Real Estate Target Marketing With a Data-Driven Strategy

Meet Heather McDonough Domi and Henry Hershkowitz  of the McDonough-Hershkowitz team of CORE Real Estate in New York, New York, which is ranked No. 106 teams by transaction volume on the 2018 REAL Trends The Thousand. The team uses data-driven marketing to target likely buyers and sellers. With it they get the advantage of reaching buyers and sellers when they are most likely to buy and list giving them a huge competitive advantage.

Below we share how Heather and Henry got their start in real estate, what sets their team apart and how they are creating and using their own data to better serve themselves and their clients.

To hear the full interview, listen to the audio above.

Tracey Velt

Heather, how you got into the real estate business?

Heather McDonough Domi

I was out of college, graduate school, and working in the nonprofit fundraising business, and really enjoying that and having great success and ultimately it’s a sales position. You’re raising money for a great cause.

At one point, I had one of my financial advisors recommend maybe a different path and he recommended real estate. I said to him, “No way, I’m not going into real estate. That’s not for me.”

He said, “Hold on, hold on.” He said, “I could really see you working in new development selling high end residential for a developer. Think about it.” I said, “Okay.”

I signed up for my real estate license, took the course, and got into it slowly.

It took me a little while and then after about another year or so, things started to pick up and I was able to get onto a new development project in south Florida. It was a super exciting time in which the market, people were camping out for days actually at that point to buy properties

Henry Hershkowitz

I wasn’t a real estate broker until later in life, but I kind of feel like I had the bug as a child. I remember my parents thinking about selling their house and looking at some properties and we saw a beautiful old house in an incredible neighborhood on top of a mountain and I said, “You have to buy this.” Unfortunately, they didn’t listen to me and buy it, but I feel like that’s where my love of it started.

I was an attorney. I went to law school at NYU and I was an attorney for a couple years. It wasn’t for me. I ended up getting into the film exhibition and restaurant business opening up a movie theater or two movie theaters and a restaurant.

I also at the time was fixing up properties in New York that I was living in, and then ended up flipping a couple houses upstate. I have 12 year old twins. When they were born, I took time off to really think had about what I wanted to do.

I ended up finding the right people to talk to and going to work at Corcoran Sunshine, which is where I met Heather, thank goodness, my work wife.

I did new development there, so I did a lot of the things I had been doing, branding and marketing, and then as I was doing it, I saw these salespeople, but I didn’t really know I had the ability to be a salesperson. I knew I could do the marketing and the branding, and then one day… they needed somebody. This was a tough job. They needed somebody to go to Italy to sell multi-million dollar properties.

I’m going to speak for myself, but I think for Heather too on that, we look at ourselves as a team and what we stand for, because we have looked at ourselves together and say, “What’s important to us?”

Henry explains why it’s important both he and Heather have different personalities and skill-sets, it makes them realize what they have in common and what they instill in every member of their team. 

“…We pride ourselves on honesty and straightforwardness. One thing I always remember as a child is my parents taught me always tell the truth because you’ll never forget what you said.”

That’s enough. Just tell the truth, whether it’s good or bad. Even though it could mean a commission for us, it doesn’t mean a relationship for the future.

I’ll see somebody fall in love at first sight at an apartment, but if I can tell it’s not for them or they’re going to move in a couple years as their family grows, I would discuss with them what makes the most sense. Maybe it makes sense to rent for a year and buy in a year depending on the market or what they’re looking for. I do think having the hallmark of honesty, with a capital ”H,” like Heather and like Henry, is really what we stand for and what is the key to our success.

We look at things in a different perspective than a lot of other real estate brokers do. Because of our deep background in marketing, especially new development and working for developers. When we take on listings especially, we really look at something from a lifestyle point of view, the photography. We handle the marketing and our materials is so far superior than so many other brokers because we’ve been trained to do it from the crème de la crème.

Obviously the big trend in real estate right now is data-driven marketing, and I know you both have built a business around using data to help buyers and sellers. Heather, Tell me a little bit about your business philosophy.

I am very meticulous and detailed oriented and I’m not somebody that really will just take an auto-generated report and spit it back out to a client. When you look at those reports, sure, you can get some information, but just knowing basically a lot of our data in Manhattan is not cleaned and scrubbed as well as it should be. That’s one point in which I do a deeper dive.

Our team and the way that we operate is that when we do do comp reports for our sellers, we will make sure we look up every single transaction to make sure that all of the elements in the comps are correct and we find many inconsistencies over and over again.

Yeah, and so that’s really important because if a closed sale price isn’t correct, you’re just not working off of the right data, and then you also have listings where people play games and they change the unit numbers and it might look like it was only on the market for 60 months, but if you dig a little deeper, it was a different thing and a different number and it was on the market for 180 days before. There’s little, little things like that in the data that you just have to look closely for.

Then, there is again, data that you cannot get from anywhere online, and that’s the data that you get by picking up the phone and reaching out to your peers. I always pick up the phone and start making calls and that’s really where I find my most valuable information.

Whether you’re working with a buyer or a seller, there is no exact science in price. You cannot say absolutely that this property is worth X, and especially in Manhattan, we have issues where properties aren’t always measured the same, there are square footage variances between properties, so there’s often unfair value assessments because of that.

Those are the little things, the nuances that in the business that I believe is what sets us apart is that we strive to get all of these answers so that we can give our clients the absolutely most educated perspective.

Recently, I know we were competing for a listing and it seemed like it was going to go to another broker, and then once they got our comparative data set, they said, “Well, wait a second,” and they had lots of questions and we were able to answer it and they said, “Okay, we’re ready to sign with you.” I think that’s our approach to data, and I think that there’s a human element to it that you have to really roll up your sleeves and get involved.

Henry, what do you feel like, since you have a different skillset, what do you feel like is key to your success?

We look at ourselves as a team and what we stand for, because we have looked at ourselves together and say, “What’s important to us?”

Henry explains why it’s important both he and Heather have different personalities and skill-sets, it makes them realize what they have in common and what they instill in every member of their team. 

“…We pride ourselves on honesty and straightforwardness. One thing I always remember as a child is my parents taught me always tell the truth because you’ll never forget what you said.”

That’s enough. Just tell the truth, whether it’s good or bad. Even though it could mean a commission for us, it doesn’t mean a relationship for the future.

I’ll see somebody fall in love at first sight at an apartment, but if I can tell it’s not for them or they’re going to move in a couple years as their family grows, I would discuss with them what makes the most sense. Maybe it makes sense to rent for a year and buy in a year depending on the market or what they’re looking for. I do think having the hallmark of honesty, with a capital ”H,” like Heather and like Henry, is really what we stand for and what is the key to our success.

We look at things in a different perspective than a lot of other real estate brokers do. Because of our deep background in marketing, especially new development and working for developers. When we take on listings especially, we really look at something from a lifestyle point of view, the photography. We handle the marketing and our materials is so far superior than so many other brokers because we’ve been trained to do it from the crème de la crème.

 

What do you feel like is your top lesson learned? 

There was one fellow from Florida, kind of a mentor to me at the time and told me there’s two things you need to do.

  • One is connect with people.  Have them understand you understand them and you don’t have to have a lot in common. You don’t have to be their best friends, although sometimes, and often that happens. But to connect in some way, shape, or form.

Henry explains the second lesson is to embrace not knowing all the answers.

  • I’ve always taught everyone on our team when they start to embrace not knowing the answer because if you start, and today people have their phones, but when I started I had a pad and paper and if someone had a question, I would write it down, and if I had a list of five or six questions, even better because that gave me a perfect excuse to one, learn the answers to those questions, and two, follow-up with the buyer or prospective buyer and hopefully continue the relationship and get a sale out of it.

One is just to always listen to my instincts. Time and again, I think you go through life and there’s times where you listen to them and there’s times where you don’t. It’s proven to me in the times where I’ve listened to them, I’ve been right, and then generally when I’ve been wrong, I didn’t follow my instincts. You just have to really trust yourself and know. Basically, if you’re going to put your client’s interests ahead of your own, you’re essentially never going to go wrong. That’s always been one of my mottos, and when I don’t have the answer, that’s generally my go to.

Also,  If you don’t know the answer to something, it’s not going to help you to pretend that you know it. It’s better just to be humble and go out and find the answer.

Then, I also have to say that  it’s about relationships in this business. It’s relationships with your clients, but not only your clients. I think the one thing that a lot of people miss is the relationships with our peers. Just having really good valid relationships with our peers in the industry across company lines really goes a long way. It makes a difference when I want to pick up the phone and find information out on a sale. It makes a difference when I am doing a deal. It always helps, and if you’re also willing to help someone else, then they’re going to be willing to help you.

Lastly,  when I looked at the business over the years, it was after September 11th, and I had great years of success when the market was booming and moved to New York. I moved to New York at a time when the market was going down in Miami and New York was still doing well, and then two years later, 9/11 happened.

It really was a matter of how to insulate yourself from the market fluctuations and that you have to approach it like business. If you approach it like a business and try and figure out how to be able to have income through the highs and the lows of the business, then you’re going to be able to sustain a lifetime career in this business.

 

What do you recommend real estate professionals do to adjust their businesses to flow with the current trends or just to stay relevant?

It is so important. There’s so much change and it’s only going to continue. Real estate is actually the one industry that has yet to truly be disrupted. I think because of that and the technology that is upon us, I think you have to constantly be learning. You need to constantly educate yourself, making sure that you’re keeping pace with the market, being well-read, like I said before, connecting with your peers, sharing with others.

It’s a matter of staying ahead of the curve.  We’re not the young guns anymore… there’s a new generation of brokers and they grew up on technology and they learned different than we did in the classroom and school. We didn’t have email when I was in college.  You have to stay current with the trends, current with the technology, or you will just get swallowed by this next generation that’s coming and you won’t stay relevant.

You have to be able to really pivot, go with the flow.

Listen To The Full Audio Interview

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After earning her bachelor’s degree in journalism at the University of Central Florida, Tracey set out in the real world at Florida Realtors in 1994 as a communication assistant, working her way up to editor in chief of Florida Realtor magazine. In 2004, she left the association to start her freelance writing and editing business. One of her first clients was REAL Trends, and she started working for the organization in 2005. In 2014, Tracey was promoted to editor in chief of publications for REAL Trends. She handles the writing and editing of all REAL Trends publications and marketing materials, including LORE Magazine, the REAL Trends newsletter and the blog. She is also the primary podcast interviewer where she conducts interviews with top real estate industry leaders and affiliated industry leaders. Tracey is married with two children.

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