Balancing Act

By Kim Gellatly

“All successful agents must be 24/7, right?”

My client asked me this yesterday, a bit surprised when I picked up the phone at 7 p.m. Of course, he meant it as a compliment but his question made my phone seem more like an extra limb than a useful mobile device. I’ve struggled for more than a decade with the question of work/life balance in real estate … and whether that was even possible in order to
have a successful career.

For the first eight years of my career, I was single and had no problem showing homes after 9 p.m. or staying in the office until midnight.Then, two years ago all that changed: I married, and now have a beautiful stepdaughter and a baby on the way in early December. Suddenly, maintaining a healthy balance between work and my home life is no longer a choice, it’s a necessity. I don’t just want balance, I need balance. Unfortunately, I can’t say I’ve got all the answers figured out but here are some things that I am doing to help instill a little more balance in my balancing act of real estate.

1. Don’t be afraid to hire:
I just hired a showing agent, (someone who solely shows properties to my buyers.) A showing agent doesn’t negotiate the deal but just shows properties and acts as an expert on everything from the condition of the home to what materials were used for the siding and roof. He or she also knows how to navigate clients through the buying process – all in all, an excellent resource for my clients. I also hired a full-time marketing assistant/transaction coordinator, who is shared by other agents in the company. All of these new hires help keep my costs down and production up while also freeing up some of my time. Definitely a win in the battle to find work/life balance.

2. Schedule personal appointments first:
On the first day of each month, I sit down and schedule my personal appointments. From going to the gym, to days off, to hanging out with my middle-school-aged niece, everything I want to do that might be considered ‘personal’ goes into my calendar as appointments just as a showing or client meeting would. All the best business books say organization breeds efficiency and productivity, so why not apply that to all aspects of your life? Of course, you must then treat your personal appointments with high importance; if a listing appointment comes up at the same time you must have the willpower to tell your client you can’t meet him or her at that time but can schedule for a different time that day.

3. Rest at the end of your day:
I used to fall asleep with my laptop on my bed next to me, working late into the night because I understood (and still do) that real estate will take as much as you give it. But your own downtime from work cannot happen when you sleep. Now, I stop working a few hours before bed so my body and mind can unwind. I also try hard not to check email right before I go to sleep. I know it’s hard to resist the urge not to reply so why tempt yourself? The last thing you need is to get that surprise termination email right before you catch your all-important Z’s. Business news – both good and bad – can wait until the morning.

4. Coach your clients on how to treat you and your time:
I used to email clients within moments of receiving their email, bonus points for speed, right? Wrong. Soon, my clients were trained to know I’d respond instantaneously and got worried if even 10 minutes went by. I had inadvertently trained my clients to understand that I’d respond at a moment’s notice and it was actually hurting me in the end. Your clients want to know they are important and that you care about them and are working to meet their real estate needs. However, set a reasonable timeframe for when they should expect a response – and it’s okay to let them know what that timeframe is – so they’re not sitting anxiously staring at their phone waiting for your reply.

These are just a few ideas that I am working on to not only lead a more balanced life but also be the healthiest person I can be for my clients and my growing family. If I take care of me, I can take better care of those I care about.

KIM GELLATLY is a re_think council member and REALTOR® with Portland-based Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Northwest Real Estate.
Visit Kim’s website gellatlyproperties.com or email her: kim@gellatlyproperties.com.

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