The Unexpected Benefits of Competition
Purchasing a home is complicated, and realtor Brad Davis knows it. In fact, his career in real estate first began as a side hustle after buying his first home. Now, after years of working full time at Just Real Seattle, Brad shares his tips and tricks for navigating such a dynamic market. From maintaining organized communication with clients to collaborating with competitors, building relationships is crucial for any business. We’ll also hear from reviewer Karen on what stood out working with Brad.
On the Yelp Blog: Read more about how Brad has built a business that can run without him, and check out what he means by “a mindset of abundance.”
EMILY: I’m Emily Washcovick, Yelp’s Small Business Expert. Every episode I pick one review on Yelp and talk to the entrepreneur and the reviewer about the story and business lessons behind their interaction.
Lets see what’s behind this week’s review.
KAREN: Brad is a really master negotiator. And part of that I think is his ability to interact both with the client as well as the agent on the other side of a transaction to learn about crucial components. Like what do both sides need for a win? Because of that, he knows what to ask for or not in the negotiation process.
EMILY: Yelp reviewer Karen wanted to sell her house. Anyone who has ever signed a mortgage or sold a house knows it’s a terribly complicated process that usually involves multiple people, a lawyer or two, and possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Karen knew quite a few realtors in her Seattle neighborhood, so she had her pick. She chose Brad Davis of Just Real Seattle and Keller WIlliams as her listing agent.
KAREN: One of the things that I immediately liked about Brad when we first met was his communications—that he is really on-point and direct and defines expectations well. I like that he has a system for working with clients. So when we first met, he presented a really well-designed folder that again, talked about those expectations, kind of laid out the timeline for what things we’re going to look like in terms of the, in that case, it was a selling process. I’ve worked with other agents, and no one has been quite so prepared, I guess, in a way as some of the others have.
EMILY: I’ve spoken to many reviewers over the years, and when it comes to working with small businesses, almost every one of them mentioned communications of some kind. It’s a recurring theme and crucial to any business, small or large. But I think what Karen is really getting at are Brad’s relationship building skills, and part of that involves the way he communicates with his clients.
Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s listen to Karen’s review.
KAREN: Brad has helped me buy and sell in the Tacoma and Seattle markets, and the insights, market data, and inspection vendor information he provided helped me make smart decisions in hot markets. His capacity to forge relationships with other brokers led to winning in multiple offer situations. Looking forward to working with him again.
EMILY: Brad Davis started his real estate career almost as a side-hustle, while working as the director of communications for a chamber of commerce. After four years of balancing the two jobs, they had both grown to the point where he had to make a choice between them.
BRAD: So those two things were really at odds after four years. And so I ended up going with my own baby—being my own boss and entrepreneur. And I honestly, in terms of entrepreneurial gigs, I don’t think you can find anything more exciting and dynamic than real estate. I know dynamic is probably a very overused word, but really, you’re constantly on a moving target of changes, whether it’s lending guidelines or contractual changes, market changes. So it’s always kind of being a student of the practice, which I find very exciting and fulfilling because it’s always different.
My “why” I got into the business had to do with my own personal experience of trying to find a reasonable agent when I was purchasing my first home. And I found that actually oddly challenging. And after that experience, I thought to myself, “I think I could probably do this better.” And it turns out I can!
EMILY: So many businesses are created out of an identified need in a market. And it’s the people who are always looking at the next evolution, even beyond what they brought to the table initially, that make the most successful small business owners, like Brad.
Even with the advent of online MLS search engines, the best real estate deals are built on personal relationships, and Karen cited Brad’s ability to forge great relationships in her review.
BRAD: I love that we’re talking about relationships because this is such a huge topic right now in real estate, especially with tech disruption, because there really is a distinction between transactional business and my type of business, which is relational business.
You can go through a transaction and you do that probably daily when you purchase something, probably even blindly just through like your Apple pay or what have you, and it’s one and done, and there’s really not much to it. And it’s probably oftentimes not a very memorable experience.
When it comes to real estate it is such a personal endeavor on the residential side. You’re talking about someone’s home, someone’s sanctuary, someone’s safe space. This is what we all kind of want—the American dream, right? Having your own domain and being the master of it. People ask me my typical client looks like. Well, it looks like kind of everyone, right? I have clients of all different faiths and ethnicities and sexual orientations. And it’s about meeting people where they’re at.
EMILY: There are a lot of opinions and research about relationship building, and while they are usually talking about romantic couples, most of that advice carries over into personal and professional relationships as well. Brad practices one of the most important skills in successful relationships, and it’s something that any small business owner can use.
BRAD: It’s about listening to what’s important to them. So for every client, whether they’re on the buy or sell side, I have an upfront, initial consultation. On the buy-side, it’s usually just a single initial consultation. On the sell side, it’s usually like a part one and two. And the reason for that on the sell side is I need to know the property first and also the clients so that I can do some research. And come back, because the expectation of a seller is always, first and foremost, they want to know: “What’s my home worth?”
If I’m just meeting them in the property for the first time, well, I need to get to know the property first. I think it’s a really underrated soft skill, in terms of real estate—really, it’s listening. I know that sounds really simple and basic. It’s listening and also probing and asking the right questions and a good number of questions.
In fact, it’s counter-intuitive for me to be speaking so much, even in this forum, because I’m usually wanting them, my clients, to speak more to me so I can really get what’s important to them, what their concerns are, so we can address everything. And also make sure too that they’re clear and comfortable about how the process is going to unfold from start to finish.
Staying in communication on a regular basis, even if sometimes it has to be a little bit more automated, those things are important—and also delivering communications, even if they’re automated, that are of value. I don’t send out recipe cards. I never have. I never will. That’s not my thing.
For my homeowner clients, they definitely want to get updates on value. So I send those out on a quarterly basis. I am working on, I’m doing home anniversary update consultations on home value with each individual past client because I think that really is a value-add that keeps them up to date on what’s going on the market. And it’s a great way for us to catch up and have a touch point.
EMILY: Realtors work with their clients during a very vulnerable period in their lives. According to a 2018 survey by Homes.com, 40% of Americans say buying a home was the most stressful event they’ve ever experienced. So all of the things Brad talked about—listening, communicating, understanding—allow him to be a steady hand in a not-so-steady process.
KAREN: Buying and selling real estate can be an extremely stressful process. At this point I’ve been through the process enough times that there’s not a lot that’s terribly new, but it’s really, really important.
I would say the first time I dealt with Brad, it actually was selling a property. I know that, for instance, when I was looking in one market, he’s very good at gently educating the buyer—myself in the scenario—when a specific property might not be the right one. It’s more of a suggestion, but it’s specific enough that it comes through, and I really, really have appreciated that. Not only does he get excited about properties with me, but he’s also just very pragmatic in terms of looking at: “Does this fit your needs?” on top of “Is this just a good property?”
Because a good property could be good for anyone, but it could be bad for that individual. So he, more than a lot of agents that I’ve chatted with, really, really listens to the must-haves and the must-not-haves and considers that when he’s guiding me, and I’m sure other clients as well, about how to make a decision that is in the six or seven figures.
It’s not a type of decision that you want to take lightly.
EMILY: Real estate has a reputation of being a cut-throat industry, and you don’t hear many stories about camaraderie among realtors and everyone singing kum-bah-yah in a circle of trust. In fact, there are more than a few TV networks who have entire series dedicated to the idea that realtors cannot, and do not, get along.
Any small business can be competitive within their industry, but Brad doesn’t think it has to be. Collaboration can mean wins for both sides of a deal, and that makes everyone happy.
BRAD: Regarding camaraderie in the real estate industry, it really ought to be more of a thing. I think by and large, I don’t know that it’s viewed that way. I don’t even know that it’s practiced that way. Even though, as a licensee in Washington state, I have a legal responsibility to cooperate with my colleagues who also are licensees. And it is really important. In fact, I think that makes for the best negotiations. I think when clients hear negotiation, they’re thinking of some really tenacious shark who’s just out for blood and just out for the kill and out for the win. And that is not a negotiation. A negotiation actually is relationship-building with a colleague and it’s about really understanding them, how they operate.
It’s kind of the old expression: “You get more bees with honey.” It’s absolutely true. When you can relate with a colleague, they’re a little bit more trusting and open to give you information that could help your side. And the other point of that, too, is in terms of negotiation, there should be give all the way around.
We have a values and belief system at Keller Williams that starts with win-win or no deal. There’s no deal that’s worth our reputation—there just isn’t. Back in May of 2010, when I joined Keller Williams, I aligned myself with the company that truly believes in collaboration.
And when we collaborate, there’s more to go around for everyone. At the beginning of the pandemic, myself, along with two of my Keller Williams colleagues in various other locations throughout the country, we started leading. It started as a twice-a-week call with our colleagues throughout the country.
And it’s turned into a weekly call that has been going since, I want to say April of 2020, and still to this day. I have formed over the years through Keller Williams, solid relationships with colleagues in other market areas who I feel can be, in many ways, an extension of my own practice.
So for example, Karen, she was looking in Portland and in Hood River, and I connected her with a colleague that I trusted could deliver her the same level of experience and expertise that she had with me. And she enjoyed that. And I think she even mentioned that in her interview.
We collaborate, we all win, and it’s really coming from a mindset of abundance. While we may be in somewhat competition for business, I know that my book of business that I’ve grown over the last 18 years—it continues to support me and helped me thrive as a practitioner.
EMILY: Karen gave a pretty brief review, but it was full of the right information when looking for a realtor—listing what was great about Brad and his services, highlighting his relationship-building skills, and making sure another reader knew Brad made a difficult process easy. Karen’s review philosophy is simple: She writes what she would want to know from a review. In addition, she takes a look at the history of the reviewer, not just the potential business.
KAREN: I think coming from a journalism background myself, that reviewing experiences is just kind of a natural for me. But also on top of that, because I am a freelancer and a business owner, I understand the value of what a positive review can do for a business.
If you’ve had an amazing experience, why don’t you want to share that with someone else that it would help, and also help that particular business excel and do better too? And the same thing is somewhat true as far as a really bad experience. In those scenarios, I mean, I try to be fair and consider what could have been going on with the business, that there are things that I don’t see that maybe out of their control. I will write the occasional negative review just where I feel like a company has really, really missed the mark. Fortunately that has not ever been the case with Brad.
In terms of looking at other people’s reviews, as part of my purchase process, one thing that I will do is if I notice that someone writes a really exceptionally positive or negative review, I’ll check their other reviews to get a sense of whether this is a trend or not. Because what I’ve noticed is that some people are consistently positive and they will never, ever point out the negatives, which can be a bad thing. And the flip side of that is true. Some people are consistently complaining about different businesses. So I think it’s really important when you look at reviews. You look at it within context and understand where that reviewer is coming from.
That’s one of the things, too, that kind of drives me to try and be as fair as possible when I’m reviewing or fitting my review within the greater picture.
EMILY: There is one thing that seems to elude most of us—and especially small business owners: work-life balance. And maybe for many, it doesn’t exist. But even though, and maybe especially because, your small business is such a personal endeavor, you should take time away from it occasionally. Sometimes life will force you to take time off, as it did for Brad recently, and it’s in those instances that you need to have a good backup plan in place.
BRAD: Having a work-life balance in real estate is really, really tricky. Wow. In fact, I can actually, you know what, I’m just going to go for the jugular and talk about a really critical time in my own life personally that has recently transpired.
That was my husband and I bringing my mom, who was at the end of her seven-and-a-quarter-year stage four lung cancer journey, into our home for end-of-life care. And that was just a couple months ago. And she passed in late October. For me during that time, I didn’t take on a lot, and the expectations I set were having an outgoing, autoresponder on my email, having a voicemail, not getting terribly detailed about what I had going on. You know, I had a matter close to my heart that was taking precedence right now. And it may be that they may have to speak with a colleague. And I had actually no less than probably eight people in my office backing me up during that time. That’s kind of more on the extreme side of things.
And it also punctuates that we all do have like real life lives. Right? Even us real estate brokers actually do have families and loved ones and have desires outside of just the workplace. I do try to set the expectation that I don’t generally take non-urgent calls after 6:00 PM.
Generally I try as best I can not to work on Sunday. And I think a lot of people do understand and respect that, that we should at least have one day off a week, if not two, ideally. I also want to do for myself a better job of prioritizing my off time, because when I’m refreshed, I’m going to show up that much better and in spades for my clients. And ideally cultivate more advocates like Karen.
It’s still humbling to get that kind of feedback or to have a client set up an opportunity like this. To be able to bring my best self to the table, to be a great facilitator of a transaction, to be the top-notch relational broker that I know I can be—it really does require having some type of balance between my work and what have you, although a lot of things happen and occurred outside of typical hours because that’s when most clients are available evenings and weekends. I definitely accommodate that within reason.
EMILY: Most of the time, customers and clients will understand that life happens, and we all need to take care of family matters. It’s crucial to communicate that with your customers and let your clients know they are in good hands—even if they aren’t yours.
KAREN: On the rare occasions when he won’t be available for a bit, say for a few days because he is traveling or whatever, he really—not just realtors, but in business owners across the board—has been better than anyone in terms of communicating what’s happening, how long he’s not going to be available, who’s going to be backing him up in his absence, and for what types of scenarios as well. So for instance, if someone is just looking or they’re already in the escrow process or whatever, he’ll leave an outgoing message saying, “So and so is going to be handling this element in my absence. Please contact them. Here’s their contact information.” And kind of go down the list of possible scenarios that people might face.
EMILY: While it sometimes seems small business owners are out to sea on their own, that doesn’t have to be the case. When you build a network of other local business owners through communication and collaboration, you can develop all kinds of partnerships that could improve your own business. It’s always a good idea to learn from each other’s mistakes, support other businesses through cross-marketing, and bounce ideas off of each other.