The Five "Whys" in Real Estate

As a real estate agent, you are on a team. For every transaction you’re on a team with the other agent, the lender, the clients, the inspector, etc. But at the same time you’re an independent business owner, working to manage your sphere, your marketing and your deals. This means you may end up with the same problems that can come up in teams, but with few of the team-based solutions. This is why it’s vital for you to be on the lookout for any problem you CAN solve by yourself. That’s where the Five Whys can help.

The Five Whys has its origins in the Toyota Production System, but can be applied to all sorts of businesses. The core idea is to keep asking the simple question “why” until you find the core issue. For example:

The deal I was working on fell through.


We didn’t get funded in time.


The bank required 15 days and they only had 11 days.


My client took too long to get the paperwork in.


They forgot and no one reminded them.


I thought that was the loan officer’s job, and she thought it was mine.

And there it is. A problem that seemed to be out of the agent’s control is turned into a simple option: either talk to the loan officer about reminding clients, or add the reminder to your own task list (or both!).

There’s nothing magical about asking five times, but on average it’s the number you have to go through before you get to that critical, actionable, real answer to what caused a problem. The trick is that this isn’t a process you can casually think about in your head. You have to form the actual words. Write it down, type it up, or say it out loud. Seeing your thought process in real words is the best way to make sure you’re staying honest with yourself, and not placing blame when you should be looking for solutions.

If you find that your Whys aren’t getting you anywhere, here are some other questions to consider:

What made this time different than other times?

When was the earliest time we could have fixed this? When was the latest?

Whose actions affected (or could have affected) the outcome?

What prevented alternative solutions from working (extensions, addenda, price changes, etc)?

And most importantly:

What can I do right now to prevent this from happening in the future?

In these busy summer months, it’s easy to let the busy pace of the market get in the way of reflection and development. But learning from failure is key if you want to earn more, work less, or do both. Next time you’re hit with a big failure, take five minutes to talk through the problem and find your solution.

For more info on the Five Whys, check out the articles on HBR and the Asana blog.