Realtors, do the terms organization, receipts, or taxes send a shutter through you amidst an already busy life? Needless to say you are not alone unless you have a staff member or bookkeeper that tends to the financial end of your business. If that is indeed the case then you have made a wise business decision.
For the other 80% or more of real estate agents, basic organization and management of receipts is an on going challenge. When realtors spend too much of their time managing the financial aspect of their business they leave less time for prospecting or simply refueling for the next day. Mind you it is imperative that real estate entrepreneurs maintain closely monitored expense and income reports as well as making their quarterly tax payments in a timely manner.
First of all it is in the agents best interest to hire a qualified accountant whose primary client base comprises small business entrepreneurs, preferably the majority being real estate agents. Realtors are among the two leading industries that are audited by the IRS (next to independent doctors) so the best way to stay out of the limelight and/or be prepared should it ever present itself is to hire the services of an independent accountant. Not only will they guide you through the expense and deduction minefield, but they also will keep you out of the grey areas that are suspect to the IRS.
From receipts to spreadsheets, what is available and requires the least amount of time and effort? Every agent should have a scanner readily available to them to scan incoming bills, correspondence, and of course receipts. NeatReceipts® (www.NeatReceipts.com) is a small portable scanner that will organize receipts, bills, business cards and store everything into a database on a PC or Mac. The new 2007 version has IRS forms and tax categories accepted by the IRS and the information you scan can be exported to Excel, Quicken, QuickBooks or TurboTax. Accountants will applaud any agents astute financial nature as everyone knows that receipts need to be copied because they fade and scanning is better because they are stored on a computer.
What about the rest of the organization issues that are prevalent in the real estate industry? Sure learning simple techniques such as color coding a file system and having general files for mail and marketing ideas are a good basis. However, when the production level increases the pace picks up and tends to leave a tornadic type of mess. For this “C/D” category of work it will be best for many real estate agents to seek outside help from a professional. Call on your local professional organizer who would love nothing more than to step in and take over your piles, just make sure you know where it is all going and that you are in agreement with their system.
Granted most organizers prefer to train their clients how to become and maintain organization, so it may be necessary to direct them to simple systems for the extremely busy entrepreneur. In fact, let them know that you may hire them to return on a monthly or bi-monthly basis.
There is actually a National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) that even meets annually for a conference. They offer the professional organizers a certification called the Certified Professional Organizer or CPO®. Houston has its own Certified Professional Organizer, Ellen Delap of Professional-Organizer.com. There are others however, Ellen holds certificates of study in Chronic Disorganization and Attention Deficit Disorder which is a contributor to disorganization and inability to maintain order within the household or work.
Many of these local NAPO chapters support community charities such as dress for success and cancer societies. To find your local professional organizer, visit the National Association of Professional Organizers, http://www.napo.net. Not only may this be a gift to yourself and your business, but you may also have a client or working partner who would appreciate your gifting a few hours to them. Who knows, maybe they will even scan your items for you.
Cynthia Perkins, MA
Realtor, Educator, Coach
Champions School of Real Estate