Someone recently told me they thought I had “overstepped my bounds” as a real estate agent because I asked a client if she had considered a retirement community that offered more services than the one she was presently considering. Naturally, my feathers were a bit ruffled because anyone who knows me or Chris knows that we are NOT your typical real estate agents and that our FIRST priority is to insure our clients’ well-being.
With graduate degrees in gerontology and counseling psychology, the fact that I am still a practicing real estate agent causes people to question my sanity at times.
“Why in the world would you go to the trouble of getting degrees in the aging services and counseling fields when you have no intention of getting out of the real estate industry?” they ask. Oh, what would they say if they knew that I am also now half way through pursuing my PhD in Psychology with emphases on geropsychology and environmental gerontology?
Below is my answer to this question and it may help anyone else who, at first blush, may be mystified by the services we offer and perspectives in our roles as a real estate sales professionals.
The way that we (Chris and I) see our roles is FIRST as educators. It is our job to first insure that our clients and the community-at-large is well-informed, equipped, and empowered to make good choices. As a matter of fact, our first real estate team — the one we sold back in 2005 — was named the Clear Choice Team because it was our intention to insure that all the parties we represented were in fact making “clear choices” as they entered into a real estate sales transaction. We took that mantra a step further as we added additional services for our elder clients and made it our mission to insure that our clients were fully informed, adequately equipped, and fully educated before they made decisions about where, when, and how their move would take place.
Knowledge is power. Sales people know this; that is why those who lack integrity do their best to keep clients in the dark so they can manipulate them. As long as people are uneducated, they are easily sold and rarely question the fine print.
Our goal is just the opposite. We believe that the more people know, the better decisions they will make for themselves and the more empowered they will be in the next chapter of their lives. This is true for caregivers, family members, and most importantly, our elders who are doing their best to navigate the decision making process in a world where nothing seems to be “clear cut” and everybody seems to have a hidden agenda (ok…not everybody, but a lot of people).
Let’s be honest here: Being educated and knowledgeable about something does not necessarily mean that you have the skill or ability to get the outcome you desire. Sometimes the one thing lacking isn’t knowledge — it’s courage. In my counseling experience, the number one area that clients seemed to struggle with as they made major life decisions in their later years was having the courage to ask for what they wanted and then stick to their guns until they got it. This is especially true for women who were brought up in a world where men were in charge and they, as females, were not encouraged to assert their own opinions or desires.
Our experience in our real estate practice is no different. Many of our clients (not all) are widows who feel completely lost because they have never been in a position of authority or in the decision making role. We frequently hear our clients say, “My husband handled all of these things.” When this is said and as I watch the body language, it becomes quite evident that they are scared of and overwhelmed by the tasks at hand.
As advocates, our job is to first insure that the client is being treated fairly and honestly in all things. This means questioning things that we are not sure about, such to verify that the client is well-informed and making confident and empowered decisions. Should we find that someone is being bullied, coerced, or manipulated or making a decision without being fully educated about their options, we bring this fact to the forefront with all parties involved.
Another responsibility we hold dear as advocates is to support and recommend those things which we believe may be beneficial to our clients. Rather than just “doing our job,” we assess the entire situation and make recommendations, offer solutions, and ask questions. Because we are uniquely educated in the issues of aging and caregiving, as well as moving, senior living, estate liquidation, and selling or buying property, we have the ability to assess the situation from a more comprehensive approach.
Ultimately, all decisions are made by the client and/or their caregivers, as they should be.
The fact is, however, that if we have done our job effectively as educators, our clients know and feel confident about what is right for them and have courage and resolve in their decisions. Advocacy then becomes easy — it’s about helping them get what THEY want and under the terms that best suit their stated goals, desires, and intended outcomes.
Real estate professionals
Our first two roles as educators and advocates really have little to do with our vocation. These are more about being good human beings — loving, caring, and serving. While we don’t really earn any income directly from being educators or advocates for our clients, what we do earn is respect, trust, and the privilege of assisting them with the sale of their homes, businesses, and other property.
Our professional fees are earned only when we facilitate a sale or purchase of real property. We don’t take kick-backs from referral partners and we don’t ask for (or accept) placement fees from senior living or retirement communities. To do so would muddy the water related to our advocacy role and education roles. By staying neutral, we remove any question as to where our loyalties stand.
In our role as real estate agents, we are masterful negotiators and project managers. Every single day we are managing and facilitating transactions involving multiple parties who are both directly and indirectly related to the transaction. Most real estate agents only concern themselves with the actual sale itself, limiting their attention to real estate sales-related issues. Our perspective is much broader, as we assist in facilitating the pre-move, move, and post-move process, as well as the real estate transaction and the estate liquidation.
It’s about more than selling or buying a home
Our roles as educators and advocates define who we are as people. Real estate is simply a vehicle allowing us to serve in those capacities and in a way that is frequently absent from most real-estate-related encounters.
People are more than welcome to question our skills or our knowledge, but to question our integrity would be a big mistake. We will happily provide hundreds upon hundreds of names of people who know us and who know that we are about doing what is right — even when no one is watching. This is especially true when we are serving the most admirable and honored members of our community – our elders.
Nothing gives us more joy than to empower, educate and serve the needs of our elder clients. People come first — commission is secondary. If we didn’t get paid to do what we do, we probably couldn’t do it (we do have bills to pay as well), but the fact is this: The fees we earn serve to pay our bills and afford us a nice life, but the relationships we form and the appreciation we receive is what motivates us and gets us up every morning.
Photo Credits: By Ion Chibzii from Chisinau, Moldova. (“Problems, problems…” (70-ies).) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
“Honest is the Best Poetry. — Gregory Alan Elliott” by Alan Levine from Strawberry, United States – Honest is the Best PoetryUploaded by clusternote. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons
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