If failure to plan is planning to fail, then Valerie Hunter-Kelly might be invincible. Rainmaker of the military-focused Clarksville, (Tenn.), market center’s Air Assault Team, Hunter-Kelly has built a 12-person team that has a plan for virtually every aspect of the business from landing listings to following up after closing. Last year, those plans generated more than 170 closings and sales volume of $26.7 million.
Hunter-Kelly’s methodical approach and affinity for planning and information gathering is a carry-over from her former career as a microbiologist. While the relationship between studying tiny organisms and selling homes may not seem apparent at first, she finds similarities in the research and data analysis required. Just as scientists pour over data for various causes and effects, real estate agents conduct research to examine market conditions, price trends and what makes homes sell, she says.
All of her plans are coordinated through her client relationship management tool, as well as the cloud storage application Dropbox; they are automated as much as possible. Her team’s plans include specific tasks for each segment of the real estate transaction. When a plan is activated, each task is assigned to an individual, so there is no confusion about who is responsible.
New Client Plan:
The initial meeting is done at the Air Assault Team’s office, “because it doesn’t make sense for me to go out to a house and talk about everything you need to do, when we haven’t even decided we want to work together, or if we can meet each other’s expectations,” Hunter-Kelly says. With buyers, she discusses their purchase goals and budget. If the client is selling a home, she does a market analysis at the time to determine conditions and trends in the area as well as pricing. She shares this information with the client. Then, she describes the process of working with her team, including the fact that she has several buyer assistants, a listing coordinator, and other team members who handle the administrative duties. If the client balks at working with anyone other than her, Hunter-Kelly knows the relationship might not be a good fit.
Once the initial qualification is complete and the client is a good fit for the team, the process of getting the home ready for listing begins. Hunter-Kelly won’t list a home for sale until it’s ready to be shown. The client is given a communication sheet that reflects the items that need to be addressed, such as any termite certifications or fireplace inspections. The listing coordinator or another administrative person stays in touch with the seller to keep track of progress and assist in any way possible. The team uses a home stager and a professional photographer to create beautiful images of the home. “Your first showing is on the Internet, so how the home is presented to the market is very important to us,” she says. Once the checklist is complete and the home is ready, only then is the listing activated. That could take a month or more.
On The Market Plan:
Once the house is on the market, the team has a communication plan. Every two weeks, the seller is contacted by a staff member who discusses updates and feedback. In addition, the team has an automatic feedback system sent to showing agents, whose comments are forwarded to the seller. From time to time, Hunter- Kelly makes a comment to the sellers to show that she’s reviewing the information as well. Every 30 days, she personally contacts them. If no showings have taken place or there were showings with no offers, she’ll do a market update to find out why the house hasn’t sold.
Price Change Plan:
If the market update indicates that a price change is necessary, the price change plan kicks in. The new price is determined through research, approved by the seller and the team makes sure that every place the price has been listed or distributed is changed. “Everything we do has a system and when things don’t work right, instead of being this person or that person’s fault, we look for where the system failed and how we can tweak it so it doesn’t happen again,” she says.
Under Contract Plan:
After a property closes or on the occasions where the house is listed and then falls through, the team activates the appropriate follow-up plans. If the house needs to be listed again, the procedures for doing so are assigned. Otherwise, the team regularly keeps in touch with the client through automated systems and events. Hunter-Kelly also hosts big events twice annually, renting out a theater and inviting past and current clients to a private show. (This year, it’s “Peter Pan.”) She sends flowers to property buyers on the one year anniversary of their closing. Bimonthly newsletters and periodic emails and letters are other ways that her team stays in touch with clients, all automated with prompts for each individual’s task.