The Real Estate Emergency by Brian Ernst

Stay in control of your real estate life by setting expectations in the beginning--especially around real estate emergencies.

There is NO SUCH THING as a real estate emergency. I know that might sound funny to some people, but there really is no such thing as a real estate emergency. If there were, each real estate agent would provide the message, “If this is a real estate emergency, please hang up and dial 911,” before connecting the caller to the agent. As far as I know, that does not happen.

This business can trick you into believing everything is an emergency. Real estate is so unlike other businesses in that there’s no one standard across the board. Especially if you’re on your own, there’s no one telling you when you should start work and when you should go home. No one’s clocking you out, so you have to remember to make it a priority to manage your time effectively and in a manner that will work for both you AND your client. If you stick to a schedule that works for you, you will find that many “emergencies” are, in fact, just problems that can be resolved in the morning.

Remember, just because somebody else thinks something is an emergency doesn’t mean it actually is. So, set your own schedule and stick to it!

Back in my first year in real estate, I remember a seller calling me in the middle of the night around 1:00 a.m. I was just starting out, so I didn’t think twice about answering, believing it must be important. Turns out, they were locked out of their house, and I was expected to take care of it. Somehow, it was my fault even though they one forgot their keys. Fortunately, I was able to ascertain enough information to figure out they could get into the house through the garage, and I could go back to sleep. Though the situation wasn’t ideal for them, it certainly wasn’t my problem, and I shouldn’t have been expected to answer the phone at such a late hour. I shouldn’t have to be available 24 hours a day, and neither should you.

In real estate, scenarios like the one I described are a common occurrence. It is unsustainable to set up unrealistic expectations such as 24 hours of availability. Sure, some days, you might be available at all hours for an “emergency,” but the fact is, most days, you won’t, and more importantly, you shouldn’t have to be. My job as a real estate agent is to market, advise, and sell. Simple, yet full of complicated facets. To maintain my sanity, I had to learn to set boundaries for myself. These specific boundaries may not work for everyone, but they can be a good starting point for when you decide to set your own work-life balance boundaries. So, the first thing I did was to turn off my phone at 6:00 p.m. every night. I figured anyone who called after 6:00 p.m. could wait until morning. What I noticed was that by 9:00 a.m., most of the problems had resolved themselves.

Looking back, I can’t recall any instance where I lost business because I wasn’t available after 6:00 p.m. I know it can be a tough concept to embrace, and you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Well, that might work for him, but I could never turn off my phone and get away with it.” Trust me, there isn’t a decent real estate agent out there who isn’t thinking the same thing. But you definitely can, especially if you are consistent and set the expectations early. I added a disclaimer to my voicemail outgoing message that stated, “If this call is after business hours, your call will be returned the next business day.” My clients then knew when to expect to hear back from me and understood that I wasn’t ignoring them. The other thing I did was get a second personal phone that I used exclusively for friends and family. That way, I didn’t have to worry that I was going to miss an important phone call from a family member when I turned my work phone off at 6:00 p.m.

Now, this only worked because I first set the expectations with my client, then followed through. So, if I did get any voicemails during my off-hours, I made sure the next morning to listen to them and prepare the necessary information for the return call. I made sure I checked back in with them and didn’t waste their time (or mine) by not being prepared.

By doing this, you get your time back, your profit per hour goes up, and you’re more prepared that next day to handle your client or potential client’s needs. It is CRITICAL that you are prepared. The clients can sense it, so being prepared will not only make you feel more confident in the work you are doing, but it will make your clients more confident in you as well! It will help you build trust. When you take time for yourself in your off-hours, you’re able to be more present and ready for your client during business hours.

I know for some, it is hard to find the motivation and keep the momentum going when you restrict yourself to working only during certain hours. As you probably know, the real estate business is fast paced, and you want to keep the ball rolling; you don’t want to feel like you’ve missed a big opportunity, so you have to make strides every day to continue to grow your business. But continuing momentum for your business does not mean you have to continue working 24/7. The advice I gave one coaching client who struggled with this was to take some time to help other real estate agents, especially those just starting out. When you give advice to someone or you help them through an issue, it is much harder to ignore that advice that you’ve given out because no one wants to feel like a hypocrite. You are then able to keep your schedule to manageable hours but also feel like you have that extra layer of accountability to keep the momentum building for your business.

The advice I gave that coaching client is only one way to keep the motivation going day in and out by forcing yourself to stop work at the sound of the proverbial bell every night. But there are other things you can do to keep the momentum going and enjoy a life outside of your work—you just have to work hard to find what works for you. You’ll likely find that a more structured approach to your day will actually help you in the long run, as it helps you keep that consistency. Momentum is built on continued progress. As long as you keep moving forward, prioritizing your work, and taking each task one at a time instead of putting out the fire for whoever is screaming the loudest, you won’t lose that momentum. Just remember, there’s NO SUCH THING as a real estate emergency, so don’t let someone else’s sense of urgency dictate how you handle your business.

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