Resurgence

A few months ago when I was taking that BOLD sales/prospecting class, I remember how the head coach kept telling us to keep up the momentum. He told this story about a famous pilot, Chuck Yeager, who broke the sound barrier. Did I re-tell this story already? Anyway, as Chuck Yeager approached the sound barrier, all the instrumentation and shit inside his cockpit started rattling and cracking and breaking. In his communications with the control center, he was convinced he was not going to survive. A few seconds later, he lost contact and everyone in the control center got all sullen, thinking he had died. But just a few seconds after that, he came back on, thrilled to report that he had broken through the barrier.

Obviously, what I’m doing is nothing pioneering or life-threatening, but this story totally captures the moments (so many already) on this whole real estate ride where I really thought I could not go any farther. So many times, I came up on barriers that I felt were insurmountable… that’s it, I would tell myself: that’s the end of this road for me. My mind and psyche were flooded with all those negative thoughts: this was a mistake. I’m not the right personality for this work. I don’t have the constitution for this; I don’t have the charisma; I’m not a salesperson; I’m not compelling; I don’t have the street smarts; I don’t have the emotional intelligence. Who will ever hire me.

I know, all these statements may sound overly dramatic, but when you go for months without a lead, you really start to believe these things. I still say to Bubbey every damn week: “This is my last chance at success.” I mean, for fucks sake, I’m getting too old to be changing careers and turning new tricks.

Yet somehow when I hit these new lows, I always find some way to come back up. To be honest, I think about all the people around the world who struggle and who persist and who inspire. This is not some raw deal or raw hand I got in life. Hardly the case. These are choices I made to do things differently, and I need to hunker down and make this shit happen!

For the longest time, I felt like my parents were always disappointed in me bc I never settled down with my career. I kept changing, I kept switching. While I kept starting over, my peers were building legit careers: they were honing their knowledge and skills, becoming experts and specialists: becoming VPs or partners or directors or chief surgeons or whatever. Meanwhile, I was perpetually in low-mid level positions. They never wanted to tell their friends what I was up to, bc it was nothing impressive. They wanted me to put my head down, work hard, and move up that ladder in ONE place.

Oddly, their ideas and thoughts about jobs seem very different now. I don’t know if it’s bc they have lived a whole other lifetime in the last few years or what… dad now always says you’ll never build wealth from a job (like from a salary). The path to wealth is through assets and passive income. I mean, it’s not so much the money part of his comment that resonates with me (though I totally agree); rather, it’s this subtle acquiescence that suggests: loyalty and hard work to other people don’t really get you jack. I mean, that’s an oversimplification of course. You get stability and security and health insurance. But I think too about how quickly tech is replacing jobs (even skilled jobs) and how much automation will make so many things obsolete eventually… maybe dad has a different perspective on my flexibility and adaptability, seeing as I can do a variety of things, from contracts to project management to web work to making signs… Ha!

I dunno. I still get down and frustrated, but generally, I feel mentally stronger. And more than ever, I feel more in control of my time and my energies. With real estate, I am enjoying the diversity that the business entails and I do feel like ultimately, this is something that is mine that I can grow. It’s not something where after a few years, I’ll feel constrained or limited or pigeonholed. There’s a path to growth. And with it being a business, I get to choose my tools and programs and how I want to run things. It’s pretty dang cool.

So I’m feeling a resurgence. Last month, I vowed to fill all my weekends in June with open houses. I’ve done that 3/3 weekends now. This weekend, I scored my best open house yet: a single-family home in a very hot neighborhood in Sunnyvale. I got more people at my open house today than probably all my past open house combined. It was nonstop. And all Asians!!! I was extra diligent about gathering info and following up. Yup, contacted people within HOURS of my open house wrapping up. Tomorrow, I go back for Day 2.

Before my open house today, I also hit up two busy parks in Sunnyvale. Yup, did my whole “approaching strangers with kids” tactic and passed out my open house postcards. J went with me to the park; we split up; and then I texted him when I was done. He couldn’t stop remarking about how hardworking I was. It’s kinda funny though: In my regular circle of friends, no one works in sales. So when I tell people about all this prospecting shit, they are kinda in awe that I somehow find the energy to do these awkward activities. But then when I talk to my colleagues or people who work in sales, they’re like, yeah you gotta do MORE. More people. More conversations. More calls. MORE. What you’re doing is not enough. Sigh. Maybe tomorrow, I’ll kick it up another notch.

Sadie Spunkmeyer

Being a sassy woman, it’s hard for me to resist fellow spunky personalities. Earlier this month, we hosted Sadie, a pudgy little King Charles Cavalier Spaniel. Going by our somewhat lengthy meet-and-greet, I was bracing myself for yet another spoiled doggie. While she was over, she was super panty and excitable, esp for a 10-y/o. She constantly vied for the attention of her owner too, jumping up and practically begging to be coddled. I know, total eye roll. But shit man, I wanted the business. Like I said before, I love having multiple things going on at once. That shit just makes me happy, and given that my real estate biz is taking longer than I had anticipated, success in Rover just gives me a little boost. And of course, I still miss canine companionship. Long story short, I agreed to the assignment. And well shit, Sadie is the most people-obsessed doggie I have ever had. That said, there is a cuteness to coming home to something so soft and cuddly and I mean, she just demands a greeting as soon as you step in the door.

She was only with us for a week, but my goodness, she got Bubs wrapped around her tiny paws very quickly, and he would not shut up about how she was the BEST client yet. I mean, yes, those are some fightin’ words, bc you know how I feel about my sweet Ramona. But I do have to admit: this dog had ZERO meds/health instructions and she was really great being home alone. I mean, she wasn’t thrilled about it, but she never destroyed anything or demonstrated spite. Not that Ramona ever did either. But Ramona did also smell. In her defense Sadie also snored up a storm. Shit, I had like another week of uber-shitty sleep. Apparently, she’s had surgery to correct the snoring, but it’s come back again.

I have to say, she did always give us a hero’s welcome when we came home. It was awfully nice to have a sweet, smiling, happy being that was just thrilled to be with you. There’s something about that positive spirit. Somehow I didn’t cry when she had to go home… maybe I’ve finally gotten enough practice understanding the arrangement. But I def miss having a little cuddle bunny at home. I’ve been scouring adoption sites again. Maybe in August, it will be time to have a furry beast warm our hearts and home again.

On the more businessy side of things, I am on track to more than double my Rover income from last year. J keeps poo pooing it when I tell him. I mean, I get it: doubling from like $1 to $2 is not really anything worth noting. Still, doing Rover just makes me happy, so eat it.

I’m slated for a 16-day chunk later this month with Stormy, a poodle whom we trialed last month. It’ll be fun.

Fire Danger

John and I are friends with yet another Peaches and Cream couple. John used to work with the hubby, and they are kind of deluxe when it comes to food and wine… Oh yeah, we traveled with them one weekend to Paso Robles and that was when the hubby was horrified by my attempt to reuse a wine glass

Anyway, they live in a townhouse complex that has zero outdoor space, so they love coming onboard the Houseboat to chillax in our backyard oasis. Well earlier this month, they were house- and dog-sitting for their family friend who lives in the hills of Belmont. We went over: hung out by the pool, chilled with the big golden retriever named Tank. They cooked up a fabulous meal: delicious dry rub ribs plus homemade cole slaw and potato salad. They were totally loving the lifestyle, though I thought being in the hills sure was windy… I know, MV has made me so fucking soft.

Regardless, we had a great time, but then later that night, John received a text from the guy. The fire department was just over: when cleaning up the grill area several hours earlier, the friend touched the wood chips used for smoking the meat. They were cool to the touch, so he threw them into the plastic garbage bin. THREE hours later, that shit turned into a roaring fire on the side of the house.

The friend was watching tv, he heard crackling or something and went from the couch to the side of the house and saw fire!?!?! The house didn’t have an extinguisher. Nuts. The plastic bin totally melted down, and the house has high-fuel eucalyptus trees next door. Thankfully, the fire was put out, but the next day, J went up to help clean. It’s a miracle bc the garbage bin actually contained the fire for a bit and the nearby brush didn’t ignite. They had to rent a truck to haul off the trash, get a pressure washer, AND get a new grill (the old one got melted plastic all over). What a mess, but the most important thing? Thank god no one got hurt. That doggie didn’t alert them to jackshit. It was a reminder though: grills are so damn dangerous. One time, John was using our grill and the fat from the meats dripped through the grates, and there was a big grease fire that exploded from the grill. Our unit is placed up again a wooden fence, near our neighbor’s tree. Thankfully, J put the lid down and the fire calmed down but man, it was scary. And we def keep an extinguisher on hand.

Jumping June

Well, a lot has happened since the end of May. First, mom got her MRI test results back. The scans indicate that her brain “plaques” are not due to a hemorrhage or tumor. It’s not exactly good news: just news that eliminates other possible explanations for her cognitive decline. She is definitely getting worse. I am seeing her decline written all over my dad’s face when he calls via FaceTime. He says she seems happy and fine. But goddamn, he looks tired. He says that when they go out to restaurants and she needs to use the restroom afterwards, he waits for her right outside the women’s bathroom, bc there have been times when she came out and got disoriented in the restaurant. The thought of this is seriously stressing me out, bc that means she really does have to be chaperoned at all times.

I’ve been doing a ton of research recently for dad. He wanted me to contact real estate investors to gather data points for selling his properties as-is. That route turned out to be a total no-go at like 70% of market value. Then, I researched estate planning folks. As usual, I spent all this time checking reviews and BBB and whatever. Dad will just attend some free seminar given by a company that has a regular radio spot and use that company if he likes the seminar. Then I have been researching activities to keep Alzheimer’s people active… My parents actually enrolled in a watercolor class offered through the Frederick Center for Aging. My dad just kept saying they weren’t good (See? Perfectionists. This is class no. 1. Neither has ever taken watercoloring… they aren’t going to be good right out of the gate. Get over it!). I’m glad they are signed up (4 classes, once a week) and are finally getting outside of the house and interacting with people. Frickin’ hermits.

I also had a call with an agent in Rockville. I was actually thinking about her for my parents, my neighbor’s parents (who live in MD), and maybe my MIL… eventually when any one of those parties is ready to move. The agent was a kindred spirit actually. I like her a lot and turns out she has connections to my hometown and her hubby graduated from Stanford. Anyway, we have promised to do lunch when either is in the other’s neck of the woods. Kinda cool. The whole reason I found her was bc last time in MD, we drove by a cute bungalow for sale, and I noticed the KW sign. KW is kinda lesser known back home. I looked up the listing, saw what a fab job she did getting the place ready for sale, and then dug around seeing where she’s done her transactions: Frederick, Rockville, NW DC. Check, check, check. Yeah, sometimes building my network is fun.

What else. My newest Rover client started on June 2. I was really worried Sadie was going to be way overbearing and spazzy, but she’s turning out to be top notch. Yeah, getting up there with my beloved Ramona aka Kidney Bean even!

Workwise, there has been some drama. I really thought I’d escaped all that bullshit office politics when I left govvie and higher ed. Apparently. Not. Long story short, my coach/mentor abruptly changed offices. We were trying to still partner together despite being in different offices, but after a week and after seeing the writing on the wall where the old office clearly was NOT going to support an ongoing partnership, I decided to switch also. It’s fine: the new place is basically the same distance and the office is larger, not to mention run by women leaders whom I really like, and WAY more organized. I feel good about the move, but you know, there’s a lot with meeting all the agents here and just kinda settling in. As a side note, the drama/feuding between the offices is continuing. So juvenile.

My German family is still working with my lender. I hope they can make progress soon so we can start house hunting… we’ll see. Meanwhile, I am still trying to fill my weekends with open houses. Last weekend, my colleague at the old office passed me some options: on Saturday morning, I discovered that I would be co-hosting a Sunnyvale condo with a veteran agent with nearly 30 years of experience! He was a great guy and we talked the whole time, but open house wise, traffic was kind of slow and at the end of the day, I was super wiped. Not just from all the talking but also bc talking to him really highlighted just how far I have to go. He was super savvy too: knew all the tax laws and financial secrets. I think he said he used to be Mayor of Sunnyvale. He was SUPER well-connected: had all kinds of stories of influence and getting shit done. He was similar to my dad too in that he had established multiple income streams… another key to building wealth. 

I was supposed to go to a dance festival in downtown SJ afterwards, but man, open houses make for very long days, esp when I go doorknocking beforehand. Yeah, no real leads that day either. Kinda sucked. But things are warming up again: I just scored an open house for this weekend. I’m also slated for another next weekend. Work, work, work, work, work.

Getting Warmer

On Friday, I dropped by the local BOA branch to check in on one of the lenders with whom I’ve been partnering. She’s the sweetest lady, a total pro in the business, and she had sent a referral when I was in Nashville. I stopped by to invite her to lunch as a thank you for thinking of me. She’s a cool lady, who’s in between my age and my parents’ age. I enjoyed geting to know her, and it’s nice too to meet someone who acknowleges my fire and really wants to help me succeed. I have been feeling pretty good about building my lender relationships: this was a strategy my coach recommended from the get go, and I have been sticking to a routine with regular check-ins and follow throughs, and the seeds are finally starting to grow.

On Saturday, while Bubs and I were out, I got a call from a young Asian couple, referred by none other than my lender M!! They were so polite and pleasant. We talked about what they were seeking, their timeline, and I booked a meeting for Monday morning. Yes, it is the Memorial Day holiday but I’m a hustler. I was feeling good that things were looking up. Incidentally, the German family from my neighborhood who attended my homebuying class also reached out on Friday and said they were ready to resume their homebuying process. I booked them for a meeting on Tuesday.

So on Sunday, I was feeling the fire growing in my belly. We had my long lost buddy T over for brunch. J and I met his new gf for the first time. They are an older couple, but it’s so nice to again, see a good fit. Both super fit and active and into birding and nature. There is just something to having interests and activities and knowing how to have fun. I really wish my parents understood and embraced that secret.

Anyway, we had a lovely brunch at the houseboat. At the same time, I was also test trialing a new Rover client. She’s an excellent dog, and basically, the day was going awesome. How’s that for some positivity? In the afternoon, I was planning to preview some homes bc I wanted to have a better sense for the areas my Monday couple were keen on. J and I toured some places. I got some good ideas. And actually, some of the places I was touring might be a good match for ANOTHER family in my current neighborhoood. Yeah, you see, on Friday, another neighbor I, whose sister was thinking about exploring real estate back when I was just starting the classes, she reached out and said her parents are downsizing in MD and thinking to move out here. Yeah, I have even met her parents before when they were out visiting and walking their dogs. They are pretty much on a similar trajectory as my parents… immigrants from Taiwan, settled in MD (not far from John’s family), always optimizing tax stuff, debating where to settle for retirement… So yeah, as you can see, I’ve got a few things thawing… and it all kinda came in the last two weeks.

So now we are at Monday morning. I had some anxiety last night about my inaugural buyer consult this morning: the usual sleeplessness and bowel issues. But I got cleaned up and ready to go. Well, on my drive into the office (I was headed there an hour early to mentally prepare), the sweet couple called and canceled. They had dinner last night with the parentals and they will use the mother’s realtor friend. I was in the car, and I mean, there was no hiding my disappointment. I was absolutely crushed bc I was finally feeling like the tide was turning after all these months of work. But after my 10 secs of stun, I remembered to be gracious. I said that if anything changed, I hope they would consider me and I am excited for them on this journey ahead.  Then I started to drive home, and on the way, I called Bubs and started to cry.

Failure again! Poor me, blah, blah. But then I got off the phone and dug deep. This is how the business works.  I can’t be crying and calling off the whole day bc of a setback. So I turned the car around again and decided to head to the office anyway to talk with my coach. I still have a meeting tomorrow with the German family to prepare for. And along the drive, I thought back to that conversation with the Asian couple. I should have fought more for it rather than just accept their choice. When I arrived at the office, I called them back. I said that I respected their decision, but sometimes realtors have different personalities and communication styles, so what works for their parents might not mesh for them. I’m happy to meet to get to know them better and share my style and then they can decide. They were very kind and said they would meet with the other agent first and contact me again if that didn’t work out. And that was that. I did my best to fight for it. We’ll see how tomorrow goes.

Trip Home

I forgot to update on our short trip home last weekend. What can I say: I still always feel some element of dread when I’m about to see my parents. It’s like a constant reminder of how to live life differently. Not in all ways, but in many ways. 

My father made some progress geting rid of stuff. And actually, his former office manager came to the house on Sunday with her kids and a huge trailer to haul off my old bedroom furniture and some new twin mattresses from the basement. I was glad that they turned out to be serious/actual takers and our stuff is going to be used. But I got so overwhelmed by it all, even just cleaning out my bedroom in prep for them to take the furniture. I mean, there’s like 35 years worth of stuff in that house. Nathalie drove up from NC for the weekend and helped, but she could see that it was too much for me. She reiterated the same things John has said: don’t waste your remaining time fighting and arguing with them about downsizing logistics. After they are gone, you will have full control over how to get shit done. It’s so true, and yet the clutter and stuff just stresses me out. N also commented about how old my parents are getting. It’s been probably seven years since she saw them, and I mean, obviously they are a much frailer version of their former selves.

And my mother is not well. Dad has been wanting to stimulate her brain with Chinese puzzles and games, but she is kinda beyond that now. We tried playing Chinese checkers and she kept playing a turn when it wasn’t her turn. I’ve seen this behavior before with my maternal grandmother and mahjong. Of course, my maternal grandmother is in her 90s. My mom isn’t even 70. Dad had been saying that he’s noticing more cognitive decline, and I was thinking he was just overreacting: mom has always been confused. But John also noticed. 

This trip I really observed how faithful and loyal my father is with my mother. He repeats his answers to her even when she asks the same shit over and over. He still is patient and remains her dedicated companion. He doesn’t show frustration or resentment towards her about it… he just remains true. It makes me wonder about my future. It is so hard for me to be patient and kind to my parents… even knowing what I know about her illness. I have my doubts about my caretaking abilities. And a part of me also worries about my own mental state. If I lose my cognition, what will happen to me? There is some element of fear for the future– both theirs and mine.

I see too the emotional burden this takes on my father. He has a history of taking on burdens and of being the dependable one for everyone. But I worry about his mental state, bc I know caretaking is incredibly taxing. Mom is supposed to get the results of her MRI on May 31. She is taking meds that are supposed to slow the cognitive decline, but the decline is still apparent.

I think the emotional toll on my dad is manifesting in the form of procrastination and paralysis regarding the house and his real estate properties in the area. I can understand the overwhlem and how debilitating it is. So for now, my offer is to suggest California as an option for their US base. Move out of MD, and get something in CA. Yes, it’s expensive and taxes are insane. But Stanford is right down the road, John and I are here, there is a legit Chinese community here, AND Taiwan is a direct flight away. For so many other reasons, CA just makes sense. 

After I got back from Maryland, I made a ton of calls and found a Chinese-speaking neurologist and geriatric specialist in my area. I confirmed that both physicians take Medicare. I got my mother registered as a new patient with PAMF, should she want to get care here. They may come out in July to stay for a week or so, before flying on to Taiwan. I suggested making some medical appointments for that time.

My mother is also speaking exclusively in Chinese at his point– probably bc they don’t really socialize much in MD. Taiwan offers more stimulation for her. My dad can’t be her one-stop shop for everything: socialization, activities, etc. Anyway, all of it is pretty damn depressing. And every visit, I’m still reminded of how distant we are: we just don’t have a close relationship. But I suppose rather than be disappointed and frustrated, I have to focus on what I can do for them. I do know how to get things done, and if that is the only thing I can do for my parents, I’ll be damn good at that.
Meanwhile, my MIL is in a similar boat. She has been going to physical therapy which has given her more stamina. That said, she’s still getting older, like everyone else. With every visit, the changes become more and more apparent. I know I’m like a perpetually stressed-out person, but this period in my life truly feels unlike any other. It’s almost as if all past periods of stress were like fake or trial runs or I dunno, tiny niblets building up. I thought those times were really serious, but I see how that the shit is just now starting to hit the fan. I feel neither ready nor prepared, but I guess that is the theme for life from here on out.

Changing for Love

Earlier this month, J and I headed to Nashville for a long weekend meeting up with my college bud J and his girlfriend M. In my head, I’ve always likened my friend J to Steve Carrell’s character in The 40-Year Old Virgin, bc he was such a cool guy and yet he had never really had a gf. I mean, he definitely has his peculiarities and certain obsessions, but really, who among us doesn’t? For some period, his college roommate, also a friend of mine, suggested that maybe J was gay or asexual, but I knew that simply wasn’t true. How and why? Bc J crushed big time on MY college roommate back in the day.

Anyway, through the years, I would sometimes broach the subject of dating, but he never seemed in a hurry. I wondered if maybe he was just one of those guys who treasured his independence and freedom. After all, sometimes I still yearn for those days when you really just do whatever the fuck you want.

Fast forward 30+ years after college, and J is dating (and moving in soon) with a wonderful woman. Always the adventurous traveler, J joined a backpacking group over a year ago and befriended none other than the head organizer. To me, it’s just magical to see that someone as quirky and as unique as J has found a match! They get along so well: she’s super positive and practically bubbly and that complements his cynicism and sarcasm. She’s also adventurous and fearless; he’s adventurous but more risk-averse and cautious. It’s a nice melding of two extremes.

And I have to say: to all those people who always tell me people just don’t change. I disagree. People DO change, but they change for different reasons and under different circumstances. I always knew J to be uber tidy and obsessive about his environment. Everything had its specific place. Everything was meticulous. On the flip side, M is much messier, more spontaneous. Whenever J and I ate a meal, he was like THE slowest eater ever. My friends and I used to joke that he counted the number of chews before swallowing each bite. This trip, he mostly kept pace, and you know Bubs and I scarf our meals down like a team of Hoover vacuums. There were other changes:

  • J is a strong introvert, and the thought of being later in the queue on a Southwest flight (based on how soon you check-in online) is a stressful situation. On our trip, when it was time to check in for their return flight to Boston, he was totally ready, like minutes in advance, right. Meanwhile, M was super casual and free. She fumbled around loading the app and was bumbling around figuring out how to check in, while J was super eager to get the job done. In any other scenario, the lack of readiness would have bothered him. But M laughed and teased and that really diffused his uptightness.
  • I remember too that when we were in Miami, he NEVER wanted me to take pictures. M is all about photos, and she loves cheesy posed pics too: she asks him to pose and he always obliges.
  • Oh and another thing: J is kinda a germaphobe. Like I said, he is very clean. Well, they told us this story about him getting her a bone box. You see, she’s an environmentalist by profession and by hobby. She works for an environmental agency issuing permits, and like I mentioned, she leads those backpacking groups. She also leads birding and naturalist classes for the local community education program. She also hikes and runs A LOT outside of all those activities. (Yes, J and I got another huge reminder this trip that we are out of shape and something needs to change. Seriously, we had like no stamina and energy, esp in the Tennessee heat.) Anyway, back to the story: As a birder and naturalist, M has all kinds of taxidermy critters and animal skulls. So for her bday, J got her a bone box, which is essentially a container into which you place an animal body part and beetles come into the box and pick the bone clean. So the story is that she obtained a bear head, and she put the frozen head into the bone box. But bc she set the box up off the ground a bit, the beetles couldn’t get in, so the whole thing turned into a nasty rotting mess. The solution? She got J to help her boil the thing in a big cauldron outside to then tear off the flesh. And J helped her with all of this!!! It’s pretty dang amazing. I mean, who do you know who would help someone boil a fleshy bear skull?!?! That’s what I mean! The things we do for love. SMH.

He’s still the same person, just a freer, more relaxed, and happier version. And I think watching them reminds me of my relationship with John. I have always been a control freak, and we’ve certainly had some very bumpy roads in our path together, but in the end, I know that relinquishing some of my control and uptightness made me a more balanced and adjusted person. If it weren’t for Bubs, I would be so much more serious and rigid and unyielding: I would be fighting so many more battles on so many fronts, bc I would never let things go.

I’m really thrilled for my friend J. And I will say: M is a big time doer, which I really like. I mean, I can see how she balances J out, and he’s in a good place. She gives his introverted self that extra boost to get out of his head and do things. Another plus: by the time John and I got to the airport for our flight home, I received a link to a Google Photos album with amazing pictures from our weekend. Haha, I could get used to this level of effortless travel. 🙂

Negotiator

I’ve learned that real estate is one of the only professions where agents are CONSTANTLY being asked to dock their pay. Part of it is that people don’t see or understand the value that Realtors offer. Perhaps they think we just sit around twiddling our thumbs. So a large part of this job is educating people on what it is we do and to argue our value. To me, aside from knowing the market, knowing the contracts and process, knowing the resources out there, having relationships with lenders/other agents/vendors, realtors are also negotiators for their clients.

When I took that negotiation class recently, I realized that Chinese people are really good negotiators, bc as the instructor pointed out: China and Taiwan are negotiating countries where money is scarce and labor/time is abundant, so people will spend time to save pennies. The other big aha from that class: negotiating is different from just getting a discount. With negotiating, you get a discount, but the other party gets something out of it too.

My friends know me as a bargain hunter. I find discounts and coupons and what have you. I oftentimes get things for cheaper, but I realized that my technique is super basic: I just make the ask, and yeah, it has served me well. But only a few times have I truly negotiated.

One of my first times was when I negotiated the salary for a nonprofit job. It was way low, but I knew that the person in the position was leaving very soon. So I asked for higher pay, and I offered to start immediately so as to have training overlap. I also asked for higher salary bc I wasn’t going to need their health benefits so that would save them expenses and administration time. So see, it wasn’t simply asking for a discount just bc.

My dad is the ultimate negotiator. He began handling money from a very young age, helping his farmer parents sell bananas and produce. My father always did the math side of the business: making change, calculating costs/expenses, tallying up all the day’s transactions, etc. so his mental math skills were super sharp. But also, he developed a very keen business acumen, bc my grandparents pooled community money to buy farmland and then thought of ways to generate wealth through leasing plots to other farmers, etc. It’s crazy to think of the skills you learn from your childhood.

When I was growing up, my father negotiated everything. At times, it felt so tedious and uncomfortable, bc American culture just doesn’t negotiate. I remember one time in college, I asked for a price match on a $125 bike rack and the owner got so pissed. He just shooed me away and all I did was ask if he would consider matching the shop down the road ($100). Maybe it was my fault, bc I didn’t point out what was in it for him. I know now, after having door knocked and canvassed, people react in all different ways. You just move on. 

Before we had our family home custom built in the 80s, my father had researched land lots. He found a place with two adjacent lots owned by a single owner, and then he asked if his friend wanted to purchase the lot next door. Since dad was bringing the purchase of two lots at once, he negotiated a discount. Later, he negotiated discounts from all the vendors and contractors: he not only brought them a second customer without any marketing/effort but by having our lots adjacent, the crews could save on travel/staging/equipment rental costs, etc. And this discount amplified many times over, from the architect to the asphalt paving to the lawn mowing crew… See, would you have thought of that? It’s an interesting extension of that idea from his youth where neighbors pooled resources for purchases and then tried to leverage their buying power.

Many years later, my father wanted to renovate the basement to create more bedrooms should his family ever move to the States. He negotiated a discount by offering to be flexible on the project timing. So typically, carpenters/electricians/contractors are less busy in the winter months. My father asked for a discount in exchange for having them work during a lighter season. And this example comes to mind, bc my teacher specifically told a story about how he negotiated cheaper gas at his local station. First, he asked questions about whether the owner had daily gas quotas in order to get better wholesale rates from the suppliers. Yes. Which days were his slow days where he had trouble reaching the goals. Wednesdays, but he was often short like x gallons– an amount far more than a single customer. So what happened? My teacher negotiated a discount by getting all his realtor friends in on it: they would pump their gas on Wednesdays from that station and get a discount. Pretty crazy, right?

I think I’m pretty good at making the ask, but I want to work on negotiating by highlighting what’s in it for them. Of course, I’ve started practicing already.  We have one final step for our bathroom reno where the plumbers have to come back and put in the trim (fixtures). By habit, I made the ask: would you consider a discount given the amount of recent project work we’ve done? Then I realized I hadn’t pointed out what they get out of it. So while he was still considering, I offered to be flexible with their schedule… they can squeeze us in whenever they have an opening and we are also located nearby in MV. He gave me a discount! Not huge but still 15%! 

I’m thinking that I will go back to Comcast and negotiate my rates again. I already do that pretty regularly, arguing that I’m a longtime customer, but I might try the angle of asking how much they pay to market to new users. I’m an existing and I’m happy with their service and in my real estate work, there may be opportunities where I can share my positive experiences with Comcast… haha. We’ll see what happens. 

We’re also contemplating a new roof, and I was thinking to employ the same strategy dad used: see if any neighbors are considering and then we can get a group discount and time it so the contractor can consolidate his mobilization/supply costs.

Incidentally, I am visiting my parents this weekend, so I’m sure dad will put me to work on vendor calls.

Keeping the Momentum

Whew, I am so glad my class is done. That said, I am only giving myself a brief respite, bc I am totally paranoid about losing the momentum. I keep telling myself that success never comes easy; don’t lose steam!

In terms of moving ahead, I already knew this but somehow doing the various lead generation activities really opened my eyes to just how much quality trumps quantity. Looking at the stats, all those efforts reaching out to strangers (“un-mets” as we call them in the biz) show super low conversion. Cold calls, door knocking, flyering… To get one warm lead, you gotta hit hundreds of people. So I’m going to zone back in on a more targeted approach.

So I’m brainstorming a few ideas:

  1. Tabling with the banks for loan days. These people at least already have an account at the bank and they are physically present for a possible pre-approval session with my partner lender.
  2. Tabling at workplaces during lunch for an “Ask the Realtor” or “The Realtor is in” session. Another version of this might be a lunch and learn session.
  3. A regular schedule for homebuying classes.
  4. Calls to For Sale by Owners and Expired Listings.
  5. Calls to more lenders and experienced agents who have open houses I can host.

I also need to fill all of my lunches and dinner with meetings. Yeah, as the coach reminded: 100 contacts/week is NOT something to be celebrated. That is the bare minimum. Yikes. There’s a new baseline now.

Fortunately, I am FINALLY starting to see some traction. I know, I can’t believe it! One of the lenders with whom I did the loan days in April called while I was in Nashville. She has two clients who were getting pre-approved with her and they are NOT working with an agent. One dude already set up an appointment with the other agent she recommended. The second guy, I’m hoping to hear from. It’s one of those things though where the buyers want my info but they don’t want the lender to pass their info to me… Yup, people are hypersensitive these days about their privacy. So I’m waiting.

From my homebuying class, as I mentioned, none of the attendees were people I reached from canvassing; that said, turnout was solid. Two parties were former colleagues at the university, and two other parties were notified via my neighbors. I’m so grateful for the support of others. It makes such a big difference. I have 3-4 warm leads from my class… people who are considering buying in the next 12 months.

There is also an agent up in Burlingame whom I met many months ago through my volunteer group, Linkages. He’s been so generous with his time and advice. His aunt is selling her house next month in Milpitas (closer to me), so I’ve been checking in with him weekly, following up on the schedule, and I’m planning to help him with canvassing and flyering for the upcoming open house. He’s been so so good to me, and I have to say, with him being Chinese-American, there’s so much commonality that I would not have anticipated. Like even talking about the condition– the upkeep and maintenance of the aunt’s house. The way Chinese people live in their spaces… it is so different. And all the activities in BOLD. His mom, who is also a Realtor, was so uncomfortable with the prospecting, not to mention the Money Magnet exercise. Anyway, it was so helpful to hear his perspective and be reminded that these are all tools we need to assess for ourselves and then select the ones that work for us.

I will say that I struggle with parts of life that require selectivity. On one hand, I’m pretty curious and I like to learn, so I attend all kinds of classes and events and trainings. There is some part of me that wants to believe if I just follow the prescription of the experts, I will make it. The concept of a blueprint for success appeals to the side of my brain that likes things to be black and white and just very clear. And my idolization of specialists also drives me to believe in their secrets and in their tactics. Like that show, Married at First Sight. Despite the craziness of the premise, there is some part of me that believes or wants to believe the experts with all their knowledge, wisdom, and tests will be able to run their matchmaking algorithm and come up with the right fit! Never mind that in four seasons with three couples each, only 1/12 have worked out! Still, when the Bold trainer says not to take the class a la carte, I like that bc it’s less mental strain: I can focus on the techniques and not think about the details of what to apply when and where.

The problem with this mentality is that despite my affinity for simple and straightforward, I also have a very independent, judging, and defiant mind. So in my head, both sides are constantly at war with one another. Even as I had resolved from the beginning to “not do this a la carte,” I was thinking and evaluating at every single stage! I mean, while I consider myself more of a generalist than a specialist, this ain’t my first rodeo in life, you know? I have some amount of life experience and wisdom to bring to the table, and why should my opinions or thoughts be dismissed? Like the language, the word choice, the delivery, etc. I’ve worked in communications for a very long time. 

So here’s my dilemma: In my DISC personality profile, my D (dominance) is super high, meaning I’m driven towards execution and getting things done. But there is a detail part of my brain that likes to know how things work and to check the numbers. For example, when I held that swanky open house for the top producing agent, I was the one who noticed her flyers in her display box were inaccurate: The address was correct, but the pictures in the flyer were wrong, as was the website URL. Also, when my lender prepped his slides for my homebuying class last week, I found an error in his financing scenario. When my coach sent out market data stats to his students, I caught errors in his calculations and graphic (I was maintaining my own separate spreadsheet to track the market changes). I mean, mistakes happen. I’m not saying that I’m infallible, but I’m just saying that I do look at the details. So as I went through the training, I gave thought to what we were instructed to say… and I didn’t always agree with the technique. But you see my issue: my mind has internal conflict and flip flops.

The one thing that I really liked about Bold– My team captain really proved to me that you can deliver the scripts in a natural and compelling manner. I mean, he didn’t follow them verbatim, but he understood their intention and used them as talking points. Honestly, he modeled the conversations even better than the coaches. So my conclusion is that it can be done. I don’t believe in winging anything, so I’m going to study/practice/internalize the main points of the scripts and then aim to deliver them convincingly. With practice will come confidence and effectiveness. That’s right: time to Elizabeth Dole this shit.

Shortcuts

I gotta admit: anxiety is a strange beast. I mean, I always have some chronic level of anxiety: honestly, I feel it’s just a part of life when you’re an over thinker and/or a perfectionist. There is always something to worry about and obsess over bc shit’s just not quite right.

It’s funny though bc even though I identify as an over thinker, I don’t really consider myself a perfectionist. That’s a totally separate thing, and given my nonchalance about the details of our home reno, I do feel I have a certain freedom that perfectionists don’t necessarily have. Like the old shower tile work wasn’t completely straight but heck, I never even noticed until now… like seven years later. We ran out of floor tile and another box of it was on backorder for months, so we just substituted a similar but DIFFERENT tile for underneath the vanity. It’s covered up anyway.

And I kinda do hacks/shortcuts like this all the time. Just yesterday, I had my first homebuying class right? I wore my new CAbi jumpsuit with my Vince Camuto peep toe booties. My feet are looking rough these days. I just haven’t been doing my usual home pedis. So my toes were looking bad. And my event was set to start in one hour. My solution? I put on my shoes and just painted the exposed toes. Yeah, I couldn’t even be bothered to polish the ring and pinky toes on my feet. Oh well, that’s just going to have to do. And I do nutty shit like that all the time. I had this bedazzled necklace on a fabric backing that just would NOT lay flat. I kept re-tying it to get it right, but it just kept folding over itself, so fuck it: I pulled a Donald Trump tie trick. That’s right: I got a piece of packing tape, doubled it into a loop, and voila, that mofo stayed flat against my shirt. Of course, as the day wore on and the tie/sash loosened, that middle medallion sat nonsensically perfectly positioned. What can I say: I gotta pick and choose my battles, man.

So the thing I’ve noticed in the last several weeks is that anxiety compounds itself. I got so wound up over everything that 24 hrs later, I am still trying to fully decompress. It’s like my body got used to the elevated stress and then almost forgot how to come back down from it.

Right now I’m en route to Nashville, and it’s funny but my college bud’s girlfriend is an uber planner, so I am just showing up. I mean, overall, I enjoy travel planning, esp bc I have my process down, but every now and then, I certainly appreciate the luxury of just showing up. Seriously, after we settled on the dates MONTHS ago, she researched and booked lodging, car, and created a Google docs filled with things to do. I didn’t have to coordinate with the AirBnb lady. No searching things to do on TripAdvisor or any of the travel guides. Bam, it’s already done. Thank goodness, bc I have been maxed out and would not have made time for it on my plate.

In other news, my bathroom reno is still happening. It’s SO frustrating but essentially, after we selected our GC, we thought the only piece he was going to outsource was plumbing. However, after the project got underway, he ended up outsourcing electrical, tile work, painting… I ended up using our gardener’s brother bc he was available sooner and I wanted to try him out, but that has turned out disappointing too. He works full time and then does our stuff after hours, and things have just dragged on bc he can’t come every day. The interplay def has not been optimal and I’m super frustrated by it but I am learning for the future. Construction project management is only good when you have a well-oiled army of good, reliable, punctual contractors. That’s what it all boils down to. I had to ride my painter already and it was not comfortable, and now I know for next time that I want a very specific schedule breakdown and calendar of availability. Sure, it’s not the end of the world, but a month plus was just way longer than I had allotted in my mind. Right now, we should be done by the end of next week. Ugh. I just want to put crap away into the new vanity and remove all that junk lying around my bedroom floor.

Meanwhile, our friends recently got their master bath majorly re-done. The project dragged on for months and months. Finally, it was done and they enjoyed their new monster bathtub several times, only to discover water leaks three floors down in the garage. And no one knows why that is happening but clearly, the new bathroom is the culprit and all that beautiful new chevron porcelain tile is gonna have to come out. Major shit. Plumbing problems are THE worst. For a split second, I entertained the idea of being a female plumber. I figured solid waste engineering already prepped me for the conditions, but nope. Too many problems with water damage. I’m out.

What else. Oh, I attended a CAbi networking event on Monday. My friend T had suggested at the host party that I should become a CAbi stylist. It’s basically a Pampered Chef but with clothes. Frankly, I’m already knee-deep in the throes of a sales job and I’m already overwhelmed. But, I got invited to the event and I figured it would be another opportunity to meet new people. It was ok, and I always like learning about organizations where women are entrepreneurial and you know, flourishing in business. Still, those multilevel marketing programs are just hard for me to accept. I like the clothes. I do think they are much nicer worn than hanging on display, but I mean, I’m almost exclusively a second-hand clothing woman now. I just don’t value clothes enough to pay $80-$100 for a blouse and $130+ for jeans or pants. Since the hosted party event I attended last month, I found CAbi stuff on Schoola and Thredup, so I’ve been acquiring more pieces– just not at full price. Regardless, it was an ok event and I made some new connections. But shit, I am tired.