During Inman Connect Now’s Southeast Regional Breakout, agents shared how they’re using the digital and analog worlds to thrive through the pandemic.

Although the Northeast has been touted as real estate’s post-lockdown comeback kid, agents in Inman Connect Now’s Florida and Southeast regional breakout said their business is scorching hot, thanks to the pivot toward digital transactions.

“Real estate at the speed of now is why many attendees are here,” Real Estate Sales Force CEO Jorge Guerra, Jr. said in his opening remarks. “Ninety-five percent of attendees said their market is on fire.”

Guerra and breakout co-host The Funk Collection team leader Renee Funk both revealed their key to success during the pandemic has been doubling down on video and virtual content — a viewpoint point shared by the seven real estate agents and brokers interviewed during the three-part session.

Here’s what the Southeast’s brightest agents had to say about thriving in the time of COVID:

Want your business to survive 2020? Mix the old with the new

(L to R) Jorge Guerra, Jr., Lynn Johnson and Quintavius Burdette

For Raleigh, North Carolina-based broker Lynn Johnson and Germantown, Tennessee-based agent Quintavius Burdette, the key to maintaining a robust business is about mixing new and old tactics to reach clients and create trust.

“We’re trying to do a lot of reassuring through videos,” said Johnson, who is the broker and team leader for Keller Williams My Southern View Team. “COVID is affecting the back-to-school market and real estate is on the back burner.”

To bring real estate back into focus for potential buyers and sellers, Johnson and her team have focused on the availability of affordable homes at a median price point of $225,000, the increasing inventory of new builds and historically low-interest rates.

“We’re saying it’s a great market,” Johnson said of the marketing she sends to past, current and potential clients. “Another thing I think is most important is providing value.”

“If I’m sending an email out and it’s just ‘I listed a home last week,’ it’s not providing value,” she added. “I have to have some kind of hook in all my marketing.”

Burdette, who serves markets in Tennessee and Mississippi, said he’s taken an old school approach to attracting clients and sharing the benefits of buying and selling now.

“Every day, I have a set schedule,” said Burdette, who has only been in real estate for 18 months. “I created a four-point system that helps me stay afloat and avoid burnout.”

Those points include cold calling, striking up conversations at community places, and passing out cards and letters door to door.

“It’s going to take them three to five days for the postman to deliver,” he said. “It takes me three to five hours.”

“Folks love to see me show up with a mask on,” he added. “I’m playing offense all day every day.”

Both agents said they don’t spend money on buyer or seller leads; instead, they direct their funds toward cultivating relationships with their clients and community.

“I spend most of my money on client love,” Johnson said while noting she’s known for holiday-themed client gifts and events.

“I’m a show-up kind of guy,” Burdette added while saying he loves to host community barbecues and teach football skills to children at the park.

Beyond that, Johnson and Burdette said it’s all about relieving buyers’ and sellers’ stress with high-touch service and market intelligence.

“I take the stress off of them and I go out and find it,” Burdette said of his efforts to match buyers and sellers off-market to avoid lengthy open houses as COVID continues. “I don’t believe in transactions — I believe in relationships.”

Low on listings? Think outside the box

(L to R): Renee Funk, Lisa Harris and Marc Rasmussen

DWELL Real Estate broker-owner Marc Rasmussen and RE/MAX Center realtor Lisa Harris said much of the Southeast is a sellers’ market, meaning the competition for listings is more fierce than ever.

“One of the things I’ve been trying to do is think outside the box,” Harris said of the Atlanta market. “Thinking outside the box, challenging yourself and having fun is important.”

“If you’re not using video, I’d highly suggest jumping on that bandwagon,” she added while noting BombBomb is her favorite service.

Alongside digital tools, Harris and Rasmussen said they’ve gone back to old favorites: letters and postcards.

“It was easy to target people on Facebook and social media,” Harris said. “But people keep postcards and pull them out when they want to sell. I have found that they pay off.”

Although Rasmussen isn’t a fan of postcards, he said agents on his team have found success with door-knocking and sending neighborhood-wide postcards and buyer letters.

When it comes to targeting expireds, both agents said it’s about being consistent and refusing to give up after one postcard, letter or call.

“[The biggest mistake] is giving up too soon,” Rasmussen added. You have to be very good at nurturing business. You want to be the agent who has been communicating and who has built trust.”

“The No.1 mistake is doing it one time, following up a second time and then moving on,” Harris added while noting agents need to send postcards five to eight times to generate leads. “You really have to stick with it.”

Lastly, Rasmussen and Harris said agents must conquer their fear of asking for referrals.

“One of the big recommendations I heard recently is asking for the reviews throughout the transaction,” Harris explained. “Don’t wait for the closing because it’s one of the busiest times.”

“Have awesome service because it makes them want to do the review even more,” Rasmussen added with a laugh.

Beyond asking for referrals, both said agents must make it easy for clients to leave referrals by having a strong and uniform social footprint across multiple online platforms.

“You have to make it as easy as possible,” Rasmussen said. “There are people who are more than willing to do it and you don’t have to ask them.”

“This is an incredible time to reach out clients, especially during the time of COVID when people are at home more and more,” Harris said of getting referrals from past clients. “People really enjoy the conversation. They’re going to ask us [about real estate], so you don’t have to bring it up 99 percent of the time.”

How do I rise above the rest? Give high-touch service

(L to R): Jorge Guerra, Jr., Patrick O’Connor, Brian Copeland, Lisa Robinson and Renee Funk

Doorbell Real Estate owner Brian Copeland, Patrick O’ Connor Team Leader Patrick O’Connor and Engel & Völkers real estate advisor Lisa Robinson said the pivot to 100 percent-digital transactions have given them the time to focus on what matters most: serving their clients.

“A lot of the stuff I was doing, I really didn’t need to do,” said O’Connor, who’s based in Lexington, South Carolina. “It’s about focusing on what works. I’ve saved 12 hours not going to closings.”

“The consumer is really responding well to that,” Nashville-based Copeland added in reference to his decision to begin working solo. “We’re seeing a return to high-touch, concierge service. They’re expecting more.”

All three agents said they’ve used digital and virtual tools to stay connected to clients and offer high-touch service, something that was difficult to do before COVID-19 when people were always on the move.

“It was really the pandemic that made it come together,” Robinson said of her latest deal with a well-known celebrity client in Atlanta. “The pandemic made this family sit down and focus on their real estate holdings.”

For agents who are struggling to leverage the digital sphere, Copeland said it’s as simple as finding a digital equivalent for everything you do.

“Take everything in the digital world and understand the parallel for it,” he said while telling the story of a virtual Easter egg hunt he hosted for children’s hospitals in the Southeast and the West Coast.

“We had a Zoom chat with the Easter bunny where I interpreted his answers and invited children from hospitals to watch,” he added. “I strapped GoPro cameras to my children’s heads and asked the children [in the hospitals] to guess how many eggs we hid. The winners got Amazon gift cards.”

When it comes to prospecting, all three said they’ve relied on tools such as Zoom to network and connect with past, present and potential clients.

“I absolutely love this new way of doing business,” O’Connor said. “I’m about time management and I’ve been maximizing my time.”

Meanwhile, Robinson said she hasn’t had much time to find new clients: “Our market has been crazy busy. I haven’t seen this market busy in the past three years.”

“I haven’t had time to prospect because I’m just trying to keep up,” she added about Atlanta’s luxury market.

All three said they’ve been careful about ballooning their marketing budgets to attract new business. Instead, they’ve been focusing on giving their time to the clients they have in front of them.

“Budget isn’t about a constant measurement of how much money I’ve been putting out there,” Copeland said. “Eighty percent of my business comes from referral.”

“The more time you’re saving, the more money you’re saving,” he added. “[Instead] focus on what’s the very special thing you’re going to do for that sphere person.”

“Focus on the person that’s in front of you.”

Email Marian McPherson

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