How to grow your real estate business: Be proactive, not reactive

If you walk into your office without a plan, you will end up part of someone else's plan.

How to grow your real estate business: Be proactive, not reactive
Photo by Marten Bjork / Unsplash

I find reactive days challenging.

You can't plan anything. You get pulled from pillar to post running around after other people, and at the end of the day, all the important but not urgent tasks you wanted to accomplish have fallen by the wayside: taking that walk, phoning that old friend, eating a healthy lunch, writing that thank you card. Not a chance. You go home tired, but not feeling any closer to success.

If you zoom out for a moment and think about what being in reactive mode does to one day, imagine what it does to your business long term.

A reactive real estate business lacks intention, and that leads to inconsistent sales (if any), irregular income patterns, and often, more challenging clients.

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How does this happen?

When you are reactive, your time focus is dictated by your clients:

Someone phones up wanting to view that house you've had on the market for 90 days. You're desperate for a sale before you lose the listing and you haven't planned anything else in your diary, so you jump in your car and drive across town to meet the buyer, only to discover they are a grizzly investor looking for a bargain and they want to offer $300k below asking price.

That's 2 hours wasted. More if you write up the offer and present it. Plus you feel crappy on top of it all knowing you wasted your time. Your hopes of a sale are crushed.

Later that day, your colleague asks for help with an appraisal. They offer to share the listing if you get it, so you agree to help. Turns out it's a monolithic-clad home on top of a windy hill, with no code-compliance certificate. Your colleague has no idea where to price it and neither do you, but you spend the next 2+ hours talking it through and trying to find comparables because again, you haven't planned anything more important to do.

That's 3 hours wasted today, plus another 3-5 hours preparing for and completing the listing presentation, and potentially 100+ hours wasted if you end up with the listing on your books for the next 3 months.

Does any of this sound familiar?

If you walk into your office without a plan, you will end up part of someone else's plan. And in real estate, there are a lot of people who are happy to waste your time. Truth be told, it's not that they intend to waste your time, they actually think they are doing you a favour - coming to view your listing, or inviting you along to an appraisal. But we have to see these situations for what they are: Time caverns with little chance of turning into commission-generating business.

It's time to flip the script and be proactive, rather than reactive.

Three words to rule your day: Dollar Productive Activity

From now on, you're all about that DPA.

You will take proactive steps to ensure that most of your day is spent on income-generating activity that will help you build a thriving real estate business.

Step 1: Build a list of Dollar Productive Activities.

This is your menu of options for each day in the office. Pick a few tasks each morning to complete with the highest priority and urgency. Here are some ideas:

  • Send a newsletter to your database with an Agent Monday feature article. If you want regular income, you need to communicate regularly and establish your position as the go-to real estate expert.
  • Connect with your list of past appraisals / potential vendors. It might be a phone call, emailing them an updated CMA, or texting them about a recent sale near their home. Be creative. Carry this list with you everywhere.
  • Connect with your A-Buyers. Strictly the clients with finance approved who have shown they are ready to offer when the right home comes up. Or buyers who have an existing home to sell.
  • Connect with your key referrers. Who is your favourite property manager? Solicitor? Builder? Painter? Mortgage adviser? Take them out for coffee or lunch. Build a referral relationship. These people are talking to new potential sellers every week.
  • Have a one-on-one with your manager. Stuck with a tricky listing? Need some motivation? Ask for help. Your manager probably has the answer.
  • Have a review meeting with one of your vendors. The quickest way to make your listings more saleable is to spend time face-to-face with your owners. Ask this key question: "If we were sitting here with an unconditional offer right now, what would you accept?"
  • Visit foreign listings (properties on the market with another agent). It's a tough market, other agents are getting bored or lazy and those owners still want to sell. No one goes on the market for fun. As my manager used to say: Sometimes it's the second mouse that gets the cheese.
  • Run a direct mail campaign using an Agent Monday article. Try 'Tips for Upsizing Your Home'.

For more DPA ideas, check out our Agent Advice guides.

Step 2: Plan your day before you walk into the office

If you want to be proactive, you need to have a plan. My favourite approach is to use a 1/3/5 to-do list. It's made up of 1 key task to get done that day. 3 important tasks you would like to get done if possible, and 5 bonus tasks you will take on if you have time. Here's an example list:

1 Key Task:

3 Important Tasks:

  • Book review meetings with owners of 28 Main Road and 34 Smith St
  • Phone 3 past appraisals and send 2 updated CMA's
  • Visit 3 foreign listings.

5 Bonus Tasks

  • Book coffee with mortgage adviser
  • Setup weekly one-on-one with your office manager
  • Book a night out with your partner, spouse, kid or friend.
  • Phone 5 A-Buyers
  • Read an Agent Monday advice guide
Conquer your to-do-list with the 1-3-5 rule
Do you find it hard to tick off everything on your to do list? You are not alone. Most of us start each day with grand intentions - scribbling down a long list of seemingly important tasks, only to get pulled in twenty different directions once the phone starts ringing

Your daily 1-3-5 list is strictly for Dollar Productive Activity, or important personal actions like taking your Wife out for lunch, going to the gym, or calling a friend.

The benefit of a list like this is that it leaves room for all the other stuff that real estate throws your way. It's impossible to plan a day down to the hour or be too specific because real estate simply doesn't work like that. You will have to be reactive in some spots. What's important is being able to go home at the end of each day knowing you ticked off some of that Dollar Productive Activity!

Examples of non-Dollar Productive Activity

Some jobs feel like important real estate work but they aren't actually dollar productive. Avoid these tasks as much as humanly possible:

  • Re-designing your business card
  • Working on your email templates
  • Ordering a new laptop
  • Talking about the current market with your colleagues
  • Bitching about a tricky buyer with your colleagues
  • Looking at new listings on property portals
  • Reading real estate magazines
  • Tidying up your database
  • Looking at social media
  • Posting on social media
  • Getting your hair done
  • Shopping for new clothes
  • Following up low-priority buyers
  • Tidying up your website

If you're not careful, you can quickly fill your day with activities from the list above. You might feel like you are working, but I can guarantee if you spend most of your time on the tasks above, you won't like the look of your income statement at the end of the year.

Stick to Dollar Productive Activities instead.

In the words of Margot Robbie: "We're not here to f*ck spiders..."

Step 3: Start using a weekly activity checklist

Create a one-page weekly checklist which outlines your key business-building activities for the week.

Keep it with you wherever you go.

It should also include your bigger marketing goals for the year, like getting your car sign-written or setting up a website. Along with a space to add the steps required to make those goals happen.

Download my personal checklist: Microsoft Word-friendly | PDF

On the power of checklists...
The key to creating consistent income in real estate is to consistently follow a plan.

One last note on buyers...

Of all the time-sucks out there, the two referenced at the top of this guide are the biggest. Namely, low-priority buyers and hard-to-sell listings.

Even in a market like this, you need to qualify your buyers or you'll spend hours chasing deals that are never going to happen. Obviously, we're not going to discriminate against anyone, so if somebody wants to view your listing, take them through. But be careful with your time. Make sure those viewings fit into your schedule after you have completed your Dollar Productive Activities. Don't drop everything to service C-Buyers.

How do you know if someone is an A Buyer?

Ask these 3 questions, courtesy of the incomparable David Knox:

  • How soon do you need to move?
  • How many properties have you looked at already?
  • Are you in a position to buy now? Ie. If you found the right home today, would you buy it?

If they give good answers to all of the above, then you can drop everything and help them. If not, your DPA must come first.