Colorado Real Estate News

SHOULD YOU SUPPORT CHARITIES AS A REAL ESTATE AGENT?

There are two schools of thought when it comes to real estate agents publicly supporting charities. One school holds that this is a solid business strategy — it can help differentiate agents in crowded markets especially, and many clients like to feel good about helping good people accomplish good things. The other school, however, holds that incorporating a charity and your support of that charity into your real estate business is too risky. The world is too divisive as it is, and choosing a particular charity that you’re going to advocate for and financially provision above others can drive people away just as much as it can draw clients to your door.

If you’re on the fence about whether to support a charity as a real estate agent, consider the many nonpartisan, non-controversial options that are open to you, then have a discussion with your broker about any brokerage policies they might have. Agents who carefully select the charities they support and have backing from their brokers can find that supporting charitable causes can be an excellent way to elevate and differentiate themselves.

Why give back?

Many real estate agents want to give back to their communities or to organizations or networks that have meant a lot to them in their lives, but they are hesitant to indulge that desire because they’re worried that giving to certain charities could reflect poorly upon them. Today’s very divided political landscape means that if certain issues such as gun control or protection of the Second Amendment are high on your priority list, then you could wind up alienating a certain group of your client population.

It’s true that choosing an overtly political charity or cause is probably going to be a turnoff for a least a portion of your client base. Some agents are willing to sacrifice those clients in exchange for reaching others who align more closely with their views. Even if you’re not, though, it’s still possible to find charitable causes that are close to your heart and values without driving off a large group of people who might be otherwise very happy doing business with you. For example, someone who believes strongly in the Second Amendment might have grown up hunting and also have strong feelings about conservation and nature preservation, which are potentially more widely shared among the general population. And someone who’s a gun control advocate in private life might choose to support children’s causes or animal charities, which may overlap with their values.

Believe it or not, giving to charity can be a very smart business decision, depending on the market in which you’re operating and your client base. Millennials, in particular, tend to value companies and businesses that prioritize community health, so if you can show that you’re paying attention to social issues that matter and you’re contributing what you can to those causes, your clients will feel proud to affiliate themselves with you and your business — and could even start humblebragging about how great it is to support charity while buying or selling a home to their friends, which is only a win for you as their agent!

List your options

There have to be at least a dozen different ways to give back to your community or the world at large when you start to think about it, so even if you’re on the fence about charitable giving, spend some time making a list of the things you might be able to do that could provide good reputation points for your business and your name. If you’re serious about putting real ideas down on this list, you might be pleasantly surprised by the possibilities that arise.

Some different areas to consider might include:

  • Local organizations, charities, and support efforts
    Start by listing different local opportunities for giving back that you can uncover or explore. Many agents might disavow the idea of helping out charity as a business differentiator because they think it alienates some people, but if you decide to help out local schools, food pantries, or natural resources by organizing school supply drives, grocery drives, or park cleanups, you’ll probably find that more people are drawn to you than repelled. Even clients who don’t have kids or who don’t use the park may appreciate your efforts to help out the community in which they live and could respond accordingly. Maybe you could even host some kind of gala event and donate the proceeds to a local group, such as a historical society that works to preserve landmark homes in the area. Even if you don’t want to advertise too many of your personal values to clients, there are ample options to give back to your local community that are laudable and will help you connect with buyers and sellers alike.
  • Think of the children
    It’s really true that the children are our future, and even people who don’t have children can often appreciate your efforts to make things better for kids and help prepare our future leaders for the jobs ahead of them. There are countless sports teams and clubs to sponsor, and if you’re feeling really ambitious, you could also fund a scholarship to help a local child (or several children) go camping or take advantage of educational opportunities they couldn’t otherwise afford.
  • Home is where the heart is
    A real estate agent sponsoring real estate-related charities makes a lot of sense! Whether you’re partnering with Habitat for Humanity or an outfit like Giveback Homes, or have some other home- or housing-related charitable outfit that you’re supporting, opting for the real estate charity can be a safe and easy way to show you care without risking too much. That said, it’s also relatively common especially because it is a little safer and more obvious. There’s nothing wrong with supporting real estate-related causes, especially if they’re close to your heart or there’s some intensely local housing issue that your support will help address, but be aware that it might be considered an easy option and make sure you’re giving equal weight to other charities.
  • Leverage life experiences
    One great alternative to going with a real estate-related charity just because it happens to dovetail with your job is to think about your own personal experiences and see if you can make some kind of charitable connection that way. Perhaps you have a soft spot for animals and several pets, so it might make sense for you to focus on animal shelters and foster groups. Veterans may find that they want to devote some of their time and energy to veterans’ causes, while people who have suffered from certain diseases (or have seen loved ones suffer) could feel inspired to pledge some of their earnings toward that disease’s eradication. Real estate agents who have been victims in domestic violence situations may want to help out others by donating to shelters or offering seminars on how to achieve financial independence, for example. There’s nothing wrong with making a personal connection to the charity you’d like to support, so don’t be afraid of delving into your own experience and seeing what emerges.
  • Let the client choose
    Maybe you know you want to offer some kind of charitable incentive or bonus to your clients, but you really don’t want to be the one to select which charity. You can always let your clients decide which charity will benefit from your generosity, which can be a nice way to involve them in the decision — and you can also give them an opportunity to claim a tax credit for the donation. This can really help set you apart in the eyes of your clients and give them something to talk about, once when they transact with you and again when tax season rolls around!

After you’ve outlined your options, decide whether you want to choose just one strategy, or perhaps try a couple of different ones. You will likely find that one is a better fit for your business than the other, but there’s no harm in doing some testing with different models before you decide whether you’re going to incorporate charitable giving permanently into your sales system and how, exactly, that will look for you.

Colorado Real Estate News

15 SIGNS IT’S TIME TO HIRE A REAL ESTATE ASSISTANT

You may know that more productive, successful real estate agents have assistants to help them manage the minutiae of the business — but how do you know if you’re there, yet? The question of when to hire an assistant can be a daunting one for many agents, and quite a few of them realize after they get an assistant that they probably could have hired one (and been appropriately relieved) much earlier than they did.

Hiring an assistant doesn’t hinge on how long you’ve been in real estate, and you can absolutely justify hiring an assistant if you could use some help with the tasks that assistants are allowed to complete. Remember that flexible arrangements, such as sharing an assistant with another agent in your office who’s at a similar stage, can help you bring help onboard faster than you otherwise would, making you more productive and saving your sanity.

Is it time to hire an assistant? If these are signs that resonate with you, it’s at least time to consider it.

You feel like you’ve lost your work-life balance

This is the biggest sign by far that it’s time to start thinking about hiring an assistant. Everybody knows the real estate industry is nonstop, and it can also feel isolating, especially if you’re a solo agent who’s trying to juggle everything by yourself. That can be a lot of pressure for someone when the stakes are as high as someone else’s place to live, immediately or for years — it’s a stressful environment with a lot of details to remember, and it’s no wonder a lot of agents struggle to keep all those balls in the air once they reach a certain level of success.

If you’re having trouble sleeping at night, consistently neglecting your family engagements for work, can’t exercise or eat well because you’re too busy — you know the signs — then consider it a serious warning that if something in your real estate career doesn’t change, you might not have a long-term real estate career.

You know how much money you make (gross and net)

Most agents ask themselves first whether they can afford an assistant, not whether they need one. Well, before you can assess whether you can afford an assistant, you need to know exactly how much money you make and how much of that money you take home, usually, two different numbers for real estate agents who have to factor in brokerage fees, franchise fees, pay for photos and marketing materials, or other expenses that result from assisting a home sale transaction.

Last year’s tax return might help, but it would be beneficial for you to keep running track of how much money you’re generating and what you’ve got to work with so that you can start to think about standardizing pay for someone who will help you maximize your production.

You know what you like and what you don’t like to do

It’s probably not hard to think about the tasks that you relish and the ones you loathe when you consider the day-to-day of your job. Some agents thrive on the marketing and networking aspects of working with buyers and sellers, while others are lead-generation whizzes, and still, others make transactions run so smoothly that everyone’s head on all sides is left spinning. But nobody likes to do everything, and nobody is good at everything.

Make a list of the things you have to do every day, every week, every month, and every year in your job, then divide it according to things you enjoy and things you really don’t. Are there enough things on the list of things you don’t enjoy that an assistant could tackle? If not, maybe an inside sales associate (ISA) is a better fit?

You understand which activities really require your personal touch … and which don’t

If your sellers really expect you to answer every phone call personally and schedule all appointments, then maybe you have an issue with a high-maintenance client base that can’t really be solved with an assistant. But there are plenty of things that require your personal touch and hand-holding with your buyers and sellers, and plenty of things that really can (and should) be delegated to someone whose time isn’t at quite as much of a premium.

This isn’t just about your sellers, either. Maybe you truly believe that you have to personally craft your business Instagram and Facebook presence in order to be taken seriously as a real estate agent. And it’s possible that in your market and in your niche, you’re correct. But you also need to be aware of what activities should be most hands-on for you, and which ones you can logistically and ethically release to someone else.

You have a well-structured lead generation strategy

Again, this goes back to the fear that you might not be able to pay an assistant consistently. Looking harder at your business can tell you whether that fear is founded or not, and lead generation is, of course, a big part of your financial stability.

If you’ve just kind of been letting leads fall in your lap and have happened to get pretty lucky, then don’t hire an assistant until you’ve been able to establish a consistent lead-generation strategy that’s yielding some solid, reliable returns for you. And keep a regular eye on whether those lead sources are continuing to work well for you or whether some of them start to run dry so that you can start to diversify before your leads disappear “without warning.”

You’re consistently closing at least a couple of deals each month

Depending on which market you’re in, closing about two deals a month (on average) will give you the ability to take care of your own business expenses, pay bills, and have enough left over to invest in your business somehow. Making that investment an assistant could increase your productivity and boost your earning power, so if you’ve reached the stage where you can count on closing at least two deals a month or 24 a year, then it might be time to think about on-boarding someone to help with the minutiae.

You know what an assistant can legally do

Some real estate agents get lost in fantasies of being able to lie on a beach while an assistant handles the bulk of the heavy lifting — which is just not realistic. Real estate assistants are legally allowed by law to complete only certain tasks, and it’s critical that you know what an assistant can (and can’t) do so that you don’t run afoul of the legal system and get yourself into trouble when you were only trying to alleviate stress and elevate your business.

Real estate assistants can:

* Answer phones, collect mail and relay messages

* Schedule appointments, including closings, home tours, and inspections

* Manage social media accounts

* Place advertisements and create marketing materials

* Create documents, presentations, and spreadsheets

* Take photos of listings and enter the listings into the MLS

* Help with expenses

You know what kind of assistant you need

In that list of things that real estate agents can do, you may have noticed tasks that they can’t do but that you are going to need to be done. So what are your options there?

One is to hire a different type of assistant that will be a better fit for your particular business needs. Real estate inside sales associates (ISAs) can legally work with clients on documents (including sales contracts), manage paperwork or prepare escrow files, or call new leads on the phone — you would need to use an ISA for these tasks.

You have some time to hire and train an assistant

Real estate is a seasonal business, and there are definitely some times of the year when you are simply going to be too busy to onboard anybody new; it would be too big an interruption to your flow with clients. On the flip side, there might be some times of the year when it makes perfect sense to train an assistant, such as the beginning of the year, when you might be going over all your processes anyway, identifying inefficiencies and making improvements.

When you have a decent handle on your schedule and it wouldn’t be too big a burden to spend a couple of hours a day for two or three weeks training an assistant, then it might be a good time to think about hiring somebody. Make sure you carve out some time for the hiring process, too!

You have a budget for paying your assistant

All of this talk about financial preparation has ignored one critical component that you’ll need to lock down before you’re ready to bring an assistant on board — the budget. It’s a smart idea to wait until you have three or four months’ wages for your assistant set back, whether you’re hiring someone part-time to share with another agent or two, or you’re hoping to have your own full-time helper bee.

If you haven’t yet figured out where this money is going to come from, start by assessing the wages for good assistants in your area (no point in aiming low), then figure out how many hours a week you’d need, and do your best to stash up at least twelve to sixteen weeks’ pay for an assistant. Then you can feel like a responsible employer.

You feel comfortable ceding control in some areas

Some agents gravitate toward real estate expressly because they can control a business down to some of its most minute details. If that’s you, then you might find it hard to hire an assistant specifically because you don’t want to give up control of what you’ve built, and that is an entirely understandable sentiment. It’s also one that’s going to cost you a lot of time and energy over the long term as you spend your own precious minutes on tasks that are, frankly, below your pay grade at a certain level of real estate sales.

Where do you feel comfortable giving up control to an employee — one you’ve hired and trained yourself? If you just can’t see handing over the steering wheel in any capacity to someone else, then you’re probably just not ready (or not desperate enough), and that’s OK. It’s better to understand that now than hire someone and realize you don’t want to give them anything to do.

You’ve talked to your mentors about hiring an assistant

Every real estate agent should have trusted mentors to provide advice; if you don’t, that’s a separate conversation. Hopefully, you do, and you can bounce questions off them about hiring an assistant. Ask them when they made the move in their careers and whether they wish they would have done it sooner or later — and why. Try to get as many details as you can about what went smoothly and what pitfalls they didn’t expect.

Maybe your mentors have assistants today and you could ask them for their perspective about what they wish they knew about the job, their thoughts on training and, and anything else that you might want to know. After all, if you have resources, it makes sense to use them!

You have a system for keeping track of transactions

An assistant can help you communicate with clients to some extent, but they’re going to need to know what’s happening before they can tell one of your buyers or sellers what’s going on while you’re otherwise occupied. So you’ll need a way to keep track of everything ongoing that clearly delineates to your assistant where it’s fine for them to be involved and where they would need more training in order to respond to a question or request.

This will also benefit you from a bookkeeping perspective, and any partners you work within the title or mortgage world will appreciate your newfound organization if you haven’t already systematized your transactions.

You’re organized enough to start handing over some tasks

Another barrier some agents have to hire an assistant is that they are barely hanging on to the current state of affairs by tooth and nail; they definitely don’t have time to pause and outline job responsibilities and transitions, let alone even think about the mess that can be the hiring process. If that describes you, then you probably already know an assistant is more critical for you, personally than ever.

Start by getting organized with some of the smaller tasks that you know an assistant can help with, such as scheduling appointments and entering listings into the MLS. Maybe you can hire someone part-time to start, with the understanding that you’ll ramp up hours as you get more organized.

Technology won’t solve your challenges

There are a lot of fun toys available for real estate agents in this day and age, and it’s entirely possible that one of those is going to be a decent answer to your problem. Perhaps you don’t really need an assistant to handle your social media posting and instead, there’s an app that will coordinate everything just as well.

The question you have to ask yourself is, how well do you need these things done, and is it really something you can trust in technology? A bot that schedules appointments might work fine for something simple, but for a more complicated request, you might need a human involved. Similarly, maybe your social media needs a personal touch. Use technology tools where you can, but don’t become blinded to their limits.

Some agents struggle with the question of when to hire help for their business. If any of these scenarios describe your life as an agent, it might be time to think about bringing an assistant on board, boosting your productivity and catapulting you into the next echelon of real estate success.