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You Can’t Handle The Truth, But I Can

“You can’t handle the truth! Son, we live in a world that has walls. And those walls have to be guarded by men with guns.”

Col. Nathan R. Jessep, played by the immortal Jack Nicholson, provided this amazing line in the 1992 production of A Few Good Men

Well it appears that the men holding the guns on the mortgage industry fell asleep on the wall, and have allowed them to be breached. And now we are all left facing the truth. And that truth is simply:

It is all our fault.

There, I said it. In my first Agent Genius post I came out and called us all on the carpet.

Shame - Jay (c) 2007.Who is “us” I hear a few of you asking? Well, that would be …

  • Mortgage Industry
  • Real Estate Agents
  • Appraisers
  • Government
  • Buyers
  • American Public
  • Economists
  • Developers
  • NAR, OAR, and every other REALTOR® organization

This really hit home with me on Monday as I sat at the Ohio Association of REALTORS®’ Legislative Conference in lovely downtown Columbus.

Speaker after speaker, from Ohio Governor Ted Strickland to financial leaders to agents, talked about how each is fixing the problem. All the while “back-peddling” to limit their connection to the current financial situation.

Only one, of the 15 talking heads, paraded before the group actually made a comment, “We should have done this four years ago to REALLY help our fellow Ohioans.”

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What a novel concept, helping people. Isn’t that why most of us got into the real estate industry to begin with? The ability to help our friends – new and old – achieve the American Dream.

Maybe, I’m a dreamer or maybe it’s my market. But I get a true sense of satisfaction and enrichment in my life by getting to know the people that I’m doing – or attempting to do – a transaction with. Some have become friends, some have become wonderful connections, but all of them have become “extended family”.

And if I wouldn’t put my Mom in this house, why would I put your family in that house or loan agreement?

We need to stop passing the buck, swallow “the red pill” and take our lumps. Stop thinking about dollars and transactions. Think about the families and treat these clients as family.

Treating your clients like family, that’s some truth I can handle.

Photo by J and used via license of Stock.xchng.

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Written By

Writer for national real estate opinion column, focusing on the improvement of the real estate industry by educating peers about technology, real estate legislation, ethics, practices and brokerage with the end result being that consumers have a better experience.



  1. Michelle DeRepentigny

    March 11, 2008 at 11:42 pm

    Amen. I wanted to be a social worker in a past life, but wan’t independently wealthy so I decided to sell real estate instead. I get high on off the look on a first time buyer’s face when they close and I don’t want to have to counsel them through a bankruptcy or foreclosure in the future. I’ve asked plenty of buyers if they want to live on beans and macaroni for the next thirty years when they come back with a prequal letter that will use up over half of their net income. What a great first post to AG!

  2. Matthew Rathbun

    March 12, 2008 at 4:59 am

    You’re right… it took all the villagers to set the village on fire. Now, we’re all looking at each other, as if to say “now what do we do about it”. Some are running and getting buckets of water and others are just running….

  3. Blue Ridge Georgia Land For Sale

    March 12, 2008 at 5:19 am

    When someone comes to a realtor they really don’t share financial information that is done with the lender. I could see some builders want to know the financial info but usually so they can use there inhouse lender. As far as the america public we voted our officials into office and they were your choice that is the democratic process. I agree all others hold a part in this lending crisis.

    I agree the are many areas not hit by this lending crisis and I think in part due to economic growth is good in that area and lenders have acted in a responsible way. As may ARM are due to set soon we can only hope phase two goes smoother.

  4. toby & sadie

    March 12, 2008 at 6:46 am

    I have been amazed by the lack of concern for the end-user. I have two potential future sellers that purchased my listings. How? Because I followed up with them after the close to see if they needed anything. Crazy thought, I know.

  5. Matt Scoggins

    March 12, 2008 at 9:27 am

    Treating all your clients like family makes it really easy to do the right thing.

  6. Ines

    March 12, 2008 at 9:29 am

    “you want the truth????? you can’t candle the truth!!” – one of my favorite lines EVER!!

    Education – it’s all about education. We have a responsibility to educate our customers and not assume that they know what they are doing just because they’ve done it before. We do treat all our customer’s like family and I always put myself in their shoes and help them analyze objectively.

    Welcome to the Genius!

  7. Cyndee Haydon

    March 12, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    Toby – that’s a classic line that resonates with us all – loved it! Looking forward to reading more from you – I think I can handle you’re truths – we’ll see 🙂

  8. Toby & Saide

    March 12, 2008 at 8:41 pm

    @Blue Ridge — Maybe I’m anal, maybe I just work with my clients a little different. However, I “know” how strong my clients are as buyers.

    I don’t care who they use to have their mortgages done, but that mortgage provider will know who I am and I’m going to pressure them. Sure there are some that will lie through their teeth to me, but they make the decision, I don’t.

    I’ve been at the closing table when one of my buyer’s threatened to walk and throw the deal away over $35 and it was made right. I’ve also been at the closing table representing the sellers when the buyer “thought” he was getting terms “a and b” and were told it was “c and d” and his agent said “don’t worry about that.”

    Right there at that moment, the agent became very responsible in this transaction..

  9. Eric Bouler

    March 13, 2008 at 7:54 pm

    This type of behavior did not happen everywhere. However every area is going to pay for it. I did one sub-prime loan in the last 200 transactions, rarely did arms or any of the fancy things. Everyone gets lumped into the bubble markets and its not a true picture of America. New Orleans is conservative when it comes to money and real estate, its extremely poor when compared to other areas so there may have been fewer targets. Maybe we were just too small or backward to worry about.

    Many times the whole family is involved in the transaction and the parents tend to guide the younger buyers inot a conservative. It is a common thread in many of my sales. Local lenders tend to rule the market that I work. Having the experience of Katrina do not expect government to come up with a thoughtful answer. Another view. Seems like we just had the Savings and Loan Crisis.

  10. Jacksonville Real Estate

    March 15, 2008 at 10:02 am

    “And if I wouldn’t put my Mom in this house, why would I put your family in that house?”

    I had many clients ask me during the seller’s market “Shouldn’t I invest in this new construction condo?”

    I advised them that the investment they were considering didn’t make sense because the rent they would receive couldn’t cover the mortgage payments and that when they went to sell they would be competing with all the other investors who bought. It wasn’t the sure thing their friend told them about.

    Well I lost some sales, but today the clients who listened to me are referring me their friends and families because they know I tell it like it is.

  11. PDX

    June 1, 2008 at 3:46 am

    ultimately it is up to the people to make that choice. You wouldn’t be doing your job if you turned everybody down. People need to have some common since.

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