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Solve the problem

I saw a story last month about a middle school kid in Indiana who was sent to the principal's office for refusing to take his hat off in class. The teacher repeatedly told him to take it off before sending him to the principal, and the principal asked him again several times, but the boy refused. Finally, the principal asked him, "Why? Why are you being so defiant about this, knowing that you might be suspended?" The boy replied that he had gotten a new haircut and it was terrible and he was afraid he'd be laughed at.

The principal was surprised and embarrassed. Why hadn't he or the teacher thought to ask this earlier? Why had it taken them so long to realize that there was an actual reason the boy didn't want to remove his hat?

And then, the principal made a decision. He got in his car, drove to his home, got his clippers, drove back, and (with the parent's permission) - he fixed the boy's haircut and sent him back to class. He solved the problem.

I thought about that story a lot the past couple of weeks. I realized how many times we push and pull to try and get people to do things. Our marketing shouts about problems and issues, but it so rarely solves the problems.

Right now, we have some of the lowest available housing inventory numbers that I have seen in my 20+ year career. In fact, last week the Wall Street Journal published an article stating that there are now more licensed Realtors in the US than there are active listings on the market. Rates are low, younger buyers are entering the market in huge numbers, affordable housing is scarce, building costs are high, and boomers are staying in their homes longer. It's a chicken-and-egg scenario that has become a scrambled mess of bidding wars and frustration.

And yet, Realtors are filling their marketing with messages of "it's a great time to sell!" or (my least favorite) "I need listings!" They are imploring people to put their homes up for sale and move out.

We're yelling at the kid for not taking off his hat in class. But we aren't solving the problem.

I'm not going to pretend that there is a simple solution to our inventory crisis. But there is a simple solution to our marketing issue. Stop and ask people why. Why aren't you selling or moving or investing or downsizing? Why are you hesitating? Why are you making the decisions you are making?

When we ask these questions, we can start to create messaging that actually works. We can offer solutions and suggestions that are helpful and tangible. We can point out options and provide real advice that is actionable. We can start to acknowledge the fears and frustrations that are keeping people from making decisions.

Stop yelling about the hat. Ask why, and then start solving the problem.

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