Thoughts about real estate, referrals, technology and big data.


One of the keys to new connections is just making sure that everyone you come into contact with knows what you do. Here’s how to do so!

As a Realtor, you’re constantly looking for ways to connect to new clients.  You may consider ads, bulk mailings, postcards, cold calls, but one of the keys to new connections—and it’s an easy one that doesn’t cost you anything– is just making sure that everyone you come into contact with knows what you do.


Your close family already knows you’re in real estate, but do your cousins? Do your sister-in-law’s parents? Not only should family both close and far flung know you’re an agent, they should have you contact information so they can refer you to their friends, family, and associates.  Consider a holiday card or family newsletter you send out occasionally that reminds everyone what you do and that includes your website, email and phone number.  Use Facebook when you get an amazing listing you think family would enjoy, or share a fun story about your profession. Use family reunions, birthdays, and similar get-togethers to offer your expertise to anyone who needs it.

Professional Network

As an agent, you probably already have relationships with lenders, home inspectors, contractors, etc. that lead to referrals.  But other professionals have potential as leads as well. Attorneys, accountants, insurance agents, financial planners: the people in these industries deal in real estate on occasion. If you’ve made sure all the professionals in your circle know you’re willing and able to serve, you open the door to new clients.  Provide these individuals with business cards; check in with them monthly via email or phone; take them for coffee to brainstorm how you might help one another’s businesses grow.

Casual Network

Don’t forget your more casual associates: The cashier at the grocery store. Your hair stylist. Your children’s daycare provider.  Your dry cleaner.  All of these people could become clients, or may refer you on to their own networks—but they can’t if they don’t know you’re an agent in the first place. Carry business cards with you wherever you go, and don’t be shy about offering your services in return even as you gratefully accept the services of these individuals.  And in places like coffee shops, libraries, and community centers, consider posting a flyer with business cards attached to reach people who are considering buying homes in your area.

These are just a few ways to “make sure everyone knows what you do,” a major factor in your successful real estate career built on referrals.  Next week, we’ll look at a few more.

Where do you find your referrals?  Feel free to share them in the Comments Section.

ReferralExchange makes it easy to find the “right agent’ for these referrals – even if they’re outside our area.  ReferralExchange has over 12,500 top-performing REALTORs nationwide, and you’ll receive 25% of the referred-side commission when the deal closes.

Bidding wars

In multiple offer situations, a competitive, well-written offer is always the best offer. Here are four tips to help your buyer compete in — and win — a bidding war.

In multiple offer situations, a common phenomenon these days, you can help your buyer by writing an offer that stands out from the rest. And though speed is often of the essence, a strong, competitive, well-written offer is always the best offer. Here are four simple ways you can help your buyer compete in —and win—a bidding war.

Write a clean, complete offer

  •  Make sure you have spelled every name right, filled in every date, that your buyer has initialed and signed everywhere needed. The time it takes to make corrections may knock your offer out of the running.
  • Get all documents completed in advance: If the listing agent has requested signed addendums or documentation of any kind, include them.
  • Include a pre-approval letter for the offered amount, or if a cash transaction, proof of funds

Communicate with the listing agent:

 Initiate a conversation with the seller’s agent –before writing the offer –in order to find out what the sellers really want and need. Here you can find out things that will make your offer more appealing—even perhaps, more than simply offering more money.

For instance, knowing the preferred closing date: If the sellers need time to find their next home, your buyers can offer a longer than normal close, a rent back, or even a free extended stay as long as they stay within the lender’s guidelines.  On the other hand, sellers may need a quick close for a fast release of funds. You can’t know if you don’t ask.

Sweetening the offer:

Beyond offering an over-asking price, which is likely to be the case with most offers in a multiple-offer situation, your buyer can:

  • Agree that earnest money is non-refundable to show commitment and  seriousness
  • Not ask for any help with closing costs
  • Not ask for any personal property beyond what’s clearly stated on the MLS as included


As detailed in the Washington Post this year, desperate buyers in tight markets can be tempted to do just about anything to get the house of their dreams, including waiving their right to inspection. But waiving the right to inspect a house is dangerous prospect for a buyer and one you may regret advising.  A better bet is to shorten the inspection period, allowing less time for the offer to be contingent, and indicating real motivation on the part of the buyer to close the deal quickly and cleanly.


These are just four tips to strengthen an offer and beat out the competition. What do you do to help their buyers compete in today’s tight market?


Managing Seller Expectations

Keep your listing clients happy by managing their expectations as you guide them through the process of selling their home.

Last week we offered simple ideas for managing buyer expectations in order to cultivate successful relationships that lead to life-long clients and the referrals that come with them. This week, the focus is on sellers.

 Manage Price Expectations

  •  Have good documentation on other comparable listings in your clients’ area with tangible items for them to compare against.  Base the recommended sales price on features that buyers care about, such as cost per sq foot, condition of the home, landscaping, size of lot, garage size,  high-end fixtures, wood floors vs. carpet, staged vs. non-staged, painted vs. not-painted, etc. Some of these things can be addressed before going to market. Others may not be worth the expense. Having a frank discussion about these factors goes a long way in establishing trust with your seller.
  •  Set-up potential price reductions in advance: For example, after X weeks at X price, we should consider an X percentage reduction. This way, when and if you need to cut the price, your seller is well prepared and on board.

 Make Your Role Clear

  • Develop a marketing and sales plan. Just as with buyers, each seller presents individual needs and challenges, but as an expert, you know how to organize a plan of attack that works. Provide your client with a visual representation of the process. Then, as you work through the stages, provide clients with an update after each activity.
  • Be visible.  Call or visit listings regularly, provide an updated market analysis every 2 – 3 weeks, solicit feedback from agents who have visited the home and provide it to your clients. Update them on any activity on their home.
  • Be supportive and understanding, but also be the expert. Be prepared to support your assertions with market data.
  • Surround yourself with other experts as well who may be needed during the process: home inspectors, lenders, contractors, roofers, plumbers—the more people who can provide help during the process, the better. This network also provides you with referrals in return for your business.

Make the Relationship Last

Ultimately, you want not only this deal, but all future business from these clients.  Ask for referrals throughout the process. Follow up after the transaction with occasional postcards, holiday greetings, phone calls, etc. This way, you make these sellers clients for life.

If a referral from one of these clients is outside of your preferred price point or property type, give ReferralExchange a try.  We’ll match the prospect with 3 great agents, and you’ll get paid a 25% referral fee once the deal closes.  

Managing Buyer Expections


Keep your buyer clients happy by managing their expectations as you guide them through the process of buying a home.

As a successful Realtor, the majority of your business comes from referrals. So, one of your major responsibilities is keeping clients happy, a task that largely depends on managing their expectations as you guide them through the process of buying a home. Here are a few simple ways to educate and prepare your buyer for a smooth transaction—and one that leads to a glowing referral.


  • With a simple interview, you can set the tone for this transaction. Ask questions that allow you to assess buyers’ motivation and desire to buy. This helps you gauge how often and how much to contact these buyers, as well as how you can help, specifically, meet their current needs.


  • Buyers need to know not only what they can afford, but what they really want to spend. These numbers aren’t always the same. As a team, you should identify a low and high price point to work within.
  •  Team with a trusted lender for a solid pre-approval before you start showing property. Getting this up front means less chance of lending snags later in the process. It also creates a referral system between you and your lender.

 Type of Property:

  •  Many new buyers like the idea of a fixer-upper. Watching HDTV has convinced many a prospective homeowner that home renovation can be accomplished in the space of a half-an-hour TV show. In reality, buyers need to know if they can afford this kind of property. And if you have resources (referrals to contractors, electricians, plumbers, etc.), you can provide a more realistic idea on estimated costs. And again, you set up a reciprocal referral relationship between yourself and these other professionals.
  •  Get specific needs/wants up front: number of beds and baths, of course, but also things like stairs or no stairs, school districts, walkability or access to major highways. The more details you get before showing homes, the more likely the ones you see will be a good match, saving all involved time and energy.
  •  Manage expectations of available inventory and what buyers can purchase in their price point.


  •  Have a game plan and timeline for the buying process. Though this will shift with each client, it will be enough like other transactions for you to develop a flow-chart template you can tweak and provide to each client. The more they know about the process, the more confident they feel.
  • Regularly update your clients: set them up with RMLS reports on available properties, send market updates, and apprise them of any new developments relevant to their home search.
  • Coordinate your schedules (yours and the client’s) so your buyer clearly knows how, when, and how often you will tour homes.
  • Develop a system that lets buyers take notes, photos, and record questions as they tour. This lets them keep track of properties viewed as well as gives you an avenue for meaningful, regular contact as you obtain answers to their questions on each home.

 Making the Relationship Last

Finally, you want not only this deal, but all future business from these clients.  Ask for referrals throughout the process. Follow up after the transaction with occasional postcards, holiday greetings, phone calls, etc. This way, you make these buyers clients for life.

And, if any of these referrals are outside your preferred price point or property type, ReferralExchange can help you service these prospects!

Millennials want help and advice from a real estate agent, but they bring a greater level of independence to the process than older home buyers or sellers do.

Thanks to social media like Twitter and YouTube, there’s not much today’s Millennial doesn’t have some basic knowledge of. This is true in real estate as well, thanks to the online availability of MLS data, property history, tax info and permit records.  When it comes to searching for a home or researching how to sell one, today’s Millennial is much more in the driver’s seat than buyers in the past.

What holds true for how Millennials search for real estate also holds true in what they’re looking for in an agent.   According to a National Association of Realtors study completed in July, 2013, Millennials do want help from agents, but because they bring a much greater level of independence to the process than older home buyers or sellers do, they are:

  • More likely to find the home they plan to purchase via the Internet, while older buyers typically found their first home through their agent.
  • More likely to ask friends and family for agent recommendations, whereas older buyers were more interested in an agent’s overall reputations.
  • Interested in an agent to help them navigate the process of purchasing a home instead of helping them find the actual home.  Younger sellers typically want their home sold within a specific timeframe.  Both younger buyers and sellers are more likely to choose an agent based on “honesty” and “trustworthiness” vs. neighborhood knowledge and marketing expertise – which is what older buyers and sellers prefer.

As more Millennials enter the real estate market, agents need to keep these trends in mind when doing business with this up and coming group – where the fact that you helped one of their friends buy a trendy loft close to work is more important than your 10+ years of experience and knowledge of neighborhood statistics.  This can be hard to accept, but according to Forbes Magazine, “Millennials {are the}  biggest generation of customers ever (80 million strong in the U.S., which means there are more Millennials than there are baby boomers).” Ultimately, these changes are already here. Adapting your sales and marketing activities to support millennial perspectives will help make you more successful today — and in the future.

Find Your Business Niche

Use a second language, other special skills, hobbies, and similarities in past/current clients to focus your marketing efforts and generate more sales!

Last October, Inman news ran a story about how a group of French brokers in Miami had launched a non-profit organization that matches French-speaking Realtors to French-speaking home-buyers interested in purchasing property in the U.S. Even if you don’t speak French, this article likely speaks to you because as a REALTOR®, you recognize the need to find your niche.

The American Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that in 2013, around 40,000 real estate agents were actively working in the U.S. The need to stand out then is pretty clear: If you do speak another language, reach out to the local community and offer to provide a home buying seminar in that language.  Be sure to cover any cultural and sales-process differences that might exist in the U.S. vs. other countries.  Having someone who can help navigate the home buying or selling process in another person’s language-of-choice and cultural perspective is definitely an advantage.

Of course, this niche marketing can extend beyond language specialties.  Perhaps you’ve sold several properties to local flight attendants and know where the best “secure condos” can be found close to the local airport. Or, you’re an avid equestrian who understands the type of property that’s needed to build a stable in the backyard.

While not everyone speaks another language, looking at your hobbies and similarities in past/current clients can identify a niche you didn’t even know you had – and generate more sales for you!


Open House Handout Ideas

Open House sign if front of house for sale

Check out these tips to help you stand out from the crowd when someone is looking at multiple properties in one afternoon.

Open houses can be a great way to get new clients, but only if we can stand out from the crowd when someone is looking at multiple properties in one afternoon.

One way to make yourself memorable:  interesting and relevant handouts.  A fancy 4-color, multiple-fold brochure might make your sellers happy, but it’s often the first thing that gets thrown in the recycle bin.

Here then are handout suggestions that while easy to put together, are a unique departure from the standard brochure or buyers guide:

  • Mortgage Loan Breakdown – Helps prospects understand the potential costs of financing the property – sometimes, buyers can actually afford more home than they think once they see the monthly payments.  Ask a trusted mortgage broker or mortgage consultant to put a piece together for you – make sure that he/she includes your name on the document as well.
  • Glossary of Home Ownership/Mortgage Terms – The home ownership process becomes more complex every year. A single sheet of key terms and phrases can be extremely helpful to both first-time buyers and move-up buyers who haven’t purchased a home in a while.
  • Home Buying Process Flowchart– A graphic depiction of how the loan, offer, inspection, repair and title process occur. Your Title Rep, Escrow Officer, or lender may wish to partner with you on such a handout.
  • Vendor List – A list of any vendors (include contact information) who helped to fix up the home that’s open – landscapers, painters, etc., can be a great resource sheet.  Including discounts/coupons for mentioning your name to these vendors can help prospects remember who you are when they’re ready to decide on an Agent.  See our blog from 2 weeks ago for more information about this.  
  • Neighborhood Information – Note local schools, grocery stores or restaurants and the “walk score” of the home. And don’t forget today’s buyer concerns such as  the best cell phone carrier/coverage for the area (very important in hilly, mountainous and coastal areas).
  • Real Estate Agent Checklist/Interview Guide – Selecting the right real estate agent is critical to buying or selling a home, so this checklist identifies key questions to ask an agent.    Click here to download one that you can use.

With these interesting and relevant reference tools, your open house can be more successful:  Not only can they help a prospect remember you, but they can be conversation starters as well!

And, if you have a prospect that comes through your open house who isn’t the right fit for you, or the property that they’re selling is outside your market area, consider using ReferralExchange.  We’ll match your prospect with 3 great agents and pay you a 25% referral fee when the deal closes.  It takes less than 10 minutes to get started.


Open Houses are a key component of many agent business plans — but it’s important to stay safe. Given below are some suggestions to help you protect yourself.

Open houses are essential for marketing both a home and ourselves. But they also expose us to people we don’t know, and thus increase our need for caution. A recent case in North Carolina highlights our vulnerability and the need for safety measures whenever we are alone with strangers in a home. We offer these tips for safe, smart open houses (note that many of these ideas also serve for touring homes with unknown clients as well).

Before an Open

  •  Go to the home to check the strength of your cell phone’s signal. If you don’t get good reception, locate the land lines in the house.
  • Charge your phone fully.
  • Go to the neighbors on each side of and across from the home. Introduce yourself to the residents and let them know you’re hosting an open house, explaining why there will be increased traffic and strangers for a few hours. You then gain extra eyes for safety—and perhaps future clients as well.
  • Ask the seller to remove anything in the house that might entice a thief: small handheld devices, prescription drugs, jewelry, etc.

At the Open

  •  Unlock all doors. Not only does this allow people to move through the house, it allows you to escape quickly if you need to do so.
  • Turn on all lights, pull back curtains, lift blinds.  Doing so makes the home welcoming, but also increases your visibility to people who pass by.
  • Visitors go first.  When guiding visitors through the home, stay behind them. You can gesture to the kitchen or bedroom, for example, politely standing aside so they can go in first.
  • Let family-members, friends or colleagues know what you’re doing.  Be sure someone knows where you are and can check on you.
  • Consider having a safe word/phrase to use if you need help. For instance, maybe your phrase is “yellow file.” If your friend/family calls you and you’re in trouble but can’t say so, you can say “Can you check the yellow file?” This is the signal to call the police.

Beware of cellars, attics, and garages.  Any enclosed space where you cannot get away can be dangerous.

With these simple measures, your open house can be a safe, successful, experience.

Open Houses are a great way to promote yourself and get new clients. Check out these ideas to help make them more successful!

Open houses: In a few hours, we market both a home and ourselves.  How can we make the most of this opportunity? Here are a few creative tips from successful professionals in the field:

Neighborhood Open House

 Before launching public open houses, host an open house for neighbors only.

  • Send out a postcard a week prior to the event that acts as invitation, announcement, and advertisement for you
  • Offer a free comparative market analysis for neighbors
  • Create a local market overview flyer to hand out to neighbors as they come through the door (for another great flyer idea, read our previous post regarding partnering with vendors)

 Ice Breaker Questions

Ask questions that break the ice and establish meaningful connections.

  •  Survey: Ask visitors to give you feedback about the house that you can pass the information back to sellers– ask them what their favorite/least favorite thing is about the home
  • Education:  Ask visitors if they know how to read a CMA, a pest report, disclosures, or CC &Rs. Offer to walk them through these documents
  • Wish lists: Ask prospective buyers what they most want in a home and offer to provide a customized list of available properties based on these specific needs. If you bring a tablet or smart phone to the open house, you can even pull up RMLS search data right there and email it to your new client

Alternative to the Old Sign-in Sheet

  •  Hold a drawing that ensures you get “real” contact information. You can give away:
  • Movie tickets
  • Gift cards
  • Coupons for savings on home inspection (perhaps partner with a trusted home inspector willing to give a discount to your future clients)

Be Prepared to Impress

 This is your chance to establish yourself as an expert, so it’s a good idea to know your facts about the market both in general and specific to this home:

  • Offer a local market snapshot flyer branded with your contact information
  • Know the number of homes listed/sold/price points/multiple offer situations in your listing’s area.


Open Houses can be a great way of finding new clients.  And, if a prospect doesn’t fit your preferred price point, property type, or target area — or needs to sell a property in another location —  input their name and contact information into ReferralExchange.  We’ll match them with 3 great agents from our network, and pay you 25% of the referred-side commission when the deal closes.

Featuring vendors at your open houses and in listing presentations can help you and your sellers! Promote your vendors with a flyer and signage in exchange for client discounts.

A home sells best when it shows best:  we all know this. But sellers don’t always have the money, time, or connections to make it happen. Staging, yard work, fresh paint, and interior repairs by a trusted resource —all necessary for a quick sale at a good price—can be overwhelming. You can help by forging partnerships with local experts. Find a landscaper, a painter, a handy person who will do the work for your clients at a discount in exchange for promotion. You can:

  • Display signs around the property with the vendors’ information
  • Allow vendors to display brochures inside the home
  • Create flyers for your listing that include names and contact information of all vendors who worked on the property
  • Include these vendors and their services in your listing presentation

This relationship is a win-win-win. First, you have happy, grateful clients; second, a home that will most likely sell faster and for a better price; and third, you maximize the network within your own community: After all, since your referrals strengthen those vendors’ businesses, you can expect referrals in return.