In South Florida, the real estate market offerings span a wide gamut from luxury waterfront properties, single family residentials, villas, duplexes and deep water berths for yachts to investment properties, intercoastal, low-, mid- and high-rise condos, and 55-plus communities, to name a few.
This is Laurie Finkelstein Reader’s domain. It’s where she’s scaled her business 20% year over year and where her real estate team sells, on average, at least one house every nine hours.
As the daughter of two brokers who sold South Florida for 40 years, you might say Reader was born to sell real estate here. Throughout her own 24-year career, she has sold well over a billion in sales volume and is consistently recognized in the top half of 1% of Realtors in the U.S.
Joined by her son Eric Beane, a top producer; her niece Saria Finkelstein, another top producer; and her daughter Gabrielle Beane, a part-time admin who’s also working on her master’s, Reader has scaled her team from 20 to 60-plus agents plus 35 support staff members over the last seven years. Many of her top agents have been by her side for five to 16 years.
In the beginning, repeat and referral business flourished from the solid customer relationships cultivated by the team. But Reader knew if she wanted to push past a plateau of pure organic leads, she would need to add a third party to the mix.
So seven years ago, the Zillow Advisory Board Member, Flex and Broker-Partner added Zillow to her operation and has watched her bounty prosper. Her transaction count shot up from 200-300 units into 1000-plus closings, and her staff and agents expanded from 22 to 100.
Now as a fresh crop of pandemic-weary homebuyers from Illinois, New York, California and Washington all head to Florida, Reader continues to keep pace with the growth and provide excellent service to the consumer beyond her core repeat and referral business.
“It takes years for a community this large to trust you. Miami is a really big area, but we’re very local. People know who you are and what you’re about, and you have to do what you say you’re going to do and be consistent and always put the consumer first.”
Although this South Florida power team looks much different than it did seven years ago, the philosophy and culture remain the same.
“My philosophy has always been to take care of the human, and the human will take care of you. If a young adult going to college needed a rental property, I was always 100% there to help them. I am always more focused on that long-term relationship because that rental turned into their uncle who needed a $2 million house and grandma who needed a $300,000 condo. So really focusing heavily on those relationships and giving a mind-blowing experience to the consumer has always led to growth,” says Reader.
Thinking locally, Reader has inspired a culture built around community and it imbues everything the team touches. “Early on, my parents were all about serving,” says Reader. “We were the household that brought home strays — animals and people.”
Perhaps it’s only fitting then that it was also Reader who rebranded the open house 10 years ago with a structured, consistent system that the team still trains agents on and incorporates as a key value prop in their listing presentation. Every open house features a buyers agent or a listing agent and a lender on site, and agents door-knock every five houses to the left and to the right to alert the neighbors of the upcoming open house.
“It takes years for a community this large to trust you,” says Reader. “Miami is a really big area, but we’re very local. People know who you are and what you’re about, and you have to do what you say you’re going to do and be consistent and always put the consumer first.”
To this day, Reader still maintains a business division whose sole purpose is to manage past client rapport. Every client who closes with the team receives a phone call from a client experience representative engaging them in a conversation-style survey, which leads to reviews and, in many cases, entry to Reader’s Forever Client Club, an invite-only Facebook group coveted for its prize giveaways, exclusive events and monthly “Ask Laurie” Q&A sessions.
Admittedly, a real estate team is not for everyone, says Reader who’s quick to question the wide-eyed who may be pondering a jump to team lead.
To this, Reader will answer with another question: “Why would someone want to work for you? What is your value proposition? Your value add? And, once there, why would they want to stay?”
“Many see fairy dust and think they will form a team and make lots of money. It’s definitely not like that,” Reader says. “There’s money to be made, but it takes human attraction and an entrepreneurial spirit. You have to have lots of grit and money to invest and be willing to take risks. People think they can have leads and start a team and some can, but very few can lead a team over the long term with just leads. It’s not just about leads; it’s about community as well.”
What has ensured long-term growth is a rigorous training program that helps standardize processes for Reader’s new as well as seasoned agents. “We treat our company like it’s a Fortune 500,” she says. “For 10 years, we’ve had the same 8:30 a.m. meeting every day. We also have a powerful onboarding department. When people join, the longest it takes them to have two real estate transactions is typically 90 days. The housing market is absolutely upside down and on its back, so if you don’t know what you’re doing and not a pro at it, you’re not getting an offer accepted without the assistance of a leader. With 25 to 50 offers on every property, if you don’t have the skillset and haven’t been trained properly, you’re done.”
With South Florida growing “25% across all price points,” recruiting remains the biggest pain point for Reader. “Hiring is tough,” she says. “We can teach them real estate but, first and foremost, we’re looking for someone who’s learning based. They must be a go-getter and not be afraid to work. Someone who is committed and not just a talker.”
Scaling culture with a fast-growing team also presents its own issues. “It’s definitely been interesting growing a culture with 100 people versus 20,” she says.
Now that Zillow’s Flex program has presented an “awesome opportunity” for teams looking to go bigger, Reader says, the Zillow demand has also required her to recruit newer, entry-level agents who need more training than the seasoned pros. “We’re pretty picky about who we bring in. Our goal is 100 real estate agents by the end of June. We’re scaling fast to meet the demand.”
Dotloop for Teams empowers over 2,000 teams with custom transaction templates, automated compliance, reporting and more. No more sharing login information.
While developing relationships has always been a strength of this driven, gutsy broker, Reader also knows her limitations. For instance, early on, she knew she was not “administratively inclined.” So her first year, she hired an admin. When she formed her brokerage three years ago, she brought dotloop over from Keller Williams, who she was with for nearly nine years prior.
Today, dotloop for Teams serves as an all-in-one collaborative tool for the current 21 admins/transaction coordinators on staff plus nine inside sales agents and 60-plus consumer-facing agents who, together, processed 965 sides last year and are expected to hit upward of 1,500 sides this year.
“I know for us dotloop is working. Agents find it easy to use, and it’s part of our business,” she says.
Dotloop’s real estate transaction management software has also helped the staff go 100% virtual as they cover a territory canvassing 50 miles north and south of the South Florida tri-county area, encompassing Palm Beach-St. Lucie, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
While she finds people seem happier working remotely, she also senses people “are missing community.” Happily, after a year of virtual events, Reader’s team is now ramping up live, in-person company events, including prize giveaways; client appreciation parties; Thanksgiving pie distribution; a summer barbecue with hayrides for the kids; and participating in The Color Run, a diversity-promoting 5K in Ft. Lauderdale in which runners wear white at the starting line only to finish doused in bright colors.
With the local median price now in the low $400s — up from $300,000 pre-pandemic prices — and luxury high rise Miami condos selling for $10 million plus, Reader sees only growth ahead.
She does, however, worry about market affordability and fast growth that could lead to a correction, though not a crash.
She also realizes no matter how big a brokerage gets, the community will always demand their agents retain the local connection.
“The South Florida community wants to know you, trust you and see you,” says Reader. “I am everywhere, and that’s been consistent for 20-plus years.”