Justin Havre is a real estate agent in Calgary Alberta working at CIR Realty. CIR is the largest independent firm in Canada with about 650 agents. With his team, Justin Havre & Associates, he has been number one or two in his Brokerage over the last three years. To put it in perspective, in 2011 they were number 1 and closed 171 sides with an average price in Calgary of about $430,000. I sat down with Justin recently at a Technology Conference put on by his web technology provider, Real Estate Webmasters, to find out how technology fits into his success.
One thing that became clear immediately was Justin’s intent to make technology an integral part of his business from day one. Before real estate he worked in the cable industry on the technology side but decided after some time that he wanted to make a change and set his sights on real estate. He chose CIR Realty (Canada’s largest Independent Brokerage) because of the great virtual tools they offered and their overall commitment to technology. Everyone in their office, as Justin pointed out, does their own documents online, manages their deals online including deal processing right down to payment of commissions. It was exactly what he was looking for.
Like most agents that recognize the importance of technology Justin had a website when he started but he wasn’t happy with the results he was experiencing in terms of lead generation. He also found it slow and painful to get things done with the vendor he was using at the time. So he set out to find a new vendor that he felt would provide him the type of technology product and service he was looking for.
I asked him to take me through that process on how he chose a web site provider and how it was working. I was surprised to find out that he still has that original website he switched to several years ago along with 2 more. It was a fully Custom website. He took his previous four sites from JustinHavre.com launched on one of his other sites and redid them a lot to look unique and appeal to other buyers, and then he brought a third LEC (Limited Edition Custom) site last year. Not as expensive as a fully custom website it gave him the options he wanted to differentiate the site in ways he felt were important to him. These mean he now has three sites from the same vendor.
Without giving away specific numbers that were shared with me suffice it to say that Justin and his team spend more money on technology than many real estate companies. He invests in SEO and as seen by having 3 websites he is totally committed to technology. When I asked him why he had three sites he explained that it is hard to be right for everyone on just one site and that people have different preferences. He uses each site to appeal to a very different segment of his market at the consumer level as well as the property level. While his main site generates the majority of this leads he says the other are still very valuable as well in bringing new business.
When I asked him how it has worked for him, the numbers were dramatic. He smiled and said that he started with his first new website in 2008 and from 2008 to 2009 his production increased by 92%. From 2009 to 2010 it increased 31% and from 2010 to 2011 it increased 84%. He says without a doubt these jumps were mostly due to an increase in his online business.
Obviously having three sites has a cost to it but Justin feels that investing in his websites from design to SEO has to be a regular line item in his budget. He said first you need to find a vendor that you are comfortable with, that has the right personality fit for what you are trying to accomplish and one that delivers what they say they will. He added though, that anyone that thinks you can just put in a website and let it sit doesn’t have a handle on what it takes to be successful with technology today. Websites, like leads, have to be worked. On the day we did the interview, in fact, we had sat through a seminar session on the new Google search algorithms Panda and Penguin to understand the impact they have on placement in Google searches. He sees this type of activity as an integral part of keeping his website at the top in his market.
I asked Justin what advice he would give to other agents that want to use technology to dramatically build their business. He made three key points that are worth sharing:
1. Find a vendor that fits your vision and style and that delivers what they promise.
2. Be prepared to invest in yourself. Good technology is not inexpensive but with smart decisions, you get what you pay for.
3. Don’t think of technology as an event, think of it as an ongoing process. You have to continue to learn, tweak and adapt to remain successful.
Two areas they do want to improve on is staying in better touch with people they have done business with and increasing their lead conversion rate. He admitted, with the amount of new business they get each year they had not done as good a job as they intend to do in these areas moving forward.
Justin says, lead conversion is now on top of his priority list and he acknowledges he has lots to learn when it comes to it. He added he may stumble a bit at times but he knows if he keeps working at it it will all fall in place. Justin says 2012 is on pace to be a record year once again and the goal is to blow 2012 out of the water in 2013. He added in closing that, “Morgan Carey (CEO Real Estate Webmasters) & Real Estate Webmasters have been a huge part of the reason for my success as they provide a superior product for my industry that enables my business to grow yearly.”
The key to remember, is regardless of what vendor you work with, you have to work with them to be successful so find a vendor that fits your personality and your budget and remember you can’t just buy it and walk away, it is a day to day process!