When real estate agent Laura Sommers Hall relocated to a new market, she made sure she hit the ground running.
She joined a large brokerage for floor time and opportunities to host open houses, constantly toured the area to learn routes and back roads, quickly saw at least 50 homes and conducted research for her open houses “like crazy to be overprepared.”
“I wanted to sound like I lived there,” she said.
Her startup strategy didn’t stop there.
Hall “buddied up” with top producers, paying them referral fees for excess leads and covering for them when they went on vacation. She joined networking groups. She even signed up for real estate coaching.
“Fifteen years later I’m still going strong!” she said, commenting in the real estate Facebook group Raise the Bar.
Drawing on comments from Hall and other members of Raise the Bar, here’s our guide to building a real estate business from scratch:
1. Differentiate yourself from competitors.
“Research the hell out of the competition online and formulate a list of things they’re all doing, then formulate a list of things they’re not,” advises Nobu Hata.
One place to start would be to review the websites of other agents and brokerages and look for “gaps in their marketing,” said Dena L. Stevens.
2. Market yourself aggressively.
Launch a marketing strategy that highlights your differentiators.
Pepper that marketing with “amped-up market intelligence based on MLS sales histories on top 10 micromarkets and five spillover markets,” advises Hata, and then, “Blitz those markets with online and offline marketing, open houses and presence.”
Cold-calling the owners of for-sale-by-owner and expired listings are also a tried-and-true way to drum up leads.
Schmooze whenever and wherever you can. Become a regular at bars, restaurants and coffee shops, and make your profession known.
One way to raise awareness of what you do for a living is to simply wear a name tag everywhere you go, said Mary Sue Arthur.
“Unexpectedly today at the gas station, the owner asked me to find other sites for them to build their high-end gas, convenience, liquor store combo,” she said.
And make sure you have creative marketing materials on hand, such as pens, koozies, wine openers and beach balls, recommends Barbara Anderson.
“Keep the car a bit stockpiled,” she said.
Plug yourself into the community by joining networking groups, such as a local real estate organizations, BNI (a large networking organization) and the local chamber of commerce.
Chime in on discussions in local Facebook groups. Roll up your sleeves and chip in at local charities.
And seek out local leaders in business, politics and social life, said Michelle Poccia.
“Pick out and invite a selection of ‘engaging’ types to a ‘coffee’ for some exchanging of histories and future plans,” she said.
5. Feed off top agents.
Agents can kickstart their businesses by cozying up to top-producing agents. Offer to pay referral fees for their excess leads if you close transactions with those leads, cover for them when they’re on vacation or stand in for them at open houses.
6. Get to know your market inside out.
Scour multiple listing service data to uncover trends, study individual listings and get yourself into every active and pending listing you can, agents say.
7. Get the lay of the land.
Learn the local geography by visiting the area you’re moving to before your relocate. Study maps, and after you’ve made your move, firm up your lay of the land by going on frequent drives.
8. Pound the pavement.
Summon your chutzpah. Door-knock to get to know residents and drum up leads. Tour as many homes as possible, and familiarize yourself with different neighborhoods and schools.
9. Hold lots of open houses.
Host three to five open houses a week, said Sean Carpenter. Offer to hold them on behalf of other listing agents. Joining a large brokerage may present you with more opportunities to host open houses for other agents’ listings.
10. Choose the right brokerage.
Do your homework and try to join a brokerage that’s well-respected and offers a high level of support, said Michelle Poccia.
Selecting a firm that supplies leads to agents can be one way to ensure you get some business from the get-go.
Kelly Epps Normand recommends exploring opportunities at the brokerages with the largest market share.
“Go interview with those offices, or even join now, so you can get their interoffice emails and learn about the new area’s trends and laws before arriving,” she said.
11. Work with renters.
“Depending on your market, don’t be afraid to take lease clients!” said D’Ann Faught. “In D.C. the [money] was good and a lot of my clients became or knew buyer clients.”