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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

Before you quit your job, ask yourself these 5 questions

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Frustrated at work? Here are 5 ideas utilizing design thinking and exploration tactics to assess if you really are ready to quit your job.

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Man reclining on beanbag with laptop, thoughtful. Considering tactics before you quit your job.

We have all been there. We are in a job that just doesn’t feel right for us. Maybe we strongly dislike our manager or even our day to day work responsibilities. We find it easy to blame everyone else for everything we dislike. We question life and ask “Is this what life is all about? Shouldn’t I be spending my time doing something I am more passionate about?” But, we probably like the regular paycheck… Thus, we stay there and possibly become more miserable by the day. Some of us may even start to feel physical symptoms of headaches, stomach aches, and possibly depression. We also may go to the internet like this person seeking answers and hoping someone else can tell us what to do:

“I feel conflicted but I want to quit my job. What should I do?

I was thinking of quitting my job because I dislike what I do, and I feel I am underpaid.

However last week my colleague tendered her resignation too. Needless to say, if I leave too, my whole department will fall into a larger mess and that causes some feelings of conflict within me.

Should my colleague quitting affect when I want to leave too? How do I go about quitting now?”

We can definitely empathize with this – it’s really uncomfortable, sometimes sad, and hard to be in a position where we feel we are underpaid and we aren’t happy.

So, how can you navigate a situation like this? How do you figure out if you should just quit your job? How can you be an adult about this?

Here are some exploratory questions, ideas, and some design thinking activities to help you answer this question for yourself.

  • Before you up and quit, assuming you don’t yet have your next opportunity lined up, have you considered asking for a raise – or better yet, figure out how you add value to the organization? Would your supervisor be willing to move you in to a new role or offer additional compensation?
  • If you don’t have a job lined up, do you have the recommended AT LEAST six months of living expenses in your savings account? Some would recommend that you have even more during a global pandemic where unemployment is at an all-time high – it may take longer to find a new position.
  • Do you have a safety net of family or friends that are willing and able to help you with your bills if you don’t have your regular paycheck? Would you be willing to put that burden on them so you can quit your job?
  • Why aren’t you job searching if you are unhappy? Is it because the task seems daunting and the idea of interviewing right now makes you want to puke?
  • What would your ideal job be and what would it take for you to go for it?

Many people claim they don’t like their job but they don’t know what to do next or even worse, don’t know what they WANT to do. To offer a little bit of tough love here: Well, then, that’s your job to figure it out. You can go on Reddit all you want, but no one else can tell you what is right for you.

Here are some ways to explore what may be an exciting career move for you or help you identify some areas that you need to learn more about in order to figure out where work will align with your skills, interests, and passions.

  1. Consider ordering the Design Your Life Workbook that provides writing prompts to help you figure out what it is that you are looking for in a job/career. You may also like the book Designing Your Work Life which is about “How to Thrive and Change and Find Happiness at Work”.
  2. Utilize design thinking to answer some of your questions. Make a diamond shape and in each of the four corners, write out the “Who” you want to be working with, “What” you’d like to be doing, “Where” you’d like to be, and “Why” you want to be there or doing that kind of work.
  3. Conduct informational interviews with people doing work that you think you might be interested in. Usually these conversations give you lots of interesting insights and either a green light to pursue something or validation that maybe that role isn’t right for you either.
  4. Get your resume updated. Sometimes just dusting off your resume, updating it, and making it ready gives you a feeling of relief that if you did really want to pursue a new job, you are almost ready. Consider updating your LinkedIn profile as well.
  5. Explore what you can do differently. A lot of what we can be frustrated about can be related to things out of our control. Consider exploring ways to work better with your team or how to grow to become invaluable. Tune in to Lindsey Pollak’s podcast, The Work Remix, where she gives great ideas on how to navigate working in current times where there are five generations in the workplace. There may be ways you need to adjust your communication style or tune in to emotional intelligence on how to better work with your supervisor or employees. Again, focus on what is within your control.

You may decide that you need to quit your job to be able to focus your energy on finding a better fit for you. But at the same time, be realistic. Most of us have to work to live. Everyone has bills, so you may continue working while you sort out some of the other factors to help you find a more exciting prospect. Either way, wishing you all the best on this journey, and the time and patience to allow you to figure it out.

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Opinion Editorials

New USPS duck-shaped truck design has mixed reactions

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) The USPS is getting a fleet of electronic delivery vehicles. We’re wondering if the actual design got lost in the mail.

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New USPS truck in a fictional neighborhood delivering mail.

So the USPS is getting new trucks and they look like ducks and maybe that sucks… or maybe it wucks. Like “works,” if a duck said it. Just give me this one please.

Anyway.

I don’t know how mean I can be here – there has to be something said for objective journalistic integrity – but I have a feeling most people are going to have a rather sarcastic reaction to the new design. I’m not so sure I can blame them – it has a kind of stubby little nose with a shortened hood and a boxy frame and super tall windshield, which gives the wheels a disproportionately large look compared to the rest of the silhouette. It’s sort of like a Nissan Cube but less millennial cool, which A) is discontinued (so maybe not so cool), and B) is not the car that had those giant hiphop hamsters running around, but I’m still going to link to it anyway.

Elon Musk must be breathing a sigh of relief right now.

The contract was awarded to Oshkosh Defense (which I was thrilled to find out is NOT the adorable kid’s clothing company, even though I personally think that would be hilarious if there was a factory making overalls for tiny humans alongside tactical defense trucks) and officially announced on February 23rd, 2021 to the tune of $482 million. Seriously though, someone is going to mix those up for the rest of all time and eternity; I’d never not think about my own baby pictures if some contractor from Oshkosh Defense showed up.

The release mentions that, “The historic investment is part of a soon-to-be-released plan the Postal Service has developed to transform its financial performance and customer service over the next 10 years through significant investments in people, technology and infrastructure as it seeks to become the preferred delivery service provider for the American public.” It’s called the NGDV – Next Generation Delivery Vehicle, which I happen to adore, and will pronounce as Nugduv, and you can’t stop me anyway. The old one was called the Grumman, by the way.

Some credit this as a radical change, and keeping in mind that radical doesn’t necessarily denote positive or negative, it seems like the perfect word to use here. Then there are those who correctly identify “a mixed bag of responses,” sort of like when you get a bag of candy at Halloween that has at least one thing no one likes. Some call it strange, while others defend it as something every new big vehicle should look like (this is where – as one of many – I found it called a “duck” which oh man do I love, quack quack).

We can also hit up the ever fair public opinion of Twitter, because why wouldn’t we?

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This is how I would draw a car. That is not a plus for this design

I really can’t get over that last one. But I mean, whoa. That’s quite the spectrum. There’s less disagreement on pizza toppings I think. But luckily I think we’re safe there – Domino’s makes people drive their personal cars.

Taking a step back and putting snide commentary away for a moment, there’s some areas that should be discussed. First – and what should probably be obvious – there was a laundry list of requirements and restrictions from the USPS, which made Nir Kahn – design director from custom carmaker Plasan – offer up his own tweets that give some insight on dimensions and design:

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I was involved in an early proposal for the USPS truck so I know the requirements well. They pretty much dictated the proportions – this package sketch shows that to meet the ergonomic and size requirements, there wasn’t much freedom 1/2 #USPS pic.twitter.com/Fk35g98Z83

Kahn mentions that “there wasn’t much freedom,” but also that “it could have looked much better,” and this sort of underlines the entire discussion I think – there were goals in place, and possibly some more aesthetically pleasing ways to meet them, but the constraints won out and drove (hehe) the design more than style did.

Certainly, there are other concerns – the ability for USPS drivers to reach a mailbox while seated is paramount. Others have pointed out that this design – with its large windshield and shortened front – should help with safety around small children (all the better if they are wearing Oshkosh B’gosh, because that implies they are tiny and may not be at all concerned with the dangers of streets). The open field-of-vision will aid in making sure drivers can navigate places that might be frequented by any number of pedestrians, so that’s a plus.

Further, if you get struck by one of these, you’ll basically “just” get kneecapped versus taking it square to the torso. The duck article is the one making this call, and I think there’s some merit there (though it makes me question how the USPS fleet is going to do against the SUVs and big trucks out in the wild). It then goes on to point out that this design has more cargo space, fitting into the idea of “rightsizing,” where the form and function of the vehicle meet in a way that is downsized, but still punches above its weight.

“From smaller fire engines to nimbler garbage trucks, making vehicles better scaled to urban tasks can make a huge difference, not only for keeping other cars moving on narrow streets, but also to ensure that humans on those same streets can access the bike lanes, sidewalks, and curb cuts they need to get around.”

I didn’t try too hard to find stats on crashes in mail trucks, but seems like something that should be addressed.

Maybe the biggest point here is that we sort of have to get new trucks – they are outliving their 24 year expectancy and catching on fire. On FIRE. I mean a mail truck might be the worst place for a fire. I’m not even sure I can’t think up a better answer… Ok maybe toilets would be worse.

The new vehicles can be either petrol or electric powered, have 360 cameras, airbags, and automatic braking. Oh, and air conditioning, which the old vehicles did not have. So yes, literally the worst place to have a fire. But due to the taller vehicles, someone can stand in them now! So escape is even easier! Hooray!

A series of delays pushed back the introduction of new vehicles from their 2018 projected date, with poor initial prototypes and the pandemic being major setbacks. Aggressive bidding led to extended deadlines, which had been narrowed down to a small list of candidates that included Workhorse (who unfortunately suffered a large stock plunge following the announcement). It’s been in the works for at least six years.

In the end, I don’t think we can discount all the advantages here – more efficient vehicles that are safer and provide drivers with modern amenities. That’s a LOT of good. I think once the initial goofy shock is over, the design will be accepted. Everyone thought Nintendo’s Wii was a hilarious name (still pretty much is regardless of being in the public book of acceptable nomenclature), and Cybertruck sales are brisk, so I think we can set a lot of this aside. The Edsel these are not.

So hey, new USPS vehicles in 2023, like an exceedingly late birthday present. All I want to see is a bunch of baby ducks following one of them around oh please let that happen. The USPS kind of has an identity crisis in the modern era, so maybe a funny little cute silly boxmobile is just the right way to get some attention.

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Opinion Editorials

Declutter your quarantine workspace (and brain)

(EDITORIAL) Can’t focus? Decluttering your workspace can help you increase productivity, save money, and reduce stress.

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decluttering

It’s safe to say that we’ve all been spending a lot more time in our homes these last few months. This leads us to fixate on the things we didn’t have time for before – like a loose doorknob, or an un-alphabetized bookshelf, or that we’ve put off ‘declutter’ on our to-do list for too long.

The same goes for our workspaces. Many of us have had to designate a spot at home to use for work purposes. For those of you who still need to remain on-site, you’ve likely been too busy to focus on your surroundings.

Cleaning and organizing your workspace every so often is important, regardless of the state of the world, and with so much out of our control right now, this is one of the few things we can control.

Whether you’re working from a home office or an on-site office, take some time for quarantine decluttering. According to The Washington Post, taking time to declutter can increase your productivity, lower stress, and save money (I don’t know about you, but just reading those 3 things makes me feel better already).

Clutter can cause us to feel overwhelmed and make us feel a bit frazzled. Having an office space filled with piles of paper containing irrelevant memos from five years ago or 50 different types of pens, has got to go – recycle that mess and reduce your stress. The same goes with clearing files from your computer; everything will run faster.

Speaking of running faster, decluttering and creating a cleaner workspace will also help you be more efficient and productive. Build this habit by starting small: try tidying up a bit at the end of every workday, setting yourself up for a ready-to-roll morning.

Cleaning also helps you take stock of stuff that you have so that you don’t end up buying more of it. Create a designated spot for your tools and supplies so that they’re more visible – this way, you’ll always know what you have and what needs to be replenished. This will help you stop buying more of the same product that you already have and save you money.

So, if you’ve been looking to improve your focus and clearing a little bit of that ‘quarantine brain’, start by getting your workspace in order. You’ll be amazed at how good it feels to declutter and be “out with the old”; you may even be inspired to do the same for your whole house. Regardless, doing this consistently will create a positive shift in your life, increasing productivity, reducing stress, and saving you money.

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