Ruby customer feature: Opportunity during crisis with Juan Huizar

How do you educate customers and increase engagement while building lasting relationships? Moreover, how do you do all that in a highly competitive business landscape and during a time in history defined by near-constant change?

We spoke to successful real estate broker and entrepreneur Juan Huizar of Sage Real Estate Group to get his advice (and hear about his experience with Ruby, too!).

Read the Interview

Katie Hurst: Hi, my name is Katie Hurst. I’m the Director of Brand and Content at Ruby. I’m thrilled today to be speaking to Juan Huizar of Sage Real Estate, who will be offering some advice on how to be successful in the next coming months, as well as what Ruby has offered his business in terms of efficiency and trust building.

Juan Huizar:
Thank you, Katie. Thanks for having me. I am a real estate broker, so I’m an independent real estate broker and I guess my niche, I don’t really focus on single family home sales. I focus on apartment sales. So, I help buyers, investors build wealth through apartment ownership.

Katie Hurst:
And so what has been your experience over this past year in terms of how your work has changed or has there been a higher demand, a lower demand? I’m so curious.

Juan Huizar:

Yeah. And thanks for asking. When COVID first hit and the first, here in California at least, real estate in the very first two weeks was not considered an essential business. So we were technically not able to show properties. In my business, we need to be out because if I’m selling an apartment building, I’m meeting with buyers, we’re meeting with inspectors, appraisers. So, I need to be out in the field. So, the first couple of weeks was a little slow, kind of halted everything, where we weren’t supposed to be leaving the house.

Then we became essential. Then we could go about conducting our business. We were concerned. There was a lot of laws that were changed impacting tenant-landlord laws. That directly impacts us because if there’s changes going on, investors aren’t as confident moving forward. But all in all, the real estate market made it through March, April of last year, which those were pretty tough. But then I feel people wanted to continue investing because interest rates were low. So all in all, for the end of 2020 real estate was really, really strong in the apartment portion of the market.

Katie Hurst:
So with all these unknowns, and I’m sure there was some anxiety amongst both you, your team, the people that you were interacting with, how did communication and the importance of that human connection really factor into the work that you were doing this year?

Juan Huizar:
A big lead pillar for my business is my database and so it was just going back to checking in on them. How are you doing? Not, do you want to sell. Not that you want to buy. Just how are you doing? How’s the family? Can I help in any way?

Katie Hurst:
And how has Ruby helped you be able to achieve those goals over the past year?

Juan Huizar:
We spend thousands and thousands of dollars each month marketing. Okay? Like postcard marketing, direct marketing. Okay? What I found was the folks that we service, the apartment owners, they’re up there in age because they’re to the point where they’ve owned their properties for 30 years, much, much older. Sometimes English is a second language. First generation, they came from another country, all over. And they came here and they started buying real estate. They created wealth. Well, now it’s time to maybe sell. Okay? If they call me off my postcard and I don’t answer, oftentimes they don’t leave a message. Even with my voicemail, they will not leave a message. So, what ended up happening was every day at the end of the day, I had missed calls and I would have to go back and call them. Well, half of those, if not 90% of them, were spam calls and calls that I didn’t want to get anyways. And then I’m stuck trying to shuffle through. Did one of these missed calls, could they have been a possible lead off my marketing? Right?

So we’re spending all this money. We don’t want to lose the opportunity for that lead. And that’s when I came across Ruby Receptionists. It was a professional voice on the backside saying, “Thank you for reaching either Sage Real Estate or Juan Huizar’s office. Did you receive one of our mailers?” And if it was a spam call, they got shuffled through. I didn’t have to waste my time with them anymore. But if it was a legitimate call, now that person that I’m trying to target, that I’m trying to market to, that I’m trying to bring value to, they’d be glad to leave a message. And then when I would get a text message, an email showing that someone called and left a voicemail, then I could go straight to the source. I didn’t have to shuffle through the end of the day. And sometimes even listening to voicemails is really time-consuming. So for me, it’s a big plus having that professional service behind my line, I can’t always take a call.

Katie Hurst:
So really for you, what’s important to you, is that balance of efficiency, but also not missing out on any potential opportunities. So, having that helped to be able to eradicate the noise and weed out the noise so that you can really focus on the things that are going to be most valuable to your business.

Juan Huizar:
Jokingly, some of the folks we do business with, they’re like, “Hey Juan, can you not answer? I like the nice ladies on the background or just a nice folks and answer the phone.” They said that.

Katie Hurst:
Oh, that’s always a treat when the folks, we’ve had folks bring cookies to offices back when things were open thinking that we were there at the front desk and they were disappointed, they’d like to meet the front desk person or Ruby. So, that’s us doing our job. So, I appreciate that. What, if any advice you would offer to others in the real estate industry about how to find success in their business over this next year, as well as create a great experience for their customers?

Juan Huizar:
We do a lot of reading, we do a lot of studying, and we’re always learning. Right? So I always wonder what can we do? So here’s what we’ve come up with, and I think this is going to work for anyone in real estate or in any business is that you need to give before you receive. You need to be of value before you ever asked for business. So I’m not going to call you, Katie, and say, “Can I help you sell your building?” What have I done for you? And I want your business, Katie, but I need to earn your trust. A few ways to earn trust is to educate you on what’s important to you.

So, what we’ve done heavily, probably through COVID and maybe because we saw that there was going to be less meetings. We took an active approach of, well, who are we servicing? Hey, we’re going to serve as apartment owners. That’s that’s my client base. There’s a lot of changes going on. A lot of my apartment owners are much older. They’re what’s considered mom and pop apartment owners. And I wanted to make sure that I was bringing value to them. Value in keeping them up to date with any changes. There’s eviction laws that have changed there’s rent control that’s gone on, there’s forms. And so what we started creating was videos.

Videos, where all we’re going to do is educate, not sell the heck out of me. That doesn’t matter, but I’m going to tell you guys, this is what’s happened. This is what you need to know. This is how the changes in the way that you manage your property. This is what you need to know that that’s going to make you a better apartment owner or a better investor. So we went heavily on we’re going to educate, educate, educate. And through that we built trust. Through that we earned their business.

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