Christy Murdock isn’t Emily Post or Miss Manners, but she does have the lowdown on how to behave in real estate. With so many platforms and processes, you need to keep up with the rules — both old and new. Here you’ll find ways to put your best foot forward, in person and online.
This April, one of Inman’s most popular recurring theme months returns: Back to Basics. All month, real estate professionals from across the country share what’s working for them, how they’ve evolved their systems and tools, and where they’re investing personally and professionally to drive growth in 2022. It’s always smart to go Back to Basics with Inman.
I was recently talking with a friend who was trying to describe her distaste for someone in her office. “I mean,” she sputtered, “he reheats fish in the office microwave at lunchtime, if that tells you anything.”
We all know that guy (or gal) in the office — you know the one who
- straight up rolls their eyes during Zoom calls, forgetting that everyone can see
- wears so much perfume or cologne that you can smell them coming before you ever see them
- talks loudly on the phone in the common office space — then gives you a full-scale play-by-play — all while you’re trying to write up an offer that was due five minutes ago
- has no regard for personal space and can’t read the room to save themselves
- thinks their mood is everyone else’s problem and their agenda is the only one that matters.
In a professional context, you may be rubbing elbows with folks of all ages, as well as those who are career-switching from other professional backgrounds. The name of the game when it comes to etiquette now is more about kindness, empathy and open-mindedness, rather than a laundry list of finger-wagging nevers and must-dos.
We’ve rounded up a variety of things to consider, whether you’re launching your career in real estate, navigating a new brokerage or trying out a new platform. Remember, however, the first rule upon which all others are based: Treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself.
- Don’t assume that you are the arbiter of what constitutes polite and professional dress or behavior. Today’s office environment encompasses a wide variety of ages, cultures and personal styles. Unless you are in a supervisory position, it’s not your place to tell others how they should look, what they should wear, or how they should present themselves.
- Similarly, treat other members of your team or brokerage with respect. Don’t dismiss them because they are younger or older than you, because they have less experience, or because they are dual-career agents while you believe only full-time agents count. Remember, there are many ways to do business today and that young, new agent may have a huge SOI and some bright ideas that will take them a long way professionally.
- Be mindful of support staff and treat them with respect as well. While they may not be pulling in huge deals and commissions, they’re providing the marketing, administrative and professional support that allows you to do so. Be friendly and communicate with them as your professional colleague, not as your inferior.
- Be a team player, open to changes in the way you do business. Don’t be the person who says, “But that’s not the way we used to do it.” Don’t dig in your heels at every new tech platform or operational process. Don’t kick up dust anytime you’re asked to do something that’s outside of your comfort zone.
- Not everyone is coming in to the office to chat or to hang out. Maybe they’re coming in because they have a young child at home and want some focused time to catch up on paperwork. Maybe they simply need to get away from personal distractions so that they can get more done. Read the room.
- Treat the office the way you would treat your home and the people in it. Clean up after yourself. Be courteous to others. Remember special occasions and acknowledge them. Be a positive and pleasant part of the office environment, someone everyone is glad to see walk in the door.
Virtual meeting etiquette
- Take a virtual meeting as seriously as you would an in-person meeting and put your best foot forward. Be prompt, polite and attentive, just as you would face-to-face.
- Avoid distractions as much as possible. Use good-quality headphones or earbuds so that ambient noise doesn’t bleed into your audio.
- Similarly, mute yourself when you’re not speaking so that you don’t become a distraction to others or to the speaker.
- If possible, share an agenda or other information ahead of the meeting so that attendees have a chance to review it. If you’re presenting, make sure that your screenshares and other presentation materials are easy to read and follow.
- Practice with your virtual meeting platform ahead of time, especially if you are the one in charge. Set up a virtual meeting with your friends, family members or a couple of trusted colleagues so that you know where the controls are and you don’t waste participants’ time trying to figure out basic functionality.
- Use a professional email address for your business correspondence, whether it’s the one provided by your brokerage or a custom email address (which only costs a few dollars a month). Hotguyzlambo@aol.com doesn’t inspire confidence and undermines your professionalism and credibility.
- Start and close emails just as you would any correspondence, with a greeting and a professional signoff. Don’t assume that the recipient of your email knows your email address by sight.
- Make sure you use Reply All only when appropriate and necessary. If you’re responding to an email introduction, you may want to reply all on the first reply to acknowledge the person who introduced you and thank them, then move into replying only to the person introduced.
- If you’ve been corresponding with someone for a long time, start a new thread with a specific and clear subject line for each new topic you’re discussing. It’s frustrating to have the same thread going on for months or even years with dozens of emails covering a range of issues. In addition, for those who use their email as a searchable record of past conversations, relevant subject lines are a must.
- When you’re first texting with someone, identify yourself so that they know who you are and what you’re reaching out for. Don’t ever assume that someone knows your number offhand or that you’re the only one they’re texting with at the moment.
- Be careful of texting sensitive or upsetting news. You may do better to send a text and ask if it’s a good time for a phone call if you need to tell someone that they didn’t get the house, for example, or that an appraisal came in low.
- Keep your writing, spelling and grammar professional, just as you would with emails or other business correspondence. Don’t use text as an excuse for confusing acronyms or shorthand.
- Keep in mind that some written communication is fit for text and others for email. If you’ve got a quick update, text is better, but if you’re sending attachments or complicated information, email is generally preferable.
Social media etiquette
- For fans and followers, spamming — or posting an excessive number of new posts so that you fill up their feed — is a no-no. While long threads are fairly common on Twitter, they’re often considered rude on Facebook or Instagram. Either post a carousel of images or save large image dumps for Stories.
- If you’re participating in a focused professional group on LinkedIn or Facebook, follow the rules of the group. For example, don’t post listings if it’s supposed to be a mastermind or post self-promotional content that’s not related to the group’s purpose. If your real estate group requires specific information, like price, to be included, do so.
- If you’re participating in a neighborhood group, make sure you’re posting value-added content as a member of the community rather than only hopping on to post your latest listings. Think about the audience and adjust your content accordingly rather than simply posting the same marketing materials across all channels.
- Be smart about the content you choose to share with your followers. Don’t spread misinformation or get into highly charged social or political issues on social media. Don’t get into public arguments or slide into someone’s DMs with unwelcome comments. Most of all, remember that what you post online lives forever and can come back to haunt you in myriad ways in the years to come.
- Because of the proliferation of spam calls, if you have never called the other party before, and they don’t have your number in their phone, they will probably not answer. In many cases, especially among younger colleagues and clients, phone calls should be preceded by a text message.
- If you need to hop on a call, ask first via text if possible so that the recipient can confirm that it’s a good time for them. Otherwise, schedule a phone call with a calendar invite, especially if it promises to be a lengthy one.
- If you discuss something by phone, follow up with an email to make sure that both of you heard the same thing and are on the same page. This isn’t just polite, it’s good business and a good way to cover yourself later.
- Put together an offer that’s neat with supporting documentation and all needed elements. Send it over with a clear outline of the highlights to save the listing agent time and to help them present it to their seller promptly.
- Some agents think you should call each offering agent personally to tell them that their clients did or didn’t get the home. That’s not practical when there are 30 offers on the table. Other agents don’t want a phone call because they get excited — thinking they’ve won — then find out they didn’t. Try not to personalize this or treat it as a set-in-stone ritual because it can change depending on market conditions and individual agent preference.
- However the offer turns out, reach out with a handwritten note afterward thanking the agent for their time and consideration. Remember, cultivating a robust professional network starts with great communication. You never know when today’s kindness will result in a future leg up, co-listing or referral opportunity.
This list is by no means exhaustive and everyone has their own pet peeves and whatabouts. Feel free to continue expanding the list in the comments below.
Christy Murdock is a Realtor, freelance writer, coach and consultant and the owner of Writing Real Estate. She is also the creator of the online course Crafting the Property Description: The Step-by-Step Formula for Reluctant Real Estate Writers. Follow Writing Real Estate on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.