What’s up everyone and welcome to another episode of Become A Local Leader! In today’s episode, we have Joe McIntosh, US Navy Veteran, and Realtor with Sentry Residential in San Diego, California.

Joe McIntosh focuses 100% of his business on Veterans and those on active duty, educating them on how to leverage their VA loans for homeownership and building wealth. He also focuses on relationship building and ensuring that his clients make sound financial decisions. He went to Camden Military Academy and began serving the Navy in 2004. 

67 Strategies to Get More Referrals

Meet Joe McIntosh – Our Featured Local Leader

Were you born and raised in San Diego or did you move to San Diego later on in life? What does that look like? 

I was born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina, and joined the Navy at 18, right out of high school and came out to San Diego. I was here from 2004 to 2010. Then I got orders up to Fallon, which is in Nevada, and then came back here and was here from 2013 to now. 

Why stay in San Diego? What do you love about it?

It’s an awesome place to live. My community is here. My veteran community is here. That’s why I’m here. My goal is to serve them, to do it at a high level, and help them understand and educate them that, hey, through real estate, you really can change your financial outlook for your life. 

The VA loan, I think is one of the single greatest things the government did for us. The GI Bill is really cool. It’s going to allow you to go get another job and have a higher income throughout your life. But maybe it doesn’t. But with the VA loan, if you work with someone who really knows it and understands it and has you, the client, number one and the financial piece of it, then you can really change someone’s life by helping them buy one, maybe just one house. You can totally change that kaleidoscope of what they thought was possible and double or triple whatever retirement they thought they were going to get because they made a sound investment. 

Would you say that that’s really picking up with a lot of them? Or you’re still breaking into this field and educating? Is it something that you find is really catching on and people really see the value in it? Or is it something that is a bit newer and you’re getting some clients but it’s something that you still see a lot of opportunity in? 

There’s a ton of opportunity. Absolutely. Some clients come in and they don’t know. It can almost be “A monkey see. A monkey does” type of situation. They’re in the shop and they look across the guy in the shop room. We all know how much money we make. You can Google it. We all know what everybody makes, especially within the shops. His pay grade, we all know what it is. So, it’s like, “wait a minute, he bought a house. I can buy a house. Maybe I should buy a house.” And then, it’s just like that.

But buying a house isn’t always right for everyone just because you have the VA loan or just because you’re in San Diego. You’ve got to get everything to line up because the biggest thing with our active duty guys is hey, where are you in your order window? And I was going through this process to help you spend a lot of money on a home. In a year, not be here. And now you’re not going to have the rent cover your mortgage. So, does it work for everyone in San Diego? No, because you’ve got to line up your timing. That’s probably one of the most important things. 

What’s your current volume? 

My current volume is three million. I just went back for six months, since we kind of work from December to December. From December to today is $3,645,000. That’s in seven units. So, not bad. I’ve got two under contract. We’ve got some listings that have just come in and some more guys shopping with record-low rates. It’s kind of pushed a lot of people off the fence because they’re kind of seeing that you can borrow money really cheap. 

And then, you get the chance to educate them. You show them how much house they could buy and what that payment is versus what that payment would be if in two years. Now, I don’t have a crystal ball. We don’t know where rates are going but you just show them the 1% increase, and what it does to their purchase price. Once they see it, they’re like “Oh, wow. That’s really increased.” And as everybody knows, Coronavirus has been crazy.

I just kind of count my blessings every day because there are people that have no idea how they’re going to pay their mortgage. Life has literally been blowing up. Real estate mortgages are going nuts because money is so cheap. 

Can give us a little bit of information as well about your median home price? 

My median home price is probably about $390,000. Between 390 and 450. A ton of my clients are enlisted. Most of them are kind of one income. San Diego was still really expensive. The median home price in San Diego, as we know was $585,000. A ton of my clients are first-time homebuyers. Buying townhomes and condos as they kind of fill out this real estate market. They’re getting into it for the first time because it is a huge step to go from renting to owning. Many of them are the first people in their families that are going to own a home.

So, it’s fun. It’s really awesome to be able to walk them through that process and show them the numbers because real estate in San Diego is going to appreciate. 

Would you say your production has changed over time? 

It’s definitely gone up. This is a kind of a hard business to just jump into. I got on in ’17 and I started in mortgage. My wife’s been in mortgage for 20 years. I had a lot of help, to say the least. And then, I was fortunate to have really good mentors. Video has been key. “Where does your business come from? How do you do it?” The same questions I was asked in 2017 staring at my mentors and they’re still closing 10-15 deals a month. And I’m like, “I’m happy to do one to two.” But it’s video and consistency. I think you kind of learn that success is really a lot of really small boring things done over and over and over and over again. It’s just consistent. 

If people are thinking, “I want to get into this. I want to do it.” Don’t chase the 10,000 shiny objects. There are 4000 things that are being sold to real estate agents or salespeople every day that are going to be the next great thing and you’re going to do it and go make all this money. No, you’re really not. Do the small things. Make your calls, send your emails, follow up, take care of people, build your relationships and manage that. It’s 2020. Build your relationships and they’ll pay you. Take care of people and do the small things. Pick what works for you. For some people, it’s video, for others, it might just be all online. Another group it might be cold calls. Then there are some, where it’s going to be a combination of them.

Do what works for you and makes you the most comfortable and gives you most value. 

For me, it’s been videos. I’ve been fortunate to work with an incredible guy named Mike Cuevas the Real Estate Marketing Dude, I’m giving him a little plug there. He’s awesome and really helped me with my video. My videos are creating engagement. Engagement creates conversations. Conversations create trust and trust creates clients. So, I mean, that’s kind of how that works. This is a game of trust and a game of conversations. The more conversations you have, the more opportunity you have to win. 

In terms of your videos, what kind of content do you put out? What do you focus on in your videos? 

My videos are a little mix of both. I just finished a whole Buyer Series which was a lot of fun. The goal of the videos is to give you information but to also allow you to get to know me because people want to work with people they know, like, and trust. So, video is an awesome way to have your audience to get to know you without you having to make 4000 phone calls.

The Buyer Series was to give everybody some information in bite-sized pieces that are consumable and fun. I want my videos to be fun. If someone’s trying to find a pinstripe real estate agent that’s going to go downtown and be stiff, I’m probably not your guy. I’m loose, kind of relaxed, but still professional. I want to have fun and be real. That’s what the videos allow me to do. It allows me to put out very professional information in a light manner. And then, the other videos are a way for me to highlight local businesses.

I try really hard to stay within the veteran community. Whether it’s a gym owner or my other guy, he owns a janitorial supply shop. His store has been really big since coronavirus happened because he had toilet paper, hand sanitizer, gloves, masks and things like that. So, something so mild and something so small as that that before you’re like, “Oh, a janitorial supply. Cool.” now was like, “Dude, you’re number one. You’re the most important guy on the block right now.” 

So, that’s my series of San Diego salute. And so, my Buyer Series has just come out and it’s been really good. I’ve actually gotten more engagement on the Buyer Series, which is professional real estate knowledge done in a fun way than I did on any of my other videos that were just fun.

I have given my audience these bite-sized pieces of how do you buy a home. What steps do you take? What do you do first? What’s this process look like? It’s just interesting to see when traditionally, your real estate content is going to get your least engagement, because people are like, “Oh, this is boring. Blah, blah, blah.” To where when I put it out, people are like, “Oh, this is awesome. Give me more.” So I continue to create more content around that.

How has COVID-19 affected your business? 

Man, it’s been kind of crazy. The first two weeks it was kind of like, the sky is falling. Nothing. The whole world was kind of paused. “What was happening? What’s going on? Can we work? Can we not work? What’s going on?”

And after people kind of adjusted, we kind of stamped down. Everybody took a deep breath and was like, “Okay. They’re going to let real estate agents in San Diego work. So let’s go to work. How do we do this? You got your mask. You get your gloves.”

At my first home showing, I joked with my clients, “Someone’s going to call the cops! There are three dudes out here all in masks, gloves, sunglasses, crowded outside a house.” We’re having six-foot conversations in the street. We’re all under like, “Only when the cops show up.” My phone’s going to call the cops because a bunch of masked men just went into a house. But they didn’t, thank goodness!

It was the nuances. There’s another form of paperwork we have to do. I’d say a lot of agents would agree that kind of the most grinding kind of part of his business sometimes can be setting up showing because you’re getting three to four people’s schedules to line up. I need my schedule to line up with my buyers so we can get on the same page. But then I also need sellers’ schedules to line up also. There’s a PEAD form that everybody has to sign and fill out. So, that’s been kind of a pain in the butt.

I would say most agents who are doing a lot of showings, they will at times tell you, “Oh my God, PEAD form…..” Because before we used to be able to kind of move on the fly. If you’re out showing homes and your clients pull up the phone and the app and “Oh, hey. What about that one? That one. Yeah.” You’re like, “Sweet. Hey, let’s see if I can work my magic and get us in.” With PEAD form and Coronavirus, you really can’t. So, not being able to kind of move on the fly.

So, for me, that’s been the biggest thing. Also, I’m really big on meeting my clients. I want to meet everybody face to face, have a cup of coffee or a beer, whatever you want. Just to get to know them. Because the better I know somebody, the better I can help them. And then, I’ve got my whole interview list to go through. And now this kind of all turned into a phone call or a Zoom meeting. So, sometimes the first time I’m really meeting clients face to face is at the property. So, that has changed. It’s made the phone call a little longer because you’ve only got so long to build that relationship. You only get one chance at that first impression. 

Even though you came referred by a friend or came referred by someone, that kind of gets your foot in the door. But you’re still meeting them for the first time at the property. Everybody kind of shows up, and has that “I think that’s them.” moment. You’re going to talk to them and do whatever you can on social media to get a better insight as to who you’re going to meet. It’s important because all you’ve been able to do is have a phone call and kind of go through your list. These processes have made that process interesting, same with listings.

Before you list a home, you definitely want to see it. You can see the old listing photos but sometimes people don’t tell you the whole truth about their house. And sometimes we’re always our own worst critics on our own home that will be like, “My home is destroyed. I’ve got so much work to do in the bathroom. The sky is falling.” And you get there and you’re like, “No, man, you’re good. Just clean the counters, put away the dirty shoes and you’re good. We’re ready to rock. You’ve done an awesome job with your home.” So, it’s made doing that process harder. Zoom Meetings are a tool that I use a lot. I’ve had clients take me around the home that way Because we were such a face to face and belly to belly business, everything has changed. Now, we’re screen to screen. 

With listing interviews, people are trusting you with the largest asset they ever had. And hopefully, you get to meet them fully but there are always times where you might not.

Do you have any tips for realtors on how to maximize our current situation? 

Lots of questions and conversation. You can’t learn about them if you don’t ask them about them. You can Facebook profile someone and kind of read through and see what they post and have a small idea of who they are and what they’re about. But just ask the questions and always respect their health and how they want to play this. But with listings, let them kind of know and understand you might have to be flexible, and just prep your clients upfront to be flexible. 

A lot of people are in uncharted territory. You might have individuals who are like, “Man, I want to sell my home.” But maybe they are in the at-risk category. So, imagine how scary it is for someone who’s in the at-risk category, they don’t know who we are. The sellers have no idea who I am or who they are coming through their homes. I get it that wearing all the personal protective equipment gets to be a pain in the butt, but just take a step back and be a human being again. Be compassionate and understand that the individual selling his home might be 75. Or they might have a breathing problem and they’re really scared about individuals coming to their home. So, compassion, understanding, communication and a little bit of giving goes a long way. 

How would you say you create new relationships right now? 

Right now, video. Go meet your clients where they are. You hear some bigger guys do things on a large level, you’ll hear the term go upstream or go to your clients before they’re your clients. You’ll know. You’ll start hearing those buzzwords and just figure out where your clients are. And then, figure out what medium is best for you to reach them. 

If it’s Facebook, go to Facebook. If it’s Instagram, go to Instagram. I’ll tell you I’m horrible at Instagram. I’ve got a page. I think I post stuff on there every now and again. I barely know how to like and post on Instagram. It’s not my jam. But for me, Facebook works so it’s where I spend my time. It’s where my clients are. 

Post stuff about your life because they don’t want to just see, “I sold a house. I sold a house. I sold a house.” They don’t care. If you can turn that process into a story, then they care a little bit more than just sold, sold, sold, sold. That’s really why I never want to be sold, sold, sold. I want it to be help, help, help. Because who wants to be sold? No one. 

What percentage of your new clients is relationships versus referrals versus advertising? 

I’d say just about all are from referrals, almost 100% referral. I am 100% referral based. To stay in front of my database, I create a lot of content. My database can see my videos on Facebook or they’ve seen people they know with their pictures of me who have bought a home. 

Getting out of the Navy or getting out of the service in general and then going to be successful and doing something else sometimes is real taboo. And so, when you’re doing things like that you never know who’s watching. You never know who is paying attention and seeing you and thinking, “Man I want to buy a home. That’s who I want to use.” You just never know what that reaches. So, it’s been all referral but it’s also been relationships and treat your clients right when you have them. If you always do the right things by your client, you never have to question or guess or say, “Oh, shoot. I don’t know.” Slowly that’ll come across. 

At the end of the day I can’t say, “Well, he referred me because he saw my video”. I can’t say he referred me because I helped James buy a home or he referred me because I used to work with them. It could be all three. With video and social, it’s really hard to identify an exact ROI. Like, I paid for X amount of videos and this is the business that came from it. You won’t be able to put your finger on it like that but I can tell you it works. It comes.

It flows as you build your brand, as you build out your series, as people understand, “Hey, Joe’s going to take care of you. Joe puts out information. Joe’s going to take care of you first.” Because when you kind of tell somebody, “Hey, maybe now’s not the right time for you to buy a house.” They’re like, “What do you mean?” I’m like, “Well, where are you in your order window? How long are you going to be in your home? What are your goals? Tell me what do you need in a home? What do you want? How much longer you’re going to be in the Navy?” I’m not going to help you go make a bad financial decision. You can find someone else for that.

How many referrals would you say you receive per month, per week? 

I’m not doing crazy business and I’m not going to set any records. But I’m probably between five and 15 per month. It all comes down to the work I put in. Did I take responsibility for myself and make my calls? Did I make my posts and did I send my emails? Or did I do my follow ups and all the little small things were supposed to do? You do all the little small things you’re supposed to do, you’re going to have good results. 

Would you say that you also receive referrals from business owners in the community or is it mainly people who watch the content, people who are friends of friends who were clients of yours? 

I’ve received one referral from a business owner relationship that we’ve both kind of poured into and that’s been really awesome. But the rest of it is all people that I was in the Navy with, people that I helped buy a home. It’s been my veteran community. My mentor told me when I got started, the veteran community, that’s your swim lane, get in it and go. I just kicked really hard within it. 

Are you involved in any community marketing initiatives? 

I’m not but I am a member of the East County Chamber. I just finished up their leadership class. We have to do a class project and we’re called to build a future vision product. The class was a year long. We went around prominent areas of East County and we met prominent business owners in the area. There was also a “justice day” where we went down and talked to the DA and saw the courts and went out to Las Colinas that we had a “medical day”. Exploring every service or element that encompasses our community from the time you’re born to the time you die, basically. 

Then we went to do a future vision project. Our future vision project was “how do we help San Diego foster youth?” We found out we’re putting more of these kids in jail than we are to college. We were set up to do a almost like career day, for the foster youth in San Diego and had a lot of buy in from the county. 

And then COVID kind of threw us a curveball. We ended up having to almost just do it via Zoom. When Covid is over, I think we’re going to rehash and kind of figure out. “Hey, how do we actually get this out?” Because our goal was to let them know, “Hey, you’re loved. You’re cared about. We need you. How do we help you get from A to B because we get it, you don’t have that family nucleus anymore?”

I always knew growing up, I had a wonderful mother and father. And you kind of know, man, if something’s not right, I know my mom’s going to give me a hug. These kids don’t have that so imagine how much harder that is in life to go through to have your setbacks because life’s not fair, you’re going to get punched in the face every now and again. How do you respond to that? 

So, it’s kind of letting them know, “Hey, there’s a big community of people here that will help you with housing, with food, kind of your basic human necessities. How do we keep a roof over your head? How do we keep food in your belly?” There’s a ton of people. The community is set up for that, but if you don’t know, you don’t know. So, we tried really hard to kind of bring that awareness and COVID kind of said, “you’ve gotta change those plans”. You need to do it in Zooms. That was the biggest community event that I was really involved in as far that goes. 

Would you say that there’s any community marketing initiatives that you’ve seen other realtors involved in that you would like to try out or you’re curious about? 

Covid changed a lot of your super community-oriented stuff because the business is you wanted to go in and highlight are now closed. I was set up to go interview some veteran guys that did tattoo shops. I was set up to go interview some guys that were veteran gun stores. COVID was kind of like, “Figure it out.” So, for that in-depth macro community guy who’s going to be there, kind of work more demographic versus an exact geographic, it changed a lot of that. 

And with that, I ended up just pivoting. I pivoted from going all into that to real estate content. And it works because people consumed my real estate content. I didn’t think they would, I thought it’s going to get a few likes and a couple of shares. But it went crazy! The other thing was my video content. You never know what video was going to be like. I’ve got one getting ready to come that I had a lot of fun with. And sometimes you think the ones are like, “Oh, man, I was horrible. I messed up.” And then, that’ll be the one that takes off. 

Can you share with us a little bit about your goals moving forward? 

My goals are to help as many people as possible. Just keep grinding. The people I know ask me “Hey, what are you doing? We’re just continuing to figure out COVID? How do we continue to grow? How do we continue to get better? Do we do more video? Do you make more phone calls?”

I enjoy going to marketing events. A lot of people come up to me and they are like, “I need to do this for my business. I have to go shake your hand.” Then they collect business cards, have a glass of water and leave. I really enjoy going as I like to meet people. My goal is to continue to grow that circle while staying within the compounds of COVID procedures and processes. 

In terms of determining your marketing budget, what do you spend? 

It’s right at 300 bucks a month. So not a lot. 

For that 300 a month, do you spend any of that money on buying leads for Zillow?

No. My marketing budget there is the cost of the video and a little bit of boost ad. That’s it. 

Do you use homes.com or realtor.com

No, because the leads roll all over the place. I’ve got a little bit going on up city but just the quality versus time of tracking all of that down, versus the money you’re going to pay to somebody else is like, “Here I am chasing this and I probably stepped over this.” So, I realized my time was just better utilized if I stay in my swim lane, stay organic, and do my thing. 

So then, that goes the same for social media ads for you? 

Correct, I don’t do a ton of ads. I don’t buy any leads. My ad spend is basically the cost of getting my videos done and to put a little bit of boost behind them. 

So, no retargeting as well? 

Not quote – they’re definitely retargeted and that’s part of the package I have through my marketing tools. 

What about things like bus benches, grocery carts, or any display advertising? Do you do any of those? 

No, because that’s really a big picture. You’re not going to put my picture on one bench in one area and someone’s going to drive by and be like, “Oh, well, I’m going to buy a house from him.” That’s part of a bigger picture and a bigger margin marketing plan, which is what a lot of people forget, especially in this business, or any other business. 

If you’re going to put your face on a bus stop, then also make sure your picture is at the grocery store. And then also make sure you’re doing lots of open houses in the area. And then also make sure you’re mailing to that area. Without these things, keep your money. Go out and buy a nice dinner. You’re going to get more enjoyment out of it. Because just putting your picture in one place in one area, the odds of anybody ever calling you on it are zero, because they don’t know you.

This is 2020. They’re not going to call you. They might Google you. They’re going to Facebook you. They might YouTube you, but they’re not going to see your picture on the bench ad as they’re waiting on the bus and be like, “Hey, I just saw your picture on the bus stop. And I want to know if you can help me buy a home?” No. The bench ad is just another way to stay top of mind in the area you want to focus on. 

How about direct mailers? Do you do those? 

I do direct mailers to my database but I don’t do any cold direct mail. 

What about writing blogs? 

I have a blog that goes with each video I do. But I don’t have a constant blog that I do weekly. It’s just I do a video. I have a blog that goes with the video because some people want to consume content and print. And some people want to consume it in the video and some people do kind of a mix of both. So, that would be what my blogging is. 

What about an email newsletter? If not, would you?

I haven’t done an email newsletter. Depending on cost it could be something that I do. Cost to value versus what I already have going up. 

What about virtual open houses or open houses?

I’ve done some of those. The MLS has a nice little system that does. I haven’t perfected the lead capture on that piece. One of my mentors has it going really well. I have some that I need to dive into for myself but I’m not 100% on the virtual open. The goal of the open house is to get contact information. So, I haven’t really perfected that piece of it. 

COVID aside, how do you work your database? Do you pop by or write personal notes, to clients or prospects? 

All of the above. I do some letter writing, make my phone calls and send my emails. I connect with people and ask when could go have lunch, I like to go have lunch with prospects and past clients. When you could pop out and have a beverage. The majority of my database I know really well so I know what’s going to respond. “Hey, let’s go grab some lunch or let’s grab a beer.” Or I might send them just a postcard because I know them and I’ve got a good idea what’s going to be received well. 

How often would you say you email, dm, or text clients? 

Through the transaction, I’m going to talk to them a couple of times a week. If nothing has changed, then at a minimum, they’re going to hear from me once that week to just say, “Hey, this is where we are. This is where we are in the process. We’ve got over these hurdles. Once we get through X.” It could be “Hey, we’re twiddling thumbs, pack your bags, we’re going to move.” Through the escrow process, you’re going to at a minimum hear from me once a week. And then, for the first 90 days, you’ll probably hear from me about every three weeks or so. “Hey, what’s gone on the house? Everything still work?.”

Because once you close, you’re going to get a ton of junk mail. Some of it is going to look really official and 99% of it is junk. So, just call them to make sure, “Hey, don’t sign up for the $90 thing to go get your deed. I can go get your deed for you.” You don’t need to pay somebody extra for this. If you want ADT, call them. They’re going to knock on your door, they’re going to be in your phone, they’re going to be on this. So, I just kind of call them and check. “Hey, do you need anything? Does everything still work? Did anything crazy come up? Are you confused about something? Have you gotten your coupon packet to make sure you can make your first mortgage on time?”

Just check, touching base to make sure the home they fell in love with, the home they bought and moved into, is the home is still right for them.

What about when it comes to things like prospecting, FSBO, expires, or REOs? Do you do any of those? 

I did not. I got into it in the beginning. To do that you really need systems and structures and a really beefy CRM and probably a reasonable ad spend behind it. I can go learn all that. I had a background in making a ton of cold calls and it’ll really burn you out. Or I can take that time and pour it into people that already know me.

You pour into the people who already know and like you, who already trust you, you’ll probably double whatever your efforts were to go create a brand-new cold relationship with someone that didn’t want to talk to you in the first place. So, if you stay in your warm market, but the same ad spends or the same money or the same effort, they’re going to get a lot better response. 

What would you say to any realtor out there who wants to be recognized as the local market expert or just the go-to realtor in their community? What advice do you have for them? 

Get on video. Follow Gary V. Call Mike Cuevas.

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