Real estate agents have long struggled with an image problem. Whether you blame the media, a few bad apples, a vitriolic online culture or something else, studies have shown people trust real estate professionals less than accountants, auto mechanics and local politicians. Headlines blaring with stories of conspiracies, cartels and commission lawsuits aren’t helping. After a while, it gets exhausting reading disparaging Facebook comments or being peppered with jokes about your profession, and all the negativity can weigh on your motivation to keep on fighting the good fight.
Although you should always focus on exemplifying your own values and avoiding unnecessary or unproductive conflict, here are five more ways to engage (or not engage) with people who hate on real estate:
That’s not to say you should let your emotions dictate your actions—something that will only increase your stress and waste your time. Remember, though, as you encounter these negative perceptions of real estate that people don’t change their views based on new information or facts. Human beings are emotional creatures, and it is nearly always an emotional appeal that will have the most effect. When you do engage with people, don’t start off quoting stats or throwing out homeownership data points. Instead, try to frame your response or interjection around personal issues, things that the person can relate to in their own life. Be specific about the types of obstacles faced by agents as small business owners, or focus on the kind of independence and flexibility that a real estate career offers to parents. This type of approach is much more likely to have the desired effect, and can help you focus on the positive elements of your career as well.
Pick your battles
Don’t always see yourself as an ambassador or a foot soldier for your profession. How you choose to engage with negativity or meanness should be about what makes you feel empowered, and caters to your abilities and knowledge. Don’t start battles in Facebook groups if you’re the kind of person who is drained by that specific variety of argument. Don’t feel you have to defend against every accusation or every poke from family and friends. Pick your battles, and when you’re doing that, make sure you’re considering your goals and what you can offer in a given situation. If you have a relevant anecdote or important counterpoint, that might be the right time to jump in, but don’t feel you have to join every discussion focused on real estate.
Agree there are bad apples
You won’t find very many people who will take you seriously if you try to argue that real estate agents are, as a group, blameless for their bad reputation. It will help your credibility a lot to acknowledge the issues that have inspired the criticisms people are leveling at you. Every agent has met agents that shouldn’t be in the industry, and you should validate some of the complaints people have about real estate professionals. Hopefully, some people will see that as a sign that you’re one of the “good ones,” and potentially even become prospects. Even better (and rarer), they might be open to listening to you talk about why some of these perceptions are unfair or untrue, once they see you were willing to listen to them.
Focus on past successes
If you’re feeling especially overwhelmed, check back in with the people who know the most about your services—namely, past clients and colleagues. If you’re finding it difficult to avoid the random negativity and haters in your daily life, take a thoughtful moment to look over your Google reviews, read some emails that your mentors or colleagues sent you, and browse photos from past closing days. Even very thick-skinned agents will eventually get worn down by enough meanness or misinformation, and it’s easy to forget those examples of your value during those times. These times might even serve as opportunities to reach out to former colleagues or clients about future opportunities, and turn something discouraging into something productive. You’re very unlikely to win a real estate hater as a client, and far more likely to create something positive with a former client.
Turn negatives to positives
If you find yourself falling into ever-expanding spirals, binge-reading negative articles and sparking new debates online, it might be time to tighten up your routine. Probably the time you spend browsing social media isn’t really that productive for promoting your brand or prospecting, and if you find yourself fighting with Facebook friends or seething over endless stories about unethical agents, you can probably do something else with that time. Unplug from your phone and computer, add some meditation, exercise or outdoor time. If you can’t practically escape these types of situations—online or in person—make a conscious choice to limit what or how much you engage with the haters: responding to one comment, reading two articles, etc.
For many or most, avoiding negativity and the people who look down on your industry is the best tactic. But for those who want to push back, and for the situations where you can’t avoid it, these are better ways to engage. Also, don’t forget your goals and your demonstrable value, and make sure you’re never giving too much credence to the negativity as you continue to advocate for yourself, and your industry.