Publication Date: Friday, October
Choose me, choose me
Local agents strive to differentiate themselves
by Terry Tang
in on an efficient real estate agent amid a sea of referrals and
advertisements can be an overwhelming process. And nobody knows
that better than the agents themselves. Like any service industry,
the real estate business is populated with agents trying to distinguish
themselves from the property-selling pack.
Over time, Joy Valentine, a broker associate with Coldwell
Banker in Los Altos since 1997, noticed that a majority of her
elderly clients faced difficult issues that had nothing to do with
price negotiations. For many senior sellers, the idea of having
to sell the home where they spent most their adult life can provoke
"They might have shared it with a spouse who has since died. They might
have raised their children there," Valentine said. "There's a huge
identity, a lifetime, that gets connected to that home. For someone to move
from that is a huge, huge trauma."
A family counselor for 20 years, Valentine ended up giving older
homeowners a special level of attentiveness. She found they showed
higher levels of anxiety
about moving. Valentine also saw how important it was to address senior clients'
concerns, but in a way that maintained their autonomy during the whole process.
"Often, families are impatient, have (their) own agendas no matter how well-meaning
they are," she said. "They're not very focused on helping parents
With the goal of reaching out to seniors, Valentine formed Joy
Valentine and Associates a year ago. She carries a special designation
of "senior specialist." While
many Realtors carry this distinction, Valentine believes that few cater
to older demographics. Furthermore, she is happy to incorporate
her skills as
into her real estate career.
A few months into forming her company, she also put on a workshop in Los Altos
with a mortgage broker and an attorney. Especially aimed at older homeowners,
they could discuss financial planning and real estate. Valentine hopes to have
"It's enormously satisfying to really feel that I have related in a way
that has been genuinely helpful and kind, where I've provided something that
goes beyond what the typical service would be," Valentine said.
Car collectors and baseball enthusiasts looking for real estate
service may want to keep Bob "BC" Cross on their radar.
Associated with Coldwell Banker, Cross has devised ways to promote
two of his
favorite hobbies through
According to Cross, most Multiple Listing Service systems don't allow for people
to search for houses with a garage containing a specific number of spaces. He
only knows of one that lets you indicate a garage preference. For an auto aficionado,
that limitation can be a bump in the road to the perfect home. Although car collectors
are primarily men, he says there are some female collectors. Cross says he has
tapped into a unique niche by offering a centralized service.
Of course, facilitating the hunt for a four-car garage means a lot more work
for him. Besides advertising in other places like car collector magazines, Cross
has launched a Web site where buyers and sellers who are into classic cars can
look up information.
Sometimes he deals with sellers who wanted to use their bigger
garages to their advantage. These clients wanted to "jack up the price" and
he'd have to convince them otherwise.
"That buyer will be sensitive and looking not to overpay and get
a fair value like everybody else," Cross said. "It was
a side effect I wasn't prepared for. But now I'm prepared for when
Luckily, bringing baseball into the real estate fold only requires
filling out one extra form. Raised in the Bay Area on Little League
sports, Cross sponsored
the Mountain View Little League last year. But he wanted to do
something on a bigger scale to help them raise money and get the
community involved. In April,
he sat down with the MVLL sponsorship director and inked a deal
for a Home Sale Promotion. If a buyer or seller indicated support
for the Little League, Cross
would donate money from the post-closing on a home.
In the end, donations essentially come out of Cross' salary. Thus,
one condition is that a sale must be a full commission sale for
him to make a contribution.
For example, a full commission for sellers would be 6 percent for
a list price going up to $999,999 and 5 percent for $1,000,000
or higher. So, a donation could
add up to $500-$1,000, depending on the transaction's value.
"If someone's concerned about paying less commission, that's where I can't
go into my own pocket," Cross said. "I'm totally up front
about that in the information and fine print."
So far, about a half-dozen clients have participated in the MVLL
fundraiser. But he is counting on people to get the word out and
more potential clients with
a soft spot for Little League will come his way. Right now, he
anticipates surpassing his $10,000 goal. While the deal is in place
until February, Cross will most
likely keep the promotion going.
Both agents concur that trying to differentiate from their peers
is an uphill battle. But reaching out to different target groups
is a natural progression,
especially in an industry where the market demand can fluctuate
"It's always an issue to set yourself apart," Valentine said. "You've
got to figure out what you do well and what you do naturally and try to emphasize