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In the following interview, Darren Johnson, designated broker of HomeSmart One Realty in Bellingham, Wash., discusses navigating negotiations, profit strategies, and more.

Region Served: Northwest Washington State
Years in Real Estate: 6
Number of Offices: 2
Number of Agents: 70 

How would you advise agents to maintain a balanced personal budget given the up-and-down flow of real estate commissions?
One area that we can control is our expenses. Most of what I’ve learned is because of mistakes I’ve made in terms of getting caught up in the moment after having some great months and overcommitting myself to ongoing expenses. But then the good months go away, and you’re still left with those expenses. Therefore, I try not to make any commitments that are six months or longer. I know there are some long-term commitments we have to make, so that’s when I commit to long-term planning while building in an out just in case I need it.

What is your best tip for getting a buyer and seller to work together?
Too many times people try to ignore the situation thinking it will go away, but it doesn’t. By confronting disagreements, they often aren’t as difficult as they seem, and we can usually help work things out. For newer agents, it’s a fear of the unknown, but if we jump in and deal with these situations as soon as they present themselves, we can often turn challenging clients into those who provide some of our best referrals.

In what ways does your company engage itself in the communities you serve?
This past winter, we headed up a sock drive and donated the items we collected to one of the missions we have up here. Some of our agents are currently putting together a project where we’ll be providing meals for the homeless. I’m also on the local rotary board, so our company has a big presence supporting their service projects.

What made you decide to affiliate with HomeSmart?
I started as an agent at a HomeSmart office in Phoenix before deciding to open an office up here in Bellingham, where I’m from. I loved the HomeSmart technology, paperless transaction system, broker and agent dashboard, free marketing, robust training, and, most importantly, the 100-percent commission transaction fee model. In 2017, I opened the office on my own, without engaging any agents at first. Today, we’re up to about 70 agents, and we’re the fastest-growing real estate company in our region of Washington. We’re adding five to eight new agents a month, most of whom are attracted to our 100-percent commission model, nice office environment, weekly training and incredible support from HomeSmart corporate.

Final Questions… 

What is your best time management tip?
Take half an hour every Sunday night and plan your week. Also, take some time every night to reflect on the day and adjust your plan as needed for the next day.

What is your key to staying profitable?
Work on your pipeline to make sure you’re putting yourself in the best position to maximize your income.

What is your best recruiting technique?
Send prospects a copy of an actual order to pay commission so they can easily see the commissions your agents make on actual transactions. Since our HomeSmart agents only have a small transaction fee instead of a big broker split, the OTP commission is often a great deal more to the agent, so it really gets their attention and often starts a great conversation.

What is your best tip for dealing with difficult clients?
Face difficult situations head-on. If we ignore the issues, the problems usually get bigger.

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John Voket is a contributing editor to RISMedia.