RISMEDIA, May 19, 2009-Top 5 in Real Estate Member Valerie Fitzgerald, owner of The Fitzgerald Group (www.thevaleriefitzgeraldgroup.com) in Beverly Hills, California, has a new book out on bookstands today titled, “Heart and Sold: How to Survive and Build a Recession-Proof Business. Last week RISMedia ran a five-part, in-depth interview with Valerie, who talked about how she became successful, how she stays successful in today’s challenging economic times and busy lifestyles, and the inspiration for, and some insights to her new book.
In case you missed the series, here is the interview in full. For information about ordering the book visit www.thevaleriefitzgeraldgroup.com.
RISMedia: The real estate market has become increasingly competitive. While the economic situation plays a role in it, marketing real estate had in fact changed well before the mortgage and Wall Street meltdown. People don’t buy a property, but rather the whole “experience” of a lifestyle that comes with it. Buyers are today more demanding than ever, better informed and the Internet turbo-charges comparisons at the speed of broadband. With this in mind, how has an increasingly competitive marketplace changed the way you market a property?
Valerie Fitzgerald: In 2007, we realized the limitless numbers of people looking at real estate on the web. We therefore focused our attention to our online strategy and found ways to interface with those people, to get them the information they needed and wanted about particular properties. We set up systems to reach the highest number of people possible, to give them information of value to them. Doing this forced us to organize our database, so that we aren’t sending out random information, but that the recipients instead receive specific information catered to their interests – information delivered through our newsletters, blog, and website. We’ve done away with the old- style website, where an agent would post tons of content and talk ‘to’ the reader. Visitors today want information quickly, so we give them small, bite-size pieces of information of value to them instead.
The bottom line is that we focus on the value of the content, on keeping the information specific to a particular reader, and on keeping the process speedy and efficient.
RISMedia: Market, location, conditions and presentation are the main variables used to determine the price of a property. How much do conditions and presentation impact the price? Can you quantify that in a rough percentage for our readers?
VF: Conditions and presentation tremendously impact the price of a property. A home has to look good. Nearly all developers stage the projects they are working on, and more than half of the homes I work with are staged.
Using a quality, high-end company to assess a property’s aesthetic needs is crucial. A property has to be in presentable condition prior to opening the door to potential buyers.
The fact is, many people can’t figure out how to live in a house. Of course, they know where to put the bed and the sofa, but in consideration of a big floor plan, a contemporary design, or an empty house, a potential buyer is often lost because they can’t picture how they fit into the particular space. Homes are sold on emotion, and in many cases you need to create that.
Ultimately, I’d say conditions and presentation impact the price of a home by 60%, with other variables being location, floor plan, style, and neighborhood.
The 3 Worst Mistakes a Seller Should Avoid
RISMedia: Sellers often underestimate the true costs that occur when a property sits unsold. Maintenance and taxes are often insignificant compared to the money that the property is worth could earn if invested. And it’s just a fraction of the smallest price cut. Can you quantify for our readers the financial benefit of selling fast?
Valerie Fitzgerald: The ‘time value of money’ is something every seller needs to consider. For example, let’s say in January a seller wants to list a home for $1 million, and by February the agent suggests to lower the asking price to $975, but the seller refuses. Assuming the monthly payment on the property is $10-12K per month (including mortgage, property taxes, and insurance), and it hasn’t sold in six months, by June the seller has spent $60,000-72,000. This, say, $60,000 expense lowers the property from $1 million to $940,000. Which means that the seller could have lowered the asking price to $975 in February to sell it faster and save the loss of money.
You put more money in your wallet by selling faster, and by avoiding paying the monthly expenses that occur with waiting longer. You can do more with cash in your hand, such as investing in treasuries or some other investment.
RISMedia: What are the three worst mistakes sellers should avoid?
VF: Getting emotionally involved-being too emotional; micro-managing the agent; and not taking a professional’s advice.
RISMedia: What are the three most important things a seller should do to sell fast, and for top dollar?
VF: One: Price at 5% below the last comparable sale within a three-month prior period. Take a look at the comps in your area, find the sale that is closest to your property in scope, and list your property at 5% lower than what that property sold for.
Two: Work with an agent who has a track record for selling homes in your price range.
Three: Present your house in the best condition possible so potential buyers walk through the door and feel they could live there. Take the advice of a professional in terms of what needs to be changed, removed, or added. In many cases, you’ll need a professional staging company to get the house ready for showings. After the property is ready, be sure to make it available for open houses and showings.
What You Can Learn about Yourself through Writing
RISMedia: Where did you get your inspiration or ideas for your new book, “Heart and Sold: How to Survive and Build a Recession-Proof Business”?
Valerie Fitzgerald: For years now I’ve been speaking across the country, which gave me the opportunity to meet women from all over. So often, women shared with me their personal challenges, which they perceived as impossible obstacles. I always listened and offered whatever I could in term of tangible things to do, or just much needed motivation.
I always connected with the women, but never proclaimed that I too had those feelings or were in those shoes. The inspiration to write Heart & Sold came from wanting women to know and understand they are not alone. Many women, including myself, have had to overcome challenging situations to reach great success and I wanted this book to be a bridge for women to feel they would do the same. It takes inspiration and motivation to make positive and effective changes in your professional life.
RISMedia: What was one of the most surprising things you learned while writing Heart & Sold?
VF: How vulnerable I could be. How open and honest writing this book would make me in terms of sharing my life. I always thought certain parts of my life should be hidden, and my struggles shouldn’t be shared with anyone. Being vulnerable is a positive place to be, it helps you grow, connect, and move forward toward achieving goals and dreams.
RISMedia: What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
VF: Busy. I’d wake up around 6:30 to exercise and be out the door by 9:00. I’d spend a full workday with clients, listings, or real estate related ‘to do’, get home around 6-7:00, grab something to eat then start writing. I’d finish around 2-3:00 in the morning and call it a day. Then start over again the following day.
I was often tired, but I was in the zone. I loved what I was doing. I love and will always love real estate, so the 9-5 is never a ‘grind’…I love my job. Writing was the same way. As I mentioned, I learned to love being vulnerable and having this book as an outlet was a wonderful gift.
I believe being present, no matter what you’re doing keeps you in the zone and moving forward.
The 3 Top Business Rules to Live By
RISMedia: You recently became a member of the “The Real Estate Top 200,” a prestigious national award ranking sponsored annually by The Wall Street Journal, which ranks you in the top 1 percent of the more than 1.2 million Realtors® nationwide. What are the three top business rules you live by?
Valerie Fitzgerald: Say what you mean, mean what you say, and don’t say it mean.
RISMedia: You say, that you stopped getting ready to get ready. Was it your daughter that gave you the courage to take action?
VF: Being a good mother to my daughter gave me the courage to take action. Wanting to be the best mother I could be…to provide for her, support her.
RISMedia: You say that your daughter was your power source. Please explain.
VF: She was my power source. She was the ‘spark that lights the pilot light’, but that’s not enough – you have to love WHY you are doing something. The thing in you that’s making you do what you are doing is not enough to sustain you….it’s the WHY.
RISMedia: How have you used the power of visualization and goals in your success?
VF: Visualization – I’ve always had, for as long as I can remember, very clear vision boards. Right now, I have one in my office and a big 5×5 board at my house. Really simple corkboards with things posted on them that inspire me. For many years, those things were my windows – I never had an office with a window, so I could look at expressions, sayings, a beautiful picture, whatever it is/was that gave/gives me inspiration. Sometimes I’d right goals, like ‘I want to sell two houses this week’ or ‘this is where I’m going on my next vacation’ and have it point to some tropical island. I put things that were swimming around in my head – goals, wants, and inspirations – and put them on my boards.
It’s funny, people try to argue the ‘I want’ with ‘you don’t really need’ – that’s not the point….if there is something you ‘want’ you ‘want’ it and there’s no reason you shouldn’t have it. Goals are for getting the things you want. It all relates to the Law of Attraction and how thinking-seeing-and believing can manifest your goals and desires.
Why the Market Doesn’t Matter and Staying Energized
RISMedia: You write that markets always go up and down. Why is the market condition not the determining factor in your ability to sell homes?
Valerie Fitzgerald: Life is a series of conditions that are not within our control…natural disasters, financial situations, divorce, happy times, sad times – there’s no one condition that controls any one factor. What we need to do is have an understanding of those changing and uncontrollable conditions and to interpret them within each situation. You are leading and advising your clients so they can make the best possible decision for themselves at that particular moment in their lives.
RISMedia: You warn your readers never to fight fire with fire regarding your clients. Can you explain?
VF: I did do that a few times and I didn’t make money for a very long time – maybe for that reason. Brokers can tend to take on the personality of their clients, which is not good because when that happens, we don’t give a fair and impartial viewpoint to the client.
When you strike a strike with a strike – the end result is never good. It doesn’t slow down the momentum and give time to reflect on what is actually going on. Great fighters strike a strike with a strike – it’s their job. It’s not our job. It’s our responsibility to take pause, consider, and to give impartial, informed advice to our clients. We need to be the voice of reason especially when we are dealing with other people’s money.
RISMedia: Rumor has it that you deal with over 100 phone calls and 200 e-mails each day, and spend over four hours in the car. What’s your energy secret?
VF: I usually know what my day will be like the night before. This gives me time to mentally prepare and think about my purpose…my energy is always involved in that purpose. When you have a purpose, your energy is there – you have to show up and make it happen. I get tremendous energy from being fully connected to what I am doing and loving what I am doing.
You can read more about Valerie Fitzgerald’s insights into creating a successful business in her new book, Heart and Sold: How to Survive and Build a Recession-Proof Business, which hits bookstands Tuesday, May 19.
For more information about The Valerie Fitzgerald Group, visit www.thevaleriefitzgeraldgroup.com.
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