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Ask Dr. Real Estate
How Do You Stay Sane In This Business?
by Dr. Kenneth W. Edwards GRI



In my first transaction as a REALTOR®, I went from incredible exhilaration to a deep purple funk in about three days. Customers with whom I was working made an offer through me on an expensive home. The seller, a nice widow lady, decided after she got the offer not to sell her place at all and took it off the market. I'm convinced the buyers think I messed things up because I'm a rookie real estate agent. After over a month of showing them homes they are now working with someone else. Does it get any better than this?


It is probably not much consolation to you now, but yes, assuming you are doing things right, it does get better. After you have been in the business for a few years, you will be able place this in its proper perspective. I recognize that these words of big brotherly wisdom are of little immediate comfort to you, particularly if you were counting on that commission to pay for Junior's braces or a well deserved Caribbean cruise. Here are a few specifics.

It Evens Out: There will be times when you will invest very little effort on a transaction and earn a very decent payday. For example, in one instance very early in my career when I was on floor duty, an older couple walked in and asked if they could see a particular home that had just come on the market. They said it was in their current neighborhood and that they had admired it for years. I showed them the home, they liked it even more after they toured the inside, and they bought it. Full price offer. Never looked at another house. My hourly wage on that one was very impressive. Then again, there were a few experiences like yours--only worse. You at least got the bad news early. There are instances when things unravel just before closing, but we'll save that for another time, since I'm trying to encourage you here.

Dissect The Deal: You will need to examine each transaction in which you are ever involved to determine what you did right and what you may have done wrong, or at least could have done better. Be alert also to what other REALTORS® involved in the transaction did better (or worse) than you. Experience is the best teacher only if you pay very close attention. If you do, you will soon be able to anticipate and prevent most problems before they scuttle your efforts.

Don't Whine: When I was a young Air Force officer stationed in Alabama, legendary coach Paul "Bear" Bryant was football coach at the University of Alabama. On Sunday afternoons during football season he narrated the game from the day before on TV. Along with most of the other residents of Alabama, I was a regular viewer. On those rare occasions when the Tide lost (or didn't win as impressively as some thought they should have), the inevitable question from the host was: "What happened?" Bear's typical growling response was: "That was the sorriest job of coaching I've ever seen. We have to suck it up, hunker down, and work harder." No excuses, alibis, or whining at fate's fickle finger. Just inhale deeply, focus intently on the job at hand (called "hunkering down" in Alabama) and work harder. Some real estate agents feel compelled to blame every force in the universe (except themselves) for a deal gone bad ("well, they did it to me again!). That's only a short step away from paranoia.

Attention Rookies: The last thing I want to hear before undergoing brain surgery is my doctor telling me how excited she is, since this is her first operation, or the pilot on my airline flight announcing over the intercom how thrilled he is to be soloing for the first time. In the real estate business, rookies come in all shapes, sizes, and ages. For example, I was a 49-year-old rookie REALTOR®. I never felt there was a vital purpose to be served by voluntarily sharing that fact with my customers and clients as a matter of first priority in our relationship. I also did extensive research and found that there are no federal or state regulatory mandates stating that you must disclose your rookie status as a material fact in a real estate transaction. The good news is that you don't stay a rookie for long.

Yogi Speaks: In the immortal words of Yogi Berra, "It ain't over 'till it's over." The real estate corollary to that is, "It ain't closed 'till it's closed." Work hard, stay cool, and hang in there. There will be losses, but with a lot of self-analysis and hunkering down you should be able to achieve a very impressive batting average. Your reward will come when Junior smiles at you sweetly with those beautiful new braces as you're enjoying that relaxing Caribbean cruise.