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Opinion Editorials

Are real estate professionals actually masochists?

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Lured by a national real estate frenzy , people flocked to get their real estate licenses during the boom. Our industry was flooded with part-timers, moonlighters and straight up amateurs chasing quick commissions and fast deals.

You could throw an ashtray on the market and it would command multiple offers! But then, as we all painfully know, the market imploded on itself. Without the promise of easy money, these agents deserted the business as fast as they joined….which leaves the rest of us. Why do we stay?

Let’s be honest. Behind the glitz and glam of the business, being a real estate agent is often an endless string of heartbreak & disappointment. The vast array of things we put up with, all in the hopes of even snagging one deal, never ceases to astound me. Doing shift after shift of floor time hoping for that mythical walk-in buyer, cutting down a small rain forest to blanket your ’hood with postcards, thrusting your business card any chance you get at friends, families, strangers, frenemies, begging to host an open house (“No really! I’m more than just a warm body!”) where you’re lucky to even get some nosy neighbors, spending a disproportionate number of hours blogging, tweeting, facebooking, hoping to god someone out there mistakes your stabs at social media as bonafide real estate experience. We spin our wheels & jump through hoops without any proof there is a pay off.

The roller coaster of uncertainty

Let’s say the real estate gods smile upon you & toss you a lead. Well, the roller coaster of uncertainty doesn’t stop there. You grow a new set of gray hairs fretting about agents poaching your client, buyers getting burned out after you spend every weekend for 6 months shopping, out of town appraisers coming in under value & blowing your deal, overly picky home inspectors taking out their frustrated contractor dreams out on your house, skittish buyers backing out over (fill in the blank), a revolving door of inaccessible asset managers who lose your file & don‘t seem to care, loan agents informing you “Loan Denied!” right before a signing…That’s just scratching the surface! And this is all before you’ve even been paid a darn cent!

More than any professional career, there are absolutely no guarantees in the real estate game. And yet, we remain. We plug along, eeking out a living. If it were only about money, we would have bailed long ago with the aforementioned fair-weathered agents after the market crashed. There must be more to it than moola.

Why do we do it?

Why do we endure such pain & agony for this tumultuous job? I believe all us agents have a streak of masochism. No one put a gun to our head and forced us to choose this life. We can walk away anytime as independent contractors. So why do we soldier on in the face of such discouraging odds? What is the allure? Autonomy? Helping others? Thrill of the deal? Insanity? Please share your reasons on why you are still a Realtor!

Watch Real Estate Expert Herman Chan put the REAL back in REALTY. In his show Habitat for Hermanity, Herman skewers the real estate business and pokes fun at his fellow agents, all the while empowering buyers & sellers with behind-the-scene tips & secrets of the industry! Get a glimpse beyond the glitz & glam of real estate. It's a hot mess! Featured on HGTV, House Hunters & other media outlets, Herman is the undisputed Real Estate Maven whose helpful & hilarious commentary you just can't live without! In fact, his real estate TV show has just been optioned in Hollywood!

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21 Comments

21 Comments

  1. Deb Tabor

    July 11, 2010 at 10:26 pm

    I vote insanity!

    No, actually – I do this for a number of reasons. First off, as primarily a buyer’s agent, I love the thrill of the hunt. I love negotiating a win/win. I love that excitement as first-timers open THEIR door with THEIR keys (I don’t love it so much when they call me because they’ve found x, y, and z wrong, but I know it goes with the territory *grin*). Second, I love working for myself. I love that my office is in my dining room, and I love not having to be behind a desk 8-5 Monday through Friday. Being a Realtor gives me time to work on another venture as well, hand-batching and selling sipping vinegars. I couldn’t work Farmers Markets from a desk.

    I love this job, even when I’m worried about when my next check will come in, and I’ll keep doing it for as long as I can.

    Deb

    • Herman Chan

      July 12, 2010 at 10:01 pm

      “hand-batching and selling sipping vinegars”

      deb, that is a great point. selling real estate does afford us the chance to pursue our other interests.

  2. Charlie Pitkin

    July 11, 2010 at 11:31 pm

    Ironic I should come across this tonight. I was chatting about this very topic with an entrepreneur friend of mine on a run around Town Lake in Austin this evening. At one point in the conversation I mentioned I’ve never made “less” in my professional career, yet never have I been wealthier.

    Three things came to mind.

    1. The challenge of making a deal come together. Whether it be finding a buyer for that impossible listing or helping find that elusive dream home for a buyer, there is nothing more satisfying than mission accomplished. I’m very competitive by nature so maybe that’s why this is my #1 reason.

    2. The ability to wake up in the morning and set the game plan. I love being able to call the shots on what I can do that day to make my client’s life a little better.

    3. Seeing first hand good people get good things. I know it sounds cliche, but having the ability to choose who you work with gives you a much better chance at working with incredibly nice well meaning people. Being part of them walking into the most meaningful purchase or sale of their lifetime gives me goose bumps everytime. It’s for this reason I am very careful who I will work with. No commission is worth missing out on this experience.

    • hermanchan.com

      July 13, 2010 at 5:23 am

      “I mentioned I’ve never made “less” in my professional career, yet never have I been wealthier.”

      so true! when i removed myself from the rat race, i can’t believe how much happier i became. money isn’t everything!

  3. Joe Loomer

    July 12, 2010 at 8:47 am

    I’ve gotta go with Charlie’s #3 here – it’s that simple – the reaction at the closing.

    I would also say it’s those of us in this market who are toughing it out that will reap the reward when the market stabilizes. The Chinese expression of the word “Crisis” is a combination of the characters for “Danger” and “Opportunity.” That pretty much sums up why we’re still at it.

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

    • Herman Chan

      July 12, 2010 at 10:04 pm

      thx for teaching me some chinese… confucius would be proud!

  4. Larry R Martin

    July 12, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    I got lucky when I started in my career in real estate. I chose the business because I learned to love land when I was a child, and began learning about it from others who knew how to make a living dealing in it, and building things on it.

    After many other interesting distractions (jobs) in other fields, I was encouraged by one of my wife’s bosses (a successful Silicon Valley industrial real estate developer) in 1975, to check out commercial brokerage. The man I was introduced to who was later to become my mentor, taught me ways of being in the business which assured ethical, honest survival, no matter what the market conditions. Such has been the case for me.

    Today, I look back on that training and realize my fortunate blessings for the privilege to have received it. I see more opportunity in toady’s market than I have seen in most every other market since I started in the business. If you are under 35 years of age, this is the start of the market of a lifetime!

    If your real estate career is struggling for all the reasons cited in Mr. Chan’s excellent article, I encourage you to find a seasoned, successful, local real estate professional who knows several (at least 3) past declining markets, and submit yourself to him/her for mentoring Then, pick their brain clean!

  5. LesleyLambert

    July 12, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    Boy do I hope Joe is right about reaping the rewards for sticking this out! I know that the economy has sent most of the hobby agents running to some other job (good news) and I do like that aspect of things.

    I am entering my 22nd year in real estate and am still doing it for a number of reasons:

    #1- flexible schedule
    #2- love helping people, I never met a good agent that didn’t
    #3- ability to run my own business…no real boss per se
    #4- no income cap (other than what the economy has set)

    There are more reasons than those, but that covers the biggest of them.

    • Herman Chan

      July 12, 2010 at 10:06 pm

      “hobby agents” HAHA! i’m going to start using that term.

  6. Richard Craycroft

    July 12, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    Sorry, but I have to take issue with a comment in your article:

    “overly picky home inspectors taking out their frustrated contractor dreams out on your house”

    You hear it all the time, “That Inspector is a deal killer”. Let me assure you I have never killed a deal. The deal may have killed itself, but I did not kill it. The deal may have had a touch of “assisted suicide”, but I have never killed a deal.

    I did not build the house, I was not the City Inspector on the house, I was not the sub contractor on the house, I was not the builder’s quality control on the house, I was in fact nowhere near this house until a client set an appointment for me to Inspect this house. I have no opinion regarding anything about this house. I did NOT create the problem.

    I am however, REQUIRED BY LAW to report the conditions present at this house. I observe, I report; that is my job. That is what I was hired to do. That is what I am REQUIRED BY LAW to do. That is what I do. I do that very well.

    So, do I kill deals? Or does the occasional deal kill itself?

    That being said, I feel Realtor’s pain. I have been doing this for over a decade. Realtors are my friends, my colleagues, and even my wife! I am not out to make your lives hell. Quite frankly, I save your butt more often than not. At the end of the day, we are all in this together. Our client’s interest MUST come first. If one house sucks, there are 10 others that are great.

    • Herman Chan

      July 12, 2010 at 10:13 pm

      richard, to be fair, there are good and not so good home inspectors…..just like there are some good and not so good realtors who also blow deals ( i know we don’t like to talk smack about our own, but, hey, it does happen!) ie, some snooty agents have an ego the size of jupiter , and let it get in the way of servicing the client first and foremost. or some are just so incompetent you wonder how they ever passed the state exam!

  7. Charlie Pitkin

    July 12, 2010 at 10:13 pm

    Hey Richard,

    How you doing man?

    Thanks for always doing an awesome job for my clients. I’m quite certain you are not to be thrown into the lump of “overly picky home inspectors taking out their frustrated contractor dreams out on your house”.

    Having been on site with both the “good and bad” inspectors, I can kind of see both sides here. At the end of the day the deal can come down to not the “quality” of the house, but the “quality” of the inspectors delivery. There are those inspectors out there that are as sensitive as a Bull in a China shop. These inspectors lose sight of the home buyer, who’s #1 fear is buying a lemon. They come across a bad GFCI outlet and present it as if it will likely kill their first born child! The same problem delivered with good bed side manner sounds much more like “It’s a $15 dollar part down at the home depot and any electrician can have it swapped out in 15 minutes.” Same problem, two different deliveries and two drastically different reactions from the buyer.

    A good inspector, like yourself, is seen an asset not a liability to a Realtor. Y’all can take the emotion out of a purchase and present the good, bad, and ugly all within the context of the big picture. A good inspector can ease a buyer’s concerns even if their house not the perfect one…which I have yet to find.

  8. Jim Whitlock

    July 13, 2010 at 8:48 am

    Charlie – Well stated and spot on!

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Opinion Editorials

The offensive myth of getting laid off being a blessing

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There’s an age-old trend in news to look for rags-to-riches stories. People love to hear about someone who’s down on their luck scraping together a genius idea and, through sheer grit (it seems), finding the motivation to finally strike out on their own and realize their dream.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: Person X is laid off from their long-time but unfulfilling office job, say at an oil company in Alberta, or a marketing agency where their good ideas are consistently shot down.

What seems like a situation to for despair is actually an opportunity in disguise— see, with their newfound freedom Person X has the ability to fully commit to their small business pipe dream.

In fact, the story goes, getting laid off was actually the best thing to ever happen to this person.

This story is a myth.

Although I don’t want to discredit anybody who has had the willpower, luck, and resources to succeed at launching their business, there are many people who are laid off who are truly in critically terrible times.

The insidious underlying message of this myth is that anybody who is truly devastated by being laid off is being weak or lazy.

It serves to alleviate the guilt of those who may have survived the lay off themselves; it helps organizations justify the fact that they might have had to let an otherwise good employee go for their own, corporate-level problems.

The characteristics that many of these laid-off-turned-successful-entrepreneurs have in common are the same sort of privileges that many take for granted – health, youth, a personal support system to help keep the lights on, and an established network of people that can be turned into a market of clients.

What happens to the many workers who are victims of ageism when they are laid off in favor of younger, less expensive workers?

What happens if you’re laid off and you can’t use your newfound time to work on your business plan because you’re raising young children?

The entrepreneurs who find opportunity in being suddenly jobless were probably already on their way to striking out on their own, with their being laid off acting as the defined starting point for a plan they might not have known was forming in their heads.

If you, a friend, or a colleague have the unfortunate luck to be laid off, don’t let this myth get under your skin.

It’s okay to have a rough time with a huge life event that is absolutely terrifying and difficult.

Hang in there.

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Opinion Editorials

3 things to do if you *really* want to be an ally to women in tech

(EDITORIAL) Diversity is known to strengthen the overall performance of a company and its teams, and there are a number of ways you can be an ally to the talented women already on your workforce.

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More and more women are leaving their positions with tech companies, citing lack of opportunity for advancement, wage gaps and even hostile working conditions as some of the reasons why.

What’s better for the tech industry and its employees than cultivating inclusive and diverse departments? Diversity is known to strengthen the overall performance of a company and its teams, and there are a number of ways you can be an ally to the talented women already on your workforce. To name a few:

1. Be open to listening to different perspectives.

It can be awkward to hear so many reports of workplace politics stacking against women, especially if you’re not a woman!

Instead of getting uncomfortable or defensive – ask open ended questions and be interested in a perspective that isn’t yours and may be unfamiliar.

Don’t seek to rationalize or explain the experiences you’re hearing about, as that can come off as condescending. It’s common for women to be interrupted or spoken over in team gatherings. If you notice this happening, bring the conversation back to where the interruption began. Offering your ear and counting yourself as responsible for making space will improve the overall quality of communication in your company.

Listening to and validating what women have to say about the quality of their employment with a company is an important step in the right direction.

Expressing something as simple as “I was interested in what you had to say – could you elaborate on your thought?” can help.

2. Develop an Employee Resource Group (ERG) program.

An ERG is a volunteer-based, employee-led group that acts as a resource for a particular group of employees. An ERG can help to foster inclusiveness through discussion, team-building activities and events. It’s common for a department to have only one or two women on the roster.

This can mean that the day to day feels disconnected from concerns commonly shared by women. disjointed it might feel to be on a high performing team, without access to relatable conversations.

3. Be responsible for your company’s culture.

Chances are, your company already has some amazing cultural values in place. That said, how often are you checking your own performance and your co-workers performances against those high standards? Strong company culture and values sound great, but whether or not they’re adhered to can make or break the mood of a work environment.

Many women say they’ve experienced extremely damaging and toxic cultural environments, which lead to hostility, frustration, and even harassment. Take action when you see the new woman uncomfortable with being hit on at team drinks.

Call out those who make unfriendly and uncouth comments about how women perform, look, or behave.

Setting a personal threshold for these kinds of microaggressions can help you lead by example, and will help build a trustworthy allyship.

(This article was first published here in November, 2016.)

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Opinion Editorials

How the Bullet Journal method has been hijacked and twisted

(EDITORIAL) I’m a big fan of the Bullet Journal method, but sticker-loving tweens have hijacked the movement. Worry not, I’m still using black and white bullet points with work tasks (not “pet cat,” or “smile more”).

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bullet journal

It’s taken me some time to come around to the Bullet Journal method, because it took me some time to fully understand it (I have a tendency to overthink simplicity). Now that I understand the use, I find it very beneficial for my life and my appreciation for pen-to-paper.

In short, it’s a quick and simple system for organization tasks and staying focused with everything you have going on. All you need to employ this method is a journal with graph or dotted paper, and a pen. Easy.

However, there seems to be this odd truth that: we find ways to simplify complicated things, and we find ways to complicate simple things. The latter is exactly what’s happened with the Bullet Journal method, thanks to creative people who show the rest of us up.

To understand what I’m talking about, open up Instagram (or Pinterest, or even Google) and just search “bullet journal.” You’ll soon find post after post of frilly, sticker-filled, calligraphy-laden journal pages.

The simple method of writing down bullets of tasks has been hijacked to become a competitive art form.

Don’t get me wrong, I like looking at this stuff because I dig the creativity. But, do I have time to do that myself? No! For honesty’s sake, I’ve tried just for fun and it takes too much damn time.

With this is mind, this new-found method of Bullet Journaling as an art is something that: a) defeats the purpose of accomplishing tasks quickly as you’re setting yourself back with the nifty art, and b) entrepreneurs, freelancers, executives, or anyone busy would not have time for.

Most of these people posting artistic Bullet Journal pages on Instagram are younger and have more time on their hands (and if you want to spend your time doing that, do you, man).

But, it goes against the simplistic method of Bullet Journaling. The intent of the method.

And, beneath the washi tape, stickers, and different colored pens, usually lies a list of: put away laundry, feed cat, post on Insta. So, this is being done more for the sake of art than for employing the method.

Again, I’m all for art and for people following their passions and creativities, but it stands to reason that this should be something separate from the concept of Bullet Journaling, as it has become a caricature of the original method.

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