Technology delivers many tools for empowering a career in real estate sales. A smartphone, computer system, and web presence help make more productive use of your time as you provide the responsive services today’s wired and Web-savvy buyers and sellers expect.
When you’re just starting out, though, the cost of equipping yourself with the essentials can pose an unexpected expense. Set a technology budget—figure out what you can afford to invest without overburdening yourself with debt—and stand by it. Expect to work at least part of your time at home. So even if the brokerage or franchise supplies you with tools, you’ll probably want to outfit a home office as well.
If you’re starting on a shoestring budget, try to depend on your company. If they have a digital camera available to staff, borrow it as needed until you can buy your own. Buy only the tools you know you’ll use.
Assembled here are items that should be found in every new real estate salesperson’s technology toolbox.
If you buy nothing else, get a smartphone. It’s the one absolute essential for today’s mobile real estate professional. Buyers and sellers will want to reach you throughout the day, and you will need to take and make calls, access the Internet, check e-mails, and update your social media accounts wherever you are. Further, many smartphone apps are geared toward helping real estate professionals in their everyday practice.
TIP: With mobile technology advancing at lightning speed, expect your smartphone to be out-of-date about a year after you purchase it. For this reason, know your upgrade options and early termination fees before you buy.
Starting out, opt for a basic cellular plan with affordable coverage in the areas you roam, during the hours you’ll make most of your calls. However, the standard calling plan may not always be your best option. Most are based on daytime usage. If you’re not sure yet when and where your phone will get the most use, talk to your peers about which carrier provides the best service and which plan they use. Make sure you can upgrade or switch plans without incurring additional fees before you sign the service contract. Also make sure your plan comes with enough data space to access the Internet during work hours when you may be away from a computer.
As an added bonus, smartphones can also serve as digital cameras and camcorders. Today, most come standard with at least a 5 megapixel sensor and some even have LED flash and an optical or digital zoom.
The computer will be your hub of activity. When in your office, it’s where you’ll organize all information on clients and properties; compose correspondence and marketing materials; and access the Web, which is essential to nearly all real estate transactions.
Your big decision: a desk-bound or portable computer system? Desktop systems are more affordable, starting well under $1,000, with the most value for your dollar at every price.
Portables—notebooks, netbooks, tablets, and more—cost more than comparably equipped desktop systems. For the difference, though, your computer resources travel with you. If you’re inclined toward a portable, try before buying: the keyboard and screen of mobile PCs may not rival what you’d expect in a desktop system.
Whatever your preference, you’ll extend the computer’s useful life by buying the best system you can afford now. Opt for the fastest processor, the most RAM, and the largest hard drive and screen your budget allows. Make sure there’s some form of drive—ideally a CD-R or DVD-R drive—for backing up data.
The printer is a key component of your computer system, whether or not one is bundled with the computer. You want color: an inkjet when funds are limited; a laser printer if money isn’t an issue.
For the most bang for your buck, check out a multifunction machine, or MFM. These combination printer/scanner/copiers handle all your document needs. They take up much less space since you won’t have to have a separate unit for each task.
Today’s buyers search the Web first when looking for a home, and it’s where many will initiate inquiries about listings and services. You need an ISP account for Web service, your own Web site or a page on your company’s site, and an e-mail address where buyers and sellers can reach you. In addition to a Web site, it is also highly recommended (and totally free) to sign up for a few social media sites that will expand your web presence and help build your burgeoning personal brand.
For your Internet connection, a broadband connection, such as DSL or cable modem, is worth the expense.
To get started, you’ll need productivity software—applications for word processing, a database, graphics, presentations, and spreadsheets, usually purchased as a suite—and financial management software.
Real estate professionals also should invest in a contact management solution, either a generic program or one developed for the field. The software helps organize information about your calendar, clients, properties, and related activity. It’s only as valuable as the information you regularly enter. Develop that habit from the outset of your new career.
If you don’t trust your artistic instincts, buy a graphics program for marketing and print promotions. These provide templates to build the flyers, CMAs, postcards, and brochures that make you and your listings look best in print.
Nothing promotes the appeal of a home like a good color picture, online and in print. A digital camera will pay for itself over time in savings on film and processing. It’s the best way to capture pictures destined for the Web. Prices start at about $100, but you don’t want one of the entry-level cameras. Spend a little more for an image sensor of with more megapixels, a power zoom lens that accepts a wide-angle lens adapter, and both an LCD screen and through-the-lens viewfinder. Sample several cameras before making your selection.
As a real estate professional, clients will expect you to be able to provide specics about the neighborhoods they are considering. Neighborhood knowledge will also be invaluable to you when developing your marketing and prospecting strategies. The following are some helpful resources to help you learn about different aspects of your market:
TIP: Your local chamber of commerce, university, or newspaper, also are valuable sources. You can use the data you find to beef up your own area knowledge, focus your marketing materials, post on your Web site, or provide to your clients as a way to establish your expertise.
American FactFinder When you want to find authoritative demographic information fast, use American FactFinder, an interactive search engine provided by the U.S. Census Bureau. This resource can help you track down local population, as well as housing, industry, and business statistics for your market. Data is taken from the 2010 Census and more recent surveys and reports.
ePodunk.com Launched in 2000 by former journalists, this site contains profilesof more than 25,000 communities and every county in the United States. Entries are extensive, with specifics on history and geography of the area; home prices; schools, libraries, and other cultural amenities; air quality; taxes; economic and employment data; and much more.
Sperling's BestPlaces This site generates rankings of places and people for major publications. It offers city profiles and a feature that allows users to compare any two cities in the United States in categories such as housing costs, crime, economy, health, and education.
National League of Cities The oldest and largest national organization representing 18,000 cities, villages, and towns throughout the United States, this site offers research reports on cities that focus on fisscal conditions and demographic changes.
National Center for Education Statistics Part of the U.S. Department of Education, this agency collects and analyzes data related to education in the United States and other countries. Use the Search for Schools, Colleges, and Libraries function to find detailed information about any school in the country.
GreatSchools.org The site's ultimate goal is to help parents find education-related information using the power of digital media. The profiles of more than 200,000 public and private pre-K through 12 schools are searchable by location, district map and specific paramenters that a parent may find important. The site also provides more than 1,000,000 parent and community ratings and reviews of the schools.
Architecture Guide This helpful guide at REALTOR® Magazine Online provides information, illustrations, and photographs of the most common types of home features and residential styles.
Architecture Coach This monthly column at REALTOR® Magazine Online provides practical tips and information about how you can best use architecture to sell your listings.
About Architecture This site provides a solid foundation on which to build your residential architecture knowledge. Part of the About network of Web sites on dozens of topics of interest, About Architecture features House Styles an illustrated guide to the most popular residential architecture styles and features. Additional parts of the site provide information on renovating historical homes, home repairs, and home maintenance.
You’ve done your research about different professions, evaluated your strengths, weaknesses, interests, and goals, now you are ready to launch your new career in real estate.
One of the first decisions you will need to make is which brokerage affiliation to select. You want a brokerage that will help you establish your career and support you while you grow your skills, experience, and business. In fact, this is one of the most important decisions you will make, because the company you select to first “hang your license” with can make or break your real estate career.
It may appear easy to get started, as many brokers may be recruiting you. But that’s what brokers do. They earn more if they have more associates out there listing and selling. Many will put together a great presentation and parade past you a couple of sales associates who make $100,000 or more a year.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the excitement and make an impulsive decision, but you need to be in control of the process and do your research to target opportunities with the best companies in your community. Remember, in this case, you are the buyer and you need to make sure you’re purchasing the right company—including its training, support mechanisms, and reputation—for your career. It’s time to slow down and do some research.
There are scores of questions to ask and factors to consider in evaluating the best company for you.
First, you must understand that you will become an extension of the organization with which you choose to affiliate. Before you ever meet with clients, they will very likely already have an opinion of the company in general, and that will serve as the starting point of your relationship. So the qualities that clients consider in selecting a brokerage—strong reputation, outstanding customer service, success in the market—are the same qualities you should consider in selecting your brokerage. But you also should examine the company’s willingness to invest in you from the start and to be generous with the resources you need to succeed.
Once you know what you’re looking for—reputation, customer service, and listings—it’s time to explore your top choices more thoroughly.
Statistics don’t lie. Find out the company’s market share, how many listings it takes in each year, how many listings sell, how many fail to sell, and how many sales it makes from other company’s listings. Not only will this information give you the financial bottom line, it will give also you more insight into the company’s customer service philosophies and its position in the market. Most importantly, it will tell you a lot about your potential for success.
The companies you’re interested in should be willing to give you this information, but you should take the next step and verify it with the local association of REALTORS® and the MLS. You also should make it a habit to read the business section of your local paper, local business journals, and other relevant publications. These regularly cover local real estate businesses and may even have special real estate editions that feature top-performing companies in the area.
One other thing to look for in your local business journal is rankings. On a weekly or monthly basis, many compile detailed information about industries and use it to rank companies within that industry according to size, scope of service, and sales. Business journals often publish these ranking once a year into a Book of Lists,which is well worth the additional cost if it doesn’t come with your annual subscription.
Your research also should take a more intuitive route. Take a drive around the community that you would like to work in and check out the properties for sale and what companies are representing them. Evaluate which companies are especially active in the area and the quality of properties they’re representing. Then take the time to check out the local office you are considering. Is it in a good business location, convenient, visible, and appealing? Look at it from the buyer’s or seller’s viewpoint. Is it someplace you’d like to go inside? When you walk through the door, does it have the look and feel of a successful business? How is the customer service? Is this someplace you’d like to work?
As you’re driving around the area, make a note of the advertising. A company’s advertising philosophy is especially important for new salespeople, as frequency and volume is critical to generating new clients from random inquiries while you build your personal network.
Look for signboards in yards, billboards, and bus boards. Next, check out the local newspapers. How does the company advertise its local office, its properties, and its sales associates? Does it rely on classified ads, or does it invest a little more in display ads? Does it participate in inserts and feature opportunities? Does it use real estate publications that are often free and available at local grocery stores? When reviewing advertising, evaluate the quality, size, and scope of the ads. Do they have a professional look and feel? Are there company-sponsored pages with numerous sales associates on a page, including space for new salespeople? You need to make sure the company you select is willing to support new sales associates with advertising you can’t afford for yourself right away.
As a result of your research, you should have a list of your top choices of real estate companies. Think of the interview process as just another level of research. It’s a chance for you to learn more about the company one-on-one with a broker or with a group from the office. Be prepared to be impressive, but also expect to be impressed.
For your part, offer a killer resume—one that is short, to the point, and nicely presented to showcase your experience, skills, accomplishments, and abilities. Next, focus on your appearance. You only have one opportunity to make a first impression so make it a sharp and professional one. Make sure you look the part of a successful professional. Invest in a good suit, pay attention to details like shined shoes, well-knotted ties, tasteful jewelry, and good manners.
Finally, be prepared with questions and answers. Expect them to ask you questions about your sales experience, customer service philosophy, why you’re interested in real estate, how you expect to generate business, whether you prefer to work individually or in a team, if you’re prepared to work hard, and why they should hire you. Being clear, confident, and articulate in your answers will spark their interest in your sales potential.
In return, have some insightful questions of your own ready. It’s their turn to impress you.
While gut instinct plays a role, a more analytical approach to the decision-making process can help you select the company that will work best for you in the long term.
One way to evaluate all the considerations is to rank the companies in each area outlined below on a scale of 1 (the worst) to 10 (the best) and then list some reasons behind the ranking. Honestly evaluate the company’s strengths and weaknesses in each of the following areas and understand how your personality, style, and ambitions will fit in with each company’s overall operation.
Company Considerations Ranking (1-10)
Pay particular attention to the training the company provides and weigh this heavily in your review. Training is the foundation of your new career and you want to learn from the best. A good training program focuses on contracts, prospecting, quality, lead follow-up, the seller’s listing presentation, the buyer’s interview, handling objections, and closing techniques. These are the skills of the outstanding salesperson, and the company that understands this and provides this training is the one for you.
Although your first priority as a new real estate salesperson is to market yourself and your business skills, work with buyers and sellers, and earn a commission, you also need to be mindful of all the legal issues that affect your work. By staying on top of all the laws that govern your daily real estate activities, you can help ensure that you will have a long and prosperous career with a minimum of legal problems.
To help you get started on your legal education, the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®’ Legal Affairs Department offers these overviews of important legislative and regulatory issues that affect real estate. Keep in mind that NAR primarily tracks federal legal issues, so this article does not offer information about all of the state laws that affect real estate practices. Therefore, you should contact your state REALTOR® association or a local real estate attorney to learn how best to comply with your state’s laws.
Following are the major issues covered:
Legal assistance is one of the many benefits of being a REALTOR®. Here are some of the ways the our legal affairs department works for you.