What Makes for Success in Real Estate? Here’s What Golden Real Estate Does

Real_Estate_Today_bylineLast week I mentioned how Golden Real Estate was honored for coming in third among metro brokerages of our size in the number of transactions completed in 2016.

In this week’s column, I’d like to share my personal strategy for success in real estate, which has evolved into a company-wide strategy serving all agents — and benefiting clients.

Decades ago I adopted what I thought was a quote by Confucius. My sister had it posted on her refrigerator. Thanks to Google, I discovered that it wasn’t a quote by Confucius, but it could have been. “Concentrate on giving, and the getting will take care of itself.”  That philosophy underlies this column and its success in attracting clients for me and our agents. The time most real estate agents spend prospecting, I spend coming up with topics on which I can educate myself and then share that knowledge with my readers.

That’s how journalism works. A reporter is given an assignment, learns all he can about it, and then reduces it to a concise article that summarizes what he learned. That’s what I do every week — learn more than I already know about a given topic, then share what I have learned.

I never run out of topics to write about which educate the public — and thereby myself — regarding some aspect of real estate. Sometimes, I’m able to clarify or contradict statistics or statements which I see in the press or on TV.  For example, is the market cooling down or heating up? Are we in another bubble? As a Realtor, I have access to raw data that allows me to address such topics in a way that general assignment reporters can’t.

Giving back is important. Golden Real Estate is a member of two chambers of commerce (Golden & the West Chamber) and one business association. Rita and I are active members the Rotary Club of Golden, and I’m also a member of the Golden Lions Club. Serving in this way is satisfying in itself, and demonstrates our values.  [We are also big supporters of Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver (through Jeffco Interfaith Partners, now called West Metro Interfaith Partners) and Family Promise of Greater Denver.  Two of our agents are big-time volunteers with Golden’s Christian Action Guild.  Myself, I’m a long-time member of the Colorado Renewable Energy Society, Golden Solar Tour (now called the Metro Denver Green Home Tour), and the Denver Electric Vehicle Council.]

Another business principle that underlies my practice of real estate is authenticity. Misrepresenting one’s level of success, for example, is not only a violation of the Realtor Code of Ethics, it is not good salesmanship. I consider myself a lifelong learner and don’t “know it all.”

That principle expresses itself in me by being a news and public affairs sponge. I love listening to music as much as the next person, but my car radio is always tuned to the only all-news radio network we have — NPR.   I often hear local real estate stories, since it’s a popular topic these days, but being well informed on other national and world affairs is also important to me.

On the other hand, I have little patience for talk radio, whether conservative or liberal. I’ll listen to analysis and hard news, but I consider opinions a waste of my attention.

In terms of the day-to-day practice of real estate, I know I can’t do it all, so I surround myself with a support team. That team includes, among oTeam picture on bridge 2016thers, a transaction coordinator, a stager, a photographer, a drone pilot, several lenders, inspectors, and a handyman (who works only for our clients). That said, I don’t over-delegate. I like to get my hands dirty. I’ll put signs in the ground and do my own narrated video tours of each listing, including for my broker associates. Our office manager, Kim Taylor, helps with every aspect of listing and selling homes, but I’m happy to show listings, hold open houses, enter listings on the MLS, create websites for each listing, etc. I don’t just have a team, I’m part of the team.

Another factor in my personal success is surely my full-time accessibility. My cell phone (303-525-1851) is never turned off. I was in Puerta Vallarta all last week, which may come as a surprise to those clients and future clients who reached me on my cell phone and made appointments to meet with me this week. (I also submitted last week’s column from Mexico and will be submitting next week’s column from a ship in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.)

Experience has taught me that “to make money, you need to spend money,” and I never forget that. One example of an expenditure that paid off was our moving truck. I bought our first one at a convention in 2004 and it has been so useful to clients and has built so IMG_1256much goodwill for us among non-profits and community organizations, that I bought a second one last year. In 2008 I also invested in a storage shed for the moving boxes and packing materials that we provide free to clients.

Another “investment” was the purchase of a 10’x20’ chain link enclosure for collecting polystyrene (“Styrofoam”) for recycling. We take at least one truckload per month to a reprocessing facility in Denver, keeping over 200 cubic yards of that material out of landfills every year. Our investment in 20kW of solar panels not only powers our electric cars and our office, it allows us to provide free EV charging to the general public. Both these expenditures send a statement about our values that resonates with our clients and prospective clients.

Back to real estate, we have been early adopters in sometimes expensive ways to improve the quality and exposure of our listings. Years before they were adopted by other brokerages, we invested in drones to take aerial photos and videos of our listings. We also were early adopters of HDR (High Dynamic Range) technology for still photographs of our listings. This produces magazine quality photographs in which every element of a picture, including the view out each window, is perfectly exposed.

By now, you may be thinking I’m a workaholic, but Rita and I do enjoy a personal life, going to the theatre, traveling often, and watching many entertainment programs at home. But when my phone rings (except in a theatre!), I answer it.  I feel my clients deserve that.

Some listing agents put under “broker remarks” (which their sellers don’t see) that “Seller requests no Sunday deadlines.” What they’re really saying is that they don’t work on Sunday.  That’s not us!

Published April 20, 2017, in the Denver Post’s YourHub section and in four Jefferson County weekly newspapers.

How to Search for a Home

When house-hunting fever strikes, it can hit hard. You’ll probably download a home search app or two and jump into the car, ready to explore a new neighborhood. Before you do, here are answers to some questions that might pop up along the way.

What’s the difference between a real estate agent and a Realtor?

All real estate agents are licensed by the state in which they operate. The title “Realtor” is a trademark held by the National Association of Realtors; it refers to agents who are members of a local real estate association that is NAR-affiliated. These agents agree to comply with the association’s ethical standards. Of course, the sales practices of all licensed agents are guided by the laws of their state.

What is the MLS?

A multiple listing service, or MLS, compiles properties for sale by individual firms and sellers into one comprehensive database. It’s a generic term and not really one centralized service, but rather a cooperative effort among real estate professionals.

Before the Internet brought the same information to the masses, access to MLS information was one good reason to hire a real estate agent. Now, you can tap the latest listings from multiple sources on the web.

What about open houses?

Open houses don’t sell homes like they used to. The NAR reports that only 9% of buyers in 2014 discovered the home they eventually purchased via an open house.

Most people start their home buying process online these days, looking at slide shows and taking virtual tours. But wandering through an open house or two can still inspire new ideas or help you explore neighborhoods you hadn’t previously considered.

What are some home search tips?

Here are some pointers for looking at properties, whether at open houses or private showings with an agent.

  • First, don’t look at homes over your budget. That’s just frustrating. Set your search parameters within your budget, and remember to leave some wiggle room if you’re in a hot market and might have to bump up your offer.
  • Take an extra set of eyes, someone with excellent attention to detail. But don’t bring a group of experts; one spare opinion is plenty.
  • Find out why the seller is leaving. The circumstances may provide useful insight, especially regarding how motivated the seller may be — such as when a job relocation or divorce is involved.
  • Walk through the home twice. You’ll be surprised by what you notice on the second go-round.
  • Open every door, even if you think it’s just a closet. Hey, it might be a closet! You know how important those are.
  • Take notes, keep a list of the things you like and don’t like, and compare them to your list of what you need and want in a home.
  • Snap a few photos (but ask permission first).
  • Bring a tape measure. That way you’ll know if your dining table, bed or sofa will fit in a room.
  • Pay attention to outside noise. If quiet enjoyment of your home is a priority, stick around long enough to get a sense of what you’ll hear in the neighborhood — whether it’s noisy neighbors or landing airplanes.
  • Use Google Maps to check the neighborhood view from above. (Yikes! There’s a landfill/railroad tracks/drainage ditch right there?) Google Earth has a “light meter” feature that shows sun exposure, too.
  • In older homes, pay close attention to the location and number of electrical outlets, storage and other modern conveniences that are sometimes in short supply.
  • Remember that do-it-yourself projects can be more hassle than you think. Don’t assume you can fix everything that’s wrong with a house.
  • If you use a real estate agent and he isn’t listening to you — by showing you houses, neighborhoods or price ranges you specifically said you aren’t interested in — change agents. It’s a waste of your time and the agent’s.

The home stretch

When you finally narrow down your list of homes to the top contenders, break the tie by driving your morning commute from each location, visiting the neighborhoods at night and on a weekend, and walking the streets. You’ll know when it’s right.

Hal Bundrick is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email:hal@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @halmbundrick
This article originally appeared on NerdWallet.