Real estate is often ranked among the most stressful occupations. Erratic hours, stiff competition and an uncertain income are just a few of the reasons that a career in this field can be stressful. The REALTOR® EDGE newsletter spoke with three seasoned real estate professionals about stress and how to cope with it.
Finding a balance between work and life can be a challenge in this line of work, says Toronto REALTOR® Georgiana Woods, who has been in the business for 27 years. She believes that the job stresses that she and her colleagues face may depend on where they are in their careers.
“Balancing personal life and business can be very stressful for some,” Woods says. “I’ve seen people who go into real estate for the flexible hours and control over their lives but then find themselves working 24 hours a day, forgetting that they began this career for balance. Others find that the irregular paycheques and the need to budget are the most challenging parts.”
“You can’t make the phone ring, and that can be stressful.”
Woods maintains her own work-life balance by doing as much of her work at the office as possible. “I like to keep home and work separate,” she says. “At the beginning of each year, I book vacation times for later in the year and then work towards that. I go to the gym when I can. If things get crazy in the office, I’ll take my glasses off, get a cup of tea and collect my thoughts while taking a deep breath.”
The level of stress can vary depending on whether a salesperson is representing the buyer or the seller, says Barbara Whitney, a London REALTOR® with 25 years in the business.
“When your sellers have already purchased another place they need to sell their existing home,” Whitney says. “Something can happen that is out of your control and the house may sit on the market. You can’t make the phone ring, and that can be stressful.”
In turn, representing buyers in a “crazy market” can also be stressful, Whitney says, noting that multiple offers can be a regular occurrence. “It is hard when you are losing out on houses left and right and you can’t find your clients a home.”
Whitney copes with stress by taking a few minutes and closing her eyes and breathing deeply. She refocuses her energy and tells herself that everything will come together in the end.
“Going for a walk can also be good, or venting to people who aren’t in the business is helpful, because they don’t want to solve your issues,” she adds.
Difficult clients and the need to constantly be “on call” in this line of work can make days a challenge for real estate salespeople, says Mike Koson, who has worked as a REALTOR® in Ajax for 10 years.
“When you’re dealing with clients who aren’t reasonable or have unreal expectations, that can be stressful,” Koson says. “I usually try to tell myself that the situation is only temporary and work to get through it.”
Being on call most of the time is something that Koson says he has learned to accept. He doesn’t turn down opportunities, regardless of whether or not they’re convenient.
“I always try to say yes to clients and prospects because otherwise I’m restricting my possibilities,” says Koson. “Since we work on commission, we have no guaranteed salary and no regular paycheque coming in. You can work many hours without payment resulting, and that can be stressful.”
Koson stays calm by looking at the big picture. “When I feel stressed, I remind myself that many other jobs are more stressful. Police officers, construction workers, and people doing 12-hour shifts and physical labour all have stress. When I look at it that way, my job seems less stressful.”
“My philosophy is to deal with the problem and stop it from happening again by learning from it”
Whitney recalls selling a lovely house to a pregnant woman, and getting a call from her on closing day. “She had just gotten the keys and the house was left in horrendous condition — it was dirty and there were bags of garbage left behind. I put a cleaning crew together and sent them over, and I paid for it.”
“My philosophy is to deal with the problem and stop it from happening again by learning from it,” says Whitney. “My approach now is that if a house isn’t spotless when we see it, I’ll recommend that my client put a clause in the contract stipulating that no personal belongings will be left and that all refuse must be removed.”
Technology can provide stress relief but it can also contribute to the day’s frustrations, says Woods. “You can accomplish much more in a shorter time, and you can reach more people quickly using a computer. However, if you don’t set limits, you can be sitting at the computer and before you know it, three hours have gone by.”
Technology saves time if it is used strategically, says Whitney. “If someone needs the answer to a question or details about a house, modern technology can be so handy,” she says. “You can easily send pictures or answer questions from any location. The flip side of that, though, is that people want instant gratification. If they send a text, they expect an answer right away.”
Setting boundaries can help to reduce stress in today’s 24-7 world where instantaneous communication is expected, Whitney adds. “If I’m showing a property or doing a contract, I won’t respond to texts and emails. I also turn my phone to Do Not Disturb from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.”
A global position system (GPS) is a hi-tech navigation tool that reduces the stress of getting lost on the way to a property. Koson describes GPS as his favourite piece of technology. “It still amazes me,” he says. “I can go anywhere without getting lost. Sometimes, I’m showing six, seven or eight houses and I can just plug the information in and go.”
Calmness is something to be cultivated, according to all three of the REALTORS®. Whitney attributes her calmness to a role model: her mother. “She was a single mom with two daughters and didn’t have a lot, but she always had a smile on her face and didn’t let things get to her.”
* Stay organized. Use daytimers, online calendars and whatever devices or systems work best for you.
* Take the bull by the horns. Whatever you are afraid of or don’t want to do, tackle that first and get it out of the way.
* Put together a realistic plan with goals you can achieve, and when you reach them, reward yourself. They don’t always have to be monetary goals!
* Learn to recognize signs of stress so you can nip them in the bud.
* Know your limitations.
* Clients can be very emotional during real estate transactions. Learn to be patient and accommodating.
* If things are going crazy and your cell phone or mobile device keeps ringing, turn it off for a little while. There isn’t much that can’t wait 20 minutes while you have a cup of tea or coffee.
Story by Elaine Smith.
Sources: Mike Koson, Barbara Whitney, Georgiana Woods