- Doing well as a cloud agent takes the right mindset and mental toughness, according to Derrick Ruiz.
- Choose your first cloud brokerage based on the right leader, training and access to an online community.
- Cloud brokerages are not for new agents; they should start with the real thing first.
Los Angeles broker Derrick Ruiz is grooming his 12-year-old-son to be a real estate agent.
Kenneth sees his dad working from his home office, never wearing a suit and coming out to say “hi” when he and his sister come home from school.
“I don’t have to commute to work; I can help with the Little League stuff; my professional life and family life are all enmeshed. I could be barbecuing in between writing a presentation,” said Ruiz.
“We go look at properties, I take my camera. Real estate is a really good lifestyle if you do it right.”
The real estate veteran of 30 years makes a good financial argument.
“We make more than lawyers and doctors now — I’m working on a deal for a 16-unit apartment building for $5.5 million and will make a $275,000 gross commission, while the trust lawyer on the deal is earning $6,000 to set up the trust,” noted Ruiz.
The author of the new book, “Cloud Agent: How Real Estate Agents Can Combine Cloud Technology With A Powerful Mindset To Produce Extraordinary Results,” Ruiz is enthusiastic about how his life has changed since he took his business completely to the cloud, working from home full-time and joining the cloud brokerage eXp Realty three years ago.
He was previously with Keller Williams for seven years.
The cloud mentality of doing deals
Ruiz likes the immediacy of his work now.
“Last night I had a call from a buyer who wanted a flier sent to him on a property. ”
Ruiz sent off the marketing package, which gave him the property’s cashflow figures, expenses and taxes via his phone. The investor was standing at the for-sale sign at the time.
Later that night the buyer texted, saying he wanted to make an offer.
“That’s the the mentality of being in the cloud — for me, there is no way go back to working in an office,” said Ruiz.
Choosing your cloud brokerage wisely
“I left after another eXp associate showed me the idea of working for a cloud brokerage. I saw a big opportunity creating revenue share and attracting other agents to eXp Realty,” Ruiz explained.
Take care choosing the right cloud brokerage, warns Ruiz, something he talks about in “Cloud Agent.”
“Since joining eXp, there has been a proliferation of virtual offices or cloud brokerages — I get pitched to all the time.”
He writes: “I do not understand how a 100-percent broker can afford to provide the proper technology infrastructure and training by only collecting a transaction fee.”
“At eXp, we have a virtual office where we conduct training and interviews — you need to get an avatar set up and it’s like you are walking around in a (virtual) office meeting,” he said.
It’s very collaborative, he added. The campus-like platform used by eXp Realty came from a gaming engine from University of California, San Diego.
Ruiz is hopeful the book, published by Black Card Books in Ontario, will help himself and fellow eXp Realty agents “attract” more to the business, which is on an aggressive expansion path.
“Part of the reason I wrote this book was to create a tool that my fellow agents could use to attract other agents to their team,” Ruiz explained. “I’ve offered my colleagues a greatly reduced price if they buy in bulk so that they can send the books out to other agents they want to attract.”
EXp Realty’s growth
EXp Realty has a seven-tier revenue system for agents who are successful at attracting new people.
Glenn Sanford, eXp Realty CEO and chairman, also formerly from Keller Williams, said: “Last year at this time, we were around 650 agents; now we are 1,400-plus agents. We’ve doubled in size and will double again over the next 12 months.”
Currently in 41 states, he expects to be in 50 by the end of the next 12 months and has set a target of 10,000 agents by 2020.
Sanford has strongly endorsed “Cloud Agent,” writing the foreword in the book.
“Derrick is pioneering — he’s just a powerhouse of information. He understands the business of prospecting — it’s really a mindset book,” said Sanford.
Sanford wrote in the book’s foreword: “We now live in an uber-connected world and physical brick and mortar businesses are fading in value in favor of the cloud, but none of this means anything without the proper mindset.”
Delve deeper than the financial package at your cloud brokerage
Ruiz, who has been averaging $10 million to $15 million in production a year and is at $8.5 million year-to-date for 2016, warns against moving to a cloud brokerage for its tempting 100-percent commission splits — yet limited support.
“I know the agents who go to these cloud brokerages who compete on price — they are not productive; they are complainers,” he said.
“I have done discount earlier in my career — and the clients that you attract are focused on saving commission and are the worst clients you could ever have. They also have unrealistic expectations.”
The split at eXp Realty is more like 80/20, said Sanford.
“Because we invest a lot in the agent experience. We have 30 people who are willing to do anything to help the agent do business — from their marketing, building a website, training. We have got all of the trappings of a solid bricks and mortar operation,” he said. There is also dedicated lead generation expertise.
Sandord adds that the virtual office allows people to “come into a space with their avatars and they get that social piece in. In my opinion, that’s a big value add of bricks-and-mortar — agents can be social. And real estate agents, by their nature, are social beings.”
EXp Realty provides all agents with a Regus HQ blue card membership so they can operate out of a shared physical office space environment if they prefer.
Ruiz, however, is not interested in any kind of office outside his home. As far as he is concerned, all he needs is his phone.
“Every single one of my files is on Dropbox — I can access every single piece of data that I own via the iPhone 6+,” he said.
He writes: “When I worked in a busy Keller Williams office, there were constant interruptions and requests. Office and agent leadership meetings, birthday parties, requests to speak at those meetings, visits from the copier repairman … not to mention the occasional drama between agents and staff.”
The busy real estate office is changing, he added.
“When you walk into a bricks-and-mortar brokerage office there may be 10 people out of 150 who work there. Most agents are probably working from home or at a coffee shop. So if you’re already one of those agents who works from home, you might as well be with the cloud brokerage,” he said.
Cloud brokerages are not for new agents
New agents should start with a regular brokerage for the first two or three years, where they are introduced to the real estate business and are immersed in the culture, said Ruiz.
“It’s not impossible [to start off in a cloud brokerage], but there are so many lessons you learn being at a real estate office, day in, day out,” he said.
As cloud brokerages become more prevalent, newbie agents will be partnered up and become part of a virtual team, said the broker, who says he has trained a lot of agents.
Ruiz is a big believer in training, no matter what level you are. He advises readers to make sure their cloud brokerage takes training seriously, offers in-house trainers and runs classes regularly.
EXp Realty runs 25 to 30 hours of classes a week.
“We have weekly training in the virtual office space with dedicated trainers,” said Sanford. “Also, agents around the country who have specialized expertise will often do training in the cloud office as well.”
Visitors are welcome, added Sanford. Agents interested in joining can visit and be active on the eXp Realty campus, including sitting in on meetings.
“One of our core values has been total transparency for the industry — we let you walk in and attend a meeting. You can attend anything on campus, talk to our agents about onboarding.”
It appeals to the millennial, Sanford said.
Staying connected with local agents though working in the cloud
Of course, real estate is a social industry, and relationships with other agents are important — but cloud agents can make it work.
Working with a cloud brokerage does not negate these activities, said Sanford. “In a lot of cities, agents are getting together almost nightly for something or other,” he said. The eXp “agent attraction” program gives eXp Realty agents financial benefits from socializing with agents from other companies, too.
Ruiz recommends that cloud agents start a local Realtor Facebook group, if one doesn’t already exist in their area.
He writes: “I belong to several. Even though I work from home and don’t talk to many agents in person, these keep me in the loop and connected to what’s going on in the market.”
They share pocket listings, buyer needs, advice and referrals for vendors.
He is also on the KW Alerts email list.
Tech is good, but you still need the fundamentals
Though an enthusiastic techie — who cites some of his favorite cloud tools as Top Producer, Skyslope, and NotaryCam — Ruiz is an advocate of traditional habits, like cold-calling and always working on building the client database.
“There is nothing like picking up the phone,” he said.
Ruiz, who specializes in selling multi-family apartment buildings, spends time finding long-term owners of apartment buildings and other people who are more likely to be thinking of selling.
He writes in the book: “Agents, you better get comfortable being uncomfortable; otherwise go get a corporate slave job.”
Ruiz is a big fan of writing thank-you notes.
Older clients, especially, remember and appreciate them. “Thank-you notes have made me hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said the broker.
How agents can use a publishing career
Ruiz is currently putting together a keynote talk and a TED talk. He next book is tentatively titled “Ultimate Mindset Training For Sales Professionals.”
Could he leave selling altogether if the publishing and training take off?
“It’s hard to say at this point,” he said. “It will probably work about 50-50. After 30 years I can’t really imagine ever leaving real estate.
“What I would probably do if I got real busy as a speaker is to put together a team.”