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Funny Thing Happened On My Way To The Office

photo courtesy of sarah-ji

I work for a huge brokerage.  We have branch offices up the wazoo.  Until recently, my little 8×10 room at the back with the stunning parking lot vista sat in what was the Central office.  In our office complex, however, were those Commercial folks, across the breezeway, waaaaay over there. 

And we didn’t mix.  Commercial doesn’t come to Central parties, and as far as I know, Commercial doesn’t throw parties.

And those Commercial people, I tell ya.  Talk about those with stars on thars.  You pass them in front of the escrow office, they don’t even smile, not even a little wave.

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Until last weekend, when the Commercial office closed and all those Commercial agents had to find a new home among us unwashed residential resale masses over in the Central office.

Suspicious eyeballing abounds.

Nervously, they say hi.  We nod, an attempt to be gracious, each with a tight grip on our staplers behind our backs, lest these strangers lay claim to our stuff.

We each learn new vocabulary.  The residential agents learn “CoStar” and “cap rate.”

The Commercial people learn “multiple counter offer” and how to deal with “what do you mean, my guy took the light switch covers and now your clients are canceling?”

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There are skirmishes – quickly put down – regarding custody of the conference room.

But slowly, we learn about each other.  How they deal so well with the facts only, hard business, investor client.  How we deal well with Ma and Pa selling the family home in financial hardship. 

Our skill sets don’t always overlap, but our residence does, so we’re adjusting.  They learn that their hard-line tactics don’t always work with Ma and Pa.  We learn not to talk about our feelings so much.  They learn that the liquid coffee creamer is only brought out for special occasions, and we pick up some of their business-like approach to the business.

Eventually, we’ll find a way to co-exist, and although our businesses will always be vastly different, we can still smile and compare notes and share insights over the fax machine – and eventually, maybe some day – we’ll show them where we hide the liquor.

Or my name isn’t Zanzibar Buck-Buck McFate.

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Written By

Kelley Koehler, aka the Housechick, is usually found focused on her Tucson, Arizona, real estate business. You may also find her on Twitter, where she doubles as a super hero, at Social Media Training Camp, where she trains and coaches people on how to integrate social media into successful business practices, or at, a collection of all things housechick-ish. Despite her engineering background, Kelley enjoys translating complex technical concepts into understandable and clear ideas that are practical and useful to the striving real estate agent.



  1. Lani Anglin-Rosales

    June 10, 2008 at 11:49 am

    Kelley, I used to work for a major commercial developer (headquartered in Phoenix, btw) and I can’t tell you how close to home this hit… the two worlds are DRAMATICALLY different.

    Flip flops for me today, Ferragamos back then. “Word up” typed out on Twitter now, “I anticipate with great excitement the synergy that this collaboration will create” on formal letterhead back then (okay, just 2 years ago). The pace was much more breakneck, but seeing the largest shopping venue in all of central Texas’ grand opening was so rewarding so the efforts have a big payoff (not to mention payday). I don’t miss not sleeping, I don’t miss going to ICSC, I don’t miss the phone calls at 11 at night because construction thinks the stone work is designed improperly, and I don’t miss having to order office supplies through bitchy Betty.

    I look forward to hearing how these two MASSIVELY different worlds cohabitate an office together. I’m chuckling here just picturing it. And I’m also wondering why the hell they’re even doing residential- change brokers if commercial’s gone… if residential shut down, that team would be out of a job, there’s no way a transition would ever be invited. The assumption is poorly made that *anyone* can do residential or *anyone* could do commercial… they’re ridiculously different worlds in every single way. Oh Kelley, good luck dealing, girl and watch your staplers!

  2. Ken Smith

    June 10, 2008 at 12:10 pm

    Commercial agents bring different skill sets to their business then residential agents. They are more strictly business and that is what is needed in their world. But there is no reason that everyone can’t be under one roof and learn from each other. Learn what you can from them.

  3. Frank Jewett

    June 10, 2008 at 12:38 pm

    Commercial agents often look down on residential agents. Commercial agents wouldn’t dream of slapping their face on their business card, much less a shopping cart… with their dog in the picture!

    The phenomenon I’m seeing here in Santa Clara County is big residential brokers opening commercial divisions while individual brokers and agents are also “moonlighting” in commercial real estate. This is likely to increase tensions between the two camps. I suspect residential brokers and agents will eventually discover, as they did with short sales, that it isn’t as easy at it looks to reinvent your business model. It isn’t as if residential is completely dead. In fact I’ll bet those who stay focused on residential actually find it easier to compete for business as their rivals get distracted by what they think is the next low hanging fruit.

  4. Eugene

    June 10, 2008 at 1:02 pm

    “…each with a tight grip on our staplers behind our backs.” haha, if they were only red, the picture would be complete.

  5. BawldGuy Talking

    June 10, 2008 at 2:00 pm

    Having been on the ‘commercial’ side since Carter was Prez, I can attest to the spherical voids of which most of those on that side belong as a species.

    Don’t show ’em where the booze is Kelley. It’ll be the end of spontaneous office parties forever. 🙂

  6. Lani Anglin-Rosales

    June 10, 2008 at 2:02 pm

    Weird, usually when I mention designer shoes, Kris Berg shows up…..

  7. BawldGuy Talking

    June 10, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    Check with Steve, but I think she may be at her therapy appt. re: MLS down due to ultra crappy Tempo5 ‘improvement’ recently. 🙂

  8. Rebecca Levinson

    June 10, 2008 at 2:16 pm

    That’s a different twist on desegregation. Sounds like you all are making friends though:-)

  9. Bob Schenkenberger

    June 10, 2008 at 5:00 pm

    Zanzibar, the liquor cabinet is not safe! Do not, under any circumstance, let that cat out of the bag.

  10. Maureen Francis

    June 11, 2008 at 2:53 am

    When we first started, people would ask us to do commercial stuff. Small, like find a retail rental. After not too long we realized that it actually is quite different, and stopped trying.

    I like selling houses.

    What do we have to do to get the liquid creamer? We never have that!

  11. Paula Henry

    June 11, 2008 at 6:46 am

    Two things you have in common, coffee and liquor – does that something about the stresses of our profession, whether commercial or residential. Just wondering……

  12. Kelley Koehler

    June 11, 2008 at 10:45 am

    Hrm. Well, that sort of failed as a parable, didn’t it?

    Maureen – we get french vanilla creamer in those tiny little onsie servings on Wednesdays before the wednesday meetings as a bribe to come, along with bagels. But the Broadway East office has a cuppachino machine EVERY DAY. I may have to bring that point up to our office council.

    The commercial folks have seats among us, but they’re still sort of their own group. They had a huge space on the other side of the complex that was always larger than they needed. Central had enough empty desks to accomodate them, so we consolidated areas, stopped leasing that huge wasted space.

    We’ve always had a standing referral agreement with the commercial agents that says if we give them commercial business, that they’ll send that person back to us for any residential stuff they want to buy or sell, so in that regard, we’re all on good terms – as we can’t do commercial and they’re allowed to do residential as well as commercial!

    What’s interesting to me is that, with all the sort of snootiness that the commercial agents appeared to have, semingly wheeling and dealing in large transactions, they had to adhere to our desk assignment standards – which are awarded according to production. Lots of those agents ended up at shared cubicle desks. Seems for some, there was a whole lot of talk, and not so much action.

    On the whole, we’re getting along. There’s like 100 of us and maybe 20 of them, so they’re a bit overwhelmed. Central is also the “out-there” office, where just about anything goes, and often does, and most of the commerical agents are, ah, old dudes – but we’re also serious about our business. We have one of the lowest average sales prices per branch, but we often beat out the office with the highest average sales price in volume – sheer dollar volume – nearly every year. You can’t hang at Central unless you’re good at what you do.

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