Lose the commission cutting battle to win the condo HOA war

  • Agents who can articulate the advantage their tech and social skills would give an HOA and its homeowners have an edge over their competition.
  • Dealing with condos is not the time to cut your commission to save one homeseller money. Go for the whole enchilada -- the HOA.
  • Help HOAs in establishing a long-term revenue channels going forward.

Urban legend says: Maintaining relationships within a high-rise can yield an agent $20,000 to $25,000 a year.

I recently had a young agent ask me how she could “get in on that.” As I was about to impart wisdom, she was distracted by her phone and spent the next 35 seconds communicating with several people on what appeared to be multiple applications.

Although this agent might not be well-suited for selling into an HOA, she might have just demonstrated a skill set that could get her in the door.

Recently, a condo board member I know voiced frustration over not knowing any Web designers that could help upgrade his building’s website.

Herein lies the agent opportunity.

See the potential

For many sales agents, survival has meant keeping up with and mastering the latest communication technologies. The delta between agents who know how to communicate in today’s electronic world and condo board members who aren’t even aware of Yelp should be seen by agents as an enormous opportunity.

People who sit on condo boards tend to be successful people. But their success and expertise may have nothing to do with social media or Internet-related technologies.

Sales agents who articulate how their social and digital skills can help an HOA and all of its homeowners will have a significant advantage in “getting in on that,” as that young agent in my office put it.

Why is this important now? The recession of the past decade stifled new condo development in virtually every metro market in the U.S.

Today, demand is high, and inventory is low. Considering the financial magnitude of building a high-rise with a nearly two-year development lead time, competition for those currently in place has only one direction to go: ultra-competitive.

High-rise HOAs in urban markets compete at a level that subdivision HOAs don’t. For the average suburban subdivision, long- and short-term strategic thinking isn’t necessary.

But for high-rises and large complexes whose communal fate is tied to a single structure, HOAs are scrambling to take on a more product-like approach to their thinking.

Branding is the key

Ask a 14-year-old what his or her brand is, and you will likely get a straight and quick response. Ask a condo board member what his or her building’s brand is and odds are you will get a blank stare.

Most high-rise buildings are currently in the process of — or attempting to — brand or re-brand. If ever there has been an opportunity for a sales agent to stand up and differentiate, this has to be one of the easiest.

Board members might not like agents, but most will concede that a real estate perspective is essential to any brand development for their building.

Sadly, given an open door, many agents just give in and cut their commission in an effort to save someone money. This is not the approach to take when selling an HOA.

Sales 101 reminds us to reflect for a moment in the shoes of our customer. What concerns HOA board members? Yes, they are concerned about saving their homeowners some money on their sale, and they certainly wouldn’t say otherwise in a public forum, but their primary function is the long-term viability of the building.

Can their building keep up? It’s no longer sufficient for buildings to say we have features A, B, C and D. Today’s HOAs need plans to pay for tomorrow’s features. Condo HOAs need revenue channels.

When buildings are new, they have flashy brochures and exciting builder websites. As they age, their care and feeding have historically fallen into whatever comfort level has been developed over time with their volunteer homeowner community.

Although this familiarity is ideal for organizing Cinco de Mayo parties, it lacks both the time and expertise needed to establish a brand or execute a social strategy.

HOAs need agents. Simply put, agents know how to position, brand and promote a property. It’s what we do.

How to get in on selling condos

Interested sales agents should research the top 20 condos in their market. Start with the buildings that people already refer to by name.

Look for branding opportunities. Who is doing well, and who could be doing better? How can an agent’s social strategy augment that of the building?

If you have reflected on board members’ concerns, you know that keeping up with rising costs while trying to keep owner dues down is the area that causes them the most pain. Smart agents will realize any sales plan or pitch must include a financial element.

This is not the time to discount anything.

Rather, it’s the time for agents to help HOAs in establishing a long-term revenue channels going forward. Behind every great HOA stands a lot of money to be made in commission.

Exactly how agents approach an HOA will vary. There are, after all, many ways to skin a cat. (What kind of society were we to make that a popular expression?)

Market conditions for selling into an HOA are perhaps better than they’ve ever been.

Branding, the latest building trend, is in the agent wheelhouse. Agents’ expertise is a natural fit. How an agent crafts his or her business or financial part of the plan is the challenge.

But, here is a good starting tip: saving the homeowner who is leaving the building a few grand on their sale doesn’t help the HOA much.

Assist the HOA, and you help yourself.

Jeff Bergstrom is Broker/Owner of Wynd Realty. You can follow him on Twitter @WyndRealty and on Facebook.

Email Jeff Bergstrom.