Tech innovations and artificial intelligence are rendering countless professions obsolete, but a career as a realtor isn’t one of them – at least not yet.
The industry is changing fast, though, with developments such as online paperwork, automated home searches, virtual tours and social media marketing. Increasingly, job security in the field will depend on the actions that realtors take to stand out.
The human element – filling a role that computers can’t – makes all the difference.
Two young agents with ReMax Hallmark’s Ottawa office are showing the industry how it’s done, despite the market downturn. According to the brand’s powers-that-be, they are the future of the industry, “killing it” in their businesses, delivering exceptional service, earning multiple sales awards, and standing above the crowd.
Here are their stories:
You’d think that being Jenniffer with two ‘f’s’ might be more than enough of a distinction. (Laughing, she reveals that she’s asked her mother, “What were you thinking?”)
Alvarenga, 36, pro-actively manages the confusion around the spelling of her first name and carries on with her quest for excellence. This is an agent who – when she wanted to take a course to learn how to negotiate better – went to Harvard Law School to do so.
“I’ve invested in myself so I’m better for my clients.”
Alvarenga and her husband Leo head up the brokerage’s newly re-branded GoodStory team, a lifestyle concept with some interesting twists. Their broker, Steve Tabrizi, says clients appreciate the team’s outside-the-box approach.
For starters, Alvarenga’s focus – while not necessarily about price point – is on quality, specifically architecturally unique homes.
Second, “we don’t cut our commissions,” notes Alvarenga. In fact, they go the other direction, offering higher commission packages for clients wanting additional services.
“We don’t think one size fits all,” says Alvarenga. “I believe a lot of people still long for great customer service and are willing to pay more if the value is there.”
As well, Alvarenga doesn’t settle for the basic walk-through scenario. Instead, the team puts on a show, creating a short movie experience/virtual tour around their listings, right down to using a professional crew, storyboard, copywriters, music, and actors to tell the home’s story.
“We use MLS as a stage,” explains Alvarenga. “We’re all about the story, and great outcomes, and the journey. I want people to connect with the houses emotionally, to see what it would be like to live there.”
She maintains that having a storyline results in her team’s videos being viewed much more than those of her competitors.
“Quality is important to me. We provide a bespoke experience. We have booklets for showings that are like magazines. We use professional architectural photographers who, in unique marketing situations, sometimes charge over $3,000 per shot. We’re not worried about investing in the listing because the outcome puts clients ahead.”
Agents need to understand that “there’s room for different approaches in our industry,” Alvarenga counsels. “They shouldn’t always go down in offering to meet clients’ expectations. There are many consumers out there who want more from us, who value what we do,” and are willing to make the investment to get premium service.
Like Alvarenga, Matt Richling believes it’s time to raise expectations. ‘You are leading an industry that’s in desperate need of change! Keep up the great work, man,’ reads one of his testimonials from a colleague.
Be quick to adapt, Richling advises. “Systemize where you can. We are movers in the industry. We’re trying new things.”
Richling, known locally as the founder of Ottawa’s largest charitable clothing drive, has his fingers in many philanthropic pies and encourages other agents to follow suit.
At 37, he’s usually the youngest in the room while fulfilling his many leadership roles within the organized real estate community, as well as with operations such as Inman News, for which he’s been a brand ambassador.
But he insists that realtors of all ages shape the future of the industry, not just the young.
Richling had what most people would consider a thriving career before he welcomed twin girls to the family several years ago. But at that point, “a light went off” that he was wasting his potential. He began building a team – New Purveyors – integrating new technology, creating “impactful systems,” and extending his reach beyond just condos (“my bread-and-butter for years”).
Eventually, he stepped out of production altogether to focus on mentorship, resources, and “providing everything for my agents, which is key.”
As Richling puts it, “I made a switch from the consumer as my client to the agents. Now for me, it’s about the mentoring, coaching, and growth of the company … giving the team the platform to excel.”
That, along with getting their own retail space, “allowed us to raise every level of operations” and service, Richling continues, right down to the agents’ Herman Miller chairs, designed to unlock peak performance.
The sales reps can now “focus on what’s important,” says Richling, as in-house administrative, marketing, and ‘concierge’ staff assist with everything from branding, paperwork, and listing preparations to collecting receipts and collating them for agent taxes.
“We’re big on mental health. We try to provide the best systems and supports, which makes us different,” he says.
“We really stress balance and taking time away from real estate. I believe the future is teams of all sizes. You need that support within this business to do this job, especially if you have kids and a family. Mental health burnout can be the death of the self-employed.”
Susan Doran is a Toronto-based freelance writer who has been contributing to REM since its very first issue.