Connect the Speakers: Mark Dimas on defending your commission

Learn the tactics for fighting back against discounters in a changing market

Mark Dimas started his real estate career in 2002, and by 2012, he’d started to develop his team. “We now have a full-service brokerage where we sponsor independent agents,” he explained. And he’s not afraid of the changes that have emerged in the real estate industry, either. “There’s a reason why people buy a Mercedes instead of a Camry, and there’s no difference in real estate,” Dimas noted. “For us, it’s all about being better.”

He’ll be discussing his tactics for fighting back against discounters in a changing market on a panel at Inman Connect New York, January 29 through February 1 at the Marriott Marquis Times Square. And he told us about his attitude toward these market entrants and how he thinks about incorporating some of what they have to offer into his own business.

Tell us a little more about your session. How will it address how the industry can embrace the shifting market?

Evolution is going to happen. You can fight it and be pissed off about it, but you can’t change that. What I try to teach and tell people is, don’t focus on the problem, focus on the solution. Why is it that consumers are going to an Opendoor? Why are they going to Redfin? Can you offer those services, but even better, and give them a stress-free experience, make them more money, where at the same time you’re also profitable? That’s what we do every day. Are there ways that these platforms instead of looking at them as competition, could they be ancillary to your business? Could something like a Zillow Instant Offers be a good thing to offer a client who needs to buy a home but needs to sell their home first in a market that might not allow that? Most of those platforms, if people don’t know, they’re agent-friendly, and they’ll pay you to bring them a lead.

So instead of agents going on social media and being so scared of something you’re not going to change, figure out how to benefit from this or up your game. With a discount broker, you’ve got a full-service like Redfin, and an iBuyer like Opendoor, those are two different things to be scared of. They only buy in a certain buy box. If your market is a $200,000 market and they’re just crushing it, maybe you need to step it up to $300,000 or $400,000 because they’re not buying at that price point. There are so many ways to provide service; maybe it’s time to get out of your comfort zone and figure out where those opportunities lie. If you offer a better service and more quality, you might be able to charge more and limit the amount of transactions needed to provide the financial stability that you require in your business. If normally you need 10 deals a year to make it, but you’re charging 5 percent, then you end up charging 6 percent, maybe you only need eight deals and you can focus on quality.

Change is going to happen, we need to embrace it and find ways to be relevant and you can’t have the Chicken Little mindset. You can’t bury your head in the sand and say “this isn’t going to affect my business” — you will lose business.

What do you think are the biggest opportunities to focus on in the real estate industry right now?

They have that saying, a high tide floats all boats, and when the market is really good and you pop a sign in the yard and you sell a home, then you go “Oh, this is easy, and this is what I should do.” It’s low-expense, there’s not too much work, and you reap the same commission, so you just keep doing that. What we do differently is we still do brochures, 3-D Matterports, videos, open houses. All of our stuff is high-end, top-notch — and on properties we don’t need to do that for. I don’t need to do that to sell the product, but when I do that, it gives me the opportunity to increase the chances that I’ll have more lookers, a higher chance for more offers for my client, more opportunity for a higher price, but what it also does — it’s like showcasing a difference between you and the other agent, and then you pick up more buyers who want to work with you because they’re like “wow you’re different,” and sellers want to work with you because nobody else is doing it. They’re not doing it because they think they don’t have to.

Open houses — some people are understanding they’re much more powerful than they used to be, but old-school Realtors who don’t see how technology and apps and instant notification when a new house pops up on the market or how buyer are using apps to see what’s in the area, they don’t see that the old traditional way of putting a sign in the yard isn’t why open houses are successful. They’re successful because consumers want information now; sometimes they want to walk through a neighborhood on their own, and now they have a new way to see your product, and if you’re open, you have a way to generate leads from that.

We did an open house this weekend and 35 families showed up. We’re in Houston! People just don’t realize that’s a lot of traffic, and it’s your listing. You get seller leads from that, buyer leads, you can showcase live on Facebook and Instagram — all these things you’re doing that puts you out there as an agent, that says “I’m out here doing things that help you attract buyers and sellers.” That’s why I think we’re so successful in our market, because I’m looking long-term. We need to be comfortable doing all these things and understand that one extra buyer we got from that open house, that sign, then that might be the one buyer.

To stay competitive, agents, brokers and companies need to execute quickly. What do you feel are key areas where quick execution can vastly improve the customer experience?

Leverage is really important as far as a team. You can only do so much in a day, and there are a lot of independent people — and I started that way as well — but if you do business right and if you do it well, people are going to refer you and as you do business longer, you get more referrals and repeat clients, and your business naturally increases if you’re doing the right thing. Because you’re doing more business and more clients, you have less time to focus on each person. That’s just how it works. If you’ve gone from one client to ten, you have less time to spend on each one. So you have to think about “am I giving the client the communication and service they need as if they were my only client?” And the only way I can see that being done is hiring really good staff who are on your same value system.

I used to think my clients don’t want somebody else to show them a house or come to a listing appointment, they want me. But really, they don’t want me as a person, they want me for what I stand for and what I did for them, and that was competence, communication, I care about them, I was knowledgeable, I did whatever I could to make sure their property was out there. When I realized that, it was like “oh my goodness, now all I have to do is find people with the same desire.”

The second thing is going to be technology and CRM — you have to have the ability to understand where things are and to be able to streamline the process as much as you can. We use Salesforce; we’re one of very few agent groups who do that. It’s expensive and hard to do, but I look at the future and think, “if I can automate something….” Whenever I have multiple offers, it sends everybody an email instead of me having to do the same thing over and over. Having that technology available and being able to learn how these new platforms and how this new tech can really streamline and offer the client what they want — and really they just want to be communicated with. Whether that’s a phone call or an email, that depends on the client themselves, but as long as it’s relevant and they feel like you care, their experience is going to be awesome.

What are your hopes for the next 12 months, and what will you be working on?

Big things for us — we have several ancillary businesses within our business: a property management division, a traditional real estate team, an independent brokerage, a rehab team, and we’re working on some other things I can’t say right now, but my focus is always on what made us successful to begin with, and that’s the traditional mom-and-pop real estate. My focus always needs to be what will be there for ages, buyers needing to buy a home to live in or sellers needing to sell for whatever reason. That will always be there.

There will be a time when hedge funds will say, “right now the market is not a good time to buy so we’re going to hold off on buying,” but during that time there’s always somebody starting a family or owning a home. That’s always my focus every year, it’s always 250 transactions a year, that’s my goal, and we always crush it, and the reason why it’s a goal is because it’s healthy and it feeds all of my staff. It’s a number I know that sustains all my business. And I also want to grow my brokerage. And my property management business is all word-of-mouth referral only. This coming year is a year that I’d like to focus on helping that division grow, to say we are out there and we’re now taking clients in that have not been referred to us.

Discover the opportunities in a changing market at Inman Connect New York, January 29 – February 1. Jumpstart 2019 with tactical takeaways, unlimited networking and thought-provoking speakers. Learn more.

Thinking about bringing your team? You may qualify for special group perks! Contact us to learn more.