July 20, 2010

"Waiting for Godot" ~ The Real Estate Version

Back in high school, many of us had to study the play Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett. For those who weren't lucky (?) enough to have been assigned to read this story/play, it's basically two characters - Vladimir and Estragon - waiting on a third person, the titular Godot, to show up.

That's it. That's the whole premise of the play.

Nope, nothing else. No murder mystery. No love story. No action packed fight sequence.

I hate to say it but, as I have been out in front of agents "in the field," I have been seeing a lot of people in the real estate industry just "waiting for Godot" lately.

Want to see if you're one of them? Ask yourself the following questions and be honest with your answers:

  • When was the last time you spoke to your current Sellers voice to voice or face to face?
  • How many times have you spoken voice to voice or face to face with any of your clients who have bought or sold a house with you in the last 12 months?
  • What have you done for the people who have referred you leads in the last year?
  • When was the last time you knocked on a For Sale By Owners door to offer assistance?
  • Can you remember the last time you followed up with an expired Seller?
  • Can you identify all the people who live on your immediate block...by name?
  • What new organizations have you become a part of since this time last year?

Are you just sitting their "waiting for Godot"?

"Godot" might have visited you often back when the market was good but today is a new type of market and "Godot", like Elvis, has left the building.

It's time to take control of your business and quit waiting for it to come to you. Every day people will be deciding to sell their house and every day, people will be deciding to buy a house. Will they hear from you, either directly or via a personal referral?

Or will they end up using Vladimir or Estragon? They may not have a clue, but at least they are out there "on stage", in front of a live studio audience.

July 18, 2010

Taking Lessons from Louis

Congratulations to Louis Oosthuizen

Champion Golfer of the Year for 2010

Photo courtesy of PGATour.com - Getty Images

While it may not go down as one of the most memorable golf tournaments in British Open history you certainly can't blame South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen for that. He just went out and did what all of the other competitors in the field were hoping to do - hoist the Claret Jug on Sunday evening.

Oosthuizen (pronounced Whoost - Hazen) may not be a household name like Tiger Woods or Tom Watson yet, but just like those two great British Open Champions, his name will be etched on golf's oldest trophy and into immortality after his performance at St. Andrews in Scotland this weekend.

There were some simple lessons we can all learn from little Louis such as:

You only need to worry about yourself - In golf, like life, it's all you can do to focus on your own efforts. You have to play the golf course, not the other players. Much like the Serenity Prayer says, " God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; Courage to change the things I can; And wisdom to know the difference."

Focus - Each shot in golf requires you to focus on what needs to happen to advance your ball to the proper spot - fairway, green or cup. Your club selection, grip, stance, aim and swing must be perfect to result in a great shot. How much do you focus on the details of your daily life? Where do you lose focus and when you do, how quickly can you get back "in play"?

Take a practice swing - Looking at the shot before you, it helps to "see it happen" in your mind's eye. One way golfers do that is to visualize the shot they want to hit and then take a practice swing that will emulate their desired swing. In real life, do you use visualization for the things you wish to accomplish, helping you "see" things happen before they do? Are you using affirmations helping set the scene in your subconsciousness?

Trust the yardage - The course was there long before you arrived and will be there long after you leave. Don't second guess facts and figures. Find ways to blend what you know with what you have in order to maximize your chances.

Don't take chances - Work hard early in the day so you can possibly build up some room for error. Oosthuizen started the final round with a four shot lead, dropped to within three strokes of his challenger for one hole and then quickly built his lead back to four and eventually 9 strokes with just 5 holes to play. That lead allowed him to relax just a bit and not take silly chances. The final few holes he could just "trust his swing" and...

Enjoy the walk - Take time every day to look around you. If what you do for a living feels like work, you might not be doing it right. Wave to the crowds, tip your hat when you earn a compliment and celebrate the little victories.

July 10, 2010

Be Careful When Setting Expectations

It's always good to know exactly what it is you're getting into, isn't it? Goals can be realized, success can be attained and a lot of heartbreak can be avoided if everyone can agree on what is expected at the beginning of an event, mission or job. Whether you're in real estate or the National Basketball Association, be careful you don't set your expectations so high that success is unattainable.

The Heat Is On!

Thursday Night NBA All Star and reigning league MVP LeBron James announced his decision to accept a free agent contract with the Miami Heat, officially closing his 7-year career with the Cleveland Cavaliers. James will be joining All Star free agents Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade in Miami (Bosh left Toronto, Wade re-signed with Miami) in an effort to help the Heat win another NBA title and bring James and Bosh their first rings.

Dwayne Wade referred to the three players as "arguably the best trio to ever play the game of basketball." I hope that Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Magic Johnson and James Worthy weren't listening. LeBron said he's not there to win just one championship but even said they might win more than seven? As good as the 25-year-old star is, those are some pretty high expectations, aren't they?

How Will You Handle the Heat?

Do you establish expectations with your clients? Are you learning about their time frames and how quickly they might be thinking the process will take? Many times, buyers think it will take them several weeks and 50+ showings to find the right house. Wouldn't you like to know that ahead of time so you're not frustrated at driving them around weekend after weekend?

What about some pre-qualifying of your next buyers so you can determine how much home they're likely to get for their budget? What if they have the proverbial "champagne taste and a beer budget"? Isn't it better to educate them while they're still in your office rather than when you're looking at houses that aren't what they thought they were looking for?

When meeting with Sellers, how do you handle their expectations? They want the highest price possible in the shortest time but what does that mean? Is your idea of the highest price possible and their idea anywhere close to the same dollar amount? I know agents who would be excited to get an accepted contract on a listing in some parts of town in less than 100 days. Without establishing the proper expectations ahead of time, that could be three months longer than the Seller was expecting to wait.

What's the Over/Under?

In sports gambling, bettors can place wagers on the score of games being over a certain number or under a certain number. Sometimes bets are placed on the number of games a team will win in the season. I heard the early "over/under" line for The Heat next year is 70 wins, meaning that if you "bet the over" you think they will win 71 or more games (out of 82 regular season games).

I don't know which way I'd lean in that bet but I do know that if you really want to exceed people's expectations in real estate, and anything else for that matter, I suggest you follow the Under/Over Principle....

Under Promise and Over Deliver

It's easy to talk a big game in sports before the season begins. It's easy to tell people what you have done in the past. But as life has proven to everyone reading this right now, "saying" and "doing" are usually two very different things.

A common refrain for Sellers to say to Realtors at a listing presentation is "well, the other agent said they would list it at $_______," showing their unhappiness with your lower suggested asking price. Clearly an expectation was established by the previous Realtor that may or may not be attainable. If the number you have suggested to get the results they are seeking is below that number, you must confidently look the Sellers in the eyes and say "Did the other agent say they would list it at that price or sell it at that price?"

I am positive that LeBron James thought he would have won a NBA Championship by now with The Cavaliers. He hasn't. He has fallen short of his expectations so far.

Will Miami secure the NBA Championship next June? They might. They certainly have three very good players who bring a wealth of talent to the court each and every night but their team still needs to outscore their opponent. We'll see next year, won't we. I know the three players (Bosh, James and Wade) have very high expectations for what they hope to accomplish.

Just don't be surprised if there aren't 29 other teams in the NBA that start off the season with the same expectations as the three guys who have certainly turned up the heat on themselves in Miami.

July 8, 2010

Building "Facebook 15's" Into Your Routine

Facebook is really cool. It's fun, it's dynamic and it can be very addicting. Who among Facebook Nation hasn't been on the site and then looked up at the clock and said, "Oh my God, there is no way I have been on here that long!!!"

Facebook allows Realtors and Managers to connect with co-workers, co-op agents, friends, family and clients (past, current and future) but it can also be one of the biggest time traps just waiting to swallow you whole.

My suggestion - Schedule several Facebook 15's into your daily plans. One early in the morning before you leave home, one that overlaps with your lunch hour and one late in the day and you'll not only be adding great value to your social networking efforts, you'll be gaining back some precious productivity time during business hours.

The key is to use those 15 minutes wisely.

U - Update your status ~ Tell the world what you're doing or share an inspirational quote, music lyric, funny joke or pose a question. You shouldn't always be talking about real estate so keep the new listing announcements and "Do you know a Buyer" requests to a minimum. I suggest one out of ten posts should be about real estate. Ask yourself - do my friends really want to hear me talk about real estate all the time?

S - See who might be celebrating a birthday ~ Facebook always lists your friends who may be celebrating a birthday on the home page. Drop them a message, post on their wall, send them an email or maybe even...call them in person?!! I know it sounds weird but people do still do that these days. I guarantee you - you will stand out.

E - Engage with someone who has just updated their status ~ Take a few minutes to read what your friends have posted. You can search by status updates, look at the most recent postings or search from one of your specific groups you may have created. Add a few comments, congratulate someone who shared something exciting or post an opposite opinion. It's called "social networking" so you're supposed to engage with others. Don't just be a "Facebook Peeping Tom" and peek at others.

I - Inbox – check yours for message ~ More and more people are using the internal messaging capabilities of Facebook to send more secure messages. This is a great spot to send people messages you would want their other friends to see on their wall.

T – Tweet in conjunction ~ If you're also a Twitterer, many different tools will allow you to post your message on Twitter and then have it feed over to Facebook. It just might help you kill two birds with one stone.. Just don't kill that bird that serves as Twitter's logo. She's kinda cute.

W – Where, What and Why? ~ People who read your post update should be able to answer these questions about you: Where are you? What are you doing? Why are you doing it? While it doesn't have to be real estate related, it just might get people to think of you, or a neighbor, friend or co-worker who has been there before, done what you're doing or perhaps, they just might need real estate assistance in the near future. They weren't thinking of you and your referral needs before they read your update but now they are. This Facebook 15 just might turn into Facebook $15,000!

I – Inquire about something. Try to stimulate a response ~ Be provocative. Be current or topical? Be a bit obscure. Just try not to be too political or religious. On Friday afternoons I always try to post a music question. I call it my Facebook Friday Happy Hour Song of the Week. I'll toss out a topic for people to think of a song that fits the criteria. I'll even suggest a few possibilities. Then, I sit back and wait for the replies to come in.

Example: What's your favorite song that has a specific location in the title? Margaritaville by Jimmy Buffett? Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd? Hotel California by The Eagles? Mexico by James Taylor?

S – Stay away from chatting during business hours ~ The chatting function is neat and allows for real time connections but I just don't recommend you engage in this during business hours. If you're trying to keep each visit to Facebook under fifteen minutes, staying away from chat conversations will help.

E – Check your Events for the upcoming weeks ~ Have you been invited to any events? Have you forgotten to RSVP for anything? Check this now. If you're going to attend, send them a message telling them you're excited about seeing them. If you can't make it or don't want to go, drop them a note when you RSVP telling them to have a great time, good luck or to be sure to invite you the next time. They'll be glad you took the time to reach out and the other people who see the invite will see that you connected.

LLog off ~ Remember, it's just supposed to be for 15 minutes. If the clock hits 15 and you're not done, jot a quick note to yourself of what else you wanted to do and pick up there during your next Facebook 15 session later in the day. Discipline yourself before your lack of business disciplines you.

Y Yes, it’s okay to be “off line” for a while ~ Your business survived before Facebook and it now it's important for you to prove to yourself that it can survive with it. Spend time and energy with people IRL - "In Real Life."

Remember...Face to Face is sometimes better than Facebook to Facebook.

If you're not already one of my Facebook Friends, I invite you to connect with me there. I can't say I'll always have time to engage with you, but I just might come across you during fifteen minutes here or there.

July 5, 2010

You Can't Live in Your Stock Certificate

People who own their own houses grow to appreciate not just the house they reside in but also the "home" they create around it.

Yes, buying a house is a large investment - for many, the largest they will ever make in their lifetime - but it's more than a bunch of digits at the bottom of a bank statement or a glamorous stock certificate.

In a recent op-ed piece in the NY Times, columnist Winifred Gallagher wrote an excellent piece called The Other Real Estate Value. Gallagher states it brilliantly when she says "in the past and in many places still, “home” doesn’t mean just your house but also your village or community, where you’re known and understood."

I encourage you to click on the article and read it today. I am sure it will help remind you of the value of what real estate means to the people who own it, buy it and sell it and even more importantly, the valuable role we as Realtors play in the real estate experience.

Have a great week listing houses and selling homes!

July 2, 2010

Happy 4th of July!

Happy Birthday America!

There will be less days left in 2010 when you come back from this weekend than the number of days that are already gone this year. Tick..tock..tick..tock...

I hope you have a plan in place for your daily, weekly and monthly activities to reach your goals.

Build Realtionships

Solve Problems

Have Fun!

July 1, 2010

You Don't Have To Know Everything!

How's the Market?

Chances are, if you're a real estate agent, you've been asked that question a million times. But do you have a standard answer? My favorite that I learned from real estate trainer and friend John Hamilton goes like this.

"It's challenging, but there are lots of opportunities. All I/we need right now are a few more ____________________"

The ___________________ can be filled in with whatever I might need right now. Listings in the entry level price point? Buyers in the mid $200K range? Builders for some new land I just acquired? I control the message of "how's the market?" now, not the media.

Just the Facts, Ma'am

I am a huge advocate of real estate agents being up to date on their current market at all times. I think it is critical that agents feel comfortable discussing market conditions and confidently being able to share current inventory levels, price points, days on market and any other standard points of interest.

How do you do that? By running daily hot sheets in your MLS system. You should be looking at the new listings that have hit the market, price changes, pending sales, homes that have been cancelled or expired and any other piece of information that jumps out at you.

Then what?

Reach out to your Sellers and update them on what this means to them. How is the marketing position of their home affected if their neighbor just reduced their price by $5,000? What will happen to the Buyer traffic if three new listings hit the market in the neighboring subdivision?

You might identify a new listing in the same area where you just sold a home to a buyer. What a great reason for a call.

"Hey Mr. Jones, this is Sean Carpenter from Coldwell Banker. How are you? I promised when we worked together that I would keep you up to date on the happenings in and around your neighborhood so you can always be aware of your home values.

"There is a new listing that just came on the market one block over and it's priced at ___ and has ______. Of the people you know, who do you think might be the next person to move?"

Simple call, isn't it? I already have a relationship with Mr. Jones because I worked with him and his family to purchase the home he's in. I now have a "reason to call" that provides him with valuable information and it might lead to a referral opportunity.

You Can Be The Source of the Source

Information like you find on MLS Hot Sheets, at your local board of Realtors web sites (click here for a sample of what the Columbus Board of Realtors offers) or Local Market Reports from the National Association of Realtors becomes ideal material to distribute to your email data base, print out for local open houses, share on your social networking sites or even post to your blog.

The new reports from NAR are really neat and you can access them for 150 different markets so in addition to your local markets, you could leverage out of town relationships, referral opportunities and be more knowledgeable with those Buyers coming in from another area.

Check out the reports here and start finding ways to become the "neighborhood expert."