In April, one of Inman’s most popular recurring theme months returns: Back to Basics. Throughout the month, real estate professionals from across the country share what’s working for them, how they’ve evolved their systems and tools, and where they’re investing personally and professionally to drive growth in 2022. It’s always a good idea to go back to basics with Dans homme.
Growing up, I loved etiquette books. I read Miss Manners and Emily Post’s books cover to cover, digging into the more obscure details of tea parties, polite correspondence and the correct weight of stationery that a ‘lady’ should use.
I’ve always believed that the popularity of tag-related content lies in the promise of upward mobility. That was definitely the attraction for me, anyway. I grew up without much money or benefits, but with a mother who was obsessed with behavior, including table manners, handshakes, and myriad signs of kindness.
The assumption of both our parties was that one day I would interact with people from a higher social echelon, and when that day came I would know how to behave, what fork to use, and how to carry on a conversation. In many ways, my mother’s dreams for me have come true.
- I met a former US Secretary of State at my college roommate.
- I once taught the grandson of a Supreme Court justice.
- I’ve worked with industry leaders around the world as a writer and consultant.
I won’t say my demeanor was always perfect, but I always felt good about myself, largely because I had a basic working knowledge of how to conduct myself in “polite” company. It really is a little considered but important benefit.
Now, however, our world is so different. As a society, we can hardly agree on anything. This means that the rules for polite behavior in many contexts are also different.
For real estate agents, this can mean that what was once professional now seems stuffy. For the potential luxury agent, it can be difficult to know how to step up your game in a way that makes sense for your market. This can make negotiation more difficult and marketing more like a guessing game.
What can we agree on and how can we find common ground? Which rules seem to be disappearing and what’s next? We reached out to agents and brokers in the Inman community through our two broker and agent Facebook groups for a preview of the new business etiquette rules today. Here are a few tips we picked up.
There were many different views on professional behavior and appearance in our informal survey. Some variations were due to generational differences while others stemmed from market differences or personal preferences.
There was already disagreement about handshakes even before COVID made the handshake feel like downright dangerous. As someone from a long line of family members with arthritis, I know that a firm handshake can be a dreaded social convention for many, especially older people.
Eric Reusch, an associate broker at Bunbury and Associates, called the handshake “dead carp”, which he said made him “immediately lose all respect” for the other party. In contrast, Danny Dietl, broker at BRIX Real Estate, said he was “firmly anti-handshake”, shaking hands if offered but not initiating it.
Tip: Respect people’s preferences and try to understand that the rules are not the same in a post-COVID world.
While different people may have different thoughts and feelings about handshakes and their alternatives, like nudges, the time has come for us to stop judging ourselves by the firmness and quality of our handshakes. . Don’t be offended if someone doesn’t shake your hand – maybe they’re sick, immunocompromised, or just prefer not to shake your hand.
I will go further and enrage the hugs of the readership. For many, “I’m a hugger” gave free rein to invade personal space and ignore the personal preferences of others. The thinking was that if someone else wasn’t a hug, a preference for hugs outweighed their preference for social distancing.
At this point, there are plenty of good reasons to forgo hugs, especially among casual acquaintances. If you love hugs, stick with close family and friends who share your preference rather than imposing it on co-workers or those you’re meeting for the first time.
As a former high school teacher, one of the first big etiquette shifts I noticed with my students was avoiding eye contact. At first, I was inclined to think that a lack of eye contact was disrespectful or rude, but over time I noticed it was becoming more common among many students of all academic levels and styles. of social engagement and regardless of how positive our other interactions are. .
While staring at someone with unblinking eye contact is undoubtedly scary, it is appropriate to make eye contact when talking with someone. For many who are used to working with others via computer or telephone, it can be difficult to get back into the habit of making eye contact during face-to-face interactions.
Trick : If you get nervous looking someone straight in the eye, try focusing somewhere around their eye.
If you get nervous when looking someone straight in the eye, try focusing somewhere around their eyes, perhaps their eyebrows or nose.
If you’re talking to someone who isn’t making frequent eye contact, don’t jump to the conclusion that this is a sign of disrespect or lack of trust. It could just be a sign of social anxiety or just a difference in generational, cultural or communication styles.
There was a lot of talk about business attire in our Facebook calls, from those who felt real estate professionals had become too casual in both dress and demeanor, as well as those who felt that professional dress was much more about the individual market than any prescribed rule.
Stephen O’Hara, CEO and broker of Common Ground Properties in Newport Beach, Calif., said his motto could be summed up as “be yourself”, having done “literally every transaction in [his] 40s in shorts, golf shirts and boat shoes.
Tip: Whatever your market, dress so that if someone shows up at your party, they know who the agent is.
O’Hara said that although most of her clients are wealthy, they wear swim shorts and flip-flops rather than suits and ties, so mirroring them, rather than trying to intimidate them, is her preferred style. .
Erica Ramus, Owner Broker at Ramus Realty Group, said, “I get laid back. What I don’t understand is sloppy. Her advice for professional attire? “Dress so that if someone shows up at your presentation, they know who the agent is.”
Ron Davis, broker at Voyage Real Estate, expressed a similar idea, saying, “I think you need to be a step above your average client in dress and car.”
One of the biggest insights that came out of the etiquette online conversation was that all the handshakes, power combinations, and eye contact in the world won’t help you if your communication isn’t where it should be. must be.
“How about focusing on returning calls and emails,” suggested broker Judy Moriarty. Having just returned from a house-hunting trip to another state with her daughter, Moriarty said no agent she contacted returned her calls or emails, even those she contacted from social media real estate groups.
Trick : Return correspondence and telephone calls in a timely manner. Identify yourself in SMS. Treat everyone with respect.
Natalie Clayton, founder and broker of Maywright Property Co., agrees, citing articulate verbal and email communications, responding in a timely manner, being informed and educated, and treating all parties with respect. A number of readers also mentioned identifying themselves by name in text messages and phone calls.
Overall, then, today’s etiquette seems less about the outward signs of polite behavior and more about the essentials: competence, professionalism, and mutual respect. Watching the role of a real estate professional just isn’t enough – you have to play the part too.
Paths to professionalism
An excellent starting point for revisiting some old rules of etiquette and formulating new ones came from Eric Axelson, registered broker at REAL. When teaching ethics, Axelson promotes NARs Paths to professionalism, which is part of NAR’s Code of Ethics and Arbitration Handbook. It describes the behaviors associated with respecting the public, respecting property, and respecting peers in the industry.
The behaviors covered by Pathways to Professionalism range from very specific behaviors — “Use the sidewalks; if the weather is bad, take off shoes and boots inside the property” — to the general — “Follow the ‘golden rule’: do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Whether you’re just starting out or working with your team to develop operational processes, Pathways to Professionalism is a great resource to help you define the do’s and don’ts of professional behavior.
Christy Murdock is a real estate agent, freelance writer, coach and consultant and owner of Real Estate Writing. She is also the creator of the online course Building the Property Description: The Step-by-Step Formula for Reluctant Property Writers. Follow Real Estate Writing on Twitter, instagram and Youtube.