A legendary story of standards...and flexibility

Real Estate Broker/Owner with American West Realty & Management 12599


About 30 years ago, a man walked into a real estate office looking to purchase some land. He was sent to the agent on floor duty, a seasoned REALTOR with a lot of experience.

The customer looked ordinary. Dressed in jeans and an old baseball cap, he appeared to be of modest means, maybe a carpenter or some other trade. The problem is, he was standing in a real estate office in Jackson Hole, Wyoming where prices are anything but ordinary. The real estate agent took one look at him and knew he was out of his league.



Because property is so expensive in Jackson, the real estate agencies shared a policy that all buyers must show proof of funds before they can look at property. After all, you don't want to spend your day showing multi-million-dollar properties to someone that can't affordafford it!

The agent informed him of their policy and asked him to come back with his financial information. The man said he understood. He politely thanked her for her time and walked out the door.

It's important to have policies. The agent knew the policy and stuck to it. Well done!

This particular customer was not one to give up easily. He walked to the next real estate office and again asked to see some property. He was sent to the agent working floor duty. This office had the same policy as the last: every client must provide financial evidence before viewing property. It looked as though he would be sent packing again.



Something was different this time. The agent decided to ignore policy. Maybe because she had only been licensed for a few months. Maybe because this was her first customer and she just wanted to do something.

Or maybe she looked beyond the blue jeans and baseball hat to see the individual, none other than Harrison Ford! She was well aware of his work as an actor with a string of hits like Star Wars, Blade Runner, and Raiders of the Lost Ark.

She knew he had the financial means to purchase a ranch in Jackson Hole. She deviated from the policy and showed him property without asking for documented proof of income.

Harrison Ford purchased a $6,000,000 ranch from this agent. The rest is history!



It's not enough to know your office policy. You have to know why the policy exists in the first place. Rules do not fit every possible scenario so you have to know the true purpose behind them and when it's safe to deviate.

Jackson Hole had a good policy, but the first agent missed the point entirely. You see, the goal was not to collect documentation; it was to prove the customer's ability to purchase. The second agent recognized Harrison Ford and knew he had the ability to purchase, which makes the documentation redundant and unnecessary. Her understanding of why the policy existed resulted in her first sale, a legendary story, and a fat commission!



As a property manager, it is my responsibility to develop policies and procedures that will protect the interests of the Landlord and then ensure they are carried out consistently. But I also understand why the policy is in place and know when it is safe to deviate without interrupting my ability to serve your interests.

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Nathan Gesner, American West Realty


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Pat Starnes, Brandon, MS
Front Gate Real Estate - Brandon, MS
Broker Associate, ABR, 601-278-4513

I've been in business long enough to have heard this story, except I never knew it was factual. I thought it was an urban legand or just a parable to teach us not to judge how someone is dressed. I did NOT know Harrison Ford was the scruffy looking buyer. As I heard the story, it was an old farmer. At any rate, I love the story as it teaches us not to judge based on appearance. Still, in today's society, it's wise to ask for identification for safety purposes. Although I would NOT need to ask Harrison Ford for his drivers license. :)

Jan 03, 2017 06:04 PM #16
Jan Green
Value Added Service, 602-620-2699 - Scottsdale, AZ
HomeSmart Elite Group, REALTOR®, EcoBroker, GREEN

Wow!  I can't imagine how that agent must have felt selling a property like that!  What a story.  

Jan 03, 2017 07:14 PM #17
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
your real estate writer

I had an uncle who was a multi-millionaire. But unless he was doing business, he didn't dress the part.

I also know a gentleman who owns a grape orchard in California. One day he decided to buy a new pickup, so went in to town wearing his burmuda shorts, his boots, and an old shirt.

The first car dealership wouldn't even give him the courtesy of saying "May I help you." At the second dealership he chose a new pickup and paid cash. Then he stopped by the first dealership (driving his new acquisition) and said "Do you wish you'd bothered to speak to me?"

Jan 03, 2017 08:31 PM #18
Dorothy Liu
Alain Pinel Realtors - Los Altos, CA
Broker Associate, Silicon Valley Area,650-492-0859

Floor calls or visits are still a good source for leads and business.

Jan 03, 2017 09:13 PM #19
Harry F. D'Elia
Real Estate and Beyond, LLC - Phoenix, AZ
Investor , Mentor, GRI, Radio, CIPS, REOs, ABR

It is important to follow the processes. However, we need people to think outside the processes when it calls for it like the example above.

Jan 04, 2017 05:57 AM #20
Patrick Willard
Rio Rancho, NM

When I was starting out the broker of our training office told us a similar story about an older gentleman that came into his office when he was a new agent (mid 70's). The guy wore boots, overalls and a well worn cap. None of the seasoned agents wanted to give him the time of day so they pushed him off on the newbie.

The guy had just sold his farm and had promised to buy his wife a retirement home in the city. He made a cash sale that day.

Back in the late 90's I worked primarily with investors. One of my best customers was a guy that if you saw him at the grocery store you'd think he was poor. He usually wore old well worn clothes, except when his wife made him dress up. They owned about 40 rental properties. He also had millions invested in the stock market. I once sold him 3 new properties (cash) and listed 2 of his older ones in one day.

Never judge a book by it's cover.

Jan 05, 2017 02:37 PM #21
Georgie Hunter R(S) 58089
Hawai'i Life Real Estate Brokers - Haiku, HI
Maui Real Estate sales and lifestyle info

I love it.  Same deal here... you just can't judge a book by the cover.  Congrats to the smart agent who had the time and inclination to work with the walk in buyer who just happened to be well qualified.

Jan 05, 2017 06:31 PM #22
Patricia Kennedy
RLAH Real Estate - Washington, DC
Home in the Capital

Hi, Nathan!   I included this post in today's Last Week's Favorites.  Hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Jan 08, 2017 10:25 AM #23
Debbie Gartner
The Flooring Girl - White Plains, NY
The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers

That is a great lesson and reminds me of something from last night I discussed w/ a lawyer...something my dad and American History teacher taught me...the spirit of the law...what is the intent?

I've been to Jackson Hole.  It's absolutely lovely. 

Jan 08, 2017 12:50 PM #24
Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224

Nathan- what a great story.  Stories like this were similar in Houston where the person walking into your business might have been a Texas oil millionaire. Common Sense needs to step up. 

Jan 08, 2017 03:16 PM #25
Mike Cooper
Cornerstone Business Group Inc - Winchester, VA
Your Winchester, VA Real Estate Sales Pro

Great story, Nathan. One of my long-time and favorite clients has bought a lot of houses from me and he has sold quite a few through me. He came into my office one day with a second-hand work shirt on with the name "Chuck" on it. That's not his name. He paid cash for everything he ever bought and nothing was below $300K. You definitely can't judge a book by its cover.

Jan 08, 2017 04:38 PM #26
Grant Schneider
Performance Development Strategies - Armonk, NY
Your Coach Helping You Create Successful Outcomes

That is a classic lesson, Nathan Gesner .  This is one everyone in business should learn.  Policy must not be so rigid as to allow no individual thought.

Jan 08, 2017 06:41 PM #27
Maureen Bray Portland OR Home Stager ~ Room Solutions Staging
Room Solutions Staging, Portland OR - Portland, OR
"Staging that Sells Portland Homes"

Nathan Gesner what a great story!!  I love that the newer agent bent the rules a bit and didn't it pay off hamdsomely for her!!  It's a great reminder for all of us.

Jan 08, 2017 08:11 PM #28
Dorie Dillard
Coldwell Banker United Realtors® ~ 512.346.1799 - Austin, TX
Serving Buyers & Sellers in NW Austin Real Estate

Good morning Nathan Gesner ,

I'm so glad I saw your post in Patricia Kennedy weekly post of her favorites! I love the story..it is a good reminder than polices are in place but sometimes you have to use some common sense as this new agent did!

Jan 09, 2017 04:38 AM #29
Beth Atalay
Cam Realty and Property Management - Clermont, FL
Cam Realty of Clermont FL

Hi Nathan Gesner, this is a great story, never judge a book by it's cover. We can all learn from this post.

Jan 09, 2017 08:35 AM #30
Nick & Trudy Vandekar, 610-203-4543
Long & Foster Real Estate Inc 610-225-7400 - Devon, PA
Tredyffrin Easttown Realtors, Philly Main Line

Great post, with a good explanation as well. Love it.

Jan 09, 2017 02:01 PM #31
Mary Jo Quay
Remax Results - Edina, MN

That's where agents get a reputation for being like car salemen.  Quick to judge, expect the cover to be the book.  It's not that his fame made qualifying irrelevant, the others didn't treat him respectfully and even ask questions. 


Jan 09, 2017 05:39 PM #32
Susan Laxson CRS
Parks Real Estate - Franklin, TN
Local Knowledge & Global Network

Nathan, what a great story and lesson learned. Thanks for sharing it and hope to enjoy your writing style for years to come!

Jan 10, 2017 04:54 AM #33
Jeff Dowler, CRS
Solutions Real Estate - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude - Carlsbad


This was a great read - the second time around. Saw it on Pat's features but wasn't sure I had read it. Glad I did, again, as it's a vaoluable lesson for us all.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!


Jan 15, 2017 08:17 AM #34
Nathan Gesner
American West Realty & Management - Cody, WY
Broker / Property Manager

Jeff Dowler , I'm glad you enjoyed it and I appreciate the comment!

Jan 15, 2017 10:53 AM #35
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