Two Queens, One Date

Y’all will be reading this on the 13th, which is the most auspicious of days, as it’s not only my birthday, but also Taylor Swift’s. I have already had the most delightful birthday month, between fancy nights at the Waldorf Astoria, spa days, and lots of time with family and friends. I am truly blessed, and y’all are a big part of it, so thank you!

But you know what? It’s not always wrapped gifts, hibachi dinners, and grandbabies, so today we’re talking about how to weather the storm when times are tough.

Grab your umbrella and let’s get to it.

I suspect Taylor’s cake may have a few less candles than mine.


Yep, I Read It, Too

It’s always something isn’t it? I swear we cannot go a single week without an article touting doom and gloom in the real estate industry. This week, everyone’s talking about the piece on Yahoo! Finance.

The crux of the article that has everyone in a lather is that 45% of US real estate agents say that they have been struggling to pay the rent. Specifically, they’re talking about the 45% of those who own their brokerages and the rent in question is on their commercially leased space for the month of November. So it’s not 45% of everyone and it’s not for the whole year. It’s a portion of a portion of a portion. (That doesn’t lessen how it feels for those brokers, though, and I am so sorry.)

What stood out to me wasn’t the numbers so much as glee in the comments section. Almost every reader was delighting in the idea that real estate agents were being taken down a notch and that we had it coming. 

Want to know why this is happening?

Because agents like Susie in Sarasota are going on social media and bragging on how much she made in commission instead of educating the consumer on the value we agents bring to our buyers and sellers. From these videos, you’d think it was as easy as driving people around, opening a couple of lock boxes, and boom! $30,000 in the bank. But every one of us knows that’s not the truth. We’re failing in our mission to show exactly why what we do is important. (If it were just a matter of rides and lock boxes, Uber drivers would do our job between fares.)

The other piece that’s making the rounds is the notion of our needing to be replaced by AI. There’s a video out there about how agents shouldn’t be talking heads—and, oh my stars, I’m one of the examples they use! Give me a damn break. I know down to the tips of my toes that they have it wrong. AI is never going to be able to service and relate to a client like we can. AI is never going understand our clients’ hopes and dreams, and it’s never going to have that gut reaction the second we walk into a house we know is perfect for them, regardless of the data points. We don’t need artificial intelligence; we need authentic intelligence, which means us out there, being our authentic selves, showing everyone the value we bring to the table.

I suspect that until we’re more successful at publicizing this, we can’t be surprised when there’s negative coverage.

This should be you when you read negative press.


Trust Me, I’ve Been There

There’s a lovely quote about how life isn’t about weathering the storms, but instead, it’s about dancing in the rain. As positive and upbeat as I like to keep it, I promise I am never dancing in the rain because my hair will turn into a giant Q-tip. But y’all get the idea.

I had a massage this weekend and the therapist was telling me her boyfriend is a real estate agent. She said he’s really struggling right now and he may have to pick up a second job. She couldn’t believe that as a massage therapist, she makes more money than he does. (I can. My fancy-schmancy massage was not cheap.) Anyway, they’re both so worried about the stormy skies in real estate right now and I feel for them.

Listen, I have been there myself. Brace yourselves, because I’m going to share a hard truth: the biggest problem I’ve seen with agents, myself included, is that we are artists, we’re expressive, we’re creative, we’re big-picture thinkers. Sometimes we lose sight of the micro because we care too much about the macro. The problem is when we make a $30,000 commission check, we think we’ve made $30,000… so we go out and spend $38,000. But when we look at all the costs associated with our business, it’s more like we’re earning $10,000 after we pay taxes, cover operating costs, reinvest in the business, etc.

I’ll bet y’all a $2 bill that her boyfriend has a great watch and a luxury car and beautiful wardrobe. What he doesn’t have—and what he should have been creating when the market was so crazy in 2021 and 2022—is a war chest built up for when times are lean. So if he can’t cover his bills right now because he didn’t plan for down times (and this will sound harsh), he doesn’t have a job, he has a hobby.

The market is cyclical. We all know this. In 2008 when the market crashed, I did not know if I could make it because I didn’t plan back then like I do now. I got married in October of 2008, and when my husband and I filed our joint taxes in spring of 2009, he saw that I’d only made $68,000 in 2008. I wasn’t even sure I’d be able to pay all my taxes. He was not only shocked, but he was madder than a wet hen. He said, “I thought I was marrying a real estate big shot.” (Oh, my stars and stripes, the red flags that I see in retrospect now.) I’m not going to sugar-coat it; those times were rough and I swear my poor kids ate nothing but Panda Express that year.

Here’s what I learned from that time. First, I learned to deposit my whole commission and give myself a regular paycheck through a payroll system which automatically deducts the taxes for me. Then, I learned to look at every single line item debited from my bank account. If what I was spending on didn’t go towards reinvesting in my business, then I got rid of it. Third, I swallowed my pride and did what I had to do, which was managing rental properties. I might have only made $280/month off each rental property, but when I started to manage 20 to 25 of them, it added up. Being a property manager wasn’t glamorous, but it helped me get back to where I wanted to be, and where I am today.

I weathered that storm… and I learned to always carry that umbrella, even on the sunniest days.

By training myself to keep my eye on the bottom line before it was an issue, I was able to pivot when I sensed that slowdown after Memorial Day in 2022. I stored my pennies. I cut the fat. If I’d waited to start reacting until after September of 2022 when the changes had become evident, it would have been too late to pump the brakes.

The other thing I did—which I thought was the smartest thing in the world—was buy small properties and flip them. My plan gave me a lot of short-term gains of $30,000 here and $20,000 there. (This is back when God and everybody could get a NINJA loan, which is why we found ourselves where we were in 2008.) I thought I had stumbled onto an amazing business plan that was just a cash cow. I was looking at the macro, not the micro. However, I now know that if I had held onto all those houses I’d bought and kept them as rental properties instead of taking a quick payout, the combined net worth would be $15,000,000 right now.

Oh. My. Stars.

Mind you, I’m still going to have the happiest birthday, surrounded by everyone I love most in a life that I am grateful for every minute of every day. But a tiny piece of me wonders if it wouldn’t be an itty-bitty bit happier with an extra $15,000,000.

Me, after dancing in the rain.


Mantra of the Week

Never wait until it’s too late to pump the brakes.

Glennda Baker