Above: Nelson Zide with RISMedia’s Beth McGuire; Photo by AJ Canaria of MoxiWorks
Editor’s Note: It’s been almost a year since we sat down with Nelson Zide, a longtime agent with ERA Key Realty Services, who covers Framingham, Massachusetts and a large area of the state, west of Boston and over to the city of Worcester. But we wanted to air our interview, noting that from November of 2021 to now, many of the same dynamics continue to shape and affect his market, and the advice Zide offers agents newer to the business, is as time-honored as ever.
Can you give us a snapshot of your market? Are you experiencing the inventory shortage that we’re hearing about almost everywhere?
Yes, our market is what you’re hearing pretty much throughout the country. We do have an inventory shortage—we have inventory, but there is a shortage. What people don’t understand is there are houses for sale. The problem is that they go on the market on a Wednesday or Thursday, and they’re gone by Monday or Tuesday. And if you think about it…in this country, we sold a million more homes this past year (2021) than the year before. So, when people say there’s no inventory—how can you say there’s no inventory when we sold a million more homes? But we did it much faster because the demand was much greater and interest rates (at the time of interview) were like borrowing money for free. And why would you want to live in an apartment when you can buy a house for about the same money? And that’s why the market was very strong last year, and that’s why I think it’s going to continue to be strong.
Do you think it’s going to keep going?
Yes. Nothing on the horizon is showing me at all that things are going to change. They’re not building more houses; they’re not making more inventory; there’s still only a limited amount, interest rates are still low—(3-3.5% at the time of the interview), which is still historically low. I have to remind people that I sold homes at 19% years ago. This is still a very strong market.
What advice would you give to agents who have sellers who are afraid to put their homes on the market because they aren’t sure they can buy another home?
One of the things I don’t think many agents are taking into account is the biggest fear of most sellers is, ‘Where am I going to go?’ One solution is to put a caveat into the listing, such as ‘sale is subject to the seller finding a home of their choice within two weeks,’ which I’ve done a lot this past year, I know that doesn’t sound like a lot of time but if the seller knows they’ve got two weeks to find a home they are out searching the boondocks to find anything that will suit their needs.”
Do you find that sellers are more willing to go outside the area that they thought would suit their original needs?
A lot of the time they will. They may not go too far out, but they will go further out to find a home because they don’t want to stay where they are. Another thing that I’ve suggested to sellers is to check with their lender to see what they can afford. I ask them, can you afford to buy what you want to buy without selling your house? If they can afford to buy something without selling, it doesn’t mean they will do that, but it means if we have that letter from the lender, and we can do it, we can put their house on the market, and we’re ready to buy, with or without the caveat or if they find something quickly, they can sell their home fairly quickly, and go ahead and buy something. They can find financing even without their home on the market.
Those two are the two biggies that I think most agents forget to tell their sellers—to try and say ‘Mister and Mrs. X, take a deep breath and just sit back and relax and let’s look at it.’ One of the issues I’ve found with most agents is they’re not willing to be a consultant. All they want to do is list the house and sell the house. Stop, stop, stop. Take a deep breath. We have to advise our clients the best way possible. If we can advise our clients the best way possible, we’ll get more listings, we’ll make more sales. If all we care about is listings and sales, we’re going to get less.
And isn’t that what people are looking for especially when they feel their options are so limited? Creative ideas, different options. Can you give us an example of a conversation with a prospect?
Exactly—they need that person to help them. A lot of people I call, they say, ‘I’m not selling,’ and I say, ‘I’m not going to ask you to sell. I’m not even going to ask you to list your home. But I want to sit down with you and try to figure out what are some of your interests and possibilities. If they say, ‘I don’t want to do that,’ I tell them this: “If I ask you to list, you can ask me to leave. I’m not going to ask you to list your home. This conversation is just so we can try to figure out where you’re at, where you want to be and let’s move you from step A to step B to step C. If you don’t want to do that you may go to another agent who doesn’t care two cents. And the good agents who are doing the business, they care much more than two cents about your welfare.
Can you give our readers some more prospecting tips?
I do a lot of prospecting. And when I do my training, I tell people the key to generating more business is to make the phone calls. If you’re a younger person, text but also make phone calls. And you have to work the people you know because you don’t know when they want to sell their home. But if you don’t make the phone calls to your sphere of influence, if they are not on a monthly mailer, or an email every two weeks—every time I make my phone calls, inevitably I get someone that I wasn’t expecting and all of sudden they’re saying ‘well unfortunately my mom passed away’ or ‘my brother needs support’ and ‘I need your help.’ They remember me because I’ve been doing my newsletters; I’ve been making my phone calls; I’m doing the things that the good agents are supposed to be doing every single day.
It sounds like you believe that consistency is key?
Always consistency, I’ve been doing this an awful long time and I still make phone calls an hour a day, five days a week, to my sphere of influence. And if you’re not doing that as an agent, you’re not doing enough business. You’re really not. And I don’t care if you’re a big team or not a big team, what your job description is—whatever it may be—if you want to become a really good agent, your job is to make phone calls one hour a day five days a week, and you can make 20-25 phone calls to people who know you.
So how many leads would you say that turns into for you?
Normally that will give me one or two leads a month. Sometimes more, it just depends. I had somebody this year who I’ve known for years. He was on my list but I hadn’t seen him in years, and suddenly one day he called me and said, “Nelson we’re building a new house we need to sell ours.” If I’m making the calls and I’m sending the newsletters out, all of a sudden people, when they want to sell, are going to call me. If they don’t know you, they aren’t going to call you. Here’s the thing, NAR says—and I really believe it—that 80-85% of buyers and sellers are really happy with their REALTOR® in the year they make the sale. Yet when they ask them, ‘Would you use the same REALTOR® that you used before?’ 10 -15% say yes—what happened to the gap? And you know what the answer is? I can tell you what the answer is because I know what they say. They didn’t know they were still in the business because most REALTORS® list them and leave them. I’ve never believed in one time. You want to stay in this business? You can’t do one time—you have to consistently be reaching out.
One of the things we know about you is you’re closing 45 transactions a year with a total of $12-15 million. We talked about consistency; we talked about the phone calls and texts; but we also know it’s a challenging market so I imagine sometimes agents can get a little deflated. Can you share with us a little about how they can stay motivated when sometimes, there is that long time between the sale?
Newer agents have not been through a timeframe where they worked, worked, and worked at it, and nothing happened. I’ve lived through 4 recessions and recoveries. I know what that’s like. It’s very difficult to tell an agent to take a deep breath; to take a step back and use your daytimer system, to make time for your family. I learned this so many years ago when I was fairly young in the business.
I worked before computers and cell phones before any , and I worked 10-12 hours a day. I came home early one day and my five-year-old daughter looked at me and looked at my picture on the wall and said, ‘Are you my daddy?’ True story. I thought, I can’t do that anymore. Because if my daughter doesn’t know who I am, why am I working this hard? So, I asked my wife to put in my daytimer all the personal things I needed to do first. I also said that we needed to start taking more vacations by ourselves, and those went in the daytimer. In my younger days, I played basketball and tennis 2-3 times a week and I put those in my daytimer. So then, when someone called and said, “Can I meet you Sunday morning?” I said no, I have a meeting. And the amazing thing that happened is, my business went up, it didn’t go down. It’s amazing what you can do when you make sure you have time for your personal stuff. Make the time for it and then all of a sudden your business will increase.
What are some of the mistakes agents can make in not setting boundaries between their work and personal lives?
Someone calls and says they want to go look at a house, and the agent just says yes. They don’t prequalify; they don’t do a buyers consultation interview, they don’t do anything, they just run right out to show the house. First, that’s unsafe. It’s not a good thing to do. And whenever I’ve broken my rule and done that, do you know how often those people have bought something from me? Zero. Why? Because they didn’t know me. I was the same as everybody else, instead of being better and different than everybody else. I just think you’ve got to set boundaries, that’s the real key. When you tell people your schedule when you’re available, they respect the fact that you respect your time and their time.
What expectations do you set for your clients around returning their phone calls?
I tell all my buyers and sellers that I will return their phone call or text within 24 hours. That’s what I do, even when I’m away traveling, I will return a phone call or text every 24 hours. That’s what I always do because if I’m with a buyer or seller and I get a phone call, when we’re done, I’ll just call back. Not a problem.
What do you think are the challenges and opportunities for agents this year?
I think the biggest challenge for most agents is to realize that work is not a four-letter word. I’ve always realized that work is very important, more so than ever before. If you do your job, you will do business. It’s all about time management. I still do all my own prospecting–now I don’t prospect on Saturday or Sunday–that’s either for appointments or family, but I will prospect one hour a day, five days a week, and I tell that to everybody. I also ask , ‘What is your goal every day?’ You have to have a goal every day, especially now.
Can you share your daily goals with our readers?
If you don’t have a goal, you’ll never hit anything. If you have a goal and you have someone who’s holding you accountable to that goal, that makes a huge difference in your business. I belong to a mentor group. We meet once a month, and we all have goals, and if we don’t meet our goals, we pay fines. It’s wonderful, it’s very accountable.
My goal is, “four-four-four.” Four pendings, four listings, four closings a month. Now I will tell you, I passed all of them this last year even though there were some months I didn’t quite hit the goal. But that’s always my goal, and that’s always in front of me every single day and I know when I’m meeting with my mentor group, it’s always in front of me. If you don’t have a mentor, talk to your manager, talk to your broker, find somebody–this is not a coach–this is just a mentor, an accountability partner, or partners that will hold you accountable.
I think goal-setting is even more important now–mentorship, mentors, goal-setting, and do your thing every single day. I mean, I know what I have to do every single day, Monday through Friday. I wake up (it helps, waking up…) I will read something about half an hour every single day–I’m a big reader–if it’s online, books, a magazine–I read your magazine cover to cover when I get it (thank you, Nelson!). I read books, business books, autobiographies, history books. I get to the office by 9 o’clock. If I don’t have an appointment, I check my listings, check my sales, check my phone log of who I have to call, every single day. Then I start my appointments and nothing changes. And guess what, if you do that for a month straight, now it’s ingrained. People ask, ‘How do you do that?’ It’s simple, because I know what I have to do everyday. I know the phone calls I have to make; I know the appointments, and I’m just going to do it every single day.
In doing that routine, have you been able to meet your goals, even in a challenging market?
I had one of my best years ever this past year (2021). I don’t have a team, but I do have an admin in the office who helps me, and I have an agent in the office who is much more tech savvy than me. (I readily admit I am not tech savvy.) I also have another agent who will take my buyers out, but I don’t have a team per se. I will close about 65 transactions and $26 million this year–one of my best years ever. And I didn’t do anything different than my other years when I did $12-15 million. It was better because more people called and more people wanted to see me.
What are some other simple ways agents can reach out to clients?
Create a newsletter! Whenever I talk to anyone, I ask them, ‘Do you get my newsletter? Great, what did you like about it?’ They tell me what they like, and I take a note, for example, they’ll say, ‘‘I like the gardening article. That’s the only time I see gardening information.’ So I take a picture, send it off to them, with a note, ‘I thought you liked this gardening tip.’
How often do you send out your newsletter?
Once a month.
What other kinds of content do you put in your newsletter?
Everything is non-real estate related. I don’t believe in sending real estate content newsletters to people I’ve already done business with, they don’t want to know what houses are worth; they want to know about gardening tips, renovation tips, always a recipe, always something there of value. One of the things I do with this newsletter is when I make phone calls–and I always make the phone calls a week after they get it–is ask, what they thought about it. They’ll say ‘I tried your recipe,’ and I’ll say, ‘How was it, and you didn’t call me to eat?’ And we always laugh and continue our conversation. Because they don’t care about real estate–they want a conversation with someone they know and trust
What are the top three steps agents should take right now to set themselves up for success in the year ahead?
Set up a sphere of influence, get them on a monthly mailer and call them once a month. Most people don’t do that because they say they don’t know anybody. When I first started in the business, I was from Boston; I moved out to the suburbs, I knew nobody, but I knew all my friends from college, so I put them on my list. None of them were buying out where I was, but I put them on my list until it kept on growing. You all have more people that you know, that your mother and father know, that your brother knows, that your sister knows, that your kids know…those are the three things I would do immediately.
What are three ways agents can build lasting relationships with clients?
Be in contact, be in contact, be in contact. If you are not in contact with your people, they will forget you. The NAR studies show that and I listen to that. People say, ‘Well I don’t have a database yet.’ You’re right you haven’t been in business for a long time, but you have some people you know. When I started, I knew nothing, I wasn’t from my area and I didn’t know anything.
Could you leave us with some parting words of wisdom?
Go to as much training as you can possibly go. Training, training, training, and then you have to implement, implement, implement. When I first started in the business, there was no training at all. Here’s the training–here’s your desk, here’s your phone, see you later; you’re all alone–that was my training. So I got my GRI very quickly,because that was the only training that was out there and that helped me. When I am out there speaking, I always tell people, ‘Get all the training you can. Take note on what can help you increase your business. From training and the ah-ha moments, implement. That’s what you need to do.”