Wreaths and wine baskets for clients, strategic planning, new offices, real estate deals and a whole “lotta” 1031s are what a group of agents surveyed by Inman News have going on this time of year.


To paraphrase Mark Twain, everyone knows the holidays are slow, but some people do something about it – or at least some real estate agents, especially the ones we talked with.


Despite the traditional concept of the holiday lull, Realtor Dee Hoendervanger of Home Team Realtors in San Antonio, Texas, is currently busier than ever.


“Here in Texas, what normally would be our slow time did not happen this year,” the Realtor said. “We have a number of people moving here from California because the prices have gone up so much there, they can sell their homes for $800,000 and buy a mansion here for $350,000.”


Hoendervanger said her clients are under the gun to complete 1031 exchanges. “They are selling their houses in California and they have 45 days to lock in properties here and 150 days to close the deal in order to avoid having to pay capital gains tax.”


She said she has two families moving to Texas from California and is also working with military families moving to San Antonio, which has five military bases.


Things are moving at a slower pace for Rich DiBona, an agent at Realty World Neighbors in Hayward, Calif. DiBona is using the down time to do strategic planning for 2006 and touch base with clients to thank them for their business.


“You make a value judgment about what the client is worth to you,” DiBona said. “The clients who have referred business to me or have been a buyer or seller get wreaths or a wine basket.”


Other clients get phone calls and holiday cards “to keep up communication,” DiBona said. “You make the personal contact, make that client feel like they’re the only client in the world.”


DiBona is also planning for 2006, deciding what type of promotions he wants to do, where he will allocate his advertising money, and plotting his marketing methods, he said.


The world of Geri Sonkin, a Realtor with RE/MAX Hearthstone in Merrick, N.Y., is anything but slow right now, she said.


“This time of year traditionally has been busy for me,” Sonkin said. “I’m getting a few new listings and preparing to get those started, and I have a couple of sales in the works. Additionally, I’m fine-tuning my pre-listing package, the material I send out before going on a listing. I’m also updating my Web site and trying to decide what direction my marketing should take.”


Mitch Grashin, a California mortgage broker, said he takes advantage of the slower holiday season by redoubling his efforts.


“I find a lot of people take time off and there’s not a lot of people working, so I work through the month,” said Grashin, a broker at Holmgren Mortgage in Oakland, Calif. “That works for loans and it works for real estate,” said Grashin, who sold real estate with a brokerage firm from the early 1980s through the early 1990s.


“You get some of the best deals this time of year,” said Grashin, who works in the hot Northern California market. “I encourage the buyers who got shut out of multiple offers earlier to come now and get their revenge.”


Like Rich DiBona in California, Margaret Rome, a Baltimore Realtor, is taking advantage of the slow time to network and prepare for next year. She attended the Realtors Triple Play convention Dec. 6-8, in Atlantic City, a regional conference hosted by the New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania Realtor associations.


On the way to the convention, Rome took an online course with her cell phone and her tablet PC as her husband drove, the Coldwell Banker agent said.


Things are hopping for Vickie Downs-Maline in Las Vegas, currently one of the hottest real estate markets in the country. Her company just bought into a real estate franchise and is now Avalar 1-2-3 Realty, the Realtor said.


“We have added six agents and plan to build a new building next year,” said Downs-Maline. “Currently we’re doing training sessions and are in recruitment mode.”


Indeed, most of the agents contacted said they were finding this a busy holiday season. Linda DeVlieg of Albuquerque, N.M., said she has had so much business this week, she hasn’t had time for holiday shopping.


“In the past I have been slow during this time of year and I usually take this time to reorganize my business, do some plans for marketing … the usual,” DeVlieg said in an e-mail message.


Ann Biddell of Realty World Neighbors in Hayward, Calif., said she, too, is busy. “We’re making contacts with people who don’t want to list in December because it’s close to Christmas but are more than willing to go ahead in January and February,” the Realtor said.


Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to janis@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 140.

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