Join QuantumDigital’s CMO Eric Cosway as he interviews Alex Bruno, owner of RE/MAX 5-Star Realty in Florida. Alex is a top producer who also works with banks, including Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Alex is HUD-certified, and has a strong network of home buyers and investors.
Eric: Alex, welcome to the podcast.
Alex: Hello. How are you doing?
Eric: So, it sounds like RE/MAX 5-Star has been around since 2016. What led you to want to start the business, or create a franchise for yourself?
Alex: Actually, over the years, I thought it was important based on the experience that I got in real estate. I wanted to have an office with a little bit of a different perspective, and being a buyer’s and listing agent for many years, I understand how difficult it is to be an agent. I wanted to facilitate the tools and the support for the agents the way that I would like to have it myself. I wanted to be able to answer their questions, and at the same time provide the tools that they need. I didn’t want to be the office that was open for 30-40 years. Things change over the years. The real estate market changed. The real estate agent’s needs changed. The buyers changed. Everything is completely different. And more and more the market keeps changing every year. We need to make adjustments constantly.
Eric: Is your primary focus on buyers in Hollywood, Florida? Or do you do both buyers and sellers?
Alex: I work with buyers and sellers, and I work on South Florida, not just only on Hollywood. From Miami Beach to Pompano Beach, we are open to working with different cities.
Eric: Was that area impacted by the hurricane this past summer? Last couple of months?
Alex: Absolutely. Yes. And we’re still seeing the damages around.
Eric: How did that impact you? You’re right there in the center of it. You have a staff. Not only were you affected, but I’m sure the business was impacted as well.
Alex: First of all, it’s something that is out of our control. We need to take it the way it is, and try to make the best of it. So, we need to just continue life because it was definitely a huge impact for real estate, and also properties they were supposed to close. They have to be re-inspected again, and appraised again. Some of the sales fall apart, but we need to continue. When the market crashed in 2007, life continued. And you have to keep going. And there were always buyers. We were a little spoiled, some of the agent. Deals were so easy, then they were no longer that easy. We need to work harder. But everything is possible, and we need to adapt to the times.
Eric: You came into the real estate business in 2007. How was that first year for you as a Realtor?
Alex: It was a little sad. A lot of people were very depressed. It was like the end of the world. It was a commotion—many people taking time off, going away. Other ones struggling to figure out how to react to these major changes. And I personally think it was easier for me because I was not that spoiled. I was new. So, I figured out there are always buyers. People are going to keep buying homes and selling homes. This is not the end of the world. Maybe the end of a good market, but there were always FHA buyers. Much better buyers than before. Real buyers that can afford these houses. Because, after the market crashed, lenders were more conscious about the capability of a buyer to purchase a home. You keep going, and you have to adapt to the situation.
Eric: Is there something specific about a buyer that you’ve learned—the one or two things a buyer always needs that you just know what to do, and just handle a buyer so they’re fully happy and satisfied with all the work you do?
Alex: One of the most important is to listen to them, and try to build in your mind and try to understand what the needs are for they buyer. Try to put time into that buyer to show them that you want to work with them. Because it’s a very competitive market. Here in Florida, a lot of people have real estate licenses. So, everybody knows a friend, or a neighbor, or a coworker that has a real estate license. But, not everyone is dedicated to this career. A lot of people think it’s easy, but it’s not that easy. What you need to do is just listen to the buyer, and try to work on what they are asking. And be available. That is one of the most important things; build a criteria for the buyer, and try to work on finding what they are looking for.
Eric: I read your customer reviews, and I have to tell you, they’re excellent. Here are the common terms when people talked about you. They said you were responsive. Always calls back. Knowledgeable. Trustworthy. Honest. Knows the area extremely well. Is available 24/7. So, does that surprise you, or is that just who you are—your DNA?
Alex: It’s who I try to be all the time for my clients. I think it’s important for all these points to be met—to have a happy client, and to eventually get more referrals and more business. To be dedicated for this job.
Eric: Tell me about the dedication in this job. You have a team of 8 people, is that correct?
Alex: Approximately, yes. With the photographers, yeah.
Eric: Are you active 7 days a week being a team lead, or can you now delegate some of those responsibilities off?
Alex: I delegate, but as a team leader you have to keep pushing to make sure that you keep the standards.
Eric: When it’s really tough, what do you tell your team? How do you motivate your team to keep moving?
Alex: There are many sources, and some of the sources we learn from the old school. You have to go back to what used to work before, in order to add what works now. In order to get buyer’s and seller’s business—even in the tough times—you have to do a hundred things. It’s not like one thing is going to give you the business. If you have multiple options, most likely you’re going to have better results. Prospectings, For Sale By Owners, campaigns, expired campaigns… those are the old school. Open Houses—a lot of people don’t believe in open houses. Some people don’t believe in broker’s Open Houses. You have to try everything. And believe me you have more chances, you’re going to succeed with better results.
Eric: Sounds like technology has impacted your business. Has it made things easier for you? Has it given better exposure to your buyers and sellers? How do you leverage technology as a broker?
Alex: Technology makes smarter buyers. The buyers know how to look. And it makes it more risky for the agents, because you get a chance of losing a buyer going directly with a listing agent, or going a different route with another agent. The information is more available. You just Google the address, and you can get all the information regarding that property. It definitely helps us also to be able to locate a property the buyer is asking for immediately through our phones. But at the same time, we need to keep the quality of the work going, to keep that buyer, being more proactive about finding what they’re looking for. Because they buyer will be looking for those properties, too. So, you’re working with a buyer… a smarter buyer.
Eric: Now that there’s so much content available to buyers to be smart buyers, has that forced your game and your agents games up to be even more on top of the market than you might normally be?
Alex: I don’t think so. It’s just that we need to adapt to the changes and grow with the changes.
Eric: Are you a team that adopts new technology? Or are you a tad more service, belly-to-belly, a little more old fashioned in the way you approach your buyers and sellers?
Alex: It’s a bunch of things together, and we have to keep moving forward with technology, and adopting new trends, new programs, new marketing—different types of marketing that probably didn’t exist 10 years ago—and try to be creative for your business. That way, you can stand in the market as an agent.
Eric: You mentioned your referrals. Is that mainly how you drive business today?
Alex: Referrals are very important. And also, if you work for an international company, your exposure is even more. But referrals is one of the things that really helps your business. It’s on the top of the list, definitely.
Eric: There are obviously some benefits being a franchise, but in your market what are the big 2 or 3 benefits of having that RE/MAX brand behind you?
Alex: When I was exploring the possibility of buying a franchise, I met with multiple companies. And the RE/MAX platform was clean and easy for the agent. And at the same time—one of the most important things for me, especially referrals—is seeing how big it is. In 100 countries, plus. And have 110,000 agents around the world. That makes you feel safe. It’s a company that keeps growing, that gives you the tools to be successful. And that is exactly what I was looking for. I was not looking about quantity of agents per square feet. Everybody has different perspectives of somebody who opens a franchise. I think that those were very important points to make a decision to continue being part of RE/MAX.
Eric: Let’s change course a little bit. You have a background in interior design. You’re from Uruguay. Tell us about how interior design informs you, or helps you in your career in real estate.
Alex: I didn’t finish the career on interior design, so I didn’t get a license for it. But, it definitely helped me to help sellers, or give them advice on how to present the home to be sold faster, for more money. Seeing, from a different perspective, the home from the buyer’s side, and being able to tell just the sellers what they should do to accomplish that.
Eric: It sounds like a really complementary skill to what you’re doing day to day.
Alex: Honestly, I love my job. And I definitely put my heart on every transaction. It doesn’t matter how much the sales price is. Every transaction means a lot for me. The important thing is to make it happen, and have a good presentation, a good description of the property. You need to put a little bit of your heart on every property that you list. Going the extra mile for the client.
Eric: Well, you’re definitely passionate about your career. What would be the other things you’re passionate about?
Alex: My family, honestly. It’s the most important thing in my life. And also my country—even though I was born in Uruguay—I have the American dream, and I love this country. I’m proud of being an American citizen. And my career.
Eric: Alex, what a pleasure speaking with you today. I know being a team lead, and being a broker with all the responsibilities, your time is very limited so it’s precious. I want to to thank you for your time. I hope you found it informative. We certainly did.
Alex: Absolutely. And I want to help other agents who don’t see the light sometimes of this business. And a lot of people who feel limited, because maybe they are foreign people, or they feel different… this is a job where you can can shine. And not because you’re pretty, or you drive a nice car. You can shine for talent.
Eric: Congratulations! You’ve done a very nice job.
Alex: Thank you!