Having been in real estate almost 25 years now (wow, how time flies) and having been an agent, office manager, team leader, coach, and trainer in the industry, I have begun to recognize that while the public perception is that all real estate agents are the same, there are 3 very distinctive boxes in which you can pretty much place any agent.
My observation is that without some coaching or strong leadership in their lives, most agents fall into Box #1. Those in Box #2 are usually either the result of poor character or poor training — either way, this box is what has given the real estate profession a bum rap. Lastly, those in Box #3 have figured out that real estate sales as a profession can be meaningful, fun, and profitable.
Check out the box descriptions and decide for yourself if it’s time to start thinking OUTSIDE the box!
Box #1: Typical REALTOR® Box
This box contains the real estate agents, both new and seasoned, who are doing their jobs quite well and who have a reputation with their sphere of influence and within their communities as being good people and competent professionals. The tendency in this box is to work with a variety of clients and have no particular preference as to where a property or client is located or with with what type of client they will work.
The mantra coming from this box is something like, “I will work with anyone who wants or needs to buy, sell, or invest.” Not only will these agents work with just about anyone, they will work until midnight, on weekends, and skip their kid’s soccer game only to be stood up by yet another buyer who already signed a contract with a competing associate. Keeping focused and maintaining a balanced life can be hard for those in Box #1.
As years go on, some agents in Box #1 decide to expand and hire support staff or team members, while others choose to remain solo. Because they are worn-out and burned out, they typically look forward to the day when they can scale back and not work as hard (sooner is better than later). Box #1 agents are the equivalent of a Super Wal-Mart. They carry a little bit of everything and are required to negotiate their price and principles because their value is diminished by the law of supply and demand.
Box #2: Atypical REALTOR Box
Fortunately, this box is not nearly as big as Box #1, but it is a box full of agents nonetheless. This is the box that neither the agent community nor the public prefers to know about (much less talk about), but bumps into on occasion. This box contains the segment of agents — existing in every market I might add — that are incompetent, lack integrity, or are only "in it for the commission."
These agents usually come and go because consumers have plenty of other agents in Boxes #1 and #3 to choose from, but there are a few bad apples out there tenacious enough to withstand public, professional, and legal scrutiny.
Despite their lack of ethics and shotty business practices, Box #2 remains with people preying on the naivety or ignorance of consumers and frustrating the H.E. double hockey sticks out of agents in boxes #1 and #3. Box #2 agents are like Enron…they may be able to create a profit for a while, but eventually their run will end in certain disaster and public humiliation.
Box #3: Expert REALTORS
Over the years, smart real estate professionals have learned that trying to be all things to all people is exhausting. Hence, the evolution of Box #3: Expert REALTORS.
Let’s be clear before I go on — I’m not talking about those agents with all the alphabet soup following their names. This isn’t about how many classes people take or how many initials they acquire to string behind their signatures (many of the ones with a bazzillion designations have the least amount of sales experience). No, being an expert is about expertise … it’s about focus and intention toward one (or maybe two) specific market or consumer types.
These agents make it their business to know virtually everything about their target audience and have chosen to focus their attention on a very specific type of consumer. By doing so, these agents not only provide a higher level of service to their clients, but they aren’t so bloomin’ worn out from trying to learn EVERYTHING about every type of property, area of town, potential buyer or seller, etc.
Just like attorneys, physicians, and financial gurus, REALTORS in Box #3 find a niche and serve that niche masterfully. Consider Nordstrom and Starbucks when you think about Box #3 agents. They know their target audience and the provide a product AND experience that keeps them returning for more. They certainly aren’t always the cheapest, but the quality they offer is unmatched.
These professionals have earned a very loyal following, their customer service rankings that are off the charts, and they frequently choose NOT to retire because their careers are providing meaning, purpose, fun, and lifestyle options.
Moving from Box #1 to Box #3
Box #1 is not a bad place to be. It certainly has its appeal and the greater brokerage community encourages agents to live in Box #1. Their perspective is that EVERYONE is a potential piece of business.
Box #3 can seem like a scary box to live in when you are deeply steeped in Box #1. The reality is that once you are happily residing in Box #3, you realize that there is really NO BOX AT ALL. Box #3 opens the door to for agents to live in their Zones of Genius and do what they love while making a living at the same time. Like golf? Become THE EXPERT in Golf Course properties (assuming your market has golf course properties). Love the water? Specialize in waterfront properties, boaters, and all things water (assuming you have water in your market). Love the hip downtown vibe of urban revitalization? Learn all there is to know about it and spread the love!
For us, we are passionate about older adults and helping them and their families with the challenges associated with aging and late-life moves. It is a natural fit for us to focus our professional attention on all things senior living and senior housing in our market.
If you are considering a move from Box #1 to Box #3 (Being BOX-FREE), we would love to talk with you! We want to know your motivations, fears, concerns, questions, and reservations.
BTW... We all have (had) them and so let’s get them out in the open and EXPLORE the many possibilities allowing you to LOVE your career and your life!
|Nikki Buckelew is the Founder and CEO of the Seniors Real Estate Institute and administrator for the Certified Senior Housing Professional® (CSHP) designation. A veteran REALTOR® of over two decades, she holds a bachelor’s degree in gerontology and a master’s degree in counseling psychology. As a professional speaker, coach, and trainer, Nikki is committed to empowering, equipping, and educating real estate sales and senior housing professionals seeking to better serve the mature market segment.