Leaving on a Jet Plane? A Vacation Lesson for Agents

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

100 0438 680x510 Leaving on a Jet Plane? A Vacation Lesson for Agents

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.



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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.

Lesson Learned:

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.

Brian Block practiced law until he heard every single attorney joke and decided becoming a real estate broker was a more fun way to earn a living. Proud of the plaques and diplomas adorning his office wall, he's even more proud of his marriage to a beautiful and talented ballroom dance teacher and fellow entrepreneur. Every day, you can find Brian, doing what he does best – advising Northern Virginia home buyers and sellers. If you want, you can follow him on Twitter @blockrealestate.


  • http://realsummerlin.com Chris Shouse

    Welcome Brian look forward to your posts:) This was a good one and a good reminder of what you should do.

  • http://brandieyoung.wordpress.com Brandie Young

    Brian – welcome to AG! I look forward to your posts!

    Great reminders, thanks. Making sure everything is managed back at home will probably make for a better vacation!

  • http://www.dealsinseattle.com Christian Nossum

    Thanks Brian! I was away as well last week (I actually saw Puerto Vallarta from my airplane window seat on my way back home from Belize). I can second all of these preparations. One thing I forgot to do was to put my mail and newspaper (yes, I still enjoy reading the morning paper) on hold. When I came back I had a big pile of newspapers sitting at my front door (is that an invitation for a break in or what?). Oh well, thankfully nothing happened while I was away, and I had a great relaxing trip. Welcome to AG! I look forward to reading more from you.

  • http://novarealestate.wordpress.com Kim Hannemann

    So, welcome to AG – I already see most of your AR posts!

    You are right about things always busting out when you go away. Except for MLK/inauguration weekend when we went to Charleston (good times but no business) it seems I work like crazy. In 2006 I went to London for a week and sold three homes while I was there (two buyers and a listing).

    Makes me want to stay on vacation all the time and only come home to rest.

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  • http://AnnArborRealEstateTalk.com Missy Caulk

    Brian………

    Welcome here, so happy to see this post. Are we going to get to see your true personality…humor and videos?

    Reading this makes me so happy I have a team.

  • http://www.LoCoMusings.com Heather Elias

    Brian,
    Welcome to the AG family! Glad you got a chance to get away, that was a well earned break! Absolutely right about biz picking up during vacation time..had the same thing happen to me numerous times. Perhaps you could work aroumd the blog issue by doing a ‘best of’ series with classic posts and setting those up to publish in your absence?

    Can’t wait to read more of your writing here…

    Congrats!
    ~Heather

  • http://blog.brianblock.com Brian Block

    Chris — thanks for the warm welcome.

    Brandie — vacation is definitely better when you can relax and know business is being taken care of at home.

    Christian — mail & newspaper holds — that’s on my personal list of things to do before vacation. I’ve made that mistake in the past too. How was Belize?

    Kim — I’m always saying we need to take more vacations!

    Missy — thanks for the welcome. We’ll just have to see!

    Heather — I’ve thought about trying to have posts publish while I’m away. Good idea.

  • http://phoenixarizonarealestatehomes.com Candace Robinson

    Brian — Nice to see your talent being spread around in some other blogs! Looking forward to some more informative posts coming our way. Loved Puerto Vallarta and other Mexico destinations…just a quick trip for us Arizonans! I’ve done the same and failed to hit the vacation auto-responder…makes for a big catch-up day! Great advice! Cheerio!

  • http://www.nicoleford.com/newsletter.html Nicole Ford

    Brian – great post. I was also on vacation the week of the inauguration and can relate to your post. Like you, I had an agent covering and took all the steps to prepare beforehand, but in forgot in my haste to update my voicemail and email out-of-office messages. Nothing frustrates a customer like an agent who doesn’t respond for a week! Lesson learned…

    Welcome to AG – I look forward to reading your future posts.

  • http://www.cheesemanhomes.com Sally

    Hey Brian!
    What a wonderful debut and actually…very good lessons learned here. Bloggomania man is loose!

  • http://www.flexitrealy.com Gary White

    Hi Brian, I would say you had some very good advice, as usual, it takes time to cover all the bases…preparation it the key. Numeral Uno

  • http://www.lisasellsstroudsburg.com Lisa Sanderson

    Welcome to AG, Brian!

    This is great advice and I’ve found that if you do all this, when you get back things are much more manageable. I start bragging….er, I mean *informing* people about my upcoming vacation for about a week ahead of time. Then I send an email to all of my active clients the day before I leave letting them know I’m away. I’ve found that people are very understanding and will wait for you to return, for the most part. The blog post idea is a great one that I may have to add to my list.

  • http://www.activerain.com/castellum Castellum Realty

    As we mentioned on your Ar post, congratulations to your new position here. We’ll look forward to seeing you blossom from here on out. Keep up the good work as always and don’t be shy to do some more videos :)

  • http://www.LoudounScene.com Danilo Bogdanovic

    Howdy neighbor! Welcome to AG!

    Hope you enjoyed your vacation to PV. I just got back from vacation myself and guess what…I forgot to do some of the things you mentioned in your post too – oops.

    Looking forward to reading your posts and the priceless humor.

  • http://www.VickieMcCartney.com Vickie McCartney

    Hi Brian~ I saw where you wrote about your posting in here at activerain, so I thought I would come to AG and check it out. Of couse you did a great job, as usual! Great advice for things to remember to do BEFORE you go on vacation. Now, I just need to take a vacation!

  • http://kimwood.net Kim Wood

    Sorry I’m late to the party, Brian – but a BIG WELCOME !!! Yay, so happy ! I’ve always enjoyed your writing, and will love to see it here on AG.

    And I’ll another “What I did Right” and that is that you took the vacation in the first place !!!

  • http://www.sanmateorealestateblog.com Vicki Moore

    Welcome to AG. At least you had fun – right!