No matter what we do, what we do matters.
Meet Patrick Lally. Patrick is a real estate broker at @Properties in Downers Grove, IL. With over 25 years of building, finance, and real estate experience, Patrick offers a unique approach to building relationships and helping clients find a place to call home.
G: Our homes are our nests. They are the genesis of our day to day lives for our families. Everything that happens with our homes, whether it is renovating, buying or selling a home is very stressful. How do you navigate this with your clients?
P: I think I do well working with clients because I have a building background. I helped build my own house. It was a three-bedroom ranch, and we took the roof off and did a whole second story addition. My Dad was from Ireland and he was a builder, so I grew up with it and knew every aspect of building. I worked with him all throughout high school and college. Because we did a lot of remodels, I could see every problem of what could go wrong with a house, which as an agent is valuable. Most clients don’t have a lot of experience with houses and how they are built, and they are very appreciative when I can tell them what to watch out for and what to walk away from.
G: I can see how that would be so helpful. You’re right. There is so much that the average homeowner does not know. A big part of what you do then is educating your clients.
P: Absolutely. When we start the process off and I first meet with a client, the first thing I do is describe the process of agency, and the fact that our discussions are confidential. Once I tell clients that their work with me is protected under that law, then the guard comes down and we can start the relationship. Then there becomes a level of comfort. Now we can find the perfect house.
G: Right off the bat, you start with a relationship based on needing to know more about their lives and what they need, and they need to open up in order to do that?
P: Sure. I see all sorts of situations. I have worked with clients having marital problems who are looking for a house for themselves. I see estate situations. I see clients who are buying a home because they are having a baby. I had one situation where I was the second person that my client told that they were having a baby. They told their spouse. And then they told me. They told me before they told their parents. They trust me. And they know what they tell me is going to stay “in the vault”.
G: Wow. You really do have the inside track on your clients’ lives. It’s such a place of honor, right? You really come to it from a place of trust and relationship and convey that you need to be in their inner circle in order for them to open up to you. How do you go about that?
P: I have a process. If I am selling a house, I have them walk me through what they initially loved about their house and why they bought it. I make sure with every client that I really understand what their needs are. Every street is different. Every neighborhood is different.
G: Your job is very much a community-based job. You have clients in every neighborhood, and your ear is to the ground on what is happening in the neighborhoods and the schools and what is happening on the streets.
P: It is. It’s all based on relationships with people in the community. Almost 100 percent of my clients are referrals. Sometimes they are close friends, and sometimes I don’t know them quite as much, but by the end of it they become friends because we have spent so much time together. It’s a highly intense process. Buying or selling a home is one of the most stressful things you can do. There are a lot of tentative points in the transaction and we don’t know if it’s going to go smoothly. It can be tenuous. I also want to have good relationships with the other brokers. We have to collaborate in order for things to go smoothly.
G: What else do you do to help your clients navigate this process?
P: I think having a lot of experience helps. At this point, when I see a client going through a part of the transaction that they are struggling with, it’s not the first time I have seen someone deal with that situation. I can go back to my experiences and tell them the different ways that situation has transpired and what the different avenues are. I think by doing that, it helps relieve the stress. They realize it is not the unknown, but that it’s the known and we have to figure out what the next steps are and what the possible results are. I think that helps calm them, and knowing I am an experienced agent and that it’s in my hands helps them. I help guide them through it. I tell them if I am concerned, then they should be concerned. But if I am not concerned, then they can stay calm.
G: We can all bemoan the fact that we are getting older, right? But from what you are saying, having experience and longevity in your job helps you and your clients tremendously. Do you feel at this point that you have seen it all?
P: Well things can always come out of left field. People are people. Unexpected things happen. It can be exciting. It can be funny. One time I walked through a house with clients, and we realized that there was water that was left running in the basement, and it was under four feet of water. Another time, I had taken off my shoes to walk through a house, and I stepped in a huge pile of dog poop that was right on the carpet, which I didn’t see, because the carpet was brown. I had to rip my socks off! You never know what is going to happen. Some houses are totally amazing. Some have secret rooms. It’s a lot of fun.
G: So it keeps you on your toes, maybe literally! Every day is different. What would you say the stresses are of this job for you, and how do you manage them?
P: The most challenging aspect is that it is a confined market. It is seasonal, and the hot time is the hot time. In the spring market, I am busy all the time. Saturdays, Sundays, holidays, late at night. It is a huge work crunch over a period of time. But the flip side of that is that outside of that busy time, I get to be around my family and my kids. I can help coach my kids’ sports. I was the president of the school board for two years, and that is hugely important to me. I am able to drive my kids to and from school every day. We have family dinner every night. I like to cook. Cooking for me is one of my creative outlets. It’s therapeutic and I get the kids involved. Now they like to cook, and it’s fun. It also allows me time to do woodworking, and take breaks to do things that are important to me.
G: It sounds like this job is just such a good fit for you and your lifestyle.
P: I did finance for a lot of years, and I used to travel 30 or 40 weeks a year. I find this to be so much more satisfying. Every day, I am on the road, looking at houses and seeing clients. I am not stuck in the same spot every day. Which is great.
G: In all of the years in working with families, what are the biggest lessons you have learned when it comes to people and the importance of their environment?
P: One of the most important things I have learned is the way that people value their home. No matter what size it is or what the value of the house is. Everyone feels about their home the same way. It’s a special place for them. When I see that, I have great respect for them in that way. Regardless of the condition. I go into some houses that may need a lot of work to get it ready to go on the market. Some houses may not need as much. Regardless of that, the feeling for the owners is always the same. It’s not a house. It’s their home.
G: Are there common threads that you find that people are looking for in a home?
P: People want a house they can call a home. They want it to be their own. They think about holidays and Thanksgiving and having their family and friends in their home. They think about finishing the basement for their kids. They envision how their life is going to play out and how their kids are going to grow up in a particular house. It’s a privilege to be a part of that process and to help them find a house that will be their home where they put down roots for their families and their kids.
G: So much of what you do and have done centers around the word “home”. You built your own home. You help people find the perfect home. What does that word mean to you?
P: “Home” is where you grow up. I think of my own home where I grew up. It means memories and Thanksgiving and family. To me it means dinner time. The most important time for me is to sit down every night for dinner. When we are in our home, we are together, and we talk about our day. To me that’s what it means. It’s not about the bedrooms, it’s not about the finished basement. It’s about the dinner table. With clients, I gravitate towards the kitchen and the main living areas of the space. I always help people think about how to create a more open space to create that feeling of home.
G: You have such a vision for your clients. You can see past the issues of the house, or the possibilities. You can see how families can create that space that you sense they are looking for. How their house fits into a larger community.
P: I spending a lot of time with clients, in the car driving around looking at houses, or over emails and the phone. But most importantly, being with them as they go through a house and what they gravitate towards, I get to the heart of what they are looking for. That really tells me what is important for them, and that helps me find the house that is the best for them. A lot of my clients are so focused on finding the right house not for themselves but for their kids, in the right school district, in a safe neighborhood. It can be difficult sometimes, but it’s fun. Most of the time, I think I get more of a kick out of it than they do!
For more information about Patrick, visit atproperties.com or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org