Please welcome Agent Genius’ newest contributor Brian Block (you’ll love his bio at the end of this article). He’s a Realtor hailing from northern Virginia, he’s an attorney and can kick ass with his Krav Maga skills, so pay attention folks, because he’s also a smart guy and great writer! -Lani Rosales, New Media Director
Cold Winter + Obama Inauguration = Vacation!
The other week, my wife and I decided to get out of town. Winters can get awfully cold here in the Washington D.C. area. Add to that the millions of people streaming into the region to attend Barack Obama’s Inauguration, road and bridge closings, creating a recipe for a paralyzed real estate market. With some of the main highways closed to traffic, it wouldn’t have been possible to show homes to clients even if I tried.
So a few weeks before, we booked a vacation to sunny Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I won’t make you jealous with photos of us on the beach and tales of whale watching, resorts, and relaxation. That’s not what this story is about.
The oldest rule in the book:
As anyone who’s been in the business for some time knows, business inevitably perks up and in fact becomes crazy right before you leave on a vacation. This time was no different. Between a ratified contract, another offer pending, waiting for bank approval on a short sale (and a regional lockbox exchange), I was working right up until the time I packed my bags late the night before departure.
While some agents have a team to cover for them while they’re gone, like hundreds of thousands of REALTORS around the country, I’m working solo.
What I Did Right
- Coverage – I made sure to have another agent in my office cover my business while I was out of town. I briefed him on all the pending transactions that I had and provided him with the contact information for all the parties involved. The night before I left on my trip, I e-mailed him all the documents that he’d need in case things happened on any of these matters.
- Alerted Clients – In the days and weeks leading up to the Mexico trip, I alerted my current clients that I would be away. I told them who to contact if there were any questions or issues they needed addressed while I was gone. I told them that we’d talk when I returned.
- Told Other Agents – My clients informed, I made sure to let the co-op agents on pending transactions know that I would be out of town and gave them the contact info for my covering colleague.
I thought everything was all set. Time to pack my bag. Time to go to sleep and catch a 7 a.m. flight (my wife always swears that she’ll never wake up at 5 a.m. except for an international flight). A week without e-mail or cell-phone.
What I Did Wrong
- Forgot to Change My Voicemail – When I returned from vacation, I had 23 voice-mails waiting for me! In the last minute rush to inform my clients and other agents, and to brief my colleague, I neglected to change my voice-mail to let potential clients and other agents that I was on vacation.
- Didn’t Set Up Vacation E-Mail – While everyone hates getting these vacation replies in their inbox, I realized that they at least notify people that you are away so they don’t expect an immediate response. I had to apologize to several potential clients when I returned for not getting back to them sooner.
- No Pre-Vacation Blog Post – I had a potential buyer send me an e-mail when I returned from vacation that said “I love your blog… but some of your posts are looking dated.” I had to explain that I was away on vacation and hadn’t had the opportunity to update the blog for a while.
It may seem easy, but because the days leading up to a vacation tend to be busy and stressful and many people forget to make the necessary preparations be sure to create a vacation business to-do list for yourself. You already have your grocery list, your pre-listing appointment list, and no doubt many other lists. Here are some of the things you need to do before you go on a vacation and leave your business for a week or more:
- Change your voice-mail. Have it reflect the fact that you are away and inform callers who they can talk to regarding their real estate needs. Alternatively, you can have your phone forwarded to someone else in your office.
- Take stock of everything – EVERYTHING going on in your business. Your listings, your buyers, your potential business, your blog, your unanswered e-mails, your leads, etc. Write down everything.
- Get someone in your office to cover for you. If you don’t already have a team or work as part of a team, find a competent and professional agent who has the time to handle your business while you are away. Many agents will do this for you with the hope that you reciprocate when they go on vacation. Sometimes you can have a referral arrangement, or just buy them one of those “My friend went to Vegas and all I got was this lousy t-shirt” shirts.
- Alert all your clients and all other agents with whom you currently have a transaction. Let them know you’ll be away and who to contact.
- Set up a vacation e-mail alert. This is easy to do in most e-mail programs and will avoid embarrassment when you return from your trip.
- If you have a blog, let your readers know that you won’t be blogging for a while.
- Most importantly… Relax. Have fun & enjoy your vacation. Your real estate business will still be there when you get back.