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First Person

How Building Community Scaled Rett Harmon's Brokerage

“I'd rather sell someone a property to make sure to maintain that relationship versus selling them something that I know they would have a hard time financially with or possibly be more work than they really want to get involved with either.”- Rett Harmon, Co-Owner and Broker, 21 Century Novus Realty

Here are a few highlights:

  • How 95% of his business comes from relationships
  • Show who you are online by telling your story
  • Understanding how authenticity builds trust.

Rather Read it? Check out the transcript here:

Mike Schneider: Welcome back to another episode of First Person. Uh, I'm really excited. We talk about relationships and business in real estate, and today I'm joined by Rett Harmon--

Rett Harmon: Thank you for having me.

Mike Schneider:--uh, with C21 Novus.

Rett Harmon: Correct.

Mike Schneider: I always like to start off-- our company's called First. I like to rewind all the way back and, and I'm curious-- why'd you get into real estate?

Rett Harmon: Well, uh, the honest answer to that is, I have a degree in real estate from the University of West Georgia and while I was working on my degree-- I knew I wanted to do something in business. And they used to have a thing called a greensheet, which is a little piece of paper that kind of gave an estimate about what each, career choice in the college of business, uh, from that university had a range of income or salary from it.

Mike Schneider:Sure.

Rett Harmon: And real estate was almost double of everything else. So I was like, you know what, that's me. I think that's what I wanna do. So, honestly, because of the money. But, not really.

Mike Schneider: But, you knew. You went in and studied real estate from the outset, or you saw the green sheet before you chose your major?

Rett Harmon: I knew it was gonna be business. Um--

Mike Schneider: Okay.

Rett Harmon: --I kind of grew up in this, you know, entrepreneurial family. My  grandparents, my parents, always self-employed.

Mike Schneider: Yeah.

Rett Harmon: So I knew I wanted to do something. I didn't want to work at the family business at the time, wasn't really my, my calling. And I was really looking to-- and it just,  when I saw it, obviously it was an anomaly. It stuck out because there was higher potential from it. But, it also, got to think, "Well, everyone has to have housing." And that's something that's gonna have a lot more ways to help people, and build, what we're gonna talk about today, relationships. And that's something that you can basically keep working for your whole life, you know?

Mike Schneider:That's right. And it builds. You build that asset over time.

Rett Harmon: Yeah. And learned, going through it, working on my degree, there's a lot of different roles in real estate and I've had a lot of different, jobs, I guessed you'd say, when inside the industry all while doing sales.

Mike Schneider: So, why don't you fast forward us through that really quick.

Rett Harmon: Okay.

Mike Schneider: And where are you today and what are you focused on in your business?

Rett Harmon: Mmm. So, we opened up  Novus four years ago--

Mike Schneider: Okay.

Rett Harmon: --as a C21 startup. And one of the main reasons was we wanted to create-- uh, well the place we wanted to work didn't exist. So, we said, "You know what? We can build it and we can work there. Cause I like to sell real estate, so does my business partner."

Mike Schneider: Yeah.

Rett Harmon: So, we also started noticing, how can we build this and scale this so it all made sense? We had a partnership, going back a little bit further. Uh, basically when the recession was really just getting kicked off, we had a lot of upside-down homeowners. You know, they were frustrated, couldn't sell their home for what they owed. A lot of realtors would refer us that business. We started doing property management basically. So, got into it at a really good time and by leveraging the relationships with other agents that we knew. "Hey, you can't sell. That listing's overpriced. Let us help the family out so they avoid foreclosure." So, and we kind of started work with them. "Hey, we'll refer it back, if you're still in business." Of course, a lot of them stayed in it, a lot of them didn't. But, you know, fast forward. All those properties, mostly, have cycled back through and I've been able to sell those,for those owners, years down the road.

Mike Schneider: And you helped those families not go into foreclosure.

Rett Harmon: Yep.

Mike Schneider: So, talk about building a relationship.

Rett Harmon: Sure. So, yeah, you help someone when they're really down--

Mike Schneider: That's a great service.

Rett Harmon: --they'll kind of remember you through the whole process.

Mike Schneider: Sure.

Rett Harmon: And a lot of investors too. We took a lot of people that, maybe inherited a small amount of savings and they didn't really know what to do with it or couldn't really live off the interest because interest rates were really low at the time. So, uh, reinvest that money and, and basically turn it into, long term wealth and, basically a, a passive slash active investment for a lot of them. And, just grow with it. So--

Mike Schneider: Yeah. And I'm sure that's gone great for them over the last--

Rett Harmon: It has.

Mike Schneider: --the, the rise of real estate. That's great. Well, everyone we have on this show will say relationships are core to real estate. So, I think we agree on that.

Rett Harmon: Yeah. Absolutely.

Mike Schneider: But I'd love to hear some stories. Are, there stories that you can think of, a specific example or something that really helped build your business in terms of relationships?

Rett Harmon: I think a lot of it just has to, kind of, go back to how I was brought up or -- you wanna treat people the way you, treat people the way you wanna be treated basically or how they would wanna be treated. And, uh, look at it-- every time you get a chance to, to talk to someone about real estate whether or not it's something that I'm gonna financially benefit from or, if they're working with someone else. I always try to give my opinion, not in a way that would harm anyone else. But, just say, "You know, this might be a different way of handling that or this might be something else to look at. I think that might be more a fair offer than you realized, you might wanna go back and revisit it."You know? And just giving people a genuine, opinion, a genuine approach, and always being from a stance of being helpful. I think that's served me a lot better than just trying to go in and-- I'd rather not sell someone a property to make sure to maintain that relationship versus selling them something that I know they would have a hard time financially with or possibly be more work than they really want to get involved with either. So--

Mike Schneider: That's great. And are there any specific ways that you have built your relationships or, or leveraged relationships to drive business? Or are, are you--

Rett Harmon: Yeah. I'm, I'm out and about. I love to network.

Mike Schneider: Okay.

Rett Harmon: I love to be involved. we do a lot of video stuff. We opened our brokerage. Going back, we were trying to bring something different to what we were doing and have a strong sense of culture within the office we wanted to build but, you know give back and kind of be known as that community expert or working towards that. So,we take other companies that-- or, not companies, businesses that are in town-- you know, different services, you name it, a car wash, it might be a dry cleaner, it could be, a dentist, whatever. And we go in and we basically do a quick interview slash commercial about their company and it's more about them, not us.

Mike Schneider: Wow.

Rett Harmon: It would be kind of, like, what we're doing here.

Mike Schneider: Yep.

Rett Harmon: I would introduce them, tell their name, what they do, and then it's all about them. Didn't have a hard sell. 

Mike Schneider: Sure.

Rett Harmon: Not asking to buy anything. But, uh, doing so on a regular basis-- we started this about four, four and a half years ago. One day a month doing solid video shooting. That was a lot of our marketing budget we put into the community.

Mike Schneider: So you have 48 of these? If you did it for 4 years, have you 12 every year? That's amazing.

Rett Harmon: I've done over 600 videos since then.

Mike Schneider: Wow.

Rett Harmon: So, if you-- cause there was others--

Mike Schneider: Sure.

Rett Harmon: --that we would, do a whole day of video. We try to get, several, sometimes two or three at the same location. Some of them have been evergreen.

Mike Schneider: Wow.

Rett Harmon:  Some of them, maybe that business has a call to action that they wanna--

Mike Schneider: Get out to the--

Rett Harmon:  --help, help them with the calls or whatever--

Mike Schneider: --to the network.

Rett Harmon: Yeah. So, we put it out there. We promote it. And, uh, just had the same target audience we stay in front of, so-- and we're coming across from a genuine standpoint. And then it, it really, it kind of casts a big, big wide net for all of our agents that work with us that align with our company, our brokerage to, benefit from being involved and knowing that, you know, their company is kind of self-branded through the process.

Mike Schneider: Wow.

Rett Harmon: So, yeah.

Mike Schneider: That's great content. I love hearing that you've--

Rett Harmon: Yeah.

Mike Schneider: --you solidified yourself in that community.

Rett Harmon: Sure.

Mike Schneider: You've given back to them. They have a resource. I'm sure they share it. Um, are there-- I'm curious. Across your, you, you've got a team.

Rett Harmon: Right.

Mike Schneider: Do you know how much of the business from your team comes through relationships or through connections versus online leads?

Rett Harmon: A lot of my business comes from that. So, we've made some, some decisions, in the past, I've had a few different teams we've kind of been associated with a part of.

Mike Schneider: Yeah.

Rett Harmon: When it's our brokerage then it's kind of a little bit of a Frankenstein things for me. It's like, what can work and, part of it's helping try to figure out different models that may fit different needs inside of our own office to help our agents have a better quality of life by partnering with people that are similar and, you know--sometimes actually opposite so that they work well together. But, I get my thoughts as we're doing this live video.

Mike Schneider: Yeah, sure. No, that's good.

Rett Harmon: [laughter] Uh, sorry man.

Mike Schneider: That's alright. It's not an easy number to pull out of thin air. Would you say it's the majority of your business? Is it [crosstalk]--

Rett Harmon: I would, I would have to say it's the majority of our business.

Mike Schneider: Okay.

Rett Harmon: I got off track there. I don't know if we, we rewind that part or not but we can just roll with it cause [crosstalk].

Mike Schneider: Sure. No, that's great.

Rett Harmon: But, uh, no, uh, probably 90%--

Mike Schneider: 90.

Rett Harmon: --`95% of my business is through some kind of relationship. And a lot of it is-- it's, it's because of everything put together.

Mike Schneider: Sure.

Rett Harmon: I think you-- a lot of these relationships take decades to build.

Mike Schneider: Yeah.

Rett Harmon: And, and that's the thing I think that's so hard for people getting new into real estate. It's kind of like, "I know people. I seem to be liked by people. I was doing a different industry. Now I'm gonna jump into real estate and these people are just gonna, like, come to me to help them with the largest investment of their life, potentially." So, I always have to let agents know, especially ones that have moved, transitioned from another field, like, "You know, those first two years you're gonna have to be patient."

Mike Schneider: It's gonna take time.

Rett Harmon: "You're gonna-- you don't have the same level of trust on this field as maybe the person that treated them right the last time. So, you gotta think about, it's not always you that they might not choose and maybe that they're, they're choosing based upon past history--"

Mike Schneider: Sure.

Rett Harmon: "--and another relationship." So, but I've always found that if you're able to just, be honest with these people. They need something, have a question, or if they're asking about real estate, whatever it is, be involved, actively. You know, help them out if you can. Uh, because you never know where the referrals are gonna go to--

Mike Schneider: Sure.

Rett Harmon: --for other stuff. So, that's where a lot of my business kind of builds, is just always being out in the community, volunteering our time, doing things that matter, trying to just make sure that it, it just stays positive and fun and have a good time and kind of cut up why you're doing it. But if you can keep doing that over and over and over, you kind of become that local, almost like, real estate celebrity of a sense. Not saying that that's what I call myself. But, you know, you can, you can take the time to really be involved, be that person so that you're top of mind and when that already is working for you, especially when someone's going to do, look at a review or maybe they looked at a review and saw someone on there that they knew. Well that's part of that relationship process that, that gets to that point because they knew someone else and their word got you there. So--

Mike Schneider: Sure. Well, I love the practical-- you've dedicated a day a month for video shooting. You've got all the--

Rett Harmon: It's, it's a lot.

Mike Schneider: --processes now that you've built over four years. Um, are there other-- for those that don't have a full video crew or aren't gonna invest in that yet, are there other things you train your agents on or a, a simple tip or trick that you're like, if you're gonna do one thing better this year, what do you-- what would you recommend in terms of how you relate or build on relationships?

Rett Harmon: I think-- what I tell people, uh, I use the kind of started a new hashtag, we're just starting. It's called #randomtorealestate. So, figure out what it is that, people connect with you as a human being. Cause at the end of the day, people are gonna like us as a person way before they're gonna like us as their agent. Right? And they've got to trust us and like us for whatever reasoning, or if we're just really trying to help them, you know, their need--

Mike Schneider: Sure.

Rett Harmon: --right there at the moment, they're gonna call us if we're in the way of that.

Mike Schneider: Right.

Rett Harmon: So-- but if you just take the time and just spend time being yourself online, I guess is the best way I'd try to say it. Like, well let me ask you this. What is your hobby? So if you-- say you're an agent working with me.

Mike Schneider: Sure. I love skiing. I love sports in general.

Rett Harmon: Okay. Alright. So skiing. So, we would talk about skiing as-- maybe you're gonna do-- at least half of your posts on your business page might be involved, especially if it's new. You don't have a lot of listings. You could borrow listings to have a few on there. But people don't really care about the listings so much as activity that they might want to build a relationship with you. So you talk about skiing, you talk about technique, places you've been, places you wanna go back to, and use certain hashtags, especially with Instagram, and you can find followers that will like you because of skiing. And then, when you have the, maybe three posts of something else-- one post, like a, [inaudible] one post of just maybe the little real estate thing, people will start associating you as that skier that also does real estate.

Mike Schneider: Right.

Rett Harmon: They're gonna associate with the skiing first, real estate second. Even if it's someone talking about real estate, they're gonna go back to that place in their mind and that's how you can sometimes get in front of people a little bit differently when you're really trying to get your name out there and let people know what you're about. People want to work with someone with similar interests. So that's--

Mike Schneider: I really like that. #randomtorealestate. Pick something that is you and, even if that's a random association, you can tie it to real estate overtime.

Rett Harmon: Sure. Everything is associated with real estate because everyone needs housing.

Mike Schneider: Sure.

Rett Harmon: And everyone likes to do their own thing. So, I've even taken a step further with the sales team that I have [inaudible]. Got a couple staff people, we're looking at bringing, one agent so far with this team and then we're gonna possibly bring on some more agents as we make sense to grow with it. But the more important thing is just really having that core culture about how we're really gonna embrace doing this. And, like, we have some goals we wanna put together. And obviously, there's, if you have employees, then you have agents that we want them to want to buy into this. So, my fear is kind of like if I'm having a team, I don't want it to be just the Rett Harmon team. I want it to be this synergy of everyone involved with it. So, if we take everyone and let them post what they're doing that's unique or different and maybe challenge them, one post a week, something about your thing. So, for instance, Karen, is a woman on staff-- she's kind of my assistant, handles a lot of everything that's going on, helping me keep track of what I'm doing. She has, like, 50-something pair of converse tennis shoes. So, we use the hashtag #karensconverse. You know, it has a lot of things associated with shoes or whatever's going on. So she'll mention whatever she's doing, having a post, and I say, "You don't have to put your face in there, just show your shoes or whatever, and tie that in once a week to what you're doing." We're trying to take each staff person and really letting them bind to the idea so that it's more acceptable or more, you know, tied into what we're trying to do as a group.

Mike Schneider: That's a great [crosstalk]

Rett Harmon: Then, when the other stuff's going out-- so we have more organic followers, uh--

Mike Schneider: Sure.

Rett Harmon: --or whatever's there.

Mike Schneider: That's a great tip. Pick something, and then the consistency--  you gotta match it with consistency. One post a week--

Rett Harmon: Yep.

Mike Schneider: --about your thing. Pick your thing, and then tie it to real estate. That's awesome.

Rett Harmon: Yep. So, if there are 52 weeks in a year [inaudible], say we wanna do, you know, 48 posts or 45 posts or whatever we decided. So, if there's a week you get past or someone's on vacation, don't worry about it. Or-- but if you wanted to take a couple pictures, even when you weren't working, then you could use them at a later date in time. A lot of times we forget about things that we experienced or took a photo of before. It doesn't all have to be real time, and I have to remind myself that constantly.

Mike Schneider: Sure.

Rett Harmon: It's like, I've got a lot of fishing videos with my kids and I'm like "Well, that was last summer and that's not in season right now." But I've started thinking about, does it really matter if it was last week, last year, two years ago?

Mike Schneider: It's part of who you are.

Rett Harmon: Part of who you are. And I think it, it also helps when people see us interact with what we're doing or our element, they can really form that bond of trust, more so than just that, that object or whatever it is. They see the way that you're interacting with it or, or how you're acting as a person or what you're doing individually. Uh, I think that just ties so much more into that building trust and letting people see what you're doing, what's going on. And, take the time to also be engaged with everyone else that's in your audience you're trying to follow up with. That's one of my challenges, is taking the time to purposefully go back in and like, comment and share on things that my agents are doing or people--

Mike Schneider: Sure.

Rett Harmon: --my clients are doing.

Mike Schneider: Well, thank you Rett for coming on. 

Rett Harmon: Yeah, definitely.

Mike Schneider: I think there's a lot of great takeaways around building into your community, figuring out your thing personally--

Rett Harmon: Sure.

Mike Schneider: --and inviting people into that, and doing it consistently.

Rett Harmon: Definitely. Well, thanks for having me.

Mike Schneider: Appreciate it.

Rett Harmon: Yes sir.