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Changing the real estate prism – an outsider’s perspective

For a great number of years I’ve looked through my own myopic real estate prism in a fairly consistent way. As the current economic downturn has progressed, my view has narrowed, some would say into a very cynical eye for the professional world around me. The passing of Joe Ferrara has caused me to revisit that.

To be clear I did not know him but only had the privilege of reading the countless thoughts of people far more versed in his world than I ever was. This morning, I picked up the July/August Realtor Magazine and saw the piece he had written entitled ‘Do Right by Doing Good.’

There it was. All of the comments that I’d seen from others, quotes attributed to him, anecdotes from friends – were all summarized in that column. The emphasis was that in even in these challenging times we should be finding ways to help those who couldn’t afford it, to give unselfishly of our knowledge and expertise even as some of us struggled for survival.

To Joe, the words pro bono were ones that we should all be embracing and sharing within each of our respective communities. The concept wasn’t optional… it was a necessity. Amidst the half a dozen examples of how he proposed we do that, I began to think about the last several years of my business and how it had affected me.

For all of us it has been a trying time. For many, we haven’t always taken the time to step back and look at who we were becoming professionally in the midst of all of these challenges. Joe, no doubt, had these too but still managed to keep perspective even in the face of his own mortality.

In reading one of the last pieces he must have written, I could not help but be affected by his enormous amount of unselfishness and grace when it would have been easily forgiven if he’d been otherwise. I’ve not always been so gracious in the face of adversity, I’m embarrassed to admit, but his example has inspired me to consider another path.

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I cannot promise not to blast the next mortgage broker who tells me ‘this buyer is gold Greg,’ only to not be able to complete the transaction. In addition I cannot always promise to be forgiving when someone in our industry intentionally undermines an effort to give back to those around me. What I will take from learning more about Joe Ferrara is that there are people in our midst who care enough to give, work hard enough to make a difference and share enough to matter.

I’ve heard it said that the mark of a true legacy is the lasting affect one has on those they’ve never met. I think we all have a legacy to live up to in realizing how special Joe was to our industry and the communities he affected.

Written By

Realtor, Speaker, former Indianapolis radio personality. Least prettiest person ever on HGTV. Crashed in a helicopter and a Cessna 182. Seven lives left. Blessed by an amazing family!



  1. Lani Rosales

    August 12, 2010 at 1:35 am

    Beautiful, Greg.

  2. Sell Property Cyprus

    August 12, 2010 at 8:03 am

    Times are hard at the moment globally.. Sometimes you just have to take a few steps back and look at the wider picture.

  3. Liz Benitez

    August 12, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    Very nicely put

  4. Brian Brady

    August 12, 2010 at 7:21 pm

    Joe certainly strummed a virtuous chord when he penned the pro bono piece. As is often the case, we sometimes overlook the good deeds we perform without desire for public recognition.

    What Joe specifically suggested was for agents to work a transaction or two for free, to “help the cause”….but…so many of you work for free already!

    How many times have you counseled families, in financial distress, about pursuing a loan modification? How many homes have you listed, pleading with sellers to reduce prices in a rapidly declining market, just to prepare them for the next agent who benefited from your sage advice? How many buyers have you courted, helped to define exactly what they want, shown them homes, only to have them negotiate directly with an owner? Interestingly enough, if you knew the buyer well, you counseled them in that FSBO purchase, without pay, anyway.

    How many of you mortgage brokers counseled families in distress, taking countless hours to explain why they couldn’t refinance their homes, referring them to a Realtor, then counseling them post-event (so that they can repair their credit report), only to lose that customer when she moves to a different state? How many mortgage brokers just said no, telling customers they needed to save up more money and/or pay down debt? How may of you met with “dreamers”, without jobs, to tell them how to qualify for a loan, knowing they wouldn’t follow through anyway?

    I submit the “giving back” lies within the countless unseen good deeds we do without request for compensation.

    Joe came from an industry that is compensated hourly. As such, their efforts to set aside time for the indigent is noble, carefully noted on time sheets, and promoted to future paying customers to demonstrate their noblisse oblige. Y’all are compensated on commission; you’re paid for results.

    Yet, you do good anyway.

    If you want to keep time sheets, to record the free work you do for the NAR, so that it can promote the noble work of its membership, have at it. I don’t think anyone has to “work a short sale for free” to “give back”, though.

  5. Ken Montville

    August 12, 2010 at 8:22 pm

    I met Joe twice and read Sellsius religiously and he was without a doubt a warm, creative and caring person with a great sense of humor.

    I first read about his advocacy for a pro bono transaction on Sellsius and thought that, while it was a good idea, in theory, I wasn’t sure how to actually implement the suggestion, in practice.

    There are quite a lot of players in any real estate transaction and even just taking into consideration the real estate agent’s part, it still remains a bit clunky.

    It would be nice if we, as Realtors, could pull our halos out of the attic, dust them off a bit and be giving and generous in the way Joe was suggesting. However, in this instance I tend to agree with Brian Brady. We do an awful lot “pro bono” in the normal course of our career. Most Realtors I know are struggling to make ends meet while contributing to their religious community or other charitable cause from Habitat for Humanity to the work they may put in for the local Rotary or Sierra Club chapter.

    Doing good, even anonymously, doesn’t have to be specific to real estate.

  6. Greg Barnhouse

    August 13, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    Greg, thanks for the thoughtful remarks. I really appreciate the opportunity to consider my own actions toward others around me, especially during these tough times. It helps one to realize that “no matter how tough it is for you right now, there are others in more dire straits”. Whenever I have been in need myself, I know it has been acts of service toward others that I can help that has pulled me through the tough times.

    Just think if we ALL were looking out after each other . . .

    There is power in this.

    Thanks so much,

  7. White Bear Lake MN Homes for Sale

    August 21, 2010 at 5:44 pm

    There is no personal price higher than sacrificing your own morality to make a dollar. Give whenever you can give, and you’ll see great returns in appreciation. Very nice article!


    March 31, 2018 at 12:50 am

    Doing good for the sake of it is becoming more and more rare. Joe Ferrara’s wisdom is definitely missed. RIP.

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