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Anthony Zammitt

how to be a better real estate agent

Creative Ways To Market Your Hard-To-Sell Listing

By | Agents

As a real estate agent, you already know the importance of being creative in marketing your listings. In an industry where much of real estate training teaches you the same marketing tactics as other agents, it’s necessary to always stay educated on new marketing tools to help you differentiate yourself and more importantly; sell your homes faster.

When it comes to that “hard sell”, we know the struggle of watching the days go by with no inquiries or showings. Or maybe you’re having showings, but no offers. Sometimes you’ve exhausted all your resources and marketing tools, and you just need something new to stand out or get the ball rolling. Below, we’ve outlined some creative ways to market that “hard-to-sell” listing that you’ve been worried about for weeks.

top realtors

Show Off The Neighborhood.

In many cases, the neighborhood itself is enough to sell a home. Capitalizing on areas that offer great amenities and/or local flavor is a great selling tactic used by top real estate agents. Potential buyers may not be familiar with the neighborhood and may have a difficult time picturing their life there. Go out of your way to plan a night out at a local favorite. Pick a street that is lively, but safe, and a restaurant that you know will delight. You can use Opentable to make a reservation and even schedule an Uber to pick them up and drop them off. This takes out the frustration of parking or driving in an area that is unknown to them. As passengers, it also allows them to see the neighborhood. The marketing angle here is to create an experience that not only allows them to explore the neighborhood, but it also shows the buyers that you care about more than just selling your listing.

sell real estate

Look For Investors.

Leverage the internet to find people who may want to buy your property as an investment. With Google, you can find a list of all the properties in your area that sold for cash in the past 1-2 years. Use the list to create an email campaign on Mailchimp and let these people know that you have some properties they may be interested in.

You can also google “We Buy Homes” and the city you’re located in to find property buyers in your area. Similarly, using social media, you can search “Real Estate Investor” on Facebook, LinkedIn, and twitter to search people who have listed that as their job title.

how to market your hard to sell listing in Chicago

Create An Awesome Video.

87% of online marketers now use video to convert their audiences into paying customers. Videos on social media generate 12oo% more shares than text and images together! You can create a video tour with your narration allowing you to touch on all the value points of the house while adding your personal touch to incite emotional reaction within the viewer. If a professional videographer is not in your budget, there are plenty of real estate video apps that will allow you to create a customized video with professional quality features. Get creative and try to tell a story that people want to watch.

Hold An Open House Party.

These days it may take a little more than fresh baked cookies and flowers to win an open house. If your property has great entertaining space and your sellers are onboard, throw a party!  You can include catered food, live music, prizes, and alcohol to lure in local buyers and real estate agents in your area. Any instagram picture opportunities are a great way to get people to post about the property or you! Creating just enough buzz around the party could bring in the right people, or at least get you the exposure that a normal open house couldn’t.

Wondering if a switch might be right for you? Give us a shout and learn more.

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Pros & Cons of Using Professional Photos

By | Agents

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We’ve all seen it before. Real estate home photos that are so small and pixelated that you have to put your nose to the screen to make out exactly what room is shown. If you look at any website that sells a product, you’ll notice the professional product photos. Making your product appeal to an audience is every advertiser’s primary concern. And when it comes to real estate, there is no doubt that photos are a crucial part of the selling process. When prospects see your listing, you want them to follow through and contact you for a showing. However, you always want to provide them with realistic expectations to avoid wasting either parties’ time as well.  We’ve gathered feedback from the top real estate agents and looked at real estate training courses on the pros and cons of professional, high-quality photos for your listings.
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Pros.

The way consumers shop has changed significantly over the recent years. 96% of Americans now shop online.  This means over 88% of potential buyers go online for their property purchase. The first impression you will have on potential buyers is through the photos in your listing. Creating a compelling, yet accurate portrayal of the property is the first step of the selling process. Online marketers know that product photos draw in the customer and are the first thing a customer will see before reading any text. That’s why huge online retailers will spend the time and money to produce excellent product photos of items as small as a $5 fork. Without the visual appeal, the sell is more difficult.

Professional photos can draw more attention to your online listings and even bring more clicks from potential buyers. Since people who use professional photography end up having more photos, that also brings up your click rate. More clicks equals more lead conversions.
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Only 35% of real estate agents use professional photography in their listing, meaning that you’ll be at an advantage if you do decide to utilize this resource.

Listings with professional photographs sell 32% faster, spending only 89 days on the market, compared to 123 days for home without professional photographs. (PR Newswire)

Professional photographers can capture what agents can’t. Experienced real estate photographers are skilled in shooting home interiors in a way that is attractive and professional. They have the knowledge and talent to effectively capture the home’s most notable features. Many may even make staging suggestions that help market the home altogether. They also come prepared with equipment and lighting to capture photos that would otherwise be impossible. Small spaces and basements that lack natural light may have a lot to offer, but without the correct lighting and angle, the spaces can come off as unappealing and push a potential buyer away.
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Cons.

False expectations. While some real estate photography can help show the true character and essence of a home, some photography can produce unrealistic expectations. Photographers may use wide lens cameras that make a room look 10x bigger than it actually is. While it is important to give rooms a great sense of space, unrealistic expectations can lead to showings that actually frustrate potential buyers.

Not worth the price.  Although, some top real estate agents may argue that professional photos will help you boost the sell price of the home, homes listed for $300,000 and under may not be worth the investment of professional photography.  A session can cost upwards of $300, not to mention the editing and time that goes into setting everything up.
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Time. Hiring a photographer and scheduling a shoot with editing and photo transfer can take time. If you’re in a hurry to get a home on the market, you may not be willing to wait 1-3 weeks for professional photos.

In the end, the decision must be made by the agent.  Real estate training and networking can allow you to ask other agents their experiences with hiring a professional photographer. It may be helpful to list out pros and cons for each listing to decide whether photography would benefit the sale. When executed correctly, professional photography can be a powerful tool to advertise a home’s finest assets. Experienced professionals can make an ordinary home look extraordinary while maintaining the home’s integrity. Make sure to read reviews on photographers and take a deep dive into their work to confirm that they convey the look you’re going for, or the look and feel that you think would help your property sell best.
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Wondering if a switch might be right for you? Give us a shout and learn more.

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We’ve all seen it before. Real estate home photos that are so small and pixelated that you have to put your nose to the screen to make out exactly what room is shown. If you look at any website that sells a product, you’ll notice the professional product photos. Making your product appeal to an audience is every advertiser’s primary concern. And when it comes to real estate, there is no doubt that photos are a crucial part of the selling process. When prospects see your listing, you want them to follow through and contact you for a showing. However, you always want to provide them with realistic expectations to avoid wasting either parties’ time as well. We’ve gathered feedback from the top real estate agents and looked at real estate training courses on the pros and cons of professional, high-quality photos for your listings.

top realtors

Pros.

The way consumers shop has changed significantly over the recent years. 96% of Americans now shop online.  This means over 88% of potential buyers go online for their property purchase. The first impression you will have on potential buyers is through the photos in your listing. Creating a compelling, yet accurate portrayal of the property is the first step of the selling process. Online marketers know that product photos draw in the customer and are the first thing a customer will see before reading any text. That’s why huge online retailers will spend the time and money to produce excellent product photos of items as small as a $5 fork. Without the visual appeal, the sell is more difficult.

Professional photos can draw more attention to your online listings and even bring more clicks from potential buyers. Since people who use professional photography end up having more photos, that also brings up your click rate. More clicks equals more lead conversions.

networking in real estate

Only 35% of real estate agents use professional photography in their listing, meaning that you’ll be at an advantage if you do decide to utilize this resource.

Listings with professional photographs sell 32% faster, spending only 89 days on the market, compared to 123 days for home without professional photographs. (PR Newswire)

Professional photographers can capture what agents can’t. Experienced real estate photographers are skilled in shooting home interiors in a way that is attractive and professional. They have the knowledge and talent to effectively capture the home’s most notable features. Many may even make staging suggestions that help market the home altogether. They also come prepared with equipment and lighting to capture photos that would otherwise be impossible. Small spaces and basements that lack natural light may have a lot to offer, but without the correct lighting and angle, the spaces can come off as unappealing and push a potential buyer away.

Cons.

False expectations. While some real estate photography can help show the true character and essence of a home, some photography can produce unrealistic expectations. Photographers may use wide lens cameras that make a room look 10x bigger than it actually is. While it is important to give rooms a great sense of space, unrealistic expectations can lead to showings that actually frustrate potential buyers.

Not worth the price.  Although, some top real estate agents may argue that professional photos will help you boost the sell price of the home, homes listed for $300,000 and under may not be worth the investment of professional photography.  A session can cost upwards of $300, not to mention the editing and time that goes into setting everything up.

Time. Hiring a photographer and scheduling a shoot with editing and photo transfer can take time. If you’re in a hurry to get a home on the market, you may not be willing to wait 1-3 weeks for professional photos.

In the end, the decision must be made by the agent.  Real estate training and networking can allow you to ask other agents their experiences with hiring a professional photographer. It may be helpful to list out pros and cons for each listing to decide whether photography would benefit the sale. When executed correctly, professional photography can be a powerful tool to advertise a home’s finest assets. Experienced professionals can make an ordinary home look extraordinary while maintaining the home’s integrity. Make sure to read reviews on photographers and take a deep dive into their work to confirm that they convey the look you’re going for, or the look and feel that you think would help your property sell best.

Wondering if a switch might be right for you? Give us a shout and learn more.

SCHEDULE A CHAT

or call

(844) 355-6389

how to be a better real estate agent

How To Use Your Open House To Grow Your Business

By | Agents

Real estate agents have begun to debate on the idea of holding an open house. Many agents have abandoned the idea altogether to focus more on digital marketing efforts. Others argue that open houses bring up privacy and security concerns for sellers, while others believe the time and effort is simply not worth it. However, top realtors will attest to the advantage of an open house as an opportunity to showcase and stage the home in the best possible light. Whereas with traditional showings, it can be hard to control since buyers can come by at all times. For some, the more important benefit is the opportunity to interact directly with prospective clients. Even if the home doesn’t sell on the day of the open house, there are key opportunities for agents to grow their pipeline and potentially gain new clients.

top realtors

Prepare.

Conducting open houses can require a lot of effort and attention. Try to avoid having open houses just because the seller demands one.  According to top realtors, open houses that bring in the most traffic are newer listings that are reasonably priced and have easy access from main streets. Use your expertise to assess the situation and lay out all the pros and cons.  If you decide to conduct an open house, set some realistic expectations for prospecting clients. Decide how many guests you would like to attend and how many contacts you’d like to add to your lead list. Creating goals will motivate you to use the open house to its maximum potential. To set realistic goals, you can use the attendance results from other open houses in comparable markets or the local area. Once you are ready to begin marketing the open house:

  • Send invitations to the neighborhood and any community leaders or groups
  • Arrive early on open house day to ensure the house is ready
  • Display signs that highlight special features

Equally as important, make sure the house is in showing shape. Let your sellers know all the hard work you will be putting into marketing the open house to bring potential buyers and that they need to hold up their end of the deal by making sure the house looks its best inside and out. You can forward them these tips on how to stage their listing.

Listen To Feedback.

Open houses are a great way to gain feedback on the property about the price, condition, etc. Ask attendees for the feedback directly, or provide surveys. This information can help you take action with the seller to improve the home and sell more quickly. It’s also a great way to gain perspective of potential buyers. For example, if a family comes by who is looking to buy, but would prefer a home without a basement, you can record these notes to help you sell another home to them that fits their wants. Top realtors make sure to capture the following information from as many guests as possible.

  • How interested (if at all) are they in the property?
  • What kind of homes or properties could potentially be of interest to them? Is there something specific they are looking for?
  • Are they willing to set up an appointment with you? Are they interested in viewing additional homes?
sell real estate

Market Yourself.

Even though there may be others involved in planning the event, take full responsibility. Having your seller present may bring up unwanted emotions that could cause prospects to lose interest. By being at the center of the open house, you are in charge of meeting, talking, and answering all prospects which in turn, will foster relationships and create an open-discussion environment that will benefit both parties. Make an effort to talk to each guest privately and connect with them by asking them questions to gauge how motivated they are to buy or sell. Provide them with something to take away that not only markets the home, but you! Whether it be a flyer or a folder of information, it should promote you and highlight your successes and expertise in the industry. Always include a call to action for them to follow up with you when they are ready to buy or sell a home.

Collect Information

The best real estate training will tell you that follow up can easily make or break a sale. A timely follow up shows prospects that you are proactive, motivated, and eager to help them. A great way to collect contact information is to promise additional information on anything the prospect shows interest in learning more about. Or, place a guest book near the front door and ask each visitor to sign in. In best real estate practices, you will schedule meetings with about 25 percent of prospects who provide you with contact information.
Throughout the beginning of your career, top real estate agents recommend that you hold an open house at least once a week to grow your contact list and build name recognition in the community. When you take the time and energy to plan, organize, and execute a successful open house, you’ll be able to create a dependable flow of leads for current and future listings.

Wondering if a switch might be right for you? Give us a shout and learn more.

SCHEDULE A CHAT

or call

(844) 355-6389

how to be a better real estate agent

How To Stage Your Listing Like a Pro

By | Agents

Staging has become a strategic marketing process that top real estate agents have taken on in an effort to show their property in its best light possible. Successful staging results in buyers visualizing all the opportunities and inspirations the property offers and sellers closing in faster. Staging also allows you to create trends and designs that buyers may be looking for at an affordable price. The process has gained so much popularity that it has become a profession of its own.

Deep clean

Starting with the outside, remember the importance of curb appeal when your house goes on the market. It’s the first impression your potential buyers will have and the last thing they will see as they leave. Replace worn out welcome mats and sweep debris from the porch and driveway, when possible. Minimal landscaping with bushes and flowers can add a colorful fresh touch to any front yard. Think of your yard as a free advertising platform. Create a landscape that can bring positive attention and lure prospects inside.

A deep cleaning of the inside is also necessary in order to show off the best features of the interior and make prospects feel comfortable.

Kitchens and bathrooms

Kitchens and bathrooms can often make or break the sale of a home. For example, buyers are willing to pay 41% more for stainless steel appliances. Conduct some research on your target buyer and look for design inspiration on websites where they shop. Buyers in their 20s or 30s tend to shop at Restoration Hardware and West Elm, so staging your property with those designs in mind can help connect the home with their vision. For bathrooms, top realtors always recommend to stage them like a spa. White towels, bathmats, shower curtains and waffle weave robes set the mood for relaxation and give off a spa vibe.

Repair and Replace

If cleaning appliances and hardware doesn’t make it look new, then it may be time to replace. Replacing outdated fixtures is an easy way to modernize your home design without having to spend too much. Broken home items can lead potential buyers to take caution and can actually hurt your sell time.

De-personalize

The best real estate training will teach you that the key to closing a deal is by inspiring buyers to envision the home as their own. Keep personal items to a minimum or remove them altogether. If you’re worried about holes or spots on the wall where family pictures once hung, head to any craft store to buy inexpensive decor that is modern and genderless. Aside from personal items and pictures, remove all religious or political decor that could offend potential buyers or clash with a clean modern design.

Light

Dark spaces give off the feeling of negative connotations and cold space when it comes to homes. During open houses, walkthroughs, and pictures, keep the curtains pulled back, shades rolled up and allow as much natural light to shine through as possible. Heavy curtains should be replaced with lightweight neutral ones. You’ll also want to enhance dim spaces and corners of the home using lamps. A thought-out lighting strategy allows buyers to see everything they need while making rooms look larger and more inviting. Mirrors can also help reflect lighting and enhance small rooms to appear larger while creating a noticeable ambiance.

Purpose

Top real estate agents believe that rooms should clearly portray their functions. Whether it’s an office for an entrepreneur, or a formal dining room, think of an easy way to differentiate each space.  Many homes tend to have rooms that are used as storage space. Unfortunately, these do not captivate buyers and can often throw off their vision. Outline a clear purpose for each room before you begin the staging process. There are many ways to convey a purpose without spending too much money. You can turn a window nook into a reading spot with a small table and lamp. You can add pillows and curtains to a dark basement to create a private meditation escape. Giving purpose to all your rooms gives the sense of a larger home with more functionable spaces. Remember to not make them too personable but to instead inspire imagination within your buyer.

Staging can give any home life by showcasing its best assets to impress buyers and sell quickly for the highest price. Since not all real estate agents stage their homes, you’ll be at an advantage if you do so. Prospects are looking for more than a structure to live in. They’re looking to create future memories, improve their lifestyle, and build their life.

Wondering if a switch might be right for you? Give us a shout and learn more.

SCHEDULE A CHAT

or call

(844) 355-6389

100 commission real estate chicago

The Winter Real Estate Market: 4 Ways To Use It To Your Advantage

By | Agents

Winter is coming! A phrase that means so much more to real estate agents than to Game of Thrones fanatics. It’s November 2nd in Chicago and every Chicagoan has begun to prepare themselves for what will be an action-packed, yet bitter cold, holiday season. People become so wrapped up in the everyday madness that communication goes unanswered and business can sometimes go radio silent. Many agents use these next 3 months as down-time and travel. Some even become disengaged with the lack of movement in their pipeline. But top real estate agents use this time to strategize, analyze, and make the moves that will set them up to have a successful and busy start in the new year.

Events/Life changes

The holiday season is known to host more events and parties than any other time of year. Take advantage of this and utilize those networking skills and proven strategies at your holiday office party (link to networking blog). Look for local charitable events to get involved in. Keeping yourself busy with meeting new people will allow you to focus and grow your database of contacts. The holiday season is also known for it’s abundance of “life changes”. Proposals, babies, divorces, retirements, marriage, and promotions. Keep a record and timeline of your network’s life changes and follow up where you see fit. Helping people through these milestones leaves a lasting impact and generates positive referrals.

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New brokerages

Take the time to reflect on your career and the progress you’ve made along the way. Are you happy with your bottom line? Do you have the team you deserve to support you through your monthly highs and lows? Are you in an environment of consistent learning?  Look into other brokerage models that may better serve your journey. The Chicago real estate brokerage market is diverse. 100% commission brokerages have been growing in popularity and disrupting the industry by placing the agent in the center. Set up calls and meetings with your top 5 brokerages and feel them out to see if there is potential opportunities. Even if you choose to stay where you’re at,  learning more about the changing brokerage model can only benefit your future decisions. Stay informed.

Marketing / Branding

The holiday season brings more people online than any other time of year. Why? There is a variety of reasons as to why the consumer is spending an average of 2 hours every day online during the holiday. Most stats point to holiday shopping and falling victim to the ever-rotating propaganda of the “Holiday Sale”.  Take advantage of the thriving commerce and plan to post relevant content regularly to get in front of potential future clients. Even if your content is not real estate-oriented, it’s important to connect with your audience in one way or another.

Companies spend months working on their holiday campaigns that will advertise during this season and attempt to attract the active consumer. Take note! These campaigns are filled with proven strategy and mass amounts of money. Analyzing brands’ selling strategy can give you new ideas and insight into how you can plan your own.

We know the average consumer is exposed to around 5-10 thousand advertisements daily. To stand out, branding has become an important component to attracting the buyer. Take the time to reevaluate your branding and if necessary, re-brand yourself to stand out and win your audience in the new year. Pay attention to trends and what kind of ideas and concepts have been attracting your target clients.

Education

Every successful real estate agent has taken the initiative to continue their education in one regard. You don’t have to physically register for classes to continue your education. Online classes and webinars serve as great platforms to expand your knowledge on any given real estate topic. You can also take your learnings to create white papers that will live on your website and serve as an information source to your clients.  For example, if you are selling homes in a city known for its colonial style, it may be beneficial for you to take a colonial design course to learn more about the meaning behind the structures and designs.

With these initiatives, you may find that your “slow season” is in fact not slow at all. Being proactive during the holidays will empower you to set yourself up and hit the ground running in the new year. In a time where others take off, use these tips to motivate you to reflect on your business and expand your strategy.  Use this season to your advantage and enjoy all the cheer it brings.

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How to be a better real estate agent

Top 5 Tools Every Broker Needs

By | Agents

A new year means it’s time to identify new tools and technology that could benefit your business in 2018 and beyond. Top realtors will tell you the importance of tools that save time. Time is money in the real estate industry. Tools to help agents become more efficient are becoming easier to use and access every day. Having a stack of effective marketing tools will help you generate more leads and showcase your personal brand in front of potential prospects. Also, staying organized will allow you to stay on top of all your conversations and communications to properly walk prospects through a customer acquisition journey.

Google Alerts

Google Alerts is a content change detection and notification service, offered by Google. Any time that new content is created, or existing content is updated on your chosen topics, you will receive an email notification with a link to access the article, journal, blog etc. Use these alerts to stay on top of industry content that relates to you. For example, you can choose Chicago neighborhoods that you want to learn more about or want to monitor any and all information published about them.  Or on the contrary, you can use google to monitor any mentions of you, your business, or brokerage. This is a great way to find good reviews on yourself that you may not have known about.

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Mailchimp

Aside from the platform being very user friendly, it’s free! Mailchimp is a great marketing platform that lets you automate email campaigns to segmented groups of clients and prospects. You can create a signup form that lives on your website and promotes interested prospects to sign up with contact information to be contacted by you. You can also target prospects by buying interest and send campaigns and information that is valuable to them. For example, if you create an email list of prospects who are looking to move to Lincoln Park, you can send content on new listings or information on how the neighborhood is improving. After placing a client into a home, stay in touch and ask for referrals by occasionally sending them useful content and maintaining an open relationship.

DocuSign

A major component of every real estate training program is how to stay organized with contracts and appropriate documentation. DocuSign is an online service that provides a  fast and secure way to sign, send and store documents in a cloud. All of your contracts, proposals, and projects can be easily accessible and you can monitor when they are opened, viewed, and signed by clients. You can easily share your documents with anyone involved in the sales process and they are able to access them from any mobile or computer device allowing you get documents to clients, anywhere at anytime.

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Accompany (for Gmail)

With the various ways of communication these days, learning to be a better real estate agent means learning to organize and stay on top of your conversations.  Successful real estate agents know that email is a critical part of doing business. Majority of conversation and documents are communicated via email. Accompany for Gmail pulls information from all over the web to give you a detailed profile on every contact in your inbox. Everything you need to know about the sender will pop up right next to their message. You can hover over anyone’s name to learn more about them and help you write better, more personalized emails without having to google and seek out information. Accompany provides info on:

-Bios and links to their social media.

-Where they work, what they do and a brief history of their career

-Their company overview

-Recent news and press coverage on them and their organization

-Shared connections

-Links to email history and meetings you have with them

-Notepad for important facts or details you may want to record about them

Canva

Canva has long dominated the DIY design space.  The web based site offers hundreds of modern design templates for social media, presentations, online ads, flyers and just about any other marketing material you can think of or need. They also give you graphics and fonts to design your own from scratch. Whether you need content for Instagram or a long-form asset, like an ebook or guide, Canva can help your brand design remain consistent, yet unique without paying for a designer.

Learning to become a better real estate agent means finding what works for you and creating your own best practices. These tools have been recommended from top realtors, but ultimately it comes down to you incorporating them into your business to become more effective and close more deals. Identifying your goals and business objectives can help you best pick the tools that may be most useful for you.

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how to be a better real estate agent

5 Tips to Crush Your Next Networking Event

By | Agents

You will quickly learn from top realtors, that networking is an integral part of driving your business. Although to most, events filled with strangers chattering over free cocktails can seem daunting and even a tad overwhelming, being more strategic about these events can lead to effective career development networking.

There is more to networking than just showing up to an event with some business cards to have a drink.  When you prepare for your networking events with intent and drive with action, networking becomes a powerful way to learn and understand this business better, and also a doorway to new opportunities. Pursuing new education and learning opportunities is a part of any growing career, however with real estate, learning alone will not necessarily create opportunities. Tapping into a network of investors, agents, potential clients, and community leaders will be extremely beneficial to the growth and development of your career. These 5 tips can help you maximize your next networking event.

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Have a plan.

Before you embark into any networking event, you should always have a gameplan. Even if it’s a quick brainstorm on how to maximize your time or a mental note on the list of people you want to meet and transform into customers, mentors, and referral sources. Many events have groups where you can see attendees and speakers. Be sure to do your research and take note of any notable people you want to connect with. When thinking about your potential conversations, rather than trying to impress or overshadow people, focus on your area of expertise and provide insight on what you know best.

Build rapport.

Top real estate leaders follow the principle of elicitation. Elicitation is the act of gathering intelligence and detail by getting people to talk and more importantly; learning to listen. Being able to capture details and open them into greater context will help you form a relationship with the potential client and also help you refine your selling strategy to target their interests and needs. The more that you know about them, the better you can help them. It will also help you build rapport. Successful real estate agents define rapport as a prerequisite for closing deals. Rapport defines as “a close and harmonious relationship in which the people or groups concerned understand each other’s feelings or ideas and communicate well”. A real estate client can not be defined by any single type of personality. Which is why in the real estate industry, building rapport is vidal in helping you learn how to communicate with every personality type and walk of life.

how to be a better real estate agent

Don’t ignore other industry professionals.

Successful agents not only build a pipeline of clients, but also a strong network of peer agents that they can learn from and work with. Engaging with other real estate professionals at networking events can open up opportunities to learn about new marketing information and innovations or tools your industry peers are using to find success. Make it a point to follow your new connections online presence to analyze their strategies and learn from them. Making a point to meet up for coffee or drinks is also a proactive way to stay connected and strengthen your relationships with the people in your industry.

Make a point to locally give back or get involved.

Being an active participant in your community has benefited the career growth of top realtors. Community involvement can expand your pipeline and grow your knowledge of neighborhoods and the type people who live in them. While networking, seek out community leaders that may be part of or run local organizations and charities.
Ideas on how to get involved:

  • Volunteer: Spending time with local groups and organizations is a great way to give back while meeting leaders of the community. You can even keep it within the industry and seek out a local chapter of Habitat for Humanity. People appreciate positive community work and it also serves as great content to share your initiative on your website or social media.
  • Education: Whether partnering with schools for career days or attending local colleges to speak at real estate classes, engaging with students who are interested in learning about real estate is a powerful way to become a thought leader in your space and community. Even hosting online tutorials and live Q and A is a great way to engage potential clients.

Follow Up.

After the handshakes, well drinks, and weather talk you’re left with a stack of business cards. When you accept someone’s card try to write down an important connection on the back for follow up.  After the event, turn your networking efforts and notes into an accessible database of valuable contacts. Timing is everything. The longer you leave your new contacts unattended, the harder it will be to stay top of mind with them.

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Rise of The 100% Brokerage: Is It For You?

By | Agents

Whether you’ve just passed your real estate test or you’ve been working in the industry for years, choosing the right brokerage is a decision that will require you to determine how you envision your career unfolding and what resources you want and need to help get you there.

The new generation of 100% commission brokerages have made their presence known in the industry and are beginning to attract top tier talent with their favorable model, a model that has put the traditional brokerage into question and has begun to define the future of the industry and its agents. Before, real estate agents were joining brokerages to rely on their powerful marketing tactics to bring in leads. Now, the shift to social media and online marketing has given new power to the agent to create their own successful sales.

Traditionally, real estate agents and brokerages agree to a percentage split of the gross commission earned. The split is dependent on variables that reflect the services the broker or agent provides. It’s not uncommon that real estate agents give up to 60% of their commission to their associated brokerage. With the 100% commission model, the agent receives their entire commission earned. The agent then is only responsible to pay a monthly set fee that is agreed upon with the brokerage. This model has not only allowed agents to keep the majority of their commission, but these 100% commission brokerages are concurrently providing their agents with the training, resources, and networking they need to close more deals, meet more people, and become more effective in doing so.

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For the agent looking for their first brokerage:

Until now, it has been common knowledge that agents usually do not stay with their first brokerage for very long.  Reasons vary from low commission agreements to lack of support. Many agents do not fully understand brokerage expectations and regulations before signing on and end up spending more time trying to fit into their mold rather than growing their sales pipeline. 100% commission brokerages have been taking the steps to develop the best real estate training programs that can guide new agents to success. After all, the model is most successful when the agent is consistently closing deals, growing their commissions, expanding their networks and referring new brokers into the model with them.

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For the experienced agent thinking about making the switch:

When deciding on making the switch to a 100% brokerage there are many factors to take into consideration. By now, you’ve built your client base up to where referrals are an important part of your business. With the 100% brokerage model, your full commission will go in your pocket, allowing you to benefit most off of your growing deals. You are able to run business with your client as you see fit without having to stress about the percentage your brokerage will be claiming.  As a seasoned professional, you understand your business best. With 100% brokerages, you are your own boss and are in control of making the decisions that affect you without policies and procedures to hold you back. For example, many traditional brokerages claim to take a percent of their earned commission to use towards advertising and lead generation. However, with social media and online marketing platforms, agents are able to generate their own, highly targeted leads at a fraction of the price. Take the creative control and brand yourself instead of trying to fit within a brokerage’s brand guidelines and rules.

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Independence

Whether you are new to the industry or a tenured professional, independence is key to an agent’s success. Many traditional brokerages mandate weekly sales meeting and office hours that create a standardized work environment for agents. This can impede the agent’s independence and ability to build their pipeline. With the 100% brokerage, agents are given the tools they need to continually learn and grow, and the freedom and independence to build the workday that works best for them. The training provided is not a one size fits all, yet a real estate training that will teach you how to market yourself, fill your pipeline and maximize your close.

Today’s real estate consumer expects to be treated like an individual. Traditional brokerages have systemized processes and procedures that create a worn out, outdated experience for the client. As an agent, your role is more important in creating personalized service for your clients. 100% brokerages allow you to do this without obliging you to follow predated guidelines.

Choosing the right brokerage is important because it will not only have an effect on your bottom line, but your career and your future within the industry. Finding the best real estate brokerage to work for means looking for a hybrid of modern real estate training that not only gives you the education and best practices, but teaches you to leverage your network through technology and smart networking.

Wondering if a switch might be right for you? Give us a shout and learn more.

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what to expect real estate

Real Estate in 2007 vs. 2016: What to Expect Now and In the Future

By | Property Management

In 2007 and 2008, the so-called real estate bubble burst, leading to a housing recession, millions of homeowners being underwater on their mortgages (they owed more than their houses were worth), and a spike in foreclosures.

Nearly a decade later, what’s changed? Sub-prime loans are no longer given nearly as freely, and there’s been a rise in FHA loans that allow home buyers to put down a smaller down payment, which some may suggest will lead to the same problems as before–people purchasing homes they can’t quite afford, and missing payments soon after signing the papers.

What can we expect, as property managers and landlords, to come of the real estate market in the next few years? Well, that depends on who you ask, really. Let’s take a look at some of the trends in the housing and rental markets.

New Construction and Home Prices Will Go Back to “Normal Rates”

For several years, growth of home sales and new buildings have been slow, but when you think about it, that’s a good thing. For nearly a decade, the trends in the housing and real estate markets have been scattered at best, and now, things will be leveling out. Home prices are expected to return to more “normal rates” that are consistent with a balanced market. After the devastating effects of the housing bust of a decade ago, it’ll be interesting to see how the more “normal” approach will pan out.

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The Generation Gap of Home Ownership Will Even Out

It’s no secret that right now, Millennials aren’t the majority group buying up a lot of property on the market. However, they do represent a good chunk of home buyers, and that’s expected to keep rising. In 2015, young adults represented about one third of home buyers with two million sales. This upward trend is will likely continue, with adults between the ages of 25 and 24 becoming first time home buyers next year. Additionally, other generations will contribute more to the housing market as well, with GenXers and older baby boomers who are entering retirement—two groups of people where many of them are already homeowners—may enter the selling AND buying markets. GenXers will be most likely looking to upgrade, while baby boomers might be looking to downsize and lower their cost of living.

Mortgage Rates and Rents Are On the Rise

Just because home buying is expected to continue to grow, though, it will come with a price. Mortgage rates will likely rise more in the next year than they have in the past several years. These higher rates will drive monthly payments up, and debt-to-income ratios are expected to rise as well. In the same vein, rents will also go up. According to Realtor Mag, more than 85 percent of the nation’s markets have rents that exceed 30 percent of the income of renters. In other words, renting is expensive, and it’s only going to get worse. For many people, it’s more affordable and logical to buy a home than it is to continue renting. Unfortunately, many would-be buyers won’t qualify due to low credit scores, limited savings, and a lack of stable income. The old catch-22, as it were.

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New Home Construction Will Focus More on Affordability

Builders know that they have to appeal to people who are ready to buy, and with the rise of younger buyers shopping for a home, one key factor that builders are keeping in mind now is affordability. To cater to first-time buyers, builders are focusing on building more affordable (read: smaller, fewer luxury finishes) new homes, so that buyers can make payments.

Demand for Housing Will Continue With Slow but Steady Growth

Housing activity at the end of 2015 made it the best year for sales of single family homes since 2007—an impressive feat.  Roughly 501,000 homes were sold last year, up `14.5 percent from 2014, and the numbers are expected to keep rising. Monthly gains were strongest in the midest (up 31.6 percent from November to December 2015), but the average gain is more in line with the number of homes that were sold in the South and West — a lower number than the Midwest. Ralph McLaughlin, chief economist at Trulia, said in an email to U.S. News that the grows reflects “a slow but steady increase in demand from homebuyers as well as increasing confidence of home builders.”
That is, it’s safe to expect that more homes will be bought, and more homes will be built.

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Where Do We Go from Here?

With real estate sales expected to rise, and rental prices expected to soar, what’s the best option for investment property owners here? If you’re already involved in owning investment properties, you may want to reassess what you are pricing your units at, and if you’re considering getting into the industry, it might be wise to check with neighborhood advisors in the areas you’re looking to buy in to see if the investment will provide good returns.

Not sure where to turn? Contact Lofty anytime. We’re a property management company in Chicago, helping our clients with every aspect of the process of getting into investment property ownership so that they can live the life they deserve. Call us today to learn more about all we can do for you.

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What is Considered Taxable When You Own Rental Properties

What is Considered Taxable When You Own Rental Properties?

By | Property Management

If you’re considering getting into investing in rental property, one thing to consider—beyond all of the additional responsibilities you’ll take on by doing so—is how owning investment property in Chicago will affect your taxes. When you rent out apartments, condos, or houses, your taxes can become complicated. Repairs and upgrades may or may not be deductible, and any money you make on rent will need to be claimed on your taxes. Beyond that, what should you know about how owning investment properties affects your taxes? As a property management company in Chicago, we at Lofty do our best to help our clients succeed with their investments, and part of that means making sure they understand how investing in property will alter the way they do their taxes. This guide will help you prepare yourself for what’s to come when you start working with property investments.

Deep clean

Starting with the outside, remember the importance of curb appeal when your house goes on the market. It’s the first impression your potential buyers will have and the last thing they will see as they leave. Replace worn out welcome mats and sweep debris from the porch and driveway, when possible. Minimal landscaping with bushes and flowers can add a colorful fresh touch to any front yard. Think of your yard as a free advertising platform. Create a landscape that can bring positive attention and lure prospects inside.

A deep cleaning of the inside is also necessary in order to show off the best features of the interior and make prospects feel comfortable.

What is Considered Taxable When You Own Rental Properties

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Is Everything You Collect from Tenants Taxable?

Not quite. Yes, rental income is taxable, but you’re allowed to reduce your rental income reporting by subtracting expenses that you incur from preparing your property for rental, as well as maintaining it. You’ll report the income as you would any other income—for instance, any rent you collect during 2016 would be claimed on your 2016 taxes. Even if you receive a check for January 2017 in December 2016, you would still claim it for 2016 earnings. If you receive a deposit for first and last month’s rent, it’ll be taxed in the same year, not as separate income in different years.

Security deposits, however, are not included in your taxable income, since you’ll be (theoretically) returning them to your tenants at the end of their lease. If the deposit is merely “last month’s rent,” it’s taxable since it’s just advance rent, but security deposits that are returned aren’t considered taxable income. If, at the end of a tenant’s lease, you keep (any or all of) their security deposit, you will then have to count it as taxable income.

What Expenses Can Be Deducted from Rental Income?

Luckily for investment property owners in Chicago, there are a number of deductible expenses that can save you money when it comes time to pay the tax man. Expenses such as advertising the unit, cleaning and maintenance, homeowner association dues/condo fees, insurance premiums, local property taxes, pest control, trash removal fees, repairs, utilities, and more are all counted as deductible expenses on investment properties. To learn more about all of the eligible deductions, it can be helpful to work with a professional CPA.

What If Your Property is Sometimes Owner-Occupied?

If you own a vacation home that you rent out for part of the year, you should be aware that, in order to deduct losses on the property, you can’t use the property for more than 14 days or 10 percent of the days the unit is rented during the year, whichever is greater. This also applies to a piece of property, say, a house, that you bought and lived in for a few years before renting out—if you still plan on occupying it for part of the year, you’ll need to work with your account to figure out exactly how your taxes will be calculated.

How Do I Report Rental Income and Activity on My Tax Return?

As an individual, you’ll have to report the rental income as, well, rental income. However, you don’t have to do it on your personal taxes. Most landlords establish LLCs, or limited liability companies, for their rental properties. LLCs offer liability protection so that you can keep your personal and business assets separated.  This way, only that bank account, or that LLC, is liable for debts associated with the property. This is beneficial because then, your personal finances won’t be affected by problems with your rentals. LLCs also offer tax benefits, by allowing you to pass tax consequences of your rental properties on to your personal taxes—in other words, you won’t have to deal with corporate ownership taxation. Your personal finances will be safe, and you won’t be double-taxed on your properties.

Need Help With Your Rental Properties?

Getting help with the transition into investment property ownership is something a lot of people seek out, and for good reason. Going it alone can be stressful and frustrating, and it can be beneficial to have someone on your side to explain the various processes of investing in property. At Lofty, we understand the intricacies and difficulties that new landlords face when they get started with rental properties. Our goal is to make your life easier—to help you sort through all of the responsibilities so that you can live the life you deserve, rather than spending countless hours on paperwork, apartment maintenance, and other busy work. If you need help with getting started on owning Chicago investment property, or you have questions about how getting started with investing will change your taxes, feel free to contact us anytime—we’re here to help!

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