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Smart Starts:
Rookie Success Stories

Smart Starts
The first couple years in real estate can be tough. These Realtors share their rookie year success secrets.

Taking the leap into the real estate profession can be tough even in the best of times.

While each new sales associate approaches the business in a different way and many rely on past experience in other careers, the successful Realtors we spoke with shared two attributes during their rookie years: enthusiasm for real estate and a dedication to their clients and customers. Whether painting a Web site logo with chalk on a sidewalk, blogging at all hours, delivering gas or pressure washing a house, these sales associates all go beyond the norm to sell a house, help a buyer or develop their network.

Blow Away
When Hurricane Wilma hit in 2005 and damaged his very first listing, sales associate Ron Bissing, with Keller Williams Realty in Boynton Beach, leapt into action. Bissing, who sold $2.5 million his first year, drove hundreds of miles to get gas and battery-operated fans, delivered them to the home and removed dead branches and debris from the property. The house sold within days since it stood out amidst the neighborhood destruction, and within two weeks, Bissing had gained new listings in the area.

Bissing says, “I work 18 hours a day, and my customers know they can call me 24 hours a day. I start every day at 6:30 a.m. by going to church; then I read newspapers and Web sites so I know everything about the market. I spend four hours per day on lead generation, including calling FSBOs. Rather than put the hard sell on these people, I ask them how I can help them. The best time to call the For Sale By Owner clients is on Monday morning, when I can help relieve their stress about another weekend with the house not sold.” While Bissing gets most of his business from his signs and referrals, his FSBO conversions are increasing.

Bissing makes certain he has a presence on every possible Internet site. For every open house, he puts up at least 12 signs, because these signs represent lead generation.

Mother and Daughter Match Their Skills
A lot of mothers and daughters can see each other’s strengths and weaknesses as clearly as Robin and Lisa Thomson, a mother-and-daughter team of Realtors® with Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate in Pinecrest, but not all of them can turn their opposing characteristics into a success story.

The Thomsons signed more than 15 listings after only seven months in business. They attribute their achievement to teamwork, with Robin focusing on cold calling while Lisa follows up with advertising and Internet marketing.

Lisa says that they’ve had 18 listings within a seven-mile radius, which helps them build a market presence.

They work seven days a week, spending one or two hours prospecting every morning. The Thomsons pursue every possible lead by knocking on FSBO doors, calling on expired listings and trying to interview every single person who calls.

“We try to find out what they want, if they have a home to sell or are looking to buy, and we set up an appointment that same day,” says Robin Thomson. “Our computer goes everywhere we go, so we can do the matchmaking right away and find out what buyers like or don’t like about each house and each area.”

Daily Contact
While many recent college graduates are just getting settled in to a new place and searching for a job, sales associate Jason Brody managed to get six listings during his first five months in business. Brody, with Keller Williams Tampa Properties in Tampa, credits his consistency for his success.

“Every day I send out letters to expired listings; then I follow up with what I call a ‘warm call,’ letting the sellers know I will do everything possible to sell their home. I approach FSBOs in the same way,” says Brody, who has $500,000 in sales so far.

Brody’s goal is to contact 75 to 100 people every day through letters, phone calls and e-mails, so he spends 90 minutes to two hours each day on this task. He expects to send out 7,000 business cards by the end of the year, and he networks extensively through his University of South Florida fraternity and campus political connections, along with his neighbors.

Working 24/7
Stopping his car immediately whenever he sees a FSBO sign is just one thing that’s helped William Velasquez, a sales associate with Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate in Coral Gables, close 36 transactions, worth $7.7 million in his first year in business.

Velasquez attributes his success to working 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He used to start every day with one hour of phone calls to generate leads, but now he’s too busy.

A careful planner who keeps his goals in mind every day, Velasquez gives out his business card at every opportunity and has built his business on expired listings and FSBOs.

“I call on expired listings and stop at every FSBO sign, when I see one, to talk to the owner and see the property,” says Velasquez. “I never give up. When an owner asks me to call them back in two months to see if their home has sold, I’ll do that. They’re always surprised to hear from me, and that usually impresses them.”

Driving Up Sales
While some sales associates opt out of driving customers around endlessly, fretting that they might be just “sightseeing,” Sylvia Romagosa says her driving develops referrals.

Romagosa, a sales associate with Capital R.E. Brokers Inc. in Miami, closed more than $2 million and 25 transactions her first year. She uses personalized letters to communicate with the neighbors of her listings. She also e-mails her extensive list of clients, customers and other real estate professionals every time she has a new listing.

“I think the main thing that’s helped is that I try to do things other sales associates don’t do, such as driving someone around for days to show them properties,” says Romagosa. “Sometimes you feel like you’ve wasted your time if the financing falls through and you can’t help a buyer, but then they refer a cousin or a friend.”

Blog, Blog, Blog
At least twice a day, Marc Blasi, boots up his blog, writing about real estate and finance with a touch of humor.

Blasi, a sales associate with Water Front Properties & Club in Jupiter who sold $1.3 million in his first year, says his blog has brought him connections and referrals from around the country.

Each day, Blasi comes into the office by 7 a.m. to check on the MLS hot sheet, update his blog, work on increasing his Internet presence, respond to e-mails and send daily e-mails to what he terms his “Titanic” database.

Blasi spends time with clients and customers in person and on the phone, returning calls the day they are received and answering any kind of question by phone.

“I’m building repeat business, too, by working with renters,” says Blasi. “I look at their credit and their income and help them budget and bring up their credit scores so they can buy a home within the next year.”

Turning Renters into Buyers
Picking the part of the market that no one else wants can sometimes lead to frustrations, but for sales associate Stacy McNall, this strategy has translated into success. McNall, with Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate in Delray Beach, sold more than $3.6 million in her first 18 months, by focusing on the rental market because few sales associates in her office wanted to work that niche.

Sometimes she was able to talk the renters into buying a home, but she also built her business by pursuing every phone call on the homes she was renting [for which she was the property manager]. McNall works 10 hours a day, and during her first six months in business, she continued to work at an upscale restaurant.

“I talked about real estate to every customer at the restaurant, so I was able to build my sphere of influence in high-end properties through my connections there,” says McNall.

McNall credits Coldwell Banker with some of her success and she consistently uses many of their marketing tools. With Coldwell Banker’s “Lead Router” program, her cell phone automatically rings when anyone clicks on any of her listings. She has 15 minutes to respond to the lead or lose it. McNall says people are impressed with that kind of fast response.

Weeding and Washing Her Way into Referrals
While a lot of sales associates talk about customer service, Toni Randall does more than talk. She works. Randall, a sales associate with Watson Realty in Jacksonville, produced $4.6 million in sales volume during her first 14 months as a sales associate. She credits her quick success to staying in touch with everyone in her neighborhood, at open houses and through her previous career connections. Randall sends automatic e-mails at least once per month and sends 500 just-listed and just-sold cards each month. She organizes neighborhood potluck dinners and garage sales to expand her network of connections. And once she gets a listing, she moves into higher gear.

“I will pressure wash for people,” says Randall. “I’ve weeded, mulched, planted, painted and helped people pack. I always deliver boxes to sellers as soon as I get the listing.”

Constant Contact Requires Concentration
Talking to strangers on street corners may not be the typical method used to attract clients, but Karen Wantuck is anything but traditional.

Wantuck, a sales associate with Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate in Sarasota, works from 9 a.m. to midnight every day, building her clientele through constant e-mails and phone calls. In 2006, at age 66, she moved to Sarasota without a sphere of influence, yet closed seven transactions in her first year. Her office is in a prime location with plenty of walk-in traffic, so she’s developed leads by working at the desk often, mostly by standing at the door to talk with passersby about the homes that are listed.

Wantuck’s e-mail program automatically sends messages touting listings every two days, or for clients and customers who want less contact, she can set the program to send the e-mails weekly or monthly. At least twice a week, Wantuck tours as many new homes as possible to familiarize herself with what’s on the market.

“Real estate is a lot like the game ‘Concentration,’ where you have to match up people with properties, even if it’s one you saw weeks ago,” says Wantuck.

Michele Lerner is a Washington, D.C.-based freelance writer.