Craig Mirambell is broker-owner at Mirambell Realty.
Why do you stay independent when there are so many great franchises to join?
That’s exactly why I stay independent. There are so many choices for Realtors to join a large corporate company; we wanted to stand out and give the agents more of what they desire. For example, one-on-one meetings, 24/7 brokers, higher commission, freedom … all things that are hard to find when agents decide to go the corporate route.
When did you decide to launch your independent brokerage and why?
I started Mirambell Realty in 2006 after finishing my two years being licensed under another brokerage — a corporate model, at that. During my two years, I quickly realized that the New Orleans real estate industry could be looked at as stale and was an area that feared innovation.
I saw a need for energy and enthusiasm among agents in the area. I started my firm with the intentions of bringing new life to real estate marketing. I wanted an office where agents could use technology and imagination to better serve their clients.
What factored into that decision?
While making the decision, I needed to address where my leads were coming from. I quickly realized my large firm with recognizable yard signs was not bringing any business to me; instead, I was marketing myself, and my clients responded to me, not my brokerage.
With that metric researched, I then considered what else I might lose that I may need — for example, a staff attorney, a broker, large office space and so on. I quickly realized I was competent enough to handle the broker questions; I could hire an attorney as needed; and the large office space wasn’t needed, because most agents that I was to recruit are mobile or work from home.
Why did you think it was the right time and the right move for you?
My two years under the large firm made me realize the potential I could have being independent. I saw my ability to make decisions for a firm and not have to work through any red tape to see things in motion. I like to say we can bob and weave with the newest and greatest technology, while large firms have a lot of steps to implement a new product.
It was right for me because I had nothing to lose; I was young, relatively new to the career and had started making a name for myself in real estate.
How old is your brokerage?
Mirambell Realty is 9 years old.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in getting your brokerage off the ground?
The biggest challenge I had was making sure I had systems in place. I knew I wanted to start on the right track and have everything in order for my real estate commission. It took a lot of time to develop processes for paperwork, marketing, recruiting and so on.
What was the easiest part of getting your brokerage off the ground?
The easiest part of starting my firm was using the Internet. I was able to find so many answers to my questions online via forums and researching others websites. All the answers were there; I just needed to find them.
From finding my yard sign company to ordering business cards, I was able to get competitive pricing and the latest product offering, all from the seat at my desk.
What’s your approximate agent-to-staff ratio?
We currently have one broker (myself), one agent who serves as our social media and marketing director, one office admin who is actually an agent in training, and 16 additional agents.
Are you part of an independent brokerage network?
No, I am not, and am unaware of any. I am a part of a few social media groups for independent brokers.
What’s the quirkiest thing about your firm?
Our office meets quarterly at a hot breakfast spot. We call it “Idea Omelet.” The goal is for the agents to interact with each other, to throw out crazy real estate ideas; we scramble it together and hope to devise a delicious idea that we can implement in our firm.
Describe your office.
Mirambell Realty’s office is smaller building on a busy street in Metairie, which is the neighboring city to New Orleans. I refer to it a as a satellite office because only one other agent, our social media director, has a full-time desk at the office. All other agents take advantage of the open floor-plan model.
There is a conference area to use, computers and printers available, and desk space if needed. For the most part, the agents come in to process closings, ask questions to their broker, or an occasional office meeting. The office is outfitted with reclaimed natural wood tables, modern furniture, walls painted with dry erase paint, Mac computers and leather sofas.
How many agents and offices do you have?
We currently have 18 licensed agents and one agent-in-training. Mirambell Realty has one centrally located office.
How do you recruit new agents?
We recruit several different ways. I am very involved at our local board, which helps me get our name out to Realtors in the area. I am able to develop relationships that may evolve into having that person work for Mirambell.
We also send letters to newly licensed agents explaining what we can offer to those who don’t work well in a corporate environment. We target agents who have reached certain production levels and seem to be a good fit for our culture. Targeting is easily done with social media advertising, as well as phone calls and follow-up emails.
Where and how do you market your brokerage?
We market our brokerage almost entirely online and through word of mouth. Social media makes it so easy to target a particular audience that we almost always lean on this form of advertisement. Whether it’s the recruiting of agents, sellers, buyers or renters, we have a system set up to target those groups with professionally prepared marketing materials.
In addition, we ask for reviews, testimonials and request word-of-mouth referrals from all of our past clients. Occasionally, we are involved in the local community with tents and giveaways at several events throughout the year.
Do you have office parties? What are they like?
As mentioned earlier, we have a quarterly meeting, Idea Omelet, that can be looked at as a party. Additionally, each quarter we have another event that builds camaraderie; those typically involve a sporting event, happy hour or simple tour of our wonderful city.
Each year we have an end-of-the-year party at Mirambell Realty. The office is nicely decorated, and food and drinks are catered. We wrap up our end-of-the-year contest with awards ranging from car details to restaurant gift cards to iPad giveaways. At this time, we also give our “Crystals Trophies” to our agent of the year, rookie of the year and those who completed their first closing in real estate.
All of this is well-documented with professional photography, which is shared on our website and through social media.
Describe your brokerage’s digital presence.
We rely on our digital presence for leads, recruiting and communication. We currently use a custom-designed WordPress site that has full SEO integration with our IDX search capabilities for the consumer. We use this platform for blogs, agent bios, loan and grant information, and so on.
We are very active on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter, and currently working on building a Pinterest platform. We often link our blogs with all of the social media mentioned above.
We use the Mirambell Realty Facebook page the most frequently for getting info to the consumers, and we have a private Mirambell Realty group that is used among our agents in a collaborative platform that is checked often.
What would you say are the biggest advantages to operating as an independent brokerage versus as a franchised firm? What are the biggest challenges?
The biggest advantage of operating as an independent is the ability to decide and immediately implement. For example, when we decided to go paperless (as possible) there wasn’t a large implementation period. We simply made calls to our agents, set up webinars and office training, and within a month, it was complete.
There wasn’t backlash because of change; our agents believe in our vision and respect the culture. Change is inevitable, and our independent firm understand we can stay ahead of the competition by moving forward with new ideas and technology.
The other big advantage at Mirambell Realty is the freedom. If an agent wants to hold an open house on a Friday night and the seller agrees, they don’t need to go to the broker for permission. We welcome change, and they know not to expect objection from me.
As the broker, my thought is that if it is good for the client, and the agent believes its good for our brand, then move forward.
The biggest challenge as an independent is having our voice heard. I now sit as the president of our MLS board. I got involved with my board because I like to see change and oftentimes the independents’ voice was not heard. Even though the independent firms are gaining numbers in our market, we still don’t have the presence at the board level to make policy changes that are needed.
The large firms tend to be heard a lot louder and clearer, and it is frustrating because many of the independents have a pulse on the national real estate trends. I, for one, attend many conferences around the country each year and bring back these ideas to our board. I heavily research happenings around the country. When I bring up an idea, it’s not because it’s in the best interest of the independent brokerages, but instead it’s in the best interest of our membership. Having that translated and implemented is often a struggle.
What sets your brokerage apart? What makes you different from your competition?
Our culture and our systems and processes set us apart from the competition. The culture at Mirambell Realty supports an agent who enjoys excitement and collaboration while remaining upbeat, constantly moving in our tech-driven environment. Our systems and processes in place for our agents help new agents develop a marketing strategy that will make them successful — we call it “The Blueprint for Success.”
Additionally, our systems for processing of listings all the way down to processing of commission checks is well-defined and adds simplicity to the office day-to-days.
Also, we are the only firm in the state of Louisiana that is using Matterport 3-D virtual tours. The brokerage supplies the virtual tour to every listing in the firm, and it’s free to our agents. The 3-D virtual tour allows our agents to market in a way that no one else in the state can compare.
When sellers and buyers take an interactive property tour with our technology, they immediately know Mirambell Realty is cutting-edge, and I feel as though they understand what our firm represents.
What’s the biggest business improvement you made last year? What’s the biggest improvement you have planned for this year?
The biggest improvement we have made as a firm revolves around our marketing of our properties. With the purchase of the 3-D camera leading the way, we have changed the way consumers look at real estate in New Orleans.
In conjunction with 3-D camera, we have developed better pricing for our professional photography and have made it mandatory that each home is professionally shot. These photos are then edited for each form of social and online advertising by a graphic designer we use on a contract basis.
The professionally edited photos and marketing materials have truly started helping consumers easily recognize when a listing hits the market and Mirambell Realty is handling the marketing.
In 2016, I plan on hiring a graphic designer and photographer on staff and full time. Not only will the in-house photographer and graphic employee help to sell properties, they will also undoubtedly help the brand. Agents are taking notice and will recognize a firm that is spending money for their agents to better their careers.
We also will always stay abreast of the latest technology and invest as needed.
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