Craig King III, Owner of EXIT River Rock Realty in Millbrook, Alabama, joined Susan Harrison, SVP with EXIT Realty Corp. International, for a conversation about building homes, building an office and building people.
Susan: You’ve been with us since 2018. How did you learn about EXIT?
Craig: Kathy Dooley was my agent for six years and a vital part of my company as my marketing arm. As she purchased the state of Mississippi, I experienced her building that out. What was meaningful to me was hearing her success stories as she met agents and owners and was able to convert them to EXIT and how successful they were with EXIT. It intrigued me.
Susan: You’re a builder. Tell us about that.
Craig: I’ve been a residential builder for about 26 years. My Dad was a builder/developer and when interest rates got up into double digits, he liquidated everything and bought a lumber yard. My passion for building was always there; the love of taking an idea off paper and actually creating something and putting your heart into it. I love my product. There’s nothing more exciting than taking an idea and actually building it and it’s there forever.
As a repercussion of the housing crisis, developers are still not comfortable going out and developing which will create, I think, the next opportunity. We have a builder’s base with our franchise EXIT River Rock Realty and we join hands – somewhat coop – with the builders of a small subdivision and divide the lots so each one has their own section to build out. That way we market them and their product.
Susan: Hang on a minute. You’re a builder and you want to partner with other builders?
Craig: Absolutely – that’s what’s so interesting! I am a builder who has been in the area for 16 years and has the respect of other builders. What I’m doing is going to those who I know do the best work and stand behind their product and I’m selling them on the platform that we have put together at EXIT River Rock Realty that distinctively markets them and their product.
It’s not about going out and selling one house. We want to market them – the builders. These guys will build two or three spec houses and my agents will do open houses. It’s amazing the business that the builders pick up through the open houses. People who are interested in buying a new home will come in and my agents will talk to them and the next thing you know, the agent finds out that they own an acre of land and they ask if this builder can build on their land. So, EXIT River Rock Realty is able to be the marketing arm for these builders so they can solely focus on their build.
For a builder, that’s huge. You’ve got somebody holding hands with you, so while you’re focused on building your product, they’re out serving you. It’s a wonderful relationship. It’s one that’s very strong because you become part of what they are.
We have a digital platform with a section dedicated to the builders. We include their bios and history, and we link our website to their website and all of their current builds.
When we train our agents, half it is on agent training and half on the builder side. I’ll open a set of plans and we go through the chronological order of a build. My agents take pictures all the way through the build to its finish and so when they’re at an open house, they can sell that house with conviction because they have pictures to substantiate what’s behind it, how it was built, how the mechanical was put in, and so on. These pictures are evidence of the quality that was put into the home. It’s very accrediting for the builder.
For example, let’s say I have a builder with four or five lots. We go in, he or she starts building, the agent is marketing the builder and all of a sudden our signs go up. The whole neighborhood is paying attention and all of a sudden that agent’s phone starts ringing just because of participation in a new build. I teach my agents not to focus on what might come from working with a builder, but rather to stay focused, be that marketing arm, and all the other stuff will come with it.
Susan: So, your agents can take ownership of the marketing right from the birth of the house and they know literally what’s inside the walls?
Craig: Think about this – if you knew every aspect of something and you experienced it as it’s being created, could you not passionately sell it? That’s what we’re doing. It’s so fun to sit back and watch the ladies and guys who are doing this talk to a client with passion and excitement as they share what they experienced as the house was being built.
Stephanie Hamner is my managing broker and we did this side by side. She had the real estate expertise and I had the building expertise and we put our thoughts and ideas together to create this. We didn’t realize that we had agents from other companies watching the progress of our builds and they were matching those builds with buyers they knew who were coming into town.
Susan: Why would EXIT be a good fit for a builder?
It’s the culture Steve created. It’s about the client. We stay focused on the customer and we work together as a team. It’s a relationship. That relationship is strengthened by the agent and by the company supporting the agent.
Agents may have three new houses and all of a sudden it’s not all about them, it’s about us, and they reach out and get two other agents to sit in the open houses to serve that builder, too. So, the agent who has the listing is doing her job but she or he is also giving other agents in our office the opportunity to participate. So, for me, it’s the EXIT culture. If you have an office, it’s not about one agent, it’s about all the agents in the office and that’s something that Steve, in my mind, has created distinctively different than the rest. Agents who are just thinking about themselves are not a fit for me, for the EXIT culture, nor my franchise here in Millbrook.