Why a Good Realtor is like a Good Surgeon

Real Estate Agent with Beverly-Hanks & Associates

A good realtor is like a good surgeon when both use built in measures to make sure everything goes smoothly in their efforts.

I was surfing the tv channels a few weeks ago and came across Dr. Atul Gawande, surgeon at Brigham and Womens Hospital in Boston (also a staff writer at the New Yorker) who was a guest on Jon Stewart's The Daily Show. Wasn't paying too much attention until he started to talk about measures that were put in place which resulted in a decrease in hospital deaths and complications.

Everybody knows healthcare (or the lack of it for far too many Americans) is on everyone's minds now, so I thought "wait a minute.  This deserves attention.  Reducing deaths in a hospital?  Simply?  Gotta listen to this."

Well Dr. Gawande has written this book "The Checklist Manifesto" which takes measures often applied in aviation, construction, etc., and found when applied in a hospital setting, things worked better - for all.

The Checklist Manifesto Seemed hard to believe -- and incredulous to me that there weren't already systems in place in hospitals to make sure the wrong foot wasn't operated on, or that standard questions weren't asked before an operation, etc.  But we all have heard about the wrong leg being removed - it does happen.

I thought of Real Estate - and a realtor's job to make sure all things go smoothly, in a timely fashion, to make sure all parties are happy. 

In my role as a realtor in  Asheville North Carolina all contracts have to be fully executed, dated, and all pertinent paperwork submitted before it can go "through the channels."  When everything is in place as it should be, the transaction goes smoothly, and my buyers and sellers are happy.  I follow a checklist - steps put in place to insure that everything has been done -- just as the surgeons and other doctors who follow their checklist find there are 35% fewer complications.  Deaths are reduced by as much as 50%.  There are fewer unexpected problems, and often the procedures themselves are completed quicker (which means less anesthesia for the patient).

We should all read this book, and encourage others to as well. 

And when it comes to real estate, make sure your realtor is following a checklist too.  I know I am.  Just ask for Dr. Evelyn Zebro - I specialize in Asheville North Carolina - where you'll get good care all the way to closing!

Here's a sample of an interview with Dr. Atul Gawande, author of "The Checklist Manifesto."  You Tube has a much more extensive presentation by Dr. Gawande where he spoke at Dominican University in San Rafael California early 2010 as well.  Please check out if you really want to know more.


Comments (40)

J. Philip Faranda
J. Philip Faranda (J. Philip R.E. LLC) Westchester County NY - Briarcliff Manor, NY

The latest app I added to my droid is a to do list. I am far more effective because of it. 

Mar 03, 2010 11:51 PM
Richard Johnston
San Fernando Valley - RE/MAX Grand Central - Sherman Oaks, CA

thanks Evelyn!

I think we as agents need to have more self-respect for ourselves and value what we do.  Too many people look at us as a key rather than a professional.

Comparing us to a surgeon is smart and we deserve the credit for all that happens in a real estate transaction.

Thanks again for your post.

Mar 04, 2010 12:04 AM
Joe Pryor
The Virtual Real Estate Team - Oklahoma City, OK
REALTORĀ® - Oklahoma Investment Properties

Many Realtors are big picture people. Admit it, you love the marketing, and the projections, and the creation of things that work, but sometimes the details just slip out minds. I am not afraid to admit that I have to have checklist. You also just remnded me that I also need to look at them more often. I just forgot that I need to check to see if insurance is in place for a closing next week. Maybe your follow up post will say you need not only a checklist but a keeper too.

Mar 04, 2010 12:05 AM
Patricia Aulson
Realtor - Portsmouth NH Homes-Hampton NH Homes

Sure...a check list is a good thing to keep . I'm a real "note taker"  every day I refer to my list (s)


Mar 04, 2010 12:28 AM
Evelyn Zebro
Beverly-Hanks & Associates - Asheville, NC
Asheville NC Real Estate Broker

Mike, Brian, Richard, Philip, Richard Johnston, Joe and Patricia - Well it looks like we're all on the same Realtor team when it comes to lists.  Glad to know I'm not "operating" in a bubble.

Spread the word about the Checklist Manifesto too.  If we need checklists anywhere, it's especially needed in a medical setting.

Mar 04, 2010 12:41 AM
Joyce Thomas
The Thomas Group Brokered by eXp Realty - San Tan Valley, AZ
Your Home Sold Guaranteed!

Evelyn, Great Post!  Good comparison too.  We are "specialists".  I know I can't do an operation, fix a car, or drive a semi, the same as those people haven't learned to sell real estate. 

Mar 04, 2010 12:54 AM
Peter Di Eduardo
West End Residential - Morristown, NJ

Great post!  I believe we hone our skills just as a surgeon and that is why we are professionals.

Mar 04, 2010 01:20 AM
Kabir Mahadeva
Asheville, NC
Alpha Mortgage www.kabirm.com, NMLS #182829


Loved this post. I use checklists myself in keeping my loan files clean and my clients happy.

I'm in Asheville too, so here's a checklist for all of you that haven't visited here yet:

  • visit the Biltmore Estate
  • visit the Thomas Wolfe House
  • dine at the Corner Kitchen
  • tour and taste at multiple microbreweries (we have more per capita than most cities)
  • eat barbecue at 12 Bones Smokehouse
  • shop downtown Asheville's locally owned stores
  • go to a farmer's market (we have several around the area)
  • take a ride out to Max Patch and have a picnic
  • watch a sunset from the Sunset Terrace at the Grove Park Inn

Evelyn, what did I miss?

Mar 04, 2010 02:20 AM
Evelyn Zebro
Beverly-Hanks & Associates - Asheville, NC
Asheville NC Real Estate Broker

Joyce - Yes, we ARE specialists.  And we continue to update our skillsets  yearly, if not actually DAILY.

Peter - Lists keep the mind free for more expansive thinking, and with all the details and deadlines we have in our business, how could we not have HARD COPY lists?

Kabir - The Poet!  Thank you fellow "Ashevillian" for your kind words and To Do list.  I'm waiting for the warmer weather for the Sunset Terrace experience, but love 12 Bones, etc.  I hope you love Asheville as much as I do!

Mar 04, 2010 05:21 AM
Lola Audu
Lola Audu~Audu Real Estate~Grand Rapids, MI Real Estate - Grand Rapids, MI
Audu Real Estate~Grand Rapids, MI ~Welcome Home!

Good thoughts!  I've always been a fan of sytemizing the process.  It not only brings more efficiency into the process, it helps to ensure that service is delivered with excellence.  I like the analogy.

Mar 04, 2010 06:08 AM
John Howard
Century 21 LeMac Realty - Mountain Home, AR
GRI, Mountain Home, Arkansas 870-404-3614
Evelyn, I have checklists for my checklists....I don't get paid to practice, I get paid to produce! Thank You for your post! Y'all Have A Great Week!
Mar 04, 2010 08:13 AM
Christopher Watters
Watters International Realty - Austin, TX
Austin Realtor (512-829-8000)

I don't know what I'd do without my check list for buyers/sellers from the early stages to escrow. I agree with John, we get paid to produce results!

Mar 04, 2010 09:25 AM
Kate Elim
Dockside Realty - Spotsylvania, VA
Realtor 540-226-1964, Selling Homes & Land a

Hi Evelyn...Checklists are invaluable in making sure that nothing is missed and that is what we are paid to do.


Mar 04, 2010 11:51 AM
Paul Hodge
Keller Williams Realty / Lake Norman-Cornelius - Huntersville, NC

Using a checklist is cheap and easy insurance for you and your client to make sure no detail is overlooked on any transaction.  Thanks for the post

Mar 04, 2010 01:52 PM
Sajy Mathew
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Lancaster, PA
Making your real estate dreams become a reality!

I would ot have a business without them.  Keeps me on task everyday.

Mar 04, 2010 02:27 PM
Dean Carver
United Brokers Group/Carver Home Team - Ahwatukee, AZ

I appreciate the checklist part, but am not a fan of the comparison of the parallels between Dr's and Realtors. We don't save lives and there's no comparison.

Mar 04, 2010 03:00 PM
Libby Offnick
RE/MAX Executive Realty - Mooresville, NC

Great post and from someone who has a checklist for her checklist....also known as OCD.

Mar 04, 2010 03:15 PM
Evelyn Zebro
Beverly-Hanks & Associates - Asheville, NC
Asheville NC Real Estate Broker

Lola, John, Christopher, Kathleen - Gotta have those lists.  Too many details otherwise.

Sajy - Staying on course without missing anyathing makes for smooth sailing.  Winthrop U?  Won the Step Contest Show here in Asheville last weekend!!

Dean & Sonia - You're right.  A realtor is not a surgeon, but both should have checklists in place before any procedure - that's the point.  Missing a small detail can lead to complications later on - for both the agent and the doctor. 

Libby - OCD huh?  Maybe you should see a doctor about that  :-)

Mar 04, 2010 11:28 PM
Jenna Dixon
Momentum Real Estate Group LLC - Marietta, GA
55 & Over | New Constructions | Horse Farms

Back in the days when termite inspections were required prior to closing in Georgia, I realized that I needed a checklist!  After many scrambles the day before closing because of forgotten pest inspections, I made myself a checklist and haven't dropped the ball again.

Of course, as soon as I put the inspection on my list, they stopped requiring it!

Mar 08, 2010 01:24 AM
Evelyn Zebro
Beverly-Hanks & Associates - Asheville, NC
Asheville NC Real Estate Broker

Hey Jenna - Fortunately our office created a "list," but before I knew they had one, I devised one for myself, so I wouldn't make any mistakes.  I try to do this with big details in my life too.  It's easy for things to fall through the cracks.  Heck, we make grocery lists - which is not the worst thing to forget to buy milk!

Mar 08, 2010 05:33 AM