Do you need to develop a niche in order to be successful in real estate, or should you just serve everyone? It’s a valid question, and it’s one often driven by fear—the fear of “boxing yourself in.” After all, each neighborhood and agent can be vastly different. But heed this warning: If you attempt to help everyone, you could help yourself right out of business.
When you don’t define what sets you apart, the assumption for many is that you’re just like everyone else—and with hundreds or thousands of agents in every market, no one wants to blend in or be considered ordinary. When you define your point of differentiation, what kind of customer you’re best suited to serve, and how working with you makes your clients’ lives better, you create a memorable message that sticks with people. That said, the process of choosing a niche may not be what you think.
There are six categories to consider when positioning yourself and your brand in the market. Here are brief descriptions of each, along with some advice about when and how to use them.
Geographic area: This category is often referred to as a farming area. Agents focus on this when they want to be known for serving a particular neighborhood or community. This is one of the most common ways to position yourself, but it can also make you vulnerable to competition. Other agents can claim to specialize in the same neighborhood as you, so you don’t want this to be your only point of differentiation. Showcase other things that set you apart, such as your ability to get clients to the closing table faster or your passion for matching high-end buyers with homes that reflect their affluent lifestyle. Consider combining your geographic focus with one of the last three categories in this list. You also must consider whether you will live in or near your farming area for an extended period of time. If you’re not planning to do so, you’ll probably want to consider another niche.
Customer type: This is often used to home in on a specific clientele, such as first-time home buyers or seniors. It can be extremely effective—if you have a strong connection to a particular group of people. Let’s say you decide to focus on seniors who are preparing to downsize. That doesn’t mean you’ll never work with another first-timer again. It simply means you don’t spend your time and money marketing to them. You will naturally get other types of customers from fringe business or referrals. Go ahead and work with them if you want. But the more time you spend nurturing the specific customer type you’re most suited for, the more your business will grow in this direction.
Property type: Another valid niche to specialize in is a specific type of property, such as condos or waterfront homes. It can reassure your customer to know that you concentrate on exactly what they are seeking. The downside to this niche is that the market may change; condos may suffer as first-time buyers pull out of the market, or waterfront homes may be in short supply or have little attrition over time. Again, it’s important to combine this niche with one of the last three categories. This way, if the market changes, your other strengths will help you shift your focus.
Experience level: Seasoned agents can use their experience in the field to their advantage, but you must express it more poignantly than “25 years in the business.” No matter what number of years in real estate you can boast about, you must showcase the type of experience you have or what you have learned through that experience. Be prepared to connect the dots and add the “why.” There’s a reason you’ve persisted through the ups and downs of real estate, so share that story with your clients. They’ll never forget why they (and many others before them) chose you.
Individual attributes: This is a way for new agents to set themselves apart. If you don’t have the experience or knowledge of your competitors, focus on individual skills that make you an individual, both personally and professionally, and that would appeal to the type of customer you want. Maybe you’re driven and persistent, which would satisfy a client’s desire to get things done quickly. Maybe you’re good at motivating others, giving clients confidence and a positive customer service experience. The key is to be authentic. Be who you are every day, and use those strong attributes to attract clients who appreciate your time and dedication to the craft.
Specific expertise: Think beyond expertise in a specific area, community, customer, or property type. You can showcase knowledge in other areas, such as negotiations, contracts, home staging, lending options, construction, or remodeling. Agents who come into real estate as a second career can use their experience in another closely tied industry, such as mortgage banking or contracting. This focuses on expertise that is exclusive to you. As in all the other categories, the type of expertise you bring to the table should match your ideal customer’s wants or needs.