In Miami, every agent strives to be a top producer. But in this ultra-competitive market, few can boast yearly sales of more than $40 million. Rising to those ranks takes perseverance, integrity and an ability to “work smarter.” Keep your nose to the grindstone, and you may just find that it’s not so lonely at the top.
By K.K. Snyder
When asked for insight on making it big in South Florida’s realty industry, top-producing agents typically have a personalized gem or two that they swear by. Across the board, these winning agents attribute success to a number of things, including honesty, knowledge, strong marketing and communication with clients. While these points may seem obvious, the challenge lies in focusing on these tactics consistently throughout one’s entire career.
Miami boasts quite a number of top producers. Some names will be familiar to you, while others are the strong, silent powers that be. Miami Agent magazine consulted a panel of Realtors from our listing (a partial compilation derived by company submissions) of agents who sold $40 million or more in 2006. We asked probing questions to get to the heart of what makes the most successful agents tick. One thing they all share: a commitment to excellence.
Our panel of top producers consists of Eloy Carmenate, IVR Realty; Ivory Cooks, Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate; Anthony and Marcela Criscito, Majestic Properties Miami; Valeria Lugo, Cervera Real Estate; Rose Marie Van Blommestein, International Sales Group, Aventura; and Toni Schrager, Avatar Real Estate Services.
WHAT ARE YOUR SUGGESTIONS FOR NEGOTIATING?
Marcela and Anthony Crisito: Have a set goal in mind before starting negotiations, and have a strategy for getting to your goal. Never let them see you sweat, understand your negotiating partner and don’t be greedy.
Ivory Cooks: Be knowledgeable about the market, be flexible on issues and understand it is about give and take. Keep your eye on the ball, do not lose focus and be empathetic.
Rose Marie Van Blommestein: Ask questions. Listen to what your client hot buttons are so that you can better understand if what they are asking for is really relevant to them or can be overcome. Make sure you explain “value” versus “price,” in order to be able to return to those “valuable” features that determine the reason for the price. Do not offer discounts or extras. Wait until the client asks for something and always be prepared to [know what or how much].
Eloy Carmenate: Find solutions that satisfy both sides, and know when to stop negotiating.
WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE FOR GETTING NEW CLIENTS AND GAINING REFERRALS?
Toni Schrager: What they said 25 years ago in real estate school, “nose to nose and toes to toes,” still applies very much today. In other words, personal contacts are the most important. I will call someone for no particular reason, just to check in, and it turns up new business. Also, work the neighborhood where you live. It’s natural, and you’ll be the “resident specialist.”
Valeria Lugo: Handle business transactions smoothly and with integrity. Marketing yourself is key. I recently started a monthly newsletter for Downtown and Brickell area residents. I also host events and cocktails at various office and residential buildings as a means of keeping in touch with previous clients and meeting new ones.
Eloy Carmenate: Network, network, network! Ads help, but being seen and accessible is the greatest tool. Many times, I happen to be in the lobby of a building and have been able to get a listing or a sale. I always look at each client as an opportunity to generate three to five deals. I look at myself as a real estate concierge who provides not just a real estate service, but also an overall pleasurable lifestyle experience for my clients. This may include getting them into hard-to-get hotels or getting last-minute dinner reservations.
Marcela and Anthony Criscito: The key is to consistently make a positive impact with your past and present customers. Viral marketing is very important. Actions speak louder than words, so we always act professionally, and make sure each transaction is a positive experience. If you make a client happy, they will recommend you to their families and friends.
WHERE DO YOU TURN WHEN YOU NEED HELP?
Rose Marie Van Blommestein: I keep a list and constantly update it when necessary. [It includes] attorneys, mortgage brokers and 1031 exchange experts.
Valeria Lugo: There are several people who I look up to and turn to for help. I have learned a lot from my managers and colleagues. I also have family and friends in similar industries (mortgage and design) with great experience and knowledge.
Eloy Carmenate: I have a team of competent professionals who share the same passion for exceptional client satisfaction. One slip-up can severely damage a client relationship. The team must include attorneys, architects, interior designers, tax consultants, inspection professionals, concierge service, lenders, contractors, etc.
HOW DO YOU GET BUYERS TO MAKE A DECISION?
Ivory Cooks: By showing the buyer the pros and cons, i.e., how little their mortgage would be affected by going higher to meet the seller’s price.
Rose Marie Van Blommestein: Making a decision is possible only if the buyers are guided through a process of elimination and/or investigation, and they understand what they want and what they can afford.
Valeria Lugo: I help buyers make a decision by giving them a great presentation and offering knowledge of the product. Furthermore, I know their market inside and out, so I am able to accurately explain the benefits of living in the area.
DO YOU WORK WITH DEVELOPERS? HOW DO YOU GET THESE LISTINGS?
Toni Schrager: Yes, I have done quite a bit of work with developers, most notably in the sale of pre-construction condominiums. I can honestly say it is the most demanding work I have ever done, and I wouldn’t willingly repeat the experience.
Ivory Cooks: I work for more than one developer. I enjoy working with developers because, once you are connected, they are very loyal.
Rose Marie Van Blommestein: Developments are a totally different animal. There is a lot more involved from an organizational perspective and it requires a lot of experience in the field and an understanding of legal matters and state requirements to be able to fit the profile successfully.
Eloy Carmenate: My prior experience as sales director for a developer [assures other developers] that I can add value, not just to the sales and marketing effort, but also in providing relevant input towards the product definition (floor plans, unit sizes, finishes, building amenities, sales office design, etc.) As far as getting development sales listings, given our track record for development sales in South Beach, our name always pops up for developers considering any new project in South Beach.
HOW DO YOU HANDLE MULTIPLE OFFERS CORRECTLY AND GRACEFULLY?
Anthony and Marcela Criscito: By clearly communicating with all involved-parties. There are no secrets.
Toni Schrager: This is one of the most difficult, complicated and potentially explosive situations we encounter as Realtors. Honesty is the simple rule I follow, to a fault, for multiple offers. It always pains me…because there are going to be winners [and] losers. It seems no matter how hard you try, someone thinks they got short-changed. On the bright side, there are many instances where I have helped my sellers realize a much greater gain than may have been realized had there not been multiple offers.
Ivory Cooks: I always work the first offer to completion. The most important thing is to let all parties know that there is more than one offer [so that] everyone is on the same playing field, [but] we never discuss what the other offers are.
Valeria Lugo: I present all offers properly, making sure to review each one carefully. If one offer is significantly stronger than the other(s), or one has fewer conditions, I will advise my clients to try to work with that buyer first. After reviewing the terms of the offers, and discussing them with my client, I will submit a counter offer to each individual party.
HOW DO YOU PREPARE FOR THE NEXT YEAR?
Toni Schrager: Every day at my office we are “preparing for the next year.” We start each day by talking about how we can best service our existing listings, and I have on my team one person whose sole job is to make sure that happens.
Ivory Cooks: In December the year before, I sit down with my manager and prepare a marketing plan for the next year. I set goals that I want to reach for the next year and I continue to advertise.
Eloy Carmenate: Given the seasonal nature of the South Beach market, proper preparation is critical. Before the beginning of the fall each year, we start to put in motion the marketing plan for the coming season. Marketing materials must be fresh and updated constantly. We look at the calendar of events and start to develop sponsorships for parties, find out who will be in town when and what their entertainment preferences are and, more importantly, we start matching investment opportunities with the clients’ criteria. I also throw private parties of my own.
Rose Marie Van Blommestein: I always make a short-term, medium-term and long-term plan. The developing of new relationships, one of my most constant focuses, does not need to be planned; it’s a daily task.