Do you want a steady stream of repeat and referral business? Bill Risser introduces Barb Betts, the Owner and CEO of The RECollective. Barb shares how building a real estate business through relationships is her primary focus. Even until now, she still receives referrals from the internet leads she met 20 years ago. That is why real estate agents should want to build the majority of the business by referrals. She shares some of the best ways to do that—from personalized postcards to social media. If you want more tips on how to build a relationship-based real estate business, tune in!
Barb Betts – Owner/Broker – The RECollective
My guest is as passionate about relationships as anyone I know. I’m talking about Barb Betts. She’s the Broker, Owner and CEO of The RECollective. She also has a couple of other marketing companies, Relately Marketing and Real Estate by Relationships Academy. She’s doing all great stuff and it’s going to be a blast chatting with her. Let’s get this thing started. Barb, welcome to the show.
Thank you so much for having me, Bill. I’m excited to be here.
I’m happy to have you here. Molly McKinley has been a source of guests for me. You and I get to meet officially at an event this past fall. I interviewed Sara Sutachan and now I’m interviewing you. This is a great day for me. It’s been a lot of fun. Let’s start in Southern California. Are you in the Long Beach area?
I am in the Long Beach area which is situated halfway between LAX and Disneyland.
Are you a native? Did you grow up in Southern California?
I was born, raised and brokered in Long Beach, California.
I grew up in San Diego. I lived there for almost four years. I got the Southern California thing going. I know you have a son who plays baseball at a very high level. Tell me about that.
He was drafted out of Long Beach Wilson High School by the Tampa Bay Rays. He spent many years in the organization. He had some significant injuries that have been challenging, and you throw in COVID in the middle of that. He played Double-A in 2020 for them and was a free agent at the end of the season. There’s this little thing called the baseball lockout going on now. It’s been a little challenging this off-season.
He signed the contracts with the Los Angeles Dodgers. We have moved into the Dodgers Organization now at the Minor League level. The fun fact is all my friends are thinking they are going to see him at the Chavez Ravine in April 2022 and that’s not quite the case. I’m super excited for him to continue his journey and play baseball at such a high level.
What’s his position?
He’s a left-handed hitting catcher which is unique to the catching position. He is naturally born left-handed. He eats, drinks, sleeps and golfs left-handed. My husband is challenged in the height department. When my husband saw him picking up Cheerios with his left hand, mom wanted to get him a glove for his right hand. Dad said, “I’m not going to have a 5’10” left-handed player that can’t do anything.” It’s a true story. My husband bought him a glove for his left hand and threw balls at him in our living room at a very young age. Chris can throw a baseball harder than I’ve ever seen anyone throw a baseball right-handed. He hits balls 400 feet left-handed.
We get to talk a little bit about this because I worked for the San Diego Padres for twelve years. I love baseball. It’s my thing. The dynamics of a left-handed throwing catcher is an issue because the majority of batters are right-handed. They will be in the way of throws and it’s tougher to throw the third. It’s way easier to throw the first, I would think, because you wouldn’t have to twist around so much. Maybe pick a lot better. I was going to ask you before I knew all of this, “Are you a Dodgers or Angels fan?”
Not so long ago, we were Angel fans, but we did own a Dodger hat, which is a good thing. I never thought I’d say I bleed blue being a SoCal girl and mostly raised in the Orange County side of town. We are Dodger fans overnight. We’ve made a lot of our friends very happy because we have a lot of Dodger fan friends.
We probably should talk about real estate. The baseball fans love this but there’s always somebody who says, “Why do you spend so much time?” It’s because I love it and I want to have a great conversation. You’re approaching twenty years in the real estate industry. Congratulations. That’s amazing. There’s always something. I love the story of how real estate found you.
I’m the typical realtor that had a bad experience buying a home. Many realtors can relate to this where I thought, “If they could do that poor of a job and make that kind of money, I could do better.” I was in accounting. I was a glorified bookkeeper/CFO, but I was not a CFO. I was a bookkeeper but I was good at it. I love spreadsheets but I hate debits and credits and that kind of stuff. I also was a young mom. We just had our son and our daughter was on the way.
I worked for a very challenging boss who was female. She told me one day when my child was very ill that I needed a nanny for situations like this because I’m a working woman. I thought, “No.” I decided, “What can I do where I can have a balance of being a mom and having a successful career?” Since I had a child so young, we were eighteen when we had our son, I didn’t go to college. I didn’t have anything to fall back on. I wanted something I could own and say I’m an expert in. I wanted something that included a license or certificate that didn’t require me to go back to four years of college. You combine the bad experience of buying a home with me wanting that, and every one lands in real estate. That was the easy answer.
I have over 300 interviews on this show and I’d say ten knew they were going to be a realtor at the age of fifteen.
People are going through high school in career class, doing the course and then researching why they should go into real estate.
You started with Prudential, which is not around anymore. They have been absorbed by a couple of places. They were well-known for their training, education, and setting you set yourself up for success. Is that what you found there?
What I found there was the manager. I will never forget when I went to the career night that we used to have back in the days of real estate. It was pouring rain that night. I still went and no one else showed up. We were in a training room and he said, “Let’s go to the conference room and sit down.” I figured he had canceled.
The RECollective: Learning the short sale market was the best thing we did, and we didn’t shy away from that.
One person there is worth his time. I’ll never forget him, Richard Dewitt. He has since passed but he sat down and educated me. He gave me hope and told me I could do it. I know more now if you could fog a mirror and you have a real estate license, you probably can land in a brokerage somewhere. He made me feel special and heard. To that point, they had great new agent training and a mentor program. They had all the things I needed going into the career that I knew nothing about more than just my personal transaction. Education and support are what attracted me to Prudential.
Something tells me that you took some of those lessons from him and you still use them. We were talking about early 2004, 2005 or somewhere in that range. You’re cruising along. I like to ask this question because you understand social media very well. You teach and train. You have an academy. You had to be an early adopter in the office. Were there old people running around going, “You’re never going to amount to anything. Why are you doing that?”
This is really going back. Realtors who are reading who think that internet leads started with The Portal. Let’s call them that to keep names out of it, it didn’t start like that. It started with Yahoo.com. It was the first site to generate buyer and seller leads online. They partnered with Prudential only. It was called The Portal. Each office in our Prudential system had an assigned agent that was the Portal agent. I was the only agent that was willing to take it on because all the other senior agents were like, “That’s never going to turn into anything. The internet is never going to sell a house. No one is going to go online and look for an agent.” We know where we are now.
I tell people that before I got my acting gear and figured out how to do business that sustained my family and me, and allowed me to balance, I did stay up until 2:00 and 3:00 in the morning answering internet leads. I was working 37 days straight with no break. There were a lot of agents who said it would never work. This is why this whole NFT world and everything else that we’re in, I don’t understand it yet, but I never say never.
It’s weird watching the swings in the value of crypto, but maybe that’s all part of the process. You never say never, I agree. As we look through your career, you were well-prepared. I’m not sure if you joined the REO world prior to or during the dark days, but that had to be huge for you. Think about the value prop you’re bringing in today’s world. You’re way early on understanding how internet leads work, not all of them close. It’s a small portion, but you got to be consistent with all of them. Now you’re also schooled up and skilled on how to handle that market.
It’s the combination of learning to work the internet leads and what I became passionate about, which I continued through my career. It’s the power of doing business by relationship. Learning those internet leads have the potential to turn into relationships. Although they were frustrating and irritating, some of them were very challenging. Sometimes they are non-responsive and sometimes they ghost you on appointments. The good ones turned into relationships that I still have now.
When they give me referrals and have conversations, or they come to one of our parties, it cracks me up to think we met online years ago before internet leads were even a thing. We then fast forward to what my good friend Glenn calls the great inconvenience of real estate. We all know what happened in ’06 and ’07. I thought, “I’ve got to not ignore this REO world that is going on.” Relationships got me an REO account. A good friend in Arizona who was an REO machine handed us a binder of all the REO contact she had and said, “Go build some relationships.” That’s how we got our first REO account, which led to more REO accounts.
We were not getting 50 to 60 new homes a day like some brokerages were, but I’ll equate it to this last refinance boom. In that period, I didn’t stop working on my relationships because a lot of real estate brokers did. They focused on their banks and left all their other people behind. When the REO world stopped, they came up for air and their clients had moved on to other agents. The REOs, in my husband’s words, were the icing on the cake at the time. It was nice to have a guaranteed 5 or 6 deals a month coming in, but we never forgot our relationships. We got through that and it has been crazy ever since.
Some of those relationships needed you more than ever. That was a big part of what you were doing.
Learning the short sale market was the best thing that we did. We didn’t shy away from that. Those were the hardest days of my career. This market is hard now. Don’t get me wrong. The speed and the exhaustion of the market now are so hard. However, when you have to go into someone who you just celebrated with a few years ago, pop champagne with, give them their keys to their first home, and now you’re having to go in and have an adult conversation about how to break up with their home and divorce their mortgage. That was very hard because these are the people you love. With REOs, they are gone. You have no relationship with them. Short sales were a lot more challenging.
You have your own company now and we’re going to talk about that, but there was one more stop along the way. You made a shift over to Keller Williams. What was behind that?
By then, my husband had joined me. We have a small little team. In Prudential, there were some leadership changes at the time. It was an aging brokerage. It didn’t have the technology and the forward-thinking. No one was sitting around talking about ideas and what was coming next. It felt like a change was appropriate. I was a founding member at the Keller Williams that I went to. That was exciting because we got to build something from the ground up and have some influence being on the ALC. We moved and grew our team there. It was a great experience and we’re super glad we did it.
Like many successful realtors, agents and entrepreneurs, you are going to do a lot more than just work for someone else. You’re going to open up your own brokerage and start your own marketing company. Talk about making that leap of faith. It’s a little bit of a leap of faith because now you’re in charge of a lot more things and responsible for a lot more stuff.
I got my broker’s license in 2016. It’s not because I ever thought of opening my own brokerage. It’s because I felt like it was the next step. It was like getting a Master’s in real estate. I already had the Bachelor’s. I was very successful and I thought, “I want to have that higher level of knowledge.” The other reason I did it was I remember leaving Prudential and feeling suffocated that I had to find somewhere else. I thought to myself that if that ever happens again, I don’t want to be forced into finding something else.
That was my backup plan. I can always be on my own if I ever need to leave or if this company closes its doors. A culture shift happened. My team was unhappy and we were unhappy so we thought, “This is the time.” Having the confidence to do it is a big deal. It’s not easy opening your own brokerage, but we had the team and my husband’s support. We did it and never looked back since. It’s been a few years now and it’s the single best decision that we ever made.
I love the name Relately Marketing.
Relately is the marketing company. The real estate company is The RECollective.
What is Relately? What are you doing there?
I’m a relationship junkie. I’ve been, seen and built our business by relationship. I understand intrinsically the power of building a business by relationship, and it’s not just by referral. I don’t like the word referral. If you know me well, I use the word referral internally with people like you. When I talk to my clients, I don’t say the word referral. I use the words introduce and connect me. They are us.
Referrals are whatever agents should want to build their business by and have the majority of their business be that way. What I found is as I teach agents how I do what I do and how I’ve built my systems. One of my key factors in building our business is consistent communication. You have to consistently show up in front of your clients or they will forget you.
The RECollective: You need to be on social media and learn how to do it relationally.
You don’t always have the time to talk to every single person in your database. I believe in the power of mailing to your database. It’s not the large geographic neighborhoods. I’m talking about a list of relationships. We started creating big, large postcards that we mail to our database. We create the content every month and do a combination of personal and professional like, “I love you,” versus, “This is what’s going on in real estate.” Agents started asking me for them and they were like, “I don’t have the time to create them. Can you create them? Can I have your templates?” My staff and I sat down and I thought, “I want to help the industry but I’m not just going to give it away. We worked hard on all of that.”
We decided to launch a marketing company that helps realtors market relationally to their database. We prepare a custom postcard. What I mean by custom is they all look the same. I’m not creating one for every different realtor, but on the back of the postcard, we work on a custom template for you with your photo and information.
We’ve got our mail house and they send it all out for you. You don’t even have to think about it. It includes birthdays, anniversaries, and all the love cards or notes that I send everybody, and social media content. It’s a marketing tool for realtors that want to work relationally and don’t know how to get the message out there, and don’t have a team or a staff to do it for them. That’s how it was birthed and it’s been super successful. We’re happy with it.
Have you ever gotten somebody who says, “I know this is the first few, but I want to send them some leads?”
I don’t care. They can put whoever they want in their database. That’s why I’m launching the academy, to teach them how to do it the right way. What we don’t do is we don’t let you nitpick the content. You got to trust us that this works and we’re doing this the right way. You’re getting the content that I used in the last years and I know it works.
You mentioned real estate by relationship and Real Estate by Relationship Academy. Let’s go there next. First of all, I’m thinking, you don’t have a whole lot of free time.
Everyone says that. My husband and I still sell real estate. I still work a lot of days and we are active owners. He’s a realtor and I’m an active broker. I couldn’t do what I do without my husband. I got to give him major props in this. He has transitioned to take over a lot of our day-to-day sales activities. I still do a lot of rainmaking. I still do a ton of lead generation and go on certain appointments, but he’s at the appraisals, inspections and showing the property. When people are like, “How are you doing all this?” The reality is I’ve got a fantastic partner.
The academy was birthed out of realtors asking me for it. I share a lot on social media, Facebook and on stories. I talk to a lot of realtors. My passion, if I didn’t have a child at eighteen, was I was going to be a teacher. There’s no doubt about it. From five years old on, my favorite store was the teacher supply store. I have a passion for teaching and educating so I started teaching and educating clients. That’s how I found the passion.
Now it’s transferred over to mentoring and training the real estate industry because I see many realtors that were like me. They are running with their hair on fire, and have no direction in their business. They are constantly starting their business over and over again every year because they are chasing internet leads or open house leads. They sign calls and a bunch of cold passive stuff when they can be actively working with people that already know them and like them, and applying a system to get them to trust you.
I’m a firm believer that know, like and trust does not happen. Trust happens because someone knows you and likes you. If they know you and like you, and you give them a reason to trust you, they are more likely to trust you. The academy that I have been asked to build for a very long time is everything from A to Z. It’s 12 to 13 modules with 4 or 5 lessons in each one of them. It’s all the PDFs and downloads of everything I had done in my career from beginning to end. I’m excited about it because I’ve got so many people that are excited about it. It’s time because there’s only so much of me to go around. Let’s create a way for realtors to learn the systems that I’ve learned and make them their own.
I learned them too, but I made them my own. Make them your own, but learn the foundational principles of what I’ve done, and learn what I know I wouldn’t do over again. Most importantly, the academy is taught from a 2022 perspective of what’s going on now. You got to be on social media and you need to learn how to do it relationally because there are wrong and right ways to do it. It’s all of that stuff combined into one giant academy.
Have you hired an ex-teacher yet as an agent?
None of my agents is an ex-teacher but there’s a girlfriend’s group of six of us. Five of them are teachers and one of them is not.
The number two position is teachers. The number one that turns into a realtor is hospitality, bartenders and servers. They know exactly how to build relationships.
I have lots of those on my team and a lot of ones that are moms. Their job was being a mom who wanted something to do while their kids were in school.
You embrace the association level whether it’s local, state or national. You have volunteered quite a bit. Your time is your most precious thing, but here you are doing this as well. I’m sure it has helped you build relationships. What else has it done for you?
This is what has helped me down. I would put myself as one of the most educated brokers in the Long Beach area as far as my agents. There are no MLS, new rule, policy and contract that blindsides them because I already have extreme knowledge about it before it comes. Different things are going on legislatively and politically. I’m able to get my agents on the front lines of all of that and they appreciate that so much.
Secondary to that is being involved in organized real estate especially local and national. Being involved in California, I got attracted to this little event called WomanUP that CAR has trademarked and promoted all over the United States through national events. I went to my first WomanUP event in early 2017 and that is what propelled me to open my brokerage finally. I already have the thought in my head, but going to this event, I heard female broker after female broker talks about their success, what held them back, why they waited so long and wished they didn’t.
Two female brokers pulled me aside in the hallway. I met them the night before and we’re dear friends now. They were like, “What are you waiting for?” I was like, “I’m not going to make as much money because I’m going to have all this overhead.” Kendyl Young was like, “Stop it. You are making excuse after excuse.” We had a great conversation.
I got in the car that day and said to my all-female team at the time, besides my poor husband, “If Harold and I were to open our own brokerage, would you come with us?” At that time, I only had two female agents and a female assistant with me. The agents both said, “When can we leave?” California realtors, CAR, and everything that I’ve learned from organized real estate are what have propelled me into opening my own brokerage. The last thing I’ll say about being involved in organized real estate is your clients notice.
The RECollective: Become as involved or not as involved as you want to be in your local committee.
My clients think I run the real estate world. I tell them I don’t and I correct them, but that’s how they look at going to DC and Sacramento. My clients who are involved in lobbying for their own industry think it’s freaking cool that we’re in DC talking about protecting the capital gains exclusion. They all think that’s cool. It also makes you feel good as a person giving back to your industry. This industry has given so much to us. If we don’t do it, no one is going to do it.
I always tell agents, “You don’t have to go crazy like me.” They look at me and they’re like, “I never want to do what you’re doing. You’ve gone too much. I don’t want to do all that.” I get it. Volunteer on the local committee at your local association and start there. You can be as involved or not as involved as you want to be, but I promise it will give you something back in return.
You’ve mentioned Kendyl Young. I’ve had her on the show. She could be a little direct and fiery. One person I’ve talked to said, “In March of 2020, I knew it was going to explode that summer.” Now that we’ve come out of it, how are you feeling about it? We think interest rates are going to go up a little bit. Everything is “We think.” Do you think there’s going to be this continued growth, maybe not at such a great rate? Is there going to be a correction?
I think there’s going to be correction and appreciation. This 25% to 30% appreciation is not normal. That has to be corrected. We can’t financially sustain that. That will break eventually. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a homeowner. I would love my value to continue to go up 30% a year, but it’s not the reality. We have to remember that the average across the last few years is somewhere in the 8% to 9% range. This 2022, NAR is projecting 5%. I do think that will happen. We will nudge up and you’re going to think, “It’s a terrible market because my home only went from $1 million. It only went up 5%. It didn’t go up 30%.” I do see that happening. Rates are going to go up. They have to.
I don’t think the Feds are lying when they come out and say, “We’re going to raise them.” We all know the Fed rate does not directly control the mortgage interest rate. Let’s face it. Mortgage rates are already going up. I personally think we’ll be at 4% by the end of 2022. This is what I don’t think will happen. I do not think there’s a crash coming. Every realtor who didn’t sell in ’06 and didn’t know what happened in ’03, ’04 and ’05, which is when I learned real estate, I didn’t think there was anything wrong with an appraiser not even coming to the property. Back in the day, mortgage officers would meet you at the appraisal with a bottle of Dom Pérignon for the appraiser. That stuff did happen.
I didn’t know there was anything wrong with that. I was a baby in the business. None of that is happening anymore. There are so many guidelines in place. I don’t believe a crash is coming. What I do believe is the problem that won’t be fixed, which is why we’re going to be in this continued pressured environment, is that we have no inventory unless someone builds three million homes tomorrow. In my area, there’s nowhere to build. Unless you want to move far East, the prices don’t change very much. We’re going to be in a continued crazy pressured environment. My hope is that it softens a little bit to allow buyers and realtors to breathe a little bit because we have no time to breathe now. It’s not helpful.
I feel so bad for buyers and agents in this environment especially people who love to help buyers and the story after story of we are on the 32nd home.
Most people that read this are real estate agents. I’m worried about realtors and the mental health of our realtors. A lot of good realtors are getting ready to leave because they are frustrated especially if you don’t know what the other side of this looks like. If you just entered real estate let’s call it in 2018, you know nothing else than this. You’re tired and exhausted and there’s no hope for you. I came into real estate in 2003, so I know that there’s something else that was different than this. I know we’ll get back to it or something different.
My message to realtors is if you’re reading and you’re stressed out and exhausted, you need to get help. You need to partner with some other good agents that you can balance your schedule. You need to get good at buyer consultations and being direct with your buyers to set expectations. You need to drive the buyer around. Meaning, you need to control it and not them.
I had one of my agents say to me, “Is it okay that I tell the buyer I’m not going to show them the $700,000 house when they only qualify for $715,000 max?” I said, “It is.” The $700,000 house is not overpriced. It is okay to take control of the situation because otherwise, you will lose your sanity in this market. More importantly, the buyers are going to think you know what you’re doing.
You’re there as a fiduciary guide. You have to help them.
Agents forget that we do have a fiduciary duty to be honest with them and not to string them along. My fear in the market now is not the market. It’s the agents who are serving the market are exhausted.
Barb, this has been so much fun. I can’t wait for this answer. I’m going to ask you the same final question I’ve asked every guest. You know Jay Thompson. His answer was pretty simple. It was, “Pick up the phone.” That’s all he said. What one piece of advice would you give a new agent?
Everything in real estate is about relationships. From clients to your affiliates and your family, everything is about relationships at the end of the day.
If somebody wants to reach out to you, I imagine there’s a website or two.
It’s RelatelyMarketing.com. I have my own speaker website, Barbbetts.com. We have The RECollective real estate website and then on social media, Instagram and Facebook. That’s the best place to find me. I answer all my DMs. I often share on those platforms. That’s where I love to have conversations with other agents.
This has been fantastic. I will recommend you to anybody looking for that stuff. Thank you so much for your time.
- The RECollective
- Relately Marketing
- Keller Williams
- Kendyl Young – Previous Episode
- Jay Thompson – Previous Episode
- Instagram – Barbara Betts
- Facebook – Barbara Betts
About Barbara Betts
Barbara Betts, has been a licensed REALTOR® since 2003. Together with her husband they own The Betts Realty Group, a boutique brokerage located in Long Beach, California. As a Broker/Owner she has a clear focus on building a brokerage for the future, with innovative ideas, creative thinking and a family like culture.
For her entire career, she has had a philosophy of “Real Estate by Relationship” where she has consistently built a business that has resulted in a steady stream of repeat and referral business. Recognized as a top producer, her true joy is in helping her clients reach their real estate goals, whether buying, selling, or investing.
She has a passion for her industry and gives back by teaching and coaching other REALTORS® and is highly involved at the local, state and national levels. In her spare time, you can find her at a dance event with her daughter or supporting her son in his professional baseball career