Rigo Bracamontes talks about growing your real estate office in a slow market
Rigo Bracamontes has been in real estate for nearly three decades, having first become an agent in 1981. He joined Intero in January, opening Intero’s seminal office in East San Jose on Story Road.
In less than a year, Rigo has grown that office to more than 85 agents, even as the East Valley is suffering through a greater slowdown in sales than most of the Bay Area. We asked Rigo to talk about opening his office amidst a depressed market, recruiting new agents and why he decided to join the Intero team.
Real Estate Broker/Owner
Intero East Valley
Before joining our team, you were doing extremely well as an agent with Century 21. What made you decide to leave and start a new office with Intero?
I approached Bob and Gino a while back with the idea of Intero opening a branch in the East Valley because I saw a huge need for a well run real estate office in that area. There were several brokerages—independent and corporate—in East San Jose, but none that were high quality and well managed. I knew that an office with the Intero’s values was going to do very well within the community of Hispanic REALTORS™.
Also, I knew that the agents in that community were looking for a comprehensive professional training program. And so, Provizio (Intero’s in-house agent training program) was one of the main reasons that I was attracted to Intero.
I then had the opportunity to become a broker/owner myself and decided to go with it and build my branch with the same principles that helped me to be successful as a real estate agent.
What were those principles?
I focused on giving agents value for joining the company. I studied what each one of the other brokerages we’re doing with regard to training and the guidance they were giving to their agents, and then I asked myself, “What else can I add? Turns out, quite a lot. The other offices weren’t doing much.
We give our agents tools to help them grow both mentally and economically. I think you have to do both. In my 26 years as realtor, I’ve built a good business on my existing clients, and so we’re taking some of the tools I used and giving them to the agents.
We built a contact program for our agents to help them be in touch with their clients more frequently through mail, email and the phone. We want them to stay in touch; ask how things are coming along.
We’re raising the quality of service our agents give. Traditionally, the mentality of agents in the East San Jose was not as service-oriented or as professional as it could have been. That’s because most of the brokerages didn’t demand that level of commitment from them. (The market was easy.) We’re changing the way the agent thinks—from how they present themselves all the way down to the way they greet a client.
We created a check list of what each one needs to do for everyone they come into contact with. This ensures that people will always have a positive impression of our agents. We give a lot of hands—on guidance in this area.
Do you think that being an office with a majority of Hispanic agents has helped you with recruitment?
Yes, of course it helps. This area is mostly Hispanic and about 80 percent of our agents are Hispanic as well. Though we’re not as well known within the Hispanic community in general, among that community of REALTORS™, the Intero name is very respected. As the other real estate offices in the East Valley are folding, Intero continues to grow at a fast pace, and our office is getting a lot of inquiries from both Hispanic and non–Hispanic REALTORS™ because of that.
What are you doing to build the Intero name within the general Hispanic community then?
Some of our agents do radio and television. That helps. Our office has now become the dominant force in the East Valley because of the number of agents we’ve recruited from other offices. That’s causing Intero to be better known as well.
We’re also creating our own magazine, Homes, which we publish in-house (English and Spanish) and mail out.
That’s a big job. How many marketing people do you have?
We have a one–person marketing department with an assistant.
Areas like East San Jose have been hardest hit in the last few months because of the loan crisis, etc. How has that affected you?
The areas that we serve happen to be the ones that are most affected now, but this is not the first or second time that I’ve seen a market like this. I make sure that I continue to reinforce and talk to our agents about what typically happens when there’s a change in the market. It’s sweet and sour.
A lot of buyers that we formerly had do not exist now because loans aren’t available. That’s tough for our agents, but it’s also good in the sense because it caused a lot of other offices to fold. As a result, our office has grown.
We’ve had to go out and create business. We go outside our area—look to where houses are selling: Sunnyvale, the West Side and Cupertino continue to be hotter than the East Side and San Jose central.
We have different focus groups with our agents where we take a look at what’s moving and what’s selling. We look at areas that are generating more calls and listings. We go and prospect there to generate business.
What specifically do you do?
We knock on doors, call on phone, follow “for sale by owners” and we continue to work our clients.
What are you offering agents that is different from what other brokerages offer or what has been done in the past for East Valley REALTORS™?
The type of training and coaching that we do is by far superior. We have agents that have been in real estate for three to five years, and they tell us that within the first five weeks of being with Intero, they have learned more than in their entire career with another company.
We focus on changing the mentality of the agent. Agents know that our clients need us right now. The agent who goes way beyond what is required is the agent who is going to succeed.
You’ve said that you’ve built your business mostly through working with past clients. How specifically do you do that?
I do many things for them beyond the norm. For example, every year I host a very high–end thank you dinner for all my clients.
I constantly go back to them to see if I can help with any else. I’m continuously staying in touch.
You said that you’ve been through several markets like the one we’ve been suffering this year. How long do you think this will last?
I am prepared to not show much change in sales volume through the first quarter of next year. I anticipate it being like it is today. The one difference is that now the public is very aware of what’s going on with real estate. We no longer have to tell or persuade them about price changes, etc.
Of course, there are also huge opportunities in this market for those who can buy.
It’s not going to be easy for the next few months, though. I’m encouraging our people to make sure we are intelligent with our money so that we don’t spend it needlessly. We have to prepare for what’s ahead. This market will make us much better REALTORS™, and when it gets better, we’ll be far more skilled.