To mark my 13 year anniversary in real estate, I put together a list of life lessons I have learned that have served me well throughout this journey.
It's a long one, buckle in! But how could it not be? 13 years in this business seems hardly possible, and in 2 different provinces too!
Even though time flicks by without us noticing, the things we pick up along the way (and sometimes the things we leave behind) are worth reflecting on and sharing.
1. Vulnerability is a Superpower.
Listen, do you want results? Tell me your story.. I know you have one.
You are more than the sum of your credit score and house wish list; you aren’t just a labelled generation or a job title. The moment I hear a client’s story it makes me want it for you, we become a real team. It makes creating win-wins so much easier; it helps the other side say yes. EVERYONE loves a story. Single parent? New to Canada? Selling to downsize so you can bucket list travel the world? People relate to stories, and that happens when you let your guard down.
Time and time again I find the best deals happen because we get down to the grit of the client’s situation. You would be surprised what our clients value most, and it isn’t always money.
So – Take your armour off, tell people your real motivation sometimes, it might surprise you.
2. Know your limits.
Financially and emotionally. Buy the house your heart wants and your wallet can afford.
The greatest thing about being an adult, is we get to choose our own cast of characters and the people we surround ourselves with. If you want something more affordable, or really different than where you grew up? Follow that dream friend, hold onto it, because frankly.. it is your mortgage to pay, not anyone else’s.
3. Don’t let the cat out.
Really, don’t. Unless you like chasing frenzied felines down icy streets.
Respecting the space and loved ones of another person speaks volumes.
4. Take a breather.
I am the kind of person who hits the ground running and stays in motion all day. I think I am worried if I stop that I won’t be able to start again. It is not my natural inclination to just.. BE.
However, I have learned that stolen moments allow us to breathe and focus; they show us clarity.
Have you ever put down a problem you couldn’t solve, but after some time away from it, the answer just came to you? Sure you have, everyone has, and we all agree this is valuable. Yet sometimes in contract negotiations we don’t allow ourselves that same room, or we don’t want the other side to have it.
We want everything done yesterday. Embracing the value of those little pauses can mean less costly mistakes, clear headed decisions, and a calmness that comes with knowing you took the time to make the right decision.
5. Read the fine print (and also agent remarks).
People put important stuff in there, pay attention. I know font 10 can be tough to read, but it is worth it to get ALL the information. The ability to really understand the fine points of legal paperwork and listing information is invaluable. Understand what you are signing. This applies to real estate contracts and frankly, life.
6. Complicated is a given.
Lean into it. Learn to thrive on the edge of comfort. Some of the best things in my life have come because I let go of my own expectations. For those of us who are planners (raise your hands here), we love to schedule things, it makes us feel like we are squeezing every drop out of life, and that isn’t a bad thing.
What happens when it derails though?
When things get messy and complicated, can you find peace there? Can you see that the bungalow in a lower budget is actually a really great idea? Even if it isn’t the water front condo you initially hoped for. Accept that life isn’t linear, that really it runs in several directions, all at once. If you can see that, then complications will seem more like opportunities instead.
7. There is only so much space, make it count.
More Storage – A top 5 wish list item I see time and time again. Storage rooms are everyone’s reality. I know what people want storage rooms for; Baby clothes, Halloween decorations, College grad memories.. LIFE. And that is awesome, that is the good stuff.
So if you want a storage room, get one, fill it with stuff that MATTERS. Throw out the junk once and for all, keep the stuff that matters. (de-cluttering trends aside)
This is equally valuable advice for what thoughts you allow in your head. While not exactly limited space up there, I think we spend energy on things that take up unnecessary room. De-clutter that nonsense and watch the light filter back in.
8. Fun shouldn’t have an age limit.
A few years ago my stepmom told me her New Year’s Resolution was to play more. I was gobsmacked.. play? Was she serious. How do I do that? (for the record, she chose skiing, I went once and didn’t die or break anything, so I chalked it up to a win and never went again. Also, chair lifts are terrifying).
Well, here is how: make space in your home simply for play, kids or not. Some of the most memorable homes I show have things like adult game board rooms, art easels set up in home offices (that are clearly not meant for children), and adult sized floaties for pools. People LOVE to envision themselves in the homes for sale, and trust me when I say this stuff helps. Helps sell homes, helps adults find their inner kid again, it just helps.
9. Perfect plans go rogue.
Ahhh plans. It would seem that we give them so much life, that they start to breathe and move on their own. Well, I don’t know about you but the rebel at heart in me has learned that any plan I come up with will likely go off course. While that used to feel like failure, I have learned that it’s just a branch off the road I didn’t see before, and that has led to life’s greatest wins for me.
This applies quintessentially to real estate as well. The wish lists full of wants and needs change and often you wind up somewhere better than you though possible!
I remember a client who got into a multiple offer situation, and despite their offer being the best, they didn’t get it. Within 2 days an incredible home had come on the market, one that was far better suited to them. They bought it that very day and lived there long enough to grow their family from 1 child to 4. That would never have happened in that other house.
Dreams and plans are good, just leave room for possibilities too.
10. Don’t let others dictate your outcome.
Ah humans. We are all a little messy. We feel the feels, we don’t always treat others the way we want to be treated, and we are sometimes completely selfish. Let that be what it is, because we have all been there.
However, don’t let someone else’s bad behaviour stop you from moving forward. From going back to school, from feeling good in your own skin, or from getting a house you really want.
The experiences people have that cause them to list their homes are not always the happy shiny ones, sometimes they are the really hard ones. This can mean buyers and sellers on the other side aren’t as happy about the transaction as you.
Be understanding, be compassionate, let it go. But never let it stop you.
11. Do your homework
I swear I can hear my German teacher’s voice in my head right now.. hausaufgaben!
Seemed like punishment at the time right? Who on earth needed to know all that stuff.
Remember that moment when you realized it wasn’t about what you were learning, but HOW to learn. Is that moment maybe now for some of you?
That realization took me a while too. We forget what an absolute gift education is. It was so readily available to us growing up that we didn’t appreciate it. I am sure we all thought we would grow up and never talk about school again, and we all know that isn't true.
So, life skills from a Canadian education; ready?
- Research every house you want to buy.
- Familiarize yourself with the type of plumbing, where the shut off valves are, how electrical boxes and mortgages work. Know the neighbourhood, the zoning, the upcoming developments slated. ALL. OF. IT.
12. It’s never too late to start.
Go back to school, take an art class, and buy your first home.
All of it. It really isn’t too late.
13. Focus on cultivating win-win situations.
This is the sweet spot, the win-win. THIS is where real estate deals happen.
When all parties come to the table ready to lay it out there, after all the circling around happens; the questions about ‘your client’s bottom line’ are posed and egos are done fluffing themselves.. and we get down to the gratifying middle ground.. this is what everyone seeks.
When we know we can put it together and make everyone feel like they won. That’s the stuff of stories and legend. THAT my friends, is what keeps me going, those sweet little wins.
I think the biggest lessons of all are that life is a series of the unexpected, embrace it.
Learn from others, you can't know everything.
Sometimes knowledge is just perspective.
Lowball offers are in fact disrespecful, but shouldn't be ignored either.
Lastly, remember that 'why' is a really important word, ask it always.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your faith and support over the last 13 years <3