Dec 18, 2017 by - Matt Szalecki

Making the Move, Part I: An Action Plan for Relocating Agents

It’s that time of year when we take a moment to reflect on our performance and accomplishments. What went well? How can we improve what didn’t go well? What do we want to accomplish next year, and what do we need to do to get there? Our brokers, team leaders, coaches and mentors are helping us to set our goals and make our yearly plan.

As I speak to some newer agents in our company and on my team, I’m frequently asked, “If you had to go back and start over, what would you do differently?” This year, I will have to answer that question for myself…

Effective January 1st, I’ll be changing markets—from Raleigh, NC, to Richmond, VA. In the fully inconvenient scenario made perfect for this exercise, this is a short-notice development, not a planned move. In one month, I’ll be practicing in a market where I don’t know anybody, I’m not familiar with the city, and I know nothing of the local market conditions.

If you were doing a full reboot in 30 days, what would you do to prepare? Assume you aren’t already wealthy and prepared to drop a ton in marketing/lead gen budget—that’s where I, and most agents, will begin.

Here’s my plan:

1) Lay the groundwork.

It doesn’t matter how great a lead generator I may be—if I don’t have any value to bring, I will not be successful. If my aim is to fully represent my clients’ best interests in the purchase or sale of a home, I’ve got to learn the lay of the land—and quickly. I need to know the local customs, the differences in the contracts and process in a new market, the market conditions and a little history on the area.

Some of the obvious things are already accounted for, luckily. I’ve got to get my license in Virginia—fortunately VA allows an online course so I can be a licensed agent on Day One. I don’t need to interview brokers because my brokerage has a strong presence in the market.

I’ve been doing some reading online about Richmond’s history, the different neighborhoods/suburbs in and around downtown, and simply studied the map to familiarize myself with the area. In the next three weeks, I’ll be speaking on the phone with multiple top agents at my company to learn more about the real estate process and the market conditions. I hope to get a few different perspectives so I’m as well informed as possible.

Once I’m in town, previewing inventory for sale will be a huge education piece for me, as will hosting Open Houses in different parts of town—but more on that in a bit.

2) Get involved and network.

I think there is great value in working with other agents in the area. Getting to know agents in your marketplace is great for business—it opens up potential referral opportunities and makes negotiations go smoother for your clients. As a new agent to Richmond, it will behoove me to know a handful of agents in different locations and areas of expertise. Knowing these agents and building a relationship before you need a favor is critical. I have already reached out to local leadership and plan to immediately involve myself in the local Board of Realtors. It’s a great way to get comfortable in the community and to give a little time and energy back to supporting our cause. I’ll also keep an eye out for opportunities to network with agents at local builder events, trainings, etc.

3) Build a sphere ASAP.

I, like many Realtors, believe that a strong real estate business is built on a stable SOI foundation. As a guy who has no friends or family in Richmond, I’m going to have to go out and meet some folks to establish this foundation. I’ll be looking for social clubs, local sports leagues, and a band to join so I can have some friends. Of course, there are personal benefits to having friends as well, so I’d hope you do this whether or not you want to work by personal referrals!

I’m not one to call my sphere and ask the classic question, “Who do you know who is looking to buy, sell, or invest in real estate?” Rather, I just speak about it when it comes up, communicate my knowledge and add value, and it tends to happen organically. It doesn’t work when you simply make friends for the sake of earning their business. You’ve got to be a good true friend for someone to trust you with their business or referrals.

Personally, I run my SOI on LionDesk because it’s organized, powerful and inexpensive. I don’t like using an IDX platform like Kunversion or CINC as a database because it mucks up your social contacts with folks you may not know at all and are just looking at properties. Miscommunications happen frequently when mixed. I also subscribe to BombBomb to incorporate video on occasion.

4) Open myself up for referrals.

I know a ton of agents in other markets. I’m originally from Baltimore and have some contacts up there. I’ve got a few hundred Realtor friends in the Raleigh market. I’m at a brokerage with 5500 agents and growing. I plan to reach out to the agents I have a relationship with to let them know of my move and just ask that they keep me in mind if the opportunity arises to refer a client to a Richmond agent.

There are great referral networks on Facebook including Lab Coat Agents. I’ll keep an eye on the referral groups to see what opportunities come of it. In addition, my brokerage is partnered with Opcity, a huge real estate innovator in 2017, which generates and qualifies quality leads to refer to local agents. This partnership will provide me with multiple opportunities daily to meet new buyers and sellers, and I’ve enjoyed a 20 percent closing rate with their referrals.

5) Lead generate through Open Houses.

Everyone has their own little secret sauce. Online leads, like Facebook or Google Adwords campaigns, are long-term endeavors that aren’t likely to produce early results for me. Realtor, Zillow, and the like are high cost-per-lead. Cold-calling FSBOs and expired listings—not my strength. ISA’s are great but can be costly. For me, my bread and butter is Open Houses.

I love them because, if executed right, it gives you a taste of a lot of different marketing channels. In addition, I learn about a neighborhood and side of town by working in it and studying in it. Finally, I’m best in-person rather than via phone, text, or e-mail—so this is my best shot to connect with people.

I’ve studied a lot of open houses strategies, and I combined them all into a formula that works for me.

My Open House Strategy:

  • Pick a home that has good appeal—i.e., that a lot of folks will show up to.
  • Make sure it’s in the MLS and on websites.
  • Share the listing through my Kunversion site on Facebook, Craigslist, and boost the post to potential buyers in the area.
  • Use way too many open house signs to draw people from main roads and intersections in. I have these custom made by SignsOnTheCheap.com. “Open House,” an arrow, my phone number, day, and time are all the sign needs. I suggest an eye-catching color—blue, red, or orange. Yellow is tough to read, black and white looks cheap, green or brown blends with the grass. Tie a balloon or three to a sign if the weather is good and it’s not too crazy windy.
  • Call or door knock the neighborhood, depending if you have a number lookup / dialer system, inviting the neighbors to the Open House. I like to let them in an hour before advertised time. Get some bodies in the room, meet the neighbors, perhaps uncover a friend or relative looking to move to the area.
  • Study the neighborhood and comps. To add value to the folks I meet, I’ll make sure I know the neighborhood well, the pricing trends, how updated or not the nearby homes are, nearby developments, etc. I’ll share some of this info in my Facebook boost and video to demonstrate my knowledge of the local area.
  • Put out a light spread—small, quick snacks only and water or soda—no messes or over-lingerers.
  • No sign-in sheet. Many folks will scream against this strategy, but we all have our methods. I don’t believe that buyers actually believe that “the seller has asked me to keep a record of who has been in the home and so you must sign in”…..they know you’re just registering a lead, and you lose credibility if you start off on the wrong foot. Instead, I welcome visitors and provide them a property info sheet. I try to have a good conversation with them and connect on some level. I offer to help them or provide some follow-up information and trade contact information with them.
  • Follow up to everyone whose info I collected immediately after the Open House to thank them for attending and let them know when I’ll be in touch with whatever I promised to them.

In the Raleigh market, I averaged one closing per four open houses—it will be interesting to see if this rate carries over in a different city. I know that if I’m active on Social Media, talking to the neighbors, sharing video content, and meeting buyers every single week, I’ll have more than enough opportunities to generate business for myself. I also know that if I’m studying a neighborhood every week, it won’t be long before I’m comfortable with the market and know a lot about the area.

6) Set some goals and plan to hit them.

I learned that the best way for me to achieve something is to set my target, dramatically inflate it, and then convince myself that the inflated number is feasible. For instance, I’ll probably be OK if I make $100K year one in a new city. So I’m assembling a plan to earn $300K, or sell about $13M in real estate. Using the average sales price of about $250K, I’m looking for 52 closings in 2018 in Richmond.

I believe I can close 15 homes if I do 60 open houses. That’s one or two per weekend, knowing some weekends I’ll take off or there won’t be a great home to hold open.

I believe my OpCity referrals will produce at a similar rate as well. More leads will come in (slightly larger city), but be presented to more agents (slightly more agents in the program). If I’m on my game, I can bring in a referral per day from OpCity. I’ve run at a 20 percent closing clip with them, but their top agents average a 10 percent turn with a larger sample size—so I will scale my expectations back to a 10 percent turn rate when I’m reaching for any and all opportunities. Getting a lead per day, I should generate 25 closings in a year from my OpCity partnership.

That brings me to 40 of my 52 transactions.

That means I need to build a sphere that produces another 12 deals. Since it’s unlikely to get traction quickly and I’m starting at 0, I actually need to build a sphere that generates 25 referrals per year by the end of the year, so on average, I was on my clip. According to many who have studied the SOI category, a solidly built and properly managed database should yield a 10 percent return—that is, if I have 10 friends who I chat with or see regularly, that should produce a transaction per year for me. To perform at 25/year, I need 250 contacts. I’m looking to make a new solid connection each day.

I can’t assume that my efforts on the other referral channels will be fruitful—the online groups have SO many agents that you can’t count on results coming from them. I’m not sure of the odds of a person moving from Raleigh to Richmond next year AND asking an agent that I happen to know well for a referral—so I can’t plan for that. The goal is to earn 52 transactions and then let any referrals be a much-appreciated icing on the cake.

A breakdown of my goals:

  • $300,000 GCI
  • $13M closed volume
  • 52 closings = 4.5 per month
  • 15 closings via Open Houses
  • 25 closings via OpCity referrals
  • 12 closings via SOI/Database – LionDesk, BombBomb, Kunversion

A breakdown of my daily/weekly/monthly activities to get there:

Daily:

  1. Establish and stick to a morning routine
  2. Update Social Media pages with a mix of business and personal content
  3. Call/text at least 10 people from database/SOI
  4. Respond immediately to Opcity referral opportunities
  5. Make a friend through other friends, social media, networking, etc.

Weekly:

  1. Plan an Open House
  2. Run comps and research neighborhood and location around Open House
  3. Video Preview of Open House, share to Social Media
  4. Market Open House on Social Media and through online sites
  5. Contact neighbors to invite to Open House
  6. Place Open House signs Thursday evenings
  7. Execute Open House
  8. Attend one agent networking/supporting event
  9. Attend two networking/social events
  10. Call/text at least 10 agents
  11. Preview and study one new neighborhood
  12. Update goals tracker
  13. Week wrap-up to make sure database is current, all leads have been followed up with

Monthly:

  1. Goal Setting/Review
  2. Read a new book
  3. Prepare and share a video/graphic/post of a local market update

Whether you’re moving, just starting, restarting, or just evaluating how to build your business next year, I really hope this was helpful. I’ll be back in a few months to check in on my progress. I’ll let you know if I held myself accountable to these goals and activities, if they performed similarly to my past experience, and what I learned along the way that may make it easier for the next agent to jump markets.

See you in the Spring!

Support for Lab Coat Agents, and the audio version of this article, comes from Elevated Real Estate Marketing and Travis Thom. Elevated R.E.M. provides Facebook advertising coaching and ad agency services for Real Estate Agents across the globe. Visit ElevatedREM.com for more information.  

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