“Essentially, we are reinventing the brokerage business and traditional agent support model.” As UrbanLand Company owner and Principal Broker Gerard DiRuggiero utters these words it’s with an impressive blend of confidence and excitement. “How we do that is through lead generation for our agents. We build agents’ businesses by providing them with in-house leads that we generate through dozens of websites that we maintain. In addition, we run a series of home buying and home selling workshops that alone have generated over 800 RSVPs and another 500 Facebook RSVPs.”
In just the last year alone, the company has held more than 175 such workshop events in the D.C., Maryland and Virginia markets. These are held several times a week at various locations and times in order to make them available and convenient for virtually everyone.
“Through that ever-expanding network of prospective clients, we’ve generated roughly $41 million in closed transactions that we delivered to our agents, which is in addition to all the transactions they have generated on their own. While many other brokers focus on their top producers, we specialize in building all our agents’ businesses,” DiRuggiero says.
Filling the Pipeline and Guiding Agents
Apparently, it’s a system that works. Since they first began “reinventing the brokerage business,” UrbanLand Company has consistently maintained a steady stream of very desirable, highly qualified and interested buyers and sellers which they in turn feed to their agents. Since they began tracking the success of this pipeline four years ago, they’ve generated 133 closed transactions directly from these efforts and in addition to all their other business.
It’s a very simple, mathematical formula. Leads, prospects and referrals equal transactions. And, the company is there to support their agents every step of the way.
“We welcome anyone who is professional, sincere, and hard-working who brings enthusiasm, motivation and a ‘can-do’ attitude to the table,” DiRuggiero says. “With these qualities and our system, anyone can become a top producer.
“We also have a fresh approach to phone duty,” he continues, “where we have a colleague who answers the calls, warms up the leads and directs them to an agent based on her or his expertise, areas where the agent is doing business and availability. We believe agents’ time is better spent with the clients. We get dozens of phone calls from a variety of sources but rather than have a multitude of agents answering the calls, we have one individual who is specifically trained to screen and ‘warm-up’ the prospect and systematically assign the lead where it seems most appropriate.
“This is unique to the business in our area as far as I know.”
Of course, there’s much more to succeeding in any business than simply providing the right leads. Passed along to the untrained or unprepared agent, these hard-won prospects would certainly be wasted. That’s why in addition to acquiring and supplying these leads, UrbanLand Company also takes great pains to ensure their agents are educated, trained and ready.
Using the same care and dedication applied to their numerous buyer/seller workshops, UrbanLand Company has created a sophisticated training program suited to agents regardless of how much time and experience they’ve had in the industry. “We don’t train agents in the traditional sense,” says DiRuggiero. “For instance, I think assigned mentoring has some drawbacks and depends heavily on the individual mentor’s available time, client base and willingness to show a rookie agent the ropes.
“Instead we offer ‘agent guidance.’ It’s a program run by Trish DiRuggiero, who is an attorney as well as an agent, so she’s very detail-oriented and experience-driven. She provides guidance sessions, as well as one-on-one attention, teaching agents how to operate in the field and providing them transactional advice. This includes everything from how to use the lockboxes to the forms to more advanced and finer points of sales and closing the deal. She also instructs them on how to take advantage of our marketing program.
“We don’t use that word ‘training’ because agents who are experienced are going to say, ‘I don’t need training,’ but most agents can use and would welcome guidance in a variety of situations that can arise,” he adds.
What’s in a Name?
Building a business, whether real estate, banking or whatever, requires many interlocking parts. UrbanLand Company obviously addresses the prospects and training, but there is a third and equally important aspect to success which is marketing. While most large brokerages focus on the company brand, DiRuggiero not only teaches his agents how to present themselves to potential clients but gives them a leg-up with the branding and marketing strategies already in place.
“We have a very active social media platform and the resources and know-how to have a very savvy presence online,” he says. “We have been doing this for years and have built up an excellent and active network. Agents who affiliate with us can participate in our ‘agent exposure’ program which uses social media, open houses, property tours, workshops and farming to get agents in the field and marketing themselves immediately.
“Once agents are active in our agent exposure program, we begin to introduce them to flow of online leads, phone contacts, and appointments generated in-house by our agent leads generation program,” DiRuggiero continues. “The backbone of our lead engagement, warm-up and follow-up system is a cloud-based collaborative CRM that every agent uses. Our agents use a follow-up methodology that calls for a minimum of about 29 customer touches per year; most of our CRM training revolves around using follow-up to convert leads into active clients and sales.”
“We’ve sold a thousand new condos in D.C. in our 15-year history,” DiRuggiero points out. “The brokerage actually started by selling dozens of new construction condominium projects in emerging D.C. neighborhoods. These are projects ranging in size from just a few units to landmarks like the 92-unit Parker Flats and 118-unit Floridian projects. This condo experience is a big part of how we became so savvy with the web early on. Even back in 2003, we were maintaining project-specific websites and collecting email address and leads. Over the years, our website network has grown to cover a variety of real estate topics that enable us to generate exceptionally good prospects.
“Actually, we’ve sold over half-a-billion dollars’ worth of real estate using these methods, so I’d say it’s been pretty successful,” he adds with a grin. “It’s no secret that building a business takes time but joining us cuts that time significantly primarily because we have all the systems in place as well as the expertise and knowledge to help our agents get a jump start.”
What’s the Catch?
Given everything that UrbanLand Company offers to agents, regardless of whether they are rookies or veterans of the industry, the obvious question is, “What’s the catch?” DiRuggiero says there is no catch.
“We offer a compelling package to agents that includes no desk fees, high-quality back office support, local market knowledge, customized training and lead/ commission opportunities that are unique to the D.C., Maryland and Virginia region,” he says. “We are a sales-driven organization with mature volume channels in new construction, first-time homebuyers, premium properties, land/site acquisition for developers, and a whole lot more.
“I’m very proud of what we’ve built here,” he adds. “Proud of our reputation that is evidenced by repeat clients and significant referrals, and very proud of our agents. We hold ourselves to a high standard of training, support and brokerage participation in exclusive leads from our in-house program. We have a team that feels respected, appreciated and well-rewarded for their hard work. We work diligently for our clients and support one another’s efforts.”
UrbanLand Company owns and operates three regional real estate offices in northwest D.C., northeast D.C. and Baltimore City.