Inman is interviewing the top producers in real estate for this new profile series. Here’s Michael Balsitis of Bellabay Realty.
Describe your job — where are you located, what types of properties do you work with, what types of clients do you work with?
I have a few jobs that I work on throughout my day. My wife, Melissa, and I own a medium-sized brokerage of 55 agents, give or take. I’m currently in charge of agent retention and growth for the brokerage. I try to interact with as many of our agents as possible on a daily basis and help them with the development and growth of their personal business. That could consist of objection handling, answering questions pertaining to the deals they are working on, helping them with their business plan or just sometimes helping them be accountable.
Another job that I have is working with my own clients. I’ve specialized in default properties (REO) for about 17 years now. My staff and I cover a large geographical area that encompasses a wide range of property prices, areas and situations. I sell, on average, more than 300 properties yearly and have done so for 10-plus years. The majority of my personal clients are institutional or fund managers, so they expect us to meet deadlines, be able to troubleshoot where need be and perform at a high level.
I also run a property management company that has about 150 properties and covers four different counties. With the property management company, my main job is to drive in business and make sure our clients and tenants are all happy.
Where did you start?
I started my real estate career a month before I turned 20. I worked for a small independent broker for the first year. After that, I moved on to a franchise company for 10 years. After dealing with the franchise world, my wife and I decided that we wanted more freedom and say as to how we were going run our business, so we started our own independent brokerage.
Did you imagine when you were younger that you’d be a top producer?
No, it wasn’t until my fourth or fifth year in the business that I started to experience “top producer” success. I almost didn’t make it past my first five years in the business. Honestly, if it wasn’t for the power or prayer, the support of my wife and a few breaks here and there, I wouldn’t have made it.
What sets you apart?
Personally, I think it’s my willingness to give or help where needed and working smarter, not harder. We truly get by giving! I feel that I’m very generous with my time, and my door is always open to my agents. Every lead that I generate on my listings is used to help our agents build their business. Since 2012, my leads have generated our agents 375 closings, which has generated $250,000 in commissions to those agents.
I’m also not afraid of taking risk or asking for business. I’ve failed more then I’ve succeeded, been told no more times than yes … but at the end of the day, I just take it as if it’s a challenge.
How did you get there?
I listened to a real estate coach one day tell me that if I wanted to be successful, I had to set myself apart. It was at that point the light bulb went on. What could I do that was different? Years ago, our area didn’t have a real need to cater to investors. However, I had a couple of guys I was working with who flipped houses, and if I sold them a house, they would relist it with me. So I thought, who else do I know who could do the the same thing?
From that point, I started calling investors and tried to help them build their portfolio and increase their wealth. At one point, I had more people willing to invest than we had flip-type homes on the market. One day I was out looking at a house with a client and we saw a house just sitting vacant. He said he thought it was a foreclosure and asked me if I would call the bank to see if they would sell it. So I called the local banker and brokered the deal. A few weeks, later that same banker called me and asked if I could help him sell another property. It was at that point in time another light bulb went off. So the very next day, I started calling every bank that I could to see if they had any inventory to sell. It was at that point when I found my true passion, and the rest is history.
Are you part of a team or are you doing it solo?
Solo with a great admin team.
What does your admin support team look like, or do you have one?
I have a listing and transaction coordinator, property manager, two field runners and a bookkeeper.
Who are your heroes?
My father. Great guy who always tells me the truth and never sugarcoats anything. He always is there when you need advice or just need to vent.
What’s the first thing you do when you get to work in the morning? What’s the last thing you do before you leave?
The first thing I do in the morning is go over my daily affirmations, goals and emails. I find I do better if I visualize how I want the day to go. The last thing I do is reflect on the day itself, the positives and the negatives. Then I visualize how I could have done better. Once I do that, then I start the plan for the next day.
What’s your favorite place to unwind?
The gym or any sort of event with my family. I spend a good amount of time in the gym. I find it’s the best place for me to be free of distraction. I can just unwind and focus on me.
My kids are very active in all kinds of things. Sometimes there is nothing better then attending one of their events to put everything in perspective. I go to work so they can have a better life.
What areas of your business do you pay personal attention to? What have you outsourced?
My main focus is business development and customer service. Once I bring in new business, my staff pretty much works on everything behind the scenes. They are extremely qualified to handle all the day-to-day tasks so anything that can be delegated is delegated. I figure the best use of my time is cultivating relationships with the clients. Don’t get me wrong: I know what’s going on pretty much at all times, but you have to do what you are best at.
What do you think is the biggest barrier to success in today’s real estate industry? How have you overcome it?
Yourself, follow-up and fear of rejection. I find that staying positive and motivated, day in and day out, is very difficult. There are so many outside factors and distractions that dictate how our day is going to go. Everything from appraisals, lenders, inspectors, Zestimates … and so on. We just need to remember we are responsible for our own success, and we have to do the things that need to be done to stay constant, organized and positive.
A lot of agents today struggle with follow-up. The majority of agents have an issue being consistent with client follow up. It’s rare to meet a buyer or seller just once and sell that person something. Our lives are full of distraction, and we are all human, so things do get dropped. However, success is in the follow-up. I think if agents today are not working with a good CRM (customer relationship manager) system, they are just cheating themselves.
Finally, we can’t be afraid of rejection. Nobody wants to be sold, so don’t take the first or second “no” personally. How many times do you walk into a store, and someone says, “Can I help you?” And you say, “No, I’m just looking.” Even though you know you need help! If everyone said “yes” when you tried to list or sell them a house, then everyone would be doing this business. Don’t be afraid of rejection! Some of my best clients tell me “no” all the time, but guess what: They still use me when they need my services because I provide them value. Be an expert in your field, and those rejections eventually turn in to sales!
How do you deal with stress?
Prayer, my accountability group and the gym. I pray a lot for help with difficult situations. I vent a lot to my accountability group. Finally, I distract myself from stress by hitting the gym.
If you could change anything about your career path, would you? Why or why not?
My career has truly been blessed. About the only thing that I would have changed was when we started our own brokerage. I wish we would have done it sooner than we did. Don’t get me wrong, there is value in franchise; however, you are ultimately responsible for your own success. I can’t put a price tag on the relationships I have with my agents. Nothing excites me more than to see them succeed, and I couldn’t have done that without being my own brokerage.
Do you qualify as a top producer, and would you like to participate in our profile series? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.