By Brandon Doyle
Establishing a geo-farm in a local neighborhood that you’re familiar with is a great way to gain additional listings. This is something that takes time and a commitment, but can be very rewarding.
The first thing you’ll want to do is pick an area to farm. It should be close enough to your home or office that you’re able to keep an eye on what is going on and provide the best level of service. Many agents will farm the neighborhood they live in, though some sellers will not want a neighbor knowing their personal info.
What I did for my geo-farm was search the MLS for an area where the average sales price is a reasonable amount and where there is a decent turn over. You don’t want to take on too large of an area since it costs time and money to market to them. Frequency is more important than reach. If you were to ask 10 people for business 10 times, you will have better results than asking 100 people just once. If a home owner isn’t considering selling at that time, they may just toss your marketing away. However, if you are contacting them multiple times with mailings, two things happen: First, the consumer will start to recognize your name, and you will develop a brand. Second, the more often you send out marketing, the more chances you have for success. The home owner may not be selling today, but they might three months from now. Don’t assume that people will hold on to your marketing, it may get lost in the shuffle or, heaven forbid, thrown away.
Now that you’ve established a geo-farm that you can hit at least once a month, you need to decide what to send them. There are all sorts of companies out there that will try to sell you marketing to use, including recipes, sports schedules, and seasonal/holiday related items. I like to give the consumer something of value, like market stats for the area or recent sold comps. They may find a value in the recipes, but hyper-local market stats are more relevant.
Remember that people are very visual, so try to keep your marketing consistent to develop a brand. An infographic is a great way to convey your message in a meaningful way. I’m a big advocate of just listed and just sold cards. I also like to personally invite neighbors to my open houses within my geo-farm. If there is another agent in your office with a listing in your geo-farm, ask them if it would be okay to hold an open house there.
By Brandon Doyle
The use of aerial photography in real estate is becoming a hot topic. The cost of drone technology is now at a point where it is affordable for some real estate professionals to own multi-copters themselves, and many photography companies are offering this service for a fee to practitioners.
I personally have experience owning and using remote control multi-copters for aerial photography. It has been great for showcasing large acreage, as well as lakefront and agricultural properties online. It allows me to capture a unique view that grabs the buyer’s attention. In today’s world the first showing is online, and it is important to do everything possible to capture the potential buyer’s consideration.
Aerial photography is a great way to stand out from the competition. It is much easier to visualize 40 acres of land from the air than it is standing on the corner. Homes with acreage or water features benefit greatly from this technology; with a standard photo you wouldn’t know what is behind the house, but with aerial photography buyers can see the lake in the first photo.
I started by researching and testing a quad-copter that a teammate and I purchased online back in the late summer of 2012. We added a camera, gimbal, and video downlink system in order to capture video in real time from the sky. Since then, the cost of equipment has gone down substantially. Now you can buy a ready-to-fly system, with GPS and GoPro camera for under $1,000. While larger, more robust systems start around $2,500 and quickly go up from there. These larger units are capable of lifting DSLR cameras, and have longer flight times.
The DJI Phantom, is a user friendly and upgradable quad-copter that comes with all of the features you need fly right out of the box. While operating in GPS mode, flying is pretty straightforward. It is upgradeable with a gimbal for stabilization, video downlink system, and can even be controlled via your iPad with programmable waypoints when you purchase a data link.
With this technology, comes responsibility, it is very important to fly in a safe manner and use common sense. When we fly, we stay under 400 feet with permission from the home owner. Never fly over crowds or on-lookers. You want to maintain visual sight of the aircraft, and be in control at all times.
The FAA is slated to create legislation for regulation of UAVs by 2015, yet as of today, they have a long way to go in defining uses and potential regulation. It is likely that small systems such as these will be classified as “sUAS” and have their own set of rules. As of March 6, 2014, a federal judge has ruled that it is legal to fly these aircrafts under 400 feet for commercial purposes, overturning previous FAA regulations that restricted business use.
*Recommendation from NAR: Until the FAA presents its plan to Congress next year addressing the use of drones for commercial purposes, NAR recommends that REALTORS® avoid using drones until the government clarifies the rules.
Photos Courtesy of Brandon Doyle
By Sam DeBord
Realtor.com®’s president, Errol Samuelson, has been hired away by Zillow. I’ve met Errol and he’s a nice guy, very smart, and very successful. Business is business. But, naive as it might be, there’s plenty of disappointment from the REALTOR® community. It comes from a belief that we have a common cause greater than just our businesses. Whether we’re aligned with NAR or realtor.com®, we believe in unified goals that are good for the country as a whole, and create significant loyalty to our brand.
Like I said, it sounds silly to an outsider. Why wouldn’t a top executive, who clearly received a more lucrative employment offer for a position he saw as a step up, take that proposal? In the world of publicly-traded real estate ventures, you could be selling soda ads one day, and interviewing the president the next. The landscape changes drastically every year, and when your skills are in business management and strategy, you’re always looking for the next challenge.
And still, there’s a bit of an empty feeling from the REALTOR® masses when an exit like this happens. It’s just another day at the office when your insurance company’s CEO changes companies, or your old business partner switches brokerages. But when someone leaves the REALTOR® fold to work for a direct competitor, it ignites much stronger emotions from the membership. A quick scan of discussions online makes it clear that this isn’t just some job change. Reactions range from frustration to outright anger. This is someone who did a good job and likely had no direct contact with most of the commenters, but many take his departure so personally as to feel betrayed.
As simple-minded as it sounds, I can’t help but feel a bit of the same disappointment. Real estate agents hop between companies like mercenaries until we find the right fit. We don’t feel remorse for changing our workplaces, because it’s simply a business decision. At the same time, those of us who are advocates for the REALTOR® brand would be incredulous if our associates left the membership. Your career is your business, but your commitment to supporting REALTOR® causes is ours.
It’s in that spirit that I’d strongly advise that the next head of realtor.com® to be someone with REALTOR® experience. This wouldn’t be a current salesperson, of course, but there are countless REALTOR® practitioners and executives whose past or current careers include law, business management, technology, and marketing. Whether the candidates have been the head of a technology-driven brokerage or a forward-thinking MLS organization, they need to have spent their time, and their money, supporting the organization whose online brand they’ll be charged with leading. A REALTOR® who has volunteered their hours, and invested their own funds into our causes, will be someone who understands the crazy notion we have of a common mission.
Clearly, it’s not up to me, nor is it up to REALTOR® membership in general. The folks making these decisions at Move, Inc., have shareholders to answer to, and probably many worthy candidates within their current ranks. Still, we’ve just begun opening up the relationship between NAR and realtor.com® in a more significant way this past year than we’ve seen in a decade. It’s been a bit rocky, but strengthening that cooperation will require increasing the trust level that the general REALTOR® population has in the partnership itself. Hiring “one of us” would certainly shrink the mistrust hurdle in a significant way.
Saying it out loud, though, it’s probably just wishful thinking. The portals are in a marketing arms race, open advertising space for agents is increasingly scarce, and the market cap valuations of these companies point to a cutthroat struggle in the next few years to weed out a competitor or two. Most companies would look for the next technology executive with the greatest capacity to generate advertising revenue, while keeping those pesky agents just satisfied enough that they don’t complain too often.
Hopefully, this company isn’t just “most companies.” There’s an army of 1 million REALTORS® looking to spend their money in the most efficient way, but they also have a strong preference for the home team. It’s not impossible to garner that loyalty, and provide a superior product at the same time. REALTORS® love their brand. They want to love realtor.com®. They just hope that going forward, there’s not just a joint vision but a shared loyalty. When “our people” become their people, the entire organization will find more success, and the loyalty will be a two way street.
By Dave Robison
Marilyn Wilson with the WAV Group has been visiting brokerages and state associations with data that her company compiled about our industry. While attending one of her recent presentations, I snapped a quick photo with my phone of one of her graphs.
She said there are two different types of companies listed on the graph. The companies with the massive revenues are companies that the public loves. The companies with the lower revenues on the graph are companies that could be viewed as a commodity. One broker yelled out during Wilson’s presentation, “That’s why we are all not profitable! No wonder why we are having a hard time, we are all the bottom companies.”
Wilson explained that the brands people love have the most revenue, and as a result, the most room for profit, while other companies will fight to be profitable. The room was filled with “a-ha moments.” She then stated that the WAV Group conducted a survey in the Houston area where they asked members of the public to “name the first company you think of when you hear ‘real estate.’” Can you guess what company ranked No. 1? Wilson claims the same company was named more than 90 percent of the time when the question was asked. The public said, “Zillow.” Wow! When people hear real estate, that is the first thing that comes to their mind? She proved her point that our industry doesn’t have a brand that people love.
Here’s an example: What comes to your mind when I say, “Nordstrom?” Most people will say, “Awesome customer service,” and, “You can return anything to them.” What comes to mind when I say, “Starbucks?” Most people will say, “Amazing coffee.” What comes to the consumers’ mind when we say any real estate brokerage name? Most people don’t have anything that comes to mind. They go blank. She says the majority of brokerages lack a “brand promise,” meaning, there is no minimum level of service guarantee to the consumer and brokerages will hire newly licensed agents and very experienced agents all under the same umbrella.
Want to be loved? Want to attract consumers you haven’t even met to come to your brand? Do you want to be top of mind when someone is asked Marilyn’s survey question? The companies that are loved all have a brand promise. The consumer knows what to expect when they go to that certain company that they love. In our industry, the level of service or experiences will differ due to brokerages not offering a guaranteed level of service. Wilson did offer a couple hints to attain this. After surveying the public, she found that the consumer wanted two main things. First, someone who specializes in their neighborhood. Second, they want responsive service.
I think what she is saying may be partially right. From what I’ve observed, the majority of real estate agents have a self-made independent career, not a profitable business. Agents and brokerages are the companies on the bottom of the graph. Back in August, I blogged about transforming your career into a business. If your business has a brand promise and people are coming to you, not because you are related to them, but because your brand offers something to people you don’t know, you will have a business. And if you brand promise is something people love, you can expect your revenues to soar.
Dave Robison, known as “Utah Dave,” is broker/owner of UtahDave.com Neighborhood Experts.
By Christian Zarif
I almost didn’t answer my phone. I was in San Francisco for our national REALTOR® convention and rushing to get out of my room to an engagement (running 5 minutes late, of course). The strange number called twice in a row so I figured it must be urgent. When I answered, I could hardly make out the gurgled voice on the other end. I understood that the caller was inquiring about my new listing. I later learned the caller, Richard, had suffered a stroke a few years ago that affected his speech, among other things. I made out most of what he told me: He and his wife were interested in seeing the home I had listed as well as a few others in the area. They had called four other agents and all of them either wouldn’t return his calls or refused to show them any homes since they didn’t have a pre-approval letter. He was positive he could get a loan and was approved for a VA loan, but just waiting on his eligibility paperwork. I told him I was out of town until Monday but would be happy to set up a time Tuesday to show them homes.
Over the course of the weekend they called a handful of times to make sure I was still willing to meet them…you could hear the strained optimism in their voices. Each time they called, they had eliminated another home (they drove by all of them daily). We were down to only seeing one: my listing.
Tuesday rolled around and having just arrived back in town, you can imagine how insane my calendar looked that day. Driving the 45 minutes each way to show them one house wasn’t ideal, but I made it work.
The first time I met Richard and Connie in person I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I knew there something absolutely special about them. At 70 years young, they still had the twinkle of first time buyers. I spent about an hour with them (much longer than I had planned given the home was a small three bed/two bath ranch). They wanted to check out every nook and cranny. I learned they had owned a home about 10 years ago but the neighborhood had become overrun with a gang. After pouring everything they had into that home to fix it up, they were forced, by gun point out of their home in the middle of the night and told to never return unless they wanted to be shot. They had lost everything. I also learned that Richard had served in Vietnam and was a POW. And Connie shared with me a picture of their 40 lb. cat…Baxter. They had moved into a local retirement community about a year ago to be near Richard’s ailing mother. She passed away last Fall and they decided it was time to live out their American Dream and buy a house they could enjoy in their golden years. One problem: they had very little money and a fixed income. However, they had done the math and knew owning a home was far less expensive than the outrageous rent they were paying (in the end, they are saving almost $900 a month!).
We talked every day after I met them. They had fallen in the love with the home. It offered the wheelchair access he would someday need, the yard he yearned for and it had a large finished walk-out basement Connie could use to continue offering quilting classes to her friends at the retirement home. I had urged them to go ahead and speak to a bank or lender to start the pre-approval process. Richard was sure his VA paperwork would come any day and was certain he needed it before starting a conversation with the bank. Richard and Connie live in a paper world. They don’t have cell phones, don’t own a computer and certainly don’t have Internet access/or web-a-ma-thingy knowledge. They needed paper in their hands. His eligibility paperwork had gone missing in their last move and they were patiently waiting for it to arrive in the mail (and I’m pretty sure as I write this, they are still waiting for it in the mail. We figured out a way around it).
While they waited, my seller received another offer. Being close to full price and a 30 day escrow, the seller had no reason not to take it. I called Richard and Connie to break the news to them. You can imagine their devastation. We still spoke about once a week. They would call to see if the deal had fallen through since the sign was still in the yard. Every week I explained to them it was set to close on December 20th and the sign would be up until it does. December 20th came and went without a closing due to some issues on the loan side.
I had been in touch with Richard and Connie to let them know the home might become available again. Sure enough it went back into “active” status on Saturday. I met them at the home on Sunday so they could take some more measurements and one more look around. I urged them again to talk to a lender and get that ball rolling. This time they took me seriously. Monday afternoon they called from the lender’s office. They were pre-approved and ready to write an offer. Since they don’t do highways and certainly don’t have GPS, I offered to come to them. In an effort not to make this story a mini-novel, I’ll save the details of the hysterical story about me driving around the city of Lee’s Summit for an hour trying to find the “Lakeside Grill” only to learn it was the name of the cafeteria attached to their apartment building.
Better late than never! The first thing Richard did was pull a handful of $100 bills out of his pocket: their earnest deposit. That was a first for me. I spent three hours with Richard and Connie that afternoon. Most of that time was spent chatting about their lives, how cautiously excited they were and greeting their friends as they arrived for dinner at 4 p.m. And then, Richard pulled out about 10 vinyl sleeves of pictures. Pictures from a trip to Vietnam he took in the 90s. It was unbelievable to sit with him and look through these pictures.
I left and called my seller. Although he was still disappointed that the previous deal fell apart, he was pleased with their offer and accepted. Richard and Connie were one step closer to making their dream a reality.
Through our 30-day escrow period we talked frequently…always by phone of course. Not being able to shoot them a quick email or text was occasionally a hassle, but only out of my own selfishness. I knew when I called them, I had better have 20 minutes to chat. I’d love to say I’m a saint, but there were a few times my patience wore a little thin and I’d have to fake another call coming in.
The entire process could not have been smoother. Every professional that came in contact with Richard and Connie couldn’t get over their pure joy and their unique story. In the majority of transactions today you don’t get that personal connection. Our sellers and buyers are more often than not relegated to just names on a piece of paper. Richard and Connie we are stark reminder for everyone what a privilege it is to do what we do as real estate professionals.
We were approaching closing and Richard was nervous as all get about the appliances not working. When my clients ask how late they can call me, I always tell them that I turn my ringer off at night and half joking, tell them if they wake up in the middle of the night stressed about something and need to get it off their chest, just call and leave me a voicemail. No one has ever taken me up on that…until Richard and Connie. He had nightmares that the portable dishwasher would leak and flood the entire house. To ease their mind and ensure the house was perfect when they moved in, I asked my go-to contractor, Sean, to make a trip out there the weekend prior to closing to get the old washer and dryer hooked up and make sure the dishwasher that was in the garage actually worked.
A week prior we had experienced two big snow storms. Knowing the seller rarely went by the house (he had already moved out), I called to ask if he could shovel the driveway or certainly make arrangements to have it done. Richard and Connie knew that the contractor would be out at the house on Saturday. They drove by that morning and saw the driveway hadn’t been shoveled. There were drifts and piles for the plows that topped two feet. They were worried the contractor wouldn’t be able to get in or would fall. So what did this 70-year-old couple do? They went and bought a shovel. She cleared a path big enough for someone to get down the driveway.
After Sean met them that day, he made it his mission to get them the stove they needed. The current stove was gas and Richard is on oxygen (hello hazardous situation). They needed to convert the stove and didn’t have the funds to buy one. They were planning to use hot plates until they saved up enough money. I put a message out on Facebook to help get them an electric stove. Thanks to the quick generosity of friends, Sean and I went on a covert mission the night before closing and installed an electric stove that was donated. We also installed an American Flag that brought them to tears when we pulled up at the house after closing. Richard looked at me and said, “You know, I’m not used to being on the receiving end of things like this.” That struck a chord. The night prior as we drove out there, Sean said something to effect of, “Their generation just gives and gives and gives. It’s nice to see them getting something for a change!”
We are now working on getting a new battery for the old riding lawn mower the seller left behind. Richard “can’t wait to get on that bad boy!”
Selling a home to Richard and Connie was more than just selling a home. It brought me back to center. It reminded me of what I get to do every day and what an honor it is to help families realize their dreams. Such an oddity today…A 70′ish young couple moving from a retirement community into a home. I’m honored that I got to be a part of their American Dream. In the last 45 days, I’ve also realized that so many times during real estate transactions, we only focus on the numbers; what’s on paper; what’s the bottom line. In an effort to save time, we depend on emails, electronic signatures, endless texts and every time-saving shortcut we can. With Richard and Connie, there were no short cuts. As much as I love how fast paced my career is, I stand reminded of why I love what I do…it’s the connection I make with my clients. You can’t get that connection through an email or an electronic signature. The hours I spent face-to-face with them is priceless. This entire transaction has been priceless. Thank God while rushing around my hotel room in San Francisco, I decided to answer my phone….
Congratulations Richard and Connie! An American Dream for an American Hero!
*This blog was reprinted from ChristianZSellsKC.
By Sam DeBord
When I started out in the real estate business, my biggest fear was probably the same as many other agents’: “What if they ask me how many homes I’ve sold?” There was an almost inescapable fear that every new client I met would find out that I hadn’t been selling for very long, and abandon me for a more experienced agent.
The interesting part, looking back, was that I’ve probably only ever been asked that question a half-dozen times by the hundreds of clients I’ve worked with. Those that did ask, always kept working with me, whether it was in my first year, or after five years. The fact that I didn’t lose clients over that single question isn’t nearly as satisfying today, though, knowing how much mental stress it put me through in my first year, as well as how it was detrimental to my ability to concentrate on my clients at the start of my career.
Being experienced in real estate is a big advantage. To downplay it would be disingenuous. However, a calm, practiced response to questions about experience can make the real estate transaction much more relaxed for the new agent and to the clients. More importantly, it allows the agent to focus on what the client really wants – a partner who is easy to work with, listens to their needs, and follows up professionally.
It’s very easy when you’re new in the business to try to craft the perfect answer to every client question. You may feel you need to know everything, and if you can’t answer a question about a certain home or property type, you’ll be exposed as inexperienced. In reality, most home buyers and sellers would prefer that you have an affable personal relationship with them, and let them know that you’ll “look into it a bit and get back to them.” While your knowledge is important to the client, your ability to make them feel comfortable is even more important. Nobody likes to spend their day with a fidgety, nervous wreck of an agent.
If you’ve really never sold a home before, it’s okay to tell your clients, “I’m working with my managing broker on your entire transaction. He/she is backing me up and will be reviewing everything in the contract to make sure we keep your home purchase/sale stress free.” To be honest, if you haven’t written many contracts yet, there’s really no excuse to not have that second set of eyes. Your clients will appreciate it, and your confidence in your working relationship will improve.
In the end, the number one reason my clients work with me and stay with me: We get along. When you can ignore your worries, genuinely smile and greet a client, have an entertaining conversation, and enjoy the in-between moments of your transaction relationship, you’re going to be much more successful in getting new business and creating return business.
Remember that the No. 1 reason people hire an agent is because a friend referred them. Home buyers and sellers want a relationship with someone they can count on, and someone they can get along with. Be honest with yourself and your clients about your experience, and you’ll not only gain more business – you’ll enjoy your career much more in the process.
By Scott Newman
Your business is on the way up, and everything is perfect because you’re making more money, right? Wrong! As the Notorious B.I.G. once said, “Mo money, mo problems.” One of the biggest as a real estate professional is how to spend your money wisely to continue to grow your business.
Today’s blog will focus on when it’s the right time to bring in an assistant or other support staff. Here are 3 signs you’re ready:
1. Promptness is becoming difficult.
If everyone got what they wanted right when they wanted it, you’d be out of business. I get that, so I’m not expecting miracles. However, if you’ve built a reputation on being fast to respond, easy to reach, and quick to get people information, then you risk doing major damage to that reputation if you can no longer live up to those expectations.
If you are finding that you’re no longer able to get people a comparable market analysis the same day you meet with them to preview their home, then it might be a good time to think about what portion of your daily tasks could actually be handled by an administrative person. If there are too many A-level tasks to finish by their due dates because you’re constantly bugged down by B- and C-level tasks (which never seem to end), then it’s definitely the time to consider staffing up.
2. Things consistently slip through the cracks.
We’ve all forgotten to write something down, or missed an appointment or a call – that’s understandable. However, if you’re finding that you’re so busy that you’re getting distracted while trying to stay on task, then finding some help is definitely worth looking into.
I knew it was time to hire my first assistant when I sat in my office staring blankly at a dry-erase board, completely unable to remember all of the prospects I had in my pipeline. I was so busy that I had no time to right anything down – and I’m awful with details to begin with – and I knew that someone I forgot would turn into a paycheck for another agent who had it together.
3. You’re on the opposite schedule of everyone else.
If you are not utilizing staff when you should be, you’re essentially working two jobs but only being paid for one. This is going to have a negative impact on your life in a variety of ways.
For starters, many of the things put off doing during the day because you’re out in the field taking listings, showing properties, and networking to get new business, are time sensitive. Attorneys and lenders don’t usually work beyond 5 p.m. or on weekends. If you’re never around to take phone calls or respond to emails during regular 9-5 business hours, and don’t have someone doing that for you, by the time you get home at 8 p.m. and start responding, you’re forced to wait until the next day for a response.
Being available and reachable during standard business hours and having flextime in the evenings for a variety of professional activities is crucial to building a successful business. If you constantly find yourself burning the candle at both ends, consider adding someone to your company.
Remember, as I always say, don’t look at yourself as just a real estate agent, but instead as CEO of YOUR NAME, INC. You need to make smart decisions, not only with the real estate related matters, but also with the general business matters you need to address to continue to grow your business – staff is one of the most crucial!
By Lynn Minnick
When I was a new agent back in 2000, I took a rental call. It was a young couple, around my age, looking for a rental in town. Once we started talking, they told me they could spend $1,400 per month. That was higher than my mortgage payment at the time, so I asked them if they’d considered talking to a lender about being approved for a mortgage. It hadn’t occurred to them that they could be homeowners for the same payment…and so our relationship started! I got them into an adorable little house by the lake and they began to build equity.
Fast-forward to 2014, when this week I’m starting my ninth transaction for them (including all of the referrals they’ve sent me). There’s a possible tenth transaction on the horizon if I can find the dream home for a friend of their family. (Challenge accepted!)
I call them my “A+ Clients.”
We’ve been through a lot together – births and deaths, good markets and bad, and even though they’re now in their “forever” home, I know that all of the time and work I’ve put in with them will continue to bring business my way. I’m happy to help anyone they refer, because I know they are quality referrals.
As a side note, if my A+ Clients hadn’t been able to qualify for a mortgage, I would have put them into a rental and kept in touch, because eventually (as Laura Rubinchuk Schwartz points out in a previous Lounge post), they would have become buyers. It’s a mistake for agents to place renters and forget about them. They just may be your next A+ Client.