San Francisco brokerage Pacific Union International is investing in a new business intelligence department to arm its agents with better market information for clients. And CEO Mark McLaughlin has hired former Trulia chief economist, Selma Hepp, to head it.

  • Pacific Union has appointed former Trulia chief economist Selma Hepp to head its new business intelligence department.
  • The department will be equipping Pacific Union agents with more data on their clients and local markets in California.
  • The move is part of Pacific Union's aim to grow market share.

San Francisco brokerage Pacific Union International is investing in a new business intelligence department to arm its agents with better market information for clients. And CEO Mark McLaughlin has hired former Trulia chief economist, Selma Hepp, to head it.

Selma Hepp

Selma Hepp

“It is as if the job has been tailored for me,” said Hepp, who said she spoke with McLaughlin soon after she left Trulia in October last year. She worked at Trulia for five months.

McLaughlin met Hepp at Pacific Union’s Building Wealth panel in February last year. At the time, Hepp was representing the California Association of Realtors, where she was senior economist for more than three years. She has also worked as an economist with the National Association of Realtors.

Hepp said she was pleased to be working in a brokerage like Pacific Union.

“From what I have seen, Pacific Union is a very mobile, innovative company. It really gets an idea and runs through with it fast. It also tries to make an impact on the industry — that’s what I’m most excited about,” she said.

Growing market share

Her appointment is part of Pacific Union’s plan to grow market share, said McLaughlin.

“This year we are going to invest close to $1 million in business intelligence and another $1 million in technology,” he said.

“We want to give our agents an unfair competitive advantage. We have to gain market share every single year, and the way we do that is by empowering our people. Companies that are losing market share are simply going out of business slowly.

“We are going to know our clients’ psycho-demographics better than anybody in the business. We know who our clients are anecdotally; we can tell you our clients are young professionals, but we can’t prove it,” he added.

Expanding through acquisition

Pacific Union is based in the San Francisco Bay Area but will be expanding to southern California during the year through acquisition, said McLaughlin.

The business, which has grown to around 700 agents, had sales volume in 2015 of  $7.65 billion, up 16 percent from the previous year — this in a Bay Area market down 6 percent for the second year in a row.

In her new role, Hepp, who is based in Los Angeles, will do research on housing markets, urban economics, international housing markets and demographic trends in California.

“The market is at a critical juncture that requires a close watch to anticipate its dynamic nature,” she said.

Hepp will be building a team at Pacific Union, and McLaughlin said her first analyst was likely to start in the next 60 to 90 days.

‘Arming agents with client data is critical right now’

“If not for those two positions at CAR and NAR, I would not be here,” said Hepp. “I learned a lot about Realtors’ needs — about how you can help them and what things they struggle with in terms of research.”

Her job will be to drill down into local markets and neighborhoods.

“We know so much at the higher level, but we don’t know as much about local buyers,” she explained. “Arming agents with client data is critical right now.”

Hepp said agents might want a particular boost when it comes to dealings with millennial buyers. “I think agents really need help with millennials unless they are millennials themselves to understand how to work with their clients,” she noted. “Because millennials can find so much information online, they are looking for something more comprehensive from their agent.”

International buyers — particularly those from China — are also on her radar.

“Chinese buyers value more information,” said Hepp. “They want to know what’s going on at a neighborhood level.”

Hepp’s department will also be working with Pacific Union subsidiary,  The Mark Company, an urban residential marketing and sales firm that has strong links to Chinese buyers.

“The addition of Selma to our team significantly expands our research capabilities and is indicative of the emphasis we place on providing proprietary research date to our developer clients,” said Alan Mark, president of The Mark Company.

Email Gill South.

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