Real Estate

How Can Real Estate Agents Set Goals Amid Uncertainty?

Each month Anthony Askowitz explores a hypothetical real estate situation from both sides of the broker/agent dynamic. This time: A successful agent wants to set goals for 2021 but is unsure how to with so many unknowns.

In this monthly column, Anthony Askowitz explores a hypothetical real estate situation from both sides of the broker/agent dynamic. 

A successful agent wants to set goals for 2021 but is unsure how to with so many unknowns surrounding the pandemic, the economy and other significant factors. How can her broker help establish reasonable (and still challenging) expectations in the coming year?

Agent perspective

I’m a big believer in setting personal and professional goals at the beginning of every year. I even print them up and post them on my desk and in my home to help me stay focused. This practice has been a massive factor in my success, and it’s one I recommend to anyone who seeks my advice.

Setting goals for 2021, however, has been an enormous challenge. There is just so much ambiguity surrounding major influencers that impact our real estate market. This list starts with the COVID-19 pandemic, which brings multiple layers of uncertainty. (When will the vaccine get to everyone who needs it? How effective will it be? Will my kids be able to return to school, and will life get back to some semblance of “normal”?) But there is also concern about the economy, jobs and the impact a new administration might have.

Real estate is dependent on some level of certainty, which provides the foundation for my goal setting. For example, if I know interest rates will stay low, job creation remains steady, and values continue to increase in my market gradually, I can expect to increase my production (and therefore income) by about 10-15 percent per year if I consistently perform the same activities year over year. (Maybe I can even challenge myself to improve by 20 percent by perfecting some of my skills — if I’m feeling solid and confident.)

But is it reasonable to expect rates to remain historically low for another year? What if a new administration takes a different view? The pandemic has brought many new residents to our tax-friendly state, but can I count on that trend continuing if the vaccine does its thing? (I’m not even considering what would happen if I got sick myself!)

I’ve dealt with indeterminate landscapes before, but never one like this. How can my broker help me set reachable and rewarding goals in this environment?

Broker perspective

Most successful people, including athletes, entrepreneurs and CEOs, all set goals, and this longtime agent of mine is no exception. Anyone can have drive and motivation, but the ability and dedication to set and pursue goals is a skill that I admire and one that I work hard to develop with everyone in my office.

Every year, I lead a class on goal setting. I ask each agent to write down what they believe are their fundamental values (what is important to them, why are they working), followed by their key strengths (the skills or personality traits they can rely on to succeed). 

That’s the easy part — I then ask them to identify their primary time-wasters and excuses — the things that interfere with their getting more done. (This requires brutal honesty!) 

Next, I ask for 10 choices or goals that are specific, measurable and have set deadlines — for this coming year and again over the next five years. Everyone signs and dates their goal sheet. Finally, I ask them to share it with me and the key people in their lives. Doing that ensures we keep them on task and accountable. These steps are not easy, which is why not everyone is successful in real estate or other pursuits.

Although I can appreciate my agent’s concerns about uncertainty for our industry in 2021, I would still encourage her to set reasonable goals and have them motivate her in the same way she has so effectively all these years.

How to resolve

Unprecedented circumstances call for creativity and flexibility, and one great thing about goals is that you need not etch them in stone. Agents can set, adjust or completely revamp their goals as needed or as factors adjust in real-time. 

For example, the agent can follow her broker’s advice and set goals based on current conditions (even factoring in the nebulous and unclear influencers), with the understanding that they will be reviewed and possibly revised after the first quarter or half of the year.

As market conditions become more transparent and predictable, the agent can set more rigid and challenging goals that keep her reaching for better production and efficiency.

What comes to mind is how we would have started last year had we known what was to come. Would we have failed to set goals, put our heads in the sand and waited to see what happened? In March, we believed that we were facing a month of hardship with a quick return to what we then thought of as normalcy. 

The success that so many agents experienced last year is remarkable. They didn’t succumb to fear but instead accepted the challenge. Many are proud to have had their best year yet. (And perhaps they have the determination and dedication to making 2021 even better.) It’s a personal choice not to allow fear to stand in one’s way.

Anthony is the broker-owner of RE/MAX Advance Realty, with offices in North Miami, South Miami, Kendall, and the Florida Keys, and where he leads the activities of more than 170 agents. He is also a working agent who consistently sells more than 100 homes a year. 

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