Optimize Yourself and Your Client for This Crazy Market

I write this post on what is a “holiday” for many people: President’s Day.  A three-day weekend, the most joyous of “holidays.” Meanwhile, my wife – who is now a REALTOR® in Chicago – is running around prepping for another day because three day holiday weekends only means an extra day to be with clients looking for homes in a market starving for inventory. She has realized what many a real estate pro already has known: There are no such things as holidays for REALTORS®.

This, after a marathon Saturday of showings where half the houses she saw sold by the end of the day, turned into a night of presenting four offers to her seller only for the elation to quickly wear off when said sellers realized they have no home to move into once their condo closes in two months. Let’s face it, the market realities today mean that the hours real estate professionals work may not be the hours they’d LIKE to work.

There’s lots of “work-life-balance” talk on the interwebs, but unplugging may be hard to do when you’re in a multiple-offer situation, or if you NEED to show that listing that just came up on your MLS radar. However, the time you DO have with your clients will prove to be the most valuable, and squeezing every bit out of time with them might mean a make-or-break deal.  Some tips…

Audit Your Productivity Processes Now:

No other technology can position the client/agent team better in today’s hot market than mobile technology. How mobile are you? How mobile is your broker-tech, MLS, and forms technology? These entities are not created equally, and if you realize you’re working in the tech dark-ages, literally make it better, or carry contracts with you. Recognize that “being mobile,” actually means “being productive.” Know how to use DocuSign, Dotloop, zipForm or whatever your broker or MLS’s technology is that allows you to write offers on the fly. Dropbox and Evernote collaborations with clients may save your listing sanity. Sometimes having a MiFi hotspot and a laptop is all you need to be productive, whether your next office might be a Starbucks or the passenger seat of your car. The words, “I need to go back to my office to…” should never be enter into your lexicon.

Bonus: Brokers, make your next sales meeting a workshop, one in which your agents practice writing mobile contracts. For example, practice writing and sending forms to each other. Broadcast it live with about.me. Record it and throw it on your Youtube page. Your time is valuable too!

Make Your Orientation Customer-Specific, Rather Than You-Specific:

Ask your clients at the orientation about their real estate experiences so far, and find out what “a day in the life of their real estate search” looks like. Ask the same of attendees at your open house – you might not pick them up as buyers, but what you can glean from them could be eye-opening. Ask your prospects how “savvy” they are at the orientation. Re-education is inevitable, so do it here. Educate them on the market, not you.

Train them: Once prospects become clients, train them. Get them familiar with YOUR processes and techniques; especially those that put them in a favorable position come offer-time. Train them on all of your processes; this is when their savvy meets yours. Train them on how to use Docusign/Dotloop/zipForms/etc. at the orientation. Set expectations. What’s cool is that many real estate consumers have spent a TON of time searching and gathering information – you know, doing real estate stuff. They know how hot the market is by now and they want to keep busy being pro-active, so give them something to learn.

Google the listing: This seems to go without saying but I’m constantly amazed at how many of my clients used to focus on only what they chose to focus on when it came to listings, until it hit me: The agent perspective is always MLS-centric, while our clients tend to be Google-centric. Google together. Anticipate pain points by Google’ing the homes in your next home tour, or with a seller’s home. Do it live at the orientation, with your prospect’s favorite house. Launch your MLS and perform a live comp with your prospective seller to demystify the MLS and answer, once and for all, why the “five bedroom, three bath McMansion four miles away that sold three years ago, doesn’t make a difference in the market value of your two bedroom bungalow, Mr. Seller.” Your goal is to get your clients to be decisive, to anticipate the market with you and to get them to realize that what they’re seeing online is mix of advertising and yesterday’s new listings.

Bonus: Make all of this content for your website. Checklists, how-to videos, a glossary of real estate terms, market updates, your value proposition, all should be there.  There is – literally – a website called “Let me Google This For You,” which you could use to record how to properly Google something. Make your website first contact, pre-meeting homework. That prospect who emails you to cancel their appointment because they “didn’t realize what they were getting into,” just saved you a couple hours of wasted time. “No problem! Stay tuned to my website for more updates and I’ll check in with you in a couple weeks!” Education and awareness content is your new lead-generation. Speaking of which…

Marketing and Lead-Generation:

Start talking to sellers. “How’s the market?” The one question every real estate professional gets but none seem to answer. The one reason why the Zestimate is the most compelling and polarizing number in real estate. One could (and should) be addressing this with their marketing to address widespread lack of inventory issues, but the crazier the market gets, the farther on the back-burner marketing seems to get pushed, and that needs to stop. Get in the habit of taking 15 minutes each week to answer the “How’s the market?” question. Use your MLS and association’s monthly market updates on your website. Knock it off with the “I’m at my association, learning about the 2014 economy, yay!” Facebook selfies and instead distill what you learn for your Facebook friends. Prove, day in and day out, that you are a market expert. Your clients and Google, for that matter, will love you for it, and your funnel will be filled for your next business cycle.

Bonus: When I was an agent, Thursday was my “MLS and association day.” I dug into my MLS data and pulled the top 10 hottest markets, neighborhoods, zip codes – even home-types sold – and with it I honed my market expertise and got into the habit of downloading association videos and market reports to find marketable data. Integrate the same mindset into your business! Throw the data up against history and spot trends, then write about it on your site or share what surprised you on social media. Focus your marketing on these and their outlying carry-over markets. Hosting an open house Saturday or Sunday? Pull up that same report but make it more centric to that home’s neighborhood or market. Save reports to your Dropbox to email to prospects at the open. As a friend of mine once put it: “Earn trust, get traffic.”  Gain mind-share now for market-share later.

Whatever you do with these and other tips, get into a rhythm of business. Get your clients and prospects into the act to set expectations and get them into the rhythm as well – whether they’re tapping into your savvy, your processes, your marketing, or your expertise. Make every bit of that time with them worthwhile. Your sanity just might thank you for it.

Nobu Hata

I'm director of digital engagement for the National Association of REALTOR®. Former REALTOR® with Edina Realty in Minnesota. Geek. Alaska and Minnesota have been home. Now I'm in Chicago or on the road meeting with REALTORS® and association executives to talk about NAR, their business, and the integration of digital technologies in our industry.

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  1. Great advice Nobu. A lot of folks complained about our previous market but this fast moving markets creates problems of its own. The market will be what it will but we always control how we react.

  2. Steve Mueller

    You did not explain how Realtors should answer the Zestimate Question. The best way to explain it is to look up Zillow on Wikipedia. Like a tax assessment the Zestimate has nothing to do with value. It’s all about selling advertising to realtors…..I have been an appraiser for 15 years and prior to that I was realtor for 15 years. I recently got may salesperson license again. The problem with realtors is that most have had very little formal training in property valuation. At most they got 3 hours pre-licensing and 3 hours fast start training. The rest of what they know about property valuation is mostly urban legend and a few CMAs a year.

    I’ll give you a quick time saving tip. There is no such animal as an as-is FHA contract. The property must meet FHA minimum property standards for FHA to insure the loan.

  3. The best part of your wonderful article is the suggestion that Brokers teach their agents how to use today’s technology. Many very good agents are very limited when it comes to using the tools that are available.

  4. Thanks for this article Nobu! As a newly licensed broker, it’s great to know that I’m already doing the right things. I made a commitment to build a strong business infrastructure with process. I’m trying to establish my “rhythm” so that I’m efficient…..any suggestions on what that “rhythm” should look like…..from a weekly perspective?

  5. Steve, I also have heard that many buyers/sellers set expectations based on Zillow’s “Zestimate” which causes great frustration for Agents trying to explain why their property value may not match what they find there. I like your explanation for how to handle this.

    ~Dayna at http://www.flipt.co

  6. You brought out some very good points in this article. I believe agents should stop trying to sell themselves to prospective buyers and sellers and pay more attention to the content of their messages. People want to know some about an agent’s credentials and a lot more of how an agent will help them.
    Steve is right that you did not explain the Zestimate questions. Steve is incorrect that most realtors do not know very much about property valuation. I, for one, analyze the market or subdivision data extensively when completing a CMA, despite whether it is for a seller or buyer. Most agents do many more than a ‘few’ CMA’s a year as well.
    Just saying.

  7. Thanks for the article. Technology is advancing so rapidly that a lot of highly productive agents simply will not take the time to lean something new. We do have to educate our prospects that Zillow and other such sites often have outdated and/or inaccurate information. We’ve got to walk them through the “why”. In addition to the facts of the CMA they still want to know that you care.