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During the holidays, most of us are taking some time to slow down, enjoy the season, and recharge the batteries. It’s been a tough year – and next year will likely prove just as tough. But while it’s important to enjoy the festivities and good cheer, don’t forget that January 2 will likely be the most important day of the next twelve months. For REALTORS especially.

What happens on January 2, 2010? It’s the first acceptable day to get back to work in real estate. Saturdays and Sundays are usually workdays for real estate professionals, but none in the last year will be as important as this particular Saturday:

The first work day after millions of listing agreements expire at the end of 2009.

Certainly, someone will argue that ambitious real estate could pursue expired on New Year’s Day – but let’s at least pretend to some decorum in an industry that usually spends most of its time at the jewelry-booth at its Annual Convention. Leave the First off-limits, if not just for hangovers.

But on Saturday the Second, the gloves come off. And they should. It’s going to be a field day for every over-priced, newspaper-and-postcard marketed listing that failed to sell in the last quarter of 2009. Most listing agreements run 3 or 6 months, and many consumers tend to think in terms of calendar periods. So the end of 2009 is a very natural “end date” for thousands of listing agreements nationwide.

So you’d better be prepared for the first work-day after. And that means starting today.

Smart real estate agents should be laying the groundwork in December for Saturday the Second of January. It starts with information gathering – like making an appointment to tour potential future targets before they expire. Sure, you probably won’t know which homes exactly are about to expire at the end of the year. But it doesn’t take a math whiz to run a report by days-on-market. Just sort by 75 and higher; or 160 or higher. Then make some appointments to see the home before it possibly expires.

And take some notes. Maybe even some photos.

Oh, that’s naughty, you say! Coal for you, in your stocking! Isn’t that the entire point of targeting expired listings, anyway? To demonstrate you can do what the other agent couldn’t or wouldn’t – which is get the job done, using ambitious techniques. It’s called , and not everyone gets a trophy.

If you wimp out on the ambitious technique, then at least printout some MLS sheets and file them in advance. This will provide you with more information in case your MLS system purges data when a listing expires. It will be helpful to identify any weaknesses in the past marketing strategy being used, like awful photos, weird-abbreviation descriptions and missing data.

And if there was a virtual tour, was it a silent-movie?

Speaking of movies, that’s be another thing to prepare now, so you’re ready to target expired listings on Saturday the Second. Record a video or two or three about why homes don’t sell, good marketing techniques and current market conditions. Upload it to YouTube and post it on your blog. Then promote the video to the local marketplace. Provide consumers with information in advance about why (their) homes didn’t sell. That way, when you reach out to them on the Second, some sellers might recognize you from your video.

Recognition is important, of course, so make sure you tell the people who already know you that Saturday the Second is a big day. That means creating a campaign over the next few weeks on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere to spread the word: Should anyone in your sphere of influence know anyone whose home might be falling off the market at the end of the year, share your video with them. Or contact you. Referrals still represent the single largest source of new listings. So why not get referrals of expired listings? At least you have a targeted date and time to push for them at this time of the year.

Which brings us back to Saturday the Second of January, 2010. What’s your plan for the big day? Will you have a marathon telethon, hitting the phones hard enough to make the New Year your best ever? Are your email marketing pieces ready to follow up with every call you make? Have you prepared your market reports and customer trend graphs to offer sellers – and you’ll just stop by to drop them off? You can’t possibly start doing this on January 1st, and there will be some holidays and hangovers between now and then.

So get to work now, because the importance of January 2, 2010 cannot be underestimated. On that day, careers will be won and lost. The seeds of success will be planted, or hard ground lost by those who thought that now is the time to slow down. That’s the funny thing about real estate: We actually know when the most important days of the year will be. Now it’s up to each of us to decide whether we’ll be ready for it or not.

Let’s hope so!