Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Why Do Bad Things Happen...

In real estate, people sell their homes for many reasons, the most generalized category of which could be simply "life changes." Whether a family is being transferred or empty-nesters are looking to "downsize", it's life's big stations or events that often induce the change.

All too often, however, the life change is something painful. A divorce, a death, a catastrophic illness... any number of ways that life can truly surprise and shock.

It's an age-old question, but one that we confront in our business time and time again: why do bad things happen to good people?

On many days, I am likely to answer simply, "I don't know. But I bet they happen as often as much as good things happen to good people, or 'nothing' happens to everyone, or good things happen to good people, or -- as much as we think we see it too often -- good things happen to bad people." And yet that answer always feels like it falls short. And it does.

Some people approach the question by going cosmic. Perhaps there's some kind of karmic cycles playing out in and around us. Maybe it's of the social sciences domain, and we all invite the kinds of events around us by how we all live and work together as part of the grand social contract.

Once again, to all these ideas and more, I can still only answer with that great cosmic thud, "I don't know."

But I do know what I see every day. It is one of the more interesting and compelling -- and sometimes very difficult -- lenses through which we get to view the world as real estate brokers: life changes. We see, because we often have to, behind the social veil that gives most of us privacy over our most painful episodes in life.

Nobody really expects their real estate broker to be someone who can say credibly, "You are not alone." And I can't figure out how to say that in such a way that is helpful and doesn't perhaps imply a demeaning of someone's uniquely painful circumstance. So sometimes we as brokers are best left just to listen to what someone wants to tell us and respond to them and their unique circumstance the best we can, because every person's circumstance is unique in several ways.

People might not expect their real estate brokers to be credible on the point of knowing when someone's painful life circumstance is shared by others, whether someone is truly "not alone." Saying so to someone in the moment may sound like hollow or synthetic sympathy. But in truth, as real estate brokers, whether we say it or not, we really are in a position to know.