Heads Above the Rest

by admin

Whether you’re an individual agent or owner of your own company, you can rise above the crowd and achieve success
By K.K. Snyder

Contrary to what you’ve heard, it isn’t really all that lonely at the top. In fact, there are so many agents and real estate companies at the top in the Miami market that the competition remains fierce. So what does it take to get there? And what gives some individuals and companies the necessary edge to put them in line for great success? Though the big picture might be different for an individual versus a company, the particulars tend to be the same.

Individual approach: Persistence
After working for three years in land acquisitions for the Florida Department of Transportation, Rodriguez-Melo, 28, who garnered $400 million in property through eminent domain for major state projects, was ready to come into his own.

In 2004, Rodriguez-Melo hit the private sector as a commercial broker expecting the same easy success he’d found in his role with the state. While he’d made a name for himself among his peers in the state departments, brokers in the commercial real estate world weren’t familiar with the newcomer and continued to pass him by when it came to new projects and opportunities.

Never one to throw in the towel, Rodriguez-Melo dedicated more than two years to winning over a local seller with whom he wanted to do business. It took hundreds of phone calls, emails and letters before he was able to sway the seller, who now doesn’t want to do business with anyone other than Rodriguez-Melo. It’s this persistence that has catapulted the young broker to the top of a competitive Miami market.

“Part of my strategy is to sell property as a real estate agent, but I don’t just sell it and move on; I sell it and stay to manage it for them,” says Rodriguez-Melo, describing the niche that he’s filling so well. “If I can sell them the property and then manage it for them, I’m doubly endearing myself to them.”

Rodriguez-Melo joined Citigroup Realty Inc. as an agent a couple of years ago and, last year, opened his own property management office, Centurion Management. He has a name for himself by managing apartments, warehouses and offices. Today, he’s handling an amazing 600 units for a handful of happy and satisfied clients and plans to collaborate on more projects in the future, including owning some units of his own.

“It’s been very powerful, and we’ve been very, very busy,” he says of the properties he manages, all of which are located in Downtown Miami and Little Havana, recently named by Forbes as one of the hottest zip codes in the country. “That [distinction] was great for us, too.”

Company approach: Filling a niche
Corey Schwartz, 29, an agent with RE/MAX Advance Realty in Coral Gables, entered his career in real estate with a completed business plan designed to fill a niche no other Miami company was satisfying: the college housing issue. Schwartz, a proud and loyal graduate and former employee of the University of Miami, had been around a college campus long enough to recognize that whether for a student, a parent, an incoming staff member or a property owner, there was a need for a service to assist with off-campus housing. He also knew that a lot of real estate companies didn’t like to bother with the small one- and two-bedroom properties so perfect for students.

Enter business partner David Roberts, who encouraged Schwartz to bring his business plan to fruition. It didn’t hurt that Roberts also offered the funding needed to make the plan work, and, last summer, the pair opened College Town Living (CTL), a subsidiary of RE/MAX Advance Realty. In January, they launched the CTL Web site, an innovative resource and tool for anyone in search of off-campus housing and property owners with off-campus housing available for rent or sale.

To get the word out about their unique service, the pair did a lot of grassroots marketing through emails, brochures and ads in the student newspapers.

“I put together what I know best: sales, mortgages and real estate, along with a college town,” says Schwartz. “I filled a void. I knew that if people on campus knew of a company available to help incoming students or staff members, they’d surely direct them to us.”

And they did. In just more than one year, Schwartz has successfully assisted more than 150 clients with off-campus housing. “People don’t like to cold call, and we haven’t had to do that because they’re coming to us. We’ve been getting bombarded through our Web site.”

The CTL Web site is MLS integrated and allows visitors to search for properties online. Once an individual identifies a property of interest, he can email the six-man CTL office to set an appointment to view the property. The site also has a section for users to advertise a need for roommates or to list items for sale and offers a plethora of useful information for first-time renters and buyers.

It didn’t take the partners long to realize the opportunity for return business. Once a student graduates, gets a first job as a young professional and is ready to buy a first home, CTL hopes they’ll get the call. “It’s an emotional thing, too,” says Schwartz. “Obviously, it’s a business, but we enjoying helping people find a place to live; it’s very fulfilling.”

Schwartz also sells parents on the idea of purchasing real estate for their students to live in while attending the university, and perhaps renting out the spare rooms or even hanging on to the property as an investment once their students graduate and move away.

College towns are a booming market for real estate as high demand for off-campus housing keeps property values on the rise, says Schwartz, noting that there’s little risk that this market will bomb.

“When’s the last time you heard of a huge college shutting down? It just doesn’t happen,” he says, emphasizing the fact that his niche market will likely never disappear.

One of the best selling points for the services CTL has to offer is that for most of his clients, the services are free. Property owner clients pay CTL to help them fill their apartments and houses, so the renter is basically assisted free of charge, he says.

And, though he has enjoyed the great success of CTL thus far, Schwartz actually has his sights set on the bigger picture. Using the city of Miami as his business model, he’d like to eventually expand the CTL services to other college towns, first in Florida and then beyond.

At the end of the day, it really is the early bird that gets the worm. Whether you’re an individual agent trying to climb the industry ladder, or you’re leading a company that has potential to make it to the top, persistence and professionalism, along with niche marketing, can be the recipe you need to become Miami’s next rising star.

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