Hear No Evil, See No Evil

March 13, 2009

A few days ago, I was attending a workshop for real estate agents and the speaker revealed something that absolutely stunned me. He’s a well-regarded and very in-demand real estate trainer and motivational speaker. And before that, he was an amaxingly successful Realtor. He’s an expert at selling properties and in showing others how to do the same.

He acknowledged that the real estate market is going through some stressful times. He admitted that some real estate agents are depressed when they listen to the latest news about bank failures, foreclosures, mounting unemployment, $50 billion Ponzi schemes, and stock market declines that have wiped away trillions of dollars in equity.

But here’s what shocked me.

He said he isn’t bothered by all that because he simply doesn’t watch or read the news. He said he hasn’t for at least 10 years. (I’m not sure how he knew about the problems with the economy, but that’s another story.) And he urged those in the audience not to watch or read the news, either. After all, he explained, a good agent can succeed in any market and there’s no point in exposing yourself to news that will only depress you.

I’ve also had other real estate agents tell me that they don’t bother with the news either. Their explanation: Newspapers and broadcasters search out the bad news but never report the good. Frankly, that criticism has been around for a long time. There’s even some basis for that criticism simply because of the definition of news. If a tornado strikes your home town, that’s news. If no tornado hits, that’s not news. No newspaper headline: “Fairfax Escapes Tornados for 1,200 Straight Days!”

Nevertheless, I wonder how well a real estate agent or any professional is able to serve his or her clients if he/she isn’t aware of what’s going on in the world, the country, and the neighborhood. In fact, I’d suggest that any profession who is unaware of–or ignores–financial and political developments and trends is at a distinct disadvantage when serving clients.

I’m sometimes asked for my advice on how a buyer or seller should choose an agent. There are a number of criteria that a buyer or seller can use. I won’t list them all here, but they include such factors as experience, knowledge of the neighborhood, responsiveness, and a “comfort level” of the client with the agent.

Based on that workshop I recently attended, I’d suggest that, as a buyer or seller, you include a question along the lines of: “What newspapers do you read? What news shows do you watch? And which web sites do you regularly visit?”

The specific answers–The Washington Post or the New York Times, MSNBC or Fox, the Drudge Report or Daily Kos–don’t really matter much. What does matter is whether he or she engages in any of those activities.