If You Build A House, Build It Well

Not many lawyers started out as both a licensed plumber and electrician. I didn’t really want to, but my dad was both, and because he was, I was. Along the way, I found myself in The University and then the Army, but my mind never got far from where I started.

I learned that when you weld a joint, you must weld the back side too. If you don’t, even though you can’t see the back, the job will come apart. If you insulate a pipe and part of it is out of reach, no one may ever know that you didn’t get to that part. In those days, you could use aluminum wiring instead of copper; it was cheaper and easier. It would be years before anyone found out, and by that time, they were not likely to remember who wired the building.

We know now that selling collateralized mortgages on Wall Street, offering one-hundred percent and stated income mortgages, and providing inflated appraisals are not one bit different. Big-time brokers and dealers have proven that they could break the rules and have their money in the bank before anybody knows the effect of what they have done.

I have seen young lawyers prepare contracts for clients that were copied from a form book by someone who never once asked themselves what the client really needed. Even though the attorneys did what was asked, the product was superficial and poorly done.

All this gloomy intro is prompted by a conversation with my Realtor friends who always debate the legislature’s decision to erase by statute the fiduciary duty of Realtors to their clients. Realtors think that was a great idea. I am not so sure, either for the Realtors or for the public.

I don’t mean to be offensive, but I frankly think we leave a huge vacuum if we say only that a Realtor (or by the way, lawyer) owes a duty only to a transaction, not to a person.

I saw a new home last week that complied with a construction contract and passed its code inspections. The house was a horrible stack of almost good decisions, on which a little more thought would have made it great. It met minimum expectations but it was a missed opportunity to be far better.

I listened last week with renewed respect as Jean Floyd gave her acceptance speech as President-Elect of the Board of Realtors. She told her members that they are performing an essential job for their fellow man and for the economy. She told them that the job they do is important. Jean was exactly right; the potential for making a difference is enormous. If I could add anything, I would add that in one sense, the job we do is no different from that of a plumber. If we do what we do responsibly, we make people’s lives better. On the other hand, Realtors, lawyers and plumbers can meet minimum standards and still not care about their clients, or get the job done well.

The best professionals receive their business through referrals. Every time you have a business connection, ask whether that person would voluntarily repeat the relationship. It makes every difference that when that person plays Bridge, golf or whatever they do, they tell other people that you did your job well. If they do, you will not need Yellow Pages advertising or a fancy website. You probably will not discard either, but neither will be necessary.

Jean Floyd was right. Realtors (and lawyers) will play an essential role in rebuilding this economy - if we remember that our function is to understand what people need and then consistently set much higher than minimum standards. Jesus said, “As you do unto the least of them, you do unto me.” He meant people, of course. He could as well have meant the jobs we do. Every job is important. I am firmly convinced that we help God most by loving each other and by doing our jobs as if our effect on others matters to us.

Please accept my best wishes for a wonderful and prosperous New Year.

Mike Chesser

Chesser and Barr, 1201 Eglin Parkway, Shalimar, FL 32579