Sometime in 2007, it was becoming obvious to me that Richmond needed another brokerage firm that departed from the traditional model.
The brokerage community severely lacked knowledge of the areas that were quickly being redeveloped in much of the urban core. The existing brokerages likewise demonstrated almost no real understanding of the fundamentals of marketing by continually using poor photography, primitive graphic design and no recognizable sense of balance in their print and digital material.
It felt as if the market was ripe for a group that took a marketing-centric approach and one that sought higher technical knowledge in their craft.
Looking back, Richmond did need a new brokerage firm and it needed to be mixed-use with both residential and commercial practices. For so long, the disciplines of commercial and residential had been separate despite their obvious overlaps, especially in the urban setting. The newly (re)emerging Downtown market was bringing people back into the city and the long dormant buildings back to life.
The traditional brokerage firms didn’t grasp what was happening, they couldn’t tell the story of what was happening and they surely weren’t going to invest the time in learning how to sell in the neighborhoods that had been so blighted for so long.
There was a vacuum.
On multiple occasions I had crossed paths with Tom Rosman of Spotts and Carneal Realtors in Carytown. He always seemed to be in the know for buildings that were for sale. Apartments in The Fan and Museum and warehouses in Manchester, Jackson Ward and Church Hill as well as a host of other small to mid-sized commercial buildings all seemed to be buyable when Tom was around. He knew the commercial side and I knew the residential side but neither could really do the other’s job – so I convinced him it would be a good time to take a stab at glory.
What had been an easy start through the first parts of 2008 quickly turned into an amazingly difficult slog through minefield of ever-changing mortgage finance, capital calls, a scared buying public, a ‘lets just bury our head in the sand’ selling public and developers whose costs of production now exceeded market values by 20-30%. These were issues that very few of us had ever experienced.
It was difficult – but in retrospect, it worked to our advantage. The harder business became, the easier it became to get your message heard and to define your brand. Buyers and sellers began to demand a higher level of expertise and have a greater respect for our collective knowledge.
The fundamental change that the market was experiencing showed the public that talent and knowledge mattered and that great marketing made a difference. Gone were the days when sellers used their cousin ‘who has a license’ to help them sell their house and now sought the advice of pros. The ability to broadcast a better message and helping to educate the other brokerages about your product (in lieu of cutting them out) meant better results. The broken market was exactly what we needed to differentiate ourselves.