By Michael Allen
Real estate is my third career. I started off practicing architecture in the Chicago area for many years, designing single-family homes, condos, shopping centers and other building types. In the early 80s, I switched to a new and more lucrative profession: computer software design and development. After many years of riding the ups and downs of the dot-com roller coaster, I joined my wife Margaret in her real estate business full time.
I found that all three professions have similar demands. To be successful, one must be a Renaissance person. Not that you have to be Leonardo da Vinci, but it helps to be competent with a wide variety of skills and knowledge. One must be able to deal with a high level of complexity, wear many different hats and be able to balance one’s family life with the sometimes excessive demands of work. Each profession blends art, business management, market analysis, law and licensing issues, marketing, sales and dealing with clients. Successful practitioners of each professional are seen as a “trusted advisor” with the experience, skill and knowledge to lead clients to their goal.
My somewhat unique background has served our real estate business well in several ways. My art and photography skills contribute to well-designed marketing materials and property brochures. I’ve been called upon to photograph and create brochures and virtual tours for other agents in the western suburbs (see FoxValleyTours.com, my tour Web site, for examples). Also, knowing the language of architecture is useful when describing homes in a brochure. What’s the difference between a baluster and a railing, a mullion and a sash? What are dentils? Is that really a Palladian window?
A design background has helped with my staging advice. I’ve been able to bring a fresh eye, viewing spaces from the point of view of a potential buyer, enabling me to create an environment that maximizes on achieving that great first impression.
My training in design and structural engineering lets me confidently advise our clients about remodeling and remedial construction possibilities. Being able to visualize the three dimensional built environment, I can see the potential in homes we show to our buyers that others may miss. Having this background also helps me to establish a special rapport with builders and developers.
I don’t pretend to be a home inspector, but my architectural training helps me notice potential structural or mechanical problems in a home.
Architects must be well versed in the local building and zoning codes. I try to keep up-to-date with the codes in our area. This knowledge is useful when advising buyers about possible home uses and expansions. Will zoning allow their home business? Can they add a family room and still meet the required setback restrictions?
It is never too late to get out there and add more skills to your agent arsenal. I’m not suggesting changing your career, but having two previous careers has helped my business immensely. Just as importantly, what may be the most important common element or skill leading to success in my three careers, is listening.
Our job as agents is to perform a service for our clients. The specifics of that service are widely different in each individual case. Careful listening to our clients’ description of their wants and needs is essential to providing the correct solution and the correct set of services to help our clients achieve their goals. All the different skills and knowledge we bring to the table will be wasted if we misunderstand what our clients want. Service professions depend on repeat business and referrals. Careful listening leading to competent delivery of successful results is key.
Michael Allen is an associate broker with RE/MAX Great American North in St. Charles. He can be reached at 630.272.3654.
Copyright 2008 Agent Publishing LLC