Experienced real estate agents are a unique group of people. Most of us can go through a 3,000 square foot home in less than five minutes and remember every inch in a way that allows us to instantly identify each item that might need updating or repair – and immediately determine the clients or contacts who’d be perfect prospects for that property.
The cultivation of this professional talent is the basis of Tour Tuesday.
In most markets throughout the United States, real estate brokers, their local associations or the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) designate a particular day of the week to preview new property listings. In San Francisco, that day is Tuesday (hence the nickname). Properties are held open from 9am-4pm and listing sheets are normally emailed to every real estate agent I the market the day prior, so each of us can plan our tour.
Since San Francisco has 27 neighborhoods separated into 12 real estate districts, agents need two critical things to get through Tour Tuesday: Comfortable shoes and a sense of humor.
It’s also important to mention that San Francisco isn’t exactly the easiest city to drive around. Lots of one-way streets, very little street parking – and let’s not forget about all those hills. I’m very lucky to have a real estate partner, so one of us can drive and wait outside while the other pops in to see hot properties that have just come on the market.
This system works about 99% of the time. Then there are those one-in-a-hundred experiences.
Not long ago, my partner, Bethany, and I identified a gorgeous condominium we both believed would be perfect for one of our most discriminating buyers. The price was high even for San Francisco – $8 million – so we didn’t anticipate a great deal of traffic on Tour Tuesday. But when we arrived outside building the in Nob Hill, there were very few parking spaces and all of them were already taken by equally eager and competing colleagues.
Fully believing we could get in and out in five minutes, we rolled the dice and parked in the driveway of an adjacent home and then did what every other San Francisco agent does in that situation: We turned on our hazard lights.
Why agents think pressing the hazard light button issues an instant free pass to park anywhere they desire is something I will never understand. But it didn’t stop me from doing it myself.
We were in and out in exactly seven minutes. I know this because we actually timed ourselves, figuring we had that long before the owner of the home where our car was parked could call a towing service. (Fun fact: When you call for a tow truck in San Francisco it takes an average of about ten minutes to arrive).
When we approached our car, the gentleman who owned the home was outside pacing back and forth with his head down and “anger steam” emitting from every pore of his body. Bethany gave me that long-time partner look that clearly conveyed “this one is yours.”
I immediately apologized to the owner of the home, explaining that we just wanted to see the open house across the street. He lifted his head to look me in the face – and I realized I knew this man. He was not just a casual acquaintance. He was my doctor! But he was so angry about his garage being blocked, he didn’t recognize me.
Realizing this situation was now a bit more complicated, I took a slow deep breath and let him rant a little more about how rude and inconsiderate real estate agents are. When he appeared to be finished, I told him: “Dr. Smith (not his real name), you know me. I’m one of your patients. I truly apologize for blocking your driveway for seven minutes. It was inconsiderate and it will not happen again.”
But Dr. Smith did not hear me because Dr. Smith wasn’t really finished and kept ranting for at least another two minutes. It was apparent that his vitriolic tirade wasn’t just about Bethany and me – it was about real estate agents in general.
So, I stopped speaking. (I realize that to those who know me well, this may constitute a miracle). And suddenly, Dr. Smith experienced full comprehension of who I really was. He recognized my face as that of a patient he had known for more than a decade, not just the nameless driver of a car parked in his driveway.
He was speechless. So it was time for me to begin the apology for all the real estate agents in this small 7×7-mile city and our Tuesday Tour parking habits. Once again he became the gracious physician I have always known, accepting my apology and even gave me a hug.
But this adventure taught me three lessons I’ve never forgotten:
- Hazard light buttons are not mini time machines. They’re for real emergencies (and seeing a home is not an emergency).
- Never presume your situation allows you to break the rules or takes priority of someone else’s situation (because you never know what it might be).
- Always treat strangers as if you have something in common or might somehow be connected to one another (because truth is we all are).
“Goodness is about Character: Integrity, honesty, kindness, generosity, moral courage and the like. More than anything else, it is about how we treat other people.” – Dennis Prager