March 20, 2018.
Real estate agents are notorious for the amount of time they spend on the road — practically living out of their cars in the busy season.
According to the National Association of Realtors’ latest estimates from 2011, hard-working real estate professionals rack up as many as 3.6 billion miles a year on their vehicles. When you think about taking your clients from showing to showing, and even visiting a few houses twice as they narrow down their picks, it adds up.
Taking a cue from the Boy Scouts (and treating your car like the traveling office it is) will ensure that you’ll always be prepared at each showing:
- “It’s a great time to be a realtor and be able to work on the road. I like to keep my car clean and tidy since it’s my mobile office. If I have clients with me, I want them to notice the care I take of my car and know that is a reflection of how I will treat them when searching for a home or investment,” Justin Taber of Taber Realty Group in Columbus, Ohio, says.
- “Every realtor should have a few key items stocked in their trunk at all times,” Tiffany Johnson-Wilson, president and Broker-in-Charge of Johnson & Wilson Real Estate Co. in Summerville, South Carolina, says. “It’s also important to carry some sort of protection (because you just never know).”
- “Keep it self-contained by storing everything in a lidded bin or plastic milk crate,” Christy Murdock Edgar, a writer and real estate agent at Writing Real Estate, suggests. “Digging through a trunk full of junk doesn’t make you look competent or organized, and you want to convey both of those things to potential clients.”
- “I would definitely pay attention to what type of music you bring in your office-on-wheels too,” Radner Reyes of Bridgewell Real Estate Group in Vancouver, British Columbia, adds. “I would personally turn my playlist into an audio library — listening to podcasts or audiobooks. The amount of time we spend on the road can turn into a semester of post-secondary education so why not learn things about life or business in between? If that’s too much, then just make sure you have a playlist that moves you and gets you ready for your next appointment.”
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Putting together your on-the-road toolkit? Realtors share their favorites
To create the ultimate office-on-wheels (and to make your daily road trips more comfortable for yourself and your clients), we’ve asked for guidance from road-traveled realtors. Start by packing:
1. AAA card or similar service card. Whatever your comfort level with auto repairs, having a roadside assistance membership that assures timely responses is a worthwhile investment. For quick help in the case of a breakdown, download the AAA app or try one of the safety apps suggested by the Texas Association of Realtors for roadside emergencies.
“A camera can also be super handy,” Reyes says. “Especially if you get into a car accident. The first thing I do is take a picture of the accident — then I call the right people.”
2. Batteries. You might never need them, but they’re easy enough to store and keep around. And if you ever save an open house by silencing a squawking smoke detector that’s low on juice, you’ll be the hero.
“My top items would be a battery pack or charging device,” says Reyes. “I use a wireless charger for my Samsung. Realtors can spend a lot of time on the road, and it’s probably the best time to charge up our cell phones.” For Reyes, having a battery pack and a charging port is the ideal combo. In the event he doesn’t find himself with enough time on the road to charge up fully, he still has a battery pack he can take with him.
3. Change of clothes. Anything can and often does happen in real estate, so if you can spare one of your nicer outfits to keep in a hanging bag on standby in your vehicle, you’ll be ready. And while you might not think of it as a safety item, Murdock Edgar says, a good pair of walking shoes or boots can prevent a fall or twisted ankle if you’re having to walk a property or make it up stairs that are in disrepair.
4. Dog treats. Keeping treats in a sealed container at the ready for buyers and sellers with pets can help you score points with everyone on two and four legs.
5. GPS navigation and paper maps. Whether or not you choose to carry an actual roadmap of the area where you’re headed, take a couple extra minutes to print directions so you’ll have them if your GPS fails. For Taber, his go-to item for his office-on-wheels is his iPad Pro. “I have everything I need on it — access to the internet, notes, and files for my clients,” he explains. “This allows me to pull up any information I might need, whether I am meeting a client for the first time or submitting an offer.”
Otherwise, Taber says he travels light. “I don’t keep anything else in my car unless I am heading to a meeting and need something specific!”
6. Home and vehicle cleaning materials. Try to have a few basic products in tow for a quick wipe-down or other touch-up for a property you’re showing. (You can also use these cleaning supplies for a fast turnaround on a mini open house, an alternative marketing technique suggested by Brandon Jones of Inman News.) Because so much happens in your vehicle, things like handheld vacuum cleaners, paper towels, and air fresheners can help make it more welcoming in mere moments. “When I’m out with clients, I keep a basket stocked with bottles of water, snacks, hand wipes, a spare phone charger, paper towels, and a spare roll of toilet paper,” Johnson-Wilson says.
Reyes also suggests adding breath mints to your clean-up stockpile, just in case you have some garlic in your meal or forget to brush your teeth. “You have to stay fresh since we have a lot of face-to-face interactions,” he says.
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7. Light bulbs. Lighting is everything when showing off the interior of a property, so having a spare pack of bulbs will ensure that your efforts aren’t left in the dark. If there’s room in your trunk, Johnson-Wilson also suggests carrying a stepladder.
8. Local business flyers and brochures. For the busy realtor, keeping a stack of business cards in the car is essential, Reyes says. “Sometimes you leave your business cards in another coat or your office. When you’re on the road, you can always count on having them with you,” he explains.
Staying stocked with local business cards, flyers, and brochures is even better. Clients and potential leads — especially those looking to move in from another city, state, or even country — will appreciate that you’re interested not just in selling them a house, but getting them connected in a new hometown.
9. Protective equipment. Whether masks, goggles, and other precautions for visitors to fixer-upper properties, or pepper spray for your own protection, practicing “safety first” can give you peace of mind.
10. Screenshots of your real estate website and listings. You can’t always rely on Wifi or a local internet connection. As a safeguard, it helps to have a backup plan in the form of screenshots of each of your online listings. Johnson-Wilson also encourages fellow realtors to keep a “for sale” sign handy. This can be stored in the trunk, along with a lockbox and blank files with all the documents needed to list a home or write an offer.
11. Shoe covers. A minimal investment that might indeed be worth having on-hand for pristine and impeccably maintained properties, shoe covers both protect a home’s exterior and speak to its quality.
12. Tape measure. Be ready to answer when a potential buyer wants to know exactly how wide a room or how high a ceiling is with a simple roll or measuring tape that will easily fit in a glove compartment. “In my toolkit, I always make sure to have a flashlight, spare batteries, a measuring tape, a first aid kit, and small tools for putting up signs or other tasks,” Johnson-Wilson says.
If you have nothing else, Murdock Edgar says, get a can of silicone lubricant spray for sticky locks and an all-in-one toolkit containing a set of basic tools and a measuring tape. Murdock Edgar relies on these two items to take care of 90 percent of her problems — and the tools take up almost no room in the trunk, door panel pocket, or center console.
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5 make-or-break essentials for realtors who are too busy to pack
If you’re pressed for time and haven’t fully stocked your mobile office yet, real estate agents suggest keeping these backup items in your trunk at the very least:
- 2-3 umbrellas
- Safety device
- Zip ties
“Aside from a filebox and some basic office items, I think the most important thing to have with you is a small toolkit,” Murdock Edgar says. “You never know when you’ll need to oil a sticky lock or navigate dark stairs and being prepared may determine whether or not you make a sale.”
Living out of your car during the workweek can be tough, but there’s a silver lining. Car deductions, as ranked by the online and off-line legal guide Nolo, are some of the most common tax breaks for realtors. All those supplies you use to stock your traveling office may be tax-deductible too — including the smaller items like paper clips and dog treats.
While you’re doing the hard work pounding the pavement, let us take care of the rest. Cornerstone Home Lending’s realtor partners get unparalleled support in the form of co-branded marketing materials, co-sponsored realtor events, fast buyer prequalifications, and streamlined in-house loan processing. Click here to get connected.
For educational purposes only. Please contact a qualified professional for specific guidance.
Sources are deemed reliable but not guaranteed.