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Opinion: Agents and developers can make a powerful pair

The last three years have taught us quite a bit about the unpredictability and impressionability of the market. They have also shone a light on the critical attributes needed by today’s real estate agents and property developers to survive and succeed.

While most understand the potential for profitability and capital growth that transpires when the right agent collaborates with the right developer, we don’t often discuss the commonalities that exist between them from a hard- and soft-skill perspective. They have more in common than you may have anticipated.

For instance, both need to operate with an understanding of the market, its history, the current comps, and its potential. Both worlds also call for an instinct that can’t necessarily be taught, one that positions them as a subject matter expert who is willing to pursue calculated risks while simultaneously placing customer interests at the forefront.

Get it right and you’ll be looked to as a superhero. Get it wrong and suddenly you could quickly become public enemy number one. Not many have the stomach for it and those who do, understand that it is not always for the faint of heart.

Real estate collaboration

I first met met Kurt Potter, Broker at RE/MAX Right Choice at a UConn football game. After a few plays and a shared enthusiasm for the home team, we quickly recognized opportunity for collaboration, one that could broaden networks, benefit clientele, and yield significant economic benefits to the community.

Our relationship is rooted in a shared passion for helping customers cultivate new chapters, but it has grown because we both operate with the intensity and instinct needed to take the gambles, go big even when others are advising against it, and more often than not, betting on our own expertise.

Those common denominators have resulted in several projects between us, the most recent being The Offices at Addison Square, an office condominium complex.

Our teams embarked upon this journey at the start of the pandemic. Onlookers warned us that this wasn’t the optimal time to develop and promote a new office setting. Despite the odds, the project waged forward. Today, the units are selling strongly, the second building is underway, and it seems that our appetite for calculated risk taking and erring on the side of optimism have paid off.

While our experience is undeniably unique given the market variables at the time, we attribute our success to characteristics and skills that we’ve both deemed critical to our careers, our investments, and ultimately, our success.

Market expertise is essential

It is not enough to simply understand the transactional sides to development or real estate. You must immerse yourself into the locations you serve and gather an understanding of elements such as:

  • Geography
  • Economy
  • History
  • Zoning
  • Potential

While projections are never 100% accurate, demonstrating to clients that you understand the factors that could impact their investment creates peace of mind and a trust that will likely yield future business. It also enables the team to make informed decisions, building their own books of business in locations that will likely hold potential for return.

Zest for relationship-building

My business mantra has always been, “The most important thing we build is relationships.” That is evident in TruNORTH’s strategy and our approach. By demonstrating a passion for understanding clients, their needs, and their ambitions, we’ve created credibility and a competitive advantage over our peers who often treat each client like a project.

People don’t want to be treated like a transaction. They see right through a cookie-cutter approach and often refuse to do business with professionals who prioritize profits over people. You can’t just love what you do, you have to have a passion for the individuals who are entrusting you with their business. Our business is extremely personal in nature, you have to pursue it that way.

Our consistent communication, taking the time to sit down and discuss benchmarks, and treating each endeavor as a collaboration are tactics that have enriched our networks and kept clients coming back.

Familiarity with trends and preferences

The Offices at Addison Square is a project that has lent itself well to the opportunity to pay tribute to the area’s rich farming history while also leveraging the design preferences of the here and now. A modern farmhouse aesthetic has created a perfect intersection between the past and present.

The team understood that certain elements would continue to prove timeless but certain decisions had to be based on qualitative data, property trends, and the anecdotes coming from design experts.

In sitting down with Kurt, he emphasized, “it’s easy to be blinded by your own preferences or what you’ve seen from folks in the field. You must maintain a holistic perspective. Talk to the designers in your network. Keep tabs on the trends. Stop when walking by the storefronts. You may not always understand the latest and greatest, but it’s important to maintain a pulse when talking potential for longevity and resale value.”

I agree. You have to build upon your own perspective. It is so easy to get lost in your own silo but sitting down with people who understand other components, have an expertise that you might not, and who are willing to share that with you, those moments and relationships are gold.

Flair for traditional and ‘outside of the box’ marketing

When the world went virtual, the most traditional of industry professionals had to embrace tools like Zoom and Google Ads. Most even found themselves using terms like ‘Reels’ and asking questions such as, “what exactly is a TikTok?” Nevertheless, those who have leaned in and embraced these unchartered territories have persevered.

While team at TruNORTH started to embrace social media and videos long before Covid-19 threw the world into upheaval, I’m convinced that the new-age marketing tactics are the driving force behind relevancy and visibility. In fact, since having embarked upon the digital journey, the business has experienced a 48% uptick in followers across Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn, a 783% increase in engagement, and a notable increase in sales.

We’ve branded ourselves through authentic storytelling. We’ve let our personalities shine through because people want to know who they are going to be working with. We’ve leveraged tools like Instagram to provide insider’s glimpses into properties we’re working on and platforms like LinkedIn to position ourselves as thought leaders.

Kurt agrees and even though he is a firm believer in the “fundamentals,” he recognizes the value in stepping outside of your comfort zone.

“I wasn’t necessarily jumping up and down about blogging or capturing video footage of properties, but I knew I had to jump on the bandwagon or get left behind. I’m not saying to leave the traditional approaches in the rearview mirror, but I am saying that if you aren’t optimizing those lead generation tools, maximizing that Zillow membership or personifying your brand, today’s clients will leave you for those who do all of the above effectively and consistently.”

It’s no secret that marketing has taken on an entirely new form. While it may not always feel natural to provide that first person account or to upload that Story, pushing yourself to embrace these tools will undoubtedly help you to break through the noise, target audiences effectively, and strike that personal chord so many are looking for prior to signing on the dotted line.

When collaborating with partners like Kurt, one thing becomes certain, none of the above holds weight unless you are committed to going after it. No matter the years spent in the business, no matter how many challenging transactions you’ve worked on, or the size of the deals — if you don’t have the grit, it doesn’t’ matter.

This is a business that is notorious for its lack of predictability. It doesn’t always play kindly, and you can’t just “turn it off” at the end of a given day. You have to pay your dues. You have to take the hits and get up again. You can’t just rely on your reputation or your industry knowledge. You have to live, eat, sleep, and breathe this stuff. You have to love it.

Kurt always says that “a relationship between a real estate broker/agent and a developer can generate so much potential for both parties. It can be incredibly lucrative to know about properties long before they’re set to list. It can also benefit a developer to work with someone who has a network that will prove relevant to their bottom lines.”

Neither of us has any intention of slowing down any time soon. If we offer one piece of advice to aspiring agents, brokers, developers, contractors, etc. it would be to enter every engagement with a sense of surety. That aforementioned instinct, it is only as powerful in your confidence within yourself. If you do the work, take the time, and greet each day with curiosity and intention, you’ll get out what you put in – even during times of uncertainty.

Jeff Sawyer is co-owner of TruNORTH Construction in South Windsor, Connecticut.

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