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This week on The Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast, Sharra Mercer of the Gary Mercer Team joins Greg and Kevin to discuss how new construction builders and real estate agents can cooperate towards mutually beneficial results.
Real estate agents can be a very important means of introducing buyers to new home construction. Sharra explains, “A lot of times we are going to be that first point of contact for any home buyer, and so we really should be a sales tool for any builder. We all have the same common goal, which is finding the buyer, finding the client, the best property for them. Real estate agents, they do want to work with new construction builders. They do.”
Realtors and builders can work together toward the common goal of helping a home buyer find and purchase the right home. Sharra explains, “Builders need to have agents involved in the process and use them as a sales tool. Help the agent understand how they can add value to the conversation and really make an inclusive process here. Because again, we actually all are really on the same team. Everybody wants to find the client the best house, whether it's resale, new construction, whatever it might be.”
Builders and agents should foster productive relationships because they are both here to stay. Sharra says, “I mean, it's just that realtors are your friends…Realtors aren't going away. Resale agents are still going to be a huge part of the process and really I think builders need to embrace it and utilize that as a sales tool.”
Listen to this week’s episode to learn more about how home builders and realtors can collaborate to sell more homes.
About the Guest:
As Vice-President of the Gary Mercer Team, Sharra Mercer is the powerhouse behind the scenes, helping grow the team to over 20 agents and 510 homes sold in 2020. Sharra is also the director of the GMT New Construction Division, which offers marketing and sales solutions to local, regional, and national builders. Licensed in 2004, Sharra actively works with buyers, sellers, investors, builders, and developers in Chester, Montgomery, Delaware, and Philadelphia Counties, with over 24 million dollars in sales volume in 2020.
She is known for her experience, tenacity, and creative problem-solving. Sharra prides herself on finding buyers their perfect dream home. She is passionate about getting sellers maximum value by creating customized marketing and lead generation for each client, including strategic incentives and multi-channel marketing. It is this passion for marketing that inspired Sharra to co-found Blink Marketing Agency, a total marketing solution for real estate agents and brokerages. Sharra also enjoys flipping houses and investing in real estate. Outside of real estate, she enjoys traveling with her family and spending time at the shore.
Greg Bray: [00:00:00] Hello everybody, and welcome to today's episode of The Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast. I'm Greg Bray with Blue Tangerine.
Kevin Weitzel: And I'm Kevin Weitzel OutHouse.
Greg Bray: Before we dive in, just a special thank you to today's episode sponsor, NterNow. Learn more about them at nternow.com.
And we'd like to welcome to our show today, Sharra Mercer, who is the CEO of the Gary Mercer Team at Keller Williams. Welcome, Sharra. Thanks for joining us.
Sharra Mercer: Thank you for the opportunity to be here today.
Greg Bray: Well, let's start off by just getting to know you a little bit and give us some of that background information. [00:01:00] Tell us about yourself.
Sharra Mercer: Sure thing. So, I work in a family business. The Gary Mercer Team my father, Gary, started in about, goodness, I think it was 1987. Actually, real estate is so much in our family that my great-great-grandfather was a builder. My grandparents have been in real estate, my great aunt. So, it's kind of in our family, right? Let me tell you, Thanksgiving dinners are not that exciting if you don't love talking about real estate. My brother's in the business with us as well. So, it's a family business and it's a passion.
Kevin Weitzel: Well, that's the family side of the business and the business side of the business, but we wanna know something personal about you that our listeners will learn on this podcast.
Sharra Mercer: Sure. Absolutely. So, I wish I could say I have a really, really exciting life and something like really cool to tell. Like I said, real estate is my passion and my life. So, whether it's new construction, real estate, whether it's resale real estate, whether it's flipping houses, investments, I love it. It is seriously my whole life, as sad as that may be.
Kevin Weitzel: So, no golf, no tennis, no pet turtle, nothing?
Sharra Mercer: [00:02:00] I have a pet dog and a daughter. Pet dog and a daughter.
Kevin Weitzel: Boom. There we go. There we go. All right.
Sharra Mercer: They do take up some time too. Yeah, daughter does play tennis, but aside from yeah, the little eight-pound Morkie that I have and my daughter who's a freshman in high school. There's always fun stories around having a teenage daughter, but yeah, other than that, it's real estate life all the time.
Greg Bray: It's awesome though that you've found a passion that you've been able to have as something you love that you get to do every day, so that's great.
Sharra Mercer: It is. Yeah. It doesn't feel like work.
Greg Bray: So, tell us a little bit more about your journey. Obviously, your family had an influence on your desires and direction, but at some point, you still made a choice. This is what I wanna do. So, tell us how you kind of got into real estate, and especially kind of the connection with new home construction.
Sharra Mercer: Yeah, absolutely, for sure. So, I actually went to school to be a teacher. When I was doing my student teaching, I realized that wasn't really for me. So, after I graduated, I actually got an opportunity to work with a company that was a builder, developer, and real estate [00:03:00] office brokerage all in one. So, there was kind of three parts to this business. So, I graduated. I went as like an admin communications coordinator along those lines, and I just learned so much about the building process from every single angle.
From taking raw land and taking it through the entitlement process, from building a new construction community, from the marketing, from the VIP to actually the sales. Eventually, I got into the sales end of it, and from there I went into resale for a little while. That was in the city of Philadelphia at the time I was doing all of that. Came back home quite a few years later. Joined my dad's team. That's kind of when I started to get in with the new construction.
So, we had a few different new construction clients that we were working with. It was 2008, so it was a little challenging at that point. Yeah, that's kind of how I got back into it. And then I took some time, raised my daughter, came back in, and around 2016, and with some of my colleagues at the time, we really went after new [00:04:00] construction because we felt that there was really a void in the market.
With one, the way that builders were marketing, but also their relationships with agents. I sometimes feel that new construction, it's sometimes in a little bit of a bubble. They don't, sometimes, take into consideration as much of the resale real estate world as really they should. Because that is truly, in many areas, their greatest competition. A lot of areas don't have a ton of new construction. Like in the Philadelphia area, we just don't have that much land. We really just don't have the same type of new construction that you guys may have you know, in Georgia or in Arizona. We just don't have the land anymore. So, with that, your competition really is resale.
Kevin Weitzel: We have tons of land, just no water in Arizona. That's our problem. No water.
Greg Bray: Well, and I think you make a great point and reminder because often we talk with builders about your [00:05:00] biggest competitor is resale. Regardless, just because when you look at the size of the market and the availability of homes, there's so much more going on with resale and it's a different kind of process when the home isn't there yet versus one that's been existing.
Sharra Mercer: Absolutely, and one of the big things that we talk with all our builders about is what is going on in just the resale market in general, the home sale market in general, as a nation. And then we always dial it down to here's what's happening regionally, here's what's happening in these counties.
What is happening in our local counties is oftentimes very, very different than what's going to be happening nationwide. You know, again, it's just real estate is so very hyper-local. So we do a lot of education with our builders on really what's going on in the market in general. And a lot of times, again, with new construction, sometimes I feel that it's like we're in a one zone, and having that wider perspective, I think is really helpful.
Kevin Weitzel: So, if you don't want me asking, I've got more of a rhetorical question, not a rhetorical, but if you [00:06:00] don't wanna open the kimono and let us know the number, that's fine. And then I also like to have a follow-up question to it. The initial question is, with your brokerage, what is your percentage of new business versus resale, or what we like to refer to as used business? What's that first portion of that? What does that percentage breakdown, if you don't mind me asking?
Sharra Mercer: Yeah, no, absolutely. It depends on the year, but I would say probably about a quarter of our business is new construction.
Kevin Weitzel: A quarter. Okay. So, do you leverage your resale capabilities to be able to streamline the buying process of buying new, i.e. maybe making their sale of their existing home more congruent or more in line with the timing of their new home, sometimes maybe even investing in buying that property for them?
Sharra Mercer: So, we're very sensitive to the fact that we do have a separate resale business, and then I have builders that we represent. So, I don't wanna say muddy the waters. We are always here as listing agents as well, to help them make sure that they have a solid buyer for their home, [00:07:00] list their property, make sure they get the best price, terms, everything like that. But we haven't really kind of put that together, just kind of making sure that, you know, we're not pushing our resale brand onto and interfering with our builder's brands.
Kevin Weitzel: I was looking more, more like, has your company considered the viability of making the process of somebody you're representing for a new buy, your resale capabilities as being a conduit. Whether it be to outright purchase their used home or just to make the process smoother. Is that something that you guys offer or do?
Sharra Mercer: We really don't. It's definitely an interesting angle to take. In our area, we don't have high buyers in our area. I don't have an open door here. We don't have any of that in the Philadelphia metro area. So, we really don't run into that a whole lot. Especially obviously in the past couple of years. Everything that we put on the market sells in a heartbeat.
Greg Bray: Sharra, tell us a little bit more then about this interesting relationship, because [00:08:00] there's builders that love working with brokers, and outsource everything, and agents. And then there's some that, I don't know, there's a little animosity if I can use that word. Right? Sometimes builders struggle to create that relationship. They feel maybe a little bit of a barrier between them and external agents. Coming from the broker side, how do you talk to builders and make them more comfortable working together with you?
Sharra Mercer: A lot of times we are going to be that first point of contact for any home buyer, and so we really should be a sales tool for any builder. We all have the same common goal, which is finding the buyer, finding the client, the best property for them. Real estate agents, they do want to work with new construction builders. They do. They just, a lot of times the agents, don't feel comfortable with the process because they lose control.
They don't necessarily understand how they can add value to the scenario. They feel like [00:09:00] a fish out of water. They really do, and so when people are in that scenario, they're going to try to sell them resale homes all day long over going to new construction, unless you make the process different for the agent. So, the agent needs to be included in every and all communication with the client. Listen, I have been on the buy side representing clients and I am never fluided on the deal. I find out about settlement from my clients. That's not a good look.
Builders need to have agents involved in the process and use them as a sales tool. Help the agent understand how they can add value to the conversation and really make an inclusive process here. Because again, we actually all are really on the same team. Everybody wants to find the client the best house, whether it's resale, new construction, whatever it might be. I feel like that's a little bit from the agent perspective, why we don't necessarily have like a great relationship all the time.
Now with that, [00:10:00] on the builder side, I feel like builders hesitate because of the funds that are paid to agents. Is it really worth it? Can we save money? Can we go direct to consumer? And I get that. I have some builders who really don't like to work with co-ops, and depending on the market, it's really something that they need to embrace, make part of their performas, and really include because the agents many times are going to hold the key to the buyers.
I find this so fascinating. Because of the way real estate has changed, because of a Zillow, because of a realtor.com, I've been in so many scenarios where, as the new construction listing agent, the first time the agent is meeting the client is at my site. It's because the client made an online inquiry. You know, the way that the realtors and the Zillows they all work, is that they sell those leads. Right? And so they're assigned to an agent who has purchased that lead. The very first time those folks are meeting is gonna be at my site, and it can be uncomfortable. But if we [00:11:00] were cooperating with brokers, we would probably miss out on that buyer. It's a changing world, and we have to embrace it.
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[00:12:00] So, when you look at the digital interaction piece of the home buying process, right? Where they're doing their research, they're looking at sites like you mentioned, but also then getting into the builder’s information specifically on their site as well, and going back and forth, do you ever get in a relationship where the builder has that online sales counselor who's working the website, but yet they're going back and forth with you or one of your team members and that communication, is it smooth or is there a gap there that needs to be kind of addressed?
Sharra Mercer: So, I think the online sales counselor is an essential part of the process. I really do. What I find is that both agent and buyer are both making that call to the online sales counselor, trying to get information. So, there is a little bit [00:13:00] of who talked to who, what was the message? We're not really getting the full story. The buyer and the agent want just as much information as possible, right? Everybody wants as much information. They want to know everything before they actually go out to the site.
Sometimes there is a little bit of overlap or sometimes there's a little bit of miscommunication, but truly, the real thing is we just actually have to get them in the door at that point. Once they get in the door and they have their primary sales agent who's going to be working with them at that community, we just have to accelerate that process so that they can talk to the real person who's kind of going to take them through the sales process.
The online sales consultant, in my opinion, needs to not only follow up with the agent but also the buyer. Primarily, I am going to get information more from an agent than I am from a buyer many times. Especially if that buyer ghosts us and isn't replying, I can get the full story from the agent, just having a kind of agent-to-agent [00:14:00] conversation. Like, what's your person looking at? Oh, they've ghosted you too? Oh, they took a break? Okay, great. And then we can kind of alter our approach accordingly. So, you kind of have to like almost look at the agent in some situations as an extension of your sales team, and kind of tag team so that we can serve the client the best way.
Kevin Weitzel: Well, some companies have even moved away from having internal sales and they contract in with, you know, exclusive arrangements with real estate companies and brokerages. Do you have any of those relationships then yourself with your team?
Sharra Mercer: Where I represent the builder directly? Yeah, absolutely. So, we represent about, at any given time, I would say always about four to six different builders. So, and the builders come to us. You know, I'm not talking about a national builder. It's gonna be a regional builder or a local builder because they can't wear all the hats. They can't have the marketing department, they can't have the sales team and the sales managers. We serve that function for those regional and local builders. So, we do [00:15:00] all of their sales management. We can do their hiring. We do all of their marketing. We take over their social media. We do all of their outreach, all of their events, everything. It's just more economical.
Greg Bray: So Sharra, as you have been in this business for a little while and seen some of the evolution over the last few years beyond just folks starting at Zillow or realtor.com, what other impacts have you seen from online research and buyer knowledge and expectations as they've evolved their digital interactions?
Sharra Mercer: Yeah, absolutely. So, we do have a lot of online inquiries. It's interesting. So, while some people will click on the contact here to learn more and go through a realtor or a Zillow, I'm really specific in the way that I represent our builders, where we're making very clear who the builder is in the description. We know they're going to go then Google, you know, Joe Smith Builder, go to Joe Smith's website, then [00:16:00] come back around as an online lead from there. I see a lot of that. We've been trying really hard to go heavy on social, to go heavy on any type of Google pay-per-click. And again, it's driving back to the builder website and coming back to online inquiries to us.
Greg Bray: So, when you work with, you know, we're gonna pick on Joe, right? You're ready to start with Joe and you say, Hey Joe, they're gonna look at this. They might Google your name and come to your website. What are the things that you're looking to tell Joe? Hey, make this better on your website. What kinds of opportunities, we won't call 'em mistakes, we'll call 'em opportunities, to improve that Joe, the builder has for helping capture that lead?
Sharra Mercer: Obviously, wanna hold some information back, right? But we try to put as much information out there as possible. When you're buying a car, for example. You know, last time I bought a car, I knew exactly every single cent I was probably going to spend. I could build my car online. I knew it all and I wanted to know it all.
When you're working with new construction, the buyers [00:17:00] want the same thing, right? They want as much information as possible. I just think that's the nature of our society right now, where they want to know everything because typically all information is available to them. So, then when we withhold information, sometimes they just go next. I don't have the time, the patience, the energy to try to track all this down.
And here's the thing, from a resale agent perspective, if they're trying to get information for their clients, builders sometimes make it impossible to actually get information. So, if I'm representing a buyer, let's just say it's a relo buyer who's coming into our area. Nothing drives me crazier than trying to actually get pricing, availability, all kinds of information, what's included, what am I realistically going to spend here, and trying to play phone tag or go back and forth over email with a site agent. It is a very, very frustrating process.
So, the more information you can put it my fingertips, it's going to [00:18:00] help me as a resale agent sell to that client, and/or put the correct information into the MLS. That's the most important because when agents go into the MLS, and that's obviously what's going to feed out to all the public portals as well if we don't have quality information in there, I know a ton of agents who are just going to skip right through.
I see a rendering, or I see another picture of a model home, they're going skip, skip, skip because I know my clients aren't gonna wait a year and a half for a build. Or maybe I as a resale agent would like to get them into something a little bit sooner than a year and a half. So, having that information, and again, using that resale agent, giving them the information as well as the buyer, I think is just very important in this age.
Greg Bray: Something you said triggered a memory. It was not too long ago, I was in a presentation. Someone from Zillow was sharing some data and they talked about how, on their platform, the [00:19:00] average resale home has approximately 30 plus photos, and the average new construction home listed on Zillow has like three. And you talk about getting the good data into the MLS and having the information and some of that. Just the difference of what you can learn from three pictures versus 30 is just dramatic, right?
Sharra Mercer: Right.
Greg Bray: And I don't know that everybody thinks about that as the information, but that's part of it, right? Is the visuals of what goes along with all of it.
Sharra Mercer: It's the same picture of the same house five different times, right? So, we know it's a model home. We keep going. So, sometimes what I'll do, like if I have any type of spec inventory. Number one, I'll stage it and at a very minimum, I'm gonna virtually stage it just so that we stop traffic, right? So, that when somebody's going through, they're not saying, oh, there's another model home picture. It's going to be a year out. They stop. They're like, okay, this looks a little bit different. What I can do now is I know that this is a quick delivery, or maybe I'm doing some different things on those first [00:20:00] photos, right?
People don't read into the comments, right? So, I have one chance to make a first impression. My first showing is really those photos online. So, if I have a really, really important message that I want to give out to the public, I'm doing an overlay, a text overlay in some way, shape, or form onto that first photo. Like, I've got a 20K incentive going on. I'm putting that on top of the house in a little bubble or whatever it is because no one is going to read your description unless you capture them with those photos. And again, if you've had those same photos up for two years, they're just skipping through.
Greg Bray: That's a great point, using the photos beyond just the picture, right, as a messaging tool as well.
Sharra Mercer: Absolutely.
Greg Bray: Fascinating idea.
Sharra Mercer: Yeah.
Greg Bray: So, Sharra, as you're looking ahead, what are some of the things that you are kind of anticipating and getting ready for as new trends in selling, especially kind of from an online standpoint?
Sharra Mercer: For sure. No, great question. With rates with where they are, with affordability being such an [00:21:00] issue for all of our buyer clients right now, we have to be super clear in our messaging around affordability and using creative ways that we can get folks into a house with the payment that they're looking for.
We have to be educators. We have to let folks know what's going on. We need to control the narrative. Like, Hey, the news is telling us one thing, but let me tell you folks based on facts, based on data, you know, showing them the information, this is actually what we have going on right now in our current market. Here's how we're gonna get you into that house that on face value if you're on the mortgage calculator online that you can't see that looks like you can't afford it. Using some certain programs and different things with incentivizing, with buy downs, with products, with whatever it may be at any given time, that's how we need to get folks into a home.
So, part of the challenge with digital anything is being able to kind of interrupt the narrative and let folks know what's going on right now in that hyper-local. [00:22:00] So, I love when we see payment options. Like, if we're doing payment options, you know, get into this house, live a year for free. Things like that are ways for us to kind of help the buyers understand we can navigate through any market. We just have to have a correct message of the moment. For right now, the message of the moment is gonna be around rates.
Greg Bray: Great thoughts.
Sharra Mercer: And I was gonna say, we don't use social media enough to do this. We have, essentially, a free platform where we can go on and we can explain these things. We can do videos around this. You know, we can connect with folks. We're not utilizing tech to the best of our ability. In our follow-up campaigns, in our messaging, a lot of these things should be video where we're like actually explaining, Hey guys, I bet you thought you couldn't get into this house, but let me show you how you can. Giving the real news to people in real-time. I think that's essential right now.
Greg Bray: Great thought. Well, Sharra, we really appreciate your time today. Do you have any last words of advice for builders who are [00:23:00] still struggling with that idea of how to work with the broker better?
Sharra Mercer: Gosh. I mean, it's just that realtors are your friends. Realtor appreciation programs, focus groups, going into offices and doing office presentations old school style, like any of those things where you're really reaching out to the community. Realtors aren't going away. Resale agents are still going to be a huge part of the process and really I think builders need to embrace it and utilize that as a sales tool.
Actually yesterday I was doing some shops at a couple of our local new construction sites, and I have site agents who sometimes it's a 30% co-op rate, and I had another community that was an 80% co-op rate. Really, really interesting. So, if we're not really focusing on that segment, then I think we're missing a huge part of the traffic.
Greg Bray: So, quote of the day, realtors are your friends. There we go. There we go. Well, Sharra, if somebody wants to reach out and connect with you, what's the best way for them to get in touch?
Sharra Mercer: Yeah, so you [00:24:00] can connect with me on social media, on Facebook. Just send me a message. You can also feel free to reach out via email anytime. It's firstname.lastname@example.org.
Greg Bray: Well, thank you so much for your time, and thank you to our sponsor today, NterNow for their support. Learn more at nternow.com.
And thank you everybody for listening to The Home Builder Digital Marketing podcast. I'm Greg Bray with Blue Tangerine.
Kevin Weitzel: And I'm Kevin Wezel without House. Thank you.