In this month’s NAR Power Broker Roundtable, panelists from the Young Professionals Network discuss how they are conducting the business of real estate in today’s tech-savvy world—and what we can learn from them.
Moderator: Jeff Barnett, Special Liaison for Large Firm Relations, NAR
Participants: Tamara Suminski, Keller Williams Beach Cities Realty, Hermosa Beach, Calif.; Imran Poladi, Harcourts USA Realty, Aliso Viejo, Calif.; Sara Jacobson, Red Baron Real Estate, Boise Idaho; and Erin Mandel, @properties, Chicago, Ill.
Jeff Barnett: Over the past few years, as some of us have sprinted to keep up with the latest time-saving technologies, a new generation of real estate professionals is changing the future of the business. They are connecting with each other and with their clients in non-traditional ways, sometimes ditching brick and mortar altogether in favor of cyber-business. The bottom line is they are tapping into savvy new resources that are making them successful. We call them the Young Professionals Network, or YPN, practitioners and they are a force to be reckoned with. Launched by NAR’s REALTOR® Magazine in 2006, YPN was created to provide this new generation with a clearing house for their bold ideas and a stronger link to the rest of us. What are they doing that we should know about – and what are they learning from us? We’ve called on a panel of YPN pacesetters for what is sure to be a lively discussion. Tamara, you helped start the YPN network of the California Association of REALTORS®. Why don’t you get us started?
Tamara Suminski: Glad to, Jeff, because this is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. I’m a third generation REALTOR®, actually, so I grew up with a grounding in the industry. But believe it or not, my REALTOR® mother was texting even before I was—so it was a natural step for me to gravitate to social media as a primary way of doing business. It works for me, and I see it working for others, but I think what’s important for people to understand is that I look at Facebook and Twitter and other networking conduits for what they really are: a way to build relationships…and that’s what real estate has always been—and still is—all about.
Imran Poladi: Social media is the best way I’ve found to get myself out in front of people—especially like-minded people who use it to make contacts, exchange ideas, and take care of business. Every day, I try to put my personality and my experience out there with thought-provoking, credible content. I want people to see me online for who I am and what I know—including what I know about real estate. The fact is, people do business with people they like. They might call me out of the blue to ask a question. Sometimes they find me through a friend who follows me on Twitter. So it leads to business. But I’m not out there to fish for customers. I’m just myself, and customers find me.
Tamara Suminski: I get calls all the time from old high school classmates and friends of friends who might otherwise never have known where I am or what I do.
Erin Mandel: I’ve been in real estate for eight years, and I’ve always been tech savvy, so it was no stretch for me to embrace social media as the best way for me to connect with people. I owned my own company at one time—a pretty successful company—and I learned that the process works. Now I work for the largest independent broker in Chicago, but not in a brick and mortar office. I use a virtual assistant to confirm showings. My files and photos are in Dropbox. All my contracts, offers, signatures, and communications are handled by phone or online unless someone prefers it another way.
Jeff Barnett: So there’s a green aspect to all this as well.
Imram Poladi: Definitely. It keeps paperwork to a minimum. And it’s a timesaver. When I’m out with clients, we’re in the car and they’re sending out photos and crime statistics.
Sara Jacobson: My focus is in new construction, and I gravitated to social media early in my career. I taught myself all the apps and the fun stuff, and now probably 50 percent of my business is done by cell phone. But as Tamara said, it’s all about relationships. You have to interact with clients and agents in the way they prefer. I have no problem with the conventional methods if that’s what a contact wants.
Tamara Suminski: You can’t stereotype people, either. There are some traditional agents who look at social media as all flash and no substance—but more and more of them are embracing it. Seasoned agents contact YPN all the time, or seek us out at conferences and meetings, because they want to learn about and use the new media.
Sara Jacobson: There are REbar Camps going on all over the country, in fact, where real estate pros of all ages come together for the open sharing of ideas with no hidden agendas.
Jeff Barnett: So there’s no huge divide out there—no competition to see whose methods work best…
Erin Mandel: Not at all. This is just the way the business is going, and there is definitely a meeting in the middle – because one thing we all agree on is that service, professionalism and commitment come first no matter how you choose to do business.