Real estate is an extremely competitive field. In fact, there are about two million active real estate licenses in the U.S., according to the Association of Real Estate Law Officials.
Chances are, you aren’t the only real estate agent in your area, so you need a way to set yourself apart from your competition. One of most reliable tactics for doing this is creating a niche for yourself — an area you specialize in and focus your marketing efforts on.
Types of niches
As a real estate agent, you can choose among many different types of niches. Focusing more on sellers or buyers is one example of a broad niche, as is concentrating more on either residential or commercial properties.
Identifying an even narrower niche can be even more beneficial. You might choose to focus on a certain:
- Type of buyer or seller such as millennials, retirees, veterans, newlyweds or divorcees
- Type of property such as waterfront, condominiums, newly built properties or historic homes
- Area such as a county, city, town or even neighborhood
“When we started, we didn’t specialize in a particular loan type,” Samantha Reeves of Veterans United Home Loans said. “But early on, one of our loan officers assisted a customer with a VA loan, and he and our founders realized how rewarding it was to help veterans with their VA home loan benefits.
“VA loans are unique and different than other types of loans. We recognized there was a need to provide specialized, customer-centered service to those who served our country.”
Geographic area is another rather broad specialization if your niche is a particular town, city or county. You can make your geographical focus narrower, though, by honing in on a specific neighborhood, development or even apartment building.
So, how can you choose a specialty that’s right for you?
Consider your interests
To start your search for your niche, take a look at your own passions and interests. Then, try to think of ways those interests could translate into real estate.
These could be things you already have experience and knowledge in, but they could also be something you’re interested in and are willing to learn more about.
If you’re an avid golfer and know all the golf courses in your area, for example, you could specialize in golf community homes. If you used to work at a university, you could focus on housing for college students.
Sam DeBianchi, of DeBianchi Real Estate, said that she got into the luxury real estate world organically. She lived it — playing tennis and golf as well as engaging in other high-net worth activities — but she also did her homework on luxury real estate (neighborhoods, price per square foot, trends, etc.) and became an expert in it, which she said is what led to people trusting and hiring her.
“Luxury real estate appealed to me because it’s a world I know, and I was meeting and conversing with more and more people involved,” DeBianchi said. “I didn’t try to reinvent the wheel of who my clients were, but rather focused on my sphere of influence — many of which are purchasing and selling luxury property.”
Perhaps you’re passionate about the environment. If that’s the case, put an emphasis on eco-friendly homes. Maybe you want to help veterans, single mothers, immigrants or another population. If so, make that your focus.
Analyze the market
Of course, your interests can’t be the only consideration when choosing your specialization. You also need to make sure there’s a need for that expertise.
An easy way to start this step is to look at the types of clients you’ve had recently. If you’ve had a lot of seniors, consider concentrating your focus on that area. There’s a need for it, and you already have the experience.
You can also take a look at developing trends by looking at census data to forecast what demand might arise in the future. Perhaps a lot of recently married couples are moving into your area. If so, consider making that your focus.
Incorporate a less formal approach by taking into account trending preferences that you identify just by talking to people in your area or reading online articles about societal trends.
Commuting to 9-to-5 jobs, for instance, is declining in popularity because it can lead to decreased happiness, and technology now enables more people to work from home. To accommodate this trend, you could emphasize houses with nice potential home offices that are also close to a coffee shop where the client could get work done.
Implementing your niche strategy
“I think whether you’re in luxury or not, building a brand is key to longevity in the real estate industry,” DeBianchi said. “I think luxury real estate can be tough with branding because you have to showcase luxury, but you also have to be approachable.
“Many of my luxury clients aren’t dressed ‘glamorously,’ don’t have fancy cars, etc., and so I make sure to blend a high-end brand mixed in with ‘real talk’ and straight-forward advice.”
A key to finding the perfect niche is balancing the needs of the market with your passions, knowledge and skills. Find something you’re good at that people need, and you’re sure to find success.
“VA loans are unique and so are the veterans we serve,” Reeves said. “Veterans and service members can face unique circumstances and obstacles that can encumber their homebuying journeys. We understand this, and our team is specially trained to help make the loan process as smooth as possible.”
Reeves said she and her coworkers emphasize continually educating veterans about their VA loan benefits. They also encourage their agents to take a team approach in the homebuying process, as not all agents may have the same level of VA loan experience.
And, lastly, Reeves said Veterans United has a 24-hour call center so that someone is always available to talk to troops who are currently overseas. “We tailor the customer service experience by being available when it’s convenient for our homebuyers,” she said.
Once you find your specialty, make it a prominent feature in your listings and advertising. Focus your marketing on people who fit into your niche.
Be careful, though, that you don’t run afoul of the Fair Housing Act, which is designed to prevent discrimination when people are looking for housing. You cannot indicate “any preference, limitation or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status or national origin,” according to the law.
That, of course, means you can’t focus on one demographic to the exclusion of others, and you can’t choose clients based on these characteristics.
Instead, you need to advertise your services to the population at large. It’s OK to advertise with information about yourself such as the fact that you speak a certain language.
Don’t, however, say you want clients who also speak that language. Instead of seeking out a particular demographic, let your clients choose you.
If you focus on a particular type of property or another characteristic such as a hobby like playing golf, you shouldn’t run into any legal trouble in this area. And no matter what your niche is, if you take care to be inclusive and follow the law in how you run your business and advertise it, you shouldn’t have any problems.
When you create a niche, both you and your clientele will benefit. You’ll get more business, and your clients will get an agent who’s more knowledgeable about their area of interest.