Nicole Duran, an agent from Chicago, has been in real estate for 11 years. Her approach is less conventional, but in times like these, it’s keeping her in business.
“I mean, it's a shutdown. So you've got to get creative and shift with it,” Nicole says. “I'm making all my systems better and just trying to find all these leads that you get a lot more return.”
In Nicole’s first few years in the business, she spread herself too thin and tried to fill her plate with as many listings as possible. But she found that approach wasn’t sustainable and decided to make a change.
“I did a ton of rentals because I was in the bar industry downtown in the Gold Coast. So, I mean, it was just high-end rentals, and I got certified for short sales, so it was just a lot of work,” she says. “I just hustled and hustled. I didn't do anything else. I worked around the clock and didn't have a life for like five years. But then after five years, that's when I got my assistant and started growing a little bit more. ...I haven't looked back ever since. But I love it. This is what I am meant to do, I think. I'm also an investor, so I try to buy as many places as I can, especially in this market. Man, it's a good time to buy right now.
“And I have a good amount of investors, too, which is nice in this time because investors want to buy right now. ...So I'm not like screwed when this kind of stuff hits the fan. So I'm a backup plan to a backup plan kind of girl.”
A More Focused Approach
While most agents try to reach as many potential leads as possible, Nicole finds that by keeping her sphere small, she is better able to form real relationships that turn into referrals and repeat business. She says before the coronavirus, she hadn’t delivered a real listing presentation in years.
“I deleted like 10,000 people from my CRM, and I only have like 500. I just focus on a small niche, like the 80/20 rule,” Nicole says. “If you are stressful to work with or bring drama, then I don't work with you. So I started changing my quality of life because I was getting burnt out for sure. So, that one little change made a huge difference in my life.”
Nicole treats her clients like family, so she tries to stay in touch at least quarterly to nurture those relationships with handwritten cards.
“I just have my systems of reaching out, and I know all the little ones’ birthdays and the dogs’ names, and you just really focus on the 100 people and you do it right,” Nicole says. “Everything's personalized. I think that's the whole point of doing marketing. I never do the ‘Just Sold’ or ‘Sold X Amount’ or none of that has ever come out of my marketing.”
“And you actually care about these people. Like I fight, and I will — I'll do anything I can like their family. So I think they see people right through that when you're a transaction agent. And I just don't want that as my reputation. So, I actually do want to be known as I actually care — because I do. I put my whole heart in this business.”
Nicole also gets a lot of business through quarterly events she calls “lunch and learns.”
“So that's basically my marketing. I don't do any cheesy marketing. I never really have. But so all my marketing is usually some way to put money in their pockets.
“If I didn't do this and I just did all these transactions and you know, like I used to do, I would have been burnt out, and I would've changed businesses. Now, I'm making it into where I'm like getting involved in the community and the schools and really digging into my community and my 100 people and loving it.”
Business Built on Integrity
Unlike some agents who promise high prices to land deals, Nicole doesn’t believe in setting unrealistic pricing expectations.
“I lose out on a lot of listings because I tell them the price I could get it for and I do not tell them a higher price,” she says. “And then I see them listed for higher and on the market forever. Like, ‘This is the price that's going to maximize your value.’ And I tell them, I don't sugar coat it. You're going to have other brokers that tell you otherwise, and you're going to remember me when your house doesn't sell and I'm never going to tell you, ‘I told you so.’
“These other people promise them $50,000 over asking and I'm like, ‘You're going to waste your time and get market time, but I wish you luck.’ ...Like if somebody is promising you this amount, like why wouldn't you take it? I'm like, they're promising because they want your listing, but I'm not going to put my name on the high listing price. ...I'd rather do that because it's just a waste of time anyways. And you sorta look silly when you start so high.”
Working Through the Coronavirus
Since the coronavirus outbreak started, Nicole has been checking in on past clients, and they’ve also been reaching out to her.
“A lot of my clients are going to reach out to me to make sure I'm OK. Like right now with this crisis — I feel like they're almost family,” she says.
“I sent out an email and emailed to each one individually, so they're not like on a big CC, but basically offering them a real estate review in this time because everyone's struggling,” Nicole says. “So I'm like, ‘OK, I want to help.’ The only way I know how to help is real estate. So let me look at your last mortgage statement. Let me see if you should refinance. Let me see if you should dispute your taxes, if you have your homeowner's exemption, things like that. Just trying to help everyone out. And that was a really good reaction.”
She has also been spending time working on self growth and improving her approaches.
“I actually found a book club, finally, of like business books, and we're reading ‘Shift’ by Gary Keller right now, which I was so relieved to find a book club that is actually like books I would read. So it's awesome.
“Everyone needs to read it, and it just refreshes everything that you know. It just puts you in line of like, OK, everything I'm doing, I'm following what this book is sort of saying. You know? So it's good, good to know. It just reassures me. It relieves anxiety.”
Her advice for other agents working through the pandemic? Clear your brain.
“It starts in the brain first. If you have anxiety, you can't sit down and make something good out of yourself,” Nicole says. “Knowledge is power, right?”