When you’re first starting out in real estate, it can be a tricky thing to know what you will and won’t need as a new agent. As you get bombarded with paperwork from the associations, exam study materials, broker information and more legal language than most can wrap their heads around, what often gets lost when starting out is a solid, executable plan. Included in that plan should be, but often isn’t, a strategy around what should be immediately invested in technology-wise and where time should be spent. It’s a difficult balance – and many agents get thrown in their first year, either spending too much or too little, and often on devices and programs they’ll never use again. If you just starting out as a new real estate agent, first of all, WELCOME. Contrary to popular public belief, real estate is an amazing profession that can lead you to a lifetime of income, opportunities, and staunch relationships.
Secondly, here are the 5 essentials I think every real estate agent should have when they’re new to the industry:
#1: A Smartphone
When starting out in real estate, you have to be able to communicate with the most people in the most number of ways to be able to build up your sphere. You also have to be able to communicate in a quick, timely fashion. When you’re operating with a 1990′s flip-phone, this becomes somewhat of an impossibility. With the advent of smartphones, consumers were able to live untethered lives – and so were real estate agents. Today, there is a wide range of smartphones to choose from. You can live happily in either the Android or the Apple camp, or even in the Blackberry camp, but one camp or another, you need to own a smartphone. You also have to know how to use that smartphone. This includes being able to access and answer email, browse the web, install and operate apps your ideal clients frequent, use apps that will make your life easier and more productive, and yes, how to make a phone call on that phone. Something that I’ve also noticed agents are remiss in is learning how to mute their phones in the midst of a class or settlement – learn how to use your volume buttons!
#2: A Computer
It should go without saying in this day and age, and yet I’m still asked the question, “Do we really need our own computer in the real estate business?”
A computer, whether it be a desktop or a laptop, is an essential. It should have a complete keyboard (I’ve seen agents using ones with missing keys), with the ability to hook into a wireless network, and with the ability to access programs you and your broker use in the real estate business. Before you invest in a computer, you need to know what is going to work best for you, your workflow and your broker’s systems. For example, if you join a paperless office, you need to know how the various programs used function with a Windows 8 machine versus an Apple operating system. You also have to think about mobility when considering the difference between buying a desktop and a laptop. (And if it’s laptop versus tablet, go laptop – it’s more versatile.) Are you primarily going to be using your machine at home or in an office? Do you prefer to do paperwork at a Starbucks? How much do you travel? The answers to these questions will help you identify what product you’re leaning toward.
#3: A Contact Management System
You sometimes hear a contact management system called a “CRM” or “Client Relationship Management” system in the real estate industry. Whatever you call it, don’t just talk about it – actually find one and use it. A contact management system can be as simple as an Excel spreadsheet, or as complicated as a Top Producer or Salesforce program. When starting out, don’t overdo it. Chances are good that you don’t need a lot of bells and whistles when you’re first finding your feet, so choose something that feels comfortable to you and that you know you’ll use every single day. Another important feature is being able to export those contacts; some time down the line in your career, you may want to trade up for another system, and you want to be able to do that quickly and easily. Some of the contact management systems that get a lot of mention from people include Contactually, Realty Juggler and Wise Agent, but don’t discount what your broker is offering. Whatever CRM you end up choosing, use it. It’s not only your way of making money today, it’s your way of making money for months and years to come.
#4: A Filing and/or Storage System
As you first set out in real estate, you need to have systems in place. One of those – a contact management system – I discussed above. Another system you should have in place is an idea of how to store both online and paper documents. Real estate produces a lot of documentation and electronic files. From unused .jpgs of your listings to graphic design ideas to lender information to client emails to the actual contracts (plus contingencies plus addenda)…it all adds up. If you don’t have a strategy to organize and control this information, it can quickly get out of control or, even worse, lost. File folders placed in accordion files are all well and good, but consider scanning those paper documents as they come in to be stored on your hard drive (desktop or laptop) or in a secure place in the cloud. Be aware of laws regarding private information (social security numbers, banking data, etc.) when you choose the proper online storage system. Although popular, Dropbox currently doesn’t have the features to meet many states’ online privacy laws. Why would you want documents in the cloud? If you’re trying to be a mobile agent, or if you want to travel, having documents where you can easily access them from anywhere in the world is going to make it simpler to be a full-time, successful agent.
#5: A Marketing Plan
Before you begin working with clients, you need a plan. You need to know what happens if you get a new contact or a new lead (CRM). You need to know what you’re doing with the paperwork that might come in electronically or otherwise (a filing/storage system). You need to know how to communicate with people, and give them what they want, when they want it (via smartphone and computer). And you need to know how to tell the world that you’re a real estate agent and really? You’re AWESOME. It can be tricky to do that while you’re trying to juggle everything else as you first start out, which is why you need a marketing plan. Here are some questions to ask yourself as you prepare that plan:
- How much money are you going to invest to offline (newsletter, postcard, flyer) marketing?
- How much money do you need to invest in business cards? Signs?
- What about online marketing – how much are you going to invest?
- What website are you going to use as your main hub?
- What online advertising, if any, are you going to engage in?
- What are you going to offer your sellers in both off- and online marketing?
- Most importantly, how are you going to target your audience in both online and offline marketing to get the most return on your investment?
With these 5 essentials to start you off, you’re on your way to a stellar real estate career. You’ve got this!