From Restaurateur to REALTOR®: Converting Leads in a Competitive Landscape

Nov 7, 2019 by

In the following interview, Mike Novak, team leader and REALTOR®, The Novak Team, eXp Realty in Everett, Wash., discusses his journey into real estate, generating leads, and more.

Region Served: King and Snohomish Counties
Years in Real Estate: 2.5
Number of Team Members: 20
Had a Team Since: The end of 2017

You were a well-known restaurateur prior to joining the real estate industry. Why did you ultimately give up restaurants for real estate?
It’s a long story, but the short of it centers around the fact that Washington State changed its minimum wage in October 2016. We had 400 employees at that point, which changed our overhead $ 50,000 a month—putting us in a position that was no longer economically viable. Luckily, we saw the headwinds coming, so we decided to get our real estate licenses as all of this was taking place because we didn’t think there was a way to survive. I had worked as a real estate developer and builder prior to getting into the restaurant business, so it was a natural place to go back to.

Being new to the business, where did you source your customers?
While we jumped into pay-per-click (PPC) immediately, as it was a cheap and easy way to get started, we transitioned over to® last May after meeting the team at an industry conference. In getting to know the company, it became clear to us just how ready their leads were when compared to those being generated through a pay-per-click strategy. This is what ultimately gave us the incentive to dabble in and eventually scale it. It didn’t take long to discover that the leads we were getting from were warmer, which led to them converting at a much higher level.

What else are you doing to let local homeowners know about your successful new company?
We do a lot of video marketing on social media, in addition to continuing to take advantage of PPC and, as well as a variety of mass media marketing. As far as the videos we’re sharing on social media, most are either market reports or educational videos that we use to help people understand common misconceptions or myths surrounding the home-buying or -selling process. Additionally, we recently began using Local ExpertTM, which seems to be going well so far. Since we have 50 percent of the marketshare, we have a lot of impressions, and we’re excited to see where that goes as we head toward the future.

How is it working now that you’re this far along with the lead programs?
We’re seeing high conversion rates, north of 5 percent, which is really good when you consider the fact that PPC leads typically convert anywhere from 1-2 percent, while Facebook is closer to 0.5-1 percent. In 2018, we closed nearly $ 400,000 gross commission income (GCI) with

Final Question…

What influenced your decision to form a team?
Wanting to help other agents become productive and thrive, while at the same time being able to help more buyers and sellers that we couldn’t get to ourselves.

For more information, please visit

Paige Tepping is RISMedia’s managing editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at

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Gaining a Leg Up in Today’s Competitive Market

May 26, 2019 by

Florida-Based Broker/Owner Unlocks the Power of Realtors Property Resource®

Neal Oates, Jr., broker/owner of World Renowned Real Estate, opened the Hollywood, Fla.-based business in 2014 to provide world-class home marketing services to the world’s most discerning clients, serving North Miami-Dade and all of Broward County.

“Specializing in single-family residential real estate, as well as international buyers and luxury homeowners, I’m always trying to find ways to compete with big franchises and level the playing field,” says Oates. “One of the things I found to help do that is Realtors Property Resource® (RPR®).”

Having become an advocate and in-depth user of RPR in 2017, over the last couple of years, Oates has trained his team members to use RPR, implementing it across all aspects of his business.

Oates can’t say enough about the company’s training. “RPR does a great job as far as the trainers they provide, as well as the webinars they host. The platform even lets me direct the information for the purposes I need, so I can go in and look at reports and get out of it exactly what I’m looking for.”

In addition, RPR allows Oates’ agents to respond to inquiries from current and prospective clients in a matter of seconds, with a few clicks of a button.

“Once you put in all the contact info, photos and office info, you can run reports from your phone in no time at all,” says Oates, who explains that a response time of seconds could make or break a deal in today’s current environment. “To be able to pull a report while I’m speaking to someone at an open house provides the perception that I’m better than the agent they saw at the last open house who still hasn’t gotten them the information.”

Another huge win is the fact that the information isn’t only coming from MLSs, but tax records, as well.

“We don’t have to go out and get a third-party system or find a new way to do CMAs or market activity reports, because all of the information from the shared MLSs is being poured into RPR,” says Oates.

While the platform is one of the most cost-efficient and time-effective products Oates has ever used, it’s also a boon when it comes to wowing both existing and potential clients.

“Clients let down their guard a little when they see this because it makes me look professional,” says Oates. “Customers also like that they can see where the information is coming from and if any adjustments are made by the agent. They can see that we’re not just pulling numbers from out of the air.”

One of Oates’ favorite things about RPR is that it allows company branding, and can be customized to reinforce the brand name on generated reports. Additionally, RPR’s Broker Tool Set allows him to customize it for his brokerage.

“This gives us a leg up and puts us right up there next to the big guys,” adds Oates. “RPR has so much content that those who dive into it and customize it to meet their needs will get so much out of it.” 

For more information, please visit 

Keith Loria is a contributing editor to RISMedia.

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Staying Ahead of Innovation: How Leading Brokers Maintain Their Competitive Edge

May 21, 2019 by

” RISMedia’s 2019 Power Broker and Real Estate Newsmakers Forum (Credit: AJ Canaria of PlanOmatic)

The seas of real estate are constantly churning in anticipation of the next big disruptor, ready to release a sudden wave of innovation that can rapidly upend the marketplace for those who are not prepared. This year at the 2019 REALTORS® Legislative Meetings and Trade Expo in Washington, D.C., held from May 13-18, whispers of challenges as a result of disruption echoed throughout the week. The topic was discussed in-depth to a standing-room-only audience at RISMedia’s Power Broker and Real Estate Newsmakers Forum “Are You Ready for the Next Wave? Mastering Market, Tech and Competitive Challenges.”

Even the most prolific real estate brokerages need to have strategies in place if they are to thrive in the face of these challenges. Forum moderator John Featherston, RISMedia CEO, founder and publisher, dove into these approaches, asking the panel if they’ve “felt the constant change and innovation.”

(L to R) John Featherston, RISMedia; J. Lennox Scott, John L. Scott Real Estate; Michael Saunders, Michael Saunders & Company; Mike Huff, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Anderson Properties; Todd Hetherington, CENTURY 21 New Millennium; Diane Ramirez, Halstead (Credit: AJ Canaria of PlanOmatic)

“Has it affected all of you? Is it affecting your neighborhoods, your prospects?” he inquired. “How are you assimilating to this new environment?”

According to Diane Ramirez, co-moderator of the forum and CEO and chairman of Halstead, it has nothing to do with the current environment, but rather maintaining an edge with innovation at all times.

“It has to do with our growth and our need to make certain that Halstead stays fresh and relevant,” she said.

All panelists agreed that the way to sustained success is by sticking to foundational beliefs.

  1. Lennox Scott, CEO and chairman of John L. Scott Real Estate, said that while everything continues to change, “the core of our business stays the same, and that’s the relationship between our agents and their buyers and sellers.”

(Credit: AJ Canaria of PlanOmatic)

CEO and Founder of Michael Saunders & Company Michael Saunders looks past the “shiny new objects,” focusing on relationships as a pillar, as well.

“I’m a pretty back-to-basics gal—I’m foundational. I don’t think this is rocket science, although the technology companies make it sound that way,” said Saunders. “We are in a relationship business. That’s the foundation of who we are. The consumer-REALTOR® relationship remains the same no matter what happens.”

It can be difficult to stay true to the business without feeling threatened by the technology and discount amenities iBuyers and other industry disruptors are flaunting. However, Todd Hetherington, CEO of CENTURY 21 New Millennium, believes it is important that today’s brokers “do not fear change and do not fear the competition” if they want to succeed.

“Embrace it,” said Hetherington. “We have to know inside-out what our strengths and our weaknesses are. Learn what it is we can be doing better. Getting back to basics is critical.”

Without fear, REALTORS® can use the increased competition to continue growing their own business and providing a value proposition that is unique to the market.

Diane Ramirez, chairman and CEO of Halstead, co-moderated the session. (Credit: AJ Canaria of PlanOmatic)

“All these companies have energized us,” said Scott. “They have taken us up to a higher level.”

While the new normal is back to basics, Featherston reminded brokers that it doesn’t necessarily mean they should go back to doing what they did in 1990 or 1999. Blending tradition with innovation for a more modern approach will, instead, help to edge out the competition.

Who are the biggest competitors in today’s disruptive real estate world? According to Mike Huff, broker/owner of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Anderson Properties, brokers should point the finger at themselves first.

“The biggest competitor every day is yourself,” he said.

Hetherington agreed, stating “I think we need to get over ourselves and get out of our own way.”

(Credit: AJ Canaria of PlanOmatic)

That begins by focusing on the true client relationship—that of the broker and agent, according to Huff. Productivity is key, and not every agent is right for the brokerage.

“I can’t tell you how many agents do not follow up with people no matter how many leads we give them,” said Huff. “If they don’t follow up, they’ll never be successful.”

That’s where culture comes in. Huff said everyone has a distinct way of doing things, and that can bring in a value that today’s disruptors cannot provide, as well as help train and retain productive agents.

“What works for me won’t work for most people,” he said. “We forget that culture is developed and built, and you’ve got to get everyone to buy into it. These disruptors that are out there are selling the ‘sizzle,’ but they’re not selling the meat.”

For Ramirez, it’s all about staying regional in order to maintain relevancy and create that close-knit community agents and brokers value.

(Credit: AJ Canaria of PlanOmatic)

“I can go into any of my 38 offices and I know those agents by name,” said Ramirez. “The further away you move from your core market, the less you can have that culture.”

Scott also stressed that the broker-agent relationship must be nurtured, with plenty of avenues for self-improvement and growth.

“We’re a successful company for brokers and for top producers,” said Scott. “We have vision group meetings, we are talking about industry trends and we bring our top producers together in mastermind groups.”

Regardless of strategy, the key to staying ahead of innovation and maintaining a competitive edge is continuous growth and adapting to the current environment.

“There’s always an opportunity to innovate,” said Saunders. “It has to be a part of your DNA—part of your ‘why’ in your business.”

“Look inward,” Featherston emphasized. “You are the disruptors. You are the innovators.”

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at

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RPR® Delivers a Competitive Edge for Agents and Brokers

Feb 2, 2019 by

Realtors Property Resource® (RPR) makes hundreds of thousands of real estate professionals more productive by giving them easy access to extensive data available on properties across the U.S.

The RPR® database tracks records on more than 150 million parcels, including past sales, tax and deed records, foreclosure and pre-foreclosure info, mortgage and lien data, local school information, neighborhood trends, and even voting records.

Since its inception, REALTORS® have had access to RPR®, which is available at, free of charge. On-the-go real estate professionals find the desktop and mobile functionality (which are automatically synced) to be user-friendly and intuitive. And, most importantly, agents can easily create colorful, client-friendly reports that can be printed, emailed, texted or shared on social media. Clients are informed and impressed by agent-created Property Reports, Seller’s Reports, Market Activity Reports, School Reports, and more.

In the last year, RPR® has continued to make positive additions and enhancements to the platform and the mobile app, which helps REALTORS® solve the demands they are challenged with every day.

A new RPR® mobile-only feature makes it easy to create Buyer Tour Reports that can be shared in an instant with clients and prospects. Simple in nature, but comprehensive all the same, the new report enables agents to select properties, determine the order in which to tour them and then create a colorful, client-friendly report to share with buyers.

RPR®’s map search has also recently been enhanced, now incorporating such features as drive time and distance search, traffic flow counts, school attendance zones, and parcel overlays.

Brokerage Brands—Front and Center
As a broker/owner, consider customizing RPR® and the reports your agents create with your company’s distinctive brand. It’s all part of RPR®’s Broker Tool Set.

Branding the RPR® Website, Mobile app and Reports with your company’s logo is an important way to reinforce your brokerage’s value proposition, whether you own or manage a franchise affiliate or an independent office.

Broker/owners can also leverage the RPR® data tool to compile stats across multiple MLSs for a truer picture of your company’s performance. For multi-office brokerages, brokers can compare sales among company offices and against the local market as a whole.

Additionally, through the Broker Tool Set, display an automated valuation model (AVM) on your brokerage website or company intranet. It’s simple to set up and built to load quickly.

Choose to promote your preferred affiliated services, such as mortgage, title, home warranty or other specialized services, in the reports generated by your agents.

Getting You and Your Team Up to Speed With RPR®
To help you and your agents get up to speed on the vast trove of data and tools available for your business, RPR® has assembled on-demand learning resources at

In addition, RPR® recently launched an on-demand, seven-part course that’s easy to incorporate into your sales meetings. Each video runs less than 10 minutes and includes a corresponding handout. You’ll find this new resource at

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Buyer Representation: The Competitive Difference

Dec 22, 2016 by

Most real estate professionals are well aware that more than 90 percent of today’s homebuyers begin their home search online. What may not be as widely known is that a whopping 88 percent of those buyers ultimately turned to a real estate agent to guide them through the transaction.

What does it take to be the kind of practitioner who attracts and serves serious buyers, earns their trust and builds lasting relationships because of their skills as a buyer’s representative?

We thought we’d ask the four Accredited Buyer’s Representatives (ABR®) recently inducted into the Real Estate Buyer’s Council (REBAC) Hall of Fame during ceremonies that took place at the REALTORS® Conference & Expo last month in Orlando, Fla.—an outspoken and spirited group devoted to outstanding client service.

For Jennifer M. Baker, founding half of the Jennifer Baker team at RealtyUSA in Corning, N.Y., education is key to success.

“I obtained my ABR early in my 10-year career as an agent because I quickly understood that the more I know about every aspect of the transaction process, the more qualified I am to effectively represent my buyers,” says Baker. “There is certainly prestige in acquiring a designation, but I did it primarily for myself, and I am confident that it helps ensure every day that I do the best possible job for my clients.”

Baker, whose team partner is her husband, Larry Baker, is a consistent multimillion-dollar producer who closed 65 transactions last year and was awarded the 2015 Spirit Award, given by her peers in recognition of her enthusiasm, devotion to core industry values and willingness to help others—qualities she clearly puts to work for the benefit of her clients.

Steven Merchant, broker/owner of Global Realty International, Inc. in Orlando, Fla., understands how much his focus on buyers and investors has contributed to his overall success.

Buyers have been the lifeblood of my 18-year career, and the ABR and other courses I’ve taken in pursuit of several designations have been invaluable in helping me help them,” he says.

A retired Marine Corps pilot, long active in regional, state and national real estate associations, Merchant was able to transfer his enthusiasm, dedication and thirst for learning to a career that has honored him with numerous production awards, in addition to the Newland Community Broker of the Year Award for service, professionalism and commitment.

A similar focus on building trust and ties with buyers and investors at every level has been a career hallmark for Alison J. Maltby, senior broker associate with the Anderson Group & Co. in Orlando, Fla.

An award-winning multimillion-dollar producer and five-time nominee to the Orlando Regional REALTOR® Association (ORRA) Honor Society for her attentive client care and intimate knowledge of Florida real estate, Maltby earned ORRA’s Top Producer Award in 2015 in recognition of her production excellence.

Known by her peers and clients for her level of client care and her ability to think creatively and find resolutions, she credits her ABR designation with providing the skills and know-how that buyers deserve and appreciate.

“It’s important that my buyers are well-represented, protected and successful in their purchase of Florida realty,” says Maltby. “That’s what inspires loyalty and referrals, and that, in turn, fuels my career growth.”

If education is the key to success in real estate, Rich Hart has tied the strategy to accomplishment on a dual level. A broker for the past 14 years, chalking up major sales both locally and internationally, Hart is principal of the Evalucore Institute, where he serves as a business development consultant, speaker and educator.

With offices located in New York and Georgia, Evalucore focuses on behavioral performance consulting for predictive index and wealth/finance consulting on investment and financial planning for personal and corporate entities. As its principal, Hart is a speaker and instructor for the National Association of REALTORS®, REBA and the Council of Real Estate Broker Managers.

“I’m a lifelong fan of education, which I think gives practitioners an edge in any field, and especially in real estate, where successful buyer representation is the foundation for professional achievement,” says Hart. “Teaching is a privilege, and I am honored to be recognized by REBAC for the contributions I have made.”

A common denominator for the four inductees into this year’s REBAC Hall of Fame is passion for being the best in their business. And while the four have racked up more than a dozen professional designations between them during the course of their admirable careers, none appears more meaningful than the ABR.

“The ABR designation is a benchmark for excellence,” says Merchant. “It signals to buyers that you have the knowledge, experience and professional wherewithal to go the extra mile on their behalf.”

Baker agrees. “For many buyers, a home is the biggest purchase they will make in their lifetime,” she says. “They want and deserve an agent they can trust, who is committed to making their home-buying transaction a timely and gratifying experience.”

For more information about the REBAC Hall of Fame, please visit

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark

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