Whether you’ve been selling real estate for decades or are just launching your career, you can always benefit from tips to make your business more effective, efficient, and profitable. Here are ways you can save time, work with the best prospects, head off problems, and more.
3 Tasks to Automate
Save time by using tools to automatically perform certain business tasks.
Social Media Publishing
Content-management programs like HootSuite, Sprout Social, and Agorapulse provide one place to access all your social platforms. Create posts in bunches at your convenience and publish them with the programs’ scheduling tools. The services offer various analytics as well as features to follow topics of interest, cutting down the effort looking for shareable content.
How many messages back and forth does it take to schedule a phone call or meeting with a potential client? Services like Calendly and Doodle let you set when you’re available, and people who want an appointment can choose the time that fits their schedule. You can embed the service on your website or send a link to potential clients as part of a welcome or autoreply email. The appointment is automatically added to your online calendar, and you and the person you’re meeting with get reminders.
You don’t want a generic autoreply to every email that hits your inbox. However, you can save time by creating responses to common questions, saving those responses as email drafts, and adding a few details before you send.
If you want full automation, MailChimp, Constant Contact, and similar services offer features that can help. For example, leads from your website or other sources can enter a multimessage automation, which can introduce recipients to your business, your specialties, your listings—whatever you choose. And if a recipient clicks on the link to a property listing, that can trigger another message with information about that specific listing.
How to Revive a Stale Listing
A stale or dead listing is one that fails to attract inquiries or has been on the market for longer than the average for its location and price range. Texas REALTORS® instructor and broker Jodi Sherretts, who teaches a number of courses related to listings and pricing, has some advice for when this happens to one of your listings.
Make Sure the Property Is Priced Appropriately
The first step is to evaluate how the property is priced, according to Sherretts. “Price it well, and it will sell,” she says. The sellers may have reasons for wanting to achieve a certain sale price, but the market isn’t concerned with those reasons. Sellers may not like the suggestion of a price decrease—Sherretts says you can try calling it an adjustment—but the longer the home sits, the more the price will have to come down to attract interest. Remind them that time spent on the market is time they continue to cover the costs of the home, eating into the profit figure they may be aiming for.
Improve the Presentation
Along with a price adjustment, a languishing listing may also benefit from new photos. Try hiring a professional or updating the staging. “Don’t have a Christmas tree in the background in July,” Sherretts says.
Update the MLS Information
Making changes to the listing in the MLS—such as the price, photos, or description—can deliver an alert to anyone who has bookmarked the property, serving as a prompt to view the listing again. “It helps to keep it fresh,” Sherretts says.
Talk With Your Sellers
Sometimes the issue isn’t with the listing but with the sellers. Maybe they aren’t allowing many showings or are otherwise making it more difficult to attract buyers. Try to separate fact from opinion, Sherretts says. And deliver your message gently.
Ultimately, it still comes back to pricing, according to Sherretts. “If you do the pricing really good upfront, you shouldn’t be met with a stale listing,” she says.
How to Network Virtually
Even if your in-person interactions have been limited by the coronavirus pandemic, you can still build your professional network. Here are some ways to make new connections:
Choose wisely. Pick people who will add value to your network, but select those who are close to your professional level. Mark Cuban will probably not call you back.
State your business. Warm up that cold call message by introducing yourself and your reason for contacting the person. Keep this initial message short and to the point. If you have a mutual contact, ask your contact for permission before you reference him or her in your message. If your acquaintance is willing, he or she could send a message introducing you.
Make the pitch. Share what you can bring to the relationship, whether it is your own network, expertise, or content you can provide. Make it worth the person’s time to link up with you. Be honest if you are looking for a mentor or professional guidance.
Agree on a time to call. Your goal in your first voice or video call is to make a connection. Be pleasant and make a little small talk. Build rapport. More fully introduce yourself. Explain why you want to connect. Suggest touching base in a month or next quarter. Keep the entire call under 15 minutes.
Say thank you! A follow-up email with pleasantries and next steps is tasteful.
Connect on social media that day. Send him or her a request on LinkedIn, and follow any other social media accounts the person uses professionally.
When Should You Follow Up?
Your relationship with your client doesn’t end when the deal closes. Texas REALTOR® asked three experts how soon and how often to follow up with a client after a deal closes.
Donald Leonard has been licensed since 1983. He is a real estate coach and district director with Fathom Realty in Houston/Cypress. He is a Certified Negotiation Expert, Certified Probate Real Estate Specialist, and a graduate of the Texas REALTORS® Leadership Program.
“You should follow up within a week to make sure everything went OK after they started moving in, to see if there are any issues that need to be taken care of. After that, it’s regular follow-up to try to get additional business, referrals, and repeat business. I do try to keep up with them at least quarterly plus on a day that is special to them, like a holiday, birthday, or anniversary.”
Amber Joy is CEO, speaker, and consultant with Influential Agent. The Dallas-based REALTOR® teaches about lead generation.
“Once a transaction is closed, that client is now considered part of our sphere of influence. It’s essential to communicate with your sphere often in order to stay top-of-mind for referrals. Our system includes personal contact once per quarter, two video emails a month, one sphere-specific Facebook ad per month, and interacting with our sphere’s social media posts whenever possible. When you add all the touches up, we are in front of them a minimum of 40 times a year. This system has proven to be our number one source of gross commission income. We also have a VIP program (customer appreciation program) with additional perks for our top referrers in our sphere.”
REALTOR® Sharon Jenkins of Avalar Texas Real Estate has earned the ABR, CRS, ePRO, GRI, PSA, RENE, RSPS, SRS, and TRLP designations. She teaches courses on referrals.
“I follow up three times in the first month after closing. I call or go by the first day after closing to make sure everything with the house is good. After that, I make another contact the week after closing and a month later to see if there is anything they need. I develop an annual follow-up plan for each client with monthly touches and load it into my CRM system, so I never forget! For me, the CRM is key to making it all work.”
Tips for Giving—and Getting—Better Listing Feedback
While giving useful listing feedback represents another task for busy buyer’s agents, it can be important for listing agents trying to suggest improvements to their clients or better position the property in the market. Use these tips to solicit or give better listing feedback.
For listing agents, request feedback as soon as possible after buyers or their agent tour the property. If possible, automate the process of including a feedback request within the tour or open house registration, so the impression of the property is as fresh as possible.
For buyer’s agents, making a habit of submitting feedback immediately after seeing the home can keep it from getting buried in your inbox or to-do list.
Detailed suggestions or reactions to specific features of the home will be more useful to a listing agent than general feedback—even if positive. As a listing agent, you can even ask questions tailored to what you perceive as the weaknesses or strengths of a property.
With listing feedback processes increasingly automated, comments may be sent directly to sellers as well as their agents. Keeping feedback constructive is professional, courteous, and will help avoid a situation where sellers are soured before a potential offer is presented or the working relationship with another agent is affected.
Responding to Negative Online Reviews
No one likes negative feedback. How you handle it can make all the difference in your online—and offline—reputation.
Antoine Carter is owner, president, and project manager of SERP Matrix, a digital marketing agency in Houston that works with real estate companies.
Reputation is everything, and many people read the bad reviews as part of their decision making, he says. Here are his suggestions for responding to negative feedback.
Always respond quickly and positively. Never leave negative feedback unanswered. Respond as soon as you can in a positive and professional tone. Responding quickly and effectively shows that you care. Sound genuinely concerned and never condescend in your post.
Use careful language. Do not directly address incidents that you do not know about. Use a canned response such as “Please contact our office manager at the following phone number to discuss how we can serve you better.”
Take the conversation offline. Invite the commenter to call you or discuss the issue in person. Offer to buy him or her a coffee. Do not attempt to resolve the issue entirely online. That can lead to the commenter posting more negative comments.
Apologize. Apologize for the bad experience he or she had with your business.
Make an offer. Consider offering some sort of consolation, such as a discount or additional service, to smooth things over. Some sort of small gift would work. Express gratitude to the commenter: you would like his or her business in the future.
Ask them to remove the review. If the issue has been resolved, ask the commenter to remove the comment. Only the commenters themselves can remove their feedback from major platforms like Google, Facebook, and Yelp. You can also ask the commenter to post a follow-up describing how the problem was resolved.
Remember: there is a difference between fair criticism of your business—even harsh criticism—and harmful content. The major platforms have terms and conditions prohibiting fake reviews, harassment, and offensive language. You can request that a platform remove comments that violate its terms.
Quarterly Taxes 101 and How to Avoid Penalties
This year’s delayed tax season has come and gone, but those who pay estimated taxes are always looking ahead. If required to submit estimated taxes, you must pay on time each quarter; if you don’t—or don’t pay enough—you may have to pay a penalty on top of the taxes you owe.
Estimated tax payments are required for income that isn’t covered by employer withholding, or if you haven’t withheld enough. They’re also required if you expect to owe $1,000 or more in taxes. Use Form 1040-ES, Estimated Tax for Individuals, to calculate what you owe.
Normally, tax payments are due in full on April 15, or due quarterly on April 15, June 15, September 15, and January 15. This year, because of the coronavirus pandemic, the IRS postponed the April 15 and June 15 estimated income tax payments until July 15.
Taxpayers have several payment options, including paying online, by phone, by mail, or in person through a retail partner.
You can even sign up for email reminders that prompt you to pay your taxes on time. Use Form 2210, Underpayment of Estimated Tax by Individuals, Estates, and Trusts, to determine if you have been underpaying and if so, the amount of the penalty. Review the form carefully—you may not have to file the form if you meet certain criteria. Remember to report your tax penalty on your tax return.
For more information, visit irs.gov/payasyougo.
How to identify it and head it off before it gets out of hand.
by T.J. Welch
We’ve all seen it, especially in a seller’s market and even more so with first-time homebuyers. They start off excited and full of energy. They spend lots of time online and want to see a lot of homes. But they’re pretty picky, and the house he loves, she doesn’t—and vice versa. The process drags on, and buyer’s fatigue sets in, making things hard not just on the buyers but on you as their agent as well.
Buyer’s fatigue occurs for all sorts of reasons, and it’s helpful to understand the differences.
These buyers are looking for the perfect house. They’re not finding what they want, and they’re certainly not ready to make any offers. Regardless of how often you show them houses, they want to see a stack more. If you didn’t know better, you might think they didn’t really want to buy a house. They’re like the people who go to bookstores just to read.
It’s likely you’ll get tired of them before they’ll get tired of looking. Maybe they haven’t told you that their lease doesn’t expire for six months. Whatever the reason, you’re ultimately dealing with people who are just not ready to move. Some might advise you to drop them and ask them to call you when they’re really ready. Maybe they’re not front burner clients but you can still play a role in helping them no matter their pace. It may be necessary to have a frank conversation to discover their true goals. Do they really intend to buy now? Though that may feel like you’re closing off a potential sale, whether you address this concern with them or just endure through it, it comes down to managing your time effectively. You want to make sure you’re spending your energy and resources in a fruitful way.
Some people find houses they love but for one reason or another won’t jump fast enough. They want to visit the house again or take a week to think about it—neither of which is an unreasonable request. But they may not have the luxury of time. You don’t want to push them, and you try to advise them accordingly. Nevertheless, they’re concerned about making a mistake, so they wait. Rising fatigue also happens for buyers who find houses they love online but don’t make the time to go see. Either way, they keep losing houses to other buyers.
Rising fatigue could set in after a couple of months. Even though the buyers haven’t had offers declined or transactions that fall apart, they still feel like failures because someone beat them to the punch. This type of fatigue is all about fear and the insecurity that comes from such a big change in life. When working with clients like this, you can emphasize your experience, hustle your way through every detail, and explain that they will increase their odds by preparing themselves ahead of time to move quickly. You must build a trusting relationship so they see how you are helping them.
These buyers are an agent’s dream as well as the fastest burnouts you’ll see. They’ll call and want to see three houses that day—and then want to drop an offer on one of them that same evening. They’re highly motivated to buy and not as picky as most buyers. So where’s the rub? When their offer doesn’t get accepted, it’s a kick in the gut.
Maybe they don’t have a buffer to compete with other buyers who can offer a higher purchase price, or perhaps they don’t understand the value of the home when constructing their offer. Whatever the case, each offer that gets passed over is a huge leap forwards towards burnout. This fatigue could start kicking in after a couple of weeks. It’s like online dating: You put yourself out there and even though you know people are seeing your profiles, no one is choosing you. The challenge here is that these buyers are so interested in leaving where they currently live that they see potential no matter where they go. This is more about running away from something than running towards something. Don’t pour water on the enthusiasm but you will need to guide the flame a bit. For example, if they are tempted to increase their purchase price to open up opportunities, you may want to encourage them to be sure they can get approved for a bigger loan. Empathetic statements, like “It wasn’t meant to be,” or “Your perfect house is out there,” can go a long way. Small talk may also open up the discussion and help them deal with losing out on a home. And if you can’t slow them down in their search, then make it about trying to absorb the recoil as much as possible.
Encourage the Right Level of Emotions
Buying a home is emotional. It’s important for buyers to love the home they want to own. It’s OK to tell them that they need to engage their feelings at least a little bit. But it’s also helpful to tell your buyers to guard their emotions. Nothing is final until the money changes hands, and if you’re not careful, real estate can break your heart.
Assess, Set Expectations, Repeat
So what can you do to help your clients fight fatigue? First, try to quickly identify what kind of client you have. If you know what kind of buyers you’re dealing with, you can better anticipate what kind of trouble they will face. Second, set expectations properly. Warn them of the challenges that come from their style of shopping and try to guide them towards decisions. Lastly, don’t think you can just tell them once and then you’re good to go. Continue to measure their efforts and remind them of the process as often as possible. The most important thing is that they trust your guidance and that you can stay ahead of roadblocks to help them get where they’re trying to go.
It’s Not Me, It’s You
Strategies to avoid a potentially difficult client.
Saying no isn’t easy—especially to a lead eager to become your client. But some clients aren’t worth the trouble.
Maybe it’s a seller who insists on an unreasonable price so that he can pay off the mortgage. Or it could be a buyer who won’t listen when you explain that she can’t afford any of the criteria on her must-have list.
If your intuition tells you not to do business with a person, it’s probably time to politely turn down the potential client. Here are ways to make it as painless as possible.
Once you realize that this person isn’t a good fit for you or your business, say so. Don’t let the meeting progress to the point where the potential client is assuming you’re going to represent him.
Is Your Decision Fair?
Make sure your client-selection decisions are not violating the Fair Housing Act, the REALTOR® Code of Ethics, or local fair housing laws. The federal Fair Housing Act says you cannot refuse to work with someone based on that person’s race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability. The Code of Ethics adds gender identity and sexual orientation to that list, and local ordinances may expand coverage further.
Know What You’re Going to Say
You don’t want to look uncertain, and having one or two lines rehearsed can help make your point succinctly. Thank the person for the opportunity to represent him in the transaction, explain that you don’t want to waste his time, and decline his business. You could say you don’t think it’s a good fit or that you don’t feel that you can meet his needs. Avoid specifics and reiterate your original point if the person presses you.
If All Else Fails …
This approach won’t always work. Some people will insist that you should work together no matter what you say. Other factors, such as when the potential client is a referral, can make the situation awkward. In these cases, ask for time. Tell the person that you need a week or more to think about what he’s trying to accomplish. If you’re lucky, the person won’t want to wait, and you’ll be off the hook. If not, you’ve given yourself time to prepare a thoughtful response.
Improve Your Small Talk
Small talk can be intimidating even if you are naturally outgoing, but it is an easy skill to improve. Try these techniques to improve your banter.
Start. Don’t be afraid to bring up the weather or the local sports team. The idea is to just get a conversation going.
Listen! Ask questions and listen to what the other person has to say.
Ask follow-up questions. It shows you are listening and want to know more.
Keep it light. Find common ground. Ask about hobbies, pets, children, vacations, or current projects.
Avoid controversial topics. Steer clear of them yourself and change the subject if the other person discusses them.
Tread lightly with humor. It can build bonds but just as easily sour the mood.
Bonus tip: Mention real estate. There are many ways to let others know what you do for a living without forcing the conversation. And you never know when that comment might lead to a new client.