Today in our “Meet the Agent” series we get to know Tony Geraci, broker and owner of CENTURY 21 HomeStar in Cleveland, OH. Tony is far and away one of the most enthusiastic System members we’ve interviewed. Read on to hear the incredible story of his first sale, his advice to new brokers and agents, and why you should never host an open house on Sunday in Cleveland during football season.
C21: How did you first get into real estate?
TG: In 1992, I was 22 years old, out of college and deciding what I should do next. My choice was: go to law school or find a job. A friend of mine worked in real estate and was doing very well. I talked to him and he told me how much he enjoyed working in this industry. I took all of my classes within three weeks and started in real estate within five weeks of making this decision.
C21: Do you remember your first sale?
TG: Yes! I learned a big lesson on the risks of “early occupancy”. I had an open house for one of my manager’s listings. The buyer came in and we wrote an offer that night. The transaction went well. My manager helped me a lot with the process. The property was to transfer on a Friday. Unfortunately, the title company did not transfer title until Monday. The sellers let the buyers move in on Friday night. That night I got a call from the buyers asking me to call the seller because the house was on fire. The buyers were cleaning the fireplace brick with the wrong cleaner and lit a fire. The whole wall went up in flames. The buyers did not have their home phone hooked up and cell phones weren’t big yet. Luckily, they drove to the fire station down the street and told them to come to the house as fast as possible. Well, the buyer was very kind and took responsibility for the fire. They did not have their insurance in place, so this could have been a real mess. I learned a lot on that first transaction!
C21: When you bought your first home, what made you fall in love with it?
TG: I bought my first home about a year after I started in real estate. I was 23 years old. I fell in love with it because it was affordable and was down the street from my parents’ house, so I knew I could always go to their house and eat anytime I wanted. Ha!
C21: Your area of focus is Cleveland, OH. What makes this real estate market special and unique?
TG: Cleveland is a great place to live! I have over 200 agents around the Cleveland market. We sell all price ranges of homes. We are handling a lot of bank owned and short sales right now. Our market is exactly like most other Midwest markets. Our average sales price is about $125,000 and very close to the national average.
C21: If I had only one day in Cleveland what are the three things I must see/do?
TG: Wow! There is always so much to do in Cleveland. Here are three great things to do to really meet the great people of Cleveland.
1) On a beautiful Sunday you will have to go to a Cleveland Browns game at 1:00pm. However, you will start around 9:00am and pack your car like you are going on a cook out. You will get to the Municipal Stadium Parking lot by 10:00am and start tailgating and grilling. You will spend 2-3 hours walking around the parking lot with thousands of other Clevelanders offering you great food and drinks and meeting a lot of wonderful people.
2) In the Cleveland area we have the “Emerald Necklace”. The Cleveland area is surrounded by over 21,000 acres of metroparks – 16 reservations that are great for hiking, nature walks, picnics and much more. You could go on a great guided bike tour or segway tour of the metroparks. Stop to have a picnic and see a lot of the beautiful wildlife the Cleveland area has to offer.
3) You have to go to East 4th Street in downtown Cleveland. East 4th Street is home to over a dozen unique restaurants. Michael Symon of the Food Network and Iron Chef winner has a great restaurant here. East 4th Street. It has a lot of entertainment, live music, theaters, comedy clubs, a trendy and upscale bowling alley and a lot more.
TG: Sundays during football season are very special in Cleveland. It’s time to put on your Cleveland Browns attire. Don’t think about having an open house on a Sunday during football season. Everyone is either at the game or watching the game somewhere in the city.
C21: What’s your must-have game day dish?
TG: Chili and brats are my must-have game day dishes. We are also the Buckeye State, so buckeye desserts are a local favorite. They are made from peanut butter dipped in chocolate and look just like real buckeyes found on local trees.
C21: Name the three qualities necessary to succeed in real estate.
TG: 1) Persistence: Agents and brokers must consistently prospect and market themselves. You cannot stop! Pick a couple things to do to prospect for new clients or new agents and keep doing them forever! Never take anyone off your list until they tell you to stop!
2) Focus: Every day you must already have a plan for prospecting for new clients or new agents. If you don’t have a plan or schedule before you get in the office you will probably spend the day just reacting to things coming to you and not you going out and getting new business. This is very important for brokers trying to recruit new agents. I have over 200 agents. I can spend all day helping those agents. I have to make an effort everyday to schedule time to recruit!
3) Very Little Fear of Rejection: Very Important! You will always hear “no” more than “yes.” If you are not getting any no’s, you are not contacting enough people or agents. If people or agents are not telling you to “stop contacting me”, you are not doing enough prospecting. Never stop until they tell you to stop. Never assume they want you to stop because they have not called you back or returned an email.
C21: Your office has a YouTube channel. How are you using video for marketing?
TG: I love videos! You can learn a lot more about a person or company with a video than you can from text or pictures. When people search Google, YouTube videos are now coming up in the search. You need to be on YouTube to increase your online exposure. At least once a week I post a new video on our YouTube Channel. I also just created my own custom video website. This website allowed me to cater to my agents and potential new agents to learn about Century 21, see some of our training, and see agent testimonials, motivational videos and some very funny videos too.
C21: Are you using Facebook, Twitter or Google+ for business? If so, what generates the most leads?
TG: Yes! Facebook is by far the best social networking tool. Every broker, manager and agent must at least have a profile on Facebook. As a broker, I am on Facebook for about one hour everyday looking for new agents to “friend” from other companies and try to recruit them. I think Facebook is very important to keep your name out there in the industry and it gives you another avenue of communication with people. As brokers and agents, we are our “product”. Before people choose a “product”, they must learn about that product. Facebook allows us to show people who we really are. It is an easy format for them to learn about us. I guess that could be good and bad. Ha! So, be careful what you put on Facebook.
I also have profiles on LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and Foursquare. It is very easy to manage when you have a smartphone. People can find me on all of them and they can contact me on any of them.
C21: Our company mantra is “Smarter. Bolder. Faster.” How do you embody the mantra in your day-to-day work?
TG: CENTURY 21 brokers and agents can be Smarter, Bolder and Faster than the competition, but they have to learn how to use all of the tools and technologies available to them. I am going to tell you how CENTURY 21 helps me become Smarter, Bolder and Faster.
Smarter: I am very educated on all of the real estate tools and technologies needed to be successfu. I implement every online marketing tool that CENTURY 21 has to offer. As a broker, I use almost all of the tools in The Road Map to Recruiting. Every day I am using my knowledge to help recruit new agents and help my agents sell more homes.
Bolder: When a potential new agent asks me to tell them about CENTURY 21, this is what I start with: “CENTURY 21 is the largest real estate company in the world with over 120,000 agents in all 50 states and in 72 countries. We have more marketing, tools, technology, training and support than any other real estate company in the world. What would you like to know and what is most important to you?” That is bold! I train my agents to start by saying the same thing to potential buyers and sellers. People want to do business with people who are secure and confident about their company and their abilities to help them succeed.
Faster: CENTURY 21 agents and brokers have the tools and technology to be faster. But, you have to learn about them and use them. Lead Router is one of them. We use and manage Lead Router everyday to help our agents get their leads quicker and manage them. All calls to the office and emails go through Lead Router. As a broker, I choose to be faster and educated about everything that is going on in my office. I have over 200 agents and close about 65 transactions a month. My office is paperless. Everything is faxed or scanned and emailed to our office. Every fax and every email to my support staff is copied and emailed to me. I watch everything that is going in and out of the office every day. This makes me “faster” by communicating with my agents and helping them with their transactions and also to congratulate them on their business. My iPhone is with me almost 24 hours a day. I watch every phone call, voice mail, text message, email, fax, Facebook message, tweet, LinkedIn communication and much more. You have to be fast in this business. We have the tools to do it very efficiently. We just have to learn about them and choose to use them.
C21: If you could give one piece of advice to a young person starting out in the real estate business, what would it be?
TG: I know a lot of brokers are going to hate this, but I would tell them two things before they start: 1) make sure you have one year’s worth of savings to live on and 2) don’t quit your day job. I have seen a lot of good agents give up because they could not wait anymore to make money and had to get a new job and quit real estate. To avoid this, make sure you have enough money to invest in your real estate business for at least a year. Otherwise, work during the day and sell real estate at night and on the weekends. I have successful agents that started part time and are now full time top agents. After an agent makes one of those two decisions, they have to do following: 1) Be focused every day on prospecting. 2) Take as much CENTURY 21 training as you can. 3) Find a successful agent in your office to mentor. Every very successful agent needs help. Help with buyers, open houses or paperwork. Ask your broker or manager if they have a successful agent to recommend.
C21: When you’re not working, how do you like to spend your free time?
TG: What I love about being a broker is that I can work 24/7. With my iPhone, I can be available anywhere and anytime. Basically, I work while I am waiting in line at the store, walking a treadmill etc. When I am not working, I love spending time with my two boys, Tony (12) and Tommy (10). I love coaching all of their sport teams like football, baseball and basketball. Real estate takes up a lot of time. I do everything I can to make sure I schedule my days efficiently to make sure I can coach and spend time with my boys. About 18 months ago I moved my office near my house and in the same school district that my sons go to school. Now, the buses drop them off at my office every afternoon. This helps me spend more time with them when I have those busy days and evening appointments. I used to hate getting home late and not getting a chance to say good night. All real estate professionals with children know that feeling.