Close to Home: Chapter 19| November 8, 2022
Whenever I meet with potential clients, and they end up using another agent, I always ask them why
ne of the many hats I’ve worn was that of seminary teacher. In one class, the girls shared an unusual “minhag” they had in their school.
As in many schools, on Rosh Chodesh, the girls didn’t have to wear the uniform. But there was something else they could don; the school offered buttons that could be pinned to a shirt. That was a signal: give me feedback.
If a girl wore a pin, the staff would know she was open to input, and they would sometimes take that opportunity and share with her what they thought she was doing well in her performance at school, and which areas could use some improvement.
I loved the idea; feedback given kindly and sensitively is a gift.
I can’t wear a button, but I do consistently ask for feedback. Whenever I meet with potential clients, and they end up using another agent, I always ask them why. I did that recently, after I’d had a good initial meeting with the Parkers and they informed me the next evening that they’d be using someone else.
Nora Parker told me they’d enjoyed meeting me, but the other agent had a bunch of awards up on her office wall, and that made them feel she must be more professional.
That was helpful information. I also happen to have won some awards, but it isn’t something I flaunt. Nora’s feedback let me know that for some clients, awards make a difference, and I should find a way to let them know about the ones I received.
Nora had done me a favor. But some people shy away from offering feedback, or even sharing uncomfortable updates. Instead, they simply disappear.
Mimi Rein was my sheitelmacher for years. She’s a warm, bubbly woman and a magician with a blow-dryer.
Over the years, as she brushed and curled and snipped, she’d told me that she and her husband, Zevy, really wanted to sell their tiny house on Maple Drive and buy something to accommodate their growing family. They were about to formally ask me to be their agent when Zevy lost his job.
Things were tight after that, so they couldn’t take on a larger mortgage. Each time I had my sheitel done, she’d tell me things were on hold, but she hoped they’d soon be able to make the move.
One afternoon, I was looking over new listings — and saw Mimi’s little house on Maple listed with another agent, Asher Dweck. I was taken aback; we’d discussed this house so many times, what had made her list with someone else? And why didn’t she at least let me know what’s going on?
My sheitel was due for a wash, but suddenly I felt uncomfortable. It would be awkward to go to Mimi now. On the other hand, I wasn’t going to stop patronizing her because of this. I finally made an appointment, hoping the salon would be really busy that day.
No such luck. When I arrived, it was just the two of us; even Mimi’s assistant wasn’t around. We started to chat, but the enormous elephant in the room was taking up too much space.
I decided to be open. “Hey, Mimi, I saw your house is up for sale. I wish you so much hatzlachah — I hope it sells easily.”
Mimi flushed crimson, but there was relief in her eyes. “I’m glad I can finally tell you the truth,” she said. “You know I always planned to use you. I couldn’t imagine having anyone else sell my home. But once we started, my husband told me he wanted to use a guy he knows from shul.
“I was horrified, and told him no way, no how. To be honest”—another blush—“we got into a huge fight over it. And then another fight.
“At some point, I realized this was going to hurt my marriage. So I had to let go, and we listed with the other agent. I was just too embarrassed to tell you.”
Mimi was so miserable, I didn’t want to make things any worse, so I just wished her hatzlachah again. But I wanted to tell her that when something like this happens, it’s far more gracious and mature to pick up the phone and just say it straight; avoidance may feel easier, but it’s ultimately a lot harder.
Ghosting is the relatively new term used for cutting off all contact with someone abruptly and without explanation. Everyone agrees it’s rude, but not everyone realizes when they’re doing it.
A couple I was working with, Shimon and Atara Kraus, were debating between two financial advisors, Horowitz or Langer. I was in the car with them when Shimon told his wife, “It’s crazy, last week I decided to use Langer, but Horowitz keeps calling me.”
“Do you answer his calls?” Atara asked.
Shimon shrugged. “Nah, why should I?”
“You’re ghosting him!” Atara shrieked.
“I’m not ghosting him, I just don’t have anything to say to him.”
“That’s ghosting! Just pick up when he calls, tell him it’s not going to work out, and thank him for his time.”
Ghosting can lead to some ridiculous situations.
There was one couple I’d worked with for several months, trying to meet their many criteria. One day, I had something beautiful to show them, and called and texted. “I found you a perfect house off market. Please call me before it’s gone.”
No response. This went on for days. I was worried; was something wrong? Did they have a medical emergency?
Finally, one afternoon, I got a cheesecake delivered to my door with a note: “Thanks for all your time. We’re not going to continue using your services.” And that’s how I discovered they’d decided to drop me mid-process, and used another agent and buy the exact house I had told them about.
Then there was Dini Kuntsler. Dini and I shared a mutual friend, so we often crossed paths. One day she told me she was looking to buy a house, and we agreed to be in touch.
I called her a few days later. And a week later. She ignored all my calls.
A month later, our mutual friend, Shiffy, mentioned that Dini had just signed on a stunning house. Now I understood all the ignored calls.
Shortly afterwards, a client who’d bought a fixer upper asked if I could recommend a wallpaper guy. I remembered that Dini had been thrilled with the fellow she’d used, so I gave her a call. No answer. I tried a few more times, and she continued ignoring me.
Finally, I called Shiffy. “Please tell Dini that I know she bought a house, and it’s fine,” I told her. “Now, can she please stop ignoring my calls because I need a phone number from her?”
Bottom line: ghosting is short-term comfort but long-term awkward.
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.
If you’re feeling being pressured to make a decision, always share that with the professional you’re working with. No need to ignore their calls; just tell them that you need more time or space and let them know when you’re comfortable being contacted again. This gives you time and gives the professional clarity.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 817)
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