Years ago when I was just starting out, a kind and far more seasoned colleague took me aside and said, “The most important relationships you’ll ever have in this business isn’t with your Buyers and Sellers, it’s with the other Agents!”
To be honest, I’m not sure I initially understood or agreed with her advice at the time. Coming from the school of "scrappy," and married to an appellate attorney who enjoys a good debate, I was encouraged to be an advocate first and foremost. I was taught it's not our job to be friends with our competitors; it's our job to BEAT the competition - or is it?
As I enter my 18th year in Real Estate while coming off my most successful year to date ($150+ million in sales, thank you very much), the concept of who you work with, how you treat them and why it matters couldn’t be more important. Put another way, "do unto others . . ."
What I quickly learned and what my colleague skillfully tried to impart was that clients come and go. come and go, and come and go . . . .While the relationship we share with them is both intimate and intense, they move on with their lives and away from us (as they should). If we're diligent and stay in touch, we may, occasionally, receive a holiday card, and eventually work with these same Buyers or Sellers again several years down the road - but that's never a given.
However, our interactions with our fellow Realtors is far more constant day in and day out. One week you may be presenting an offer on a listing of theirs, and the next week, they are just as apt to present on a listing of yours . . . and so it goes. Turns out that active Agents run into each other time and time again. Consequently, respect is the basis of all good relationships and tends to create a far more positive outcome than either posturing or polarization. "Collaboration without ego" (the COMPASS' credo) doesn't hurt either. Here's what I've come to believe AND know to be true: Real Estate can, and should be a "win-win."
This week, Sarah and I finally closed on a property that went into escrow in October. (Yes, October!) While there might be LOADS of communities in the U.S. where a three-month escrow isn’t all that unusual, here in the Bay Area, that’s emphatically NOT the case. Here, a typical listing sells in two weeks (or less) and closes within the next 30 days.
It’s a whirlwind to be sure, spurred on by the fact that the Bay Area is the epicenter of the tech industry. In addition, there's a lack of good inventory, incredibly high demand, and an ever-growing population of well-heeled, well-educated professionals who have a tremendous amount of disposable income at their fingertips. In short, Bay Area real estate has steadily climbed since digging out of the financial meltdown in 2008, and 2022 is already starting off with a BIG bang! (As an aside, the U.S. is short some four million houses needed to meet the current demand, cementing the Sellers' strong upper hand.)
But if you make the mistake of thinking that the speed of these transactions makes our jobs easier, and that anyone could do it, you’d be wrong. Warp speeds may move the process along more rapidly, but that doesn’t make the work easier. In fact, it makes our jobs harder BY FAR. In reality, the fast-paced nature of Bay Area Real Estate requires us to compact all of the working components into just a few short weeks. To meet such tight schedules, everything, and everyone need to align. (But that's another tale for another day).
With respect to the three-month escrow I referenced above, the delay in closing was created by unwelcome surprises that surfaced during the inspection period, which were previously unknown to both the Buyer and the Seller (that’s why they’re “unwelcome surprises’.") Until these matters were resolved to the Buyers' satisfaction, we simply weren't closing escrow. (This is why Sellers favor non-contingent offers; the unknown can be a minefield.)
However (and this is my point), while the Buyers had the option to cancel the sale based on “new discovery" at several points along the way, they didn't. In large part because the Agents held the deal together, trusted one another, had long-standing relationships, collectively remained calm and solution-based throughout, and steadily calmed nerves whenever they flared up (and they did). As the weeks and months progressed, displaying forward motion and good intentions by both the Buyers and the Sellers helped tremendously as well.
Who you work with matters!!!
It’s also why Agents don't just favor other Agents we know, we favor Lenders we know, Title Officers we know, Stagers we know, Painters we know, Gardeners we know. . . etc., etc., etc. (Get the picture?) By respecting and courting our colleagues, vendors, and professionals along the way, we actually end up serving our clients' goals far better, even while juggling HUGE expectations, hopes, aspirations and dreams, As the saying goes, "you get more flies with honey" (or in my case, chocolate-chip cookies!)
Because when it comes to Real Estate, there's already plenty of inherent drama in the marketplace to begin with, and I can't think of one good reason why your Agents should ever add to that. Let's choose the honey, and benefit from the sweet rewards as a result.
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Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 18 years and has published more than 670 essays on life and real estate.