The Zebra Blog

Design Spotlight: Renee Vanous

This week’s design spotlight features the refreshed brand of ENCORE member, Renee Vanous. Renee has been working to build a successful real estate team under the name “The Vanous Group” and wanted a brand to reflect her new team dynamic. Renee purchased her first brand through The Lones Group in 2009, and returned in 2016 for her brand refresh. Renee’s focus for her 2016 brand refresh was to achieve clean, minimal branding, using a very limited color palette of gray and white, with extra focus on achieving whitespace.

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Becoming a Market Expert: The 20 Things You Need to Know

If you want to be viewed as a market expert, you must completely understand your local market. Most of this information is easily accessible from your MLS. Every agent must be able to analyze for their marketplace:

    Go into the MLS and find out the total number of sales in your area/s for each of the past three years. This will show you a number of things, including the pace at which the market has sold. Put this information into your binder along with a chart or graph for each year to show the differences. This is the first step in even knowing how much real estate is sold each year. And yes, I want you to pull each and every sold property as you will need this information for some of the other analyses.

    Go through the solds and track the days on market number (DOM) for each, then separate by price point. Track the days on market numbers for each price point, tally them up and then find the average DOM number for each price point. You will find that there is a definite trend in DOM numbers based on the price points. This is an excellent exercise for seeing the obvious trends in your market.

    This is analysis requires you have to compare the average sale prices in your area from year to year. You can not generalize when it comes to price appreciation. Go into the MLS and do a radius search for one neighborhood, and compare the sales year-to-year to see the obvious changes in the sales prices which will reflect the appreciation rate. You can then apply a factor to this number for each year to find out what the average per year appreciation rate is in each area.

    Go into the MLS and find out the total number of listings taken each year, and then compare that to the total sales. You will be able to easily chart these numbers for a very strong visual representation of the true activity level in the market. When you track this yearly you begin to see how predictable the real estate market is. This kind of data helps to provide you with protection against negative media reports, and allows you to assure your clients of the true picture of stability in the market.

    You need to analyze your area in terms of economy, recreation, medical, financial, job market, etc. Go to your local Chamber of Commerce and tell them that you want to create a profile for out of town buyers that have never been to your area before. Most Chamber of Commerce have done an excellent job of compiling this kind of information. This information will also come in handy for creating a snapshot document of your area that you can include in your packages with your custom look.

    You must know how to calculate the absorption rate in your area. The absorption rate indicates is the analysis of how long the market is taking to “absorb” the housing inventory. For example, if there are 100 homes currently listed on the market for sale and homes in that particular price range are selling at a rate of 10 per month, then the absorption rate would be 10 months (100 homes divided by 10 sales per month at a rate of 10 per month so it would take 10 months to absorb the inventory). This is a great way for you to demonstrate what is going on in the market.

    Every agent should know what their area’s population growth rate is, and they should know where the buyers in the area are coming from. If the population is not growing, you need to understand how long people are staying in the area for. How long does the average homeowner live in a home in your area? You can get all this information from the Census Bureau.

    It is critical to understand the big picture of your area’s employment growth or deficit. Knowing the employment rate in your area helps you better understand the demand for housing. New jobs bring new homeowners. Employment information is available from your local Chamber of Commerce.

    It is important to understand what your market is “consuming” in terms of inventory. Are single family homes selling faster than condos, or are condos dominiating in your marketplace? I like agents to do a snapshot analysis of the different types of home products in their area, detailed in a chart that illustrates the different percentages.

    If you have buyers moving into the area you need to have a clear idea of who the major employers are in your area. Every city has a profile that clearly ranks the major employers in your area. You need to know this.

    Do you know how many new homes have sold in your area every year for the past 5 years? You need to!With this information you can see the trends illustrating what people are buying and what they are paying for new construction. Every agent should be able to articulate the number of new homes that their market can absorb.

    Condos are very popular and Baby Boomers find them so irresistible! Agents that take the time to analyze historical condo sales find that the condo sales are increasing. Know your numbers and watch the trends.

    There is a direct relationship between a strong commercial market and a healthy housing market. Most residential real estate agents do not feel that they need to track the commercial real estate arena. This couldn’t be further from the truth! Track commercial closings over the past 5 years, with a specific focus on what type of commercial real estate is selling. The numbers will enlighten you.

    You can not build new homes without land sales. A healthy land sales market is usually indicative of a healthy new homes sales market. Track land sales over the past 5 years and you will see some very interesting trends; You’ll also put yourself in an excellent position to see changes in the market before they happen.

    Get to know your local or regional planning office and those who run it. Be aware of what projects and developments coming up in your area. Understanding zoning regulations, and what changes are being made in your area.

    People like to live in areas that have recreation and amenities. If you were to “sell” your area to a prospective buyer would you know all the available recreation opportunities? Where are ALL the golf courses? How about skiing, boating, hunting, fishing, biking, etc? Know your area and the nearby recreation opportunities. I recommend agents prepare a map that lists all recreation in their area and surrounding areas.

    Is your area based on retail, manufacturing, technology, etc? Know the businesses in your area. Prepare a chart that shows all the major business types in your area. Your local Chamber of Commerce may already have much of this information prepared.

    This is particularly important with new construction sales. A real estate agent should know what the average price per square foot is for new construction sales over a 5-year period. This will help you develop a feel for the rising or falling prices of new construction.

    Because every home that is built and sold begins with the land, every agent needs to know the cost of land. Agents must have a clear understanding of land sales in their area. You should know the price of farm, waterfront, water view, and single-family housing land.

    Every market has opportunities, and often properties which consistently sell in a short number of days on market offer hidden opportunities. If condos consistently sell quickly, that may indicate a great niche market to pursue. By keeping track of the properties that sell most quickly you will see trends and opportunities in the market.

Don’t be overwhelmed by this list. All of this research can be done by the average agent, but isn’t! Start with just one of these research categories. When you have completed and mastered one, then move to the next. I promise you that if you do keep track of this information you will be a more confident, knowledgeable, and successful agent.

Ask Denise: Standing Out in Marketing

Q: “Denise, in an effort to drum up business, I want to start sending letters about how inventory is low, prices are up, and now is a great time to sell. However, I feel like everyone is sending the same message. How do I stand out?”

A: Great question! You can stand out in two ways –  with statistics and by focusing on a specific segment of the market. Here is what that looks like:

  • First start by defining the segment of the market. This may be an area, type of home, price point, amenity, etc, that is performing better than the market as a whole. This will require you to do some research on solds over the last year. Read more »

Design Spotlight: Argyle Reflections – Refreshed!

This week’s design spotlight features one of our Instant Identity branding design templates, “Argyle Reflections”– with a fresh trendy pattern! Although you can’t call it “argyle,” the tan tartan is eye-catching. It accents the clean linear structure that features shaded areas that hold taglines and contact info. Graphics and patterns can easily be added to customize this design to your personal preferences. This example showcases the combination of an inline font and a beautiful script font. Classic and bright, this design can take you far! Read more »

The Connected Agent: The Most Important Agent To Be

Real estate is a business where clients hire you because they have faith that you can help them buy or sell real estate in an easy streamlined manner. Before you can find those clients you have to make connections. A connection can either be in person, on the phone, by mail, by email or simply by an online post that you have written. Connecting is about making an impression with people and becoming top of mind.

Here are 6 ways to connect with your clients. Read more »

Ask Denise: Taking Sundays Off

Q: “Denise, I am going to make a bold move and take Sundays off. I know that you did that too when you sold real estate. I am concerned about making Sunday a ‘no client’ day. Will that cut me off for potential business? How do I handle not responding to calls and emails? I am just wondering how best to set this up.”

A: Your best bet is to set your clients up with the expectation that you are not working on Sundays. This is addressed in an initial meeting (don’t make a huge deal about it, but let them know what to expect and what will happen if something comes up on a Sunday). Read more »

February Mailer Content for Your Clients has Arrived

Consistent contact helps your business remain top of mind, which is why we include articles that you can send to your clients and prospects every month in Club Zebra Pro. You can send this content without attribution to us and all you need to do is add your name and contact information. This February we have two Question & Answer format articles, one each for buyers and sellers. This is an easy and informative format that you can modify and use again and again. We also have an update on national and local property taxes, just in time for your clients who are starting to think about tax-time. As always, shorter versions of all three articles are available for postcard format mailers too. Get your February content here!

Not in Club Zebra Pro? Sign up here for less than 10 bucks! Questions or suggestions for future articles? Email us at

Turn Off the News and Get Back to Work

I have been overwhelmed with concern from many of my clients about the state of our country now that the election is over and we have a new a new President. I work hard NOT to discuss politics and I will adhere to that rule in this week’s Zebra Report. BUT… I do need to address how some real estate agents are being affected by the constant barrage of media and news stories about the new President.

Whether you are a Republican or Democrat, whether you are thrilled or deeply disappointed by the newly elected President, one thing is for sure: This election may be providing you with too many distractions that could be costing you thousands of dollars. Read more »

Design Spotlight: Brenda Mills

This week’s design spotlight features MASTERY agent Brenda Mills, from Bellingham, Washington. Brenda works with many luxury and water-front properties in Bellingham and Blaine, especially Semiahmo. She wanted a design that combined luminous stained glass with Northwest architectural elements. Her close proximity to our office made it possible to collaborate in person. For her logo, she wanted the pattern to mimic natural trees and branches. Her teal, aqua, blue, and espresso brown palette is drawn from our fabulous summers. It almost sparkles with glass textures and a radiant glow.

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Ask Denise: Messy Office Mate

Q: “Denise, my office mate is driving me crazy. We are like the Odd Couple. Every night I spend a few minutes putting everything away, filing and wiping down my desk for a clean start in the morning. However, her side of the office looks like a tornado hit it. There are files and papers everywhere, the plant is dead, and there is a coffee cup that is beginning to culture something very disgusting. She and I have a good relationship and I have joked with her about it a few times hoping she would get the hint, but she either didn’t or just doesn’t care. I am so embarrassed that I am meeting with clients in the conference room instead of in here. I don’t want to cause tension but this isn’t working. What should I do?” Read more »

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