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(Above) Brace Homes

In a crowded marketplace, defining your differentiation is important—and for Brace Homes, a Grand Rapids, Mich.-based real estate team, the distinction is the group’s keen marketing prowess.

“Real estate’s always changing,” explains Kara Brace, co-principal and manager of the team, affiliated with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Michigan Real Estate. “Not only are we REALTORS®; we are full-service digital marketers. We not only do the negotiating to get you top dollar and manage the challenges of a typical transaction, we also operate as a PR firm for your home. We make it a local celebrity, so that your exposure to the marketplace is so much more than just putting it on the MLS, Zillow and Trulia.”

Brace and her husband, Mark—principal of the team—built out Brace Homes with intention over the years. Mark began as an individual practitioner, in commercial first, then pivoting to residential. Kara joined him in 2009. They began with a buyer’s agent, and now have five, as well as a full-time transaction coordinator. Mark is focused on listings and referrals, and Kara manages marketing and operations.

“Our growth has been very slow and very organic,” Brace says. “Our model of hiring has always been quality agents over quantity of agents. It’s our goal to have all of our agents at least making six figures. We’re heavily focused on creating a culture for longevity. We love our agents, we treat them really well, and we want them to stay with us.”

With that goal in mind, Brace Homes has employed a four-step hiring process, which begins with a DISC personality test, followed by individual interviews with Mark, Kara and their business coach.

Brace Homes is active in the community.

“Firing someone is not fun and it’s not easy,” says Brace. “The hardest part is when you hire someone that ended up not being the right fit for your culture or your team, and you have to let them go, and it doesn’t matter if they’re a great person. It’s very challenging. We don’t have to go through that very often.”

To bolster the group’s marketing strength, Brace Homes collaborates with a full-service digital marketing organization, and has a concerted social media strategy, among other initiatives.

“Social media has turned into a pretty big part of our marketing,” Brace says. “We typically do one listing ad a week, we do a blog ad a week, we do videos of new listings, and try to do fun stuff, too—not all real estate-related. We also do a lot of charitable giveback on social media. We get tons of engagement on that.”

To keep the team on track, the Braces abide by a key mantra: positivity. In two mandatory meetings per month, the group goes over sales, addresses challenges and wins, and soaks in a motivational video or podcast.

“We start our team meetings reading off our mantra,” says Brace. “We always focus on positivity; negativity is not allowed. You have to consistently work on your mindset and keep yourself around positive people. Our goal is to continue to grow and use these mantras and mindsets to our advantage.”

That credo is guiding Brace Homes on the path to success. This year, the Braces are aiming to hire a full-time administrative assistant/runner, as well as boost their sales to 325 units, up from 290 in 2018.

“Positivity is still the goal,” Brace says. “We are so lucky. We’re super tight-knit. We’re basically like family.”

Suzanne De Vita is RISMedia’s online news editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at