When your phone is not ringing and the real estate market seems as frozen as the snowdrift on your front lawn, don’t despair. Seasoned REALTORS® know that the lean times won’t last, as long as you take steps to manage your business and finances.
Although winter is typically a slower period in real estate, that doesn’t mean you should just hibernate until spring. There are ways to make the most of this “down time” to prepare and energize for the busy season ahead, according to several Ontario Realtors.
Planning is a key activity for the winter months, says Tania Artenosi, a REALTOR® from Vaughan with 10 years in the field. “It’s all in the planning that we do at the beginning and end of each year,” she says. “Your annual personal Business Action Plan can be developed, and it ensures that you have set out goals and things you’re going to work on all year. Having a plan helps us improve or increase our business for the year, giving us targets to keep in mind over the coming year.”
“The lean season is a time to get back to the basics,” says Christo Lourantos, a REALTOR® from Oakville. “During the spring and summer, it’s easy to lose touch with our customer and client base, so now is a great time to touch base with past clients. The weather is colder and so is the market, but this is a fantastic time to call or visit our contacts.”
Now is also a perfect time to read up and reflect on changes in the real estate industry, says Lourantos. “Take this time to do some research and see where the market is going,” he says. “It’s a good time to look into new strategies to generate leads, customer relationship management technology and other ways to become more efficient.”
“The lean season is a time to get back to the basics.”
Winter is an ideal time to show your value to clients in a more dedicated way, says REALTOR® Irene Smit of Callander, Ontario, who has worked in real estate for 17 years. “In spring and summer, you often find your conversations interrupted by urgent calls coming in from lawyers and bankers and you have to take that call because another deal hinges on it,” she says. “That can be off-putting for consumers, so I like to take advantage of the winter period to use this time and speak to my clients, uninterrupted. I can listen to them and give them my full, undivided attention, to show that I am interested in them and what matters to them.”
Budgeting throughout the year is also vital to survival in this business, the sources say. Veterans of the real estate industry know the importance of putting aside funds during the busy spring and summer season to carry you through the lean times. Although there is a temptation to spend that hard-earned money, REALTORS® are advised to develop self-discipline and sock away a sum into savings each month or after each transaction to help manage the slower periods.
“As a broker-owner, I advise our REALTORS® to see a financial advisor or banker and come up with a financial plan for themselves, whether it’s a small one or a more aggressive plan,” says Artenosi. “Saving is really important, and it’s a good idea to put part of their commissions into a separate account every month in the busy season so they have a nest egg to pull from in the leaner months. It takes discipline, but there are many financial tools and options to help them to do this. I’ve seen people borrowing on future deals to get them through, but it’s better to put a plan in place long term.”
Review your entire client list and update or delete names no longer pertinent to your business, Smit advises. “Use this same time to add newer clients to your list as well as updating current client info such as new email addresses and cell numbers,” she says. “It’s also a good time to prepare promotional letters for various seasons, especially if you work in a tourist area where you have different markets per season. It’s a good time to create your seasonal mail or digital updates.”
Examine your sphere of influence and call, email or visit those people, adds Artenosi. “Reach out to all those you have done business with, will do business with, and who have been important to you and your business in any capacity. Reconnecting with people in person or over the phone gives you the opportunity to discuss current changes in the market that may affect buyers and sellers. Most importantly, just talk about whatever comes up. Building relationships is at the core of longevity in this business.”
And although the holidays may seem like a distant memory, there’s no reason you can’t order personalized Christmas cards and seasonal promotional material in February, Smit adds. “Plan ahead and order your promotional items and calendars now,” she says. “In fact, a supplier may sometimes even offer you a preferred discount for ordering them early in the year, versus that last-minute rush order next December when you get charged extra.”
“Building relationships is at the core of longevity in this business.”
Making your family and friends a priority now is also a good strategy that nurtures your support system as a REALTOR®, she adds. “They need you too … and they need you without a cellphone in your hand once in a while, or without the speaker phone going in the background while you’re driving them to a sporting event. Use your down time wisely to reconnect and give back to those who wait for you when you’re truly busy.”
“Take the dog for a long awaited walk in the woods,” she says. “By now, you need it just as badly as Fido does. You can also take a holiday, fly away somewhere, anywhere, and come back enthusiastic and recharged.”
Tips to survive the lean seasons:
- Make the first move — Pick up the phone or knock on the door. Don’t wait for business to come to you.
- Prospect for opportunities — The person sitting next to you at the service club table or ice rink could be your next customer, or even a lead generator. Networking is key.
- Follow up on old leads — Keep in touch with the people who have been your clients in the past. If you make the right impression, they will remember you.
- Budget accordingly — Put away a percentage of your profits from the busy season so you’re not blindsided by income tax bills and slow periods.
- Share your knowledge — When you educate those new to the real estate business, you’re enhancing the reputation of the entire profession.
Story by Mary Ann Gratton
Editorial Policy: The REALTOR® EDGE newsletter is produced 11 times a year by the Ontario Real Estate Association. The newsletter aims to provide practical and useful news and information about the real estate industry to members of the association. The opinions expressed in the newsletter are not necessarily those of the publisher. The newsletter welcomes submissions from the real estate community, including letters to the editor, opinion pieces, events and news. The newsletter reserves the right to edit, based on space restrictions and/or suitability, and/or to refuse submitted material for inclusion in the newsletter without reason. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without the express written permission of the publisher, OREA, is prohibited. Contents are copyright of the Ontario Real Estate Association.
Editor: Mary Ann Gratton
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