Teachers and Real Estate Agents Don’t Have Much In Common…

…But They Should.

I come from a family of teachers.  My mom was a teacher.  Her mother was a teacher.  Her sister is a teacher.  Being raised by a teacher has some advantages.  I loved to play school as a little girl and because I was the daughter of a teacher, I got to use actual teacher and classroom supplies.  I had her real class grade books and lesson planners. Occasionally, she would let me help her grade a few tests and let me tell you that is like giving the adult me a bottle of my favorite wine- it made my day!  I got to sit at my desk filled with real teacher supplies and grade papers just like I imagined she did at her desk.

And the times I got to be in her classroom at her desk…I am not sure I can even explain how much I loved that!  (Maybe equivalent now to being at the vineyard for my favorite wine 😉) If I wasn’t feeling well and had to leave my school, I would go to her school and play in her classroom for the rest of the day (maybe not the best idea since I was sick but what was a single mom to do). I would sit at her desk and that was playing school at its best.  Every little pretend school teachers dream come true.  She quickly caught on to how much I loved it and how often I felt “sick” and started making me stay in the nurse’s office when I was there.  That was no one’s dream come true.

The real advantage though of having a mom as a teacher was something I did not notice until I was older.  It was something that took quite a while for me to understand.  Not grading the papers, not standing in front of a classroom teaching but what she really did.  I can remember one day she had a children’s bookbag.  I did not understand why she was carrying a child’s bookbag.  She explained to me what was inside the bookbag.  It was full but the only thing I can remember being in the bag was a toothbrush.  I asked her why she would have a bookbag with a toothbrush.  She explained to me that there were kids that she taught that did have not things like a toothbrush, clean clothes, basic school supplies, or even dinner each night when they got home.  Everything I didn’t have to think twice about (even being raised on a teacher’s salary).  I learned that some kids did not have these “luxuries” and saw a lot of bookbags around our home.

My mom taught for 26 years.  She did not teach at the local private school.  She did not teach at the school down the road from our home.  She taught at low income, high crime schools.  There were times she had to do more than buy a toothbrush.  She worked with the police and the Department of Children Services (DCS) on several different occasions when her students were in bad situations and had no one else to help them.  They needed someone to protect them and she stepped up.

(My Mom and my daughter, McCall- Just because it’s cute!)

At the end of her career, she was even threatened by a student with a gun but she kept going to her classroom everyday.

“To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Her students needed her.  It is hard work and it is scary work but teachers find a way to put their fears, their egos, and their needs aside to help their students even if they do not have the time or the money to do so.

                  Roughly 25 years from my primetime of playing teacher I find myself not in front of a classroom but in real estate.  The change in career paths happened when my mom gave me a large stack of papers to grade and I quickly realized I enjoyed grading a few tests and “playing” teacher, but it was a whole different thing grading 25.  I do not know how old I was but I do know that sealed the deal.  I did not want to play teacher anymore and I definitely did not want to be a teacher when I grew up. I did, however, want to follow in her footsteps.

Teachers Have Heart, Agents Have Ego

The longer I am in real estate the more I see that agents do not operate from the same set of values for their clients as my mom did for her students.  The Cheetah real estate Supervillain we talked about last month, with his swift pursuit of you as his prey, has little to no care at all for the people he is harassing and stalking. This month I want to tell you about another Supervillain, Dr. Ego.  No surprise, I am sure, that there are a lot of egos flying around in real estate.   When you drive down any road you will see an agent’s car wrapped in their marketing.  Their car screams “Look at me.  I’m the best because my car says so”.  Or large billboards with their photo and the fact they are the #1 agent in Nashville- all of them.  Doesn’t seem to be enough room on the road for anyone else but them.

As a consumer, it is important to understand that many commissioned-based salespeople lack integrity. This is not news to you, but I think a lot of people underestimate the threat. Especially when what they promise is the outcome you may be desperate to see. “Your home sold, and faster, and for more money!” said in different ways, for whatever reason, leads homeowners to make stupid decisions that no responsible homeowner would ever make if rational thought was involved.  And Dr. Ego is best known for these over-promising ways. He is all over those billboards, he is wrapped around his car, and he is on the glossy covered pages of the real estate book, newspaper, and other real estate publications screaming what he will do for you.  Dr. Ego is thinking just about himself while speaking of what he can do for you but it is all about HIM.

Sigmund Freud once said, speaking of “Dr. Ego,” this is one race of people for whom psychoanalysis is of no use whatsoever. In his own mind, he is the greatest, best, smartest, most knowledgeable, skilled expert that ever walked the planet.  However, as brilliant as this Supervillain believes he is, he’s quite easy to stump. Just ask him “What makes you an expert? Why should I do business with you?” This is, after all, a reasonable question that any homeowner might ask. He will proceed to tell you everything about HIM, what makes HIM great – how HE’S a million-dollar producer, sold more homes than any other agent, how HE’S been in real estate longer than any other agent, how HE’S the best negotiator, the most skilled marketer, the most brilliant tactician, how HE knows the real estate market and market trends BETTER than anyone else (he’ll probably even show you some beautifully designed graphs and charts about HIM.)  This Supervillain doesn’t understand it’s not about him. That it is about YOU.

My Recent Dr. Ego Encounter

I can think of quite a few Dr. Egos as I am writing this but one recent encounter illustrates this agent type pretty well.  This agent listed his client’s home about a week before we found it in an area and neighborhood where a home should not be listed for a week without being under contract.  Something was odd but due to the low inventory we went to check it out anyway.  And let me tell you this home was lovely!  Gorgeous!  My client really loved the home so we put in an offer and worked it out- they got the home!

As I was chatting with him for the first time after we went under contract, we had a very amusing conversation.  I called to confirm the times for each home inspection and he spent the first 10 minutes of the call telling me all about HIM.  That he has been in real estate for almost 30 years.  That he does more business than most agents in the area.  He then proceeds to tell me how much money he spends on marketing and how much money he will make this year.  His ego was so big it felt like it was coming through the phone! What is funniest (and most disturbing) about this conversation was that once we did get around to talking about the home, he started babbling about listing it and I realized he had initially listed the home incorrectly!  He had put 2 bedrooms instead of 4, wrong zip code, and a higher, incorrect listing price.  He said his clients never knew because they do not use the internet much.   They just thought they had overpriced their home and that was to blame for the lack of showings.

We got the home without a bidding war that likely would have ended with this home selling over list price had it been entered correctly from day 1.  After a week on the market before being corrected it was probably never seen by many highly-qualified buyers who are alerted when a home initially hits the market.  His ego and his goals seem to be more important to him than his client or any real estate goal they have.  All this experience he had did not make him a good agent.  He lost his clients quite a bit of money and did not even seem concerned in the least.

Just like in the above story, when things do go bad, and they often do – rather than risk damaging his ego or tarnishing it even the slightest bit (something Dr. Ego can’t live with) this Supervillain will blame you. YOU overpriced your home. YOU didn’t accommodate showings. YOU didn’t follow his advice. It’s all your fault.  I mean, it couldn’t be his fault.  He is the best, he is #1, his billboard says so.

If your agent doesn’t have the heart of a teacher they will have the ego of a Supervillain.  Watch your back with these agents- it’s imperative.


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