Posted by: Jim Normile, CRB, E.MBA, J.Y. Monk Real Estate Instructor
September 15, 2015
There’s no secret to becoming a real estate broker (agent) in North Carolina. Complete the education, pass the exam, hang your license with a broker, and you’re done. But, becoming licensed does not guarantee success. It takes a lot of hard work to be a successful real estate agent, and even this may not be enough. Hard work, paired with a well-honed strategy based on broker effectiveness and becoming a placemaker, is critical to potential success in your chosen market center.
What is a Placemaker?
The term placemaker implies a promise and commitment to customers that you understand the political, economic, and social factors that shape a particular niche market. Placemakers employ their knowledge and personal business expertise to serve customers and clients of the niche market. Placemakers provide requisite information and services to help clients make informed real estate decisions. Placemakers never lose sight of the fact that honesty, integrity, loyalty, and accountability set them apart from the real estate masses.
The Difference Between Positioning and Broker Effectiveness
It is said that positioning is a market strategy that points a brand (or broker) to occupy a distinct position, relative to competing brands (and brokers), in the mindset of the customer. Real estate companies and real estate brokers (independent contractors associated with a brokerage) apply this strategy by emphasizing features of the “brand” through advertising. As an independent contractor, the short- and long-term objective is not to be relative to competing brands; the objective is to be a placemaker.
Positioning as a professional real estate broker is too static for today’s technically dynamic markets and changing technologies. Competing brokers can quickly copy a broker’s market position, and any competitive advantage associated with being different would most likely be temporary. Brokers can outperform rivals if they can establish a difference that can be preserved and become a placemaker inside a niche market. To be effective, you must deliver greater brokerage value or perception of value, create comparable brokerage value at a lower cost, or both.
Broker effectiveness simply means performing parallel brokerage activities better than your rivals perform them. Spend quality time perfecting the craft of real estate brokerage. Spend resources wisely to promote your placemaker status in your niche of the market center.
Finding a Placemaking Niche
You cannot possibly be all things to all people for every real estate niche market. When I began my real estate career, I was overwhelmed…overwhelmed with generic motivational advice, new career debt service, technology overload, mandatory classes, a need to produce income, and a million other things that really had nothing to do with producing positive cash flow. I was struggling and knew an action plan was required if I was going to succeed.
It was only by chance, or divine intervention, that I stumbled upon and noticed an opportunity. While driving through a very large honeycomb (cul-de-sac) neighborhood, I noticed that each cul-de-sac was vibrant with adults and children engaged in various outside activities. I returned to the office and immediately began to research the turnover rate of these homes, as well as other honeycomb neighborhoods. The analysis proved worthy, and the results were in. I would restart my real estate career and focus on a refined niche market…I would become a placemaker.
I began a direct mailing campaign to the homes in each cul-de-sac. Enclosed in the mailing was a copy of their property tax card, an explanation of how to read the card, and a FAQ document on how to correct or challenge their property tax through the local Board of Equalization and Review. Strategically, I only mailed letters to half of the cul-de-sac property owners, and I timed the mailings to be delivered on a Saturday. Because the cul-de-sac residents tend to network, many of the homeowners who did not receive a letter called me. Property owners who had questions also called. These calls proved invaluable in many regards. I answered questions and solicited for incoming buyers and future listings. Within a few short weeks, I was viewed as the placemaker for the entire subdivision.
Auditing to Find Your Niche Market
Analyze local demographics. Research U.S. Census data to identify demographic trends (e.g., a surge of Generation X or Baby Boomers in your area) and pay special attention to underserved groups. For example, the largest underserved ethnic group purchasing homes may be of Hispanic and Latin American descent. Identify trends.
Analyze MLS/sales data. Research trends in past sales, current pending sales, and current homes on the market. Pay special attention to days on market, price, location, school system, bedroom count, and amenities. Identify and consider all trends.
Follow your passion. If you are a golf enthusiast, and the sales analysis lends itself to sustained sales in golf course communities, consider a placemaker niche in golf course communities. Conversely, if you have a passion to serve a specific demographic of military veterans, single home buyers, retirees, and so on, consider becoming a placemaker for that particular demographic.
Define geographic area. In a large metro markets, such as Raleigh or Charlotte, you may consider becoming a placemaker for a specific geographic area or school system.
Identify workforce groups. Consider becoming a relocation placemaker for work groups, such as first responders, nurses, doctors, teachers, municipal employees, veterans, and so on. Earn their trust by becoming involved in their social and workforce networks. Consumers want to work with real estate professionals who are knowledgeable, trustworthy, and reliable. When it comes to getting involved with your niche market, don’t take up causes or join organizations solely because you think there may be customers there. Become a placemaker for a niche market that you genuinely care about, and consider it an opportunity to do good for others. Focus on learning, sharing, and being as helpful as possible. Soon, you will be well on your way to a successful real estate career.
Jim Normile has worked as a broker, sales manager, real estate instructor, and co-owner of two franchise offices. He has listed and/or sold over 4,000 homes. Jim holds a Bachelor of Science, Real Estate, Summa Cum Laude, and Executive Master of Business Administration diplomas. He has been recognized as a Realtor of the Year, featured in Top Agent Magazine, nationally ranked in The Wall Street Journal Top Agents in America, inducted into the RE/MAX Hall of Fame, and is the author of Responsible Influence in New Home Sales.