Niche Markets

by Laura Christian

A niche market is a narrowly defined market segment that has unique characteristics. Most real estate niches often focuses on one of these following traits:

Geography—Focus on a specific city and county all the way down to specific locations, such as waterfront or historic districts. Geography can be as broad or narrowly defined as you desire.

Demographics—Seniors, singles, minorities, military or even boating enthusiasts and bicyclists. Anything that is a shared defining characteristic is what establishes this niche.

Motivation—First-time home buyers, people relocating for jobs, retirement, divorce, etc. There are many reasons consumers find themselves looking to buy or sell.

By specializing in a niche, you give yourself the option of setting yourself apart from other agents. As there is no shortage of real estate agents these days for clients to choose from, the ability to make yourself stand out is invaluable.

Often, the first agent the client approaches is the one they end up using. According to the National Association of REALTORS® 2012 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers Report, 65% of buyers and 66% of sellers contacted only one agent.

The average buyer typically starts their search on the internet (41% according to NAR) and spends about three weeks searching on their own before contacting an agent. Therefore, it is vital for a REALTOR® to establish their name and reputation as soon and effectively as possible.

Most buyers have a strong idea of what they want. By specializing, you can work your way to becoming an expert in your niche, quickly and efficiently pairing your buyers and sellers.

Niche marketing is, in essence, branding and highlighting your specific skills and knowledge. By focusing your marketing on a specific target audience, you can address their particular wants and needs in a language they understand. You build your credibility by becoming not just a REALTOR® to complete a transaction, but a resource for your client.

Focusing your marketing efforts to your niche often saves you money. Advertising to a smaller demographic drops the cost per marketing piece and increases the return rate significantly. Targeted marketing equals less wasted marketing dollars.

Also, when working with a niche, your clients tend to associate with others within that same niche. Just as in any industry, happy clients equals referrals and helps build your client base.

When it comes to marketing your niche (or any real estate marketing) your web presence is critical. With 90% of home buyers using the internet in their search, you need to make sure you are found and presented favorably.

Utilize your website to highlight your niche. Don’t just use your agency’s site, but purchase a domain (or several) that all point to your niche website which clearly states what you do (i.e. Citynamelakeproperties.com). If you aren’t tech savvy, then hire a web designer. A professional looking website with quality photos will raise your credibility quickly (just as an old poorly designed website can sink it).

Your potential clients are on the internet looking, and your competitors are too, so you don’t want to be left behind!

Your website should make it very clear who you are and what you do (i.e. “John Smith, your Vacation Home specialist!”) on every page of your site so that a person entering your site on a page other than the home page is afforded every opportunity to connect with you.

Not only list your properties and your contact info, but add value by providing relevant and timely information for your peers in addition to your potential clients. You know your information is valuable when other REALTORS® use your website as a resource.

Create a Facebook page (separate from your personal profile) or a blog to help showcase your specialty knowledge. These are great options for REALTORS® who like to use social media. Post fairly often (a couple times a week at least on Facebook, and at least once a month on a blog) in order to keep people engaged.

Non-listing related information you provide should all serve to enhance your credibility. Email or mail a newsletter to your target market several times a year with news and resources to keep your presence established within your niche.

For example, if you’re specializing in families with dogs, your website (seattledogrealestate.com) and could provide a list of dog parks in the area, information on various leash laws, the location of pet supply stores and more, while your Facebook page highlights news stories and current memes that dog lovers would enjoy. If you have a blog, craft relevant posts (i.e. ‘Preparing Fido for the Big Move”) that provide value to your potential clients and increase your credibility.

ALL of your marketing material should include your website and represent your niche (continuing with the above example: a picture of a dog or a paw print logo on your business cards, fliers, signs, etc) and should also state your niche clearly. If a client has to guess, your niche isn’t defined enough or advertised clearly.

All that branding and marketing won’t get you far if you’re not actually an expert on your niche. Do your homework and be the expert you say you are. Research, get a relevant designation, and talk with other REALTORS® in other locales with similar niches. Keep learning and whatever you do stay on top of your niche, because if you don’t someone else will gladly capitalize on your niche.

It is important to choose a niche that is right for you. Whether you choose a niche based on your own interests and experiences, or a niche in a hot upcoming market, you need to enjoy it enough to keep at it long-term. The best niche fits are the ones that follow your passion. One where you sit down with a likeminded client and talk about your shared passion effortlessly. The more involved and invested you are in your niche, the better you will do.

Sometimes a niche chooses you. If you’re having trouble identifying a potential niche for yourself, look back at your clientele and see what patterns emerge. You may find you tend to sell a lot of homes in a specific area, or to a specific demographic. You may realize you have a knack for short sales or enjoy working with investment buyers. Be honest in your strengths and identify your realistic market options.

The best real estate niche is the one that works for you. Embrace it, and use it to your advantage. Become the expert you would want to use yourself, and above all conduct your business with integrity.

Fair Housing Act—When it comes to niche marketing, you need to proceed with caution and be careful to not enter illegal territory, especially if your niche involves a specific buyer or seller demographic.

The Fair Housing Act of 1968 (amended in 1988) makes it illegal to make any statement that indicates a preference or limitation based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, family status, and disabilities. See also Article 10 of the National Association of REALTORS® Code of Ethics)

This means that while you can market to these demographics, you cannot market ONLY to them (i.e. marketing your services in a religious publication only, even if that is the client you want to work with).

“The best rule we give is this: Describe your skills and the property, not the people that you want to live there or the people that live there now,” says Nancy Haynes, executive director of the Fair Housing Center of Western Michigan.

While it is great to tout your specific skills and knowledge, you need to make sure you are inclusive to the population at large.

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