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Low budget, no experience, no clients: How one Denver broker found his way


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Freedom and the ability to make money? I became a real estate agent because the idea that working hard means more money was appealing to me, as I’m sure it was to many of you.

The job I was in before that was a standard customer service job, and I felt I worked hard enough for a whole team! I kept thinking, “I’d kill it by myself with no one holding me back — just me making money!”

In real estate school, they said it’d be about six months on average before I saw my first sale.

“Not me, I’m above average!” I thought. I knew I’d crush it right out of the gate.

Little did I know, I was stepping into the most over-saturated, under-supplied market Denver had ever seen.

The challenges

You see, (according to the public record) the last time Denver had a healthy, even market was between 2011 and 2013, the best of those months boasting roughly 35,000 transactions per month!

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When I started? An average of 2,500 to 4,000 transactions per month! No one told me that until I had my license!

The number of agents? Yeah, that wasn’t good either. After completing my classes, I started noticing articles that said things like, “Denver has more real estate brokers than real estate listings.”

If ever I have seen a bad omen, that was it!

So I should have given up, right? Conceded defeat and went back to the drawing board?

Of course not! Unfortunately for my wife, it’s not in me to just give up and get back in line.

But when all the chips are stacked against you, what can you do?

I had a low budget, no reviews or experience, no web presence or knowledge and no customer base. They say to use your circle of influence, but a lot of times, even those people won’t use someone with no reviews!

The prescribed method

I started at a big chain brokerage. I tried to get as much information from my assigned mentor as possible, but he just wanted to stack me with fees, and my mentor had his own focus.

He did give me pointers, and he had me bombard all of my Facebook — and real life friends — with what was essentially spam.

“Collecting emails” was another big priority there. But it was more spam. I felt like the people I was working with were a little behind the times, using spam and aggressive tactics to get sales.

And I just wasn’t about that.

So I decided to make a change. I packed up and moved to a different brokerage. A small one with about seven agents.

Here, the managing broker and a couple of the senior agents really took me under their wing and taught me a lot. And they gave me their best ideas for lead generation!

Oh man, I was excited! I couldn’t wait to get back out there.

Trial and error

The first one was the old meet-and-greet. I basically loitered anywhere I could see people. Middle of summer, outside, sweat dripping down my face — I was just trying to kick up conversations with people.

Though I did succeed in kicking up some conversations, and I did get some feedback, this didn’t work. And it didn’t work for a simple reason: people weren’t there to talk to a broker.

When you approach people, it had better be for something that will help them out, or they just don’t care.

Considering the state of the market in my area, it was no surprise that most people already knew a broker and just saw me as a weirdo.

Back to the drawing board.

I tried mailing people offers and even giving each one of them a handwritten opening sentiment. That was just hand-cramping waste of time! Not to mention the cost of postage and envelopes — those things can really add up! But in the end, I’m sure all of them ended up in the trash.

I tried everything. At one point, I was hitting expireds every day!

For those of you who don’t know, an expired is a listing that has recently passed the end date on the contract. These can be great leads, but it’s a very competitive market.

I would stay up until midnight printing up all of the components of my “expired packet.” Basically an opening letter describing myself, a CMA and a call to action.

Then, I’d wake up at 3 a.m., print off the list of expired homes that didn’t go back under contract, and I’d hit the road.

I’d try to get to the first one right at 8 a.m., then I’d knock on the door, introduce myself and talk their property up to try to seal the deal.

In reality, almost everyone was at work, and the people who were home had just gotten out of an unfulfilled contract with another agent and were not generally very happy.

Even being as early as I was, I was never the first person to contact them.

There were a couple more things I tried too, but nothing was working. Nothing I was doing gave me any sort of progress.

What finally worked

I spent some time reading online and trying to find new ways to build my business. After doing a ton of research, I found a great concept: niche marketing.

What is a niche market? It’s basically a small subset of a larger market. Like a category. It’s narrowing down the whole market and trying to cut out a small piece of the pie for yourself. Or becoming an expert in something.

The niche of the smaller brokerage I joined was property management, but I thought that being a property manager was a waste of time, so I shied away from it.

Until one day I figured out what my niche was.

I’m young for real estate. In fact, I haven’t met any agents my own age. This helped me define my market even more. It took a little while, but it finally hit me. My niche is helping people from my age group start investing in real estate and rentals at a young age.

That niche has a long, clunky title. So I just tell people, “I help you net more you.”

People had a hard time understanding it at first, but when I started making a little more money, I launched a website around it. And it’s really started moving.

So what does this all mean? How does this help you?

Well, there was a time when you would get business as a real estate agent just by being in front of people. You’d just send them mailers and email to maintain constant contact, and they’d be your customer for life.

But the internet has changed society enough to affect that.

It’s not about being in front of people anymore. It’s about being what they need.

We all know that people will drive past a McDonald’s to get to a Starbucks for the better quality. And people use reviews and online information to help them make an informed decision before a purchase — especially one as big as buying a home.

So what I’m saying is that in order for you to get more business, you need to have high-quality customer service and a winning game plan. You need to be out there making a name for yourself — not just showing people your name.

Most importantly, whether buying, selling, investing, etc. — you need to add value to whatever your clients are doing.

Luke Phares is a property manager and associate broker with CityScape Real Estate, Metro Brokers in Denver. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter

Email Luke Phares.

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