The Seven Real Estate Stages of the Pandemic
By now, some of us have lost a loved one, friend or community member to COVID-19. Though if the cavalier denialism exhibited by some Americans is an indicator, there are still many who have yet to share the magnitude of such a loss. But even putting one's head in the sand about the medical realities of the coronavirus cannot spare us the social, emotional and economic impacts.
It's accepted as true that though we all grieve a loss, everyone grieves in a unique manner. One of the most referenced works on the topic was written in 1969 by Swiss-American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, in her book On Death and Dying. This philosophy is popularly referred to as the "stages of grief," and whether comprised of five emotions or seven, it feels increasingly as though we are traveling through 'stages of the pandemic' in both our professional and personal lives. Sometimes we mourn the loss of our "past life" in a linear fashion and sometimes we jump along the steps chaotically, but without a doubt we have been presented with an event that has impacted our world and is in the process of shaping our future. If I think back to February or March, and reflect on today, here are some examples from my journey through the stages:
1) Shock and disbelief
Wait, no broker tours, no showing of property? Here we go again a la Lehman, 2008 or 9/11 --- investors leaving the market and loan programs being suspended or canceled. Tremendous rate chaos.
No way they will shut businesses down --- that's crazy. What do you mean the kids are not going to go to school? The Junior Warriors basketball season is canceled?
I should have been more forceful with our clients who were on the fence. How did we get lulled into complacency with credit availability? Why did we let our guard down and not consider existential risks in our assessments of the market?
4) Anger and bargaining
Why are we, here in CA, subject to shelter-in-place while people in other parts of the country are still conducting business as usual? What do these "health experts" really know? Man, I HATE Zoom meetings!
My 85-year old dad is 2000 miles away and I'm not sure when he'll see his grandson next. I'm not going to see the inside of a bustling conference room for many months. Some of the skills, habits and personality traits I've used to build my business are going to be sidelined indefinitely. Put the professional wardrobe in mothballs...
6) Reconstruction and working through
Yes, this is the landscape of our new reality --- it is not temporary. Embrace, learn and master the tools and tactics necessary to maintain momentum. Contemplate what it will take to grow in a remote world. Reinvest marketing dollars accordingly. Rethink all iterations of "it's just the way we do things."
7) Acceptance and hope
The way we did business is over. What remnants exist are gifts but my mindset must accept that I am in a foreign country now and I need to first learn and then speak their language. I can still think in my native tongue, but the longer I hold out and do so, the more difficult it will be to assimilate. The sooner I embrace the good and bad of the new culture, the sooner I will be open to its wonders.
Months into the COVID-19 pandemic, I can find myself cycling through several or even all of the above stages on any given day. My guess is that most others do as well --- unless they are stuck. Maybe they're stuck in denial. Maybe they're still pissed off --- at their governor, at their clients, at themselves. Then again, maybe some are well on their way of reconstructing their businesses but require help they never previously needed; with new technology, with new tools, with new ideas. My point is that we have all lost a loved one --- our pre-pandemic way of life and business. It's now up to us to move on, yet before we do we must confront the grieving process. Recognizing that is part of a healthy healing process too.
In loving memory,
Vice President of Mortgage Lending
Marin Office: 324 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., San Anselmo, CA 94960
Berkeley Office: 1400 Shattuck Ave., Suite 1, Berkeley, CA 94709
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