Honestly, Tell Me What I Need to Hear

Truth Builds TrustYears ago when I was a high school teacher, my principal sat me down for my annual review. He listed all the things I did well, but then gently told me that I didn’t seem to have a passion for teaching, that I didn’t appear comfortable or confident in front of the class, and therefore I wasn’t engaging my students. These comments hurt. I cried for days. But then I thought about it, and he was right. I’m sure it was hard for him to tell me that basically I spent four years in college getting a degree for a profession that I really wasn’t very good at. And because he was willing to have that tough conversation with me, a lot of things changed for me. I examined the person I was and who I wanted to be. I thought about my strengths and weaknesses, my interests and goals for my life. I ended up leaving the teaching profession and going into real estate. Twelve years later, I’m glad I did.

My husband is now a principal in that same district in which I taught. It amazes me how he is able to have these same tough conversations with people. He has to tell staff, students, parents, community members, you name it, what they don’t want to hear. It isn’t easy. But you know what? People respect him for it, just as I respected my boss for it all those years ago.

We just had a new agent join our firm. We were talking about how to tell a buyer that only has $3000 that she can’t purchase a $100,000 home on land contract. You typically need 15-20%, and so $3000 just wouldn’t work. I gave him my typical response to those buyers, and he said he was really happy to hear me say that. I couldn’t figure out what he meant. He said it was just really nice to hear that I speak to people honestly; that I don’t sugar coat anything with buyers or lead them on. I guess I never really thought about it before, it’s just what I do. And honestly, what most Realtors do. We don’t have time to give people false hope. We would rather help customers tweak their expectations and then give them direction on how to get where they want to go.

This past week has been pretty rough. I’ve had a lot of disappointed buyers. Disappointed because their dream home was snatched away by an overzealous, overbidding buyer, disappointed because it’s taken a bank five weeks to get heat into a home so we can do inspections just to find out that we can’t dewinterize anyway due to broken valves, and disappointed because the house they closed on the day before has a frozen septic line. When disappointment occurs, emotions run high, and relationships start to tail-spin. It’s a soul crushing experience, and only compounded when it happens all at once. So what is there to fall back on? Honesty and truth. As long as I’ve been honest and truthful throughout the whole process, regardless of how sneaky or disingenuous other parties involved have been, unwavering honesty and truth can help you climb out of a situation with mutual respect and integrity intact.

Think about it, if you talk to an agent about a specific situation and you ask for guidance or advice, don’t you expect to hear the truth? Or would you rather be given some hope and then be disappointed later after all that time is wasted? Do you want an agent to come in to list your house for what the market says it’s worth and have it sell within days or weeks, or list it for the amount you want to hear and have it sit there for a year? Which agent would gain your respect? We’re going to tell you if your asking price is way out of line. Or that your “wants” and “needs” in a house are far greater than your budget can afford. These conversations don’t come easily, but we have to have them. And this isn’t just for real estate, this is for every aspect of life. When was the last time someone had a hard conversation with you? Or you with them? Maybe it was over job performance, your kid’s education, or with a close friend. Even though it hurt, you probably respected the person more because of it. It probably made you adjust your expectations and now you are in a better situation for growth.

Last night one of my long time friends and buyers asked me if he could submit an offer on a house that was 20% below list price. I told him no, not in this market. Housing inventory is low, and so homes are selling for close, at, or above list price. Twenty percent just won’t cut it. He jokingly said, “You suck. I need someone to tell me what I want to hear.”

Sorry, buddy.