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Ask Dr. Real Estate
How Much Togetherness Can A Girl Take?
by Dr. Kenneth W. Edwards GRI

 

QUESTION:

I started selling real estate several years ago after my husband and I became "empty nesters." I love it and I have carved out a pretty good niche for myself working with senior citizens who are relocating into and out of our area. My husband has decided to accept an early retirement offer from his employer and is considering several second career possibilities. His first choice at this point is to enroll in a local real estate licensing school, get his license, and sell real estate. Here's my challenge. He keeps using phrases like: "We would make a great team." Is this a common arrangement, and aren't there some inherent problems in wife - husband real estate sales teams? He's been a very successful bureaucrat, but to be honest I'm not certain he can adapt completely to a competitive, free enterprise business environment. I'm currently making more annually than he does in his government job, and I don't want to do anything to mess it up.

ANSWER:

"Dear Abby" and I have an agreement. I don't give personal advice and she shies away from answering real estate career questions. In this one, however, I will get perilously close to stepping over the line. Fortunately, I have some personal experience to rely upon. When I was actively selling real estate as my second career after retiring from the Air Force, my wife and I worked together as a team. She got her license and joined me shortly after we also became empty nesters. It can be very enjoyable and extremely rewarding, but there are some very serious cautions you need to consider.

Don't Pour Sand In Your Career Carburetor: Let me make this point very clearly first. Within the context of maintaining tranquil domestic relations, do not do anything to disrupt the well-oiled machine you have put together in your personal real estate career. You've done something that some REALTORS® never achieve in a life time - you've carved out a clear cut, identifiable market niche that you really enjoy and it is paying off big time. As I am sure you've found, the more clients and customers whose needs you satisfy successfully, the more business that will come your way and the more money you will earn. It's a great long-term annuity for you if you keep making deposits - do not jeopardize it.

Be Gentle: Here's one of the biggest interpersonal challenges in situations such as you envision. Some men find it a bit difficult to operate in an environment where their spouses are the top banana. That's become less and less of a problem as our society has become more enlightened regarding life in the workplace, but it can still be sensitive. Just recognizing that it can pose a problem is often enough to insure that delicate egos are not trampled upon. Interestingly enough, a local brokerage has two very successful women who are managing co-brokers. They've been with the company since it was opened and it has evolved from a single office with about a dozen agents to a three-office operation with over seventy agents total. Each has a husband who works as a REALTOR® in the same organization. It works out extremely well, and I am aware of similar situations in others brokerages around the country. In the same brokerage there is a husband and wife combination that operates completely as a team. Again, it seems to work out fine, and they are among the top producers in the firm.

Tap the Talent: When my wife and I worked together she did a lot of the prospecting and acted as the firm's Referral Director. She did get several extremely desirable listings on her own. As a matter of fact the biggest check I ever collected was as a result of selling one of her listings, a large farm in a beautiful setting. Yes, she occasionally reminds me of that. She actually preferred working behind the scenes. I will also admit she had one slight deficiency as a sales person - when someone said "no" to her she took it personally. I, on the other hand, did not. Here's the point. If you and your husband do decide to team up, be very honest with each other on who has the talent to do specific jobs best, and let that be your guide.

Happiness Is A Joint Banking Account: A husband and wife who got their licenses through the program I teach in the evening program at the local community college are very successful agents in a nearby community. They specialize in residential property. They operate together on some projects, but in the main pursue their own listings and sales. She is a very bright, energetic, competitive person with a successful background in sales. When I ran into him at a recent home show and asked him how his wife was doing, he smiled broadly and said: "actually, she's doing a little better than I am, which is great with me since we're both depositing our checks in the same account."