Archive for the ‘Reflections From a Difficult Market’ Category

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smaller_daisy

I could hardly stop myself from jumping up and clapping when I read the post I re-blogged below. Here are some similarly-topic’ed posts I’ve written myself on the subject:

Real Estate Agents – Salespeople or Consultants? Depends on the Agent! 
“Lead Generation is what Real Estate is All About” 
Doctors and Lawyers and Real Estate Agents?

And here’s my comment on the post itself…

AMEN Carol Ann – I don’t even know where to start in expressing my agreement with you. Last year I wrote a Manifesto (that remains mostly unshared) about what it will take to change the somewhat negative image among the general public of our industry and one of my suggestions was to prohibit the use of the word “salesperson” (or any variation) in our official titles or personal branding. WE DO NOT SELL REAL ESTATE! Homeowners sell real estate; we facilitate the transaction in a professional service capacity.

Do we have to sell ourselves? Of course we do – so does every other self-employed person on the planet. Do we call a self-employed dentist a Dental Salesperson? Do we say that they “sell” dental services? Do we call a self-employed massage therapist a Massage Sales Associate and refer to her business as one of selling massages?

Of course not and it’s the same with real estate agents. However, the notion that we ARE salespeople is so pervasive in our industry that we’re attracting the WRONG practitioners TO our industry – people who ARE natural salespeople and aren’t particularly interested in the pieces and parts of what can be a very complicated transaction. I crack up when people argue with me over this and say that the “details” of a real estate transaction are best left to a $12/hour assistant so that the “salesperson’s” precious time and sales skills can be best used drumming up new business. HA! When someone says that, I KNOW they have no idea of what a competent, client-centered real estate professional does all day – and it ain’t SALES.

I could go on and on, but I’ll stop here. Thanks for the opportunity to passionately agree with you! Fantastic blog!

Via Al and Cal Realty Group Al Mussi Carol Ann Palmieri (RE/MAX Executive Realty):

Why do They Call It Selling Real Estate Anyway?  It’s not like Selling Pencils

I have never considered myself a “sales” person.   I read a gal’s post today. She was questioning whether or not to stay in the field feeling that she wasn’t comfortable with her sales abilities. The first thought that came to mind was,

Why do they call it Selling Real Estate anyway?    Do any of us think that it’s like selling pencils or something?    No buyer is going to let themselves be “sold” into making such a large purchase.   Especially one that you can’t return!    You can push a pencil on someone and that might be selling, but telling a person why they need this $500,000 dollar house instead of another just doesn’t work.  On the flip side, does anyone think we can talk a person into selling a home when they don’t want to?    Can you imagine someone going through the home sale process because their agent was a quick and convincing talker?   I don’t think so.   sales pitch

So instead of calling it Selling if we called it consulting or something else wouldn’t it take a lot of pressure off all the parties involved?    It would be more accurate, wouldn’t it?     What do Realtors really do any way?    We Research, Investigate, Evaluate, Negotiate, Facilitate, Market, Promote, Educate, Coordinate, and Communicate just to mention a few things.       If we stopped calling it selling, there might be a higher degree of trust  on the part of Buyers and Sellers.  They might not not worry that we are trying to get them to do something that we couldn’t possibly do anyway.    

I will admit.  There are times we need to recognize that someone wants to make a purchase and needs a gentle nudge, but that comes with experience and getting to know your buyer or seller.  That nudge comes in the form of opinion.   We are not “selling” them. 

The only thing we might actually “sell” is ourselves or our services.   What sets us apart in the crowd.   One doesn’t need to be a hard sell or an in your face kind of person to do that.    Confidence and ability to complete what you say will can win over even the toughest skeptic.   

Would  the real estate field  attract more folks to it if the word “sales” wasn’t used in front of agent?   We do have to have to be great communicators with exceptional organizational skills as well as an intense degree of dedication, but sales skills, I wonder.

If you don’t want to be sold, but want an agent that will guide you through the real estate process from locating to evaluating and negotiating the home of your dreams… I’m your gal.   

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Last week we did a teleseminar show in the SWS Virtual Studio on a rather sensitive subject – QUITTING. Yeah, quitting. As in, throwing in the towel and calling it a day. The goal of the show was not to talk anyone out of quitting, or shame them into staying or even to sell them a bunch of my books so they’ll miraculously turn their career around; no, the goal to assure agents that IF quitting is right for them, there’s no need to apologize, feel guilty or be ashamed. In fact, I believe it takes a lot of courage to admit that something isn’t working and go do something ELSE!

QuitDuring the show I described seven Reasons to Leave that I believe are perfectly valid Reasons to Leave. Not that anyone needs my permission or blessing, of course, but if you, or someone you know is struggling, and any or many or all of these apply, leaving might very well be the best course of action.

1. Your market truly sucks. Contrary to the rah-rah’s and Pollyannas, there may NOT be enough business to go around and some markets are truly awful. If buyers aren’t buying and sellers aren’t selling, there’s nothing we as real estate agents can do to change that. To determine if your market is viable or not – take a look at how the top five agents in your office are doing. If they’re busy and seem to be going to closings on a regular basis, then there probably IS business to be had if you could figure out a way to get some for yourself. But if even the top dogs are struggling, your market may not be viable, right now anyway.

2. You aren’t suited for self-employment. Not everyone is cut out to be self-employed. And there’s no shame in that. Here’s a great article about the entrepreneurial personality: http://www.bizoffice.com/library/files/entrepreneur.html

3. Your understanding of what a real estate agent does all day was wrong. Before going into real estate, many agent-wanna-be’s think the job revolves around showing property, writing offers, attending closings, creating home brochures and holding open houses. Which, as we all now know, isn’t the case at all. If you didn’t realize how much of your time would be spent pursuing business, trying to solve unsolvable problems and dealing with grumpy idiots, and you don’t particularly enjoy these activities, perhaps real estate wasn’t a good choice for you.

4. You don’t handle confrontation and conflict well. Most normal people would prefer not to have a lot of conflict and confrontation in their lives, but if you tend to avoid it at all costs and literally make yourself sick when in the middle of a disagreement, it’s likely a career in real estate will be miserable for you.

5. It’s simply time for a change. No one ever said real estate had to be your last career. Hey, if you’re bored or burned out or ready to do something different, go for it!

6. Your lifestyle has changed. Perhaps you’ve had children since you got your license… or maybe your children are now at an age where they’re more demanding of your time. Maybe you’ve gotten married… or divorced… maybe you’re having health issues or are caring for an aging parent. Life happens… and sometimes a lifestyle change will also require a change in career to accommodate your new reality.

7. And my favorite… Real estate is just too hard right now. You know what? Selling real estate is freakin’ HARD right now. And often not much fun. And often not too profitable. If you aren’t having any fun; if you aren’t sleeping well at night; if you aren’t making any money and don’t see that changing – GO DO SOMETHING ELSE! Life is way too short to get up every morning and hate what you do.

If you’re struggling with whether Real Estate is/was a good career choice for you, you might check out a new (free) newsletter mini-clinic I just put together. It’s specifically for aspiring agents (people who are thinking about going to real estate school), but it’s a fairly hard-core look at the realities of the career – and might be helpful for you in making your decision. Just go here: http://sellwithsoul.com/sws-specialties/rookies/aspiring.html

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About a year ago, my friend Loreena Yeo unintentionally challenged me. I had just written a series of blogs about a nice new real estate agent named Jake who went from the verge of failure to the heights of success, based on his effective sphere of influence campaign. On the second to last installment of the Jake story, Loreena asked the question: “Was Jake lucky? Did Jake begin his career during a boom time and therefore was able to experience success more easily than today’s agent?”jake

Okay, so Loreena probably didn’t mean it as a challenge, but I took it that way. Within a few months, I decided to return to the wonderful world of real estate sales to prove to … well… myself if no one else… that the Selling Soulfully philosophies weren’t just a bunch of fluff that will work fine in a strong market… but not-so-fine in a difficult one.

So, in February of this year, I re-activated my license and started selling real estate again. Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect and yes, I was a little nervous. What if I failed? What if the methods and philosophies I’ve been preaching all this time were just a bunch of fluff & hooey in today’s market? What if… egads… the only way to succeed selling real estate is to aggressively prospect to strangers and pester your friends to death with your thinly-disguised sales pitches?

Thankfully, I have discovered that the methods I used to build my business back in the booming mid-90’s work just dandily today. No need to spend a gazillion dollars marketing myself to strangers or to hassle my friends on a regular basis to “PLEASE SEND ME REFERRALS ‘CAUSE I LOVE THEM.” I have a steady stream of business that comes to me as a result of my SOI efforts, and my commitment to Being Out There in the World with My Antenna Up and a bundle of market expertise in my back-pocket.

However, I will admit and acknowledge that, indeed, it IS harder today. Many trainers will give you a pep talk and convince you that if you aren’t seeing the success of yesteryear, then you just aren’t trying hard enough. That may be so, and I certainly won’t stop anyone from working longer hours to get thru these lean times, but what I want to say is this…

Whether you’re a green bean newbie or an experienced old fogie… if you’re feeling discouraged by your YTD production or what’s (not) in your pipeline… you are not alone. Even the most pompous, confident, arrogant top producers are feeling those feelings, I promise you.  They may not admit it and they may even tell you that they’re having their best year ever, but that’s probably a bunch of hooey.

The good news is, as you’ve heard a hundred times, those who survive will likely thrive when this crisis passes. If you’re new and have never experienced a strong or even stable market, you have something truly awesome to look forward to. For those of us who’ve been around awhile, we can look forward to again enjoying that career we fell in love with.

There will be lots of agents who make it through to the next market. Hundreds of thousands of them, even. Is there any reason it won’t be you?

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Couple of days ago I was tagged by Linda Jandura for the latest meme-thingee going around Active Rain.  “What do I REALLY want for Christmas?” if money were no object and the law wasn’t standing in my way. Oh, and you can’t say something obvious like “Peace on Earth.” Linda tagged me because she said “I know she’ll be honest!” Whoa – there’s some pressure!

Okay, I’ll give it a shot.

Seems easy enough. I’m not so old that I don’t remember the thrill of putting together my Christmas list with every expectation that it would be fulfilled!

But, um, I’m having trouble with it. If someone were to drop a $10,000 or $50,000 or $100,000 check on my head right now, I can’t think of anything I would want to run right out and buy. Weird, huh? No, not because I have every material thing I want, but because what I want more than anything right now is…

Peace.

Not necessarily world peace, although if I could buy that with my $50k, I’d certainly consider it. No, rather, I want some peace in my own little self-absorbed world. Financial peace, emotional peace, spiritual peace, professional peace. Some might even call it boredom! An absence of worry and fret.

What does this peace look like? Oh, it’s little things, like figuring out what’s wrong with my fancy printer, and teaching Baba not to jump on visitors. Bigger things like finally getting a squatter renter the hell out of my house without destroying it in the process, and getting the SWS bookstore back up and running. Really big things like not worrying about how the newly declared recession is going to affect my livelihood (and yours, my dear friends).

Don’t get me wrong – I’m mature enough to know that today’s stresses will be resolved… and then replaced with tomorrow’s. But since it’s Christmas… and Linda asked… That’s what I want. If I can’t ask for Peace on Earth, well, then, I’ll ask for Peace on Vrain Street!

www.SellwithSoul.com

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Ahhhhhhhhhh… I remember when my average monthly income was $23,500… which meant some months were even higher. I remember two $50,000 months in a row. I remember the year I broke the $300,000 mark. I remember the year I burned out and half-heartedly worked only six months … and brought in $179,000.

Sigh.miata

Trouble is, I got into the habit of spending those dollars, not frivolously, but spent them I did. If I wanted a new kitchen, I got it. A sweet little investment property that seemed like a good deal – I bought it. And yes, there was a bit of the princess in there – weekly massages, daily “maid” service and a cute little Caribbean blue Miata I just had to have.

Easy come… easy go.

And speaking of easy – it’s an easy habit to fall into when you work on commission – treating those enormous commission checks like Monopoly money and assuming there are plenty more growing on that money tree in the back yard.

I haven’t seen a $23,500 month in awhile! Neither has anyone I know.

We Old Fogie agents developed some poor spending habits during the days of prosperity; habits which are hard to break.  But break them we must. We need to practice using that dirty little word… NO.

I can proudly admit that I have curtailed my lifestyle, although it took awhile to admit to myself that I needed to do so. And then some more time to actually listen to myself when I told myself NO. I’m far from perfect and I still spend money I probably shouldn’t, but I can promise you, when those $50,000 months return, I intend to maintain my frugal lifestyle (although I really miss those weekly massages)!    

Many of my Old Fogie agent friends are giving lip service to the idea of cutting back. But they aren’t doing it. They’re so used to the good life they don’t see that many of what they consider “necessities” are actually ridiculously luxurious. New Years Eve in Aspen, a ski pass to Vail, season tickets to the Nuggets, gourmet coffee imported from Costa Rica, monthly facials and weekly visits to the acupuncturist.

Hey, I understand how hard it is to sacrifice in response to what we hope is a temporary downturn in the economy. And I hope with all my heart that my current state of frugality soon becomes a choice, rather than a necessity. But in the meantime, I can almost FEEL that character building!

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While I don’t advertise it, I do some one-on-one consulting for Very Special People. By VSP, I mean, people who buy into the Sell with Soul philosophy (yeah, I discriminate) and who are intelligent and self-aware enough to 1) be willing to play outside the box and forego traditional wisdom most of the time and 2) are willing, even eager to ask “How did I contribute to this problem” rather than simply whine about how everyone else on the planet sucks.

Anyway, wanna guess what the most common consultation I’m doing these days is? Seducing a Sphere of Influence? Nope. Writing a Non-Dorky Announcement or Reconnection letter? Nope. Getting a difficult listing sold? No again.

I’m thinking of quitting. Can you help me decide?”

Sounds kind of grim, doesn’t it? And yeah, most agents who contact me with this question are, frankly, out of time. Either something has to happen RIGHT NOW or they’re in deep doo-doo. Or, rather, deeper doo-doo.

What I’m about to say here may not be popular but the answer many of these consultees have gotten from me is: “Yes, I suspect you need to quit, at least for now. Maybe not forever, but for now, it’s probably the right thing.”

Are you asking yourself this question, or some version of it? You don’t have to answer me out loud, but if you’re at this point in your career, please don’t be afraid to explore your options. There is NO SHAME in redirecting your career if that career is putting you and your family at risk of financial ruin. THIS IS A TOUGH BUSINESS! Yeah, we all know that, but sometimes we forget the reality of that statement. When something is “tough” that means a whole lot of people aren’t going to make a go of it – maybe even you or me!

I’m not saying that giving up is the only option; of course it isn’t. But it IS an option. Don’t let your pride, ego or fantasies get in the way of making the right decision for you.

I’ll probably write some more on this topic – stay tuned.

posted by on Prospecting & SOI, Reflections From a Difficult Market

As promised, here’s the follow up to my blog yesterday entitled “Is SOI Enough in Today’s Market?”

Yes and No.

No, traditional “SOI” where you  simply let all your friends know you sell real estate and then send them off into the world to be your marketing department is definitely not enough. Why? Because the volume of buyers and sellers is drastically reduced from days past when everyone and their uncle knew someone buying or selling. Now, it’s not unrealistic that the people you know truly DON’T anyone who needs your services today or tomorrow!

But yes, if you redefine what it means to “SOI.”

If you expand the term “SOI” to include every warm body you come into contact with during your day-to-day travels, then yes, most certainly, SOI will work beautifully for you, even in today’s market.  Obviously, this means that you need to try to get your smiling face in front of as many warm bodies as you can, as often as you can. However, you can’t just hit the streets (or the phones) with a smile on your face (although that helps A LOT) and hope that new clients will force themselves on you.

In order to capture the attention of those warm bodies you run into, you need to have something they want. What’s that? Information, as in– knowledge of your local market. Fact and figures, yes, but also a familiarity with specific listings, recent sales and even the overall vibe of your marketplace.

Sounds really simple, but apparently it’s not because I’m wiping the floor with other agents’ former clients who were dissatisfied with their previous agents’ knowledge and familiarity with the market. Every single buyer I have right now belonged to someone else, but when they crossed my path for one reason or another, they were blown away by my ability to speak intelligently about their specific real estate wants & needs. They wanted ME! They asked ME to be their Realtor! Gotta love it.

When you’re out in public and can Talk the Talk confidently and casually, business will be almost magically drawn to you. You won’t have to beg for it; you won’t even have to ask for it. People will ask you if you have time for them.

So, how is this related to an SOI strategy? Well, you have to have an audience with whom to share your market knowledge and the best way to find a receptive one is to be in the company of people you enjoy. Your friends, sure, but also people who live in your neighborhood or attend the same parties or eat at the same restaurant or drink at the same bar or go to the same dog park or even shop at the same Wal-Mart!

Being a nice-n-friendly guy or gal is great, and can even be enough to generate a minimal level of business is a strong market, but today, you need more. In order to effectively generate business from the people you know and the people you meet, you must have something they want. That something is information.

Master Your Market… and sell your share of it!

*SOI = Sphere of Influence = A business-building strategy based on the personal relationships in your life.

posted by on Prospecting & SOI, Reflections From a Difficult Market

First, allow me to apologize for using that tired phrase “Today’s Market.” Real estate is most certainly local, so “Today’s Market” in Denver is much different from Today’s Market in Detroit, Dallas or Des Moines. I get that. But, for the sake of argument (or discussion), let’s just assume that in most US real estate markets, “Today’s” is not as much as fun as “a Few Years Ago’s.” Deal?soi

I’m just wrapping up the Savvy Prospector 12-week course, which was a live online program that helped real estate agents (and a few loan officers) create, maintain and nurture an effective prospecting strategy, which of course included a heavy dose of SOI. (Hey, it was my show and that’s what I believe in).  As always happens when I teach, I learn. Perhaps even as much as my students.

What did I learn from The Savvy Prospector program?

Well, I’m not sure if this lesson came from the program or simply from being out there in the world selling real estate, but I’ve decided that in “Today’s Market“, SOI alone is NOT enough to maintain the lifestyle I’d grown accustomed to. Now, before you (depending on your frame of mind) gloat and smugly say “I told ya so,” or conversely, burst into tears with disappointment, allow me to continue.

In the good old days (prior to “Today’s” Market), buyers and sellers were all over the place. Everyone knew someone who trying to buy a house (and getting outbid) or who had just sold their house with multiple offers. People were amazed at the equity that had built up in their recently-purchased properties. Anyone with a toolbox fancied him or herself a real estate investor. In other words, real estate was a hot, POSITIVE topic of conversation. All you really had to do was get your cute little backside out there in the world and you could pretty easily drum up a prospect or two.

In my first year back in 1996-97, I implemented a take-a-friend-to-lunch campaign which was wildly successful. I got a lead and usually a closing from every single lunch. Like I said… everyone knew someone who was thinking about “doing” some real estate. It was practically shooting fish in a barrel. Eat some sushi, sell some houses.

Today – eh – not so much. For various reasons we’re all familiar with, people simply aren’t buying and selling homes in the volumes of years past. Real estate is NOT the hot, positive topic it used to be and I’ll bet many of you have faced that sympathetic look when you tell someone you sell real estate for a living.

So, what’s a cold-call phobic to do? Just get over the fear of cold-calling or otherwise pestering people for business?

Nope.

Stay tuned… I’m outta room on this blog. But don’t fret – those of you who favor a softer approach to building your business don’t have to abandon that approach until Tomorrow’s Market arrives! You can continue to be who you are and experience the success you desire.

I’ll tell you how tomorrow!

*SOI = Sphere of Influence = building your business based on the personal relationships in your life.

 

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Before I go any further, let me acknowledge that the Denver, Colorado real estate market isn’t that bad. We HAVE qualified buyers and many of our sellers have enough equity to escape from their mortgages. If a home is well-priced and well-presented, it’s likely to sell, even in a bidding war (got one of those going on right now).

However, it’s certainly not anywhere near what it was in the mid-to-late-90’s and some of the early 2000’s. Where there might have been ten buyers up for grabs then; today there are maybe three. Amateur investors don’t have $100k of “free money” in their personal homes to play with; even if they did, they may not be able to access it via those handy-dandy HELOCs of past. Fickle home- buyers who simply change their minds about the home they bought six months ago aren’t able to unload it and still afford to pay their Realtor® the way they used to be able to. The only fix-n-flippers left are the ones who do it very aggressively and professionally, and they typically don’t need or want no stinkin’ Realtor. 

In other words, there are simply fewer real estate commission dollars to go around. Where in years past I could make $200k by simply showing up; today, I fight (and pray) for every dollar that finds its way to my bank account.face

So, what on earth is there to love about this market? Bear with me as I get all confessional on y’all.

I was Very Spoiled during the majority of my real estate career. I was profitable my first year and doubled my income every year after that until I was consistently making… well… plenty. I remember wrinkling my nose at $2,000 paychecks. I remember being ripped off by a printer to the tune of $500 and not even bothering to protest. I remember arrogantly saying “I don’t get up in the morning for less than $1,000!”

Ahhhh, but I sing a different tune today. I got a royalty check yesterday from an old Sell with Soul account for $424 and did a little happy dance. I’m still awaiting my Alabama tax refund check of $488 and will smile when it (finally) arrives. My last closing resulted in a $1,677 paycheck and I was tickled.

Not only have I rediscovered an appreciation for “smaller” paychecks, but I’ve also learned to maximize every opportunity for new business that presents itself to me. I check back in with people who called off my signs last week (and apparently no one else is doing this because I’ve converted 100% of them to clients!). I hang out at the office more and actually TAKE floor calls or walk-ins. I’ll show my listing way across town instead of simply referring the caller to a nearer-by agent. I’ll do open houses even if my seller isn’t expecting me to.

In short, it appears that the current state of market has jolted me out of my complacency and given me back the enthusiasm and energy of a rookie. And I tell ya… when the good days return… I shall never take a paycheck for granted again. Maybe that’s the lesson in all this!

posted by on Reflections From a Difficult Market

I’ve been thinking (and writing) a lot lately about the realities of today’s real estate market. While I’d love to be all Rah-Rah and Positive and Enthusiastic and Optimistic, I just don’t think such emotions are necessarily warranted in many parts of the country. I’m lucky to work in a market (Denver) where real estate IS moving – there ARE buyers; there ARE sellers and there IS money to be made by the real estate community. In fact, I’ve even played in a few bidding war games the last several months for retail properties (that is, not underpriced REO’s).

But that doesn’t mean I’m not worried or stressed, and so is everyone else I know whose livelihood depends on real estate closings. And I can’t even imagine what it must be like to work in markets like Detroit, Tampa or Phoenix. Or, for that matter, to be a brand new, green bean rookie agent.

Fact is, it’s tough out there. Not impossible, but tough.

Don’t get me wrong, I think this will pass and that there will be a tremendous backlog of business unleashed upon the agents who are still around. The Good Old Days will very likely return to some degree, hopefully sooner than later. But the challenge is to still BE around six months, a year, two years from now when those days are here again.

So, in my own self-interest, I’ve been examining some of my pet teachings to see if they still apply “as written” in this less-than-vibrant economy. I’m willing to make some changes to my business model in response to changing market conditions. But what changes exactly?

That’ll be the theme of this week’s blogs! Stay tuned and Happy Monday!

posted by on Reflections From a Difficult Market

frustrated

I can’t tell you how many letters I’ve gotten recently from good agents who are quietly considering throwing in the towel on their real estate career – NOT because they can’t drum up enough business, but rather because they can’t keep the business they’ve drummed up together. In other words – they find their buyer a home or get their listing under contract and then BAM! The deal comes crashing down at no fault of the agent. Lather, rinse, repeat. After two or three or six or seven of these crashed deals, it’s understandable that the agent might wonder if it’s really worth it.

I certainly would… and did.

My first career right out of college was in the Employee Benefits industry – specifically health insurance. Back in ’89, group health insurance was pretty basic – most employers offered a traditional 80/20 plan with a deductible. PPO plans were fairly new on the market (PPO = Preferred Provider Organization – you received higher coverage when you used preferred providers, but you still got decent coverage if you used “your own” doc), but they worked pretty well. HMO plans (HMO = Health Maintenance Organization – you HAVE to use network doctors or you get no benefits) were on their way, but weren’t widely purchased yet.

I was an account manager for a rather prestigious book of business in San Francisco, Nevada, Utah, and later, Colorado and Nebraska. Among my clients were Korbel Winery, The Men’s Warehouse and Oracle. I flippin’ LOVED my job. And, humility be damned, I was really good at it.  

Why did I love it so much? Well, it was a lot like selling real estate, except I didn’t have any sales responsibilities. As an account manager, I was a teacher, a negotiator, a problem-solver, a hand-holder and a talk-off-the-ledge-r. I had a monster to-do list every day and I reveled in staying at the office til every single item was completed.

I LOVED it.

Well, in the early 90’s, HMO’s became the latest & greatest option in the health insurance world. Our sales reps were hugely bonused for selling them and employers loved the lower costs. Suddenly, I had a book of business full of HMO plans, which, unfortunately, no one fully understood, not even the claims processors. It was my job to explain the complicated concept to employees and human resource directors, and then to solve their problems when they inevitably didn’t use the system right.

It was a nightmare. AND NO MATTER HOW HARD OR SMART I WORKED, I COULD NOT MAKE MY CLIENTS HAPPY.

I HATED it.

Does this sound at all familiar? It does to me. This is how the real estate market feels these days. Used to be we could solve most problems, talk anyone off the ledge and keep our deals together using our brains, skills and expertise. But today, many agents feel out of control.

Are YOU still having fun in your real estate career? If so, any sanity-saving secrets you’d like to share with the crowd? Or conversely, wanna vent YOUR crash-n-burn story? We promise to be good shoulders to cry on…

posted by on Reflections From a Difficult Market

In my last blog, I mentioned that I refuse to work with agents (on a consulting basis) if their only explanation for their struggles is to blame the Other Guy. If someone isn’t willing to first look in the mirror to find the solutions to their dilemma, I know I’ll be of no use to them!

But let’s talk about blame for a moment… rational blame versus irrational blame.

I think it’s pointless to “blame” our clients for our troubles. Oh, we real estate agents are experts in doing this – after all – the phrase “Buyers are Liars” is deeply ingrained in our industry, as obnoxious as it is (don’t get me started). We ridicule our sellers for wanting Top Dollar for their home in Less-than-Top condition, or for “needing” a certain sales price to be able to sell. Well, guess what? The ability to resolve these transaction-specific issues IS our job and the reason we’re paid the way we are. If we can’t empathize, thus effectively communicate with our clients, then that’s our fault, not theirs.

That’s a topic for a different day.

Today I want to talk about the other thing we blame for our struggles – The Market. And y’know what? I’ll buy that. I do think it’s perfectly reasonable to blame the market and/or the economy for a failing (or frustrated) real estate career. Hey, if buyers aren’t buying, there’s NOTHING we can do about that – we certainly can’t manufacture buyers if none exist!

So, what if YOUR market sucks? And some certainly do. I’ve been contacted by agents in most of the askinfamously sucky markets, including Las Vegas, Florida, Michigan and Phoenix, wanting to know if I can help them. Well, frankly, I’m not sure I can, at least not in the time-frame they need in order to survive.

Here’s what I ask these struggling agents:

JA asks: “In your market…

is there business to be had, if you could figure out how to get it?” (One agent I spoke with said that the very top producers are selling no more than a dozen homes per year. If this is true, I’d say that no, there is NOT much business to be had at this time).

….are there buyers?” (Of course, this is related to the first question, but a bit more specific. In some markets or specific market areas, there simply may not be a buyer on the planet right now. Again, there’s nothing that can be done about that.)

are houses selling?” (Many agents ask me for help getting listings, but when I ask this question and the answer is “no, not really,” I have to wonder why one would want listings!)

If you work in an unviable market, then you need to make some tough decisions; decisions that may conflict mightily with your gut. Here are your options as I see them:

1.       Focus on the future – stop fretting about the NOW and strive to increase the number of raving fans in your Sphere of Influence. When good times return (and they will), you’ll be one of the few still standing. Of course, this requires that you have an alternative source of income or that you drastically curtail your lifestyle.

2.       Back off… slow down… take a deep breath. ARE you doing what you know needs to be done to generate business or are you so scared and frustrated that you’re spending most of your time bon-bonning on the couch (or behind the keyboard)? Don’t declare the market dead if you haven’t given it a good effort. Even if your good efforts fail, at least you’ll know you tried. Re-evaluate your business plan and review (or create a list of) your activity goals. Are you holding up your end of the bargain? If you can honestly say that you aren’t, give it a few more uber-focused months and see if things turn around.

3.       Quit. Yeah, quit. There’s no shame in throwing in the towel and moving onto something else that pays the bills and allows you to sleep peacefully at night. I know lots of agents, great ones even, who have chosen this path and they’re actually proud of themselves for making this very tough decision.

But… if your market is okay (and many are), stop blaming the Other Guy for your troubles and let’s get you back in the saddle!!!

posted by on Reflections From a Difficult Market

daveI was listening to a Dave Ramsey podcast today and he was preaching about NOT whining – just get out there and get the job done – don’t participate in the “bad economy,” etc. etc. etc.  Good stuff. I agree 100%.

Then he said something that really caught my attention – he said that if you’re in sales and your market is tighter than it used to be, then you’ll just have to work twice as hard. Simple as that.

My first reaction was, predictably (envision fist pumping in the air), “Yeah! I’ve got what it takes! I’ll just double my effort and I shall survive!”

Then I said to myself… “Hmmmmm. I don’t really wanna work twice as hard. What if I work the same amount and cut my lifestyle for awhile?”

I like the sound of that, frankly. It’ll do me good to learn a little restraint and discipline!

I think Dave would approve.

 

ja

 

www.SellwithSoul.com

posted by on Reflections From a Difficult Market

Many moons ago, I had a Money Tree in my back yard. At least, it seemed as if I did. I was married to a successful lawyer, I had a thriving real estate career, I bought and sold houses for profit and when I needed a little financial fix, I could tap into the equity of any one of several investment properties.

Life was good.tree

When we wanted to re-do our kitchen or add a bath… we did it. Season tickets (Club Level) at the new Bronco’s Stadium? No problem! Spur-of-the-moment trip to Mexico or San Francisco? Count us in!

I was spoiled.

Unfortunately, when you work on Monopoly Money commission, you get used to the idea of a Money Tree. Maybe THIS month wasn’t a banner month, but next month probably will be, or at least the month after that. When you want something, you buy it. And yeah, it’s fun.

Well… stuff happens. Divorces, sabbaticals, partnership disputes, subprime mortgage meltdowns… stuff happens.

It’s taken some time, but I’ve finally realized that I do not have a Money Tree in my back yard and even if I did, I will never live that old lifestyle again. Ever. If I can’t afford it TODAY, after all my bills are paid, I can’t have it. When you depend on the real estate market for your livelihood (in my case, I not only sell real estate myself; I also sell TO people who sell real estate), you need some serious financial discipline and a nice little nest egg to fall back on.

It’s fun, actually, to take control of your finances instead of letting your finances control you. I closely analyze every potential purchase and hiring decision – I’m not looking for someone to simply make my life easier; he or she better also earn their keep. Before I make a purchase, I ask myself if spending that money will make me $xxx happier or $xxx more efficient.

(For example, I have an old leather Franklin-Covey planner cover that my puppy-monster chewed on a few years ago. I considered buying a new one, but then asked myself “Jennifer, will spending $65 on a new planner cover make you $65 happier?” The answer? “Heavens, no.” Decision made.)

I’ll admit I’ve jumped on the Dave Ramsey no-debt/no-credit bandwagon so I can “Live Like No One Else” and y’know what? It’s almost as much fun as my previous Spend-Freely-for-Tomorrow-I’ll-Probably-Sell-a-House approach of years past. Almost.