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August 27, 2014

Commercial Real Estate, Politics and Abraham Lincoln

Earl 'Rocky' Mackintosh

Examine well that Pig in the Poke before you buy ... or cast your ballot in November’s General Election.


Recently I was invited to have coffee with one of the candidates who is campaigning for a seat in Frederick County’s new charter government. We enjoyed a pleasant conversation about the campaign and many hot button issues.


Along the way the topic of debate questions came up, and I found this person’s perspective quite interesting.


“There are questions regarding my political positions on some matters that I do not believe are relevant to voters in this campaign, so I wouldn't want those in particular to be asked in a debate,” was in essence (paraphrased) the candidate’s statement.


Rather than offer a contrarian view and challenge that logic, I accepted those words at face value and moved on to another topic.


We ended our meeting with the typical pleasantries and well wishes just as the candidate was approached by an eager supporter who had some information to share.


Once I was back in my car ready to head off to my next appointment, I reflected a bit more on the issue of “relevant information” in politics and business.


Now, I have logged more hours than I would want to ever try to count in my career in land and commercial real estate sales. However there is one Latin phrase that I learned in my first real estate licensing class back in the early 1970s that has remained embedded in the frontal lobes of my brain ever since.


“Caveat Emptor” is translated into many different phrases in the English language, but to us real estate types it means “Let the Buyer Beware.” Taking it a bit deeper, I found this legal definition on the web: “A warning that notifies a buyer that the goods he or she is buying are ‘as is,’ or subject to all defects.


That stated, it means that the seller of the product and any agent who represents him/her in the transaction must not hide or misrepresent relevant facts about the product. So, if the buyer asks certain questions about an item being sold, the seller or the agent should disclose the answer. Of course, the seller can refuse to answer by essentially saying “I’m not answering that questions … find out for yourself.”


Such a response can often leave the potential buyer wondering if he may be buying the proverbial “Pig in a Poke.” By the way, the word “poke” used here is actually derived from “poque”…of French origin, meaning sack or bag. So along the same line … the warning is to look at what is in that bag and examine it very thoroughly before you make the decision to purchase!


Over the years I have recruited, mentored and trained many real estate sales neophytes as they enter the profession. One could say that I have met all kinds. But of those who have a passion to succeed, I can distinctly cull out two types of who often follow different paths to seek success in the business.


One group will often take a very mindful approach to understanding the goals of the parties on both sides of the transaction by recommending that the seller/client come clean, so to speak, on the front end of the process so as to provide any and all information that a buyer may feel is relevant, even if the seller does not.


Then there are those who follow the less personal path. They seek to generate as much volume as they can to get product in the door and move it out quickly so as to turn the next deal.


In taking the latter route, very often the agent and/or the seller will predetermine what they believe is just enough relevant information to share with potential buyers. This approach assumes that too much information could complicate a buyer's decision making process in the transaction to the point that it could throw a wrench in the deal ... or kill it all together.


I've never believed in the adage “What you don’t know can’t hurt you.” My philosophy has always been to reveal all the information about the property as early as possible … Warts and All, as they say.


Besides, shouldn't the buyer be the one who determines what is relevant or not relevant for their intended use of the property?


This brings me back to my conversation with my candidate friend.


When you think about it, political candidates are like commercial real estate sales people. Their goal is to sell a product to the public … in a non-monetary sense, of course! That product just happens to be themselves – the personal skills and reputation which they have developed from life experience.


Obviously when one is selling his/her services in politics (as in business), he or she wants to be seen by the public in what that person perceives as the best light. But offering oneself “Warts and All” in the full light of day is in most cases what the public seeks … and truly needs in order to make a fully informed decision.


It was Abraham Lincoln who once said: “I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live up to what light I have.”


Wise words from ol' Abe, eh?


To that end, I really can’t understand why any voter's question asked to a candidate is not relevant. Can you?


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