In a few posts, as well as comments on the subject, I have been critical of the practice of "buying" leads, be they from a relocation company, from a service like Hungryagents.com or, more recently, in a post about my new friend, Jennifer, with a company called Real Estate Client Referrals.
I started to feel a little bit guilty, because the last comment on my first Jennifer post came in yesterday and, yes, it is from Jennifer herself. And she sounds like a very nice young lady. And her reply sort of inspired me to offer advice on alternatives.
It's easy for me to rant about this, because I am an established agent with almost 25 years worth of clients who send me referrals. Even when I came into the business, I had a wonderful center of influence that has been very, very good to me.
So in this particular market, how is an agent new to the business or in a currently depressed market supposed to keep from starving? What would I do if I were a brand new agent today, or if I found myself relocated to a different part of the country where I knew noone?
Well, when I first got into real estate, the market here in Washington, DC was pretty bad. Interest rates were creeping down from an all-time high of 19 percent. There were agents in my first office who had not had a sale in years, and they were living off of trust funds, gainfully employed spouses or rentals.
When friends heard about my new career move, I'm sure many of them wondered, "What on earth is she thinking?"
Here is what my first business plan looked like, and it is almost identical to the one I have today:
- Master my market area: I previewed at least 50 properties each week. In fact, my colleague, Tom, and I had a contest every week to see who could preview the most places. The loser took the winner to lunch. We both had great rookie years, and this is the one single thing that contributed to our successes.
- Get inside of every single house or condo in the District that was priced in the "upper brackets" as it came onto the market. I figured that I never knew when a rich guy was going to fall out of the sky and into my office while I was the duty agent, and it happened several times. When it did, I was a good Girl Scout. I was totally prepared.
- Follow up on every opportunity to list or show a house. I started with making schmooze calls to my center of influence, and through that I got my first listing - an upper brackets home near Dupont Circle. Not only did I sell it myself (we did that a lot in the old days), but I picked up several buyers for other expensive properties. And because I had previewed everything in town, I was ready for them. Oh, and it worked because I called people back - these were not cold calls, but were red hot calls.
- Hold Open Houses at every opportunity, and be totally familiar with other properties for sale in the immediate neighborhood. Most of the people who come to an open don't want whatever it is that you are showing, but if you know the territory and price range, you can often convert them to clients.
So, I think the secret was putting myself in front of buyers at every opportunity, and there are plenty of opportunities - some more profitable than others. I did floor duty (I was in a down town office that got heavy walk-in traffic, and it does not work well everywhere), I did Open Houses, and I did a lot of schmoozing.
And I did not pay a single penny to a referral company.
So, now I am back to basics. This year's plan, which I started last month, is simple:
- make 5 schmooze calls a day - either follow ups or center or influence calls
- send 5 hand written notes a day, usually to say "Thank you" for something
- see 5 new houses or condo units (either previewing or showing) every day
- make 5 showing or listings appointments each week.
And, I can get this done in less time than I spend blogging!