In a seller's market, what can you do for buyers?

As you know, it's been a seller's market for quite some time, which makes us wonder what's ahead in 2018. According to Inman, the trend will continue this year. Economic analysts and real estate experts predict more millennials will enter the housing market in search of their first home. And while there was an increase in building permits in 2017, those homes won't be on the market until the late summer or fall of this year.

So, how can you ease the minds of buyers when houses fly off the market, leaving you with little time to find one for them?

Begin by talking with them. When you provide valuable information about the local housing market and access to tools to help them find their dream home, you give them insights to cope with the stress of their transition. You also know there are a few strategic things that can be done to put your clients on the inside track when they do find that perfect home. Don't assume your buyers know these things.

Strongly encourage clients to be flexible and prioritize their wish list.

When there's no time to waste, some clients can't afford to be picky. Know what they need, and what they can do without. They may hold fast to having a room for each child but may decide that granite countertops are a want and not a need. It also helps if they can be flexible with their timeline. If the seller needs to stay in the home for an extra month or wants to close by the end of the week, talk to your clients about how you can help make it happen. A little bit of inconvenience (such as living in an extended stay hotel for two weeks) could be the key to buying the home of their dreams.

Make sure your clients get a pre-approval letter from a lender.

This letter will prove to sellers that your clients have been financially vetted and are a great candidate for the home they want. It will also help clients know what mortgage they can reasonably afford, which can help narrow down their search. Once you provide homes for clients to consider, they may only have one chance to see the home they love. When there's no time to waste, your clients will be glad they already have a pre-approval letter to get the ball rolling.

Recommend that an escalation clause be added to the offer.

If your clients know how much they are willing to pay over another offer, it can help ease their nerves if a bidding war takes off. Suggesting this clause demonstrates to your clients that you are there to help them make the best offer on the home they love.

Explain the value of a personal letter.

Advise clients on situations that call for a heartfelt letter to sellers. In some scenarios, these can make or break the outcome of a competitive multi-offer bidding war. Sharing why they love the home or why they want to live in the area can appeal to a seller's soft side. If the family is relocating from out of state and needs to find a place before school starts, that should be included in the letter. Ultimately, sellers will put the most value into the highest bid. But, adding a personal touch can go a long way for your clients.

You are a professional and have your own unique style, but your most valuable tool is communication. Strong communication helps your clients understand the buying process, and may help them open their wallets to enhance their offer. When you communicate in a way that builds trust with your clients, they'll confidently put their faith in you to find their dream home.

The big problem with business cards (and how to solve it)

How many times have you handed out a business card and never heard from that person again? Even when the recipients have every intention of contacting you, chances are high your card will be lost or tossed before they have the chance to reach out.

Increase the effectiveness of your business cards with these five tips:

  1. Get their contact information in return. If prospects don't have a business card, ask for their phone number or email address and write it down (or add it to your contacts) right then and there. When you walk away with their contact information in hand, you virtually guarantee yourself a chance to reconnect later. Just handing them a card puts all of the power in their hands and decreases the chances you will ever hear from them again.
  2. Tell them when you will follow up. Be clear about how and when you intend to reach out to them. This takes the pressure off them to reach out to you, and it gives you an open door to follow up without appearing too pushy. Let them know you will email them later that day with the information they requested, or tell them that you will call in a few days to set up a meeting over coffee.
  3. Give them permission to text. A lot of people prefer to communicate with text messages rather than emails or phone calls, although some may hesitate to text a number on a business card. If you're willing to text, point out your cellphone number on your card and assure them you're happy to communicate this way.
  4. Connect with something other than business. Remember, the best way to do business is to develop genuine relationships with your contacts. If your conversation leads to other topics like family or hobbies, use that as a conversation starter in your follow-up email, text or phone call.
  5. Read the situation. Not every contact you make will turn into a client. Not every contact you make will be interested in hearing from you again about your business. Don't burn these bridges by being tone deaf. Be self-aware enough to know when a person will be more irritated than happy to hear from you. You want everyone to feel comfortable referring you to family and friends. If you push too hard, people will likely steer prospects away from you rather than refer you in the future.

Handing out business cards is a great way to network. With these few tweaks, you can capitalize on this simple marketing tool, and reduce the number of leads lost simply because your card was misplaced.

Successfully reach out to FSBOs

Every successful real estate professional knows that some prospects require a unique marketing strategy. These audiences are unlike your typical prospects and call for creative print marketing and a little extra attention. A great example of a niche audience is the “For Sale By Owner” market.

Using a tailored approach to land these listings can be valuable in building relationships and growing your brand. These homeowners may be hesitant to use an agent, but with the right tactics and a targeted marketing campaign, the FSBO market is yours for the mailing.

Start with a postcard.

Our Targeted Marketing Campaign focused on FSBO clients is the perfect way to get your foot in the door. Each postcard offers helpful tips, along with your photo and contact information. Sharing your real estate knowledge will prove your ability to sell homes and build trust.

Prospects will receive a series of eight postcards, one mailed to them every four days. If they are struggling to sell their own home, they will know which expert to reach out to for help: YOU.

Proceed with care.

After launching your targeted marketing campaign, it's time to build relationships. Approach the potential clients by calling and asking how the home selling process is going. Offer to meet and discuss the sale of their home (with no obligation on their part) as a way to connect with them in person. Inviting potential clients to coffee is a stress-free way to get the conversation rolling. Avoid the urge to quickly run through a script. Focus on showing that you care about their priorities: selling their home quickly, and for the right price.

After sharing how you can help them tackle their specific challenges, offer your assistance. If they decline, offer a tip or piece of free advice and wish them luck. Remind them that you are just a phone call away if they change their minds. By planting this seed, you have positioned yourself as a helpful resource, rather than a pushy salesperson.

A penny saved is a penny earned.

Most FSBO prospects attempt to sell their own home in order to save money. To convince them that your help is both valuable and necessary, explain how your services will save them money in the long run. Potential clients who try to sell their own home will spend more time and energy than they may have originally estimated. Researching real estate guidelines and contracts, staging and showing the property, and knowing what a home is truly worth can be tricky tasks for a novice.

As an expert, you can explain these factors and provide information about the local real estate market, while keeping the process running smoothly. Illustrating how you can save the potential clients money through your established skills and market knowledge will carry weight as you pursue landing the listing.

Transparency builds trust.

Your FSBO prospects may be nervous about trusting an agent with their property (perhaps after a negative experience in the past). To combat their fears, be as transparent as possible. Explain your plan for selling their home and take time to answer any and all questions the clients may have. Offer to meet with them as often as they would like and remind them that you are just a phone call, text or email away if they have more questions.

While it may require a little extra time on the phone, the care you provide throughout the process will pay off when you show your new clients that you can make the process of selling a home faster and easier.

Enlisting services like The Personal Marketing Company’s Targeted Marketing Campaign places you at the forefront of potential clients' minds, making you their trusted contact when it's time to call an agent. Call 800.458.8245 and talk to our marketing experts about how to get started today!

Is print marketing dead?

Now is certainly a spotlight moment for social media prowess and buzzy new apps. However, relying too heavily on these newer mediums for connection, and ignoring past mainstays like print and email, can have a massive negative effect on your business.

In fact, companies like Airbnb and mega-influencers like Chip and Joanna Gaines of HGTV's Fixer Upper have joined the print marketing bandwagon in recent history. Now, they send beautifully designed magazines straight to the mailboxes of their fans. Why? Because they understand the need to connect with their audience on a level that digital platforms like Facebook make too difficult.

For starters, let's talk about the numbers.

Social media platforms combined reached 3 billion active users in 2017. However, those users are fragmented. They're on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, Tumblr, Reddit, LinkedIn, and dozens of other sites.

According to the Radicati Group, the number of active email users topped 3.7 billion in 2017. That's 3.7 billion people regularly checking their personal inbox.

Then, there's the mailbox. One for every residence. In the case of direct mail, marketers are nearly guaranteed that a person from the residence will have to carry mail from the mailbox into the home and will at least skim the marketing materials. 

Now, what about delivery?

Put a stamp on a postcard, drop it in the mail, and it reaches its destination (or intended audience). Similarly, email has a 98 percent deliverability rate. Your only job is ensuring that the postcard, newsletter or email is important and urgent enough for a person to read.

Freeport Press reports that 74 percent of their audience read up to three print magazines in the last month, and only 41 percent read up to three digital magazines. People are still interested in holding a print magazine in their hands.

With ever-changing social media algorithms and even with a perfectly timed social media post, it's nearly impossible to meet your followers with the kind of consistency email and print offer. There are measures you can take to increase your visibility, but without dropping serious cash, there will be no way of ensuring the right people see your post at the right time.

You have to decide if you want to compete on social media where everyone is vying for attention or if you would rather cut through the noise and contact your audience through their mailbox, where there are fewer distractions and less competition.

How can real estate agents capitalize on print and email?

Lead with print and follow up with email. It's a one-two punch that we've seen work well time and time again.

Like Chip and Joanna or Airbnb, it's time to connect with your audience through high-value print mailings. Personalize it, and make sure it's interesting, beautiful and something your audience can look forward to receiving.

Then, don't let the conversation fizzle out. Follow up with an email. Your email list can become a robust network to boost customer satisfaction and business growth.

The Personal Marketing Company has a variety of print marketing options

Do we have your attention?

As a real estate professional, spending the amount of time necessary to create your own email and print marketing can be daunting.

Using products and programs from The Personal Marketing Company provides you with attractive, value-packed print options to keep you top-of-mind — and puts more time back in your schedule. Getting started is easy. Call us today at 800.458.8245.

7 Steps to boost your online reviews

It's a judgmental world out there. It's a world where people do their homework and scroll through online reviews for nearly everything: restaurants, movies, electricians, doctors, and especially real estate professionals. Today's consumers do their research.

As a result, positive online reviews are a powerful form of influence. Even if a client sings your praises to their best friend, it's likely their friend will still search your name on Google before reaching out to you.

Make sure that what they find in their search accurately reflects the trustworthy agent they need: you!

Take our seven suggestions to give your reviews the life and lift they need:

1. Search: If you have any kind of online presence, people may already be writing reviews about you. Run a Google search on your name + real estate, and your name + real estate + your city/town/region. Next, take note of which social media platforms already contain reviews, what your scores are, and how high up in Google's search engine you appear. And then, clear your internet cookies, remove your name, and search real estate + your city/town/region again. Scroll through the pages to see where your name appears in Google's hierarchy. You'll want this information to track how much you improve as you add positive reviews.

2. Choose your platforms: Google favors Google reviews. So, the more positive Google reviews you can rack up, the better. Yelp and Facebook reviews also rank high in Google's algorithm. A number of online real estate websites also offer local agent searches and reviews, but focusing your presence too much on these sites has serious downsides.

3. Ask: Politely ask past and present clients for an online review. It's not pushy or overreaching if done tactfully. Explain that feedback is important to you and your business, and thank them for their support. If you've built a strong personal relationship with your clients, they will be happy to take a few minutes to help a friend.

4. Follow up: Allow your clients a week or so to take action after you ask for a review, and then follow up with a text message or email reminder. Avoid sending a link that takes them directly to your review page if you can. Search engines favor reviews filled out directly on the site over reviews that were prompted by a link in an email. However, a good review is better than no review! So, send that link in a second and final reminder email if you must.

5. Personalize: Keep your communications personal. Clients are less likely to oblige with a review if it appears that you've sent the same email to a dozen people. Use a client follow-up program and call or email to check in with your satisfied clients. Then, request the review. If the clients you approach did not buy their house recently, ask if they would review you based on past experience. Casually ask what they think about the follow-up mailings they are receiving from you.

6. Maintain: Unfortunately, there is always the chance you could face a negative review. It's not as detrimental as you may think. Responding graciously to your reviewer reflects your maturity, competency and ability to handle tough situations. Ask these reviewers to contact you via email, text message or a phone call, so that you don't discuss their negative concerns on social media.

7. Create incentive: People love the opportunity to win free prizes. Offer a drawing for a gift card, and enter everyone who submits a review. This is a great way to thank clients for their time and encourage them to follow through.

Scones, food trucks and agent exclusives: new open house imperatives

Make your open house more memorable than a New Year’s Eve extravaganza with these creative ideas.

Choose a theme
Not only does centering your open house around a theme make hosting a blast, it also provides a framework to work within. Showcasing an English Tudor? How about serving some buttery scones with various English teas?

Food on wheels
People love food, so why not feed them? For a serious “wow factor,” hire a food truck to help bring the party to you. You'll have the whole neighborhood buzzing about the newest house on the market.

Go live
Many potential buyers may want to explore moving to the neighborhood but are unable to attend the open house due to previous commitments. Help them out and go live on Facebook to allow those prospects to visit on social media.

Do digital
Ask attendees for their email addresses in addition to handing out your business cards. This turns contacts into guaranteed connections rather than leads that will disappear once they walk out the door.

Team local
Reach out to a nearby coffee shop, bakery or restaurant to cater your open house. By involving a local business, you highlight the value of the community surrounding the home, and the business may allow you to post fliers for the event in their windows. 

Be present in the moment this holiday season

Maybe that house you hope to close before the holidays is still up in the air, and you expect a call any minute. Whatever pulls at you this holiday season, don't let your phone keep you from being present with your friends and family members. Of course, your real estate business is your ongoing priority, but when the important moments that shape your relationships occur, be present.

You may be think, “I can't do that, I'll miss an important call or an important opportunity!” But, there's nothing to fear. These pressures will disappear with the right mindset and a little time management.

This season, ditch your phone occasionally and reap the benefits:

  1. Get ahead in your work. When the holidays hit and you want to focus on your loved ones, knowing you have planned ahead will provide peace of mind.
  2. Be transparent with your clients. Let them know when you will be unavailable. This may help move timelines ahead and prevent emergency phone calls and last-minute scrambles.
  3. Turn your phone off. This might be a terrifying proposition, but you'll be able to truly tune into your family time.
  4. Disable your social media and email notifications for a few hours. This way, you'll remove the temptation to update your status or view an email that might stress you out. Enjoy these special moments as they unfold before you without pressuring yourself to capture and share them.
  5. Discuss your work successes and struggles with supportive family and friends. This will relieve personal and social pressures and help you unwind while creating natural conversation.

Save “tacky” for Christmas sweaters: How to navigate the holiday networking scene tastefully

Between glasses of eggnog and sugar cookies, fancy clothing and champagne, the holiday season offers a wealth of networking opportunities. But, striking the delicate balance between personal and professional during the festivities can be downright overwhelming.

Maybe you err on the side of being discouraged by all of the invites. Perhaps you often find yourself in the midst of tacky self-promotion when you should be joining in the caroling.

Follow these guidelines to tastefully connect with your audience this season, from friends to future clients.

Remember, networking with a self-promotional mindset will get you nowhere. Craft a story for your listener that illustrates how your job solves their problems.

According to Forbes magazine, our best mindset when engaging an audience is to remember that it's not about you. Rather than highlighting your achievements and prowess, share how your work adds value to the community and brings solutions to the table.

If you have several clients who have invited you to their holiday parties, be strategic about which invites to accept. Ideally, you'll make an appearance at each one. If you are stretched too thin, even spending a short amount of time at an event is better than declining the invite all together.

Listen, you might have a good follow-up story you want to share, but don’t interrupt before others are finished telling theirs. You never know what you might learn. On the flip side, be generous with the knowledge that you do have. This establishes your credibility. Exchanging business cards at the close of a conversation is a subtle way to remain in touch without being pushy.

Whether you’re at a client’s party, a networking event or an industry gathering, be clear and concise about your vision and what you do. A rambling, vague overview of your career wastes your time as well as your listener's time.

A savvy networker will be ready to network anywhere at anytime. If you feel your listener is interested in learning more about what you do and are engaging in the topic, don’t be shy. You never know how you could help them or with whom they may put you in touch.

You don’t have to be “on” all the time. From a gift exchange with childhood friends to a holiday dinner with your extended family, remember to cherish the fellowship and focus on being present in the moment.

Can being thankful make us happier?

This time of year is filled to-do lists, stress, family plans, work schedules, and fast-approaching deadlines. Is there a way we can feel happier and more fulfilled? Good news! Studies tell us there's a secret path to happiness: gratitude.

Gratitude expert Dr. Robert Emmons, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, has proof that actively being thankful for what we have can improve our mental health. In a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Dr. Emmons and his colleague Dr. Michael McCullough from the University of Miami examined the effects of writing gratitude diaries on almost 200 college undergraduates. Students were divided into three groups. Group 1 was instructed to write weekly diaries about things they were thankful for. Group 2 wrote about daily annoyances, and Group 3 wrote about neutral events. After 10 weeks, the students who focused on their gratitude felt an overall higher satisfaction with their lives than the other students.

Various other studies based on similar ideas have shown the same results: when we focus on the reasons we have to be happy, we actually feel happier. When we remember and relive moments when we felt joy, we receive similar or same effects as when we first lived in that moment. The more happiness we recall and consume, the more we realize that a majority of our life is focused on this positive emotion. Who doesn't want to feel happier?!

We challenge you to add something new to your to-do list. Spend five minutes at the beginning of your day writing down three things you are thankful for. If you are really ambitious, add why you are thankful. These can be people, experiences, jobs, opportunities, memories, material things, or anything else you are grateful for. After a few weeks of writing down the good things in your life, let us know how you feel! Follow us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or just email us. We look forward to hearing how this gratitude practice impacts your life.