There have been two recent articles on another prominent real estate blog focused on the life of a real estate agent. Both of them spoke of the 24/7 nature of real estate, the need to have your phone with you at all times, to be writing contracts at all hours of the morning while on vacation, putting deals together at your child's birthday party, and other "truths" about being a real estate professional. Another thing they both have in common is they're 100% crap.
Let's start with a disclaimer here. I'm not a mega agent. I have been in real estate for just over 13 years, and my best year in production had me at $12.2M. I averaged about $9m/yr my last few years of selling full time before I went into management and coaching and training. So let's not pretend this is advice from a master. I am a solo agent who makes a good living while maintaining a life.
Before I bullet point my stream of consciousness about how to live life as a Realtor, let me disclose a few things about my bias in this situation as well. I believe real estate agents have a poor reputation in the community, and I believe we've earned that. I believe it is way too easy to get your real estate license, and WAY too easy to keep your real estate license. I believe we use the word "professional" very loosely in our industry, and I can't stand comparisons between what we do and doctors and lawyers as ways to justify how we do business (ie: "You wouldn't ask your doctor to cut their charge, would you?" No, and I wouldn't go to a doctor who took 168 hours of online courses to get their license, either). I also believe there are a ton of great people in this business looking for a way to make a good living, help people, and live a good life all at the same time.
With that out of the way, here are my thoughts, in no logical sequence, about life and real estate:
- This is not a 24/7 gig. There is nothing urgent in real estate unless you made it urgent by not preparing ahead of time for an impending deadline.
- You do not have to reply to every text and every email the second you get it. Yes, sooner is better, so create an auto-responder letting the sender know when you'll get back to them and what they can do if they can't wait that long.
- We teach people how to treat us. I stole that line, and I believe it. If you answer a call at 10pm, you have taught that person it's okay to call you at 10pm. If you answer every text the second you get it, you have set the expectation you'll reply to texts as soon as they're sent, thus creating a huge disappointment when you don't.
- Banks are closed at night and on the weekends. So are title companies. So is the county building. So what is it that you have to get done at 9am on Sunday morning or 9:45pm Tuesday night that can't wait til the next day?
- I believe the NAR stat is that 88% of all Realtors last fewer than 2yrs in the business. This is partly because too many incompetent people join NAR, and partly because too many people are disillusioned with the 24/7 myth of real estate. You'll burn yourself out if you don't set boundaries.
So how do you sell $9m of real estate each year and not be constantly available?
- Set expectations up front. Ask people how they like to be communicated with (phone, text, email, in person) and how often. If what they say sounds reasonable, say "Great! I already have a system in place for that so you will receive an update text from me each weekday at 5pm (or whatever the agreement was). If they say something like, I want a call as soon as anything happens, reply with something like, "I understand that you want to be kept completely on top of things. Perfect! One of the reasons you're hiring me is that there is almost always 'something happening' in the transaction, and it would soon become a nuisance to you if I called you each and every time. Would a daily call at 8am with an update of the previous days' activities and the upcoming deadlines work for you?" Remember, you teach people how to treat you. Let them know up front how this will look.
- Remember, you're the "professional." Some things are meant for you to handle. Some things are meant for you to delegate to your team (title, mortgage, inspector, etc). You don't have to know and do everything. You have to have a trusted team that will step in where you need them. You can save your clients a lot of stress by simply handling things yourself and not worrying them unless you absolutely have to. Keep your clients informed of things they need to know and things that they have a say in. If the lender is dragging their feet, deal with it! Don't panic your clients unless they need to step in.
- Contrary to what our culture often says, very few people are impressed with busyness. When was the last time you were at a restaurant and the guy at the table next to you was on his cell phone the whole time and you thought to yourself, "I need to get his card, 'cause that's the type of guy I want in my corner."? Or if you're at a child's soccer game and the goalie's mom is on her tablet the whole time, do you feel sorry for her kid or are you impressed with her work ethic? Look, if I'm at a birthday party for my daughter, the other parents at that party are the highest likelihood for fantastic future clients and referrals of any other segment of the population. If I'm on the phone the whole time and not building relationships with those people, I'm losing out on one of the biggest business opportunities I have...while also telling my child they're a close 2nd to my business.
- If you go on vacation, go on vacation. Sure, this is a mobile industry and there may be some things you can do without interrupting your time away. But mostly, that's not the case. Find a trusted agent in your company that you can share with. When they're gone, you take their business and vice-versa. If you don't have anyone in your company you trust, find someone at another brokerage or change brokerages. If you're still coming up blank, take a closer look in the mirror. If you honestly believe you're the only one who can handle business the right way, you need to step back and evaluate how you see yourself and the world around you. Let your clients know well ahead of time when you'll be gone, introduce them to your partner, and just set that expectation. The hardest part? Let go. You trust this person, so let it go.
- If you're working 24/7, my guess is it is because you don't have a business plan. You take work as it comes and let your business run you. At my average sales price, I need to sell about 21 houses per year to hit my $9m. Most research shows that for every 10 people I have in my database whom I keep in constant contact with, I should get a deal per year. So I need about 200 people in my database...people with whom I am strategically communicating with about 3x per month. That will be a combination of emails, calls, texts, letters, face to face, etc. It's not random. It's a scheduled plan. If I do that, I know I'll hit my 21 deals. If I don't have 200 people, I can make a choice. Go meet more people, or start marketing. For every 75 or so in my marketing database (farming, etc) that hear from me once per month, I should get another deal. So if I have 125 in my database, I can count on 12 deals from that, and I'll need another 650 or so in my farm to cover those other 9 deals. Again, it's not random. And these are not just numbers. They are people I communicate with.
Bottom line for me? Get involved. Be involved in your kids' schools and sports and activities and get to know the parents. I ran a community 5k last month to benefit the local elementary school, and there were five--5!!--Realtor sponsors of this event. I was the only Realtor who ran. While the other 5 were sitting behind their booths hoping people would swing by and pick up a Frisbee or water bottle or Rockies magnet, I was talking to everyone, congratulating them on their run, and talking about life.
Set boundaries with your business and remember WHY you do what you do in the first place. If a client fires you for not replying to their text in 2 minutes, go find another client who will be more likely to refer you anyway (if you get fired for not replying in 2 days, you earned that).
Get leverage. Hire a transaction coordinator. In my area, a good TC costs about $350 at closing and is worth every dime. Have someone help with your marketing (title companies and lenders often have great resources). Hire a teenager to put out and pick up your open house signs. If that saved you 45-60min each time you held an open, it would be worth it! If you find a buyer in an area you don't specialize in, refer them out! Get 25-30% and spend that time working your area.
Mostly, and lastly, I believe this is a relationship business. So go get in relationships. I won't get the Internet leads, or the just moved to town buyers, and I'm okay with that. If I can find 21 people per year who want to buy or sell (often they do both so I'm really only looking for 15-18 clients), I make $250k/yr. I'm okay with that. I don't need every deal, I only need 21. Stop looking at what everyone else is doing and trying to copy that and go find your people and wrap your arms around them and don't let them go.
When real estate is done that way, it can make for a pretty great life.