Archive for the ‘Especially for Rookies’ Category

Blogs for the newest members of our industry. Welcome to the wonderful world of real estate!

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We did our first SWS Teleseminar of 2014 last week – WWJAHD for Rookies (What Would Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn Do?) where we discussed various situations, dilemmas and concerns faced by our beloved newer agents with a theme of … what would I (JAH) DO in this or that situation? As we usually do, at the end of the show we polled the audience for their favorite tip or tips of the day, and here’s what they told us:

Favorit-est Tip #1: How to answer the question: “How long have you been doing this?” Don’t lie! Your potential client has a right to know how experienced you are and if experience is important to them, they may very well choose someone else. And that’s fine! Answer honestly but confidently (I’m in my first year” is just fine) and ask “Do you have any specific concerns I can address?”

Favorit-est Tip #2: Interview at least five brokers before choosing one. A lot of new agents go with the first office they talk to and then find themselves unhappy, but without a good idea of their alternatives might be.

Favorit-est Tip #3: Always prioritize client care over prospecting when planning your day. It’s easy to be overwhelmed in your first year with all there is to do and learn. So, when faced with too many things to do, get in the habit of making sure the clients you already have are completely taken care of before moving onto the rest of your to-do list.

Favorit-est Tip #4 (related to #3): Accept that you will always feel a bit overwhelmed by all there is to do. It’s part of the joy of being self-employed!

Favorit-est Tip #5: Don’t go into real estate thinking you’ll keep your day job and do real estate nights and weekends. Instead, get a second job now, save lots of money and in a year, you’ll be able to make real estate your primary career which gives you a much better shot at making it work!

Other tips from the show:

  • Be pleasant to ten people a day
  • Focus on activities you enjoy
  • How and when to change brokers
  • The pros and cons of joining a team

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Anyway, since I released the two mini-clinics, I’ve been contacted by several aspiring agents asking for my advice on the whole pre-rookie experience. Guess what the number one question is?

Should I start putting together a website?”

My answer is always the same (I tend to be predictable that way). I say NO (although I do advise them to get a domain name for email purposes).

Here’s why.

Brand new real estate agents have a lot to do. A LOT. They need to be learning about their real estate market. They need to be mastering their contracts and disclosures. They need to become intimately familiar with their MLS and their contract software. They need to understand how the buyer process works from showing to offer to contract to closing. They need to put together a plan to market their listings and decide how to structure their fees. They should be shadowing other agents on showings, inspections, appraisals and closings. They should be creating their team of great lenders, inspectors and handymen. They need to be reconnecting with their spheres of influence and creating transaction checklists. They need to learn about short sales and foreclosures. They need to learn how to properly price homes and create coherent, compelling, persuasive CMAs. They need to choose a contact management system and learn how to use it.

PLENTY to do.

Now, if there were unlimited hours in the day, unlimited dollars in the bank and unlimited energy in the proverbial gas tank, then sure, let’s add “creating a website” to that list. But the reality for most new agents is that there is not unlimited time, an unlimited budget or an unlimited supply of energy, so a little triage is necessary.

(By the way, if a new agent is finding that they DO have plenty of time on their hands, something is WRONG! Take a look at that list above and determine what it is you aren’t doing… and do THAT).

Your website can wait. For now, just sign up for your broker-provided site, do the minimum required to not look like a slacker, and focus on creating a great product (that would be YOU) so that when the time comes to Create Your Website, you actually have something compelling to say about that great product!

The moral of the story – rookie agents – mark “Create My Website” off your list of Things to Do Today. Whew – one less thing!


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A few days ago, I posted a blog about the importance of actually ATTENDING your inspections with a buyer client. I was stunned when I purchased my first out-of-town home and my Realtor did not attend the inspection, especially since I couldn’t be there. My respect and appreciation for him took a huge hit and I never referred anyone to him.

Anyway, in my twelve years of selling real estate in historic neighborhoods, I’ve gotten pretty darn good at holding my hard-fought deals together through the sometimes brutal inspection periods. When you work with 100+ year old homes most of the time, it’s rare to sail smoothly through the inspection process. So, you get good at it, or you fail. I once had a string of 25 sales get through inspection and to closing without falling apart which must be some sort of record in this market!

So, here are some of my secrets to surviving inspections…

  • ATTEND your inspections (see yesterday’s blog)
  • Never, ever belittle your buyer’s concerns. Never say “Well, it’s an old house, you can’t expect it to be perfect.” Your buyer isn’t an idiot, he knows that. The minute he thinks you’re trying to talk him out of being concerned about an issue, he’ll feel you’re more interested in your paycheck than in his purchase. You’ll lose his trust, and thus, his future referrals.
  • Take your directory of contractors with you to the inspection. If issues arise, it’s helpful to have phone numbers on hand to make phone calls on the spot for answers. For example, in one of my inspections last week, we came across an asbestos tile roof (in 12 years I’ve never heard of such a thing). The inspector expressed serious concern about it and my buyers were freaked out. I was able to call my roofer and get more information about asbestos roofs which put everyone’s mind at ease… and the inspection continued. I also had the phone number of my insurance agent with me, so we were able to call him to ensure that an asbestos roof was insurable (it is).
  • If you don’t have a handyman on call, make this your top priority. You MUST have a great handyman in your back pocket to be a great real estate agent. I often call my handyman during inspections with a question and he’s been known to even drop everything and rush over to check it out… thus putting my buyer’s mind at ease or at least making me look fantastic.
  • If an inspection goes poorly, let your buyers sleep on it. Inspections can be exhausting, but after a good night’s sleep, your buyers may feel much better.
  • When preparing an inspection notice for the seller, never, ever use inflammatory language. Just state your requests clearly and succinctly, without embellishment.  For example, instead of saying “Seller shall repair the leak under the kitchen sink to avoid further mold and mildew damage to the cabinet, flooring and possibly the basement ceiling.” Simply say, “Seller shall repair the leak under the kitchen sink.”
  • Keep your inspection requests to as few bullet points as possible. Group your requests into categories; for example, all plumbing issues go under one bullet, all electrical items under one bullet.

It can’t be emphasized enough… always support your buyer, not your paycheck, no matter how badly you need that paycheck. Put yourself in your buyer’s shoes and advise accordingly. The brownie points you win by truly being on his side will pay off big time for you; not only in this transaction, but for years to come when he tells everyone he knows what a great Realtor you are.

Go get ’em!

posted by on Especially for Rookies

Every day, every hour, someone posts a blog on AR or a question on a forum asking “how to” do something.  How to… approach a FSBO? How to… better market a listing? How to… target first time buyers? How to… persuade a seller to reduce his price? Etc. etc. etc.

Good questions, all. Deserving of answers.

However, I believe that in most cases, the answers are within ourselves. Not that I mind being asked (I love sharing my – ahem – brilliance), but a big part of my SWS philosophy is to learn to Trust Your Gut. To know that you CAN (and should) listen to your own instincts and intuitions!

So, that said…

If you were a FSBO, how would you like to be approached by a real estate agent? What would catch your attention? What would turn you on (or more importantly, off)? What would inspire you to want to work with one particular agent over another?

If you were a FTHB, how would you go looking for an agent? Where would you be likely to stumble upon one? What sort of marketing would catch your eye?

If you’re wondering how to sell your difficult listing…. Ask yourself… If I were a buyer, or a buyer’s agent, what would inspire ME to give this listing a chance? Conversely, why might I be avoiding this particular listing? Of all the listings available to show my buyer, what could the listing agent do to convince me I should show THIS one (because remember, as a buyer agent, I only get paid when my buyer buys, so I only wanna show the BEST)?

If you were an upside-down seller, what might your agent do to convince you of the need for a price reduction? How would you like him or her to approach you? What sort of information might be helpful and what attitude would be effective?

When faced with a dilemma that involves another warm body, put yourself in the other fella’s shoes. And act accordingly….

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jakeFast Forward another three years, into Jake’s fifth year selling real estate.

(Jake’s story begins here.)

Jake is the perennial top producer in his office and is considering going out on his own. He works about 30 hours a week and sells around 70 properties a year. Last year his gross commissions topped $300,000 and it looks as if he’ll do it again this year.

His expenses? Not bad at all. Because his business is almost 100% SOI, his marketing budget is quite low, perhaps only 5% of his gross. And that 5% is spent mostly on entertainment (lunch dates and dinner parties, afternoon BBQ’s and impromptu happy hours.) The rest of his marketing budget goes toward business cards, newsletters, annual calendars and postage. He spends no money on geographic farming, newspaper advertising or even web leads. Yeah, he has a website, but it’s not a big source of business for him. He doesn’t need it to be.

Let’s look at Jake’s sales statistics thru the years:

Year One: 25 homes sold (22 to SOI) Gross Commission: $71,000

Year Two: 38 homes sold (32 to SOI) Gross Commission: $138,000

Year Three: 47 homes sold (40 to SOI) Gross Commission $215,000

Year Four: 57 homes sold (51 to SOI) Gross Commission $305,000

Year Five: YTD in July: 33 closings, 12 active listings, 5 in escrow, 5 active buyers

Projected gross commission – well over $300,000

So, do you think Jake is a BELIEVER in the power of SOI? (more about Jake here)

Real Estate Doesn’t Have to be a Number’s Game

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Say Hello to Jake!

One fine day, Jake entered the wonderful world of real estate sales. He went to school at night, passed his test and found an office to bless with his presence.

On his first day as a licensed salesperson, his new broker greeted him heartily and said “Welcome Aboard! Here’s your desk, here’s your phone, best of luck to you!”

Jake was a little befuddled by this, but he did his best to do as he was told. He spent the first few months of his real estate career learning about cold-calling strangers, door-knocking neighbors, holding open houses for other agents and convincing For Sale by Owners (FSBO) sellers that they couldn’t possibly succeed without him.

By Jake’s third month in the business, he was working with two marginally-qualified buyers who refused to commit to him exclusively, one FSBO who said he’d be happy to pay Jake a co-op if he brought a buyer, and a seller who planned to list his home “sometime next year.” He was farming his neighborhood and half-heartedly calling a few expired listings every week.

Jake was discouraged, to put it mildly. His bank account was dwindling, his enthusiasm was fading and he didn’t see anything fun about being self-employed. In fact, the daily drudgery of the 9-5 was looking pretty good to him right about now (and, frankly, to his wife as well who was having a hard time putting on her happy face every day.)

In short, Jake was on the verge of failure.

Stay tuned

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Okay, I’ve heard it all.

I have a friend who just started selling real estate. She hired on with a Big Name company that promises lotsa training. So far, my friend is underwhelmed, but the other night she called me almost hysterical.

My friend can’t get anyone to help her role-play writing an offer, yet she was encouraged to attend “Charm School.” Charm School? Yes, Charm school. As part of her training.

What, you ask, is charm school?

Well, as far as I can tell, it was a corporate-sponsored training class where agents were instructed on the niceties of life. Such as,  “Get a good haircut.” “Make sure to wash your car before taking buyers out.” “Don’t swear in front of customers.” “Dress appropriately.” And my favorite – “Make sure your fingernails are clean. “

Are you kidding me? Seriously, someone in power thought it was a good idea to ask grown-up professional men and women to attend a class on fingernail maintenance?

To make it even more comical, my friend’s office is in a rather ritzy part of town – one where I doubt it’s necessary to encourage the local adult human beings to spend money on personal grooming. This is an area where the cheapest car in the lot is a Lexus, and $600 handbags on sale for $399 are considered a steal.

I can’t imagine that this presentation didn’t offend every real estate agent without shouting distance.

The training offered to newbies in our industry never fails to entertain me.


posted by on Especially for Rookies

That’s the response my first-month real estate agent friend got from her Big Name broker when she emailed to say she had a $1.5M buyer lead.  “Good for you, let me know if you need anything.”

Are you kidding me?

My friend, smart as she is ;-] can barely spell MLS. She doesn’t know what radon is, she doesn’t know any inspectors, she doesn’t yet have a relationship with a lender. She doesn’t know how to select the best homes to show her new buyer.math

But of course, she’s been thoroughly trained on scripts, farming and other prospecting strategies as part of her Big Name training package.

We’ve all been there, and it’s a scary place. An exciting place to be, for sure, especially when a $1.5M buyer comes to call (hmmmmm… yeah, I can do that math). And yes, being new implies a level of scariness when presented with one’s first customers. But Puh-leeeeaze! To tell a brand spanking new agent to “let me know if you need anything” is criminal, in my opinion. Okay, that’s melodramatic, so if not criminal, let’s say irresponsible. Heck, how about downright STUPID? My friend is on a 60/40% split, so the broker’s take on this deal is… how much? A LOT. And the chances of my friend closing this deal without help are slim-to-none. Oh, and the guy is qualified up to $3.5M but claims that he’s “cheap,” so he asked my friend to try to stay around $1.5M.

My friend calls me for help. Of course, I don’t know her market or her contracts or her MLS or her local customs, but so far, I’ve been a hell of a lot more help to her than her on-site, stands-to-make-$20k-on-the-deal broker.

I won’t name names, but this is a national company that recruits rookie agents and promises them world-class training. I’m underwhelmed, to say the least.

Thanks for listening.

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I have a new soapbox that has fired up my blogging energy… doncha’ love it when that happens? Off we go…

I had an interesting meeting last summer with a real estate agent who started in the business the same year I did, in the same company. That year, he was the Rookie of the Year … and I was runner-up to him. Neither of us recall who was third, of course!

Anyway, we literally hadn’t run into each other since that awards ceremony in the mid-90’s. Oh, I’ve seen his name around and he’s seen mine, but we’ve never actually talked. We both went on to have successful careers and to set our individual worlds on fire (in our own minds anyway) and are still alive and kicking, almost 13 years later. Good thing.

So, last summer, we had the opportunity to chat about our respective careers. Since his dad had been a mega-producing broker at the time this guy (let’s call him Skip) entered the business, I always assumed that his success had been handed to him. Au Contraire!

Skip explained that his dad wouldn’t even let him in the door of his real estate office until he had, get this, worked for a year as a copier salesman. After that, he had to get his appraiser’s license. Only then did Dad allow him to hang his new real estate license. But that was only the beginning – the boot camp then begun. Skip had to call all 600 of his dad’s past clients, had to knock on 20 FSBO doors and call 20 expired listings per week. He had to hold two open houses every single Saturday. I’m sure there was mass-mailing and advertising tossed in there, too, but he didn’t mention it.

And, voila! Skip was Rookie of the Year!

At the same time, I was taking my friends to lunch and attending social events with my future-ex-husband. I did some open houses and returned phone calls in nano-seconds. That was about it for my prospecting efforts.

And voila! I was the Rookie of the Year Runner-up!

Truth be told, Skip blew me away in production. He sold something like 70 houses that first year to my 25. But I was pretty darn happy with my 25 and I was enjoying the heck out of my new real estate career. So, for me, it worked. Had I been forced thru Skip’s boot camp, I wouldn’t have made it past my first month.

Fast forward to today.

Both Skip and I have had successful careers. We’ve made a lot of money and have consistently been top producers in our offices. I’m sure he has a lot of plaques on his “me wall,” as do I.

But our approaches are still vastly different. He said he has to sell AT LEAST 100 houses a year to be profitable – that is, to support the systems and staff he’s put in place. He HAS to cold call, he HAS to door knock, he HAS to prospect, prospect, prospect to stay afloat. He said that if he only has 5 closings in a month, he’s in deep financial doo-doo. 

Me? Well, my “best” year was in 2001 when I sold something like 70 houses. But you know what? That year, I brought home less than 40% of my gross commissions (not counting taxes) because the cost of maintaining that level of production was astronomical. A few years later, I sold “only” 35 houses and netted exactly the same amount, working half as hard and taking on only half the risk. Hmmmmmm.

Today, my business is very simple (and cheap) to run. It’s just me, myself and I. No assistants, no buyer agents, not even a free-lance transaction coordinator. I don’t advertise, farm or SEO. Due to my strong sphere of influence and past client database, I have a steady stream of good business. Will I sell 100 houses this year? Uh, no. But do I work 60 hours a week? Nope. Haven’t done that in years.

I imagine Skip’s annual income is close to a million, if not more. Mine? Nowhere close to a million! But do I feel as if I’m been blown away by my fellow Rookie? Not really.

I don’t ever want to be in the position of having to be a mega-producer in order to survive. I just want to take on the amount of business I can handle all by myself, the amount of business that I can easily attract using the soulful methods and philosophies that have always worked for me.

I must be getting old…

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qA few weeks ago, my trainee came into my office all flustered. He’d been out with his buyers over the weekend and felt that he’d made a fool of himself by not being able to intelligently answer his buyers’ questions. It almost sounded as if he was ready to throw in the towel – at least until he knew more about what he was doing!

Calm down, I told him. First, trust that it will happen to you thru-out your career. Don’t panic. Don’t make stuff up, but don’t panic.

I asked him what the questions were that he couldn’t answer. And guess what? Most of the questions were really good ones – that is – chances are that even a more experienced agent wouldn’t have known the answers either! But the problem with being new is that you don’t know what you SHOULD know and so you figure you should know it all.

This is where not panicking comes in.

Take a deep breath and really think about the question. Is this something you should or could know?

For example, let’s say you’re showing lofts downtown and the buyer asks: “What are the pet restrictions in this building?” Well, unless you live in the building yourself or unless you make a habit of memorizing condo rules & regulations, you couldn’t possibly know the answer. Or how about if a buyer asks you where the property lines are on a rural property? If you aren’t the listing agent, this is probably not something you can accurately answer.

This doesn’t mean it’s not your job to get the answer – it is. But if you don’t know the answer off the top of your head, it’s okay!

So, how do you respond?

First, DO NOT use those tired old words “I don’t know the answer, but I can certainly find out for you!” in that prissy, almost defensive voice. You know what I’m talking about don’t you? That cheerful, oh-so-helpful voice that clearly tells your client that you don’t have a clue, but wish you did?

Instead, try this. Relax, and VERY casually say “Hmmmm, I don’t know. Lemme find out.” Write it down, and move on.

Or, how about this? “Wow – I’ve never gotten that question before. I’m looking forward to finding out the answer!” Write it down, and move on.

Or, in the above scenarios when you’re working with a buyer and he has questions about the property you’re looking at, take control and call the listing agent immediately.  That will make a great impression on the buyer.

Of course, sometimes you’ll be asked a question you should know the answer to and you don’t. This is happening to me more often lately as I venture deeper into the world of foreclosures & short sales. My stock answer has become “Y’know, I should know the answer to that, but I don’t. I’ll find out for you.” This somewhat self-deprecating approach seems to be working – at least – no one’s fired me yet for saying it!

Hope you enjoyed the Confident Rookie Series! Now… go get ’em!

  1. Know Your Systems
  2. Practice with Your Printer (sounds silly, I know)
  3. Preview, Preview, Preview
  4. Drive Your Route Ahead of Time
  5. Cheerfully Waste Your Time
  6. Find a Handyman
  7. Let Your Seller Prospect Do Most of the Talking
  8. Get Comfy with Your Commission
  9. Admit that You’re New
  10. What to say when you don’t know the answer

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Here we are – the second-to-last installment of the Confident Rookie Series!

A lot of new agents worry about being taken advantage of by experienced agents, if the experienced agent were to find out that they’re new.  So the obvious solution is to pretend that they aren’t new, right?

Unfortunately, no. The thing is – if you’re new, it will almost certainly be obvious to the agent on the other side of the table, whether you own up to it or not. And the more you try to fake experience, the more obvious it will be. When I’m on the other side of a transaction from a rookie agent who is trying to pretend she knows what she’s doing, she almost always embarrasses herself. However, if the rookie agent tells me upfront that she’s in her first year and to bear with her if she goes overboard crossing her t’s and dotting i’s… I’m a lot more willing to make the experience pleasant for her.

And I think you’ll find more agents with this mindset than not. Yes, there are some amazingly jerky people in our business and if you happen to run into one of them early in your career, they may very well make that transaction miserable for you… but the good news is that – think about it – you’ll only have a handful of “first deals” so chances are good you’ll have a decent agent on the other side. Just be upfront with them about your lack of experience, confidently, and they may even go out of their way to help you. The same goes for inspectors, appraisers, attorneys, closers and lenders.

However, what if you do run into a jerk on your first or second sale? I did – my third sale actually and 12 years later I still remember him vividly. He was abusive and condescending and said some pretty nasty things to me – you can read about him in Chapter Eleven of Sell with Soul. And he did intimidate me to the point of embarrassing myself in front of my client. Turned out that he later checked into a mental facility for “anger issues.”

An abusive agent is going to abuse everyone he comes in contact with – it’s not just you and it’s not personal. He’d abuse me, he’d abuse Johnny and he probably abuses his mortgage brokers and title reps on a regular basis. Keep your cool, follow your instincts and you’ll get thru it.

But this doesn’t mean that your inexperience as a new agent won’t be used against you, even by a nice-guy opposing agent. That other agent has a duty to represent his client’s best interests, so don’t believe for a second he’s going to help you negotiate against him or his client. If you don’t know how to help your buyer determine if a listing is overpriced, if you don’t know how to get your buyer what he wants at the inspection, if you don’t know how to appeal a low appraisal, the other agent will definitely take advantage of you. It’s his job.

So if something sounds fishy to you – AT ALL – ask for help from someone in your office. Even if it doesn’t sound fishy, have someone review what you’ve done… or better yet, what you’re getting ready to do before you do it!

posted by on Especially for Rookies

From time to time I post a blog about the abysmal state of rookie real estate training in America.

Do I have an agenda? Eh, maybe. Yeah, I sell books about real estate training and I even have boot-camp type program specifically for rookies, but that alone doesn’t inspire the contempt, yes, SWS Rookie Schoolcontempt I have for the real estate training industry.

I’m disgusted by the “fake it til you make it” attitude. I’m annoyed by the focus on prospecting competence over, well, COMPETENCE competence. I’m frustrated by the stories I hear of promises made during the recruiting process that are broken as soon as the rookie shows up to work. I could go on and on.

But today, I’m asking. WHY? Why is it this way? It occurs to me that if 80-95% of our new agents fail within the first year, then something isn’t working and maybe we ought to try something different. Like… training? REAL training, not some fluffed up, time-wasting, sales-pitch-disguised-as-education to promote some product or another?

Here are the reasons I’ve heard for NOT training our new licensees.

1.       Not a good use of resources. Since the majority of new agents will fail, it’s a waste of money and time to implement a decent training program.

2.       Not a good use of resources, Part II. Since the agents who do not fail will likely leave their first broker in search of a better deal elsewhere, why would Broker 1 spend time and money training the rookie to be his future competition?

3.       That’s the way it IS. This is a sink or swim business. If you don’t have the drive to learn the business yourself, you shouldn’t be here at all.

4.       That’s the way it IS, Part II. “We” didn’t have our hands held and we somehow survived.

5.       Real estate agents are competitive; therefore, there’s no real motivation to help someone who will become your competition.

It’s easy for us Old Fogies to brush off the need for training – after all – we don’t particularly want any more competition. And besides, “we” didn’t get formal training and we came out okay. But then in the next breath, we complain loudly about “the guy (or gal) on the other end of the sale who doesn’t know what he’s doing and is screwing up my deal.”

Maybe it’s just that we’ve forgotten how much there is to learn in your first year and how complex the process really is. I talk to rookies every day, so I’m reminded of their pain and confusion… and their utter frustration with the lack of support they receive from the broker or trainer.

So I’m sincerely asking – WHY do we seem to care so little about quality training in our industry?

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I recently wrote a blog called “Hang in There, Rookies! It Gets Easier, I promise! which was about how once you get a few SPC’s (satisfied past clients) under your belt, this job really does hangget easier – the bringing-in-business part of it anyway. SPC’s are by far the best source of business in our business and if you have enough of them… who know where to find you… you can pretty much be set for life. It’s a beautiful thing.

However, in the meantime, while you’re searching for those soon-to-to-be SPC’s, you need to come across as a Reasonably Competent Human Being (RCHB) to everyone you know and everyone you meet. An RCHB is someone who is reliable, intelligent, organized, ethical and knowledgeable and can be trusted to show up and work hard. Whether they sell real estate or take your order at the Village Inn – you can just TELL if someone is an RCHB, can’t you?

If you’re new, but are perceived as an RCHB in your social circles, it will go a long way toward generating business and referrals from the people you know. Perhaps even more than being friendly, although being friendly will help a lot, too.

So, how can you demonstrate to the world that you’re an RCHB?

  1. Be on time
  2. Return phone calls promptly
  3. Strive for 100% error-free written material
  4. Watch your language
  5. Be emotionally mature
  6. Do what you say you’re going to do

Be on Time is self-explanatory. Don’t be late. Not for business appointments, social engagements or your massage. Every single person you come in contact with has the potential to be your biggest fan. Don’t blow it by disrespecting their precious time or looking too unorganized or flustered to show up when promised.

Return phone calls promptly. Ditto. Return all calls as soon as you can, not just business ones. Call even if you don’t have an answer yet. Call even if you don’t want to.

Strive for 100% error-free written material. Obviously, this includes any promotional material you create (personal brochures, newsletters, website, etc.) but also any personal communication between you and your SOI. Your announcement or reconnection letter, and even your emails should be pretty darn clean. Not everyone is a terrific speller or grammar-phile, but please make the effort. I’d hate to see you run off even one referral because you can’t find the spell-check button or figure out how to capitalize the first word in a sentence.curse

Watch your language.  I hope the following doesn’t offend you. If you want to demonstrate your professionalism to the people you know, you need to cut down on the four-letter words. It’s a habit many of us have, but unfortunately is a habit that can cost you business. I have a friend who is an insurance agent, but her language is so rough I wouldn’t dream of referring anyone to her. I’m sure she wonders why. Does she behave that way with her clients? I don’t know, but I’m not willing to take the chance with my precious referral business. 

Be emotionally mature? Huh? This is another potentially touchy subject. And, females, it’s mostly directed at us. Some of our friends have seen us at our most pathetic, haven’t they? And we’ve seen them at theirs. But, as someone who is hoping to project a professional persona to her friends, you might have to tone that down, or at least be very particular to whom you… um… “talk” to. It may be difficult for your sob-sister to see you as a competent professional. I’ve had a few girlfriends in my life whose personal lives were such a mess I truly couldn’t imagine they could perform professionally in a work environment. I’m sure they did, but, as much as I loved them, I simply wasn’t confident in their professional abilities.

Do what say you’re going to do.  Strive to never let anyone down. Don’t cancel at the last minute or simply not show up. Learn to love a to-do list if you don’t already. If you tell someone you’ll call, call. If you RSVP to a party, go. If you promise to put a check in the mail, do it NOW!  If you owe someone money, pay it promptly. If you borrow a book, return it in a reasonable amount of time

Notice that none of these items are specifically about being a good real estate agent. That’s because if a friend or acquaintance has never used you as a real estate agent, there’s no way to prove to them that you’re a good one until they do. And, of course, it’s not effective to simply tell someone how great you are – you have to show them, which you can’t do until they hire you. But if you come across as a generally reliable, responsive, intelligent, competent person, most people will assume that you’re a good real estate agent, too.

And then… you’re on your way to having some SPC’s!!!

posted by on Especially for Rookies

I know it’s tough. You sit in your office and see all the activity and chaos and excitement around you and wonder when you’ll have some of that. You’re watching your bank account dwindle and your enthusiasm fade. You might be asking “Remind me again why I signed up for this? sad

Patience, grasshopper. There’s a reason we real estate agents have enormous earning potential and it’s not ’cause this job is easy. Oh, sure, it’s easy for me to SAY that, now that I’m past my rookie year, but sometimes, pithy little cliche’s are true. But I know you’re not looking for witticisms or bumper-sticker mottos, so here’s a little solid encouragement for you (at least I think it’s encouraging):

The BEST Source of Business
    In my experience (and I think many will agree), the easiest source of business in THIS business comes from satisfied past clients (SPC’s). This is good news and bad news for our beloved rookies.

The bad news is, obviously, rookies don’t HAVE any past clients, satisfied or otherwise. But the good news is… you have the time and the enthusiasm and the energy to go all out for the clients you will have over the course of your first year.

DO IT! Go above and beyond every chance you get. Don’t listen to Old Fogies who advise that Open Houses are a Waste of Time or that All Buyers Are Liars or that You Should Fire a Buyer if he doesn’t buy after looking at X number of homes. Service the heck out of your listings and bend over backwards for your buyers. It WILL pay off for you in the future… BIG TIME.

Then, After Blowing Your Clients Away with Your Service… All You Gotta Do is Stay in Touch
   If you read much of my stuff, you know I’m a big proponent of staying in touch with your SOI, which should obviously include your past clients. However, y’know what’s really cool about SOI’ing with your SPC’s? If you did a wonderful job for them, it doesn’t take much to retain your status as their Favorite Real Estate Agent on the Planet. A few notecards every year, a few interesting, non-salesy emails  – that’s really about it. You’ve already proven yourself to them and in our industry, being GOOD can be a bit of a rarity, unfortunately.

In the absence of SPC’s, you can easily demonstrate to your Sphere of Influence (SOI) that you’re an RCHB (love all the acronyms?). RCHB stands for a Reasonably Competent Human Being which means someone who is reliable, intelligent, organized, ethical and knowledgeable. Because the general public doesn’t think that our job is all that hard, as long as you come across as someone who can be trusted to show up and work hard, that’s about all it really takes to get business from your SOI. However, this obviously requires you to do two things:

1.        BE an RCHB

2.       Put yourself in the position to demonstrate your RCHB’ness to other people.

Since I’m already over 500 words, I think I’ll wrap this up and continue the RCHB discussion on another blog.

But here’s the thing for rookies. THIS JOB GETS EASIER! In all likelihood, your first year will be your hardest and your lowest -paying. Well, duh! As you acquire SPC’s and begin to master your craft, you’ll GET more business and perhaps more importantly, you’ll CLOSE more business.

And guess what? It’s a blast and something to look forward to!

posted by on Especially for Rookies

I’m not a newbie, but I’m the new gal in my office after being away two years. I’m trying to hang out IN the office, which breaks a long term tradition of working exclusively from home.

And, I’ll admit. I’m Jennifer and I’m intimidated. I see all the activity around me, all the hustle and bustle, people coming and going. The ink on my re-activated license is barely dry, so I don’t have a lot of hustle and bustle on my desk yet. I hear tidbits and snippets of conversations about situations that sound terribly complicated and even a little scary.

Now, I’m a 12 year agent, who has solved a gazillion difficult problems and sold lots and lots of properties, so why should I be feeling this way? I dunno.

I’m sure I’ll get over it once I have my own complicated situations to resolve, but I just want to reassure our beloved rookies that it’s not as hard as it sounds from those snippets you’re overhearing. I promise you.

Once you’re out there in the trenches yourself, you’ll be intimately familiar with your own deals and you WILL be able to understand and solve the problems that attack your paycheck on a daily basis. If you have made it this far in your life, you are obviously a competent human being. Trust that about yourself and dive in headfirst.

And enjoy! Solving problems is actually a lot of fun!

posted by on Especially for Rookies


Most new agents are terrified about the prospect of discussing their commission with a potential seller. If this is the case for you, you’re going to need to be 100% comfortable with the commission fee you’re going to propose. If you aren’t, you’re dead meat. If you have concerns that you’re overcharging for your value, it will be crystal clear to the seller prospect. In my first year, almost all of my listings were taken at a very low percentage because that’s all I thought I was worth, due to my inexperience. As my experience and expertise grew, I became more comfortable proposing (and sticking to) a higher fee.

I’m not being real helpful yet, am I? On one hand, I’m shooting down your confidence, yet on the other, I’m telling you that you must HAVE confidence to negotiate effectively! Well, that’s the cold hard truth. But I won’t leave you hanging… here’s what to do.

You need to convince yourself that you’re worth it before you can ever convince a seller.

On your first few listings, commit to yourself that you will go way above and beyond what is typically expected of a listing agent in your area. Commit to yourself that you WILL earn your fee, if not with your experience, with your enthusiasm and effort. Spend your own money marketing your listing if you have a great idea that you think might work. Spend as much time as you need to properly price the house. Do open houses all weekend long. Pay for a home-stager to consult with your seller. Include a home warranty. Be willing to bring in help if you’ll need it – even if you have to pay for it.

In short, take this opportunity not only to blow the sox off your seller, but to actually experiment with various listing techniques to see what actually works. If, at the end of the day, you spend your whole paycheck on your experiments, that’s really okay! The lessons you learned and the impression you made on that seller will serve you well in your future… and pay you back many times over.  

Another way to help make the commission discussion go smoothly is to disclose your fee upfront – on your website if you have one. This is what I’ve done for years and it works beautifully. I don’t beat around the bush about my fee – I simply direct the seller to my website where I explain how I charge and what I do for that money. You can check it out here.

posted by on Especially for Rookies

My good cyber-friend Jeff Olsen, has respectfully referred to us Old Timers as “being born on third base and thinking we hit a home run.” What he means by this is that those of who started our careers during a boom time (for example, the mid-to-late 90’s in Denver), had a lot of help from the market, which of course, most newbie agents entering the field baseballtoday don’t have.

Now, before you get irritated with Jeff, DON’T! He’s a terribly smart and insightful guy and I’m impressed that he’s not scared to call it like he sees it.

Anyway, I’ve always defended myself (and all of y’all) by arguing that selling real estate even in a boom market is no picnic and that plenty of new agents failed back then, in similar numbers as they do today.

Do you remember how much fun it was to have 20 buyers … but nothing to sell them? Checking the MLS for new listings every half hour (before the days of interior photos, so you had no idea what a place looked like without actually going to see it), running around like crazy to be the first one in and finding an Under Contract rider on the sign already, writing ridiculous offers and competing with 5 other equally ridiculous ones?

And I don’t know ‘bout you, but 2000 and 2001 weren’t much fun either even BEFORE 9/11 (and those were my two highest producing years).

Fair enough.

Well, I had a conversation today with an old agent friend who started in the biz the same week I did and is still going strong. He has a different viewpoint on the matter; one that made me think Jeff might be onto something.

My friend reminded me that during the boom, buyers were easy to come by and any rookie agent could have 20 active buyers with a little effort. Okay, so we didn’t have much to sell them, but all this activity enabled us to build our contact databases quickly… which has helped us tremendously through the years. Maybe those buyers never bought anything, but we worked our backsides off for them and they remembered that. They introduced us to their friends. They invited us to their parties. And, many of them did eventually buy… and then sell. And then buy again.

Real estate was a hot topic at any social gathering – in a positive sense, not the doom & gloom you hear today. If you had a passing knowledge of your marketplace, you could attract a captive audience with those five magic words “I’m a real estate agent!”

So, maybe we were a little bit lucky. Third base? Nah. But I’ll concede that today’s new agents have it harder than I did. Are ya happy, Jeff?

Next time… Should New Agents focus on buyers or listings? And why?

posted by on Especially for Rookies

New agents are always nervous before their first listing appointment. Probably before their second, third, tenth & twelve, too. It does get easier, I promise, but here are some tips for getting through those nerve-wracking firsts…

My absolute best advice to first-time listing appointment-ers is to LET THE SELLER DO MOST OF THE TALKING! Two reasons for this.

First, this seller has probably already endured two or three sales-pitches from other real estate agents who barely took a breath to let him talk. They very likely didn’t express much of an interest in him and his situation – they just directed his focus to their fancy-schmantzy listing presentation. Have you ever sat through one of those? BORING. I’d tune it out in about five minutes if I were a seller.

Second, you need to know as much as you can about the seller’s situation and motivation before you can properly advise him. Heck, you need to know this stuff before you can decide if you even want the listing! So, besides the fact that the seller will love you if you let him talk more than you do, it also gives you the opportunity to better understand if, and how you can best help.

So, here’s what to do when you get to the house. Have the seller show you around, ask questions, take notes, and really listen to the seller’s answers. If this is the first time you’ve seen the inside of the seller’s house, you can’t really be expected to tell him what it’s worth – you have to go home and do your homework. Nothing wrong with that. But the more you listen and show interest, the more that seller will be impressed with you – seriously! LISTEN, and the seller will trust you. Leave your sales pitch in the car.

That said, you do need to be prepared with a marketing plan in case the seller asks for one. You might be surprised how often they won’t, but if they do, it’s probably a good idea to have an answer. This is where the process of putting together a formal listing presentation is helpful. It forces you to figure out what the heck you ARE going to do to get that house sold and what services you’ll offer. There’s a sample listing presentation at my website – just go here.

To Present or Not to Present?
Houses Aren’t Pet Rocks!

posted by on Especially for Rookies

One of the very first things I advise rookie agents to do – well, at least in their first few months – is to find a handyman. A good handyman will save your backside and your commission over and over again and make you look good. I don’t know how any real estate agent functions without a handyman on call. Find him, give him work, make sure he’s paid promptly. Bob is my handyman and he’s saved more of my deals than I can count.bob

How can a handyman help you look more experienced? Well, just the knowledge that you have someone on your team who can take care of home repairs for your buyer or seller gives you a Can-Do attitude. For example, when I work with buyers who are nervous about all the little maintenance items their inspector points out, I sweetly tell them “We’ll just put that on the Bob-List” so they know they won’t have to go to the yellow pages. When your sellers get a laundry list of repairs after the inspection, I comfort them by explaining that we’ll have Bob come over and give us an estimate (today). When I’m helping a seller get ready for market, I look like the hero when I bring Bob in to get done in a day what would take the seller a month to do… and usually for under $1000 (less than a mortgage payment!)

How do you find a handyman? Put up your antenna! Ask other agents in the office. Send out an email to your Sphere of Influence. Call some property management companies. If you know anyone in construction, ask them. Ask at Home Depot. When you get a few names, give ‘em a test drive in your own home.


posted by on Especially for Rookies

Regular readers of my blog know how I feel about wasting time. I’m all for it! Especially for rookies. This is one of the main reasons I’m opposed to rookies jumping into the biz only half-way (that is, part time) – when you have to carefully guard your time, you can’t risk wasting any of it… and that’s a shame.

Even as an almost-thirteen year agent, I still cheerfully “waste my time” every chance I get.

What do I mean by that?time

I mean that you should take every opportunity to be out there in the world talking about or looking at or learning more about real estate. If you are doing something that accomplishes one of these items, that’s  time well-spent, even if the activity is not leading you directly to a paycheck. Not only are you learning more about being a real estate agent, you’re also putting yourself in front of people who could end up being your biggest fans.

When you’re new, take every opportunity to learn something, even if it takes time, even if it takes gas. Think about it – would you rather practice on someone who may NOT buy or sell right away, or someone who will? Sure, on the surface, you’d rather work with someone who is leading you to a paycheck, but there’s certainly a strong argument for perfecting your technique on non-clients first!

So, what might be some “time-wasters” to embrace?

  • Showing an office listing to an already-represented buyer who calls off the sign?
  • Helping a friend protest her tax assessment by providing sold data?
  • Helping a friend protest a low appraisal for a refinance?
  • Meeting with a potential seller when you know full well he isn’t going to hire you?
  • Showing homes to a buyer who can’t yet qualify to buy a home, but thinks he can in six months?
  • Helping a relocating renter identify the right neighborhood for him or her?

All of these activities teach you more about your market and give you practice communicating market data to potential clients. They also give you an opportunity to impress someone who might end up being your biggest client and/or referral source. Sounds like a good use of time to me…

Here’s a snippet on Wasting Time from a Real Estate Radio USA Interview I did last summer.

 The Confident Rookie Series: 

Stay tuned…

  1. Know Your Systems
  2. Practice with Your Printer (sounds silly, I know)
  3. Preview, Preview, Preview
  4. Drive Your Route Ahead of Time
  5. Cheerfully Waste Your Time
  6. Find Your Handyman
  7. Let Your Seller Prospect Do Most of the Talking
  8. Get Comfy with Your Commission
  9. Admit that You’re New
  10. What to say when you don’t know the answer