Broker-owners who’ve been in the real estate business for decades have amassed valuable experiences and insights. In this miniseries, “Sharing Knowledge,” brokers reflect on their careers and offer their best tips to help newer real estate professionals survive and thrive in this ever-changing industry.
For her 70th birthday last year, Cynthia Stanley invited her entire real estate database—250 of her closest friends—to celebrate with her. She rented out her housing community’s amenity center and arranged for music and food. Stanley, ABR, CRS, broker-owner at Sea Oats Real Estate in North Myrtle Beach, S.C., admits she’s not a mega producer, and she doesn’t have the largest book of business in her market. But that’s never been her goal. Rather than being a top broker, she’s strived to be the best.
“My desire is to handle the affairs of others in a fair and loving manner that gives them comfort that the decisions made are the best for them,” Stanley says. Now after 30 years, that commitment has allowed her to build a business with nearly 90 percent of her sales coming from past clients’ referrals and other agents who know her. Last year she did nearly $8 million in transactions, and $7.5 million the year before that. She has an assistant who helps her in the areas of the business where she’s weakest, such as marketing, and another who handles all her listings and closings tasks.
Stanley acknowledges that her 18 years in the education field as a math teacher and a curriculum developer for gifted and talented students help her develop the skills needed to guide adults through the biggest transactions of their lives. She sought real estate as a way to challenge herself, expand her career potential, and make more money in a service-driven area catering to tourists and had very little industry. Plus, she’s always been a bit of a control freak, but in a good way, she says. “In any given situation where there needs to be a leader to step forward, I step forward,” says Stanley, even if that means taking on more than she should sometimes.
For those just beginning their career in real estate, Stanley offers these points of wisdom for making relationships the top priority so your business can grow.
Put your client first. It sounds simple, but it takes time, and you must listen to what clients are saying. “I’ve had people come to me after using another agent and told me they were never showed what they wanted to see,” Stanley says. That’s not putting them first, she adds.
Offer something extra to your current and former clients. Stanley recently threw a “shredding party” after the tax season. She hired a recycling company to bring in a shredder and offered a free lunch. “One of my former clients, who now is a friend, didn’t have anything to shred, but just wanted to show up to see me.”
Never show a client a home out of their price range. “If they tell me their budget is $350,000, I won’t show them a $375,000 property unless they say so,” Stanley says.
Muster the strongest work ethic possible. That doesn’t mean working 24/7 or answering client calls at 3 a.m. It means you should give clients your all during your working hours, and always email or call them back as soon as possible, she says.
Know when to take charge. Sometimes you have to step up in a professional manner on behalf of your clients, Stanley says. Always do what’s in their best interest.
Don’t isolate yourself in your office. It’s easy to get stuck in your office all day. It can also happen to agents who work from home, especially as an office manager. Try not to let that happen, Stanley advises. Being around colleagues will help you stay engaged, active, and continue learning.
Don’t let technology be the panacea of all. You can use technology to build a relationship to a point, but face-to-face conversations are the only way to truly get know someone and build trust, Stanley says.
Learn to live off less. A fact of real estate is you’re going to see ups and downs. No matter how far along you are in your real estate career, it’s important to have six months’ worth of reserve money to get through the rough periods. “I used to drive a Mercedes that was missing a portion of a bumper during a bad time in real estate,” Stanley says. When she finally got a new car, her friends joked that couldn’t tell it was her by the car anymore. But they couldn’t have cared less about the type of car she drove in the first place, she says.
Take every education class you can. Never stop learning. Whether you’re a rookie agent or a seasoned broker, take advantage of the real estate classes and events at your local REALTOR® association. Stanley is a big believer in designations (she has three as well as two certifications) because it sets you apart from other real estate professionals.