Over the last few years I have made it a priority to attend the National Association of Realtors (NAR) convention every November. It’s a great learning and network opportunity and a great source of materials for my office meetings. Naturally I am inclined to share tips and tricks with other Realtors. I
It seems that each NAR conference I attended had a different running theme. In 2011, the USA was inching out of a major housing crisis and many of the topics revolved around how to sell foreclosures. The next year it was all about advertising and using social media to find buyers. The following year we heard about the magical “foreign” buyer. Then it was predictive analytics and cool new apps that were somehow the shiny new object for quick success. While there are still plenty of shiny new tools the overriding theme of this year’s NAR, focused on the profession….the Realtor profession.
Many of the education sessions focused on strategies to build your business by showing how professional you are. Some of the courses offered had titles like “getting smarter, simpler and more effective”, “Preparing for the global shift” and “When trust is high, negotiating is easy”. Lots of catchy titles, but one stuck in particular stood out. It was called the 7 Financial Habits of Highly Successful Real Estate Professionals. The description billed it as ways to create long-lasting improvements to your personal and business well-being. At my advanced years (he says only half-joking) I have come to realize that I am not immortal and maybe it’s time I start saving for my retirement (again, only half-joking).
I made notes at the presentation which was given by a woman who was not only a successful Realtor but came from a financial planning background. I made copious notes and presented my findings to my office earlier this week. Without further ago…prepare to be mostly amazed.
- Develop and use a business plan. Seems pretty obvious but I have to say that over the many years that I have been in a management role, few agents, despite constant reminders, do not want to develop a business plan. But the few who accurately defined their niche market, known their centres of influence, have a plan to reach people and a budget in place to advertise have ALWAYS been my most successful agents.
- Develop and use a budget. Well I just finished building a home and it could not have happened without a budget and accurate tracking of expenses. As self-employed sales people this is a critical piece of our success. Knowing how much you need to survive tells you how much you need to earn. But you need to also keep money aside for tax planning, marketing, personal development, lattes and, yes, retirement.
- Separate business from pleasure.Not only does this thought process integral to establishing your business budget but it will prepare you for the inevitable tax audit. I use a simple app called Expensify to track my expenses. Simply take a picture of your receipt using the app and then every week or so, log on to your desktop and drag and drop the receipts into various categories. Easy. I throw out my receipts after taking the pic but I’m a trusting soul.
- Hire a tax advisor. For the money, this is the smartest thing you can do. An accountant will maximize your deductions, keep accurate records, will help you eliminate tax surprises in case of an audit.
- Understand the risks. Whether they be investment risks, inflation risks or business risks, keeping up with the latest news will go a long way. If you think it prudent, hire a professional to manage your money.
- Plan for retirement. The last thing you want to do is out live your savings. This is a tougher one for young new agents entering the profession. They think the market will stay good forever. Truth is, real estate has been a cyclical business. There are peaks and valleys. So the younger you start saving the less you have to save. It’s worth doing the math though. How long do you think you will live and how much money will you need to survive. Factor in other assets and investments and see where you stand.
- Lastly, create an estate plan. Make sure you have a will, a solid power of attorney and some medical directives if you wish.
Even if you think you will live forever and are richer than Warren Buffet, these 7 habits will serve you well for years to come. Having been through one real estate cycle already I want to plan better for the next one. I remember a cartoon posted above a Realtor’s desk back in 1990. It simpy said “please God let there be another boom. This time I won’t piss it all away”.
I run nearly over 90 meetings a year. 45 of them are direct “office meetings”, me standing in front of a group of agents talking about “stuff”. Usually its market related, sometimes I have a special guest or do a panel discussion, occasionally it’s a field trip and sometimes I talk serious stuff about what is happening in the real estate world. I will be the first to admit that while some meetings are awesome (and agents come up to me later and commend me on a great meeting), others are, well, dogs. The good ones I blog about and share. The others I bury like a bad bone.
Some of the time you just want to have fun. A few years ago I brought in a magician. Once I asked the agents to pick their real estate anthem song and sing it. That was hilarious. Today’s meeting was one of those fun ones. They take a long time to prepare but are worthwhile. Over the course of the year I keep track of all the little things agents either forget to do or ask questions about. For this meeting I created categories with those questions and had agents square off Jeopardy style. A lot of the questions are fairly easy but what I find is that it gets everyone talking, and isn’t the whole point to get a conversation going?
So you are probably wondering what the questions were. Well, they ranged from who signs the confirmation of acceptance on an offer to what is the legal rent increase for 2015 in Toronto to Land Transfer Tax rebates to how much first time buyers can withdraw from their RRSP’s.
It took about 45 minutes to get through the 20 questions. We had a ton of fun and I hope that the agents will put this one in their memory banks. By the way, the answers to the above are; The last one to accept an offer, 1.6%, $2000 provincial and $3725 City of Toronto, $25,000 per person. By the way, it’s nice to offer a prize. I had little bags of Jelly Beans for the winners (but basically everyone’s a winner).
mark mclean is the Broker/Manager at the Bosley Real Estate Queen St W office and President-Elect for the Toronto Real Estate Board. The opinions expressed here do not reflect the opinions of TREB or Bosley RE.