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

Work_Life_Balance

We recently surveyed the 12,500 agents in our system. More than 50% said that maintaining a work/life balance was one of their greatest challenges.

We recently conducted a survey of the 12,500 agents in our system.  Not surprisingly, more than 50% said that maintaining a work/life balance was one of their greatest challenges​. They are not alone: according to a five-year study of the American workforce conducted by the Families and Work Institute, 30% of the workforce often or very often feel burned out or stressed by their jobs, 27% feel emotionally drained from their work and 42% feel used up at the end of the work day.

So, what to do?  The nature of the real estate business is serious hustle means better results, so the concept of “just work less” isn’t always the solution.  While it might sound ironic, applying a little discipline with a few simple changes to your daily routine can make you both more productive and feel more refreshed — and in turn, free up more of your time for friends, family and yourself.

Start by Working Smarter

Focus on those clients with whom you want to work, and refer the others.  Actively ask your favorite clients to keep you in mind for new opportunities, as it’s more likely that the clients you’ve enjoyed in the past will refer clients that you will enjoy in the future.

Maintain a focus on those properties in your preferred price point and property type.  Be picky– you don’t need to take on everything.  You can offer referrals for the rest of them, and you’ll feel more satisfied that you’re not stretching yourself too thin.

Hire an assistant (or assistants) to handle administrative or mundane tasks that can be delegated.  For example, putting up postings on social media or placing referrals into a system (like ReferralExchange).  You might even be able to find a high school or college student to assist you for a few hours a week.

Take Time for Yourself

Schedule time on your calendar every day to do something for yourself.  This “me time” should be an actual appointment – make a promise to yourself to keep it daily and schedule other appointments around it if possible.

Begin and end your day with a five minute meditation. At the beginning of your workday, visualize what you want to accomplish that day.  At the end, spend that time congratulating yourself for a job well done (no negativity!).

Get up and walk around.  Studies have shown that getting up from your desk every 30 minutes or so and walking around can benefit your health and actually lengthen your life.

Know when to STOP

None of us can work 24/7, so it’s okay to turn off the phone and step away from email, especially after your last appointment.  If you are trying to close a big deal that’s one thing, but if it’s a regular day, then disconnect yourself from your electronic devices.  And, be sure to charge your devices outside of your bedroom!

work.life.balance

Social media marketing can be a great tool to promote yourself and get more referral business.

In part three of our series on “Everyone Should Know What You Do,” we acknowledge that seeking referral business alone isn’t always enough to augment a real estate career.  Social media marketing can be a great tool to promote ourselves, but it needs to be used wisely to get maximum benefit.

Social media has transformed marketing. The connected real estate agent will use Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, will have a website, and possibly a blog.

  • Consider featuring your listings or those of colleagues in your brokerage on Facebook, Twitter, your site, etc.
  • Always tweet and post when you close a deal. Got the sellers above asking price? Tell the world! Worked an amazing deal for your buyers? You have every right to brag a little.
  • Pin photos of great houses you encounter in your business: great kitchens, pools, amazing bathrooms, etc. This could be a regular feature potentially drawing limitless audiences.
  • Tweet to your community when you have a buyer looking for something specific. A fellow agent may have a matching listing.
  • Use a blog to post things relevant to your local community and beyond. You could update readers on lending laws, interest rates on loans, new construction projects, etc. You could solicit input from members of your professional community and link back to them when you share their insights, thereby referring business to them. They in turn are motivated to refer business back to you.
  • Ask former clients to write testimonials for you, which you use on your site and post to your various social pages. Referrals like these carry a lot of weight with today’s Internet shopping generation, even when shopping for a real estate agent.
  • Update your website and blog regularly as this draws attention from search engines. Use keywords like “homes for sale” and “fixer-upper,” categories buyers and sellers may be searching for.  Be sure to include your location so the leads are relevant.
  • Develop ways to refer business when you get leads out of your location or area of expertise.

For more ideas on developing your business and making sure that everyone knows you are a Realtor, see part 1 and part 2 of this series.

One of the keys to new connections is just making sure that everyone you come into contact with knows what you do. Being prepared for planned and unplanned contacts can garner new clients. Read below to learn how.

Previously, we looked at ways to increase your business by referral, simply by reaching out to your communities and making sure everyone you know knows what you do. We continue that theme with two more areas to cultivate clients: both planned and unplanned.

Regularly scheduled events through your organizations and associations

All of us wear many hats aside from the one labeled “REALTOR.” The best business though comes when you can seamlessly merge you business with other parts of your life. Given below is a simple list of groups you may belong to, or places you go to regularly in your life, that you might not have realized offer a chance to network.

  • Religious groups: church, synagogue, temple: a trusted place could yield life-long clients
  • Your sports team: network with your team mates
  • Your kid’s sports team/Little League games: help the parents in your community with their real estate needs.
  • Your fitness/country/golf club: tell the people you see so often what you do. Pack your business card in your gym bag!
  • Local sports games: your city’s soccer, basketball , baseball regulars could become future clients
  • Charity groups: like-minded people who share your own concerns and passions are natural clients
  • Parent/teacher/school groups: Your kid’s teacher, coach, fellow parents, all of these people could bring you business
  • Book club: as with any group that meets regularly and shares an interest, a book club can be a great place to network

Any of these organizations may have newsletters to which you can contribute an article on real estate or place an ad. You may also be able to hold a seminar/workshop, such as a new buyers workshop, or sponsor an event.

Unplanned events and occasions

Not all of your time is scripted, and even the most random event can be a place to grow your business.  For example:

  • Garage sales or estate sales: many times someone at these events is moving, thinking of buying, or thinking of selling
  • Shopping: anytime you enter a store, you meet potential clients, whether they’re employees or fellow shoppers.
  • When traveling: even though you may not be licensed in the area you’re vacationing in, you create an opportunity for referral networking.  The same applies for business travel.

Whenever you go out, consider advertising yourself as a real estate agent. A shirt or cap with your company’s logo, a nametag with your name and occupation– these do a lot of the talking for you.

These are just a few more 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 your area.  ReferralExchange has over 12,500 top-performing REALTORs nationwide.  

networking-1

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.

Family

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

Inspection:

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

real-agent-talk

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.

 Motivation:

  • 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.

Affordability:

  • 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.

Organization

  •  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.