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Op/Ed

After an agent’s suicide, we ponder the hidden pressures of real estate and how we can all help each other

Real estate professionals are often thought to have the “perfect” job, but there are some drawbacks people need to start discussing.

Regarding real estate, people often say, “this must be a great job.” While there are days, most real estate professionals would wholeheartedly agree, there are other days those same professionals wonder why on Earth they ever started in this business. Those people who are on the outside of the business looking in see professionals who get to set their own hours, not have a boss, and spend time outside of an office setting.

They see easy sales and fast money. What they don’t see are the long hours spend in the car, the immeasurable hours spent showing clients who have no real intention of purchasing a thing, and the listing you’ve had on the market for months that just won’t budge. These are the things the public doesn’t see.

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The pressure of the business

They also don’t see or feel the pressure.

The pressure to succeed, the pressure to make the highest sale of the month, the pressure to find the client the perfect house even though what they define as “perfect” changes on a daily basis, the pressure to be a “present” parent and partake in your children’s lives even though you can’t find five minutes to eat, let alone drive across town after a two hour showing to see a soccer game, the pressure to keep surviving in a business where there is very little job security are all things that the public doesn’t see and people don’t talk about for fear of looking incompetent or weak.

Keeping it all in

Even though the competition is fierce in the real estate business, struggling does not make you any less successful. Every real estate professional I know has gone through a period of wondering whether or not they’d be able to make enough to pay their bills at least a time or two.

I think when people stop talking about their pain and pressure is when things get tougher. Sure, you may not want to talk about your problems with someone in your office for fear they’ll exploit your problems further (and unfortunately, this has been known to happen), but with any luck there are other people in your circle you can discuss these things with; a friend, family member, pastor, counselor, or therapist.

Talking things through can often lead to the realization that these are only temporary setbacks and even if you quit real estate tomorrow, your life still has meaning and value.

Agents are just people

What am I leading up to here?

In a business where you’re required to smile, posit your success, and put yourself above your competition, we must not forget that our competitors are still human beings facing their own struggles. Selling a house should never come at the expense of someone else’s hardships.

In an article that hit close to home with our staff, Chris Lenquist writes a moving tribute about losing a competitor to suicide and how this has impacted his outlook on the business and what he plans to do about it in the future.

He writes, “As a person of influence in the real estate business here in Kansas City, I resolve this day to take more time to connect, really connect with other agents.  I resolve to help each agent I come in contact to understand how to succeed in this business and to not let it swallow them up.  I resolve to recognize pain when I see it and to say something, to do something.

How you can help fellow agents

While we are all responsible for our own actions, of course, I certainly think the world could do with more compassion, especially the world of real estate. Take the time to notice what’s going on around you. Engage with the people in your world, be it family, friends, or competitors.

You never know how much difference you can make by simply asking, “You look like you need someone to talk to; I’m here for you, or can I help with anything?”

If you or someone you know needs help, please call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). There are also some excellent resources at Project Semicolon.

UPDATE: Join us for a live video chat on the topic, inspired by this editorial.

#MentalHealth

Jennifer Walpole is a Senior Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds a Master's degree in English from the University of Oklahoma. She is a science fiction fanatic and enjoys writing way more than she should. She dreams of being a screenwriter and seeing her work on the big screen in Hollywood one day.

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