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

posted by on Especially for Rookies

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….

posted by on Especially for Rookies

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

posted by on Especially for Rookies

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

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?

posted by on Especially for Rookies


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

posted by on Especially for Rookies


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

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

posted by on Especially for Rookies, Working with Buyers

Related to yesterday’s installment about previewing, today’s Confident Rookie Secret is to ALWAYS drive your route before meeting with a buyer. It’s mortifying to get lost with a buyer in the car and even worse if drivethey’re following behind you. Unless you’re showing in a neighborhood you know intimately, always always always drive the route ahead of time, even if that’s at 6 am before you meet your buyer at 9am.

Driving Your Route is not the same as Previewing. When you preview, you’re ruling out properties – you might start with a list of 12 or 15 homes and narrow it down to the best 7 or so. Therefore, your previewing route will not be the same as your showing route. KWIM?

A GPS is not the answer. You need to be able to get from house to house smoothly and effortlessly, as if you know every thoroughfare and side street in town… without that nice Garmin lady interrupting your conversation every 30 seconds. Of course, a printout of Mapquest Directions is even worse! Being able to talk with your buyers as you navigate from house to house will do wonders for your air of professionalism. And of course, becoming increasingly frazzled as you make u-turns and wrong turns will have the opposite effect!

Sometimes you don’t have much time between making the appointment and the appointment itself, so you might be tempted to rationalize that you simply don’t have the opportunity to Drive Your Route. But I promise you – you’ll wish you’d made the time. I’ve gotten up at 4am and hit the streets at 5am to ensure I didn’t make a fool of myself (and I’ve been doing this almost 13 years!). The good news is that there’s much less traffic at 5am!

Remember, the goal of these Ten Secrets is to give the rookie real estate agent the tools to look and feel confident and knowledgeable in situations he or she may not have been in before. We can’t prepare you for every single contingency, but the more you are prepared for the aspects you can control, the less stress you’ll put on your antiperspirant!

The Confident Rookie Series:

  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

Stay tuned…

posted by on Especially for Rookies, Working with Buyers

Moving on from yesterday’s rant, here’s the third Secret to Being a Confident Rookie – Preview, Preview, Preview!! house

Before you go out with a buyer for the first time, preview every single house you’re considering showing him or her. I promise you, you’ll rule out more than half of them and will be relieved that you did. If you show a typical buyer a house that shows poorly, smells funny or has a crazy floorplan, he’ll figure you don’t know what you’re doing, because buyers think we know every house in town.

Even with interior photos and google earth and virtual tours, you cannot properly evaluate a house without going to see it. I mean, think about it – if a house has a major flaw, do you think the listing agent is going to spell it out for you in the MLS description? Or make sure that it’s highlighted in the photos? Uh, no.

As a new agent, making a habit to preview-before-showing will give you tremendous confidence as you work with your new buyers. You’ll look far more experienced and self-assured, and won’t be caught off-guard by a mis-advertised or fatally-flawed property.

Oh, and you’ll also ensure that you don’t get lost with your buyer in the car! More on that tomorrow

The Confident Rookie Series:

  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

Stay tuned…

posted by on Especially for Rookies

(My opinion will be glaringly apparent in about 10 seconds).magnet

I’m horrified on a daily basis by the emphasis in our industry on PROSPECTING PROSPECTING PROSPECTING! Anyone who reads my blog already knows that, but here I am again with my jaw dropped to the floor at some recent comments on another blogger’s post. I won’t repeat them here because I have no desire to publicly criticize anyone (must be feeling abnormally sweet today) and besides, it’s only my opinion, but JEEZ! To imply, heck to outright state that our most important duty as LICENSED real estate agents is to focus on finding new business as opposed to taking great care of what we already have… literally nauseates me.

My friends, I’m not stupid or naïve. I know that as self-employed people we need to ensure a steady stream of business to our door, but for heaven’s sake – show those people who find their way there and HONOR us with their business the respect they DESERVE – and take care of them AS OUR FIRST PRIORITY!  Yes, BEFORE our prospecting activities. I’m serious.

Because you know what? If you approach your business with that attitude – if you get up every morning asking yourself what you can do for your clients to make their lives better (and frankly, impress the hell out of them with your service), they will take care of you the rest of your career. I promise.

Is it that many in our ranks don’t really know how to take good care of their clients? That they were never trained in the nuances of buyer or seller representation? Or never cared enough to figure it out themselves? All they learned how to do was prospect, GET that sign in the yard and then waltz away to pursue the next victim prospect? Say it isn’t so!

Be assured, I’m not asking anyone to do something that will hurt their business by begging them to spend more of their time on their clients instead of their prospects. The very best prospecting you will ever do (and by far the cheapest) is to prove to your clients that you are a fabulous real estate agent who knows how (and cares enough) to get the job done. Not surprisingly, that’s awfully darn rare in our business, and will make an impression on those whose paths you cross.

This, by the way, is the essence of Sell with Soul. Be worthy of the business you attract. And as a result, attract lots more of it.

Rant over. Tomorrow I’ll pick back up with the Confident Rookie Series.

An Unsoulful Tidbit from Broker Agent News
Phooey on Prospecting – I just wanna do my job!

The BEST Way to Build a Strong Sphere of Influence


posted by on Especially for Rookies

Picking up from yesterday’s blog about how important it for rookies to Master Their Systems before they need them; today I’ll add just a little bit more to that project.printer

Practice with Your Printer. This may sound silly, but when you’re writing an offer for a buyer, it’s nerve-wracking if you can’t get the printer to work. Seriously.

I wrote my very first offer back in 1996 at 6:00 pm on a Friday night in my Coldwell Banker office. I called my broker away from Happy Hour to help me (yep, he was a bit looped). I’d had training on the contract software and was pretty comfy there, but had never actually printed a contract.

Using my own brand new contract software (registered under my name & all!), I created the contract with my broker’s help, and then went to print it out. Oops. Great big DRAFT watermark across every page. Hmmmmmm. Tried again. Same thing. My buyer was sitting in the conference room waiting for me, but neither I nor my broker could figure out what was wrong. And, being Friday night, there wasn’t much chance of finding any customer service at the software company.

I was a mess and felt like an idiot. I ended up re-writing the entire contract on pre-printed forms and life went on. Turns out that I needed some activation code to remove the DRAFT watermark.

But there are all sorts of things that can go wrong when printing from new software, aren’t there? Especially if you’re in a networked real estate office.

So, as you’re practicing with your contract software, be sure to also practice printing out the contracts. Please don’t hesitate to waste paper. If your software requires legal paper, be sure you know where it is and how to load it. If you have the option of either legal or letter, be sure you know how to select the one you want. Know how to “insert” or “remove” n/a’s and such.

And… always have a back-up plan. Here’s mine:

  • Plan A:  Business as usual – use the regular office printer
  • Plan B:  If that fails, try the other printer at the office (we have two)
  • Plan C: If both of those fail, email the contract to the receptionist to print out
  • Plan D: If I’m really crashing & burning, know where the pre-printed contracts are and write it up manually.

Again, I know this sounds trivial and even silly, but just wait until YOUR buyer is sitting in the conference room waiting to sign his offer and you can’t produce anything for him to sign!

The Confident Rookie Series:

  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

Stay tuned…


posted by on Especially for Rookies

How comfy are you with your systems? Specifically, your MLS and your contract software? For me, if I’m not proficient with my tools of my trade, it’s easy for me to shy away from using them. Well, in OUR trade, shying away from using the MLS or your contract software is pretty much fatal to your chances of bringing in a paycheck. KWIM?contract

Last year, after two years away from the trenches, I re-activated my real estate license. The RE/MAX office I joined had a new fancy-schmantzy contract software program I’d never used before. Well, the heavens smiled on me and I got a buyer off my blog literally the first day back. We went out looking at houses and they found one they liked and wanted to make an offer on it.

YIPES! I had no idea how to even fire up the program, much less navigate through it, so… get this… I put them off with some stupid excuse until two days later so I could get a crash course on the software. But even with the crash course, I was a bit of a basket-case writing up the offer, from a technology perspective.

For a new agent, I imagine this would be doubly or triply unnerving! At least I’d actually gone through a purchase contract with a buyer a couple hundred times, so I wasn’t nervous about that… but the actual technology of it just about shut me down.

So, the first step is admitting you have a problem. When you run an MLS search for a buyer, do you trust your results? When you’re looking for comparables to price a home for a prospective seller, are you sure you found them all? No? Then practice practice practice. And get some training, either from the local MLS provider/board or from another agent in the office. Do 5 practice CMAs* on 5 office listings. Do a CMA on your own house. Search for homes Just Like Yours and go preview them.

If you use contract software (as opposed to handwriting your contracts), GET SOME TRAINING. These systems are not intuitive and you’ll be a basket-case like I was if you’re sitting down with a buyer to write an offer and can’t figure out how to print it out. Or how to auto-populate the fields from contract to contract. These programs are typically pretty powerful and can do a lot of things for you… LEARN THEM.

Yeah, yeah, I know that Learning your Systems isn’t nearly as sexy as learning how to prospect, but unless you’re a master fake-it-til-you-make-it-er, those prospects you bring in won’t be worth much to you without a decent knowledge of your systems.

Tomorrow: Secret Two – Practice with Your Printer (more important than you might think!) 

* CMA traditionally stands for Competitive Market Analysis or Comparative Market Analysis, however, I recently a much better definition, compliments of Broker Bryant – “Compilation of Market Activity.” A CMA is a report prepared by a real estate agent to determine the market value of a home.


posted by on Especially for Rookies

Last August I held a 3-hour workshop in Denver called “The Confident Rookie – Ten Secrets to Looking as if You’ve Done this Before!” Fun time, good crowd.ja

For whatever reason, my inbox & forum have been flooded lately with questions from new and newer agents on many of the topics I covered in this presentation, so what the heck? I’ll do a blog series here on the Rain and score some easy points ;-]

A little disclaimer… despite the title of the series; I’m not going to tell rookies how to trick their clients or prospects into believing that they’re a competent real estate agent, capable of handling someone’s real estate needs, so that they’ll allow the rookie to practice on them and learn what he’s doing. Nope. What I am going to cover is how to BE a competent real estate agent who IS capable of handling someone’s real estate needs, so that the rookie will have the confidence to sell himself to prospects and yes, get the experience he needs.

But I will never, ever ever advise anyone to “Fake it til you Make it” as a business philosophy. Will it happen? Oh yeah, it’ll happen every day, this year, next year and for years after that. I’ve been selling real estate for 12 years now and I still have to bluff my way through situations on a regular basis. But that’s actually one of the topics covered – HOW to do that, without jeopardizing your credibility or your license.

Here are the Ten Secrets According to JA:

  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

Stay tuned…


posted by on Especially for Rookies

We all talk about how tough a new agent’s rookie year is, but once they’ve survived those 12 months, they’re good to go. And in the old days, I would agree. I sold 25 houses in 1997, 35 in 1998 and close to 50 in 1999. So, by the end of my third year, I’d sold over 100 homes and most of my surviving rookie friends (the ones who started the same time as me and were still in the game) had similar track records. I think it’s safe to say that once you’ve sold 100 houses, you probably have a pretty good idea what you’re doing (although every day almost always STILL gives me a learning experience or two!)

But the rookies and first-year agents I’ve been talking to lately have a much different experience. Most sell fewer than 5 houses their first year and maybe double that in their second.

I met with a 3-year agent the other day who has only sold 19 houses in his career and seems moderately happy with that. What struck me about this 3-year agent was how inexperienced he came across – I was trying to help him negotiate multiple offers on his listing and was stunned at his level of, (how else can I say it?) incompetence. He’d never heard of a back-up offer or understood the issues that might arise with an FHA loan on a fix-up property. He thought he was supposed to take down his For Sale sign and lockbox as soon as his listing went under contract.  He hadn’t yet selected a preferred title company to work with. He didn’t know that he had to change the status from “Active” to “Under Contract” in the MLS within 24 hours of accepting a contract.

I can see how a brand new agent wouldn’t know any of these things and you don’t call that incompetence – you call it inexperience (and hope she has good broker guidance). But all of these things were issues I learned about in my first year – and by my third year – heavens – this was kindergarten-level stuff! But it all seemed new to him.

First and second year agents – how comfy do you feel in your REALTOR skin and at what point did you start to feel that you could handle pretty much anything tossed your way? Or DO you feel that way yet? Old Fogies – is my experience unique? Or did our “generation” have a better opportunity to get up speed faster?