You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know
I don’t know another real estate professional who does what I do. In fact, my team and I really wish there was, so that so much of what we do wouldn’t depend so much on me…but it does. I’m talking about the preliminary consultations I hold with our clients that set the stage for everything to come.
I do the two-hour consultations almost daily, from 4 to 6 p.m. (mostly) in order to accommodate folks on the west coast of the US and Canada. It’s still fairly early for them, but they usually admit they’re up early anyway. I can remember living in L.A. and doing the same—since the east coast is three hours ahead.
Every once in a while we get a request to meet for only one hour—they think what they have to ask won’t take too long, or they just would rather save a part of the cost. Unfortunately, we almost always need two hours, and one hour doesn’t cover the extra time we spend setting up the consultation or providing the follow-up information, so two hours is a reasonable minimum.
Sure, we charge for the consultation, but the fee applies toward our advance fee for a search for a purchase, so nothing is lost along the way. Besides, we can’t begin a search without doing the consultation first anyway!
Anyone who thinks they can “take me for a cup of coffee” and “pick my brain” is going to get the surprise that it’s not possible. I’m sure there are many agents who are happy to do this just to get the business, but you “get what you pay for,” and we know that what I/we do is very valuable.
Once, a friend of my daughter’s on Bastille Day, while picnicking on the Champ de Mars, offered to do just that: take me for a cup of coffee and pick my brain. In my usual direct, no-nonsense way, I simply said, “Don’t ever say that to anyone ever again!” My daughter was flipping out as I was berating her friend, but it “flew all over me.” (Ever hear that expression?) I hoped to teach him an important lesson—that everyone’s knowledge, experience, and time are valuable, and that the moment you use those words, “pick your brain,” you’re basically implying that their advice isn’t worth more than a cup of coffee! That won’t get you far with professional advisors, I can assure you.
Not only that, but when you consider that you might be spending hundreds of thousands of euros on a property in France, wouldn’t you want to make a small investment from the beginning to ensure you don’t make costly mistakes?
All of the consultations used to be in person, but now, since the Covid-19 pandemic, they are mostly on Zoom. Every now and then we have an opportunity to see someone in the flesh.
Does it make a difference? Not really—that’s the good news. Zoom works really well, especially now that Fathom automatically records the session and creates a transcript—there’s no need to take notes!
Now, you’re probably thinking that anyone can do what I/we do. You might question: how hard is it to listen to someone tell you what they want so that we can go out and get it for them?
It’s certainly not hard to listen. I do, but I just don’t just run off and do what they want me to do. I’ll bet many other property agents who specialize in the Anglophone or North American market do just that. They do what the client wants them to do. Period.
If that’s what you want, don’t book a consultation with me, because that’s not what you’ll get.
Many of our clients start with just an idea about moving to France and haven’t gone much further than that. They need a lot of information and guidance.
Others have already decided they do want to make the move, but don’t know where to live, or whether they should rent vs buy.
Some don’t want to move 100% at all, but do want to make an investment and generate revenue from their French property.
And then there are those that want to continue working, or are interested in starting a new business in France.
Everyone is a bit different, and everyone is very much the same. Almost 100% of the time, they come with one set of ideas and leave with an entirely new set—all the things they hadn’t thought of or didn’t know.
We have a saying: You don’t know what you don’t know. And no matter how experienced they are with real estate, or how many places they have lived, there is still a lot to learn…they don’t know what they don’t know. It’s taken us many years and many different situations, but we still haven’t seen it all, so even for us, there is always more to learn.
What makes me so different (and therefore the entire approach and our team) is something I didn’t realize was a real talent until this profession happened to me. Yes, I didn’t happen to the profession, it happened to me. The need was at my doorstep and I filled it—it was as simple as that. And in the process, I discovered that what I do is not about property at all—it’s about psychological guidance and strategic planning. It’s also about giving good direction.
Almost every consultation ends in a 180° turn from where the client started in their ideas and where they ended up. I question everything. I want to know as much about them as people as possible so that I can understand exactly what their goals are and how to reach those goals. Very often, the goals themselves are off-base and must be reassessed.
Another thing in which I am well versed is how to do business in France and how not to do business in France…in a legal way. It’s very tricky and one can make some serious mistakes if not guided down the right path. I know because I went through it myself (an audit by the Fisc that took two years)…and survived it to tell the tale. We also have a bevy of professionals upon whom I rely and to whom we send our clients when we can’t answer all the questions.
Then, there are a million tricks up my sleeve to make it all work more smoothly. For example, did you know that the U.S. Postal Service will forward your mail to France free of charge? Just have the recipient in the U.S. write on the envelope “Please forward to…” and drop it back in the mailbox. Five days later it will be in your French mailbox. I swear this is true—I’ve been doing it for 29 years. That’s just a small example of ways to “skin the cat” that we’ve learned over time and offer up to our clients.
The point is that as long as I’m alive and willing and able to meet with our clients to get them on the right path, I will. It’s very rewarding to be able to change someone’s life for the better, so it gives me great pleasure to make this happen for someone who’s been dreaming about it for a very long time. They can, but they shouldn’t do it alone. They don’t need to. They have us.
Every single one of our team knows my mission—that what we do has litle to do with money and everything to do with the clients’ needs, desires and well-being. We never put ourselves first. Never.
But the client isn’t always right. Remember, they don’t know what they don’t know.
For now, you have me. I won’t be afraid of telling you the truth, even when it’s something you don’t want to hear!
A la prochaine…
The Adrian Leeds Group®
P.S. If you’re not afraid of hearing the truth and wish to book your consultation with me in person or on Zoom, visit our website for all the information on how to do so.
P.P.S. We had a lot of fun yesterday at Après-Midi with Krista Bender, discussing her new book and the art of wine tasting! Be sure to watch it and read the report by clicking here.