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transforming_real_estateIt’s a warm autumn day in Chicago, and five impeccably-dressed professionals cross a busy downtown street with a camera and video crew in tow. They pause on a corner and the photographer instructs them to strike a pose. He steps back, his camera clicking. Passersby look on curiously, wondering who these celebrities might be.

But the group members aren’t your typical superstars; they’re real estate agents. And the photo shoot is the grand finale of the HomeFinder.com Agent Transformation Sweepstakes presented by PNC Mortgage.

This is the fourth year HomeFinder.com has offered their complete business and style makeover event, and over 11,000 REALTORS® entered with the hopes of winning the three-day trip to the Windy City.

The Opportunity of a Lifetime
Five winners were flown in from across the United States, bringing their vastly different backgrounds and experience levels in the real estate business with them.

The whirlwind adventure included some wining and dining at Chicago’s finest restaurants, a visit to the HomeFinder.com offices in the downtown Loop and a styling session complete with a fashion and hair makeover. However, the majority of agents who entered the sweepstakes were primarily seeking professional development and training.

Winner Elaine Moran of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach, REALTORS® in Doylestown, Pa. was inspired to enter the sweepstakes because she saw it as an excellent opportunity to learn new business skills. “The one-on-one coaching was really appealing to me,” Moran states. “And who doesn’t love a makeover?”

Personalized advice from industry leaders such as communication expert and author Mike Lindstrom and social media and content specialist Shay Hata served as the hallmark of this event. The one-on-one coaching sessions covered a range of topics relevant to real estate professionals, including search engine optimization (SEO), content creation, goal-setting, technology and social media marketing.

Reaching New Clients in a Digital Age
Each winner had unique skills they wanted to hone through their business sessions, from better time management to improving digital marketing techniques, but common themes quickly emerged.

Social media in particular continues to be a major pain point for agents. With new platforms emerging every day, it’s hard for REALTORS® to know what to spend their already limited time on, and if it’s even worth the effort.

Winner Steve Lindsey of RE/MAX Advantage in Floyds Knobs, Ind., admits that the digital side of his business needed the biggest makeover. “I think that’s where the future of real estate is: the tech,” says Lindsey, a newcomer to real estate with less than a year of experience. “I really am social media and tech-ignorant right now, but I see that people are expecting it. I want to meet that expectation.”

In addition to tactical advice for managing their presence online, the winners and coaches discussed the behavioral trends of prospective buyers and sellers in the real estate market.

“What they’ve taught us [during this event] is that social media and online experiences are the way most buyers and sellers are going to start their searches. Already, it’s over half of them,” says winner Lori Chambers of RE/MAX Prestige Properties in Kingman, Ariz. “And it’s only going to increase.”

Hitting the Ground Running in 2016 and Beyond
After three days filled with learning, fashion and fun, it was time for the agents to return home. But they were not without souvenirs.

In addition to the coaching and fashion portions of the event, the winners received some extra goodies to help them reach their business goals. Each agent was gifted 10 Single Property Websites to highlight their listings, as well as a free year of the Open Home Pro® Premium tablet app.

“I really like the [Single Property Websites],” says winner Dave Singh of Avalar Real Estate Services in Orlando, Fla. “I think they will make a difference in promoting my properties. All in all, I think my numbers should go up after this event.”

Most importantly, each winner returned home with a new and improved business plan for next year, and each hoped to finish 2015 strong by making some major adjustments. And almost all of the winners had goals that included the new digital marketing advice they received.

“One of the coolest things I learned was to offer a $25 gift card drawing in order to encourage more visitors to sign in to the Open Home Pro® app during an open house,” says winner Laura Sperry of Jones-Healy Inc. Realtors® in Pueblo, Colo. “Then I can add them directly to my mailing list.”

“It’s nice to be fresh and motivated, and adopt new disciplines and put them into practice,” adds Moran. “You’re always told what you need to do, but you don’t always have the opportunity to sit down one-on-one with an expert and have them help you. My 2016 goals have definitely changed since being a part of this event. I plan on being a lot more focused.”

Visit blog.homefinder.com for behind-the-scenes footage and expert advice from this year’s coaches.

Kaitlin Williams is marketing strategist and event coordinator at HomeFinder.com.

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