Article Courtesy of: Inman News
By: Ian Hoover 

When agents love where they work and the people they work with, and they notice the effort you put into ensuring they have fun, it makes their decision to leave much harder

Retaining your agents should be your top priority when you own a real estate brokerage. It isn’t easy in our business these days, but having a fun and exciting culture can help combat the recruiting calls your agents receive daily. 

Tech giants like Google have revolutionized the culture experience. They, too, must compete with other giants that want to steal their best employees. Their retention rate is bolstered by building a culture that allows their employees to thrive. Here are six ways to create a great culture.

Prioritize recognition 

A year after opening the brokerage, I decided to start doing awards. We do monthly, semi-annual and annual awards, which include prizes. These prizes can be gift cards, free lunches and even event tickets. We also post the awards on social media to ensure our agents receive the outside recognition their accomplishments deserve. People love to be noticed, and this is a great way to add some excitement to your culture.

Have the right equipment 

Agents are always on the go, and they don’t always plan correctly. Equipping your office with the right tools to get work done is essential.

Complete computer setups, printers, strong internet connection and office supplies are all things they might need at the drop of a hat.

Why have them go somewhere else? Have your office ready. The more reasons they have to use your office, the better.

Our next step is building a recording studio where our agents can record their videos and podcasts. This is just one more reason they want to come in and be a part of our office. 

Stock the kitchen 

We stock the kitchen with snacks, coffee and other beverages; we also have alcoholic beverages. Agents often skip meals, and showing them that you care and have some healthy snacks on hand will show them how much you appreciate their hard work.

Our fully stocked kitchen also allows us to have an in-office happy hour without much setup because all the amenities are already here. A few hundred dollars a quarter will keep your office stocked with all the goodies that keep your agents refueled, refreshed and ready to sell houses. 
Remember to check with your regional and state regulations about ABC laws before setting up a full bar. Also, consider that some team members may be living sober, and make sure to create office happy hours that are not just centered around drinking.

Finally, if you have employees and independent contractors consuming adult beverages onsite and then driving home, you may want to have them sign a waiver or check with your insurance provider to review liabilities. 

Think location, location, location 

With agents being less dependent on offices these days, brokerages must plan carefully on the location of their offices. The days of neighborhood offices are probably behind us, but a central location is still important.

If your office is located too far from airports, downtown or other exciting attractions, it will be hard to recruit agents who seek to be close to those things. Having only a short commute to most areas in town will be critical to the growth of your business. Nobody wants to travel an hour for an office event. 

Create opportunities for fun and stress relief

If an agent is trying to decide between joining two offices, one that is more traditional while the other is out of the box with a casual low-stress atmosphere, which do you think they will choose?

Our conference table becomes a pool table with an attachment for ping pong. Our office also features a dart board, chess board and other multimedia entertainment accessories. Speakers around the office play music, creating a nice vibe when touring or hanging out. 

Focus on team building 

In addition to our monthly happy hours, we host multiple company outings per year. Our most popular annual event has become renting a suite at a Pirates game. It is incredible how much fun you can have when everyone gets along and wants to be a part of a fantastic team.

Culture is our top priority. In our market, like most, large companies are calling our agents regularly. They get told how fantastic these companies are, how they will have the “brand,” and how large of a check they will see if they join. 

When agents love where they work and the people they work with, and they notice the effort you put into ensuring they have fun, it makes their decision to leave much harder. Sure we have an excellent training program, fantastic support and great systems, but it is the culture that is the glue holding everything together.

Ian Hoover is broker of record and co-owner at Deacon Hoover Real Estate Advisor.

6 Ways to Create a Must-Stay Culture and Improve Agent Retention

 

Article Courtesy of: Inman News
By: Christian Barnes

Coaching encompasses a constant evolution of learning and implementation to help agents build their businesses. As many teams shift from professional development into coaching, these strategies can help

Over the last few years, I have seen a shift in how brokerages think about professional development for agents. While we previously relied on training to impart information and share business-building approaches, we are now seeing more focus on coaching to support the execution of this information. 

Traditionally, we have been very good at training both new and experienced agents. Learning platforms have been a critical component of brokerage value propositions that help us recruit and retain. Through these learning platforms, we can show agents how to write a business plan, use technology and set up social media accounts.

But we haven’t focused on helping agents implement.

For instance, agents can know how to use dotloop, but the knowledge is counterproductive if they don’t know how to write a contract. Over the past few years, here are some essentials I’ve learned about the coaching process. 

Tip 1: Bridge the gap

About five years ago, I noticed a gap between information and execution. I realized that there was a need to consistently help agents take what they had learned and apply it through coaching.

However, it’s not a “set it and forget it” mentality. Coaching encompasses a constant evolution of learning and using with the intension of helping agents build their business.

But it’s important to recognize that training and coaching go hand in hand. The goal is to bridge the gap between having the nuts and bolts and making them into a business-building machine.

Another way of looking at it is that coaching is a way to provide guided execution or present avenues to explore. Coaching is where the rubber meets the road in applying and evolving skills to help build a business.

Tip 2: Ask and answer

Effective coaching boils down to asking questions and helping agents answer them, often by being a sounding board.

Core questions to guide coaching conversations and lead agents down a path of self-discovery can include:

• What are you going to do this week to further your business?
• What have you done that’s working?
• What could you be doing differently?
• What resources do you need to reach your goals?
• What gaps exist in your skill sets?
• How will you apply the tools in your toolkit to further your business?

Critical to this process is setting up accountability with regular check-ins and status meetings. Regular check-ins can help to break big goals down into smaller achievable steps.

Tip 3: Make it personal

A valuable part of this question-based approach is that it can give agents the space to decide what works for them. I have found it very helpful to meet agents where they are and take my lead from them.

In this regard, coaching becomes very personalized. There is no one-size-fits-all approach.

The personalized nature of coaching also means that you will learn a great deal about your agents — not just the deals they are working on, but how they work, insights into their personalities and details about their personal life. The one-on-one nature of coaching allows you as the broker to build deeper relationships with your team based on building trust.

That trust, in turn, can support loyalty, which is what we all strive for with our agents. I’ve also found that these one-on-one coaching relationships are a great way to get feedback from agents on what tools are working, where they have skill gaps and how we can fine-tune our offerings.

These insights are invaluable in devising strategy and investments in products and services to best align with our agents’ needs.

Tip 4: Focus on resources

Another thing I have learned is that not all coaches complement all agents, so it’s helpful to have a variety of coaching resources available at your brokerage.

In addition to in-house coaching, explore working with outside coaches for both individual sessions and group training classes.

You may also have in-house talent in the form of mentors who would be able to add to your coaching bench. In this manner, you are the primary source of the coaching resources. And while it’s helpful to have options, it’s also important not to become too fragmented in your coaching offerings and to ensure that the resources align with your company culture.

Tip 5: Hone your coaching skills

Networking with other coaches, listening to podcasts, and watching videos are all valuable resources to explore. But it’s essential to incorporate the things that resonate with you, so you can build your own style and playbook.

Authenticity is so important when creating a coaching relationship. And just as we are helping agents grow their skill sets, coaches also need to have the eternal student approach as well. 

In my experience, today’s agents prioritize spending on coaching over any other business expense. Therefore, implementing a coaching program can be a valuable investment in enhancing a brokerage’s value proposition to attract and retain talent.

Brokerages have a tremendous opportunity to differentiate themselves by committing to coaching to help agents build their business, not just at the beginning of their real estate career but over their entire career arc. That’s great for their business and yours, too.

Christian Barnes is President and CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Kansas City Homes and an active leader in local, state and national real estate associations.

5 Tips for Starting a Coaching Program at Your Brokerage
Article Courtesy of: Inman News
By: Eddie Oddo

How the move online is changing the mortgage market and customer experience

 After the housing boom of 2021, many people wonder if there is a crash in front of us, especially with rising inflation. However, experts agree that it’s unlikely that the housing market will drastically change with respect to demand.

What is changing, however, is how people buy homes, including what kinds of mortgages they choose, who they work with, and how they close. It’s important for real estate agents to be aware of trends in the mortgage industry and how they might affect homebuyer experiences and expectations.

Homebuyers like nonbank mortgages

Nonbank mortgage lenders like Guaranteed Rate continue to win new customers. As opposed to traditional big banks, these nonbank lenders can be easier to work with because they offer a faster path to mortgages, are open to more customers, and are often more digitally savvy in how they work with customers.

They typically offer more online services, and as they are completely focused on mortgage lending, their websites and apps are more intuitive for homebuyers— as opposed to big bank websites that have layers of other offerings.

Nonbanks demonstrate their expertise in meeting consumer expectations of speed, flexibility, and digital customer experience; This is something real estate agents can facilitate by embracing processes that deliver the same level of service.

eClosings are booming

The pandemic accelerated the use of fully-digital closings (eClosings) when social distancing made it difficult to close in person. The silver lining is that eClosings have a lot of long-lasting benefits that go well beyond social distancing. Lenders and homebuyers alike have increasingly switched to eClosings for their convenience and efficiency. For real estate agents, in particular, eClosings can allow for a quicker turnaround for closings, equating to a quicker turnaround for receiving a commission.

Fully-digital closings can be facilitated by using eClosing software like the NotarizeSM platform, which enables all aspects of the mortgage closing, including notarizations, to occur completely online. That means signers can participate from anywhere with an internet connection. This saves real estate agents (and their clients) considerable time that would be spent at an in-person closing, provides a convenient signing experience, and improves transaction quality.

Customer service is king (especially online)

With more homebuyers moving their buying process online, it’s important for all real estate professionals to offer excellent customer service, even if you’re not interacting face-to-face with a client.

For lenders and title agents, this means investing in tools that will give buyers a seamless digital experience — from loan pre-approval through the closing. JD Power rated Rocket Mortgage as having the highest customer satisfaction and notes that digital tools supported by live personal services is an especially important combination for younger customers. Making sure that the digital experience feels personal and is intuitive is now part of the customer service strategy for many online-focused lenders.

Real estate agents deal with a mix of homebuyers, which means quality customer service will look different depending on the situation. Some clients may live close by and can view all properties in person. However, agents need to be able to support customers who can’t (or prefer not to) travel to physically view properties. With video conferencing and virtual tours, agents can still offer great customer service even if they’re not physically with a client. It’s also helpful to have a lender and title agent you can partner with that will give your clients the option for eClosings.

Agents who are digitally-savvy and are focused on providing great service and flexibility (both online and in-person) will be in a good position to meet homebuyer expectations throughout the purchasing process. Learn more about Notarize.

Notarize is the leader in online notarization, which is simpler, smarter, and safer than notarizing documents on paper. From buying or selling a home, to adopting a child, Notarize is bringing trust online 24/7 for life’s most important moments. For more information, please visit notarize.com
Top Mortgage Trends Every REALTOR® Needs to Know About
The Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® is seeking candidates from Greater Boston to serve as trustees to the Massachusetts REALTORS® Political Action Committee (Mass. RPAC) and Massachusetts REALTORS® Independent Expenditure Political Action Committee (Mass. RIEPAC).  Each trustee position is a three-year term, beginning January 1, 2023 through December 31, 2025, and members chosen agree to serve voluntarily without compensation.  Elections will take place in August at the regional meeting of the MAR State Directors, and notification must be made to MAR Greater Boston Region Vice President Jim Major no later than August 2 in order for a candidate’s name to appear on the meeting agenda. 

Mass. RPAC operates exclusively for the purpose of collecting political contributions as defined by the IRS, including the expenditure of funds to support or oppose referenda questions and to further the candidacy of individuals for nomination or election to any federal, state or local elective public office.  Meanwhile, the RIEPAC was created as a program through which MAR can access funds from NAR to engage in independent expenditures (IEs) in contested state-level campaigns.  IEs expressly advocate for the election of a candidate without any coordination with a candidate or candidate’s campaign.  

Among the specific duties of individual RPAC trustees are:
 
1) To solicit RPAC investments from REALTORS®. 
2) To speak on behalf of the State RPAC program on all available occasions. 
3) To actively participate in all programs sponsored by the State RPAC. 
4) To approve contributions to State Legislative Candidates, and make recommendations to National RPAC for contributions to Federal Candidates. 
5) To keep informed of the political situation in their State and Congressional district. 

The responsibilities of RIEPAC Trustees include: 
a) To attend all Mass RIEPAC Trustees meetings 
b) To speak on behalf of the Mass RIEPAC program at appropriate occasions 
c) To approve expenditures on behalf of State candidates 
d) To keep informed of the political situation in their MAR Region

For additional information and questions about the work of the Mass. RPAC and Mass. RIEPAC Boards of Trustees contact Zach Ryan at 781-839-5515.
Nominations Open for RPAC & RIEPAC Board of Trustees
The best way to avoid antitrust liability is to ensure that all business decisions are made independently within the brokerage. The potential for antitrust liability arises any time two or more competitors discuss their business practices. REALTORS® must always be alert to discussions that focus on commission rates, pricing structures, listing policies, or marketing practices of other brokerages. If a discussion becomes troubling, immediately suggest a change of topic, or remove oneself from the conversation. Within the real estate arena, we most often hear of antitrust issues arising from price fixing and group boycotts.

Price fixing may be as obvious as two or more competitors blatantly agreeing to charge consumers the same commission on real estate transactions or agreeing to the same cooperating commission splits. Price fixing can also arise in more subtle ways, such as suggesting to consumers that there is a “standard fee” or that “everybody charges the same amount.”

A boycott results when two or more competitors refuse to do business with another competitor or are only willing to cooperate with that competitor on less favorable terms. These actions may cause the competitor to change their business practices (which could also lead to price fixing) or even force them out of business. 

REALTORS® must also be cautious in placing advertisements that may result in antitrust violations. Advertisements that directly compare or criticize a competing business model may not only implicate antitrust laws but may also lead to a Code of Ethics violation. Article 15 prohibits REALTORS® from making false or misleading statements about other real estate professionals or their business practices. 

Liability for antitrust violations can be significant with the potential for both monetary damages as well as criminal sanctions. 

Courtesy of Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® Legal Staff.

What Do REALTORS® Need to Know to Avoid Antitrust Liability?
Article Courtesy of: Inman News
By: Julie Busby

As buyers continue to rethink their lifestyle post-pandemic, you may be helping them to look for homes from a distance, with only a short trip to make their final decision in person

What has been dubbed the era of the “Great Reshuffle” has impacted all aspects of life: careers, offices, housing, consumer goods, the economy, real estate — the list goes on. The “Great Reshuffle” for real estate agents, hopefully, means expanding clientele to out-of-town transplants. 

In our current market, headlined by national record low-level inventory, it is crucial to use a detailed game plan when working with out-of-town buyers. Setting aside time to work through upfront steps virtually will save valuable in-person time, which should be focused on evaluating properties. 

Here are six essential tips to consider before hosting out-of-town buyers.

Make the most of a virtual intake meeting

Understanding your buyer’s motivations is more important than ever with out-of-town clients. Keeping a client’s goals in mind is the real estate agent’s primary objective when touring numerous properties per day.

Use a virtual intake meeting as a time to fully understand each real estate objective in a calm and quiet environment — and take detailed notes!

Keep their goals at the forefront

When you ultimately create a cover page and itinerary for showings, include the purpose for visiting each listing address.

For example, if one of their must-haves is proximity to public transportation, have a bullet point outlining the distance to and the name of the closest public transit option.

If their commute by car to work is at the forefront, take a few minutes to calculate the timing from each listing you will see. 

Give them one unbiased place for information

Neighborhood guides are an incredible resource for all buyers. Finding an unbiased source of relevant information like schools, neighborhood attractions and amenities, and transportation all in one place is not easy.

Printing out hard copies is a huge added bonus, too, so your clients can take notes for quick reference. Many brokerages create their own neighborhood guides for brokers to use, or you can go the extra mile and invest in designing your own. 

Pace it out

There is a delicate balance between capitalizing on an out-of-town buyer’s visit and overwhelming them. Eight homes per day with a midpoint lunch is an ideal schedule for the first two days of a three-day visit. 

By the third day, you ideally look at homes a second time and make final decisions. It also behooves you to make a lunch reservation in a convenient location and schedule a short coffee break ahead of time. 

Consider hiring a car service

If parking is an issue in your area, consider hiring a car service for your client’s visit. Not only does it save time and stress, but it also allows you to chat with your clients versus navigating traffic. 

Use a rating system

Use something simple like 1 is terrible, 5 is a dream home, and have clients rate a property directly after leaving. Fours and 5s are very uncommon, so clients should consider writing offers for properties that achieve these ratings.

This numerical framework helps clients calibrate their objective and subjective feelings about a home; sometimes clients will say “I love it!” and then rate a property a 2, so this framework helps add clarity for you and your clients about whether a property is truly a viable option.

After a whirlwind tour, sifting out anything under a 4 will also help facilitate conversations around offers. 

Movement across the country shows no signs of slowing down, so it makes sense to invest in these processes now. In a marketplace where it is hard to get buyers under contract with low inventory, putting systems in place also helps agents succeed in closing transactions. 

Julie Busby is the founder and president of Busby Group, and in the top 1 percent of Chicagoland brokers.
6 Tips For Giving Out-of-Town Buyers Next-Level Service

 

Article Courtesy of: Inman News
By: Christy Murdock
 

Whether it’s the professional wisdom of a financial adviser or the good advice you got from your parents, there’s always something new to learn about making better financial decisions. From the simple to the complex, here’s a roundup of money moves to make now

 
A late frost can put a damper on your new spring listing. A local employer’s decision to relocate can create a glut of inventory that drives down prices and drives up days on market. A pandemic can cause sellers to stay put, while buyers scramble for a few available listings.
Real estate agents often feel a sense of financial insecurity, caused in great part by the many factors that can impact their income for better or for worse. That’s why taking control of your spending, limiting debt, and maximizing your investments and the growth of your business are essential, offering greater peace of mind and financial stability.

Great financial advice can come from anywhere — your CPA, your friends or those frugal Depression-era relatives you grew up with.

Here are some rules that are sure to put you in a better financial position next year than the one you’re in right now. Although you may not want to, or be able to, implement them all, just choosing one or two is sure to have a positive impact.

Control your spending

If you make smart decisions about your everyday spending, it sets you up to have more control over the big-picture financial decisions as well.

Here are some common-sense tips for exercising more control over your spending:
• Start by knowing where you’re spending your money, especially when it comes to discretionary spending. Take a look at subscriptions you never use or those mindless Amazon purchases that are so easy to make from your phone to determine where you are overdoing it.

• Set a dollar limit for impulse purchases, and give yourself a cooling-off period for any price above that limit. For example, you may want to say that anything over $200 that you weren’t planning on buying requires a 24-hour delay. Then, if it still seems like a good idea and an irresistible purchase, give yourself permission to spend the money.

• Strive for a balance in your spending where you prioritize appreciating or long-term assets rather than depreciating ones. Focus more on your home and less on your car. Focus more on investments than impulse purchases. Spend a little more for jewelry, clothing and accessories that stand the test of time rather than spending money on “fast fashion” and disposable goods.

• If you don’t already know how to cook, learn some simple recipes or consider enrolling in a meal delivery service that provides ingredients and recipes for simple, fresh meals. You’ll save a fortune in takeout and Uber Eats delivery charges and the food you make will be healthier than restaurant food, as well.

• Consider the disposable items you buy, and determine whether you can replace them with more permanent solutions. Buy dishtowels so that you’ll use fewer paper towels and cloth napkins instead of paper ones. Use a travel mug instead of disposable coffee cups. Cut out paper plates, plastic cups, and throwaway utensils in favor of reusable options. Not only will you save money, you’ll be kinder to the environment, too.

Cut down on debt

If you’ve run up debt on credit cards and loans, it can put a damper on your financial health and your credit score. Get rid of the debt, and you’ll give yourself more freedom and flexibility in the years to come.

Here are a few tips for cutting down on debt:
• Unless you pay off your credit card every month, don’t use it for something that you won’t still have when the bill arrives. That means don’t charge meals out, groceries and other temporary purchases. You’ll be paying interest on them long after they’ve become a distant memory.

• Pay down debt using the snowball method. List all of your debts in ascending order by the total balance due. Commit to paying the minimum amount on each, except for the smallest debt. Determine how much extra you can apply to that debt, and pay it faithfully until it is paid off. Now add the full amount you were paying on that debt to your next debt, over and above the minimum payment. Continue in this manner until you have paid off all of your debts.

• Alternatively, use the avalanche method to pay off debt. List all of your debts in descending order according to the interest rate charged on them. Pay the minimum on all of the debts except for the one with the highest interest rates. Determine how much extra you can apply to that debt and pay it faithfully until it is paid off. Now add the full amount you were paying on that debt to the next debt, over and above the minimum payment. Continue in this manner until you have paid off all of your debts.

Invest for the future

According to Certified Financial Planner Jordan Curnutt, here are some important rules that he considers “vastly important for top producers.”

• Don’t fool yourself into thinking just earning a high income is enough to build wealth. It’s how you deploy your high income that determines your financial success. In fact, earning a high income without taking action in your personal finances leaves you ending the year in the same financial position as you started. As a small business owner, you do not have a pension or corporate 401k plan with a match on your behalf. If you want to build wealth, you have to do it yourself.

• Invest regularly. It can sometimes be tempting to try and “get cute” and attempt to time the market. But here is the bottom line: It cannot be done consistently. The savvy approach is to invest systematically, and as a result, saving for your future financial success can be automated and completed as if it were any other financial goal you were saving for.

• Build a health emergency fund. The traditional rule of thumb for emergency funds is three to six months of living expenses. I typically encourage real estate agents to be on the long end of this spectrum if not exceeding it. That said, there is a tipping point at which you can be holding too much cash and it becomes a drag on your net worth. Find the sweet spot for your own personal emergency fund and never deviate from it.

• Bonus: Be sure to use a High Yield Savings Account to optimize the interest you earn on your emergency fund.

Build your business

From marketing to administrative support, it costs money to build and scale your business.

Here are some rules to keep in mind as you continue to grow:

• Figure out what it is you do in your business that makes money and where you’re wasting time. For example, if it takes you all afternoon to write a property description, you’re wasting time that you could be spending generating and nurturing leads and providing stellar client service. Not ready to hire full-time support? Outsource to a well-qualified freelancer for affordable assistance.

• Talk to your tax adviser or CPA about the way you’ve structured your business. Would you benefit from starting an LLC or S-Corp? Stop playing catch-up and come up with a tax and financial plan that really serves your interests.

• Look into specialty pricing offered to businesses by vendors like Amazon and Wayfair. That way, you may be able to make some of your necessary purchases — for the office or for staging your latest listing — more affordably.

• Talk to your favorite local lender, title company, real estate attorney, or other professional colleagues about co-sponsoring marketing events and materials. Put on an informational seminar, rent out a movie theater, or sponsor a booth at a local festival. You’ll share the expenses and amplify the impact of the information and service you’re providing.

Money management doesn’t require you to have an accounting degree or to defer all of life’s little pleasures. It does, however, require you to put some thought and effort into making good decisions and benefitting from good advice. Make a plan, and put it into action so that you stop feeling overextended and start enjoying more of what you make.

Christy Murdock is a Realtor, freelance writer, coach and consultant and the owner of Writing Real Estate. She is also the creator of the online course Crafting the Property Description: The Step-by-Step Formula for Reluctant Real Estate Writers.
15 Smart Money Management Rules to Live By
Article Courtesy of: Inman News
By: Jordan Curnutt

You have myriad options to be saving for your future financial success. Find out how to maximize the potential of your investments.

As the owner of your real estate business, you are very familiar with the tax implications that come with success. 

The same is true when it comes to investing and building your wealth. The more you save, the more important it becomes to capitalize on the tax-advantaged investment accounts that are available to you.

Here are seven tax-advantaged accounts every real estate agent needs to consider as part of their investment plan to ensure you are not overpaying the IRS.

Traditional IRA

One could argue the Traditional IRA is the most basic of tax-advantaged retirement accounts. The concept is rather simple: To entice individuals to save for retirement, the IRS grants a deduction against your income for the amount that you contribute.
For example, if you earned $225,000 in Schedule C net income in your business and make a $6,000 Traditional IRA contribution (the 2022 maximum contribution amount), you will only be taxed as if you earned $219,000.

At that income level, you are likely in the 24 percent tax bracket, resulting in a $1,440 savings on your tax bill.
Not too bad.

Roth IRA

Conversely, the Roth IRA takes the tax benefit of the Traditional IRA and flips it upside down. When you contribute to a Roth IRA you forgo the deduction today, in exchange for tax-free growth of your investment into retirement.

For example, you invest $6,000 today into a Roth IRA and 10 years later in retirement (assuming you are over age 59.5), your original $6,000 has grown to $11,000. 

At this time, you take out the full $11,000, both what you put in plus all of the growth, 100 percent tax-free. 

Now imagine you do this every year over the course of an entire real estate career. That’s a lot of tax-free growth!

SEP IRA

As you may have noticed, the amounts invested in the above-listed accounts were rather small, and quite frankly, do not allow for enough investment each year to fully fund your retirement goals.

That’s where small business retirement plans step in.

The SEP IRA allows for a small business owner to contribute 25 percent of net income capped at $61,000 per year into a tax-deductible retirement account.

Solo 401k

With some quick math, you can see it takes $244,000 of Schedule C net income in your business to max out a SEP IRA. But what if you are structured as an S Corp and your W2 wages are not nearly that high?

Let me introduce you to the Solo 401k.

This small business retirement account allows you to contribute as both the employee of your business and the employer. Although the overall limit is still $61,000, you are able to get there much quicker with a Solo 401k as compared to the SEP.

Plus, your Solo 401k can allow for up to $20,500 of Roth contributions, a feature not available with a SEP IRA.

SIMPLE IRA

This is the least frequently implemented retirement account we see for real estate agents, with the biggest reason being the limited contribution amount of $14,000 per year.

That said, the place where this plan does fit is when the business owner has W2 employees. 

If you have a desire to provide a retirement benefit, including a matching program for your team, this could be the small business retirement plan for you.

That is the sweet spot for the SIMPLE IRA.

Health Savings Account (HSA)

While most have heard of an HSA, many are unaware that this money can be invested and comes with the greatest tax benefits of all the accounts on our list.

Here is the triple threat of tax benefits you receive in an HSA account:

• When you contribute to your HSA, you get a deduction on your taxes for the amount you put in.
• When you invest the dollars in your HSA, all of the dividends and capital gains that occur within the account happen tax-deferred.
• When you make a withdrawal from your HSA for qualified health care expenses, everything comes out 100 percent tax-free.

Do not sleep on your HSA.

529 College Savings Plan

Saving for kids’ college expenses is routinely one of the bigger financial life events we need to plan for.

With that in mind, the 529 college savings plan allows you to accumulate for this goal on a tax-free basis.

Think of this account like a Roth IRA, except instead of being used for your retirement, it pays for the kids’ education.

Remember, the advantage of using the 529 account is tax-free growth. This means the longer the contributions have to grow, the more tax benefit you will receive.

My advice? Invest early and often.

As you can see, you have a myriad of options to be saving for your future financial success. This list only scrapes the surface of when each account might be the right fit for you. Before selecting an account, be sure to consult your financial adviser and CPA to ensure you are making the right call.

Jordan Curnutt, CFP, is a Certified Financial Planner professional for top-producing real estate professionals who want to strategically manage their wealth, optimize variable income, build a balanced net worth, and mitigate what is likely their biggest personal expense, taxes.
7 Tax-Advantaged Accounts Every Real Estate Agent Needs to Consider
Article Courtesy of: Inman News
By: Carl Medford

Listing agents who understand and help their sellers navigate the new playbook are the ones who will succeed in this new era. If you only get seven seconds, learn how to make those seconds count

Over the past couple of years, buyers have gotten more and more used to having the ability to view homes virtually, whether because of social distancing, the Great Relocation or a simple desire for added convenience in the search process.

It’s a win-win for buyers and sellers. Buyers can spend more time sitting on their sofas shortlisting homes, and sellers’ properties experience added marketing potential with fewer in-person showings.

As with any new reality, however, there are two sides to the coin, and this situation is no different.

Today’s buyers spend a lot of time viewing HGTV-related content, and, as a result, their tastes have been refined. Now, a significant percentage of buyers are looking for turnkey homes with upscale amenities.

We tell our prospective sellers that when their homes go on the market, they are not competing with other listings in their neighborhood — they are competing with HGTV.

The best analogy for understanding what’s happening in real estate is that of online dating. Prospective partners have very little time — mere seconds, in fact — to make a good impression before a searcher swipes left and moves on to the next profile.

This is not only true for online dating sites. It applies to commodities as well. Pivotal 2005 marketing research by Procter & Gamble revealed a three-to-seven-second window in which a consumer decides whether or not to buy a product. Translated to homes, a seller has approximately seven seconds to make a positive impression before a consumer swipes left and moves on.

As few as 10 years ago, buyers gave a potential home about a minute, beginning from the moment they arrived at the curb until they made their way into the kitchen. Those days are gone. With today’s showing limitations, buyers will not go through the hassle of visiting a home unless they like what they see in those first seven to 10 seconds on their phones.

In the same way that most people visiting online dating sites are not looking for a “project,” a high percentage of today’s buyers do not want fixer-uppers. Most millennials have no idea how to improve a home and are willing to pay a premium for move-in-ready digs.

Adding injury to insult is a growing sense of “entitlement” in today’s homeowner wannabes. Many believe they “deserve” a home with upscale features and are not willing to live in a home that does not have the level of amenities they believe are essential to their lifestyle.

Homes owned by sellers who do not understand the new realities and have not effectively prepared are seeing virtually no visitors at all. Like Pandora’s box, a new reality has emerged, and we will not be returning to things the way they were.

Buyers are already embracing the new rules, and the only potential issue is how soon sellers and their listing agents will figure it out as well. Here are our top five tips for real estate agents looking to capitalize on their seven seconds:

1. Educate

Learn how to handle classic seller arguments. These include, “We want to give the buyers the opportunity to upgrade the home the way they want to,” or “If we replace the carpet, the buyer may not like it and we will have wasted our money.”

These arguments are effectively dead. Today’s buyers, in large, do not want to fix up homes. When sellers ask why they should spend money to upgrade when a buyer might change things once they move in, the question you ask in return is, “If you can spend $1,000 to make $2,000-$3,000, does it matter what buyers do when they move in?”

Sellers must understand that buyers are looking for homes that meet their criteria, not the seller’s. Homes that resonate with current buyers’ tastes will reap significant rewards, while homes that do not will languish on the market.

2. Maximize

Buyers want updated kitchens and baths with solid surface counters, contemporary tile, upscale laminate floors, energy-saving features and more. Today’s time-stressed buyers do not have the time, energy or even the know-how to fix up a home. Most will gladly pay a premium for gorgeous, move-in-ready properties.

It’s important to not over-improve. We are looking for maximum effect at the lowest cost. Therefore, focus on removing objections rather than carte blanche renovations per se.

3. Stage

It’s no secret that staging works. Given the seven to 10 seconds and new buyer behaviors, it’s all about the online pictures that are optimized for mobile devices. While I understand it may not be cost-effective in all markets, there are options available, including virtual staging. Make sure that the staging furnishings match the current styles in local furniture stores.

4. Showcase

No smartphone pictures are allowed. All of our listings include drone footage, 30 to 40 magazine-quality, high-quality stills, a 3D tour (like Matterport), floor plan, video and more.

Most photographers can produce a low-cost video using those stills, which can then be used on social media sites. Use more expensive video production for high-end luxury properties.

5. Prioritize

Keep buyers engaged as long as possible by showing the best shots first. Start with a great shot of the outside then show key areas of the home first. Follow up with bedrooms, hallways and miscellaneous areas. End with drone shots of the area and local amenities. If they like what they see, they will spend more time on your site and follow up with a visit in person.

Don’t like the new reality? Better get used to it — it’s here to stay. Listing agents who understand and help their sellers navigate the new playbook are the ones who will succeed in this new era. If you only get seven seconds, learn how to make those seconds count.

Carl Medford is the CEO of The Medford Team.

The 7-Second Sell: How to Maximize Your Listing's Potential

 

Article Courtesy of: Inman News
By: Santiago Arana

Being a leader means not only being on top of your game, but also being in touch with the needs of your agents

Great leadership goes far beyond winning awards and hitting sales goals. From being transparent about your challenges to creating an environment of open communication, here are five ways to be a better leader for your agents.

Be a good listener

Listening is a powerful tool. Not only does it broaden your perspective, but it demonstrates that you have respect and regard for your team and colleagues, which helps build trust and rapport.

In an environment where listening is valued and voices are honored, your talented team will feel more comfortable bringing their ideas to you — and collaboration breeds success for everyone. I have also found that when you are a good listener, people will tend to listen more carefully to you, as well.

Lead by example

This is a tenet I am passionate about. In its most simple definition, leading by example means being a person of your word and modeling the behavior you want to see in your team members. You cannot say one thing and behave another way; that kind of behavior from a leader ruins your credibility and puts team members’ trust and respect in you in question.

For example, I often share the story of how I got started in real estate — how I came to the U.S. with $120 in my pocket and had to hustle. I bused tables while I earned my real estate license, then started hitting the pavement, knocking on doors every weekend and introducing myself to potential clients.

I sat at open houses — at listings that weren’t even mine — in an effort to generate my own database of clients. It took me seven or eight years until I started achieving success. My experience was not easy, and I often had to pick myself up and push to get through the next day.

As a leader, I reflect back on those times frequently, especially when I speak to my team members about perseverance and resilience. Using my own experience, I can encourage and guide authentically and empathetically.

Make time to connect

When you are in a leadership position, you often take on more responsibility, which means your schedule fills up — making it more challenging to find time for meaningful one-on-one conversations with new agents who could benefit from direct mentorship.

I remember how overwhelming it felt to be a new agent, and having a go-to expert source when issues arise helps immensely when it comes to navigating the buying and selling process.

Ideally, you will be able to find windows of time to connect, even if it’s brief. I make calls while I’m en route to a listing or meeting and share and receive voice memos throughout the day as I’m available. But if you’re feeling pressed for time and still want to provide some in-person support, make an introduction to a trusted, fellow professional who you feel could be helpful — and more readily available!

Alternatively, you can encourage new agents to find a coach who can walk them through certain sticking points — tap your contacts and make recommendations and introductions for this as well.

Never stop learning and sharing

This connects to “leading by example”— it’s important to model behaviors you want to instill in your colleagues and team members. Demonstrate your lifelong quest for knowledge, be sure to share great articles, book recommendations, podcasts and more at sales meetings or via email so newer agents can have got-to resources when they are ready to feel inspired, learn more or upskill.

Share what inspires and uplifts you

Life presents us with many challenges, and I truly feel that a good leader must be transparent about facing bumps in the road and share tools that help others shift gears and move past challenges.

Equally important is sharing what inspires you; what ignites your mind and soul. These can be simple things — a TedTalk, a TV show, a meditation practice, a song, a particular part of the beach or a certain hike. You never know if something that has resonated with you will speak to someone else who is looking for guidance.

As a huge mental health advocate, I also believe having strong mental fitness is essential. As a person in a leadership position with an elevated profile and platform, I readily embrace the opportunity to share what has worked for me. You can read about my five favorite mental health apps here.

Reframe and repeat: Choose to see challenges as opportunities

While I am not in favor of “toxic positivity” — a tactic that glosses over and doesn’t fully acknowledge a tough situation — I do feel leaders can cultivate in their teams an approach to setbacks that allows opportunities to grow, stretch and learn. It’s about acknowledging challenges, but not being leveled by them. Work to find the lesson in a setback.

I firmly believe that you can only see the light in the darkest moment. If everything is bright and you have all these good things happening, you might not make the right decisions. When it’s dark, that’s the only time where you can actually differentiate where the light is, and those are very life-changing moments.

Reframe and Repeat: 5 Ways to Be A Better Leader For Your Agents
Article Courtesy of: Inman News
By: Jimmy Burgess

What do you think is possible in your real estate business? Whatever you just thought, you're thinking too small.

Millions of readers have improved their lives and businesses by practicing the principles presented in the book The Magic of Thinking Big by Dr. David J. Schwartz. The useful methods and mindsets in this classic self-improvement book are perfectly aligned with the traits top producing agents possess.

The following are seven principles found in the book that can lead to a fundamental change in the trajectory of growth for your business.

Believe you can succeed, and you will

“Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you are right,” Henry Ford famously said.

Belief, or lack thereof, drives action. Do you believe you can generate listings in this market? Do you believe you can generate buyer leads, effectively farm a neighborhood for listings, or add value to people in a way that generates referrals?

Early in my career I used two strategies to develop or increase my belief in what is possible for my real estate business.

The first way to increase belief is to spend time with people who have already accomplished what you wish to accomplish. Seeing truly is believing. Exposure to people who have done what you want to do is proof of what is possible and that proof leads to belief.

The second way to increase belief is to read books or articles, listen to podcast interviews, or watch video interviews with people who have done what you wish to do. Even though you may not meet them in person, their stories can inspire you to believe in the possibilities you have.

If you believe it is possible, you can achieve it!

Cure ‘excusitis’

Making excuses is what unsuccessful agents do. They say things like, “I don’t have the broker support I need to succeed,” or “I’m not good on video.” They make excuses for why they can’t achieve their goals instead of looking for ways to get better.

Successful real estate agents don’t make excuses, they take action. They find ways to learn the skills they need to succeed and when they encounter setbacks, they search for solutions.

Resistance and obstacles are a part of our business that every agent faces. How will you decide to handle them when you face them in your business?

When you stop making excuses and start taking action, big results follow.

Create an environment of thinking big

What is your ideal environment for thinking big? Is it a quiet time early in the morning? Is it surrounding yourself with big thinkers and positive people? Is it accountability from a mentor or coach? Everyone is different, but the environment you create around you is the soil that will either hinder or enhance your growth.

For me, I thrive in an office around other growth-focused agents. I spend time listening to inspiring stories from people who achieved greatness in their field of choice. I try to carve out time every week at one of our local beaches to be quiet and recalibrate my mind to a positive environment. Whatever it is for you, make sure you spend time in an environment that inspires you and around people who inspire you.

When you create an environment where big thinking can develop, your horizons of possibility expand.

Find good in others

Do you look for and expect the best in others? It can be difficult when you encounter less than professional agents or your client’s expectations are unreasonable. But you must become a “good finder” in others. To be the best realtor you can be, you must think and search for the best in others.

A large part of thinking big is not allowing negativity to hinder the size of your thinking. When we believe the best in others, we believe and see the best in ourselves.

Invest in your thinking

Investments can come in the form of your finances or your time. Are you investing money in coaching, training, or new skills? Are you investing your time in the pursuit of broadening your knowledge about this business?

Thinking bigger doesn’t just happen. It is a pursuit that includes a commitment. When you are committed and absolute in your pursuit of something, you invest in it. A famous quote says, where your heart is, there your treasure will be also.

When you invest your time and money in your thinking, the return on your investment is immeasurable.

Use small goals for momentum

Momentum is a powerful, unforeseen force. Once it begins, it gains strength with every win. The key to gaining momentum is to set yourself up for small wins.

Develop small goals like having five real estate-related conversations by 10 a.m. or emailing properties that meet their search criteria to four prospective buyers by 9 a.m. each morning. Maybe yours could be writing one handwritten thank you note before 9 a.m. or calling one past client by 10 a.m.

What are some goals you could set each morning to give you a small win and build momentum? Whatever they are, set yourself up for success with small goals to build your positive momentum.

Think bigger

What do you think is possible in your real estate business? Whatever you just thought, you’re thinking too small. You’ve been drawn to this business with a certain level of experiences and drive that give you a solid foundation on which to build. You’ve developed a certain level of skill that will continue to grow and expand what is possible for you. You are in this business at the very moment you are supposed to be in this business.

Think bigger. Believe for more. Take more action. Trust the process. Be patient and watch what happens. When your thinking is bigger, your results will grow as well.

Jimmy Burgess is the chief growth officer for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Beach Properties of Florida in northwest Florida.

The Magic of Thinking Big: 7 Essentials for Agents
Article Courtesy of: Inman News
By: Marian McPherson

Four real estate dynamos share eight things real estate agents must do to effectively advocate for their clients, improve their skills, safeguard their finances and build a business that stands the test of time:

The real estate market has been on an incredible run for the past two years with real estate agents handily breaking their previous sales records. However, the market has begun to shift as rising mortgage rates, unhinged home price growth, rock bottom inventory and worries about an impending economic downturn cut at homebuyer sentiment and threatens market activity.

Despite these potential downshifts on the horizon, RE/MAX Victory + Affiliates Vice President Donna Deaton, The My Southern View Team broker-owner Alyssa Hellman,  Keller Williams Lucido Agency CEO and President Bob Lucido, and Chicago Properties Firm broker-owner Sam Shaffer said it’s possible to continue fueling success — but only if you’re willing to tune up your sales skills and tactics, business planning and development, finances and personal life to expertly navigate the twists and turns of the market.

First gear: Have an intimate understanding of trends in your market

As the market continues its extraordinary hot streak,  top-producing agents said the first step to success is to make sure you have an intimate understanding of your market with multiple sources and data points to provide a full picture of what is — or isn’t — happening.
For example, Shaffer said real-time data is crucial in helping his buyers understand Chicago’s unique market that ebbs and flows contrary to most narratives about seasonality.

“One trend that’s happened year after year is that a lot of people don’t recognize things really slow down in the summer,” Shaffer said. “People have already established their living situations, they’ve renewed leases, and they’re into their new homes for the school year.”
“Summer in Chicago is just a magical time where the weather’s nice, people are going away to lake homes, friends are getting married, we have holidays, so all of a sudden, all these weekends are starting to get filled up and people aren’t spending as much time focusing on their home search,” he said.

“So if someone asked me when the best time to buy, I wouldn’t have the typical response. Someone that’s looking to be opportunistic, summer — not the fall or winter — could be the time for them.”

Although Shaffer uses data to help buyers identify opportunities, Deaton said she uses her data stockpile to help her sellers understand the slight shift in the market sentiment that’s pushed buyers to back away from making exorbitant bids. As sellers continue to rachet up their listing prices, she said it’s increasingly important to explain not only price trends, but other terms that made deals happen.

“Who can blame a seller for not wanting to get as much as they can our house? No one can,” she said. “I went on a listing appointment last week and the seller’s expectations were, ‘Well, that house around the corner brought in $100,000 more than what you’re telling me I should list at.”

“I said, ‘Yeah, it did. But here are the terms of that house, someone brought cash and an appraisal wasn’t an issue,'” she added. “You have to really give them all the information —  you can’t just go in and say, ‘Well, your neighbor’s house sold for this much more than what yours seems to be valued at.'”

Hellman said detailed market research can make or break a deal, so that’s why she goes the extra mile to check in with fellow agents to get additional details on what’s happening in specific pockets of her market, learn what offer terms have been winning over sellers, and suss out other factors that can’t be packaged neatly into a report or spreadsheet.

“I connect with a lot of agents in terms of, ‘So what have you been seeing? Just to make sure that it’s still what I’m seeing as well?'” she said. “I think especially in our market, there’s kind of these little pockets that might be slightly more competitive or slightly less competitive than the market as a whole. So I’m kind of one always looking to identify where are those pockets.”

“One of the things that that we don’t oftentimes see — unless we’re receiving the offer — is where did everybody come in on due diligence, earnest money, or things like that,” she said. “Agents can’t really share that, but they can say, ‘Hey, I submitted an offer a few weeks ago with $10,000 in due diligence and I wasn’t even near the top.’ Those little kinds of insights that you can get can help you ballpark where you and your clients need to be in the market.”

Second Gear: Strengthen your relationships with agents and clients

After establishing baseline trust through showcasing your market expertise, Shaffer, Deaton, and Hellman said agents must put the pedal down on the basics of relationship building with clients and fellow agents. All three brokers said the volatility of the current market alongside worries of an impending housing bubble means there needs to be more hand-holding than they’re probably used to.

“It’s tough,” Deaton said. “We have to be a cheerleader and they can’t see that we’re stressing because we have to be there for them, we have to show them empathy and we have to communicate every single day — no excuses.”

Deaton said communication can include text messages, social media check-ins with past clients and other sorts of correspondence, such as emailed newsletters or handwritten cards. But in this market, she said nothing beats a phone call. “There are so many agents who have given up picking up the phone and calling someone — they either want a text or email,” she said. “But you’ve really got to make that personal connection.”

In addition to building strong ties with clients, Deaton said it’s equally important to build robust relationships with agents inside and outside of your brokerage. Strong agent relationships, she said, are invaluable in an uber-competitive and oversaturated market where agents are scrapping for the same clients.

“I tell agents all the time, ‘You may not like the way this deal is going, but we also have to remember that listing agent is overwhelmed as well and they’re just as stressed as we are, you know, on their side,'” she said. “So you do have to build that relationship and if [the transaction] doesn’t go well, then you send them like Starbucks card at the end of the thing and say, ‘Hey, I’m sorry, it didn’t work out. Have a cup of coffee on me,’ or something like that.”

“It’s a small gesture, but it goes a long way,” she added. “You don’t want to be known as an agent that’s difficult to work with.”

Hellman and Shaffer said tending to client and agent relationships helps build one of the most crucial business streams in today’s market: referrals.

“I would say probably about 85 to 90 percent of [me and my wife’s] business is referral base, and we’ve always spent a lot of time pouring into our past clients and pouring into our network of people that we know around town,” she said. “We’ve doubled down on [pouring into our network] because our goal is always if somebody’s thinking about real estate, we want to be right on the tip of their tongue.”

As they’re building relationships and their referral pipeline, Shaffer said agents have to remember the impact won’t likely be felt immediately. However, if they stay committed to the basics of excellent service, it will pay off in the long run.

“This is not a sprint, this is a marathon. There’s no magic pill to all of a sudden put you at the top; it’s a lot of work,” he said. “It’s grinding every day, it’s communicating with your current database, it’s being as proactive as possible with your current clients and it’s really doing an incredible job for each and every client you work with.”

“It’s with the understanding that you’re not going to get rich from one client, but you’re going to build a business by treating each client with the best possible service, and then in exchange, you can build your referral base on how you’re currently taking care of the client in front of you,” he added. “For me, personally, I will not ask for a referral until I deliver.”

Speedbump: Manage buyer and seller expectations ASAP

In the process of building a solid relationship with clients, managing buyer and seller expectations can prove to be a major speedbump that leads to major client disappointment and dissatisfaction, and potentially lost business if they decide to find representation elsewhere or dissuade others from using your services.

Although agents can’t totally control a buyer or seller’s decisions, Shaffer and others said they can do clients the favor of being upfront and honest from the get-go about where the market is and how it can impact their real estate goals. For buyers, Shaffer said conversations are centered around maximizing opportunities and being fully prepared to strike when the iron is hot.

“What’s happening now in 2022 is a level of entitlement and almost arrogance from sellers or maybe listing agents to where they’re the best game in town. They’re really getting as much money for the homes as possible,” he said. “Buyers are in a tough spot where they’re overpaying potentially, and they are waiving certain contingencies.”

“[When managing buyer expectations], it’s really letting them know they have to have all their ducks in a row — they have to be pre-approved, they also have to be willing to be fast, quick and nimble because when a house gets listed, they have multiple bids in the first day,” he said. “The seller will call for highest and best with a short turnaround time, so really, for my buyers, I want them to know they must have a sense of urgency.”

In addition to explaining offer timelines, Deaton said buyers must understand how bidding wars will skew their initial budget downward to account for the extra money they may need to offer sellers.

“It is tricky right now,” she said. “We have to really let them know how the market is upfront and that we’re gonna have to come in strong. If you’re only pre-approved for $200,000 we’re going have to start about $160,000, and that kind of hurts their expectations a little bit, but that’s the market.”

Hellman said she always uses data to lead into touchy conversations with buyers and sellers since focusing on the numbers helps clients flip the switch from their emotions to the simple facts of the market.

“A big thing that I’ve been trying to do, at least with inventory, is setting those expectations early on,” she said. “I try to use that very unsexy, boring data that a lot of the time is sort of a snooze fest for folks. But it’s necessary to really show them what’s going on.”

“I’ll oftentimes pull out the market stats from now in comparison to where were we at this time last year or even the year prior because I think that really helps build that context for folks who are not dealing in this every day,” she added. “I mean, I even find those numbers amazing. We’re not truly seeing how much [the market has] changed in the last year or even two.”

Finally, Lucido said successfully setting client expectations also includes the ability to find out exactly what buyers and sellers value and putting some “skin” into the transaction so they know you’re equally invested in their success.

“I’m going to share something with you that will make a big difference: Anybody can sell a house. When I go on a listing. I tell people you can hire a discount broker and you can save commissions. But do you want a discounted commission? Or do you want to walk away with more money, what’s more important to you?” he said. “So what I do is I sell the end result — I sell the net.”

“My value proposition is you are going to make more money and I’ll even put a guarantee on it,” he said. “I just did one recently, I said, ‘If I don’t sell for $100,000 or above, my commission will only be ‘x.'” [Clients] like people who have skin in the game.”

Third Gear: Drum up inventory with some strategic real estate matchmaking

As the inventory shortage continues to worsen, Shaffer, Deaton, Hellman and Lucido said real estate agents have to sharpen their strategy skills and dig into their bag of tricks to create inventory opportunities for their clients. For Shaffer, having access to off-market and coming soon listings have been a godsend for his buyers.

“I’m constantly checking every resource possible to find a good match for my client. I have access to off-market and coming soon listings so a lot of times its kind of looking under the hood, so to speak, to find some of those not so readily available homes that might be a good fit for our clients,” he said.

Shaffer also said he’s subscribed to several platforms geared toward providing market insights for top-producing agents, which have also been helpful in his hunt for inventory. “There’s a publication that is for the top 10 percent brokers in Chicago that I’m a part of [and] I partnered with another company called Zen List, which is a feed for off-market and coming soon homes as well,” he said. “There’s a lot of different vehicles that I’m using to kind of be creative and resourceful for my clients.”

Meanwhile, Deaton is utilizing a more cost-effective platform to drum up inventory: Facebook groups.

“I get a ton of business from Facebook and it is kind of crazy,” she said. “The Facebook yard sale [groups] seems to be where I get the majority of people reaching out to me and it’s usually because I’m begging for someone to let me know if they’re going to sell because I have a buyer that I need to get a home.”

“Or I’ll place my listing on there and it generates a ton of buzz,” she added. “But you know, I think it’s just because it’s my generation. That’s where all the baby boomers are.”

In addition to accessing off-market listings, dipping back into their databases to find sellers — “I have a shared spreadsheet with my wife to match potential buyers and sellers,” Hellman said — Lucido said open houses are an inventory goldmine.

“The number one way to create inventory is having a strategy to conduct your open house,” he said.

Take the exit: Don’t forget about open houses

Open houses took a backseat for most of the pandemic due to social distancing guidelines and some sellers’ fears about having scores of people in their homes. However, open houses have come back with a vengeance this spring with several of them capturing social media headlines for miles-long lines of buyers.

To make an open house a listing goldmine, Lucido said agents must engage in some old-school, door-to-door advertising before and after the open house that he calls “circle prospecting.”

“Just don’t sit there,” he said. “Knock on doors before the open house and after the open house. After you’ve sold the house, circle the neighborhood again. Tell people you got 10 offers, got nine people lost out and you need more houses in the neighborhood. Do you know anybody in this neighborhood who would like to get an extraordinary price for their home right now?”

Lucido suggests door knocking at the ten homes to the left, right, front and back of your listing since they’ve most likely been keeping an eye on the progress of the sale. “There’s got to be more hand-to-hand combat, you’re not going to conduct sales sitting in front of a computer,” he said of the method.

Shaffer said his open house protocol hasn’t changed too much from pre-pandemic and his main goal is to set the tone for buyers, who might become future clients even if they don’t make an offer on the listing he’s showing. “It’s back to basics with running open houses,” he said. “I think it’s really important is to start marketing and promoting the open house as much time in advance as possible. I like to list the home on Monday or Tuesday and when I list the property, I also will plan for an open house for that weekend.”

“It’s been really helpful to get as much traffic as possible with giving everyone enough leeway heading into the weekend,” he added. “What’s really important too is a fact sheet that spells out all the specifics of the home — the ages of mechanical appliances, neighborhood information, association information, improvements that have been done, assessments are broken down, parking, etc. Everything’s spelled out and it sets the tone for a positive experience.”

For Deaton, the only change to her open house protocol is how often she does them. Instead of being a weekend occurrence, she said she hosts them any day of the week with the primary consideration being MLS ‘coming soon’ listing rules.

“We do the ‘coming soon’ listings, and in Cincinnati, you’re allowed to do 10 days of coming soon up to when it goes active,” she explained. “The day you go active, you hold the open house because that’s going to get the most people through the house and you often get so many offers that the seller says, ‘Oh, there’s too many offers, I’m overwhelmed. You know, I just want to take one and be done.'”

“I honestly never stopped doing them. I love open houses and they’re effective,” she added. “They are still happening — they’re just happening every day of the week.”

Fourth Gear: Refine your negotiation skills (Hint: A bigger offer doesn’t always win)


In addition to navigating inventory shortages, real estate agents must refine their negotiation skills to help homebuyers make a smart purchase that helps them not only now, but in the long run. Although beefing up an offer with extra cash is often the first thing that comes to mind, Deaton said speaking to a homeseller’s other needs, such as a longer closing timeline or offering a leaseback option, can be more effective.

“It’s not always the price. Sometimes it’s the terms that gets the deal,” Deaton said. “You’ve really got to do your due diligence as a buyer’s agent and get that information.”

“A lot of times the seller may need 60 days before they can get into the house that they’re buying or building, so flexibility with occupancy is huge,” she added. “Sometimes sellers are even willing to, if they need more than 60 days, do a leaseback and lease that home back off that buyer until they’re able to move forward to their next home.”

Deaton also said things like being willing to cover the buyer’s agent’s commission or cover a portion of the seller’s closing costs have worked too, alongside waiving contingencies or offering appraisal gaps with proof of funds.

“Buyers are willing to pay appraisal gaps in this market, but sellers wonder is it truly going to come true? Can you really afford that?” she said. “It’s important as a buyer’s agent, that if you’re going to offer that appraisal gap, you show proof of funds. A lot of agents, they’ll do the appraisal gap, but they don’t provide those funds, so that’s a huge factor.”

However, if you’re relying on extra cash to make the difference, Hellman said it’s not always necessary to offer four, five or six figures above the asking price to win. The Raleigh-based broker said she’s borrowed a strategy from “The Price Is Right,” where players often win by making their estimates only slightly higher than their competitors.

“Slightly higher numbers work,” she said. “If a lot of people are going to make an offer at $525,000, I suggest that my clients go in at $526K or $527K because my point to a lot of buyers is to think about how the seller is hearing that information — they’re probably getting those offers put together in some form of a spreadsheet so that the agent can go through all of the offer terms with them.”

“So what’s going to get you in that number one slot is sometimes something as small as an extra $500 or $1,000,” she added. “That can really make that decision for them.”

Hellman said making an offer is ultimately an educated guessing game, but she’s been able to get more wins by flagging listings and making a note of the difference between the listing and closing price. “That is giving me good insight and good data where I can better predict it when we’re going to submit an offer,” she said.

On the listing side, Lucido said agents have to some sharp negotiation skills as well when it comes to working with sellers on the listing price. Although homes are still being snapped up like hotcakes, the KW expansion team leader said buyers are starting to skip overpriced listings.

“Right now I have a particular listing and it’s not selling because the seller overpriced, and if I wanted to be really blunt about it, I’d lose the listing,” he said. “So you have to lead into that conversation with lots of information. I have a program called the survival package — my assistant puts it together [and it] consists of comps, tax records and other strategies. And I go meet the client.”

“If you try to get price reductions over the phone or I have to give you bad news over the phone, you might get fired,” he added. “So you must meet with them in person and over-communicate in this challenging environment.”

Tire check: Reevaluate yourself and your business

The real estate market isn’t only competitive for homebuyers — it’s become increasingly competitive for real estate agents too. As the number of agents continues to outpace the number of homes available for sale, it can be hard for new agents to break through the noise and unsuspectingly easy for experienced agents to lose their progress if they’re not careful.

Lucido, who also serves as a coach for his more than 250 sales agents, said real estate agents must do an autopsy on their business and determine what is and isn’t working. Operating on auto-pilot, he said, won’t help agents remain successful as the market shifts into more thorny territory with rock-bottom inventory, rising interest rates and other factors that impact buyer and seller activity.

“People need to do an autopsy of where they’ve been; what has worked and what hasn’t worked for them,” he said. “How were your last six months or a year? How’s it gone? Is it working or not working? Not just what are your goals? Do you have a coach and countability partner to help you get there? What do you need to do to work on yourself? More training, more seminars, more podcasts, more engagement?”

“This is a highly competitive market [and] you’re going to need to convince people why they need to go with you,” he said. “It’s not going to be as easy as it used to be.”

Lucido said doing a business autopsy will require you to be honest about where you are, which can be difficult to do. With that in mind, he said its important to pull in a mentor, coach or accountability partner to help you get to the nitty-gritty of what’s thwarting your results.

“It’s been so easy for people to make money in this business that they look like heroes,” he said of the past few years. “We don’t need a college degree or master’s degree or a doctorate degree — my son’s a lawyer and just went through an incredible amount of studying — we don’t need that. So we need to be self-motivated in bettering ourselves.”

“So whether it’s public speaking, whether it’s dressing better, role-playing your presentation, or recording what you do, do it. What do you look like in your videos? Do you like how you look? How are you delivering?” he added. “I’ve got somebody on my team right now I’m coaching and I said, ‘What’s your challenge?’ and she said, ‘Well, I’m not getting as many listings.'”

“I said, ‘Do you have a prospecting challenge? Or a presentation challenge? Are you getting the meeting?’ And she said, ‘No, I’m not meeting people.’ I’m like, well, there’s your problem and she said she didn’t feel that confident. So we’ve got to work on her confidence. So if you work on your knowledge, knowledge gains power, and power is confidence.”

In addition to relying on a coach or mentor to help you improve, Deaton said agents need to use reviews as an opportunity to learn not only about what they did well, but what they fumbled on.

“We use experience.com for our platform reviews, and we have it set to where it’s got to be so many stars for it to post on social media automatically,” she said. “But it’s always good to know what you’ve done wrong so you can improve yourself.”

“Sometimes we just don’t gel with the client and that could be you know, the bad experience,” she added. “Or maybe I was too pushy or maybe I didn’t communicate enough. It’s always good to be able to learn from what mistakes you’ve made.”

Next, Deaton and Hellman said agents must get their finances in order so they can ride out upcoming market shifts that may slow down business from the past two years’ fever pitch pace.

“I always tell my agents to stockpile their money,” Deaton said. “You don’t know what’s going to happen in this business — I wish I had a crystal ball to see what will happen next, but [the real estate market] is not something that you can literally dictate.”

“But it’s important that as agents we keep our finances in line because if it does slow down and you find yourself going a few months without closings, what’s going to pay your bills?” she said. “So you need to make sure that you stockpile your money.”

Hellman said she’s shifted her budget to focus on her current sphere rather than trying to pull hordes of new people in. “Our past clients already know us, trust in us and like us,” she said while noting the majority of her business comes from referrals.

She also said agents must make room in their budget to support their communities through organizations and causes, which is another effective way to connect with past, current and potential clients outside of real estate talk.

“We spend our money on local sponsorships and some of the stuff that we will sponsor is just near and dear to our heart, like our son plays basketball and so we’re heavy sponsors of that organization,” she said. “But the financial return on that I can’t always directly correlate to the amount of money I put into it. But I can correlate it to how much time I spend on it.”

“When we look at it back, and we say, ‘Hey, you know, we can’t even remember that event that we helped sponsor or we never heard anything more about such and such that we took out a page in there,’ those just don’t make sense to do again,” she added. “That’s kind of how we evaluate what makes sense in terms of future spending.

Meanwhile, Shaffer said he’s redirected his budget to redesign and rebrand his website, produce videos for marketing and social media — “It has become really impactful,” he said — and acquire more clients through Zillow.

“It has been a vehicle that I use to help supplement my current business,” he said. “I can’t rely 100 percent on Zillow, but what I do is I use that as another vehicle to try to pick up clients by marketing through that platform. The way that I view it is that you know that one client potentially can lead to more clients down the road, they can refer you to friends and family, or potentially in the future when they want to sell.”

“I just understand that I might not see an ROI on my investment right away, but I’m laying the groundwork and the foundation for the future,” he added.

Fifth Gear: Build momentum and keep it

Once you figure out what works and build momentum, all four brokers said the real work and reward comes with consistency.

“This is not a sprint, this is a marathon,” Shaffer said. There’s no magic pill to all of a sudden put you at the top. It’s a lot of work. It’s grinding every day, it’s communicating with your current database, and it’s being as proactive as possible with your current clients.”

He added, “It’s really doing an incredible job for each and every client you work with with the understanding that you’re not going to get rich from one client, but you’re going to build a business by treating each client with respect and giving them the best possible service.”

Deaton and Shaffer said a huge part of keeping momentum is continually investing in yourself personally and professionally so you’re ready for whatever the real estate market throws your way.

“I always tell agents always be learning; don’t ever cut yourself off from [earning] a certification or just going to a free marketing class because the marketing changes daily, the technology changes daily, and we have to stay on it,” she said. “Last year at the RE/MAX conference, I got my certification for the senior real estate specialist because baby boomers are the big generation right now. We’re getting ready to retire, we’re getting ready to downsize and I know how to handle them.”

“Another good certification from the National Association of Realtors is for short sale and foreclosure resource agents. Although it’s not going to be like it was before, it’s coming. That’s going to be something that we’re going to see happen,” she said. “As a matter of fact, I found that there were six foreclosures today in the MLS. Know how to handle them. You don’t have to know everything, but go learn a few things and how to expertly handle it.”

Lastly, Shaffer encouraged agents to invest in their physical and mental health. “I workout for both the physical attributes and the mental attributes, because I need to be able to take care of myself first and foremost so that I can take care of my clients and my family,” he said. “It’s my non negotiable. It gives me the physical and mental energy to approach each and every day with putting my best foot forward.”
 
8 Tips to Expertly Prepare for a Market Shift

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