By Holly Dutton
If residential real estate were like football, consider this month pre-season training.
In an industry that’s always moving, residential real estate has historically had two times during the year that are considered “down” times — the thick of summer in August, and at the height of the holidays in December — those being the times when families are away at summer beach homes and enjoying holiday times with family, when buying or selling real estate is at the bottom of the priority list.
But that doesn’t mean brokers and agents still aren’t busy working.
Jay K. Overbye, a broker with Halstead who has been in the business for more than a decade, finds that taking some time off at least once a year can be invigorating.
Once a year, Overbye tries to get away from New York City and “detox” somewhere for a week — a mission that involves nothing but organic food, sometimes raw food, juices, and plenty of meditation.
“I find it does amazing things to get you grounded and back, a time to check in with yourself,” he said.
Though he admitted he didn’t go device-free and was still checking e-mails, Overby said he is able to truly relax.
“After about the second day, because of the food you’re eating, you get in Zen mode,” he said. “It’s like after doing a really good yoga class, not much can bother you.”
During a week-long trip to Napa over the holidays, Overbye said he was one the phone “every day” up until the 23rd of December.
“There’s an expectation in this business that you respond within 24 hours, if not same day,” he said. “With that said, any down time you consider, I find it imperative to stay on e-mail. There’s a lot at stake in this business, and I always have to stay available on e-mail.”
For Corlie Ohl, a Citi Habitats agent in the business for five years, slower seasonal times are days she makes sure to appreciate.
“Because it is always busy, oftentimes I like to take the quote unquote “down time” and enjoy it,” said Ohl. “Relax a little bit, take a day or two off for myself, and there’s always a million different things as a real estate agent I need to be doing in terms of marketing, mailing for buildings, calling previous clients.”
She also focuses on taking stock of where she is, and where she’s going.
“At the end of the year, I take stock of things,” said Ohl. “Goaling is about resolutions – what are you going to do to make work happier? Maybe it’s not necessarily about increasing volume, but making sure you’re happier and more efficient and enjoying your work interaction more and having fun.”
While pushing the reset button and getting some much-needed rest are important for brokers, staying on top of business during down times is just as important, said Kathy Braddock, managing director of William Raveis New York City.
“If you happen to have more desk time, you really should be constantly, constantly working on marketing,” she said. “When I say marketing, real estate is a contact sport – it’s a numbers game. The more people you reach out to on a regular basis, the better.
“Real estate is a lonely business,” said Braddock. “You are your own boss, you are under an umbrella of a company, but it’s different.”
The 30-year industry veteran said one of the most important things an agent can do is create their own kind of “board of directors.”
“As best as you can, create your own staff of people and ask them to help look at your business,” she said. “Because if you’re not with a firm where someone is really helping you analyze your business on a day-to-day basis, you kind of need that help, so by putting together your own team of people, you can get there quicker.”
Getting a group of eight to ten people together and having a networking meeting over brunch is another way to keep your business moving in the right direction and remind people who you are and what you do.
“You can get a group of eight people together and do Dim Sum on a Sunday morning and not spend a ton of money and do a face-to-face,” said Braddock. “Someone might be in marketing, someone might be in real estate, someone might be a banker; what people like to do is share — we’re very communicative.”
Oh, and ditch the snail mail.
“I don’t think it’s useful anymore, I think it’s passé and I don’t think anyone uses it,” said Braddock. “On top of that, e-mail is free.”
She suggests laying out a marketing e-mail campaign twice a month that doesn’t just talk about real estate, but gives potential clients more of an understanding of who that agent is and what their expertise is.
“I would suggest creating a mini-newsletter, not long, two to three paragraphs, that has hot tips that highlight things about the city, or second homes, or whatever it is that highlights your passion,” said Braddock.
Braddock also stressed making use of more free time during the winter for a total assessment of past business, present business, and future business.
“Everyone should take stock of their business, and if they have down time, that’s the time to do it,” she said.