Knowing her husband was going to die did not make losing him any easier. The moment Dick’s battle with cancer finally ended, Shirley came face to face with the stark reality that her best friend and husband were gone forever. And yet, in her moment of grief, sorrow and loneliness, there were mounting responsibilities awaiting her attention each and every day. When I met Shirley she was overwhelmed and decidedly underprepared to manage all of the details for which she was now solely responsible.
Shirley and I were introduced because she needed an experienced real estate agent to manage the sale of an investment property she did not have the fortitude to maintain. She needed to simplify her life and reconcile her finances, and selling this property was a significant part of that equation.
In helping Shirley with the sale, I carried out a range of activities. I helped her understand the requirements of selling an investment property. I advised her regarding her local real estate market and the value of her property. We created a plan, including a simple “to do” list, that enabled her to address items one at a time – not all at once. Together we looked at possible tax implications of the sale and figured out how the sale would affect both her short- and long-term financial goals. I also helped translate Legalese and High Finance into Plain English by participating in conversations with her trust attorney, tax planner, and financial advisor.
In addition to managing and performing the tasks associated with doing my “job”, I also learned another valuable lesson. Yes, Shirley needed a real estate agent to sell her property and help manage the financial impact of the sale. But more importantly, she needed someone to take time and listen – to sit quietly, push through the tears and uncover the myriad tasks that needed to be done. As much as this was about putting a “for sale” sign in the yard, it was also about caring for another human being – a person coping with a devastating life event and managing the details that can overwhelm home sellers even in the best of times.
Through it all, we sold the house at a favorable price and tied up dozens of loose ends regarding her estate and financial planning. Shirley gained some security in her later years, and I gained important lessons that have shaped my career as a real estate professional. I learned that life can (and often will) take us by surprise. Sometimes these surprises are magnificent and other times catastrophic. Few of us will escape those moments where life appears so hopeless that we think it impossible to recover. During these most vulnerable moments, it is profoundly comforting to have people we can rely on to provide solace, strength, and trusted guidance. It meant a great deal to me to be one of those people at that moment in Shirley’s life and I continue to honor her by taking the time with each client to understand the underlying human needs that accompany the process selling and buying homes.
“Brian, Great job. You saved my life by being professional and also by being my wonderful friend. Everyone should have the experience of your expertise and your warm caring. You are my special friend. Thanks for sharing this with me. Shirley”
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