5 Ways to Stretch Your Holiday Budget

The holidays can be a bundle of fun, but they can also cost a bundle of cash. Between gifts, travel plans, hotels at peak pricing, and extravagant meals, your cash flow can take a hit. We’ve outlined seven ways for you to minimize the damage to your bottom line.

1.  Take Out Physical Cash

We may not think about it, but there is a significant and real emotional tie we develop with physical cash that we do not with our credit cards.  While it is very easy to swipe and forget, we are always very cognizant of how much cash in our wallets, and how much has left.  This is an easy way to improve your cash flow in the holiday season.

2.  Avoid Sales Pitches and “Special Offers”

Just like you know you are going to spend more during the holidays, so do businesses.  In 2014, consumers spent an average of $802.54 on their holiday shopping, and this is very well documented.  Retailers will go out of their way to insist that you buy their products using their credit cards; this will only end up negatively impacting your cash flow in the long run.

3.  Make A Spending Plan (and Stick to It!)

You may have more or less cash available to spend on the holidays, and you might even consider taking a commission advance or other type of accounts receivable financing in order to not have to come out of pocket for your holiday spending.  According to financial planners, any scenario is OK as long as you come up with a plan that works for your, doesn’t leave you with a mountain of debt you won’t recover from, and you stick to your plan.  Remember, how much cash you spend on someone is dictated only by you, not by them.

4.  Have Priorities

Not everyone will have enough cash laying around to buy gifts for everyone on their list, or want to take a commission advance in order to buy gifts for everyone.  Making a list and only spending your cash on the people that are closest to you is a great exercise that can help you save more cash during the holidays.

5.  Shop Early!

As a general rule, humans procrastinate.  Since this is human nature, businesses have learned to capitalize on it, and this is never more apparent than during the holidays.  Most consumer studies indicate that the best time to shop for holiday presents is between Oct 1 and Dec 1 (participate in Black Friday sales bonanzas at your own risk).  Shopping last minute is a sure-fire way to overspend and negatively impact your cash flow.

3 Reasons a Deal Might Fall Through

One of the largest challenges of running your own real estate business is maintaining steady cash flow. You may have multiple contracts pending and ready to close within the next month, but that means nothing when you have expenses and overhead that need to be taken care of immediately.

Maintaining relationships with vendors, as well as with clients, is at the heart of your business.  Here at Express Cash Flow, we are dedicated to helping professional real estate agents and brokers improve their day to day cash flow and operating budgets. Similar to the way banks offer loans based on accounts receivable, commission advance companies like Express Cash Flow provide early payment on your pending commissions. You get up to 75% of your commission before closing so you can pay your service providers on time. Once you receive your commission on a real estate sale, Express Cash Flow receives the amount of the advance, plus their fee, back through closing.

Deals can fall through, however. Here are three reasons real estate deals sometimes breakdown:

Appraisals

Every lender and loan requires that the property in a pending real estate transaction be appraised. This protects the buyer – they don’t want to end up upside down in a new real estate investment – and ultimately, protects the lender, too. Real estate appraisals are typically based on recent sales.  If sales haven’t caught up to a shifting market on the rise, this can happen. Sometimes, these deals can be saved through negotiations, but if the difference between the appraised value and the sale value is too great, these deals can fall through.

Property Condition

With the help of savvy buyers’ agents, most prospective home purchasers will request an inspection. An inspector will test and examine all of a home’s systems, including electrical, plumbing, HVAC, and even the roof. These deals may fall through if the seller doesn’t have the finances to cover the work and can’t afford to take a hit on the sales price. In foreclosed homes, banks are often unwilling to finance any repairs, meanwhile, the lending bank is unwilling to make a loan in the home’s current condition.

Buyer Motivation

Looking at homes to buy is fun. Dealing with all the requisite paperwork and effort to close a deal isn’t. If a buyer isn’t very motivated, even the smallest hiccup – and there will be hiccups – may lead them to believe it’s easier to walk away from a real estate transaction.

Any of these factors, as well as many others, can delay the all-important close of escrow.  Utilizing a commission advance can allow agents to breathe a little easier during their escrow, knowing that the money is already in their pocket.

Express Cash Flow also understands that not every escrow closes.  As a real estate professional, we trust that you are going to close another escrow in the near future, and may even have other escrows going concurrently with the escrow associated with the advance.  That’s an easy enough solution we simply transfer your advance to another escrow, and there is no out of pocket payment for you.

Top Expenses of Real Estate Agents

Owning your own business comes with a roller coaster of highs and lows, both emotionally and financially. Real estate brokers and agents are not immune to these, and the costs of running a real estate business can add up quickly, especially considering how long transactions take (and they are only taking longer).

Here is a partial list of the cash it takes to be a real estate agent:

Before you stick that first “For Sale” sign in a yard, or show that first home to a potential buyer, you’ll need to spend between $1,500 and $2,000. You’ll need to enroll in a real estate class, typically from a state accredited provider. The costs will vary. In California, for example, courses range from $200 to $700. Once you’ve finished the course, you’ll need to take the licensing exam. In California, the licensing exam fee is $60. Many states also require fingerprinting and background checks, which range in cost.

Realtor Association Fees

You don’t have to join the local association of Realtors in your area, however, membership has its benefits. Members of the association sign a code of conduct, and typically, its board has a regulatory authority over its members. Your fees may include membership in a local organization as well as a state organization. If you live in a metropolitan area that bisects more than one state, you may have to pay membership fees to more than one state or locality. Your local Realtor association also hosts a multiple listing service, or MLS, allowing other agents to peruse the listings of their peers.  There is an annual membership fee to join the association. In most places, the fee costs between $200 and $500 per year. Real estate agents pay this fee once each year.

Multiple Listing Service Dues

You’ll have to be a member of the local association to use your area’s multiple listing service. In addition to the association membership fee, you’ll also need to pay an annual fee to subscribe to the MLS, As the listing service is linked to a geographic area, these fees vary by location.

Agency Fees

Real estate agents who are just starting out must either obtain a broker’s license themselves, or work underneath the supervision of an established brokerage. Many brokers will require that real estate agents contribute to office and franchising costs, and they do this in a variety of ways. The most common ways are to charge a monthly “desk” fee regardless of the agents production, or instead they’ll charge a % of each transactionthe real estate agent closes.

Equipment Costs

You’ll have some access to office equipment, but you’ll also need a top of the line mobile device and associated data plan. What’s more, you’ll also need a durable and efficient laptop, as well as a high end camera (nope, that one on your phone isn’t going to cut it) to take listing photos.   Yard signs, open house signs, lockboxes and lockbox keys also come with the territory.

Error and Omissions Insurance

This insurance protects you if a real estate contract or issue winds up in court. Costs vary per area and per brokerage.

Real estate agents typically spend $3,000+ to become licensed and start their business. Agentswill spend far more each year on marketing and general expenses to keep it going. Though costs vary from agent to agent and state to state, a commission advance service is one way to help fight the challenge of consistent expenses and, at least in the beginning, income that takes a while to become consistent.