JF1182: Answering Your Clients Questions Before They Ask Them with Nancy Braun
Nancy started a brokerage at a very strange time, in 2008 right before the market shifted. Luckily for her and her team, she had a great niche and system already in place, which made it easy to expand to a new niche when the shift occurred. Nancy says one of the most important things for her brokerage to stay successful is staying top of mind with her clients, even after their transaction is completed. When she is in the middle of a transaction with a client, Nancy and her team work to proactively answer any questions that might come up from the client. If you enjoyed today’s episode remember to subscribe in iTunes and leave us a review!
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Nancy Braun Real Estate Background:
- Charlotte Real Estate Broker / Owner Showcase Realty & Showcase Property Management
- Creative force behind Charlotte’s Showcase Realty and its several divisions.
- Showcase Realty specializes in many different areas of real estate
- Focusing on technology and delivering a new kind of real estate experience
- Nationally recognized consistently ranking in the Top 1% America’s Best Agents category for sales and volume, by RealTrends
- Based in Charlotte, North Carolina
- Say hi to her at http://showcaserealty.net/
- Best Ever Book: 10x by Grant Cardone
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Joe Fairless: Best Ever listeners, welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m Joe Fairless, and this is the world’s longest-running daily real estate investing podcast. We only talk about the best advice ever, we don’t get into any of that fluffy stuff.
With us today, Nancy Braun. Nancy, how are you doing?
Nancy Braun: Great! Excited to be on the show.
Joe Fairless: Nice to have you on the show. A little bit about Nancy… She is the owner – and I love this title: Broker In Charge at Showcase Realty. They’re headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, and they are not only a brokerage, but they do property management as well. Nancy, in particular, has been recognized and has consistently ranked in the top 1% of America’s Best Agents category for sales and volume by Real Trends. With that being said, Nancy, do you wanna give the Best Ever listeners a little bit more about your background and your current focus?
Nancy Braun: Sure. I started my career in retail management and then went off to law school, and then practiced corporate law. Then I lived my fantasy, which was being a chef-owner of a restaurant for five years. Then I got tired of cold – I was in upstate New York – and beelined for Charlotte, NC, 21 years ago, which was a great decision, great life, much easier on the body, nicer environment.
I moved down here and didn’t know what I wanted to do, and I was urged by my dad to take a real estate class. I took it, I didn’t really have much interest in real estate, didn’t know anything about it, but that career stuck; all my other careers kind of had a five-year turnaround, and this one I’ve been in 21 years.
I didn’t really know anything about real estate when I got here, but I joined a local brokerage and I became one of their top brokers, and 12 years later I opened Showcase Realty in 2008, right when the recession hit… And we’ve been growing ever since.
Joe Fairless: You opened it up at a very interesting time in 2008… Tell us about what that was like.
Nancy Braun: It was… I didn’t really see it coming, but we fortunately had a good niche with the REO foreclosure markets, so when I simultaneously opened the company, I really focused big time on growing the REO division. At that time, that’s how we grew, and we focused on marketing – that was my big thing, it was internet digital marketing, before a lot of the bigger brokerages even took a hold of that. We had a tremendous internet presence, and at the peak, I’ve closed 525 units one year, and the bulk of that was REO.
When the market shifted, we shifted before it shifted, knowing that the REO was gonna dwindle, and now we have — I think it’s reversed, it’s about 80% regular real estate transactions, and about 20% REO in that dynamic, where we kind of change with the times before the times change, so we’re not obsolete.
Joe Fairless: Do you anticipate another change coming, so you can change before the actual change occurs?
Nancy Braun: Yeah, I think it always happens. So we’re all just sort of [unintelligible [00:04:25].00] especially from an investor perspective, we’re all waiting for the market to shift, since the prices are so high and there’s so little on the market. So there is an expectation that there’s gonna be another challenging real estate market, and we’re positioned so we can grow that division back up again. Fortunately, my traditional real estate will stay strong, so with that I’m glad, because they kind of feed off of each other.
My REO listings and my shortsales and distressed listings drive a tremendous amount of leads and a lot of people are interested initially and trying to get a deal, so they contact us first. They may not buy a foreclosure or a shortsale, but we’ve got them hopefully as a client to buy the right house for them, or the right investment. So a lot of investors come to us because they know we have a strong foothold in the REO market. We have great relationships with all the banks and asset managers out there, so even when the market starts shifting, I think we’ll be in a good place.
Joe Fairless: From a management standpoint, how many units do you manage?
Nancy Braun: Well, we have a small showcase… I have a division that’s actually a company called Showcase Property Management, and we probably just manage at any one time about 50-70 properties. It’s not a large division, but it also makes it very personal, and we take a real personal approach to it
Joe Fairless: As the owner who’s overseeing all the different types of revenue streams coming in, how do you identify where to put your focus to help to increase the overall profitability of your company?
Nancy Braun: That’s great, I’ve been in the midst of that right now. I’ve been trying to recharge and re-energize the divisions that are bringing in better profit, rather than just more revenue. In our general brokerage, the average buyer and seller and investors really are the bulk of our profit drive, so I’m focusing a lot on just building up that segment of my company. The REO has become so that I can manage that pretty easily, but the profit is very low.
The banks have really shaved a commission split to us, and the tasking is very labor-intensive, so it’s not a profit segment of my division, it’s kind of like the loss leader in a grocery store; you need that cheap milk to pry them in there. So that’s what drives our investor focus – investors love us, because they see that we have a strong inventory of distressed assets… But I think that’s really good; you have to keep on looking at your business and your business model and seeing where you’re shoving a lot of money or time or energy in, and where that should be refocused into a side of your business that’s making you money.
Joe Fairless: I noticed you didn’t mention the property management, the 50-70 properties, and growing that or optimizing it.
Nancy Braun: Actually, that is one of my strategies. It’s an area that has been profitable to us, but it would certainly be a lot more profitable if we had more doors, so that’s an area that we need to build on as well.
Joe Fairless: Knowing that you’ve got the general brokerage, where you’re working with buyers and sellers and investors – that’s the main profit machine for you. Then you’ve got the loss leader of REOs, and then you’ve got kind of the wild card of property management. How do you choose to spend your time to focus on what’s making money now, versus what could be making you more money?
Nancy Braun: Yeah, I’m engrossed in that right now. I’m trying to build my retail division I have on my own little team. These are people that I worked with buyers and sellers I’ve worked with in the past, they trust me, they know me… They specifically asked to only work with myself or my team, so I can’t delegate those clients over to my independent contractor agents. That’s the division I’m kind of focusing on right now, because it’s doing very well. And I have control, because I have my employees focusing on that segment, so I can dictate to them what exactly they need to do to make sure that each of my personal clients gets the same quality experience from Showcase.
Now, if I delegated a client to one [unintelligible [00:08:54].07] agents, it doesn’t necessarily transcribe to the same experience that my specific team has. It’s kind of like a craft, because we follow a protocol and a system… It’s very systematized, so that especially our sellers get the exact same experience and same marketing, and obviously we wanna make them lifetime clients.
So that’s an element I’m focusing on – hiring people to be in that division that are really quality, A players, that will do things as I dictate that they need to be done, or as the team dictates how things have to be done, so each client has the same quality experience. So that’s one of the focuses – building that division, getting the right people in the right seats.
Joe Fairless: Okay. You’ve mentioned ensuring – or at least attempting to ensure – that the same quality of experience is experienced by clients, whether they’re working directly with you or with your immediate team, and then trying to scale that… And you said you’ve got a system in place and that’s really important to you… What aspects of this system have been improved upon the most since you’ve started creating a system?
Nancy Braun: Communication. That is critical, especially when you’re talking about sellers. They really wanna know what we’re doing behind the scenes; they wanna have a clue on where our marketing is. Our sellers are much more educated and internet-savvy today than they were ten years ago. They go online and they wanna see that their property is marketed everywhere and they can find it online very easily. They’re checking on it, and we have an incredible team of marketing specialists that make sure that the property is plasted everywhere on the internet and has very strong SEO. I have an SEO person specifically focused on that.
Then we update the clients with snapshots of everywhere they’re exposed on the internet, as well as the hits and the interest that they’re getting, and we make sure that they know when we’re boosting ads on Facebook and targeting ads… They’re getting copies of everything. So we have systems in place, and that certainly took us a long time to create, so that they’re all engaged in the same processes that we’re doing, so they don’t second-guess us and think “What’s my agent doing?” I think that’s the biggest problem – a lot of agents work really hard for their clients, but they don’t relate to their client what happened yesterday and what happens tomorrow and where you’re gonna be the next day.
Our placement and our focus is very strategic, so that way we don’t just plaster the internet with their property on day one of when it goes on the market, because Google hates that. They wanna see steady progress, so we have a calendar that’s a live calendar, that the client can click on any day and see “Oh, look where I’m gonna be on this day. Look what they’re doing on this day.” So it’s very strategic marketing.
Joe Fairless: That is… It’s so methodical; I hadn’t heard of a process that detailed. It holds their hand along the way…
How many updates — and perhaps I think you might have answered it with them just being able to log into the calendar, but when you were saying when you boost the Facebook ad, things like that, they get an update… How many updates are too many updates for the client?
Nancy Braun: They’re insatiable, they want [unintelligible [00:12:12].03] [laughter] There’s never too much. I think if they were notified every day, they’d be happy. But we definitely let them know professionally on a weekly basis, we give them an update. Then I’ve done live webinars with them, and I let them see my screen. They can see there’s ways that we can figure out how many showings are going on in their neighborhood or their zip code, outside of their listing, and I can say “Look, if you were priced in this price range in your neighborhood, you would have had eight showings this week. But because you’re priced at this other bracket, we’ve only had two showings this week. Should we shift to the other bracket? Because that’s what’s getting all the activity.”
The clients love it, because it’s so transparent. They really see what’s going on in the market and we’re not just feeding them a bunch of baloney; they can actually see it, and they go “Wow… I’m not strategically placed in the market, I need to reposition our listing.”
Joe Fairless: Let’s pretend that same client has gone through the process with you and gone through a successful closing, and now it is seven months from when you closed. What (if any) communication have you provided to that client on a regular basis to stay top of mind?
Nancy Braun: That’s critical, too… And we have a closing process. We obviously send a handwritten thank you note after the closing, we call that week to see if everything is good, do they need us for anything, water heater work, and “Do you need any of our vendors?” and we send a gift, and then we put them in a program that is called our Seller Suite. They get updates from their community. If they moved to a new neighborhood and have a new address, then they will get updates on all the properties that are going on the market or are under contract in their particular neighborhood. I think everyone wants to know what’s happening in their own neighborhood – are the prices shifting, are they changing, are they selling fast? So they’re just e-mailed listings in their neighborhood forever, so they can just see what’s the pattern in their neighborhood and how their investment is doing.
So we do that, and then obviously we put them on a drip, so they get updates on how the market is, what’s going on in the real estate market in their local market. Then it’s really my job to keep calling them and seeing how things are. There’s more things I can do when those things are in place; we’re trying to create a better mail campaign as well, so they’re getting more newsletters from us and more updates.
Joe Fairless: As far as the Seller Suite goes, where you give them updates on their community, is that a software program that you created, or is that just a name that you created for subscription to the MLS in their neighborhood?
Nancy Braun: We use [unintelligible [00:15:00].26] so we have to just place that client into the Seller Suite with their new address, and then they’ll get auto-emailed activity in their neighborhood.
Joe Fairless: Got it. What would you say is the number one way that you stay top of mind with your clients after the closing, if you had to pick one?
Nancy Braun: I think Facebook. We do a lot of focus of our marketing on Facebook. We obviously invite them to follow us on Facebook once we meet them, once they come on board with our company, and then they’re gonna see updates – they’re gonna see recent solds, recent new listings, but they also see personal things… About 20% of my posts are person. Then they’re gonna see what’s going on in the market. Video is one of our biggest drives. Everyone loves video, so we do a lot of video posts on Facebook. I think that’s probably our number one.
Joe Fairless: You work with investor, right?
Nancy Braun: Yes.
Joe Fairless: Can you tell us a story about working with an investor? And take that in whichever direction you wanna take it.
Nancy Braun: Well, we work with mom-and-pops, and we also work hedge funds. Totally different experiences, working with someone to buy one or two properties if they envision owning and maybe holding and renting out as a future investment for them. Those are always very personal, because it’s their life savings and it’s very important that what they pick is gonna be a profitable, strong investment for their future.
Recently – my babysitters are Brazilian and they had some inheritance that they could flip some money over from Brazil, but it was like their life savings, and we bought a couple homes for them. They’re easily rented, and they’re gonna be great investments for them down the road when they wanna sell them… But they’re probably gonna hold them a long time; they trusted me, because they’ve been with our family for so long.
Then on the other side, we work with hedge funds. We do acquisitions for them, and it’s on a computerized program where you plug in numbers, and they have to meet certain fields, and it’s just a machine, so it’s not as personal. It’s just “Do the numbers work?”
Joe Fairless: And I’m sure that a hedge fund buys, in general, more than a mom and pop person, correct?
Nancy Braun: Yeah… Ideally. If their numbers work… It’s tough right now. There’s so little on the market, and the hedge funds have really tight numbers. If they have a multiple offers scenario, it’s really hard to meet those numbers sometimes.
Joe Fairless: What are the typical numbers of a hedge fund that they’re looking to achieve?
Nancy Braun: Most, if they’re holding, they want at least a 5% or above [unintelligible [00:17:38].16] When you factor in their figures, that could be tough, because they have a lot of holdings costs, and carrying costs, and they have cushions built in, so that they are gonna see at least a 5% net. A lot of them have very similar criteria – they wanna be in great school districts, they wanna have no obstructions, no visual views of [unintelligible [00:18:02].29] or corner lots, they don’t like water around them, they have to have amenities in the neighborhood, they have to have a two-car garage, it can’t be older than 10-15 years old… They’re all after the same thing. [laughter] It’s tough.
Joe Fairless: How did you initially get connected with your first hedge fund that you worked with?
Nancy Braun: I think it’s usually someone mentions me to someone. “Oh, did you speak to Nancy?” I think I went after the first one I did initially — a large hedge fund I worked for, and I think I went after them. I saw them starting to acquire a lot of properties and I did some research and contacted them. But sometimes it’s just they find me, because we have such a strong internet presence, and they know we have such high inventory in distressed markets.
We’re kind of well-suited to assist for hedge funds, because we have the expertise and the experience working in this arena.
Joe Fairless: Based on your experience, what is your best advice ever for real estate investors?
Nancy Braun: Best advice ever for real estate investors… It’s all different. Some people want different things, but the best advice I guess is to get something — if you really wanna be safe, closer into the city you live in… The ones that are farther out are more susceptible to economic changes, whereas the city properties closer in are always gonna be highly desired.
Joe Fairless: Got it. As long as it’s not in a bad pocket. But eventually, perhaps that pocket will change.
Nancy Braun: Yeah. As long as it is close in… I’m not afraid of buying things further out either, because it’s cheaper, but it depends on what level of safety you want and how risk-adverse you are.
Joe Fairless: Are you ready for the Best Ever Lightning Round?
Nancy Braun: Okay…
Joe Fairless: Alright, let’s do it. Hey, you went to law school, you are ready for this, believe me… First though, a quick word from our Best Ever partners.
Joe Fairless: Alright, best ever book you’ve read?
Nancy Braun: Best ever book I read… I’m reading 10X right now, which I love.
Joe Fairless: Okay, by Grant Cardone…
Nancy Braun: Yes.
Joe Fairless: Best ever transaction you’ve done, either buying your own or working with someone?
Nancy Braun: I bought my own recently in a transitional neighborhood close to the town. It like an old bungalow, and I just think it’s gonna be a terrific investment. It’s easy to rent, and it’s charming, it has a lot of character. I’ll either keep it for a long time and rent it out… I even thought of doing an Airbnb with it, because of the proximity with the city. A lot of choices.
Joe Fairless: What’s a mistake you’ve made on a transaction?
Nancy Braun: I’ve bought a property once… My staff messed up and made some mistakes, and with the asset management was mad at me, so I said “I’ll just buy it. Don’t worry, I’ll fix it, I’ll fix it”, and I’ve done that before – I’ll just buy the property just to get the problem solved… And it’s been a headache ever since. Its condition was horrible, it’s out in the country, and it’s on a well and septic… You don’t wanna do that. [laughter] Gosh, I hate that property.
Joe Fairless: So note to self – if someone else has a problem, then don’t just buy the property from them.
Nancy Braun: Well, don’t buy something old, and a well and septic… Yeah.
Joe Fairless: Well and septic, noted. What’s the best ever way you like to give back?
Nancy Braun: We are very focused on that. I’m on the board of director and advisor counsel for the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Charlotte. I’m there almost every week. We are one of the top donors to the Boy and Girls Club in the Charlotte region. I love the organization, I love the people in it, I love their gratitude and the results. It’s very result-driven, and these kids are really different, not because of their membership in the Boys and Girls Club. 94.5% graduation rate in high school, and a lot of them go off to college because of their experience there, so that’s very fulfilling.
Joe Fairless: How can the Best Ever listeners get in touch with you or learn more about your company?
Nancy Braun: They can call my cell, 704 488 3109, go to my website, ShowcaseRealty.net. They can e-mail, Nancy@ShowcaseRealty.net.
Joe Fairless: Well, if they can’t get a hold of you after those three things, then there’s a big problem. Nancy, thanks for being on the show. Thanks for talking about your macro level business and your approach right now, focusing on profitability, where the majority of it is coming from the general brokerage, growing the property management and then REO as a loss leader. I loved that example of the grocery store milk.
Then the approach for how you stay top of mind with your clients after the close: handwritten Thank You notes, gifts, a call the following week, you’ve got monthly updates about their community, and then your drip campaign, as well as using Facebook.
Thanks for being on the show. I hope you have a best ever day, and we’ll talk to you soon.
Nancy Braun: Thank you very much, it was a pleasure.