated with my values: serve the people you know and care about. Stay in contact, add value to their lives, and ask them for referrals. Then treat them like family and totally exceed their expectations. So that is what I did.

"Thick skin is required" really ought to be a loud part of the pre-licensing program. Granted, the friends and family who hired me (and the friends-of-friends-and-family) were all exactly the kind of people I wanted to work with: smart, reasonable, and also dedicated to win-win. The heartbreaks came regularly though.... People whom I love and know I would serve well chose -- for many different reasons -- to buy and sell with others. People who had told me they would work with me should they ever decide to purchase a home, I heard had not. Ow and ow and ow again.

Then there were my fellow Realtors outside my home office... those working with the clients on "the other side" of the deals. I was actually most nervous about them, and discovered my fears were usually unfounded. Yes, they were representing the "other" party, however, with only a few exceptions, they were also dedicated to a positive and successful experience. The notable exceptions left a nasty taste in my and my clients' mouths and I thank God I am not living out their karma. How some people's children sleep at night is beyond me.

Probably the most difficult lesson I've learned in this business is this:

No matter where the real estate "cycle" is, some people are going to Win, and some are going to Lose.

In a Buyer's market like we're in today, there are tons of homes to choose from, values are plummeting, and Sellers watch their "on paper equity" diminish every day. When that Seller is your friend and you are trying to help them sell their home, being the bearer of market statistics is No Fun. Even worse is bringing them low-ball offers on their already lowered priced property. Buyers win big time buying at or near the bottom of the market.

When in a Seller's market, the pendulum swings. Lowered inventory soars prices, homes bring in over-asking-price and multiple competing offers. Those lucky enough to be in the Seller's seat win. Buyers shop and offer, shop and offer and often spend months "losing" homes to other more qualified or wealthy folks. The search becomes desperate and their eventual purchase at the top of the market may cost them thousands of dollars to sell a few years later.

Representing good people in a win-lose business in a win-win manner is a giant challenge, and for my thin-skinned nature perhaps too much. As my fantastic mentors and brokers would say when hearing yet another "No"....... "Next!"

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