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By Margaret Kelly

RISMEDIA, July 10, 2008-Real estate is, as always, a sound long-term investment-and I mean that for careers as much as for consumers.

The key word, however, is “investment.”

An immediate-and understandable-reaction for many real estate professionals when their market begins to slow is expense-slashing.

There’s no disputing that many markets are in tough corrections. The National Association of Realtors April 2008 data show an 11-month inventory of existing homes across the U.S. and sales fluctuating each month nationally and regionally.

But homes are being bought and sold, just as they always are, no matter how the real estate climate is labeled. The seasonally adjusted pace for April puts us on track for 5 million sales in 2008. If you’re motivated and have the right attitude, you’ll earn your share of those sales.

To get the results you’re looking for, it’s critical first to evaluate whether the time and money you’re spending is being spent wisely.

Remove the clutter. Cut costs and tasks that aren’t about putting you in front of clients. Evaluate every line item in your budget and ask yourself how the expense directly generates business for you.

Don’t be too quick to nix training opportunities. There’s truth in the phrase “Learn more to earn more.” And even one referral from a networking event or class could make up for any fees and other expenses.

Create curb appeal. Now’s the perfect time for a fresh advertising campaign. Take your best new idea and incorporate it into print materials (letters, flyers, mailers, newspaper ads); then update your website and other online platforms. A sharp look and cohesive message can attract new attention and second glances.

Give some extra thought to sprucing up your business card and e-mail signature by adding a new designation to your name. When you earn designations, their symbols trigger curiosity, generate referrals and represent your expertise.

Consider upgrades. It never hurts to look the part. Evaluate your image and make sure you’re conveying professionalism, knowledge and trustworthiness inside and out.

And think about working with a real estate coach. They’re great at helping you stay productive-rather than “busy”-through slower periods.

Smart investments of time and resources can make all the difference in your business when you’re not the only option on the block.

Margaret Kelly, CRB, is chief executive officer of RE/MAX International.

For more information, visit