Entrepreneur Series – Lesson 7 – Milking The Business

Before I opened up my own business, I spent over 10 years at a very high level of senior management for a Fortune 500 corporation. While I garnered a ton of personal and professional growth over the years, nothing can still really prepare you 100% for …

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Personal Finance 101: Generation X – You Just Turned 40: Last Time To Get Life Insurance?

Generation X is classically defined at people born between the years 1965 and 1979.    Pretty much those of you in your early 30’s to the mid 40’s.  However, having given personal financial advice to thousands …

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The Words We Don’t Want To Hear: “You May Need To Save More”

I really think over the next five years the whole notion of retirement planning is going to change.   The X and Y generation don’t think about retirement the way their parents or grandparents did.   Since …

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What If There Is Land Around The House That Is Not Built On?

Here lies the problem for many people. One neighborhood in Cumming Georgia was surprised when a Lowes was built looking down on their home and the security lights of the shopping center were over their homes all night. Someone else I know was shocked to find that a public school was slated to go at the end of their street that they had built a 2 million dollar house on. So, what do you do? Continue reading

A Thought From A Full Service Real Estate Agent

We received this on Homefeedback about a listing that Steve Haas, a local real estate agent in Atlanta had shown. We actually send the feedback about showings to our clients. Keep in mind that Steve wrote this directly to my homeowner who is a licensee of my business model in Charlotte! Steve has bad timing too and seems to suffer from the old foot in the mouth syndrome that I get myself into sometimes.

His “feedback” that he left under Additional Comments about the house: You being a discount broker, I only show your properties when a client specifically requests to see one. My personal opinion from the past 10 years is that you charge 3% + junk fees and provide the buyer with zero guidance once listed.For an additional 2% sellers could have a fiduciary agent who can be held accountable and provide local insight and knowledge through the entire transaction including negotiations and marketing dollars.Website states how many homes you have sold but I would be curious about how many listings are pulled after having no success in selling. Trust me I am not bitter, I am just giving you my feedback as requested

My response: Steve:
Thanks for your “feedback” that you sent to my client regarding their home. In trusting you that you are not bitter, I want to get some clarification on a few things so that I can seriously consider your thoughts and see if I can make some improvement to my business, which I take is what you are attempting to give me as feedback.

I looked up fiduciary agent to make sure that I was not missing something in my clarification of it. This is what I found in the dictionary and in real estate law.

” A fiduciary is someone who has undertaken to act for and on behalf of another in a particular matter in circumstances which give rise to a relationship of trust and confidence.”
A fiduciary duty is the highest standard of care at either equity or law. A fiduciary is expected to be extremely loyal to the person to whom they owe the duty (the “principal”): they must not put their personal interests before the duty, and must not profit from their position as a fiduciary, unless the principal consents. The fiduciary relationship is highlighted by good faith, loyalty and trust, and the word itself originally comes from the Latin fides, meaning faith, and fiducia.
When a fiduciary duty is imposed, equity requires a stricter standard of behavior than the comparable tortious duty of care at common law. It is said the fiduciary has a duty not to be in a situation where personal interests and fiduciary duty conflict, a duty not to be in a situation where their fiduciary duty conflicts with another fiduciary duty, and a duty not to profit from their fiduciary position without express knowledge and consent. A fiduciary cannot have a conflict of interest. It has been said that fiduciaries must conduct themselves “at a level higher than that trodden by the crowd” and that “[t]he distinguishing or overriding duty of a fiduciary is the obligation of undivided loyalty.”

Your first statement in your note states: “You being a discount broker, I only show your properties when a client specifically requests to see one.” Looking at the definition of a fiduciary agent as stated above, how does that fit the description of someone who is extremely loyal to the client and does not put their personal interest before a client? I know that when you are working for a client, the job of the agent is to find the best home for the client, no matter who has the house listed, and whether or not you like the person or concept that has the house listed. I take it by your passion in writing me that you work on behalf of your clients, yet your comments are putting your own personal interests of not liking discount brokers before your client’s as you are not promoting discount broker’s listings to your clients unless asked.

My other concern is that you are a Realtor member bound by the ethics of that association. One of the ethics is that you will not falsely state things about competitors. It seems by your stated conversations with your friends that you guys are just spouting information that you made up, and did not research specifically about me and my business. That is dangerous and a violation of competition law, and on a lesser note, the Realtor ethics. And, I know that you have not spent much time learning about my business model at Duffy Realty because if you had, you would know that we don’t charge 3% + junk fees. We charge $500 plus .0034, just like all 10,000 of my listings have paid. Some have elected to rent a lockbox and get a virtual tour, but that is about all. No big secret here. No disclosures needed about hidden costs. These are the costs.

The seller is in charge of setting the commission that they want to pay a buyer’s agent and most of them elect a 4% commission. This fee of $500.00 includes 70 points of marketing, most of which I pay a lot of money to medias to advertise my client’s listing on. However, something that I don’t think you are aware of, we do coach our clients 45 hours per week and have a contract negotiator on staff, in office, 7 days a week for 80+ hours. As a result of our expert in every department instead of a one-man show, we (Duffy and our seller clients) have sold over 7,000 listings in 7 years.

I pay $28,000 a year to add my clients to Realtor.com as a showcase listing because my clients and I believe it brings attention to their home – the ultimate statement of marketing. I then spend additional hundreds of thousands of dollars in website fees to add my homes to almost every home related site in the industry. These include Frontdoor, Zillow, Yahoo, Edgeio and more. My website alone receives over 1.5 million hits per month and most of those hits are buyers. Of course to manifest that type of hits, you know there is a cost of money and time involved.

I also promote my listings with directional signs, yard signs and heavy radio and TV advertising. As a matter of fact, my accountant just reported that I spent over $600,000 doing just that last year alone! I have spent millions of dollars and thousands of dollars over the last 7 years educating the public about houses for sale and real estate in general. That is something that most agents wouldn’t dare spend their own personal resources doing. The reason that I believe agents won’t spend their money and time is that a homeowner may not cooperate by lowering their price repeatedly and they may decide not to sell at all. I get that. I have heard that from agents like you and your friends at cocktail parties. I just disagree with the thinking.

My listings are posted on for sale by owner sites because there are 4 types of buyers out there and some just don’t like agents. But more importantly, I give them rights to help me market their home to friends, family and neighbors and if an agent is not involved, they don’t pay the buyer agent fee which happens at least one-third of the time. As a result many of my homeowners are much more involved in the process than other stagnant homeowners. For example, your 3 listings that you have encouraged to drop their price $50,000 dollars to almost $100,000 after they have expired over and over. What magic do you have to offer them? They have lost almost 15% of their equity and probably have exhausted all of yours and their ideas and still have not sold their home.

To you a price reduction means hundreds of dollars in a lowered commission. To the homeowner it means thousands of dollars and over 10% to 15% of their equity in price reductions alone. So the question is, how has your coaching of the Atlanta market helped them? They are still for sale and most likely won’t like the offer that they get on their home because they are not only paying you 2.5% more to market their home than they would pay me and they have taken a significant price reduction.

Marketing is not the only place that my service beats yours. I have a 500-page customer website that helps my clients make rational decisions that they won’t regret. When they want to lower their price we give them the pros and cons and teach them how to yield the highest spread of buyer searches by using the internet strategies that many agents, including yourself have not spent the money or time to learn. You see something I know for sure is that once a price is lowered, we can not take that action back. My thousands of hours of learning the internet has shown me that homes are archived in websites and that is very dangerous to a homeowner who has regret.

I understand your comment about the Atlanta market but I also know that neither you nor I have magic that we perform to get listings sold. We also don’t make the ultimate decision about what a homeowner is willing to sell their home for and take as profit or a loss. So, whether a market is good or bad, our jobs are not rocket science, it really is simply a science of marketing in a shotgun, consistent approach. I think I go way beyond the call of duty to do this. As a matter of fact, one of my clients said today that I do far more than agents who charge far more.

One other comment that I am trying to wrap my head around is that you say another agent (or concept I think you mean) would be held accountable for the sale of the home. Do you mean that you pay your clients for their loss of time or money if you don’t sell their home? Or if they decide that they want to go higher in price after you lose your listing and they are archived at that price? How exactly are you held accountable? Isn’t the whole concept of the way that traditional brokerage is handled is based on some sell, some don’t so you have to charge more to everyone based on the fact that you don’t get paid on some?

As I revisited and re-read what a fiduciary relationship means I feel that my model is closer to the relationship that you were talking about than your model. You see our motives align with the seller. We have been paid for our marketing and can allow the seller to dictate their own strategy with our help. We are not in a rush to get to the lowest price possible and to exhaust all hope of selling so that we can move on to a “good” property with a motivated seller. We aren’t asking our sellers to lower their price to their rock bottom costing them 10 to 15% of their equity and then taking a huge commission. We actually are loyal and giving them all the pros and cons with no bias to our outcome. I am just not sure if the other real estate models can say the same.

Thanks for the debate Steve. Maybe we can meet one day and really have a long conversation.
My goal in this message back to you is for you to see that I don’t do my business model for the easy way out, I do it because I too, like you, believe in what I do for my clients. I appreciate that you have passion for what you do, that is what makes us care about the profession of real estate and I am proud to say that we have met.

Rhonda Duffy
Duffy Realty of Atlanta

What If The House You Are Buying Has Land Around It That Is Not Built On?

Okay, so what should you do if the house you are buying has vacant land around it? Should you just say, great, no one lives here so we have more privacy? No, you should not is the answer. This land could be a potential problem for you in the future and you need to know what is going on before you buy so that you can make an educated guess on whether your property value is going to go up or down in the future when you attempt to sell your property. Continue reading

Real Estate For Sale – Atlanta, Georgia

How do you find real estate for sale in Atlanta? Due to the internet it is really quite easy now. Over the last 10 years the internet has allowed home buyers all over the world to see what is for sale and an intensive overview of what the house has to offer. Pictures, taxes, comparables, mortgage payoff and more can all be investigated when viewing a listing on both for sale by owner properties and the properties listed by real estate agents.

In the past, Real Estate Agents held the power to find the properties by networking with other agents. As a result the public believed that they had to go from company to company to see what the agents there had for sale. That was due to the fact that the MLS (multiple listing service) books that were printed bimonthly held all the information on houses actively being marketed. Now that power to control the flow of information agents once had is gone. Real Estate Agents are used now to facilitate the showings and to perform the contract duties relevant to the transaction. The public rarely relies on the agent today to find out what properties are available or to know what’s going on in the market.

The Multiple Listing Services now populate out to many websites, whether they be a real estate agent’s own site, a real estate company site or even moving and relocation sites. The MLS is now used as a lure to get buyers and sellers to these websites. And, the public shows that they like it. These sites continuously have more hits and longer views than almost any other sites. Even the buyers who are not buying for the next ten years are mesmerized by searching for properties and learning about the neighborhoods they have interest in and even their own neighbors.

So, if you want to know what is listed for sale in Atlanta, simply visit any site that has the MLS data feed on it. If you find that other companies listings are on the site, you are looking at everything on the MLS because the MLS says that if you post anyone besides yourself on your search, you must post all listings. If you are looking for a For Sale By Owner property, you may search any of the number of For Sale By Owner sites or even most newspapers now offers photos on each online listing.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the search is easy now! You have more real estate data at your fingertips than at any other time in history. Happy House Hunting!

How To Get A Real Estate Team

Delegation is defined as to give power to someone else. Without delegation, you can not have team. So, before I tell you how to get a team, you must answer the question ‘Can others speak for you?’ If you are already getting sick to your stomach you must figure out why you don’t trust others and what you can do to change that. Otherwise, you can not have a team. Before learning to trust your subordinates, trying to have a team will only distract you from the power of actually having a team. In other words, you will most likely go broke. Broke mentally and financially.

If you answered the question with a resounding yes, here are a few guidelines to building a team.

1. Don’t hire people that you perceive to have more power than you or that seem to have more experience than you. In other words, they tell you that they ran a Fortune 500 company for 10 years and before that they were an account representative for a major company for 25 years and ran a team with 10 assistants. This person can not work for others, they have always had people work for them. Stick with people who are not business owners and who like working for others. Otherwise, get ready… you won’t have a brave, you’ll have a chief at your door just wanting to tell you how things should be done!

2. Have all job descriptions and job duties in writing. This is not a long process. It is simply writing things down as they come to your mind. You are free to change the criteria at anytime and you must do so as business changes. Fancy is not good. Fancy is a waste of time in business. Look for the result and having the desired result in writing is so that everyone is on the same page. Be as detailed as possible asking why, who, what, when and how.

3. Have a work manual. Spell out the processes of how things are to be done. Check your work by following the process of what you wrote to see that you are right and on the correct course.

4. Don’t dote over the people. Training should be “Here is the manual, get to work.”

5. Role-play is good. Do it over and over.

6. Demand that people be on time (even before on time) and that they work even if they are sick. If they are too sick to perform, then send them home.

7. Hold democratic meetings and let people decide what should happen next and remind them that you hold veto power.

8. Hold and express the thought that their personal growth will be your personal growth.

So many people resist getting a team. Without a team, you won’t have the growth that you want. You will be stifled. Period.

To find out more about Real Estate Training and Coaching – Contact Rhonda Duffy

The Future Of Realty

If I had a crystal ball, I would be rich. So would you if you had one. But since I don’t I will have to use an educated guess to forecast what real estate will be in 10 years, 20 years and beyond. Real estate is changing right before our eyes and if you look back, who would have known that the simple tool that we all have become addicted to would have changed real estate to what it is today. The Internet has impacted the power that real estate agents have and it is making a smarter world smarter.

Information changes everything. Where in the past, real estate agents could hold information about what was listed on the market for purchase, now the buyers tell agents what they want to see. Where in the past, real estate agents, were the only ones who could tell sellers and buyers what property values were in the past and present, now the public tells the agent what it is in a testing fashion seeing if the agent is as smart as the agent thinks they are. Where in the past, the buyer needed a real estate agent to take them all over town showing them the area, now, the buyer uses a GPS and tells the agent when they are ready to see the house.

So, where does that leave the real estate agent?

Real estate agents will be needed IF:

We hone our skills for making a win-win between buyers and sellers and realize that these folks need unemotional thinkers that see a light at the end of the tunnel, not just a commission.

We use unbiased information on what it takes to sell a home that we gather from our clients. We can no longer have opinions on whether open houses work or not just because we don’t want to do them. The public has power and they will research everything you tell them is right or wrong on the Internet.

We build databases of research links that point buyers and sellers to information that they need.

We have a gameplan that is going to take them through a very easy process yet empower them at the end with self-esteem and a job well done.

We recognize that a seller does not want to take a check to closing and we help them understand better that the condition of the home has more weight than a low asking price because buyers are emotional and need to feel a good connection with the home they are buying.

Basically, in my opinion, the Internet empowers people. It removes fear and panic by giving knowledge. If we don’t ride the train of empowerment with our clients instead of giving them some magical hocus-pocus that we have presented all these years as agents acting as if we are in charge of whether their house sells or not, we will be lost with the times. Empowerment is the name of the game. The more you give to your clients, the more you thrive.

Become the Top Real Estate Agent in Your City – 7 Steps To Success Starting Today

Being the top real estate agent is easy if you have a plan. The plan is not elaborate or some special secret, or even something that you have to have 10 years of schooling for. It is really simple – be consistent.

Many people have a different definition of consistency if you ask them. Often times you will find that they find a very convenient definition that adheres to their guidelines, which sometimes are self-sabotaging. So, I thought that I would look up the official Webster’s dictionary definition of consistency. It is “constantly adhering to the same principles, course, form, etc.”.

That all sounds good, but without a map on how to become consistent it sounds hopeless. So, here are thoughts about how I have become the top agent in my area and have maintained that ranking for the last 4 years.

7 Steps to Becoming Consistent with Yourself and Your Clients

1. Define on paper what real estate means to you. You can start this process by asking yourself the question “What is important to me about real estate?” With every answer, follow up with “What else?” This will open your mind to new ideas or reasons that you can explore further. By following up with these, you can truly define those passionate parts of real estate that fuel your drive to be consistent. Once discovered and tapped into, you will ultimately be able to make a great living at something you understand and enjoy.

2. Make a list of things that you don’t like in real estate. Things that you are committed to changing. This will lead you to the spirit of your work, there again giving you some real tools to work with passionately.

3. Now, keeping in mind step 1 and 2, set your boundaries. This is a quick 5-minute process wherein you describe what you are going to do for your clients and what you will not accept from clients. Make two columns on your next page. Work from your heart and soul, not your mind in this exercise. On the column where you are setting the boundaries of what you will not accept from clients, make sure that you are really willing to tell the clients that they have crossed a boundary and that their behavior is unacceptable.

4. Understand and commit to being referable. There are a few elements necessary to creating the power of referrals and the environment from which they come. It starts with your mindset. You must be on time, do what you say you are going to do, have a game plan at all times on what the next steps of any process are, enforce your boundaries and, finally and most importantly, ask for referred business.

5. Get a game plan for all parts of the transaction. Take the time to think about what you will do if certain things happen or particular conditions exist. Visualize yourself solving the problem. This can be done in the car, in the shower and any other time that you are alone. Visualizing problems before they exist is the most powerful way to solve the problem with the least amount of frustration when it occurs. Think about stories that you have heard from others and play out the story as the main character with a good ending in mind. Projection is reality, when problem solving

6. Once you have determined what you stand for, your boundaries are set and you know that your goal is to be referable, your marketing plan will unfold easily. You will know what to do with your business, when you ask your heart instead of your head. However, you must work the same process everyday without fail. Being inconsistent will set up a legacy of poor referrals, people expecting things outside your core boundaries. Keep your boundaries strict while always remembering what you stand for in real estate. Govern by your beliefs and let those beliefs be known verbally and in writing.

7. Avoid taking shortcuts with things that you don’t like to do. Instead hire people to do these things for you. Delegating is the key to your success because it allows you to thrive by doing things that you appreciate and have a passion to do.