“20 Minutes of Successful Niche Secrets – EPISODE 41”,
With Martin Desjardins, where we talk about taking your Niche to the next level
“20 Minutes of Successful Niche Secrets – EPISODE 41,”
With Martin Desjardins, where we talk about taking your Niche to the next level
Glenn: Hi! It’s Glenn McQueenie, and welcome to my 25-Minute Success Series Podcast. This is where we spend time with some great agents just trying to figure out what their ideal, perfect-fit client or perfect niche market is so that they can build a really massive business dealing only with people they really like and trust, and also dealing with very high-margin clients. So today, I’m pretty excited! I have Martin Desjardins from Montreal on the line. How are you doing, Martin?
Martin: I’m great, Glenn. How are you?
Glenn: I’m good! So Martin works at Keller Williams Urbain Realty in Montreal, and he specializes in (correct me on my geography here), but it would probably be just northeast of downtown Montreal, in Little Italy and Mile End. Is that right?
Martin: Yeah, that’s it Glenn. We’re just a bit north of the downtown core there.
Glenn: Yeah. Okay, perfect. So for those people who are listening, just tell them a little bit about yourself – how long have you been in the business? Where do you specialize right now? Just a little bit about your career so far.
Martin: Sure. I’ve been in the business for 10 years, so reaching that double-digit cat. I’ve been working – I wouldn’t say throwing myself all over the place – but doing the business that’s come naturally. So sometimes it’s condos at $300,000 or $400,000, sometimes it’s million dollar houses, even triplexes, duplexes. It’s great because it’s allowed me over the last 10 years to get a lot of experience in real estate – in a bit of investment, but mostly residential homes, just seeing all those things. I see after 10 years that it would be nice to focus a little bit more on a certain demographic or a certain range, because it’s just more efficient and I could even bring more value to those clients, too.
Glenn: Right. So if you look back over the last year or two or even 12 or 18 months, who’s been your best client? Can you paint me a picture of what they do for a living? What do you like about them? (so I can just get a sense of who your perfect-fit client is).
Martin: Yeah. That’s a good question. Working with young families. I think we’ve always done that, but in the last 12-24 months, those are the clients that for me, have also really clicked. That’s sparked this interest of, “Hey, I should work with more clients like this, because we see eye-to-eye.” They’re really connected to what I’m doing. I have a young family also. I have a son and a daughter, so I can really relate to moving with kids. I was at a conference yesterday, and I made the comment, “People don’t move for no reason, right? They don’t move just to move. No one likes moving.” So having kids in schools, daycares – those are things that are interesting and they’re of value in making it a home, not just a temporary place where you sleep. So those are the clients that are really connected. For example, we’ve sold their condos (that either the one partner bought and the other moved into, or we sold both of their condos), and then they go and buy a house as their next step in their journey as a family. Either kids are coming, or they have kids. Those have been the clients that we’ve seen have really been in contact and referring business back to us, because we’ve given a good service and we’ve connected. To me, that’s the word in my business: connecting. I like connecting to my clients and to people. And it’s really clicked with those types of clients, so that’s what I’d say are the perfect clients for us.
Glenn: Yeah. It’s really amazing how sometimes agents will talk about doing deals all the time, where I really think, if they just counted connected relationships, they would do much better in their real estate career. If you treat every client like a commodity, don’t be surprised if they treat you like a commodity when it comes to selling their house again. But I love your theme there of connection. And connection means a lot of things, but it probably means a deep understanding of what’s really important to them, and that you’re really advocating for their needs. So let’s talk about the money on the table then in a typical transaction. So you said that they’re in a condo right now, and that would be between $300,000 and $400,000?
Martin: Yeah. Maybe up to $500,000, let’s say. So they’re in that range.
Glenn: Okay. And sometimes they have two of them, right?
Glenn: We’ll just pretend they have one right now. And will they have young kids in that condo right now?
Martin: Probably, yeah.
Martin: They’re under three and four years old, so they’re seeing their kids are starting to take a bit more space, right? They’re mobile.
Glenn: Yeah! They’re no longer blobs sitting around.
Martin: Yeah, exactly.
Glenn: And I’ve found for people with kids under five, the most important thing on their mind is which school will they get into so that they can create that social connection atmosphere that will really guarantee their kids a good life.
Glenn: Right. So when we sell their condo, what neighbourhood do they typically move to and what price range is it?
Martin: Yeah. That’s a good question. I have a couple of people on my team, so we all do all the deals. There’s no one on my team that’s doing other deals. I’m involved in all of our transactions.
Martin: And we don’t go off island. For example, if a client is selling and moving to another area, well then we will refer it out.
Martin: There’s a specialty that I think we need to deliver in terms of value for pricing, service, connections to the brokers and the area. So the ones that we’re looking at keeping, if you will, are staying in the downtown core, and that can range from NDG, Westmount, town of Mount Royal, Outremont. It’s a bit of a crown, if you will, around Mount Royal. If Mount Royal was the circle of the donut (the hole of the donut), it’s what rings around Mount Royal. And those are the areas of nice properties, but family oriented neighbourhoods as well.
Glenn: Okay. So what’s the style of house and what’s the price range that your typical person would be moving to?
Martin: Yeah. A semi-detached, and I think they’re more in the $800,000 – $1.2 million.
Martin: We’re not necessarily, I’d say, luxury specialists. We do probably 10-15 deals a year in the million-dollar price range, but that’s not our niche, if you will, but we’re doing a lot of buyers there. That’s where we’re seeing there’s a need, because they’re going from a condo to these houses that are semi-detached – very different when you’re getting to the construction materials. In Montreal, houses in a lot of these neighbourhoods were really built from 1910 to 1940 (the ones that we’re looking at). So that’s a specific type of construction. With the beauty of charm, as I always say, “It comes with maintenance” rather than a new house, right? You’ve got to take care of that wood, and the floors, and outside – everything.
Glenn: And the truth is, those homes that were built in 1910 to 1940 are probably 10 times better than the new houses that are being built today. They’ll just be around for hundreds of years because they were built so well back then.
Martin: Absolutely. And that’s what I love. One part of working in Montreal real estate that I love is (this is a bit of a cliché), but you’re really getting to see a piece of history every day. I visit thousands of properties a year, and it’s amazing. Every week, I’d say, I see something new that I’ve never seen and go, “Wow, that’s amazing, and that was built in 1938, and they used this type of foundation.” And it’s amazing sharing that, because when you become a homeowner, rather than just a condo, you have to understand the house, how it works, and what you’re getting yourself into. And to me, that’s an important part of the process for these clients. I have a house like that, and I’ve had a couple of them, so I know what it’s all about.
Glenn: That’s amazing. And it sounds like you’re excited and passionate about it. You really love those houses, right?
Glenn: Okay. So if we take the average that they’re going to sell their condo at, say, $400,000 (because you said $300,000 - $500,000) and they buy between $800,000 and $1.2 million (so we’ll just take $1 million), then what’s the commission on the table every time we just find someone who’s got to sell their condo and move to that million dollar home?
Martin: Yeah. About $35,000, I’d say, if I’m rounding and just calculating off the top of my head.
Glenn: Right. And the beautiful thing is, as we build this whole niche for you, you can start thinking about this as, “I don’t have to do tons of deals anymore. I just have to do lots of this one type of deal,” because your compensation’s pretty good for helping those people that you love to work with anyway, buy the type of homes that you just love to sell. And I’m not saying blow up your business right now. You’ve got a very, very successful business right now, but over the next 90 days, what if we could just focus 10% of your time on getting into this niche market?
Martin: I’d be excited about that.
Glenn: Because what you really discover is that the riches are in the niches, right? If you just go deep, then you get this really deep understanding of exactly what that human being is going through. And then our marketing strategy is really to talk exactly to their selfish need. The way we plan that out is basically, we plan it not from what we think they want, but we plan it with this question: What do you think is keeping them awake at night right now? Imagine the people who haven’t contacted you yet, who are sitting in the condo, and they’ve got two kids under five. They’re lying in bed at night, and the kids have finally gone to sleep. What’s the conversation that’s going on in that bedroom?
Martin: It’s a good question. In today’s market in Montreal, locally and big picture right now, in this price range (the $800,000 - $1.2/$1.3 million), there’s not a lot of inventory. I’ve had people calling me even this week that are not working with brokers, and they seem to be behind the eight ball all the time. The places went quickly, and of course the brokers all came in quickly and made offers because they know how that game works, and they feel like, “We’re looking, and we’re looking all the time, but we’re always just a bit behind.” So that’s one thing that’s happening locally, but that could change in 6-12 months, too. The big picture is, they’re wondering how much it really costs to have a house like that, to have a million dollar house – the taxes, the heating. They’re taking a step (it doesn’t have to be up or down), but they’re taking a step, where they’re thinking, “Can we take care of this?” They see the big picture for the kids, that it’s the right move. And what I hear in their language, a lot of times it’s the financial of, “If we have to renovate it, how much does it really cost?” If they had a condo, they might have had a bit of work to do, but it’s not the same as redoing a foundation or a basement or a roof. These things become big monsters in their nightmares, like you said, when they’re in bed at night. It’s like, “Oh boy. What’s hiding in the closet? What are the skeletons in the closet in these old houses?” They’ve probably heard the horror stories, but they haven’t heard the other 98% that are really happy and everything’s going well in their old house, too.
Glenn: Okay. That’s awesome. And what else are they thinking about? What else is keeping them awake at night?
Martin: Yeah. I think while they’re doing this transition (because they’re in their condo), it’s: how do we do this? The age-old question that I get every time I go to a hockey game or a soccer game for my kids, and when I have buyers sitting in front of me and sellers is the egg or the chicken: “Do we sell first? Buy first?” It’s managing the whole process, because for different people, there are different answers to that question, I believe. It depends on what you have in the bank and what your risk level is. For different people, it’s a different answer, but they want to understand the process. They want to know, “What is it from start to finish to sell and buy? What’s it going to look like?” These are the questions that are coming up visually to me as I’m talking to you. They want to know, “What is it going to really take if there are multiple offers? What is that process like?” And they wanted that information beforehand. On my team, we’re very information-based. We see ourselves more as consultants, where I want to give them the information and coach them and train them during the process, so that when it’s go time and that big decision needs to be made, they’re not stressed out that they’re not in control of the process. We’ve built that foundation for them of, “This is what’s going to happen.” So we get the stressful part out before. We go through it a little, we check a lot of boxes, and go through an offer, and those are the things that I’ve seen they really react to. They feel like when it’s go time, we really felt reassured that we were making the right decision, because we didn’t have too many question marks hanging up there.
Martin: So before they meet with us (to answer your question very simply), they have a lot of question marks about this process: “What’s it going to look like? What’s it going to feel like? How’s it going to work?”
Glenn: Right. Okay. And what about schools?
Martin: That’s a good question. In Montreal, if people are going into some of these areas that I mentioned, there’s a big private school situation, I would say. So people are willing to move around and live in one area even though they know their kids are going to go to school 20 minutes away, but they can get there by subway or bus. However, private school is not for everyone, so the ones that are looking in these areas specifically so they can have access to these great schools, as you mentioned earlier on, one of their primary targets is to get into these school districts for elementary schools, for sure, and eventually, access to high schools (even if they’re just accessible by subway). Their kids are older, and they’re teenagers, so they can take a 20-minute subway ride to get to school in the morning.
Glenn: Right. This house is really going to be, probably, their at least 10 to 20-year home, right?
Glenn: So this is where they’re really going to be sitting until their kids are finished school.
Martin: Yeah. And it’s a good point, Glenn. Earlier on, I’d say my first five years, we did a lot of condos, and really a 3-4 year turnaround time was the average. I was doing averages in different areas, and the turnstile was turning pretty quickly. But now, the people that are contacting us, these types of buyers and clients and sellers that we’re talking about here, they are looking at a long term. They said, “Life is busy enough, so we don’t want to move every four or five years for us, for the kids. Let’s just find that right place. We’re willing to either wait or pay a bit more now to know that we can really grow into that house.” So as you said, schools, future schools – those are all really important things that are on the radar for sure.
Glenn: Right. Okay. So here’s what I think would be an interesting marketing strategy to try to get these people.
Glenn: And I think it ties in with your mindset and your team’s mindset of just a very high level of service, but also an educational-based service. It’s like, “We’re going to answer all of your questions up front,” so as you said, when it’s go time, they’re ready to go and they feel really confident with the decision, right?
Glenn: So if we’re going to market them, we have to get these, what we call “invisible prospects” to somehow reach out to us, because something that we’re delivering to them, they’re perceiving as having value, right? I’m thinking about a couple of these things. I think we could start with something as simple as a Facebook business page called “Your Guide To Buying Your Dream Home in Downtown Montreal” and just position it in the marketplace that you are the expert, just in that area. We’re using that framework to be the place where people would start going as a resource centre. And they’re just going to be creeping you and watching it as you keep on adding value to it, right?
Glenn: I think this would be even better. What if we did a hassle-free orientation tour – a group tour of the top 10 best homes for sale between $800,000 and $1 million dollars on a Saturday afternoon? We’re grouping people now.
Martin: I love it.
Glenn: They can come, and also you can bring a home inspector with you. What you’d do is basically 30 minutes in each house, and it’s really this educational tour, where you’re going in and showing the house and talking a bit about the history. And then the home inspector goes down to the basement with them and says, “Hey, this is what wet basement looks like. This is where you may have formaldehyde. This is what nob and tube wiring is. This furnace is 18 years old. It’ll have to be replaced in 7 years. This is lead piping.” What if we could almost start creating this caravan tour (no hassle, no obligation), where people can come out, just looking? Could you see yourself doing something like that? Or do you think something like that would work?
Martin: Absolutely. I’d love to join that tour, not only lead it! Yeah, I would go on it for sure!
Glenn: Right! And I think you could even fine-tune it, because inside there, there’s another niche. The other niche is the Montreal tour of historic homes, where now, you can even have sub-niches off of it, because the historic homes are going to be more expensive, probably, right?
Glenn: They’re going to be in the better neighbourhoods. So now you can get two markets working. You could have the one tour. So what you’re doing is you’re basically providing this service (no cost, no hassle, no obligation), for people to put up their hand and say, “Hey, I wouldn’t mind coming on that tour.” And at the end of the tour, everyone gets together and they have a beer or a glass of wine, and we chat about it. And on the first tour, maybe only one couple comes. And that’s okay, because it’s a buyer you just got. And maybe the next tour, you’ve got three or four couples. But there’s a real beauty in doing some batch touring. It’s like a daily tour of downtown Montreal homes that you schedule for Saturdays and Sundays. And maybe it’s from 10am to 12 noon, so you can still do Open Houses. It depends on if you want to be with your kids at that time. You have to work it into your schedule on what it would look like. And what you can do is, especially if they have young children, they’re not going to want to bring those young children on the tour. So you’re going to meet at either a daycare centre or a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant, where you’ll take care of those kids for those two hours, and then the parents are like, “Oh, great! That’s awesome! I can go on this tour and come back and grab my kids.” I know what it was like when I was moving and moving my kids around. Your young kids are good for one home, typically.
Martin: Oh, yeah. And you answered the question of, they would think, “I really want to go on this tour, but we have the kids on the weekend.” It’s like, “Boom. We already have that solution.”
Glenn: We got that unique solution ready because we thought about it ahead. We’re basically just thinking four steps ahead. Now we get this boutique daycare. We know we’re going to have the right people working there, right? And then we’re going to have this quick tour, and then they can come back and get their kids and go home. That’s great. And if they don’t have kids yet, but they want to go out and meet for a drink afterwards and just ask any questions they possibly want of you, then you’re just sitting there providing the service. And then the beautiful thing is, every time you go to soccer games or hockey games with your kids and people go, “Hey, Martin, how’s real estate?” you go, “Hey, you know what? We just created this tour!” So now they’ll go, “Oh, I’d love to go on that tour,” or they start telling their friends about the tour. Do you think that would work?
Glenn: And then I would also set the tour up so that the first home or two were the worst. You could honestly walk right in there, and the home inspector and yourself would just rip that house apart. When I was working with my clients, I always did a tour first. It was always a no hassle orientation tour, and I just picked apart the first couple of homes and really explained how furnaces work, and all that stuff. And that was my lead conversion, because when they come and I’m pointing out the deficiencies in the home instead of saying, “Oh, that’s a nice kitchen,” it builds trust in a relationship.
Martin: Yeah, absolutely.
Glenn: Would that make sense?
Glenn: And then I think the other thing we could do is, you could publish a little guide called “Multiple Offer Hacks” that you could offer, and it’s like, “Here’s my 8 secrets to multiple offers and how to win your place every time.” And then make that as a lead generation system, where in order to get it, they just have to give you their email address.
Martin: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely.
Glenn: And then I think there are two other really cool things. One would be the “no hassle, free 30-minute video consultation” so they don’t have to come to your office and lug their kids. You don’t have to go over there and they have to worry about their kids running around. You could offer this during the workday, and you could use a platform like zoom.us, which is a free platform. It’s really cool, because it’ll put your face, their face, the next face, and a whiteboard together. What if you just offered the free 30-minute consultation with the expert, and people sign up, and you just start answering and educating them on all their questions right now?
Glenn: What do you think about that?
Martin: I love it. I mean, as I was mentioning, I have a coaching and teaching background, and I think that people react well to that. We’re not there to tell them, twist arms and get them to buy the first house they see. I want them to have the information so that once they’re in there one year, two years, five years – they know they made the decision with as much information as they could have had at that time.
Martin: And that’s all. They can’t have 20 years of experience and have seen 30,000 houses yet either, but we try to update them and bring them up to speed on the market very quickly. To have a 30-minute consultation I think would be beneficial for them. And I’m a pretty open person. I’m going to share a lot. And I think it would work, too, for them to see me and see us live, like you said, rather than think, “Oh, do I have to go down there and meet him at 6pm on Thursday night?” The weeks fly by, and when you have kids, it’s not always ideal, so this would be a perfect solution.
Glenn: Yeah. It’s like the easy button of the business, because the alternative is you have to go to their place after the kids go down. And they don’t have any energy, just like you don’t have any energy. Once you put your kids down, you’re like, “Okay, I’m done. I just want to chill out and read a book or watch TV (or whatever), and then go to bed.” So you eliminate all of those friction points in a transaction, and it just makes it so easy to do business with you, because you’ve already thought about what their needs were. You’ve already planned it, so it’s the perfect solution for them, and they can’t argue it, right? They’re like, “Boy, this guy’s thought of everything.” You’re like, “Yeah.” And I think you might be one of few people who can pull this off because of your teaching, almost nurturing, education background – because you love it! That’s your sweet spot of your market, right?
Martin: Yeah. Absolutely.
Glenn: Most agents would be like, “Oh, whatever.” And then this would be my final thing, and then we’ll probably wrap up, because I think we’re over our 25 minutes.
Glenn: What about if you did a free guide to the best elementary public schools in downtown Montreal? I’m sure there’s got to be some ranking service where you can get it. I don’t know what your rules are on if you’re allowed to say “This is a good one” or “This is a bad one.” I know in Toronto, we have a guide (or the Fraser Institute, I think) comes out across Canada and ranks all the schools. What if you could, as part of the service you offer, go, “Here’s my guide to the best elementary schools if you’re not going to be sending your kid to private school.” And then you talk about the pros and cons and living in that neighbourhood, and all of a sudden, people start going, “Wow. That’s really good. Everything I’m thinking about, this guy has already thought about.” It’s like, “Is he lying in bed with me at night, joining my conversation?”
Martin: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. I think it goes back to what we started with. It’s going to connect with them.
Glenn: Right. Yeah. That’s what it’s all about. The connection that you really want is the relationship. And you only get great relationships by having great, in depth, awesome conversations with people. I think you’re well on your way to nailing this. And then you just build a business plan. You’re like, “Well, what if we found 30 people next year to do this? What if all we had to do as a team is find 30 people in the next 12 months?” Then you’ve got a million dollar business doing 30 transactions, and you can spend more time at home with your kids, too.
Martin: Mhmm. Absolutely.
Glenn: Alright. Any questions, or are you good?
Martin: When can I start?
Glenn: I’d say start tomorrow! I think what you have to do is just do a 90-day sprint. What can you do in the next 90 days that would just get this going 10% of the time? I would probably get a webcam so you can be doing zoom video. You can do research and set up the first tour or test market the first tour. I think you can publish the “Best Elementary Schools” paper. You can do a guide to multiple offers.
Glenn: And you can also post some things. Maybe it’s a conversation you have with the home inspector on what are the things people should look for in buying older homes in the downtown core? And just send that video out to people. Now you’re starting to build it up, because that’ll bring us right into the end of February. Now you’re into the market. So now you’re going to be grabbing all your leads in the next 90 days, and then you’ll be ready to run in the market in February, March, April, May, and June.
Martin: Yeah. Perfect!
Glenn: Fun, eh?
Martin: Yeah. I love it!
Glenn: Alright. Well, Martin, thank you so much for joining me today on the podcast, and I’m really excited to see how this all works out for you.
Martin: Thank you, Glenn. I really appreciate it.
Glenn: Alright. We’ll talk to you soon. Take care!
Martin: Bye bye!