Episode 031: Melissa Bernstein, RE/MAX

Joel:
Hello everybody, and welcome to another edition of the Big Joel Show. Exciting today. I've got a top-producing real estate agent with me, and even more exciting, it's someone that's producing in the area where I did all my production, which is fun. I haven't had someone on my show yet that is from... I've had people from the DC metro area, but I haven't had someone from suburban Maryland or Montgomery County, where when I started in the business they said, "Here's a desk. Here's a phone. Get out of my face. You're on your own. Go to Gaithersburg." Pre-North Potomac. That was go to Gaithersburg and meet people.

Joel:
Today I've got Melissa Bernstein. She's with RE/MAX Reality Group in technically North Potomac. Or what should we call it?

Melissa:
It's North Potomac. Gaithersburg. Either one.

Joel:
The North Potomac people got upset when they lobbied for that and then paid higher taxes. But it's North Potomac, Gaithersburg, whatever you're thinking, and this is super exciting because Melissa has not been selling real estate forever. Melissa actually had a full career doing other stuff before and then decided to get into real estate. I'm going to let her tell that story. Melissa is also climbing up the ranks at RE/MAX. Right now, for year-to-date, you're ranked up there, right?

Melissa:
I am. I don't pay attention to the rankings.

Joel:
Just show off a little. Don't worry about it. You're up there. As you know, Big Joel Show, those of you that know me, I'm all about units, and yes we are in an area that has high average sale prices and high average loan amounts, but Melissa is selling units. She's not selling 10 houses a year for 10 million dollars. That's not going on. Even though there are people in this market that do that, that's not what she's doing.

Joel:
I'm going to let Melissa tell a bit about her story, because I think it's fascinating. As of right now, you can leave off the Redskins thing.

Melissa:
I'm not going to leave it off.

Joel:
No, I know you're not.

Melissa:
I wasn't on the field, so I take no responsibility for that.

Joel:
I'm going to let Melissa tell her story. Again, thanks for watching. I hope you all enjoy the show. We're going to have some good nuggets.

Joel:
Melissa, tell us a bit about you. I already told them where you operate. By the way, those of you who don't what Montgomery County is, it's the county wedged right up against Washington DC. Washington DC is a big metro area. Washington DC is this tiny and Maryland and Virginia are right around it, so we're really DC metro even though we're saying Maryland.

Joel:
Tell us a bit about you. Did you grow up in the area? Tell us up to real estate.

Melissa:
I grew up in the area. Deep, deep roots in Montgomery County. Grew up in Darnestown. I went to University of Maryland.

Joel:
Side note: what elementary school did you go to?

Melissa:
Darnestown.

Joel:
You did? Did you ever have Mrs. Libby? Okay, just checking. She's my cousin. She was there for 20 years. Fourth grade. Anyway, keep going.

Melissa:
Very cool.

Melissa:
Went to University of Maryland. Studied government and politics. While I was there, I worked on the Hill. I thought I was going to go into lobbying and politics, so didn't leave the area. Went to Maryland Law in Baltimore. Again, I was going to be a lobbyist. I had all these plans to go travel other places, but where else should you live and work other than DC and Maryland area.

Joel:
For that job.

Melissa:
For that job. And I actually was. I worked downtown for a year at a law firm after I graduated law school. Then I was recruited by the Redskins to work as the assistant general council. I started my career as an attorney in-house for the Redskins doing corporate law, some real estate law because they owned their stadium.

Joel:
That's Dan Snyder reign?

Melissa:
It is.

Joel:
That's after...

Melissa:
This was the first year after he bought the team, so it was all new and exciting.

Melissa:
I was there for five years, and I loved the real estate side of it. I did a lot surrounding the stadium and development and...

Joel:
You were involved in that deal, basically.

Melissa:
I was involved in that deal, yes. When I left the team, I decided that I wanted to work as a real estate attorney, not in-house any more. I was at a big real estate firm in Montgomery County.

Joel:
Residential, commercial, or everything?

Melissa:
It was not residential. It did commercial. It was really the same thing as residential, just on a bigger scale. You think you sell a million dollar house and you have all the transactional side. This was like a billion dollar property. I did the finance side of it, the contracts, everything, and I loved it. I did it for over a decade, but then I just got bored. I wanted to own my own business and be my own boss. There was a bit of a glass ceiling for a female attorney at a law firm.

Joel:
It happens. That's correct.

Melissa:
I didn't want to own my law firm, I knew that. I decided to put my two passions... the marketing side and sales that I learned from Dan and the excellent marketing team at the Redskins... They may not be able to win games this season but they know how to sell.

Joel:
By the way, it's October 2019 right now, so... was it yesterday?

Melissa:
Yeah.

Joel:
Or was it this morning?

Melissa:
It was yesterday.

Joel:
Yesterday morning at 6:00 AM, the head coach of the Redskins was relived of duty after the 0 and 5 start. We produce these and it might not released until December, so I'm just trying to give people... People from around here, I want to give them a feel.

Melissa:
Maybe it'll be a winning season.

Joel:
It would be huge. As a lifelong Redskins fan... a long-suffering fan, that would be awesome.

Joel:
So your two passions, marketing and real estate...

Melissa:
Two passions: marketing, sales, and real estate. Put them together and here I am, and it's worked.

Joel:
When did you start selling residential real estate?

Melissa:
I guess six years ago.

Joel:
And did you know someone doing it, or were you watching from the sidelines and thinking, "Okay, I want to hop in there," because it's a pretty wacky business?

Melissa:
I was watching from the sidelines. The firm I used to work for has a really big title practice. They did residential closings. I was friends and colleagues with all the partners there. We would talk over lunch or drinks and compare horror stories about what was going on. It was something I've always been interested in. I was watching from the sidelines. I didn't have a mentor to follow, but with my background and my passion and my experience I knew I could do it.

Joel:
So you went from salary with benefits to zip.

Melissa:
Yep.

Joel:
To okay, "I'm from here..." those of you that sell any real estate understand that being from there is a really nice thing because real estate is where you are. I tell new agents all the time, and they're like, "I'm bored. I don't have anything to do." I'm like, "Really? That's a lie. You have plenty to do. Go drive. Burn a whole tank of gas." They're like, "What?" I'm like, "Yeah. Literally, drive." "What do you mean drive?" "Know every road, every house. When someone says, 'It's a center hall colonial on whatever,' be like, 'Oh yeah, I know that house.'" They look at me like, "Really?" I'm like, "Yeah, really. Actually go do it."

Joel:
When you hop in right where you're from, you definitely have a leg up. Not that you know a bunch of people, because sometimes that's a leg down because some people are like, "Wait a minute, she's brand new. I'm not working with her," because they know you. But you have a leg up because you know the houses. You know the real estate.

Melissa:
Know the houses, know the community. I know the generations that have lived there. I know what developments are going on, what's being built. What social events are happening.

Joel:
Yeah, plugged in.

Melissa:
Plugged in. You're selling a house, but you're selling the community as well.

Joel:
Yeah.

Joel:
Six years you hop in. For those of you watching or listening that are contemplating career change or things like that, what was the first thing you did? First of all, did you start at RE/MAX? Is that where you started? And did you go all in or did you go on some kind of split to start?

Melissa:
I went all in.

Joel:
You went all in and paid for your [crosstalk 00:08:17]?

Melissa:
I went all in.

Joel:
Okay. Ballsy. I like that.

Melissa:
On the first day, I put myself out there as a million dollar agent. I had no million dollar listings, but I was a million dollar agent. I was all in. I did meet with different brokers and...

Joel:
Before you decided where to go?

Melissa:
Before I decided. I had thought about joining a team. I thought about doing this. But that defeated the whole purpose of me leaving the corporate environment.

Joel:
Right. Tell everyone what you did. People ask me this question all the time: "I want to get into real estate," or, "I want to duh-duh-duh-duh-duh." People have lots of different answers. Did you find what I would call a mentor-type of person? What did you do? Did you go to seminars? Did you read books? I know you've been watching... Little bit of an advantage, because yes she wasn't doing residential. She wasn't doing settlements. But Melissa was in an office where a lot of that was going on. You probably heard some screaming. You saw lots of papers get there late. You saw things blown up. Sellers going crazy. Buyers losing it. People living in hotels.

Melissa:
Saw every worst case and heard about every worst case.

Joel:
Earnest money being taken.

Joel:
You've probably seen all of that, but what did you do? Did you just hop in?

Melissa:
Honestly, I started marketing. I knew that I had to-

Joel:
Unpack it. What does that mean? Did you go door-to-door? What did you do?

Melissa:
I sometimes went door-to-door, but in my area the direct marketing... and I know this doesn't work for every community and for every agent... but the mailers, the direct marketing, really work where I sell. I have a great marketing company based out of California. They do a quarterly report for me.

Joel:
Did you do this out of the gate? Month one?

Melissa:
Out of the gate. Month one.

Joel:
You researched, found it, and went all in?

Melissa:
Well, my broker has meetings and this company was introduced at one of the meetings I went to and I was intrigued and I said, "Let's try it." I had them put something together for me. I had one sale. I think my first two or three sales were friends or family, whatever, but I monopolized on that. I used those and I did my direct mails and marketing and, like I said, I presenting myself as a million-dollar agent and that's...

Joel:
So confidence. And I want to throw this out there for everyone because I talk about this all the time; texting and emailing is cool and everything, but it's pretty much dead. Using your voice... actually talking to people... using your face and some type of video... But the bottom line is snail mail rules right now, because there's not a lot of stuff in people's mailboxes. In fact, it's all crap and bills. If the snail mail is done correctly and the pieces are put together correctly, people are looking at them.

Joel:
The other thing is you have to be very consistent. If you're going to go all in, you have to do it. You can't do a... "I did this direct mail for four months and it didn't work." I'm like, "No, you have to do it for four years."

Melissa:
It's the same image, it's the same piece, and spend more money and make it bigger. Don't do the little postcards that everyone's doing; do a tri-fold, a big-

Joel:
What were you mailing? What do you mail? Are you still doing the same thing?

Melissa:
Yeah, same thing.

Joel:
What is it? Tell people what it is. She literally came out of the gate knowing no one, sold a couple houses to her friends and family... normal. And you've been doing this for six years.

Melissa:
Six years. I was the number one RE/MAX agent in the entire state of Maryland and the central Atlantic region last year.

Joel:
I knew I'd get one brag out of you.

Joel:
What does it look like? I know you said make it bigger, which I'm down...

Melissa:
It's eight and a half by... You open it up, it's glossy, it has... I do two. I do one for one community and it's called the Darnestown Quarterly Report. It has a picture of something related to Darnestown on the front. It has my logos everywhere. You open it up: it has a map with pins of all the recent sales. It has a list of all the recent sales.

Joel:
How often do these go out?

Melissa:
I do it quarterly.

Joel:
So four times a year. This one is going out, the one you're talking about right now?

Melissa:
Exactly. Then it has pictures of my featured listings. Just mine.

Melissa:
What I find interesting is I'll go to listing appointments and people will have the past four quarters of this on their table next to their magazines. It's something that people use.

Joel:
They kept it.

Melissa:
They keep it because they use it as a resource, because the information I'm providing about their community, about the sales, with the map and with the figures and the comps... They may not be ready to sell when they get it, but they keep it.

Joel:
To be what I call the nosy factor. That's one of the best way to connect with people is when they're nosy and they just want to know, call Melissa. She has the answer. "What does their kitchen look like?" "Well..." I mean, it really is.

Joel:
That piece is probably not cheap. We don't have to get into how much it costs, but you've committed to it. You're all in, and you've been sending that piece for over five years?

Melissa:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Joel:
People have been getting that. That is old school. A lot of people don't even know... When I talk to newer agents, I use the word farming. They don't even understand what farming is.

Joel:
Someone like me... who is a bit older than you... can remember standing at the door with my mom when the guy would knock on the door, like the vacuum cleaner guy and the milk guy, whatever. It was this guy... I forget his name... Roy-something in the neighborhood I grew up in and he had this big sheep dog and he'd just walk the neighborhood. "Hey, how you doing?" and leave a pot holder or whatever. Which everyone makes jokes about, but those stayed in my house, and that was old school. But farming, like, "I'm going to go into the community in the neighborhood..." If there were 10 houses listed in the neighborhood I grew up in... it's College Gardens. There was maybe 300 houses in there. If there was 10 houses listed, he had like six, which as you know is massive market share for that many selling their house. But he was predating the gorgeous thing that you're sending. He was just sending the message on foot.

Joel:
You said you have two different farms? There's two neighborhoods?

Melissa:
I do this for two different neighborhoods, yep.

Joel:
So each neighborhood gets the beautiful, glossy tri-fold whatever, and each neighborhood is getting it... Is it a mail drop at the same time, so you're managing it all together? You know, in April, both neighborhoods get hit?

Melissa:
I have this marketing company who's fabulous. They email me, "Okay, it's time to put your quarterly update together," and I send them my listings and they put it together.

Joel:
What type of community information is in there? This is actually a really good question that I think people watching will dig: what have you found is the most popular item that's in there? What do you get the most comments or questions about that you're showing them in the tri-fold?

Melissa:
Probably the map with the pins where all the homes are.

Joel:
Are these listed or sold for the pins? What do the pins represent?

Melissa:
These are the 15 most recent active and sold.

Joel:
That is the number one thing: the little pins.

Melissa:
Yeah. They love to see it, where in the map it relates to their house, because it's just a map of the small community, but where their house is in relation.

Joel:
How many houses in each farm, by the way, if you don't mind me asking? You can ballpark it.

Melissa:
Probably like 3,000.

Joel:
Okay, combined in the two farms, right? You're dropping about 3,000 total pieces?

Melissa:
Maybe 3,500 pieces.

Joel:
Between the two?

Melissa:
Yeah.

Joel:
That's big. Are these multi-use puds? I mean, there are condos, townhouses, and singles.

Melissa:
In one community it's just singles. There are no town homes or condos.

Joel:
That's the smaller...

Melissa:
That's actually bigger, because it's more spread out.

Joel:
If you farmed that, you'd get a serious workout. That's a lot of walking.

Melissa:
You can't farm that, no.

Joel:
Do you farm Kentlands? Is that where...

Melissa:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Kentlands, Lakelands, that's the second area.

Joel:
For those of you who want to Google that, it's interesting. That was one of the first multi-unit cool puds in the United States. People came from all over the US to look at that.

Melissa:
And they're modeling that community across the country now.

Joel:
Everywhere. So that, you're going to get everything. You're going to get townhouses...

Joel:
Does that glossy go to the renters that live in that one neighborhood? I'm curious.

Melissa:
They send it on the tax record. It goes to the home owners.

Joel:
You must be a homeowner.

Melissa:
Yes.

Joel:
So if you have a condo and it's rented to someone else, that person is going to get it in Alaska. It doesn't matter. They're going to get it.

Melissa:
Right.

Joel:
So pins are number one. What else are they into that's in there? Is there restaurant stuff in there? Is there Halloween parade? What kind of crap is in there?

Melissa:
Not really. There's no restaurant, there's no... This is just real estate related. There's a whole page about my future listings and the homes that I've sold. Pictures sell now.

Joel:
And they could be gone already.

Melissa:
They could be gone already. But to have the most beautiful picture... and I spend a lot of money on photography, also. Pictures sell. These people who may not have gone on Zillow or looked on these real estate websites... because they're not thinking about buying or selling. They don't know what is going on now with the real estate photos. They're seeing these beautiful magazine-quality photos of homes in their neighborhood, in their community, and they're impressed.

Joel:
It's really interesting because some of you watching are like, "Yeah, whatever. She's sending a brochure and she has glossy pictures." Those of you that are watching that are newer to real estate and there's someone in your office that's been around for a while, maybe a bit more aged like me, and you ask them what they did to build up their massive practice, you're going to hear a lot of this. This is the stuff that works for sure.

Melissa:
I'm doing the videos and the Instagram and the... I'm doing all of that, too.

Joel:
I want to ask you about the photography, because I think a lot of people cut corners on that, because they think they can because of where technology is. It sounds like you do not agree with that: that you have no problem investing in that.

Melissa:
You have to invest. I invest in staging and photography, so much so that I cover the cost of that myself: staging and photography I pay for. There is no pass-through. I treat my 250,000 listings the same as I would my two million dollar listings. Same photographer. If it's more property, I might do aerial pictures.

Joel:
Drone.

Melissa:
Drone, right. There's more involved, but it's the same quality.

Joel:
That's another interesting message, because I find there's a lot of agents cutting corners on stuff like that just because you can because it's easy to or you think you can, but I know I can tell... and I'm sure you can tell now, too... whether the pictures were taken professionally or not. I think it clearly looks different. That's what I hear all the time about people who come in the podcast studio. They're like, "Wow, this is really cool." I'm like, "Yeah, why would I do it in my basement like everyone else? Let's do it right if we're going to do it."

Joel:
So you start sending these brochures. Did you walk any neighborhoods? Did you make a list of everyone you knew and start calling with some crazy script that you bought from somewhere? What did you do?

Melissa:
I've never done cold calling.

Joel:
By the way, it's the worst. It sucks.

Melissa:
I mean, I have kids who are in the community.

Joel:
You're married. How old are your kids?

Melissa:
I have a 13 year old and an 11 year old. When I started, they were in elementary school, so I did the PTA and the swim team. Just getting your name out there.

Joel:
Present in the community that you want to...

Melissa:
Present in the community.

Joel:
Were you walking around with a name tag on mugging people, throwing them to the ground, and hitting them with a script?

Joel:
I want to bring that up, by the way. I didn't ask her about this before. I just had a feeling that was going to be her answer. A lot of people watching this today have been to all kinds of real estate training. Any of you that have dealt with me before know that I'm the anti-person on this. But the throwing people to the ground, wearing a name tag in the supermarket deli section, dropping a script that you bought from someone that says, "Hi, my name is Melissa with RE/MAX. Do you know anyone that needs to buy or sell a house? What about you? Can I come over? You want to sell your house right now?" That's bad. I know you think that's good and you've done it to 100 people and one person said yeah and probably it was the worst listing of your life. It was absolutely horrible because it was cold. That's really not recommended, and that's really not the business that you're in at all.

Joel:
Being present... Melissa just used that word... in the community, that's where it all starts. It's not you telling them what you do. It's someone saying, "What do you do?" My bet is you say nothing, correct?

Melissa:
If they don't know you already, then they're not going to trust you. If they've heard of you, if they've seen your name, then you have credibility.

Joel:
What do your customers and clients say about you to give you that credibility. If someone said, "I was thinking about listing my house. What about this Melissa person? I get her brochure all the time. What's the deal with her?" What would your clients say about you?

Melissa:
I think I know what they say because they write Zillow reviews and I've seen the reviews.

Joel:
Survey.

Melissa:
Survey.

Melissa:
I think my goal is to... Look, this is a very stressful process: buying or selling a house. What I want to do is go above and beyond and make it not stressful. I want it to be as easy and seamless as possible. I will hold their hand in whatever way they need holding hands. Not all clients are the same. If it's a widow and she needs help packing and doing an estate sale, I'll go above and beyond and help her with that or give her the resources so that she has the assistance for that. If it's someone who's out of town and I need to go check on the house and water the flowers, I'll do that as well. It's making it as less stressful and easy of a process...

Joel:
The word there is personal. A lot of real estate can become very impersonal, the way they're teaching. You touched on this for a minute. Those of you that have heard me blather on, you know I say this all the time. Top three most stressful things in life: death of a family member, divorce, buying or selling a house. That's number three. The other thing about that stat, the number 3... it's just horrible. Everything about it is very stressful... is that for most people... I think the stats say something like over 95% people, when they reach retirement age... which is very debatable right now. I think it's not 62. I think it's 70-something or whatever now. When they reach that age, their biggest chunk of change will be an equity in their home. Hands down. It's not going to be in their 401k. It won't be in their Ira. It's going to be right in there for most people. There are other people that are savvy investors and make more money and they're going to have more money elsewhere, but most people it's right there.

Joel:
A licensed real estate agent... I say this all the time. There's no quarter time, no eighth time, no half time, no nothing. You're full time. You're all in. Just because you went and got a real estate license, that does not give you a right to go sit in someone's kitchen and tell them the wrong stuff and then not really do your job. It's really a big job. A lot of people are like, "Agents, they make all this money. They don't anything." Crap. That's total crap. They do lots of stuff. Great agents do lots of great stuff. That personal connection now... In the agent world, you have these trainings all the time coming in your office, all these people with the teams. You've got to have a team and this person does this and this person does that and this person does this and you're moving them through on a conveyor belt.

Joel:
It's interesting moving someone through on a conveyor belt where you went in their house... they agreed to list their house or whatever... and your opener was this: "Melissa, what do you think I should do? What should we do?" And you walk around, you're like, "This is what I'm thinking: this table in the front here? You should probably move this someplace else because it makes the room look a lot smaller and we want it to look a lot bigger because you're competing against these other houses and these other houses have bigger entryways in the neighborhood. So I think we should move this table. I don't know where we should put it yet, but I think we should move it." And they start crying. And you're like, "Oh my god." And they're like, "My grandfather made that table for me by hand in Kentucky in 1931. That table has been there for 16 years." And you're like... That's how personal this is.

Melissa:
It's very personal, yeah. You have to know your client.

Joel:
If you're not willing to open up, it's very hard to provide awesome customer service because every single place is different. This is someone's home. It always annoys me when I'm like... "Agents make too much money." I'm like, "Bad agents make too much money 100%. Good agents are not overpaid at all. They're getting paid every penny for what they're doing."

Joel:
So personal touch. Tell people some of the things that you do that's not custom, like helping a widow pack, just things that you do in each transaction... if you look at the life of the transaction... that make you stand out or make you special or make you different. It could be touchpoints during the transaction. Things that just Melissa Bernstein always does. And you can start with a buyer... sorry. Let's do a buyer and then let's do a seller. Start with a buyer. Non-contingent buyer and they just moved to the area and they need to buy a house. What do you do?

Melissa:
If it's a husband and wife, I'll sit down with both of them at the same time because I don't want to talk to one and get their views on what they're looking for and then separately talk to the other, because they might not even know what the other wants.

Joel:
Are you pretty insistent on a true face-to-face if they're here? Do you not really bend on that? You're like, "We're meeting."

Melissa:
Yeah. And we don't have to meet at my office. Usually we'll meet at a Starbucks or someplace casual where everyone is relaxed and we can have a true social conversation about what they're looking for and what they want. And like I said, I want both of them to be together so I can talk about what their wants and their needs are, and each person might have different wants and needs.

Joel:
You writing it down?

Melissa:
I'm writing it down, yep.

Joel:
Once you get to that point, tell me your process. Literally, your process. Once you know that, do you go find five houses? Do you send them to look at those houses online? What's your process?

Melissa:
I'll send them a few listings that I think they might be interested in.

Joel:
Like email, or you're sending them a link?

Melissa:
I'll send them the email with a link attached. I won't send them to any open houses before we can meet and tour together. We'll pick a day. It depends. I mean, if they're in a crazy hurry and they know exactly what they want, then the process is different. But if they're just...

Joel:
Let's assume it's not.

Melissa:
I'll send them several listings. They can pick four or five.

Joel:
Two or three... Four or five is kind of the tease. "Hey, based on our conversation, here's four or five listings that... as long as they're still here... I think you would like." Do they then take the reigns right there?

Melissa:
No. I'll start by sending them eight or 10 and I'll say, "We can only see four in one day. If we see more than four, everything will start to mesh together and you won't remember this from that."

Joel:
Tell me how you explain that, because I think there's people that are watching that have challenges with that. What do you say to them when someone says, "I want to see 12 houses"? Tell me what you say.

Melissa:
We should pick two days, then.

Joel:
"Why? I want to see them all today."

Melissa:
No. You're going to get tired. You're going to not remember one from the other. People trust that when I say that and they understand. I don't know if you agree with that.

Joel:
When people are talking... I get a lot of feedback from the show, and the feedback I get is, "Joel, you ask them good questions so we can hear their answers so we can implement it in our business." That's why I wanted to know, because there are maniacs that are like, "I want to see as many houses as you can show me." I know you know exactly what I'm talking about.

Joel:
So you send them a bunch and you say pick five or pick four.

Melissa:
Right, "Pick five, or if you want me to pick..." because the first meeting when they tell you what their wants and needs are... I've seen thousands of houses. They have not. There are maybe things that they want or need that they don't yet they want or need.

Joel:
But you have a sneaking suspicion when they see it they're going to want it.

Melissa:
Yeah. My job is not just to be a tour guide and take them around to homes that they pick. I want to open their eyes to different possibilities as well, so I will pick a couple homes that I think maybe they wouldn't have focused on in the beginning, but maybe there are features of that they end up liking.

Joel:
How important is it... do you think... for agents to be knowledgeable not just about all the properties... you guys have already heard me talk about that... but about what's in the property? What kind of counter that is and what kind of cabinets those are? Things like that. Do you put a high premium on things like that for providing value?

Melissa:
Yeah, but I'm not going to make it up either. If the information isn't there... That's why it's important for the listing agent to provide as much detail as possible. That's on that side. I'm the-

Joel:
We'll get there in a second.

Melissa:
I will hopefully know the ages of the systems and when this has been upgraded and that's been upgraded, but I'm not a construction... I don't know by looking at the wood what type of wood it is, so I'm not going to make it up.

Joel:
Then you schedule and you take them.

Melissa:
Yep.

Joel:
Okay. Is it your goal that they pick one of those when you take them the first time? Do you try to be that good? I've had a lot of agents tell me, "Yeah Joel, I'm good. They're picking one of these four as long as they're still there."

Melissa:
No. I don't anticipate that at all. I'm taking people to see homes now who aren't ready to move until the spring. I tell them we have to do our homework. There are some agents who don't want to waste time and first weekend out... this was the easiest transaction and check them off. My goal is find them a home and make sure they've done all their homework and research, and if they find it the first weekend out, great. But I don't expect that to happen.

Joel:
You just made a comment about agents wanting to get it on, basically. I ask agents all the time what their job is and they give me all these wacky answers. I'm like, "No, none of that is your job. Your job is not to sell houses. Not your job at all. Your job is to find people who know people they need to buy houses and get them to refer the people to you. Your job is to get referrals." The more you are with those people, the deeper that bond is.

Melissa:
So true.

Joel:
As long as you're not horrible and as long as you do a good job, you're going to get a lot of referrals from them, which means those extra two hours you spent you're going to get right back if you look at an hourly rate. Once somebody goes under a contract, is there anything that you do that makes you different or special once someone is under contract and they have a settlement date? Like, between contract date and settlement in your process?

Melissa:
I don't know if this makes me special. I would hope that all agents do this. I have a whole Rolodex of referrals if they need people: a designer, a decorator, or someone to-

Joel:
You'd be surprised at how many agents don't have that. They don't have referrals that are save referrals. You're referring, potentially, someone that could refer you ten people, so if you refer them to Bill the plumber and Bill the plumber gives bad customer service, that's a Melissa referral. They're thinking about you, not about Bill the Plumber. They're thinking about Melissa. So you get involved at that point... Let me see what time it is.

Joel:
Let's go over to the listing. Year-to-date, how do you break out right now as far as units? Are you 50-50? More listings?

Melissa:
I'm not. I'm more listings.

Joel:
Okay, which is really cool because she's been in business six years, so that's right turning the... At the beginning you're all buyers, pretty much. No one wants to list with you at the beginning. "She doesn't know what she's doing," basically. Then you try to turn it to more listings. Are you like 75% listings?

Melissa:
I'm probably 75 or even 80. I have been that way since the beginning.

Joel:
Very unique and interesting, because a lot of the hardcore, old school listing agents are competing against you and they'll be like, "Don't list with her. She's brand new. She doesn't know what she's doing." It's usually easier to get buyers.

Joel:
With your listings, you get a referral to go take a listing. What do you do before you show up?

Melissa:
I will obviously look at the comp's tax record, recent sales. I'll drive by the house if I don't know it already and view the outside. When I first started I did this huge, elaborate listing presentation and it was bound.

Joel:
Where they look at three pages and throw it in a pile.

Melissa:
Or I'll sit there and I'll be hearing myself talk for half an hour and I see them zoning out and it's counterproductive. So I don't do that any more.

Joel:
That you bought from some place that you thought all agents should use.

Melissa:
I actually spent hours creating it. I thought it was...

Joel:
Even worse.

Melissa:
Yeah, even worse.

Melissa:
So I will do the leg work. I'll meet with them. I always allow for about an hour. I'll get there. We sit and talk. I don't like to tour the house right away. We'll sit and talk about where they're going and what they're looking for.

Joel:
Do you have anything on you? Is anything in front of you while you're doing it?

Melissa:
While we're talking? I mean, I've brought information but nothing is in front...

Joel:
It's on the floor.

Melissa:
Yes. It's on the floor.

Joel:
When you get there and you are sitting in front of someone and you talk for a bit and you're shmoozing or whatever about a little bit, and they... I'm sure you've heard this 9,000 times... they're like, "Listen, my neighbor just sold their house for like 950, so I figure because of this, this, and this, my house is easily 975," and literally in your bag is 880, or whatever it is. It's not even close. You already know what you think you should list for. I love asking agents this. If you go through my podcast, you'll see every agent has a different answer. Where do you go with that, when you get the, "My house is worth more than everyone else's"?

Melissa:
It's easy because the comps that I pull... it's site unseen. I haven't seen their home. I haven't seen the inside. You can't base a price on just the outside and the exterior of the house. I will tell them... by the time we get to the comps and they see the numbers on paper are much different than they think, I'll explain, "I pulled these comps before we would see the inside. This is what this house sold for. Let's tour your house and you tell me what features you have, because I don't know."

Joel:
You literally do the clipboard move and go, "Let's go," meaning... Now, do you tell them before you do that what you thought you were going to list it for? Do you float it?

Melissa:
No.

Joel:
Okay, you don't say anything. You just know. You heard it and you're like, "Oh crap, here we go," and you know you need to go for a walk right away when they're saying that. Like, "Is there gold-plated something in here?"

Melissa:
Exactly. What am I missing?

Joel:
Exactly.

Joel:
So what you do is you do not deal with it at all. You just take it. They don't even know what's going on. And of course, everybody likes to bring that up. That's coming at you every time. And then you go, "Let's take a walk." Is that your move? "Let's take a walk."

Melissa:
Yeah. "Show me some of the features. Show me what you've done during your ownership. Show me your favorite parts about the house, what you think the selling points are."

Joel:
And you're doing the whole house top to bottom. If there's a basement, you're missing nothing. Home inspector style, except you're not on the roof. You're going everywhere. And do you carry a clipboard? What do you do?

Melissa:
I take notes.

Joel:
How are you doing it? Literally. Clipboard? Are you doing it in your phone? What are you doing?

Melissa:
What's funny is that I'm so old school. I have this day planner. I tried to keep my calendar on my phone. I don't any more. And I have the tax record. These are my current listings and literally at the meeting I'll have the tax record and the notes on the back, and I keep this with me because if I get a call, if I get... Obviously, I have a more elaborate system once I get the listing, but this is what I keep on my person at all times, because if I'm on the road and agents are calling me... "What's the age of that roof?"... I have it all right there.

Joel:
Are you taking notes on the house with the potential client... Like, write on that, is that what you do? You write your notes right on the back of that when you're walking through?

Melissa:
Right, and then I go and type it up, but yeah. These are my actual notes.

Joel:
Now you're back at the kitchen table where it all goes down, or wherever you are. They've told you all their cool stuff, which... per you and you already know... is not cool at all. They think it's cool, but nobody wants a disco ball, so it doesn't really matter, and you're 49,000 dollars apart. What, then... where are you going? How do you handle that?

Melissa:
I can talk a lot about overpricing and the detriment of overpricing. I need to educate my clients as well. They may think, "Let's price it this way because then we leave room to negotiate. Let's just see."

Joel:
"Let's just see."

Melissa:
I won't do that. I have to educate them on pricing it right from the beginning, not wasting time on the market.

Joel:
Will you walk from the listing?

Melissa:
Someone once told me...

Joel:
I know that's a million-dollar question.

Melissa:
I think that it's important to not give people... The answer is yes. If they're insistent on listing it for 50,000 over what I think the price is, most likely I will. I won't take it.

Joel:
Tell me what you say to the client.

Melissa:
You mean about pricing correctly?

Joel:
Yeah. What do you actually say, because this is great. The agents watching this love this. They get to hear what other people say. What do you say when you walk? When you have to walk, what is your walking... of course, you don't want someone to not like you. You don't do like, "Oh my god..."

Melissa:
This won't go down in the initial meeting.

Joel:
So no matter what...

Melissa:
No.

Joel:
I'm glad you clarified that. So you're back at the kitchen table. You're not going to walk right there.

Melissa:
No. I have to go back after I've seen it, re-look at the...

Joel:
Especially if they're insistent.

Melissa:
Because this is the first I'm seeing the house. Re-look at the comps, redo my homework and investigation about the properties and the sales in the area, and now that I know what's inside... and I can go back and see what was inside of the other homes... then I tell them within four day I'll follow up with a range of the list price that I think is appropriate.

Joel:
Do you go back again? Are you back at the kitchen table? Or is the rest of it delivered via phone?

Melissa:
It's via email.

Joel:
Via email. But if you need to walk, that's not via email. Or is it?

Melissa:
No. The range that I'll give is via email, and if they reply back and say, "That's way off. I think we could sell for this," I'll explain, "This is why it's important to list appropriately at the beginning," and they'll say, "Let's give it a try," or they'll say, "We're going to move in a different direction," and I won't fight it.

Joel:
Okay, you won't fight it. Yeah. I mean, every agent has their own... I mean, there are some agents that have looked me in the eye and said, "I'll just take it. I'll take everything." I'm like, okay, you can take it with a downward escalator for 24 hours. "Okay, you want to list it at that for 24 hours? No problem. If no one comes, we drop it 50." You can play that game. It's hard to explain to a consumer that once it's in there you go in a certain bucket. You're in that bucket, and if you're in that bucket there's a lot of people not looking at it that should be looking at it.

Melissa:
People won't be looking at it if you're out of the range, and if you're dropping it in 24 hours they're going to think, "What happened? Something just happened."

Joel:
"I think I'll come in 100 low."

Melissa:
And like you said, it's all based on referral. Right away, even if you have it in writing "We'll start here but if it hasn't sold in a week we've got to reduce to this," your client is mad at you, and that's not a good way to start a relationship.

Joel:
That's usually just a bad listing. That's no fun.

Joel:
I'm looking at the clock because we've been yapping for a bit here. Tell me about how you use your social media. How old are you, first of all?

Melissa:
I'm 44.

Joel:
Okay. That's extremely old.

Joel:
How do you feel about social media? How do you use it for your business? You're a good age for this question because you're not 30 and you're not 60.

Melissa:
It's evolving, I will say. I love Facebook. My kids call Facebook Instagram for old people. I don't know if there's truth in that or not.

Joel:
Do you friend every one of your clients on Facebook?

Melissa:
I friend a lot of my clients on Facebook. Not every one.

Joel:
Are you LinkedIn with them as well?

Melissa:
I do not do LinkedIn.

Joel:
I advise that, by the way, because people look at that like a resume.

Joel:
So you friend most of your clients or leads or people thinking about doing things. You will friend them. Do you say, "Want to be friends on Facebook?" or do you just send it? How do you do it?

Melissa:
I just send it.

Joel:
You just send it.

Melissa:
Do people ask that?

Joel:
No, not do I want to be friends on Facebook, but they'll say, "Want to link up on Facebook?" There are people that will say that first before they send the invite, because some people are weird about it so they will do that.

Joel:
How do you use social media, if at all, in or around your business? I think we've established that the theme of this whole show really is a young person using old stuff from 1980 that still works very well. Really well. You don't need all that technology to do what Melissa is doing. How do you use it at all, if you do, and the things that you do? What do you have a lot of success with?

Melissa:
I use it all.

Joel:
All meaning Facebook?

Melissa:
Facebook, Instagram. I'm starting a YouTube channel. The videos...

Joel:
Do you send video embedded in your emails, is that what you're saying?

Melissa:
No, just uploading on a channel to social media for people to go to.

Joel:
Videos of your listings or what are they?

Melissa:
It's a combination. I'm doing more within the community: things that people might be interested in. It's funny, the videos you have of the listings get far less views than the videos of other things within the community.

Joel:
I was in a coaching group and it was hilarious. We were talking about social media and my views on it are different than what's taught, meaning I think you need to be using it, but a certain way. I was literally looking at someone's Facebook while I was talking to them and I'm like, "Listing. Cool. Seven likes. Oh, kitten drinking milk. 900 likes. Are you getting this message? People are literally unfollowing you." They do not want to see that. They want to see what you had for dinner, or in your case they want information on the Halloween parade. Not information like you're in charge of it, but, "I'm going to the parade. Are you going too?" with a picture of your kid in a costume. Nine zillion likes. But put the coolest listing in the history of the world under-priced by 200,000 dollars for everyone to steal and six people like it.

Melissa:
Right. You have to have a balance. It has to be a balance to stay relevant.

Joel:
Tell me what your balance is. I'm curious if you even know, if you've thought about it. What I mean is that some agents live by seven to one, meaning seven personal, one business. Some people go 10 to one. Some people go five to one. Have you thought about that at all. Do you do that?

Melissa:
I actually have two separate pages. I have a personal one and a business one. My business one is mostly all business. Maybe some personal photos of family, but when I say all business it's not all real estate. Sometimes I'll do grand openings in the neighborhood of retail or Orangetheory, this or that. That's the business one. The personal one, I would say, is eight to two. It's mostly personal, and then I'll throw in or share something from my business page.

Joel:
I'm going to give you a little hint, a little OTC... opportunity to coach... take your business page and burn it. Nobody cares about it and it's not there. No one's looking at it and they literally don't care. Make your business page LinkedIn and put everything on your personal page, because it's funny; there are people who go around the country and sell this stuff to agents with the whole business page thing, and if you really looked at the numbers no one is there. They don't care. They want to see your kid in the costume, you know?

Melissa:
But I have a lot of people who like my business page who I have no idea who they are.

Joel:
Have you ever reached out to them and said, "Who are you?" Because it would be funny and they wouldn't be offended. "Hey, I see you like my business page. What's up? Who are you?" That would give you good data.

Joel:
Okay, so we talked about... I see what time it is. Wow. This is going to be a long one but it's going to be good, right Josh? You're not mad. Sorry, Josh. The producer, he's not that mad.

Joel:
I've had Melissa Bernstein with me for a while right now and I think there's a lot of good stuff in this podcast, but I think the overarching theme is that you don't nine million dollars worth of technology to sell a whole lot of real estate, you just have to work hard and be smart, be organized. I know Melissa is organized. We didn't go through that but I can tell. She's very organized. Melissa and I were talking before about CRMs and all the sexy words and I was saying, "I know agents across the country that sell 100 houses a year out of their iPhone." They have everything in their contacts. Their contacts are in there correct. They have a lot of information in there. It's your book in the contacts, but you don't need all that stuff. You don't need to spend nine gazillion dollars on that stuff.

Joel:
Another really good message, which we didn't drill that far down on, is you need to be consistent and when you invest you have to go all in. You heard Melissa talking about sending the same... it's not the same because the information in it is different, but it looks the same... consistent piece to two farms of about 3,500 units consistently four times a year. They're getting it. It's showing up. And let me tell you a secret; when you do stuff for that long, that often, they're looking at it, unless it's trash and you're not sending trash. The other thing is don't send trash. Invest in professional stuff. Melissa's stuff that gets to your house, or gets to her clients' houses, is professional.

Joel:
The other thing I thought was interesting is the whole photography thing. I know that sounds like a stupid "Why is he even talking about that?" I'm telling you right now, everyone is like, "I'll just use my iPhone. I'm good." Whatever. And it looks not even remotely the same.

Melissa:
Terrible.

Joel:
Not that iPhone is not a good phone, but it's very different than Melissa and I taking pictures and a professional photographer taking the picture. Everyone always thinks, "What do those guys do? Anyone can do that now." They know what they're doing, correct?

Melissa:
Yes.

Joel:
Especially real estate. That's a totally different kind of photography.

Melissa:
It's amazing, yeah.

Joel:
Melissa, tell me the best way for people to find you if they have questions about something you talked about. What's the best way to find you?

Melissa:
My email address. Very easy. Melissa@melissabernstein.com

Joel:
And all of your social media, they can find you there. Is there any kind of funky name?

Melissa:
Melissa Bernstein Homes.

Joel:
So she's branded her name, which I think is very smart instead of some funky brand. Melissa Bernstein Homes you can find her, and she's glad to answer any questions if you heard us talking about something that you really enjoy or want to know more on.

Joel:
Again, thank you very much for watching another edition of the Big Joel Show. You can watch or hear this podcast across any platform however you want to consume it. As always, please leave comments on this episode if you'd like answers or you want us to give you more information about it. That's all I've got for you.

Joel:
Thank you for tuning in. Buh-bye.

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