Tuesday, May 4, 2010


At the last open house I did - an empty, soon to be completed house built by Kevin McCormick in Calemad, Parcell Woods - I had a few minutes to read before people started showing up. I usually bring Newsweek or Time, and always Realtor, published by the National Association of Realtors. Generally I find something inside that is interesting or informative.

I start at the back - I have no idea why, but I do this with most journals. The Last Word was a column about author Brad Blanton who is a psychotherapist. I was actually drawn to the article because his picture reminded me of a recent client - but I stayed to read the interview.

Blanton - Dr. Blanton? - developed a therapeutic technique he calls Radical Honesty. He suggests that most people rarely tell the truth, and fewer tell the truth all the time. He exhorts people to listen to what they say and realize that they are not being honest, either with others or even themselves. The withholding of information is also a form of lying; it takes "courage to be honest and have a relationship with others based on reality. Don't avoid the issues."

And, as we all know, there are always issues in real estate! How do you tell people the ugly wallpaper is ugly - and do you trust yourself to know that it's ugly? How can you be politic about it - isn't one man's ugliness another man's beauty? I remember a very orange sink in a high end house. Everyone hated it, as well as the non-matching green toilet. A buyer came in and loved it - said it reminded her of her old home before everything became less colorful. Not enough to buy the house, though.....

Interiors and exteriors are the easy part, though. Yes, I am not the expert and certainly not where design comes in, but that's not the main issue that Dr.(?) Blanton brings up. To quote:

Q: Why is it so terrible to withhold information, especially if it means not hurting someone's feelings?

A: Because it keeps you locked in the jail of your own mind. You have to remember what you told each person. You have to think about what the person's reaction might be, and you start manipulating information to control the outcome. Delivering the truth is easier, takes less time, and is less stressful. As a real estate professional, you'll have more time to reach more people - including buyers and sellers - if you're not spending time manipulating them.

And there, for me, is the key. Manipulation. I don't want to manipulate anyone, any time! But I do want to be honest, and asking people if I have their permission to be honest (about that purple passion wallpaper) makes it easier. I have one stellar client who has asked me to be honest quite pointedly, saying other agents have not been forthright. I have found her willingness to listen to my opinions and suggestions refreshing. I've told her I want to clone her - and she laughs!

I also remember years ago when I started to teach a supervisor saying it was okay to respond to a question with "I don't know." I believe all too often the agent becomes the proclaimer of answers, not the resource. I would no more tell people what a house will sell for than when it would sell. I can make an educated guess and provide my statistics, but I do not know everything. So I say "I don't know." It's the truth, though, that I wish I did!

Blanton's website is www.radicalhonesty.com.