Mistakes in Real Estate: What You Can Learn from Steve Harvey

By now, even if you aren't a pageant watcher, you've heard about Steve Harvey's gaffe during last night's Miss Universe pagent. He did the worst possible thing: He announced the wrong winner, allowing Miss Colombia to make the walk as a newly crowned pageant queen. Until he realized his mistake, and Miss Philippines was crowned instead.

It was more cringeworthy than any episode of Larry David's Curb Your Enthusiasm. (Though in fact, it would have made excellent fodder for that show, and it's too bad they'll never have a chance to do that "ripped from the headlines" episode.) Have you not seen or heard about the mistake? Take a minute and watch the video, especially if you'd like to spend the rest of your morning wincing, with your shoulders hunched up to your ears.

But what if you make a mistake in real estate? Let's say you tell one person their bid is accepted, only to realize you contacted the wrong person. Or you tell your neighbor that you're sure your other friend will want to buy their house, then you learn it's out of their price range. Or you're an agent, and you tell your buyer you have a great bid on their home, but it turns out the bid was for a different home. Dumb mistakes? Sure. But people make mistakes because we're human. Here's what Steve Harvey did right, what he did wrong, and how you can move past a mistake.

Do: Apologize and accept responsibility immediately. Harvey corrected his mistake onstage and, though it was wildly awkward, the real winner was crowned. In real estate, the sooner you correct a mistake, the better. Because every day counts when someone's trying to buy or sell a house.

Don't: Correct your mistake publicly, if you can avoid it. Harvey probably had to just go for it, but wouldn't it have been nice if they could have gone to commercial break, explained what happened privately to the two winners, preferably backstage, and let Miss Philippines make her grand walk after the break? Also, Miss Colombia would have had a moment to compose herself, though she handled it beautifully even without that chance. Your correction and apology should be designed to minimize embarrassment. 

Don't: Tweet about your mistake, and misspell the name of the wronged party. Total insult to injury. To be fair, Harvey may have been the victim of overzealous auto-correct, but you need to check that kind of thing when sending a delicate Tweet. Or, you know, don't send the Tweet.

Do: Send a handwritten note, maybe even a gift like a bouquet of flowers, if your mistake was really, really bad. Besides, if you send your flowers to the seller, it may help them stage their home for subsequent showings. Just keep it tasteful, and don't send flowers with a really strong smell. We think Harvey probably did or will because the Family Feud host seems like a really nice guy, and he's definitely genuinely sorry. A handwritten apology is always impressive,

"Dear Neighbor, Boy, did I goof. I apologize for telling you my friend Mary was a sure buyer for your house. I let my enthusiasm get the best of me! Hope you enjoy the banana bread. If you heat it in tinfoil before your next showing, it may even help sell your beautiful home! Sincerely, Your Sorry Neighbor."

Do: Move on. There's no need to dwell on your mistake after an apology. Most people like to forgive and forget. Make your apology as big as it needs to be, then give the other person a chance to get over it.

And if you're the wronged party? Buying or selling a house can be a roller coaster ride of emotion and frustration when everything goes well, but mistakes happen. Bumps in the road are part of the process, whether it's an unanticipated problem with a home inspection or a deal that falls through when someone's loan is denied at the last minute. The moments after Steve Harvey's admission were painful, but did you see Miss Colombia's face? Perfection. She handled it, well, like the beauty queen she is. When someone makes a mistake, keep your smile intact, even if that smile is a little dimmer.

Accepting an apolology with grace will make people remember you as the nicest person they've ever met. Be that person, no matter how much you want to scream and throw things.

Both Miss Colombia and Miss Philippines managed to keep smiling, and avoided throwing anything at Steve Harvey, though they might have loved to pitch a well-aimed stiletto at his head. And we wonder how Donald Trump feels. He sold the pagent last year, and we bet he's thinking that he did it better and that the mistake is tremendous.

Have you ever made a big mistake in real estate? How did it turn out?