Tales from the Sandbox
(5 Steps to Working Well with Other Agents)
For many years I was on a self-centered journey where I thought all roads led back to Self. I honestly believed during that time that the “sandbox” I played or resided in, was either all mine; or at least, a “territory” governed by my rules and expectations.
I don’t mention my personal issues to receive a badge of honor. Rather, I mention them because I’m seeing a prevalent behavior, or more like an ugly industry birthmark, rising in our profession, that I call the “Not Playing Nicely in the Sandbox” syndrome.
There’s no doubt that from time-to-time we are all guilty of the “My Sandbox, My Rules” attitude. Meaning, we all want to believe that the road to a successful transaction runs though us. But just as selfishness is not the right ingredient for a flourishing personal life, it also doesn’t transfer into our business life either. Successful transactions require us to work together as co-creators of the deal, so all parties win.
As one of the personalities on Bravo TV’s “Real Estate Wars”, I know the irony of that statement. We spent 8 pompous weeks showing-off our amazing properties and glamorizing the drama and problems of the deal. But let’s be clear. That was for television. As cast members, we had to create the “All About Me Deal”, as viewers would never hold on for one more episode if the cliffhanger for the week included us going over the results of the termite inspection.
In our complex and competitive world of luxury real estate, business reality is much different. In the real-life world, it is imperative to not only be on top of your personal game, but equally so, to have a strong working relationship with fellow agents. Remember, our clients expect to get the best of both sides of the deal. Our job therefore is to finesse our way thru the offers and counter offers to get it for them. Our job is to keep the negative emotions at bay, so communications remain open. Our job is to meet the expectations of both sides of the transaction, so the deal closes. The only way to make this happen is to have a strong working relationship with the other agent; which means who you do business with on the other end, plays nicely in the sandbox; and you do as well.
So what does playing nicely in the sandbox look like? N.A.R. (National Association of Realtors) has spelled out our professional conduct in their “Code Of Ethics”, which can be found at https://www.nar.realtor/about-nar/governing-documents/code-of-ethics/the-code-of-ethics. However, for the layman reader, I have created my 5 Rules to the Sandbox, which are as follows:
The 5 Rules to Playing Nicely in the Sandbox
1. Share Your Toys: There is a saying I have always embraced, and that is, “You do not know what you do not know.” Therefore, if and when an agent asks you for your professional opinion, give an intellectual donation to the industry and provide your knowledge. Many times you might be the expert in your area and someone might need to draw upon your years of experience to make a deal work. If you are called upon, share your wisdom, as someday you might need to call upon someone else for theirs.
2. Allow Others into Your Box: No transaction can take place in a vacuum with only you in the sandbox. In other words, you are not an island. You are hired by your clients not just for your ability to put a home in the MLS (as a monkey can do that). But you are also hired for your marketing, negotiating and your ability to find the people who are in the market for their property, or who represent the type property they are looking to purchase. In other words, networking with other people is a must for success in our industry.
3. Don’t Squawk in the Box: In our business, some agents feel that gossip is gold or a form of currency. In an industry that deals with the spillage of divorce or financial ruin that puts houses on the market, there’s no doubt that you will hear things from the other agents or clients that are as juicy as fat on a piece of steak. As a professional however, you must be aware of inflammatory communications. Negotiations can get emotional enough as they are. Your job is to be the filter that keeps the deal between the railings.
4. Be Polite & Courteous: In an industry that’s saturated with part-timers (or hobbyists as I have referred to them in a previous article), it’s unavoidable to encounter an agent who is not on your level, or who are not as accomplished as you are. When you do encounter these agents, rather than get frustrated and speak to them like they are in kindergarten, remember you probably learned to climb the jungle gym years before them.
5. Keep the Sandbox Clean and Orderly: If you study the greatest leaders in the world, one of their common traits is “order.” I mention that because the Rule of Order also applies to the sandbox. As a Realtor, one of your jobs is to keep your files accurate and orderly. This is especially important if and when an issue arises after the close of escrow. But more so, this important discipline will allow you to focus on managing your client and the deal, all while maintaining accurate and orderly files for a successful closing. For all you non-paperwork types, don’t use your lack of enthusiasm for detail as an excuse. There are Transaction Coordinators available for hire who can maintain the detail work for you.
As authentic industry experts, let’s continue to raise the bar of practice in our industry by this year committing to “Playing Nicely in the Sandbox.” It will not only lead to less injuries in the transaction process, but more so to creating a win-win for all.