Why do real estate professionals get such a bad name? Because we act like the only deals worth our time are those that make us a lot of money.

Money: We treat it poorly, but we expect it to treat us well.

Witness this penny (pictured at left). I’ve been working with foreclosures and short sales for years, and what is amazing and weird to me is that I find money left behind in all of them. I have a jar at my office filled with pennies, nickels, and dimes that have gone astray in these properties.

Think about that: money left behind in houses where the owners didn’t have enough to repay the obligation of their mortgage. “It’s just a penny,” many people would say. Well, imagine what a difference a jar full of those pennies could’ve made for a home owner on the verge of losing his or her house. The point is that for many consumers, the smallest dollar amount could means something extraordinary to them. So it should mean something to you, too.

I’m continually amazed by practitioners who won’t take an inexpensive listing or work with a buyer on a limited budget. How many agents do you know who would be delighted to take a $50,000 listing? That seller may be in desperate need of the sale to save something else in their life, but there aren’t too many pros who would be willing to help them out. We’ve forgotten that all commission dollars — no matter how big or small — add up.

But more importantly — and let’s be frank about this — all consumers matter. (Have we forgotten that, too?)

During the dark years of the housing downturn, I took a listing that was just on the edge of equity. By the time we got an offer, the sellers’ finances had become even dicier. We negotiated the deal, got down to discussing repairs, and, as you can imagine, the sellers had no money to cover them — but the buyer was demanding. The amount needed to do the repairs, pay off the remainder of the mortgage after the sale price, and get the deal closed was the exact amount of my commission. So call it a “God moment” for me, but I told the seller I would take an IOU for my side of the commission to get it done. The buyer’s agent was flabbergasted, to say the least. The seller was in tears of joy. And honestly, it wasn’t some heroic sacrifice on my part; it was just the right thing to do.

Now I’ve heard the arguments from other agents for not taking the troubled or “cheap” listings: It will cost me money to work in a lower price point; I’m too busy to dedicate time to small deals; I can’t afford to spend the marketing dollars for a home that won’t earn me a decent commission.

I understand the busy part. One of the primary reasons I converted from being a solo agent to building a team was to be able to serve all consumers well when I don’t have enough hours in the day. If I can point to one of the values in my business that has contributed to consistent year-over-year growth, it’s the belief that no property is beneath me.

I wonder how many pros truly wear the cloak of honor bestowed on us when we join our REALTOR® associations and pledge allegiance to the Code of Ethics? In this ego-driven business, do you still find a moment to feel honored that you were chosen to help someone — even if they won’t earn you a big paycheck? Do you still hold your head up high, knowing that they could have called anyone — but chose you?

Many consumers see real estate professionals as “moneygrubbers.” Ever wonder why? Is it because we’re only interested in the million-dollar homes? Because we want the Benjamins but not the Lincolns (I mean the pennies)? Could we collectively change this perception if we all look at each property as the big deal that it really is to the consumer?

If we are really hustling for every penny, let’s find a way to serve every consumer well. Be proud to work every price range, and know that any and all satisfied customers add up to your good fortune as much as the commission payout. We’re entrusted by the consumer to guide them through the minefield of dealing with what is, for most people, their largest financial instrument.

Size shouldn’t matter.

Ego shouldn’t matter.

Serving the consumer well should matter.

If you’ll stop stepping over the pennies and looking for the big treasures, you’ll build a reputation for being a guardian of your clients’ investments, not a money-grubber.