The Business Nobody Wants to Call

The Human Side of Acquiring Distressed Real Estate

I run a business nobody ever wants to call. When my phone rings, it’s usually because someone has undergone a major life event. Most times it’s not positive.

I’m a cash home buyer.

There are two parts to my business, one part hidden.

On the surface, it’s a fast-paced, high-stakes real estate acquisition game where people continually flip contracts to each other. Selling a house can be a slow process. Not every market is hot. In those markets, it’s even slower. We offer an out to property owners who can’t wait to sell for one reason or another.

The hidden part is where I get to play an amateur consoler. I often feel overwhelmed.

Sometimes, when people call me, it’s because their parents have both died and they need to deal with the estate as quickly as possible. They, their brothers and sisters have lives to lead. These types of customers are always in some stage of the grief process. I use the work of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross to help them with the process.

Sometimes, they take their anger out on me. They’ll curse me out. They think I’m trying to rip them off. They want the offer to be higher. We have to heed a basic formula to stay in business. I’m proud, however, that we’re able to take certain factors in account. That allows us to offer a better cash price than our competitors. They don’t appreciate that, however, and they’re not interested. They only care about the price I’m offering right then. They want more.

Sometimes, they’ll be in disbelief at what has happened. They’ll get distracted on the phone when they’re talking to me and hang up. They apologize when I call back.

Other times, they need a shoulder to cry on. I happen to be there at the time they need me. Letting it happen is the decent thing to do. It’s part of the job.

Foreclosures are always tough. People have fallen behind on their payments and it’s usually a rough start to a new chapter in their life. They don’t know what’s next. They’ve been hounded by the banks about late payments. They have my competitors’ solicitations plastered all over their front door. They’re defensive, like a cornered feral cat living under a building.

Situations like this are when the human-to-human connection matters. I have found that the key is empathy, putting yourself in their shoes. My recommendation is to always remember one day that things could be going smoothly for you. Business could be going well. Then, the next day, you could suddenly find yourself in the same position. Follow the golden rule.

Don’t get the idea every situation is depressing. Sometimes we get to help elderly couples move in with their children so they can help out with raising their grandchildren. Giving up their independence may be tough, but they look forward to being near their family.

Sometimes when somebody lashes out at me, I look in the mirror and remember the good we do. I tell myself I did some good helping a grandparent make memories with their grandchildren.

This business is a mix of math, geography, and psychology. Without the human element, though, one cash buyer is like another. Success in it is a matter of respecting and cherishing human dignity. Our business’ raison d’etre is to help people solve challenging real estate problems. When you’re fair and honest with people, it makes a difference and people recognize that in you.

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