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How to top your 2019 numbers, even during a pandemic

by Meg White

Many agents might be looking at their 2020 goals as something of a lost cause at this point. But there are some who are already doing better than they did in 2019.

The Chicago chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals brought together three such brokers, all of whom made the association’s Top 250 list, to offer thoughts on succeeding despite the crisis in a webinar late last month.

The first job for any real estate professional looking to succeed during uncertain times is messaging, according to Rosie Gonzalez, a top-producing team leader with Coldwell Banker Realty in LaGrange. She recommended agents approach conversations with clients from the mindset of a teacher. She noted that, while most brokers know the difference between this recession and the last one, that’s not true for your average consumer.

“You have to let people know that the market is good because most people think that the market is like 2008,” she said. “They sit in front of the TV, and all they hear is bad news. But we don’t have bad news in real estate, at least not this year.”

NAHREP Chicago’s director of membership and the moderator of the webinar, Jose Valdovinos, agreed, noting that especially at the start of the lockdown, many agents needed to be reminded to step away from the negativity swirling around most economic news reporting. “You had to turn off the TV because you got sucked into that world,” he said.

Luis Ortiz, broker-owner of RE/MAX Partners in Berwyn, said he coaches agents to always think back to the reasons for their hard work, which should be incredibly personal to them. “What’s your why? What are you doing this for?” he often asks his associates, noting that focusing on that makes it easier to focus during times of great stress. “My why would be my family and my team.”

Maintaining an upbeat point of view can be difficult under trying circumstances. Saul Pinela, senior mortgage lender with Neighborhood Loans, told webinar attendees he uses a trick every day when he wakes up to get himself into a positive frame of mind. “Journal [about] the things you’re grateful for,” he recommended. “It’s all about your mindset.”

Ortiz and Pinela both noted that working from home gave them extra time to make phone calls and double down on prospecting, both of which are key to creating a full pipeline of leads to propel one’s business after an economic shutdown. Gonzalez offered a very specific line of conversation agents can try out in pursuit of new leads. She recommended calling past clients and letting them know how much they could save by refinancing their mortgages.

“They will send you buyers and sellers … That is a huge incentive for them to refer you,” Gonzalez said. She also noted that she has been doing free market analyses for homeowners to drum up interest in her services.

Sometimes an agent’s work can speak for itself. Gonzalez noted that with less available inventory, her clients’ properties were selling faster during the pandemic-related shutdown than they might in a normal market, which went right along with her narrative about the market. “We put a lot of houses on the market and they all sold right away, and so it kind of spreads,” she said. “When I put houses on the market in the pandemic and they sell even on the ‘coming soon’ [list], they tell the neighbors.”

As a mortgage professional, Pinela has pivoted to helping potential borrowers understand what they need to do to get ready to buy in an era of economic uncertainty. “In some cases we had to focus on improving credit scores,” he said. “Ultimately, that benefits them in the long run.”

And of course, no discussion about how to manage a real estate business during a global pandemic would be complete without touching on the topic of technology. Ortiz admitted that it was a bit of an adjustment to be on camera with agents and clients, but he adapted.

Valdovinos said this represents something of a moment of reckoning for brokers who have traditionally relied on in-person skills to land deals. “The times of saying, ‘Hey, I’m not good with technology,’ it doesn’t really apply anymore,” he said.

With that in mind, the three real estate professionals shared the tech tools that have really made the difference for them during the pandemic. For Pinela, it was mortgage industry customer relationship management software BNTouch. Gonzalez credited task management tool Trello for keeping her team on the same page. And Ortiz said CRM Realvolve has been key to keeping deals flowing for him.

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