Bad Communication can Lead to Demolishing the Wrong House
Hey there, my name is Darlene Root and I am one of the new Clever Investor Mentors. I’m super excited about this opportunity to be part of the Clever Family. Currently I’m working 1-on-1 with several students and they are seeing some major breakthroughs in their businesses. I just love that!
For today, I want to introduce myself and share a story from early in my real estate career. Although the events that unfolded were bizarre, the end result became a life-long lesson about the importance of being clear and specific in communicating.
I started my real estate career in 1979 at the age of 19. (I know, I totally just dated myself!) The first brokerage that I sold for was a small independent broker with 3 sales people and a grouchy old broker named Nova…
He was from “the old country” in Italy and often mumbled his demands with broken English, but I put up with it because he was going to teach me everything that I needed to know about real estate and investing.
About 9 months into my real estate career, Nova asked me if I knew any strong young men who could demolish a home. He stated that, “They would be starting the project and he would have someone else come in and finish the job and haul the debris away.”
I said I had a boyfriend who could rally his friends to do the job on a Saturday afternoon. Nova said he would pay them with “free beer and sandwiches.” He added that, “It shouldn’t take more than an hour or two.”
Wanting to learn everything about real estate investing, I offered the services of my friends…
This Was the Start of My REI Career
Saturday arrived and with eager anticipation we were ready for the job and free beer. I asked Nova what the address of the subject property was and he pointed out the window and mumbled in the direction of the house that was situated on the lot next door to our office… or so I thought.
As Nova drove off in his shiny new Cadillac, he stated that he would be back in a few hours.
My unassuming friends and I started off the project with no further instruction so we started the demolition by trying to get into the house to see where we should start. We thought that it was odd that the door was locked, so we broke the door down.
As we entered the house we discovered that the house was in pretty good shape, and in fact, the house was furnished and there were even dishes in the sink. My first thought was that this must have been one of those evictions as a result of a dead-beat tenant or homeowner that Nova taught me about.
We proceeded to “trash out” the belongings and tear up the carpet. As we started to rip out the kitchen, two police cars raced up the driveway. They jumped out of the cars and, over the bull horn, yelled “come out with your hands up.” We obeyed their command and as we exited the home we were greeted by some very confused police officers…
They were told by the neighbor that there was a bunch of kids vandalizing a home in broad daylight. I explained to the officers that we had been “hired” to tear down the house by the “homeowner.” I told him that the homeowner’s name was Nova. Feeling relieved that I successfully explained the situation, Nova pulled up, and with hands on his head in disbelief, made his way toward us…
My relief immediately turned to fear as I realized that we had been tearing down the wrong house.
Nova shared with officers that he indeed hired us to tear down a house and pointed to a small home nestled in the woods land-locked behind the subject home. The home he was referring to was a decayed wooden house with no windows and a missing front door that was already falling down.
Nova was indeed the owner of the home and was renting it out to a family friend. His initial solution to the problem was to have us pay for the damage, however the officers agreed that the instructions given by Nova were too vague to force the issue.
As one of the officers got into his car he said to Nova, “It is terrific to be specific.”
This life lesson has caused me to be a better communicator.
Be sure that when you give instructions, you cover the Who, What, Where, When, Why and How of what it is you want to convey.
And, I make it a habit to ask the person whether they in fact do have a clear understanding by asking them to repeat the instructions back to me.
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