Be the Mayor of Your Farm—Literally

Capitol building with flag against blue sky

In real estate, we often talk about being the mayor of your farm—having so much mindshare over the residents of your hyper-local area that your name is practically synonymous with the community. But what if you were actually the mayor?

Local officer holders—mayors, council members, school board trustees, and everything down to members of your municipal water district—have several things in common. They’re leaders. They’re accountable to members of their community who vote them into office. Their roles are inherently service-oriented.

As a real estate agent, you aren’t voted in by your community, but you already share many of these traits. Like office holders, you must consider budgetary and logistical decisions. You have to be strategic and anticipate the results of each decision. Above all, you must be an excellent communicator, be able to listen, relate, and represent people with different backgrounds and opinions. As an agent, you have a public image to care for—lest community members elect to not to do business with you. And the trust of potential clients must be earned through hard work and a genuine service mindset.

Recently we spoke with two agents with prior (and concurrent!) careers in local politics. As these agents have learned, there’s a lot of crossover between these two fields. So maybe—just maybe—these conversations will show you that local office is a natural progression to your community involvement.

These conversations have been edited for length and clarity.

How did you get involved with local politics?

Michele Branning, Fort Mill, SC: I have been a school board trustee for nine years and am currently serving as a regional director of the South Carolina School Boards Association (and will take on the role of president of its board of directors next month). I wanted to become a school board trustee for a multitude of reasons. It was a natural progression of my career, but it was also a matter of my own personal philosophy: Be the adult that you needed when you were a child growing up. Giving that kind of service is just who I am.

Ann Brower, Bozeman, MT: I served in politics as a city councilor and county commissioner before becoming a full-time agent in 2017. I had already participated on different boards and in various volunteer positions. Eventually, I noticed an opening: My small town just needed somebody to step up to participate in City Council and be willing to hear people, so it wasn’t any single issue that motivated me to run. I saw multiple issues where I thought I could help and make a difference.

How did you begin your real estate journey?

MB: In 2020, I was looking for a career that would allow me to have the freedom and flexibility that I needed to continue my work as a school board trustee. In real estate, I have had many referrals because of the work I do as a trustee. I’m not involved in politics to gain a network of clients, but that is certainly a byproduct of it and I'm proud of that. Because I don’t stray very far outside of my area, I'm very versed and knowledgeable on my community. For the school boards, we track community growth, so we know where we’re going to need our next schools. I find that this kind of knowledge really helps inform my knowledge of real estate. There’s a lot of knowledge crossover between the two fields, and it makes me stronger and better on both sides.

AB: My sister started as an assistant for the agent in the area that I was a commissioner in. I got my license while I was still serving as a commissioner but didn’t begin my career in earnest until after I left office and I moved to a different city.

What are the biggest traits agents and office holders have in common?

AB: One of the common denominators is people. You have to love people. It's important both to give grace to others and give grace to yourself. Love people for who they are, and not where you think they should be. In politics, you also get very good at listening, and need to be able to hear what they are trying to convey. I’ve applied that to real estate too. In both fields, I’ve learned that there’s always another side to every story. In real estate, buyers and sellers will make decisions based on their own personal experiences. In politics it’s the same thing. Each side of the issue has a hard time seeing the [bigger] perspective. So being in the center of it, being able to hear from both sides, can really help you understand the dynamics and learn how to find common ground. You either have to dig deeper and find more information or be patient and wait for truth to reveal itself.  

MB: You learn to dissect people and their intentions—good and bad. Because of my experiences in politics, I always make sure that I get deals done in writing. On the other side of that coin, I watch what I say very carefully. You don’t want to say anything that could get twisted, or that you wouldn’t say in front of a grandparent. Like with politics, emotions run high when selling a house—second only to divorce (and maybe running a campaign!). These things make you learn how to deal with people. I’ve also learned to soften my tone and remember that at the end of the day people are just people—that lesson has taken me far in both politics and real estate.

How do you handle situations where there might be a potential conflict of interest?

MB: I have a pretty strong ethics meter, and I will never cross that line. If there is ever a question that there is something that is controversial, be it because of my job or because of my political position, I'm going to recuse myself and step away from the conversation or the situation. I don’t want anyone to feel like I’m taking advantage of a situation. My honesty and integrity are what I have built my personality around, so I will recuse myself long before I cross any lines.

AB: I would say more than anything, just be aware. Be aware of what could be said and take precautions. You need to be fully aware of what can be said, and not just what you do, because it doesn't matter what's real sometimes. It’s the perception that people believe. Trust truly is a perceived thing, and you don’t want to damage that.

What would you tell an agent considering a run for local office?

MB: Do it for the right reasons. Politics is not for the faint of heart. If you are already an elected official thinking of going into real estate, I think it’s a smart and natural progression, but you have to be disciplined. Real estate does allow me that freedom and flexibility to do the things that I couldn’t do with what some people would call a “real job,” but it’s not all fun and games—I have to work hard.

AB: As is the case in any deal, you shouldn’t approach political involvement from anything other than a service mindset, or at the very least a win-win perspective. As for the benefits, I mean, how do you complain about the stuff that's going on in your town if you aren't trying to help in some way? It can be a very minor way, as small as hosting a forum or something along those lines, but I think everyone should try to become involved. That way you get to meet more people who have a different perspective than you otherwise may.

The best real estate agents keep a pulse on their community. Some choose to take it a step further and involve themselves in local events and organizations through service. While it might not be for everyone, we can definitely see how taking your real estate service to the next level could involve running for local office.

Have you been involved in local politics? Weighing a campaign in your community? Tell us about your public service and experiences on our KellerINK Facebook page. And don’t forget to subscribe to our KellerINK newsletter.

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