New York City is so big that it’s impossible to know every building in every neighborhood in each of the five boroughs. Brokers typically land themselves in an area where they are most familiar or where they live. But, neighborhoods gentrify, people move and opportunities present themselves elsewhere. Whether you are a new or experienced broker looking to explore a new part of town, all it takes is some hard work, research and comfortable shoes to penetrate a new market. Here are some tips to get the ball rolling.
Walk the Blocks
Being a good broker means knowing the streets, corners and intersections. How often do you hear a New Yorker describing a building, new restaurant or bar by referencing a block or intersection like “that corner across from the 24-hour deli”? Being unable to reference blocks or speak intelligently about an area speaks volumes to a local. Your potential clients will pick up on this because a serious buyer or seller wants to know that you have the knowledge and experience in that neighborhood.
If you want to start in a new area, set aside a few hours per week and go and walk those blocks. Walk up and down the streets of a defined grid. Stop at intersections and look around 360 degrees. Go into a coffee shop and sit for a while to watch the people and see the activity. Order takeout and chat up the restaurant’s employees. Walking around a neighborhood gives you an instant feel and vibe for any hood and it’s a great start. Take notes of some of the residential buildings. Write down the addresses of those that look interesting or are well located so that you can go back later to research whether it is a co-op, condo or rental.
Meet the Doormen
The best business comes from referrals. The more people you meet and know, the better your business. If you are determined to make it in a new area, start to knock on doors and make friends. Meet the doorman at every building. Literally, you should go in, introduce yourself as a broker and explain that you’re looking to do more business in the building or the area. If you don’t already know, ask what type of building it is (i.e., condo, co-op or condop) as a way to open the conversation. Give him your business card and ask for his name and make a note of it for future reference.
When you go back the next time, say hello and reference him by name. As a part of their job, doormen are used to meeting and greeting people all day long. They are also the gatekeepers and can either make or break your chances of doing well there. Make a good impression and he will put your card nearby for the time one of their owners asks for a broker referral. Make a wrong impression and your card gets tossed into the garbage. Don’t forget; doormen typically change shifts at 3 p.m. So make sure that you hit both the morning and afternoon doormen in your street walks.
Visit the local coffee houses, sandwich shops, bodegas and dry cleaners and eat, drink, or purchase. Many of these small business owners have been working in the area for years and can relate to and appreciate another hardworking small business person. Introduce yourself, give your card and ask if you can leave a stack of cards on the counter. Do your best to stand out in a positive way when you meet anyone in the neighborhood. As with anything in life and business, making a good first impression will have an impact. Make one with folks who you come into contact with to increase your chances of getting business.
Make a plan to walk the blocks (and say hello to these people) on a regular basis. As with any business generating activity, you can’t do it once and give up. You must commit to walking these streets and make meaningful face-to-face interactions on a regular basis. The more they see your face, the more likely they are to remember you. Also, the more time you spend in the area, the more familiar you will be with its nuances, buildings and businesses.
Research the Neighborhood on StreetEasy
Before you move into a new territory, go online and do some basic research. StreetEasy has valuable statistics and resources on every neighborhood and buildings. A quick glance should help you get a feel for the average price per square foot, the number of condos vs. co-ops, vs. townhouses as well as how quickly listings move. Make a comparison to an area you already know well so you can establish a baseline understanding.
You’ll want to come up with a plan of attack as you learn more about this neighborhood. Dig deeper into the building section of the community on StreetEasy to see which is the most expensive and the least. Are there a lot of new developments in the area? Do some brokers already have a lock on certain buildings?
Newer condo developments can be ripe for farming because no single competitor has had an opportunity to establish themselves as a listing specialist. If that’s your plan, make note of the 10 newest buildings in the area. Whatever your plan, StreetEasy has a list of every building in the neighborhood where there was a sale or rental. Look at the sales or rental history to get a sense of which building has had the most transfers, which has had the least. You can learn a lot from studying the market.
Use StreetEasy in Tandem and in Real Time
Once you’ve walked the streets, go back to StreetEasy to marry what you learned by pounding the pavement with the data and facts for the area. You may take note of a beautiful new building where you made a great connection with the doorman and subsequently the dry cleaner in the retail space. That might be a good building to research and come up with a game plan. Maybe there were a few listings in the past year that never sold. Go back to the doorman and ask him what he knows about those owners. Write a letter to the owners and give it to the doorman. Or decide that this is a building where you would like to become an expert. Start a mail marketing campaign to the building. Use StreetEasy’s mobile app to get the most up to date information about the building in real time.
Be creative and open to ways to get your foot in the door. The more you do and the more connections you make, the better chance you have of getting your first deal. As with most things in real estate, getting one deal typically leads to another. Give yourself at least a year to penetrate a new market and new buildings. Keep on it and let each new contact lead to another, which will help compound the connections. The more familiar you become with a neighborhood, the more natural your understanding of it will be, and that will come across to your potential clients.