Every week, we ask a Houston real estate professional for their thoughts on the top three stories from the week before. This week, we spoke with Mark Dimas, president of Professional Group Realty.
Houston Agent (HA): A recent article we put out talks about the bad habits that agents are often guilty of, such as not following through. What are some bad habits you’ve notice in other agents, and maybe even yourself, over the years, and how do you avoid them?
Mark Dimas (MD): I believe one bad habit that can stunt sustainable growth, is not having a goal, or goals. Without a vision for your business, you’re leaving success to chance. I’ve been reading and listening to a lot of great authors on the subject – Michael Gerber, Dave Ramsey, Zig Ziglar, to name a few – and they talk about painting a vision for your company.
People need to start looking 10 or 20 years down the road, think about how they’re business is going to look – how many employees, how many deals are closing every month, what’s your reputation, etc. – and then make sure you’re vision is aligned with your goals. I, myself, feel naturally driven, and I’m sure a lot of agents are the same way, but we need to focus on the future so we don’t get off track.
In Darren Hardy’s “The Compound Effect,” he talks about how large accomplishments are made by very small, consistent choices on a daily basis. You may not see things happen right away, but if you make the right decision everyday you can see a few months or years down the road how your business has exploded.
I’ve been doing this for 13 years, making the same choices I’ve always made, making about 100 deals for eight years. Then, all of a sudden, I’m closing 200 deals, and now this year we’re looking at 300 to 400 deals. Consistency works, even if you don’t see it in the short-term, you’ll be happy you stuck it out in the long-term.
HA: Fannie Mae released research this past week that found the personal financial situations of Americans are improving, which is helping introduce new buyers into the market to keep demand steady. Have you noticed this trend specifically in Houston, and if so, how has it affected your business?
MD: Houston’s local economy is very strong. In the U.S. in general, coming out of the recession and only just now having a confidence in their big purchases, along with low interest rates, it seems like people are finally getting to a place where they can afford a lot more. And because the job market is so strong in Houston, buyers feel like they can make this level of commitment without having to worry about future payments.
Right now, in Houston itself, for real estate, we are at an average price point of $270,000, and a median price of $200,000. About five years ago our median was somewhere closer to $150,000. We were one of the biggest U.S. cities with the lowest cost of housing.
Houston’s market has now gone up, we’re at 7 percent year-over-year growth, and houses are spending an average of only 45 days on the market. So, with these buyers, job prospects and the ongoing development is helping them feel confident in the long-term viability of the market and the possibility of actually seeing a positive return on their property in the future.
While our growth is aggressive, I don’t think it’s enough to stir fear of a new, forthcoming bubble.
HA: Working in real estate means being able to interact with a large variety of people, and being successful means leaving a good impression on them that will hopefully lead to a referral. How do you make sure you make a positive impression with your clients?
MD: I need to recalculate my most recent referral percentage, but in 2012 I closed approximately 130 deals, and 90 percent of those came from referrals through past clients. I truly believe you need to consider your client and their needs above your commission. A lot of agents are always thinking about how much money they want to make, and it’s great to have a financial goal, but I believe if you focus on the client’s needs above your own commission, the money will follow.
Someone once said that when you do more than what you’re paid for, eventually you’ll get paid more for what you do – simple, practical habits can help. Smile, project confidence, problem solve. I see agents get in their own way a lot. We have three months of inventory, multiple offers, it’s a big seller’s market, and I see a lot of agents get wrapped up in what they think they should be delivering as an agent because that’s what they’ve always done. But in doing that, agents can miss out on opportunities that are going to make their client question whether they made the right decision.
Return phone calls, answer emails, stay humble, people use agents because their values align and they like the way they’re treated. To me, it’s so basic to just be a good person. A lot of sales people will fall into the used car salesman cliché where they push people into something, but really the best strategy is to listen to what they need and then solve the problem.
In order to continue getting referrals, you have to stay humble. Be the person people want to connect with, want to talk to, want to be friends with, because when it comes down to it, people want to do business with people they like.