When I was a little tyke (many, many years ago) I loved to watch the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show – and my favorite segment was the Peabody and Sherman’s Improbable History segment. Peabody was a genius dog who adopted an orphan boy (Sherman) and found he needed some playground to keep Sherman occupied. To keep Sherman busy, he invented the Wayback Machine – a time machine that modified history to be “the way it probably should have been.” (for a laugh – visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YunO4Wc8E28 )
Now, so you don’t think I have lost it completely and have begun phase one of my second childhood, I will explain why I bring this up.
Many of us have started to look back fondly to the days of old (2002 – 2007) as we recall with ease the days of simply turning FSBO’s (for sale by owner) into full listings with a quick phone call. Or we remember how easy it was to convert expired listings into our happy clients by just telling them how we would have done things differently. Often we can also recall how we were able to count on a listing or two every time we found the courage to mail out a few hundred postcards. Ahhhh the good old days – right? Or is this our version of Real Estate’s Improbable History? Like Sherman, we have found a way to change the past to be what we would like it to have been. But it never was that easy, was it? It took creativity and hard work.
Well, just like it was not easy in the past, it is not easy today to create business opportunities. Note that I didn’t say it was harder – or even different. It is not easy today just like it was not easy a few years ago. But we did it then and we can do it now. We just need to look in different places, find new opportunities, and work at the business.
Here are a few opportunities that I know of, besides the obvious short sale and REO opportunities that we hear about every day:
Stay in Place Support
I have invested many hours in this area lately. I have found that most homeowners (especially the ones who need it the most) do not know much about the recent laws and tools that will help them keep their homes. They have heard that you should never pay someone upfront to get a modification, but they do it anyway. They have heard about the Making Home Affordable programs, but usually have no clue as to getting started. You might make a friend and get some business by reaching out to these folks and helping them get on the right track.
Be up front and clear about your services. Make sure that you operate within the laws of your state. And it goes without saying – always keep their interest in front of your own.
Investment Opportunity Specialist
We have recently made it a practice to search daily for the new listings in our area. We are looking for the true bargains out there, and we are finding them. Once we find them, we contact our growing list of investor prospects to let them know what is available. We are growing this list, by the way, through open homes, our sphere of influence and mostly ads on CraigsList! It is amazing, but this free tool has become one of our most successful tools in prospecting.
Tax Abatement Support
In our state (please check with your local government) it is possible to request a reassessment (however temporary) in the hopes of getting a break on your property taxes. For instance, our taxes are calculated as a percentage of our purchase price with annual capped increases. Given the recent drop in values, many tax authorities are willing to reduce the assessment based on recent comparable sales, for the coming year. As an example, my own taxes went from a high of $9700.00 to the current $5600.00 as a result of a tax appeal.
What if you then went to your neighbors and friends and offered to help them put a package together for the tax authority? Would they be interested? Naturally, you would have to be very clear that this is not a guaranteed program and you are going to help them by gathering the information they will need. But as long as they understand (and are willing to sign that they understand the risks) you should be able to garner a reasonable fee. In the event you are able to get them a handsome tax reduction, then you will become their friend for life.
The Opportunities are Unlimited
Use your imagination. Put yourself in the client’s shoes. What do they need today that they are having trouble finding? Find a need and fill it! Use your expertise and abilities to help people, then get paid for your efforts. But think outside the box. Try to not be locked into the “way we always worked” thinking that is a result of your own personal Wayback machine. It is never easy, but it is possible to make a living in any market condition. It requires an understanding of the real need, the ability to fill the need and a lot of hard work designed to let people know about it.
Jack Harper is a longtime REALTOR and author who is an avid proponent of the consulting model in today's real estate market. He believes in providing fair and professional service and being paid a fair and reasonable fee for those services every time he is engaged by a client, whether there is a sale involved or not. He advocates allowing the consumer to have full choice in terms of the services and is an evangelist for the consulting model.