Uncommon Database Calls

By Amy Schafer, Director of Education

Now, by “uncommon” calls I don’t mean weird calls from your clients asking you crazy questions during the middle of the night.  I will save those examples for my next therapy appointment. What I am referring to are those calls you make to your clients/database that you might not be thinking about.  It is a FACT that to stay top of mind with folks, you have to keep in touch.  However, I have agents all the time say they don’t call anyone because they don’t know what to say and they feel like they are “bugging” people.  So, don’t call and “bug” them, call them with value!  Here are FOUR quick ideas, which just so happens to be the number of times it is recommended you call your database every year….

  1. The Weather.  Any time there is severe weather, it can impact our homes greatly.  For example, we had flooding this past summer and I hit the phones to check on wet basements.  First, I called all my clients with pending sales, then I moved onto my active listings.  Next, I called those clients in areas most effected by the storms and offered assistance to those needing relief.  I only had one client who needed help tearing out dry wall and I was able to send a volunteer her way, yet everyone heard from me and knew I cared. 
  2. Homestead Exemptions.  You get a “discount” on property taxes just for living in a home you own every year.  The deadline to register for it is usually around the end of June.  At closing, I remind every buyer to get down to the courthouse and register, yet I know with moving they often forget.  So, early to mid-June, I call and remind them.  Even if I know they have already signed up, it gives me a chance to compliment them on being organized and great to work with
  3. Tax Time.  My parents winter in Florida and of course I like to take advantage by paying them a visit usually the first part of February.  Every year, just as soon as I would arrive to enjoy some sunshine, past clients would call wanting a copy of their closing disclosure for their accountant.  And, I would scramble trying to figure out a way to get a copy since theirs was lost in the move.  I finally decided to create a system!  Now I keep a folder will all of my CDs for the year and before I take that trip to the Sunshine State, I send a copy of that CD to my clients proactively.  I also follow up with a phone call “you may not need it, but just to be safe I sent a copy for tax season”.  
  4. Vendor Referrals.  This is a quick call asking clients who they might have had to the house to do any sort of work: pest, roofing, electrical, tree trimming.  Also, to ask if they have a need for any vendors.  This is my favorite of the ideas because I want to cement the idea that when they think of anything to do with their home, not just selling it, they think of me.  I have met so many great vendors and referred them to other clients through this program.

And guess what happens while I am on the phone making these calls? That’s right, real estate just happens to come up and I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t ask “Who do you know looking to make a move?”

Which Real Estate Broker Should I Choose?

By Amy Schafer, Director of Education

Every broker is different and while some are similar, their makeup of agents is never the same…Just like a parcel of land.  These are the questions I wish I had known to ask when I got my real estate license:

What does your training calendar look like?  I remember I was promised training yet there was never an actual calendar.  A broker who truly cares about training for the agents makes a commitment every single month.  That means they actually write down a plan and communicate it.  Again, every month and not just when someone gets in trouble with the real estate commission. 

Does your marketing plan compete with my marketing plan?  Some brokers will boost their extensive marketing plan.  Great!  Unless those leads come directly to you without you needing to pay a referral fee back to the broker, then they are competing with you….their very own agents.

What administrative fees will my clients pay?  Most agents ask about their monthly fees…WRONG QUESTION!  Ask about client fees also known as broker administrative fees.  I really have no idea what they are or what they cover but I do know some of them can be fairly costly which means it costs your clients more money to do business with you.

What are the monthly agent fees?  Ok, now you can ask!  However, don’t just listen to the number, know what the fee actually covers.  I asked one of my former managers to tell me what my $180 a month fee was covering, not that I wasn’t happy to pay it, and they had no idea.  In fact, they asked me to research it and let them know…so I researched new brokers instead!

What are the commission splits?  I don’t really like the phrasing of that question yet I know you are all waiting for the prize winning “how much money will I make” conversation.  I am okay with steep splits with a broker if they are actually offering a TON of value.  Otherwise, you are just paying for their kids’ braces.  Worry about your kids’ braces instead.  Don’t be more loyal to your broker than you are to your family.  Commission splits can happen several ways however, my favorite commission split is one that goes way! That means you can earn the right to make 100% commission.  And, I hope you earn that right!  100% commission is a game changer because of what that money can do for those who are dearest to you.

Stock Answers to Common Real Estate Questions

By Amy Schafer, Director of Education

I once read an article (and I wish I could find it again) that said real estate was one of the sexiest careers.  What?  They rank and rate that sort of thing?  And, to be honest, there is not a single thing about this business that makes me feel sexy!  Yet, it got me wondering…….

Then, in 2005 my beloved niece began her journey as an undergrad in nursing school and I realized that nursing is one of those careers that as soon as you hear it, you just have to ask about your latest pain or ailment.  Dalacy (my niece) all of the sudden started having folks ask about why their lower back hurt or telling a long, lengthy story about a recent surgery.  This made me realize, real estate is the same thing!  As soon as someone hears I am a REALTOR, they ask about the real estate market.  It happens ALL the time:  at the grocery, cocktail parties and sometimes it feels like a natural greeting versus even just saying hello.  So, here are three basic stock questions you will get as a REALTOR:

Question: “How’s the real estate market?”

Answer: “Great, why do you ask?”

I didn’t event this idea, but the reason I suggest this stock “come back” is because I have fallen in the trap way too many times.  The trap of saying “the market is great and I have homes selling in the first week on the market” only to have the other person reply with a horrible story about their uncle who has been trying to sell his house for over four months with the worst outcome ever.  And, then the conversation turns super awkward!  Super.  Awkward.  If I instead say “why do you ask” it gives them a chance to share their story, good or bad, and I can leave the conversation on a positive note.  It also allows me to set up the conversation so I can reply at some point with “oh gosh, sorry to hear about your uncle, I thought maybe you were looking to make a move!  Are you considering a move?”.  Bingo, that’s what I really want to know!  Not about their uncle who made the biggest mistake ever and didn’t list his house with me in the first place!

Question: When’s the best time to sell a house? 

Answer: The day you list with me!

Again, not my idea and kind of corny yet I love it!  I love it for three reasons.  One, it is not what they are going to expect to hear as a response, which means they will really perk up and start to pay attention.  Two, it sets the expectation that you want to earn their business right way.  No sense is playing secret agent, get yourself out there!  Three, sellers think spring is always the best time to list their home and it just simply isn’t true.  For example, March is a really high selling season which means in order for those deals to close, the offers were written in January or February.  In the cold and snow, not when grass is considering making a come-back!  And holidays are another good example.  While there may not be as much traffic as April or May, those buyers are serious.  They need to buy a house and sellers most likely have the least amount of competition of other homes for sale.  I literally could give you a logical reason to list on any day of any month of any year.  Including the day I am leaving on vacation!

Question: When is the best time to buy a house?

Answer: As soon as you have your financing in order!

What I really like about this response is two-fold.  One, you are planting the seed that the first and most important step is getting financing in order.  I love working with buyers yet I don’t put my best friend Marnie in the car and go house shopping without a pre-approval letter!  Never.  Ever.   I want all buyers to have the confident feeling that they can pursue the house they love without wondering if they can really buy it.  And, I don’t want to get a seller excited about a hot offer from a buyer who may not be qualified.  Gary Keller says “if you chase two rabbits, you will catch none.”  Yet if you chase one rabbit at a time, you will be much more successful.  Think of one rabbit as financing and another rabbit as a house.  And, this includes cash buyers having proof of funds.  The second thing I like about a response like this is how fast they get that piece in order tells a lot about them as a home buyer. How quickly someone turns around and meets with a lender tells me how organized and motivated they are.  I once had a past client ask me this very question and I gave this stock reply.  They shared they really weren’t looking to make a move for another 6-12 months.  I shared that getting with a lender early will only help them plan ahead for down-payment and all the other details that we had discussed.  And, guess what?  They were pre-approved within three days and I had them under contract on a beautiful home two weeks later.  They said 6-12 months!  The truth is, once they knew it could be a reality, they couldn’t think about anything other than real estate.  

Becoming a (Iowa) Licensed Realtor

By Amy Schafer, Director of Education

If you are considering getting your Iowa Real Estate License, you may have done some investigating on what it takes to get your actual license.  There are several sources, yet www.plb.iowa.gov is always the go-to source because it represents the Iowa Professional Licensing Bureau.  You can find all the requirements there, but would you like the version of my REAL list?  Of course you do!

  1. Complete 60 hour pre-license (classroom or online)
  2. Take and pass the PSI real estate exam
  3. Take three 12 hour classes:  Developing Professionalism and Ethical Practices, Listing Practices and Buying Practices
  4. Complete a background check
  5. Be at least 18 years old
  6. Have a sponsoring broker
  7. Obtain Errors and Omissions Insurance
  8. Complete an application

That’s the short list and I will follow up on more insider information in another blog so you can get through the list above with confidence and ease, but that is not the intent of this post.  The intent is to share with you the NUMBER ONE THING you need to start career that is not the state list of requirements, but I sure wish it was: 

CREATE A DATABASE!  What is a database?  It is a list of everyone you know:  their name, address, phone and email.  Put it somewhere safe, not just in your phone contacts but an excel spreadsheet.  This is your gold when you launch your real estate career and I know way too many agents who don’t have a database and wonder why their business is so unpredictable.  So, while it may not be a state requirement to have a DATABASE ready on DAY ONE as a licensed realtor, I have just given you possibly the best advise you will ever receive.  You’re welcome!

Amy Schafer, Education Director: Pre-license and Continuing Education Trainer Licensed since 2001, Amy is a REALTOR with Keller Williams Realty Greater Des Moines and serves as the Director of Education for the Center for Real Estate Excellence.  “My passion for teaching comes from the confidence I see students get as they prepare for a new career in real estate.” Originally from SE Iowa, Amy attended Iowa State University and then began her career in retail sales management.  Amy enjoys traveling with friends, tickets to almost any event and many creative outlets such as pottery, china painting and upcycling projects.

5 Techniques for Passing the Iowa Real Estate Exam

By Amy Schafer, Director of Education

Before I get into my list, I think I should start with a little inside nugget.  I have been officially licensed since February 2002 and since then, I have had ZERO clients ask me how many times I took the real estate exam and I certainly have never had anyone ask about my score.  Focus on passing:  you need a 56 on the national exam and 28 on the state exam.  You don’t need to be a hero, you just need to pass.  I know agents who got very high scores and have barely sold any houses and I know agents who are in the top 20% of all sales and they took multiple times to pass.  Of course, passing the real estate exam right out of the gate just gets your career going that much faster, so here are my top tips for the exam.

Young beautiful woman sitting at a desk in an office and working on blueprint
  1. Don’t Be In A Rush.  You will get a total of 3 hours to take both exams: 120 minutes for 80 national exam questions and 60 minutes for 40 state exam questions. Time block to be there early to check in and the entire time to take the test.  Don’t rush yourself to take in less so you can be somewhere else.  It will create un-needed pressure.  Most don’t need the entire time, yet it gives plenty of time to review your work and make sure you have answered ALL of the questions.  Also, as my mother would say: “go fed and watered” which means use the restroom and have a snack.  Don’t have your blood sugar dropping because you skipped lunch or breakfast as an excuse to blow the exam!
  2. Use the Process of Elimination.  This is a very strong strategy for taking the exam.  Read the questions carefully and if the answer is a struggle, use the power of elimination.  That will help you focus in the right direction to find the answer.  Typically, you can narrow the questions down to two possible correct answers right away and then you’ve got yourself a 50/50 shot.
  3. Read Very Carefully.  There are negatives and questions that use NOT or EXCEPT in them.  They are trying to trick you so don’t fall for it.  Slow down and read the entire question.  Don’t assume you know the answer without reading and re-reading.  I love it when a student asked me a question like “Amy, why is “D” the answer to question #23?” and when I ask them to read the question out loud, about half way through, they get the ah-ha look.  Which means, they just needed to re-read the question.  And while reading out loud at the test center is a no-no, I do find it helpful, silly, but helpful to read in my head the dramatic version of the question.  It helps the words stand out to me. 
  4. Keep It Simple.  The questions can be tricky, so just use the information provided in the question.  Don’t create an extra scenario and make it more confusing.  Focus on what information is in the question and what you need to answer.  Another tactic the test will use to surprise you is give you TOO much information.  Focus on what the question wants to know, they may give you more story than you need.  Plus, as adults we often tend to learn by our past experiences so I caution students not to tie yourself to those past experiences and have the over-ride what scenario is in the test question.  Stay focused on the question at hand.
  5. Take the test ASAP.  As soon as you finish the 60-hour pre-license…. schedule the exam.  Waiting too long and thinking you will out study yourself usually means information will start to fade.  The exam centers can start to fill up since several students will want to test once the class is over, so most students start thinking about the test schedules early.  Plan ahead to get ahead.  I am not proposing you take it the next day, you can have study/review time but get it done!  If anything, get it over with so you can either apply for your license or know where you need to study based on your exam results. 

Amy Schafer, Education Director: Pre-license and Continuing Education Trainer Licensed since 2001, Amy is a REALTOR with Keller Williams Realty Greater Des Moines and serves as the Director of Education for the Center for Real Estate Excellence.  “My passion for teaching comes from the confidence I see students get as they prepare for a new career in real estate.” Originally from SE Iowa, Amy attended Iowa State University and then began her career in retail sales management.  Amy enjoys traveling with friends, tickets to almost any event and many creative outlets such as pottery, china painting and upcycling projects.

5 Tips to Starting Your Real Estate Courses in Iowa

By Amy Schafer, Director of Education

  1. Create A Schedule.  You already are full time YOU and now you are ready to add another layer to your life and several might be working a full time job as you transition your career.  Become the master of your schedule NOW and put everything on a calendar!  In real estate we have a saying: “if it’s not on your schedule, it doesn’t exist”.  I personally have gone back to using a paper calendar.  I am a visual person anyway and then it helps my family see what all needs to get done, they sometimes miss that if the information is hidden digitally on my computer. And, (don’t freak out) you may need to say NO to a few things….it doesn’t need to be forever!
  2. Get Your Friends & Family On Board.  This is a short-term sacrifice for long term gain, meaning you will need to get those closest to you on board with your schedule while you are studying to take the exam and launch your real estate business.  If your support system can help you during this time, it will offer you a long-term career. So, it may be time to ask for help:  who can help with pick-ups, dinner or laundry so you have the study time to need to nail this exam? 
  3. Rest.  The days of pulling an all-nighter like our high-school or college days may not be the best approach, especially to studying.  I know we all wear a super-human cape of some sort and think we can do it all, and we can….yet wouldn’t it make sense for yourself and those around you to be rested so no one says “Remember that time Mom freaked out when she was getting her real estate license?”  For many of us, we have not studied for YEARS.  Create a schedule for when you are in class, study time, parent time and SLEEP.  All are important. (See what I did there?  I mentioned a schedule again….it’s THAT important!)
  4. Clear Your Mindset.  You got this.  I know you do, but YOU have to believe it, too.  So, whatever small, silly voice in the back of your head might be creeping in with a different story: Stop It!  One of my number one rules in my classroom is that no one can say they are bad at math.  I know, we all have those feelings of high-school horror in algebra class, however, math is how you will figure your future commission checks so learn to love it now.  And, not that real estate is all about the money but it is about what the money can do….for you and your family. 
  5. Ask Questions.  And then ask some more.  We, your future brokerage and the real estate agents that surround you, know you will have questions as you prepare for this real estate career.  We are happy to help you.  In fact, we are so happy to help answer your questions, the National Association of Realtors put our commitment to it into the REALTOR Code of Ethics.  As an educator who happens to work for the #1 training company in the world, I am simply not doing my job if you don’t feel comfortable asking questions.  So, just ask!

Amy Schafer, Education Director: Pre-license and Continuing Education Trainer Licensed since 2001, Amy is a REALTOR with Keller Williams Realty Greater Des Moines and serves as the Director of Education for the Center for Real Estate Excellence.  “My passion for teaching comes from the confidence I see students get as they prepare for a new career in real estate.” Originally from SE Iowa, Amy attended Iowa State University and then began her career in retail sales management.  Amy enjoys traveling with friends, tickets to almost any event and many creative outlets such as pottery, china painting and upcycling projects.

Join a Real Estate Team or Go at it Alone as a Solo Realtor?

By Rochelle Burnett, First Year Coach

As the First Year Coach at Keller Williams Realty Greater Des Moines office, I hear new agents say all the time, “I should join a team, that will be an easier way to start this career.”

So let’s break this concept down. New Realtors often want to join a team for the two following reasons.

  1. Belief that the team will provide leads.
  2. Belief that you can’t go at it alone.

In regards to #1. This may or may not be true. The team owner may be in need of someone to help with all the leads they have, but they may also require YOU to bring IN some leads. This team owner will likely ask you to go door knock, do open houses, complete and share your database with the team, cold call for-sale-by-owners and expired listings, and other cold calling possibilities. So, if you are interviewing teams, you need to ask where and who business is expected to come from. You will also have a “split” with that team, meaning whatever you earn in commission is shared with the team for expenses. So, if you plan to do a lot of lead generating on your own, you may want to think about keeping the commission all to yourself (by going at this alone).

In regards to #2. So many first year Realtors are nervous to go at it alone so they think a team will be great to shadow. At Keller Williams, you are never really alone. Our culture in our office is to always be helping others. We are heavily known for our training and education. By attending class often, you will quickly become comfortable with real estate language, markets and scripts. We also provide coaching in your first year, so you always have someone to reach out to and learn from.

I also recommend trying your first year solo because often a team will designate you to work with sellers only or buyers only…and if you have never worked either, you don’t yet know which side you prefer.

Another reason to be solo your first year is to meet who the Team Players are at your designated brokerage. If you jumped on a team from the get-go, what would happen later if you realized you mesh with a different team later? Get to the office, meet people first, before making a major team decision.

Never worry, you won’t feel “alone” at Keller Williams. The first year coaching (called Productivity Coaching) is like a team in itself. You’ll find lots of partners/friends to practice real estate with.

This sounds like I’m negative about teams, when in all reality, I have a team myself! Teams do have it’s advantages. Some people love the camaraderie of a team. Some crave or require the accountability. Some love the support when life gets crazy. There are wonderful advantages of a team, it’s just my suggestion to give Keller Williams Realty and your new career some time on it’s own before making a major decision.

What I wish I knew my first year in real estate!

By Erin Rundall, CEO/Team Leader of Keller Williams Realty Greater Des Moines

My first broker/manager was quite wonderful and I learned some very practical advice early on. Have charging cords everywhere – office, car, and home. Build a resale business first, don’t jump into new construction. Always fill up your car on the way home. All very functional.

Here’s what I WISH I knew.

  1. While I was in class, I wish I would’ve started working on a database of friends, family, kids’ school and activity friends, church, anyone I personally give MY money too – hairstylist, doctor, dentist, car repair, and vendors in my community I would be referring future buyers too. I wish I would have known about the MREA Book and read it.
  2. If there is something, I wasn’t good at (i.e. getting clients from an open house) QUIT DOING IT! Focus on my strengths. What I know now is there are probably 50-60 solid lead sources and I should’ve picked the 3 I was good at – MY STRENTGHS- and done those. For me that’s business networking at my local Chamber, my sphere of influence (friends and family), and the Internet (SEO). I have friends that CRUSH Open Houses, which was why I kept trying it, same with For Sale by Owners – guess what? Not my bag, and that’s okay.
  3. Believed that my broker could give me leads…. bottom line is, only so many come in and they usually go to the people that have market share and they need to keep…. you know why…. the Big Dogs pay for us newbies and they need to be happy. Now I know if you learn to fish – you don’t need to go out to eat every night – gave someone my money when I had everything, I needed inside me.
  4. Get a coach or mentor. I had people offer to “help me” and later on realized that I was doing their work for little or no pay. Make sure you vet them, understand how they’ve helped others, and know when it’s time to move on.
  5. Start with the end in mind. I’ve had three business names, starting with a name that isn’t tied to my image is where I should’ve started. If I build something big, it needs to be something I can sell.
  6. Get over the ego, rather than focusing on me, my picture on stuff, my name on stuff. Investing in relationships with clients and my team, brought me the most growth the fastest.
  7. Your phone and business cards are all you need. Make connections, add them to your database, follow up with them. Every person you add probably has 50 people they know and can refer you too.
  8. Plan a day off. You have to hustle to make it, the only way to burn out is to plan a day off. People get it – just put it on your signature block.
  9. Plan for continuing education, every year plan to attend training that will expand your knowledge and build your network, travel to other areas in your State, meet other agents, build your referral network. Learn and Grow.
  10. No one can do it for you. Starting a business is simple, it isn’t easy. Make a plan and follow it.

Your First Step: Realtor Career Class

Every Tuesday at 5:30 pm at 4001 Westown Pkwy, West Des Moines
(inquire about our Saturday career classes in Spanish)

This will be a small group discussion where I lead the conversation about becoming a Realtor, such as education, fees, timing, etc. We also talk about what it’s like to be a Realtor. And, lastly, what it’s like to be a Realtor at Keller Williams Realty. I am currently a producing Realtor here at Keller Williams and also the Productivity Coach who guides Realtors through their first year in the business.

– Rochelle Burnett