African American businessman using online calendar, planning his meeting agenda at workplace. Creative collage

How to Succeed in Real Estate: Top Earners Prioritize Preparation and Planning

While you may be chomping at the bit to start showing and selling properties, don’t rush in. Before you start scheduling open houses and investing money in marketing efforts, you need to spend some time planning and organizing to ensure that you start off on the right foot. After all, you are officially a small business owner.

The more organized you are, the better you will manage your time—and increase your chances of early success. Follow this advice on how to succeed in real estate as a new agent.

Seek out a role model willing to share insights into how to succeed in real estate

If you are assigned a real estate mentor for your initial training period, great. If not, observe the top earners or the go-to experts in your office for insight on how to run your business. Pick their brains for tips on filing, managing contacts, building a referral system, and more. While some agents will see you as the competition and may not be willing to share their secrets, others will be happy to share their experiences and give you tips on how to succeed in real estate.

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Find an organizational system that works for you

Some agents swear by migrating everything to a smartphone. They operate a paperless office, managing all their clients’ documentations and signatures digitally. They do everything from scheduling appointments to taking notes and pictures to conducting research on their little gadgets. Others don’t trust technology and still operate successfully using paper files, notebooks and pens, and landline phones, turning to cell phones only when they are on the go.

Which method is right? The one that works for you. Just make sure you do the following:

Check with your broker’s policies and practices. You may be required to use certain technology, or you may even be provided tools to use. You may also need to consider some state laws or IRS restrictions, so don’t skip this step.

Ensure that you are comfortable with any tool you use. Or at least be willing to learn it. The fanciest apps and gadgets won’t make you more productive if you don’t actually use them. Choose the planning device you will use consistently—whether it is a traditional day planner, wall calendar, iPhone or Android, or laptop computer.

Put your clients first. Ultimately, you are going to have to meet the needs of your clients. If they don’t want to text or IM, or they insist on doing all paperwork in-person, don’t ask them to do something that makes them uncomfortable.

Always have a backup plan. Technology fails and hard copies can be misplaced or damaged. Especially when it comes to legal contracts, tax documents, and contact information, ensure that you have backup copies. For example, store physical files digitally and backup up your computer daily to your company’s server.

Maximize the efficiency of your workspace

The appearance of your workstation speaks volumes about your professionalism and competence. To make the best impression on potential clients and coworkers, you need to maintain a clean, organized, and sophisticated-looking workspace. Perhaps as important, a tidy desk also ensures that you have everything you need at your fingertips. And because you know where everything is located, you are never fumbling for documents or a pen to write notes. Rules to live by:

Find a home for everything. Organize supplies in drawers and always return them to their home at the end of the day. Also, throw away trash and wipe away dust and crumbs as needed (seems obvious, but many people never do this).

Limit decorative items. Place a framed picture or knickknack on your desk to personalize your workspace. However, stick to just one or two items; otherwise, your desk will look cluttered. Worse, the items could distract you from doing important work—like finding clients.

Organize your print and digital files. You don’t want to force clients and other stakeholders to wait on you while you “track down” answers or important documents. Come up with an efficient way to organize both your physical and digital files. Establish a system to label or name documents, and always put them back where they belong.

Keep all information about a single client or transaction in one place. Whether that is in a paper or digital file, make sure every bit of information you have on a client is organized together. Record and date any time you are in contact with the person and include a brief summary of any important actions or updates. Many agents use a standardized lead and client form to organize this type of information.

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Plan each and every day

You only have so many hours in the day. Learning how to succeed in real estate goes hand in hand with learning to make the most of every minute. Increase your efficiency, profitability, and overall real estate success with these simple but super important tips:

Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize. Each day, create a to-do list of tasks based on how important they are and the deadline. Then outline your professional and personal schedule based on those priorities.

Maintain your schedule and to-do list. Neither will serve many purposes if you don’t keep them updated. Before your workday begins, revisit and update both. Keep them with you so that you can make changes, note cancellations, and add obligations as they come up.

Spend most of your time prospecting for new clients and contacting current ones. These two activities should consume about 80 percent of your time. Specifically, place the tasks that are needed to finalize a real estate deal at the top of your list. Such duties include clearing contingencies, property inspections, title checks, and ensuring that buyer financing is approved. These things directly impact your bottom line and the needs of your clients, so they should always come first.

Don’t neglect your other duties. Remember that you are technically a small business owner. Make sure you leave enough time to manage your marketing efforts, maintain your client database, and complete administrative functions. While lower on your priority list, you should still allot about 20 percent of your time to these tasks to keep your business running well.

Remember: What separates the top earners from the rest of the real estate crowd is how they spend their time. That doesn’t mean that you have to become a workaholic. You can learn how to succeed in real estate and still have time for family, friends, and personal pursuits. A good place to start is by adopting these organization and time management strategies to maximize the hours you do spend on the job.

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