Play to Your Strengths

 For the past couple columns, you may have noticed that I’ve written about financial equations and analysis. This is my happy place. My favorite part of the real estate industry, and any other business venture, tends to revolve around concrete, numbers-driven data. I like working with things that are pragmatic and provable rather than abstract and subjective, which means in any discussion regarding real estate or investments, I immediately begin projecting revenues and expenses and calculating rates of return, so I can come to a wise investment decision.

When I first ventured in to real estate a few years (decades) ago, I tried my hand at selling homes. In 43 years, I would say I’ve been very successful: I’ve sold two homes (my mother’s and one to a cute, single young woman). It didn’t take long for me to come to the conclusion that residential sales was not for me, especially when I lost transactions because I did not care enough to respond encouragingly when people complained about décor.

If someone said, “Hmm, I just don’t see my couch in this room,” I’d stare at them blankly while thinking to myself, “I’ll buy you a couch. Do you like this house or not?” If I’d hear one spouse say to another, “It’s awfully dark in here,” I had no interest in discussing all the ways they could make a room seem lighter–paint the walls white, get some lamps, add a window. To this day, when I make improvements to my own home, I hire a decorator to advise me. In fact, I recently hired someone to pick out curtains—but it turns out they aren’t curtains or even drapes; they’re “window treatments.” Who knew?

By the same token, when I need to replace windows or have some other renovations done, I hire a contractor who can get the job finished in a few days. Yes, he will charge an exorbitant hourly rate, but if I do the job myself, based on the number of hours it will take me, I’m only saving about a buck and a half an hour, plus I’ll probably need to have my work fixed later anyway.

The point is, I hire experts to do what they do best, which leaves me time to do what I do best. I’m good at financial analysis, commercial real estate investing, and providing Realtors with the tools they need to be successful, whether they’re selling residential, commercial, land or industrial properties. Those who help clients buy and sell residential real estate not only understand the nuts and bolts of real estate law and finance, they also enjoy interactions with clients about how to turn a house into a home. I was good at the first part, but not the second. I really enjoy being a broker—it’s a win/win. I respect and admire their hard work and skill, and I can use my expertise to make sure we’re all successful.

So, I guess what I’m trying to say is I think things work best when we all do what we do best. Very few of us are good at everything. I didn’t hire an eye surgeon to replace my heart valve, and I certainly didn’t try to do it myself. I found a cardiac surgeon and here I am to tell the tale. What do you do best? Are you doing it and enjoying it? If not, why not?

If you have questions about real estate or property management, please contact me at or call (707) 462-4000. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.


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