Today in our “Meet the Agent” series we explore the Florida Keys with Tracy Larson of CENTURY 21 Schwartz Realty. Tracy helps us learn the distinct personalities of each key, how she is using video to market her listings and shares with us that when she bought her first home she bought a grill and a blender before she bought a bed! Ah, island living.
C21: How did you first get into real estate?
TL: I was an art director at an advertising agency. When I was laid off, my husband, who was a broker/owner of a CENTURY 21 office in Key West thought it would be a great time to get my license.
C21: Do you remember your first sale?
TL: Yes, I do, and I still drive by it from time to time to see the house. It was small “conch cottage” in Key West. I had an open house and when the owners came back after the open, I had written four offers for them to choose from. That was the first and last time that’s ever happened to me.
C21: When you bought your first home, what made you fall in love it?
TL: Having it be all mine was one of the biggest things I loved about it.
C21: What was the first big furniture purchase you made for the place?
TL: It’s sort of funny, but the first big purchase I made was a top-of-the-line BBQ grill and a professional grade blender. I didn’t have a proper bed, but I ate well.
C21: You recently re-joined the CENTURY 21 System. How does it feel to be home again?
TL: It feels great. I started my career with CENTURY 21, including my pre-license course through a CENTURY 21 school back in 1993. It’s been some time since I left, and the System has grown quite a bit while I’ve been away. It really is “Smarter. Bolder. Faster.”
C21: Your area of focus is the beautiful Florida Keys. What makes this real estate market special and unique?
TL: The Florida Keys is home to one of the largest living coral reefs in the world. Combined with our year-round moderate weather, we enjoy some of the best diving, snorkeling and fishing anywhere. It’s like visiting the Caribbean without needing a passport. That is a big draw for our year-round residents and our second home buyers.
C21: Do you think each island has a unique personality and if so, how would you describe them?
TL: Absolutely! The Upper Keys are an easy commute to and from Miami, so a lot of property owners here come from that area and use their homes as weekend getaways. The Middle Keys have a more “island city” feel to it, with an airport and larger chain stores such as Home Depot. The Lower Keys have always felt more serene and have a more back-to- nature. Then there is Key West at the end of the road. It’s a funky little island with a culture and flair all its own.
C21: Do you find that you are selling more year-round homes or more vacation/second homes?
TL: I’m selling more second homes and investment condos. Most of the condo buyers are investment buyers, looking to make a little extra income by renting out their unit as a vacation rental when they are not here.
C21: If I had only one day on Islamorada (your home island!) what are the three things I must see/do?
TL: I’d say charter a boat and do a little fishing in the morning, a little diving in the afternoon and end the day by catching sunset and watching for the infamous green flash as the sun dips below the horizon.
C21: Name the three qualities necessary to succeed in real estate.
TL: 1) Commitment – You have to know there will be good days and bad days. Giving up every time a deal goes sour won’t work.
2) Honesty – In my first pre-license class, the instructor repeatedly told us “You don’t have to lie to sell real estate.” Those words have stuck in head all these years.
3) Be a self-starter – No one is going to tell you what hours you need to be at work or what your duties are going to be for that day. You need to be able to push yourself in the right direction.
C21: You have a fantastic site, FloridaKeysMarketUpdate.com. What is your content strategy and how do you keep it fresh?
TL: Thank you! The site is actually a blog I maintain. I decided to go with a blog format over a traditional static site because it forces you to keep it fresh by adding content on a regular basis. Nothing looks worse than a blog that has old content. Since you can see when articles are posted on a blog, you have to post to it regularly. I add market stats each week to let readers know what has just been listed and what has just sold. I also include local events, properties I think are a good deal and other local information. It’s just one part of my internet presence. I still maintain a traditional, static site, too.
C21: You have an excellent YouTube channel. Can you share with our readers how you are using video to market your listings and why this medium is necessary?
TL: You have to incorporate video with your marketing efforts. The truth is, people don’t read anymore. They want visual marketing. High quality still photography is still important, but videos tend to engage people more. I think the combination of music, photos and short descriptive texts hold the attention longer than anything else. It also needs to have a fairly fast pace and short length.
C21: You are an active user of Facebook and Twitter. Which do you find to be a better lead generation source?
TL: I’ve found that more people have interacted with me on Facebook than Twitter.
C21: Based on your experience, any tips for real estate professionals just beginning to dip their toes into the social media waters?
TL: It’s important to remember the social part of social media. On my blog I tend to promote listings and sales information, but on my Facebook business page, I try to promote more local events and lifestyle information. I once heard a trainer compare Facebook to a cocktail party. If someone comes into a cocktail party and goes for the hard sell, you’ll likely walk away from them to go talk to other people at the party, but if you tell them about a great new restaurant or art gallery, they’ll stay and listen.
C21: Our company mantra is “Smarter. Bolder. Faster.” How do you embody the mantra in your day-to-day work?
TL: Smarter: There are more technology tools available to real estate professionals now than ever before. Learn them and use them.
Bolder: Take a few risks. Look at your competitors marketing and try to do something totally different than anyone else. Sure, you could strike out, but chances are, you’ll hit a home run.
Faster: Be there when people need you. Respond to them as quickly as you can or they’ll move on. Smartphones make it easy to check email and answers questions without being tethered to a desk at the office.
C21: If you could give one piece of advice to a young person starting out in the real estate business, what would it be?
TL: If you’re joining the CENTURY 21 System, embrace the brand. We have great partnerships with Realtor.com, Zillow and more. Use the tools given to us. I log onto 21online.com almost daily, either to add new contacts or to tweak my CENTURY 21 agent site, or to just get new marketing ideas. The tools and the training to get you started are all there, and most of them are either free or very reasonably priced. I kind of sound like I’m recruiting, huh?
C21: When you’re not working, how do you like to spend your free time?
TL: I like to go diving or do a little traveling. Time with my daughter and my husband is always the best.
C21: Continue the conversation with Tracy on her Facebook page.