Matthew Ferrara, Philosopher
 

What the Housing Industry Needs: Serenity Now!

Can you feel it? Maybe it’s the change of seasons, the political campaigns or robo-signers who are to blame, but what the housing industry needs right now is just a little peace and quiet.

I started detecting it about three weeks ago; just after Labor Day. The “buzz” in the industry started to “feel” different. Maybe it was just the back-to-school pause, after a long, hot summer trying to keep the pieces from flying apart at the seams. Yet there it was – a new vibe in the social media sphere, in phone calls, in conversations at coffee shops and conventions.

Is it exhaustion? Frustration? Confusion? I can’t quite put my finger on it.

I don’t think it’s just real estate agents and brokers who are feeling it, either. Trainers are feeling it. Senior executives try not to talk about it. Association leaders remember not to mention it. Most of all, buyers and sellers are totally fed up with it.

A lot of people – brokers, agents, trainers, leaders – have been working tirelessly, incessantly, strenuously for the past three or four years to keep the good ship “Real Estate” afloat. Working for the best interests of their clients, themselves and our industry as a whole, they’re not only battling global financial forces, but local point-grabbing-pot-shots from politicians and media who love a good story, as long as it has a bad storyline.

Yet it’s not just disagreement – about what should be done and who should do it or pay for it – that’s the problem. A vigorous exchange of  ideas is critical to a healthy industry: Remember how things turned out when we all thought alike (just one bubble ago).

So it’s not the debate that you can feel in the air. It’s something else.

I’m beginning to think it’s a psychological effect, a sort of post-traumatic stress disorder affecting a large group of over-worked, under-paid and constantly-targeted entrepreneurs called REALTORS.  Maybe it was what caused one student recently to take me aside after a workshop in Minneapolis and say, “Thanks for making me laugh for a couple of hours.” Sure, she appreciated the skills and ideas she learned, but more importantly, right now, she just needed to laugh.

It almost made me cry.

Whatever it is, it’s dangerous, this thing in the air surrounding the housing industry. It’s got a lot of people teetering: trying to make sense of a different set of answers every day, always changing, never certain, stable, consistent – or sensible – is more dangerous than any wave of foreclosures or lengthening of the hidden inventory shadows.More than 4% of the industry fell off that teetering ledge in the last year alone, good people, gone from the business.

But whatever it is, it doesn’t have to win, wear us down, or spoil one more day. I think it can be fought off with a simple, funny video – shared with our social network. Or a kind word or encouragement spoken in our office meetings. Maybe even a politically incorrect hug (agents aren’t employees, so maybe we won’t have any lawsuits). Perhaps a cheesy joke in a mid-week blog post can spark a smile or two.

What would be even better – more powerful, more cleansing – would be for each one of us to find the right moment for a Frank Costanza scream of “Serenity Now!” Imagine how it would make people smile, sitting in traffic, standing in line at the coffee shop, or dealing with one more appraisal problem or mortgage-declined call. What would happen if every agent or association leader interviewed in the media started with a scream of  “Serenity Now!” and then proceeded calmly to talk about the market. Every blog headline, maybe a viral video campaign?

“Serenity Now!” when you see another television story of half-truths about housing. “Serenity Now!” when you hear someone bemoaning the market at the supermarket. “Serenity Now!” to rescue one more agent in the office who looked about ready to give up.

Imagine if the entire industry took a moment – may sometime early in November? – to get scream as a group, Serenity Now! Just once, but very, very loud, into the cameras, the blogosphere, the mailing lists, and the mirror.

Because what we really want is that moment right after the scream faded: a moment of silence. Serenity.

A moment of peace and quiet – maybe a new trend – that would give a chance to breathe, agents a chance to work, and brokers a chance to think about how to turn things around. Serenity – not incessant punditry – is what’s needed for the housing industry, not only as a solution, but as a sign of appreciation that a great many people are working a great many hours to make things better.

So play the video above; pass it along to friend, maybe even a contact in the media. Help some customers and REALTORS find some Serenity, and as for everyone else: Could you just take a day off and give the real estate industry a little Serenity Now!?