Tammy Woodbury was in college when she first began dabbling in real estate, but she had no intention of making it her career. She was studying to become an elementary school teacher when she took a temporary gig at a local real estate office – and she soon realized she was pretty darn good at it. Today she and her husband run The Clever People, a hugely successful real estate team in Anderson, South Carolina. Tammy sat down with us to talk about her incredible journey and how she managed to become a top-producing agent.
Hi, Tammy! Thanks so much for joining me today. Can you tell me a little bit about your background and how you got into real estate?
I actually got into real estate by accident! I was a college student and a woman who went to my church asked if I would fill in at her real estate office, because the office manager was going to Mexico for a month. I agreed. People would often come in and ask me questions, and I’d do what I could to answer them. The broker was always sitting in her office, which was near my desk, and one day she asked me if I had ever thought about getting my real estate license. I told her no, that I was in school for elementary education. And she said “Well, you’re really good with people and you’re good at explaining things. You might want to consider it.” I started thinking about it, because I wasn’t completely sold on elementary education. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life. I ended up getting into real estate. That was 19 years ago, and I haven’t looked back.
That’s a great story! But it has to be said – you’re not just an average agent. In your area, you’ve been the #1 listing agent with the highest average sale price and the fewest days on the market for the past five years! What’s your secret?
I’m really an artisan agent, which means I pretty much manage the early negotiations, the listing, and then from there my team takes over. My husband calls me the “Rainmaker.” I have someone who manages the transaction details, I have someone who manages repair negotiations. And that gives me a 30,000 foot view so I can focus on marketing, what the trends are, and how people are behaving. I tell sellers all the time that a price reduction isn’t a bad thing, as long as you do it in the right period of time. But you have to have someone who is checking your analytics and your algorithms literally every 24 hours. If you wait 30 days when the listing is stale to make a decision, it’s too late. So that’s how we’re able to sell properties for more money. And then honestly it comes down to very innovative marketing. Just as HighNote has worked for me, I also use other platforms and resources to track buyer behavior.
For example, some people say they hate Zillow, but I don’t share that mindset. I think that if you can’t beat them, you have to join them. I’ve learned what things work in their algorithm, and so we subscribe to those services. And we use them because they keep our listings at the top of the feed. So if I start to see that my numbers are changing, I’ve got to figure out if it’s my marketing, or exposure, or the demographic, or is there something else going on. So I’m always masterfully working on these pieces to make sure we sell quickly.
Sellers always say they don’t have to sell quickly, but what they say and what they mean are two different things. What they really mean is that they don’t want to lose money because they jumped at the first offer. The truth is that everybody has to sell quickly for two reasons: first of all, it’s annoying to have your home on the market for so long. Secondly, you won’t get top dollar if you don’t sell quickly. So it’s about proving to them with our information and our unique marketing that we will get it sold quickly so they can make the most money.
It sounds like you don’t hesitate to spend money on the right resources to help your business grow.
Whether you’re selling toilet paper or houses, it’s all about supply and demand. In real estate, if you don’t do the right kind of marketing, two things happen. First of all, Zillow and Google don’t like it. Their algorithms are not going to push my listings to the top. So what that really means is that I’ve cost my seller money, because if every buyer doesn’t know this home exists, then I’ve missed an opportunity to capture the perfect buyer. So as my commitment to my seller to make them top dollar, I have to use the resources that will put their home out in front of everyone.
You’re currently selling homes for 6% higher than other agents in your area. You credit that to marketing and getting homes sold quickly?
If a home sits on the market for more than seven days right now, the buyers ask what’s wrong with it. In fact, they’re more concerned if they go into a home and don’t see anything wrong with it. Then they ask what they’re missing that everyone else saw. So it’s very important that it sells to the right buyer quickly. We do a ton of digital marketing, we do Matterport tours. We also do RICOH tours, because what we’ve learned is that Matterport tours are cool, but sometimes the older generation doesn’t understand those little circles. So we do RICOH tours and they can map their way through a room using just their fingers. They don’t get stuck on the ceiling or on the floor or in a bathroom. They can move around easily.
We also make sure that our photographer takes great pictures. There’s no bait-and-switch because I don’t want an out-of-town buyer to purchase airfare or drive 12 hours and say the rooms looked bigger online. I try to give every buyer a chance to get here because there’s nothing worse for a seller than having a home under contract and then having that contract broken because someone comes into town and finds that the photos weren’t accurate.
We offer a ton of virtual services. We don’t really prefer that buyers purchase a home sight unseen, but we do give them the opportunity to do video tours. We want to have a strong enough digital presence that it makes it worthwhile to fly here. We are one of the only teams where people are flying and driving long distances to see our listings, and the buyers always tell us that the information online was so good.
Let’s talk about pricing. What do you do if a seller wants to list their home at a price that’s too high?
Because I’m an artisan agent, I’m able to talk to my sellers very regularly. I’m always honest with them. I tell them that I’m very skilled, but I’m not a genie in a bottle. I don’t want to mislead them by making them believe they can get a certain amount for a house that just isn’t realistic. I’ll never do what some other agents do, which is what we call “buying a listing.” That’s when a seller wants to sell their home for a certain amount and the agent agrees to list it at that price, even if it’s worth significantly less than that. Then they have to go back to the seller and say they have bad news, they need to reduce the price of the home.
How is the market in Anderson? Is it starting to slow down, or is it just as crazy as ever?
I would say there’s a little bit of a slowdown – and when I say “slowdown,” I had properties where I was getting 24 offers and now I’ll get four for a similar property. So it’s definitely still competitive. I’m occasionally seeing some buyers get closing costs now, which was unheard of for an entire year. So there are some benefits there for buyers, I would say that’s indicative of a little bit of a slowdown. But we still don’t have enough inventory, interest rates are still good, we’re expecting this to trend on through 2023 in our particular area. If you look at the IRS migration map for where wealth is going, South Carolina is #2 in the nation. People are coming here for a variety of reasons. We have more interstate travel than any other state, we have the largest recreation lake in the southeast, we have a lot of things that are pulling people here.
I see that you’re a Certified Residential Specialist and a Pricing Strategy Advisor. How important do you think continued education is in real estate?
Every real estate agent needs to keep getting educated for their entire career. You need to understand the ins and outs of your industry. I heard someone say the other day that they didn’t know a lot about mortgages. That’s a mistake. Your clients will miss opportunities because of that. It’s true that I don’t sell money, I sell houses. But I need to know what the lending laws are, I need to know every type of loan. You might come to me one day and say you want a loan, and I might be able to tell you about a better type of loan that doesn’t even require a down payment.
The whole reason I got the Pricing Strategy Advisor certification is because I wanted to learn more about the appraisal process. You often hear that it’s illegal to talk to appraisers, but it’s not. It’s only illegal to give them certain types of information. There’s certain information that you can and should put in your listing which can help get a higher appraisal. One of them is professional photography. If the pictures are good enough, the appraiser won’t go into the house – and 99 times out of 100 you’re going to get a higher value if they don’t go into the house.
It’s also about sending in the right information for the appraisals. I’ve actually gone in and taken photos of “For Sale By Owner” homes. I paid the people money so that I could take those pictures and use the home as a comp to prove the value of the home I was selling.
So just taking that class, which was taught by an appraiser, was so valuable. It taught me when and how to approach appraisers. I’ve had so many other people say they aren’t winning appraisals, but we are, because we know how to approach appraisers. You don’t get that information unless you’re signing up for education. In fact, most real estate agents don’t know the articles or the code of ethics or what we should be doing. Some agents don’t even realize that something as simple as sending a “love letter” is illegal, or how it violates all of the Fair Housing policies. A lot of agents have lost their licenses over that. They didn’t intend to do anything illegal, they just didn’t know the rules.
It’s important to keep all of those rules and regulations at the top of your mind, to understand how your industry is moving and shaking. That’s how you stay in business and represent your clients well.
You say that communication, grace, and service with excellence are your three pillars. Can you elaborate on why those attributes are vital to your business?
I literally got started in real estate with three suits that were $1 a piece. I drove a 1995 Oldsmobile Cutlass. What I’ve learned over the years is that whether you’re working with someone who’s buying a $60,000 home and you’re driving an Oldsmobile, or if you’re dealing with someone who’s buying a million dollar lake home, all they care about is communication and what comes next. It’s really about understanding different personality types, not letting my clients walk away with questions or concerns. It’s about picking up on when they might not understand something, encouraging them to talk to me about what they’re thinking or feeling. It’s about being patient with people.
That’s great. Let’s talk a little bit about HighNote now. Can you explain how you use it when you’re representing a seller?
Sure. I’ll start out by talking about my experience before getting HighNote. One thing to understand is that when the real estate market is hot, everyone gets their license. That’s not a bad thing, but a new agent will put any price tag you want on a home, just to get the listing. In the past, maybe once a year I would lose a listing because a seller wanted a number that was too high. Those homes ended up sitting on the market; they didn’t list with me, and they didn’t sell at all.
Then all of a sudden I lost four or five listings to someone else. The listings would go to brand new agents and the houses would be listed way too high. That was right when COVID hit, so we weren’t going back in for that second meeting.
…Then I got HighNote to help with that.
I do a BombBomb video and I put that in the HighNote presentation, along with my analysis. I always know what homes a seller thinks their property is comparable to, because we talk about that when we first speak. So I’ll say “Hey, you mentioned this home, but this is why we can’t use it as a comparable. It sold 18 months ago, or it’s 500 square feet larger, or it has a detached garage, etc.” I then explain what appraisers do and what buyers do, and I’ll say “Here’s how buyers are performing right now, here’s how we would price your home.” I tell them about our strategy, and I would show recent comparables. I use Cloud CMA and do that like an actual analytic presentation. I do a seller’s net sheet so they can see exactly what their bottom line is. I have a sample of the listing paperwork and my estimated timeline – here’s when the photographer can get there, here’s a gallery of his work. Here’s when we can shoot the Matterport and RICOH tours, here are a few examples of what we’ve done in the past.
I basically went through and thought of every personality type. What’s great about HighNote is that when I send these presentations, I instantly know what kind of client I have based on where they’re spending the most time in the presentation. I also know that when they’re very happy with my presentation, I immediately hear back from them. But if they start to go back to the same sections two or three or four or seven times, I know they like the presentation and they like me, but they don’t feel good about something they’re observing. So at that point I can reach out and say “I figure you might have the most questions about ___.” And of course I know this already because I’ve seen it in the analytics section. And they say “you know, it’s funny you mention that” and we talk about what’s on their mind.
Another great example is this – I had a great meeting with someone, she didn’t really want to hire me yet, she wanted to wait until January. But this morning, I saw that she opened my HighNote presentation. So I took that as an opportunity to follow up, to let her know that she was on my mind and to get that conversation started again.
Then when I have a bidding war, all of the agents involved get a HighNote which notifies them of the highest and best offer at that moment in time.
I also use HighNote to recruit people who are selling their homes “For Sale By Owner.” Those sellers hardly ever answer their phones, but I put together a HighNote presentation with a BombBomb video and I say “Hey, I know that most people don’t want to use a real estate agent because they want to save on commission.” I let them know that right now I’m selling homes for 6% more than other agents, so that can cover my commission. I say that if that’s the only reason they aren’t meeting with agents, I would love the chance to meet with them. I provide my credentials. They will not answer that phone call, but they will eventually open the HighNote presentation. Then I get to see what they click on, what assets they look at, I can see their personality type. I almost always get a call back from that presentation, and the hard work is done when they see the HighNote presentation and it’s so professional and so clean. Right out of the gate, they trust me.
Awesome! And how do you use HighNote when you’re representing a buyer?
I have four buyer’s presentations that I send out – my luxury buyer presentation, my investor presentation, my medium price point presentation, and my first-time homebuyer presentation. I have a buyer’s estimated net sheet in there, so I can outline all of the places where they might spend money. I speak about the process and let them know how I’m going to advise them. I talk about the inspection, how to choose a home. I include a video on bidding wars, I tell them about today’s market. I let them know what to expect. So before they show up at the first house they get this presentation from me and then when we talk about it when we meet.
I have an awesome story where HighNote really came to the rescue. My buyer put in an offer on a luxury property. The seller had already received an offer that morning and they only gave us two hours to see the home and write an offer. We submitted our offer and 10 minutes later the listing agent said “Sorry, they didn’t accept your offer.” But because of HighNote, I knew that she never clicked on the offer. She opened the presentation but never clicked on the offer. So I immediately called her and she went back and they ended up taking the offer because they saw it was better than the other one!
That’s so great, Tammy! What an excellent testament to HighNote. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us!