How To Vacation In Real Estate!

When is the last time you took a vacation, a REAL vacation?

A phones turned off, totally relaxed (or as relaxed as you can be when vacationing with kids 😉 ), vacation.

Can’t remember? Not since you started your real estate career? I hear you, and I am here to tell you how you can change that.

My first year in business I allowed a family vacation to be ruined by a new client. I was so afraid that I would lose his business if I personally wasn’t immediately available to show him homes … that, by the way, he never bought … that I postponed leaving on our trip by a couple days, spent the fews days that I was there distracted and on the phone, and then left early so I could show him more homes (that he also never bought … anything, ever). I vowed after that experience never to allow that to happen again.
Since that time, 17 years ago I have taken a honeymoon, 3 maternity leaves, and then started taking a full week, unplugged, vacation each year. As time has gone on I now take two longer (1-2 week) vacations each year, and typically a couple shorter trips too, and in the last 6 months have had to take two “breaks” (4 and 2 weeks, respectively) to recover from major surgeries. Not only has my business NOT suffered as a result, my business is stronger for it as I come back refreshed, excited, full of ideas and ready to go!

I’m here to tell you that you can do this too! (The vacations, hopefully not the surgery recovery part!) But first, before I walk you through the how to’s, let’s talk about why you AREN’T currently doing this.

-You don’t know how.
-Your clients need you.
-No one else can do what you do.
-If you aren’t available your “clients” will call someone else.
-Your real estate business is too new.
-You don’t have a team or assistant or someone to cover for you.
-It’s really not a big deal to take a call or two while you’re away.
-It is faster and easier for me to just handle everything vs bringing someone else up to speed.

Are you ready? Here comes your dose of tough love for today. All of that is nonsense. YOU ARE A PROFESSIONAL. Start treating your business and your clients like it. The root of the bulk of those excuses is either rooted in fear or the need to control. The fear is simply a story that you are telling yourself. The value you bring to the table for your clients is NOT in your availability. People just want to know that their needs will be met and that they will be taken care of. If you set the expectations for what will happen while you are gone, who they can contact, and spell it out that the person covering for you can do the same things for them that you can (show houses, write offers, etc) they will be okay. As for the control piece, I am a recovering #controlfreakover here and I know how hard it is, but I promise you that someone else can handle it, it doesn’t have to be done just by you, and the reward (a refreshing break with your loved ones) is worth the work (getting someone else up to speed).

Now I can guess what some of you are thinking. Well of course she can say this, she’s been in business 17 years. She has a big team. She has an assistant. She is special.

Nope. Not special. Just disciplined. Yes, I have been in business for a long time and I have more resources available to me now than I did 17 years ago, but that didn’t stop me from taking a week off (a REAL week off) each year when I was 2 years in business, and 3 years, and 5 years, and so on.

Over the years I’ve developed a TIME TESTED system that I have have used, and tweaked and adjusted again and again and again. And now I want you to use it too.

Here’s how you do it:

Step 1: Identify a coverage plan. This is critical. You cannot and should not try to run your business from wherever you are going. You need someone here who can step in to cover for you or be a primary point of contact. For many years I would partner with another agent in my office. I would cover for her when she went away, and she would cover for me when I went away. We didn’t usually compensate each other, just trading off was enough. I would also help to benefit the person who was covering for me by giving them any leads that came in on my listings while I was gone. If it was a past client or referral that came in, she would get them started and hand them back over when I returned, and I did the same for her. Later in my career when I had an assistant (even just one part time) she became my coverage (she was licensed). Now my assistant is not licensed, but she is my primary point of contact, and we’ve identified which agents from my team are around and available while I am gone and she will ensure that whatever is needed is covered appropriately. Depending on who is covering for you, you may also need to prepare for them an email with a quick summary of each person you are working with and their contact information.

Step 2: Notify your clients and set expectations. This is just as critical as step 1. Don’t try to sneak away, thinking that your clients won’t notice. They deserve better, and so do YOU and your family. It is okay to take a vacation, in fact, this time of year they probably expect it. The key is establishing the expectations. I send an email to my clients as part of their weekly update a day or two before I leave letting them know when I am leaving, when I will be back and who is covering for me. I also copy that person on the email so it is easy for them to connect. In my email I also make it VERY clear that while I am away the person(s) covering for me can present offers to them on their listing, show them houses, and write offers for them on my behalf (my unlicensed assistant will have an agent on my team do these things). I make sure to clearly state the expectations so they won’t think that they are some how doing me a favor by calling a listing agent. When you are clear about the plan and how it will be executed, you won’t have issues. I’ve never lost a client or opportunity that I am aware of while I’ve been away.

Step 3: Notify agents you are currently in transactions with. We’ve likely all been in the situation where you are struggling to reach someone who is on the other side of a deal with you only to find out they are on vacation and trying to “work” from where they are. I send out one email with my email address in the “to” line, the person covering for me/point of contact in the “cc” line, and all of the agents in the “bcc” line. Same as above. Let them know when I am leaving, when I will be back, and who to reach out to.

Step 4: Change your voicemail outgoing message and set your email auto responder. Take a deep breath here. This is where I sometimes lose people in the industry who are trying to implement this process. There is a fear that those potential new clients who you don’t know are going to call or reach out, the new leads or referrals, will hear or see the message and contact someone else. If you have done this properly and clearly communicated, that doesn’t have to be the case! State clearly when you will return, and who to contact in your absence. If you are a listing agent you have more than likely had the experience at least once when you get a call from a buyer who wants to see your listing, but their agent is away and they have no idea who, or even if, someone is covering for them. Don’t be that agent! When you give clear direction, it will be followed.

Step 5: Set up a text shortcut. If you have an iPhone, go to Settings, General, Keyboard, Text Replacement. Tap the + at the top right corner to add new, under Phrase type your message that you want to auto populate (this is mine … I am out of the office until 5/24. Please contact my Client Care Team at 703-999-3601.), and then under Shortcut type the letter sequence that you want to use. Make it something short and something that is NOT part of a word, or else every time you type it, your phrase will show up in your text! I use “v c” (but with no space in between) if I were to type it here without the space it would populate my message! Hit save and you are good to go. I don’t know about you, but I do more and more texting in my business. Don’t fall into the trap of responding “real quick” to this one text from a client or agent. You have just taught them that it doesn’t matter that you are on vacation, you are available. When I receive a text message, I respond by typing in my two little letters, and my away message populates. Easy peasy.

Now … go away and enjoy yourself! How you choose to do this or check in is up to you and your business. While I am away I only communicate with the person who is covering for me, and may check in occasionally depending on what is going on. I have also learned that for me it works well to check my email first thing in the morning and maybe at the end of the day. This serves two purposes. First, if something important comes in I make sure to forward it to the person covering for me just in case the sender didn’t pass it along. Second, after returning from a vacation once to 1000+ emails, I was determined not to let that happen again! Many of the emails we get each day are junk, or don’t even really pertain to us. I set up a folder in my email called “After Vacation”, and as I scan my email each morning if there is something I want to follow up on or need to do when I return I move it there, then I delete the rest. This way, when I return I am not overrun and stressed out by the volume of stuff in my in box. I can focus on following up on the “After Vacation” box and get back to work.

For myself I’ve also learned that I do best when I build 1 extra day at home at the end of my vacation for unpacking, clearing out the mail, laundry, etc. It can sometimes feel stressful when you return to real life and a load of extra responsibilities. Taking a day to get that under control can help you to hold on to that refreshed vacation feeling longer. Whenever possible I also try not to schedule any appointments on my first day back to work. This allows me time to plug back in, catch up on whatever I may have missed, and reconnect with my business and clients intentionally.

Like most everything else in life, there are always exceptions to the rule. Depending on the length of my trip I will often take my laptop, just in case. Sometimes when I receive a new lead or referral I will make a call to them to introduce myself, learn about their needs, and let them know that I am away and the plan for helping them in my absence or when I return. If there is a problem that comes up, I am reachable and will get involved as needed, and may even need to step in to some negotiations if necessary. Doing these most important things though doesn’t feel like a chore when the rest of the details are handled.

True vacations are not only possible in our business, but they are so worth it. Do the work to set yourself (and your business) up for success and go enjoy yourself!

Do you have a vacation(s) planned for this summer? Tell us about it!

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