The real estate market always slows down a bit during the holiday season — especially here in Minnesota, where we can usually expect epic cold weather and a few feet of snow.
Over the years I’ve had some pretty strong fourth quarters. I am always ready for business, and try to be prepared for anything. We never know who is going to be in town for the holidays or who will have a real estate emergency.
Last year I showed a home on Christmas Eve and wrote an offer on the same home on New Year’s Eve. The buyers were flexible, and so was I. We were able to work it out so that the transaction did not interfere with family holiday plans.
This year the inventory of homes on the market it at an all-time low. Being in sales can be tough. It’s easier when there is something to sell.
Every year there are the people who are waiting until after the first to put their homes on the market. It would be nice if I could put them on the market today, but sellers are usually resistant to the idea. It’s their decision, not mine.
Business really picks up after the holidays, and I think January 2013 is going to be a busy one. Unless, of course, we fall off the fiscal cliff and go into yet another recession.
The holiday season slowdown is a great time for getting organized and cleaning up from last year. It’s a good time to get ready for the new year while taking advantage of social and networking opportunities. Here is a list of things that can be done in those weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day that will help drum up business and help us prepare for the new year:
1. Attend holiday social events.
2. Schedule lunches, evening drinks or coffee with as many friends, neighbors, past clients, vendors and competitors as possible.
3. Revisit this year’s business plan and fix it up all nice and pretty for the next year — complete with measurable goals, tasks and a budget.
4. Write blog posts about getting a home ready to sell, how to price a home, and how to choose a real estate agent. Link to the posts from social media accounts like Facebook, Pinterest, Google+ and Twitter to generate more traffic. Cold weather usually means a decrease in foot traffic and an increase in website traffic. People start doing their homework online months before they contact an agent.
5. Read a book or two. Create and keep a reading list all year long of business books and books with ideas or practical advice.
6. Make five phone calls each day Monday through Friday during the month of December, excluding the holidays. Call friends and past clients and wish them a happy New Year. That doesn’t sound like much, but it is huge.
7. Take pictures of local businesses and parks all decked out for the holidays and share them on the Internet on social networks and blogs. There is gold in those photographs, and good karma too. They start conversations, and help promote local businesses and neighborhoods.
8. Buy items for my business like computer, phones or software to take advantage of seasonal discounts and tax deductions.
9. Use any spare time to tweak online profiles, websites and blogs and get rid of accounts that are not being used. Get rid of clutter on the computer, in the cloud and around the office.
10. Walk at least a mile every day. Walking burns calories, is free, clears the mind, and relieves stress. It is also a way to get from one place to another.
I have always started each day with a to-do list, and that is especially important when business is slow. I have to stay focused so that I don’t squander my time in Facebook groups discussing "raising the bar" or trying to reform NAR.
I still do the to-do list the old fashioned way — on a piece of paper, crossing off items as I complete them.
There are several social events on my calendar, but I treat them as work time and prepare for them accordingly.
Being out and about during the holidays, or any time of the year, is good for business. Even working in public places like a local coffee shop helps.
When business is slow we can not let it slow us down.
Most of us understand that technology can help us stay in touch with people and improve communication, but nothing beats going out and meeting people face-to-face. During the holidays there are numerous opportunities to reconnect with old friends and to make new ones.
Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.
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