Doors Open When You Knock

We’re going back to work…?

“Uncertainty is the only certainty there is.  
Knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security.”

    – John Allen Paulos – American professor of mathematics

We’re going back to work?  Some people never stopped working, i.e. showing and listing property during the Shelter-At-Home order.  Most people however, obeyed the order and sheltered at home.  So did many buyers and sellers.  

What’s going to happen going forward?  Who knows.  It seems like there are a lot of sellers who would like to sell, and it seems like – for now – there are many buyers who still want to buy.  However, I would like to offer the following caution: don’t get hung up on, or hang your hat on, that the “market will come roaring back” and be “just fine and rosy.”  Here are some of the things I have heard lately:

  • “Oh, whatever recession we have will be V shaped.”
  • “Housing will not be affected”
  • “Recessions don’t always mean softening of real estate prices.”
  • “The housing market will carry us out of this recession.”
  • “Things will bounce right back.  People will go right back to work.”

Well, I have some bad news.  Real bad news.  That is all wishful thinking.  Those are probably all  best-case scenarios.

“Steven, you’re such a jerk!  Why do you have to be such a buzz-killer.”

I’m not trying to be the nay-sayer.  However, I am committed to being prepared.  I am not saying the world is ending.  I am not saying there will be complete devastation.  I am not saying there will be mass foreclosures and deep falls in real estate prices.  I am not saying any of those things (although of course they are all ‘a possibility’).

Consider the following

  • In many places of the country, restaurants will be slow to open.  How many people are going to actually resume retail spending at the pace we were at before?  I know for me the answer is no – I am not going to restaurants any time soon.  And I feel terrible about that for the restaurants, but there is no upside for me going.  Only downside.
  • Travel – No one is going anywhere any time soon.  This is waaaaayyyy worse than 9/11.  
  • Events – None.  Zero.  No sporting events.  No concerts.  No industry events.  There might not even be any in-person training for the rest of this year.  Maybe even no office meetings…?
  • School – Unclear at this point what the fall looks like, for both primary and secondary education.

This list is just the beginning.  It doesn’t take into account any of the downline effects from these operations not happening.  How many restaurants are going to pay rent?  What about retail stores?  Who is going to get left holding the bag?  What happens when households aren’t able to pay rent or their mortgage – they made April, but what about May, June, July?  How will they ever catch up?  What about all the mortgage forbearance? Have you spoken to your lender – do you understand the drastic effects that is having in the mortgage markets right now (it’s not good).

Does that mean we are  sc*$^ed?  Of course not!  People will still need to buy and sell homes.  People will need us probably more than ever to help them guide through lots of uncertainty.  “Uncertainty is the only certainty there is.” 

Our clients do not need us telling them things will “bounce back”.   They don’t need us to make rosy predictions about the future.  What they need is us to help guide them.

The difference between effective and lousy conversations

Consider the following scenario:  you tell a buyer things are going to be fine.  They buy a house, because you told them things will be fine.  Then:  they lose their job.  They then call you to sell their house.  The market is down, say, only 5%.  Not that much.  But 5% loss of home value, 7% in closing costs, and they are out 12%.  And they have no job.  They have financial pressures.  How happy are they going to be with you? What will they remember?  YOU told them things “were going to be fine…the market was going to bounce back.”   PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE don’t do that.  For your sake and your clients.

Instead, why not have this conversation:

  • What happens if prices soften over the next 1-5 years?
  • Is there any chance your job will be at risk?
  • Heaven forbid you lost your job, what would be the ramifications on making your mortgage payment?
  • What are your options for staying put now?
  • What do you see as the best option for you to move forward?

If you ask your client those questions, then the tone and dynamics of the conversation completely shift.

  • Who is making the decision in that conversation?
  • Who is asking questions to protect the client’s best interests?
  • If the buyer moves forward and bad stuff happens, how will they feel?  Will they feel that we talked them into a bad spot, or will they be prepared for bad stuff because they knew going in this might happen?  They might not like the situation they are in, but it won’t be a surprise.

Trusted advisors don’t tell people what to do.  Instead, they help the client make the best decisions for themselves.  Trusted advisors are not afraid of the truth.  They are not afraid of any of the scenarios that lie ahead – instead, they identify them, make the client aware of them so they are not caught off guard.  

Going back to work will be different

If you have made it this far: we are going back to work, but it is going to look much, much different.  Probably for the entire year.   Open houses might not come back for a while, and if and when they do, it will be a very different dynamic.  Door knocking:  probably not an option for much of the year.  Networking and social events: not happening.  We can sit and make it all wrong, or we can figure out how to be effective.

  • There will be a lot more phone calls, including video and Zoom calls.
  • A lot more writing – either text, social media (not for me, but maybe for you), email, or postcards and/or notecards.
  • As things open up a little, maybe we can do some one-on-ones.  
  • If you follow the Ninja Selling path, you can do more real estate reviews, even virtually.

Remember, for many realtors, having 15 clients who do 20-25 transactions is a productive and profitable year.  We already have people in our database. Almost all of us already know people.  Support them.  Nurture them.  Love them.  Not because you we trying to “get” their business, but what else do we have to do?  

We can be grateful we are not in the tourism business.  We can be grateful that our business does not depend on flying, traveling, or restaurants.  We can be grateful that shelter/housing is a basic need – and our clients need us.

One day at a time

We can also use this time that we are not commuting, not traveling, not going to sporting events to be stronger (emotionally and physically) and better skilled.  The virus is not going away.  So far it seems to affect people very differently.  Healthier people seem to have less dire reactions and sickness.  Be healthy.  Get sleep, eat properly, cut down on sugar and alcohol.  Exercise.  These are the basics.  You already know this!

“Knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security.”

You probably also have heard multiple times to be strong emotionally and mentally as well.  Meditation.  Journaling.  Getting some quiet inside our head.  Telling ourselves positive stories instead of obsessing on the negative.  Getting things resolved.  Incompletions take an enormous toll on our brain power, and our ability to be present.  Worried about money?  About paying your bills?  Get that resolved…now!  Call your companies and request delays in paying.  Need extra money to last through a few extra months, get a loan or 0% credit card to transfer a balance until your closings pick up.  

Yes, I know, easier said than done.  It is easier to let ourselves off the hook than to hold ourselves to honor our word.  I have a commitment to not eat desert or drink alcohol Monday – Thursday.  I am not batting 100%.  Mostly pretty good on the alcohol…not so good on the sugar.  The other night my daughter had some of “my” dairy free ice cream (Ben & Jerry’s made with almond milk – it is sooooo good) – and I just had to have some.  The next night my girlfriend gave me some home made mango cake (that was also delicious).

It’s not about perfection. It’s about progress. We’re all human.  None of us are perfect.  Let’s continue to move forward the best we can.

“Start where you are.  Use what you have.  Do what you can.”
    – Arthur Ashe