It was the perfect place – three spacious bedrooms, a main floor powder room, finished basement and even a parking spot! A perfect home for my first-time homebuyer clients. Only problem is that my daughter was home sick, my husband was working full time and it was early 2017.
March 23, 2017 to be exact. The real estate market was incredibly hot. Not just typical Spring market hot – more like if you don’t own a house in 30 days, you will die kinda hot. Homes within 100km of Toronto were selling at prices so high, it made you question life. “You mean to tell me that THAT home sold for $1,500,000?!? The one backing onto the train tracks, with a combination of knob and tube and aluminum wiring, Kitec plumbing and no roof? The one that currently houses 10 cats and looks like it was featured in a recent episode of Hoarders? Right……that one.”
After a while, you and your clients would become numb to the pricing. You’d accept the fact that you are one of 50 offers on a home that has no business selling over $900,000 but ends up selling for $1,700,000. Once you were numb to the selling prices, desperation would typically set in. A home listed on MLS at 8:59am, would have seen four agents and their buyers through by 9:30am, with two bully offers by 9:35am and 15 more potential buyers and agents hopelessly trying to get out of work and previously booked appointments to see the home before an offer is accepted.
It was 9:02 am. I was notified of the new property match by email as I sat with my daughter on the couch with a puke bowl in one hand, MLS authenticator in the other. I quickly messaged my client with the authenticator hand and received the following response within minutes: “OMG! This one is beautiful! Let’s see it! I can leave work within the hour.”
My response time was much slower than my client’s but my brain raced. WTF. I glanced over at my sick daughter and thought to myself, well, she hasn’t puked in the last 15 minutes. Maybe an hour-long car ride downtown isn’t such a bad idea? Maybe my neighbour who I’ve barely said three words to since moving in to this home wouldn’t mind watching her? I finally texted my client back. “Ok, great! Let me see if I can rearrange a few things. I’ll let you know in a couple of minutes.” Perfect, just bought myself some time. I quickly called my husband at work:
Me: “Hey. How’s work today?”
Husband: “Not bad. Just got into the office. What’s up?”
Me: “Well, Catherine wants to see a place that just came out.”
Husband: “OKayyyyyyyyy” (this is purposely drawn out because he knows what’s coming)
Me: “Is there any way you might be able to come home?”
Husband: “Errrr. Ummmm. I don’t know. I just got in the office and I’m supposed to go into a meeting. But I can try to get out early and you could meet them around 2pm?”
Me: “Ok, maybe I’ll try your mom. I think 2pm is going to be too late.”
Husband: “Too late? It’s 9:10am. That’s five hours from now.”
Me: “I know. That would be ok if it was two years ago but it’s crazy out there. If I don’t see this place in a couple of hours, they won’t get a chance to see it at all.”
Husband: “Ok, sorry.”
Here’s the thing. I wasn’t pissed at my husband and I knew I was being unreasonable for asking him to leave work when he just got to the office. I was pissed at the fact that being a Realtor usually makes you the default PA day parent. The one who takes the kids to doctor and dentist appointments. The one who rearranges their schedule to stay home when the kids are sick. The one who is responsible for dropping off an extra pair of pants at school because your child dropped her lunch all over the first pair. Because we have a more flexible schedule. There’s no requirement to be chained to an office all day. We can work around things – we’re essentially an angel in a business suit that figures it all out.
While I want to be the one that takes their temperature, administers antibiotics and tracks their fluid intake, I also feel a crap load of guilt when I want to put my kids first but need to do what’s best for my clients as well. I get mad when one of my kids comes down with the flu the day before a marathon of showings with a client or an important listing appointment. I will hide in the basement to take a business call while my daughter is in the middle of a tantrum in the kitchen because her apple wasn’t cut right. I will miss school functions, sports games, extra curricular drop offs and pick ups because these things happen at night or on weekends, which is my busiest work time. I can’t turn my phone off or on silent for movie night or for a trip to the park or for a family vacation. I am always ‘on’ as a Realtor because that’s what I’ve signed up for.
As a parent in real estate, you challenge yourself in ways you couldn’t imagine. I’ve taken my baby girl to an offer presentation, I’ve responded to business texts while in labour, I’ve brought my kids to showings, I’ve made it seem like I have it under control with my clients while there is an apple cutting tantrum and general child chaos surrounding me. You get through it damnit. I’m certain that many of you out there have done the same as a Realtor parent and for that, you need to know you are one amazing person. Not only that, your kids will see your hard work, resilience and dedication and learn from it. They don’t remember the missed BINGO night at school, they remember the time you handed out real estate flyers together in the neighbourhood, the time you saw a really cool house together, the time they got to see the biggest smile on Mommy or Daddy’s face when you successfully negotiated a challenging deal. Kids have this innate ability to remember the great and forget the not so great – it’s a perspective I wish we could all keep past childhood.
Being a real estate parent is a challenge but here are a few tips that have helped me:
- Try to arrange as much back up if possible if you need childcare in a pinch.
- Meet up or talk with other real estate parents so you can realize you aren’t alone.
- Realize that most of your clients will understand if you need to reschedule an appointment or won’t mind having your child tag along for a quick showing or two if needed.
- Involve your kids in your business as much as possible. Sorting business receipts, handing out flyers or other non-trading related activities make for great bonding opportunities with your kids.
- Turning ‘off’ is possible by prioritizing things that need to be responded to immediately and those responses that can wait until after movie night. Does your client REALLY need to know that a showing scheduled three days from now has been confirmed immediately? Could it wait an hour?
- Make life easy – use electronic signatures, hire an assistant when it makes sense for your business, coordinate a shared calendar (Google is great for that) with your partner so there are no double bookings, etc.
- Make it fun! Need to pick up a lockbox or a deposit cheque? Bring your child along then grab some ice cream or lunch after as a treat.
Good luck and if you ever need any advice or support, reach out anytime! We’re in this together.