How do you serve your buyers when inventory is as tight as it is today? Waiting for new homes to hit the market not only impacts their plans and lives, but it also affects your bottom line.
On this week’s Walkthrough, Anthony Marguleas, one of the top real estate agents in Los Angeles, says it’s time to be proactive and look for homes that match your buyers’ needs. He shares five creative ways to find inventory when it seems like none exists.
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(SPEAKER: Matt McGee, Host) A long line at airport security. Slow service at a favorite restaurant. Election results to come in. We don’t like to wait. As a species, we human beings tend to be pretty darn impatient.
Just ask the buyers you’re working with right now. I bet you have some buyers — or had some recently — who were tired of waiting for the right home to come on the market. Heck, it’s not just the clients, is it? I know some agents right now who themselves are tired of waiting for more homes to hit the market. And tired of showing the same clients around for weeks or months because they can’t find the one.
You guys, stop waiting.
If you wanna stand out from the crowd, if you wanna separate yourself from what other agents in your market are doing, it’s time to stop reacting and start acting. It’s time to go out and find inventory instead of waiting for it to reach the market.
Our guest today has been doing that for years and now runs one of the top teams in the country. And he’s going to share with you how they do it.
This is “The Walkthrough.”
Hi, everybody. I’m Matt McGee, editor of HomeLight’s Agent Resource Center. Welcome to “The Walkthrough.” On this show, you’ll learn what’s working right now from the best real estate agents and industry experts in the country. At HomeLight, we believe in real estate agents. And we’re on a journey to find out how great agents grow their business, stand out from the crowd, and become irreplaceable. You can get in touch with me in a few different ways. Leave a voicemail or send a text to 415-322-3328. You can email walkthrough [at] homelight.com or find me in our Facebook listener community. Just go to Facebook, search HomeLight Walkthrough, the group will come right up and you’ll find me and many, many other listeners in there.
How’s the inventory in your market right now? Still really low? I bet it is. I’ll cite this statistic again from HomeLight’s latest Top Agent Insights survey: Seventy-six percent of you across the country said you’ve never seen inventory as low as it’s been the past couple of months.
So what do you do with the buyers that you’re trying to help right now? It’s one thing to wait in the airport security line or wait for your steak dinner to arrive, but if you’re sitting around waiting for more inventory to hit the market, well, that’s impacting your buyer’s plans. It’s impacting their lives and it’s impacting your bottom line.
My guest today says it’s time to stop waiting.
Anthony Marguleas has a handful of ideas to help you and your buyers go out and find homes for sale, rather than waiting for them to hit the MLS. He’s the owner of Amalfi Estates. It’s an independent brokerage in Pacific Palisades, which is just a beautiful community northwest of Los Angeles. Anthony has sold almost $2 billion in properties in his career, and he’s a fixture on the Real Trends rankings of top agents. This year, his team was number 24 in sales volume among medium-sized teams. One more thing, he’s also been a guest lecturer about real estate at UCLA since 2004.
As you’ll hear during our conversation, one of the keys to Anthony’s success has been his ability to find inventory when none seems to exist. He has creative ideas for finding and tracking off-market listings and helping get those listings in front of his buyers. So that’s our theme today. Be proactive. Don’t wait. Go out and find inventory. So without further ado, here’s my conversation with Anthony Marguleas.
Anthony: And the biggest problem doing sales and you don’t have a product to sell, what are you going to do? So, you know, the average agent is waiting. They go to the MLS, and they wait. And they’re almost, like, waiting for the phone to ring after you’ve had a hot date. Right? You wait for the phone to ring.
So, instead of having that mentality, we recommend being proactive, so really having a proactivity mindset to finding properties. So, instead of just waiting and being reactive, we want you to be proactive. And the proactive mindset is really kind of, like, you’re a matchmaker now. So, instead of matchmaking, you know, two people, you’re now matchmaking, how can I find that property that is not on the market, and make it competitive, and make it fun, right, make it like a challenge, and a fun challenge?
So whether you’re on a team or whether you’re by yourself or whoever, you say, “Look, you know, my client’s looking for a 3-bedroom house for $500,000 in this certain neighborhood. What can I do to be creative, think outside the box to locate that property for them?” And I’m gonna give you six or seven different tools to your listeners, how they can do that. And it’s not easy. It’s not like a magic wand. It takes work. So if you wanna put the work in, you’re gonna have a huge return on your investment.
Matt: So the first thing is just recognizing that this market is unlike any other and you can’t just sit back and wait for the listings to come to you. You need to take action. You need to say, “Hey, I’ve got these buyers, they are looking for X, Y, and Z. I need to go out and actually find X, Y, and Z for them, rather than just waiting for things to come to me.”
Anthony: That’s exactly right. And my hope is there’s gonna be several suggestions I’m gonna give that should trigger, maybe new ideas, things maybe you had done in the past, but you haven’t done now because you haven’t needed to or just new ideas, it’s like, “Hey, I hadn’t thought about doing that.” And the nice thing about some of these ideas is not only will it generate inventory that you didn’t have, it’ll generate potential listings that you may not have had either because you’re thinking outside the box and you’re basically going after and being proactive to find stuff that’s not available.
Matt: All right. So why don’t we dive in? What are some of — you’ve mentioned six or seven different things that agents can do to be proactive and go out and find this inventory? How does that begin? Where do you start?
Anthony: So a couple of things here. So I’m gonna start with developing an off-market database. So, now we wanna be really clear. National Association of Realtors has put together a Clear Cooperation policy. So in no way do we wanna violate that policy. So it’s very, very important that you’re clear and you understand what the repercussions are, that you cannot publicly advertise a listing outside of your own office. And talk to your broker, right? You wanna talk to your broker and manager about this and get their expertise. You know, you have 24 hours. If you publicly market an off-market property, you’re supposed to put it in your MLS within 24 hours.
So we’re really putting together a pocket listing database. And it’s a lot of work, though. I wanna be really clear. So, in our marketplace, there’s approximately 115 homes on the market in Pacific Palisades, where we cover. We have off-market, approximately 100 properties off-market, in addition to what’s in the multiple listing service. So that’s really, really powerful information. It’s taken us about 20 years to put together because we’re constantly adding to it. We’re constantly updating it because it’s a lot of work. But once you have a pocket listing database off-market… And a lot of people have pieces of paper and they stick it in a drawer, I’m talking about manage via database. It can be a Google database. It can be your CRM, you know, however you wanna put it together, but it’s gotta be something you can store and you can manage. And we sort it by price and we sort it by area.
So, because of things like this off-market database, we have been very successful. I’ve personally sold 17 properties off-market in one year alone. So it’s been tremendous for our business and having the productivity mindset of finding properties that are not currently in the multiple listing service. So, first one, pocket listing and coming soon database.
Matt: Yeah, and let me just dive a little bit further into the database. I mean, you mentioned that you guys are focused on… You wanna at least be able to sort on what did you say? Location and price. What all information are you keeping in this database?
Anthony: So we have bedrooms, bathrooms, square footage, lot size, cost per square foot, the date we inputted it. We have a note section, which gives us additional information. We have the contact for that property and the phone number. In our database, about a third are my personal pocket listings. The rest are either agents on my team, agents I’ve networked with, things of that nature.
The average agent has two or three off-market properties they know about. We currently have 600. So you can imagine the value that that brings. You know, when the average agent has one or two and we have 600… And I wanna be really clear, some of these off-market properties are like… Like, people assume in off-market, oh, I’m ready to go, they’re ready to sell. No. No. The reason people wanna be off-market, either it’s a celebrity client. Maybe it’s someone who’s really private, and they don’t want their neighbors to know, and they don’t want their kids to know yet, and they don’t want maybe open houses, and they’re really, really private. And so they’re like, “Look, we’re really private, and so we wanna kind of sell this privately off-market.” That’s one example. The other example is, a seller will say, “Hey, you sold me a property for $500,000,” let’s say, three years ago, “If you can get me $600,000 today, yeah, I may be open to selling.” And that’s really more what it is. It’s a conversation piece.
So then we go to our clients and we say, “Look, this person says, ‘I may be interested in selling.’ You know, let’s take a look at it.” And it starts developing the conversation of moving things along. So these aren’t… You know, you have to be really patient, you know, working with off-markets. You have to really manage a client’s expectations because a client says, “Hey, I wanna see five of your off-markets tomorrow.” I’m like, “That doesn’t work that way. Like, give me a few weeks, and I will slowly get you into these properties,” especially during COVID.
Matt: How do you talk to your, well, both the buyer and the potential seller about the pros and cons of staying off-market when the market is the way it is now, and in some cases, it might be more beneficial for the homeowner to go on-market?
Anthony: Yeah, we obviously explain, you know, in an ideal world, we believe it’s more beneficial to come on-market because you’re gonna expose it to a larger clientele. That was the reason NAR started their Clear Cooperation Policy because unfortunately, with a lot of pockets, agents tend to represent dual agency, which in the states that it’s legally allowed is kind of not ethically … doesn’t always work in the buyer and the seller’s best benefit, because after it closes, the other is gonna say, “Oh my God, I left money on the table” or “I paid too much so because I didn’t expose it to the marketplace.” So in an ideal world, we want to tell our off-market clients, it’s in your best interest to come on the market. And hopefully, they’ll listen to us. If they don’t listen to us and against our best recommendations, they decided to sell it off-market because of the privacy concerns I mentioned before, that’s their prerogative. You know, but we definitely encourage them to actually list it in the MLS.
Matt: When you think about finding homes for sale that are off-market, the most obvious source might be for sale by owners. And there are lots of ways you can find FSBOs — Craigslist, classified ads in your local paper, FSBO-focused websites. Zillow even has a section of its website where FSBOs are listed. If you wanna spend some money looking for inventory this way, you can also try software, like, Remine, ProspectNow, and other market intelligence services. A lot of MLS’s actually have Remine built-in. So, it may not cost you anything. You can use it to identify homeowners who might be ready to sell soon. And speaking of the MLS, that is the next tip Anthony has for finding new inventory.
Anthony: So, pocket listing database is one. Another one is mining the MLS. And when I say by mining the MLS, you know, go after the expireds, withdrawns, canceled, and even the solds. And what we do is — this is the trick, if you will, most agents do that, and they go after the seller because they wanna pick up a listing. What we found is you actually go after the previous listing agent, and you join forces with them, and you partner with them. They are so much more inclined, they lost the listing, right, or they canceled the listing or withdrew it from the MLS. And you say, “Hey, I have a buyer for this property, can you please let me know if your seller may still be interested in selling?” And you’re gonna get a lot of inside information you would never have had before, as opposed to just cold calling a seller with 100 other agents who are cold calling them. You’re actually getting to that former agent. I will pay you a referral fee. Right? I will bet… You will financially get compensated. And it’s worked wonders. And I’d rather have a little bit of something than a lot of nothing. And I think it’s good karma to spread, you know, the picture around, if you will.
And so we’ve been very, very successful using that strategy. I’ll give you one example. One of our agents, Victoria in our office, she did that with a very high-end condo building in our market. And she was able to sell a $2 million property a few months ago because she contacted an agent in that building, who previously had a listing in there, and she would never have sold it if he had not done that, because they… That other agent gave confidential information that was able to benefit her client in order to make the deal.
Matt: So reach out, instead of going directly to the homeowner or the seller, get that agent involved, and see if you can revive that listing, get it back and make it available to your buyer.
Anthony: That’s exactly right. Or they may say, “You know what? It’s amazing you called, Anthony, because I was thinking about… I’m planning on coming on the market in January. So it’s so fortuitous that you called.” So you just got a head start, maybe you can offer that type that property before it comes officially on the market. So, there’s no downside. You already know they were interested in selling at one time or another. So, there’s a higher likelihood they’re still gonna be interested in still wanting to sell.
Matt: When you call the listing agent that lost the listing, whether it was expired, canceled, whatever might have happened, do you change your script, your questions, depending upon what happened with the listing?
Anthony: I mean, it was taken off the market. We don’t know why. So we aren’t privy yet to the information. Was it a divorce sale? Was it…? You know, what was the reason behind it? Were they doing a 1031 exchange and they couldn’t find a replacement property? Was it a probate sale or someone passed away? You know, what was the reason why you were selling? And so, we’re never gonna find that out, really until we talk to the other agent, and then they share that information with us. And then we can act accordingly. If they say, you know, it’s a divorce sale, they’re not planning on selling or if they say, you know, they need to wait a year for capital gains laws, you know, depending on what they say, we’ll react accordingly.
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Matt: What else can agents be doing? So we’ve covered a couple… We’ve talked about a pocket listing database, mining the MLS. What other…?
Anthony: Okay. So the next one is mailing to a specific farm or area. And I know a lot of people do that. But I’ll tell you our little twist on it. So, this is like our secret sauce. So everyone gets letters from an agent saying, “Oh, you know, I have a buyer and they wanna move to their neighborhood.” And what I found is it needs to be personalized and it needs to be handwritten, okay? So the more personal information you can put in that letter… And, you know, ideally, you know, don’t farm 1,000 people in a neighborhood because then all neighbors are gonna be like, “Yeah, did you get the letter from Bob? Yeah, I got Bob’s letter. Did you get Bob’s letter?” So what you do is you handpick the specific properties that meet your client’s criteria. Your client’s only looking for not more than a 3,000 square foot home, not more than a 10,000 square foot lot, not more than 4 bedrooms, that, you know, maybe it’s been built in the last 10 years, then just easy, go to the title company and you just farm. You just pick the specific criteria that matches your client’s needs.
So, then what you do is you put as much specific information as possible in that letter. For example, you’re representing a doctor, and they’re an oncology surgeon, and they have three young kids, and they wanna get in before the school year starts, and they have two dogs and, you know, whatever information that your client is giving you authorization to give. They can give a first name, you know, Bob and Betty. You know, and the more information you give, the more it personalizes it and it shows them the credibility because most sellers are so hardened by, “They’re just giving me a letter because they say they have a buyer, and they really don’t, and they wanna get the listing.” So the more you can personalize it, that is the key. It humanizes it and you’ll get a much higher response rate by doing it that way.
Matt: Okay. So handwritten, instead of a postcard?
Anthony: Yeah. And you can buy the fonts, there’s… You know, there’s a lot of software out there. It looks like it’s handwritten,
Matt: Okay? And so you’re not… Instead of, you know, blanketing 500 or 1,000 postcards, you’re taking the time to be more targeted about it. You’re doing something that’s more personal and handwritten. So mailers to specific farm or area?
Matt: What else are you guys doing?
Anthony: So the other one is past clients and your sphere of influence. So this is really a goldmine, especially for agents that have been in business for a little while. So it’s a fantastic excuse to call someone who maybe you sold a home to a few years ago. And you’re like, “Hey, I’m just checking in. How are you doing? You know, I know we haven’t talked in a while.” And what you say is this, say, “I know you’re not interested in selling, but do you know anyone that may be interested in selling? I have a client, who is fantastic. They’re a doctor. They have a very good income. They have perfect credit. They’re all cash or they’re putting a large down payment. And they’re really motivated to see everything on the market. So, I know you know a lot of people, Bob. So Bob, if you ever come in contact with someone that may be thinking about selling, please let me know. I’d really, really appreciate that.” And then usually, it’ll get into, “Well, you know, I’m kind of thinking about it for myself.” “Oh, you know what? I wasn’t even thinking about it for you. I was thinking about it, if you know anyone.” So, it’s a very soft, indirect way to ask and it’s a great excuse to call your client. And also, I would recommend your sphere of influence.
Matt: So far, Anthony has shared with us four ways that you can find inventory in a market like we have now, where inventory is at a premium. He’s talked about creating a database of off-market properties, mining the MLS for canceleds, expireds, and the like, doing mailers, not to the area where your buyers are looking, but to specific homes that match what they’re looking for and reaching out to your past clients and sphere to let them know about your current buyer’s needs. Next up is a similar idea to that last one. But rather than talking to people you know, this one involves advertising your buyer’s needs far and wide.
Anthony: So, normally, when you have a listing, you advertise your listing on print and then online. So social media and in print publications. So, you do the same thing with your buyer’s needs. So, for example, if you say, “I have a buyer, and they’re looking for this specific neighborhood of this town, and they are looking for a certain size home, and a certain style of home,” you advertise that in the print publication, so your local papers, and you advertise it in Facebook, and on Instagram, and on LinkedIn. And you say, “Look, here’s a list of my 10 buyers and here’s what they’re looking for.” And what it does is two things, that you’re networking with your sphere of influence. Remember, you’re being the matchmaker thing? It’s like you’re putting this net out there and saying, “Hey, anyone know anyone? I have a great girl and I wanna set people up.” You know, and that’s what you’re doing. You’re being proactive and you’re advertising your buyer’s needs.
Now two things are gonna happen then. One, other people are gonna be like, “Wow, that’s really creative. Why didn’t my agent do that?” Two, someone’s gonna be like, “You know, I was thinking about selling, let me call this guy and see what’s happening.” And you make it a listing out of it. Okay? We’ve gotten listings from it. It’s been really great. And the other key is some mistakes I see agents that have tried this technique is the criteria that they advertise is too similar. So it’s really important, like, don’t put, “I have one buyer looking for 400,000 or 450,000. I have another looking from 400,000 to 500,000. I have another looking…” You know, they overlap.
So it’s better just to be a little bit broader, right, because you’re gonna pick a wider net. Okay? So if someone’s looking in the south part of town, and they’re in one price point, another’s looking in the north part of town at another price point, that’s okay. But do not get too specific because you wanna have a little bit wider net. Because if a client says to you, “I have to have a Spanish-style home. I have to have a modern home.” Well, the thing you and I know, we can send them an architectural home or we send them a mid-century modern, they can turn it into a modern one, right? So, don’t be too specific, be a little broad.
Matt: And you’ve done this… You mentioned your local paper. I mean for you, that’s what the LA Times?
Anthony: We do the Palisadian Post. We have done the LA Times. We do the Palisadian post. We do local magazines. We do social media. And, you know if nothing else, it gives the subtle impression to your clients and your sphere of influence, “Wow, that’s really creative. It’s someone I want to work with.” Right? They’re doing something different.
Matt: Right. You’re going above and beyond what the consumer typically sees real estate agents do.
Anthony: That’s exactly right. Yeah. So that’s been a great one.
Matt: Okay. So one last question on this. So the ad might say something like, well, and you fill in the blanks for me, Anthony, “We have a buyer looking for…” I mean, do you list like four bedrooms, three baths, price…?
Anthony: Well, we try and do… It depends what the client’s looking for, and it depends how many of that product would be available on that marketplace. So if you’re looking for a white elephant, you do not wanna be specific, like… If you’re looking at a 3,000 square foot home neighborhood and the homes are selling for $500,000, and you go, “Well, I want a 5,000 square foot home for $200,000,” people are gonna look at you, like, “Hello, you know, come on. You know, wait a minute, yeah, I want that too. Can you give me 10 of those?”
Matt: Right. Exactly.
Anthony: So, it really depends, Matt. Ideally, you know, … the important things, you know, room for a pool, maybe, Ocean View property, flat usable lot, moving condition, things of that nature, that would really elicit the things. Now, we don’t get the phone ringing off the hook. I wanna be really clear. You know, for every three or four ads, we get maybe a couple of calls but that’s a couple of calls we didn’t have.
Matt: All of the strategies and ideas that Anthony has shared so far, it’s all about finding inventory that isn’t already on the market. As our conversation was wrapping up, Anthony said, there are some unique benefits to being able to do this. For starters, this is one way to break into higher price points. He says sophisticated buyers will appreciate that you have information and access to properties that other agents don’t know about. One good example of all of this is Victoria, the agent in his office that Anthony mentioned earlier. He says her business took off as soon as she got proactive about looking for inventory that wasn’t currently on the market.
Anthony: She was having a little bit of a slump. We recommended she focus on the off-markets. And it created like a superpower for her. And it gave her the confidence almost as like a hunter, if you will, like, “I gotta go find something that’s not there.” And she was able to differentiate her skill from all the other agents out there. And she’s been able to generate incredible referrals and client loyalty because her clients saw how much harder she worked for them, okay? So, she’s been very, very successful mailing to specific areas and doing online social media. And just to give you a concrete example, 50% of her business last year was from off-market properties.
Anthony: Fifty percent of her business last year was from off-market properties. She did approximately $10 million in home sales from off-market properties. So, this year, she’s on track to triple her business. And the main reason is because she’s perfected the skills to find properties that were not currently on the market. So I think it’s really, really important just to go the extra mile. I wanna be really clear. This is not for everyone. If you think it’s easy and you think it’s a magic wand, and I just wanna make it simple, Matt, it’s not. It’s hours of work. But the payoff will be huge if you wanna put the time in.
Matt: I think one of the things that sort of underlies, Anthony, a lot of the ideas that you’ve shared is the value of networking, communication, right? Staying in touch with other agents so that you know what’s going on in their world. Staying in touch with your past clients and your sphere so you can know who might be thinking about selling if the circumstances are right. It sounds to me like there’s a real premium on just really being dialed in with the people in your market.
Anthony: One hundred percent. Knowledge is power. If your marketplace has X number of properties on the market and they’re — throughout the country, as you mentioned, it’s historically low inventory across the country. So if you can employ one or two or more of these techniques and find properties that are not currently on the market, I don’t care if it’s one new property, that’s a huge value add to your clients.
(Speaker: Matt McGee, Host) I think that’s a great point Anthony made right there at the end. If you can help just one buyer get in a home that they love by proactively looking for homes that aren’t in the MLS, I mean, what a huge win. And think of the potential referrals that you will get from that. Anthony, thank you so much for being on “The Walkthrough.”
Let’s do our takeaways segment here is what stood out to me from today’s conversation.
Takeaway number one, we spent a lot of time talking about the value of having an off-market database. Anthony says he talks to homeowners about the benefits of going to market but hey, some of them prefer staying private. So his team has been tracking those sellers in a database for years. And he says, be patient because these folks aren’t necessarily ready to sell right now. The situation has to be right. And, of course, do not under any circumstances violate the Clear Cooperation Policy. If you publicly advertise a home for sale, it has to go in the MLS within 24 hours.
Takeaway number 2, mine the MLS, look for expireds, withdrawns, canceleds, and so forth. Anthony’s tip here is don’t contact the homeowner, contact the listing agent. You’ll learn more about what happened and make a good connection.
Takeaway number three, do very specific mailers. Handwrite a letter, and rather than hit the entire neighborhood, only send it to properties that match your buyer’s interests.
Takeaway number four, reach out to your past clients and sphere of influence. “Do you know anyone who’s looking to sell? I have a client who’s looking for X, Y, and Z.”
And then takeaway number five, advertise your buyer’s needs. Anthony will place ads in local papers, magazines, social media, and so forth, saying, “We have buyers looking for homes that fit these descriptions. Contact us if you’re thinking about selling.”
So there you go, five ways to be proactive about finding new inventory. If you have any questions or feedback, you can leave a voicemail or send me a text. It’s 415-322-3328. You can send an email to walkthrough [at] homelight.com or find me in our Facebook listener community. Just do a search for HomeLight Walkthrough, and the group will come right up. Anthony Marguleas is in the community as well. So if you have questions or feedback for him, that’s a great place to do it.
That’s all for this week. Thanks again to Anthony Marguleas for joining me and thank you for listening. My name is Matt McGee, and you’ve been listening to “The Walkthrough.” At HomeLight, we believe in real estate agents. We’re on a journey to find out how great agents grow their business, stand out from the crowd, and become irreplaceable.
Go out and sell some homes. Do it safely everyone. I’ll talk to you again next week. Bye-bye.
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