The year is coming to a close and the finish line is in sight! If you’ve been a hard-working real estate agent all year long, don’t stop now. As the end of the year approaches, there are many opportunities to keep your business going strong into the New Year. It’s important to evaluate your efforts, advise clients and take advantage of tax deductions, as well as create a plan that you can stick to once the hustle and bustle of 2014 begins. Here are five things every real estate agent should consider working on before the ball drops on December 31!
1. Educate and Inform Clients
The beginning of the year is a great time to buy or sell a home for a variety of reasons. Though there are traditionally fewer houses on the market in December, many sellers will be motivated to get their homes sold so they can save on taxes on the next home they purchase. Plus, builders may offer incentives to those purchasing a new home. There are also additional opportunities for tax savings. In “Saving the Best for Last,” Michele Dawson explains that “Closing on your new home by December 31 means you can deduct mortgage interest, property taxes and points on your loan on your income tax return. You can also deduct the interest costs associated with a home equity loan.” These deductions make a difference for sellers and can help lighten the load of hefty loans. Share these benefits with your clients to help them make the best decision about purchasing a home for a fresh start.
2. File Tax Deductions
As tax season approaches, consider the purchases you have made that could be tax-deductible, and think about things you might like to purchase with any additional money leftover from your 2013 budget. A few things that you might not know are tax deductible include:
- Business Clothing with Logos
- Car Expenses (if you take the standard mileage rate)
- Home Telephone Expenses
- Business Gifts
- Continuing Education Courses
- Tax-Preparation Fees
- ATM fees, Credit Card Fees and Interest
- Subscriptions to Real-Estate-Related Publications
- Advertising Efforts
“One of the things that keeps an entrepreneur from getting the success they need/deserve is thinking small. Sometimes they want to pull out a big result but they put a small effort in. This mindset prevents you from growing your business and playing a bigger game,” said entrepreneur Tammy Hawk-Bridges on her blog, Perfect Marketing Equation. Tammy encourages small-business owners like real estate agents to consider tax savings one of the “smaller” factors that can make a big impact on their business. Her suggestions for tax deductible investments include training, updates to your website and branding strategy, professional photo shoots and new production equipment.
3. Evaluate the Past Year
Now is a great time to sit down and evaluate the successes and opportunities for growth from the past year. Be honest with yourself about how the year was for you in terms of sales, business growth and client satisfaction. Michael McClure suggests keeping the three “R’s” in mind when performing a self-evaluation:
- Reflect on your experiences over the course of the year.
- Reconsider assumptions about your market and your business.
- Recalibrate your goals and strategies with which you’ll achieve them.
There’s no perfect method for evaluating your real estate business, but McClure provides a list of ideas of questions to ask yourself. Don’t forget to consider factors outside your own real estate business. Evaluate changes in the market, the emergence of new digital marketing tools for real estate and the industry as a whole.
4. Develop a Marketing Plan
Once you’ve had an honest conversation with yourself about your past year’s performance, and your outlook moving forward, you should have a pretty clear picture of what you want to achieve in the new year. However, simply recognizing your goals won’t help you achieve them. Whether your goal is to sell more properties, break into a new market, or refresh your brand, it’s essential that you develop a strategy to achieve it. Tiffany Brown of the Holistic Marketing Concepts blog recommends that real estate agents establish S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely) goals from the start to provide you with concrete steps you can take to achieve your goals. One goal she recommends for all real estate agents is to build an online inbound marketing system to generate leads and establish themselves as the expert in their areas. As Tiffany puts it “For brokers who rely on cold calling, direct mail, and newspaper advertising, the audience for such messaging is quickly dwindling. Much more effective than an outbound marketing strategy is an inbound marketing plan where business flows in to you.”
One of the simplest ways to establish an inbound marketing channel in real estate is to use a service like AdWerx to reach qualified buyers and sellers with localized online ads. Targeted display advertisements will help keep you top of mind in your neighborhoods, and reach new potential clients as they enter the market. Ads work hand-in-hand with your website to funnel leads to you and keep your pipeline flowing. And since marketing expenses are often tax deductible (see #2 above), the end of the year is perfect time to consider retooling your marketing strategy! Be sure to consult your accountant about what you can save by investing in your marketing.
5. Create a New Budget
Once you’ve established your goals and formulated your strategy to achieve them, all that’s left to do is allocate your budget accordingly. Ask yourself about the costs of the various investments you want to make what you hope to get from them:
- How much will a website refresh cost you?
- How much can you afford spend on advertisements each month?
- What kind of return can you expect from the sale of a listing?
- How many sales will it take to pay for the marketing investment you’ve made?
The key to successful budgeting is focusing on your S.M.A.R.T goals; If you’ve formulated them properly, they’ll tell you what you should prioritize and where to allocate your spend. Finally, take timing into account. You can unlock additional budget by planning your spend for the long-term and as we’ve mentioned, deducting your expenses wherever possible.
What plans do you have for wrapping up the end of the year?
This post was written by Mike O’Rourke at AdWerx.com. Mike is not a professional tax preparer. Any mention of tax savings, deductions and strategies in this post are ideas that you can explore with your tax preparer. Adwerx.com provides professional online advertising to local real estate agents and home sellers with powerful, easy-to-use technology.