There was a guy, and he had a DREAM! Meet Raj Qsar; Founder, Visionary and ‘Chief Dreamer’ at The Boutique Real Estate Group in Orange County AND NOW also in their brand new swanky office in Corona Del Mar, LITERALLY 1 block from the gorgeous beach!
I had the fabulous good fortune to be able to go on site for our CTM joined by TBREG team members Jeremy Lehman (Chief Technology Officer and on the Board of Directors for California Association of Realtors) and newest addition Aaron Woodman (Los Angeles Operations Manager) all the way from Chicago, who gave me the ‘Boutiquified Experience‘ and chauffeured me in style with chilled Champagne and Godiva chocolate! (Thanks again Aaron!)
Raj is a differentiator. He stands out and that was the plan. The Boutique Real Estate Group tell AMAZING visual stories with high end, stunningly gorgeous videos and by asking (and answering) the all important question ‘Who wants to live in this home?’
(Raj referenced a particular story where the home revolved around a baby grand piano and the song “The Summer Wind”. Check it out HERE)
Raj Can’t do it alone. He made it clear on the journey to achieving all of his dreams, he needed to establish a great team where each member has their strength and support each other. He’s heavily invested in marketing because as he believes, his clients deserve it!
“Our business is client driven. We are doing what we do here not because we want to be a video production company, and not because we want to be an ad agency or marketing company. We’re doing it because it gives our clients the best chance for success. Done.”
~ Raj Qsar
We also talk briefly about friend Mark Fitzpatrick and his super high end marketing agency RUHM for those VERY SPECIAL unique properties that require even more. (A-MAZING mini movies, websites, print, social, analytics & PR so you’ll want to check out FOR SURE!)
There’s a reason for every choice. Every detail… every touch point…every consideration has been made when you experience The Boutique Real Estate Group and that extends from the moment you engage whether online or off, in their swanky new diggs, and throughout the real estate process, and everyone works hard to set the bar high and ensure the client has an extraordinary experience!
The market has spoken, and we say ‘Boutiquify us!’ #tbreg
Narrator: You’re listening to Conversations that Matter with your host, Teri Conrad.
Teri: Hi, everyone! I’m Teri Conrad and we have a very special Conversations that Matter live from the Boutique Real Estate here in Corona Del Mar, California. The new sexy digs are Raj Qsar’s dream vision for The Boutique Real Estate Group. We’re joined by Jeremy Lehman, his mobile expert and also new – newest team member Aaron Woodman all the way from Chicago. I’m in the sexiest digs that I’ve been in in a really good long time. I’m so excited to be here. Thank you so much for the invitation.
Raj: Yeah, of course.
Teri: There’s some pretty amazing guys who have a lot of expertise and we’re going to get into marketing, vision, video – you can’t see Jared but he’s on the other side of this camera and we’re like – sexy set-up. Teri and her little iPhone video was not going to cut it so here we are. Let’s dig in.
Raj: Get Jerod!
Teri: Yeah, we need to get Jared on this. I’ve got four screens. I might be watching football games. If you guys get boring, that might be what I do.
Teri: Where do we begin? Let’s start at the beginning. Raj started off with a little office, him and his assistant in Orange County and you had a dream. It’s exploding. Why don’t we start there? How did you get to this point where we are right now?
Raj: I don’t think any of us could have written this story. We could never have written how Jeremy and I met. We could never have written how Aaron and I met. There’s no way that we could have written how we met, right? I don’t even leave Orange County, let alone know people from Canada. I had to get a passport just to go visit you a couple months ago.
Teri: I appreciate that, thank you!
Raj: For sure! I just, I mean our paths I don’t think are controlled by us. We just have all met just perfectly I think. The timing of all of this and when people come into your lives, I think is not controlled by us.
Teri: Love it! Love it! Big universe, big vision!
Raj: Yeah, so I got my license way back when, way back when. I got my license because I knew the agent who sold my house, I knew there had to be a better way.
Teri: What did the – let’s start there. What did the agent do that you figured you could have done better?
Raj: The agent did nothing. I did everything. I, a non-licensed person in a completely different industry, held my own open house. I put the signs up for him. I printed from my own printer the flyers that went in the box. This pre-social, pre-everything, I did it all because at that time, I was in corporate America doing sales and marketing. I was taking what I knew from there in that industry and trying to apply it to this industry.
Teri: I mean clearly you understand marketing in a way that many just don’t. You have a natural handle. Okay, let’s just look around this room and just the experience of being in this really lush environment and the experience that you want to create. That’s felt throughout all of your marketing, every touch point. I just looked at all of your glossy brochures and the beautiful photography and the video. I mean anybody who’s followed you at all knows that you’re known for your beautiful video marketing. We’ve talked about this a little bit, but this is a big investment. You just don’t start a brokerage and start doing sexy marketing and agents flood in the door, clients lying in your laps. That just doesn’t just happen.
There was a path that you created. Let’s start with where did you start? How did you get to the next step? What were the challenges along the way?
Raj: Yeah, I mean it started with me just wanting to do things exactly different than anyone else in my local market. I competed against five very seasoned, experienced ladies who’d been in business longer than I had been alive. All of them had an amazing track record of success, all of them, just really great. I’m excited that I’ve transactions with all of them now. I wanted to do everything exactly different from them because when I met them in real life, they didn’t look like who they were on their cards or their flyers. Their picture on their card or their flyer looked like —
Teri: All the stock photos.
Raj: Right! I just knew I wanted to —
Aaron: It looked like 20 years ago.
Raj: Yeah, like 20 years ago. When I designed my first side, obviously I tried to do it myself and I’m horrible at that. I knew what I wanted it to look like. I just simply started looking for people who did graphic design. The first sign I created was different than everything else out there. It was just my name.com, but a brokerage logo about this tiny in the bottom left corner. That was it. I knew I wanted I wanted to be different so we did reflective paint on that sign. When cars go by, it lit up. I mean that was tech back then. Reflective paint was it. Do you know what I mean? We got noticed quickly just because of our signs. Then we had custom made iron little posts made for the signs which automatically set me apart from the regular white posts in the ground. My signs were black with white and that was really different than everything else out there too.
Teri: Not just different though. Let’s get clear. It’s not just different. Its high-end – design is very important to you.
Raj: Yeah, it starts with design. It starts with – well, now we talk about taking everyone online and how do you get that online? They connected online with your listing or whatever it is, how do you get them offline and here in person? That’s the big thing and I think once we started getting calls from buyers that said hey, I want to see your listing. I knew it was yours, I didn’t even look at the listing agent because I knew from the one profile photo on the MLS, or on Redfin, or Zillow, or Trulia, that it was your listing.
Teri: There’s a consistent experience.
Raj: There’s an absolute consistency because I’m walking through a home and I’m looking for the story. I’m looking for that one photo that’s going to be the face of that listing across every portal imaginable. I mean that’s what makes me excited about that.
Teri: I’m sorry to interrupt. There’s a lot of talk right now about story. We all talk about story. We all talk about experience. They’re almost like authenticity, genuine. These words have become used so much that I feel like that we getting a little desensitized. When you talk about recognizing that story, what is it that you’re trying to do with that?
Raj: There’s different stories. When I talk about story, I talk about the story of what are you listing, or a home will look like online, on the different social profiles. That’s a story in itself because that listing looked different on Twitter as opposed to Facebook. Completely different. When I’m talking about the story, who wants to live in this home? What’s special about this home? Why did the people who live there, why did they buy the home? Why did they fall in love with it? What was their favorite memory about that home? For example, that listing we had – a luxury listing in Villa Park where I walked in the home for the first time and there was a baby grand piano in the dining room. I knew that the whole story of that home revolved around that baby grand piano.
Instead of asking about beds and bath and square foot, the lot size, I was tell me about the piano. Why? This is an elderly lady and she lived here by herself. Why does she have a piano in the home? She loved playing the piano. She loved her husband who played the piano. I said well what’s your favorite song that he played? I mean that’s the connection that you get to make with people as opposed to asking about well what size is the frig? Who was the contractor on your back yard? A lot of that is super important, but the story was that her husband loved playing the song called Summer Wind for her on that piano.
Raj: Super! Immediately I knew, I started hearing that song in my head. I called Jared and I’m like we’ve got to find someone who can play the Summer Wind and the whole story will revolve around this piano and the home.
Teri: I know exactly what video you’re talking about because I’ve watched it many times. Now you’ve got video, you’ve got a set of actors setting in – you’ve story-boarded the whole thing. Most people know that you really do go to that nth degree to create that experience and that story. Now you’ve created this experience and you’re growing. Its grass roots and you’ve invested a lot and then you’re getting bigger. I know you’ve said I have a dream. That’s just – I’m just a guy who had a dream. God bless you!
Jeremy: He has a dream!
Teri: He still has a dream.
Raj: I’m still dreaming.
Teri: Let’s take it from there. We’ve graduated. We know that you can tell beautiful visual stories and that clearly, your market has spoken and said we love this. We want to do more. Next phase. Suddenly we’re opening a new office. What’s the vision? Where’s it going?
Raj: I think that’s great! I think the vision is I know I can’t do it all by myself. I need help. I need to –where I am weak, I need strength. We’re bringing people into the mix who have unique strengths. Sitting across from me, Jeremy. I told you guys earlier before we started rolling that in my mind and in my opinion, there’s not another person that I know of who’s living and breathing, walking the walk, talking the talk, who’s got a very busy family life – you love this right – very busy family life with four kids and a beautiful wife. A wife that works, but he can be toes-in in the sand one block down at Big Corona State Beach and securing the contract A to Z. Then drop it into our transaction and share it with everyone that it needs to be shared with.
Teri: Jeremy, how important is being a mobile friendly agent today?
Jeremy: It’s incredibly important! It’s not just for me, it’s not just for our team, and it’s for any agent. As agents, we’re everywhere. We’re all over the place. This morning I’m at an inspection and now we’ve got to deal with responding to requests for repairs and things like that. I’m coming here. I’m not going to a desk to sit down. Being able to respond quickly matters in 2014 and beyond. I think most people get that and the problem we have in this industry is that our tools have been tough to use, tough to figure out, tough to get that workflow. There’s some great stuff coming out that we’ve been using for a little while, but it’s incredibly important!
I use a certain analogy. As agents, as a deal, have you ever held up a transaction before because you’re out with your family and you didn’t want to leave dinner or whatever. I think every agent can say yes. Now technology exists where we can handle that in a few minutes and get back to what we’re doing. Beyond that, what’s really tough about not being mobile is the stress of knowing that you’ve got people waiting on you and people – escrows waiting for you to get these things signed and you’re just sitting on it because you’re out doing something that you committed to do.
With mobile technology, you don’t have to do that. It’s a game changer and I think a lot of agents are realizing that now.
Teri: Do you find that – oh sorry.
Raj: I was going to say what I love that Jeremy said before – he said this on stage at a few difference conferences, but we’re invading people’s lives when we’re listing their home. I mean literally. I mean when our staging truck pulls up, that is – people’s mouths drop. Then Jared and the crew show up to video and that’s a whole other —
Teri: I was just like okay guys, this is just supposed to be a little conversation.
Raj: The thing is we don’t want to be signing papers on the trunk of someone’s car at 9 o’clock at night when they’ve got kids and the family and they’ve been at work all day. You’ve got the light from your phone flashing on the kid and you’re – that doesn’t work.
Jeremy: That’s not good for anybody.
Teri: I agree!
Raj: It’s not good for the agent. It’s not good for your seller, your clients or whoever that may be. We don’t want to invade them any more than we have to. The ability to e-sign just makes life so much easier. To do it from your phone, your iPad or whatever – I think it’s an experience that until they do it, they won’t understand how easy it is.
Teri: I completely agree and I think there’s a lot of tech resistance for people who haven’t really played with tech much in the first place, especially when we’re talking litigious with drafts. They’re like what’s that.
Raj: My first deal was triplicates. Triplicates – are you kidding me?
Jeremy: I’m lucky that I never had to deal with that.
Jeremy: It’s interesting. When the agents look at technology, and brokers as well, I get the feedback all the time, I much prefer to do business belly-to-belly with my clients. So do we! We take our listings on-site. It’s not like we say oh just email me your info and I’ll set it up.
Teri: You don’t ever actually have to meet your client face-to-face.
Raj: Yeah, right!
Jeremy: I’ll tell you that our clients many times, if you give them the option, if you take the listing and now you’ve got to do all these disclosures, hey I can come over this afternoon and we can do all these disclosures together or I can email them to you and you can sign them electronically, which do you prefer? Well, 95 to 100 percent of the time, they’re choosing the just email, oh you can email them to me? You don’t have to come to my house? Sure, email them instead. I’ll take that.
Raj: Yeah, this one we took the other day, the daughters are managing it for the mom. The mom is 90 plus, doesn’t have email and the daughters created an email account for the mom so they could sign and help her sign and leave everything up to her. The daughter lives in Arizona – one daughter lives in Arizona, one lives in Southern California.
Teri: I think that’s a big point. I think the world – Aaron and I were just talking about this coming over – the world is just getting smaller and smaller every – the global market has just suddenly become a local market. We talked about this in our ad in Vancouver and how you need to be handle those international transactions, estate matters – it happens all the time nowadays. Here’s an interesting question. I mean you’ve got Aaron who’s come in from Chicago. Attracting the right agent, how important – I mean we talk about this in my market all the time. There’s a resistance to becoming that, especially if you’re closer to retirement, I think there’s a whole separate conversation there, but how important is it to you that your agents come – what are the requirements? What do you expect when you’re hiring a new agent?
Raj: Everything! Most agents that interview with us probably interview with other brokers. By the time they get to us, they’re you guys sound different than every single person I just interviewed with.
Teri: How would you be sounding different?
Raj: Because it seems that – we were recently written up in an article that said we were a tech start-up company that happens to absolutely love real estate.
Teri: That’s kind of sexy.
Raj: Most people started in real estate and try to incorporate tech. We started with tech and we just happened to sell real estate.
Jeremy: And marketing!
Raj: And marketing because we —
Jeremy: Really I mean we’re more of a marketing company than anything. We utilize technology to enhance our service.
Teri: I certainly – that is my experience. I certainly look to you for marketing inspiration and how to make things just feel better, look sexier and juicy and be more sharable in the social space. Now you’ve set that bar high and so if someone comes and shows up and they’re Raj, I think you’re doing some pretty cool shit. I want to join.
Aaron: From my standpoint, it was – since I’d been in the industry, I’ve gone and I’ve spoken with so many different brokerage companies, they are doing it differently.
Teri: How so?
Aaron: It starts from the moment that you walk in the door or even before you walk in the door. The responsiveness of both Jeremy and Raj, the contact, the personal relationship – not to brag, but even how I picked you up today. The experience that you’ve had —
Teri: Okay, so there was champagne and chocolate and water just to wash it all down. Yeah, that was not a bad way to be transported.
Aaron: That starts the experience.
Teri: Yes, it did!
Aaron: That sets the expectation for our agents too, what we expect out of them when they come on board. We expect that extra mile of service not only for friends, but also for clients and for people that are coming into the business.
Teri: Right, so that expectation is set. Then I land at the office and it matches that expectation. It’s just as beautiful and sexy as I knew that it would be. Actually, it’s even better because it’s just even bigger, more spacious and there’s so much going on here, every detail, every detail which is true to every experience I’ve ever had with you of course. Industry-wide, how important is this? Let’s go a little bit bigger. Let’s dig in. We’ve talked about – being different is nice, it’s lovely, but this isn’t – you don’t just flip a switch and suddenly have this great business. You had your dream, but then you created something. It wasn’t, I guessing, very easy. I’m guessing you had some challenges along the way. Maybe take us a little bit through – let’s start here. Why is it worth it to you to invest so much in this business?
Raj: Our business is client focused. It’s client driven. We’re doing what we do here, not because we want to be a video production company and not because we want to be an ad agency, or a marketing company, we’re doing this because it gives our clients the best chance of success. I mean, done!
Jeremy: That’s the key statement to this whole thing. Everything you see here, it all goes back to the culture we create, the tools that we have, and the personnel that we’re developing and having in-house – it’s all about making sure that that client has the best chance for success. We’re going to match you up with a great agent, we’re going to make sure those agents are trained. We care about the client. Many brokerages, not to mention any specific ones, but I think we can all look around and see properties that are maybe under-listed, not hitting their potential. Ultimately it’s a broker’s responsibility. I don’t see many times a broker shaming their agent saying five photos on the MLS, what were you thinking? That home would be beautiful if you’d just stage it, you could probably get the seller another 20, $30,000 out of the property. Brokers rarely will hold their agents accountable.
I can think of two brokerages here in Orange County that are very meticulous about that. We do care. If you didn’t use firm for your listing, you’re going to get a call from Raj almost immediately to tell you hey, we’ve got to unwind this thing. We’re not doing, we’re not upholding our statement here. There hasn’t really been an issue with us because we’re vetting these agents before they come into the process. It all comes down, everything we do comes down to the seller and the client and the buyer having that great experience and getting either the best deal or the most for their home.
Teri: Right! I completely agree with that, but it’s so many people are so reluctant to invest and I think there’s – maybe it’s just a shift in thinking of this isn’t real estate, this is business and having that bigger vision. We wouldn’t expect corporate America to not invest in advertising and marketing. We expect things to be sexy, look good and be attractive and that’s how we differentiate, but in real estate, we’ve gotten away with the iPhone photos, dark stodgy, and toilet seat up pictures. Now do you think that part of differentiating today is that we really do have to competitively take it up a notch and say we want to stand out amongst all the other things, especially in today’s technology? Really, the bar has been set higher.
Raj: Yeah, I think the difference today is everything can be seen within a few clicks. You can’t hide anything anymore.
Jeremy: That’s true. Everything’s transparent.
Raj: It’s so out there. You have one horrible listing with a set of horrible photos, everyone knows about it. The difference is if you do it right, people see our photos socially and online before they see them on the MLS. MLS people, don’t get mad at me, but —
Jeremy: Look at them, not me!
Raj: People see our stuff socially and they recognize it. It’s stamped Boutique. They recognize it and the quality and the inspiration is blown into the photo like the main shot. It’s ah, they actually took their time with this photo. I think that’s so important because somebody will see our listing. At church this morning, we had an email that went out and four people, boom, talk to me, very cool, that’s amazing on an open house that we’re having today. Everything’s there. If they don’t see it socially, they’ll probably get an email. If they don’t see it on an email, they’ll probably see it in print or they’ll pull the brochure. They saw our sign somewhere. Everything’s so transparent.
Jeremy: I’ll add, I think everybody in our group just probably couldn’t live with themselves if we know we didn’t do the right thing, if we didn’t do as much as we could to represent that property. Not only is it a great way to be, but it’s just a natural way for us to go where we just – we want the best for our clients. We spend our own money. Raj just spent 800 bucks to have a house painted before it went on the market. We always spend our own money on our listings and yes, it’s more expensive. We were talking about this before, it’s a more expensive way to list homes, but we just know this is the right thing to do for this listing. This is going to be the difference maker. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have spent 800 buck to paint the inside of the house.
Teri: Maybe that’s why I’m here. To be fair, I love your market, it’s fabulous, but if you were a douche, I wouldn’t have shown up. Let’s talk about the culture and who you attract. Who you are – you mentioned church a minute ago. I know family and faith is really important to you. Those are those values that I love to dig in a little bit. You also, I know that for a fact. Aaron, I have no idea.
Teri: Maybe you’re a total douche, no I’m kidding! No, I know Chad very well and I know all of these people that I’m connected with are awesome – this is why I’m attracted – really good people, strong values, and strong vision. Michael Thorne just did a video and I’m mentioning Michael Thorne because Michael always mention Raj Qsar in every Mobile Agent TV. Michael Thorne just did a video where he – I was in a bind and he was out power washing his client’s front – there was a reason, I can’t quite remember what it was. The point is this is called service to us. I know you’re very much that way. What is it – I think I’m trying to break through this conversation which is there is a lot of rhetoric about full services. There’s a lot of rhetoric about differentiation and taking it to the next level and all these things, but then you cut away all that noise and nonsense, there are real people doing real business, investing in real ways because you actually care.
It’s not just rhetoric. It’s not just noise. I believe that that’s something that you’re trying to do and maybe that’s the magic that’s been created here. Let’s sit down in front of a client and we’re doing a listing presentation. You’re this is going to cost a little bit of money. We’re going to bring in full staging. What’s that proposition and how’s that look?
Raj: Wow! That’s a big one. Are we ready to put that out on the web?
Raj: I mean it’s about – everyone’s online. That’s not breaking news. Everyone’s online. If you can’t make the connection online, you’re not going to get them in the house. Regardless of price point, your photography needs to look amazing. Before you take amazing photography, the house has to be ready for the market. There’s things that need to happen for that home to be ready for the market. A listing budget is always great for a seller to help us out with. That’s always great. If the house needs to be painted, I mean sometimes we’ll do it ourselves like Jeremy just mentioned.
Jeremy: We don’t want to do it. It’s not something we want to spend money on.
Raj: We painted the whole inside of the house.
Teri: Not you personally.
Raj: No, not me personally.
Jeremy: We’ve all painted something at some point.
Raj: We painted the whole inside of the house. We hired a plumber because the master bedroom sinks were not hooked up. We hired a HVAC guy because the AC wasn’t working. We also sent our landscaper over to make the home – just give it some curb appeal. That’s not part of print, marketing, social media, nothing.
Jeremy: It’s on top of.
Aaron: The expectation, even for our clients, we’ve set the bar at such a high level, that before they even meet us and we sit down on our listing presentation, they already know about us before we’re going in. Its common fact that 95 percent of the time, they’ve searched and looked at us online. They see what it is before we go. Then when we get there, then we tell the story of what needs to be done. People are oh, this is what it’s going to take for me to get from A to Z to get my house sold. Yeah, this is what it’s going to take. We’ve already built a reputation that we know what we’re talking about that people jump on board and they want us to do it. We talked earlier. We don’t physically have a line of agents that want to come in, but there’s a line of people that want to be a part of it.
To use an over-used word, secret sauce. It really is about the expectations that we set all the way across.
Teri: That’s the larger brand conversation that you know I love to have.
Aaron: It’s specific to the listing like he was talking about. Painting, this is something that has to happen. This is what has to happen. No one wants to have a listing that’s on the market for 120 days. We don’t want another agency to pick up one of our expired’s because we put everything we possibly can into making this house right even before you even see it online, on social or wherever it is. We’ve done everything there to that point.
Jeremy: I think it’s just that whatever it takes mentality.
Aaron: That’s legal!
Jeremy: I think if you look around our team, you’ll see agents that want to make the transaction close for the seller. We get calls from agents all the time and the conversation always goes back to what should the outcome be. Well, gosh, I really want my seller to close this escrow. Well, what’s it going to take? I think there’s a lot of agents that do that, but I think from the get-go, from the time we take the listing, we know what’s in our mind that needs to be done, and that’s going to be right for this property. I just think you do whatever it takes. Most of the time it’s just staging and photos and a little TLC. I bring cleaning crews into properties to clean them up and make them shine, little things like that.
Teri: That’s huge. I mean that’s huge because most people aren’t – let’s be honest, most agents are doing – well in my market anyway, most agents are taking the listing, doing maybe professional photography. They’re starting to get to that place, not all, but some. Video is really more of the virtual tour experience. I think people are starting to warm up to the idea that we need to do a little bit more, but they’re still looking at each other and going well, what are you doing? I don’t know, what are you doing? Maybe we aren’t in any hurry to do anything vastly different just yet. The competition margin is pretty tight and this is why this is so stand-out.
Raj: That’s why people don’t like us because of video. They don’t like us because of staging. We physically, I mean for me before Jared and the crew is there, it’s Kathy and staging. It’s literally —
Teri: When you say staging, what do you mean exactly?
Raj: It could be anything. We do have a smallish warehouse full of stuff that our agents can use on listings when available. We’re getting really busy now so if we have 50, 60 listings at a time, the inventory is really low. We do have that for our agents to use when available. We can invest it in that.
Jeremy: It’s so important that we have Kathy, who’s an insanely good stager and she can walk into a house that’s a mess. You should just see some of our before and after’s. You see our photos in our flyers and on the web, those properties most of the time, 80, and 90 percent of the time do not look like that. I’ve only had one listing that I just took the photographer in and took photos. Jared did video of it. Everything else, Kathy has to touch to make it look good.
Teri: Now that conversation must be easier to have though because they’ve experienced you and they’ve seen all your listings so they understand – basically I’m saying, are they asking hey come make my house look better?
Jeremy: Yeah, I want that experience.
Aaron: Most of the time they’re not saying that, they’re saying – it starts with I want to get my house sold. I want the highest amount of money for my house.
Teri: How much is it going to cost me?
Aaron: That’s a conversation that we have.
Raj: It’s going to cost you way less with us than it would with any other person that you hire.
Teri: Okay, and how?
Raj: And how? Because we’ve invested that we have someone on staff with us. She’s on staff, physically on staff. How many brokerages that you know that – you can go all over the world – that have a stager on staff. She doesn’t stage anyone else’s listings. She’s just ours and it’s a free consultation for her to come anywhere, to any listing and walk the house with our sellers and our agent. It’s 100 percent free. We have ideas, so this couch is not in the right place. The Feng Shui is off. It needs to be more in tune —
Jeremy: There’s too many pieces of furniture in the room. That’s a very normal —
Raj: The home that people live in is not the home that we are selling.
Teri: Agreed! Yeah!
Raj: That home is not ready. It’s not “boutiquified” yet first of all and it’s not ready for the market.
Teri: Trademarked “boutiquified”.
Raj: It’s not ready for the market. It doesn’t look like the flyer over there when we step into the home. It does not look like that.
Jeremy: Kathy can go in and she can take the home that people are living in and say we need to move some of your stuff. I bring boxes. When I’m with Kathy, I bring a few boxes and say here you go. They start taking their stuff down so Kathy has room to do her thing to it. It’s sort of generic, but it’s like the experience of walking through a model home where it’s generic and it looks good. It’s amazing sometimes the furnishings that the people have aren’t really – you’re thinking oh gosh, I think we need new couches. They’ve got this – oh no, no, no I’ve got this. It’s all about the accessories and the placement.
Jeremy: It’s amazing what a furry pillow will do for a couch. Want to try one?
Aaron: We’ve got furry pillows here.
Jeremy: That experience though really makes the property sell quicker, it looks better.
Teri: It’s a fact that these properties sell faster.
Raj: For a fact. Faster and for more money.
Jeremy: I think you can look through the promos and our stats –
Raj: That one that’s in your hand was listed by another broker four times in a year and a half. Not staged, no professional photos. The seller – they were so disgusted with our industry just as a whole. That’s where I connect with them. I’m so sorry you had to experience that. I am so sorry. Let us make it better for you and I’m we need two weeks to get your home ready. We don’t have two weeks, we’ve already moved into another house, we’re paying double mortgage, we don’t have two weeks. We flipped that home around in five days. We had multiple offers in the first 30 days and sold it for a $125,000 more than the last list price from the other brokerage.
Raj: $125,000 more than what it was listed for the previous time it expired.
Teri: How do you explain that? Aside from it looking fabulous, clearly, how do you explain that?
Raj: The sellers were happy about that listing. They were sharing our content. I give my clients five or six things they should be talking about online when we get a listing. We shot a video at that home. We did this cool 360 V-tour thing. It’s not a virtual tour. It’s not a photo slideshow, but in your hand, gyro-enabled. You can physically walk it home with a phone anyway, Skype, Zoom – it’s really cool. We did everything that we could do that we know how to do to give our clients the best chance of success. What happens there is people connect emotionally.
This is the best story ever right now. Listen the buyer’s agent walks in with the buyer into that home. It’s been listed four times and we’re listing it at $135,000 more than the last listing. We sold it for 125,000 more. She walks in and she goes, when I sell this, I’m going to buy this home, but when I sell it, I’m calling you. She’s saying that to me as I’m showing the home. Her agent is right there with her, right next to her. Why wouldn’t you use your agent? She’s like she doesn’t know how to do this. She can’t do this. This – and she’s showing the brochure. I saw it online. I Googled it, it’s everywhere.
Teri: This is it!
Raj: Another agent from another – a world-wide brokerage right there.
Teri: Talk about the magic as all this stuff that you can’t measure. Everything in-between, all the things that you can’t actually measure. Maybe you can actually measure some of it, but I’m not going to waste my time. I just know that it feels good and it looks good. She, that consumer, is having that same experience. That’s me. That girl is me. I’d walk in and be yes, I get it. You get it. I don’t know exactly what it is that you get, but I clearly get that you get it. I know, we can say that a few times. I’ll stop.
Raj: They walk in the front door and they’re oh, there’s booties. Who put booties on? No, literally, wait hold on.
Teri: Okay, let’s just shift gears for one second. We know you’re beautiful. We know that marketing is magic and that it matters and that it actually works. We aren’t just investing dollars and throwing them down the toilet. It actually leads to higher sales and that’s meaningful for you and for your clients. Okay, let’s just settle that right now. Now let’s shift gears a little bit. Can we talk industry a little bit? Can we talk about how you see –?
Teri: Quickly, let’s just – I just would love an overview. If each of you could chime in a little bit about where you see the industry today and where you see it going. What do you think matters? What do we need to improve? Any beefs you might have, I’d love to dig in a little.
Raj: Who wants to start?
Aaron: We always talk about the 80-20 rule. Everyone knows that 20 percent of all the deals are done by 80 percent of the agents. Now it’s going to be shifting where I really believe that ten percent, the top ten percent are going to be doing 90 percent.
Teri: Why? Why do you think that’s true?
Aaron: I look at companies like the Boutique and seeing what we’re doing, we’re a small group of agents, 25, 30 and the amount of things that we’re able to do with that small group. I had an office of 180 and we weren’t even doing the amount of business that a small group of people.
Teri: That’s interesting too. We talked about you wanting to expand and grow a small team because more heads are better than one and where you’re weak, someone else might be strong. The team aspect is really powerful, but at the same time, you get too big and you lose some of that intimacy and some of that personal attention. I think that’s important too. What about the – Game Changers, did anybody read Game Changers? REAL Trends just put that out. They talk specifically —
Jeremy: I have a copy of that, I haven’t seen it yet though.
Teri: Michael did a Mobile Agent TV show where he interviewed Steve, I can’t remember his last name, but he talked specifically —
Jeremy: Steve Murray.
Teri: Thank you.
Jeremy: He’s an incredible real estate mind by the way.
Teri: He’s pretty tapped in because he’s doing stuff like this where he’s talking to people who are leaders like you guys and what it is that you see is different, how the industry is changed and he talked specifically to that subject which is we are edging out the independent agent who’s trying for all he – poor little Peter, God bless him. He’s going to work really hard, but can’t possibly deliver this level of experience. How important do you think that is going to be going forward?
Aaron: It going to be massive.
Jeremy: Just to go back to what Aaron said, there’s a lot of evidence to show that 90-10 is already happening, or rather 10-90 for that matter. The whole reason why we’re teaming up and grouping up is because I’m not fantastic at marketing, but Raj has this great mind. Raj doesn’t know tech as well as I do. He knows tech, by the way. We team up and we do great. Aaron adds this whole new element that lifts us both up to a higher level. You’re seeing this already here in Orange County. You can name ten or eleven top teams and they dominate. When you look at the Beach City for instance, there’s just a handful of people that do a majority of that business already. Rob Hahn has said multiple times that the real estate team is the biggest threat to the brokerage because they’re essentially mini brokerages.
We started out as a team and now we’re a brokerage. When you look at that element, I just see this huge mass exodus of agents out of this business. People who can’t handle it, people who can’t compete with what we’re doing probably won’t be around five years from now. I do see a good chunk of agents leaving the business, not to the point where it’s 50 percent gone, but I do think a lot of these agents that are treading water right now and spending money trying to compete and can’t, are just gone. They’re going to go find something else they’re better at.
Aaron: Over 70 percent of agents out there, the million that are part of NAR make less than $60,000 a year.
Teri: That blows my mind. I know I don’t —
Jeremy: For some, 60,000 is a good income. Some may only need to make that, right? When I look at brokerages here in Orange County, you have this aging population and they just do the business that they’re doing and they don’t have to really do much. They’re semi-retired. Those guys will be gone, but for an agent that needs this —
Teri: Some agents do just fine, thank you very much because they have that.
Jeremy: Yeah, yeah, but for the agent that really needs to make a living, I think it might be tough for them to even make 60 grand in this business, to do that ten transactions or whatever it takes for them to get to that number. I think it’ll be tough a few years from now. You look at agents and the conversation with them is who do I need to team up with to start competing with these other guys. Five years from now if we go through another market cycle, some of these agents are just going to drop off through that – how that happens – they go find another job. I don’t think they come back in next time.
Teri: The structure of a team isn’t just something you just turn on and all of a sudden you’re operational and away you go. This is a business structure. How do you build that foundation and create a successful business because that’s what a team is, I think. It’s operating like a real business.
Raj: It’s the culture. Jeremy and not being able to show it to you because he’s got to be somewhere else and posting on our Facebook, hey can anyone help me. That person is not getting compensated to go show a listing for Jeremy. They’re just there to help out.
Teri: There’s ownership in buying in the team brand right out of the gate.
Raj: Right, right for sure! There’s nothing for that agent. They’re doing it because they want to help Jeremy and that’s how we are.
Jeremy: A selfish mentality won’t work in a group like ours. We’ve had some really great real estate agents interview with us and their talk was unfortunately, this agent, they’re all about themselves. Good for them! They just don’t fit our culture.
Teri: Do you think that’s industry? Does our industry do enough of a job in attracting people who understand what this job even is?
Raj: No because for so many years, it has been man-on-man. It’s been like a game of tennis, one vs. one. It hasn’t been this soccer, basketball or football concept where everyone is working for the same goal. I think it’s changing, but it’s going to be – it’s a tough battle. It’s not the fight. The guys and suits on the wall who’ve been doing it for a 100 years – it’s really tough to fight.
Jeremy: Where’s that wall with the guys in suits?
Raj: I’m not going to mention that. I’m not mentioning where, but I do know a lot of brokerages and there’s this old boys club.
Jeremy: Yeah, it’s an old boys club, old school mentality. The concept of culture and collaboration, you see it among tech start-ups. You look at your Googles and your Facebooks and these companies that everybody wants to go work for because they have tennis, Ping-Pong table and a gym in there and that sort of thing. Real estate is not really known for that.
Teri: Right, but wouldn’t it be fun if it were.
Raj: An example is here. I don’t have an office. Jeremy doesn’t have an office. Aaron doesn’t have an office here.
Teri: You don’t need one.
Jeremy: We wouldn’t use it.
Raj: There’s no closed door where we’re going to go hide behind. Its open collaboration and I think that’s so important. Any brokerage up and down this street here has got glass doors and —
Teri: We’re like that as human beings. We look to see how it’s always been done before and we model that and away we go. That’s the way that it’s always been done. How about systems? How important are systems?
Jeremy: Incredibly important.
Teri: What systems would you incorporate that you cannot live without?
Jeremy: Oh gosh!
Teri: You have to pick one, let’s say you have to pick one system to operate a successful team. What’s the one system you have to have in place?
Raj: You have to have a CRM 100 percent.
Teri: Aaron and I talked about this coming in, Aaron known for his meet 100 people a day and still belly-to-belly, very traditional.
Raj: The shoe box with the cards or whatever it is, yeah, yeah. That’s alright for the first ten million.
Jeremy: You have a shoebox full of cards?
Aaron: No, my business cards. I get boxes of business cards. I collect other people’s business cards, not in them, but —
Jeremy: Oh, okay. Love it!
Raj: There was no CRM when we started, there was no social.
Jeremy: It’s really tough when we’re talking about this a little bit. There’s nothing perfect right now and unfortunately we’re in a tech time where it’s really painful. I call this painful transition to mobile because if I were sitting at a computer all day, all the systems exist. You could sit at a computer and do everything, but because we’re mobile too and we want everything to talk to each other, there’s this painful transition we’re going through. We think it’s amazing. Is it perfect? Absolutely not!
Teri: It just done one – you have all these other things that you need to have done, transactional.
Jeremy: Yeah, we have contracts we have to create, edit and sign every day.
Aaron: I think that’s where we’re seeing in this industry in the next two or three years. We’re going to see all the products that we’re using right now and see the streamline of how they work together, whether it’s from our CRM to text follow-up to our forms.
Jeremy: MLS, forms, yeah, signature software.
Aaron: There’s going to be more relationships and integration between the platforms or collaboration or someone coming in and buying up these companies and putting them all underneath one thing. I think that’s what we’re going to be seeing in our industry.
Jeremy: It’s already being built.
Aaron: Behind the scenes right now, we have the conversations almost every single day about different technology. This is what we want to do. How do we get from Point A to Point B? Help us? What are you seeing out on the street?
Teri: That’s why I do these conversations frankly. I feel for the struggling agent who doesn’t have the support, who doesn’t have the option of joining a fabulous brokerage like this and they’re struggling.
Aaron: For 29 bucks a month, 29 bucks a month you can get a great CRM. We talked earlier, it’s about what you put into that.
Jeremy: There’s always that talk that the best CRM is the one you use. Then it’s very true. We want perfection at the same time, something that easy to use wherever we are. We’re still struggling with that. CRM is a foundation for any sales person in general and in reality, we’re salespeople and relationship makers. We’ve got to meet and talk to people on a regular basis to be able to develop that business. I was talking to my handyman this morning who was at this property giving us quotes on some stuff and he said gosh, you guys look like you’re doing really well. I’m yeah, but we spend most of our time trying to go out and get business. He was shocked by that because as a handyman right now, their phones are just ringing off the hook. He just hands out some cards and people call him.
I said yeah, we spend easily 80 percent of our time trying to track down new business and the 20 percent left over is servicing that business. He was shocked at that. That’s an age-old conundrum in real estate in general. CRM is that foundation that’s who am I supposed to call today, who did I call last week that I should be calling today. It’s important that every agent has that.
Raj: its heart breaking to go back and search pre-CRM to see people that you sold a house to that have now bought one, two, three homes without you.
Jeremy: Well how about that selling lead that you had that was on a sticky note on your desk, two months later you found it on a pile of paper? You Google it, MLS or whatever and look it up and it’s listed by another agent. That hurts so bad.
Teri: Isn’t that about 17 percent remember the agent that they used in their first transaction?
Jeremy: Which is terrible! I’m just as guilty as anybody else. We’re terrible at staying in touch in general. There’s a handful of us that are fantastic at it, but everybody else is bad and so the more systems we have that help us stay in line with what we’re supposed to be doing, even if you did it 50 percent of the time, it’s better than zero percent of the time.
Teri: I do think the poor struggling agent does – they’ve got so many hats that they’re wearing. They’re doing all their own marketing, all of their own transactions. They’re all in one.
Raj: We have so many ways to get in contact with people, but the simplest email, it could be a template. Just thinking of you.
Teri: Saying hi!
Raj: It’s been a while. How’s life? Let’s grab coffee. Done. That’s a foundation that a lot of people don’t get. When we tell agents, CRM and they look at you like huh? I send postcards out, is that what you mean? We what? What are you talking about?
Jeremy: What do you do when that person who got the postcard calls you?
Rah: Yeah, what happens?
Teri: Maybe we shouldn’t talk in so much jargon, maybe it’s just what are you doing with your relationships today?
Jeremy: Yeah, what have you done to get some new business? Do you know what I think? If you ask most agents at the end of the day, including myself, we look at what we’ve done and oops. One of the elements that we’ve been talking about behind the scenes is that accountability layer for our agents. We’re just like any other brokerage in many ways where our agents are our agents. They’re above most, but the reality is they’re still sales people and they still can get off track like anybody else or can focus on things they think will bring on business. We can look at it from the outside saying that’s not what you do to bring in new business. You just spent a day at your computer playing around and we can tell —
Teri: Okay so let’s bring it in. I think that this has been an amazing conversation. You guys are doing an amazing job. All three of you are going to be speaking at CAR, am I right?
Raj: And NAR!
Jeremy: I’m not at NAR, I’m sorry. I’ll be there. I’m not on the speaker list.
Teri: Oh, okay. What are you speaking about?
Raj: At CAR or NAR?
Teri: CAR, okay.
Raj: At CAR, we’re doing old-school, new-school.
Jeremy: Tech versus old-school in marketing.
Raj: This is so perfect because – I won’t say why, but it’s just perfect. Jeremy, I’m on the panel and then another agent’s on the panel. Aaron, what are you speaking about?
Aaron: Boomers, Gen-Large and X, what the difference is?
Teri: Or not?
Aaron: Or not, yeah.
Raj: Then Luxury Connect is coming up too in a couple weeks.
Teri: That one’s very interesting to me because as you know, Laura is a good friend of mine. This is one of her babies. I love what she’s doing for the marketing.
Raj: I’m so excited about it.
Teri: I am too, I’ll be very interested to hear what you’re experience is and where this is – the whole luxury market aspect – you were up in Vancouver when we were doing our convention and the luxury market is a very different animal. It’s very interesting to watch and see how it develops.
Raj: Yeah, she’s been able to pull some of the biggest names in the business to speak there, to be there – the godfathers and the queens.
Teri: Ariana Huffington will be there, I think. I think you have Gary Gold and I think you have Christophe Choo and I think also, oh what’s his name? Million Dollar Listing?
Raj: Yeah, Josh Altman and Mauricio Umansky. You have Joyce Rey. You have Laura Brady from Concierge Auctions.
Teri: Laura Brady, right!
Raj: Mark Fitzpatrick from RUHM.
Teri: Oh, we didn’t even talk about RUHM.
Raj: Raj Qsar from Boutique Listings.
Teri: He’s old news. Let’s talk about Mark for a second. RUHM is a friend of yours, Mark Fitzpatrick is a friend of yours. RUHM is another company doing luxury marketing that we think is fabulous. Let’s not go here too long, but just quickly, what is it about his company that you think is – it’s not a real estate company.
Raj: It’s not a brokerage.
Teri: It’s strictly a marketing company.
Raj: Not just real estate, they can market anything with a story. They’re received calls from people with thoroughbred horses that someone wants to sell their horse and you can tell a story on.
Jeremy: That’s amazing!
Raj: What’s amazing about what we’ve all said, you can’t do it on your own. You have a very special property and you know you’re going up against the people we just named for example. You need to tell a story and to compete against that, you’re able to bring a world-wide destination marketing company to assist you, the agent, to make the home look good, you look amazing as an agent. Regardless of what brokerage you’re with, you look amazing.
Teri: That is so – I think that the key and just the one thing that I have in my mind right now is the most recent video that I saw. It’s a small movie with the Owen Wilson-like and oh my gosh, so much fun. I think that – we can’t possibly go too deep on this right now, but just it isn’t just making a home look good. It’s a completely new level.
Aaron: What was the emotion that you felt?
Teri: You just nailed it. We’re talking about stimulating emotions. Immediately I was no way, that’s Owen Wilson telling the story. You’re sucked in instantly and you’re this is so much fun. It’s so entertaining. The little redhead with the pigtails and the little pan face and you’re are you kidding me. She was so funny and it was so good.
Jeremy: You understood the lifestyle of that neighborhood. It’s in a very unique neighborhood near —
Teri: The story and how it’s going to be to actually live there.
Aaron: How many people did you tell about that?
Teri: Everybody! Are you kidding?
Jeremy: Also how many slideshow movies have we seen where you click off and click to the second – I watched every second of that video multiple times. It’s a stellar video. The thing also about RUHM is RUHM is a true marketing company that’s come into real estate. We all, we market, we think we know marketing, nothing compared to what RUHM can do. I would hand over my stuff to RUHM if it’s affordable any day.
Teri: That is the conversation. The conversation really is that look, not every price.
Jeremy: It’s not for every listing.
Teri: We’re talking an expensive marketing package that you can’t – obviously is not practical for every price point.
Raj: I think homes that are five million bucks and up – that’s their market.
Jeremy: I don’t think you can list a line, that we can list a home in that range and not use RUHM. Just to say that, I think it’s almost mandatory in our brokerage that if you’re lucky enough to get one of those listings, RUHM is on call.
Raj: Yeah, what’s interesting about what they are doing is that they’re branding the home and not so much branding the brokerage. You’re able to brand a home and give it a story as opposed to the agent himself in telling his story or her story. The home —
Teri: Whoa! Time out! Brand the home! You just said that. People will be what?
Raj: The home has a logo, has an icon, and has an A to Z, a story. Instead of an agent or realtor – a lot of them can do really good at that price point, but now you have a full-time staff of 15 to 20 people who are educated in their field, who are PR’ing, pressing it, social, print, coding it, analytics and then there’s the analytics.
Teri: An agent can’t do that by himself?
Raj: An agent can do it on one or two or maybe three listings, but you’re a luxury agent and you’ve got 15, 20, or 30 listings. You’re doing showings. You’re at inspections. You’re filling out repair requests. I mean this is a team that’s doing it for you until it sells.
Jeremy: The thing about luxury homes, they don’t sell right away. These listings can be one to two years long sometimes. It’s probably – if you go down the Laguna, I bet there’s listings that have been on the market close to five years, some of them sticking around. With these unique homes, who can afford a 15 million dollar home? There’s a handful of people in the world that are willing to buy that home, so you need to keep it going. With what RUHM does to be on it all the time and really push it out, they do an incredible job.
Raj: Would you agree? You list a home on MLS. Anyone in the world can basically see it. The MLS is pushing it – if the agent or the brokerage isn’t doing it – to all the portals. It’s what you see when you see that home. These luxury homes —
Teri: It’s how it’s presented.
Raj: It’s how it’s presented. You may have a home here that’s 10 million, but next door is 18 million. This home has a subterranean garage of 15 cars. This one doesn’t. This had wood floors flown in from the South of France and chiseled together by a monk with no thumbs.
Raj: That’s the house I’m talking about – this homes 20 million and this one’s ten. There’s really not a comp that could really do it, so it’s eyeballs. It’s people seeing it. It’s connecting with the story and then oh the print. You touch it and you feel it.
Teri: Some things aren’t all about how much it costs. Some things are about how it makes me feel and it speaks to me.
Jeremy: When you get into extreme luxury properties, I mean it’s true, the value of something is what somebody’s willing to pay for it.
Teri: I agree.
Jeremy: You might market it at 15 or 16 million, you might have a buyer out there who’s willing pay 20 for that. You might have a buyer who’s willing to pay a maximum of nine. I don’t want to say its crap-shoot, but the big thing you have to do is get that home the proper exposure and the proper marketing that it deserves. Then bring in that highest bid and that’s the value of your property.
Raj: Most agents are running out of stuff to do by day 90. They don’t know what to do next.
Teri: I agree. I was one of those agents. I was struggling. I’ll be honest. I was a hard – that was a hard game. You’ve got a listing that’s been sitting there a while. I don’t know what else to do.
Raj: They listed one in Huntington Beach a little while ago for three million and just the story that was told that HGTV stopped by and all the mimicry they did on that, the English lady, the whole deal – they just closed that a couple days ago. It works. It really does.
Jeremy: Three million is a really high price point for Huntington Beach.
Teri: Well I think let’s wrap it here.
Raj: Let’s do it!
Teri: Thank you so much for having me in your beautiful and sexy – I’m going to maybe take a couple pillows. Can I have a free pillow? Beautiful surroundings, beautiful – I know I’m a ginormous fan. I just love what you’re doing and a lot of that is because of who you are as a person and you too and you, too. Thank you so much. I’m saying good-bye and thank you for joining us on Conversations that Matter. I think you’ll agree this one was a really good one.
Raj: Thank you!