dealing with difficult people
Despite all of the crap-slinging earlier in the day, this Sacramento Realtor enjoyed a most spectacular birthday yesterday on the coast of Oregon at Yachats. I turned 63 on Sunday. The day began very strangely. One of my sellers left me a voice mail after hours and then followed it up with an extremely angry text message because some agent did not call him first before coming over to see his home. The buyer’s agent made a mistake, did not fully read the MLS showing instructions and mistook my seller’s home for a vacant home. It’s not often those types of things happen, but many buyer’s agents are not known for attention-to-detail abilities.
I expressed my apologies and contacted the agent to find out why she thought my seller’s home was vacant. She didn’t gain access from the key in the lockbox because the door was locked from the inside. I apologized again to my seller, offered assurance that this is not how agents generally show homes, yet he continued to explode. What did he want me to do? He could not answer that question. He ranted on about things that didn’t make any sense until I realized, uh, oh, this is not a rationale response from a normal person. I texted whether he would like me to cancel his open house for the afternoon. Why yes, he did not want an open house now, nor did he even want me to continue listing his home after 2 days on the market . . . all because another agent did not read MLS showing instructions.
These things happen, and selling is a stressful situation. Still, the guy was a nut job. Crazy, unstable and perverted weird, come to find out. I agreed to cancel his listing but let him know that I am not the broker. Lyon Real Estate is the broker and only a Lyon manager can cancel a listing. I do not have that authority as a broker-associate but I would ask our manager to do it, if he is available. Seriously, dude, screaming at me on my birthday when I’m on vacation and only trying to help is not conducive to this seller’s cause.
That is the point when he threatened me.
Fortunately, my office manager was able to handle the cancellation. Managers are not always available on a Sunday. My team member removed the lockbox but the seller refused to come to the door to retrieve his key. It does not bear well for a seller when agents see this guy’s listing was canceled twice in a row. The previous agent had removed all of the marketing comments and all of her photographs before she canceled her listing with him. That is a sure sign the agent was, let’s just use the word, unhappy, with the seller. Then, I blocked his cellphone number from my phone and went on about celebrating my birthday.
My husband and I had headed off down 101 for the town of Florence but realized once we drove past the Heceta Lighthouse and the town was nowhere to be seen that we should head back to Yachats, which is a quiet town on the central Oregon coast of 600 or so residents, if we didn’t want to miss our massage. Yachats is the town where I received my 4th gold in Level 10 in Ingress, nestled along the Pacific with lots of places that serve fish and chips. Even though it’s a little chilly, people still sit outside under tents to dine.
As a birthday surprise, my husband got us a couple’s massage, followed by a facial for me. I needed to quickly arrange all of my business for that afternoon as I had a couple more open houses happening, and needed to make sure I could still follow up with my clients in a reasonable timeframe. The facial was the best facial I’ve ever had. No joke. It is called a four-layer facial, which involves 4 different facial masks. My skin is smooth and supple and filled with moisture, which is the complete of opposite of my skin texture in the dry weather of Sacramento. I almost dozed off, but woke myself with a short snort of a snore during the foot massage part, and cracked my mask, which was a tad startling.
When we came back to our room, though, I sold one of my other new listings, which was a pool home in Carmichael, held open on Sunday. Multiple offers, too. Made those sellers extremely giddy. Later that evening, during a magnificent dinner of moist halibut pan-seared in bran oil complemented by various assortments of fungi, I sold another home in the Med Center that had also been held open on Sunday. Spotted the full price offer on my cell. Yup, Sunday was an excellent day for me and two of my clients — who obviously have trust and faith, not to mention the good sense to appreciate what I do. Sometimes, the best thing an agent can do is to quickly cut free the odd-one-out.
You can read more about Elizabeth Weintraub’s 62nd Birthday.
To paraphrase John Lydgate, a 14th-century English monk and poet, a real estate agent can’t please all of the people all of the time. In today’s Sacramento real estate market, an agent might wonder if she pleases all of the people some of the time but there’s no need to focus energy on that question since she pleases some of the people practically all of the time — those people being her clients.
It’s nice if everything balances in a real estate transaction, but it’s not always possible. Sometimes, an agent has to pick which side she wants to please, and most agents will always choose her client. Well, the ones with any brains.
The REALTOR Code of Ethics says an agent must treat all parties honestly and fairly, but it doesn’t stipulate making the other side — the side we do not represent — happy. Sure, we hope they’re happy and speaking strictly for myself I’d never want to purposely upset somebody else, but we can’t control what other people think, say or do. We can only control our own behavior.
This is why I get to be the rational and calm person. The agent who sticks to the purchase contract by managing performance and ensuring the transaction closes. I get to deal with all kinds of personalities in this business. I get the screaming hysteria, the weeping and sobbing poor me’s, the F-150s in a China shop, the indignant hyenas, the bipolar-sans-meds, the threatening gorillas, the barking dogs, the guys with explosives strapped to their backs, and that’s just the agents.
It’s a balancing act, sometimes, to try to keep that noise away from my clients but still deliver important information to my sellers.
I went to lunch last week with a Sacramento agent I met years ago on an agent website. She lives in Rancho Cordova and still sells real estate into her senior years, a ways past retirement, and I love her to pieces. She lamented that agents have become more mean lately. I wonder if it’s the transition into a normal real estate market that sets so many of them afire?
It’s tempting at times to return fire, that’s only normal, but it’s better for all concerned to keep my eyes on the horizon. That’s why so many sellers hire Elizabeth as their Sacramento real estate agent. Pleasing all of the people all of the time is unreasonable.
When you get to be as old and cranky as this Sacramento real estate agent, one of the benefits of still working successfully in the field of real estate is the fact I get to choose my clients, which means I don’t have to work with bad home sellers. Newer agents sometimes have to work with sellers they would rather not be involved with and other agents have skins as thick as a crocodile, so these guys don’t care if they are treated badly as long as they get paid. These are the “laughing all the way to the bank” agents.
But I’m not one of those “laughing all the way to the bank” agents because I prefer to laugh during other times in my life. We’re all different. I am actually envious of agents who can work with just about anybody regardless of temper tantrums and abuse. You can run into obnoxious people anywhere you go: the grocery store, an elevator, a garden center, driving down the freeway, the bars and pool halls of Midtown Sacramento, and you can just ignore the occasional jerk.
It’s harder to do that in real estate because it’s not always obvious. There are bad home sellers all over the country. Agents from Oregon to Florida have shared their stories with me, and you can read about it in the above link to bad home sellers.
Basically, I treat people the way I would like to be treated. With courtesy, professionalism and tact. But every so often I run into a monster, some creep who is demanding and ugly. I just don’t work with those people. I might refer them to another agent outside of my office, or I might tell them I can’t work with them at all. I certainly don’t want my team members to work with an individual who would cause them misery.
People don’t like to be rejected though. So, I can’t just say get outta my face, even though I might want to, because there is no reason to stoop to that level. But I can say that the home sellers I work with are simply delightful and enjoyable. There are no bad home sellers in the bunch, and I’m often dismayed when a transaction closes because our intense interaction comes to a close. So, yes, I don’t make as much money as I probably could if I worked with everybody I met. And that’s perfectly OK. I make enough to rank in the top agents in Sacramento.
Do you ever have days when you feel compelled to tell some whiny person to just put a sock in it? I’m not talking about my husband, in case he’s reading this and wondering. It’s the buyer’s agents who can get all excited and turn into white knight agents, turning up the volume and drama over some piddly little thing, when the agent hasn’t even spoken to the buyer. A Sacramento real estate agent can’t take this kind of stuff personally because it’s not personal. It’s some other agent’s misaligned ego that’s doing the talking.
This is not to say that to be successful in real estate that an agent needs a skin as thick as an Everglades alligator. To the contrary, good real estate agents need a really big heart and hearts can be broken. More important is the ability to put situations into perspective, to be calm, rational and think things through before reacting.
I suspect that the aforementioned is called adulthood, although I’m not really sure. Because not having any kids to use as a measuring stick, I’m not certain I have fully developed into an adult. The days all sort of look the same to me, and then one day I look in the mirror and I’m over 60. Unsupervised because my parents are dead and gone. Nobody to account to but myself.
People tell me I have an even temperament. Probably because I am not the type of person to explode as my immediate reaction to something seemingly stupid — even if inside my brain I’m thinking WTF, I don’t say it until I’ve thought through the situation. Like, take a buyer’s agent who asks me if the seller will accept, oh, say, $50,000 less on a brand new extremely well priced listing. An agent will ask that question because buyers asked.
Instead, I wonder why that agent has not studied the comparable sales in the neighborhood. I wonder why the agent hasn’t taken the time to educate her client. I wonder why the agent is in real estate, and how long it will take before she ends up behind the counter at Starbucks. But I don’t say any of those things. I just ask why. Asking questions is the best way to diffuse potentially explosive situations. It’s also a good way to find out what another person is really thinking before jumping to conclusions.
I have a frame around the license plate on my car that features my name and the name of my brokerage. Other agents ask me if I don’t worry that identifying myself on the road could have consequences on my real estate business if I were to do something so rude as to cut off another driver in traffic. See, that thought never occurred to me because being rude on the road is not something I would do. I’d much rather be rude in person, thank you very much — just kidding!
The fact is if I see people waiting to cross the street, I stop my car and let them cross. Especially if they are standing in the crosswalk because pedestrians have the right-of-way in California. It also gives me 5 seconds to check email. I move far away from people on bicycles when I drive past them. When I spot a vehicle merging on the freeway, I either speed up to get out of their way or I slow down to let them in, but I don’t try to impede the merge. I am not an angry driver. Other drivers don’t make me mad unlike some people I know — whom I won’t name because I want my dinner served hot and not cold tonight.
My focus is to get from Point A to Point B in one piece. It’s nice if I enjoy the journey along the way but it’s not a requirement. It’s the same sort of focus I bring to my real estate business. There is no reason to let personalities clash when trying to focus on closing a transaction. I don’t let obnoxious people rile me up. The big picture is in my radar at all times. Just because I might have your number doesn’t mean I’ll dial it.
Like yesterday a neighbor from one of my listings called, very irate. He was spitting mad. He claimed the sellers’ kids were breaking into a house to party before they went to school. I guess it used to be their house. I think he wanted me to storm over to the house, rip my sign out of the yard and beat the kids over the head with it. He wasn’t happy when I suggested he call the police and pointed out I could not call the police because I am not a witness to the alleged crime. I could hear the venom spitting into the other end of the phone. I suspect when it comes time to put his home on the market, he won’t call me.
And that’s OK.
I passed along his story to the sellers.
If you’re thinking about putting your home on the market and need an experienced Sacramento real estate agent, call Elizabeth Weintraub at 916 233 6759. You won’t get drama out of me. Just hard work.