The Seven Real Estate Stages of the Pandemic

By now, some of us have lost a loved one, friend or community member to COVID-19.  Though if the cavalier denialism exhibited by some Americans is an indicator, there are still many who have yet to share the magnitude of such a loss.  But even putting one’s head in the sand about the medical realities of the coronavirus cannot spare us the social, emotional and economic impacts. 

It’s accepted as true that though we all grieve a loss, everyone grieves in a unique manner.  One of the most referenced works on the topic was written in 1969 by Swiss-American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, in her book On Death and Dying. This philosophy is popularly referred to as the “stages of grief,” and whether comprised of five emotions or seven, it feels increasingly as though we are traveling through ‘stages of the pandemic’ in both our professional and personal lives.  Sometimes we mourn the loss of our “past life” in a linear fashion and sometimes we jump along the steps chaotically, but without a doubt we have been presented with an event that has impacted our world and is in the process of shaping our future.  If I think back to February or March, and reflect on today, here are some examples from my journey through the stages: 

1) Shock and disbelief

Wait, no broker tours, no showing of property?  Here we go again a la Lehman, 2008 or 9/11 — investors leaving the market and loan programs being suspended or canceled.  Tremendous rate chaos.  

2) Denial

No way they will shut businesses down — that’s crazy.  What do you mean the kids are not going to go to school?  The Junior Warriors basketball season is canceled?

3) Guilt

I should have been more forceful with our clients who were on the fence.  How did we get lulled into complacency with credit availability?  Why did we let our guard down and not consider existential risks in our assessments of the market?  

4) Anger and bargaining

Why are we, here in CA, subject to shelter-in-place while people in other parts of the country are still conducting business as usual?  What do these “health experts” really know?  Man, I HATE Zoom meetings!

5) Depression/loneliness/reflection

My 85-year old dad is 2000 miles away and I’m not sure when he’ll see his grandson next.  I’m not going to see the inside of a bustling conference room for many months. Some of the skills, habits and personality traits I’ve used to build my business are going to be sidelined indefinitely.  Put the professional wardrobe in mothballs…

6) Reconstruction and working through

Yes, this is the landscape of our new reality — it is not temporary.  Embrace, learn and master the tools and tactics necessary to maintain momentum.  Contemplate what it will take to grow in a remote world.  Reinvest marketing dollars accordingly.   Rethink all iterations of “it’s just the way we do things.”

7) Acceptance and hope

The way we did business is over.  What remnants exist are gifts but my mindset must accept that I am in a foreign country now and I need to first learn and then speak their language.  I can still think in my native tongue, but the longer I hold out and do so, the more difficult it will be to assimilate.  The sooner I embrace the good and bad of the new culture, the sooner I will be open to its wonders.

Months into the COVID-19 pandemic, I can find myself cycling through several or even all of the above stages on any given day.  My guess is that most others do as well — unless they are stuck.  Maybe they’re stuck in denial.  Maybe they’re still pissed off — at their governor, at their clients, at themselves. Then again, maybe some are well on their way of reconstructing their businesses but  require help they never previously needed; with new technology, with new tools, with new ideas.  My point is that we have all lost a loved one — our pre-pandemic way of life and business.  It’s now up to us to move on, yet before we do we must confront the grieving process.  Recognizing that is part of a healthy healing process too.

In loving memory,

Rob Spinosa
Vice President of Mortgage Lending

Guaranteed Rate
NMLS: 22343 
Cell/Text: 415-367-5959 
rob.spinosa@rate.com

Marin Office:  324 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., San Anselmo, CA  94960

Berkeley Office:  1400 Shattuck Ave., Suite 1, Berkeley, CA  94709
 

*The views and opinions expressed on this site about work-related matters are my own, have not been reviewed or approved by Guaranteed Rate and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Guaranteed Rate.  In no way do I commit Guaranteed Rate to any position on any matter or issue without the express prior written consent of Guaranteed Rate’s Human Resources Department.

Guaranteed Rate. Illinois Residential Mortgage Licensee NMLS License #2611 3940 N. Ravenswood Chicago, IL 60613 – (866) 934-7283

Errors of Intent

Watching the world grapple with a pandemic has had a profound impact on my heretofore limited ability to count blessings.  Yes, we are sheltered in place, but my immediate family is presently in good health.  And though I suspect the coming days, weeks and months will be disrupted by yet unknown challenges, I am grateful that the hull of my career has been hewn solidly by countless hours of hard work.  I take deep appreciation of the experience I gained during other times of hardship like 9/11 and the Lehman collapse. Though I worry about the well-being of my 84-year old father, he’s seen great returns on the investment he made instilling in me a zero tolerance policy for BS and hypocrisy and a stern warning to never take advantage of others through my expertise, privileges, resources or place in life.

No doubt the developments of the last few days have come at breakneck speed, and there I was having a heart-to-heart with a client in process.  This individual was clearly stressed under the weight of making a critically important decision in a market shifting under our feet.  As I grappled with several of his most pressing concerns, I wondered to myself, “What if I have it wrong?”  “What if this time is different and my advice doesn’t apply here?” “What if we just don’t know?”

In my mid-20’s, I was fortunate (again) to have had an astute mentor in a job that forced me, for the first time as an adult, to be accountable for decisions that impacted an operation.  I had screwed up and I was scared and embarrassed.  But, I also had an out.  My subordinates could have easily gone under the wheels of the bus this time.  Right about the moment I was stewing in my own panic, my boss burst into my office and short-circuited my fraying wires, “What the hell happened here?”  Reflexively, I told the truth.  I apologized — I looked him in the eye and said, “Dude, do what you gotta do. I accept responsibility.”  He only asked one more question:  “Did you intend to do that or was it a mistake?”  Never one to easily concede perfection, I had to hesitate but admitted that, yes, it was not only a mistake, it was my mistake.

We only had one more discussion on the topic — the most impressionable one.  “Rob,” he said, “I’m pissed about the whole damned thing.  I’m not gonna lie.  But it had to be either your mistake or my mistake for completely misjudging your character.”  He continued, “Errors of execution can be forgiven.  Errors of intent cannot.  Get back to work.”  With that, the conversation and the ordeal were put to bed.

So here we are.  Real estate pros in the middle of a global pandemic. None of us have seen this movie before.  We can’t expect all our decisions from this point will be perfect.  We will make mistakes, we will dispense advice that turns out to be bad.  It’s inevitable.  And in this time of lockdown and reflection, I am reminded that when my future self looks back at any detrimental advice I may give, will it have been an error of execution or intent?  Whose interests did I put first?  We don’t get to pick the times and circumstances of the crisis that finds us.  We don’t get to bend reality to our whims.  We can’t shirk the heavy responsibility and duck the tough questions now, when we are needed most.  In every decision we make for those who entrust us, who are in our care, who rely on us, we are wholly responsible for our intent.  There is no margin of error here, and no forgiveness for getting it wrong.  Now, get back to work.

Take care and stay safe,

Rob Spinosa
Vice President of Mortgage Lending
Guaranteed Rate
NMLS: 22343
Cell/Text: 415-367-5959
rob.spinosa@rate.com

Marin Office:  324 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., San Anselmo, CA  94960
Berkeley Office:  1400 Shattuck Ave., Suite 1, Berkeley, CA  94709

*The views and opinions expressed on this site about work-related matters are my own, have not been reviewed or approved by Guaranteed Rate and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Guaranteed Rate.  In no way do I commit Guaranteed Rate to any position on any matter or issue without the express prior written consent of Guaranteed Rate’s Human Resources Department.

Guaranteed Rate. Illinois Residential Mortgage Licensee NMLS License #2611 3940 N. Ravenswood Chicago, IL 60613 – (866) 934-7283