Part 3: Programs, Plotters, and Promises - the Real Realtor I am.

When starting this story a month ago, my ultimate promise was to share something about myself very few people know. I’m also making good on the other points of my story: A difficult, inappropriate experience with another agent - and the formulas some brands use for training agents to create relationships aka future clients. 

Strangely, all three of those things tie together on my journey.

Interrupting their Programs

You can find zillions of videos on YouTube talking about the secret sauces of "relationship building" in real estate. Many methods are very genuine about knowing yourself as a human being and as a professional, and building upon the authentic connections and relationships you already have. Those come from a place of integrity & respect.

Other methods are taught like a kitchen recipe or scientific formula: Funneling - a disturbing commonly used term for procuring people just like you, social systems, personal outreach mechanisms that resemble something noble or grounded in friendship… but are designed purely for the purpose of building clientele. 

The whole picture is like an assembly line that starts at “ways to make connections with people,” and ends with “convert them into clients.” The catch is what’s in between: These also teach, in so many words, “convince them you’re friends, that you are the best, most-seen Realtor friend they have.”

Consumers have to be vigilant in not making primarily social or emotional decisions about who they work with. Character is the most important element in choosing a real estate professional. Make sure what you are seeing is 100% authentic.

Real quality in our industry does not come from who's best at being social. "Social" is just what people use to get clients. Quality comes from our service - with traits like intelligence, ethics, advocacy and commitment to your best interests. Caring about people and their homes with the kind of tenacity you have in caring about yourself and your home.

Every real estate friend I have today is GOOD, caring people - but even I’ve been duped. Many of us deal with ugliness from unfriendly peers. As I mentioned in previous posts, we're somewhat conditioned not to talk about the negative in real estate. But simply keeping quiet about the bad can often allow things to get worse.

Without any doubt, that applies to the recent experience I had which made me entirely question my future in this real estate. Here it is.

Fierce Competitor

Another agent and I, and likely others, were being considered by a local resident to list their house. I was recommended by a neighbor, which was very nice to hear - I was grateful and honored to be thought of. The potential client and I had a wonderful meeting. Though they shared that they'd spoken with another agent, I make it a point not to ask about who I’m competing with. It shouldn’t matter.

Many agents don't feel that way. They want to ascertain and assess their perceived competition, and find their vulnerabilities. This situation proved how deep, how low, this can go.

Several weeks later, the homeowner & I reconnected, and they shared with me why they'd chosen the other agent - and how things fell apart. This agent "warned" them with their inflammatory version of personal information about me.The gave it a tone of being compassionate & caring to the client; that they were just looking out for their best interests. 

This agent was looking out for their own best interests, and they got the listing. But they also quickly lost it. In short, the client saw the agent's true self show as time passed - and became so uncomfortable that they reconsidered selling altogether.

This isn't about being sour over losing a listing, and I truly don't care about commission - I'm not in this for the money. (*Somewhere, a huge volume seller agent's mind just exploded!) I'm really just upset that the homeowner went through a horrible experience with a dishonest person, and that a distortion of my life was somehow part of it.

I told the homeowner I'm sorry that this happened, and shared my feeling that life gives us challenging experiences to point us in the best directions. Theirs is to stay put for the time being, which I totally support. The direction this gave me, is to own and share my truth.

About that personal information… 

Over the years, I’ve told a select few people about a diagnosis, but I’ve never just put it out there. If anything, I’ve kept it more deeply in the closet than I did as a teenager being gay. It’s one of those things that you at first believe shouldn’t matter, until it does - and shouldn’t be anyone else’s business… until it is.

Not surprisingly, such personal informaion can be quietly shared, with good intentions. But we know that such information can generalize, deviate, and someimes even land in the wrong hands.

Before putting my personal story out here, I talked with close friends - including those in real estate. One instinctive reaction I got was to protect me, which really warmed my heart.  

They mean to protect me from others in our industry who use perceived weakness as a weapon, aka the wrong hands. What my friends didn't know is that it was already happening. This agent I mentioned? They somehow heard some fraction or portion of my story. And because I haven't been transparent about it, it was their opportunity to tell their own version to the prospective client.

I’m taking that power back for myself.

Ten years ago, I was diagnosed with Panic Disorder.

If that raises alarms for you - whether it be personal or professional, the only thing I can do is tell you honestly that it shouldn't, and that it's unlikely nothing like you think it is. (If you're thinking it looks something like any character in a panickly movie, like say, The Shining, no - absolutely not!) Please, learn more by reading on, and feel free to ask me anytime. 

I likely had it for many years prior, but didn’t realize it. Mine stems from continual abuse between the ages of 2 and 11. I hadn’t adequately dealt with the psychological repercussions. I’d convinced myself that I’d won the battle, and for over 20 years, I simply pushed ahead.

Panic Disorder is one sneaky bitch. A panic attack is a biochemical process that triggers on its own. I haven't experienced one in many years. That's because I've learned the very subtle precursory signs, and how to avoid it from there.

As I write this, I've realized something for the very first time! You can liken a panic attack to an earthquake:

There may be some smaller “pre-shocks” - vertigo, dizziness - in the days / weeks / months before the big one hits. It’s that unresolved pain searching for cracks, pushing through, and looking for the perfect spot to breach and rupture all at once. And when you least expect it, it happens. Then you’re left with cleaning up the debris, figuring out what needs repair and how to handle things should another one occur.

When I had “the big one,” I was by myself. Everything seemed level & good up until the moment it broke. My heart raced, my body began to tighten, I started to feel a disconnect - and I didn’t see it coming.

It was intense enough to confuse it for a heart attack or stroke. And residual signs continued afterward: escalated blood pressue, heart rate, high adrenaline for days until medical intervention started to show its results.

A neurologist diagnosed me after putting me through every kind of test, probes on my head, body, sliding into big machines with colorful lights. They helped me recover, though vulnerability for an attack is always there. It's prevented by taking care of myself.

The Truth

None of this has ever negatively affected my work. Activity, interaction, engagement - including real estate - for me are full-stop prevention. The attacks I've experienced only occured when nothing else occured.

Managing my well-being has been a success. The two truly bad things about living with Panic Disorder, are its stigma, and knowing that there are people who may weaponize it. 

The above is what triggered me to weigh the question: Should I quit being a Realtor? Coming out on the other side, I now know why it’s important for me to take full control of my story by sharing it with you openly. No one else can fictionalize me.

And I’ll be around to make sure. 

Real estate needs as much “real” as possible. Real talents, real hearts, real minds, real human beings who truly care about helping people, and treat others with respect. I’m all of those things, and I won’t stop being a Realtor anytime soon. 

Now please, ask me anything - even if you think it’s uncomfortable. The best thing that can come out of this is demystifying and destigmatizing the conversations about mental health. 

By the way, May is Mental Health Awareness month… I didn’t plan the timing here, but I like the poignance. As for future blog entries, yes, there will be more stories. We will talk more about real estate, though not all boring stats & market updates. I want to give everyone something more, and I hope I succeeded in bringing you some value here.

Thank you for all of your support, and for just listening and allowing me to share my story with you.


Part 2: Superstars - Not that kind of Realtor!

Since I introduced this series earlier this week, I’ve had the most heartfelt reactions, mostly from friends outside the profession. But there was also a direct, personal response from real estate peers who matter most to me. Being this honest and transparent, for me takes pushing past many fears. I feel so much grace and gratitude for your support in speaking my mind. THANK YOU.

Everyone goes through reflective processes - or at least they should. Almost no one in real estate talks about the inside. Maybe some don't think about it. Me? I have to say it openly. Otherwise, I'm not being 100% true to myself, and not exactly transparent with you.

That's my conscience. I call things out, especially if it’s happening around me. If we ignore our opportunities to do better for people, they mushroom into prolific problems. Real Estate, at its core, is supposed to be about people, service, and ethics. 

When you see an agent on social media, how often does it evoke those traits?

More More More

Those qualities are not the topic. That’s because of the overwhelming trend of popularity & celebrity in our industry - or Real Estate Stars. It’s fueled by the need to get the most clients, make the most money, have the greatest share of the market, and/or be the dominant, pre-eminent brand / person in a given area. 

None of those goals benefit people. Quantity is not quality, and simply increasing production cannot ever actually improve our service. But it’s a competition, which is what drives the misplaced, manic focus on MORE and TOP PRODUCERS. If their marketing were to use an old-school McDonald’s sign, there’d surely be X-Billion Burgers Served boasted at the bottom. 

Along with many of my more client-focused peers, I think there’s a place for all of us at the table - and we’d be of higher quality service to our customers, and a better industry overall. But many others strongly disagree with that notion.

Read this piece of work here from a real estate coach: This is a common theme spread across our genre: If you’re not able to gobble up the whole screen like PacMan, then get out of our way.

The message of more is extremely effective in regards to self-marketing, so agents use it. They even pay money to learn how to master it. Like that real estate coach I just referenced, there is a whole spin-off industry of real estate influencers / masterminds / programs that train agents to self-market. 

People's fascination with interior design and real estate "reality" shows certainly opened doorways for our fame obsession, but the reasons run deeper. They’ve taken cue from many well-publicized studies like this one - - which says 86% of our younger people simply want to be famous.

It’s supposed to be disturbing, and we’re supposed to see that as a cultural misstep we need to correct. But people are constantly looking to exploit such social vulnerabilities to their advantage. 

Swipe Left

Looks are important to a brand, too - probably no surprise to anyone reading. I’m sharing my own personal experience with being judged, so you get a first-hand idea of what it’s like. I once considered joining a high-profile brokerage, and I reached out. We texted, talked on the phone, and they expressed interest in return.

Then came what I’d call in hindsight, an audition process. A number of zoom meetings where I’d often hear about how important it was that I “fit the role.” I also kept hearing about wanting agents who are hungry - an awful analogy to place upon us as professionals. If you’re hungry, you eat a sandwich, not a client. (Maybe this is where the X-Billion Burgers Served comes in.)

Finally, I got called for the screen test meeting in person. It wasn’t with the broker, or any manager. It was with a modelesque, camera-ready agent, at a public hangout. Not prepared with any questions for me, or any particular info to deliver, they were there simply to size me up.

So feeling a bizarre blind date vibe, I took over and asked the questions. I found that this agent had no active or recent transactions of their own. I found that they never had a listing in their career up to that moment. The more questions I asked, the more they looked at their watch. I started talking about my life, my home, husband, cats…

Ok, yes, I admit I was amusing myself by this point. But I knew my time had been wasted. The positive is that it wasn’t a fit for me, and I ended up where I should be with my current broker.

Why does this setup even exist? How many other well-meaning agents have wasted their valuable time in similar vacant circumstances? And what makes people do business with organizations like that?

Money and fame.

Service, people, ethics, and values - those don’t have the kind of power to attract a snowball of attention like celebrity and money do. So it’s especially important for you as consumers, friends, as people, to look beyond the surface - to get past all those smoke & mirrors, so you clearly see what matters. 

Picture Perfect

A very high profile example of social media’s power to obscure, happened recently in my own neighborhood. Followers of our local real estate market have surely heard of a certain Bungalow. It was co-owned by a self-proclaimed influencer, who chronicled the changes made to the house over their 3 years of ownership. Opting to move last year, they listed the home with an LA area agent highly regarded for social media marketing.

It’s a natural fit that could only reap the best outcomes for them. That doesn’t necessarily mean great outcomes for anyone else, including our local market, nor the industry as a whole. I’ll explain.

Ambitious pricing (several hundred thousands above any comparitive homes) and leveraging the owner’s social media following, deliberately screamed for broader media attention - which it promptly got. It’s absolutely right for an agent to use every possible avenue to promote & expose their client’s home, and to seek out the highest & best value. 

But we’re not supposed to become so distracted by hype, or image, that we take our eyes off facts or lose focus on doing our due diligence on behalf of all parties - including the interest of buyers. 

The most valuable room in a home is arguably the kitchen, and social media - broader media along with it - raved at the bungalow’s kitchen design. However, the construction of this kitchen was questionable, and very few openly questioned it. 

Long story short, the concrete “open cabinets” were formed simply by stacking rectangular paver stones vertically on their sides, troweling cement in between, and coating a layer of cement around them. They were not formed with rebar as one would expect. No reinforcement external or internal was used. This is of course easier and way less expensive than the proper method.

It looked amazing. It also wasn't safe nor usable long term. 

My conscience: I couldn’t possibly list this home without knowing the construction method and openly addressing it. I’d even put a buyer advisory in the listing. It’s that bright of a red flag. No, I wouldn’t just assume it’s safely built.

As Realtors, we’re supposed to pay attention and do what’s right. We’re also supposed to dive deep into the home, and have enough competence, confidence, and integrity to openly address issues - for the protection of buyers and sellers both. 

In the bungalow’s case, they only talked about the vanity of it all. Because if they got real about what it was, it might have become a social media disaster instead of a social media darling. 

Hopefully the build quality was discovered internally through inspection or disclosure during the sale process. Nevertheless, it’s a supreme example of how hype and star-power is a double-edged sword, and can obscure and distract consumers from what truly matters.

What Matters Most

It’s also why we need to be more focused on the character, values, and transactional / contractual expertise of the real estate professionals we work with. 

In real estate, what is most important is how you are being represented, how thorough & knowledgeable your agent is. And when it’s a listing, how well they understand and market your home - which, by the way, has zero relation to how agents market themselves. For all the countless photos and video clips you see of their faces, remember: Your home is the only image that counts. 

As an industry, we must re-examine our priorities. The noble goal isn’t getting the most. It’s being our best possible selves in our service to people.

I’m examining my own priorities right now. With this, I’m one step closer to seeing my own value at this table - and truly hope that I’m still a worthy voice in the real estate profession.


What kind of Realtor am I?

This is not a gimmick. What this is, is preparing myself for a new chapter and determining where & how that begins. I do that by breaking down the valuable lessons I’ve learned about Real Estate and living in our ecosystem of RE professionals, and sharing with you those insights: the wonderful and the crappy and everything in between.

Part of our job as RE agents is to take all the worries away. For many agents that includes burying every negative deep into the ground so that clients only see the bright, shiny objects. “Make everything look good, they say. When you go that far, you lose transparency to the detriment of a client.

Here I'll be incredibly transparent. But this isn't a pity party! As a matter of fact, my current broker and everyone I know in my brokerage, are honest, talented, ethical, authentic… just plain GOOD people. If I’m ending my time in real estate, then I’ve picked the perfect people to help me punctuate it.

There are still opportunities to do better. Too much of our industry is out of focus. More than not, there are smoke & mirrors: Showcasing ideas of celebrity, overpromising, emphasizing quantity over quality, and falsely equating agent self-promotion with the purchase or sale of your home. Those are all practices that lead to more clients, yet none mean the best outcomes.

When we just “make everything look good, you as a consumer may never know that your experience could have been, should have been, something much better than it was.

So this is my introduction part 1 of a 4-part series trilogy that will reveal meaningful & surprising moments that you likely haven't yet seen or heard. Whether you’re a friend, consumer, a fellow RE professional, or just a person interested in the human experience: My sharing this inside look - into my life, the business of real estate, and working with people - will benefit you in the long run.

Obviously these are my perspectives alone and don’t necessarily reflect the opinions of my brokerage or fellow real estate professionals. Here’s that preview I promised of what’s to come in future articles in this series:

  1. Reality Estate Stars. How self-marketing and the competition for clients became the dominant force in our industry - and why putting so much energy into getting clients harms the integrity & quality of people's experiences. This is where money & ego are in the driver seat, and pushing the pedal to the floor.

  2. Peer Pressure. Knowing who your real friends are, and who aren’t - from both client and agent perspectives. Here we’ll talk about some deeper stuff that may surprise you. “Systems” of building relationships, mostly used with legit, meaningful intention - but can be, and too often are, engaged simply to earn commissions. 

  1. One that got away. Where a competing agent used aggressive tactics, and another that I decided to refer to a peer. How I discovered it turned out badly, and why this event so personally affected my perspective and path forward in real estate.

  2. Real Me. The big thing I’ve never publicly shared about myself, and how it influences my life, my health, and my profession. We all have something, and most of us are too stigmatized to share it. I’m going to share mine, because I want you all to know: You are not alone in your journey. Like it or not (and there are sadly people who don’t like it), we are all in this together.

*3, 4, and 5 will all be included in the 3rd chapter.

I’ll be writing and posting these stories over the next two weeks. While this process will help me determine my path forward, my real hope is that this will help you see life more clearly. As a creative writer, my passion has always been to tell stories that enlighten people and provoke thoughts…

Most of all, I want to inspire and give strength & validity to others. My goal is for you, I, and everyone to take our lives toward the places & people that really matter - that bring as much value to us as we bring to them.

Your thoughts and feelings mean the world to me. So please share them with me directly, or with others in the comments below. I’m grateful you’re right here reading this, and know with my whole heart that this is exactly, in this moment, where I am supposed to be.