October 2011

Strategies From New Agents...

Getting in at the ground floor of the housing market recovery.

By Ann Londrigan | Senior Editor

REALTOR® Ashley Wydra
Century 21 Pride Realty, Frankfort
Licensed: February 2010
Age: 24

Facebook has become a marketing goldmine for this 2009 DePaul University grad with a bachelor’s degree in Finance. She credits three of her 13 closed transactions to date to the social networking site. Her rule of thumb for Facebook? One post a day and not just real estate news. With a minor in Management Information Systems, technology comes easy for Ashley. She didn’t want a “cookie cutter” website solution, so she built her own from scratch and purchased ashleywydra.com. Something she learned from business classes in college—staying in contact is the key, so people won’t forget you.

Says Wydra: “On Facebook I post interesting stories from Yahoo Real Estate like the biggest sale of the year or design tips from HGTV. I also post ‘Oh, got a closing coming up this Friday’ or ‘Congratulations on your new home!’ so people can see I’m in real estate. I show my personality as well. If you just post real estate no one will want to follow you. So I post ‘What’s your favorite concert to go to this summer? I like to go to Kenny Chesney.’”

  • Focuses on first-time buyers, many like herself who are getting married and moving out and into homeownership.
  • Believes the website was the most important first step for marketing her business. Along with her firm affiliation, it shows her Facebook posts, live chat, and the Century 21 Real Estate Mobile Search so buyers can text Ashley for details about a property.
  • Started a blog, which she admits is a lot of work. Consistency is key and she gets content ideas from REALTOR® association newsletters.
  • Formed a good business relationship with a local mortgage broker who has a similar round-the-clock work ethic.

REALTOR® Cynthia Levin
Conlon:  A Real Estate Company, Chicago
Licensed: March 2011
Age: 45

With her hometown roots calling her back to Chicago, comedian and actor Cynthia Levin left Los Angeles to begin her other calling—real estate—in the city she loves for its beauty and architecture. She still does stand-up at Zanies and other venues, and her sense of humor and performing skills are a plus for the new real estate gig. While rental business is her mainstay for now, she sees more renters turning to buying in this market and when we spoke she was excited to share that she just got her first buyer client.

Says Levin: “Renting is sort of a lateral move for some people, so I’m talking to them about buying if they are ready to take the next step, especially in this market. I’m getting the vibe that more people are going that direction.”

  • To learn more about how transactions work, she co-listed with another agent in the office to do the bulk of the property showings and assist with the marketing.
  • With her co-listing colleague, she is developing a comedy/information show for REALTORS®, buyers and sellers. (And, yes, she’s the comic.)
  • Takes all the rental clients she can get from floor calls and other agents because at some point the renters will be buyers. Talks to her rental clients about the option of buying instead of renting.
  • Does one or two open houses every Sunday

REALTOR® Andy Ogorzaly
Rent Smart Chicago /
Smart Property, Chicago
Licensed: February 2011
Age: 24

Renters-becoming-buyers is also the strategy behind Ogorzaly’s business plan. When he saw jobs hard to come by for his Urban Planning degree from the University of Illinois, he turned to his personal interest in real estate and joined a firm that specializes both in rentals and residential sales. His goal is to develop a hybrid book of business in rentals and sales since rental transactions are prevalent in Chicago’s condo market today and in the future. 

Says Ogorzaly: “So far I still haven’t done any sales, but I have met a ton of people that will probably be buying or selling in the next year.”

  • Uses the MLS extensively to find rental property along with the firm’s own database of properties.
  • Uses rentals as a tool to connect with future buyers.
  • Moved from a narrow downtown Chicago target strategy to cover more outlying neighborhoods for rentals (west of downtown, north side, near north and the northwest suburbs) to know other neighborhoods to offer as options in case something can’t be found in the client’s target area.

REALTOR® Joan Basilo
Keller Williams Premiere Properties, Glen Ellyn
Licensed: January 2011
Age: 60

After dual careers as a nurse and a businesswoman, Basilo says she has made her final move into real estate—something she’s always wanted to do. She first tackled the learning curve by sitting open houses for other agents, taking the Keller Williams franchise classes, MLS classes and hiring the firm’s designated coach. As of July 2011, she had her potential first sale for a Vietnam veteran that ultimately became a two-year rental agreement due to the client’s credit situation.

Says Basilo: “I negotiated the contract to do the work on the rental property to get it up to speed and the two-year lease which will allow time for my mortgage broker to work with my client to get his credit score up. It’s been very rewarding. In two years I can help him buy a house.”

  • Sits open houses every Sunday to get leads.
  • Attends broker open houses to get a handle on area housing prices.
  • Helps other agents in the office while they’re on vacation whether it’s an open house or putting a contract together.
  • Works up to 70 hours a week. She says: “I figure I have to put the work in to get anything back.”  

Advice for new agents from real estate veterans:

Assist a top producer
I chose to be the assistant for a top-producing agent for the first two years for a safety net and a learning opportunity. A lot of people will come in as a team member and I feel they end up losing themselves, they become a nameless face. The way I did it, I started establishing myself as a brand from the beginning with every connection I made. I learned from my top producer and educated myself with seminars and designations like Certified Luxury Home Marketing Specialist. – Stephen Hnatow, ABR, CLHMS, CNE, CSM, @properties, Chicago

Tout the company
The old saying is “Say ‘we’ until you can say ‘me,’” meaning lean into your office and talk a lot about your company. Here’s one my favorite dialogs from Brian Buffini: “I am new to the business, and I have a lot of energy. I’m enthusiastic, and I have time available for you. If we encounter a problem that I don’t know the answer to, I’m one phone call away from people in my office who have hundreds of years of experience. And I will get you the answers that you need.” – Rob Schaid, RE/MAX Plaza, McHenry

Work FSBOsAs a newbie REALTOR® entering the market in the fall of 2006, I was very proactive. I would drive around looking for For Sale By Owner signs. I had already written a letter of introduction and would knock on their doors. If they were home I would introduce myself and my company; if they were not home I would leave the letter of introduction and my business card requesting they call me. It was scary but had success with my first try! - Pam Devendorf, Prudential Rubloff Properties, Northbrook

Develop your mailing list
Establishing a “qualified mailing list” was VERY important. I would mail out information at least nine times per year and include valuable information on the LOCAL real estate market. If you are a REALTOR® stick with what you know and are an expert on. Homeowners do not want another recipe; leave that to the cookbooks. - Pam Devendorf

Believe in yourself and prospect with self-discipline
One of my many mentors Don White told me at the very start of my career to always remember I am the expert. He told me to tell myself those words until I believed them. He told me no matter how smart I perceived the client to be, they still needed me to guide them through the process. Don’s partner Lillie at the time taught me to make some form of prospecting a part of my daily routine. She taught me to try different kinds of prospecting until I found one or two forms of prospecting that brought me the most fulfillment. Those two little keys have unlocked many doors for me throughout my career! – Dale Taylor, RE/MAX All Properties, New Lenox

Don’t beg the question
One of my early challenges was when on a listing appointment prospects would sometimes ask me how long I’ve been in the business. Often that was a deal killer when I said “six months.” However, what I learned is that even though I was in my late 20s, people wouldn’t ask me that question unless I prompted it. Meaning, I usually said something about a prior job that led them to ask how long I had been in real estate. Don’t lead the clients to the information you don’t want exposed. - Jim Haisler , McHenry County Association of REALTORS®

Breakout Text: 
  • Education
  • Open Houses
  • Strategy
  • Rent-to-Buy
  • MLS
  • Marketing

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