September 4th - 2012

Married to it: Real estate spouses must juggle schedules

When her husband started his real estate career, Elaine Rocca recalls that he worked most evenings and was often out until 1 and 2 a.m. presenting offers and getting established in the field.

Married to it: spouses must juggle schedules

When her husband started his real estate career, Elaine Rocca recalls that he worked most evenings and was often out until 1 and 2 a.m. presenting offers and getting established in the field.

“Those were stressful times because he worked long hours and was exhausted when he got home,” she says. “Starting a family and having our own mortgage added more stress because I was also tired from looking after the kids and my work as a nurse.”

Elaine is just one of many spouses of REALTORS® who have had to adjust to the demands of their partner’s profession, according to several sources. They’ve come to terms with the fact that clients need their spouse on evenings and weekends – hours considered “down time” in many other lines of work.

“It was tough in the beginning, and I worried a lot because he had no guaranteed income,” says Elaine, who has been married to Toronto broker Patrick Rocca for 19 years. “It felt like he was always at someone else’s beck and call. Once our kids came along, I worked nights, so Patrick and I were like two ships passing in the night. I ended up cutting back on nursing and staying home full-time for a few years, and I sometimes felt like a single parent.”

Real estate is not a 9-to-5 job, the spouses say. It involves constant appointments for showings, listings and presentations as well as prospecting, follow-up work on documents and forms, sales meetings and phone calls at all hours.

The job’s demands mean your most valuable assets – spouse and family – sometimes get placed on the back burner. Partners must often make sacrifices to handle a larger chunk of family responsibilities and navigate through their spouse’s erratic schedule.

“It’s better now because my kids are older and I’m more used to the routine,” says Elaine. “My husband can help more with the kids’ activities since his career is more established.”

A frank, open dialogue about family needs and the realities of the job should take place early on, the spouses advise. Family members need to build flexibility into their schedules and adjust them when necessary. In turn, REALTORS® must make sure their families know they are a priority despite their busy schedules.

Acceptance is vital, says Peter Aunger of Smiths Falls, who has been married to broker Pauline Aunger for 39 years. Although Peter found it difficult to deal with his wife’s schedule in the early years, he came to understand and adapt.

Because Pauline runs two busy offices and volunteers heavily, including her term as OREA president, her schedule is extremely demanding, says Peter, a retired conservation officer for the Ministry of Natural Resources.

Late-night phone calls are normal, he notes, and during road trips, his wife is often on the phone or mobile device dealing with business, regardless of time of day.

One of the toughest challenges occurred 35 years ago, Peter recalls, when his wife was starting out in real estate. “Pauline is really into Christmas, but there she was working Christmas Eve, negotiating a house sale for a guy who wanted to surprise his wife.”Make time for your spouse and family

Pauline rarely missed their children’s functions, he recalls, but he often had to shoulder the burden of driving them, and she showed up just in time. “We’ve learned to work through the challenges,” says Peter. “After a while I realized that she loves her job and she’s good at it.” 

Flexibility is crucial, the spouses say. For instance, the Roccas booked a Florida trip last spring but had to postpone it for several weeks due to a significant transaction. “You can’t blame your spouse for every little glitch in your plans, because they don’t have full control of their schedule,” says Elaine. “Certain tasks just have to be done, and it’s important to understand that.”

During the belated trip, Elaine’s broker husband still made phone calls and responded to texts and emails. “I’ve told the kids that even when we’re on holiday, dad still works an hour or two each day, and they’ve adapted.”

Couples must be on the same page about their expectations, says Elaine. “I like structure in my schedule – that’s the nurse in me -- but I also realize you have to pick your battles. Your spouse needs your support because success in real estate doesn’t come quickly or easily. The people who do well at it work really, really hard.”

Pursuing your own interests is another way for spouses to cope. When her children entered school, Elaine took art classes in the daytime and arranged get-togethers and outings with her own friends.  As the kids got older, she increased her nursing shifts.

Making time for each other is important for couples in every line of work, says Peter. “Every Sunday we have a family dinner together and we try to go out for dinner with friends every Friday night.”

When the Aunger’s daughter decided to follow her mother’s footsteps and go into real estate, Peter advised his future son-in-law. “I warned him that he’d sometimes find himself home alone, but that’s the nature of the business.”

It’s also possible to incorporate family time into business activities once in a while. For instance, when her husband’s firm teamed up with a local merchant at an Easter event, Elaine wore a bunny costume and her kids distributed chocolate eggs to children. “We spent time together as a family even though my husband was working, and it showed our kids the value of volunteering and giving back to the community.”

Marriage to a REALTOR® can be an adjustment, says Lynne Vallis of Toronto. Her husband Paul Vallis is in the early stage of his career, and with just two years under his belt, he is driven to become established in a highly-competitive market.

“I could let it bother me when Paul works on the weekends, but then I’d be angry all the time. Instead, I accept it totally, because it also means he’s more available during the week. ”

Her husband’s flexible schedule means he can coordinate more weekday chores and errands. “There’s an upside, because he now handles things like taking the dog to the vet and grocery shopping,” says Lynne, who works long hours at a non-profit housing office.

One sacrifice for the Vallis family is Paul’s missed time at the cottage. “He usually has open houses on weekends, so that cuts into family cottage time.” His late arrival is a fact of life at birthdays, weddings and other gatherings. “He always shows up even if he’s late. We’re both pretty easygoing, so it works out.”

Patience and understanding are needed among real estate spouses, says Lynne. “I remind myself that he’s doing this for us, and that puts it in perspective.”

Although a supportive spouse is vital, REALTORS® must also be prepared to make time for their families. At the Rocca home, an early weeknight dinner provides a chance for parents and kids to reconnect – with phones and smartphones ignored during the meal. After dinner, Patrick goes back to work for a few hours in the early evening.

“Each couple has to figure out what works for them,” says Elaine. “We often meet for coffee or lunch and it’s booked like any other appointment. If you don’t make time, it won’t happen and your spouse will get lost in the shuffle. Time marches on and you both have to put in an effort to make each day count.”

Tips to balance work and family

If you want a long and profitable real estate career, learning how to juggle the demands of work and family is essential. Here are tips to bring more balance to your life.

  1. Put your family first. Regardless of what else comes your way on a daily basis, you need to make time for your family a priority.
  2. It’s your schedule — not your clients’. One of the great advantages of being in the real estate business is the ability to be flexible with your own hours. Don’t be afraid to tell a client or a customer that you have a commitment. Most clients will work with your schedule.
  3. Plan your day in advance. Planning your day allows you to create a road map for the day’s work and helps you avoid wasting many productive minutes throughout the day. Make sure your planning includes time with your spouse and family. It’s also important that you take your planning to another level by planning your week in advance.
  4. Exercise each day. Feeling good about your health will produce a new outlook on your life and provide you with more energy to enjoy your family time.
  5. Take vitamins and eat right. Incorporating the right foods and taking a multivitamin on a daily basis will improve your health and give you more energy. Real estate professionals can be guilty of eating from their cars and frequently using the local drive-thru for meals. You may think fast food saves you time, but in the long term, it is robbing you of proper nutrition.
  6. Turn off your mobile phone from time to time. Don’t be afraid to turn off your mobile phone when spending time or eating a meal with your family. Society has become so “wired” with portable devices and communication aids that you often use your equipment without noticing how disruptive it can be to a family outing. Check your voicemail at your first opportunity and return calls later, and change your voice message to indicate you will be unavailable until a certain time.
  7. Team up with another practitioner in the office. Teaming up will ensure that all your calls and emergencies are covered while you’re out of the office. Be a team player in return when your team member needs some extra time away from the office to treasure his or her family. You’ll both benefit from this act of kindness.

Give yourself a daily reminder. Remind yourself on a daily basis how valuable the time is that you spend with your spouse and family.
(Source: National Association of REALTORS®.) 

Share this item

Movement toward mergers in some real estate boards Charity golf tournament raises $8,000

For more information contact

Ontario Real Estate Association

Jean-Adrien Delicano

Manager, Media Relations

416-445-9910 ext. 246