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Make It Your Market/Users/adamp/Desktop/FEB images/Make-it-Your-Market

Explore a new niche, get a designation, build your database… there are tons of things you can do now to set your business up for success. Here are a few ways to make it your market.

So the real estate market may not be red hot as it was but business volume is up. Does that mean you should sit around and wait for the next red hot market? No way!

Look around you—the business is there for the taking. Buyers are closing on both new and existing homes, and sellers are knocking on your door, seeking help from professionals who know how to market homes in a way that gets them sold as quickly as possible for a fair price.

There’s also no time like the present to take a timeout to build a business plan, explore a new niche, rework your marketing approach and take some other proactive steps that set you up for success when the market picks back up. Here, six Florida real estate associates and brokers show you how you can start taking back the market and build your business today:

Get Into the Rental Market

The current market has created a real demand for rental housing, so I’ve started working with individuals who are qualified to buy but have chosen not to.

All real estate professionals run into people wanting to rent—usually through the properties we have listed for rent and for sale simultaneously —but the trick is to place the property both in the MLS and on sites like and I also keep in close touch with my database by coming up with creative ways to make an impact and by reaching out via regular e-mails, notes and phone calls.

I recently delivered a new Italian dessert cookbook to a client who owns an Italian restaurant, and a pair of candle lighters to another customer. And while the money generated by my efforts in the rental market doesn’t match what I make in commissions on sales, I have managed to make some pocket change for the referrals while at the same time cultivating relationships with these future buyers. I work hard to find them just the right rental property, put their lease expiration dates in my Microsoft Outlook calendar and keep in touch with them in the hopes that they’ll come back to me when they are ready to buy.

  —Brenda Cole, sales associate with Olde Town Brokers in Orlando 

Go Green!
I spent about two months this year fulfilling my goal to work on a green designation called Certified EcoBroker, which I took online. It was a great education, and I’ve had a blast meeting with green affiliates in several ancillary fields, including architects, remodelers, builders, pest control specialists, environmental home inspectors who specialize in indoor air–quality issues, mold inspectors and remediators, and a Feng Shui specialist who works with indoor air quality. I joined a grass-roots small business/green vendor group called the Conscientious Consumer Club, which I’m hoping will become a green networking group of business professionals and, subsequently, business leads for my real estate business.

Through the EcoBroker coursework I learned about energy efficient systems (such as passive energy collection; building orientation; building rating and inspection programs; and energy efficient windows and appliances). I can now help clients make smart decisions about the cost effectiveness of updates to their homes; educate them about green rebates, tax breaks and utility programs; and refer them to professionals who will ensure that homeowners receive the cost savings associated with the upgrades and changes.

To market my services in this area, I’ve created an introduction letter that includes language like ‘Future Home is proud to announce that Kenni has added value for her clients by earning this designation’ and blasted it out via e-mail to others in the company and my own database. I also sent out postcards with a similar message, and did a presentation on it for the Conscientious Consumer Club. While it hasn’t translated into any sales yet, I have expanded my contact database and am expecting good results in the near future from these efforts.

  —Kenni Freire, sales associate with Future Home Realty in Palm Harbor 

Explore Short Sales
There was a time when I didn’t have a single listing, despite my efforts to get out there and do presentations, attend meetings and beef up my marketing program. But when I started to see a foreclosures advertised in our local paper, I realized that I could deliver a service by educating myself on the fine points of short sales (via classes, and by asking people who are really into doing them, like a sales associate in my office) and how to work with lenders to facilitate them.

These sales occur when a property is sold, and when the lenders accept a discounted payoff (a $90,000 payoff on an unpaid loan balance of $110,000, for example, would constitute a short sale). One of my first short-sale customers was my hairdresser, who was ready to walk away from her house and kill her credit in the process. Knowing that a lot of distressed homeowners are like her, and aren’t working with real estate professionals to get through the process in the most painless manner possible, I was able to reach out and get listings, only a few of which weren’t short sales.

 —Sharon Bastin, sales associate with Century 21 Sunbelt in Cape Coral
Do Something Good for Your Community
When things started slowing down I launched a ‘Bring Back the Butterflies’ campaign and won the Emerald Award from Broward County for that awareness program, which focuses on restoring the number of butterflies in the county. The next thing I knew, I was leading an effort to get the city of Lighthouse Point certified by the National Wildlife Federation.

Now, I’m so busy meeting new people in my community that I don’t have any time to worry about whether business has slowed down or picked up. It’s a wonderful networking opportunity that has simultaneously helped make people aware of their precious environment. To date I’ve received indirect business and a lot of name recognition which I would not have had through any other means of advertising. Apart from that, combining my two passions (gardening/environmental preservation and real estate) and giving back to my community has made time spent on my business very positive.

—Erica Davey, sales associate with RE/MAX Partners in Lighthouse Point 

Create a Strong Biz Model
When many offices were hurting and closing their doors, I took advantage of these trends, and offered sales associates a strong business model that incorporates a generous commission split, a profit-sharing system of residuals and a free website that they can take with them should they decide to leave for another company. The latter is particularly important because sales associates are independent contractors, and need the flexibility to effectively market themselves. I’ve also created games and incentives to get sales associates excited about coming to work, and even gave away a cruise to the Bahamas to the sales associate who got the most listings in a specific month. The approach has worked. We opened our new office and have grew it from one sales associate to 63 sales associates at a time when others were leaving the business.

—Ralph Perrone, broker-owner of Perrone Realty in Merritt Island

Roll Up Your Sleeves!
Back in 1985 I was working from 9 to 5 in an office, taking work home over the weekends and still not getting any business. Interest rates were high and the market was down, but I was determined to pave a way for myself in the industry. So rather than letting the market (and the 12 months without a paycheck) get me down, I started putting 50 to 60 hours a week into learning everything I could about the Tampa Bay area apartment market. I called every complex with over 100 units in it, and started a database that including information about the owners, the number of residents, rental rates, how many bedrooms and bathrooms each unit had, vacancy levels and other pertinent points. I acted as if I were a potential tenant, all in the name of becoming an expert on that particular product. I parlayed that yearlong education into a successful commercial career, based on the fact that I could rattle off information like ‘Your complex has 150 units, and this other one has 350 units’ to owners and buyers. The same approach can be used in the residential field through the age-old process of farming, where you get to know a 10-block area by heart. Take time, like I did years ago, to get knowledgeable and to market yourself as ‘the’ expert in that particular product.

 —Cynthia Shelton, director of investment sales at Colliers International in Orlando  

Bridget McCrea is a Clearwater-based freelance writer.