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Visiting Shelter Island for the first time in 1995, Penelope immediately fell in love with its simplicity and tranquility, and bought a house there. Two years later, she began selling residential real estate there, and after the events of 9/11 moved out East full time. Penelope also handled two transactions that were each the highest sale on Shelter Island in its history. We recently had the opportunity to sit down with her and ask her what it is she does each day to help grow her business, and what advice she has for those looking to work more effectively with sellers.
What are the 3 most effective things you do every day to grow your business?
I think of community, creativity, and approach.
- Where community is concerned, real estate is not always about selling but supporting community. That can include charitable activities, but is more often giving guidance to owners when they are trying to explore solutions to frequently unanticipated life events, such as the passing of a loved one, divorce, illness, or financial issue, and how their property fits into the equation. I try to listen, empathize and relate scenarios where other people have gone through similar experiences so that the owner can make informed decisions. I also try to remember past clients and customers by sending them a card or giving them a call. So much communication these days is done by email, when people hear from someone through a greeting card they are often very pleasantly surprised.
- Much of my real estate work includes creativity. Photographs are always important, but there are times the ability to observe and convey what is inside and outside of a home can make a difference, from a wise looking old copper beech tree in the yard, to geese coming in for a landing on a placid pond outside a house, to a sunny window seat looking out to a trellis of roses. Much of what goes into buying a home is, after all, how a person will feel when, after the sale, they live there. The process of buying real estate can be so stressful, a customer may not notice these details, so I point out nuances when showing or listing a house.
- The approach to working with buyers and sellers entails so many aspects that can seem confusing; After all, most people don’t buy or sell a home every day, and each locale is different. I focus selling in one concentrated area, and if you went five miles north or south to two different areas, the process of real estate is handled differently. No two people are alike either, so I constantly try to sharpen my approach so that I can be more succinct and helpful, whether by writing pieces that explain the chronology of a home sale to how real estate agents work together to the importance of curb appeal.
What tactics do you use for driving referrals and winning listings presentations?
With referrals, I keep in touch with my former customers and clients. I am fortunate in that so many of the people I have worked with are incredibly nice people, so that isn’t a chore at all; Much of my business is done through introductions through prior contacts. With presentations, I try to do as much advance and confidential research as possible on the property prior to meeting the homeowner so I am prepared, and describe to the owner the way I go about listing, which has worked so frequently on other listings.
How do you handle working with sellers on pricing?
I present the seller with price history and time on the market data for properties that are similar that have sold in the last 12 months, as well as active listings that a customer might tour along with theirs. Since we are currently in a market where customers do not offer the full price, I often recommend a slight cushion for negotiation. There is a delicate balance between listed price, time on the market, other active listings and inventory. There are times a seller will be receptive to the price suggestion but also other times a seller will want to pick their own price, adding that they can wait for their price. In those instances I try to get an agreement where we re-assess the seller’s listing price at a later date.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever heard?
This is a hard one because I have learned so much from good advice given by others. When I worked in commercial real estate in Manhattan, there was a senior broker who sat in the next office who was essentially retired but would come to work to stay busy. During the dot-com boom when real estate was riding high he would say “Penelope, I hope you are saving those dollars and cents for the rainy days ahead.” I would smile but thought he was being a bit gloomy, especially since he took limos almost exclusively. The dot com bust came a short while later, and I had to reassess and reinvent myself. I invest a lot of my own income into marketing and there are times at the end of the year I try to remember his advice since real estate is a business of ups and downs.
If an agent should stop doing one thing today, what would it be?
If an agent were to stop doing one thing, I would say stop procrastinating!
You can also contact Penny at her office address:
Saunders & Associates, 9 Grand Avenue, Shelter Island Heights, NY 11965