Like many of us, I spent a good deal of my young life pursuing dates, and once upon a time I was even able to get them (references upon request). Today networking “services” like Tinder attempt to expedite the dating process, but since I’m over 30 I did it all the old-fashioned way: white-knuckle cold calls, making sure my fly was zipped before nervously ringing the doorbell, the follow-up, and the several phases of awkwardness, delight and/or grief that came next.
The lines between personal and professional overlap far more in real estate than in most businesses, and over the years, I’ve thought a lot about the similarities between real estate and dating. One surrounds the search for a home, and one the search for a mate, arguably the two most central parts of one’s time on earth. Both are rituals you pretty much have to go through to succeed, and both end in happily ever after, a shattered heart, or somewhere in between.
Much of the dance is the same: in the courting phase, candidates meet, entertain and entice. “Prospects” are bathed, dressed/staged to impress, and made up with the freshest paint and accessories. Both parties put their best foot forward and try to seem low-maintenance, as wisdom says the fewer demands, the better. Some “properties” are especially prized objects with many suitors vying for a chance, howling in the driveway for attention. Sometimes chemistry turns into a match that lasts; sometimes it turns into pure, raw emotional betrayal. One party falls deep, fixating all hope on their one true love, while the other decides the whole thing just didn’t feel right and disappears sans what or why (I’m told the kids these days call this “ghosting” – I just called it Saturday night). There’s a pile of factors to an “offer” getting “accepted,” starting with price, terms, contingencies, timing, and quality of the competition. It’s all a big rush and an ego boost, and you’re flying high… until it crushes your soul. It can be brutal.
So in the end, what separates successful “agents” from the rest? Here’s what I’ve seen and lived to be true: in a process with no guarantees, the key is to not become too bitter to win. This is no small feat – overcoming the pangs of rejection is a challenge that calls on us to fight our species’ biggest source of angst, the Ego. The answer lies in the fact that we may feel we know someone showing us their best, but we often don’t have the whole story; they think they know what they want until reality strikes, a “better” fit falls in their lap, or they realize they were never ready to buy or sell in the first place. Why would someone lead you on, or fall off the face of the earth when everything seemed to be going great? Communication helps, but everyone is scared, and the alternative often feels like an easier way out – it buys relief without any of the cons, at least until you run into each other years later at a wedding or CVS. 20 minutes of self-pity is great, but beyond that you can’t take a thing personally if you want to survive and thrive, in real estate or love – you’re better off with a mix of empathy, humor, and the trust that everything meant to be will be (“que sera sera”). You’re not the reason for someone’s cold feet, and on the other side of things, even the most dazzling properties don’t always feel like home in the end.
You may swear off the search, but eventually you will go through the whole dance again, kissing a few toads to find your prince(ss). With practice, you get good at prospecting and spotting who’s actually interested, and who’s just leading you on while they figure out what (or who) they want. Keep moving – and even after a breakup, the best move is usually to ignore your ego and keep in touch. It’s unnatural and awkward at first, but keeping people in your life leads to expanding your circle, which in turn multiplies the odds of success in ways you’d never dream – the perfect “deal” tends to show up when you’re not looking.
In the meantime, practice makes perfect. If you’re feeling unlucky in love, try real estate. And if real estate gets you down, there’s always the clergy.
(Photo choice by friend of the blog, Bill Aibel)