At the Core: The Jigsaw Puzzle of Real Estate

Being a real estate agent is a lot like solving jigsaw puzzles. Some puzzles have 15 pieces and others have 1,500. The puzzles with the most pieces take longer to complete, but on multiple levels they’re almost always the most rewarding.

It’s easiest for us to draw an analogy between our profession and solving a puzzle after we’ve completed a transaction, when we have the benefit of hindsight. It happens most often when we’re telling “war stories” about the most difficult transactions we’ve encountered. The conversation goes a lot like this:

“Remember that deal with the low appraisal, and the condo was declined by the bank, and our buyer wanted to close in June, but the seller didn’t want to close until September?”

“Oh yeah… wasn’t that the one with the seller’s broker that was almost impossible to deal with?”

“Yes. That one. But somehow, we still got it done!”

Putting the pieces together for our clients on deals like that is especially rewarding because there is a real sense of accomplishment and pride. We also learn the most from those deals and they help us get better at solving the puzzles we’re working on now and the ones we’ll tackle in the future. We’ll be ready for that 50,000 piece-jigsaw puzzle when it lands on our desk!

Starting with a Corner Piece

Before our clients are in contract, and before they even make a bid on a property, in real-time we’re helping them put the first pieces of their puzzle together.

In late June, Marie had one of our clients on speakerphone as they worked through all of his numbers. Would he have enough money in reserve to meet the co-op board’s requirements? Could he bid on the $3.7 Million property that he and his wife loved most, or would their budget dictate that they remain focused on the $3.2 Million property they saw with Jeff a few days before?

The phone call lasted 45 minutes. Back-n-forth, Marie and our client traded numbers until everyone was on exactly the same page. Ultimately, he knew how much money he’d need for both units. He knew what the payments and debt ratios would be in both scenarios, and whether he’d meet reserve requirements for the board. He had the information he needed to make highly informed decisions.

Reactive vs. Proactive

Solving puzzles is good for business but creating them can be even better.

Internally, we mostly measure our success through our clients’ experiences. We’re achieving at the highest levels when all of our clients are happy. But to the outside world, and to our future clients that have not met us yet, our success as real estate agents is measured in units, transactions and dollar volume. So, we always have to think about ways to identify or even create opportunities so that we exceed the standards for success within our industry. In effect, we have to create our own puzzles.

We like to think of New York City as a giant jigsaw puzzle, with invisible pieces scattered everywhere. The pieces can be questions or answers, or they can be people who have the answers to the questions. They can be buildings or banks or new laws or regulations or tax codes. They can be facts or figures or charts and graphs.

Separately, the pieces might not mean a lot. But when we understand how all of these pieces fit together, we’ve almost always identified opportunity. We connect the dots by reading articles and talking with experts and analyzing data. But mostly, we ask questions.

Toward the end of June, our team registered for a panel event where experts in the field told us about new laws governing developers who want to convert their buildings from rental to condo or co-op. As audience members, we asked a lot of questions and we got a lot of answers. And, we met people who undoubtedly would be able to provide us answers to questions we’ll have in the future.

We always want the members of the Espinal Adler Team to be critical thinkers, and that always starts with asking the right questions. Each member of our team should always ask:

  • How can I identify an opportunity to grow my business?
  • How can I create an opportunity for the team?
  • Most of all, how can I identify opportunity for our clients?

Every time we find an answer to these questions, we’re a stop closer to solving a puzzle and creating opportunity.

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