A Letter from Leadership: Don't Retire from Real Estate

Roger Federer, the third ranked tennis player in the world, who in pursuit of his record setting 21st Masters Series championship, recently lost an epic and grueling five-hour, five-set tiebreaker in the Wimbledon finals. After the celebrated match, Federer was asked by one reporter … “Are you considering retiring?”

Well, if the third highest ranked and to some the greatest tennis player of all time, encounters as he nears the age of 38 pressure to retire; or at least to consider packing in his tennis racquet, then what should those in Real Estate who are in their 50s and 60s and who are in 50,000th place in productivity rankings be thinking?

Well, you can take it from this 7O-year old grizzled industry veteran and I am sure from your deeply appreciative broker as well, along with your many clients that you should not even think about the possibility of retiring … too soon! Listings expire, but you cannot prematurely afford to! Especially those of you who have enjoyed success for years, and here is why:

According to social scientist Arthur Brooks, there is a phenomenon that he refers to as the “Principle of Psychoprofessional Gravitation.” This, according to Brooks, is how “the agony of professional oblivion is directly related to the height of professional prestige previously achieved and to one’s emotional attachment to that prestige.”

Therefore, to both you legendary brokers and iconic community real estate professionals, I respectfully suggest that you take a page out of the world of politics regarding how one’s inevitable declining years can be managed. Regarding my declining years, each week, I am on an accountability call led by Gino Blefari, chairman of Real Living Real Estate. On our calls, we all are asked by Gino, after making our business reports, to announce what we are doing to improve that week.

Not wanting to call unwarranted attention to myself, I, too, mention my diet and exercise, what I don’t mention is that I am really asking myself as a former Boston Celtic draft choice what I will need to do that week to slow my decline. And nobody works harder at managing their decline than our highest-rated presidential candidates. This is not to say that you should seek to emulate them in another way. That is unless you want to become duplicitous, conniving and self-promoting.

Instead I do suggest that you look to emulate the geriatric galaxy of presidential contenders in how they validate how society values experience, resilience, career stability and longevity. Remarkably, our leading presidential contenders from both sides of the proverbial aisle, even if their vision is waning, are of the following eye-popping ages … 77, 75, 73 and 70 according to 70-year-old TV anchor Wolf Blitzer. Clearly our political aspirants, who, like real estate professionals, must rely on brains versus brawn, did not receive or pay attention to the society’s collective email delivered to all of we who are aging!

Accordingly, why would a professional real estate professional who has spent decades developing experiential knowledge, invaluable skills,  a considerable real estate retinue and widespread admiration for their resilience and how they have withstood numerous watershed Real Estate changes, retire now at the peak of their real estate powers?

Moreover, what an opportunity to engage in so-called reverse mentoring. That is by accepting technology advice from younger (and based on evolution) more intelligent generations to come. My advice for our much younger agents, is rather than mocking your older counterparts for not being as adaptive regarding emerging technologies as you are, why not offer your more contemporaneous grasp of our digital world to them? They can then reciprocate through providing meaningful career and life lessons.

Given the importance of not only developing spheres of influence, but actually influencing spheres, our industry might not be able to withstand a massive exodus of long tenured agents. This is due to how new business-modeled entrants will at the same time seek to dislodge the relationships that many real estate professionals have built with home sellers. Indeed, if selecting a so-called listing agent now becomes as random as how buyers select an agent when they buy then “industry beware.”

The most effective way for us to generationally move forward, as I stated, would be through the formation of symbiotic relationships. This is where in exchange for tech support from younger agents, aging real estate professionals can turn over or sell their career “ book of business” to a younger agent who was helpful in its sustenance. This transition however, in my view, should only happen when our top and more seasoned agents are ready to retire and on their terms.

This is in contrast to being rushed to retire, based upon society’s pressure to speed up the beginning of the so called “Golden Years.” Doing well in real estate and making a major difference in the lives of those you serve are your Golden Years … Thus, I fervently hope that whether you are a broker, manager or agent that you get to enjoy your real estate Golden Years for years, if not decades to come.

All my best,

Allan Dalton

A Letter from Leadership: Dalton's Dream

While it is not typical for any of us, and especially CEOs, to share our personal dreams within the workplace for fear of political correctness or worse, I feel compelled to share a recent nocturnal hallucination as it has to do with the Real Living Luxury Lifestyle Division. Hopefully my recalled dream and this unexpected form of communication, might heighten interest in our recently developed and introduced Real Living Luxury Lifestyle Division … here goes!

In my dream I was brought before the “Truth in Advertising” court and challenged to defend the introduction of the Real Living Luxury Lifestyle Division. My judicial encounter however unfolded more as a nightmare as you will understand by the following transcript:

Judge Jones:

Mr. Dalton, how can Real Living claim to have a luxury lifestyle division? Especially considering how your Real Living brand was indirectly and informally influenced by two former brands neither of which symbolized luxury real estate. One of those brands was symbolic of mainstream America and the other for middle-of-the road automobiles and finance.  Moreover, you do not appear to have anywhere near the number of million and multi-million-dollar listings as do the other brands. Ironically these other so-called upscale brands here in court today, don’t even claim to have divisions. Instead, they only promote that they have luxury marketing without bringing lifestyle into the mix. What say you?

Defendant Dalton:

Mrs. Jones, or rather Your Honor, Real Living is the most natural brand for the upscale market because of the words that describe our organization and our division, which represents luxury lifestyles. With all due respect, if anything, you might consider asking these other brands to defend their presumptuous and excessively elite selection process along with the dismissive assessments they make every year regarding the merit of thousands of remarkable luxury lifestyles that to them do not qualify for their elevated marketing and rarefied categorization.

Judge Jones:

Oh, so I guess it should be up to you or Wendy Durand or Marie Cabo to define luxury. Or is it just because of your name alone that you believe that every home you represent automatically constitutes luxury … or Real Living? Mr. Dalton are you basing your decisions of what makes a luxury lifestyle based upon etymological research on the interplay and interconnectedness of the words “Real,” “Living,” “Luxury” and “Lifestyle,” or the gosh darn property itself?

Defendant Dalton:

What does that word “etymological mean Your Honor?

Judge Jones:

Essentially the history of words.

Defendant Dalton:

Well since you mentioned the importance of the history of words I did some research. According to and the Cambridge dictionary, I learned the following:

That “Real” can mean very, extremely or especially as in … get real. “Living” can mean existing, and “Luxury” can mean something adding to the pleasure or comfort of something, but that is not necessary. “Lifestyle” is widely defined as the way in which a person lives.

Judge Jones:

This is beginning to sound like jabberwocky or real estate gibberish, please get to the point.

Defendant Dalton:

Your Honor, there are millions of homes that I believe are so “real” that they belong in an “especially” or “Real” category, not only because of the physical structure but also the overall and special lifestyle they represent. Also, there are millions of homes and their surroundings that go well beyond what is “necessary,” making them luxury lifestyles that are being under appreciated and under marketed by our industry.

And finally, “lifestyle” meaning the way that one lives, must by definition include more factors than square footage, curb appeal and arresting amenities within the domain. Therefore, we must rethink, recalibrate and re-engineer our approach to marketing homes, which is not only good for our home sellers, but also will help to improve the perception of our marketing value. Such re-engineering means re-evaluating how millions of homes have been defined or labeled for decades.

By making our marketing more magnanimous your Honor, we will appropriately be honoring more lifestyles and greater numbers of people whose new-age real estate decisions coincide with a mass movement that displays preference towards selecting overall lifestyles versus making life-altering decisions based upon the myopic attraction to the property alone.

Judge Jones:

Allan, I have a three-bedroom home on a little less than an acre that we purchased two years ago for $350,000. It is located in a section of town that has many million-dollar homes. We are close to Whole Foods, the museum and the most beautiful park. I know we would not qualify for the programs of these other real estate companies, but would Real Living, if you will forgive the pun, judge our property as a luxury lifestyle?

Defendant Dalton:

We would not put our luxury lifestyle sign rider on our iconic Real Living sign or create a customized luxury lifestyle marketing program if we did not understand how luxury lifestyles do not begin or end at the curb. I’m happy to come to your home personally and together we can evaluate.

Judge Jones:

Case dismissed.

Mr. Dalton, would you please approach the bench? Allan, here is my contact information. We want to sell, especially after hearing your expanded view of the meaning of Lifestyle.

Also, I don’t know if you have any program like say a Neighbors Know Best or something like that one in which you could ask for testimonials from my neighbors about our overall lifestyle. I think this would help because all of us believe we are enjoying Real Living at its best and are the fortunate residents of luxury lifestyles.

Ring, ring, ring. And then my alarm clock went off.
All my best,



Guest Blog: Tips for First-Time Home Sellers

by Brenda Cuoco

A lot of focus in the real estate industry has been placed on first-time homebuyers. But what about first-time home sellers? There never seems to be enough education on this topic. Selling a home is very different from buying one. Whereas buying a home generally involves emotions and feelings, selling typically centers on the home seller maximizing profit. It is best that homeowners do not allow themselves to get emotionally attached to the home they are selling as they most likely will not get what their home is worth.

Here are a few tips to help home sellers achieve their goal:

1. Choosing an Agent

Choose an agent who has the experience and expertise to get your home seen and sold. Don’t choose your cousin’s sister-in-law, for example, who dabbles in real estate. You’ll fare much better if you select an experienced real estate agent who has a strong level of local expertise. It is always good to interview at least two agents. Some good questions to ask are: how many homes have they sold in the last year? how much volume have they sold? and what is their list to sale ratio? A great agent will be able to answer all of these questions. You can also verify some of the information provided by the agent directly on the agent’s online profile.

2. Pricing and Marketing your Home

Your agent will analyze comparable sales and prepare an estimate of value often called a CMA, for comparative market analysis. Your listing agent should have the experience and education to provide you with a more accurate opinion of value. The marketing of your home is incredibly important, you should know exactly what your agent is doing to get you the maximum exposure for your home. The agent should be sharing their comprehensive home marketing plan with you, which explains in detail what they will do for you. Of course, if you have hired a top-notch listing agent, your agent should provide professional photos. Remember, how your property appears online is what will drive the consumer through the door.

3. Home Staging Boosts Selling Power and Appeal

Your agent should help you stage your home for photos and for sale. Yes, that’s right. There is a difference in those two statements. Staging for photos is what gets everyone through the door but staging to sell allows you to put some of your comfort items back into your home for showings. Most homes show better with about half of the furniture removed. If a buyer walks in the door and wonders if anybody lives in the house, you’ve done your job correctly. Consider home staging to boost your selling power and appeal. Painting is the single most effective improvement you can make, that gets your more money in your pocket. Don’t let dings in the woodwork or scraps on the walls make your home reflect deferred maintenance. Present your home as if it is a crisp clean $100 bill hot off the press. If you do this, a “SOLD” sign will likely be hanging on the sign out in your front yard soon!

4. Be Flexible with Home Showings

If home showings are too much of an imposition, consider going away the first weekend your home is on the market. Yes, it can feel a bit intrusive to allow strangers to trek through your home and check out your soft-closing drawers in the kitchen. The best way to sell your home is to let a buyer inside with his/her buyer’s agent to tour in peace and quiet. Leave the house when buyer’s agents show up. Anything you say can and will be used against you, plus, buyer’s agents prefer to show without interference. Be sure to ask your agent to provide feedback on all showings. This is imperative to understanding how your home will perform in the marketplace. Some agents have a feedback form that the buyer’s agent will fill out that goes directly to the home seller. This is a critical element to the home-selling process.

5. Review Your Listing Online

Agents do their best to ensure accuracy, but since it is your home, you know the details better than anyone. If you spot a feature that is missing, contact your agent immediately and ask for them to correct any inaccuracies.

6. Respond Promptly to a Purchase Offer

Many offers contain a date by which the offer expires. Notwithstanding, it can drive buyers crazy if they are forced to wait for a seller to decide whether to accept their offer or to issue a counteroffer. Remember, if you are selling because you need to buy a new home, you are no different than when you are a homebuyer yourself. Your agent should walk through the offer with you and guide you in the right direction of all the terms, possible counter offers and educate you on the closing process.

Following these tips should bring home sellers closer to their ultimate goal – selling their homes for what they’re truly worth.

Brenda Cuoco is a broker associate for Real Living Realty Professionals and has been working in the real estate industry since 2004, successfully climbing the ranks each year. Her many years working in the corporate world, along with the impressive network of clients she has cultivated both locally and abroad, has enabled her to easily bring buyers and sellers of properties together with 103 homes sold and revenue of $26.4 million in 2018.

Allan Dalton on Image vs. Value

Image vs. Value

Our industry is prodigiously photoshopped, resplendently dressed and we essentially (along with Hollywood) invented personal promotion.

Moreover, we have been writing self-glowing reviews for decades, and the highways and byways throughout our local communities are brimming with BMWs and a litany of other luxury automobiles.

We are universally polite, the world’s leader in thank-you notes (thank you Brian Buffini) and we are keeping the calendar and refrigerator magnet sectors in business!

No, we do not have an image problem. Our challenge is that we do not do a similarly outstanding job in promulgating our value. Regrettably, many consumers from where I sit still perceive a real estate transaction as a fee-inflated event that they must subsidize to promulgate an inefficiently-run industry.

Or, if you prefer, consumers believe they are paying too much for our services.

If consumers think all they are receiving are our services – as remarkable as “we” believe them to be – then to them, they are paying too much.

How do we begin to change the perception of many consumers that they are paying too much for real estate services?

1. Stress our skills of negotiating, marketing, merchandising and networking far more than the value of our service.

Service must be the frosting on the cake and not the cake.

Our greater value, like other professionals we romantically refer to as our contemporaries – doctors and lawyers – should be a reflection of our outstanding skills rather than our exceptional service.

Consumers believe we are charging surgeon-like fees while we are myopically celebrating our outstanding service. Bringing the bedpan, as indispensable as it may be, does not enjoy the same value as performing surgery or prescribing the proper medical course of action.

I know this first-hand, as many of you also do, as last year I donated my kidney to my wife and the word “service” never came up. Instead, we were seeking, and very content in paying, commensurate skills.

2. Begin referring to listing presentations as “marketing proposals.”

A listing presentation is about you, your company and what you have done in the past. A marketing proposal is about their home, your marketing and what you will be doing now.

3. Change your thinking from “homes do not sell because of price” to “ineffective marketing.”

Why? Because price is just one part of marketing. Remember the 4 Ps of marketing: Price, Product, Placement and Promotion. If all four Ps do not enter into success or failure when marketing a home, we are inadvertently undermining our own value. Additionally, you are charging a ‘marketing fee’ or a ‘pricing fee?”

4. Begin to refer to the individual who represents the seller as the marketing agent vs. the listing agent.

When consumers hear us ask “who is the listing agent?” it reduces the value of the entire industry. Language like the listing agent suggests one’s job is complete with the securing of the listing agent. You do infinitely more than merely list the home and it’s time you get more credit and higher value.

5. Stop “servicing the listing.”

Just as Elsa in Frozen sang, “let it go, let it go, let it go!” How about letting go of this all-time value killer? Rather, you serve and service (in most cases, represent) your clients, you do not service your listing. Without this more accurate language, you underserve your higher value.

Similarly, an open house should not represent how you are servicing your listing. Rather, it is merely one element in the marketing of the property while in the act of representing your home seller (if that is the agency relationship you are in).

Another example of greater value positioning is when you are introducing your property to the world of buyers through Again, your decision to differentiate your property on the site is one that reflects upon your overall marketing strategy to represent and service your clients and not the listing.

If you think such advice represents a distinction without a difference or is a matter of mere semantics, then please consider the words of Confucius: “All wisdom begins by properly naming things.”

6. Shift from celebrating how you “sell more homes” to how you “market your homes for more.”

This is why I am forever proud to have spent several years with® because you do not need the site to merely sell a home but rather to market your property for more by leveraging the laws of supply and demand.

Allan Dalton is the CEO of Real Living Real Estate. This article was originally published on April 18, 2019 on

A Letter from Leadership: Don't Let HomeLight Take Away the Spotlight on Your Credentials

Two personal examples of the resonance and relevance of real estate, were front and center this past football season. During the televised football games, two real estate-related commercials constantly appeared. One was a source of pride. As the former CEO of I loved their ads that exclaimed that they are the, “Home of Home Search.”

The other oft-appearing commercial about HomeLight left me with mixed feelings. HomeLight, a seemingly honorable company, seeks to serve the public by algorithmically determining on their behalf who are the best real estate professionals. While I love the fact that someone finally, and on a big scale, is challenging the notion, if not the delusion, that all real estate professionals are alike, I also have concerns.

My concerns can be found in the specific difference between how and HomeLight seek to serve consumers. While at, I remember our metrics reporting that 98% of visitors to our site clicked on the “Find a Home” button and only 2% on the “Find a Realtor” button. My strong sense was that the 2% represented real estate agents checking on their bios. attracts consumers based upon property search. The HomeLight differentiator is to encourage the search for the “best agents.” Defining who the best agents are is quite ambitious for the following reasons:

  1. Some agents focus on selling more homes rather than selling or marketing homes for more.
  2. Some team leaders who accrue credit for the volume of their transactions are akin to professors who have graduate assistants teaching their classes.
  3. Some agents market or sell fewer homes but get better results.
  4. No one can ever categorically document what any sold home might have been purchased for through a different agent or company.

Because homes are not stocks or commodities, it is impossible to declare any outcome as being superior to what other agents might have been able to achieve. My reason for expressing my thoughts is that while I believe that and other third-party portals have ably served the public by extending the range and reach of homes for sale, I have concerns regarding any third party serving up who they believe are the best agents.

All this means is that all real estate agents will have to work even harder and more strategically to keep the spotlight on their credentials.

Allan Dalton

Chief Executive Officer, Real Living Real Estate

Thoughts on Leadership: Real Estate and Legislation

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in Washington, D.C. for the National Association of REALTORS® RES Advisory Group Meeting and next in San Diego to attend the 2017 AREAA National Convention (but more on that next week). I’ve long embraced the virtues of our industry’s leaders working closely alongside lawmakers to ensure not only the synergy of current legislation with our business practices but also to ensure our nation’s laws promote and encourage homeownership for all.

The meeting kicked off Wednesday at the Treasury Department with a presentation from Drew Maloney, Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs, Treasury. We were also joined that evening by Senator Isakson (R-GA), Congressman Sherman (D-CA) and Congressman Rothfus (R-PA).

As pure coincidence, on the day RES began, the brand-new Tax Reform Framework was released, called “The American Model for Global Competitiveness.” The main purpose of the reform, as stated in the document is to put “America on a level international playing field and [put] an end to the incentives for shipping jobs overseas.”

Maloney fielded questions from our group about this new Framework and how it affects the real estate industry. NAR released the following about where the association stands on tax reform: “Our current tax system is too complex, and tax reform should simplify it. However, tax reform must not discard the features of the system that provide the bedrock for homeownership in America.”

After the Q&A, I was fortunate enough to spend some time with Senator Isakson and was impressed, as always, by his strong and consistent advocacy of the real estate industry. If you didn’t know, he’s one of us. Isakson, along with being a prominent political figure, is also a successful businessman with more than 40 years of experience as a broker for family-owned Northside Realty. In addition, he holds the distinction of being the only Georgian ever to get elected to the state House, state Senate, U.S. House and U.S. Senate. Last year he broke yet another record as the first Georgian Republican to ever get elected for a third term to the U.S. Senate. Now that’s an impressive and well-respected leader!

This Thursday morning, Rei Mesa, 2017 RES Chair called the meeting to order and next we received an update from NAR CEO Bob Goldberg, who was grilled with some tough questions and handled them all with characteristic intelligence and poise. Kudos to Ron Peltier and Lennox Scott who were very direct with Bob on how NAR can improve its support of real estate professionals.

After, Lawrence Yun, NAR Senior Vice President of Research, provided a housing and market update, followed by Jennifer Barnard, FBI Headquarters, Supervisory Special Agent, who spoke about the perils of wire fraud and what we can do as an industry to prevent this persistent problem. Katie Johnson, NAR Senior Vice President and General Counsel, finished up the day with a legal presentation.

Some additional notable priorities for the RES Meeting included:

  • Educate the REALTOR® community about data security and cybercrimes related to real estate transactions
  • Protect the Mortgage Interest Deduction
  • Support Upstream implementation
  • Improve down payment savings options for first time home buyers

… And more.

So, what’s the message? The one, huge takeaway from my time spent in Washington, D.C. is the importance of staying informed, staying connected to our legislative leaders and staying educated on what’s happening in government and how these changes affect our industry. A good place to start would be here, researching NAR’s official stance on tax reform. Whether or not you agree with the position taken, it’s important as a leader to have an opinion that’s researched, strategic and informed. The best leaders are those ones who don’t just say what they want but also exactly why they want it. Take heed from this RES group, filled with busy and important leaders who no matter what give up their time to attend because they understand the significance of making their voice heard in such an impactful setting as our nation’s capital.

GINO BLEFARI is CEO of HSF Affiliates LLC. You can follow Gino on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

Thoughts on Leadership: Clear Your Mind

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels unexpectedly find me working from home, and not, as originally planned, meeting in Miami. My event was canceled due to Hurricane Irma and its impending destruction and my thoughts are with those in Florida currently dealing with the terrible aftermath of the storm. On behalf of our entire organization, our prayers go out to all of you.

The unanticipated change in schedule did afford me days to fall back into my usual routine, which starts with a 5 a.m. visit to Starbucks, my dog Kona by my feet, writing in my journal and doing my meditation and prayers.

I actually enjoy time off—the hours before the work day starts, the weekends—because they’re opportunities to examine yourself and create a better you with a clear head. As I say, do stuff for yourself in the morning and things for everyone else in the afternoon. Why? Because you have a much greater chance of getting them done in the morning and less of a chance in the afternoon when interruptions often come up. In the morning, you can really focus on what’s working and what’s not working without the whirlwind of your daily activities pulling your thoughts in other directions. On weekends, on late nights and during those early morning hours, you can sit somewhere quiet and THINK. (Did you know Apple CEO Tim Cook gets up every day at 3:45 a.m.? Or that Xerox CEO Ursula Burns wakes at 5:15 a.m. for a workout?  Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey wakes up before the sun rises for a 6-mile run. I’d argue there’s a direct correlation between utilizing downtime and the success of your leadership.)

Every Saturday I ask myself this question: What am I doing in the upcoming week to improve so that I’m better than I was the week before?

This past weekend I was talking with my friend, David Bergman, during our weekly book club meeting. David was coughing so I asked what was wrong. “Dave, are you still not over that cold?” I said, because the week before he had been sick. “I am,” he told me, “I just ordered a mocha and I’m pretty sure I’m allergic to dairy.”

Right then I resolved to eliminate dairy from my coffee. It was a small discipline, a small change as a result of speaking with Dave but it will allow me to be a better version of myself in the weeks and months ahead.

In fact, here’s a change-oriented practice I employ from Peter Bregman’s book, 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done: Set your alarm clock or phone to go off every hour during the day … that’s eight 1-minute check-ins. When the clock goes off, it’s your reminder to pause, reflect, recharge, recalibrate and refocus.

So, what’s the message? If you find yourself with a stretch of time where you can relax, make sure you use it as an opportunity to contemplate the current state of your mind and body. Make a small change to better your health, shift your mindset toward even greater positivity, think about ways you can be more productive in the week ahead. I promise you, when you next sit down to work, you’ll be glad you made good use of your time off.

GINO BLEFARI is CEO of HSF Affiliates LLC. You can follow Gino on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

Thoughts on Leadership: Business Plan Now

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in Northern California, taking meetings, organizing calls and just this morning, leading a teleconference with Debbie De Grote, founder/CEO of Excelleum Coaching & Consulting all about business planning. For all of us, a business plan is vital because even as an agent we must think of ourselves as a business, and all businesses must have a plan. Remember the wise words of Benjamin Franklin: “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”

Some may think it’s strange though to have a business-planning call at the end of August but there’s a reason for this exact timing. During my 30+ years in the real estate business—as an agent, a manager and an owner of a company—I’ve always found that there’s a cash flow problem in the months of January and February. This applies to agents as much as it does to owners.

Why? Because real estate operates on a 90-day cycle, so what we do 90 days before gets paid out 90 days later. This means a lag in business during the fall months will show up in Q1 of the new year. The lag is understandable, though avoidable; it’s obvious to notice right after Halloween a great number of agents go into hibernation. There’s Thanksgiving, the holidays … life gets busy and business gets put on the back burner. (Extrapolate those 90 days during this lull and you’ll understand clearly why cash-flow problems plague us in January and February.)

To get you started, access our Business Planning Essentials by clicking HERE

Starting now, I want us to no longer think of Jan. 1 as the beginning of the new year. Our new start? Oct. 1. If we assume Oct. 1 is the “new” New Year, then we have to take the month of September to complete our business plan by that date.

As a small aside, it may seem early but now is a great time to organize the holiday cards you’ll send out, to arrange for a family photo shoot, to make sure you handwrite those messages (if possible) for your prospective and current clients. You want your holiday card to be in the mail on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving so when that Friday hits and everyone is shopping and home with family, yours is the first card they receive. (As a tip, make sure it has your photo and/or a family photo on it so they’ll be more likely to keep it.)

Another very important aspect of your business plan is to schedule your calendar for the entire year. The first thing to schedule is your vacation, days off—anything that will give you balance. This will ensure that it actually happens and you don’t schedule meetings or calls during the time when you’re supposed to be off.

So, what’s the message? First, if you haven’t already, click HERE to download the Business Planning Essentials document. Then make a promise to dedicate the entire month of September to complete your plan and have it polished, finished and ready to go on Oct. 1. But this timing shouldn’t just be applied now; you should for the rest of your career use this as a framework to build and grow your business. Each year, pledge to complete your business plan by Oct. 1 and then, when everyone else isn’t working or scrambling to business plan over the holidays, you’ll be way ahead of the game.

GINO BLEFARI is CEO of HSF Affiliates LLC. You can follow Gino on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

Thoughts on Leadership: 11 Days of Travel

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me on the final day of 11 days of straight travel, which is unusual for me because I’m typically home on the weekends. However, this week-and-a-half business adventure has certainly been worthwhile and I’d like to recap some of the highlights for you now …

I started out at the Housing Renaissance, held at the Grand Del Mar resort in San Diego. The mission of the event is to gather top housing industry thought leaders, high-level executives, policy makers and leading entrepreneurs in order to discuss how best to create sustainable homeownership in the housing industry and how we can better serve a diverse housing market.

Phil Bracken (chief policy offer of government and industry relations at Radian Guaranty), Gary Acosta, (co-founder and CEO of NAHREP), and Jim Park, (partner at The Mortgage Collaborative), at the awards ceremony during the Housing Renaissance event.

I have to say, the crowd at the Housing Renaissance was impressive; the room was filled with many well-credentialed people, including event organizers Gary Acosta (co-founder and CEO of NAHREP), Phil Bracken (chief policy officer of government and industry relations at Radian Guaranty) and Jim Park (partner at The Mortgage Collaborative and board member emeritus at AREAA). Other notable guests were Henry Cisneros, CEO of City Viery, Nicolas Retsinas, senior lecturer at Harvard Business School, Brad Blackwell, EVP at Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, Barrett Burns, CEO at VantageScore Solutions LLC, David Kittle, CMB, vice chairman and president at The Mortgage Collaborative, Shawn Krause, EVP at Quicken Loans and Barry Zigas, director of housing policy at the Consumer Federation of America. All in all, conference attendees proved a thought-provoking mix of real estate leaders and Washington D.C. policymakers, which, when brought together, is a recipe for actionable change.

At the Buffini & Company MasterMind Summit with Brian Buffini, chairman and founder of Buffini & Company.

From San Diego I went to Brian Buffini’s MasterMind Summit, a conference that not only delivers with consistent information year after year but also features some of the most unbelievable speakers. This year, Mitch Albom, author of the beloved book, Tuesdays with Morrie, spoke to the crowd and shared his story of success, which began in New Jersey, where he grew up and taught himself to play piano. It would be years and years later that he became one of Detroit’s most well-known sports media figures and after that a best-selling author. And, as if the keynotes couldn’t get any better, Olympic Gold Medalist Scott Hamilton next took to the stage, and shared his life’s story, too.  The retired American figure skater (he won four consecutive U.S. Championships, four consecutive World Championships and a gold medal in the 1984 Olympics), told his tale about growing up as a small, sickly child and how he’s battled cancer over and over again and still came out skating. His resilience, mental and physical toughness and ability to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles moved the entire crowd and you couldn’t help but feel every emotion as he so candidly and bravely shared his tale with us.

From one great event to the next … after MasterMind Summit it was off to my good friend and real estate coach Tom Ferry’s Success Summit in Las Vegas. As it does each year, this conference also proved incredibly inspirational and covered topics as wide-ranging as Google consumer trends, Facebook marketing, business models of the future, off-market listings, mega open houses and behaviors to embrace for success and mental toughness. I sat with about 4,000 to 5,000 agents in the room and as I listened to the wealth of information being doled from the stage had one thought: I’ve known Tom Ferry since he was 19 years old and to see him evolve from a scrappy teenager to a successful, intuitive, bright business man is just an awesome thing. In fact that brings me to my main message …


So, what is the message? As I thought about the best way to wrap up this 11-day business trip in some kind of a blog-post bow, I was cruising down Interstate 280, going a comfortable 65 miles per hour when I noticed, despite the open roads, the off-ramp to De Anza Blvd., where the Apple Headquarters are located, was backed up for almost a mile. It makes sense, of course, that the exit to Apple HQ should be so crowded; it’s a huge, successful, growing company and one of the world’s most innovative tech brands. But really, the success comes from the people, those employees in the cars on their way to their Apple jobs, about to change the world with whatever it is they’re working on that day. And that idea of people, of the quality and ability of people to change lives, is really what I took away from my trip. Tom Ferry, Brian Buffini … I’ve known them both for decades and beyond being great in business, they’re terrific in life, the nicest and kindest fathers, husbands, friends and human beings. When I think about it, the highlight reel from my trip doesn’t really include the apps I learned about or the social media marketing trends I can take back to my teams but the people I met and the stories they shared. Those are the things that changed me and what made a week and a half of constant travel completely worth it.

GINO BLEFARI is CEO of HSF Affiliates LLC. You can follow Gino on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

Thoughts on Leadership: Getting Back to Basics

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me first in Irvine at the HSF Affiliates headquarters with a series of meetings and one very special meeting with Gary Vaynerchuk.


With @hsfchrisstuart and my new pal @garyvee in SoCal earlier this week. Pretty awesome day!

A post shared by Gino Blefari (@gino_blefari) on

Then it was on to Las Vegas for Mike Ferry’s 2017 Superstar Retreat, a four-day intensive from one of our industry’s finest leaders all about strengthening your mindset, building your skills, increasing your productivity and catapulting profits to the highest level possible—in other words, the basics.

This year marks my 27th appearance at the event and I’m honored to say Mike Ferry hasn’t only been a longtime inspiration in my career but also a cherished mentor for more than three decades. Mike has been in the real estate business—on both the sales and management side—for 40+ years. In this time, he’s earned himself an unparalleled reputation for outstanding professional accomplishment that derives from decades of hard work, dedication, passion and an unyielding commitment to achieving his goals and helping clients achieve theirs, too.


I attended my first Superstar Retreat in 1986 and the entire experience had a profound impact on me. While the conference covers many of the same topics year after year, there’s a reason for this repetition. In an industry characterized, and in many ways propelled, by the technological winds of change, the core tenets of real estate will forever remain unchanged. It’s this “Back to Basics” philosophy I’m reminded of each time I watch Mike Ferry take to the stage, the very picture of motivation and success. It seems the theme of each retreat goes something like: In order to remain relevant, we must embrace the new but remember it’s imperative to retain the fixed fundamentals that are time-tested, industry truths. Here are some of those “basics” I jotted down as I sat in the Superstar Retreat sessions this week:

  1. Work ethic. Mike Ferry, at 72 years old, still works as hard as he did 30 years ago. It’s an inspiring thing to behold someone who has such a strong commitment to work, just like our own Warren Buffett. Mike said your competition may have more innate talent than you do but tell yourself they’ll never outwork you and keep on pushing!
  2. The benefits of challenge. As an agent, going to a Superstar Retreat wiped out any feelings I had that were close to complacency or any ideas I had that I’d done really well for myself in real estate that year. There were so many people sitting in the room who had done so many more transactions than me, whose business was even better than mine. This goes back to the idea of humility and a concept I feel is so important, it gets a permanent spot on my email signature: “Don’t join an easy crowd … where the expectations are low … or where they don’t care … the problem with that is you won’t grow … go where the expectations are high … go where you’re challenged to study, to read, to change, to develop, to learn the next skill. Because it’s the challenge that creates the muscle. The mental muscle, the vocal muscle, the actual physical muscle to become better, stronger, wiser, more unique!”
  3. The worth of reunions. It’s funny how we can be so connected to friends and colleagues in this digital, social age and yet, so very disconnected at the same time. It’s nice to catch up with old friends via Facebook status updates but it’s even better to have a person-to-person interaction with them. At this Superstar Retreat, I was able to reunite with so many longstanding friends, deepening our connection and sense of trust in each other in a way no text on a screen could ever create. Tim Rohan, it was great catching up with you on Wednesday night and congratulations on being an MFO coach!


Just as we have spring training in baseball and training camp in football, we must prepare for a successful season ahead and to do that we must remember the basics, the elemental insights that have been proven over decades and centuries to create and foster success. They’re basic because they won’t fail you and they’re basic because the truth is, as Mike Ferry reminded me at this Superstar Retreat, they really work.

GINO BLEFARI is CEO of HSF Affiliates LLC. You can follow Gino on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.