Getting Political In Real Estate: The Ups and Downs of Declaring Your Beliefs

Written by Jaymi Naciri Posted On Wednesday, 29 March 2017 12:30
Getting Political In Real Estate: The Ups and Downs of Declaring Your Beliefs

Finding that clients are looking to partner with people and companies they respect for more than just their results? In today's world, buyers and sellers are increasingly driven to work with those they believe in, and not just what they can accomplish.

Perhaps that old saying, "It's not personal, it's business," was easier to live by before we became so aware of our collective growing conscience and/or well-defined social and political beliefs, and certainly before the the age of social media. If you're finding that clients are being more selective and looking more closely at how real estate professionals act and how their values and beliefs match up with yours, you're not alone.


A Forbes article from 2013 titled "People Do Business With People They Like" spoke to the power of appreciation and the importance of saying, ‘Thank you.'" Seems so simple - and, so long ago, when you consider some of today's roadblocks.

But likability is an especially important key to success in real estate during tumultuous times, when buyers and sellers are searching for more than just an accomplished agent, said Heather George, REALTOR® with Signature Gallery of Homes, the Trish Nash Team. "Real estate is ultra-competitive, and an agent's success will always be based on results. However, in today's world, people are increasingly looking to ‘connect' on a deeper level," she said. "They want to believe in and trust their agent and to know they are working with a good person they perceive as an ally. My business is based on the relationships I build with clients and from referrals, and that is very gratifying."

Politically - and socially - charged

The classic example of a company taking a hit (or several) for its actions and corporate culture is Uber. What was once admired as an ingenious concept-cum-tech leader is now a cautionary tale.

The #DeleteUber campaign started in late January, "when Uber's New York City Twitter account announced that it was turning off surge pricing for trips at JFK airport in light of the protests against Donald Trump's executive order that bans immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries," said Fortune. Soon, the hashtag was the No.1 trending topic in the country, and, as of early February, more than 200,000 accounts were gone.

The idea that the ride-sharing company would try to profit from the New York Taxi Workers Alliance's "one-hour work stoppage in solidarity with the protests," seemed in especially poor taste to many, and it was further fed by a politically charged environment around President Trump's win; Uber's now-former CEO Travis Kalanick (he recently resigned) was part of Trump's economic advisory council (although he resigned from the council in February prior to leaving his own company).

Many (former) users bristled at Kalanick's perceived support of Trump. Subsequent events like this and this have only made the situation worse, while rideshare competitor Lyft has gained users, and fans, for their business practices and for things like: announcing a $1 million donation to the ACLU.

But, it goes both ways. Trump supporters boycotted GrubHub after their CEO told "employees who support Trump's rhetoric to quit," and then Kellogg's because they "pulled advertising from leading white nationalist website," said Eater. And also Starbucks, because they are "supporting a liberal agenda." And then there was the sold-out-forever Hamilton, which supporters threatened to boycott after the crowd booed Vice President Mike Pence during a performance of the Broadway show.

Most recently, his supporters launched a boycott of Hawaii, "making the islands a target of a social media firestorm" after "a Hawaii judge blocked President Trump's revised travel ban from taking effect," said NBC4i. So far, there has been no measurable impact on these boycotts.

And that goes for LendingTree, too, despite company founder Doug Lebda being vocal about his support for Trump. The stock price at press time was over 124, the highest it's been since 2015.

The effect on real estate

Many real estate agents and companies prefer to keep their opinions to themselves, and those who don't are facing a variety of consequences. Kim V. Colaprete and Chavi M. Hohm of Team Diva Real Estate in Seattle blogged about then-candidate Hillary Clinton prior to the election, proclaiming, "We are with her!" in a blog post outlining their support for Hillary Clinton, said Inman. "In the post, the couple praised Clinton for her views on women's rights and healthcare, equality for LGBTQ, immigrant and minority communities, and creating a system where equal pay and affordable higher education is something that anyone, regardless of their background, can access."

Colaprete further expressed that they have always been "fairly open" about their political views, both personally and professionally, and noted that, "When you are a lesbian couple running a business together there is no ‘hiding' who you are and what you stand for. In fact, WHO we are and WHAT we stand for is what makes Team Diva successful."

The pair noted that "they've received pushback for Clinton blog post and previous posts that outlined their stances on marriage equality and other important issues," but aren't backing down because their viewpoints are essential to who they are. "Whether everyone agrees with you or not - as long as you are being true to you and being clear and respectful - folks will respect you back," Colaprete told Inman. And when the "trolls" come out: It's all about the "delete" and "block" buttons.

Of course, not all agents have the ability to express themselves so freely online. Tony Brust, formerly a real estate agent in Jim Maloof/Realtor's Pekin office in Central Illinois, found himself out of a job after his Twitter exchange with comedian Patton Oswalt went viral. The reason: Owner Michael Maloof told the Chicago Tribune, "We were made aware that this had gone on and we parted company. We're kind of a conservative, God-loving,  family-oriented company down here and the respect of our fellow man is deep into our culture."

It's not just real estate agents and companies who are being asked to toe the line. Construction companies are also under scrutiny.

"Any company looking at President Trump's proposed border wall between Mexico and the United States as a business opportunity may soon want to reconsider if it wants to do business with San Francisco," said the San Francisco Chronicle. Legislation is being introduced "that would bar San Francisco from contracting with companies that seek a contract to work on the wall during the bidding period, regardless of whether the companies win a contract. The bill is one of several similar proposals around the country, with the Bay Area leading the way and New York also in the mix.

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