Interviewers note: I really enjoy meeting new people and the fun part of the real estate business is that there are all sorts of fun people to meet. One of the more fun people that I have met has been Tim Harris of Harris Real Estate University. Tim is bigger than life, and far more energetic.
Over the weeks since we first talked, I have grown to appreciate his zest for business and his passion for coaching. In a world of folks who do not walk the talk, Tim and Julie Harris do. Here’s a little information about them along with my interview.
Harris Real Estate University
Founded by: Tim and Julie Harris
Purpose: Educate REALTORS on the best techniques and skills of selling in today’s market.
They now reside in Las Vegas and in Laguna Beach California where they moved from their days as RE/MAX REALTORS in Ohio.
REIW: Hi Tim and Julie, what prompted you and your wife to go from selling real estate into coaching? They are two really different businesses and there had to be a reason behind it.
Tim and Julie Harris: We were speaking at a large, national convention. After we were done presenting, a couple Realtors cornered us, asked if we’d consider coaching them. To be honest, up until that point, we had never considered coaching. We had only written our book, ’0 to 10 Million In One Year’, and were not really looking to do much more in the real estate education arena. We accepted the challenge of coaching those initial agents and then that grew to a handful, then dozens, then hundreds. Now, over 10 years has passed, and it’s grown into the thousands.
Let’s be clear about this, though. In no way did we set out to become the largest online coaching organization. No one is more surprised than we are!!
REIW: Your coaching company has grown tremendously in the last couple of years, if you can point to one specific thing as a cause for your success what would it be?
Tim and Julie Harris: Well, not so different than the first answer, really. The honest answer is: luck and being in the right place at the right time. We had to learn to do short sales as a necessity when we sold homes in Ohio. When we predicted the market was headed for a nose dive in 2007, we recognized that eventually, short sales would go from the ‘fringe’ of real estate into the mainstream. So back in 2007, we offered a free short sale teleseminar, and at the time that was to mostly KW agents. In retrospect, back then, the #1 question then was, ‘what the heck is a short sale?’. Now everyone knows what a short sale is. If you’re asking how we grew so fast…it was being in the right place at the right time, lots of stupid luck, and the recognition that the market was changing.
Now, in addition the Short Sale class, one of our most popular courses is the REO program, followed by our Agent Technology Program.
REIW: With every success comes a failure or two ( or three or ten!). What was your biggest failure and how are you working to overcome it?
Tim and Julie Harris: Growing as fast as we did. We seem to be crashing a server every 90 days or so. We’ve had the usual growth related staffing issues. When you go from hundreds of students to thousands, Customer Service becomes the necessary focus.
REIW:Due to the market conditions, short sales seem to be everywhere. It was not a phrease that anyone even Googled two years ago and now everyone is. What (besides your training should a real estate agent do to take advantage of this?
Tim and Julie Harris: The new Treasury guidelines, without a doubt make short sales the preferred tool in the toolbox that the Obama administration is using to end the foreclosure crisis. What should an agent do now? Accept that the market of the moment (to steal a line from Gary Keller), understand that your real estate seller clients, if you’re in most of the country, are upside down in their homes. Their best option if they have to sell is to do a short sale, vs. having to deal with the foreclosure process. We heard a report just today that 12% of all sales in the US were short sales. This is a staggering number. We expect it to grow to 20 or 30% by the end of this year. Learn the right way to do short sales and learn it immediately. Understand also that this education is a moving target, with the laws and guidelines and practices change daily. Oh yeah…consider earning your HREU, CDPD Distressed Property Designation!
REIW: Many agents complain that short sales are tough (and they are right!) I have atched them struggle with ever changing information and banks not being able to get timely decisions back to them. Do you see this getting resolved soon and what are some steps for agents to take in resolving it?
Tim and Julie Harris: That very question is the essence of why we’re calling 2010 the Year of the Short Sale. In late 2009, the Treasury Dept came out with new guidelines which will transform and streamline the Short Sale process. We choose to be cautiously optimistic about how fast the banks will adapt to these guidelines vs being skeptical. The dramatic changes include: the banks will respond within 10 days, commissions will not be negotiable as long as they are not over 6%. When in full effect, the banks will be pre-approving homes for short sales. They’ll already have collected the documentation, established a list price, and then assign a short sale listing to agents. This will be similar to the current REO process. Consider the fact that the total % of short sales could grow to 20 or 30%, you’re talking about over a million short sales for 2010. That’s a lot of home owners that agents should help and 10s of millions in commission dollars out there for agents to earn.
REIW:Last shot is yours, Tim… looking back on your business and looking forward to the future of real estate coaching, training, and education, where do you see the business in 5 years?
Tim and Julie Harris: 100% web-based, no question about it. When we look at our newest students, they are wired completely different than the agents they’re replacing. They want education and training delivered when they want it and how they want it. Obviously, there will be education in the form of webinars, videos, and whatever might come next. Whatever that form is, if it puts us in a place where we can better serve our students, you can count on us either adapting or innovating to meet their needs.
It’s the Realtors that join us in adapting and innovating to what home owners demand and what home buyers demand who will be the new top producers across the country. From our perspective, it’s been interesting to watch as the agents who quickly adapt to market shifts have displaced agents who have been top producers for years and years. We have students who, in the height of the boom, were struggling to sell 10 or 12 homes per year. Those same agents, after learning to do short sales and sell REOs, are now selling more than 100 homes per year. The ability to adapt and innovate has launched them into top producer status. It’s truly our honor to coach so many agents…we blush at the praise they often bestow upon us. The simple fact is that it’s the AGENTS who are making the difference. Agents who have learned how to be of service, and who have become the ‘Hope for Homeowners’. These agents have seized the opportunity to learn the skills that this market requires. It’s those agents who motivate US every day.