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Opinion Editorials

Are real estate professionals actually masochists?



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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  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.


    • 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.


      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

Will shopping for that luxury item actually lower your quality of life?

(EDITORIAL) Want to buy yourself a pick-me-up? Have you thought of all the ramifications of that purchase? Try to avoid splurging on it.



shopping bags

In an era of “treat-yo-self,” the urge to splurge is real. It doesn’t help that shopping – or what ends up being closer to impulse shopping – provides us with a hit of dopamine and a fleeting sense of control. Whether your life feels like it’s going downhill or you’ve just had a bad day, buying something you want (or think you want) can seem like an easy fix.

Unfortunately, it might not be so great when it comes to long-term happiness.

As you might have already guessed, purchasing new goods doesn’t fall in line with the minimalism trend that’s been sweeping the globe. Being saddled with a bunch of stuff you don’t need (and don’t even like!) is sure to make your mood dip, especially if the clutter makes it harder to concentrate. Plus, if you’ve got a real spending problem, the ache in your wallet is sure to manifest.

If that seems depressing, I’ve got even more bad news. Researchers at Harvard and Boston College have found yet another way spending can make us more unhappy in the long run: imposter syndrome. It’s that feeling you get when it seems like you’re not as good as your peers and they just haven’t caught on yet. This insecurity often arises in competitive careers, academics and, apparently, shopping.

Now, there’s one big caveat to this idea that purchasing goods will make you feel inferior: it really only applies to luxury goods. I’m talking about things like a Louis Vuitton purse, a top of the line Mercedes Benz, a cast iron skillet from Williams Sonoma (or is that one just me?). The point is, the study found that about 67% of people – regardless of their income – believed their purchase was inauthentic to their “true self.”

And this imposter syndrome even existed when the luxury items were bought on sale.

Does this mean you should avoid making a nice purchase you’ve been saving up for? Not necessarily. One researcher at Cambridge found that people were more likely to report happiness for purchases that fit their personalities. Basically, a die-hard golfer is going to enjoy a new club more than someone who bought the same golf club to try to keep up with their co-workers.

Moral of the story: maybe don’t impulse buy a fancy new Apple watch. Waiting to see if it’s something you really want can save your budget…and your overall happiness.

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Opinion Editorials

How to ask your manager for better work equipment

(EDITORIAL) Old computer got you down? Does it make your job harder? Here’s how to make a case to your manager for new equipment without budget worries.



better equipment, better work

Aside from bringing the boss coffee and donuts for a month before asking, what is an employee to do when the work equipment bites.

Let’s be frank, working on old, crappy computers with inefficient applications can make the easiest tasks a chore. Yet, what do you do? You know you need better equipment to do your job efficiently, but how to ask the boss without looking like a whiner who wants to blow the department budget.

In her “Ask A Manager” column, Alison Green says an employee should ask for better equipment if it is needed. For example, the employee in her column has to attend meetings, but has no laptop and has to take a ton of notes and then transcribe them. Green says, it’s important to make the case for the benefits of having newer or updated equipment.

The key is showing a ROI. If you know a specific computer would be a decent upgrade, give your supervisor the specific model and cost, along with the expected outcomes. In addition, it may be worth talking to someone from the IT department to see what options might be available – if you’re in a larger company.

IT professionals who commented on Green’s column made a few suggestions. Often because organizations have contracts with specific computer companies or suppliers, talking with IT about what is needed to get the job done and what options are available might make it easier to ask a manager, by saying, “I need a new computer and IT says there are a few options. Here are my three preferences.” A boss is more likely to be receptive and discuss options.

If the budget doesn’t allow for brand new equipment, there might be the option to upgrade the RAM, for example. In a “Workplace” discussion on an employee explained the boss thinks if you keep a computer clean – no added applications – and maintained it will perform for years. Respondents said, it’s important to make clear the cost-benefit of purchasing updated equipment. Completing a ROI analysis to show how much more efficiently with the work be done may also be useful. Also, explaining to a boss how much might be saved in repair costs could also help an employee get the point across.

Managers may want to take note because, according to results of a Gallup survey, when employees are asked to meet a goal but not given the necessary equipment, credibility is lost.

Gallup says that workgroups that have the most effectively managed materials and equipment tend to have better customer engagement, higher productivity, better safety records and employees that are less likely to jump ship than their peers.

And, no surprise, if a boss presents equipment and says: “Here’s what you get. Deal with it,” employees are less likely to be engaged and pleased than those employees who have a supervisor who provides some improvements and goes to bat to get better equipment when needed.

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Opinion Editorials

Minimalism doesn’t have to be a quick process

(EDITORIAL) Minimalism is great and all…but how do you get started if you’re not sold on getting rid of basically everything you own?



minimalism desk

Minimalism. This trend has reared its head in many forms, from Instagram-worthy shots of near empty homes to Marie Kondo making a splash on Netflix last year. If you’re anything like me, the concept of minimalism is tempting, but the execution seems out of reach. Paring down a closet to fit into a single basket or getting rid of beloved objects can sometimes seem too difficult, and I get it! Luckily, minimalism doesn’t have to be quite so extreme.

#1 Digitally

Not ready to purge your home yet? That’s fine! Start on your digital devices. Chances are, there are plenty of easy ways to clean up the storage space on your computer or phone. When it comes to low stakes minimalism, try clearing out your email inbox or deleting apps you no longer use. It’ll increase your storage space and make upkeep much more manageable on a daily basis.

It’s also worth taking a look through your photos. With our phones so readily available, plenty of us have pictures that we don’t really need. Clearing out the excess and subpar pictures will also have the added bonus of making your good pictures easily accessible!

Now, if this task seems more daunting, consider starting by simply deleting duplicate photos. You know the ones, where someone snaps a dozen pics of the same group pose? Pick your favorite (whittle it down if you have to) and delete the rest! It’s an easy way to get started with minimizing your digital photo collection.

#2 Slowly

Minimalism doesn’t have to happen all at once. If you’re hesitant about taking the plunge, try dipping your toe in the water first. There’s no shame in taking your time with this process. For instance, rather than immediately emptying your wardrobe, start small by just removing articles of clothing that are not wearable anymore. Things that are damaged, for instance, or just don’t fit.

Another way to start slow is to set a number. Take a look at your bookshelf and resolve to get rid of just two books. This way, you can hold yourself accountable for minimizing while not pushing too far. Besides, chances are, you do have two books on your shelf that are just collecting dust.

Finally, it’s also possible to take things slow by doing them over time. Observe your closet over the course of six months, for instance, to see if there are articles of clothing that remain unworn. Keep an eye on your kitchen supplies to get a feel for what you’re using and what you’re not. Sure, that egg separator you got for your wedding looks useful, but if you haven’t picked it up, it probably has to go.

#3 Somewhat

Sometimes, minimalism is pitched as all or nothing (pun intended), but it doesn’t have to be that way. Just because I want to purge my closet doesn’t mean I’m beholden to purging my kitchen too. And that’s okay!

Instead of getting overwhelmed by everything that needs to be reduced, just pick one aspect of your life to declutter. Clear out your wardrobe and hang onto your books. Cut down on decorations but keep your clothes. Maybe even minimize a few aspects of your life while holding onto one or two.

Or, don’t go too extreme in any direction and work to cut down on the stuff in your life in general. Minimizing doesn’t have to mean getting rid of everything – it can mean simply stepping back. For instance, you can minimize just by avoiding buying more things. Or maybe you set a maximum number of clothes you want, which means purchasing a new shirt might mean getting rid of an old one.

The point is, there are plenty of ways to start on the minimalist lifestyle without pushing yourself too far outside your comfort zone. So, what are you waiting for? Try decluttering your life soon!

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