What ever are they thinking ?
I posted a blog today. It focused on John Paulson’s message that “now is the time to buy”. My good friend Lenza poked fun at the industry in a recent blog about catch phrases. One that is often bandied about is “Real Estate is the best investment you can make”. People produce charts, graphs and statistics to back up their claim. They pit real estate against the stock market. It is all poppy cock.
The people that are urging you to accept the notion that real estate is your greatest investment have a vested interest in your buying into that thought. They want to finance your purchase, they want to represent you in the purchase, they want you to buy their listing, they want to appraise your purchase, they want to settle your purchase and some of them are looking for your business after your purchase. For these people, nothing happens until you decide to make a purchase.
They are patiently waiting for you to shake that money tree.
I am a real estate agent. I don’t make a dime until I represent someone that either makes a purchase or sells a listing. I do make nominal income with rentals, but I need someone to buy or sell to make a living. I do not believe for one minute that real estate is your greatest investment. It never has been and it never will be.
The basic value in real estate is shelter.
If you look at the chart, the goal is self actualization. Making money certainly may enable you to take care of the items on the bottom rung. The government seems to be in charge of the the fourth level. The third level is a challenge. It requires that you reel in your ego and self interests and learn to get along. This lesson begins when sharing the sandbox with other children and is constantly being re-learned as you grow old. The second level involves the ego. Often, every accomplishment here requires that you return to the prior level and rework your people skills. Once you are able to achieve level two without rocking the boat on level three, you reach level one.
I am here to tell you that level three is the area of your greatest investment. There is no immediate monetary reward for this level. This level requires that you put the interest of others before your own. In doing so, you actually are putting yourself in position to grow.
This is not a bible thumping message.
I have lived a full life. I have bounced back and forth between levels two and three more times than I can remember. For every person that remembers me fondly, there must be three or four that remember me as a jerk. I have learned through life experience. I too chased the American Dream and made several attempts to put the right pieces in place for the picture to be complete. I have made stupid mistakes and mistakes out of selfishness. I have failed in jobs and relationships. I spent a lot of my adult life thinking self actualization was a state in which you had it all. I now know, that is not true. When you have acceptance of your short comings and belief in your strengths, you are in position to be the best you can be.
Your greatest investment is in yourself. Never accept less than you deserve and never offer more than you can give. Be the person you are. You can strengthen your weaknesses, but never do so at the expense of your strengths.
This is the United States of America. It is not perfect. The country has faults. All countries have faults. The advantage you have in this country is that you have the first two rungs by default! This is not a “pollyanish” belief. Yes, there are those that choose not to live in the same accommodations that others demand. Yes, there are those in our society who suffer from one dementia or another. I stand by my belief that in this country, you have the first two rungs. You may get style points from your neighbors as you move up in status, but at the core, you have the first two rungs and nothing more.
The third rung is where you become an active part of the equation. This is when you have to reel in your desire to be the most important person in your world and accept you can only be important if you fulfill the needs of others. As I have moved through personal challenges and work challenges, I have been thwarted by my personal demons. I had to recognize them and conquer them, one at a time. It is a work in progress.
The work would never have begun and my journey would have ended fruitless had I not recognized the importance of investing in myself. There is no dollar figure on progress. There is no monetary return on the investment. There is no honor in the mis-steps. When I have clung to the Waylon Jennings line ” I can’t say I’m proud of all of the things that I’ve done, but I can say I’ve never intentionally hurt anyone”, I have overlooked that there is a reason that the proverbial road to hell is paved with good intentions. At the core of such professed innocence is a lazy, self absorbed ego that can not see the needs of others and gently plows through where angels fear to tread.
There are a lot of lessons learned
What in the world does this have to do with real estate? As I enjoy the twilight of my life, I become a bit frustrated with those that continue to hawk dirt. I do not enjoy the subtle guilt trips included in messages from the NAR. I disagree with the agents that continue to extol the virtues of buying a home. As news of all the things that have gone on in this industry over the last 4 years becomes public, I am ashamed. I am as guilty as the next one.
In late 2007, I had just completed another very successful year in real estate. To quote Casey at the bat, “there was no joy in Mudville”. My partner at the time cared very little about anything other than the bottom line. The needs of clients were being set aside in favor of my partner’s thoughts, etc. Homes were eliminated from review based on the amount of commission being offered. Money was coming in and being spent quickly. I quit. I severed the relationship. I had to face friends and acquaintances admitting that yes, I had chosen that person and I had made a big mistake.
As soon as I began working with my current partner, my life changed. Our focus has always been on what our clients asked us to do for them. We have enjoyed success personally and professionally. I found the balance between level three and level two. It is no longer scary to walk that tightrope. I have allowed myself to trust those holding the safety nets. I learned that real estate is not now and never has been your greatest investment.
I am humbly as possible reaping the rewards of investing in myself.
I strongly encourage you to do the same.