One of the most memorable lines from a movie comes from the 1992 comedy A League of Their Own, the story of a real-life, all-woman professional baseball league that played during World War II. Jimmy Duggan, manager of the Rockford Peaches (played by Tom Hanks), lays down the law when one of his players begins to weep: “There’s no crying in baseball!”
This quote has since become slang for “toughen up” or “get over it” in sports, business and other areas. I can’t say that I’ve ever used it in my 18-year real estate career, but it made me think about some of the things we often hear in this business.
I’m talking about “extreme” language: absolute words like none, never and always.
Why is this so important? Because real estate situations are rarely the same. I’ve handled more than 1,000 transactions throughout my career, and while experience is an excellent teacher, each one has been a little different than the others. That said, I would also be remiss if I declared that my transactions have never been the same in any way.
Absolute language tends to happen when a person is trying to impress with their experience or position. In this business, I’ve learned that those who promise “always” or “never” rarely have the experience to back up their claims.
For example, let’s consider the presentation of an offer on a home that is for sale. On average, most full-time real estate agents sell 6-12 homes in a year. What are the chances that each one of those situations are the same? Pretty slim. There are different buyers, sellers, houses, locations, details, terms, inspections, lenders … and the list goes on.
So the buyer’s agent (who just showed the property) asks the listing agent if his seller would consider an offer that is “contingent” upon the buyer selling their current home. The market is strong and homes are getting reasonable offers within a fair amount of time. What should the seller and listing agent do?
In our experience, the seller and listing agent have already determined the answer. In most cases, the listing agent responds with a firm “No, the seller won’t consider a contingency offer.” In fact, many agents respond that their sellers would never consider a contingency offer. But there’s that word again: never.
But don’t the other details matter? Many times, contingency offers are much more favorable on every other term for the seller. The buyer understands that they need to present a very strong offer if they are asking for time to sell a property. Those terms might include renting the home back to the seller after closing, or closing on the date of the seller’s choice, keeping the seller from making two moves. Perhaps the seller’s home is unique and may take more time to sell than the market average.
The takeaway here is that there should rarely be an absolute answer when there are other details to consider. There are plenty of situations “outside the box” that can bring greater benefits.
Unfortunately, a newer real estate agent may be picking up bad habits from an “absoluter” who teaches “That will never work” or “They will never take that” or “You’ll never find a home with that feature” and my favorite “Houses in that neighborhood always get top price.”
The best agents, with the most experience, listen to their clients’ questions, understand their goals, and figure out how to make it happen.
And they rarely say “never” or “always” because they know creativity is the key to getting the best results for their clients. The only absolute I believe in is “There’s always a way!”