There’s more to winning a bidding war than price. You need to write offers that tell the seller and listing agent three things:
- your offer has the best terms
- your offer has the lowest risk
- your offer is most likely to cross the proverbial finish line
Sarita Dua is a top agent in Portland, Oregon who’s been winning bidding wars all year long — including seven straight in a single weekend. In part two of our podcast series, we continue our conversation with Sarita about the 3 C’s of winning bidding wars (confidence, communication, and creativity), how to beat an all-cash offer, and how to write offers that the listing agent will love.
(If you missed part one of this conversation, find it here: Win More Bidding Wars: The 3 Cs of Writing Better Offers)
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Links and Show Notes
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(SPEAKER: Matt McGee, Host) When it comes to winning bidding wars — in a year where bidding wars are becoming the norm — how do you convince the listing agent to choose your offer?
When you’re trying to win a bidding war, the smallest details can have the biggest impact and you’d better bring more than a good price to the table.
Sarita: Price is price. Everybody, and I think that’s a mistake we all make — everyone just assumes it’s a price discussion. It’s about risk too, right? The seller wants the best terms and they want the lowest risk which means they want the highest probability that this horse is gonna cross the finish line.
Matt: That’s the voice of Sarita Dua, an agent in Portland, Oregon where bidding wars are common and the market is unlike anything she’s seen in her 16 years in real estate. Sarita is back with me today for part 2 of our conversation about winning bidding wars. This week we’ll continue talking about the three Cs: confidence, communication, and creativity.
By the time we finish today this is the question we’ll answer. How do you write an offer that tells the listing agent our horse is the one that has the best terms, lowest risk, and is most likely to cross the finish line.
This is “The Walkthrough.”
Hello, hello everyone. I’m Matt McGee, editor of HomeLight’s Agent Resource Center. Welcome to “The Walkthrough.” On this show, you’ll learn what’s working right now from the best real estate agents and industry experts in the country. At HomeLight we believe in real estate agents. We’re on a journey to find out how great agents grow their business, stand out from the crowd, and become irreplaceable. You can get involved in the show in a couple of different ways. Leave a voicemail or send me a text, the number is 415-322-3328. You can send an email that’s walkthrough [at] homelight.com, or just find me in our Facebook listener community. Go to Facebook, do a search for HomeLight Walkthrough and the group should come right up.
I wanna start this week with a couple of statistics from HomeLight’s Q3 Top Agent Insight Survey. It just came out this month.
Statistic number one, 97% of the 1100 agents we surveyed told us that they’ve had multiple offers on at least one of their listings in the past three months. Number two, 87% of agents working with buyers said that they are bidding above the asking price just to compete.
Well, we’re in the middle of a two-part Walkthrough series where we don’t just wanna talk about competing. We wanna find out how you win bidding wars.
My guest is Sarita Dua, a 16-year veteran agent working in the red-hot Portland, Oregon market. Sarita loves working with buyers. She says they make up about 65% of her business and she has been winning a lot of bidding wars this year for her clients, including this summer, she won seven bidding wars in a single weekend.
Before we get into part two, I wanna make sure you’re caught up and on the same page with me. So in part one last week, that was episode 33, Sarita said you have to change how you write offers in a competitive market like this. She talked about the five parts of an offer: price, earnest money, down payment, close date, and what she calls the miscellaneous bucket. That last one, miscellaneous bucket, that includes things like contingencies and rent backs and so forth. She says that’s the most important part of the offer when you’re trying to win a bidding war. Sarita also introduced the three Cs — confidence, communication, and creativity. Those are the key to winning bidding wars.
In part one last week we covered confidence and we started talking about communication. Today we’re gonna pick up right where we left off with communication and then we’ll transition into creativity. So you’ll hear Sarita talk about a creative tactic that she calls “the swoop” where she gives the listing agent a deadline to respond to her buyer’s offer. You’ll also hear what she needs to know from her buyers to help her write the best offer possible, and an answer to a listener question about how to beat an all-cash offer.
As we dive in to part two right now we are talking about those three Cs and specifically the middle C, which is communication.
Matt: I think there’s this…probably this debate that a lot of agents have when they’re talking to the listing agent, should I play it close to the vest or should I show my cards? You’re all about showing your cards.
Sarita: Yeah, especially if I know my client wants it, right? If my client’s indifferent then we’re indifferent, right? But if they’re like, “This is the one,” then, you know, I’m not really giving anything away if I tell him I’m writing an offer, because we are writing an offer. And in fact I want them to know we’re writing an offer because at the end of the day some of these agents will have a deadline and then an amazing offer will come in and they’re gonna not respect the deadline and they’re gonna take it. So it’s important for them to know, “We’re putting together something awesome. It’s gonna be worth your while. Share with me what matters, right, to your seller. Again, whether I can do anything about it or not I don’t know, but at least tell me besides price what will make this a win.” They might say, “Guess what? We want the highest price and we want the least amount of headache.” One time he said, “You know what? Price matters but, like, we’ve actually had a sale fail, so, like, these guys just want someone who’s sure and they wanted to close.” So then now I know in my offer I’m gonna show hints that like we’re sure, right, which might be higher earnest money, shorter inspection period, a really strong, you know, “We’ve seen it three times,” all of it. Like, they’re gonna know that we’re sure. And so it just depends what… Yeah. So I believe if they really do want the house, we’re not giving anything away saying, “We want the house. Tell me how to make it a win.” Other people may disagree and that’s completely okay, but I just don’t think I’m giving anything away by saying, “We’re gonna put together something awesome. Tell me what makes it a win.”
Matt: You also said in terms of writing the offer and communicating with the listing agent that you want to present the best price — but you want to present your buyer as the best buyer, not just the best price.
Sarita: That’s right, because sometimes, Matt, if it was just price I have this joke it would be a game show, right? It’d be “The Price is Right.” Now we’re just…you know, when you go on the showcase showdown you’re like…you know, you have to bet on the treadmill and some people will say a thousand dollars and some people will say a dollar. Like, it’s just literally a guessing game on what the right number is.
It has to be more than one dimension. And here’s the thing, if you do your job right and build that rapport, sometimes we’re just not the highest or even the second highest. Maybe we’re in the top three but we’re in spitting distance, but they like the professionalism, the communication. They like that we know how to fill out the form. We were pretty complete. We had the pre-approval letter. We had the lender call when we submitted the offer. Like, we just dotted every i, crossed every t. Many times honestly I will get the call saying, “Sarita, you weren’t the highest but we really liked a lot of things about your offer.” Like, they know at that point I’m not going to be able to, really change my down payment, but maybe it’s a few thousand dollars to adjust the price or maybe it’s one week for the close date or something like that. A lot of times I will get the counter, even in a verbal counter, “Sarita, you’re really close. If you think you can do this, this, and this you’re gonna get it.”
And part of the reason I get that call, two things. One I built rapport just now, but two, unfortunately for those people that just started like yesterday or the day before it’s been 16 years of being a professional and having a good reputation in my market. Like, I didn’t know 16 years ago this market is gonna present itself and I just better be on my best behavior. I just knew I had to be a good agent. So reputation matters. And then your conversations around this particular transaction and the rapport you’re building on the phone, following up with texts, making sure you’re asking the agent, “Hey, did you get everything? Is there anything I can do to make this easier? Is there anything that’s missing that you think I should be addressing right now? What can I do?” You don’t wanna be annoying but you wanna just make sure you go above and beyond to stand out. And I’ll be honest with you, the bar is really low because there are so many agents today that are just texting everything in. They’re not picking up the phone. They’re not even following up specifically about the email. They’re presenting…they’re not even presenting the offer. They’re like, “Here’s the offer.” Like, at least take the time to recap the offer in a summary…
Sarita: …so the agent doesn’t miss like, “Oh, the offer was awesome but there was a line in there where they asked for closing costs and I kinda missed that.” Like, make sure you at least have the good and the bad like highlighted up front so that there’s no miscommunication and maybe I miss a key term of the offer, right? And so I think it’s just really important for us. Honestly I’m not asking people to do much more than, like, what I think is the standards of our job. It’s not even like…we’re not, you know, sending flowers and skywriting here. We’re just doing our job, but so many others aren’t that I think you do standout.
Matt: So we’ve talked about confidence and communication. The third C you mentioned is creativity. Where does that play in the process of multiple offer situations and trying to win a bidding war?
Sarita: So creativity is really…Like, I love the concept of deal structure. After 16 years every deal has its own fingerprint, its own, you know, pillars or tenets and that’s what makes every kind of interaction or negotiation unique. And so the creativity is really taking what you learned from the communication phase and applying it to an offer term. For example like, “Oh, they don’t know where they’re going. I’ve gonna give them free rent back. Oh, they’re worried about their bottom line. They’re just like…like, price really matters. Maybe we limit how repairs are gonna be so they know that even after repairs there’s not gonna be this second crazy negotiation.” So creativity is being able to listen and apply.
There’s also some other creative things I’ve done. One is I’ve basically disrespected an offer deadline at times and said, “You know what? I know the offer deadline is Monday. Let’s put together an amazing offer. Let’s be creative and have it be strong in every way and let’s make sure we give them 24 hours to respond.” And I’ll say this, Matt. I’ll say, “Matt, I know you have a deadline for Monday and I know it’s Thursday and I know you have 9 showings, but here. We have tightened every screw here to make it the best offer for you. High price, short inspection period, quick close. I can’t do the three-week close unless I can order the appraisal tomorrow and inspect on Monday. I’ve got the inspection on hold. I’m not asking for anything. I’m waiving the appraisal contingency. I’m not gonna ask for repairs unless each item is over $2000. Only if it’s $2000 which means a major issue I’ll ask. Minor issues you’re not gonna hear from me.” And I’ll say this. I’ll say, “Matt, they like the house. We’re not trying to be jerks here. They just are not gonna make it till Monday. They love it that much. And so if you risk, expect, you know, it technically expires in 24 hours. If you accept this offer we’re gonna be thrilled and we’re off to the races. If you don’t, I’m not gonna say we’re not gonna be there on Monday, like, it’s not like their love for the house is gonna change over the weekend, but I can’t guarantee we’re gonna have the same sweeteners.”
And why would someone do that? Like, “Sarita, why would you do that? Like, you don’t even know how many offers they’re gonna get and like why would you like try to steal it upfront?” I call it “the swoop.” “Why would you swoop in and take it?” Well, because maybe my client can only pay 10 or 15 more and they’re worried it’s gonna get completely out of hand, right? And they’ve lost so many times and they know that this is the one, and the beauty at the beginning is showings don’t equal offers. That seller doesn’t really know if those 9 showings are gonna equal multiple offers or not. So it is a bird in the hand, right? And my job there from a creativity standpoint is to make them wince, right? Wince just enough that they might consider it. Maybe they consider it and my buyer’s a winner. Maybe they don’t. My job hopefully is to do it in a way where I don’t piss them off and I’m still professional enough that they get that I’m just working hard for my client and it shows you that this is the kind of agent who’s gonna just work really hard to make sure that, you know, things work out and it’s a successful outcome which is really for both our clients.
Matt: Do you ever get a negative reaction from a listing agent when you do put, you know, a 24 or whatever it might be, 48 hour deadline on the offer that your clients are writing?
Sarita: I never had one honestly. I don’t do it all the time but I’ve done it I’d say a dozen times and I never had a negative reaction because it’s how you position it, right? If you say, “Hey, you can’t blame a girl for trying. They really love the house. If this does not work for you, you know, I’ll send you over an extension and we may change some terms, but I’d love you to present it to your seller, right?” Like, at the end of the day it’s not up to the agent. It’s up to the seller. I think if the seller, if an agent has an issue with it of their sort of guidance not being followed, you know, it’s usually more agent ego then because, you know, they should at least present it to the seller and let the seller decide, right?
There are some sellers honestly at least beginning with COVID back in May, early June — to be done before we start and not have anyone through the house is probably not a bad thing, right? And so even though they did all this work to prepare the house and they want the eyeballs, they do want it over in an outcome that works for them. So I’m not I think…I think if you’re honest and professional and a little bit self-deprecating too, “Like, hey, my seller…they’re just…they’re beside themselves. They love it. This is the one. They’re so grateful. Like, the two others that they liked in the last six months they didn’t get because this is the one. We just, you know, we put together something for you to consider. If it works we’d be thrilled. If not we understand.” Like, I don’t know. If you go in with that kind of attitude I don’t see a bunch of people being really upset that we wanna pay a really good amount of money for their seller’s house.
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Matt: We’ve been talking about the three Cs of winning bidding wars: confidence, communication, and creativity. You’ve just heard Sarita describe what she calls “the swoop,”” something she’s done she says maybe a dozen times. Instead of going along with the seller’s time frame for reviewing offers, she’ll write a really great offer for her buyer and then give the sellers a short window of time to consider it. If the seller doesn’t respond, she and her buyer may pull their offer … or they might not. Creative? I’d say so. Is it also contentious? Probably. I’d imagine some of you don’t like the sound of that, especially if you’re the listing agent. Or maybe if you work in a smaller market where all the active agents know each other pretty well, that approach may not work for you. Ultimately, you have have to weigh the risks of doing something like that.
But I’ll say this. It reminds me of what Aaron Novello talked about a few episodes ago in our discussion about winning the listing appointment. He talked about the takeaway close, letting the homeowner know that he might choose to walkaway and not be their agent. Sarita is basically doing a takeaway close of her own here. She’s letting the listing agent know that her buyer’s offer is only good for say 24 hours and they may move on to other homes after that. Again, it may not be something you’re willing to try in your market and that’s okay, but it is something that is helping Sarita in multiple offer situations.
Now let’s get back to the conversation. In order to write better offers and win bidding wars there are a few things Sarita needs to know from her clients, starting with, what’s your plan B if you don’t get this house?
Sarita: I’m a big proponent of the teachings of Roger Ury, U-R-Y, “Getting to Yes,” [Ed. note: Sarita meant to say Roger Fisher and William Ury] and we call it the BATNA. What is your plan B? It’s very important for me to understand what the client is gonna do if they don’t get this house. Maybe it’s, “Well, we didn’t get the house on Miller so we’re gonna go for the house on Patton. That’s our plan B.” Maybe it’s, “If we don’t get this house we’re gonna rent. Maybe if we don’t get this house that’s okay. It just wasn’t meant to be. We were indifferent anyways.” Understanding what they’re gonna do if they don’t get this house really helps me as we put together our offer strategy and as I approach them.
The other thing is really important is for me to be, you know, there’s this beautiful meme of Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte I think his name is, right, where Michael Phelps is swimming and Ryan is not looking at his lane, he’s looking at Michael, right? And the meme says something like, you know, pay attention to your lane not your competition, right? Like, winners focus on winning. Losers focus on winners or something like that. And I think it’s really a great meme because it really applies in multiple offers too, right? In some markets if you know a deadline is Monday at 4:00, you know that between 3:00 and 4:00 they’re all gonna come in. So we really know that we’ll have a different strategy first time offers versus two, but we don’t know on Friday or Saturday what’s gonna happen on Monday. And so while we can somewhat pivot and adjust as we get new information, the truth is it may be 3:58 and five offers come in and we’re never gonna know that, right? So at some point we gotta be the Michael Phelps here and be like, “What actually matters to you independent of what the others are doing?” So not only do I want them to know their plan B and I need to understand it, I also want them to know they’re ceiling or limit. I wanna say, “Hey, Matt, you’re loving this house. I know it’s 439. I know you can…you know, your pre-approvals are up to 475. What is your max number? I need you to be completely…I don’t care if there’s 53 offers. What is the number where if someone pays you a dollar more, a hundred more, a thousand more, if someone else pays that seller more than you, you had hit your limit and you’re gonna give them your blessings because you wouldn’t have gone there?”
Matt: Buying a house is an emotional process at any time of year in any situation, right? How do you…especially when you’re going back and forth and, you know, counter offers and this and that and the other with the listing agent, how important is it for you to sort of control your emotions and your buyers’ emotions through this process? And how do you do that?
Sarita: Yeah, it’s a really good question, right? Because I kind of said don’t be afraid to show your cards and be a little passionate, but as agents we have to be professional and we can’t be emotional like the buyer is. They’re the buyer. They’re the ones on the deed not us. Sometimes we get caught up in winning and are doing our job so well…and doing our job so well that we forget that maybe we want this to work more than the buyer does. We know what it takes to win. We’re telling them all the clues and they’re just not willing to do it because it doesn’t…this house doesn’t mean that much to them or they’ve got some other things going on that are more important.
So the first thing I’d say to all you agents on the line is one, you’re not the buyer. You’re the professional research for the buyer and you have to remember your role. You’re not living with them. You’re not on title. You’re not buying this house, so you have to give them your opinion good and bad but let the make the decisions. Two, I advise people to, you know, be creative, show some passion and energy because then they know we’re committed but don’t belabor the offers and the counter offers. Sometimes when things go too long, egos get in the way, agents have to have the last word, sellers have to have the last word. I know personally my husband — if we’ve had a garage sale and someone offers him like a dollar for something that’s 50 bucks he’d rather give it to Goodwill for nothing than give it to a neighbor for a dollar, right? It’s the principle of it. And so this idea of sometimes the emotions backfire if they kind of go on too long, and so one thing I would say about that is, you know, how you just do that is you just sort of keep your emotions in check. Sometimes it’s just important to pause and walk away.
Sometimes I’ll even ask the agent, especially if it’s an agent I’ve got got rapport with I’ll be like, “Listen. We have a number in mind. We can get there quickly or we can play the back and forth game. Let me ask you how important is it to your seller to have the last word? You know your client.” And they’ll even tell me it’s really important. Like, “Okay, great. I’m gonna craft her strategy and I’ll coach my client this guy or gal likes negotiating. Don’t care so much about who gets the last word. Let’s just get to the number, right? And so we may go a little lower than where we’re gonna end up with because we know that they like this for it.” And so being able to like…most agents will answer that question because again it’s a different version of the same question which is, like, what’s a win for your seller and respecting your seller’s style. Some of them like…they’re gonna want it…they believe the first offer is never the right one and they’re gonna wanna go back…okay. And sometimes it’s gonna be like, “We’re gonna get there quickly if that’s okay with you. This is the number. Like, we put a lot of thought into it. This is the final. We hope it works.”
But, you know, this is the game we’re playing. And so I think sometimes just agent to agent we can diffuse some future emotion by just understanding the personality types and the ground rules for the negotiation.
Matt: We have a listener community on Facebook and so I let the folks in the community know that we were gonna be doing this conversation about winning multiple offer situations. So a couple of questions from listeners. The first one is from Geordie Romer who is an agent here in Central Washington a couple of hours north of me, a couple of hours north of you. He says, how do you beat an all cash offer?
Sarita: Cash is just one of the terms. It is hard to beat but there are some people that will take more money via loan than they would cash, and sometimes they even want the time, and the other thing I would say is with cash sometimes all cash offers are investors and they don’t have a moving truck and they don’t have a vested interest in making it close and they can actually back away with just as much lack of emotion as they did going in, and so a buyer that’s super engaged and wants the house and can paint a picture of how much they want their house. Sometimes the seller fells a little bit more connected to that buyer than maybe an all cash investor.
So, I mean, obviously terms matter and cash is hard but a lot of people these days expect a discount for cash. And the truth is if you do a loan and you actually remove the appraisal contingency and you’re really tight on everything and you have a very strong lender with a good reputation and you have a good agent with a good reputation, we have been known to beat cash because we’ve been, you know, again following all these tips of listening and crafting a creative deal and understanding what it takes to make it win. Yes, cash has the lowest risk but it is still a risk if doesn’t close, right?
Matt: Abby Walters is an agent in Strasburg, Virginia and she was a previous guest here on the podcast. She asked a couple of different questions that I’m just gonna sort of sum up. She’s asking about the appraisal contingency and waiving the home inspection and just generally asking how do you feel about waiving those contingencies as part of the effort to win in a multiple offer situation?
Sarita: And this is where I just have to kind of remind everyone it’s not about how we feel as much as is what our clients feels and we just wanna make sure we give them the options. And so like a lot of times I’ll tell my clients unless they’re contractors or professional inspectors it’s not wise to waive the inspection contingency altogether. In fact, I’m gonna make them sign a waiver if they do that. So we’ll always have our right to terminate if there’s something major in the inspection that we didn’t see in the 20 minutes we were there for our showing, but we will then set expectations, right? That’s what a waiver is, is setting expectations that says, “Hey, after the inspection if we do choose to move forward, we will do so without asking for repairs or without asking for minor repairs or without asking for repairs over a set amount.” And so we typically…I mean, unless it’s a tear-down or inspector…you know, an inspector buying it we usually…but there are some people that are really…they’ll waive the inspection contingency because they’ll inspect during the disclosure contingencies or…there’s some creativity there, right? But the truth is we always…we’ll even write…we are saying that if we move forward this is how it’s gonna go. There have been times though with like site unseen, investor-occupied…like, let’s say it’s a duplex and you see one side and you don’t see the other. We’ll say stuff like, “Look. We know it’s multiple offers. You’ve already walked through with a contractor. We feel confident we can take it as is.” And then we’ll sort of know really upfront like what we’re gonna do in the first few…where we are. We do have a couple of other contingencies that we can use to get out.
Matt: Sarita, this has been just so fantastic. Are there any final words of wisdom, pieces of advice that you would want listeners to think about as they continue to fight through this crazy market with all the multiple offer situations that everyone is dealing with?
Sarita: Sage advice. Here we go. Well, first of all, it’s an honor to be here. Thank you so much for having me. I would say this. Don’t forget to have fun with this. You can tell I get lit up. You know, you can’t see me on video but you can hopefully hear it in my voice. If you’re a seasoned agent this is an invitation and a market for you to kind of wake up and get re-energized to the tools of our craft and find different ways of making our job fun, exciting and challenging again. There were times I think where we all sort of got into some routines and now we’re back to really exercising those muscles, those negotiation muscles, those communication muscles, those creativity muscles and making sure that not only are we confident about situations we are going in but we really feel like we’re the best agent for the job.
The other thing I would give to the same advice to the newbies on the line. Be thankful for this market. I got my license one year before a really tough market in ’05, ’05 to ’07 was insane, and I’m grateful for that year because learning how to actually write offers and meeting agents and going through some of the mechanics and then having a situation where then we had to learn how to be the best of the best, it’s gonna make you a better agent. So even though it’s tough right now and you’re gonna be frustrated for buyers, I actually just wanna tell people it’s really fun working with buyers, you have a lot of control, and, you can vary a lot of things and they’re super grateful for our service whereas sometimes sellers you do everything right and they still wonder if they paid you too much or they could’ve got more. So I would just say new or veteran, either way this is a great time in our industry that like pivot to the times and deliver a high value to our clients.
(Speaker: Matt McGee, Host)
That’s a great way to wrap it up. It’s all about delivering the highest value to your clients, whether they be buyers or sellers. Thanks so much to Sarita Dua for two great episodes about winning bidding wars, such a timely topic right now, you know, with the way things are going in markets around the country.
Let’s do our takeaways segment. This is what stood out to me from today’s show.
Takeaway number one. Sarita isn’t afraid to put her cards on the table with the listing agent. If your buyers really want the house just ask point-blank what matters to your seller? What do we need to do to win? And then listen to the clues so that you can write the best offer possible.
Takeaway number two. When it comes to being creative Sarita shared this tactic she calls the swoop. It’s something she’s done maybe a dozen times over the years. She’ll write a great offer and then tell the listing agent that it expires in say 24 hours. She’s trying to swoop in and get the home for her buyer and it has worked for Sarita. Creative? For sure. Controversial? Yup. I don’t blame you if you think it us. Ultimately you have to weigh the risks and decide if that’s a tactic that you can use in your market.
Takeaway number three. To write the best offer possible you need to know your client’s max offer amount and their plan B. If they don’t win the bidding war do they have another house in mind? Will they have to get an apartment? That kind of stuff should guide your strategy.
And then takeaway number four: Keep your emotions in check. Don’t let the offers and counteroffers drag on and on too long. Sarita says you should also try to find out the seller’s personality type. Are they the type of seller who would never accept the first offer? Do they like negotiating? Do they like having the last word? Knowing all of that helps you stay strategic and not emotional and it gives you a better chance to win the bidding war.
Okay. Questions for Sarita? You can find her in our Facebook listener community. Just search HomeLight Walkthrough and the group should come right up. You can find me in there too of course, or if you prefer send a voice mail or a text. The number is 415-322-3328. You can also email anytime. It’s walkthrough [at] homelight.com.
That’s all for this week. Thanks again to Sarita Dua for joining me and thank you for listing. My name is Matt McGee and you’ve been listening to The Walkthrough. At HomeLight we believe in real estate agents. We’re on a journey to find out how great agents grow their business, stand out from the crowd, and become irreplaceable.
Go out and safely sell some homes. We’ll talk to you again next week, everyone. Bye-bye.
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