The following is a chapter ("The Golden Rules of Real Estate")* from the book REAL: A Path to Passion, Purpose and Profits in Real Estate. The author of this chapter is Michael McClure, CEO of VerifiedAgent.com. @professionalone
*Minor modifications have been made to adapt the chapter into a blog post.
I have so many thoughts and ideas and impulses for someone about to embark on a life-long career in real estate. Here are the biggest things that come to mind:
1) Be honest
Whether we’re talking about a career in real estate or a career in any other industry, your reputation is really all you have.
A great reputation is the single greatest attribute, characteristic, or asset any real estate professional can possess. Always go the extra mile, not only to be honest, but to avoid any hint or appearance of impropriety.
2) Be competent
Let me speak plainly here. If a person wanted to, and their ethics were less-than-perfect, they could have a reasonably okay career in real estate by doing a fairly mediocre job. It’s way too easy to get a real estate license, and the sad reality is that most brokers will accept just about anyone who shows up at their door with a license and a pulse.
Sadly, with its low barrier to entry, poor enforcement of the National Association of Realtors® Code of Ethics and the strong allure of “big, easy money” (and further exacerbated by the unfortunate ignorance on the part of much of the public in terms of how to choose a great agent), the industry all but invites marginally competent people to come and join the party. Do not succumb to the easy opportunity to be mediocre. Always strive to provide exceptional service to each and every client, and to be a true professional. Never stop mastering your craft.
3) Be professional
Demonstrate professionalism in all things at all times. Lead by example and strive to elevate those around you with your complete commitment to excellence. Real estate is often chaotic, fragmented, disjointed, poorly communicated, misunderstood, misinterpreted, dramatic, high stress and last-minute.
It is very easy to lose one’s composure and behave in a less than professional fashion. Always keep your composure. Always keep your cool. Always do your best to see the other side of every issue and situation.
4) Be a true fiduciary
In most states, agents function as fiduciaries. In such situations, our clients’ interests supersede our interests. Real estate is full of opportunities where you can increase your chances of earning income by looking the other way or by not disclosing something or by not passing along a comment which might impact your client’s behavior or affect their ultimate decision making in one way or another.
We must always put our clients’ interests above our own. That is legally required in situations where we function as fiduciaries. Please take that obligation to heart and let it dictate your every decision.
5) Be golden
Practice the “Golden Rule” with respect to everyone at all times—your clients, other agents, other agents’ clients and the general public. Always treat everyone the way you would want to be treated. Make your enemy your friend. Many people in the real estate industry for some reason think that representing their clients’ interests requires them to behave in an adversarial fashion.
I happen to disagree with that. I believe that extreme diplomacy is the path to the greatest level of success in the highest percentage of situations. And when your peers come to see you as reasonable and objective, they will begin to go out of their way to do business with you. And when that starts to happen, it can take your business to an entirely new level.
6) Keep learning
Never be satisfied with mediocrity. Never stop improving, growing and learning. Know your weaknesses and work hard to overcome them. This is true not only for the obvious issues affecting professional competency, but also “outside” things like Social Media and video and blogging and things of that nature. It’s been said that social media is the greatest cultural shift since the Industrial Revolution, and I happen to agree.
Our world is changing radically, and we have to stay current to understand and react to those changes. I believe that real competitive advantage awaits those who leverage these changes most effectively. The huge popularity of Facebook and Twitter, with 1 billion and 300 million users, respectively, speaks volumes about the significance of these changes.
As a consumer who has worked with many service professionals, doctors, lawyers, CPAs and real estate agents, namely, I can tell you that people simply doing what they tell you they’re going to do is important. Massively important. So many people today are guilty of over-promising and under-delivering that it’s become almost “the norm” and culturally acceptable. That’s a bad thing.
Always be super conservative when discussing timetables and deadlines. Take what you think the deadline is really going to be and add a day or two or three or maybe even a week. And then get things done ahead of those deadlines. I have found that this is one of the quickest and easiest ways to gain the long-term trust and confidence of clients.
8) Be relational
The very best agents that I know do little or no advertising or lead generation. And if you know anything about real estate, you know that that it is highly unusual, as many agents spend thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars every year on advertising and promotion of one kind or another, and “lead gen” is something that consumes the majority of many agents’ work days.
So, how do these agents get away with not spending a lot of money promoting themselves or on lead generation? The answer is surprisingly obvious: they focus on creating real, tangible and legitimate relationships with each and every client and they provide amazing service to every buyer and every seller. They make every client a raving fan.
I was fortunate enough to enter the industry being mentored by a veteran agent of this kind. She’s been in the business now over 35 years, and I haven’t seen her spend a dime on promotion for the last 15 years. And she doesn’t even understand what “lead gen” means. And she has more clients than she can handle. It’s all because of her exceptional devotion to relationship creation and maintenance. As a real-life illustration of this, my mentor has one past client that has referred well over 50 clients to us, almost all of whom are in the $400K+ range (and several of whom are in the $1M+ range). That “referral tree” is now three or four levels deep, and has produced well over $500K in gross commission income—from ONE raving fan past client! And that was built by nothing more than providing great service and focusing on the relationship more than the sale.
9) Be positive
Even for the best agents, real estate is often a bit of a roller coaster ride. Clients do unexpected, crazy things. Deals that you thought were solid fall apart at the last minute. People often behave in illogical and frustrating ways. Through it all, strive to keep a positive attitude.
This is another thing that I learned from my mentor. I saw people treat her poorly yet she always turned the other cheek. More often than not, the people who treated her poorly found a way to repay her in the long run. People know when they mistreat you, and it often happens in the heat of the moment, when they are under pressure or when emotions are running high. When you take the high road and keep a positive attitude, it’s amazing how often wrongs get righted.
10) Take the long view
I’m a big believer that the length of one’s perspective is really important. What I mean by that is that if you’re making decisions based upon the short-term view, you may very well make different decisions than if you take a longer view of whatever the situation might be. This goes hand-in-hand with my earlier point about focusing on the relationship and not the transaction, but I’ll risk the redundancy just to make the point again.
When we focus on the longest term view of any situation, we tend to make better decisions and take more appropriate actions. The long view is the only view. Always base decisions on the long-term implications.
11) Be self-determinant
I could easily be wrong about this, but I can’t think of any other industry that is more “self determinant” than real estate. It is really important as you enter the industry to understand that. Can you get help from others? Of course you can. You should make a real effort to find a great broker and a great company to help you get started in the right direction in your career. But in the long run, it’s all about you, your efforts and your willingness to do what it takes to be successful in a highly competitive and super dynamic environment. The best agents are self-motivated and almost always tend to be successful because of their own efforts.
12) Be tenacious
I remember stumbling upon a survey a few years ago, intended to reveal the most important characteristic in terms of being able to predict success in the real estate industry. The survey showed that tenacity was the number one predictor of success in real estate. So, be tenacious. Never give up. Never stop trying. When you encounter problems, stumbling blocks, and challenges, dig your heels in and simply make up your mind to overcome them.
13) Follow the leaders
Social media has given us an amazing, unprecedented opportunity to connect with almost literally anyone, including the very brightest and most influential people in the real estate industry. I could give you a monster list of people I think you should follow, but that would take up this entire chapter. Follow the best and the brightest and just learn all you can from them.
Three people I must name specifically are Stefan Swanepoel (@Swanepoel), Marc Davison (@1000WattMarc) and Krisstina Wise (@KrisstinaWise). I’ve learned so much from these three. Just follow them and you’ll see. Also, I suggest you follow Erik Qualman (@Equalman), who is not in real estate but who is one of the world’s foremost authorities on Social Media.
I saved this point for last, because, after “be honest,” this is the most important point of all. Great agents are great communicators. There is so much room for miscommunication that you simply must err on the side of over-communication.
As a broker, I can tell you that the vast majority—I’d say as much as 90%—of all problems in transactions can be traced back to some variety of miscommunication. Never assume. Always ask. Always communicate.
This overview is just a highlight of what paths can lead you to success, but anyone who incorporates all of these things into their real estate career is likely to be very successful.
About The Book
Most real estate books fall short. REAL goes beyond mere tactics and strategies to focus on the core of what really matters - You. In addition to the authors' lessons learned, this book also includes contributions from some of real estate's most influential thought leaders: Michael McClure, Marc Davison, Spencer Rascoff, Sherry Chris, Krisstina Wise, and many more.
If building a real estate business that lasts is important to you, this is a book you surely won't want to miss!