Starting the Digital Real Estate Business from Scratch

If you are thinking about making a move in the Real Estate game you are not alone. Thousands of people are entering this lucrative business in search of fortune and a quick return on the investment. But don’t be fooled this path is not the easy one. Real estate market is notoriously difficult and fragmented. It consists of the various niche markets, each dominated by the big players who determined to keep it this way. In every city or county, big or small, there is a brokerage or a couple of real estate agencies which ultimately control the whole inventory.

Striving in this tight market requires persistence, flexibility, and endurance. Fortunately, the rise of the digital market for the real estate is completely changing the game with thousands of new players who utilize advances in the modern technologies to take their business to the entirely new level. More than 90% of prospective buyers are searching for the property on the internet. Modern customers no longer rely on the agent for the information about market prices or specific features of the neighborhood. They overwhelmingly use the internet to aid their research. This creates a fertile ground for the internet-savvy newcomers to carve out their niche in the market. If you ambitious and want to jump into the high-stakes game, read out a comprehensive guide to start your digital real estate business.

Understand the profession

First and foremost you need to gain the understanding of the real estate craft. Despite that digital revolution is quickly changing the rules, the essence of the professions and key skill set remain the same. The real Estate agent is a universal specialist that have to navigate in sales marketing and, obviously, customer service. Successful agents are self-starters who can operate by themselves as well as in the group. The backbone of the real estate is communication. The successful real estate agent is an effective communicator and writer. Those qualities enable the agent to establish communication with sellers and buyers and maintain this connection by addressing common concerns. The industry requires excellent people skills: empathy, ability to connect, find common ground, read the room. Real estate deals are sophisticated and emotional transactions that would always require a human presence. You cannot replace those aspects of real estate with technology, so examine yourself if you possess the necessary traits.   

Understand the field

Research the specific sector and niche you are planning to enter. Commercial properties are an entirely different market than residential properties. Agents that work in finding an apartment for buyers are different than those who search property for renters. Narrow down your scope and pick the sector where you can be the most effective.  The most successful companies are very highly specialized. Decide what your target audience is. Is it singles, families or elderlies? This way you can target your audience and serve this group better. If you decide to concentrate on families, you can focus on finding family houses and spacious condos and advertise your business accordingly. You also should thoroughly research the region and the area where you operate. If you work in Chicago, research the market, inspect the inventory of available property, look into the prices for an apartment for rent in Chicago.

Consider a second job

Most of the brokers and real estate agents are working on a commission from every successfully closed deal. This arrangement can be especially changing for the newcomers, who still need to get up to speed. Recruiting enough clients so that your business can live on commission might take a year or two. Your company needs to build a reputation and a loyal base of clients. The more important factor is that you need to build an intricate web of connection, referrals, and recommendation that would deliver new clients. Those efforts require time and persistence. In the meantime, you need funds to sustain yourself and your business venture. To do that you need to consider additional sources of revenue. The prudent thing would be getting a second job in the field of real estate. In such a way, you can grow your expertise and establish connections in the real estate world. Jobs like foreclosure specialist, home inspector or mortgage consultant can become a great asset for the future development of your business.  It will allow you to acquire various skills and a taste for the profession. If you already have the sufficient expertise in those sectors your business can be focused on providing consulting services, like a home inspection.  

Get license and education

One of the main prerequisites for entering the real estate is the real estate license. To obtain the license, you need to pass the exam that would include knowledge of ethics, regulations, consumer protection, and anti-discrimination laws. The content of the exam and requirements for licensing vary in different states. Before diving into the new business carefully research your local rules and regulation regarding the real estate license. Some states might require special training and classes. The training can last up to eight weeks, but most programs can be completed within a week. The overall cost of training and licensing should not exceed 1000$.

Join the broker firm

You want to run your own business and be your boss. However, setting up the real estate business requires significant investment, and certainly profound knowledge and expertise in the field. If you lack one of those things, you should consider joining a credible brokerage. Brokerage is an organization that provides the necessary infrastructure and support to real estate agents. Brokerages have their established brand and existing base of contacts that can promote the upstart agent. Certain brokerages also have the system of mentorship and provide on the job training and guidance. This is very important for the fresh real estate agents since brokerage provide the set of tools and vast experience for the agent to grow. There are a lot of practical things aspiring agent need to master: closing deals, managing the paperwork, etc. An experienced agent from brokerage can teach you how to handle the clients and find customers.

Create a budget plan

Starting a Real Estate business is impossible without proper financial planning. You should keep in mind that your business will need 1-2 years to get profitable, so you need to budget for this period. You need to carefully control your expenses and set up a monthly allowance to keep your spendings in check. Allocate money on marketing, digital communication, transportation, and various other expenses. If you are starting a business in your garage, it is important to separate private expenses from your business expenses. At a certain point, you business venture might start draining your saving if you go overboard with spending. Establish how much are you willing to spend on this business endeavor and don’t go over this amount. It is a good idea to start out modest and work from home for a couple of months before renting office space.

Develop your marketing strategy

Real Estate is all about expanding your outreach. Your business will not grow if you don’t have an extensive network of contacts and vast online and media presence. To get there, you need to develop a comprehensive marketing strategy. It should lay out your plan on how to promote your brand and grow your business. There are various forms of advertising, including paid media coverage, TV commercials, exterior banners, etc. However, those traditional forms of outreach are losing to the new PR techniques. If you want to get ahead in the real estate game, you need to invest in the digital heavily. Nowadays, most of the prospective buyers and renters are looking for their next property online. Your webpage is the first point of contact for your prospective customers.

SEO and PPC

Googling is the main way people find their real estate agent. Therefore, you need to be on the top of the google search for your business to remain viable. For that, you need to learn the basics of search engine optimization (SEO). There are a couple of cost-effective methods that can significantly increase your website position in the search. SEO can be exercise with a zero or minimal budget and still be effective. Another pivotal marketing strategy for any digital enterprise is pay-per-click advertising (PPC). It is one of the most effective methods of reaching the target audience. It is not as cheap as the SEO methods. The advertiser is paying the publisher when the ad is clicked. This way you don’t overspend for banners on the website and pay only for the attracted customers.

Nevertheless, PPC is a very sophisticated marketing technique, and you should approach it without solid basic knowledge. You choose how to target your particular customers. Advertisers usually bid on specific keywords that are relevant to the target audience. If you lack the understanding of PPC, you can end up spending your entire budget without a sensible result. Targeting is a craft; you may attract thousands of clicks which would generate zero deals. If you have sufficient funds, you should hire a consultant or a contractor that would set up PPC targeting. The key to the process is controlling the sales funnel. You should not only trace how much traffic your banners attract but track how much of this traffic transferred into contact and sale. Quality of the leads outweighs the quantity. Keep that in mind.

SMM

SMM is another critical factor in establishing the web presence. Your business needs to be represented on all the major social networks: Instagram, Facebook, Linkedin. Think about different creative approaches to present your business. Users are interested in the regular original content, not in the reiteration of your marketing slogans. One of the proven methods of growing a loyal following is starting your blog. It can be filled with any information useful for your target audience. In the case of the Real Estate, it can be market overviews, useful tips for apartment hunting, etc. Share all the content you create via social media profiles. This tactic is a long-shot, your traffic will increase slowly, but it is the only way to build a digital base for your business. Along the way, you can experiment with the creative ways of presenting your business. You can initiate discussion, create polls and discussions on your social media pages. Engagement is everything. A user will scroll through your content and look away. You want the user to get intrigued, surprised or pleased and stay with you for the ride.

Informal Marketing

Despite all the advance in the property technologies you shouldn’t forget about the traditional means of advertising and promoting your business. That is networking and mingling. The real estate agent is a publicly significant figure in many neighborhoods. Be visible not only on the web but in the community as well. Attend different business conferences, brunches, etc. Those are great places to get to know the industry and the business community. Try to meet as many people in the industry as you can, hand out business cards, establish collaborations. You shouldn’t perceive everybody who works in real estate as your adversaries. Some of them might help you with the leads, or give a good piece of advice. Therefore hand out business cards and be friendly.

Be active in the community where you handle your business. Attend public discussions, town halls, board meetings. If your business is perceived as socially-oriented, it will be much more attractive to the general public. Additionally, some of the decisions that are decided on those town halls may affect your business. Zoning laws, tenant policies and many other regulations are legislated on the local level. By having a voice in the town halls, you are protecting your business.

Establish  your brand

Everything depends on the first impression, especially in Real Estate. The client usually does not seriously compare and contrast different brokerages and pick the agent based on the first impression. The way you present yourself is the main thing for your career and business. Think about the image you present to others. The successful agent project confidence, credibility, and esteem. Those qualities comfort clients and assure that they made a right choice. Therefore treasure your brand. You definitely should be creative, but don’t be too goofy in your social media campaigns. Be thoughtful about the content of your blog, focus on your key expertise.

Design of your website is a fundamental part of your brand. Spent some time and money on your logo and the visual interface. It is your digital face and the main selling platform. You don’t want to be cheap here.

Author: Eddy

Eddy is the editorial columnist in Business Fundas, and oversees partner relationships. He posts articles by others on various topics related to strategy, marketing, supply chain, technology management, social media, e-business, finance, economics and operations management. The articles posted are copyrighted under a Creative Commons unported license 4.0. To contact him, please direct your emails to editor.webposts@gmail.com