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Pessimism – Your New Paradigm?

The World is Upside Down

Between the credit crisis, housing bubble, Wall Street collapse, ridiculous food and goods pricing, gasoline pricing, and overall downward pressure on optimism, it seems on the inside that the world is just upside down.

Every Man for Themselves

I’ve watched blogs become vacated and static, voices go silent, and excitement go dormant time and time again around the blogging community because, to be quite honest, many just either don’t have the answer, good news to speak of, or fear making an educated guess because what’s going on is very different (or at least it feels that way).

Why Aren’t The Phones Ringing?

What’s most amusing to me about the current state of affairs online is much the very same reason I as an agent said goodbye to the office store front. I loathe being around negativity, I dislike being around naysayers, and it’s difficult for me to listen to people who truly believe that nothing can be done any other way than it’s ever been done before. The mentality of waiting for the phones to ring drives me nuts, and dreaming that the grass will be green in March, and until then I’ll just complain is something that drives me insane- meanwhile bitching and soapboxing about anything and everything the producers do is a waste of time and probably wrong.

Peace Out

I said goodbye to that feeling many many years ago, and many times, it’s served me well. Those people I once left sitting in that office are no longer in the business- they failed to adapt, they accepted conditions on face value, and seemed okay with waiting on a new solution in a box for $99.95 per year that would get them through the winter- hilarious.

On the Move

I’ve always been of a different school of thought, I truly dislike experts that preach a one track approach to a multi-pronged scenario. I want products, goods, and services from companies that think like me, who enjoy the risk of doing something differently, who step outside of the box, that want to give more for a little less and who care about the consumer experience.

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Avoiding Flatlining

This is important because it happens to be a lot like my business. You see, if the writing is on the wall that rentals will be what’s hot for the next 9 months, guess what, I’m going after that market- I’m not the snob that says that it’s beneath me. Why would I say that or even make such a move? Because those that I lease today will buy through me tomorrow- a new pool of personal clients. I enjoy the practice of being on the job, close to the ground to feel where the world is trending, and in the trenches with the consumer delivering outside of the box thinking, great service for maybe a little less, and yes, adopting new tools to deliver fantastic service to my clients.

Planning and Understanding

Even in bad times, I want to engage buyers and sellers, renters and those not in the market; I want my fingers on the pulse of people, not on the pulse of the office- it’s why I remain engaged in the blogging community, why I write and read blogs, and why I’m very careful not to burn bridges. I remain close to thinkers who think like I do who I believe are pulse takers and opportunity developers.

There is no time for pessimism for the real estate professional, it’s our job to seek out constructive information and create opportunities for those wanting to buy and sell, our job to meet that consumer in whatever venue or avenue the consumer wishes to engage, and deliver realistic solutions.

The Motivation is Not the Goal

I’ve been so fed up with the mindset that a successful agent is the top producer mentality for years, it’s truly what makes me sick to my stomach about this profession. In my eyes, the successful agent is the agent that is unsatisfied, that beats odds, and finds opportunity in bad situations. Those that can use a pulse to adapt and be ahead of the curve, or swerve their business to reduce the impact of circumstances beyond their control. My eye has never ever been on what my competition is doing, nor worrying about their practice (nor blog for that matter) or how they’re surviving, in fact, my eye is on the ball, and that ball is the pulse, not the motivation- I’m after consistent volume over top months every day.

Higher Ground or Drown

A great example is that home sales in Austin in October plummeted 50% over last year in the same month, and that a 12 month year is now in truth only a 10 month year- October and November simply don’t exist. A 55 agent brokerage reported this week that in October only 7 contracts were written by 4 agents. That means that in January, most likely only a small percentage of those 7 contracts will have produced actual revenue- that is the state of affairs in Austin, although Austin beats most cities in the national numbers consistently, this tells me that most practices around the country are most likely flailing. Our practice suffered 8 fall offs in the month of October, solidifying a disastrous scenario for our December month- did we wait for December to react? No, we reacted on the second fall off in week one of October in focus of December and beyond.

Who’s Carrying Who?

In September, a few agents in a different state reported to us that their businesses were failing even after having moved over to a very popular virtual brokerage. This in and of itself wasn’t so much a reflection of the economy as much as it was a reflection of the idea that because the Broker says they’re producing means they’re actually producing- often times, they are subject to the same failures as the individual agent, and it is the individual that ultimately must take responsibility for their own destiny.

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Honey, We Need to Talk Moments

Here in Austin during the same time in August and September, we began looking at the realities that we can do the same with one office that we do with two, we can reduce outgoing expenses, and adapt individually for avenues that pay out quickly in order to salvage our year. We ignored pessimists telling us what we already know and instead, reached deep within the pulse we can actually feel to meet our consumer where their needs lie.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because the truth again is that pessimism is something the entrepreneur has little time for- failure is not something the professional will settle for. The professional doesn’t have time to sit around and criticize things they know nothing about, and the professional doesn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. The professional will continue to weed out what doesn’t pay the bills and ramp up opportunities that cost little but are high impact to the pipeline.

I’ll Just Ignore that Ugly Purple Thing

What you’re not reading a lot of in the sphere is how tough it really is, what you’re not seeing a lot of is how folks are adapting, and what you’re not hearing is a belief in themselves nor the market- and if I’m not seeing those things, then neither is the consumer.

So here are some options-

  • If you haven’t had to sell a short sale yet, the chances are high that you will, so take a class.
  • If you haven’t had to lease, you soon will, so retool your blog now if you have experience.
  • Double up your listing resistance, and don’t fill your sellers with false hope. Just last night a seller told me that she knew things would be tough, but she was prepared for the long haul. It was nice not having to tell her for a change – sellers and buyers aren’t stupid.
  • Get yourself in touch with the pulse of your economy, where is it trending, and what will the housing needs be in the next 3, 6, and 9 months down the road and make sure that you take into account how you can use what you’re doing now to move you forward when the markets adjust again.
  • Reduce your expenses, but boost your marketing dollars- if a tree falls in the forest…
  • Not sure where your markets trending? Take a risk- you’re an expert, right?
  • Get out of the way of falling real estate agents – they’re really heavy and fast flying on the way down.
  • Ignore pessimism, and find opportunity. Loathe living in other peoples realities or you may find theirs to be yours.
  • How big is your network? Are you truly afraid to tell those you’ve built relationships with that you’re actually in business?
  • Engage buyers and sellers face to face where possible, get out of the house, and by all means, get yourself as far away from the office as humanly possible.
  • Look busy, be busy. Get up, get dressed, be professional, and look successful. Not only will you look better, but you’ll feel better.
  • Do you hate nametags? I know a Doctor by their lab coat, tags and stethoscopes in the hospital; revisit opportunities that make you appear “on duty.”
  • You’d better have opportunities in your pocket to overcome objections in pessimistic times. Educate yourself, and educate others.

Babe, It’s Not Me, It’s You

So there’s a few things you can do right now. Everything you do, write, and spend today feeds you tomorrow – unless you yourself are a falling agent, in which case, you’ll forgive us if we step aside as you dwell in times that once were, wish for brighter tomorrows, ignore commitments you’ve made, beg for the phone to ring, and criticize those that ignore you. Chances are you only skimmed this post anyway, and will diligently misunderstand it. Those left are those that understand that a paradigm of pessimism is unacceptable, accept realities, educate themselves and others, and understand exactly what I’m talking about- that the reality of pessimism is that the day you embraced it is actually the day you quit the real estate business, and unfortunately, you’ve become very easy to spot.

Benn Rosales is the Founder and CEO of The American Genius (AG), national news network. Before AG, he founded one of the first digital media strategy firms in the nation has received the Statesman Texas Social Media Award and is an Inman Innovator Award winner. He has consulted for numerous startups (both early- and late-stage), and is well known for organizing the digital community through popular offline events. He does not venture into the spotlight often, rather he believes his biggest accomplishments are the talent he recruits and develops, so he gives all credit to those he's empowered.



  1. Clint Miller

    December 4, 2008 at 11:46 am

    Alright! Benn…Genius! That is all I gotta say. Sheer genius! Awesome post!

  2. Judy (realestatechick)

    December 4, 2008 at 11:52 am

    Brilliant – simply brilliant.

    Just yesterday I used the word “dinosaurage” when describing most of our real estate brethren. It never ceases to amaze me that we, as a profession, refuse to adapt our business as times change. We see all around us the remnants of businesses that haven’t (think travel agents) and the flourishing of businesses that have (think Zappos). Yet we find it easier to sit back, point fingers at the world and whine. Why is that? We all know how it turned out for the dinosaurs….

    Thanks again for putting into words what I have been thinking. Now let’s see who we can impact with those words!

  3. Ed Gory

    December 4, 2008 at 12:26 pm

    Absolutely spot on, Ben. It’s very Darwinian here in California where I am as well. Survival of the fittest — those who can’t adapt to new environments will soon be out of the business. It’s about time for some of them.

  4. Elaine Hanson

    December 4, 2008 at 12:28 pm

    Your insight cuts straight to the heart of the reality of our business. Conditions change, industries change, and we need to change, adapt and move ahead of the pack in order to thrive.
    Beautifully said, Benn!

  5. Ken Brand

    December 4, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    The North Star speaks. Thanks.

  6. Michelle DeRepentigny

    December 4, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    What a fabulous options list. When the market was good I had 3 nametags and assorted “house” jewelry – I now have 5 nametags and wear one everywhere but church 🙂 this leads to me getting to talk about real estate in some unusual but great places, most recently the bathroom of a restaraunt while washing my hands – that contact is now looking at properties that will make good rentals for her.

    I consider myself open for business and want everyone to know it.

  7. Steve Beam

    December 4, 2008 at 3:49 pm

    YES! Finally! I love it! I too left the damn office for peace and quiet at home. We have brokers in there that when you talked to them it made you want to burn your license get a gun and shoot yourself or at least jump out a window. Doom and Gloom! I hated it and it was he same people standing the same spot every day talking the same crap. Drove me crazy.

    At my home office I can do more in 2 hours than I could all day at the office.

  8. Missy Caulk

    December 4, 2008 at 5:21 pm

    (((clap, clap, clap)))
    I read every word. I just heard on FOX that funeral directors are recession proof. Maybe some agents could get a job there.

    When I got licensed in 1995, I was told Realtors were extinct and that the internet would replace us. It didn’t stop me then, I was one of the first to get a Realtor dot com web site. LOL

    …and the rest is history. Now I blog on AG and love my life, it gets better and better. Markets change, technology changes and I am no spring chicken but I continue to grow.

    I have talked my heard off to agents about blogging, social networking,following up leads, but like you said they would rather poo poo an idea than try something new.

  9. Ken Brand

    December 4, 2008 at 5:35 pm

    Hope this isn’t in bad taste or etiquette, if so, let me know and I won’t do it again.

    But, Missy Caulk (see comments above), your comment about the Undertaker is hilarious…maybe they’re recession proof because they have an endless lumbering river of embalming clients….all the agents who die from poo-pooing new ideas and clinging cramped to the dusty past and rusted by-gones.

    My 3 cents.

    I feel you. Metaphorically of course.

  10. Lisa Sanderson

    December 4, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    that was beautiful, man! ((hug))

    I am pretty sure I need to read it again but first I wanna post it for my mates. You *are* the original Genius.

  11. BawldGuy

    December 4, 2008 at 10:32 pm

    Benn — Don’t know where to start.

    90% of agents find it difficult to adapt to rainy days much less market changes in real time. Let’s forget about those folks, OK?

    That leaves the folks who’re genuinely working hard, trying to work smart, and showin’ up every day.

    I’ll speak only for myself when it comes to adapting to reality in real time. My firm is now virtually national in scope. Between seminars, sales, and where our clients live, fully 98% of our business originates outside of San Diego.


    Because at the end of ’03 I saw what I thought was a ‘crossing of the line’ in SD when it came to income property values. I knew there was no way I could continue to look investors in the eye while telling them that $550K 46 year old duplex was a solid investment.

    Inside of six months I was set up in two different regions outside of CA. The clients were balky at first, but the numbers were the numbers, so most of them signed on.

    What you’ve done, and are doing again now is the same thing. It’s adjust/adapt or put in your app at Von’s.

    I’ve never understood the whole office thing. Ironically, because of the 90% mentioned above, even in good times they’ve got a myriad reasons for their inability to walk and chew gum simultaneously. Frankly, I’m immune to that type. I make fun of ’em, which they quickly tire of.

    As usual though, you hit the real nail on the head when you said agents need to be in front of folks a lot more than they are. Belly to belly has no peer as a predictor of success in real estate. You’ve proven that in your practice from Day 1.

    Adapting to a changing market is one thing. Capitalizing on the changes is a whole different book. Your ‘finger on the pulse’ is nothing if not unadorned substance in it’s purest form. Call it what you want, but the never ending give and take of belly to belly has no substitute that I’ve ever encountered. A lotta wannabes, but nothing with legs.

    What you’ve espoused here is — paying attention, being a real pro, avoiding the Wussies Are Us parties and embracing potential prospect rejection, all while appearing as if their IQs possess three digits before bumpin’ into that pesky decimal point.

    Pessimism? It’s the disease that takes over when one decides reality is too tough for them to handle.

    One of your best efforts, Benn. Enjoyed the hell out of it.

  12. Tom Vanderwell

    December 4, 2008 at 10:49 pm


    Bawld Guy twittered about this and since I listen to everything Jeff says (and believe most of it), I came over and read it.

    Very well said, very too the point, and I’m working on exactly that type of adjusting and adapting right now.

    Thank you!


  13. MaryAnn Ead

    December 4, 2008 at 11:03 pm

    Thank you for this post. I keep trying. My broker is getting depressed and i need to back away from that. it’s contagious.

  14. Russell Shaw

    December 4, 2008 at 11:49 pm

    Pure Genius. Perfect. Truly great post, Benn.

  15. Jeff Bogert

    December 5, 2008 at 1:11 am

    Awesome, Awesome post. Over the past month I have made a conscious decision to reduce if not completely eliminate my time in the office. Having my time sucked with “tech support” for other agents looking for a favor to people seeking anyone out for their pity parties is has become too much. A remodel of my area of the office has force me out the last couple of days and I have to tell you it has done wonders for my attitude.

    This morning I drove a neighborhood for a client I am working with and came upon a FSBO. The home is one of my favorite in that area and the owner was out front. We got to talking about the market and she regaled me with tales of Realtor calling her to make her feel stupid for going it alone, etc. Long story short it was a great conversation with a motivated seller who most likely will list after the holidays. I would never have run into her if I was hanging around after the office meeting listening to the tales of woe that have become the incessant hum there.

    One more reason to get that home office finished.

    Thanks again

  16. teresa boardman

    December 5, 2008 at 5:33 am

    I think I am about a year ahead of you on this. It gets a little harder the second year than it was the first but the emotional roller coaster and the pessimism go away. I guess they kind of have to or it wouldn’t be possible to stay in business.

  17. Jonathan Dalton

    December 5, 2008 at 1:13 pm

    Between this and our conversation today, I can see one change coming with the blog. I’ve avoided rentals but in the big picture, they may not be the worst idea.

    At the same time, I’m actually looking to find a way to increase conversion on my lead flow by passing off leads – something I’ve not done this year in the interest of holding onto the 75% and not the 25%.

    Sadly, I agree with Jeff in that it’s not in the nature of most agents to change on the fly. Some were still looking for ways to capitalize on Canadian interest into August and September when the window had started to close.

    What now? Bank owned homes, short sales, etc. I’m probably guilty of being late to the short sale part, but this window will be open for a bit.

  18. Paula Henry

    December 6, 2008 at 10:46 am

    Benn – I was here last week and didn’t take time to comment. Now, I have reread the whole post and have to say – you have hit the nail on the head. Excellent!

    I do have an office for my assistant and buyer agents who want to go there – personally, I stay away as much as possible. There are way too many negative people. At first I couldn’t fgure out why I didn’t like the office, then, it hit me – the presence of negativity was forceful, with way too many agents looking for the rosy path that was yesterday.

    I have been busy, why – I learned short sales a while back and continue to educate myself on the changes happening within the short sale business. Nearly half of my sold listings this year have been short sales, while the agents in the office say, “not for me”. They would rather sit on an overpriced listing than find a new way to do businesss.

    We have to stretch ourselves and that’s where many agents fail or fall.

  19. Downtown Vancouver Real Estate Video Blog

    December 14, 2008 at 12:37 pm

    That post is PERFECT!!

    I have been going on bear forums and all these people do is complain!

    Same with my office. The complainers disappear and thats a good thing.

    Positive things happen to positive people and Fate favours the Brave!

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