Walking a Mile (in My Shoes) as a Real Estate Agent

Overgrown railroad siding. Red Hill VA, September 2010

“Being a real estate agent is one of the greatest privileges in the world. It requires a diverse skill-set of sales, compassion, empathy, marketing, organization, hustle, wit and patience. It’s connected me with people in ways unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before and is incomparable to any job I’ve ever had (and I’ve had a lot). It takes no guts to start but it takes all of them to continue.”

I briefly started to emulate Greg’s thoughts and style and quickly determined that wouldn’t be fair to either of us. So I went with a bit of a stream of consciousness. But pulled out two of his points that resonated most with me.

I’m a real estate agent.

This is the life I’ve chosen. And I love it.

Every day is a Monday. Or a Friday. I work when my clients don’t.

Answering a phone call from a client at 9pm. Skyping with international clients at 11pm. Or 5 am. My sole requirement for family vacations other than “together” is wifi.

Meet with a first time homebuyer. Hear and see their excitement. Quickly tamp it down because you’ve see so many wacky and unpredictable things go wrong. Allow a little bit of excitement to seep in; this should be a fun process.

Listening. Reading body language – of the individuals and their relations to each other. Helping them ask questions of themselves and each other. Because I’ve done this before.

Discover in the first 20 minutes of meeting a couple that they’re planning to have kids in the next 12 months. Push them to have that conversation a wee bit sooner than they had intended.

Meet with an underwater seller whose life’s dreams and goals are tied up in a seemed-like-a-good-decision-at-the-time-house. Hope you can help them. Negotiate hard for a buyer knowing that the seller is taking a financial (and emotional) bath. Don’t let your clients know how painful this is.

Meet with a divorcing couple and hear and see the anguish. And pain. And realize that you are now forever part of their lives.

A client told me this year that moving is the single-greatest trauma aside from death or divorce that you can inflict upon yourself and your family. He’s right. If I can help my clients through this trauma, that’s my privilege.

Tell a buyer to walk away from a transaction, knowing that they’re not going to buy anything now meaning that the 47 hours you’ve spent with them from showing to education to negotiation to inspections to Release of Contract will likely result in no income.

Work with agents who poorly represent their clients. Resist the urge to tell the clients just how badly they are being disserviced.

Telling clients that I’ve heard my home inspectors describe countless times that getting water away from a house is thing to do #1. And that stair-step cracks in block foundations are usually nothing to be concerned about. And that you’re supposed to be able to see daylight in roofs. And crawl spaces aren’t that scary –  even when you hear a critter crawling around the corner and there are only 8 inches of space above your head.

Represent that formerly-young, now-older with two kids, couple when they sell and see that they’ve lived their lives well for the six years they’ve been in their home. Seeing their kids sad to leave their friends but excited at a new chapter.

Coach my daughters’ soccer teams because my “flexible” schedule allows for it. And never negotiate their games. Ever.

Get belly to belly with the public and clients; no amount of social media can replace a handshake. Or looking a client in the eye. Or a hug.

I understand that the advice and guidance that I give to my clients – the best that I possibly can – will directly affect the rest of their lives. More importantly, the decisions that my clients make based in part on my professional (and life) experience will directly impact the lives of their children.

This is a nearly overwhelming and humbling realization, and one that I never forget.

I’ll wear flip flops as often as I can.

Greg, thanks for the inspiration to write something I’ve meant to write for years.

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  1. Greg Fischer October 29, 2013 at 12:24

    Thanks for the hat tip Jim. I’m glad you wrote this, it took me stepping outside of my role as an agent to really reflect on what my days usually (mostly unusually!) looked like. Really enjoyed reading this.

    1. Jim Duncan October 29, 2013 at 13:07

      Thanks, Greg.

      Writing this forced reflection and insight. I’ve been lucky to have chosen a path that allows for, shall we say, diverse experiences that never allow for boredom. 🙂


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