What’s up everyone and welcome to another episode of Become A Local Leader. Today we have the pleasure of sitting down with Luisa Ayala, co-founder of the Altmann-Ayala Realty Team powered by Big Block Realty.
Meet Our Featured Local Leader – Luisa Ayala
Luisa Ayala is currently serving as the 2020 NAHREP San Diego Chapter President. She’s the 2019 VP of Membership and the director and partner for the Altman-Ayala Realty Team powered by Big Block Realty.
Luisa is a military spouse and mother of two. She’s bilingual, attentive, passionate, friendly, family-oriented, and very well known for her organization and attention to detail. Originally born in Guadalajara, Mexico, she came to the US as a teenager and graduated from La Jolla High School, making her completely fluent in both English and Spanish.
At the age of 23, she gained a lot of her experience working as a real estate assistant and purchasing her first home. Through these experiences, she realized the importance of having a dedicated trustworthy agent and the significance of investing in your own financial future. After developing her team, she realized that the next step in her career was to spend time volunteering for different organizations and find various ways to give back to the community.
How are you involved in the community?
I am a part of the NAHREP San Diego Chapter. NAHREP is the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals. There are over a hundred chapters all over the country. I get to represent San Diego, which is an honor to me because I represent both the area and the Hispanic community. We do so much within the community, often in person events, which is a little bit tricky this year. It’s a little bit different but by doing that, we educate others in the industry. We serve as a platform to connect anybody in the real estate industry such as realtors, escrow, title officers, lenders, you name it, to anyone that would benefit from their services.
In addition to that, we educate them on anything that’s currently happening, all the changes within the community. Besides that, my favorite part of it is volunteering. We just recently did like a beach cleanup with Wildcoast, which is an awesome organization that’s based here in San Diego. That was very successful. It was just really nice to be out there helping cleaning the beaches, and just anything that we can do to help.
Also, we just recently did a food drive here in Chula Vista. We try to find ways that we can do that, especially with everything happening right now. But also, take the precautions that we need to take to be able to do so. Overall we do a little bit of everything as community service is huge for us.
What made you want to stay in San Diego?
My mom has lived here for many, many years. My grandmother actually raised me in Mexico until I was about 15. I moved here in my teenage years and it was really hard for a while as I grew up with my friends, family members, and my culture. Then moving here came with a huge culture shock at such a young age. But at the same time, it was nice because mom was here and I was able to be close to her. So, that’s pretty much what brought me here to the States. Like anyone else, you know, trying to achieve the American dream was a big part of it. And I’m just following my mother’s footsteps because that’s where she started. So, I’m just here to try to imitate that or anything that I can do as close as she did.
What is your superpower as an agent?
I would say maybe patience. I never realized how much you need it until now, especially this year. There are so many changes, back and forth, and the unknown that comes with it. So, I think having patience has helped me to get through this year. But I wouldn’t be able to do it without my support network. I mean, the whole board and committee within the San Diego chapter and other chapters too because it is like a big family. We all communicate with each other. We usually have conferences where all the chapters within the country get together, which is huge. Without them, I wouldn’t be able to be here. I mean, they’ve been so supportive and everybody’s passion drives me to continue to do better.
What got you interested in real estate in the first place?
A close friend of mine, Michelle Dykstra, she’s a successful agent here in La Jolla. She was the one that motivated me to get my license. I never thought about it. It was never on my radar. She pretty much said, “Hey, if you get your license, you can help me. You can work for me.” And I’m like, “Okay, why not?” I mean, it was just one of those things that came to me. It’s a challenge and I like challenging myself. So, I ended up just getting it. She was kind enough to give me that opportunity to work for her. That was huge you’re now being trusted with a top agent’s business and can learn from them. I ended up working for her and eventually with other top agents in the area for about two years before we started our own team.
I always recommend that to anybody that’s thinking about getting their real estate license or doing anything like that. Definitely find a mentor, somebody that’s willing to give you that time to kind of guide you through the process. And if they need extra help and you need the income, because I mean, there are only a few of them that start making money right away. It takes years. So, definitely find somebody that you can connect with and they’re willing to help you and just kind of guide you through the process because when you get your license, it’s like, okay, so now what do I do?
There are ads on TV that are very unrealistic. They make it seem like I’m just going to make money right away. It’s not that way for most agents but you can do it. Absolutely. That’s the beauty of it. The more you work, the more you can be successful. It’s pretty much up to you. But I would recommend finding someone. That was huge to me, and she still is a huge part of my life. She’s still a close friend of mine and I’m forever grateful for her.
How would you recommend finding somebody? What would you say to look for in a potential mentor?
We have the internet. I think that’s the easiest way to find somebody that’s successful within your city. If you want to narrow it down to like a neighborhood or something, you can always look it up online and find who’s killing it. Reach out to them. Text them. Call them. We’re always near our phones. There is no doubt that they will see it. But bring value, ask them for coffee. Or maybe now it’d be a zoom call!
There’s no excuse like traffic or commuting or anything like that. It’s nice that you can just hop on a Zoom call and reach out to them. Ask for 10 minutes of their day and just ask those questions to them and see if there’s anything that I should take into consideration. Are you needing help? Is there anything that I can do? And be willing to do the dirty work. Don’t expect that you’re going to just get in there and then start showing the $3 million home. You’re going to do the dirty work and that’s okay because it’s going to get you to where you want to be.
Can you tell us what your current volume is for yourself and your team?
As of 2019, we closed 13 transactions. It was our third year together. Usually, the first two years are very painful. Up in the red instead of the green. So, 2019 was definitely a very positive year for us. It motivates you to think “Okay, we can do it. Yes, we can.” Those 13 transactions represent a little over $8,300,000 in sales. This year, we’re pretty much on track with our goals. And even though with everything happening, it’s still been pretty consistent, which is great. It’s a blessing for us.
What are your total sides?
We do work with a lot more buyers than sellers. Usually, it’s between 50% to 70% of our clients are buyers but we’re seeing a shift into that right now just because we do have a lot of buyers but we’re also working with listings coming up because there isn’t anything on the market. So, whoever was on the pipeline, thinking of selling eventually, they’re kind of like considering to be within the next few months at the latest. I think it’s going to even out at the end of this year to be maybe 50:50, which is great because that is another milestone for us. But usually, we do about 50% to 70% buyers.
What would you say your median home price is?
San Diego is a pretty interesting one. Since everything happened, we usually keep track of it but now it’s like on a weekly basis because everything is changing so quickly that we don’t know what’s going to happen next week. Within the past, I would say six months, it’s been going little by little. Every time we track it’s about $500 up. And so, we know that it is a seller’s market just because the prices just keep going up. But just today, actually, when I checked the one for the past week, it jumped from, I think it was $634,500 to $656,250. So, that’s a little over $21,000 increase, which is huge. So, as of now, the current median price is $656,250 in San Diego. It’s beautiful out here but it isn’t cheap. The location, the good food, we have great weather.
How would you say COVID has affected your business?
We are considered essential so we’re still doing business as we were before. Technology has been a huge part of it. Most of our new buyer consultations are over Zoom so we definitely had to quickly get familiar with that and just come up with a different presentation that we can do over Zoom together. That was a change.
We are still showing homes because people are still wanting to see the homes that they’re going to buy. They recommended doing virtual showings, which we did in the past but if you’re going to purchase a home, you definitely need to see it. And so, by doing that, we are taking precautions. We’re always wearing our masks, we have gloves, we have booties, everything. We are not allowed to do open houses yet, which in the past were huge for us and where we got a lot of leads. We were doing them every week and now we’re not able to do that. That was a good way to interact and meet new buyers, and kind of help them through the process.
What percentage would you say is new business versus repeat business?
I would say 75% of our business is from new clients. Most of it comes from referrals, past clients, anybody that we’ve worked with, in the past. And then the rest is people that we have worked with previously. But as far as our marketing is concerned, the biggest thing for us is social media. I think it’s one of those things that you have to really leverage that right now. There’s a lot of people that are on social media more than ever. We’ve noticed more people seeing our posts or messaging us with questions. They send you a hint every once in a while. “Oh, I want to buy but I’m not ready yet.” You kind of start guiding them through that.
How many new relationships would you say you build a week, a month?
On a weekly basis, I would probably say about five a month. It could be from a question that they send us. Something which you can tell that they’re interested in it. We’ve been seeing that good turn around as far as that. It comes down to you as the agent, working with them, and answer those questions.
What would you say is the percentage of clients that you get from referrals versus relationships versus advertising?
Huge. Usually, that’s our biggest thing. Probably keep it as 75% referrals and 25% for everything else, social media including mailers. We send out letters. We send out postcards, things like that. Those usually take a little bit longer because usually when somebody opens anything in the mail, they look at it, if they’re not ready, they might just either toss it or put it away and save it for later. But sometimes we get calls. It’s can even be like, “Oh, I got your postcard two years ago.” So, you never know. It’s one of those things that we send them out. We’re like, okay, let’s see what happens. It’s a little harder to track just because it takes a little bit longer. With social media, you pretty much can respond immediately. So yeah, it’s about 75% to 25%.
Do you have any business owners who refer your business right now?
We do, we have some local businesses that do. In particular, local restaurants and lending partners that send us their business, which is huge. Once you can get that trust from them to help them with either their clients or their family members, that’s definitely huge for us. We were doing a lot more before COVID but we’re doing interviews of local places. There is a local gym that my partner and I attend, they saw what we’re doing and they ask us questions. So yeah, we definitely try to support those local businesses. By working with us as well, if there is an organization that they’re passionate about, we’re always willing to donate part of our commission to the organization of their choice. So, it’s pretty much brought up to them and they get to choose who they want to donate to.
Are there any mistakes you and your partner made along the way?
Many! I think one of the biggest mistakes that I can say for myself was investing a lot of money in marketing. There are different companies that offer you leads, you know, let me put your name all over the internet. It sounds really good to be true. Sometimes they work. Sometimes it doesn’t. I think that we did it very early on when we started. We were trying to be aggressive. We were trying to just get on it but I think that was one of the biggest things for me that we invested so much money into it, when now we’re like, “Okay. Now we get it. Now we know how it is.” If we want to invest in more marketing, we can do a lot of things ourselves.
How much would you say you invest into marketing at this point?
At this point on a monthly basis, I would say it’s not really that much. I think it’s about $250 to $500 a month that we invest. That includes keeping up with our website and boosting different posts and just kind of testing it out to see what works and what doesn’t. But if you think about the real estate industry, it isn’t much. I mean, you hear other agents investing thousands of dollars a month, which is great if works for them! But within us, I think that it’s been nice to have a recurring system and staying busy but not too overwhelmed. I think that’s one of the things that we take pride in is we like the quality of the work more than the quantity.
What would you say sets you apart from the competition?
We like to be unique, not your typical realtors. We like to be creative. I think that was one of my favorite parts of it is that I can actually use my creativity. So, every marketing piece that you see we created ourselves. So, I have a lot of creativity as far as like visuals and things like that. Cassandra is an excellent writer. So, between the two of us, there is a really good balance for us to use for marketing.
Another thing is that we keep it real. We try to be as communicative as we can. And sometimes it feels like we’re given so much information, but I think that it is essential to do that from the beginning. As soon as we talk to a potential buyer, “Here is the offer sample so you can start getting familiar with the offer. Just because when we start looking at homes and you find the one, everything moves so quickly. We have to send in an offer so quickly. You have to sign in. Everything is very fast-paced.”
So, from the beginning, that’s something that we share with them. They can ask questions and we can go through every single page from there. A lot of people think that might be too much because we’re sharing so much from the beginning but we’ve seen it within this past couple of years that it works really well. Because when you get to the point, they already know what they’re signing and they already have questions. So, that’s one of the things that we definitely want to give them all that information right there and then and just guide them through the process. We pretty much are holding their hands through every step and giving them that information rather than waiting for them to ask.
Are there any things you’re seeing other realtors doing that you haven’t tried yet that you would like to try?
I’m sure there’s a lot of them. I think eventually what would be nice to have would be a bigger team, but not too big. I think that’s one of the things that we see. There are teams with 10-20 people. We’re always curious about how do they do it. Eventually, I think having an additional person either helping us or being a part of the team is something that we would add.
Are there any other goals in terms of your team that you you’re currently pursuing or even on a personal level?
I think so. As far as personal goals, definitely do more for the community. I mean, it’s never enough for me. I want to be able to find that balance between family and work and community. My goal for moving forward is to find a really good balance when it’s on a weekly basis. As far as our team, just continue to stay on track with our goals. I think we have a pretty good balance right now between the two of us.
In terms of your goals, would you say there’s anything you need to start doing but you haven’t started yet?
Just get my hands dirty. I’ve been doing that a little bit. Nothing that I can think of. I’m sure there are many things but nothing that I can think of right now.
Is there anything you would say you kind of need to nip into the bud to move on to the next level?
As I said, balance is one of those things. I think everybody in the industry can relate to that. So, maybe finding a little bit more time for myself. I think it’s really hard to disconnect. Being on your phone, and then social media, and your emails, and everything – I feel like sometimes I’m on my phone 20 hours a day! It’s one of those things that I’m really working on and I think that because of the current situation, it really opened my eyes up. Let’s slow down a little bit. Everything is going to get taken care of. Calm down on the OCD-ness and just kind of go with it. Take it one day at a time almost. So, I’m trying to disconnect a little bit more from everything else and enjoy the moment.
What about paying somebody else to do your digital marketing job?
We don’t. We’re doing it ourselves. We do have, actually a title rep that is very knowledgeable when it comes to Facebook ads, which is a lot of work. I think that we try to get into like, “Oh my gosh. I don’t even know how this works.” So, she’s very kind enough to help us with understanding it, and just how to boost the posts, and the analytics side of it. She’s been kind enough to do that but pretty much we just do it ourselves for now.
What about advertising on like bus benches, grocery carts, or any other types of display advertising?
We don’t do any of that. The company that we used to be with before actually didn’t allow us to do any of that. So, we kind of got used to that and just left it like that. There is always the curiosity of having a bench and somebody like writing something on it or putting a mustache or something bad!
I think the shopping cart ones are great. Every time I go grocery shopping, I see it with the shopping cart, you’re there for at least 20-30 minutes. And so, I think that’s great exposure. We just really have never done any of that.
What about writing blogs?
We do. We do have a blog on our website. As I said, Cassandra is amazing at writing. We try to do it once a month so we put this together on what’s happening, what can we share at the moment, what things are going to be interesting to our clients, their friends, or anybody in their sphere. So yes, we’re pretty good on that. I try to do the Spanish ones.
Where would they find your blog?
Are you interested in creating video content?
Yes. I think that anything video right now is huge. Not only educating or any information that we can provide but also with properties, I think it’s huge. Now we’re doing virtual tours and things like that. Virtual open houses, that’s the thing now. I’m sure you’ve seen them on Facebook Live. Video is huge right now.
What about email newsletters?
Yes. We have those monthly as well.
In terms of following up with your database pre-COVID, do you pop-by?
Yeah, I think that most of them, after we help them, end up being close friends. So, definitely try to stay on top of them and just keep communicating with them besides them receiving the newsletter and such things like that or seeing our social media posts. But yeah, I think that’s huge.
There are some people that don’t like to be surprised at home. So, you should kind of know which ones are happy with that and which you should just text or call. We do a lot of mailers and handwritten notes so I think that’s one of the things too that they like, just receiving something in the mail.
What about sending gifts, do you like doing those?
I’m super huge on that. A little too much, I think. I had to kind of tone it down a little bit. But yeah, I mean, Christmas is one of the main times to give something, as well as birthdays, or any special occasion. We’ve been able to attend weddings even! It’s very special to be able to build those relationships.
What about client appreciation parties?
What we usually do is we give them the option of wanting to host a housewarming party. We sponsor it and we’re there to meet their family and friends. It’s always exciting because especially you know, they just recently purchased a home. It’s such an exciting time to welcome everyone. So, more than having everyone together in one place, we try to do it with each one of them and their family and their friends.
How often would you say that you DM, text, or call clients or potential clients?
Every day. I mean, that’s one of the things about disconnecting. If somebody comes to mind, I have to do it immediately or take a note or something because then you’ll get sidetracked or forget about it. You have to stay on top of it every single day. I mean, it’s a 24/7 kind of thing. A lot of people don’t realize that, but even trying to go to bed, I’m still thinking about who am I going to follow up with that next day.
What about cold calling?
I’m not really a big fan of cold calling. Cassandra and I both agree on this. We want to work with people that want to work with us. Plus we don’t want “just the deal”, “just the money” or “just to get it done.” We really want to build those relationships. So cold calling is really tough for me. It’s just so much easier to meet in person and talk to them and see them face to face. I’ve heard some agents that are really successful by cold calling. It’s just you have to be really committed to doing it and doing it every single day. Kudos to them that they do it. If they enjoy it, great! But I’ve done it but it’s not my favorite thing to do.
Do you do door knocking?
We do yes. Well, not right now. We’re kind of on hold for that but we do. We usually do door-knocking if we have any listing coming up. We try to go around the neighborhood and just let them know beforehand. Just in case they have any family or friends that want to move closer to them. So, door knocking is huge. We try to select specific areas that we can both do together and we do it in a “one-day” kind of thing. It’s pretty fun. I mean, I enjoy talking to them and listening to them as well. Door knocking is pretty cool actually.
What about prospecting?
Yes, we are definitely doing that. I think right now more than ever because we’re like, “Okay. We have a little bit more time if we’re not doing open houses or showings or things like that.” Then, definitely working on that. I mean, it’s a hit or miss but it’s nice to be able to talk to them. Sometimes people just need to talk to someone, and you never know who that’s going to be. I’ve had incidents like that where we end up talking about real estate.
Are there any advice you have for realtors who want to become known as the local market expert or go-to realtor in their community?
Like I said, get your hands dirty. Serve the community, actually show up. I know a lot of the times they’re really busy. You can either help with the monetary donation too. I mean, there’s so many organizations that are amazing and are doing so much. I think as for me, as a leader, I think it’s important to actually be there and show up and get dirty and do the work and talk to those people and humble yourself and really listen to them. That’s my way of leadership. I know everybody’s different. But I think for me, what gives me my drive is to be able to give back to the community and be there.
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