Hi, Matt! Thanks for taking the time to speak with me today. Can you start off by telling me a little bit about yourself, and how you got into real estate?
Sure. I’m a third generation agent, I’ve been around real estate my entire life – it’s all I ever wanted to do! I started selling in 2006 and last year I sold over $3 million in real estate in Chicago. We’re the #1 agent team for transactions in the city. My team and I love to sell real estate. We’re crazy – we’re in suits and ties all the time because we have a dress code even though no one else in this industry seems to do that anymore.
I imagine that intensity is one of the things that catapulted you to the top of the real estate game in Chicago?
Absolutely. I’m probably one of the most intense people you’ll ever meet. I live by my own standards. A lot of agents get really big and then they just want to hire a bunch of underlings to do all the business so they can reap the rewards. So they’re sitting on a beach drinking a margarita. But I don’t want to take a vacation. I want to work.
You say you only want the best people working on your team. What does it take for someone to be considered the best?
The #1 best quality they can have is a great work ethic. Undying loyalty is another one. They also have to be good at sales, they need to have charisma – the “it” factor. You know when you meet someone and you’re just attracted to their energy? That’s what I’m looking for. So if you have those things, I’ll take you. But if you’re just another guy that got his license because you watch Million Dollar Listing, forget it.
Let’s talk about the market in Chicago. What has it been like since the pandemic began?
The Chicago market hasn’t been as hot as the rest of the county. We’ve been dealing with anywhere from 12 to 24 months of inventory, and everyone else you’re interviewing for this blog has probably been dealing with about a week of inventory! Downtown Chicago was crushed in the pandemic, and people have been talking about how no one is ever going to live in cities again – but I don’t buy it. Cities are always going to exist; humans have gotten together and created cities since the dawn of humanity. I’m also not buying that everyone is going to be working from home forever. In the history of humankind, the employee has never had power over the employer.
The reason my team has been able to succeed in a bad market is because we never took our foot off the gas. I never put all my money into advertising within just one part of the market, be it luxury apartments or the low-end market. I have a well-balanced portfolio, just like you should run a portfolio of money. So I have low-end buyers, first-time buyers, investors, luxury buyers, developers, etc. So no matter what market it is, it doesn’t matter to me. I’m going to win. But it’s going to be a rude awakening when the agents who have been slacking off realize they have to work again. So a lot of agents who recently entered the market are going to be gone. People are going to be interviewing harder and they’re only going to want to work with people who are the best and know what they’re doing.
What other things do you do to stand out against other agents in your market?
I spend a lot of money on SEO, so if you search for “Chicago real estate” I’m going to come up. I also have the most reviews online by about 700 more than the next guy. People can also see online that I have the most sales. So I think these are the things that encourage people to contact me. Once they do, they’re going to see that I know every single thing about the market and the next guy doesn’t.
I run my business like a business, and most people don’t. I have an entire marketing team, I have a CMO who has two master’s degrees in digital advertising. I have my own in-house graphic designer and a production company. I have a VR person. We do all the latest technology, and we did that even before the pandemic. So when the pandemic happened, a lot of people were playing catch-up to do the things that we had already been doing for many years.
If you’re an out-of-state seller, we act like a white glove service. We go to check on the property, we’ll change air filters for you, get your mail, etc. On the buy side, we have connections for pocket listings. We also have a buyer’s assistant so that if you email me and want to see five properties, my assistant immediately starts to schedule those. The entire system is color-coded so the color changes when an appointment gets confirmed. The buyer can see all of this. We put all of their MLS profile sheets in a dropbox folder so they’re pre-loaded for the buyer and they don’t have to carry brochures around. We send a calendar invite telling the buyer where they’re supposed to be and when, and who they’ll be meeting with. So we really offer a concierge service.
You also have a lot of videos on your website of you and your team, which provides a really personal touch for anyone looking for an agent!
Yes. We’ve spent a lot of money on those vlogs, and I do a podcast every week where I do market updates and break down the market for you. It’s very valuable information. I know some people don’t want to hear that information, they just want me to show them a property and agree with what they say. We’re not the best fit for those people.
You mentioned that you embrace all sorts of technology, and I know that HighNote is part of your tech portfolio. How do you use it?
We utilize HighNote in numerous ways. First of all, I have a buyer’s presentation and a seller’s presentation.
Before I meet with a buyer, I send them my buyer’s presentation which includes a video on the neighborhood they’re looking to buy in. It also includes a link to our website, an ‘About Me’ section, and another video about how we schedule appointments. So the buyer gets that ahead of time.
If a seller contacts me and wants to interview me to be their listing agent, I send them a listing presentation of their property which also includes a video of how we operate on the backend so that they have all those assets up front. I also include comps. It’s all interactive.
Another way we use HighNote is that we created software called reverse prospecting. A lot of people are on automatic searches through the MLS, and we see who our properties get sent to through the MLS. Then we send them a presentation of that property which includes a video or VR of the property. That gives them all the pictures and the floor plan. We include an upgrade list and any additional information on the property.
On top of that, any time we schedule an appointment for one of our listings, we send a HighNote presentation with all the assets to the buyer’s broker.
I get listings probably once a week, minimum, just because I sent all my information ahead of time and that information looks cool. The way people visualize you and the way they interact with you is the reason they’ll hire you. So if I show up before you meet me and send you a really good looking presentation that’s really organized, buttoned up, and visually attractive, and then I show up in a suit and tie and go over it with you in person, I’m probably going to win against a competitor that walks up in jean shorts and a t-shirt with an old-fashioned book of information.
I think HighNote is doing a really good job. For agents out there who want to try to separate themselves from the competition, I think HighNote gives you an extra leg up on doing that. HighNote is an asset that we use to continue to show that we’re the best at what we do.
Do you think there’s still a place for agents who refuse to embrace technology?
They’re gone, there’s no place for them. You adapt or die in this business.
Five years from now, there will also be no place for me if I don’t continue to reinvent myself and rebrand myself. A good example is TikTok – I hate TikTok. But I still have to adapt to it. There’s a lot of stuff I don’t like, but there are consumers out there who do like those things and I want to get their business. I want to get everyone’s business.
Do you embrace any old-school marketing methods?
I don’t do any mailers, I don’t do any billboards. I don’t do magazine ads. I refuse to embrace old-school media. I can take $5,000 and pump it into an SEO placement and I’ll 100% get a sale. Or I could spend $5,000 and buy an ad in CS magazine (a cool magazine here in Chicago) and I’ll never be able to track that. But when we use technology, we can look at the stats and see where we got a click-through for a listing appointment based on one particular ad.
That’s great, Matt! Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me!
…And if you’re a real estate agent looking to take your business to the next level, click here to get started with HighNote!