My job has taught me to keep the big picture in mind. People will always do what’s best for them
Nechama Norman with Batsheva Berman
When Covid cases were still high, I was showing a house while wearing a mask — at that point, real estate agents were required by law to wear masks when indoors. On the way to my car, I walked past an older woman sitting on her porch.
“Why are you wearing a mask?” she asked in a sharp tone.
I shrugged. “I don’t make the rules, I just follow them.”
She blew up. “This is crazy! I grew up in Hungary, it was a Communist country. We finally got out when I was a teenager. And now America is crazy. Do you have kids?” I nodded. “I feel so bad for your kids!” she yelled. “They’re growing up in a Communist country.”
I could have walked away, but I started chatting. Anna was lonely; she had no children, and she and her husband weren’t vaccinated, so she couldn’t go to the club they’d enjoyed attending pre-Covid. Eventually, she asked me where I got my mask — it was a pretty, sparkly pink. I told her it was from Amazon.
She sighed. “Then I can’t get it. I can’t figure out any of this technology.”
“I’ll get one for you.”
On the spot, I ordered the mask. Once it arrived, I went to Anna’s house to deliver the mask. I knocked, and no one answered. Came back a few days later, no answer. The third time I returned, the neighbor next door was washing his car.
“Have you seen Anna?” I asked.
“Yes, she’s around,” he told me. “I saw her yesterday. How do you know her?”
I told him I was a real estate agent and I’d met her when I was in the area.
“Really? I’m actually thinking of selling. Do you have a few minutes?”
Long story short, I sold Lee’s house. Lee introduced me to friends and neighbors. One of those neighbors was Maisie, who lived across the street from Lee and had a very sick husband. She was considering selling, but her husband’s health was too precarious for her to make such a big decision.
I kept in touch with Maisie, popping by from time to time. When I heard her husband had passed away, I sent a condolence card. We’d become friendly, and I was sorry for her loss.
Maisie reached out after that, and told me she was ready to sell, could I call her?
We spoke. She was out of town but wanted to get started, so I hired a photographer and videographer to take pictures and a walk-through video of the house. We did that, and everything was ready. I called her again to touch base, and she told me she was feeling overwhelmed and wasn’t ready yet. I understood — she had just lost her husband. I told her to take her time.
A few weeks later, an agent I’m friendly with called me.
“I have a client who bought a house off-market,” she told me, “and now he wants to flip it. It’s an unusual house, and I’m not sure how to price it. Can you help me out?
“Sure,” I said, “give me the details.”
She started describing it, and it was sounding very familiar — the layout was exactly like Maisie’s house.
“Is this 384 Crystal Grove?” I asked.
“Yes, it is. How did you know?”
Maisie had sold directly to a buyer. I was stung. I had invested so much time and effort into the relationship, and she had bypassed me.
But then I remembered that two weeks earlier, a stranger had called and asked me to sell his home.
“My Aunt Maisie does not stop talking about you,” he’d told me. “She said you’re the nicest person, and I have to use you!”
I’d sold his home, and he’d referred me to two friends who had also sold their homes through me. What happened with Maisie’s house was upsetting, but I decided to stay focused on the big picture: Maisie had brought me three sales.
My job has taught me to keep the big picture in mind. People will always do what’s best for them. It may be hurtful, particularly because you feel like you build a relationship with them and you can’t understand how they could betray it. It’s easy to get stuck on the injustice and to silently stew.
But it’s so not worth it. It just drags you down and deflates you. I remind myself that everyone sees the same situation differently, and it’s up to me to stay gracious no matter what happens.
Daniel was from Detroit. He’d spent a few years in Israel and when he returned to the States, his rebbi recommended he live in Lakewood. He came to town, but he was still looking for a place to live. He was close with my extended family, and we ended up hosting him for several weeks.
Then he got a job and moved out. When he got married, we were thrilled to attend his magnificent chasunah. A short while later, he called me. He told me that he and his wife wanted to settle in Lakewood, and he wanted to start looking for a home.
I showed Daniel and his wife Riki a lot of different homes in a number of areas, spending many hours with them.
In middle of this process, he called me. His voice was strained. “So I think I mentioned that my father-in-law is buying us this house for us. Riki and I spent Shabbos with her family, and we mentioned that we wanted to live in Toms River. Sunday morning, I got a call from a local real estate agent. She told me my father-in-law had called her, and described what we wanted, and she has the perfect house for us. She showed us the house that day, we both really liked it, and my father-in-law immediately put the house under contract.
“I’m feeling terrible because you spent so much time with us, and the other agent barely did a thing — but this wasn’t really a choice, it just kind of happened.”
There was only one right choice at that point: to see the big picture. “This must have been a really hard call for you to make,” I told Daniel warmly. “I appreciate that you updated me and explained the situation. Don’t worry about it. I’m so happy you found the right house. It should be a smooth move and a yishuv tov.”
Houses are temporary. The way we treat others, the people we allow ourselves to become — that’s eternal.
to be continued…
Nechama “Nicky” Norman is a licensed real estate agent servicing greater Lakewood, New Jersey. She focuses on residential property and loves to educate people about buying and selling by hosting seller events.
Generally, it’s best not to see a house at night. Many homes are not well-lit, and that can be a turn-off. Show your house and shop for a house during daylight hours.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 813)
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