Nearly 40 years ago, a school principal took a leap of faith and started a small real estate firm in Mansfield, Ohio.
They say it's never too late in life to switch gears and try something new. While many people talk about changing their careers, very few actually do it once they get comfortable. Arnold Haring, an Ohio elementary school principal, started selling real estate as a side business in the late 70s. A decade later, in 1983, Haring Realty was born. Now, nearly 40 years after the firm's conception, Haring Realty is led by Arnold's son, Peter, and is still operating in Ohio. Arnold's courage to make the change led to success for both himself and his family.
"My dad started the business. He was an elementary school principal, and he decided he wanted to earn a little extra income," says Peter. "And before he knew it, it took on a life of its own, and he decided to throw out a shingle and get started."
Over the past 40 years, Haring Realty has grown substantially. The company now has three office locations along with a welcome center in Mansfield on North Main Street. Haring Realty provides home buying, home selling and relocation services for their clients. They offer well-developed, strategic programs to bring buyers and sellers to the top of the market. They also do commercial real estate.
"Where Caring is Key"
The staff at Haring Realty feels that caring for one another and their customers is of utmost importance. That's why their motto is "where caring is key."
"Caring is kind of in our DNA," says Peter. "My dad had that kind of mindset of caring for the customer. And so, we try to hire people that have a servant's heart or a servant's mindset."
Everyone at Haring is considered part of a family, and they believe that "a good family is on the same page." That means being a team player, which comes with certain characteristics.
"I read a book a while back called the Ideal Team Player by Patrick Lencioni, and in it, he suggests that the ideal team player has three characteristics," says Peter. "Team players are hungry, humble and people smart. So, if we want to have a cohesive family, we all need to be team players."
Hunger is the willingness to go after business, and humility is the willingness to learn and listen to what the customer wants. At Haring, they consider humility "key," therefore, it is what they look for most when recruiting new agents. People smart refer to interpersonal skills and a person's core values. Haring Realty has a specific set of core values they practice and instill in their agents. These values are respect, thankfulness, reputation, community, productivity and excellence.
"While Haring Realty is not a Christian business, my faith in Jesus Christ has greatly influenced me and my organization's core values," says Peter. "So, one of our first core values is respect. And that's because everybody is made in God's image. And so, we hold our customers in high regard, and we hold our coworkers in high regard, so they're important people."
At Haring Realty, they foster these values at their weekly sales meetings. They also build on this culture they are creating by hosting "lunch and learn" sessions, where they will come together to develop proficiency with their technology platforms, like DeltaNET®, or work on their selling skills.
When speaking about the lunch and learns, Peter says, "We'll bring in some pizza, and we will not just have a training presentation, but we will actually workshop, work on some of our technology tools, practice the use of those technology tools and learn from each other."
The Power of Marketing
According to Peter, entrepreneurship seemed to run in the Haring family. His grandfather was in the meat business; he was the owner of Haring Meats. As a business owner, he always stressed the importance of marketing and advertising. Because of this, when Arnold started Haring Realty, a marketing manager was one of the first positions he hired. This focus on marketing was key to the initial growth of the company and one of the reasons the company is so successful today.
"One of the things my grandfather always preached was, you want to make your sign as big as possible." Peter continues, "And he always preached to my dad and his siblings when laying out the meat in the meat cooler that it's all about merchandising and setting that up to look really attractive when a customer walks in the door."
Due to his grandfather's advice, having stunning photography and video to appeal to clients was a big part of Haring Realty's marketing strategy from the very beginning.
"We decided a picture's worth a thousand words, so we always did color photography. And we were the first company in our market to think we had to have good photography."
That being said, Peter mentions that his mother was their first-ever photographer. He recalls a time before everything went digital, and photos still had to be developed.
"She was our first photographer, and I remember her making trips to Walmart every day to develop stacks of photographs," says Peter. "Since that time, we've had professional photographers take our photos."
Peter believes that one of the key components of good marketing is rolling with the punches. Whenever there is a shift in technology or a shift in the industry, Haring shifts with it. For example, they were one of the first real estate companies ever to have a website in the late 90s. None of their competitors had them, which gave them a huge advantage in the market. They were also one of the first companies to have a magazine to advertise their listings. These were distributed through the mail and in local stores. Aside from making their own, they advertised in other real estate publications such as Harmon Homes.
"As the market changes, our culture is changing, and the profile of our buyer is changing. We also have to change, and we have to be relevant," says Peter. "So, we've always tried to identify, okay, are there any new tools or approaches that more effectively reach today's customers? Where are the opportunities."
Tapping Into Tech
As mentioned before, Haring Realty tends to move with the times and quickly adapt to the new way of doing things. This is also true when it comes to technology. They have found that with Delta Media Group® they are always up-to-date with the latest technology, which has been a great benefit to their real estate business.
"We tend to be an early adopter of new technologies and different marketing techniques." Peter continues, "For years, we included floor plans with all of our listings. We were the first agency in the Mansfield market to start using Matterport 3D virtual tour technology. Today, we include Matterport with most of our listings, and because it is increasingly imperative that we effectively interact with our clients digitally, our relationship with Delta Media has become more critical."
There are certain features in DeltaNET they've found particularly useful in retaining and seeking out new clients.
"Something that we were able to quickly adopt for everybody in our organization was the My Customer for Life Program," says Peter. "And through that, we're not just sending our past clients or sphere of influence a newsletter, but we're sending them relevant content that's of interest to them individually."
Even with all the issues and changes they face in the uncertain world of real estate, Haring Realty always makes an effort to stay positive. For them, it's not just about looking on the bright side but being a calming force for their clients.
"As we think about serving our clients, it's about being the calm in the midst of the storm," says Peter. "There's a lot of provocative news out there regarding the real estate market, sensational news. And if we can remind our customers of the long view, we essentially can be the people walking on water in the midst of the storm."
When thinking about this, Peter recalls a situation he once found himself in on a flight returning from Hawaii, a situation in which he could have certainly benefited from some positive thinking.
"I remember I was on a flight from Hawaii one time. I'd never had this kind of turbulence before. There's got to be six people throwing up around me, and this lady I haven't spoken a word to, she's gripping onto my wrist like we're going to die," says Peter. "I'm looking up at the flight attendants, thinking, 'Okay, is this normal?' They were nervous, and you could tell they were freaked out. And so, all of a sudden, consequently, I'm more freaked out. So, it always reminds me, as we're serving our customers, to make this a positive experience for them. We have to be the calming influence in that transaction."
The Future of Haring Realty
As they approach their 40th year, Haring Realty looks to continue its growth and success. The first way they plan to accomplish this is by using their technology tools, primarily through Delta, to generate growth and professional development for their support staff and sales team.
"We want to be more effective at using DeltaNET and some of the technology tools we already have to serve both our sales team and our clients more effectively through better communication from contract to closing," says Peter.
They are also implementing several new marketing initiatives, one of which is promoting their properties' communities.
"Each property we're selling is in the context of its community," says Peter. "We have a big emphasis this year on promoting and providing better community information for each of our listings and telling the story of each of our communities as buyers look to where in particular to locate."
Improving their multimedia content for listings is another priority for them. After all, top-notch photography, copywriting and video are all essential to good advertising. Along the lines of enhancing its brand, Haring Realty also plans to upgrade its facilities this year as they continue to meet with more customers in person.
Arnold Haring's leap of faith started this wonderful company back in 1983, and the core values that came with it remain at the forefront of everything they do today. With their positive outlook, care for their customers and unmatched marketing and technology, there is no limit to how high Haring Realty can fly.
They say that family is the heart of the home. And for MJ Peterson Real Estate, a family business serving the Western New York region for over 91 years, that certainly rings true.
In the early 1930s, following the Great Depression, Marvin Peterson and his family moved from Detroit to Buffalo and started building houses. What began as a simple home-building venture ultimately became one of the most successful real estate companies in Western New York. With Victor (Pete) Peterson III being the current owner, four generations later, the Peterson family still owns and operates the business they started many years ago.
For over 91 years, MJ Peterson Real Estate has been serving the Western New York region. The company saw a huge expansion and achieved substantial growth during that time. Today, MJ Peterson has eight office locations and over 200 agents. They have over 3,300 units for rent — including apartments, condos and houses — along with residential properties, commercial properties and new construction for sale.
"With the Peterson family, we really take people all the way — from getting college kids into their first rental, to their first condo, to their first home, to their golden years home, and then downsizing," says Bret Llewellyn, General Manager at MJ Peterson.
What Makes Them Special
"At MJ Peterson, we do more than list and sell houses...we make our client's dreams come true," says Pete Peterson.
Since the company was founded, MJ Peterson has built more than 6,000 single-family homes. They developed some of Buffalo's oldest neighborhoods and have contributed to HUD-sponsored moderate and low-income housing developments. Following World War II, MJ Peterson built starter homes in Tonawanda and Amherst. They also built luxury condominiums, family and senior housing developments and commercial properties, such as office buildings and retail shopping centers.
MJ Peterson's efforts were recently recognized by community organization Buffalo Business First with a 2021 Family Business Award. The honor highlights "multi-generational and family businesses in Western New York for overall excellence, innovation, ethics, philanthropy and strength of the region."
Unlike most other real estate companies in the region, the work at MJ Peterson doesn't start and end with renting and selling properties. The organization's long list of services includes new home construction, property management, domestic and international relocation services, land development, lease option and trade-in programs, property appraisals and mortgage placement.
Partnering With the Community
MJ Peterson offers so many services because of their incredible partnerships, one of which is with Premium Mortgage. MJ Peterson strives to work alongside their clients to help them move forward. In cases where people have been renting for two or three years to save up for a home, MJ Peterson will pair them up with Premium Mortgage to assist them with credit counseling and help prepare them to buy. Once they are ready, the company will release them from their lease and automatically pair them with an agent to help them find the perfect property to buy. This partnership is not only useful and educational for clients, but agents appreciate it as well.
"I think that's a good model. It keeps our tenants engaged in the process of homeownership versus renting," says Terri Campbell, Branch Manager at MJ Peterson. "It gets them some credit counseling with our mortgage partner, and it keeps some of our agents on their toes."
For MJ Peterson's unique building division, they work with local builders. They have been partnering with Chris Tucker of Tucker Homes for over 30 years and have since added several other builders. According to Campbell, the building division has made a huge impact on the company's growth, considering "if you've got the land, you've got the listing." This is especially important in the current market, where inventory is particularly low. At the moment, they have about 250 lots in Lancaster, NY.
MJ Peterson has also established an effective partnership with Robitaille Real Estate, which was acquired in 2018 to form MJ Peterson – Robitaille Relocation LLC. That same year, Mike Robitaille, former NHL defenseman for the Buffalo Sabres, signed on as VP of Public Relations.
Thriving in the Digital Age
It's no secret that technology has changed the way we do just about everything in our lives, and selling and buying real estate is no exception. What was once accomplished through direct contact or putting an ad in the local newspaper is done almost completely digitally now. With websites, social media, email and third-party real estate apps like Zillow and Redfin, there's nothing you can't accomplish with the touch of a button.
"If you're going to survive, it's got to be in the social media aspect. It's got to be in the IT at this point," says Llewellyn.
At MJ Peterson, the staff understands the importance of adapting to the digital age, that the days of print ads and yard signs are behind us. The company recently hired its first-ever Social Media Director and has a skilled IT Director on staff, Bill Trautman. Bill is there to help the agents at MJ Peterson with all of their technological needs, whether that be with DeltaNET® or something else.
"Now that we have the internet and the wonderful opportunities that we have through programs like DeltaNET, it's a no-brainer," says Campbell. "And sometimes I think that teaching old dogs new tricks is difficult, but I will tell you that Bill Trautman in our IT department will sit one-on-one with any agent in the company and get them up to speed."
Finding the Right Agents
There is a lot to consider when it comes to finding the right agents. For instance, some recruiters look for industry experience, while others have no problem hiring someone new to the real estate game as long as they fit in with the company culture.
For MJ Peterson, it's the latter. When hiring a new agent, they consider qualities like community involvement and likeability. Whether they have experience in the business or not isn't the issue; it's whether they have the skills and the right personality for the job.
"I like recruiting people from other aspects of business in this town, and two of the very successful, rising stars in one of our offices that we were able to recruit, one is an attorney who works in the trust department at the local bank," says Campbell. "The other was a branch manager of a bank for 20 years and then was an office assistant in a legal firm. These are the people you want. These are people who get business in town. They know a lot of people, and this is a great opportunity for them."
When recruiting new agents, they also seek out those who exemplify true passion and motivation. They believe this is particularly important in an industry like real estate, where you won't necessarily have instant success, and people tend to weave in and out.
"I really like to go ahead and start out with an agent that's been in the market a year or two who is doing that $1 million, $2 million, $3 million, because taking somebody from that $2 million to $4 million or $6 million with the right tools is much easier," Llewellyn remarks. "And it's like we want to go ahead and know that they have the motivation and they have a passion for this because nine out of 10 new agents are gone after year two because they don't want to pay their dues, because they only sold two houses."
Training New Hires
Once an agent is welcomed aboard, the training process begins. At MJ Peterson, they have a comprehensive program that allows new hires to quickly and effectively get up-to-date with the industry and the company processes. MJ Peterson has a "Leap into Success" program, which is a five-week course. During this program, participants have the opportunity to listen to various speakers on different subjects.
For new agents, training also includes learning the technology and setting up their custom website, customer database and digital marketing campaigns through DeltaNET. Overall, the training process is meant to cater to each agent's individual needs. At MJ Peterson, they believe that this is the best approach, considering every agent is different and has a unique set of skills and experience.
Once an agent completes the onboarding process, the training doesn't end there. MJ Peterson offers continuing education courses throughout the year. One of their favorite events is the Breakfast of Champions, a Q&A series with the more experienced agents where they discuss topics like luxury living and how to survive tax season over coffee and pancakes.
Maintaining a Family Culture
"We remain committed to never lose[ing] sight that our business is people," states Pete Peterson.
MJ Peterson may have grown quite a bit since its early days, but that doesn't mean it doesn't strive to maintain the same family culture that the company was founded on. Pete Peterson prioritizes instilling the same values in his current staff that his family had when they first arrived in Buffalo and began building houses. One way that Peterson does this is by having an open-door policy that allows agents to stop in at any time. Whether they want him to attend their event, give his two cents or answer a question, he's always there.
"If anybody ever needs anything, Pete's always available. His door's always open. He'll address whatever your concerns are and make sure he takes care of you," says Trautman. "So that's one of the good things about coming to a family company, and that's why I'm here. I've seen both sides, family companies, and I've seen corporations where the family company is far better because you're out one-on-one with the owners, and it's a first-name basis."
Being located in a smaller city like Buffalo also helps MJ Peterson maintain that family feel. Having a more tight-knit community enables them to use a community-oriented approach and achieve a sense of trust and community among agents and staff.
Addressing the Issues
Shortage of inventory. Inflation. Interest rate hikes. These are just a few of the issues that may come up when working in real estate. That said, it's important always to stay ahead of the curve.
For MJ Peterson, that means a lot of things. First, during a time like this, when inventory is low, they can rely on their rental properties to keep things moving. They have more rentals than just about anyone in Western New York, and they are close to the University of Buffalo, meaning young adults are constantly moving to the area looking to rent. Their building division also helps prevent a shortage of inventory from becoming a problem because if you build houses, you will always have houses to sell.
When it comes to navigating issues like interest rates and inflation, it helps to ensure that clients are educated and prepared financially. Hence, they're ready to buy in any climate. That's why MJ Peterson's partnership with Premium Mortgage is so essential. These partners will come to their offices, sit down with a client and work out a path for homeownership that works for them. So, when the time comes, whenever that may be, the client has what they need to buy, and the agent can make a sale.
Another way they keep momentum is by making sure they are placing their offices in the right locations and that those communities continue to thrive. MJ Peterson recognizes the importance of seeking out clients in areas with profitable, growing businesses. For example, in Buffalo, there is an M&T Bank that is currently hiring over 2,000 new employees. This growth has paved the way for a surge of new homebuyers to settle in the area. MJ Peterson is also centrally located in Amherst, which happens to be the second-largest city in Western New York, providing them with a vast pool of potential clients and businesses.
"They're Here Because of Delta"
MJ Peterson believes that working with Delta Media Group® has had a huge impact on the success of their company. They feel that Delta is why so many agents want to work there and why they stick around.
"I've talked to so many agents that [have said] they're here because of Delta," Trautman says. "They don't have the technology anywhere else. And then once they see everything that Delta has to offer, they love it."
One of the main reasons they love Delta is its impact on recruitment. This is largely due to Delta's patent-pending SEO, which puts agents on the map.
"Google your name and then google your competitor's name and see where you land in the search results. Every time we're in the top two," says Trautman.
Another game-changer provided by Delta is how simple it is to find sales leads. At MJ Peterson, they have found that over 50% of their leads are generated through Delta. They have also noticed that Delta is particularly beneficial for new agents when finding their first leads, enabling them to hit the ground running.
The staff at MJ Peterson is also very fond of the digital marketing tools Delta offers, such as blog posts, email campaigns and electronic postcards. They've found that these resources assist them both with finding new clients and retaining current ones.
Where Are They Going?
Over the past three years since using Delta, MJ Peterson has brought in over $140 million in new agent business. And in the past three months alone, $45 million. They feel confident that with Delta, they can continue to grow even more.
"We're planting seeds out there. We're growing them. We're going ahead and watering them," says Llewellyn.
The company plans to expand to have nine or 10 offices in the near future. However, they plan to stay local. Their ultimate goal is to become the person to go to in Western New York, not to extend to places like Syracuse or New York City that have completely different markets.
Over the past 91 years, MJ Peterson has come a long way. The previously small family construction business is now one of the top real estate organizations in the region. It has so much more than just building and selling homes to offer. It's an organization that people in the community want to work for and work with. But despite seeing tremendous growth, MJ Peterson's original vision remains the same: to build strong neighborhoods based on family values.
When two real estate companies that share the same goals and values come together, there is nothing they can't do. Living proof of this is one of New England's finest real estate companies, Badger Peabody & Smith Realty.
Crystal clear lakes, majestic forests and breathtaking mountains. Luxury ski resorts and snow lodges. Biking, hiking and kayaking. All of this can be found in the beautiful region of New Hampshire that Badger Peabody & Smith Realty is lucky to call home.
Serving residents and travelers in New Hampshire, the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont and Western Maine, Badger Peabody & Smith Realty has agents and offices scattered throughout New Hampshire: in Berlin, Bretton Woods, Franconia, Holderness, Jackson, Littleton, North Conway and Plymouth. The firm offers full-service real estate services. They are dedicated to ensuring the process of buying or selling a home is as simple and painless as possible for their customers.
With properties in some of the most magnificent parts of the region, much of Badger Peabody & Smith Realty's business is with second-home buyers. Given the abundance of ski resorts in the area, many people come looking for a seasonal home during the coldest, snowiest months of the year. And for those who don't enjoy winter sports, they can still travel in the summer to visit the lakes and mountains and experience the various biking and hiking trails.
Badger Realty, originally located in North Conway, NH, was founded in 1965 by Dick Badger. It was a family business from the very beginning. A community icon, Dick Badger helped transform the town of North Conway into the ski resort and tourist destination it is today. Dick loved what he did. He practiced real estate until the month before he died in his early '90s.
Formed in 1993 by Andy Smith and Jere Peabody, Peabody & Smith Realty covered the western part of the White Mountain National Forest. Like Badger Realty, they had a big market for vacation and primary-home buyers and those looking to escape the stress of urban areas.
The two firms covering different territories of the White Mountains ultimately merged to become one. In February of 2021, the two officially came together to form Badger Peabody & Smith Realty.
Blending two organizations isn't easy, so it only makes sense to do so if the companies and their core values align. Thankfully, Peabody & Smith Realty found that they shared similar values with Badger Realty, making their merger much easier.
"We had a lot of similarities growing up and raising both our companies and our families in our respective communities," says Andy. "We always wanted to be part of the local community, and as I got to know Dick as both a competitor and a colleague over the years, we had very similar philosophies and mutual respect for each other's company."
They also each placed value on the hard work of their agents and knew that the key to success was doing whatever they needed to help their agents succeed.
"There was a high ratio of staff to agents, and a high level of support in both companies and that philosophy has continued and made the merger even easier," says Andy. "It wasn't going from one business model to another."
Jessica DiPietro, VP of Operations at Badger Peabody & Smith Realty, felt similarly that Peabody & Smith Realty aligned with Badger's values.
"I feel like it was a long time coming; it was meant to be," says Jessica. "It was a long courtship dance of going back and forth, but I think even years ago, we all knew it was going to happen. I know Dick knew it was going to happen before he passed away. The merger and transition were very easy culturally and value-wise."
Building a New Brand
When you create a new company, you need a new brand. So, despite each organization holding its own distinctive identity, merging meant it was time to start from scratch and rebuild.
When building a brand, one of the most important things to consider is who you're trying to attract. Being located close to mountains and lakes, Badger Peabody & Smith Realty knew it needed to appeal to a demographic of people who love the outdoors. So, with mountain ranges and natural-looking colors incorporated into their logo, they chose to target their ideal audience directly.
The logo design needed to be more progressive yet still look modern for years to come. So, they worked with a branding firm to create a logo not only unique to their newly established brand but one that's visually appealing as well. This image is important because it's on every sign, business card and piece of merchandise the company distributes.
Along with the visual aspects, a good brand always has a clear, well-stated message. To refine theirs and their logo, Badger Peabody & Smith Realty worked alongside branding expert Steve McKee from McKee and Wallwork in Santa Fe, NM.
Although a modern brand is what they wanted, Badger Peabody & Smith Realty aimed to keep the integrity of both brands while creating their new one by using the design elements from their previous logos. They felt it was important to acknowledge where they came from and continue each company's legacy.
"We've done high-level brand marketing and all sorts of things, including a new logo, clothing and more. Andy continues, "But I think, overall, we've wanted to maintain the integrity of both brands. That's been important."
They also wanted to have the right technology to market their new brand. That's why, when merging, Badger Peabody & Smith Realty gave their tech a refresh. They created a new website through Delta Media Group® and established a new and improved online presence through Delta's SEO and digital marketing tools. They introduced the world to their new brand using social media, eblasts in the DeltaNET® and traditional print media methods.
While it may have been a long process, Debbie Anderson, Marketing Director at Badger Peabody & Smith Realty, cherishes the opportunity the marketing team was given to reinvent the brand, start with a clean slate and build entirely from the ground up.
"We literally have reinvented ourselves," says Debbie. "It's such a dream job, from my perspective, to be able to be involved in something like that."
On Dec. 1, 2021, the firm hosted an internal rebranding event. During this, Badger Peabody & Smith Realty announced their new name and debuted their new web page and logo design for all the agents and staff. The event was held over brunch at Polly's Pancake Parlor in Sugar Hill, NH. They gave out swag bags, journals, holiday presents and branded Yeti tumblers. Although they would not introduce the new brand to the outside world until over a month later, this was an exciting day for Badger Peabody & Smith Realty as it marked the beginning of a new chapter.
Although Badger Peabody & Smith Realty's merger was ultimately a success, that doesn't mean it came without challenges — some of which they were prepared for and others they weren't.
First off, getting the agents up to date and answering their many questions wasn't easy, but the staff from both teams came together and made it work as effectively as possible. One thing that made the transition easier was the agents in both companies were already accustomed to using DeltaNET. Plus, the staff could do most of the reworking in the back end, making things far less complicated for them.
"We ran parallel, and we did it behind the scenes," says Jessica. "Most of the time, our agents didn't even know anything was going on or was different, so they were not interfered with on a day-to-day basis. Our goal was to do everything and try to get those pieces aligned and connected as much as possible and get everything flowing before we made any tweaks or changes that would interfere with their lives."
While the plan to merge had been in motion for years before making it official, most things did not go as planned due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The team had to meet virtually instead of in the offices and rely solely on technology.
When speaking about the impact that COVID-19 had on the merger, Jessica says, "I think it prolonged a little bit of the personal connection, not so much with the management team because we kind of still saw each other, but with the agents. It's hard to connect on Zoom."
For Andy and the rest of the team at Peabody & Smith Realty, going remote wasn't much of an issue considering they were 100% paperless and used technology for most of their work already.
"We put all that technology into place so when we couldn't come into the offices and we had to do closings in the parking lot, we were able to continue along pretty well from a functionality standpoint," says Andy.
But for the staff at Badger Realty, it was a bit more difficult. They hadn't quite reached their technological goals prior to going remote, thus finding it more challenging to navigate at first. However, instead of letting it set them back, they used it as an opportunity to lean into the technology and virtual resources they had available to them and get on the same page as Peabody & Smith. In the end, they were happy they did so.
The pandemic also deeply impacted the economy as people were told to stay home and stay put. When the first shutdowns occurred, big cities like Boston and New York took the biggest hit. Luckily, Badger Peabody & Smith Realty saw the perfect marketing opportunity as most of their properties reside in more off-the-grid areas, ideal for social distancing. As people all over the country were fleeing big towns and cities, they were there providing a safe destination filled with peace and quiet.
"We're a second-home resort area for Boston and the Northeast feeder market in the White Mountain National Forest, both to buy for summer and year-round recreation," says Andy. "So, during COVID, we were the safe place to rent and buy, and our sales volume went up tremendously."
Onboarding New Agents
During the merger, both firms maintained their current staff, and with the opportunity to expand, there was room to hire new agents. For Badger Peabody & Smith Realty, while they wish to grow in some regard, it's not about bringing on as many agents as possible but rather finding the right ones. This is something else both companies have always aligned with.
"Both firms always looked for career-orientated agents. It was neither one of our goals just to have the biggest amount of agent licenses hanging on the wall," says Andy. "We had a commitment to a very high level, well-qualified client service. We always have and will continue to believe this is a career that requires good, educated full-time agents giving the very best level of service."
Instead of looking at numbers like years of experience, Badger Peabody & Smith Realty prioritizes finding a certain personality. They feel that the skills can be taught as long as an agent has the right mindset for the job.
"We are looking to grow, but that's not our first driver. The first driver is to find the right match with our existing agents," says Andy. "We try to hire on the personality and the skillsets they bring, not necessarily real estate experience."
Badger Peabody & Smith Realty's extensive onboarding program lasts about 60 days. They use the Leading Real Estate Companies of the World (LeadingRE®) training platform, and they provide a mix of internal, staff and management training. For agents stepping into the industry for the first time, they offer a valuable mentoring program in which a new agent gets paired with a more experienced agent to learn the ropes.
When speaking about the training program, Andy says, "It's a combination of everything depending on what the new agent needs. They may be a very experienced agent that just needs to get up to speed on our tech stack or a brand-new agent who needs full-service mentoring."
From a technology standpoint, they are excited about DeltaNET Academy and how that can help improve their tech training process.
Supporting Their Team
The support doesn't end after an agent finishes their training — it's only the beginning. As previously mentioned, supporting their agents is one of the top priorities for Badger Peabody & Smith Realty. Support means providing and assisting agents with using all the right tools and resources to succeed.
"Both companies have been focused on providing agents with the tools, resources and support that they need to best do their job," says Jessica. "We have staff members who assist the agents with the paperwork and putting listings in the MLS. We have our closing coordinators help with the closing process. We have our in-house marketing team, which is amazing because they can do projects that if we outsourced it, we wouldn't be able to do."
Supporting their agents also means supporting them as human beings, not just as talent. That's why they ensure agents are taking care of their mental health. In a time like this, in a pandemic where buyers are tired and listings feel few and far between, this is especially important.
"There's a buyer fatigue, and there's an agent fatigue; they're trying so hard to do right by their buyers and despite how hard they work, they can't do anything about it," says Andy. "I try not to use the word work-life balance because, in this industry, it's a balance of everything. You live and breathe real estate seven days a week if you're successful in this, but it's balancing all of that and understanding you just need to be able to encapsulate and walk away from it and take care of your own mental health."
The support at Badger Peabody & Smith Realty includes not only the staff supporting the agents but also the agents and staff supporting each other. And that support goes beyond the office.
"From a cultural standpoint, we rally to each other's causes and support each other professionally and outside the workplace," says Jessica.
The real estate company has found this support not only fosters a great work environment but also provides excellent results for agents.
"Our average agent in 2021 did 24 sides, so certainly higher, much higher, than the industry average, and of course, we have some that do three times that," says Andy. "For the most part, everybody shows up and takes their career very seriously, and we want to always provide them with the highest level of support so that they can do 20, 30, 40 sides."
Although supporting your agents certainly goes a long way, showing appreciation can be highly valuable too. That's why Badger Peabody & Smith Realty makes sure to let agents and staff know they're appreciated on a regular basis. While that can simply be done through daily praise or words of affirmation, the company holds several annual events to show its appreciation for its agents and staff on a larger scale.
Each year, they hold a gala to celebrate their success from the previous year. This February, they held their annual gala at the Omni Mt. Washington Resort in the grand ballroom. Everyone got dressed up; they had a delicious dinner, a photo booth and a raffle to win prizes. During the event, they gave out awards to agents and gifts to the staff. Since they had just recently launched their new brand and firm, they wanted to make this year's event extra special for everyone, and it was.
In addition to the gala, they had a company event at Mt. Cranmore over the summer, where everyone got to socialize and take a ride on the chair lift overlooking the mountain. This was a great way for agents and staff to catch up, get outside and enjoy the great outdoors.
Badger Peabody & Smith Realty doesn't only believe in showing appreciation for those who work for the company but for their customers too. Another annual event they host is the Customer Appreciation Barbecue. They've been hosting this event for almost 20 years. This year, they brought in a food truck to offer free meals to customers.
Connecting as a Community
Before the merger, both teams were made up of people who believed in serving their community and maintaining a community-oriented approach to their business. So, when the two came together, engaging with the community was a top priority for everyone.
One way they support the community is through providing sponsorship and donations. In 2021, the company gave over $35,000 to local community organizations. Some of the organizations they have supported include Pope Memorial Library, Good Neighbor Food Pantry, the Boys and Girls Club of North Country, Holderness Historical Society and the Colonial Theater.
Merging Has Its Perks
Aside from working well with one another, there have been some obvious perks to Badger Realty and Peabody & Smith Realty joining forces. First off, they can now expand their reach, covering more area. Before merging, although they worked within the same region, they never really crossed paths. They each had their own territory, and they stuck to that. Now that they are working together, the team has more space to explore.
"Covering such a large service area with the two companies together has been wonderful," says Debbie.
Also, with the merger, they are seeing growth on all sides. By combining referrals, they have been able to expand their customer base. This has allowed them to hire more agents and even add some new and necessary staff positions — such as a Manager of Agent Success. This position, held by Gaige Pequeno, has made a huge impact on keeping agents engaged and informed in all processes.
"We were both in the 30-agent range independently, which is a good size for the kind of rural area that we're in," says Andy. "But it still wasn't quite big enough to do some of the things we thought we could do if we joined forces and then it would just maintain our competitive advantage, and it certainly has done that so far very well."
Another benefit, particularly for the Badger team, was becoming part of Luxury Portfolio International®, the luxury division of LeadingRE. While they were always in that second-home and vacation market, they weren't part of Luxury Portfolio International, which Peabody & Smith Realty was. So, by merging with them, they could offer a luxury affiliation for clients and customers. With Luxury Portfolio International, they can now market globally, allowing them to advertise in higher-end magazines and on global websites for the first time.
"Although we could market locally and nationally, joining forces and being a part of Luxury Portfolio International has given us advertising opportunities that as a smaller company, just the budget allowing for that kind of marketing was difficult," says Debbie.
Couldn't Have Done it "With Anyone Else"
Badger Peabody & Smith Realty believes that Delta played a significant role in the merger's success. Jessica says, "I don't think we would've been able to do it with anyone else."
For them, it wasn't just about the technology Delta provided or the strategies. It was the dedication and commitment to helping them they valued most.
"Delta is more than just a tech platform," says Jessica. "They have been an integral part of the strategic portion, the advising portion of the merger and have been a reliable 11th-hour lifeboat throughout — providing that 'Oh my god it's 9 p.m., things are breaking down, and someone will hop on a Zoom call with me,' type of unparalleled support on more than one occasion. Plus, the fact that an agent can call the helpline and troubleshoot with a live person is unheard of these days and very much appreciated."
The staff at Badger Peabody & Smith Realty feels that Delta has consistently kept their company goals in mind and shares the same values for customer service.
"Once the agent gets that relationship, gets the lead, sells them a house, whatever it is, we want that customer-for-life relationship to be forefront all the time," says Andy. "It's a good partnership with Delta because they feel the same way, and they have helped us refine that."
There are many tools and features that Delta offers that have made both the staff and agents at Badger Peabody & Smith Realty's lives easier as well. These include being able to work within both the back and front end of the CRM, view and comment on seller reports, make customized marketing materials and send campaign emails to lifelong and potential customers. Chrissy Smith, VP/ Sales & Marketing at Badger Peabody & Smith Realty, sees that the agents are happy and more productive using Delta.
"I think what's nice about the DeltaNET is the agents like it," she says. "Of all the CRMs they've used in the past, it's the easiest to navigate and to understand, and so the bottom line, the agents really like it."
Looking to the Future
Now that the pandemic is seemingly coming to an end, it's time for Badger Peabody & Smith Realty to look to the future. They are excited to be back in the office and be able to collaborate in person again. They are also excited to be back to hosting events and plan to continue coming together in 2022.
Even with all the fun, the work doesn't stop — the team is always generating new ideas. They have a few marketing and social media initiatives in the works they're looking forward to launching soon, such as a social media campaign to get to know their agents.
"It's nice because it's out there for the public to see who the agents are, but we're also able to use that internally where agents can read about each other in a more personal manner and kind of get to know a little bit of background on those agents as well," says Chrissy. "So, I think that'll be a really nice piece to help everyone learn more about each other."
While the industry will always be unpredictable, the staff at Badger Peabody & Smith Realty remains optimistic.
"I think our industry is going to survive the next couple of years in fine shape," says Andy. "We can't sustain 15% or 18% appreciation, that's not going to happen, but overall, I think the agents are going to have a good year in 2022. I think buyers that have been patient and struggled and put in 10 offers and lost, everyone will see more inventory coming in the next 60 to 90 days, and they'll be able to get into a house."
Managing to master a merger in the midst of a global pandemic is certainly something to be celebrated. The benefits of the decision are clear, and both companies' core values remain intact. With all the right tools, including DeltaNET, and their dedication to their agents, community and customers, there is nothing they can't accomplish.
We look forward to seeing Badger Peabody & Smith Realty continue to grow, and as they do, Delta will be there every step of the way to lend a hand.
Myths are everywhere in the real estate industry these days — and not just for your clients. In an industry with so many resources and news sources available, it's also easy for agents to believe some common myths about their own careers. Whether you're talking about buyers, sellers, or your own career as a real estate agent, combating myths is an important part of the job that is also sometimes overlooked. Cutting through the myths will help your clients achieve their real estate goals and can help you grow within your own career for years to come.
Common Myths for Real Estate Agents
Before we get into buyers and sellers, it's time to take a look a bit closer to home. There are certain myths about being a real estate agent that regularly make the rounds on social media, during water cooler talk, and in other prominent places. Don't listen to them. These myths can hold you back from growing in your career, attracting new business, and providing the best possible service to your clients.
Here's what to be on the lookout for:
The Real Estate Market Will Always Be This Strong
When things are good with real estate markets and your pipeline is always full, it's easy to feel like that will always be the case. Over the last decade, market trends have generally been positive for real estate agents. While we're not predicting doom and gloom, it's important to remember that the pendulum will eventually swing the other way. In order to succeed when real estate markets eventually cool off, it's critical to be prepared and have a plan.
There's Too Much Competition to Stand Out as an Agent
One consequence of the positive trends in real estate over recent years is that more people than ever are deciding to try their hand at real estate careers. NAR membership statistics seem to grow every year, and in 2021 there were more than 1.5 million members. But how many of those real estate agents are taking advantage of all the best marketing tools and doing everything that they need to do to thrive? The truth is that, according to those same statistics, the average agent worked 35 hours per week in 2021. If you're willing to put in the extra time, carve out your niche, and make the most of your marketing — with tools like the ones you can find in the DeltaNET® — there are plenty of opportunities to stand out from the competition.
What Worked in the Past Will Always Work
This myth goes hand-in-hand with the first two on our list, but the truth is that you don't have to look too far into the past to see a totally different real estate industry. Twenty years ago, the iPhone didn't
exist, social media wasn't a thing, and online marketing was largely in its infancy. What will the industry look like five, 10, or even another 20 years from now? The agents who continue to thrive are the ones who are willing to learn, adapt, and evolve with the times.
Past Clients Will Automatically Call You for Real Estate Needs in the Future
After completing a real estate transaction, the vast majority of clients say that they will return to the same agent for real estate needs in the future. They may mean it at the time, but the reality is that they follow up with the same agent far less often than those initial numbers would suggest. If you want to keep clients for life, you need to continue to keep them engaged. With email marketing, social media, and so many other tools for maintaining relationships, you have all the tools you need to keep clients coming back long-term.
Real Estate Marketing Is an Expense, Not an Investment
It's easy to look at real estate marketing as an expense, with money going out. But are you also accounting for all of the revenue your marketing brings in? If you think of your marketing as an investment, then it's also important to track ROI. Make sure that you're taking advantage of analytics and checking your metrics to ensure that your marketing investment is well spent.
Myths That Buyers and Sellers Believe
While some myths make the rounds among real estate pros, they're nothing compared to the number of tall tales that buyers and sellers believe. Helping buyers and sellers understand the realities of real estate and dispel the myths are important parts of any agent's job. When clients are equipped with accurate information, it's easier for you to help them accomplish their goals.
Selling a Home FSBO or Buying a Home Without an Agent Will Save Money
No matter how clear it is that this myth is untrue from the agent's perspective, many buyers and sellers still believe that they can save money by handling everything themselves. Maybe they've even been through the process of buying or selling a home before and think they already know everything that they need to know. Of course, the truth is generally quite the opposite, with most people losing money and gaining frustration when they try to handle the job themselves. That's why it's so important to show prospects all of the ways that you add value and help them save money in the long run.
Online Resources Provide All of the Information That Buyers and Sellers Need
Some people think that they can go without an agent because there's so much information about real estate available online. But online information can only take them so far, and there is also so much misleading real estate info online. Insights they find online might help them in many ways, but online research won't equip them with the tools and skills to handle every detail of a complex real estate transaction.
All Real Estate Agents Are the Same
Similar to the myth about too much competition that we mentioned in the agent section, some buyers and sellers believe that real estate agents are interchangeable. Of course, that couldn't be further from the truth. Make sure that your marketing helps differentiate you from other agents and that you clearly communicate the many ways that you can help clients.
Always Set an Asking Price/Make an Offer That Leaves Room for Negotiation
While it's true that leaving some room to negotiate can be a good thing, many buyers and sellers take the concept to the extreme. A buyer who always starts with a lowball offer or a seller who sets an unrealistically high asking price is only setting themselves up for disappointment. This is one area where the market knowledge of a real estate agent can make life much easier for both buyers and sellers.
Why Busting Myths Will Always Be Part of Real Estate
With how quickly the real estate industry evolves for agents and how many varying sources of information your clients have access to regarding real estate topics, there will always be myths that need to be dispelled. Staying on top of the accurate information and discarding the fake facts will serve any agent well, whether you're helping a client or thinking about ways to advance your own career.
Lead routing is important. Let's face it: Getting lead opportunities to the right person to handle them is the best way to provide that customer with the kind of service you want to be known for. Not only are you going to get more closings from happier customers, but it's a great way to entice more agents to join your brokerage, and to keep the ones you have. Quality leads come from meeting an expectation of excellent service. Excellent service comes, in part, from getting the customer a prompt response from someone well equipped to help them. Unfortunately, when it comes to lead routing (and most things in life, really) there's no single solution here that is just "the way." There are too many factors to take into account from one brokerage to the next. Your market, agents, and business model all come into play, so I can't tell you exactly what's "best" for you. Also, what's "best" might even change as the market does. What I can do is give you some options. The more you know about what processes are available, the easier it will be for you to try some things and work out what's best for your business.
Backup Agent System for Website Leads
First, there's a good chance that you've heard the phrase, "Your listing, your lead." However, the listing agent isn't always the best person to handle a buyer lead. Even on their own listings, some listing agents don't want those incoming buyer leads at all. That doesn't necessarily mean they want to give them away to just anyone, though. It's this kind of scenario that lead to the creation of our Backup Agent System. When this system is enabled, it allows agents to define their own backup agents. If an agent has backup agents defined, the system will give them the first opportunity to respond to a new lead. If they don't respond within a preset amount of time, that lead will then become available to their backup agents so that they can respond instead. As far as the DeltaNET® is concerned, that lead still belongs to the listing agent to whom it was originally assigned. However, it's also accessible to the backup agent so that they can manage the correspondence with the potential buyer. This process benefits the brokerage in that the lead can be handled more quickly if the listing agent is otherwise engaged, while still benefitting the listing agent by getting the lead to them and allowing them to define who they're willing to work with on it.
So if the company website leads for company listings are handled with the Backup Agent System described above, that pretty much just leaves us with leads on IDX listings. There are numerous ways of handling these, but the methods below seem to be the most common and most successful. Keep in mind, though, the one that's going to be the most successful for you depends on a number of factors. The nice thing here is that you're not locked into any of these methods once you choose one. Nor are you limited to just these options exactly as I've laid them out. I'm only scratching the surface of the lead settings available to you in the DeltaNET; there are always settings that will allow you to really dial this in to fit your business. Don't be afraid to experiment.
Your first option is the tried-and-true lead broadcast to agents. Whenever a new lead comes in on an IDX listing, the system picks up that listing's zip code and broadcasts the lead to a group of agents that cover that zip code. Broadcasting is the fastest way to get a lead straight to an agent so that the customer gets a response as quickly as possible. You can control the maximum number of agents who receive this broadcast at once, but the idea is that any lead that waits more than five minutes for a response has already gone elsewhere, so the more agents that get notified, the better. This also fosters some competition. The fastest person to accept the lead gets to keep it, so the most successful agents work hard to stay on top of their notifications. Often, the single broadcast based on zip code is enough. However, it can also be set to rebroadcast to a new set of agents automatically if the lead isn't picked up in a predefined amount of time. You can even have it broadcast to hundreds of agents at once (I think 250 is the most I've ever seen) to maximize the chances of someone picking it up within the first few minutes. Another common broadcast option is to have the leads go only to a subset of agents who have earned their right to receive them. If all of the agents in your brokerage cover the same service area, this can also be set to just include everyone without worrying about zip codes at all.
Lead Incubation Team
This next option seems to be getting more and more common each year. That is to route all company leads to a lead incubation team. The added benefit here is that this covers those customers who are just saving listings and searches instead of only those making requests on listings. Not only can that team assess whether or not that lead is active and engaged enough to work with an agent, but if they're not, this team can work with them through things like drip email marketing to get them there. This is great for agents because, when the lead does get to them, it's fully qualified. If every agent knows that every company lead they get has a pretty high chance of closing, they'll really value those leads. It's not for everyone, though. The biggest barrier here is having the resources and lead volume necessary to build a team like this. Also, in many cases, the agents are fully capable (and willing) to incubate these leads themselves. In fact, agents are often doing this kind of lead incubation anyway. In those cases, they might be better off establishing their brand with the customer right from the beginning so it would be best to get the lead assigned to the agent (by broadcasting it to them, perhaps) immediately so that they can just add them into their own established lead incubation process if they're not yet ready to buy or sell.
Leads Administrator Assignment
Not every brokerage has their business set up in a way that supports the above options. Your brokerage may not yet be big enough to warrant the above options-and, especially when you're first getting established, you want to keep a close eye on every lead. In these cases, it's nice that the DeltaNET is built in a way that can grow with you. Initially, you can have every IDX lead assigned to you directly as the Leads Admin. You can even have all of the contact and request information included in the notification email so that, instead of forcing your agents to log into the system to go through the steps of marking the lead as processed, you can simply forward the notification to them and assign the lead later. This has the benefit of getting the customer a response quickly and, as long as you're following through with the assignment, you're getting the system set up in such a way that it will be ready for you when you have more agents and resources at your disposal and really want to get into what it can do. When you grow to the point at which you're getting enough leads that you can't route or handle them all yourself anymore, just change a few settings, and now they get broadcast to the other agents directly.
Whatever lead routing solution you go with, just remember that the key to success really amounts to good customer service. The faster the customer gets a response from a real person with the information they need, the better the chance they'll work with that person to buy their dream home. Or sell it, as the case may be. So don't underestimate the importance of pairing them with the right agent fast. Also know that this is only the tiniest fraction of what the DeltaNET lead routing system can do. So, if you have special cases where leads who match specific criteria should be routed in specific ways, there's a good chance the DeltaNET can do it!
When it comes to email marketing in real estate, looking at the numbers can help you determine what works and what doesn't.
At Delta Media Group, we service brokerages of all sizes across the United States. From independent agents to more than a dozen of the RealTrends TOP 100 brokerages in the nation. Earlier this year, I took the time to conduct a thorough analysis of the adoption rates, email statistics, and general website performance of some of our largest partners to get a gauge of what "true adoption" looks like, as well as what kind of email marketing was being done by some of the top-performing brokerages in the nation.
Let's start by looking at the adoption statistics because those will play directly into the volume of emails sent by these firms. All of the data in this report is from 1/1/2021 thru 1/1/2022. Of the 12 brokerages analyzed, they had a collective 12,000 agents within their organizations.
As I started to review the usage of our DeltaNET® platform, one thing immediately became clear to me. Some companies use technology regularly and have made it a part of their company culture. Other firms simply offer a CRM to "check the box" and are not actively promoting or pushing its use. In the last edition of our Real Estate Marketing & Technology magazine, I talked about the importance of building a healthy culture of technology. If you aren't talking about it, if you aren't sharing the wins, eventually, the technology will become an afterthought in your organization.
That's why "adoption" statistics can be tricky to analyze. Large tech vendors want to use those numbers to convince brokerages that they have the magical technology that agents will finally want to pick up and use. The reality is that no brokerage will ever have a 100% adoption rate of any technology. There are too many real estate agents that are just looking for a company to hold their license and are only in real estate as a part-time job. In a year, they'll, maybe, record one or two transactions. And that's okay; real estate doesn't need to be a full-time career for every agent. That also means it's okay to know you will never get everyone on the same page.
When it comes to our largest organizations, some saw a very healthy adoption where more than 80% of their agents were logging into the system on a regular basis (at least once a month) and having some type of activity within the system. That could be building a flyer, changing their website, or responding to leads. Other organizations saw as low as a 39% healthy login rate. The numbers varied wildly across the board, with the average healthy adoption rate coming in around 61%.
This falls in line with a concept I've also talked about in this magazine before — the "30-30-30" rule. 30% of your agents will rarely use your tools. 30% of your agents will probably use your tools but will need to be coached/trained/and motivated to use them. This group is where most training directors spend their time. The final batch of agents is the ones who are pushing brokerages to get these tools and will use them often.
The number of agents using the system will directly translate into how many contacts exist within these brokerages' CRM platforms. You need contacts in a system in order to market to them. We found in our data that, on average, 80% of agents inside these 12 companies had actually uploaded their contacts into their CRM. In total, 4.6 million contacts were receiving reoccurring marketing from these brokerages. That is huge! These larger firms had roughly 386,000 contacts in their pool to be regularly contacted.
So you've got agents using a CRM, you've got them uploading contacts, and the goal is you want to be marketing to these contacts, boosting your brand impressions, and providing something of value to the potential home buyer or home seller. The content they're receiving needs to be valuable. Things like new listing alerts, market updates, regular newsletter content relevant to their interests, or seller reports. At Delta, we have seven distinct channels of email marketing. Those are:
Homefinder Reports: New listing alerts that can run instantly, daily, weekly, or monthly.
Market Watch Reports: Market statistics updates that run weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, or quarterly.
Seller Reports: Detailed statistics on how a listing is performing on the market. View counts, engagement, showings, etc. These run weekly or bi-weekly.
E-mail Drip Campaigns: Various automated touchpoints like holiday emails or buyer campaigns. They are relationship-focused and have a large variety of email volume. It could be one email a week or four emails a year. It all depends on the type of campaign.
E-cards: These are graphics-heavy emails that usually are focused on displaying information within the email and not focused on driving traffic back to a website.
Email Blasts: This is an email that is built and scheduled to run on a specific day and time to a pre-set group of customers.
My Customer For Life: Our AI-Driven newsletter contains curated content for home buyers, sellers, and general home improvement. Any contact within the CRM can receive this newsletter, which has 12 new articles added monthly. The newsletter tracks what type of content customers are engaging with and starts to become a curated newsletter of content relevant to the customers' interests.
Here is a breakdown of how these different channels of email marketing performed:
Over the course of one year, our clients sent more than 43 million emails to a total of 4.6 million contacts. On average, it appears that enterprise brokerages are hitting a contact with a little over nine emails per year. However, that number will be inflated as the home finder emails are really new listing alerts running to buyers who are actively looking for a home. If you remove those 11.5 million emails, it's really closer to seven emails per contact per year for general branded emails.
Personally, I think the best cadence for email marketing is more like 12-18 emails per year. You should be increasing your brand impressions significantly by giving these clients valuable information like our Market Watch Reports or our My Customer For Life newsletter.
Let's break down some of the findings from this data.
1 — the types of email marketing running from the DeltaNET perform extremely well compared to most online email marketing analytics. Your average open rate should be around 17%, and your average click-to-open rate should be around 6%. These benchmarks come from campaignmonitor.com. With that in mind, it's clear that there are three stand-out emails in our marketing suite that everyone should take notice of.
2 — Market Watch Reports. We encourage all agents using the DeltaNET to enroll their customers to receive these types of detailed market reports. If you have a potential buyer looking to move to a new area of town, you can enroll them to receive these reports. Or, if you're looking to keep a long-term relationship with a customer, you can enroll someone who just moved into a new house to receive these market reports. Perhaps they purchased at $240k, and a few years later, they see homes in their market selling for an average of $280k. They may be inclined to list and sell again once the price point gets high enough. These emails have a massive 65% click-thru rate. This means the customers opening these emails are almost always clicking on them to be sent back to your website. There is a huge opportunity here.
3 — Seller Reports. While this is the lowest volume of emails coming from our system, it's clear that home sellers are paying attention to them. Seller Report emails have a 63% open rate, the highest of any type of email I've ever seen statistics for. If you have active listings, your seller should receive these detailed emails.
4 — My Customer For Life. This email newsletter is clearly working. I believe it may be the magic bullet for email marketing, and we didn't even realize we had it. Our Digital Marketing team has added new content articles to this newsletter for nearly five years. To date, MCFL has more than 750 articles of content that fall into three categories: Buyer, Seller, and Home Owner. If I receive an agent's branded newsletter in week one, it will show me all three types of content. Let's say I click on a seller article. Delta tracks that. Next week when I get my newsletter, it will have two seller articles and a home improvement/buyer article. If I click on that sell article again, I am flagged in the agent's CRM as a potential seller, and now the newsletter will always contain more seller content because that's relevant to my interests.
The MCFL newsletters have a 59% click-thru rate. This is one of the best online marketing plans you could subscribe to, and the best part is that it's included in our DeltaNET platform with no extra charge. Other online marketing companies would charge anywhere from $20 to $50 per month to subscribe to a newsletter that gets that much new content each month. And it's not just for your email either. This content is also designed to be automatically shared on your social channels after you've connected your
DeltaNET to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or Instagram. You get great reoccurring social content and email newsletter content automatically each week.
As the data shows, email marketing works. Our top 12 clients saw nearly six million impressions of their brand through email and drove more than 1.6 million visitors back to their websites. If you're looking to step up your game on email marketing, the first place to start is your CRM. Make sure you have agents uploading contacts to market to. Once you've got contacts to email, you should get into a rhythm of reoccurring newsletters, dynamic email drip campaigns, and setting up market watch reports for all customers. Specialized emails like seller reports and home finder reports are great for sellers and buyers. Finally, you can use tools like email blasts to send mass notifications about things like company events.
If you'd like to set up a consultation to review your email marketing strategy, please don't hesitate to reach out to one of our Software Consultants at email@example.com.
In luxury real estate, building a sphere of influence can set the course of your career — but first, you have to put the work in.
In luxury real estate, your sphere of influence is critical to your long-term success as an agent. Establishing relationships and connections are some of the best ways to help your career take off. Still, building your luxury sphere of influence can feel like an intimidating task when you're new to the industry or starting fresh in a new market. But you don't have to do it alone. The agents who came before you have laid out a path for building your sphere of influence, and there are so many modern tools available to help you achieve your goals. Invest your effort wisely, and you can build a string of luxury-based connections that will serve you well for many years to come.
Steps to Building Your Luxury Sphere of Influence
Work With an Experienced Mentor
No matter how well you prepare for your career in real estate, there's still plenty to learn as a new agent. That's why it can be so beneficial to work with a mentor who can help you overcome the early challenges and show you exactly how someone with experience in luxury real estate operates on a day-to-day basis. Your mentor can provide insights into how they built their personal sphere of influence and how they've continued to grow it throughout their career. Building your own network will still require effort, but it's much easier to achieve your career goals when you know exactly where and how to invest that effort.
Leverage Your Existing Personal and Professional Networks
You're likely to hear this tip often as a new agent, and for good reason. When you're just getting started, your existing network of friends, family, colleagues and other connections can be your best source of potential leads. These are people who are already within your personal sphere of influence. You know them, and they know you, so it's important to make them part of your luxury sphere of influence, as well.
Make sure that everyone within your existing networks is aware of your real estate career and how you can help them with luxury real estate. Ensure that they have your contact information so that they can easily recommend you to the people within their own networks. Remember that maintaining relationships with the people in your personal network over time is critical. You want them to think of you first when they or someone they know has luxury real estate needs.
Know Your Market and Your Audience
Who are you trying to reach? As a luxury real estate agent, your target audience will be different from an agent working with buyers who have a smaller budget, sellers with non-luxury homes, or people who are buying a home for the first time. Planning your marketing strategy requires knowledge of who you're trying to reach within your market and what they're looking for from their real estate agent.
One of the things that every client will be looking for is in-depth knowledge of the markets where you do business. So getting to know your neighborhoods is one of the most important things that you can do as a new luxury real estate agent. Buyers want to know that you have the knowledge to help them find the right home in the right location, and sellers want to know that you'll be able to effectively promote the neighborhood where they're selling a home. That means knowing all about the latest up-and-coming real estate trends and what types of homes are available. It also requires extensive knowledge of the amenities, attractions, and services available in a given neighborhood.
Develop Your Digital Marketing Strategy
Much of the work that you put into building your sphere of influence will involve reaching out to potential clients, but it's also vital to make sure that prospects can easily find you. Since most people start their real estate search online, your digital marketing strategy should be a central element of your lead generation strategy. In order to appeal to a luxury clientele, an attractive, appealing, information-rich website is a necessity. Delta Media Group® can help you with that, too. Our top-ranked search engine optimization (SEO) works to help leads find you, effectively turning your website into the hub for your online marketing efforts.
Social media should be another key element of your digital marketing strategy. Building your social presence is a powerful way to expand your sphere of influence beyond your connections, develop relationships with prospects, share your content, and show your real estate expertise. Social Connector, another feature of the DeltaNET®, makes it easier than ever to keep your clients updated with automated postings across all your social platforms.
Growing your social presence and the organic SEO on your website will take time, however, even with a wealth of tools at your disposal. Paid advertising is a great supplement to your other online marketing efforts and can pay immediate dividends in terms of new leads. There's plenty more that you can do with online marketing, but a great website, strong social media presence, and targeted advertising strategy are perfect places to start as you build your sphere of influence.
Create a Real Estate Content Plan
Creating informative real estate content is another effective way to stand out online, establish your personal brand, build your social media presence, and show people why you're the right choice for their luxury real estate needs. Depending on what you're comfortable with, there are a variety of ways to create valuable content.
The blog on your real estate website is the perfect place for posts with luxury real estate advice and posts that showcase the neighborhoods where you do business. Delta's custom content creation can help here as well. Our corps of specialists and professional writers research, write, optimize, post, and share content specific to your business to keep users coming back for me. If you're more comfortable behind a camera, then video content is also an excellent tool for growing your sphere of influence. Video content is incredibly popular, and you can break down longer videos into bite-sized pieces that are ideal for sharing on social media.
Get Involved With the Community
There's still plenty of room for traditional networking when building your luxury sphere of influence, as well. Building personal relationships within the community can lead directly to new leads and can also lead to referrals down the line. The best way to build those relationships is to go out, get involved with the community, and create connections.
If you have a passion for a particular cause or hobby, look for local organizations that share that enthusiasm. Volunteer to help out with a local non-profit, get involved with community events, visit local businesses, dine at local restaurants, and be an active participant in the communities where you do business. The more relationships that you build, the larger your luxury sphere of influence becomes.
Building Your Luxury Sphere of Influence Starts With You
Always remember that you are at the center of your luxury sphere of influence and that your sphere grows from that central point. The effort you invest, the relationships you build, the people you meet, and the marketing strategy you develop will ultimately help your sphere of influence grow. Over time, the clients that you serve also become part of your sphere, and their referrals help to expand it even further. While growing your sphere of influence doesn't happen overnight, the work that you put in now can lay the foundation for a prosperous future in luxury real estate.
Talk to any business coach, consultant, or leader, and inevitably at some point, your conversation will turn to talk of business culture. Although, sometimes the culture conversation isn't direct, and, sometimes, the word itself might not even come up. Things such as core values, mission statements, the interviewing process, the employee review process etc., etc., etc., might dominate the discussion, but, still, at its core, what you're talking about is culture.
And there's no way to undersell just how important culture is — both in your real estate business and beyond.
In the past ten years, my CEO peer group has often had at least one well-known speaker and, typically, book author, discuss business culture. This past year we had one such speaker that took a unique twist to his presentation and hit me with a line of thinking I had never considered before. During his presentation, he turned the culture-related discussion away from the usual business focus and directed it towards me and my personal life. This was a twist I had never experienced before.
During this speaker's presentation, he discussed not only business culture but family culture as well. He even pressed the family culture discussion further and asked if we had discussed our family's core values with our families or if our spouses and children also knew our family's core values. Admittedly only one peer in my group of 15 business owners could answer yes when asked if his family knew their family's core values. This line of thinking gave great pause to me and the other 13, who also said yes to having family core values. While we all actively work on culture in our businesses, 14 of us, unfortunately, had not done this yet with our families.
As a sidebar, before I bring my thoughts back to the business world, if you want to do something interesting, start trying to answer culture related questions that focus on you and your family, such as:
What are your family's core values?
Does your family filter your family's decisions against your family's core values and mission statement?
Is your family in alignment with your family's core values and mission statement...your family's culture?
Trust me, the family angle is an interesting line of questions to think through when you have time, and I encourage you to do it...but let's get back to talking about the business side of things...
The first point I want to make is that you must be purposeful in your culture. What I mean by this is that culture in your business is something that you are the architect of. And, since you are the architect, culture is something you need to take the time to think about and create. Ultimately, if you go through a culture exercise with a business coach, that coach will ask you all kinds of questions about who your team is, words that describe them, and what they value.
Two years ago, I did a formal culture exercise at Delta. The management team, a business consultant, and I spent about an hour coming up with our five core values. When we were done, we all agreed that our core values accurately described who we were and are as a team. The irony of our core values is that I have valued these things and worked towards them with the Delta team for over 20 years. However, I was not nearly as strategic then as we are today at Delta in building a team representative of these core values. Now, it's a different story as these values I've long respected have become a central theme within Delta's business.
Delta's Five Core Values are:
Get it Done — Being accountable and trusted to complete projects or tasks no matter the effort needed or how much time is needed.
Finds a Way — The answer is never "No." When we see a need, even when the platform wasn't built to do it, or it would require building something completely new, as long as it fits into our core focus, we make it happen.
Passionate — Deeply cares about outcomes. Demonstrates a winning attitude, and it hurts to lose.
Team Oriented — Excels at working inside of a team to work towards achieving a larger goal. Can clearly give and receive feedback about tasks to better the team. Is driven to make sure the entire team succeeds, no lone-wolf attitude.
Do What's Right — Through wisdom, honesty, and compassion, we take the path that will have the greatest positive impact on the current and future health, growth, and prosperity of our company, our team members, and our customers.
It has become much easier over the past two years to make hiring and firing decisions and business decisions by having our core values clearly defined and agreed upon within our management team. Core values are part of our formal interview process and part of our quarterly employee review process.
The second point that I want to make is that the leader ultimately feeds the culture they want by what they focus on with their team.
Last December, at our annual two-day planning meeting for 2022, the management team did an exercise where we each shared two things with every other member on the management team: What is the one thing most admired about the person by you and what is the one thing that you would most like that person to stop doing or start doing?
What the team shared with me that they most admired about me gave me clarity into some of the ways that I have fed the culture at Delta. They shared that they liked my ability to inspire, my honesty, my optimism in adversity, my work ethic, that I am down to earth, and that I am approachable. Now, before you begin to think that I am trying to build myself up with a list of accolades, I should point out that I have another list of things I need to work on that I won't share: My stop doing and start doing list. But, for now, let's focus on the most admired things list...
It is important that each of us as business leaders is modeling that which we desire; that we exemplify the culture, core values, and mission statement of the company we run and the team we lead. I can take each of the items shared with me during the exercise that people admire about me and tie them back to at least one core value. Unknowingly I was living out the core values of the business for the past 20 years, not always to perfection, but I was living them out, and others noticed.
What we need to do as business owners is foster in our lives what we want in our businesses and be intentional about it. To close out my thoughts, I put together a shortlist of questions that you may find helpful as you think through the culture in your business, and maybe even the culture within your family:
To view past Real Estate Marketing and Technology articles and read more from the February 2022 issue, click here.
Listing photos are among the most important collateral in selling any property – and they have only gotten more vital with time. These days, customers have the power to browse dozens or even hundreds of properties in a single hour. Yet, a breathtaking photo is what makes them stop scrolling.
You've heard the old adage: A picture is worth a thousand words. To some extent, that's true. Even when it comes to real estate listings. Pictures draw eyes and initial interest, but virtually no homes sell solely on the basis of photos alone. Instead, it's up to the real estate agent to weave a cohesive narrative around the home.
Of course, that can be a challenge. Real estate agents come from all walks of life, and while some enter the industry following other careers, few are former photography pros or authors. As a result, new agents often come to one or both of these aspects of the job with trepidation. But you don't have to be a world-class expert in either field to give your listings a winning advantage.
Listing optimization is a skill you can learn with practice. And when you start off with a few best practices in mind, you drastically decrease the time it takes to elevate your work to the top 20% in your area.
Real estate is never a matter of "perfection" – it's about improvement. There's always more to learn and do. Start with confidence that you can improve your listings, and the skills you need will grow.
Let's break listings down further and look at the simple steps you can take to achieve superior results.
Your Listing Photos: The First Impression of Every Property
A buyer's interest always starts with photos.
On a page of mixed text and graphics, it's all but impossible for someone to notice text before visuals – that's simply how human attention works. Even if they are looking within a narrowly defined area, they will see a photo, feel a spark of curiosity, and then double-check to ensure the address suits them.
So, listing photos are a crucial "hook."
You already know your photos should be of the highest resolution possible and take advantage of natural light. If you can only photograph at one time, choose early afternoon on a clear day. Additional photos in different lighting conditions are greatly appreciated, but daytime photos are the foundation.
Let's expand on those basics to do more with your photos:
Remember: Decluttering Is Always Step One
Fully staged homes tend to sell faster and at better prices. The first step in staging is decluttering, which often requires some enthusiasm from the seller. Clarify, simplify, and organize whenever possible. Remove large, bulky furniture pieces to open up spaces before you snap them.
Go from Decluttering to Staging
Once decluttering is done, build on your momentum. While some real estate agents work with home staging professionals, many pick up the tricks of the trade themselves. Think about the story of each room – how it impacts the owner's lifestyle – and arrange items to highlight that desirable narrative.
Plan Out Which Photos You Need
There are some types of photos you simply can't do without. These include wide-angle shots of the bedrooms, curb appeal shots, the backyard, and at least one photo of each other room. Use your best judgment to decide what else you may need and which rooms you prefer to emphasize.
Deploy the Latest Photography Equipment
You can do some tasks with your trusty smartphone, but listing photos require a professional-grade camera. Once you know your way around your camera, enhance your results by using a tripod and a wide-angle lens. These two simple items unlock all kinds of creative possibilities.
Experiment, Experiment, Experiment
When you arrive at a property ripe for listing, it might feel like you need to get everything done as fast as possible. Slow down and take your time – and plenty of pictures. Get used to taking more than you need, so you'll practice choosing the best, which will translate to a better "photography instinct."
Get Feedback on Your Work
Although you might not have a gallery showing in your future, it's still a wise idea to connect with feedback on two levels. The first is photography pros, who may be glad to advise you on internet forums. The second, of course, is buyers. They will be more than willing to tell you precisely what they liked!
If in Doubt, Partner with Experts
If it seems like you simply can't get the hang of the photography game, don't despair. From small towns to large cities, communities are packed with professional real estate photographers. You'll often be able to work out a very affordable agreement, and their talent will contribute to higher commissions overall.
Unleash the Power of Your Real Estate Photos with Excellent Listing Descriptions
Once you develop confidence with listing photos, it's time to fine-tune your descriptions.
For maximum impact, listing photos and descriptions work together. Ideally, you'll start thinking about how your description should read as you take your photos. Have a convenient way to jot down notes as you go from room to room – an old-fashioned notepad is often faster than a phone app.
Here's how to boost your listing descriptions to another level without having to become the next Hemingway:
Focus Plenty of Attention on the Opening
Just like sending an email, the opening line is the critical factor in whether a viewer reads on. In your introduction, you need to tackle two questions with an economy of words: "What am I looking at?" and "Why should I keep reading?" Do this in one sentence, and you're on your way!
Sell the Story and the Features
The features are the specific attributes of the home, such as the spacious backyard. The story is how those features better the lives of buyers. For example, many younger buyers look at a big yard as the perfect place for Fido to play. Know what motivates your target audience and weave it through your listing.
Beware of Industry Jargon
Real estate shows are more popular than ever before. Unfortunately, they can give buyers and sellers alike a misapprehension of how the whole process works. Avoid jargon terms like "TLC," "quaint," or "fixer-upper," which such buyers may have learned to react to with disdain.
Don't Forget a Call to Action
A call to action (or "CTA") is an essential part of any text meant to persuade. It should tell the reader precisely what to do next without demanding too much. For example, your listing might end with "Call now for more information," which is a smaller request than "Contact us to book a showing."
Implement these tips, and you'll be on your way to better-performing listings. And, just as importantly, you'll be able to approach the process of designing your listings with greater ease and confidence.
To view past Real Estate Marketing and Technology articles and read more from the February 2022 issue, click here.
Just 19 miles east of historic Beaufort, South Carolina, lies a place called Fripp Island. With its slightly whimsical name and miles of pristine beaches, it's not hard to imagine that Fripp Island is a place where Southern hospitality reigns supreme, where people smile and greet you as if you're an old friend.
At just over six and a half square miles, Fripp Island is also the sort of place where the favored mode of transportation is a golf cart. Tourists — the thousands who flock to those beaches and restaurants and well-manicured putting greens — frequently rent them by the day or week.
Fripp Island is a lot of things, many of them worthy of a postcard. What some people might not expect, however, is that Fripp Island is also home to the origins of the largest and most respected real estate company in the South Carolina Lowcountry and Coastal Georgia regions. What is now Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Bay Street Realty Group/Cora Bett Thomas Realty got its start on Fripp Island when partners Ken Willis and David Hornsby began developing the area in the late 80s.
Turns out, a lot of those golf carts are the product of Willis and Hornsby's work. The pair turned the area into one of the best amenity-based community developments with a marina, two golf courses, a 1,500-member club, and 450 rental units.
Since those early days, Bay Street Realty Group has grown by leaps and bounds, with highly-trained and successful sales associates and by uniting with other top brokerages, most recently, Cora Bett Thomas Realty. Through all those changes, one thing has remained the same: Bay Street Realty Group has never forgotten its start on Fripp Island. That small, picture-perfect island has served as the setting for thousands of family memories over the years, and, to some extent, the same holds for Bay Street Realty Group.
The family-focused mindset that cemented itself in the core of everything Bay Street Realty Group does began on Fripp Island. That mindset has defined the company for over four decades.
"It's all a big family feel, which is nice because that's the atmosphere that we create," Marketing Director Meg Wynne says. "Once you start, we want you to stay forever. We like to hold on to people and create that big family atmosphere."
Growth has always been the name of the game for Bay Street Realty Group. Putting Fripp Island on the map by successfully developing the area wouldn't have been possible without a predisposition and obvious enthusiasm for growth. Still, growth without purpose has never had a place in the company's plans. Instead, the focus
has been on meaningful evolution, on taking the next step because it makes sense. Not just because the company wants to keep on walking — metaphorically, at least.
It's that philosophy that influenced Bay Street Realty Group's expansion over the last few years, and in 2017, the company acquired Island Realty, where partner Todd McDaniel was a managing member and one of the founding owners. Now, Bay Street Realty Group's South Carolina team has over 150 years of combined lifestyle-based community homes sales and development experience. Together, the group also has experience in more than half a dozen markets in and around the Beaufort area, providing would-be and current clients with the sort of knowledge they can't find anywhere else.
"By acquiring and joining forces with some of the best brokerages around, we can offer more and keep our culture and mindset consistent, under one unified brand," says Willis, owner and South Carolina Broker in Charge. "We've worked very hard to bring everyone together and unify our processes and services."
That hard work has paid off, too. By Q3 in 2021 Bay Street Realty Group had boasted 555 transaction sides in the Beaufort Market. But success is not confined to a single area. Or state, for that matter.
In 2019, the company took its next step philosophy up a notch and jumped into the Georgia real estate market with both feet. Partner Will Thurman was placed as Managing Broker for Georgia, and Bay Street Realty Group acquired Southeast Coastal Property, Bob and Reba Laramy's successful Savannah-based real estate company, with 35 new agents. It was that acquisition that initially opened a conversation with Cora Bett Thomas Realty, a long-time market leader in the Savannah/ SC Lowcountry region. Talks progressed quickly, and by early 2020, the acquisition of Cora Bett Thomas Realty was announced.
Suddenly, Bay Street Realty Group had 85 new agents, who collectively produced $291 million in sales in 2019. And they haven't slowed down. In November 2021, the Savannah market saw listings spend an average of just 53 days on the market, down more than two weeks from the previous month. It's those acquisitions and growth, seizing opportunities as they arose, that has quickly turned Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Bay Street Realty Group into the largest agency covering both the SC Lowcountry and Coastal Georgia. It's also ensured that the company has settled into its reputation as a trusted real estate partner, providing unparalleled service.
"Our exponential growth in the Lowcountry displays the strength of our leadership and the trust and knowledge of our expert agents," says Thurman. "We promise trust, integrity, stability, longevity, and the highest standards of work."
Georgia on Their Mind
Combining two different things is never easy. Even the most basic recipes require a good bit of mixing to create the perfect batter, and matching prints is occasionally a fashion risk. But, more often than not, the mixing pays off and whatever comes out of the oven tastes delicious. The new outfit draws compliments and perhaps a social media post or two. When it comes to combining real estate companies, though, the technique isn't always as simple, and even the best-laid plans sometimes have to be altered in the face of an international health pandemic. Such was the case when, in 2020, Bay Street Realty Group and Cora Bett Thomas Realty joined forces under the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices umbrella.
Discussions between the two companies in 2019 were positive from the start. Progress was made, and ideas were tossed around for the collective future of the pair. What they didn't count on was implementing all those ideas at the height of COVID-19 or the challenges that situation would present.
"We went from 40 agents to all of a sudden, you have 100 agents, and you're trying to have everyone get along, work together, and it's COVID, so you can't get them together," Wynne says. "We had to do everything virtually. They were onboarded virtually. We had to turn to technology."
Throughout the acquisition process, finding a balance between the companies was key. That also included Southeast Coastal Property, which came on board the year before. Practices differed from office to office, and establishing a new baseline for everything wasn't always easy when it couldn't be done in person.
"Each office used different technologies for different things. South Carolina office was Google Suite heavy, whereas the Cora Bett Thomas office was not. The Southeast Coastal Property office had different processes and different technologies," recalls Lindsey Nix, Digital Director. "So you were taking everybody's day-to-day systems and saying, 'Okay, well what's working? What do we want to keep? If we want to change something, how do you change it without offending or disrupting?'
Of course, bringing Cora Bett Thomas Realty into the fold wasn't simply about streamlining a single organizational system. Agents had to be quickly brought up to speed on their new normal, as well.
"That took a good year of shifting things around and also people and job roles and saying 'Hey, we value you. We don't want to lose you, but things are going to look a little different,' Nix details. "Everybody did a fantastic job. Sometimes I feel like we're a whole different company a year and a half later.
"You're trying to get everyone together," Nix continues, "and that's not always easy, but, like Meg said early on, we focused on keeping that family mentality because that's what is most important to the partners and staff."
Zoom meetings became more than a trend throughout those early 2020 weeks. Bringing agents together required the technology, packing schedules and sparking introductions, even when it wasn't always the preferred method of communication.
"That was a hard thing because in the South, I mean, it's all about connections and talking face-to-face with people and who you know," Wynne says. "We had to remove that part almost, which did make it hard to get to know the agents, but over time it's all worked out."
Among those things that technology helped work out was adding an almost surprising sense of scheduling ease to the entire endeavor. Yes, Zoom meetings meant less in-person communication. What it did do, though, was, as Nix details, allowed the companies to "hold things more frequently, hold training more frequently."
"If we were doing something with all 100 agents or encouraging all 100 agents to participate, we didn't have to worry about finding a venue that would accommodate that," Nix adds. "There were some pros, definitely, of having it done virtually. Of course, with COVID, in the beginning, that was a big concern. We didn't want to jeopardize anybody's health or put anybody at risk. It made it easy for us to maintain speed, but take into account what was happening in the world."
Despite the myriad of challenges and, sometimes, surprising victories remote work presented, the acquisition did have two rather prominent silver linings. First, this was a move borne of collective desire, with both Bay Street Realty Group and Cora Bett Thomas Realty striving to ensure it happened. Second, it came with the bonus of Cora Bett Thomas' incredible real estate reputation.
"Cora Bett Thomas Realty left a legacy in the Savannah Lowcountry region, and instead of stifling that force and brand, we wanted to bring the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices brand and support into the mix," Thurman says. "We looked at the strengths and weaknesses of both brokerages and adapted what we felt was the best of each."
One of the most recognized names in the market, Thomas first came to Savannah in 1969 and immediately became active in historic home restoration before turning her attention to real estate in 1976. In 1994, she decided to start her own agency on her dining room table. Thomas has been nationally featured in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times for her luxurious listings, and it was that background that helped spark interest and enthusiasm across the board when it came time to get the companies up and running together.
"We were all very excited about it," Wynne said. "Even though you're working hard, it was fun and a great learning experience, and we gained from the strengths of those around us, as well."
Through all of the changes Bay Street Realty Group has undergone in the last few years, perhaps one of the most impactful was the decision to, in 2018, align with the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices brokerage network. Joining the network gave Bay Street Realty Group access to one of the most trusted names in real estate, with thousands of offices across the United States and worldwide.
"We're backed by one of the largest and most successful global real estate networks," Hornsby says. "When our name goes on a real estate sign, it means something. Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices is the name buyers and sellers trust."
With Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices in their corner, Bay Street Realty Group has built up its training programs, providing agents with the latest updates and information to keep them at the top of their game. Because when they're serving a market as large as the one Bay Street Realty Group agents are, there's no room for missteps.
"All of our agents stay informed on the latest market trends and technology, ready to equip [their clients] with the knowledge [they need in their] next real estate transaction," Hornsby says. "Working diligently behind the scenes is the region's most comprehensive support staff, dedicated to assisting our agents and customers every step of the way."
And while Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices provides a global scope for real estate success, Wynne is also quick to point out the network's personal touch.
"I've felt this since the beginning, we have our family atmosphere within our brokerage, but at a larger level, we also have that," Wynne says. "[Corporate is] always just a call away. There's always someone to reach out to, no matter what the problem is. [Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices] has almost 1,700 offices now across the United States, and you think you'd be lost in that and you're not at all."
Buoyed by that confidence, training throughout the Cora Bett Thomas Realty acquisition was another victory for the brand-new collective company.
"From the Cora Bett Thomas side, we were LeadingRE and luxury portfolio, and that had great training," Nix says. "It built a good network, but I think Berkshire Hathaway offers so much more, so we were very excited about that potential. I know as staff, as well as the agents, once they learned what was available under the Berkshire Hathaway name and network, it became, 'Oh, this is going to be a better situation. This is going to be an improvement. We're going to have access to so much more.'"
Now, more than a year removed from combining forces, training remains one of the most consistent practices across the company's offices. Agents can fine-tune their approach with a host of learning opportunities, and, as McDaniel says, the company prides itself "on our agent support in both staff and technology."
"Whether an agent is new to real estate or has been practicing for years, when they come to our brokerage, it's the common trait of hard work that adds to our overall culture and success," McDaniel continues. "Being a part of such a great network, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices already offers a great resource for agent training. As a brokerage, we've taken it a step further to offer brokerage-level training and one-on-one training to ensure our agents understand all the tools available to grow their business. We have found that continual and consistent training yields the best results and growth for our agents."
From the very first day in the company's history, Bay Street Realty Group has built its success on the foundation of a strong family atmosphere. People are more than the next transaction opportunity they represent or the numbers they bring in, and every acquisition, every next step, has been a way to expand that family.
But, just like any good family, combining different traits and traditions has required a bit of balance, a hint of patience, and a little determination to see it all through.
"We have a running joke," Nix says, "Chatham County is the county we live in, in Savannah. We always say, 'Oh, well, that's just the way it's done in the state of Chatham.' Some of the things and trends do cross state lines. But sometimes, Meg and I will have a conversation and be like, 'Well that's not how we do it in Beaufort,' and I'm like, 'Well it's never going to fly in Savannah like that," so that does have an impact on our agent culture as well."
Although there are differences between offices and past trends, Nix adds that the biggest similarity is also the most important, saying, "[Everyone] is so hyper-local in a lot of ways."
Finding common ground hasn't always been easy, but Wynne and Nix have prioritized it. The family mindset hasn't changed, but the family itself has, and that's required some getting used to.
"It's almost like Savannah is a New York City compared to Beaufort sometimes, but then there's a perfect middle too," Wynne says. "It's different, but between the two of us, we have done a great job to make sure that the cultures fit together and that we have a happy medium for all of our agents, too."
And when it comes to finding agents who mesh with the Bay Street Realty Group culture, it all comes down to initiative — much like Willis and Hornsby had when they first started on Fripp Island. Bay Street Realty Group is looking for agents who want to put in the work, who understand the markets and the areas, who want to foster relationships. Because it's those relationships that make all the difference.
"People don't often realize that real estate is an entrepreneurial business. You're running your own little business," Nix says. "Of course, there's support from your brokerage, and that's why we're the best because we offer that support, but it's a two-way street. We want agents to show up. You have to produce and do things like that. For us, we're looking for the agent who wants to learn, who shows initiative because if not, there's going to be another agent who's going to come along, and they're going to have that, and they're going to be better."
Bay Street Realty Group has also welcomed the youth movement amongst its agents. Real estate is a constantly-evolving industry, so it only stands to reason Bay Street Realty Group has embraced every shift. Growth is something of a tradition within the company, after all. And by bringing in new agents, those who want to make a name for themselves, agents Wynne describes as having "the drive... the want...and the sales ability," Bay Street Realty Group has built a corps of consistent producers.
"That's one of [our] favorite things, to see when brand-new agents come in, and we get to watch their growth," Wynne says. "I'll get a text and be thrilled because it says, 'Meg! So-and-so just put $2 million under contract.' These young agents in their twenties, you watch them grow from coming in and not knowing anything to being successful and making more money than they have in their entire lives. That's one of the coolest things to see, in my eyes."
Don't forget about that family-focused mindset, though. As new agents stretch their wings with Bay Street Realty Group, they can do so knowing they have the backing and support of those who have been there for years. Experienced agents often serve as mentors and advisors for the newcomers, offering suggestions and cultivating a sense of camaraderie that's apparent in every corner of every one of the company's offices.
"We see a lot of teamwork," Wynne explains, "where we can get an experienced agent who knows the tricks of the trade, knows the language. They can mentor younger agents, but the younger agent can help them with technology or other things, and we see great relationships form that way too."
Creating a Sense of Community
Melding companies, finding similarities between first-time and experienced agents, and setting a tone that crosses state lines has been the driving force behind Bay Street Realty Group's success over the last few years. And that success is clear in just about everything the company does. Boasting a diverse group of agents — ranging from 25-75 years in age —who know the SC Lowcountry and Coastal Georgia region like the backs of their hands, Berkshire Hathaway Homeservices Bay Street Realty Group/ Cora Bett Thomas Realty finished 2020 with combined sales of $320 million.
But while the numbers are impressive, this is not a company that has ever spent too much time focusing on the numbers. Instead, it's that family focus, the need to provide every client the best experience possible, and to be a constant presence in the communities it serves that stands as a marker of success for Bay Street Realty Group.
"We think long-term and want [our clients] to be our friend and neighbor, not just our most recent sales transaction," McDaniel says. "Our desire is to be your forever agent and help you for decades make the wisest real estate decisions."
Building that sort of company-wide attitude comes from years in the business and by bringing in the sort of people who share a similar point of view. Life beyond the transaction is important, as is remembering that agents are people who have interests in things outside the scope of their desk and real estate CRM.
With that in mind, Bay Street Realty Group has focused its social media efforts on more than just simple new listing posts. Agent spotlights fill the company's Facebook page, alongside posts touting the beauty and opportunities the South Carolina Lowcountry and Georgia Coastal region presents.
"We call [the area] our slice of heaven," Nix says. "We want to showcase that it's not just about the house. If you move here or if you live here and you don't know about some of these opportunities, how can you get plugged in in this community? How can you, again, go beyond that transaction?"
The work is important, naturally. Berkshire Hathaway Homeservices Bay Street Realty Group/Cora Bett Thomas Realty has filled decades with successful work, helping couples find their first homes or families find their forever homes, working on the commercial and luxury side of the industry, and even teaming up with new developments across the 100 Mile Coast. But the work has always been the starting point, a stepping stone for something bigger and, often, better.
Because it's by doing the work that the company can build those all-important relationships and become more than a realty company. These days, it's a group of like-minded individuals with a common goal and shared beliefs.
"We still believe in showing up at the office to work, monthly sales meetings, and time together outside the office for company events," Willis says. "With four offices and two states, we couldn't achieve unification without our yearly brokerage event and holiday parties that keep the lines of communication open to all. Our agents carry that sense of family and honor over to their business relationships, and the Bay Street Realty Group local brand shines. The sense of community we've built within the office is mimicked in each transaction."
Community has always been an important facet of Bay Street Realty Group's company-wide personality. This all started by building the community on Fripp Island, and, really, the only things that have changed in the ensuing years are the location of the communities and how Bay Street Realty Group is giving back.
"Service is at the heart of real estate, or at least it is for us," Willis says. "We know it's just as important to serve our clients and our community. Between both states, we are involved in monthly community events that allow us to give back beyond property transactions. We can't live up to the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices brand without a sense of community."
The company regularly partners with area schools, helping with athletics and school programs. This past holiday season, agents adopted a local child, purchasing items off their wish lists. Cora Bett Thomas Realty also recently served as the primary sponsor for the American Red Cross in Savannah, participating in the organization's annual golf tournament. No matter what they're doing, Wynne says the most important thing is that it's being done, and someone benefits from it.
"We engage our agents," she adds. "It's important that we don't just write a check. We want to be out there, doing what we can."
Taking Tech to the Next Level With Delta Media Group®
Bringing together two of the most prominent real estate names in the SC Lowcountry and Coastal Georgia region
during the COVID-19 pandemic required Bay Street Realty Group to depend on technology more than ever before. And with more moving pieces than ever before, Bay Street Realty Group needed a tech provider who could meet its every need, for every office, in two different states, as soon as that need arose.
That's where Delta Media Group came in.
Before the acquisition, Cora Bett Thomas had worked with Delta, Nix says, while Bay Street Realty Group was partnered with a different company. When the two joined forces, both providers were looked at, as the company's newly-melded leadership team examined what sort of tools and products each offered.
"We said, 'Okay, which [company] is going to serve our new mass?'' Nix recalls. "Somebody was making a transition, one way or another."
In the end, it was the Delta CRM, DeltaNET® 6, and website offerings that stood out. The easy-to-use technology within the DeltaNET gives Bay Street Realty Group agents a stress-free way of staying top of mind with clients and providing current listing information to prospects. And Nix adds that the "pairing of a website and a CRM" has been especially beneficial for agents. No matter what their experience or tech know-how may be, DeltaNET 6 gives them a one-stop shop to maintain all their information, allowing them to take stock and tackle to-do lists with ease.
Training has also been key, with both Nix and Wynne utilizing Delta-provided resources, as well as Tech Tuesday videos and YouTube how-tos, to get the entire Bay Street Realty Group on the same page.
"We take time on an individual level with each new agent to make sure they know the in's and out's of the CRM and website," Thurman says. "With a wide variety of technology skills within our brokerage, agent adoption ranges, but Delta does a great job of providing something for every skill set. Agents are becoming more and more accustomed to using technology in their everyday business."
And, should an agent encounter a problem or a tool they aren't quite sure how to use, Nix credits Delta's industry-leading tech support for answering the call. Sometimes literally.
"That constant communication was a big pro for [Delta] versus another third party company where they were like, 'I don't know, I haven't talked to so-and-so. I don't know how to do this,'" Nix details. "[Delta has] more internal resources."
Change has become a habit for Bay Street Realty Group, and with one of its biggest changes — acquiring Cora Bett Thomas Realty — came another: Redesigning the company's website. Updating the site was, as Nix detailed, one of the main reasons Bay Street Realty Group opted to partner with Delta, and, months after making that decision, the company has never second-guessed itself. Filled with new features and designs, the site embraces Bay Street Realty Group's need to showcase everything the company offers. From history to property searches, relocation resources, and the company's blog, the retooled site gives would-be, past, and present clients everything they're looking for.
"When Delta Media shared some of the new features and design updates, we were quick to make sure these changes were implemented on our website," McDaniel says. "Not only are the new changes going to improve our overall look and feel, but they will also make the user experience better, which is most important. We want our clients to feel at ease navigating our website."
Staying current with their tech is always Bay Street Realty Group's goal, and, with Delta, that's easier than ever. Just like Bay Street Realty Group, Delta has long embraced that family focus and families often share. Even the tech-based ones. Because if a certain update can benefit more than one client, Delta is quick to implement it for everyone.
"One of the things that I've always loved and still love today about Delta Media Group is when a thought process from one brokerage comes out, and it can make the site as a whole better, Delta adopts it for all," Nix says. "It's not, 'Oh, we're just going to give brokerage A this neat thought and this custom whatever. We're going to make it where we take that, and we put it into all of our websites or all of our CRMs because it's going to better the whole real estate industry.' That's one of [Delta's] better qualities."
There are plenty of ways and words to describe the last few years for Bay Street Realty Group. Growth, of course, immediately springs to mind. Change, too. Occasionally hectic, with jam-packed schedules and brand-new mindsets, using tech in brand-new ways — those all fit the description bill. But there are good words, too. Decidedly positive ones like exciting and new and plenty of opportunities.
Together, all those words make up a mindset that is as focused now as it was during the early days on Fripp Island. Because while the markets have expanded and the world itself has changed, Bay Street Realty Group is still a company built on the idea of family, on offering the best possible real estate experience for clients and a professional home for agents to flourish.
And that won't change anytime soon.
"Beyond the obvious answer of keeping up with and exceeding our sales records, we want to continue to find more opportunities to aid agents in their marketing efforts and community involvement," Hornsby says. "Agent success is ultimately what creates brokerage success!"