Every week, we ask a real estate professional for their Short List, a collection of tips and recommendations on an essential topic in real estate. This week, we talked with Kevin Palmer, the CEO/founder of PalmerHouse Properties in Atlanta, for his insights on how agents can stay busy in the “off season.”
Historically, the Metro Atlanta market experiences a decline in sales in February and March. According to Case-Shiller, about half the number of units sell in February and March (approximately 3,000 units each month) as sell the peak months of June and July (approximately 5,500 units each month). While a 50 percent decline is significant, the fact that we have such a short “off season” is still very manageable. There are many markets across the country where inventory and sales dramatically decline for four to six months.
As we approach the fall and winter months, we begin to hear the chatter about how business will slow down for us. Rather than approach the question with an attitude of “How do I stay busy in the off season?” maybe we should ask ourselves “What practices can I put in place during the other 10 months so that I don’t experience an off season?”
None of the following ideas are revolutionary; however, it is amazing how many real estate professionals don’t do some of the simplest things to help promote their business.
4. Create, Implement and Follow a Business Plan – We usually don’t hear much about business plans until December or January, but if you don’t have one, don’t wait – act now! You don’t need to be intimidated by the thought of a business plan. As a business owner, I understand the importance of a business plan and it really is an easy task. Your business plan only needs two items: (1) what you want to accomplish in a set time period and (2) what action items are you going to take to accomplish those goals. It really is that simple.
The hard part is remaining focused, dedicated and having some accountability to fulfilling those action items. I’m a “To-Do List” kind of person and I keep that list the focal point of my day. I know what needs to be accomplished today, tomorrow, this week and this month. Some projects can be resolved in a couple hours, and others require a lot more planning and time.
Look at it this way: Now I have my written business plan, and let’s say my goal is five new listings every month through the remainder of the year. Based on my experience and feedback from others, my action items are: (1) call 20 expired listings, (2) send out 200 post cards to a community I have been farming, and (3) knock on five doors in my neighborhood and introduce myself.
Maybe the first 30 days I don’t get any new listings with these action items. Far too often, real estate agents see it as a failure and quit. Instead, they should see it as planting seeds that might actually come to fruit in the future…maybe in January or February!
Additionally, if my action items didn’t create the results I wanted, I should re-evaluate the action items and their effectiveness. If calling on 20 expired listings resulted in two listing appointments, then maybe calling on 40 to 50 expired listings is where I need to put my efforts rather than knocking on doors.
Regardless of what the “experts” say, there is no silver bullet. If you are doing something that doesn’t feel right to you and you don’t have the energy or passion for it, then it may never work. Find your passion and work it. I know many successful real estate agents who don’t call expired listings or knock on doors. They have, however, found what works for them – their niche – and they work it…a lot!
3. Stay In Contact With Former Clients – The closing has occurred and you are busy working with your current clients and prospects to get them to the closing table. After all, you don’t get paid unless the transaction closes. However, your former clients can be a greatest resource for referrals…and often times, become new friends!
There are many ways to stay in contact with your clients, but the more personal the better. Sure, you can put them on a monthly drip campaign, but if you are like me, you probably delete most of these without even opening them. If you use email campaigns, make sure the content is relevant for the former client who has already purchased or sold their home. The content for former clients could be very different versus content for “potential clients” who are actively (or maybe not so actively) looking for their next home. Simply said, make it relevant.
Most firms have a preferred vendor list, and that list could be very helpful for homeowners. Take the time to send the vendor list or brochure to your former clients. It’s a great way to stay top of mind and also provide a value. You never know, the homeowner may be in need of a contractor, plumber or interior designer at that very moment and you just “saved the day.”
Social media, particularly Facebook, is another great way to stay connected. You can keep up with changes in jobs, family and other life events that could require your assistance. Additionally, the occasional post on a recent listing or sale will help remind them that you are their “go-to real estate expert,” but don’t make your Facebook page a never-ending infomercial.
2. Be Involved In The Community – Hosting parties and social events where you invite former clients, potential clients, neighbors and friends is a great way to bring people together. Become a connector. Remember, you don’t have to make it about you being a real estate agent. People can see and feel the real reason why you do something.
Additionally, don’t wait until the holiday season – do them throughout the year. Do you farm a specific subdivision, community or condo building? Coordinating community events is a special way to connect people and show them that they are important to you. Factor an event like this into your budget and drop off an invitation personally to make your contacts feel especially welcome. Most HOAs and neighborhood social committees will be delighted to let you help them plan community events.
1. Review Your Marketing Materials – When was the last time you reviewed your profile, whether online or in print? We have all been online and seen a professional profile that we knew was not accurate or out of date. We all have that one headshot that we really love. When the prospective clients can’t recognize you from your profile picture, it’s time to update it.
Many agents forget to update their profiles when they have obtained additional designations, receive awards & recognitions, or they are involved in community/charity organizations. Now is a perfect time to buckle down and make sure that your marketing persona actually matches your real one!
So as you can see, it’s not about whether the overall market trends up or down in any particular season; it’s about whether you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing year-round. And if you are, the off-season will be a welcome time to catch your breath after a busy year, not a time to lament a lack of business.
Kevin Palmer, is the CEO/founder of PalmerHouse Properties. A 25-year veteran of Atlanta’s financial services industry, Kevin was previously the CEO/president and board chairman of one of the nation’s largest securities broker-dealers and registered investment advisory firms. Under his leadership, PalmerHouse has grown to the No. 15 real estate company by sales volume in Atlanta in just seven years, and has received the PaceSetter Award from the Atlanta Business Chronicle three years in a row.