I never thought I’d see the day when so many real estate agents were running around quoting Nietzsche. Granted, most of those strained and drained enough to reach for the refrain don’t quite know who Nietzsche was. But the mantra is making the rounds nevertheless, through the hallowed halls of brokers opens from Bonny Doon to Boulder Creek.
I hear it again and again like it is some special pearl of home-spun wisdom, that has risen up on a wave of morphic resonance, to be perfected and polished for this one special profession, in this one special place, at this one special moment in time: “That which does not kill us makes us stronger”.
Of course – woe is me – we in Santa Cruz suffer from a collective case of terminal narcissism. So whoever we are, we always think it is all about us. But….man… this whole Nietzsche thing, just doesn’t sound like the Real Estate 101 Course I signed up for, back in the heady days of the late 80’s housing boom.
I don’t recall Anthony Schools including chapters on 18th & 19th century philosophy. Swedenborg doesn’t mesh well with the mysteries of Spanish Land Grants and Kant is a little esoteric even for the existential vagaries of the Rumford Act. I suppose Hegel’s thesis, antithesis and synthesis is practical wisdom for a marketplace where the baby is getting thrown out daily with the bath water and the pendulum of change is careening back from unfettered financial free form towards the other chaotic extreme of radical re-form and unreserved and unrestricted restraint but…
What a long strange trip its been. To find ourselves here. Now. It is decidedly…unreal.
Ask most Real Estate Agents why they are in the business and they’ll say: “To help people.” That’s a reasonable first crack at a Hallmark Card. Probe a little deeper and most of them will fess up and say: “To help people and to make money.” At least that’s more honest. And it’s ok to want to make money – specially if you really are helping people in the process.
As long as we are being honest… Here’s what is killing us… Here’s what is so hard about this market we are so enmeshed in, up to our necks: It is getting more and more difficult to help any of you. By you, I mean, client, consumer, caller, customer. Anyone with a pulse. Any living, breathing person who is all-too-euphemistically referred to as an organic buyer or organic seller. Someone trying to transition their way through a marketplace over-run by non-organic entities and their unruly spawn of asset managers, appraisal management companies, home valuation codes of conduct, shadow inventories and the rest of the laundry list of insidious strictures wrought by an ever-tightening credit crunch.
Some days, I honestly think I’ve won a free but costly, front row seat to watch the decline and fall of Western Civilization. From this vantage point I can see parts of the machine most people can’t see from the bleachers. They are grinding and scraping and flailing away at each other. Everyday things get more lopsided. Groaning under too much weight. From here, it looks like the wheels have already fallen off.
Other days, I’m convinced I’ve been kidnapped by those yayhoos from JACKASS TV. They came in the night, stole me out of bed and sentenced me to life selling real estate on Bizarro World. In the alternative dimension that is Bizarro World, most people spend their time performing random acts of blindness and senseless acts of do-do. They do the opposite of what appears to be in their own self interest or anyone else’s. It is cool to think up stupid lender tricks to kick first time buyers in the ass. It is all strangely, funny-weird instead of funny ha-ha.
And then there are other days, when I just have to remind myself that this is somewhere we’ve never been before. None of us. It is uncharted territory and no one has written the software for the GPS system yet. No one has any idea where True North is, so the needle on the moral compass is on a speed dial binge between fear and greed.
My biggest regret is that it so difficult to explain the prevailing “gestalt” very well to most of you. Those who have been in the business for a while, know what I’m talking about. Even if they think I shouldn’t be risking the self-fulfilling prophecy that says “perception creates realty”. Some of us, unfortunately, are doomed to suffer from Stockholm syndrome and embrace our own captivity until it does kill us.
For the time being, I’m going with Chapter 6 in the revised new world orde school of Anthony Real Estate – Kierkegard: “The task must be made difficult, for only the difficult inspires the noble-hearted.” Stay noble my friends.