You’re a professional. But even world-class athletes still practice the fundamentals, and for you to stay at the top of your game, you need to hone the techniques and habits that got you where you are today. Texas REALTOR® asked three real estate experts what basics you can improve to continue growing throughout your career.
Never Stop Learning
TREC requires you to complete 18 hours of CE credits every two years to maintain your active sales agent license. Some real estate professionals only complete the bare minimum—and wait until the last minute to do so—but all three experts interviewed for this article urge agents and brokers to pursue relevant learning opportunities on an ongoing basis.
Jim Parr, who has spent more than 35 years in commercial real estate, believes education is another form of dues you pay to stay a leading professional in this industry.
Education isn’t restricted to formal classes. Trainer and educator Rhonda Hamilton suggests learning a little bit every day by reading industry publications, listening to podcasts, or hiring a coach. Attending marketing and networking events is also important.
Stay Current in Your Community
Your local real estate market is constantly changing. You need to stay updated on what’s happening in your community.
For Parr, that means studying new developments and zoning ordinances, and learning new technology as it relates to commercial real estate.
Ginger Unger, who has spent more than 30 years in commercial real estate and residential investments, recommends following the local business and community news, attending chamber of commerce meetings, knowing about upcoming developments, and being able to answer clients’ questions about trends and zoning changes.
“I know agents who still think Smithson Valley has only one area, when in fact the Comal County area near Smithson Valley consists of several cities, such as Spring Branch, Bulverde, and Canyon Lake,” she says.
You may lose business if prospects think you are behind the times or not knowledgeable. There may even be liability issues. Unger uses the example of not knowing that a rock quarry is being developed and then selling a nearby home to a client with asthma.
Stay Up with New Rules
Unger suggests you should not wait until the last minute to take TREC’s Legal Update courses. Otherwise, you will have practiced real estate for almost two years with outdated information.
“A lot of agents aren’t looking at the changes TREC makes to the contracts,” she says. “If you haven’t written a certain type contract in a long time, you may not be aware of the changes. You also need to be knowledgeable about which addendums to use with the contracts.
“There is a Municipal Utility District (MUD) form and a Planned Unit Development (PUD) form. I find a lot of REALTORS® are not aware that builders and developers in the Hill Country are offsetting costs with MUDs and PUDs. If applicable, those two documents have to be delivered to the buyer at or before the contracts are signed or the buyer can terminate the contract at any time.”
Many agents are not aware of where to locate these documents and that the seller must complete the forms, not the agent, she continues.
Make a Schedule and Stick to It
Hamilton advises blocking off 30 minutes or an hour—ideally per day but two to three times per week is helpful—for activities that grow your business. That time should be as non-negotiable as a listing appointment. “REALTORS® who have been in business a long time tend to get overcome at the beginning of the morning with phone calls and emails. The obligations tell the REALTOR® what his or her schedule’s going to be rather than the REALTOR® dictating how the day is going to go,” she says.
Unger states you need to put in the time and effort to get ahead. “This is a full-time job. If you want to be successful, you need to put in your 8-10 hours a day, and you need to start with a schedule. Make sure you have a checklist for yourself. Have I done my calls for the day? Have I door knocked? Have I done my social media? It’s persistence, organization, scheduling yourself, and following through.”
Ask What is Working
Real estate agents should track every aspect of their business, according to Unger. “I ask, ‘Where are you are getting your business from?’ … and some agents say, ‘I don’t know.’ You need to know where you’re getting your business from,” she says.
Take a look at the workflow systems you have in place to conduct business, Hamilton adds. “If you’ve been in business for a while, then you’re busy. The only way that you can continue to grow is if you have systems and if you outsource in appropriate places in your business, so you are focusing on income-producing results.”
Update Your Marketing
You must stay current with the most effective marketing techniques. Brush up on your social media; the best ways to engage on the major platforms have changed over time. “If you’re stuck in paper mailouts rather than doing video marketing, then you’re stuck in the past, and you’re not really using the tools available today that help take your business to the next level,” Hamilton says.
In today’s market, you are selling a lifestyle, not a home, Unger adds. “People want to see stories. They want to see a house that was flipped from the ground up. They want to watch it be torn up and put back together. Don’t show them a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house and say nothing else—nobody cares about that. They want to see something interesting,” she says.
Get Comfortable with Change
Parr has seen some seasoned practitioners resist change. “They aren’t unaware of the new requirements and responsibilities—they actually resist them in their practice.”
For example, Parr remembers meeting with a prospect after the Information About Brokerage Services (TXR 2501) form became required. Parr’s competitors had already talked with the prospect, yet he was the first to share the form.
“I was dismayed to see that because it said that not only were those competitors of mine not keeping up with the latest requirements, but they also were refusing to adapt them to their practice,” he says.
The coronavirus pandemic has forced real estate professionals to learn how to do business online and develop business practices around those tools. Agents and brokers are getting creative online in order to grow their businesses, Hamilton says.
Invest in Relationships
There is still value in developing personal relationships, Hamilton notes. “Agents miss out on the fact that one of the skills they need to develop is how to stay connected with people. Those soft skills—people skills, relationship marketing—are critical in today’s market for agents to continue to be successful and build their referral and repeat business.”
Hamilton has observed that some seasoned agents do not invest in the same depth of service as newer agents with more time on their hands. If you can offer things your competitors cannot or choose not to provide, you will shine, she says.
Parr believes the most critical skill for agents and brokers is listening. “Active listening means you are really focused on not just hearing but also understanding what the other party is saying. That’s critically important because you want to understand clients’ needs and be able to put their needs first as their representative. It’s also critically important when you’re listening to the other side of a transaction to understand what they’re actually communicating.”
Ultimately, you improve what you practice. An investment in the fundamentals is an investment in your entire real estate career.
Which courses should I take?
Texas REALTORS® offers many courses to keep your skills sharp.
Contracts are a great subject to revisit, especially since TREC requires three hours of CE for license renewals. Courses on social media, listings, and open houses are also good choices.
Texas REALTORS® offers the Texas Accredited Commercial Specialist designation, which teaches you about market analyses and property development and management, among other skills.
These courses are being offered in October and November:
- 1-4 Contract Boot Camp
- Avoiding Contract Pitfalls
- Broker Responsibility Course
- The Forms You Need to Know
- Listing 101: The Nuts & Bolts
- Real Estate and Facebook 101
- TREC Legal Update I and II
- Writing Listing Descriptions.
Learn more at texasrealestate.com/findacourse.