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Hard Habits To Break


Source – Creative Commons

This is about habits …

Not the kind of habits that Catholic nuns would wear, either, but the habits that are hard to break. Although maybe you could get a post out of the Catholic nun habits, I just don’t know enough about them to really make it work. Another day, perhaps …

I’ve been thinking a lot about my business habits lately, specifically those that have prevented me from being as good an agent as I could possibly be. See, I started in real estate in 2004, late to the party but still one of those markets where things were pretty easy. Not that I didn’t work hard to try and be as successful as I could be, but 2004 was still a strong market, at least here the bustling metropolis of Southwest VA. Sellers were entertaining multiple offers, and buyers were putting their best foot forward, every time, or they risked losing out. It was a good time to start because it gave me the confidence that I needed to really take off – each year was a record year for me, and I had it made. I did everything by the book, I was confident that I was making the right decisions in guiding my clients, and everything was good. This real estate thing was easy!

Or so I thought.

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Stinking It Up

It probably happens to all of us at some point, but we get ahead of ourselves and things fall apart. In my case, I got a little complacent, a little sloppy, and then I started making mistakes. Case in point … I once listed a home that had a completely different school system than what I represented. Completely different! There was an elementary school ½ mile down the road that I assumed was the school that served this neighborhood, but later discovered it was all wrong. Not so big a mistake, but it was still something that if I had used the resources available to me and taken just two minutes to call the school board and verify, I wouldn’t have made it. A quick change in MLS, and all was right with the world again. Sometimes the lessons weren’t so easy to flush away, however.

A couple of years ago I listed a home that I was sure would sell quickly, and it did – first day on the market, first buyer who saw it bought it. Cash. Quick closing. Awesome! Not quite. Two days before closing, the buyer discovered that the property was on a septic instead of a sewer, as I had entered into the listing. Uh oh. Big mistake. Didn’t check my resources, and it stunk the place up. The buyer and his agent held my feet to the fire, and in the end the buyer got a house with a new connection to the Town’s utility system, while I came up several thousand dollars short at the end of the year. (No, E&O wouldn’t cover it but that’s a story for another day.)

There have been many more mistakes along the way, of course. I’m not naïve enough to think that they’re not going to happen, but my point is that I can be a SLOW learner. It’s one thing to make a mistake because I get ahead of myself, or I’m just not paying attention; those things happen to everyone, it’s normal. It’s another to do it multiple times and not take anything away from the situation. That’s my one bad habit – sorry, typo, that’s ONE of my bad habits. For me, it’s easy to say “well, if only they’d have taken care of that crack two years ago when they saw it”, or “if they would’ve gotten a stronger preapproval then their offer would have been accepted”, but if I’m not changing my habits to make sure that the sellers have adequately prepared their home for sale, or that my buyers have an airtight preapproval from a reputable local lender before making an offer, then I’m not being the best agent I can be. If I’m not striving to be my best then my clients are getting shortchanged. I don’t want that – I want them to walk away from the transaction knowing that I and my Team do everything we can to make things go as smooth as possible.

Give It Your All

Lately it feels like bad habits have popped up far more often the good ones and I’ve beat myself up over them, but I know that there are good ones as well. There’ve been a couple of times recently where I’ve had to go back to a client and say “I screwed up, here’s how we’re going to get back on track.” Learning from my errors hasn’t been easy, but I’m trying. My assistant Aaron is great at learning from mistakes, and while she doesn’t make many she is always quick to take action to resolve it – in fact, I don’t know that I’ve not seen her make the same mistake twice. I really admire that, and I’m really trying to get better at it.

Maybe that’s one of the things that can make us good agents, as well, the desire to keep working and keep trying, to fight the urge to give in to the bad habits and keep striving to give clients everything we have. Because in the end, that’s what they want – our best.

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Okay, I feel better.

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. Bill Lublin

    May 13, 2008 at 11:57 am

    Jeremy- Great Post and very perceptive. We all make mistakes. The trick in life is trying not to make the same ones over and over again- After all there are plently of new ones ot be made 🙂

  2. Toby & Saide

    May 13, 2008 at 12:01 pm

    I’ve been doing the same thing. Finding myself getting discouraged and not following through on the efforts that have worked. My goal now is to create a positive environment and stick with it. Keep doing it for 30 straight days. Have a plan and stick to it.

    It doesn’t matter if you are a fast or slow learner, just that you are a learner.

    Welcome to Agent Genius and we wish you the best of luck!

  3. Heather Elias

    May 13, 2008 at 12:10 pm

    Good agents always feel like there is more that they can do for their clients; always striving to provide better service, have more experience and expertise. The willingness to quickly make it right and to learn from your mistakes will ultimately make you a better agent. (And you are already a very good agent!)

    Congrats on your first AG post…

  4. Lani Anglin-Rosales

    May 13, 2008 at 12:13 pm

    Jeremy, you’ve bravely voiced what many of us privately feel- we all make mistakes that could easily be avoided and we’re not perfect.

    My favorite line:

    the desire to keep working and keep trying, to fight the urge to give in to the bad habits and keep striving to give clients everything we have

  5. Matthew Rathbun

    May 13, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    Awesome start. “Keeping it real” as the cool kids say.

    I am reliving my first days as an agent through my wife who is far more detailed oriented than I am. I am super excessive-compulsive and NEVER felt that I had covered all the bases. Even with the two of us double checking everything, there are simply too many things that can go wrong or be missed.

    The big difference between you and a lot of others is that are learning from omissions and honestly working to do better for your clients. This is one great example of why consumers should look for experienced agents, they’ve made and hopefully learned from their mistakes.

  6. Vicki Moore

    May 13, 2008 at 1:24 pm

    Your rants are good here. They always make me feel better too.

  7. Jeremy Hart

    May 13, 2008 at 2:40 pm

    Bill – thanks for giving me something to look forward to! “plenty of new mistakes to be made”? Great, fantastic! 🙂

    Matthew, isn’t it funny how we work so hard to not make mistakes, and then find it so difficult when we have to admit them? Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve found that to be the case. And in most situations, when I’ve had to admit it the person hasn’t been bothered by it. I made it all up in my head to be much worse than it really was. Did the same when I was a new agent – scared to death to admit it because I thought people wouldn’t want to work with a rookie when in reality, I got nothing but slaps on the back.

    Tobe (and Saide) – I look forward to hearing how it goes for you. Consider me you’re cheerleader, I’ll be checking in on you.

    Thanks, everyone, for the welcome!

  8. Aria Schoenfelt, Austin Luxury Homes

    May 13, 2008 at 3:27 pm

    Welcome, Jeremy!

    It is definitely important in this business to remain humble even after an amazing deal. You’re on to something great here that many of us lose sight of in the hustle and bustle of our daily businesses. I’ve been surprised in dealing with some of the “big names” in my area. Sometimes I swear they make everything difficult to prove that they can handle difficult situations. But the next breed of Realtors® is likely to be one that keeps everything simple for their clients. It’s one thing I strive to do. It’s nice to not sweat the small stuff, but a true professional knows to quietly pay careful attention to it.

  9. Ricardo Bueno

    May 13, 2008 at 5:46 pm

    The fact is, we’ve all made mistakes! Hey, no one’s perfect right… I’ve made mistakes with clients too but the biggest mistake I’ve ever made is not addressing my error soon enough.

    A client once said to me: “Look Ricardo, you’re a great guy and hard worker…I know that. If you messed up, big deal. We all do! But just tell me that you did and how we can fix it. That’s all I want…”

    It felt like I was in a relationship. But that’s what it is really, we’re in a relationship driven business. And we’re going to make mistakes…but if it’s an open relationship and we discuss things, it’s a stronger relationship and we’re all the better for it.

  10. cindy*staged4more

    May 13, 2008 at 7:12 pm

    Hi Jeremy,


    Great post. I am not an agent (I am a pro home stager), but I feel the same thing. I am definitely going through that lull phase right now (just zoomed by “complacent,” now moving onto “frighten.”) in my business. It’s definitely a hard habit to break, but I think the most important thing is to recognize those flaws and bad habits and like you said, keeping it real & give it our all 😉


  11. ines

    May 13, 2008 at 7:52 pm

    @NRLiving (I’m going to have to make an effort to break out of THAT habit) – I think what makes us better people is the fact that we can look back and recognize our flaws and do something about them.

  12. Irina Netchaev

    May 13, 2008 at 8:39 pm

    We all make mistakes, but the trick is to learn from them and take responsibility for the consequences. Sounds like you’re doing both. Great job and a great post!!!

  13. Jeremy Hart

    May 13, 2008 at 9:43 pm

    Ricardo, I love that story. “It felt like I was in a relationship. But … we’re in a relationship driven business.” That’s so true, and I think one of the things I REALLY love about this. When you really connect with a client, when you really understand what they need from the transaction – I think that’s a great place to be. Some of my clients have become some of my best friends here. THAT’s really a blessing.

    Ines – don’t fight Twitter. It’s where it’s @. 😉

    Cindy – doesn’t matter what we do, does it, but so easy to get down when things aren’t going as well as we’d like. Did you see this article?

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