What it takes to be a top producer in Atlanta real estate

by Jason Porterfield

Becoming a top producer in a dynamic and constantly evolving real estate market is a sign that an agent has truly arrived. It signals that they have the market knowledge, the referral network and the upstanding reputation needed to rise to the top.

The Atlanta Realtors Association sets minimum requirements for its top producer designation. To qualify, individual agents must carry out at least 15 unit transactions by volume or $4 million in gross income. Teams have to reach those numbers on average for all members. The association’s board of directors set those standards with the intention of recognizing the top 15 percent of its members.

Those agents and teams are presented with another accolade that can help them gain more clients and can open more doors for them. Keeping that status requires a willingness to put in the hours it takes to serve clients well and the flexibility to adapt one’s approach to their needs and desires.

Winning strategies

Janice Overbeck of the Janice Overbeck Real Estate Team in Marietta credits her top producer status to her “extreme responsiveness.” Agents who are willing to make themselves available outside office hours to clients who might be feeling stressed out during the process can instill confidence in their customer base. The practice of taking such a responsive approach also improves workflow by enabling agents to handle tasks immediately, rather than putting them off.

“The good news is you’re not letting work pile up,” Overbeck says. “You can get back to somebody, or check a voicemail real quick from the person before you need to go somewhere and you can get back to them, get them that update. All of that I think is what makes people trust my services and refer me by word of mouth.”

Greg Kurzner of The Kurzner Group in Alpharetta has been transitioning away from the transaction side of his business, despite being the Atlanta Board or Realtors’ number one agent by units sold in three of the last four years. He credits his success to an ability to “escape to where the pocket’s going to be” and anticipate the direction the market is going to take.

“I always try to approach what I do as a business owner, as opposed to an employee,” Kurzner says. “I’m always trying to figure out how to do what I do as a business and try to look for large revenue streams as opposed to what’s the next deal. I focus my industry more on dealing with corporate or what I would call recurring clients, as opposed to just a big database of clients.”

Winter Baserva of Seasons Realty Group of Solid Source Realty, Inc. once saw top producer status as a matter of sales volume, but now looks at it indicating total dedication to clients. She builds deep and lasting relationships with many of them.

“It’s never about the sale, it’s always about the people behind the sale,” Baserva says. “When you come from the mindset of doing the right thing and focusing on the people aspect, the business takes care of itself. My dad was in the car business and he always said ‘you don’t sell them one car, you sell them five over 15 years because you take care of the people behind the sale.’ It’s really been a motto I’ve lived by my entire life.”

Read more from our Top Producers Issue

Leveraging success

Maintaining top producer status and building on it often requires more work than a single agent can handle over an extended period of time. Bringing on assistants or developing a team can often give agents the breathing room they need to work on building relationships within their networks and to connect with new potential clients.

“You have to leverage yourself, so I’ve heard that if you hire a personal assistant you can double your business,” Overbeck says. “That’s very true. You’re constantly leveraging. You might be taking home less money up front as you go, and it’s very scary to give up power and something you do to other people, but it’s very important in order to grow. Anyone who does more than 15 transactions per year should have an assistant because it really leverages your time to get more business.”

Baserva also leverages her time to focus on giving her clients the best service possible. A self-described “road warrior” during the early part of her career who often sacrificed her own needs to take care of her clients, she now has the perspective to understand that she does a better job for them by being good to herself.

“The hard work then has paid off,” Baserva says. “I now have the luxury now of picking and choosing who I work with. For every 10 appointments I go on, I will turn down three to four by choice. Part of it is to make sure the clients I do have are continually supported and nurtured by me and get the best service out there. The other part is that you are in a ‘marriage’ with every single one of your clients and its important to chose the marriage that will work for all parties.”

Developing a niche

Focusing on one aspect of the real estate market can help agents develop the expertise needed to serve particular types of clients or certain areas, making them the go-to Realtors for finding homes within that niche. Kurzner believes that building a business around a specialty can put an agent on the path to top producer status.

“I always feel like the brain surgeon makes more than the general practitioner,” he says. “Not that they’re any less valuable, but simply because there are fewer of them.”

Kurzner recommends looking into the different specialties and niches areas within real estate to find potential markets that can be tapped. As long as that niche has enough business to survive in, that’s the way to go.

“We spent 15 years in the foreclosure realm and became one of Atlanta’s top foreclosure brokers. It was a good decision for me,” he said. “It was a lot of work, but if you can be at the top of the mountain, you can kick other people off. If you have to climb over people, you’re not going to get there.”

Opening doors

Industry accolades like top producer status can be a major confidence booster, while at the same time giving agents opportunities to be in the public eye that they might otherwise miss.

“I’ve been able to be on panels and be the speaker at different events around Atlanta,” Overbeck says. “I was named one of the 30 Under 30 Realtors by the National Association of Realtors. That connected me with a bunch of different agents and now we’re all friends over Facebook in the 30 Under 30 group. All of that has been really helpful because I get referrals from it and it helps show people that they can trust me because I have this accolade.”

Kurzner feels that top producer status often isn’t too important to regular homebuyers, but that corporate clients look at it as a measure of an agent’s abilities.

“It has given me credibility that we have always tried to build on,” Kurzner says. “For example, I have among my clients Invitation Homes, which is the largest homeowner in the country. I have other institutions that do business with us. I think that because of our reputation and the sales transactions that we’ve done in the past, that the top producer status have opened doors to institutional clients that otherwise might not want to give us the time of day.”