"We Got What We Paid For and Were Happy to Pay it"

Education & Training with Sell with Soul

FuneralAs you may know, my mom died a few months ago. It's a rite of passage we all go through, I suppose.

When someone dies, there are immediate details to take care of. And these details must be attended to right away, regardless of whether it's convenient or even bearable to deal with them. Even as your heart is breaking, you must attend to these gazillion details, and usually (hopefully) without much experience to draw from.   

Well, even in the midst of my family's sadness at Mom's death, I must confess to a little sticker-shock at the prices associated with one's final journey. We're a practical bunch and agreed on a pretty basic package, but the final tally was still somewhere between $10,000 and $15,000.

I thought it was quite a racket. $500 for a tent and seating at the graveyard? $1,500 for a concrete vault? $900 for this and $1200 for that? Not to be disrespectful, but sheesh. I was starting to feel a little taken advantage of.

Well, when all was said and done, I was wrong. Or, at least, pleasantly surprised (if you can use the word "pleasantly" in relation to your mother's funeral) at what we got for our money.

Kent, our wonderful funeral director, took care of us. Very good care of us. Exceptionally good care of us. In our time of need and sorrow, he showed up. And handled everything he possibly could. Professionally, competently. No unneeded drama or stress on a family who didn't need any additional drama or stress. The service and visitation went flawlessly, even with last-minute changes and requests. When the cemetery claimed to have no record of our plot reservation, he took care of it. After the family left the cemetery, he stayed behind to ensure that the final step in the process was completed without incident. When we returned to the funeral home after the burial, our things were collected and waiting for us.

But, Jennifer, what's so impressive about that? After all, you paid him to do a job and he did it. Big deal, right?

It was a very big deal.

Because... we toss around the phrase "You get what you pay for" as if it's an undisputed fact.  But it's not. In fact, I very rarely pay top dollar for something and feel I got my money's worth. Most of the time, I feel ripped off. I usually come away with the feeling that the person I paid a lot of money to has an inflated sense of his or her own worth, and that I was taken for a ride.

But every once in awhile... someone blows me away. They DO their job and they do it well, and with pride. They deliver.

What's my point?

My point is that we real estate agents also charge a lot of money for what we do. Thousands of dollars. And our fees are almost universally perceived by our clients as excessive, perhaps even a racket, at least at first.

But we have the power to take that perception and turn it around. To deliver on our promises! To take care of the details! To show up and do our jobs, professionally, competently. Without subjecting our clients to unneeded stress or drama, which they certainly don't need.

We charge a lot of money for what we do. But if we do it well, exceptionally well, maybe our clients will say of us: "I GOT what I paid for and I was happy to pay it."


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Sally Lawrence
Advantage Real Estate - Tehachapi, CA
Broker, CHS, e-Pro, SFR, REALTOR®

Jennifer,  I'm truly glad you felt your experience was worth what you paid for it.  When my dad died in 2003, my mother was so upset at the funeral cost in relation to the service provided that the only way she could feel comfortable was by having me negotiate the total fees from about $12,000 down to $3700.  That's an experience I never want to have again.

Like you, I'm acutely aware of cost versus value and I hate feeling ripped off.  I have a listing client with a house in escrow.  It is taking enough extra effort to complete the appraisal and inspections that I started sending lengthy emails last week to let her know how much time and effort I was devoting to getting the buyers to stay in the deal.  Even the appraiser sent me an email to say how appreciative she was of my effort to make sure the appraisal went smoothly.

My client is happy and less nervous about the entire process now.

Nov 08, 2010 02:09 AM #7
Susan Haughton
Long and Foster REALTORS (703) 470-4545 - Alexandria, VA
Susan & Mindy Team...Honesty. Integrity. Results.

I have never had a problem paying full price, provided the SERVICE was worth it.

I don't like discount shopping - I prefer a store where I can stand in a dressing room and have someone bring new sizes, suggest different combinations, pull things off the shelves I missed, let me know what's coming in next week, etc.  - in other words, BRING VALUE to the transaction.  And I am happy to pay for that.

If I'm reduced to finding something to try on, then getting in the dressing room only to find I need another size or another color or another accessory, only to have to then put all my clothes back on, gather up everything and go try to find something else, well, I am not paying a premium for that!  In fact, I usually just put the clothes back and leave the store...it's way too much work!

I totally agree with you on this;  if I pay full retail, I expect the full retail experience.  If I am not getting that kind of care, then I resent being charged for it.

Nov 08, 2010 04:04 AM #8
Cindy Marchant
Keller Williams Indy NE 317-290-7775 www.marchantteam.com - Carmel, IN
"Cindy in Indy" , Realtor, Fishers Real Estate

First...so sad to hear about your mom.  The loss of a parent is so hard and I am sure you are still somewhat raw from it.

Second...I view my fees somewhat like an insurance company.  I do try to deliver exceptional service every time...but sometimes a client pays me more than what I think I deserve and most of the time they don't pay me enough.  But at the end of the day...it all seems to balance out.  It's not really my money anyway...and I try not to spend it like it is.  But that is a whole 'nother topic.

Cindy in Indy

Nov 08, 2010 04:54 AM #9
Gene Riemenschneider
Home Point Real Estate - Brentwood, CA
Turning Houses into Homes

I suspect there are a lot of expenses in that business we don't see.  One of them is just being there when we need them.

Nov 08, 2010 04:58 AM #10
Robert Rauf
HomeBridge Financial Services (NJ) - Toms River, NJ

I had a similar experience 3 yrs ago when taking care of things for my Dad... Such a crappy time, but it certainly helped to have someone walk you through it, While I hope to NEVER EVER EVER EVER have to deal with that again, I do know where I would start!

Nov 08, 2010 05:05 AM #11
Tony & Darcy Cannon
Aubrey and Associates Realty - Layton, UT
The C Team

Jennifer, great post!  It is a great reminder to us, to provide enough service to be worth what we are getting paid.  Great service isn't expensive, it is priceless!

Nov 08, 2010 05:10 AM #12
Donne Knudsen
Los Angeles & Ventura Counties in CA - Simi Valley, CA
CalState Realty Services

Jennifer - First and foremost, so glad that the service was nice and that you and your family were well taken care of.  You're right, that is a time that you don't need a bunch of bull$#^!.  On another note, I am a firm believer of getting what I'm paying for. 

If I'm paying top dollar (which I often do for something that is important to me) for something than I want a superior product/service.  If I'm going cheap (which I will do for something not important to me) for something, then I set my expectations appropriately.  No reason to think that my clients would expect anything different. 

While I am not the cheapest MLO in town, I know for a fact that I am a really good MLO and that my clients will be taken care of.

Nov 08, 2010 05:13 AM #13
Evelyn Johnston
Friends & Neighbors Real Estate - Elkhart, IN
The People You Know, Like and Trust!

First of all, I want to say how sorry I am to hear about your Mom. Life is tough sometimes, and Mom's passings are a Huge part of TOUGH.

I agree with you regarding getting what you pay for is usually not equal to what you paid for getting it in the first place. However, when I lost my Daughter I felt the same way.  Each request you make is gigantic to you, because if you don't get it right there is no second chance.  My Director took care of everything too, and made it as easy on me as possible.  For that I will always be grateful.

To give that same kind of service to your clients is always appreciated. Something that they hear is tramatic (buying a home for THAT much money...) and helping them to breeze through it makes all the difference in the world. 

Great post, well written.  Again, I am sorry to hear about Mom...

Nov 08, 2010 07:32 AM #14
Charlie Ragonesi
AllMountainRealty.com - Big Canoe, GA
Homes - Big Canoe, Jasper, North Georgia Pros

When my mom died she had paid for all her funeral costs. She paid a little at a time. She actually go to know the folks who ran the funeral home. They were so nice to us and they sent up a special bouquet from the staff with a card saying how much they liked my Mom. Your post resonated with me. Thank you

Nov 08, 2010 09:14 AM #15
Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn
Sell with Soul - Pensacola Beach, FL
Author of Sell with Soul

Thanks for all the comments! I think it's kind of exciting to ask ourselves if our clients would say "She (or he) really earned his (or her) fee" when your transaction is over. If so - yay! If not, what could we do better? There's always room for improvement...

Nov 08, 2010 10:05 AM #16
Robert Vegas Bob Swetz
Las Vegas, NV

Hello Jennifer and I am so sorry for the loss of your mother, mine passed several months ago and I wasn't able to comfort her before her body died. I personally never cared for funeral homes & graveyards because to me they are a big racket and big business. That's just my opinion and your post hit home for me and I know how much you "loved" your mother so I have featured it at one of my favorite groups if that's OK with you ...


"Take care young Lady"


Nov 08, 2010 11:02 AM #17
Samantha Smith
214.422.0729 www.SamIAmHouses.com - Rowlett, TX
Sam I Am Houses, Simply Texas Real Estate

I know that was a stressful & emotional time ... my daddy passed 13 yrs ago. Much love to you!

However, in a weird way, because of that, funerals are similar to buying/selling a house & you would hope that the professional you've chosen to walk you through it all is going to give your their 100% and exceed all of your expectations! I want my clients to ask themselves if I earned my money & if not, I want to know what it was that I need to improve on. Our business is 100% people focused after all and therefore always room for improvement.


Nov 08, 2010 02:51 PM #18
Tanya Nouwens
RE/MAX ROYAL (JORDAN) INC. / Tanya Nouwens Inc. www.readysetsold.ca - Montreal West Island, QC
Montreal Real Estate Broker & Stager

There is a quiet confidence about funeral directors, in my experience.  They know what they're doing, they've done this before, they graciously handle special requests, and they bring calm to a deeply emotional experience. It's how I try to be in real estate, too.  Great question you pose, Jennifer: Would our clients think we really earned our fee? 

Nov 08, 2010 10:14 PM #19
Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn
Sell with Soul - Pensacola Beach, FL
Author of Sell with Soul

Tanya - it's a question I SO wish we'd ask more often instead of asking how to generate more leads... sigh... but yes, that quiet confidence is much needed and appreciated in a funeral director... and in a real estate agent, Samantha!

Nov 08, 2010 10:39 PM #20
Christine Pappas - REALTOR®
eXp Realty - Willoughby, OH
eXp Realty - Because Experience Matters

There are times in our lives when we really need to know that someone is taking our absolute best to heart and is truly tending to our needs.  Buying and selling a home is emotional and expensive, as is planning a funeral (been there with you)  And it is very comforting to know that the person you are turning to is really caring about you.  

Great food for thought in this correlation!  

Nov 09, 2010 12:50 AM #21
Patty Luther
RE/MAX Rock-n-Roll Realty - Lewiston, ID
Lewiston ID Real Estate, Idaho-Washington

Great post~ nicely put about the importance of Good Service ~ and the gratitude when we get it~

Nov 09, 2010 03:10 PM #22
Ruthmarie Hicks
Keller Williams NY Realty - 120 Bloomingdale Road #101, White Plains NY 10605 - White Plains, NY

Hi Jennifer,

Although I knew your mother was heading towards the end, this is the first I had heard of it.  I'm sorry - losing a parent is never easy.  As many  know, my Dad passed away on April 30.  And I have to say that the funeral home that we used was amazing as well.   One of the many issues that they must have is that they certainly have to work all hours.  My father passed away around 8 PM.  But - we needed someone to confirm it and since he was in hospice - 911 was not an option.  So we had to wait for hospice to dispatch a visiting nurse.  Bottom line, he was only "declared" at 10:30.  The funeral director had been on "standby" because we didn't want to leave him in the apartment overnight.  The funeral director arrived with an assistant (my father was 6'4" - she was not going to be able to move him by herself)  and they had to prepare him and take him out after 11 PM.  This was a cooperative complex and they had to do things quietly and manuever a very small elevator.   His case was referred to the Medical Examiner since he passed at home - and I guess they took him there.  But the point is - they still had to take his remains to the appropriate place before they could call it a night.  So - just from observing that  small part of the process - I can say that it is a very difficult business and they certainly work all hours.   It's a terribly difficult job  and you are dealing with people when they are naturally very upset.  For just the basics, they have by necessity a much higher overhead then we do.  They need significant space in the funeral home (this is NY - space is at a premium) facilities for coffins, viewings, services, embalming - the list goes on.  They have to have a fleet of hearses.  It's a lot.  The point is - after that recent experience - I don't grudge them what they make.  They did a marvelous job.

Ok - so that was long - but I think there is one major truth to all that came above.  How often do any of us think about what it takes to run a funeral home?  By the same token, how often does the general public really give more than a passing thought to what it costs us to conduct our business?  Probably less often then they would think about the expenses involved in being a mortition.

Nov 09, 2010 06:53 PM #23
Loreena and Michael Yeo
3:16 team REALTY ~ Locally-owned Prosper TX Real Estate Co. - Prosper, TX
Real Estate Agents

What an incredible end to a story. At first, I wanted to agree with you about the "final" costs. I was about to say, Well, it's their last time to "get" you. But after sharing your story.... I had to re--think. You're right. So many people lok at our job as if we're earning too darn much.

I dont think we are earning alot. In fact, for some work that we do, I think we are severely under-paid. But then again, it's because I know the in-s and out-s of the business.

People are great side-line observers..... Make their judgment from the sideline.

Nov 09, 2010 11:23 PM #24
Ann Cordes
Century 21 Randall Morris and Associates, Waco - Waco, TX
Home Ownership is Not a Distant Dream

My mother passed in December 2007 and I paid only half what your family did (it was a small town, small funeral) and I also felt like I got my money's worth and got great customer service. It was a family-owned funeral home that has been in business for at least 3 generations.

Nov 15, 2010 01:43 AM #25
Brenda Mullen
RE/MAX Access - Schertz, TX
Your San Antonio TX Real Estate Agent!!

Amen Jennifer.  What a beautiful post to explain how to give great service.  I am very happy that you got your money's worth in a very difficult situation. 

Nov 26, 2010 03:25 AM #26
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