There’s so much noise out there on how to navigate a challenging market. This April, let Inman help you cut through the clutter to make smart business decisions in real time. All month long, we’re taking it Back to Basics and finding out how real estate pros are evolving their systems and investing personally and professionally to drive growth.
According to Chris J. Henry, a broker with Estate & Investment Realty Group of Marin and the San Francisco North Bay, education is vital when it comes to working with seniors. That’s why he turns his first meeting with senior clients into a teachable moment, covering everything from the transaction itself to the clients’ goals for the sale.
The result isn’t just good for his senior clients; it’s been good for Henry as well. While raising his stature in his own market, he has made a name for himself in the industry, training more than 1,500 agents each year on matters relating to probate, trusts and senior transitions.
With millions of homes sold every year — and more than 1.5 million real estate agents currently active, according to NAR — standing out from the crowd is essential. Rather than being just another agent in your market, developing a real estate niche can help you better articulate your ability and expertise to potential clients.
Rather than trying to convince buyers and sellers that you’re better than the next agent, you can convince a core group of potential clients that you’re literally the only agent in your market who’s qualified to do what you do. Here, we’ll talk about just some of the niches that are available in today’s market — and how to make your marketing matter to the clients who need you most.
Getting past ‘Jack-of-all-trades’
In a world of generalists, developing a niche offers an array of benefits for real estate professionals. These include:
- Certifications, designations and additional training associated with a specialty niche allow you to exhibit greater authority and expertise.
- Developing a niche allows you to differentiate your service from all of the other generalists in your market.
- Developing a niche may allow you to serve as an expert beyond your local market, consulting or assisting on transactions where your expertise can be of assistance.
- Becoming an expert in a particular niche can raise your profile in the industry, putting you in line for referrals from other real estate agents and brokers.
- Marketing your services to a niche is often easier since it allows you to develop specialty, search-engine-optimized content for blogs, podcasts, video and social media.
Truly showing that you’re an expert to potential clients is one of the biggest challenges agents and brokers face when marketing themselves. By making your marketing more focused and more specific, it’s easier to create a convincing message.
What niches are possible?
Some real estate professionals move into a specific niche purposefully and with intention. This is often the case with luxury agents who may move into higher and higher price points during the course of their career or who may set out to market themselves to the luxury niche by aligning with a luxury team.
Others fall into an unusual niche almost by accident, either as their interests take them in a specific direction or because one client with a highly specialized focus becomes an active source of referrals for those with similar needs. This may happen with an investor, for example, who introduces his favorite agent to others who work in real estate investing.
Niches can be based on the property type, client type, market conditions or other factors. Here are just a few examples:
- Farm and land
- Resort and second-home
- Condos and co-ops
- Golf course or country club
- Smart homes
- Historic districts
- College towns
- New construction
- Short-term rental potential
- Specific neighborhoods or high-rises
- First-time homebuyers
- Real estate investors (buy and hold)
- Real estate investors (flippers)
- Distressed homeowners
- Multigenerational households
- Speakers of languages other than English
- Clients with disabilities
- Long-distance relocation
- Divorcing couples
- Specific types of employment (doctors, teachers, first-responders)
Market condition niches
- REO, short-sale and foreclosure
- Alternative financing
- Multi-use properties (residential and commercial)
Developing a specific niche is a combination of luck, your personal interests and, in many cases, your own expertise.
For example, if you are well-versed in financial analysis, you may find investors gravitating toward you and the service you provide. If you are focused on the community, you may be a popular choice for families moving into the area who want to draw on your expert insights.
Connecting with your chosen niche
While you may be able to develop your niche as a matter of happenstance, you can set out to choose a specific niche and position yourself within it. Here are some strategies:
- Choose a mentor who’s working within the niche you’re interested in, either in your market or in another market, and work with them, if they’re willing.
- Join a team that is well-established in the niche you’re focusing on.
- Research the market share that your niche represents to determine whether you’ll need to expand your market reach geographically.
- Secure additional education or training to ensure that you are well-qualified to serve your niche.
- Look for groups, both online and in person, that are relevant to your niche. These could include investor groups, professional associations, community organizations or special interest groups.
- Connect to affiliated service providers who are working in the niche you’re focused on and develop a referral partnership. For example, home cleanout or estate sale companies may be able to help you connect with senior clients and absentee owners of inherited properties. Advertise your ability to facilitate relevant services as a value-add for your clients.
Marketing your niche
Start with a brand that emphasizes your niche focus. Rather than a personal brand based on you and your name, consider a name and logo that showcases the niche you serve.
Make sure that your website and other marketing materials exhibit your niche focus. Don’t be afraid that you’ll lose out on other business by going all-in on a niche. The more you can demonstrate professional expertise, the more people will seek you out and refer you — both within your niche and without.
Get rid of generic marketing collateral and make sure that your listing presentation, buyer presentation and other marketing reflect the niche you serve. You’ll need to exhibit your expertise and explain why hiring a specialist, rather than a generalist, is the right move.
Create an elevator pitch of 30 seconds or so that explains what you do and differentiates your value proposition. Think through conversation-starters as well that will help you talk about what you do in a natural and engaging way.
Affiliate with well-qualified, highly regarded professionals whom you’ll need to draw on in order to help your clients. For example, if you are specializing in rent-to-own and alternative financing transactions, you’ll need to be able to talk knowledgeably about these types of transactions and refer your clients to lenders, real estate attorneys, credit repair specialists and other experts who can help with the nuts and bolts of highly specialized transactions.
Create content marketing to build your online presence and demonstrate your expertise and experience in your chosen niche. Seek out opportunities to contribute to or be a guest on other platforms to demonstrate your knowledge in your chosen niche.
Consider creating an online or in-person course to further educate your potential clients, especially if their transaction will be particularly complex. This will allow you to display your knowledge, build rapport and answer their questions.
Because you’ll be focused on a smaller group of clients, follow-up and service after the sale is even more important. Set expectations throughout the transaction to let them know that you’ll be reaching out for a testimonial or review. Continue to make contact after closing with relevant and value-added information designed to appeal to those you serve.
How narrow is too narrow?
Several years ago I spoke with Boston-area broker Demetrios Salpoglou who, over the years, leveraged dozens of niche URLs into a thriving real estate business. He focused his marketing efforts on specific neighborhoods, colleges and universities in his market, as well as student housing, relocating renters, pet-friendly apartments and more.
By drilling down and becoming more focused and specific, Salpoglou drew in clients who were motivated — and enthusiastic about his value proposition.
Everyone wants to feel seen. Everyone wants to matter. By marketing in a way that’s meaningful and targeted, you ensure that the leads you generate are ready, willing and eager to work with you.
Christy Murdock is a freelance writer, coach and consultant, and the owner of Writing Real Estate. Connect with Writing Real Estate on Instagram and subscribe to the weekly roundup, The Ketchup.