(This Column First Appeared on 7/04/09)
Every once in a while (like now) when the alignment of the planets orbiting around us seems to be changing and many long accepted notions of how things work are being challenged, a small window of possibility opens and I begin to daydream…
Maybe the real estate industry will get its act together and start charging a surtax on every commission. They’ll place the money in a special escrow account and fund a secret desert deprogramming facility where serial success addicts can go to get their heads purged of all the hype and hard-sell that their gung-ho real estate gurus have pumped into them. After 30 days in detox, they will be ready for walkabout – a personal vision quest in search of a more mindful, kinder, gentler way of engaging in a spiritually-infused real estate practice.
This is usually where the cynics start chuckling. Kinder? Gentler? That’s like putting chum into the shark tank!. In real estate, nice people finish last. They get chewed up and spit out long before lunch time. This is about green time ($) not namby-pamby sentiment.
But I would humbly suggest that those critics haven’t studied the statistics on how many dutiful agents start out like flashes in the pan only to fail miserably in the first year or two. Or how many good people, after achieving moderate levels of success, burn out by year three or four. I would also venture to say that too many of us on the inside (who should be mentors) turn a blind eye to the immutable laws of karma and the sacred principles of abundance. There’s an ineffable quality of the heart missing from the same old/same old we keep trotting out for consumption.
Business as usual should never be business as usual. Work should always mean soul work. A successful day in real estate should be measured by whether you’ve learned something important about being human at the same time you’ve done at least one small thing to make the world better – whether that means telling the truth to someone who needed to hear it or holding someone’s hand in need of support. Anything less and we are sleepwalking. Contributing to a black hole of inertia growing faster than the gap in the ozone layer. Taking up valuable space that we aren’t making spiritual mortgage payments on. Anyone working in real estate just for the money is missing a richness of experience that can’t be bought.
What would a new version of real estate look like? Where would the RE-schooling and Re-tooling of so many established stereotypes, institutional patterns and hard to break habits start? Here’s what my own whimsical fantasy of what Real Estate 101’s Core Curriculum might look like:
Clients would never be referred to as “customers” . Anyone who couldn’t get the difference between the two would be re-assigned to shoe sales rather than real estate. We would no longer use the word “farming” (farming neighborhoods) as though we were herding a bunch of cash cows into a gated subdivision or lining up rows of artichokes ripe for the picking.
We would no longer use the phrase “capturing leads” as though prospective buyers and sellers were enemy prisoners locked in our data bases. Dual Agency wouldn’t exist. Cold calling would end. Door knocking would cease. No Agent would leave Forget-Me-Not Seeds on my front porch when I’ve never even met them. Tuna casserole recipes would be banned from all real estate newsletters forever. No one would be allowed to declare themselves #1 in anything. The notion of bigger brokerages being better would be recognized as myth rather than realty. Talking houses would be silenced. Realtor junk mail would be recycled into textbooks for school kids. There would be less escrow paperwork because we’d stop cutting down so many trees in order to protect so many asses with so many disclosures.
Agents would be required to buy and sell their own homes every three years so they could stay intimately in touch with what their clients are experiencing. Tithing to homeless causes would be mandatory. Aspiring young real estate agents would be sent out on the streets to work with struggling home owners and Section 8 renters to learn more about the deeper meanings of home. A bus would leave for New Orleans tomorrow.
We would no longer say we “sold a home” every time we put a house into escrow. A home would not be considered sold until the deed was recorded and the proceeds check was distributed. In fact, we would banish the word “sales” or “selling” from real estate altogether. By universal acclamation they would be erased from our collective lexicon. Creative titles like LIFE TRANSITION FACILITATOR would replace real estate salesperson. A real estate of mind would begin to feel more real and a lot less surreal.