Stop, Look, and Listen
By M. Jane Garvey
This phrase is drilled into us from childhood – pertaining to railroad crossings. It will also come in handy when reminding ourselves of some of the key things we need to be doing when we are looking for opportunity, transacting in real estate, or negotiating on just about anything.
Stop what you are doing so that you can focus your attention on the opportunity in front of you. If this involves a phone call from a potential seller or buyer, answer the phone and talk to them. If this is a property you are driving by that looks like it is in need of repair, stop long enough to make some notes, take some pictures, and you may even want to knock on the door or a few neighbors doors so that you can find out what the situation is. The key here, is that you need to focus. Opportunities are often fleeting. They go to the first person who answers the phone, knocks on the door or tracks the seller down. So, stop and make sure that is you.
Look is also a matter of focus. If you are not paying attention, you will miss things. Conversely, when you are looking, you will notice opportunity. I have a friend that scrutinizes the numbers on commercial and apartment deals. By looking carefully, and knowing what he should be seeing, he can spot opportunity when things are just not right. For instance, the water bill is out of line – where is the leak? The taxes are too high – is there a missing parcel? There are more units on the rent roll than on the listing – what is the story? When you are driving for deals, noticing the things around you is important. Are there neighbors with issues? Are there things like railroad tracks, sewer treatment facilities, flood zones or other things that will affect value? They may not be readily apparent, unless you look. Some of these things are only noticeable when you are physically at the property. Others are only noticeable when you research the property and its surroundings online. Look carefully and question what you see.
Listen beyond the words. Listening is a skill set that many of us need to work on. It involves the ability to focus as well. If you want to learn, listen. Ask questions and listen to not only the answer, but the unspoken words. Use the answers to ask more questions. Your goal is to find out enough so that you can see if the opportunity offers benefits that you are interested in. Your goal is also to find out what the other party wants. Not what they say they want, or think they want, but what they really want. What are their real goals? Is there some way to help them get there in a way that also benefits you? People who learn how to listen well and ask the right questions will build rapport that others can never have. They will make deals happen that others only dream about.
Stop, Look, and Listen is an easy to remember phrase that will benefit you in many ways in your life and help speed you successfully to your destination.
M. Jane Garvey is President of the Chicago Creative Investors Association.