Requisites To Success In Real Estate Practice
( Originally Published 1924 )
"How can I be successful?" This question has been asked by every beginner in every business and profession, but a categorical answer has never been given. It will not be given here, for success is too elusive to be achieved or lost in accordance with any easy preconceived rules. It is worth while, however, to remember that success is "the attainment of a desired end," and the man is accounted a success who plays a leading and a praiseworthy part in the activities of his community. In order for anyone to, achieve success, he must first set up a definite purpose toward which he strives.
The Real Estate Dealer's Aims. It is safe to assume that the real estate dealer would hope to attain two objects : (1) He might hope to earn in an honest way a reasonable and comfortable income for himself and family, and a satisfactory return upon the funds which he invests for others; (2) he may expect to enjoy what cannot be better designated than the satisfactions of life.
It would be a serious error for the dealer to make it his aim to secure money by any means possible; but the accumulation of wealth should not be considered an accompaniment of questionable methods. The economic nature of man, so long as he is progressive, urges him constantly to seek new possessions and increased satisfactions. For these he is willing to pay in proportion to the contribution they make to his life. It is therefore not unfair to assume that a man may honestly accumulate wealth exactly in proportion to the contribution he makes to the well-being and comfort of his generation. No one challenges the right of the manufacturer of the cheapest automobile on the market or the greatest inventor of his age to a fortune beyond the comprehension of the ordinary mind; their contributions to society have been greater than their compensation. In other words, wealth accumulated must be matched by dollars' worth of satisfaction given, with something more for good measure. So long as he thinks in such terms, the dealer's ambition may be unbounded. As a direct accompaniment of the first aim is the second, the enjoyment of a fair portion of the satisfactions of life. Wealth can contribute largely to the comfort and pleasure of life, but there are many satisfactions which wealth cannot give. The satisfaction of a task well done, of service rendered, the enjoyment of a good book or a beautiful sunset the dealer should look forward to the development of an appreciation of these enduring satisfactions of life. As the horizon of the real estate dealer widens, arid the professional spirit increases, these rewards become more evident. The rising standards of the profession and requirements of him who enters it constantly push back the range of his vision and increase his opportunity to enjoy these satisfactions.
Requisites to Success. Assuming the aims which we have pointed out, what are some of the requisites of attaining them? In the first place, obvious as it seems, it is necessary to have a clientele. An experienced and wise merchant once said that the most necessary thing for the merchant to possess, and the easiest for him to lose, is a customer. This needs no argument; how is the real estate dealer to secure his clientele? How is he to secure the right to sell the property in which he expects to deal? And how is he to insure that his clients will return to him after he has handled their first transaction?
The real estate dealer is in the same position as other professional men. He has nothing to offer his client but his service. He deals in real estate, and he can only secure patronage by making his sales in such a manner as to win the confidence and esteem of both parties. One dealer started out in his business by going from house to house soliciting each house he passed to find out whether it was for sale, who owned it, how much the income was, and all other facts he could get. Many houses he found for sale and proceeded to build up a clientele. From the clients he thus secured he obtained many other transactions and the satisfaction he gave them caused them to recommend him to their friends. Today he is one of the successful real estate men in one of our largest cities.
The second requisite to success is confidence in his community and adequate vision of its possibilities. The dealer sells his community; he must be brimming over with enthusiasm about its advantages. Otherwise he will be unable to inspire in others sufficient enthusiasm to get them to buy.
His confidence, however, must not be unfounded, blind allegiance. He must be able to give a reason for the faith that is within him. His vision must penetrate beyond the surface and see the things that are invisible to the ordinary man. To the ordinary man the city is merely a group of houses and factories ; to the real estate man it must be alive—an entity with needs and possibilities. His function is to fill the needs and help the city to realize its possibilities. What are the city's industries? Are the needs of those industries supplied within the city? What is its laboring population ? Are they housed ? What is the probable future of its industries? Are its needs increasing or decreasing? No one is in a position to do more than the real estate dealer in helping the city to progress, but he must have a vision of what the city is to be. Fired with an enthusiasm for what the city is destined to be, he will proceed to make it realize that destiny.
Invest in Real Estate. It may also be laid down that as a prerequisite to success the dealer should invest in real estate. No man knows all the appeals and difficulties involved in the ownership of real estate until he has himself owned it, and the man who recommends to others that they invest in any commodity should back his judgment by investing his own money from time to time. The ability to advise clients is greatly enhanced by the actual experience of owning real estate.
Study Constantly. Likewise, success in real estate practice involves constant application and study of the subject. This has become evident from the statement contained in a number of chapters and the real estate man ought not to be content to study the subjects with which he is more vitally concerned; he ought to extend his studies to allied subjects as well. The principles involved in the practice of real estate permeate our whole economic organization, and the real estate dealer ought to strive to keep himself informed on many subjects. Success in specific transactions frequently depends upon information which lies just beyond the limits of the ordinary practice. The man who possesses the necessary additional knowledge is the one who wins the confidence and business of the discriminating customer. By the same token, the man who has to admit his ignorance of questions which arise, even though they be somewhat apart from his regular business, loses the esteem of those with whom he deals.
Assume an Active Part in Civic Affairs. Another opportunity which the real estate dealer has to build up his clientele and to achieve success is presented by his taking an active part in civic affairs. No one is more concerned with the progress of his city than the dealer; he ought to be most concerned with civic affairs. This is a civic duty, but it is more than that. The community places its confidence in the men who are constantly striving for the improvement of its own affairs. The dealer can attain a degree of community leadership by activity of this kind which he can-not obtain so easily in any other way. It gives him a dominance in the mind of his community.
Cultivate Friends. "He who would have friends must make himself friendly." Friends are a business asset, and if there were no other reason than this for cultivating friends it would be worth while to seek to cultivate a larger number. But there are few people who cultivate friends solely because they are a business asset. Friendship is one of the richest experiences of life and the man who is not able to cultivate friends misses a great deal that is enjoyable and makes life worth while. In the selection of his friends, the real estate dealer should exercise discretion and discrimination. He will find it to his advantage to make friends with men who are dealing in affairs which are similar to or connected with his own. The friendship of an architect or of a lawyer may frequently mean considerable to him. He is constantly dealing with these people and his dealings will at least be made more pleasant than if he confines his relationship purely to business. It should be made clear that his attitude of friendship is not a superficial one but the natural expression of a friendly disposition. If the dealer lacks such a disposition he should make it his business to develop one. Society is quick to discern insincerity in social relationships and if the dealer cannot develop a friendly disposition he will be handicapped to that extent.
Maintain Friendly Relations with Competitors. As indicated in the first chapter, a spirit of cooperation is characteristic of a professional attitude in business. Competitors need not be considered enemies. One's business need not prosper at the expense of his competitor. Furthermore a competitor is frequently able to recommend another dealer when a customer expresses an interest in property which is not on his own list. In refer-ring the prospective customer to a competitor, the dealer would naturally refer him to the competitor with whom he was most friendly. Thus the interests of the dealer are served by an attitude of friendliness and at the same time his relationship with competitors is much more pleasant. The attitude of cutthroat competition, of hostile antagonism and intolerant abuse, is past. The progressive dealer should recognize this fact and welcome it.
The same consideration should lead the dealer to give some of his time to the advancement of his group as a whole. The business man today who devotes all of his time to forwarding his own interests and fails to recognize the social responsibility to his group sometimes limits the development of his own business. Perhaps in no other business is this more true, for real estate practice is very rapidly changing in its aspects. The dealer who devotes some of his time to forwarding the interests of his profession is contributing not only to his own generation but to modeling the character of the real estate business for perhaps centuries.
Plan Your Work. There is probably no more important consideration in achieving success than that of planning work. One real estate dealer adopted the motto, "Plan your work, then work your plan." The nature of the real estate business is such as to make it difficult to plan work, but this difficulty can be overcome. If the dealer develops the habit of planning his work, he will find it will not only save time but it will enable him to achieve greater results. A definite routine program it may not be possible to adopt, but the broad outlines of the day's or week's activities can be made out and can be followed.
A distinct advantage of such planning is that it enables the dealer to use his time to the greatest effect. A great handicap in any business is the habit of wasting time. A man has not learned the first principle of success until he knows that the day consists of but twenty-four hours and that when the day is past it has taken with it every opportunity presented during its twenty-four hours. Every day should therefore be used to the greatest possible advantage. This does not mean that the real estate dealer should be a man who never stops working; quite the opposite. It does mean that he should make his work effective.
In dull seasons the real estate dealer finds he frequently has considerable time at his disposal. This dull season, therefore, presents an opportunity to study his problems and to plan future activities. One dealer has spent a number of weeks and a considerable amount of money at odd hours planning the development of a certain business site in his city. He has had plans drawn for a building which he believes would be a suitable improvement for that site and at some time in the future he says these plans will be utilized and he will make a sale of that lot because he has spent his odd hours planning it. Another dealer spends his odd hours subdividing irregular lots in- his city. He keeps a file of all such plans that he works out. In a number of cases he has found that he has been able to meet special needs of customers. In few types of business activities are opportunities for using time well greater than in real estate dealing. There is never an instant when the dealer can-not be actively engaged in the solution of some problem or in the planning of some future development.
Guard Well the Integrity of Your Business. Perhaps no policy is more important than that the representations which are made to customers should be accurate. Enthusiasm of the real estate salesman is likely to lead him into exaggeration. He is tempted to make promises which cannot be fulfilled, and predictions which are not likely to come true. Many times such statements are made in perfectly good faith. The salesman has allowed his enthusiasm to outrun his judgment. Such misrepresentations return sooner or later to plague their originator. The confidence and esteem of the community are of much greater importance than the commission from a present sale.
The distinction made here is that between the long time and the short time point of view. The fly-by-night operator who exaggerates and misrepresents the value of a property does so because he is concerned with present commissions. The real estate dealer who expects to build up a permanent business and win for himself a place in the esteem of the community can afford to lose the present sale, for by his strict integrity he builds up a reputation for honest and reliable dealing.
These are high requirements to success, but it must be recognized that success today in every other line of business depends upon different factors from those necessary to success in previous generations. Today the leaders in the real estate business are men who have forged ahead in spite of the handicaps due to lack of training and professional standards ; tomorrow only those who avail themselves of the progress achieved may hope to inherit their success and to push the standards higher. "There is no royal road to mathematics," said an ancient teacher to a petulant student. Neither is there an easy way to become successful in real estate practice. Constant study and consistent service to customers are more and more the inevitable price that must be paid and that is being paid.