This Wednesday, Oct. 2, Houston Agent magazine hosted its first ever Accelerate Summit at Sawmill Lake Club in Missouri City. It was an exciting event that drew some of Houston’s most dynamic real estate professionals, eager to hear from industry experts about opportunities, challenges and strategies for survival amidst a market that is evolving in unprecedented ways.
“We are pivoting to a different era where we have not been before,” said Jack Markham, general manager of Z57, Zurple, and TORCHx; all software companies within the Constellation Real Estate Group. “The question is, ‘How are you going to compete, not just with the other people in this room, but with large companies and their technology?’
- Forge the right relationships. “You can’t have a meaningful relationship with 500 people, but you can have a meaningful relationship with 10, maybe 20 people,” said Ryan Ponsford from American Advisors Group. “Get intentional about who you want to do business with. Define the purpose of the relationship and then invest accordingly.”
- Go from agent to expert. “No one knows your neighborhood as well as you do and no one will ever take that away from you,” Markham said. While 9 out of 10 consumers will start their search online, examining pictures and details of homes, they come to agents to help sort through it, he added. “Consumers aren’t looking for real estate agents anymore,” he said. “What they want are neighborhood experts.”
- Understand buyers. There’s a big demographic shift happening in the Houston market, and it’s changed what kind of homes shoppers are looking for. “Thirty percent of all home buyers now are single, whether they’re young and single, single parents or mature and single,” said Aaron Graham, developer at Highland Homes. “Another 38 percent are couples with no kids. Buyers today are more likely to have dogs than kids. …These buyers want smaller homes. They’re more interested in collecting experiences than furniture.”
- Be a giver. “Remember, it’s not about you, it’s about them,” said NextHome Vice President Imran Poladi. “Show appreciation – for example, don’t wait until you get the piece of business to show you’re grateful for the lead. Reward the behavior, not the result.” Poladi, who once sent one Michael Jordan tennis shoe to a potential client (and basketball enthusiast) along with a note to meet him for lunch in order to pick up the other shoe, recommended picking up a copy of the book Gift-ology by John Ruhlin. “There’s a lot to be learned by being a giver,” he said.
- Create trust. “People act or will do business with those they trust,” said Ponsford. “Trust is not just about competence and reliability; it’s about intimacy and transparency. Learn the art of telling your story and then learn their story. That’s how you make connections.”
- Ramp up your online presence. “Advertise on Facebook,” recommended Markham. “It’s become the new Google.” Headley M. Karpas of Martha Turner Sotheby’s International Realty recommended marking transactional milestones online, too. “Anytime you have a sale pending, put it on social media,” he said. “The power of social media is unbelievable.” Amy Bernstein of Bernstein Realty agreed, noting that it’s not necessarily enough to just click the like button on others’ posts. “Comment on social media, because people do read the comments,” she said. “It’s become an essential way to brand yourself.” But whatever branding efforts you make could potentially be undone by unflattering reviews. “Know what’s coming up when people Google your name,” added Rebecca Thomson of Thomson Real Estate Group. “It’s the first thing most people do.”
- Manage your time wisely. Think deeply about which activities lead to new business. “I get a lot of my business from being out there in the public and meeting new people,” Karpas said. “I let my two assistants who take the backend of the office and respond to emails.” For Rene Sorola of Rene Sorola Properties, it’s all about time-blocking.“I spend my mornings making calls and generating leads, and then go on appointments after lunch,” he said. Bernstein agreed: “Emails get me bogged down, so I wait until the end of the day,” she said. “I reserve the daylight hours for doing things that are profitable for my business.” However you decide to do it, panelists agreed that developing a good time management system is crucial in this increasingly competitive market. “People do not decide their futures,” Ponsford said. “They decide their habits, and their habits decide their futures.”