074: How to Become a Luxury Real Estate Agent with Alex Goldstein

On today’s episode of the InvestFourMore Real Estate Podcast I interview extremely successful real estate agent Alex Goldstein. Alex has also been a real estate investor and what brought into the luxury real estate agent business was losing just about everything he had in the housing crisis. Alex was invested heavily in the Phoenix market before the crash and he saw his holdings drop 50 percent or more in value in a very short period of time.

Alex did not give up on real estate, but instead changed his focus from investing to being a real estate agent. He chose to work in the high-end market as an agent because he was familiar with it and comfortable with the clientele. On this show we talk all about how Alex got started, what he does to attract clients, how he is able to impress his clients, and what his future goals are.

How did Alex get started as a luxury real estate agent?

Alex was a real estate investor in Phoenix in the early and mid 2000’s, but his world turned upside down when the housing crisis hit. He lost just about everything he had, but did not give up. As a real estate investor he had many dealing with real estate agents. His overall impression with agents was that he was not very impressed. He thought many did not do a good job for him or other clients. Alex decided to become a real estate agent, because he knew he could do much better and there had to be demand for good real estate agents.

Alex started out chasing low-end deals because that was what every real estate agent did. As his first year progressed he ended up doing a 1.2 million dollar deal. After he completed the deal, his entire world changed. He enjoyed working with the high-end sellers, they were not as time-consuming, and he made a lot more money on the deal. He decided from that point forward that he would focus on luxury real estate.

Why does Alex enjoy working with high-end clients as a real estate agent?

Alex feels very comfortable with high-end clients. When he was investing in real estate he dealt with million dollar homes. His inner circle includes manner high net worth individuals, and it was natural for him to relate to them. When Alex did his first deal with high-end clients he was amazed how much easier the deal was! You may assume the more expensive a house is, the more work it takes to deal with the clients, but that was not true.

Alex found that high-end clients were successful because they valued their time and they knew exactly what they wanted. They did not look at 50 houses, when they already knew 47 of them would not be a good fit. They looked at three houses that they knew might work and skipped the houses that would not work. When they found the right house, they would write up a contract right away, and not dilly dally second guessing their decisions. When he spoke on the phone to his clients they got right to the point, and did not waste time. The luxury clients also had their finances in order.

How did Alex find clients to buy or sell luxury homes?

Alex does not have any secret marketing tips. He simply networks with people in his inner circles and does an awesome job for his clients. Alex does have a great technique to impress and keep the clients he meets. He has written multiple books on real estate and gives a book to any potential client he meets. Once a client receives the book they are immediate impressed, and it gives Alex instant credibility.

No Nonsense Real Estate is one of Alex’s books. In fact, I have stolen Alex’s idea and started to write another book focused on general real estate practices.

What advice does Alex have for real estate agents?

Alex has found his niche in the luxury real estate market, but that may not be for everyone. He suggest you work with the buyers and sellers you are most comfortable with. He has a few more tips that I completely agree with:

  • Focus on one or two things to be successful. Do not try to make money doing 8 different things your first year in the business.
  • There is a lot of competition, but most agents are not very good and most try to do the exact same thing. Be good at your job, find your niche and focus on it, and you can be successful.
  • Alex thinks it can be tough to be a young agent, but they can still succeed. He suggests joining a team to give yourself experience and credibility if you are young.

How can you reach Alex?

You can find Alex in Phoenix at the Realty One Group. You can also check his books at Nononsensebook.com and publishtosell.com.

[00:00:58.9] MF: Hey everyone, it’s Mark Ferguson with InvestFourMore. Welcome to another episode of the InvestFourMore Real Estate Podcast. I have a very cool guest on for this show, Alex Goldstien, who is a luxury real estate agent. We’ve talked to a few different agents on different episodes but most of them have been not really low-end agents but they don’t specialize in the luxury sector. They’ve been more about volume. So I’m really excited to talk to Alex here, how he’s got involved in that niche, how he’s become successful and gotten to where he is now.

Not only is Alex a very successful, he’s a very successful author, written a couple of books including one with Brian Tracy, who if you’re in the real estate industry you probably know who Brian Tracy is. He’s very popular, very successful in the business. Alex, thank you so much for being on the show. How are you today?

[00:01:45.9] AG: I’m fantastic, thank you so much for having me here Mark.

[00:01:48.3] MF: Oh no, I appreciate it. I’m glad to talk to you and hopefully I might be able to learn a little bit as well. So first off, I never like to beat around the bush, what made you first want to get involved in real estate, how did you get into that business?

[00:02:01.1] AG: Sure, well I actually started differently than most agents in that I was an investor and a developer before I ever got my real estate license and I really only got into the business because of, well, 2008 and ’09. A lot of my investments and development deals went into the tank and I didn’t really have the financial or emotional fortitude to dive back into that part of the cycle and I was reflecting on what can I do to add value and put food on the table?

It occurred to me that I had done all sorts of deals from office buildings, raw land, built homes, foot houses, everything and I reflected on the experience as I had with agents and it occurred to me that most of those experiences were not very good. They ranged from mediocre to terrible for the most part and I didn’t really have too many very positive experiences and I thought, “Well, I bet I can do a lot better for people than the people that are currently out there and that was really as simple as it was and what got me into the agency business.

[00:03:06.5] MF: No, that’s interesting because on this site we have a lot of real agent resources and articles and discussions but also a lot of investing discussions about flipping rentals and a lot of investors become real estate agents to help their investing, saving commission and finding deals, but I don’t see too many who stop investing to become agents. So that is an interesting twist on things.

[00:03:29.1] AG: Yeah, like I said, it’s not the usual background but it gave me a very specific advantage versus the competition in that I had a lot of knowledge about how deals worked that a lot of my fellow agents just don’t have.

[00:03:44.6] MF: When you first started as an agent, did you focus on working with investors or were you just trying to get any deal you could? How did you first get started in the business?

[00:03:53.7] AG: Well, when I first got started, again, you’ve got to remember that I was coming from a position where I basically had been wiped out. So my confidence wasn’t that high and I was just looking for something to really put one foot in front of the other and at that time, I made a mistake that a lot of other agents make, which was to start at the bottom and just to think, “Okay, I just want to get any business I can,” and I was chasing this little REO deals and things.

I would be running around with clients who wanted to buy properties that were $100,000 or something and it was a disaster. It was actually kind of funny because I wasn’t very good at it and I was able to get into a deal that was about a $1.2 million within my first few months of becoming an agent and I not only made a lot more money but I also found that the deal went a lot more smoothly than the deals went at the lower levels and I thought to myself, “Yeah, this was dumb.”

So I wish I could say I had a grand plan and I knew it all, but I made the mistake that a lot of people make, which is thinking that they’re going to work their way up from the bottom and fortunately, I remedied it pretty quickly. But if I were to start somebody in the business from zero, I would say start servicing the clients that are most like you and that you most understand. So if you’ve got experience in high level properties, that’s where you should be. If you have done a lot of deals as an investor, then look for investors who are like you and if you go with people who you can really add value to and who you understand, you’re going to be successful a lot faster.

[00:05:41.8] MF: That’s a great take on things. I’m curious, when you are doing the investing were you doing high end properties? Is that kind of what your specialty was?

[00:05:48.9] AG: Yeah, I did commercial properties and I also did very high end residential. So I’ve built Beck Homes, they were as large as 9300 square feet, multimillion dollar properties in the best communities in Arizona. So I did some residential deals and even things I did at work, not that expensive that were condos, were luxury condos and things. In the residential side, I definitely have more experience with high end luxury property and then also on commercial investments, like I said, I’ve done offices and large parcels of the land and all sorts of things.

[00:06:27.3] MF: Okay, great. Sorry to keep bringing up the investing side, I know it’s not the most fun thing to talk.

[00:06:31.7] AG: No, no it’s fine. No, I mean that was a long time ago and it’s something that I think that a lot of people went through. I don’t feel too bad because I am not the only one who took their lumps then.

[00:06:41.1] MF: Right. That was an unprecedented crash that’s for sure. I know you’re in Arizona, which probably felt the crash harder than most areas of the country, if I remember right.

[00:06:50.9] AG: Yeah we were down almost 50% in a short period of time. So it was pretty incredible the affect that it had because it wasn’t just people who were in real estate but all the different industries that served real estate or who worked with people. So it’s like you go into a restaurant, and it would be a ghost town. And the restaurant all started going under and it was really tough.

[00:07:14.8] MF: Oh wow, yeah. I am in Colorado and we definitely saw it crashed, the down turn but it didn’t happen overnight like it did in Arizona. Las Vegas, some parts of California was more gradual and definitely not quite as severe but yeah, it’s just hard to imagine what it was like during that time.

[00:07:30.2] AG: Yeah, it was intense and I think, honestly, it’s just something that you’ve got to go through at some point in time and I certainly went through it hard but that affects the perspective that people have for the rest of their careers. It makes them a lot better at what they do. Like if you’ve never been through a down cycle and never really had to deal with the consequences of it, you’re vulnerable.

[00:07:52.8] MF: Right, I agree with that.. You don’t know what to look out for, it’s easy to get caught up in a really hot market when you are making a lot of money and not be careful about what you’re doing.

[00:08:01.2] AG: Absolutely.

[00:08:02.2] MF: Very nice. So with the luxury properties in doing this $1.2 million deal, realizing it is easier working on that than the low end foreclosures, what stuck out in your mind about why it was easier? Why do you think that deal was so appealing to you?

[00:08:18.8] AG: Well, I mean at first it’s the money but it’s also that I could relate and speak to the client better and it took a little while for me to really understand what was going on with the difference between high end and low end, and I realized it wasn’t until I had done several more deals that I could articulate the patterns and this is really, I think, gold for real estate agents. The challenge with people that are dealing with lower end properties, and this is going to sound harsh and judgmental, but if you do this enough times I think you’ll see the patterns.

And there’s a reason that somebody who is buying a $100,000 house, which in our market is less than half the medium, so there’s a reason that somebody is in that position. It’s not just random luck and it normally has to do with the fact that they’re not very good with money and they don’t know how to make decisions and if you go up the scale like if I am working with a client who’s going to be on a three or $4 million deal, which it isn’t a lot in New York and LA but in Arizona, very much the high end.

What I’ve experienced with those clients is that they’re very, very good at making decisions and they also value time a lot. So when you are dealing with clients who value their own time, the process is efficient because they don’t want to waste time looking at properties and talking about things that aren’t relevant and aren’t realistic. So there’s just a virtuous circle when you’re dealing with people at the high end.

[00:09:47.8] MF: No, that makes a lot of sense and I hadn’t really thought about it that way in real estate. I don’t sell a lot of houses myself anymore but my team does and I think a lot of agents when they’re first starting or even throughout their entire career talk about the clients who look at 40 or 50 houses before they make an offer on one and how frustrating it can be, and like you said, a lot of people who are very successful in life they know how valuable time is. They aren’t looky-loos just trying to kill time, they make sure every minute is spent doing productive things so that’s a great point about the high end side.

[00:10:24.4] AG: Yeah, I will give you a great example. There was a client of mine, he was a hedge fund manager who was relocating to Arizona and he was coming in on his private jet, we were going to go look at a property and I asked him when he would like to meet at the property and he said, “I’ll meet you at 11:22 AM,” and he was serious. It wasn’t a joke. And I can tell you, you set your watch by it. His car was there at 11:22 AM, we went into the property.

We get our thing, he’s like, “I got everything I need,” and zoom, he’s off again. That’s the discipline that he has in the way that he runs his life. It’s not like he’s doing me a favor as an agent. That’s just who he is and how he runs his life and I get the benefit of that in working with him because I know exactly what he likes and conversely, if he doesn’t like something he’s not going to beat around the bush. He’s not afraid to hurt my feelings.

If I don’t do well, he’s going to call me out on and at the end of the day it’s easier to deal with somebody like that because you can course correct in a way that you can if you’re dealing with somebody who really doesn’t know how to express themselves or is afraid of hurting your feelings, stuff like that.

[00:11:36.9] MF: Right, that’s great and I think a lot of us wish all of our clients were that way for sure. I’m sure he doesn’t like to beat around the bush on the phone either when he’s talking to you.

[00:11:46.1] AG: Yeah and the other advantage of working with high net worth clients is that you have other opportunities that you wouldn’t have at the low end. So I have a client calling me who also wants representation on commercial transactions and have needs because either they have a business that’s expanding or they have extra cash they want to invest, things like that and so when you are dealing with the lower end, you just don’t get that opportunity.

[00:12:10.5] MF: Right, no but it is usually a one and done deal. Maybe in five to seven years they’ll call you back to move again but they are not looking to buy multiple properties. No, that’s a lot of great points. Now of course, dealing in the high end and selling these properties sounds awesome but making it a reality versus hoping for it to happen isn’t the same thing. How did you get yourself into this niche and really start to go after these clients?

[00:12:36.5] AG: Well, I really did well. The breakthrough moment for me was I published a book and it was just an e-book at first and that was really a breakout moment for me because it was very useful to people and they wanted to do business with me. It’s like the way that you say somebody really knows something is they wrote the book on the subject, right? Like this guy is the expert on scuba diving and you wrote the book on scuba diving.

It’s what people say and when you’re dealing with the market that’s loaded with agents like our market is and you want to stand out, you really got to do something to stand out. You can’t just say the same thing that everybody else said because every agent that I talk to who doesn’t really grasp what it means to stand out, they all say, “Oh, you know I care more about my clients than other people. I am an expert in my market.” They all use the same phrases and they all believe it.

But you’ve got to think from the client’s perspective, they hear the same stuff from everybody. No agent walks up to them and says, “You know what? I don’t really know what I’m doing and I don’t care about my clients,” it never happens.

[00:13:44.1] MF: Right, yep. “I promise I’ll call you back but I won’t really ever call you back again.”

[00:13:49.8] AG: Yeah, so the key is demonstrating you’re different and not just saying you’re different and for me, a book was this really effective tool for that and it not only got me new business from people I didn’t know, but it had another interesting effect was it got business from people that I knew socially but who hadn’t seen me in that light before. So it shifted their perception and it also allowed me to market myself in places where you can’t ordinarily market.

Because there are social organizations where it’s really not okay to promote your business but you can go into virtually into any social organization and say, “I’m really excited. I’m just about to release my new book,” right? Because everybody is excited to talk to an author and to meet somebody doing something interesting. The fact that your book happens to be about real estate doesn’t really matter. You get to fly under the radar and to market yourself in places and in a way that you just can’t do by the standard real estate marketing tools.

[00:14:52.2] MF: No, that’s a great perspective on books and marketing yourself and you are so right about there are certain places where you wanted to let people know you’re an agent, you want to market yourself but there’s other places where it’s not the best thing to do and that’s a great way to break the ice. Now tell us more about your book, what’s it called, what’s it about?

[00:15:12.8] AG: Well the book that I had just released is called No Nonsense Real Estate and that is the third book that I’ve written on real estate and it’s really meant to appeal to consumers who maybe are looking for their first time or who are maybe looking for their third or fourth house but just haven’t really ever taken the time to get the knowledge because there’s certainly more than enough people out there who have bought homes, gotten burned, and realized, “Okay, this time around I want to know what I’m doing.”

So the objective of the book was to give people enough information to ask all the right questions and to be successful with the purchase or sale of a home but not to have the book be so encyclopedic that they wouldn’t even dive into it.

[00:15:58.2] MF: Right that makes sense. You know, it always baffles me that I’m in the industry so it really bothers me when people are making the biggest purchase or their life. They are buying a house, or even the first time they are buying a house and so many people blindly go into the purchase without reading anything, without researching anything.

They just trust their agent, they trust their lender and they have a bad experience, which shouldn’t happen if you have a good lender or a good agent but at the same time, if you’re going to make the biggest purchase of your life, you should be doing some research and figuring some stuff out on your own as well.

[00:16:31.0] AG: I agree. I mean it’s a huge amount of money and for most people, it’s the biggest financial decision they’ll ever make. But also, I remember what it was like when I bought my first home and the whole process is so overwhelming when you don’t know what you are doing. I remember for me when I am in the title officer’s office and at that time, it was in California and they were taking my fingerprints and I was like, “Man, do you want me to sign in blood here? What’s going on?”

It was just so intimidating and so I think a lot of people just run from it because they just think I don’t want to deal with it, not fun, it’s like going to a dentist or getting my taxes done and like, “Just let somebody else deal with this, and then let’s not think about it for a while,” and I understand that impulse and that’s a big part of the reason why I wanted the book to be brief because I wanted to help remove the obstacle that somebody might have to putting in more time and energy to understanding this.

[00:17:28.8] MF: Right, yep and I see that a lot as well with clients and people who are just, they get so overwhelmed, they just don’t want to think about it, just want to be over with. And I think it’s really good for agents to realize that some of their clients might have that mindset and maybe that would help that agent take their time, really help out that client more and not just try and get the deal done. So it sounds like this book really works on that.

[00:17:52.7] AG: Yeah, I think it will help people. I mean I’ve gotten great feedback from clients and I have gotten great business from the previous books that I have written and I’m confident that this one will do the same. But I think as far as the agents are concerned and how they should be looking at things to build their business, it really just comes down to, again, demonstrating they’re different instead of saying they are different.

And I think if most agents are honest about how they communicate, they’ll realize that they’re relying on their word to try to convince somebody that they know more, care more and it is a powerful thing when you hand somebody a copy of the book that you’ve just published, or in my case books, in that first meeting because before they’ve even cracked it open, they’re thinking, “Whoa this guy is different. You know, he’s got his act together.”

And there’s a lot of things that are communicated by depending somebody to book before they open it and that’s what agents should be doing. They should be looking for something that when the prospect gets it, when they physically receive it or when they are in touch with whatever marketing you’re doing that they immediately resonate that you are really different from the other agents in the market and better than your competition and it can’t just be, “I’m the expert. I sell more. I care more,” stuff like that.

[00:19:11.4] MF: Right that makes perfect sense. Now I am curious, how do you market yourself? Are there specific things you do differently to go after high end clients? I know you mentioned certain social events. I’m sure you go to a lot of that as far as meeting high net worth clients. Are there other things you do to target those clients?

[00:19:30.4] AG: You know honestly, I’m not really much of a schmoozer and so a lot of the stuff that’s written in the books to be doing if you are going to be successful in real estate I don’t do because it’s not my personality. So when it comes to how I market my business, mostly what I try to do is just try to give people good advice and the networking that I’ve done in terms of high net worth circles, I haven’t done anything that I wasn’t doing 10 years ago.

I’m just more effective now because people see me in a different light than they saw me 10 years ago. So I don’t really advocate going out and schmoozing and pushing because it’s not me but I also know a lot of agents, they are very, very aggressive and they’re very comfortable with that and that works for them. So everybody’s got to find their own style but for me, I look at myself as an adviser and if I can connect with somebody and help them make good decisions, then we’re going to have a great relationship and that’s how I present myself to people.

[00:20:30.3] MF: Great, it makes sense. So basically, you haven’t gone crazy out of your way to jump into a social crowd or different events. You’ve just made sure that what you have been doing and have been comfortable with you do extremely well, if that makes sense?

[00:20:48.5] AG: Yeah and I also make an effort, if people are going to find me through any of my marketing channels, I make an effort to differentiate myself and to also use the book in that marketing process and when I go to a first meeting, I bring my book with me and so what it allows me to do is just allows me to convert prospects at a much higher rate than most agents are and it’s not like the book is a 100% of the deal.

It just sets up the conversation in a way that is much more productive for everybody and it gives me a much greater chance of having a relationship that not only am I going to make money from but that’s going to really be beneficial because one of the great frustrations that I’ve seen with a lot of agents and that I had in those first few months of the business was people not taking my advice even if it was really good advice and they’re insisting on making really dumb mistakes.

Even though I’ve got more experience than they do and I am basically begging them not to do these things but you can’t stop them and the money is one nice benefit but another huge benefit is actually having people listen to your advice because they go, “Oh okay. This guy really knows what he’s doing, he’s the expert, we should listen to him” and that makes the relationship a lot more gratifying in addition to being more lucrative.

[0:22:10.7] MF: Right that makes sense. Very cool. All right, well I’ve got a couple of questions here I’d like to ask that I see a lot on my blog from agents, maybe you can help them out? One thing isn’t really a question, but something I see a lot where I see new agents who, they want to work with first time home buyers, they want to work with investors, they want to try to flip houses themselves, they want to work with high end buyers. You know, they kind of get scattered with 10 different clients they want to go after. What do you, I mean, what’s your opinion on trying to get as many clients as you can versus focusing on one niche or maybe two niches and really knowing those well?

[0:22:46.3] AG: There’s a wise proverb that I sometimes forget but I always try to remind myself and it goes like this, “You can have anything you want in life but you can’t have everything you want in life.” In other words, you really have to focus on what you want to get it and you can’t decide you want everything. So it’s a rookie mistake, a lot of people make it, if I were going to advise somebody brand new to the business, I would repeat the advice that I gave earlier, which is, focus on the area that’s closest to your own experience. And so if you are somebody who grew up caddying at a country club and you're really comfortable being around highly affluent people then you should probably be working that market, those are people that you know how to communicate with.

Incidentally, you may find that if you went down market just because you see there’s a lot more houses they’re selling that are one tenth the price of the luxury, you might not do as well, at least that was the thing for me. I just really couldn’t communicate very well with those people because I found that a lot of them were not listening to my advice and they didn’t really know how to make decisions in any aspect of their finances, not just real estate. So it was an exercise of frustration for me.

However, I know people that are the opposite where they can’t go above a certain price point because it seems like it’s a total waste of their time, they don’t get deals closed and so they stick at the lower end of the market and do tremendous volumes. Now, there’s no right or wrong way, it’s just that I found what works for me and what I know and they know what works for them to what they know.

So I think people should do personal inventory and really look at who are they hanging out with, what are they doing? Before they even think about real estate and then make sure that that’s who they’re targeting and that’s who they’re trying to talk to because they’ll be successful I think much faster.

[0:24:36.8] MF: Yeah, great advice and I completely agree with you, I think people get too scatter brained and try to do too much and they end up doing nothing and because they’re so all over the place.

[0:24:47.0] AG: Everybody’s got a real estate need too; the beauty of this industry is that you can pick any segment you want. Even if you were a guy who likes to go to motocross every weekend or something, right? You can — that can be your network, you know people in that area. Every single one of them is going to have a real estate need and it might even be that they’re looking for a place that’s got the kind of garage that can house a bike or whatever else.

Anything that people are doing, they can apply a real estate angle to it, but most people just sort of, they lock up and once they start thinking about real estate, it’s like they almost forget, everything else they’ve done in their life.

[0:25:23.2] MF: Oh that’s great advice. Yeah, I think this goes back to what you’re saying before, you don’t have to go crazy out of the box to market yourself. Just look at where you’re comfortable now, look at what you’re doing now and just implement real estate into your life.

[0:25:36.2] AG: Yeah, I mean, take a look at the people that you spend most of your time with and what are their real estate needs? What are the types of homes that they bought and sold, what are the types of investment properties that they bought and sold? That is what you already know. Even if you didn’t work with any of them on a deal, you know those people, you know how to communicate with those people, you understand how they think and with a little bit of work, you should be able to do deals with people in that circle.

[0:26:01.7] MF: Yup, exactly. All right, so another question I get a lot and you mentioned this before about competition, but so many people ask me, there’s so many agents out there, aren’t I just setting myself up for failure if I become an agent because there’s so much competition? What are your thoughts on that?

[0:26:20.2] AG: I mean yeah, there is a lot of competition and I’m in a market that’s extremely competitive. We have so many agents; so the key is, again, to distinguish yourself, you have to offer a unique filling proposition and then a language of Kennedy and the many other marketers. You have to really demonstrate some value if you want to be good in this business and to win business because there are 10,000 real estate agents in your area and 9,950 of them are probably all doing and saying the same thing.

If you look at who is successful, you’ll see that they’re doing things that are different than the other people or they were when they first started their career because I think one of the other issues that people have is they’re new to the market and they think, “Okay, well, there’s like the lazy top dog, two or three agents that get tons and tons of business and they think, “Well, how can I become them?” The reality is they put in their time, they’ve been doing it for 30 or 40 years and that’s why they can be lazy now.

Because they’ve got the benefit of that. And so you can’t market like they market; you have to market it in a completely different way unless you want to spend 30 or 40 years building your business and let’s face it, in 30 or 40 years, the real estate industry’s probably going to look a lot different than what it looks like today.

[0:27:45.9] MF: Yeah, exactly. I think a lot of people too, there are a lot of agents out there but a lot of them are part time and a lot of them don’t do their job very well. I hate saying that about my own industry, but I run into it all the time where agents won’t answer their phone, they won’t return calls, they don’t respond to emails, they just don’t do their job well. So while there are thousands and thousands of agents out there, it’s not rocket science to become one of the top agents if you just do your job, like you said, find where you’re comfortable and try and do something a little different.

[0:28:17.9] AG: Yeah, you certainly nailed it and in terms of doing your job, it’s very simple things that makes you stand apart but there is another layer to it in terms of winning the business. When I first started, as I said, I entered the business because I thought, “Wow, we’ve got all this people in this industry who don’t know what the heck they’re doing who aren’t very good at service and who seem to be making a living. I’m sure that I can do a lot better than them right?”

But there is the other layer to it which is not just how well you do your job, you’re really, your number one job in real estate is marketing and sales. It’s getting yourself more business and more relationships with other people. Even if you’re able to deliver great service as an agent, if you don’t have the ability to generate those relationships, you’ll starve. So it’s really got to be something where you have the ability to distinguish yourself and so I think it’s great for people to — I’m a big proponent of books because they’ve been so good to me and I think that they’re seriously under-utilized in our profession.

But if it doesn’t resonate with people then I think they just have to become students of marketing and find what works for them and distinguishes them. One of the most common mistakes I should probably mention this is, there are people who think that doing anything different is good because it’s going to make them stand out and you see people that there’s a famous real estate business card that went around on some Facebook or whatever.

But it was this couple and they dress up like batman and robin on their business card, that was their photo and you know, you look at that and you go, “Okay, well yeah, different but not different in a good way, it’s not different in a way that says wow, these people are experts you know? I want them representing me with the most important financial decision of my life. So it’s key that when you differentiate yourself that you do it in a way that clients are going to be attracted to and impressed by and not just bickering about it.

[0:30:13.6] MF: Right, you want them to be there at closing, not a costume party. All right, one more question — I get a lot — is how old do you have to be to be an agent. Now the licensing requirements vary in different states, 18, some where a little older but a lot of people think they’re too young to be an agent because people won’t take them serious. Do you think that’s something they should be concerned about?

[0:30:34.0] AG: Well, I think that there’s no excuse for not knowing how to do your job. Age doesn’t really matter, you got to know how to do your job and when you start out, you don’t know how to do your job. So I think it’s important to be honest about that. If I were really young, if I were in high school or you know, just starting college and I wanted to become a real estate agent, I would want to apprentice with another agent and learn what I’m doing and you know, get in the market but to be honest with people about what’s going on, say “Hey look, I’m young, I’m hungry, I’ll do anything and I’m working with, so and so, who is much more experienced and is going to help me along the way but give me a shot and most likely, if you really come across with enthusiasm and you’re honest about your limitations and about what you can bring to the table, then I think you’ll find that you’ll be successful, it’s not going to be — the world is not going to roll out the red carpet but you do that enough, somebody’s going to give you your first shot and they’re going to do it because they’re going to say wow, I love the hustle.

[0:31:38.0] MF: Yeah, I completely agree with that and as an investor myself and I talk to a lot of other investors, they wonder about what kind of agent they should choose and a lot of times they’ll say, you know what? Go find someone who is young, who is hungry, who is going to work for you more than anybody else because they don’t have a lot of clients. They’ll have time to submit offers for you faster, they’ll be more responsive and that agent has been around 20 years and has 200 clients and it might take two days to show you a house, it might be better of working with a younger agent than the experienced one.

[0:32:08.2] AG: Yeah, I think another thing too is we’ve talked about investing and an agency work and I think that there’s a lot to be said for getting active as an investor, either from the very beginning at the same time you’re going to consider being an agent or maybe even before you get that license because if you can understand how to put together deals successfully as an investor, then you’re highly qualified to handle just about any kind of situation that is going to come up as a real estate agent.

However, if you’re trained as a real estate agent by somebody who has never really done deals and all they’ve ever done is buy and sell their own home then I think you’re limited in your field of vision and your understanding of the industry.

[0:32:53.4] MF: Yes, I completely agree. I don’t know what the exact percentage is but in my experience, 80 to 90% of agents don’t understand investment properties. They don’t understand what a good rental is or how much profit you need to have on a flip, they’re owner occupied, buyers and sellers and what they’re comfortable with. Yeah, being an investor friendly agent is a huge advantage.

[0:33:16.7] AG: Yeah, I think that one important thing to keep in mind about investing is that people will always own property, they’ll always buy and sell properties right? We know that that will always be the case. In 10 years, 50 years, 100 years, there will be people that will own properties and that will want to buy or sell them. However, we don’t know that real estate agency and the industry as we know it is going to exist 20 years from now. Wcichc  means technology has radically shifted so many industry and given the amount of money that our industry takes in and how much is at stake I mean, everybody in silicon valley has been working on disrupting us for 20 years now and eventually, they’re going to get it right and so I think it’s important for agents to realize the precarious position that we’re in and to make sure that they’re really being serious about developing their skills and about positioning themselves correctly.

So if you’ve done your job and you really own specific segment of the specific market, you’re going to be a lot harder to disrupt, whether that’s investment  property or it’s a luxury homes or commercial real estate, whatever it may be, if you really own it and you really add value, you’re going to be the last one to get disrupted but the agents that are running around trying to be all things to all people are the first ones where the Uber or real estate is going to knock them right out.

[0:34:41.0] MF: Right, yup. I’d much rather have someone who is an expert in what they do, representing me than someone who is a jack of all trades and sort of kind of knows what I do but then they also sort of kind of know 15 other things that I really don’t care about either. Now you mentioned the investing side, after everything you went through and being a very successful agent now, are you investing again? Do you still invest in real estate?

[0:35:05.1] AG: I do stuff investing in real estate but I also don’t necessarily only invest in my home market. I will invest in other places apart from Arizona. I really go where I can find the deals and so I expand my scope. But I do look at deals in Arizona and I’ll probably be looking at more of those in the coming years because we got some pretty interesting stuff happening here now.

[0:35:31.1] MF: I was going to ask you about the market there. I know it’s shot up quite a bit after the crash, has it started to calm down or do you see it maybe more than calming down here soon?

[0:35:40.4] AG: Well, it depends on which market segment you’re in, we’ve got, nationally, really, a housing shortage because we were under built for so long in the wake of the last crash and it’s going to take quite a long time for America to dig ourselves out of this five deficit. We look at affordable housing that basically people of the medium income in any city can afford, there’s a huge deficit and we haven’t even scratched the surface of the demand because we’ve got not only the naturally growing population due to birth and immigration, we’ve also got a huge segment of people who were shut out of the housing market because they got foreclosed on, I recommend contacting a 5 star lawyer from Los Angeles for those dealing with immigration problems.

That’s a seven year window and a lot of those people are just coming off of that now. be coming off of it the next couple of years, that’s a huge new pool of buyers coming in the market, we were already underserved, you got that and then we’ve also now got the millennials which were written off as people who just wanted to rent for the rest of their lives and that’s turning out to be not the case.

They said they wanted to rent when they knew they couldn’t afford to buy. Now, some of them are getting out from underneath the student debt and stuff. I just read the other day that half of all new home buyers are under the age of 36. The way I look at it, there is a fantastic future and affordable real estate. Having said that, luxury and high end in a lot of different places have been overbuilt and we may see some of that stuff coming down because people will always need a place to live but they don’t always need a mansion to live in.

[0:37:17.8] MF: Right, and I completely agree with everything you just said. You know, I’ve heard a lot of national experts and magazines and everything saying another housing crisis is coming and most of it is based on prices going up and other factors that were completely different than 10 years ago that caused the last housing crisis. I see the exact same thing in Colorado where there is a huge shortage of affordable housing.

They’re not building even close to enough to meet demand; they’re all building high end homes because they make more money on them and it’s harder to build more low end homes than a few high end homes and there’s a lot of multifamily being built as well. So I mean there’s a huge shortage of single family, affordable houses here and I keep hearing that all over the country, but at the same time I think high end is being overbuilt. So it will be interesting to see how all that comes together.

[0:38:08.9] AG: Yeah, it will and look, we’re going to definitely have a change in cycle. Nothing can last forever but you know, people need a place to live and I know certainly in Arizona and in a lot of other markets, we’re just kind of looking around going, okay, well where are you going to put this people? The big difference that I see in Arizona in this cycle versus the last time is that people… the saying used to be drive until you qualify, if you didn’t have enough money, it was like you drive down to Maricopa or something like that, an hour away from their jobs.

People are a lot less willing to do that and that is one thing that I do think that the shift to the next generation is real and lasting, I don’t think the millennials are going to go to Maricopa or something like what. That is going to be something that they would only do in great desperation and I think most of them will choose to rent an apartment and live in less space closer into the cool stuff they want to do then go to some place where they’re going to spend two hours a day driving back and forth to their job.

[0:39:10.6] MF: Right, I can definitely see that as well. Very cool. Well, Alex I think that is about all I had for you, before we head out here of course I want to get some more information on how people can reach you and find your books. But before that, do you have any parting advice, anything to let people know who might want to be interested in being an agent? Become an agent? Is it worth it? Should they become an agent, how do you like your layout? Obviously you’re doing well but what do you think about being an agent as a career?

[0:39:37.5] AG: I think it’s a great training for so many other job positions, businesses. To me, I wouldn’t hesitate to have somebody go do it because if they find out that it’s not for them, if you can do this job well, you can be successful as a real estate agent, those skills will transfer into so many other realms. I’ve been to so many conferences, people in internet marketing and financial investments and all the manner of things and its incredible how many people have a real estate background.

They got their start there or they’re putting a lot of their money there, but real estate is huge. So understanding real estate well will serve you for the rest of the career, but take it seriously and do a great job and really hustle at it because if you don’t, then that means that whatever you go into, you’re probably not going to hustle and you won’t do well in it. So regardless of what industry, you’re not really applying yourself and pushing yourself and getting training and mentoring and that sort of thing, it doesn’t really matter what industry you go inn, somebody’s always at the bottom of every industry.

[0:40:44.4] MF: Right, yup. Great advice. That’s so true, real estate helps you build your own… run your own business, how to motivate yourself, how to not have a boss and still make yourself get to work, and then the sales skills, the people skills, there’s so much that goes into it that can help us. So many other things, I completely agree on that.

[0:41:06.1] AG: Just even for your own residence, if you’re going to be a home owner for the rest of your life, if you’re young and you’re just starting out and you got decades and decades ahead of you, just think about if you’ve improved your quality of life and put money in your pocket from every home that you own, over the course of a lifetime, I mean, you reap tremendous rewards form having that kind of knowledge and training that most people don’t have.

[0:41:30.7] MF: Yes, exactly, great point there too. All right Alex, so if someone’s looking to get in touch with you, they want to pick up one of your books, what’s the best way to contact you or find those books?

[0:41:41.5] AG: Sure, well if somebody wants to see an example of my real estate writings, my latest book is No Nonsense Real Estate and they can find that at nononsensebook.com and if an agent were interested in learning more about how to publish their own book, they can check out my book Published To Sell, which is also on Amazon or they can visit publishtosell.com to see some case studies of other people who have used the methodology to build their businesses.

[0:42:08.7] MF: All right, very cool. If anybody wants to use you as an agent in Arizona, are you open to new clients?

[0:42:15.2] AG: Absolutely. I work with people on luxury residential and commercial properties.

[0:42:20.4] MF: Cool, what company are you with down there?

[0:42:22.4] AG: I hang my license with Realty One Group in my local Scottsdale branch.

[0:42:27.6] MF: Okay, very cool. All right, well Alex, thank you so much for being on the show, great information, I really like a lot of the points you brought about with the high end side and then just real estate in general, things to focus on as an agent. Thank you so much for being on, really appreciate it and hope you have a great weekend coming up.

[0:42:46.0] AG: Thanks to you too Mark, I greatly appreciate it and I hope that this was a helpful interview for your audience.

[0:42:51.2] MF: Yup, I’m sure it will be, I learned some myself so I always like shows like that and I’m sure it will help a lot of others as well.


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