Agents who do not focus on specialization will not survive.
In fact, agents who operate as generalists are the most vulnerable to being replaced – whether by technology, or more likely, another agent who has developed a specialty niche in the market for themselves.
Often agents let their businesses be guided solely on wherever and whenever the next opportunity comes from. As a result, many end up operating as real estate generalists, understanding a broad knowledge of the industry, its markets, clientele and property types. While this model worked in years past, it simply does not hold up in today’s market due to the changes in technology and home buying processes.
Tech-savvy buyers and sellers are conducting their own research and have information at their fingertips. With this change, in order to justify a commission, agents need to provide an added value to the home buying or selling experience.
This is where specialization becomes invaluable for agents. By becoming designated market experts within a specified client base and property type, agents can provide a depth of knowledge that makes them truly irreplaceable. While many say technology has the power to replace agents, this only applies to those who attempt to be everything to everyone. If an agent transforms from a generalist to a specialist, technology becomes a tool and not a replacement to the industry.
Specialization means to target, pursue and entrench into a niche market. For agents, this can come in the form of:
- Becoming a neighbourhood guide
- Owning a segment within a specific geographic market and becoming your clients’ go-to local resource
- Becoming a property expert
- Focusing on buying and selling specific property types such as ranches, cottages or ski homes.
- Owning a specific network of people
Cater your business to a niche target audience and become their real estate expert, who understands their lifestyle, needs and preferences
Choosing the right specialization:
Consumers value a specialist who holds a strong skill level and expertise within a certain niche. According to our research, here are the top four factors that homebuyers and sellers say impact their agent selection, in order:
- Local expertise
- Years of experience
- Recommendations and referrals
- Brokerage reputation
Because local expertise is the top reason consumers choose an agent, a geographic specialty is the best place for most agents to start. Agents should choose an area with which they are knowledgeable and experienced. At the beginning of an agent’s career, it will be important to invest in hyper-local marketing within their selected market in order to build awareness for their personal brand as a local expert.
Promoting your specialization:
Agents should always seek new ways to grow their network. Make a point to attend relevant events, for example, a city planning meeting or local festival if your specialty is within that neighbourhood.
Similarly, build mutually beneficial connections within your specialty through partnering with other local businesses that service the same target audience.
Agents should also align themselves with a brokerage that supports and speaks to their chosen specialty. For example, if an agent’s specialty is professional athletes or CEOs, he/she should align with a luxury brokerage.
Becoming an influencer:
Engel & Völkers’ study of millennial HENRYs (High Earners Not Rich Yet) found the next generation of wealth is highly active on social media and increasingly looking to influencers when considering a buying decision. In fact, the most widely followed group of influencers, surprisingly, is not celebrities, but topic experts – personal trainers, makeup artists, nutritionists and yes, real estate agents. The goal for agents when choosing and owning a specialty is to leverage the brand and expertise they’ve cultivated as the basis to become a “topic expert” influencer.
Agents can demonstrate expertise within their chosen niche in an authentic and entertaining way, while also building credibility.
For example, an agent who specializes in equestrian properties might use Instagram to post photos of themselves at a polo match. Whatever the specialty, it’s important to be authentic. Social media is an effective way to show clients that you also “walk the walk.”
As technology becomes more sophisticated, an agent’s specialization becomes their unique value proposition and most important differentiator. Carving out and owning a niche specialty is one of the most powerful ways to create a distinct agent brand.
Anthony Hitt is president and CEO, Engel & Völkers Americas.