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”.
Traditionally there has always been some fluctuation in the real estate market. That is why you hear the term “seasonally adjusted”. It’s generally not a great time to list a house on Labour Day or Easter weekend. Then there is The Christmas holidays between mid December and Mid January. For most, these are days for relaxing, travelling, and celebrating. But what about July and August? While there is some business still going on through July, August tends to be pretty quiet so, by all means, take a bit of time off to recharge those batteries but remember that the tail end of August should be used to ramp up for the Fall.
Before jumping into the audience participation part of the morning, I talked a bit about Destitute Dan, a fictitious agent who really didn’t do anything to keep his business going over the summer. He made some good money in the spring and figured that he had enough to carry him through to the Fall market. Dan spent a lot of time at the cottage, worked on his tan, went out to dinner with his friends, slept in, and even found some time to help his parents clean out their garage, but by the end of August Dan was pretty much out of money. The point is that Dan didn’t budget his time very well. He did not invest any time or money preparing himself for the fall market. By Labour Day, Dan was already behind on his marketing, and in a few short weeks, Dan will be behind on his CEU credits, his website will be in need of a serious update….well you get the picture.
We had a good discussion on the things we should be doing, so check out the list above. Got something I missed? let me know and I will add it. The piont to this exercise was to get the agents thinking that real estate is a full time business. Like any job, it requires a strong committment of time and effort for it to pay off. And while the job requires daily attention, we are reminded to view the big picture as well. When there isn’t a lot of homes to inspect, there are other matters to attend to.
At last month’s management meeting Maureen O’Neill, former TREB president, devoted a few minutes to discuss a recent real estate conference she attended in NYC. We have all attended conferences at some point in our lives. Some are better than others, but with any organized event my biggest hope it that I will come away with one or two choice jewels that I can incorporate into my life or, at the very least, use in one of my office meetings. Maureen attended a marketing seminar and the lecturer used the word “attentionomics”. This is a great portmanteau that seems particularly apropos to the society that we live in and, by the way, I have had to “ignore all” on my computer’s spell check.
We are all familiar with the Greek word economics, literally translated to mean ‘The law of the household’ and of course we recognize the word ergonomics which is simply the science of designing the workplace or other environment to fit the user. So what exactly is attentionomics and why is it so important to our industry today?
I think we can all agree that we live in a fast paced world. We are constantly bombarded with messages, images, buzzwords and brands. The marketing world is always looking for a way to capture our attention. They know that they have only a few vital seconds to make an impact on us. The message has to be loud, clear and memorable. So, for me, the word attentionomics, as it relates to our world, means the art or science of creating marketing assets that capture the public’s attention. This is an ever increasingly difficult task.
For the next few weeks try this simple task. Save all the flyers that come to your door or through your mailbox. Next, sort through them and keep the ones that look interesting. You have probably just eliminated 98% of your flyers. Now, think about all the money that has been collectively wasted on those 98%. Make some notes on what you liked about the 2% that you kept. These are the benchmarks for your future flyers. You can do the same for your competition’s websites and blogs. I am amazed at how many of my agents don’t have a handle on what their competition is doing.
There was a point in time when real estate was a sales job, but today it is less about “sales” and all about marketing. The public will make their own decision on what they want to buy, because every house has a buyer. If we want to excel, we have to be creative. We have to market ourselves. To hold onto the public’s rather short attention span, we have to reach them effectively and show them what our “value add” is.
The same goes for social media marketing. For instance, if you are a Twitter user, you probably find that things move pretty fast especially if you have a lot of people in your “stream”. It sometimes can be hard to filter out (or in) the stuff that is valuable. Just like a flyer that comes in the mail, you have one or two seconds maximum to capture a reader. If you are advertising a new property listing chances are everyone will overlook it if the twitter post says “Check out my new listing at 123 Main st. Great detached 3 bedroom for $599K” . One word…BORING. Your chances of having people click on your link will rise significantly if the post reads “Nudist’s dream home. Private backyard gets you closer to nature. Check out this private home for just $599K”. I know I’m interested. Chances are that your Social Media followers will too.