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Opinion Editorials

Open letter: chastising the laziness of the real estate industry

When you take a hard look at the individuals practicing real estate, it becomes quickly evident who the “A” students are, versus those whose work simply doesn’t deserve to be on mom’s fridge.

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mother

mother

The art of growing up

My mom used to love everything I made. As a kid, this included finger-paintings, poems, and music. She loved all of it, and never hesitated to tell me how awesome it was.

There was a point as a teenager when everything I made wasn’t quite worthy for a place on my mom’s fridge. There was an unspoken expectation that I would produce only my best work. I couldn’t sneak bad grades, lousy projects, or plagiarized essays past my mom.

This used to bother me deeply. Why couldn’t I just cruise through my teenage years? My friends didn’t work as hard on their school work. I was passing all of my classes.

I wonder what my teachers thought of our work? It was clear to them who really explored the lessons, spent time interpreting them, and who created meaningful responses to the concepts presented.

Open letter to my industry:

In my profession of real estate, lazy students mail out 33 pre-fab marketing pieces a year. “C” students take cell phone pictures for their listings. Lethargic students allow others to build powerful content platforms, and simply put their name on the product like they made it themselves. This is not your best stuff. And it doesn’t deserve a spot on your mom’s fridge.

Sure, you passed the class though, right? What’s the big deal?

Well, you are slowly killing our industry. We are losing clients to the market itself, and each bad experience a consumer has as a result of your laziness further perpetuates the lousy stereotypes of our industry and forces the agent population closer to irrelevancy.

Accountability in real estate

No one is keeping us accountable the way in which my mom held me accountable.

“A” students hold themselves accountable. They create original work. They don’t copy. They research, audit, and adjust.

I want to make stuff that is worthy of my mom’s fridge. And I think you can make stuff that makes it onto her fridge, too. Just don’t expect to send her a million mailers, trap her with a “squeeze page,” or ask her for a referral when she hasn’t even met you. This is not your best stuff. And it won’t make it on her fridge.

Greg is the principal owner of Fischer Real Estate Services, a Fort Worth firm specializing in customer value and community enrichment. He's also an MBA at TCU, and a proud member of the Naval Reserves. In his spare time - he sleeps.

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16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. Michael Gibbons

    November 14, 2012 at 9:45 am

    more like head in the sand:

  2. Michael Gibbons

    November 14, 2012 at 9:49 am

    1) NAR needs to reconstitute the professional stature of Realtors* 2) do something with online – just fix it 3) buyers pay “fee” for buy side expertise, sellers pay “fee” for sell side – this buyer pay all is like something arcane maritime law from the 18th century…put me in charge those would be my objectives and fixing those three fixes everything – *make Realtors the number one respected profession – yes above nurses …take it ON I dare you

  3. Andrew Mckay

    November 14, 2012 at 10:29 am

    This will never happen but simply after 2 years probation if a realtor isn’t grossing X amount of commissions or selling/buying X amount of homes they loose their license. How can someone represent the client well if they aren’t continually getting experience and becoming better by actually working and closing offers.

  4. Steve Nicewarner

    November 14, 2012 at 10:55 am

    This is one of the things NAR should be doing — driving all Realtors towards excellence as the standard

    • JimLee

      November 16, 2012 at 8:39 am

      @Steve Nicewarner Just for the record NAR has always encouraged and promulgated excellence in our profession. The true issue is the Realtors that won’t take the time and make the investments to take advantage of the tools and training available.
      My partner and I just got back from the NAR Convention in Orlando; 4 days crammed packed with classes, networking, and the trade show full of new and existing products to make you better and more successful.

      • Greg Fischer

        November 16, 2012 at 1:32 pm

        @JimLee  @Steve Nicewarner interesting points Jim, and kind of at the heart of this article. We are encouraged to do well. So are our kids. We all are. Its up to us as individuals to take the tools, education, and training that we receive and make excellent stuff with it

  5. beachtowne

    November 14, 2012 at 11:23 am

    What’s up with your website? I honestly was expecting to be blown away since you are up on your soapbox and all. It is unique, no doubt, but how exactly is it providing “customer value and community enrichment”? Teach me, Greg.

    • Greg Fischer

      November 16, 2012 at 1:27 pm

      @beachtowne dude, thanks for checking it out. I’m not coordinated enough to stand on a soapbox, I just fall off every time. But I do like to write about stuff thats on my mind – so if you want to have a conversation, great. If you want to snark away in a corner – than do that.

  6. stellaremarketing

    November 14, 2012 at 11:36 am

    Thanks for article Greg.  After years of working in and around real estate Ive always been shocked at the poor performance ‘students’ but then I am reminded of how this is the case in nearly EVERY profession – from teaching thru management.  It does make the stronger and more engaged shine however 🙂

  7. gregcook01

    November 14, 2012 at 5:57 pm

    Seems to me this is not NARs problem but a broker problem. Unfortunately, the economics of our business have caused many brokers to become landlords collecting rent checks each month. Succeeding a market requires hard work AND local knowledge and NAR can’t provide that.
    Of course I could be wrong

    • Greg Fischer

      November 16, 2012 at 1:35 pm

      @gregcook01 Greg – interesting comment about brokers acting like landlords collecting rent checks. That sounds about right. Also, as far as tools helping us do our jobs….. I look at it this way. You can give everyone a hammer. Some people will use it to build a birdhouse, and some people will use it to build a castle. Its our own prerogative.

  8. annarborrealtor

    November 14, 2012 at 7:49 pm

    Greg, I’ve often wondered if Realtors (some) had 9-5 jobs how they would make it. Seriously, I have more leads than I know what to do with and it is hard to find buyer agents that want to work. (((sigh)))

    • Greg Fischer

      November 16, 2012 at 2:15 pm

      @annarborrealtor amazing how much business is just out there for the taking

  9. gregcook01

    November 16, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    Greg, you’re right but I think the more immediate question, is who will pick up the hammer at all?

  10. yoweathers

    December 3, 2012 at 7:57 pm

    You brought out valid points.  It helps to reminds me to make sure I am doing “A” work. Thanks

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Opinion Editorials

7 ways to carve out me time while working from home

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) It can be easy to forget about self-care when you’re working from home, but it’s critical for your mental health, and your work quality.

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Woman in hijab sitting on couch, working from home on a laptop

We are all familiar with the syndrome, getting caught up in work, chores, and taking care of others, and neglecting to take care of ourselves in the meantime. This has always been the case, but now, with more people working from home and a seemingly endless lineup of chores, thanks to the pandemic. There is simply so much to do.

The line is thinly drawn between personal and professional time already, with emails, cell phones, and devices relentlessly reaching out around the clock, pulling at us like zombie arms reaching up from the grave. Working from home makes this tendency to always be “on” worse, as living and working take place in such close proximity. We have to turn it off, though.

Our brains and bodies need down time, me-time, self-care. Carving out this time is one of the kindest and most important things you can do for yourself. If we can begin to honor ourselves like this, the outcome with not only our mental and physical health, but also our productivity at work, will be beneficial. When we make the time to do things we love, our body untenses, our mind’s gears slow down that constant grinding. Burnout behooves nobody.

Our work will also benefit. Healthier, happier, more well rested, and well treated minds and bodies can work wonders! Our immune systems also need this, and we need our immune systems to be at their peak performance this intense season.

I wanted to write this article, because I have such a struggle with this in my own life. I need to print it out and put it in my workspace. Last week, I posted something on my social media pages that so many people shared. It is clear we all need these reminders, so I am paying it forward here. The graphic was a quote from Devyn W.

“If you are reading this, release your shoulders away from your ears, unclench your jaw, and drop your tongue from the roof of your mouth.”

There now, isn’t that remarkable? It is a great first step. Let go of the tension in your body, and check out these ways to make yourself some healing me-time.

  1. Set aside strict no-work times. This could be any time of day, but set the times and adhere to them strictly. This may look like taking a full hour for lunch, not checking email after a certain hour, or committing to spending that time outdoors, reading, exercising, or enjoying the company of your loved ones. Make this a daily routine, because we need these boundaries. Every. Single. Day.
  2. Remember not to apologize to anyone for taking this me-time. Mentally and physically you need this, and everyone will be better off if you do. It is nothing to apologize for! Building these work-free hours into your daily schedule will feel more normal as time goes on. This giving of time and space to your joy, health, and even basic human needs is what should be the norm, not the other way around.
  3. Give yourself a device-free hour or two every day, especially before bedtime. The pinging, dinging, and blinging keeps us on edge. Restful sleep is one of the wonderful ways our bodies and brains heal, and putting devices away before bedtime is one of the quick tips for getting better sleep.
  4. Of course, make time for the things you absolutely love. If this is a hot bath, getting a massage, reading books, working out, cooking or eating an extravagant meal, or talking and laughing with a loved one, you have to find a way to get this serotonin boost!
  5. Use the sunshine shortcut. It isn’t a cure-all, but sunlight and Vitamin D are mood boosters. At least when it’s not 107 degrees, like in a Texas summer. But as a general rule, taking in at least a good 10-15 minutes of that sweet, sweet Vitamin D provided by the sun is good for us.
  6. Spend time with animals! Walk your dog, shake that feathery thing at your cat, or snuggle either one. Whatever animals make you smile, spend time with them. If you don’t have pets of your own, you could volunteer to walk them at a local shelter or even watch a cute animal video online. They are shown to reduce stress. Best case scenario is in person if you are able, but thankfully the internet is bursting with adorable animal videos, as a backup.
  7. Give in to a bit of planning or daydreaming about a big future trip. Spending time looking at all the places you will go in the future and even plotting out an itinerary are usually excellent mood-boosters. It’s a bit different in 2020, as most of us aren’t sure when we will be able to go, but even deciding where you want to go when we are free to travel again can put a positive spin on things.

I hope we can all improve our lives while working from home by making time for regenerating, healing, and having fun! Gotta run—the sun is out, and my dog is begging for a walk.

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Opinion Editorials

Why robots freak us out, and what it means for the future of AI

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Robots and humans have a long way to go before the social divide disappears, but research is giving us insight on how to cross the uncanny valley.

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Close of R2D2 toy, an example of robots that we root for, but why?

We hate robots. Ok, wait, back up. We at least think they are more evil than good. Try it yourself – “are robots” in Google nets you evil before good. Megatron has higher SEO than Optimus Prime, and it’s not just because he’s so much cooler. It cuz he evil, cuz. It do be like that.

It’s not even a compliment to call someone robotic; society connotes this to emotionless preprogrammed shells of hideous nothing, empty clankbags that walk and talk and not much else. So, me at a party. Or if you’re a nerd, you’re a robot. (Me at a party once again.)

Let’s start by assuming robots as human-like bipedal machines that are designed with some amount of artificial intelligence, generally designed to fulfill a job to free up humanity from drudgery. All sounds good so far. So why do they creep us out?

There’s a litany of reasons why, best summed up with the concept of the uncanny valley, first coined by roboticist Masahiro Mori (Wow he’s still alive! The robots have not yet won) in 1970. Essentially, we know what a human is and how it looks and behaves against the greater backdrop of life and physics. When this is translated to a synthetic being, we are ok with making a robot look and act like us to a point, where we then notice all the irregularities and differences.

Most of these are minor – unnaturally smooth or rigid movements, light not scattering properly on a surface, eyes that don’t sync up quite right when they blink, and several other tiny details. Lots of theories take over at this point about why this creeps us out. But a blanket way to think about it is that our expectation doesn’t match what we are seeing; the reality we’re presented with is off just enough and this makes us uncomfortable .

Ever stream a show and the audio is a half second off? Makes you really annoyed. Magnify that feeling by a thousand and you’re smack in the middle of the uncanny valley. It’s that unnerving. One possible term for this is abjection, which is what happens the moment before we begin to fear something. Our minds – sensing incompatibility with robots – know this is something else, something other , and faced with no way to categorize this, we crash.

This is why they make good villains in movies – something we don’t understand and given free will and autonomy, potentially imbued with the bias of a creator or capable of forming terrifying conclusions all on its own (humans are a virus). But they also make good heroes, especially if they are cute or funny. Who doesn’t love C3PO? That surprise that they are good delights us. Build in enough appeal to a robot, and we root for them and feel empathy when they are faced with hardships. Do robots dream of electric sheep? Do robots have binary souls? Bits and zeros and ones?

Professor Jaime Banks (Texas Tech University’s College of Media & Communication) spends a lot of time thinking about how we perceive robots. It’s a complex and multifaceted topic that covers anthropomorphism, artificial intelligence, robot roles within society, trust, inherently measuring virtue versus evil, preconceived notions from entertainment, and numerous topics that cover human-robot interactions.

The world is approaching a future where robots may become commonplace; there are already robot bears in Japan working in the healthcare field. Dressing them up with cute faces and smiles may help, but one jerky movement later and we’ve dropped all suspension.

At some point, we have to make peace with the idea that they will be all over the place. Skynet, GLaDOS in Portal, the trope of your evil twin being a robot that your significant will have to shoot in the middle of your fight, that episode of Futurama where everything was a robot and they rose up against their human masters with wargod washing machines and killer greeting cards, the other Futurama episode where they go to a planet full of human hating murderous robots… We’ve all got some good reasons to fear robots and their coded minds.

But as technology advances, it makes sense to have robots take over menial tasks, perform duties for the needy and sick, and otherwise benefit humanity at large. And so the question we face is how to build that relationship now to help us in the future.

There’s a fine line between making them too humanlike versus too mechanical. Pixar solved the issue of unnerving humanoids in their movies by designing them stylistically – we know they are human and accept that the figure would look odd in real life. We can do the same with robots – enough familiarity to develop an appeal, but not enough to erase the divide between humanity and robot. It may just be a question of time and new generations growing up with robots becoming fixtures of everyday life. I’m down for cyborgs too.

Fearing them might not even be bad, as Banks points out: “…a certain amount of fear can be a useful thing. Fear can make us think critically and carefully and be thoughtful about our interactions, and that would likely help us productively engage a world where robots are key players.”

Also, check out Robot Carnival if you get the chance – specifically the Presence episode of the anthology.

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Opinion Editorials

4 simple tips to ease friction with your boss while working remotely

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Find it challenging to get along with your boss while working from home? Here are a few things you can try to ease the tension.

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Woman stressed over laptop in remote work.

Most people probably feel like their relationship with their boss is fine. If you’re encountering friction with your boss for any reason, though, remote work will often exacerbate it—this is one instance where distance doesn’t necessarily make the heart grow fonder. Here are a few ways to remove some of that friction without adding to your boss’ overflowing plate.

According to CNN, determining the problem that exists between you and your boss should be your first step. There’s one caveat to consider, however: Your boss’ boundaries. Problem-solving on your own time is fine, but demanding more of your boss’ time—especially when you’re supposed to be working—may compound the issue.

An easy way around this is a low-impact communique—e.g., an email—sent at the beginning or end of the workday. Since that’s a more passive communication style that takes only a minute or two out of your day, it’s less likely to frustrate your boss further.

If ironing out the issue isn’t your prerogative for now, examining your boss’ parameters for success is another place to start. Does your boss prefer to receive multiple updates throughout the day, or do they want one summative report each morning? Do you respect your boss’ preferred communication styles? These are important questions to ask during remote work. If you find yourself reaching out more than necessary, for example, it may be time to cut back.

It can also be difficult to satiate your boss if you don’t know their expectations. If you’re able to speak to them about the expectations regarding a project or task, do it; clarifying the parameters around your work will always help both of you. It is worth noting that some supervisors may expect that you know your way around some types of responsibilities, though, so err on the side of complementing that knowledge rather than asking for comprehensive instructions.

Finally, keep in mind that some bosses simply don’t communicate the same way you do. I’ve personally been blessed with a bevy of nurturing, enthusiastic supervisors, but we’ve all had superiors who refuse to acknowledge our successes and instead focus on our failures. That can be a really tough mentality to work with during remote periods, but knowing that they have a specific communication style that hampers their sociability can help dampen the effects.

As always, communication is key—even if that means doing it a little bit less than you’d like.

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