Dan Desmond, owner of Help-U-Sell Bay Beach Realty in Forked River, N.J., has a key piece of advice for new brokers: “Never stop learning.” And he practices what he preaches.
“This market changes day to day and will for several more years. I [just] turned 64 and I am in the last of three parts of Graduate of the Real Estate Institute,” says Desmond, who has been in the real-estate industry for nearly a quarter of a century (and with Help-U-Sell Real Estate for five years).
He’s also keeping himself relevant in today’s market by specializing.
“I added four certifications this year,” Desmond says. “One [certification] was the Certified Investor Agent Specialist, and I am adding more and more cash investors to my database, plus encouraging some people to use their IRAs, etc. to get into good cash flow rentals.”
Another way he has adjusted to today’s climate is through his listings themselves. “I am having a much better year than last because I adapted to it. I list smarter and push for a reduction more,” he says.
His favorite part of the business is helping people buy or sell, and “especially helping people in a bind to get on with their lives.” To help him help sellers facing foreclosure, he is also a Certified Distressed Property Expert.
Despite the current challenges, Desmond is confident that the market will come back long-term and believes in the meantime that “Help-U-Sell equity sellers need us now more than ever.”
To new Help-U-Sell brokers, he advises, “Believe in Help-U-Sell – the Internet will help us tell our story more in the next few years than it did in the past 35.”
An advocate of technology and social media, Meena Gujral connects with current and potential clients by blogging, responding to questions on real estate forums and posting links to articles on Facebook. She has worked in real estate for 25 years, with Coldwell Banker for 18 of those years, and for the past seven years she has owned Help-U-Sell Achievers Realty in Fremont, Calif.
She explains how technology has changed how she works, for the better.
“I remember the days when we used to find listings from a big thick book that was so difficult to carry around, the days when we had to map out every house, write down directions before taking the buyers in the car,” Gujral says. “The Internet and the GPS (technology) have made things much easier, saving time and energy so we can spend more time doing things we are good at, like building client relations and paying more attention to their needs. My goal has always been to help my buyers achieve their real estate goals.”
One way she uses technology to build client relations is through Trulia. She markets her listings and advertises open houses on the site, but what she uses Trulia the most for is to answer questions from buyers, sellers and agents.
“It is a platform where I get the most visibility. I get at least two to three leads every week from clients who have read my post and consider me the expert in that field or neighborhood,” Gujral says. “I have listed a few properties as a direct result from my Trulia answers. It is very easy to create a profile and get started to show up as the expert in your neighborhood.”
She suggests that Zillow.com is another site where you can set up a profile and start answering questions and advertise your listings and open houses.
Gujral also is active on other social media sites, including LinkedIn and Facebook. She explains that even though she has a separate Facebook page for her Help-U-Sell Real Estate office, she shares a lot of real estate articles and open house information on her personal Facebook page.
“I want all my friends to know me as an agent also, not just a friend,” she says. “I have actually had three friends contact me from my Facebook page and I am currently working on showing two of them homes, and the third one is a seller whose property I recently listed as a short sale.”
In addition to responding to questions on Trulia and posting to Facebook, Gujral also blogs. “I have five different blogging sites,” she says. “I used to blog twice a week, but I have to admit, I don’t do it as much now. I have had many clients tell me they saw my blog on a certain topic and that is why they called me. I just wish I had more time to blog since I do consider it good exposure.”
Another effective outreach technique for Gujral is drip email campaigns, which she has created for buyers and sellers. A drip email campaign sends pre-written messages to leads over a predetermined period of time. Clients have called her a year later after receiving her drip emails. “I am very excited that the Help-U-Sell Real Estate website will also have the drip email feature soon. It really works.”
[Note: Help-U-Sell Real Estate’s email campaign functionality will be live by early 2012.]
Gujral’s commitment to being considered a local expert extends to the new website her son is designing for her. The site offers community-level detail, where she can demonstrate and impart her hyperlocal knowledge, and the site also targets keywords that people searching for real estate in her immediate area would likely use, such as “Fremont Realtor” and “Pleasanton homes.”
“The bottom line is to make a site that both Google loves and customers love,” Gujral says. “We did this by targeting our content specific city-level keywords that we know buyers/sellers are looking for online.”
For new Help-U-Sell Real Estate brokers, she offers the following tips.
I would advise all new agents to get out there with technology, social media and get your name across to as many people as you can. You are fortunate to be in real estate in this technology boom time where you can get so much more exposure without spending too much money at all.
Make sure you ask for referrals from your past clients if you have been in real estate before coming to Help-U-Sell Real Estate.
Get your clients to see you as the expert in the real estate field.
How are you using social media to get the word out about your brokerage?
Anyone who has driven through Chino Hills, Calif., probably recognizes Patrick Wood’s name. He’s known for his ubiquitous signage.
“The technique that brought me huge success in my core market was to start branding my name with the Help-U-Sell Office,” says Wood, who has owned Help-U-Sell Prestige Properties since 2003.
All of his staff members have magnets on their cars that have his name and the Help-U-Sell Real Estate name, and his main work vehicle has a wrap that stands out. “The real estate signs and open house signs [also] have resulted in huge recognition, and the community has responded amazingly well,” he adds. “I constantly hear how people see my signs everywhere.”
Of course, there is more to his success than signage. Wood, whose office has closed 54 sides so far this year, emphasizes the importance of offering full service and commission savings in attracting clients. “I found this to be necessary as other agents were trying to compete with my office by suggesting the clients would have to do all the work,” he says. “The full service leaves the client satisfied, which results in referrals, so it has been beneficial.”
For new Help-U-Sell Brokers, he recommends continuing the full-service concept through to the office setup. “[In our office] a team concept has been put in place, and it provides clients with access to licensed assistants seven days a week,” he says. “Service is big, constant contact is big, working together is huge. This is a crazy, intense field and having the support of a team makes it much easier and productive.”
A Help-U-Sell veteran, Jack Bailey has owned his franchise in Greensboro, N.C., since 1988. He’s seen many changes in real estate since then, from technology to the rise of buyers’ agencies, but his goal remains the same.
“I love exceeding expectations,” he says. “I get a lot of satisfaction from taking a client, listening to their objectives and overcoming obstacles.”
One of his secret weapons is his buyer consultation, which he created more than 20 years ago when he realized his buyers didn’t have knowledge of real estate basics. “You have to become more of an adviser in these tough times than just someone who lists houses,” Bailey says.
To that end, he coaches his potential buyers in the terms and the tricks of the industry that they’ll need to know. “It’s important for buyers to be educated as best they can,” he asserts.
During the consultation, Bailey explains the buying process, negotiating techniques, types of loans and basics like closing costs and escrow accounts. “By the time we’re done, we’ll have a strategy for them,” he says.
Not only does the consultation inform his clients, but it also inspires their confidence in themselves and in him.
On the seller side, Bailey advises that you need to know your statistics and your facts. “Explain what’s going to happen in the market and how [you and the seller] need to strategize,” he suggests.
His techniques and practices come from the heart. “I sincerely want to help people. I put their interest before mine,” he says. “The results always work out for everybody.”
For new brokers, particularly those new to Help-U-Sell, Bailey offers the following advice:
Make sure you pick the best business model for you. Consider your strengths, your objectives and your market before deciding between running your office as a manager with agents and doing it all yourself.
Build a good knowledge base of real estate and be constantly aware of what’s happening and what is projected to happen.
Market very smartly, especially to your Centers of Influence.
An almost 10-year real estate veteran, Karen started out as a part-time licensed assistant with a Help-U-Sell office while learning the ropes of real estate. In March 2005, she opened up her own Help-U-Sell office.
Her office has closed 56 sides so far this year. She attributes some of this success to advertising on the radio and old-fashioned meet-and-greets. “I believe networking with community organizations, churches, local chambers and our local Realtor association is the most cost effective marketing tool in this market,” Karen says. “It doesn’t require an outlay of money, but gets us as agents interacting with the community.”
Another tactic she has used, based on what she’s noticed in her market, is properly pricing a home at the beginning of the listing, “right along with that, making sure your listing outshines the competition in ‘showability.’” She has also observed buyers take more time looking at the inventory of homes available prior to making an offer on a property.
Karen has a love for real estate, which shows in her work. “I believe real estate has to be a passion that you have inside of you,” she says.
For new brokers, she offers great advice.
• For those that got into real estate at the height of the market, this current market is a real adjustment. Start small. You don’t need a lot of agents, but the ones you have make sure they have the drive and stamina to succeed.
• Focus on your clients, as they will be your best advertising! I found testimonials were a great tool.
• Current and past clients always seem to know someone who is in need of buying or selling a home, so don’t be afraid to ask for referrals.
If you have more advice to share, please comment below.