Monday, August 6, 2012

A Different Approach to Real Estate

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Starting a business is never easy. But thanks to a fresh take on networking and making connections, Rogers Healy built a successful brokerage during some of real estate’s most difficult years.
In his first column, Rogers Healy described how he took his career to the next level. In this installment, he describes why he started his business and his philosophy for connecting with consumers.

Apart from the need to have a support system for all the new business I was getting, my desire to start my company stemmed from the fact that I spent so much time sitting next to old women who gossiped with each other and clipped their fingernails all day instead of actually working.

I’m kind of kidding here, but I really did want to take a different approach from what I’d experienced thus far in my career. When I started Rogers Healy and Associates, I was 26 and had sold about $50 million in real estate. I was convinced that the only way I could stay happy in this business was to be surrounded by people that I liked and regarded well.

I opened my firm in February of 2007, with one other agent who is no longer with my company. We worked out of a 125-square-foot office, which I thought was the coolest thing since frozen custard, and we kept growing. I soon expanded by bringing on my college roommate, Paul Bordelon. He was at a weird place in his life because he couldn’t find his purpose, so I sold him on real estate. I also brought on Cerissa Lair, who was a Dallas Mavericks dancer at the time, and she knew everyone. She loved making money, so she was as easy of a sale as it could get.

When working for other firms, my former colleagues and I told customers that we would have their house in daily newspapers, in magazines, and so forth. The company I was working for spent lots of money marketing those homes.

But at RHA, we couldn’t use those pitches. At my first listing appointment after I started the company, I recall panicking right before I opened the door. I had no clue what my pitch was, but I did remember that the first thing you sell is yourself. If I could get them to like me, then I’d get their business.

In the meeting, they asked me what set me apart from everyone else, and the answer just flew right out of my mouth: “my network.” I told them that if they gave me the opportunity to market their home, everyone I had ever known would be aware that their house was for sale.

I ended up getting the listing. After the papers were signed, I leveraged promotional e-mails, my MySpace account (remember, this was in 2007), and a new thing called Facebook to spread the word.

The condo sold in 25 days.

I had an epiphany at that point: It’s not how much money you spend to market a listing; it’s how efficient you are. Just because you spent $5,000 for a one-page ad doesn’t mean it’s going to get the same level of exposure — or hit the right audience — that a Facebook status update would.

Fast-forward to today: In my fifth year as broker-owner, I’d confidently say that at least 50 percent of our business comes from our social networking prowess. Facebook alone accounts for a few hundred deals we close every year. In fact, I recently landed a $20 million project, thanks to a simple status update.

Competitors in my business didn’t embrace online social networking at first, which gave me a head start. As a result, I learned that if you take a thoughtful approach and focus on people, free marketing can be just as good — if not better — than the stuff you pay for.

Since I started RHA, I have strived to maintain a real estate business that connects with consumers in a more personal, relatable way. Initially, this was as much out of financial necessity as anything else, but I’ve come to realize that the future holds good things for anyone who adopts this approach.

In my next column, I’ll get into how RHA fosters a dynamic and collaborative company culture.

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