On a recent trip to Exuma, I strolled to the straw market not far from my hotel. I was on a mission to find a straw hat.
The dilapidated building, painted colors representative of the full spectrum of the rainbow, appeared to be constructed of leftover lumber held together by rusted nails and broken hinges. Undaunted by the typical island appearance I ventured inside and began my search.
Tables overflowed tith tchochkies and souvenirs from conch shells to t-shirts, and yes, hundreds of straw hats in a variety of designs and colors and one size that “fits all.” As I tried them on I discovered two things; many had been mass-produced and shipped in from a land foreign to the Bahamas & my head was apparently smaller that whatever size “all” happened to be.
Surrounded by open boxes of decorated t-shirts a large Bahamian woman sat weaving long strips of straw. She was openly amused as my head disappeared under each hat. I turned to her and shrugged. She motioned me closer. When we stood face to face, she reached into a plastic bag, pulled out a yellow string, wrapped it around my head, tied a knot to secure the ends and said, “I’m named Naomi. Come back tomorrow. Twenty dollars.”
Naomi refused a deposit and shooed me off. When I returned the next morning, the shack was busy with tourists shopping and having their hair twisted into long thin braids. A woman walked toward me and said, “Naomi is not here today. Here is your hat.”
I placed it on my head and it was perfect; not a thread visible, not a line or seam out of place and filled with special touches that made it a one-of-a-kind. Naomi had woven pieces of palm into a bow and attached it to the back of the hat. She had even sewn a sweatband inside for extra comfort. It was one of a kind, but Naomi’s special touches that included her signature made it special.
The NAR 2008 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers says more than 4 out of 5 sellers chose an agent who offered a full range of services to market their home. It further says they want us to be reputable and know the neighborhood, and they want us to help them price their property competitively and sell it in short time. To that, we respond, “I’ll put your home on my website,” “I’ll post a virtual tour,” “I’ll advertise it in a real estate magazine,” “I’ll put it on social media networking sites” … a one size fits all straw hat of real estate services.
A seller should expect all these services and more, minimally. I once asked a seller, “What are your expectations of me?” His response was, “I want to know you are successful and be treated as though I’m your only client. I want you to go one step above and beyond the service you provide for everyone else.” He wanted me to offer something in the way of service that I would be proud to place my signature on – something custom for him. Authentic. That would ultimately make me stand out from the many straw hat real estate vendors around me.
In a world of what seems to the public as mass produced real estate agents, what makes your service one of a kind?