Farming in real estate can be viewed as being analogous to agricultural farming. It is a process in which a Sales Representative consistently plants seeds by making their presence known in the community in various ways, maintains the farm by providing valuable information and services and, if done correctly and consistently, reaps a harvest of listings and buyers. The key to success in this is consistency, both in effort, the message and time commitment. Forget one of the first two components in farming and you can forget the last.
Choosing the right area to farm is critical to your success. Factors that need to be considered include:
- the size of the farm,
- the turnover rate,
- the absorption rate,
- the inventory,
- the competition, including their market share and the services they provide,
- the growth potential in the area,
- the demographics,
- desirability of the homes in the area,
- the sales trends (whether prices are rising or falling).
You should not choose an area just because it’s where you live and you know the area, or an area where you’d like to live, or if the area has a higher price tag attached and you feel you can make more money per transaction. Selecting a farm area takes research, consideration and time.
Once you’ve selected your farm area, your task is simple. Get yourself known! That’s it. How you choose to accomplish that is up to you. However you communicate with your farm, it must be consistent and designed to ensure that the residents within your farm keep you “top of mind” whenever they think of real estate. If they have a real estate question, are you their go-to resource person? If they have a friend or family member who has a question or a real estate need, do they refer you to them?
My friend Josie Stern, for whom I have tremendous respect, has been the premier sales representative in her area for the past twenty-five years and has this to say about her experience in developing her farm.
“Twenty-five years ago, before privacy laws, an agent could pursue an expired listing contract. So after the first two months of entering the business I pursued the seller of a house on Wychwood Ave (currently in Hillcrest Village). I got the listing in July of 1989 when the market started its rapid downward seven year spiral. The seller had to sell so I marketed the heck out of that place. Cold called, held daily evening open houses in the month of July and door knocked. There was no internet, so face to face and phones were the only way. During that period I met the people in the community and fell in love with the area. I began to see that this lovely community (now known as Hillcrest Village) was being overlooked because the area had not been promoted and so I decided to become its ambassador, flaunting its merits to everyone. More affordable than the Annex, north Toronto and Yonge/Eglinton, yet just as centrally located, beautiful architecture, many green spaces, family programs, a growing retail area etc. The first ten years were hard because the area wasn’t as trendy as other areas so bringing in buyers was like pulling on a rope but I knew it was just a question of time before everyone saw what I saw in the neighbourhood. The Toronto Star noticed my efforts and they printed a half page article in November 2002 about “people with a mission that affect neighbourhoods” and that’s when the area began to be noticed. Thirteen years after I started farming it. Farming an area requires patience, passion for and commitment to the betterment of the community daily and a reputation that will honor the trust people place in you. This is how you plant the seeds of your career which will last a lifetime. You have to become engaged and interested in bettering people’s lives by placing them first above all else… and do it for a long time. When you do that you become entrenched in people’s lives and they learn to trust you because they know you care and you become their confidante. That’s a hard feat for your competitor’s to beat. So farming is not just sending out flyers and waiting for the calls. If it doesn’t come with a heart it won’t be lasting.”
One simple, but immensely important aspect of farming is the concept that is best described by Jim Rohn; “Giving is better than receiving, because giving starts the receiving process”. It’s critical to “give back” or build “goodwill” within your farming area, so that you become known as the trusted “go-to” advisor and that people in your farm area understand that you have THEIR best interests at heart and not your own.
Josie related a couple of incidents that occurred in her community that clearly define how vital that concept is in building relationships in a farm.
“I received a phone call from a woman in my farm area this year who told me she had received a private offer. She asked if I would do an appraisal on her house so she could make sure she was getting market value and she would pay me. I told her it was not necessary to pay me because I was happy to do it for free. When I went to appraise her house she told me she had asked the agent who sold her the house to do the same and because it wasn’t going to pay off for him he did not want to waste his time, so he gave her a ball park value on the phone. She told me the price of the private offer and I told her to accept it. Two weeks later she called to tell me the private offer did not go through and she gave us the listing. She said she never considered using the agent who sold her the house because he didn’t care enough to go over to give her an appraisal.”
The second occurrence illustrates that it’s far more important to keep the best interests of the people in your farm at the forefront than it is to just get the sale.
“We get called in all the time to help people with their renovations, to give them ideas or to advise them on whether they should renovate or sell. Many times we tell people to renovate and stay where they are because it makes the most sense for them. Last year we did just that. We told a person to renovate and after she renovated she asked if we would go see her reno because she wanted to show it off to us. Of course we went. A year later, another client of ours told us she had had a street party at her house for thirty people. She said that the lady whom we had advised to renovate and not sell had come to the party and was bragging about how honest we are to everybody. Thirty people now think we are great. The time we spent with her was not about commission, it was about building goodwill.”
This will happen only with time and by consistently acting in the best interest of the people who live in your farm area.