8: Holidays and Real Estate
People get invited to so many Christmas parties, but can you tell me how many Groundhog Day parties you get invited to?
About This Episode
The holidays are a time to disconnect and spend time with family, but real estate's a unique industry with some unique requirements, and sometimes disconnecting isn't possible - or even a good idea.
On this episode, we dive in to what the holidays mean for the real estate industry, including why it may be a great time to carve out a niche for your business. Featuring advice from experts Joe Sinnona, Michael McAllister, Eden Elder, and Jill Malloy, we see that listing your house during the holidays can actually have a great outcome.
Realtor.com's research into real estate's equivalent of Black Friday:
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JON: It may be hard to believe, but the holidays are upon us. This episode is going up the day before Thanksgiving, and even though turkey day is the earliest it could possibly be this year, everyone knows how quickly December tends to fly by. The end of the year is not far off. In the world of real estate, the holiday season has a reputation as being a slow time, a welcome respite from the busy spring and summer seasons, and it offers a chance for agents to plan for the upcoming year. But what does that kind of planning look like? And is it even fair to already close the book on 2018’s real estate deals?
JON: Welcome to Shop Talk: The Real Estate Show. I’m Jon Forisha, and on this episode we explore how holidays affect the real estate industry.
JON: Across all industries, this time of year is rife with PTO days and unusual work schedules. Many businesses slow down during the holidays while people take time off to be with their families, but it’s especially true in real estate, where so much of the homebuying process means getting out and physically driving from house to house. When the weather’s bitterly cold in much of the country, thoughts of packing up all your worldly possessions and moving to a new house can easily be pushed a few months out.
JON: Joe Sinnona has been an agent in Long Island for 30 years and travels the country giving seminars on real estate topics. He’s one of those proactive agents that starts planning for the new year in October, and he advises using the holiday season as a time to go farming for new clients.
JOE: During the holidays when people are taking off, I'm generally working, because, during those times, we can send them a calendar for the following year. You can send them a sheet of the top 10 reasons to list your home during the holidays. There's so many things to do so you can go what we call farming in the communities. Extend a helping hand at a charity or a soup kitchen during Thanksgiving. On Valentine's Day, go to an organization, for example, that raises money for the heart foundation. They have all sorts of interesting little ideas so that people can get involved. Agents can use those holidays in any season to further their business because a lot of people identify with all of this. For me, it's one of those no brainers, you know, that you're going to have to go out there and be part of that community that gives back.
JOE: You have to be very careful with religious holidays and respect them. Because, you know, people do look at what you're doing. You don't necessarily have to be Jewish to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, for example. But if you're open for business and you're conducting business on those holidays where people are either going to a temple or shool or a Catholic church or a mosque. You know, you have to respect people. Just to have a basic knowledge of those religions and cultures, even cultures, is something that I've incorporated into my business so that, you know, we don't offend people when we're out in the public, there are certain cultures where people don't shake hands, ladies don't shake hands with realtors. Then there's cultures where when we hand a business card to somebody, we do it with two hands, you know, so I would just say respect the culture, get to know other cultures and religions and just carry on with your business that way.
JON: Unsurprisingly, Black Friday has become the busiest shopping day of the year because it officially kicks off the gift-giving portion of the holiday season. According to the National Retail Federation, around 30 percent of annual retail sales occur in that little over a month of time between Black Friday and Christmas. With each successive Black Friday, sales shift to become more and more online, with 2017 bringing in a record $7.9 billion from online purchases.
JON: NAR’s 2017 profile of home buyers and sellers found that 51% of buyers first found their home online. Clearly America is in the throes of consumerism on Black Friday, and a majority of homebuyers use the internet as a primary tool in their home search, so do the two trends intersect? The answer is KIND OF.
JON: In 2015, REALTOR.com put together some research on the subject, which is linked in our show notes. They found that house searches take a dip on Thanksgiving and into Black Friday, but then they bounce back up to normal levels on Saturday. For the year of 2014, the real estate industry’s equivalent to Black Friday, when real estate internet searches were at their highest, was actually December 28. Maybe by that point everyone had spent enough time in their current house to be sick of it and they wanted something new.
JON:Now, this is all just based on internet searches, which doesn’t give the full picture. If someone does decide to list their house in November or December, they’re not totally out of luck. Depending on who you talk to, listing during the holidays could actually be a great idea. The looky-loos are done for the year, and only those who are truly serious about closing - and closing fast - are out on the prowl.
JON: Michael McAllister is the founder and co-CEO of The CE Shop and at one point he was the youngest licensed broker in the state of Colorado. He’s learned through years of working in the industry that the holidays present a unique opportunity for the motivated buyer or seller to skip the usual real estate distractions and seal the deal. Here’s Michael:
MICHAEL: Holidays are a time for families to kind of remove themselves from the business of life and school and all that. To spend time together. So for a real estate professional to be progressive and to be successful in their career, you have to have the attention of your consumer. You have to create urgency around whatever their desired outcome is, whether that's the purchase of a piece of property or the sale of a piece of property. So the holidays typically slow down, you know, you'll see showing activity dramatically decrease, you'll see transaction volume decrease towards the tail end of the year. What I would suggest though is there are opportunities to take advantage of that quieter time. I've made multiple personal property acquisitions during the last 30 days of the year, sometimes right around new year's because anything that's on the market, a property that's on the market during that time, clearly the owner wants to sell it. So there's an opportunity to come in and maybe make some buys or help your clients make some buys during that period of time. So if you can get your consumer's attention during those holiday times and let them know that there may be some low hanging fruit out there to go make an acquisition. I think that's a great strategy.
JON: When you run your own business, it can be difficult to juggle all the necessary jobs. Though your business plan might include a fancy org chart, there isn’t enough money in the budget to staff it, and besides, you can’t knock the feeling that you really should be out there knocking on doors and kissing babies and helping old ladies cross the street so you can earn their business and keep the lights on.
JON: The holiday season is a great time to take off some of the other hats your business makes you wear, and to be the face of your business. Prospecting and earning new clients is arguably the most valuable skill that any agent can develop, and during the holidays, when you have less pending contracts, is the perfect time to flex those muscles.
JON: Eden Elder is a broker with Equity Colorado. Working around the Denver area, she specializes in luxury homes, where she can draw from her past experience working as an executive in the corporate business world. Here’s Eden:
EDEN: I think holidays are great for prospecting. So I see myself in my business with multiple hats on, right? I wear the CEO hat, which to me is all about prospecting. I wear the COO hat, which is the operational hat, and basically includes tactical work involved in buying or selling homes. So this is where I'm out and about with buyers looking at houses or this is where I'm conducting a meeting to win a listing. And I also wear the CFO hat, the financial hat, which is a small one and it just includes good bookkeeping and strategic financial management. But I find that most of my time is spent between wearing the CEO hat and my COO hat and it's very easy to fall into the trap of being busy. And busy, you know, without the results, is just being busy. But in the end, if you don't prospect, if you don't wear that CEO hat, you won't have business down the line.
EDEN: So to me, the holiday season is absolutely perfect to get in touch with your past clients, to get in touch with your future clients. You don't know who they are yet, and to really strengthen your CEO muscles. If holidays give you the time off and the opportunity to list your house, I'd say go for it. It's different for everyone you know. It's a very personal decision whether or not to list over the holidays. I can tell you from my own experience that I've used the extra vacation days around the holidays to look for houses and even bought some. There will always be people in need of houses and there are definitely some perks when you list over the holidays. And a big one for me is that you don't have to spend a whole lot of time worrying about how your yard looks like. Right and that may get super pretty. So you know what, if you can handle listing your house over the holidays, more power to you, and I will happily be your realtor because you know to me there is nothing more fun than to hold an open house with a holiday theme. It creates a very special ambiance and it puts people in a buying mode and I think there are lots of opportunities there.
JON: Having a flexible work schedule is a major reason that a lot of people chose to get into real estate in the first place. Many working agents cherish the ability to say they never have to work on Tuesdays, or that they’re able to stay home with the kids during the day while their spouse is out of the house. When the market’s slow during the holidays and there aren’t too many pending transactions, it’s definitely tempting to take the time off.
JON: Everyone else is doing it, after all, and what better time to disconnect and be able to spend time with your non-real estate friends and family? Not so fast, though! Just because the industry as a whole slows down, that doesn’t mean your business has to. In real estate, you get what you give, and if you give it your all during the holidays, you just might carve out a profitable niche for yourself.
JON: Jill Malloy is the National Real Estate Expert at The CE Shop, responsible for coordinating a nationwide team of subject matter experts in order to create the best online courses possible. Through her long career in real estate, Jill learned that holidays were a great time to keep in touch with potential and past clients, though she recommends doing so in a unique way. Here’s Jill:
JILL: Well real estate is all about networking. If you understand that about it, then you know, keeping in touch with people you know, whether you just know them initially, as a client or whether they are friends or people you went to school with, then holidays are one time when we send, keep people apprised of where we are and who we are and what's going on. So I would say that holidays give an opportunity to reach out to people who you know already, but I'm going to tell you what I really think is smart. Pick the minor holidays. People get invited to so many Christmas parties. They have to pick and choose, but can you tell me how many groundhogs day parties you get invited to? So pick a minor holiday or two and you make it yours - and with the last name Malloy, mine was always St Patrick's Day.
JON: All right. If an agent goes on vacation, if they want to disconnect and try to relax, should they completely disconnect from their business?
JILL: Ideally I would be able to say, well, of course! Everybody deserves to get away. Of course everybody should be able to go on vacation. Being on the beach to not think about business, but the truth of the matter is when you're in real estate sales, you're helping people with a huge transaction. They depend on you at least in some way. Okay. Here's what I would say. You have to first know where you are with respect to transactions. Do you have any that are in process that could become problematic and then you have to know this client, are they going to feel no matter who you have covering for me, some clients are never going to feel good unless it is me helping them and that may not be right, but the truth is some people get so attached to you that they just don't feel comfortable, you know, how you sometimes are about a doctor and they could give you the best person in the world, the best specialists in the world. But you don't want specialists. You want to talk to your doctor. Real estate agents are the same way with their people sometimes. And so you have to think through, who are my clients who have transactions pending? Do I need to at least stay in touch with them even though I have someone at home covering for me? And finally you have to think about yourself just a little bit. Are you the sort of person who can turn off and trust it to someone else? Or are you able to in your own little self understand that somebody can do this? And who else can, and I think for a lot of us in this business, that's a hard thing to come to grips with.
JON: You remind me of the movie, What About Bob?
JON: When you’re just starting out in real estate, the ebbs and flows of business can be disconcerting. You might have an incredible two months followed by months so slow that you wonder if you’ll make it through. The important thing is to use the slow times to plan for the hectic times, because as much as it may sometimes not seem like it, real estate is always cyclical and the good times are just around the bend.
JON: That’s it for this episode of Shop Talk, thanks for listening! Be sure to leave us a review on whatever podcast player you use. Join us next time as I sit down with Linda Nystrom, Managing Broker at Envision Realty in Colorado.
JON: Shop Talk is a production of The CE Shop.