Double-bottom-line Thinking

I have had an idea swirling around in my head for a few weeks now. It comes from my personal experience with clients as they interact with the current economy and the housing market. This idea really jelled in my thinking when I read Ted Leonsis’ article in the April 12th issue of Newsweek.

My observation with clients, both buyers and sellers, is that there is a tremendous amount of attention and focus put onto the dollars involved in buying and selling. This is nothing new. Real estate is, for most people, the largest financial investment they will make in their entire lifetime. So what is different is that the weight being put onto the investment is in many cases causing people to forget that real estate is also about a home. Yes, I am addressing this to houses that people live in and not to rentals or portfolio properties. What I am seeing is that people are so driven to get the right deal, that they are passing up properties that are far superior in amenities.

Ted Leonsis is a former vice chairman of AOL and the author of a book, The Business of Happiness. His theory is that a company who wants financial success needs to not only think in terms of making money, but also in terms of doing what is often difficult but what is ultimately the right thing to do. This in turn keeps the company on a path of happiness that will ultimately also bring greater financial success. In other words, there is a link between pursuing happiness and also finding financial success. His case in point is the recent move by Google to route Web users from China to an unrestricted search page based out of Hong Kong. While this move may, in the short term, stifle the financial growth of Google in the biggest Internet market in the world, Leonsis believes that in the long term it will have greater financial success by placing its core values to do the right thing for humanity ahead of it’s short-term interest in its bottom line.

“Google aims to make money, of course, but it also has a motto (“Don’t be evil”) and a higher calling: to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible. By refusing to participate in Chinese censorship, the company imperiled billions of dollars in future profit. More important, it protected its status as a happy company at peace with its values—and happy companies are more, not less, likely to continue being successful.”

Ted Leonsis goes on to call this way of looking at business double-bottom-line thinking. In other words, success should be measured by the financial growth of the investment, but also by the positive out come for the happiness of human beings.

It is probably my liberal arts education coming out here, but I find this to be really important. As a Realtor, when I represent buyers my job it to get them the best possible deal. When I represent sellers, by job is to get them the highest possible sales price. I never loose focus on that. But it is hard when I have a buyer who is saying to me “show me foreclosures and short sales because I’ve heard that they are the best deal”. Or when a seller passes up a lower offer that is all cash for a higher offer with a buyer who is only putting down 5%. Focusing strictly on money may cause you to pass up the house that was lovingly cared for and is priced $10,000 higher than the beaten up foreclosure down the street. And in this lending environment, cash buyers are a real blessing.

I guess I think that there is value that needs to be also given to things like timing (short sales take months to close, if they happen at all), good will (they buyer will take the house with the big pile of yard debris in the yard because it doesn’t bother them to have to clean it up), and livability (the big kitchen is ideally designed with loads of cabinets and counter space). For some reason this economy and this real estate market has got both buyers and sellers fixated on money, money, money. And that has them acting blindly to happiness. I thinking buying the right house, where you will live and grow, is just as important as buying the right deal.

The perfect sale does both: the house will be bought or sold at the right deal and it will also be more than a house, it will be a home. That is double-bottom-line thinking and that is a good way to approach both a property purchase and a property sale.

One Reply to “Double-bottom-line Thinking”

  1. Amen sistah. Hmmm, must be a reason you and I write this blog together : )

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