When I started in real estate I was a generalist, or what I like to call a generic Realtor. I would work with anyone on any kind of real estate transaction to make a buck.

I have sold land, investment properties, new construction, townhouses and condos, upper-bracket homes, foreclosures, short sales, and fixer-uppers. I have shown properties in every county in my metro area.

I once listed a home for a friend in a town that is 50 miles away, and on another occasion helped buyers make a lakefront purchase 40 miles away.

In my days as a generalist, my online profiles and biographies contained a lengthy list of areas that I served.

I was encouraged by the brokerage I was with to include as much info as I could so that people would find me on the Internet when they conducted a search for an agent or a property. I was also competing with every other agent in the metro area with a similar bio.

I learned the error of my ways when gasoline prices jumped, which happened at about the same time home values, along with the number of home sales, plummeted. It takes time to drive 40 miles to go on a final walkthrough with a buyer.

For those who don’t live and work in a densely populated urban area spending time in the car is part of the job, for me it doesn’t have to be and I am not making any money when I am on the freeway.

These days I don’t spend much time in my car at all. I fill the gas tank about once every two weeks. I can walk to most of my listings if I want to and I can show five or six homes in less than two hours.

Before becoming a specialist I did my homework. I studied the market and counted the number of homes that were sold in my area. I looked at how many homes are on the market and average market times. I looked at prices and I looked for patterns to determine how many agents I would be competing with. I found all of the information that I needed in the multiple listing service.

That is when I started my real estate blog. The keywords on my websites revolve focus on neighborhoods, and I write about the types of homes that I like to sell and about the neighborhoods that I work in. I resisted the urge to call it the "Metro Real Estate Blog" or to name it after the state.

My profiles on the Internet have changed. I don’t include every suburb and county in the area. I still get calls from people who live far away, and in most cases I refer the business to agents who specialize in those areas.

By specializing, I became an expert. I know my numbers and I know the market. The clients who I work with are interested in experience and expertise.

In September, rental properties were added to our MLS. Several agents who I know have decided to leap into the leasing business. They don’t have any experience and they are learning as they go.

We can all use more business right now, but I don’t see the point in working with leases just because I can. It is a business decision. I did my homework and decided that I won’t be showing or listing apartments for rent. Not even the apartments in my market area.

Being a generic Realtor has some advantages. They can go to where the business is. They don’t have to be as targeted in their marketing efforts. But as a specialist it is easier to stand out on the Internet and to distinguish myself from the crowd.

Most of the people who contact me do so because people who are looking for an expert. My business is now closer to home and, in general, less expensive to operate.

If you are thinking about next year’s business plan, consider doing your homework and choosing a specialty.

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