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As 2014 begins to wind down, real estate professionals across the board are taking a good hard look at the past 12 months—celebrating their successes and thinking outside the box to strategically position themselves ahead of the competition moving forward. While it’s never too early to start planning for the year ahead, the five lucky winners of the 2014 HomeFinder.com Agent Makeover Sweepstakes, presented by PNC Mortgage, got the ultimate head start when they were flown to Chicago, from September 10 – 12, 2014, for a two-day business and style makeover.

“Our goal is to provide the five winners and thousands of entrants with the necessary tools to establish their niche, and localize their marketing strategies to succeed in a competitive climate,” says Doug Breaker, president and CEO, HomeFinder.com.

The five winners, chosen at random, received a two-night stay at The James Hotel in the heart of downtown Chicago and a style makeover that included a new outfit and styling session from a professional stylist, a new hairstyle and hair/makeup consultation and a professional headshot photography session. The winners also had the opportunity to participate in various one-on-one coaching sessions with industry leaders who discussed topics such as, Localizing Your Social Media Strategy, Online Marketing Tools to Grow Your Business, Staying Relevant in Your Industry, and more.

For winner Vernon Ubico, with HP Residential Services in Coral Gables, Fla., the decision to enter the HomeFinder.com Agent Makeover Sweepstakes presented by PNC Mortgage was a no brainer. “I’ve been self-taught throughout my career, and any opportunity to have professional coaching and instruction is welcome,” says Ubico.

Keeping Up with Technology to Connect with Buyers
This year’s winners pointed to various aspects of their business that most needed a makeover—from time management to lead generation, lead conversion and prospecting.

“I need to be more focused on the time I am spending on my real estate business,” says winner Vicki Rainwater with RE/MAX Professional Advantage in Monroe Center, Ill., who points to new business and time management as the areas of her business that most need a makeover.

Another common theme revolved around social media, new technology and digital marketing.

“Younger people are now beginning to buy homes, and I need to be active on social media to reach them,” says Bernie Calvario with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Northborough, Mass. “I am really starting from the ground level here, so I am excited to build my presence and begin outreach to clients via those channels.”

For Cindy Harris—with Coldwell Banker Gosslee in Shreveport, La.—being found in today’s competitive market is the name of the game when it comes to incorporating social media and new technology into her business routine. “Younger people are really on top of technology and a lot of them are searching for homes on sites like HomeFinder.com, and doing research on social media. If I’m not on top of that, they won’t find me.”

“Incorporating social media and new technology into my business will allow me to contact more people and interact with them more efficiently,” adds Ubico.

Building a Solid Digital Foundation
As prospective buyers continue to turn to the Internet for their real estate needs, digital marketing is increasingly important for real estate professionals who want to successfully reach this new generation.

“I like the technology behind digital marketing,” says Rainwater. “I like the fact that you can be in front of more people and spend less money than advertising in a newspaper or on a postcard.”

Whether it’s having a truly personal website or displaying both your personality and business persona on social media, building up your digital foundation is a crucial first step.

“Having a personal website really struck a chord with me, especially how I need to change my bios and summary to add keywords and reflect my professional background,” says Calvario. “It’s not just about listing your credentials; it’s about explaining who you are, what you do and how you can help your clients.”

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