You’ve heard the joke: If you want your phone to ring, go to the airport. (rimshot!) It seems like clients come out of the woodwork as soon as you decide to take a vacation. Taking just a week or two off can be a real challenge for many real estate agents. Can you imagine taking a month off? What about two months off?
That’s what Geordie Romer and his wife, Allyson, did in 2019. This week on The Walkthrough, Geordie explains how, thanks to careful planning, they spent two months in Spain and their real estate business didn’t miss a beat.
Join our Walkthrough Listener Community
We’ve launched a Facebook community just for listeners of The Walkthrough. If you’re not a listener, please listen to a couple episodes and then join. You won’t get much value out of the group if you’re not a podcast listener. If you are already a listener, come join us to connect with other listeners, connect with the guests that you hear on the show, learn from other agents and share your knowledge, get exclusive content, influence future episodes, and more. You can find the group here: HomeLight Agent Community – The Walkthrough.
Links and Show Notes
(SPEAKER: Matt McGee, Host)
It happens every time. As soon as you decide to take a weekend off, or God forbid, you go on vacation for a full week, or more amazingly, if you try to take two weeks off, there’s one thing that you know will happen.
[sound: phones ringing and vibrating]
Even if you don’t email your clients or post about it on social media, it seems like the whole world knows when you’re taking a vacation. And that’s when they decide to put their home on the market, to start looking at homes for sale, or that they’re thinking they might wanna get into real estate and they need to talk to you about it.
Work-life balance is a real challenge in real estate. As an industry, we’ve convinced ourselves that we have to be available all the time, because we’re helping people with the biggest purchase of their lives. And then there’s the fear that taking time off will hurt our bottom line.
So let me ask you this, what would happen if you tried to take an entire month off? What about two months off? I know what you’re thinking, “Impossible, McGee. Never gonna happen.” Except it’s not impossible.
Today, you’re gonna meet an agent who did exactly that. Two months off, the phone didn’t ring off the hook, and there was no impact on the bottom line. How did he do it? Let’s find out.
This is “The Walkthrough.”
Hi, there. I’m Matt McGee, editor of HomeLight’s Agent Resource Center. And welcome to “The Walkthrough.” This is a weekly podcast. We have new episodes coming out every Monday. This is the show where you’ll learn what’s working right now from the best real estate agents and industry experts in the country.
At HomeLight, we believe in real estate agents. We’re on a journey to find out how great agents grow their business, stand out from the crowd, and become irreplaceable. If you wanna get involved in the show or just get in touch with me, find me in our Facebook listener community. Just go to Facebook, search HomeLight Walkthrough, and the group will come right up. You can also leave a voicemail or send a text, the number is 415-322-3328, or you can send an email to walkthrough [at] homelight.com.
Before we dive into this week’s show, one more quick note. We’ve added a lot of new listeners in just the past three or four weeks. If you’re one of those new listeners, welcome! It’s super exciting to have you on this journey with me and with HomeLight. Real quick, I just introduced myself as the editor of HomeLight’s Agent Resource Center, but if you’re wondering, “Who the heck is this guy?” that’s a fair question. Let me suggest you go all the way back to March 2020 when we launched “The Walkthrough.” Look for the trailer episode. It should be the very first one on the list. It’s about a four or five-minute preview, and in that trailer, I shared more about my background in real estate, why I’m hosting this weekly show. As always, if you have any questions, you can just reach out to me any time.
Let’s get on with today’s show. We are two months into the New Year. It may not be completely obvious, but so far this year, most of these Walkthrough episodes have been about things that I would love for you to focus on in 2021. We talked last week, for example, about communication skills. I did a couple of episodes before that on building out a team, when is the best time to hire ISAs. I had Cliff Lewis on a few weeks ago for what I consider a very, very important topic—time management and work-life balance. I’m going to hit on that theme again today.
My wife’s been a Realtor for 17 years now. I know how tough it is to take any time off. If we decide to, you know, just take one week off, maybe we’re going to Hawaii or California or back to the East Coast, wherever, it takes an enormous amount of planning to make sure that, number one, we can enjoy the vacation, and number two, being gone doesn’t have a negative impact on her clients and her business.
Today, you are going to meet Geordie Romer. In fact, you may recognize his name. Geordie was one of the contributors to our first episode this year when we talked about the industry outlook for 2021. Geordie is one of the top agents in Central Washington, the Leavenworth area. It’s just a beautiful second-home and resort community in the Cascade Mountains.
Geordie works with his wife, Allyson. They have no admin, no anything. It’s just the two of them. In 2019, they had a crazy idea, “What if we went to Spain?” Now, they’ve been there before, so the location isn’t the crazy part. The crazy part was this, they said, “What if we stayed there for two months?” Think about that. What would happen to your business if you took a two-month vacation?
Well, Geordie and Allyson did it, two months on Mallorca, an island off the coast of Spain. They had a fantastic trip. And here’s the thing, their business didn’t miss a beat. Geordie will be the first to admit, that might be because they work in a smaller second home market. Would it have been different if they worked in Seattle or San Francisco? Who knows? In a bigger market, they sure would have had a lot more help and resources to fill in for them while they were gone. But either way, Geordie and Allyson put together a plan that I think has lessons and may spur some ideas no matter how big or fast-paced your market is.
On today’s show, Geordie is gonna talk about the planning process that went into taking two months off, what actually happened when they left the country, and why their word choice with clients had a huge impact on the success of this adventure. That’s all coming up. And then be sure to stay tuned to the very, very end of the show for another One More Minute segment. I have a quick story and some thoughts on the idea of when is the best time to post on social media.
But let’s talk about vacations and time off first. As today’s conversation begins, Geordie is telling me about his and Allyson’s conversations in 2019. That’s when they first thought, “Can we really go away for two months?”
Geordie: It came about thinking, I mean, dreaming if it was possible, looking at the time period, for example, around Thanksgiving and how that was often sort of wasted work time, you know. You weren’t getting new listings ready for market over the upcoming holidays, people were thinking about other parts of their lives, hanging out with family, going Christmas shopping, and you know, we thought, “Well, you know, isn’t there an opportunity to make a bigger vacation here during a time period where our clients might not necessarily need us or miss us?”
Matt: What were your fears or concerns?
Geordie: I mean, I think they’re the same fears that every real estate agent has when they spend more than 10 minutes away from their phone or their email, you know. You’re married to a real estate agent, I mean, where does the phone sit at the dinner table, you know? At what point does the phone get turned on or turned off during every day, you know? It’s certainly easy enough to work eight days a week if you want to. Your clients will let you. There’s certainly enough projects. There’s always more marketing to be done. There’s always more client outreach. You can work all the time if you really want to. But you don’t need to.
Matt: Was there any fear that this would have a negative impact on your business?
Geordie: I think there’s, not societal but maybe peer pressure from other real estate agents that makes you think you can’t take that much time off. And so, I think we have been in the business long enough to know that you don’t really…we didn’t need a business plan to tell us that we would have past clients come to us and ask us to sell their homes in 2020. We would have referrals, whether from other agents or from past clients, referring new business to us in February or March or April, no matter what we did or where we were. So we knew that business would come, but yeah, there’s always some unknown about what’s around the corner.
Matt: Geordie and Allyson had been to Spain twice before, including a three-week vacation in 2018. That one had no negative impact on their business, and it helped plant the seed that two months off might work. Then, when you combine a 17-year track record of success, along with a series of really good years since the recession ended, the seed starts to grow. And when 2019 got off to a good start, that also helped them feel good about taking two months off.
Geordie: We’ve done this long enough to know that we make enough money to take care of our needs, and at a certain point, an extra sale here or there is not going to make our entire year. And the one thing that you’ll never get back is time. And so, taking some time to recharge, relax, get away, was more important to us than perhaps a single missed sale or two during that time period.
Matt: The point that I’m trying to get at is that this is not for everyone in real estate, right? You need to know where you are in your business, you need to know where you are in your market.
Geordie: Yeah. I think it’s probably not for new agents. It’s not for someone who, you know, has lots of debt or probably someone who’s, you know, in the last year or two of the business, trying to save as much as they can for retirement. I think taking time off in general, whether it’s, you know, two weeks or two months, is certainly a lot more possible than most agents think.
Matt: You mentioned a little bit about this already. I wanna dive a little deeper about what your market is like in November, December. You said that things start to slow down a bit. Is that both buyer and seller activity?
Geordie: Yeah. So my market is a second-home market in a mountain town about two and a half hours east of Seattle, and we get cold snowy winters. And what tends to happen is that sellers take their listings off the market sometime during that time period because they don’t want to deal with all the maintenance difficulties of taking care of their properties in the winter, shoveling sidewalks, especially steep driveways, and worried about people from Western Washington, who are famously bad at driving in the snow, getting stuck in their driveways, or things like that.
And later in the spring, even when the snow is gone, yards really look horrible, sort, of in what New Englanders called mud season, you know, where there’s all the garbage has melted out from underneath the snow, there’s mud everywhere, everything is brown and gross looking. People wanna wait until their yards start to green up a little bit to put houses on the market. So that’s the seller side of things. Sellers hold their houses off the market November and December, don’t put new listings on, generally, until April or May, depending on the year. Buyers always seem to hit our market in January, even though there’s no inventory. So our phones and emails generally tend to blow up right after New Year’s. Every year, website gets massive hits, email signups, you name it, it happens during January.
Matt: The flip side of this then is that an agent, maybe in Phoenix, Tucson, Palm Springs, California, right, somewhere where it’s super hot, they might be more able to try something like this in the middle of summer when it’s 110 degrees.
Geordie: Right, yeah. You know, I think that’s one key is for an agent not only to have a good idea about their own business but about the seasonality of their own market and thinking about when it makes the most sense to get away. You know, for us, most of the big listing time period is May and June, let’s say. So being around two to three months before that to do client outreach, to prep houses, to do CMAs, all that stuff is important. So I wouldn’t try and be gone in the months leading up to the big listing push. That’s for sure.
Matt: You were very intentional about choosing November and December for this two-month vacation. What did you have to do to prepare for a two-month vacation? What was your October like?
Geordie: Yeah. I mean, I think there’s a couple parts of that. Certainly, you know, we tried to automate and plan as much marketing as we could for things to happen while we were gone. So that meant, you know, getting our Christmas cards ready in October, for example, and having all of those labeled and stamped and ready to go for somebody else to drop them off at the post office for us. Setting up, you know, email campaigns that could go out while we were gone, or… We even had some planned Facebook posts just to keep our business page alive and well while we were gone.
You know, after 15, 20 years in the business, you have a really big sphere. You have a large number of clients and past clients in your email or your mailing list. Only a tiny fraction of them are gonna do business or refer business to you in any one year, but you need to keep finding a way to stay in touch with them. And so we knew we could send things to people, and they wouldn’t necessarily reach out to us while we were gone, but we could still remain top of mind so that they would have our contact info and remember who we were even if they didn’t need to get a hold of us, necessarily.
Matt: What about clients that you were working with in October? Was there any worry about, “Oh, wait a second, we’re still showing some houses, we’re still getting this house ready for listing, but we gotta leave next week for two months,” how did you handle that?
Geordie: Yeah. I mean, I think, in terms of listing, we didn’t…like I said, I don’t think there was a lot of people interested in putting new stuff on the market at that time of year, in October. I mean, you get…it’s not unheard of, but there’s not a lot of business necessarily to turn away. I think it was more that we weren’t maybe chasing after any new listing business, if that makes sense. But we would have figured out a way to refer it if somebody absolutely had to sell their house. We would have found, you know, another broker at our office to help them out. And certainly, it was similar with buyer clients. You know, we continue to work with the clients that we were working with, but you know, you’d have to sort of taper at some point to stop taking on new buyer clients.
(Announcer: There’s one thing that nearly every real estate agent can agree on, well-informed buyers make purchase decisions faster. When buyers are well informed about a property that you’re selling, you’ll create more competition around your listings, and you’ll get offers faster. HomeLight’s revolutionary listing management software can help make this happen for you. It’s called Disclosures.io. It helps you market your listings and manage all of your incoming offers in one location. You and your clients are kept in the loop at every step of the process, from on-market to offer accepted. And everyone will love the simple, consistent, and secure experience. Sign up now for a free basic membership at disclosures.io/homelight.)
Matt: We’ve been talking about the factors that gave Geordie and Allyson the confidence to take two months off. Business was strong overall, and their market slows down in November and December. That spelled opportunity. So what made it a success? Geordie just mentioned automating a lot of their marketing and communications. But believe it or not, he says the success of this two-month vacation begins with the fact that they didn’t call it a vacation.
Geordie: One thing we found, and you and I had talked about this previously, is we referred to this as a sabbatical. And when we told clients who were…you know, you have long-term clients who sometimes talk about selling for a year or maybe more, sort of planning ahead, “Well, maybe next year will be the year that we do it.” Well, you know, in late summer and early fall prior to trip, we started to tell those long-term clients, “Hey, just so you know, we’re going on sabbatical for a couple months at the end of this year.” And those people were so supportive of us because they knew we had earned some time off, and a lot of them had had thoughts, too, about working too much in their business and, you know, being overworked and overstressed. And so the support we got from clients was amazing, incredible. And yeah, I think people would be surprised how much their clients are excited for them to go away, believe it or not.
Matt: It’s really interesting what you just said about choosing the word sabbatical. Did you purposely call it a sabbatical instead of a vacation?
Geordie: We did, yeah. I think sabbatical both helps with the time spend, like, a sabbatical isn’t a week, yeah. It’s enough time to really be gone and to reflect, you know, to recharge. And I also think it’s earned too, in a way. People who are academics earn sabbaticals after decades of service. People who, I know some attorneys who, their firms have sabbaticals. But you don’t earn a sabbatical for two years. You get a sabbatical for decades of hard work. And I think people, when they heard sabbatical, they understood what it was.
Matt: What kind of ground rules did you and Allyson put in place for yourselves as far as, like, “We’re not gonna respond to voicemails, we’re not gonna respond to emails?” Did you have to have any ground rules?
Geordie: Yeah. I mean, I always think it is important to have ground rules. I also think that it helps to be flexible, you know. As much as you could plan, things always change. We did have a couple of things that we ended up having to deal with while we were gone. We had two listings that had been on the market all summer without success that, as soon as we pulled them off the market and they were no longer active listings, we got offers on them, and they were strong offers. So yeah, I mean…
Matt: It always happens that way, Geordie.
Geordie: For sure. I mean, we always joke that if your phone is not ringing, the best thing to do is go to the airport. Because as soon as you get on that gate or start to board the plane, clients you have not talked to in five years are certain to call.
Matt: Rough estimate, how much time, how many hours, the whole two months you were gone, did you have to work?
Geordie: I’m sure it was never more than five hours a week. Some weeks, it was probably a lot less than that.
Matt: What was it like when you got back? Did you have, like, huge piles of paperwork on your desk, a ton of emails to get through?
Geordie: Yeah. So, you know, we have gone away for Christmas vacation regularly, and we’ve gone to Europe many, many times. And so each time, we perfect the rules of engagement a little bit more. And our favorite is to fly back home so that we get home, let’s say Thursday or Friday, and have the weekend at home prior to coming back to the office on Monday. And that allows us to deal with jetlag, to deal with the inevitable little head cold or whatever you’re dealing with, to do lots of laundry, to deal with going through all your mail, and just getting a little bit ahead of things before everyone knows you’re back.
Matt: You took two months off from a career where a lot of agents struggle to take two days off or two weeks off. How did you feel when you got home and got back to work? Did you feel like you had accomplished something?
Geordie: Yes, indeed. And I think, you know, our plan was to try and repeat it, you know. And I certainly had heard of other agents who worked in vacation markets who took significant time off every year. And I thought, wow, maybe that’s the key to longevity in this career, is to, you know, take the time off when you can and really be refreshed so that when the market is going crazy and is super active, you can hit it hard and, you know, give it 100%. I think people definitely should be looking at taking more time off. Yeah, I think a sabbatical for people who can pull it off is…it’s the way much of the world works, you know? The United States is one of the few places where workers get two weeks of paid vacation, you know. Many other places take…where the whole country shuts down for a month or two, yeah. So I’d highly recommend it.
(Speaker: Matt McGee, Host)
Well, I’m so glad Geordie made that point at the end there about the need to take time off. I hope you’re planning to do that this year. We’ve all been feeling, you know, a lot of stress over the past year. We’ve been stuck at home more than ever. Take some time off. It’ll be good for your mental and emotional health. And heck, maybe you can take an entire month or even two and not miss a beat. How great would that be?
Coming up at the very end of the show, I have a One More Minute segment for you, but first, let’s do our takeaways segment. This is what stood out to me from my conversation with Geordie Romer.
He says, number one, takeaway number one, you have to know where you are in your business before you try to take two months off. If you’re new in real estate or if maybe you’re saving money for retirement, it may not be the best idea.
Takeaway number two, you also have to know your market. Think about the seasonality and don’t be gone during your big listing season and the couple of months that lead up to that.
Takeaway number three, automate as much marketing and communication as you can so you still look active to the general public. That’s a good idea, whether you’re taking one or two weeks off or one or two months off.
Takeaway number four, Geordie suggests that you taper your work with buyers and sellers the month before you leave. Try to clear your slate of active clients as best as you can.
And then takeaway number five, when talking to your clients about this, calling it a sabbatical instead of a vacation was huge. A sabbatical carries weight. It says more than, you know, “We’re taking a little time off.” It says, “We’ve earned this, and don’t bother us.” That helped Geordie and Allyson avoid that cacophony of calls and texts.
Okay. If you have questions or feedback for me or Geordie, a couple of ways you can get in touch. Leave a voicemail or send a text, it’s 415-322-3328. You can also send an email, it’s walkthrough [at] homelight.com. Or you can find both Geordie and myself in our Facebook listener community. Just go to Facebook, do a search for HomeLight Walkthrough, and the group should come right up.
That’s all for this week. Thanks to Geordie Romer for joining me. Thank you for listening. Hey, if you like what you hear on “The Walkthrough,” would you mind taking a moment to rate and review us on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen? I would sure appreciate that. Be sure to hit the Subscribe button as well so that you get all of our future shows automatically.
My name is Matt McGee, you’ve been listening to “The Walkthrough.” At HomeLight, we believe in real estate agents. We’re on a journey to find out how great agents grow their business, stand out from the crowd, and become irreplaceable.
Go out and safely sell some homes. I’ll talk to you again next week. Bye-bye.
Matt: Welcome back. Thanks for sticking around. Welcome to edition number two of One More Minute. This is an occasional segment at the end of our show where I’ll just, like, riff for about 60 seconds on something that I want to share with you. Today, a quick story about social media and scheduling.
You’ve probably heard people talk about the best time to send an email or the best time to post on social media, right. They say, like, if you post on Facebook at 10:00 a.m. on a Wednesday, it’ll have the best chance of being seen. But think about it, if everyone posts on Facebook at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, no one’s posts are gonna be seen, right?
The experts say Tuesday and Wednesday are generally the best days to send out emails, and I am guilty of following that wisdom more often than not.
But listen to this: On Valentine’s Day, a Sunday, at 4:00 p.m., I sent an email to almost 600 leads in my wife’s database. Now, when we send emails like this, the open rate is typically about 15% or 20%. That email that we sent on Valentine’s Day, a Sunday, at 4:00 p.m., that one had a 51% open rate. Way above normal.
Moral of the story, sometimes it’s really smart to communicate with your audience when there’s nothing else competing for their attention.
That’s One More Minute. I’m Matt McGee. Thanks for listening. See you again next week with another Walkthrough.
Header Image Source: (Christian Waske / Unsplash)