It is no secret that real estate agents, as a profession, have had a tough time of it over the last several years. The recent real estate bubble created a feast or famine situation and many agents have not survived the famine. Meanwhile, over the last 5 years, I have sold over 500 single family homes, condos, or lots to my clients…including closing on 30 deals last month alone. This volume places me in the top 5% of all Realtors in the country (in both transactions and commissions.) I am not telling you this in order to boast or brag about my sales (as I know other realtors who have done far more business than I have) but merely to propose that my success has not been due to luck but rather due to a particular mindset that has worked very well for me over the last several years.
The Realtor’s Success Mindset
This mindset has entailed thinking as an investor instead of as a Realtor. I have never really considered myself a Realtor, in fact, but rather an investor who helps other investors. It doesn’t hurt that I own 20 investment properties of my own and have a lot of experience in searching for and closing my own purchases. But this is not a prerequisite to thinking like an investor. In order to position yourself as an investor Realtor you don’t have to own a lot of properties yourself, but you do have to develop a reputation with your clients for being more interested in their bottom line than you are in your commission. I have been able to do this, and in so doing grow a large investor database by using the following strategies that I would like to share with you:
Developing Your Niche as the “Investor’s Realtor”
The first thing I have done as the “investor’s realtor” is to develop a niche. I don’t try to know (or act like I know) everything about every area of real estate…rather I focus on a specific area. In my case, this area has been primarily single family homes. This is the area that I am comfortable with, knowledgeable about, and experienced in.
By becoming an expert in a particular area, I am better able to service my clients and identify for them more profitable investments. Once I have identified what my niche will be, I use all channels available to me to educate myself within my chosen field and sub-field. I take the attitude that there is always something I can learn…some hidden gem of knowledge that can be extracted…from every article, video, seminar, webinar, call, or meeting that I run across or am involved in. As I go through my day, I try to be an “active seeker”…looking for these nuggets of information or advice and adding them to my arsenal of tools.
Using Google Alerts to Become an Expert in YOUR Area
Specifically, I also have found that Google Alerts are an easy and quick way to become an expert in your chosen area within a short period of time. What I do is to set up a Google alert for the niche I am exploring using key words that apply to that niche. Once I have entered these key words into the Google alerts set-up tool, Google will email me daily with the top 5 articles, blogs, and/or videos (whatever I have asked for) that fit my criteria. This makes it easy to set aside a small amount of time each day and read up on the item(s) that I am interested in educating myself about. This tool alone can make you an expert in your field in no time at all.
Since you will be spending a lot of time pursuing education in your area of desired expertise, it is important that you pick an area which interests you, and, of course, in which you can make a good income. Some interesting niches to consider within the realm of investment property are short sales, foreclosures, second homes, vacation homes, condos, condos hotels, naked land, commercial properties, international clients looking for income property or second homes, and/or multifamily properties. You can also take it one step further by specializing in a specific area within a niche.
Be Mobile in Finding the Best Deals for Your Clients
The next key to my long term success has been my willingness to move out of my local area in order to find the best deals for my investors. Over the last 5 years I have always tried to position myself within the hottest markets, which in many cases were not in my own backyard. In this day and age, the internet, cell phones, and cheap airline travel make it easy to consider investments from across the country. One does not have to be tied into investing within a 30 mile radius of home in order to be successful. Nor do your investor clients. By utilizing referral fees and reciprocal agreements with other agents, you can expand your reach nationwide.
In that spirit, I have completed innumerable day trips, one, two and three day jaunts into markets like California, Phoenix, and Albuquerque to find deals and meet with new clients looking to buy in those markets. By going to where the hottest markets were I was able to maximize my sales volume and be in areas that investors really wanted to invest in. As of the writing of this article (August 2009) everyone in the country knows that Las Vegas is ground zero for foreclosures. This is currently the hot spot that I am focusing on and as of today I have over 25 transactions in process for my investors. For the first time in a long time I am lucky enough to be working in my own backyard. Lesson number two is to go where the hot spots are.
Build Your Marketing Campaign
Once I have developed my niche and determined specifically where I am going to invest and recommend that my clients invest, I create my marketing campaign to go find the investors. I could easily write an entire book just on marketing for real estate agents, and I look forward to sharing more articles with you in the future on this topic, but for now I will share a few brief thoughts here to put you on the fast track. The marketing materials that I use are designed to aid the investor in making an informed decision on the investment they are currently considering.
- The first item in this package is the “e flyer.” This flyer is a colorful, eye catching marketing piece that lists all the features and benefits of the potential investment in a concise, easy to understand format. I send these flyers out to investors in the form of email blasts and their purpose is to catch the investor’s eye and encourage them to read more about the investment opportunity that I am offering. To view an example of one of my recent investment flyers: www.viewpointequity.com/MGMFlyer.pdf
- The second item that I include in my marketing package is a proforma worksheet. I have always used proformas to analyze my own investments and I find it is an excellent tool to share with my clients as they consider similar investments. If the proforma is done well and accurately, it will not only aid the potential client in understanding the financials of the investment, but it will also build your credibility in the eyes of your customers as not just a Realtor, but a seasoned investor that actually understands the investment process. Having actual numbers plugged into a spreadsheet gives the investor a sense of comfort with you and with the investment, and helps to eliminate the feeling of the “unknown,” especially for new investors.
All-in-all creating an informative and professional marketing package for the properties that you are looking to sell and including realistic projections and other data helps investors to accurately evaluate a deal and establishes valuable credibility for you that will result in repeat business, referrals, and client loyalty.
- Another tool that I use with outstanding results is my monthly newsletter. Different than a typical “Realtor” newsletter that might feature recipes and other useful but non real estate related information, my newsletter is filled with statistics, actual deals, potential deals, education and opinions the market in which I am currently working. Sending this out to my database on a monthly basis allows me to stay in front of them and remind them that I am always looking for the next best deal when and if they are ready to get involved. To see my latest newsletter: www.viewpointequity.com/newsletter.pdf
- My final, and perhaps most important marketing strategy, involves not what I do, but what I don’t do. I have found that my strengths as a business person lie in my abilities to create leads, talk to clients, sell properties and negotiate deals. My strengths do not lie in the field of internet marketing or graphic design. Because of this, rather than spend my time working on my own e flyers and newsletters, I employ an internet marketing/graphic design firm to handle these details for me. When I am ready to create a marketing piece, I do the overall concept management, writing, thinking, and analyzing and forward it on to my specialist for the design of the marketing materials. Once back to me I make suggestions and changes to put the final touches on the material. I suggest that you too spend more time on the areas in which you specialize and less time playing with graphic design programs on your own computer. This one idea (the virtual marketing assistant) has helped me tremendously in getting more effective marketing material produced faster than I could otherwise produce myself, leaving me free to pursue sales.
Conclusion and Introduction
I have thoroughly enjoyed sharing some ideas with you in this my first article on the BiggerPockets website. I look forward to the many weeks and months that lie ahead and I hope that you have enjoyed it as much as I did.
In future articles I will explore all of these items in greater detail along with other great ideas that will help you to become the “new investor’s realtor”, broaden your horizons, open up your pool of potential investors, speak to and educate your clients, and aid you in selling more real estate to your qualified pool of investors.
Till we chat again
My name is Glenn Plantone