Donna Palm has worn many hats — from electrician and hairdresser to veterinarian technician and travel agent — before she found her calling as a real estate agent and, eventually, broker. With such a diverse background , Palm, who is executive broker associate of The Donna Palm Group of RE/MAX Alliance Group in Sarasota, knows a thing or two about working through adversity and remaining resilient despite the challenges.
While living in Florida comes with the challenge of weather events and the lack of homeowner’s insurance in her state, there are also challenges that agents inside and outside of Florida are dealing with — uncertain interest rates, low inventory and, says Palm a lack of agent education.
“One of my pet projects is creating training programs to help agents learn the things they need to know beyond sales,” said Palm. According to Palm, new agents often jump into the real estate game without understanding real estate contracts, insurance and their referral network. Those pieces of the puzzle can be crucial to keeping your business afloat through a tough market.
As part of her training, building a strong foundation is key to real estate success. Palm says that mastering these three real estate pillars is the best way for real estate professionals to remain resilient and build a prosperous real estate business — no matter the market.
Education beyond showing homes
“It’s not just showing houses. Many new agents don’t always understand that they need the mindset of an entrepreneur. “They don’t realize that they will be running their own business,” said Palm.
Agents must know how to structure their businesses, plan taxes, understand contracts and more. Many brokerages offer this education, but real estate professionals should look at online courses and mentorship from veteran agents, as well.
Resilient agents should have foundational knowledge in contract negotiation, according to Palm. They should also be experts in their local markets, have a basic understanding of insurance and market nuances that are common to their community.
In Palm’s case, that nuance happens to be natural disasters. She says many agents and homeowners learn the hard way that a home with an open insurance claim and a mortgage can’t be sold until the claim is closed. And, a home purchase with an open insurance claim isn’t coverable by a mortgage. Those are the kinds of lessons agents don’t want to learn the hard way.
Relationships lead to business
“You need to educate your customers and [build rapport.] This creates a trusting relationship and; in turn, they will refer you to others creating a strong and lasting business,” said Palm.
Relationships are the next tier to building a resilient real estate business. When a strong sphere of influence surrounds you, then your business is more likely to thrive. Strong relationships are built by honest, well-educated agents.
Palm says agents can lose client trust when they aren’t up-front about the home-buying process. Without client trust, that agent won’t win any referrals to keep their business moving in a down market.
“I’ve seen so many top producers fall by the wayside because all they did was focus on sales, or the transaction. They did not care enough about their customers,” said Palm.
Systems build consistency and efficiency
According to Palm, “Your foundation is the most important — that’s your education and connections. Then, you have to put your systems in place. I think that goes for every business. If you create that setup, then the money will come.”
The systems your business has in place include technology, processes and safeguards. These should all allow you to grow your business more efficiently. Palm witnessed this firsthand as her RE/MAX offices grew at a breakneck pace pre-2008. She says she didn’t feel like she had the systems in place to keep track of it all or keep moving at that pace.
Agents with the right education and connections to back them up can wisely implement the systems to support their business.
“Understand that real estate is always a roller coaster,” said Palm. “I’ve seen the ups and downs of the multiple-offer years, the foreclosure and short-sale years and the high or low-interest rate years. I’m still here, and I’ll be here through everything that is going on now.”
You can be too if you build a solid foundation using these three real estate pillars as the base.