As the Investors’ Realtor, the success of my business hinges on continually finding new prospects that are interested in purchasing residential real estate. One of the avenues that I have found extremely effective in this regard is the real estate club that I founded 2 ½ years ago. The Real Estate Insiders Club of Las Vegas has provided me, through bad markets and good markets, with a consistent venue in which to place myself in front of investors in the Las Vegas area. Whether you are a real estate agent working to grow your client base, an investor looking to share ideas with other investors in your area, or another professional in a real estate related trade, starting a real estate networking club can provide a valuable resource for the growth of your business.
Here’s how I did it:
As with any new project, the first step to success is creating a mission statement or a list of goals…what do you expect to achieve by starting a real estate related club?
I started the Real Estate Insiders Club with five goals in mind. The first was to network with other like minded investors. The second was to educate investors on the ever changing real estate environment through a rotating cast of speakers delivering talks on a wide range of topics. The third goal was for the club to provide a platform for presenting real estate opportunities to interested investors. The fourth was to turn a profit and add a stream of income for myself, and the last goal was to be able to put myself in the spotlight and use the platform for my own marketing purposes.
After establishing your goals you need to form a list of questions that must be answered in order for you to move forward. These questions should include things like: How often do you plan on meeting? Will you meet weekly or monthly or some other time frame? Where will you meet? What time of day? What types of attendees will you be targeting? How many people do you hope will attend? How many people need to attend in order to make the event profitable? How much money you can realistically afford to invest in the event? With a budget in mind it will be easy to decide on where you can allocate your expenses toward the club. If you have speakers pitching products or services, you will need to decide if you will be co-oping with them or charging them to speak. Will you be paying to bring in featured speakers? Will you offer monthly membership only or add annual memberships as well? Will you do other sponsored events and co-op with other seminar groups? Will you be providing food and drink as part of the event? Will you be filming the event and using the clips on Youtube and other marketing venues? Pay careful attention to all of these considerations…I lost money the first year of the club and afterwards had to make several changes in order to move forward and create a profitable meeting.
One of the first items I grappled with was where to hold the event. I have tried four different locations over the life of the club and I have discovered a few critical points about choosing a successful meeting location:
- You need a location that is centrally located in your city or town and is easy to find using simple directions.
- You should look for a meeting area that is professional, quiet from distractions, and has room to grow according to the size of your turnout. We have had anywhere from 30 people early on to around 100 people in attendance at our monthly events.
- Cheaper is better. Don’t be tempted to go all out with the greatest meeting space you can find. It doesn’t matter how nice the event arena looks if you can’t cover the costs.
- The room you choose should be able to accommodate a projector, microphones, and food & drink.
Probably the most important decisions you will make surround the format you will use for the club. The format that I use has developed and changed slightly over time, but the basics have remained the same and it seems to work well for me. I make sure there is time in each meeting for networking, time for educational spots, and time for attendees to look at some opportunities in real estate investing.
Networking time runs for about an hour before the structured meeting begins. To me, this is often the most rewarding portion of the event. I wander around the room and try to introduce myself personally to anybody that I don’t recognize. I also catch up with regular attendees and learn what they are focusing on in their endeavors.
At the beginning of the meeting proper, we often have “get to know your neighbor” time. Sometimes, if the group is small enough, this involves going around the room in order to get to know each person individually. Other times we may have a few people from the crowd come up and give a quick “elevator speech” on what they do or are looking for from the crowd. And sometimes the meeting agenda is so full that we just run with the featured speakers that are scheduled that night.
During our educational segments, I generally like to have 5-7 presenters speaking in 5 to 20 minute clips on a variety of subjects like lending, governmental programs, the local market (now mostly foreclosures), the national real estate scene, an international perspective, etc. During this time I will also give my update on what area of the market I am currently investing and interested in. This variety of speakers and topics helps to keep the material fresh, up to date, and interesting for the attendees.
After this portion, we will generally have a featured speaker who talks for about 30 minutes. I have learned to stay away from the 1-2 hour “guru” speakers that are attempting to hawk their wares. These types of speakers tend to run long and can extend the meeting to a 3 hour affair. Times when I have allowed these longer feature presentations, I have ended up with sales results that were less than overwhelming and complaints from my attendees. I would rather have a meeting that breaks even financially and provides good information for happy clients, than a pitchfest that makes money but does not bring as much real value or run as smoothly as a more concise, more personal meeting. I have also found that asking speakers to adhere to a limited time frame really forces them to cover only the important, main bullet points of their subject matter…which is really what everyone wants to hear anyways.
I try to insure that speakers cover current, newsworthy topics each month so I can keep attendees informed and coming back for more. For example, some of the subjects we have covered over the last couple of meetings include:
- Changes to the laws regarding evictions of tenants in rental properties and how those laws pertain to foreclosures
- How to utilize lease options to find better quality tenants
- Explanations of the Section 8 program and how can it be used to get great tenants with guaranteed rent from the government
- The loan modification process as covered by a local attorney
- How to find and buy probate real estate
- What services a title company can provide in helping investors and Realtors build more and better deals.
Some of the guests we have had the pleasure of hosting include: local market analysts Steve Bottfeld and Richard Lee, President Elect Rick Shelton of the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors, & “Flip This House” T.V. star Than Merrill. Las Vegas celebrity Mayor Oscar Goodman is scheduled to be attending our October meeting.
I can also share with you some things to be cautious of:
- Don’t try to cram too much information or too many speakers into one event. It will tend to run long and you run the jeopardy of loosing people who do not like 3 hour meetings.
- Limit your meetings to one sales pitch at the most per meeting.
- You as the master of ceremonies must maintain order regarding the speakers’ time and subject matter. I have learned to keep any network marketing pitches out of the meeting and do not allow attendees to circulate sales material unless they are a featured speaker or a paid sponsor of the club.
In the end, the time commitment involved in running a real estate club must be heavily considered before starting one. There are flyers to be developed for marketing, emailing to do, calls to make, speakers to arrange and sponsors to be considered. But the benefits can be huge as well. Establishing relationships with real estate journalists, being contacted by local TV. and radio stations as well as some international news shows and newspapers have all been part of the perks associated with being the president and founder of the Real Estate Insider Club of Las Vegas.