Realtor “Loss Leaders”

First of all, how can professionals who are paid via commission have such a thing as “non-billable hours?”

Don’t you have to be a lawyer (I was), CPA (ditto, a long time ago), financial advisor, etc. for that to apply?

Technically, yes.

But what I mean by “non-billable hours” for Realtors is all the things that you do for clients — past, current, or prospective — that don’t show up on your bottom line (and to state the obvious, client goodwill is hugely important in a referral-driven business like real estate sales — but you can’t pay the bills with it).

Generating Goodwill

In that vein, here are the many activities that I (and many other veteran Realtors) do these days that don’t lead — at least directly — to a commission:

•Helping former clients re-finance. 

Re-financing is all about choosing appropriate Comp’s (“Comparable Sold Properties”), then adjusting for differences between each Comp and the subject property.

Clients, understandably, don’t speak lenders’ lingo; Realtors do.

Clients also don’t have access to MLS and its treasure trove of historical real estate data.

•Helping clients appeal their property’s tax assessed value.

While tax authorities have been lowering assessed values in response to falling housing prices, their bias is clearly towards keeping values higher rather than lower (surprise, surprise).

Being armed with good data — plus being spoon-fed the right analysis by your helpful, local Realtor — can make all the difference.

So is knowing when to leave good enough alone — one outcome of challenging your tax assessed value is that it can actually go up.

•Playing the role of “local ambassador” for prospective transplants.

The vast majority of people who contact me about re-locating to the Twin Cities . . . don’t.

The job offer doesn’t materialize — or the offer is disappointing.

Or, it’s trumped by a better offer elsewhere.

Or, if a local employer makes a terrific offer, the spouse (and/or kids) veto it (heads up, non-Minnesotans:  it’s not 10 below this winter!).

Regardless, having a local Realtor provide an overview of the local housing market and even spend an afternoon giving you an on-the-ground tour is a crucial piece of the relocation puzzle.

Believe it or not, some would-be transplants pass because Twin Cities housing prices are unexpectedly high; sorry to say, most homes on Lake Minnetonka, Lake of the Isles, etc. (still) fetch a few million.

•Sharing my Rolodex.

Even well-built, well-maintained houses can have ice dams, plumbing leaks, etc.

My clients know that, in a decade selling homes, I’ve developed an extensive network of reputable, reliable contractors — and don’t hesitate to ask me for referrals.

The above is just my list — and an incomplete one at that.

I’m sure my Realtor colleagues could add significantly to it . . .

About the author

Ross Kaplan has 19+ years experience selling real estate all over the Twin Cities. He is also a 12-time consecutive "Super Real Estate Agent," as determined by Mpls. - St. Paul Magazine and Twin Cities Business Magazine. Prior to becoming a Realtor, Ross was an attorney (corporate law), CPA, and entrepreneur. He holds an economics degree from Stanford.

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