• Amber Montanio

A Series of "Why"

Let me start this post by stating, I am a Real Estate Broker, not a blogger. I am passionate about my industry and serving my clients, and agents, at the very top levels of professionalism, experience and expertise.

This is me, Amber, in case you are wondering.

I have never considered myself, nor ventured to be, a wordsmith. I have been told I have a way with words before, but it was mostly in reference to my dry sense of humor and expertise with double entendre. My point is, go easy with me, since I am not a professional writer, don't expect my blogs to be perfect. They will not be.

Now that you have been warned, on to my actual topic! The topic of this series is "why." It seems that once you enter adulthood, this is a question you are asked frequently. As a child you aren't really expected to examine WHY you do all of the things you do. You just do them because either you are told to, or it just feels right at the time. In adulthood, however, it seems you are questioned about why you do the things you do at every turn. Why did you choose the college you went to? Why did you choose your given career path? Why did you choose your spouse, partner or to stay single? Lord knows that once you have children, the ages of 2-18 seem to be an endless series of why you are asking or telling them to do any given thing.

Since this is related to my company, Black Label Real Estate Advisors, the purpose of this blog series is to outline WHY I have chosen to go the directions I have gone, and HOW I feel it serves my clients, my agents and my industry for the better.

The best place to begin with is, why did I decide to start Black Label Real Estate Advisors?

I had a pretty "cushy" thing going before I leapt into this endeavor. With 17 years of experience as a Realtor, I was with a nationally known brokerage that has, by far, the largest market share in my area. The largest market center of this entire company was the market center I belonged to. I had a steady stream of business, mostly from personal referrals, that supported my family in a very comfortable lifestyle. I didn't have to manage, or worry about feeding, any other agent's business. I ran my business as I pleased (and as mandated by company policies)and really answered to no-one, except my husband, every now and then.

So, why in the world did I decide to disrupt my easy lifestyle by opening an independent, small boutique brokerage with agents under me, who relied on my leadership for their business? It is a question I get asked ALL THE TIME! "Couldn't you just have been an Associate Broker for them, and taken advantage of their technology and perks?" Yes, I could have. "Aren't you afraid to go against the grain of where all the big companies are going?" Sure, sometimes. "Why would you want to create that much more stress in your life?" Truth is, I ask myself that question frequently.

In every story, there is always this pivotal moment that happens that changes the trajectory of the story. I wish I could say mine was a dramatic event that happened, the skies parted, and dramatic theme music played. This wasn't that. My pivotal moment actually happened while scrolling Facebook, of all places.

While scrolling through my previous brokerage's Facebook group page, I read question after question and post after post. I was shocked by the ethical shadiness, bad advice, misinformation, sleazy practices and pure ignorance that I saw coming from some of my peers. It hit me then that regardless of how hard I worked to be the best, most professional, most ethical agent I could be, I would always be associated with the others who were in my brokerage. Don't get me wrong, some of the most amazing agents I know are involved with my previous brokerage, and if it works for them, great. For me, I always look at my association with the weakest link, and in this case, there were many weakest links.

I guess you could say that disgust changed my trajectory.

I was disgusted with what I call the "warm body brokerage model." These brokerages have hundreds, if not thousands, of agents with little to no broker supervision, no education or performance requirements, and whose only real requirements at all are pulse, real estate license, and ability to pay a monthly fee. They rely on the 80/20 rule and monthly fees to stay afloat. 20% of the agents will actually be producers, but they still collect the monthly fees from the 80% to make it worth holding their licenses. Not to mention, they use the larger number of agents for bragging rights. How many times have we heard, "largest brokerage in town" but yet you only can recognize a handful of agents as producers? ALL THE TIME!

I was disgusted by algorithms and technology replacing the human aspect of the business. I believe that technology is an incredibly valuable and useful tool to use to help serve our clients. I do not believe, however, that it should replace relationships. Companies are getting so wrapped up in competing with each other on who has the best artificial intelligence, the biggest CRM (that will drip campaign their clients to death...that is another post for the future), the most developed algorithms, etc that they seem to be forgetting that if they simply get to know their clients personally, they wouldn't need to spend millions predicting their behaviors. I believe that people are getting technology fatigue, and that real estate at the end of the day is a relationship business. Getting to know a person, their needs, goals and motivations, cannot be replaced by a code.

I think beyond all things, I became disgusted by the lack of professional development or standards happening in our industry. I am not a statistician by any means, but I can tell you that the vast majority of agents I know take the very minimum amount of continuing education hours mandated by the state in order to keep an active license, and they usually take them online, and within the month before they are due for renewal. This is so beyond appalling to me. The bar is set so low that it is scary. Real estate transactions are often full of professional, legal, ethical and practical landmines that an uneducated agent is sure to step on at some point. The problem is that instead of being proactive in learning to avoid them in the first place, they rely on E&O insurance as a safety net or band-aid to help them once they do run across them.

Why I chose to leave the "cushy" place I had reached in my career, to open a brokerage, boils down to an honest belief that holding agents to a much higher set of professional, educational, ethical and performance standards is the best way to both serve our clients, and also preserve our industry. I am passionate about this industry. I genuinely love what I do, the opportunities I get to teach other agents lessons I have learned, and the chance I get to build relationships and guide clients through such pivotal transactions.

Am I out to change the way the world perceives Realtors? No, there are far too many agents out there destroying our value, that it would be a losing battle. Am I on a mission for anyone who calls on a Black Label Real Estate Advisors agent to get the absolute top level service, knowledge, and expertise from ANY agent they happen to work with? Yes. You see, I used to believe that weak links were just a part of doing business, every company had them, you just had to be better to compensate for them. I no longer believe that. I believe in being purposeful in my requirements, deliberate with who I bring into the company, and calculated in how we constantly and consistently grow together.

I know this post does not get into all of the "nuts and bolts" of the ways we do things differently. Those posts will come, I promise. This post was just meant to be a jump off post on WHY I made the decision to leap! I hope it provides you with at least a little bit of insight into my thought pattern!

I would love to hear your thoughts and questions about this post, or any other information you have regarding Black Label Real Estate Advisors. I can always be reached directly via email at blacklabelbroker@gmail.com.