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9 Ways to Save a Buck
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Want to be more profitable? Then take a look at where your money’s going. Here are some simple ways to save a buck.

For Florida real estate professionals, operating efficiently is the key to profitability. That means brokers, managers and sales associates need to take a close look at their expenses on a regular basis and cut back on any unnecessary costs. Here are 9 tips to consider.

General
1. Look for the lowest price. Susan Kane Carr, a sales associate with Charles Rutenberg Realty Inc. in St. Petersburg, makes it a point to shop around for the best price on Internet Web hosting, printing, software and other services. “In many cases, my broker and our local Board have negotiated discounts with vendors,” she says. “But if I can find a cheaper price myself, I go for it. That’s [cut my expenses by] 5 to 50 percent, depending on the product or service.”

2. Join a team. Working as a team allows you to pool your resources and share expenses like Web site hosting and updating, phone, equipment and advertising, says Amanda Rose, a sales associate with Realty Executives Adamo & Associates in Seminole. Rose joined another associate’s six-person team in May 2007. “I spent at least $3,000 on advertising in 2006. Now, the team does the advertising,” says Rose, who was able to stop investing in her own Web site since her team has an effective site. “That saved $45 a month,” she says, “and having property fliers printed by our team cuts my costs another $50 a month.”

3. Install a virtual switchboard. Cynthia Guerrero, broker-owner of Castle Realty in Orlando, saved time and money by using an automated switchboard [www.onebox.com] with a personal toll-free number to handle contacts from prospective buyers. With a basic system, priced at about $50 a month, calls are answered with a prerecorded professional greeting and forwarded to an office, cell or home phone. Faxes can be sent via e-mail. Incoming calls are tracked, and they can be combined with a contact database as well.

Marketing
4. Look for free online bulletin boards. Many regional markets have free bulletin board services that accept property listings. “We post to craigslist (www.craigslist.org—a consumer-focused local community bulletin board), ActiveRain (http://activerain.com—an online community for real estate professionals) and Zillow (www.zillow.com—a free home-valuation service),” says Janie Coffey, owner-broker of Papillon Real Estate LLC in Coral Gables. “Altogether, our Miami-Dade listings reach about 50 sites—all free.”

5. Think classified rather than display ads. To reduce advertising costs, David Heroux, a sales associate with Tropic Shores Realty in Spring Hill, uses the classifieds. “It’s too expensive to purchase the large display ad placements,” he says. “And [I’ve found] classifieds work just as well.”

6. Write a real estate column. Rather than advertise, Brett Slattery a sales associate with Keller Williams Realty in Englewood, writes a regular column on the front page of five regional newspapers that reach 40,000 to 100,000 paid subscribers, depending on the season. “I enjoy writing about timely real estate topics, and the papers appreciate my contributions,” he says. “While I don’t get paid for my columns, I would have to spend $50,000 a year [in advertising] to generate the same amount of name recognition. And, no amount of money can buy a spot on the front page. Slattery adds that his columns help drive traffic to his blog (http://brettslattery.blogspot.com) and Web site (http://brettslattery.com).

7. Create your own publication. Nine Keller Williams offices recently pooled their resources, hired a publisher and created a free monthly magazine distributed at area shopping centers. “Each one of our agents pays $35 a month,” says Kris Deren, team leader, Keller Williams Elite Properties, Aventura. “Our associates love this because it saves them money with classified ads and display ads, and it helps them get new listings.” 

Office/Overhead
8. Review your office hours. Opening a half hour later in the morning can cut overhead costs for realty offices that have little early walk-in or phone traffic. On the other hand, Paul McRae, president, Galleria Collection of Fine Homes, Fort Lauderdale, keeps his Las Olas Boulevard office open until 11 p.m. some nights to attract passing shoppers. “We cut back on costly print media, and have found this is a good alternative,” he says.

9. Go green and save money.  Put all your forms and paper communications on an intranet site (accessible only to sales associates with a password), says Beth Butler, chief operating officer of Esslinger-Wooten-Maxwell Realtors® Inc. (EWM) in Coral Gables.  “In every real estate office there’s a huge wall of forms and printed pieces, which frequently change. All [associates] should have access to a computer either at home or at the office. Stop printing and start publishing on your intranet site,” she says. “The Florida Association of Realtors (FAR) has all the forms you can think of already accessible online. E-mail your memos and reports if your company does not maintain an intranet site. For contracts, we’re about to pilot an electronic signature site to cut those fax and courier charges even more.”


Richard Westlund is a Miami-based freelance writer.