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New demographic niches offer promise to sales associates. /Users/adamp/Desktop/SolutionsGuide08/images/niches

Looking for hot new ways to market using the Web? Here are some great options!

In today’s market, being a real estate specialist can pay off. By focusing on a particular demographic market niche, you can build your knowledge, help buyers and sellers more effectively and establish yourself as an expert with your own personal “brand.”

As real estate analyst Lewis Goodkin, president, Goodkin Consulting, Miami, says, “Serving a market niche helps you increase referrals—the No. 1 source of prospects for real estate professionals.”

Here are seven promising niche markets, along with some basic tips for success.
1. Singles. This is one of the nation’s fastest-growing market segments at all age levels, from young first-time buyers looking for a financial investment to divorced parents and elderly singles.
A recent National Association of Realtors® (NAR) study found that single women now buy 22 percent of all homes, while single men are 9 percent of buyers. “Most singles, especially women, are looking for a secure, maintenance-free lifestyle,” says LaShawn Norden, a sales associate with Watson Realty’s Longwood office. “They want to spend their free time on recreational activities.”

For singles under 30, that might mean buying a town home or condo near restaurants, clubs and social venues. Those 30 to 50 often want the space and privacy of a single-family home, Norden says, “as long as it’s not a fixer-upper.”

2. Baby Boomers. Now in their late 40s, 50s and early 60s, baby boomers are particularly active in the move-up, downsizing and pre-retirement markets.
“This market is particularly important in Florida, which leads the nation in second-home demand,” Goodkin says. While some affluent boomers are seeking luxury homes with all the amenities, Goodkin adds that the real depth of this demand is for new and resale product in the $150,000 to $300,000 range.

3. Investors. Today’s Florida market offers plenty of opportunities for those who understand income-producing properties and know how to work with investors. Andrea Leslie, development sales director of The Keyes Co./Realtors® in Miami, says it’s important to be able to calculate net operating income, cash-on-cash returns and other financial factors. “Sellers are offering all kinds of incentives, so it’s an optimal time for investors to come back into the market,” she says.

4. International. In 2005, international buyers purchased $41 billion in U.S. residential properties, according to a recent NAR study. 
Buyers from Europe, Canada, Latin American and the Pacific Rim are active in the Florida market, according to Charles Dinsmore, broker-associate with RE/MAX Partners in Fort Lauderdale, who recently became a Certified International Properties Specialist (CIPS).

Many overseas buyers are seeking second homes, while others are looking to move capital out of their native countries or make long-term investments. “You need to understand the different cultures and be able to explain how U.S. real estate works,” he says. “When you factor in the exchange rates, our state can offer tremendous bargains for many international buyers.”

5. Seniors. Don’t lump all seniors into one category, warns Karen Ashley, sales associate with Watson Realty in Jacksonville. “The needs and desires of one generation can be completely different from another,” she says. That’s particularly true for members of the “GI generation,” born prior to 1930, who may be looking at assisted-living or age-restricted communities as well as traditional single-family homes. Her advice: Take your time, talk to other family members who may be helping out and offer support if the move involves a major lifestyle change. 

6. Students. A new wave of young homebuyers is entering the market. A study by International Demographics found that there were 6.2 million adults ages 18 to 35 with household incomes over $100,000 in 87 major metropolitan areas.
In Florida, those potential buyers include many college students and recent graduates just starting their careers (although their incomes might be lower than $100,000). Helping them get their first home has paid off for Nancy Pardo, a sales associate at The Keyes Co./Realtors® Boca Raton office. “Because so many of these graduates are getting out of school with substantial debts, you have to be able to help them improve their credit history before applying for a mortgage,” she says. “Sometimes it takes several months to guide them through the process until they are ready to buy.”

7. New Communities. Many savvy buyers appreciate working with real estate professionals who can help them take advantage of builder incentives and special financing opportunities in Florida’s new subdivisions and multifamily communities.
At the same time, new-home developers and builders are looking for skilled real estate professionals to help move their unsold units, says Goodkin. 

“Most new-community developers have generous co-op broker programs today,” he says. “You should know these communities like the back of your hand, and include information about these opportunities on your Web site.”