Serving a Niche Market

WITH THE REAL ESTATE INDUSTRY becoming ever more challenging and sophisticated, Keller Williams broker Dan Ihara and The Ihara Team in Hawaii understand what it takes to create success. While selling real estate in paradise is most certainly everyone’s idea of bliss, the Ihara team have also created a very special niche in their market that gives them a unique competitive advantage.

VOTED IN THE Top 100 Realtors in Hawaii for the past eight consecutive years (2007 to 2014), The Ihara Team are dedicated to their clients, knowledgeable about the region and passionate about the real estate industry.

Based in Honolulu, The Ihara Team is an independently owned and operated Keller Williams Realty, Inc. franchise company. The business operates in association with two others owned by Dan, Senior Move Managers and Declutter Hawaii. Together the three businesses have been branded around the country as ‘The Complete Solution’.2015-06-30 10.33.58

Moving away from mainstream real estate, The Ihara Team has become an agency that is best known for dealing with one unique, niche market – senior citizens. Their focus is not only on helping them to find the right property to suit their current and future requirements, but also on providing the services to ensure the transition into the next phase of their life is comfortable and as simple as possible.

Dan said that after the company was started by himself and his wife, Julie, they noticed a market requirement and became specialists for senior living options housing.

“We know all the retirement communities; we know where people go if they want to be independent, or they need assisted living, or they need skilled nursing. We help them identify where their next home could be and help them de- clutter their home.”

He said the biggest part of the job was helping seniors with the transition, because they get stuck in the routine of ‘I’m comfortable, I’m just going to die here’.

“We help them with that process, because most of the time it’s their kids saying, ‘Mum left the stove on the other day and now it’s a problem. I’ve got to turn off the power to the stove. Now she can’t drive, so I’ve got to take the keys away.’ Then they get isolated. All these challenges come about. Most realtors don’t want to deal with that. It’s just too much work.

“Our model on the real estate side is that we have 15 agents on our team, one of the largest in Hawaii. We have listing specialists; their job is to get the business. Then we have listing managers who help them manage that process – with getting rid of their stuff, helping them with the renovations, helping them with the de- cluttering, staging and marketing. Then the real estate specialist comes back in to negotiate their contract all the way to close. They work with our Senior Move Managers company to help take care of that middle part.”

You might wonder why an agent would want to do a job that doesn’t involve a direct sale. Dan says taking extra time with your clients in the way The Ihara Team does can create two specific reasons – one, eventually they will sell; and two, they will likely need a new place as well, so agents will not only be able to sell a property, they will also be able to help their client buy one.

“There’s a whole industry of companies like this now around the United States. There are about 800 of them. We’re the first one that is part of the National Association of Senior Move Managers here in Hawaii, where we help them downsize and de- clutter. Then we help people who just want to stay at home and age in peace,” he said.

Having only been in the real estate industry for 10 years, we wondered what Dan equates his success to – not only in terms of awards but also relating to the company’s outstanding growth.

“We’ve grown from the first month that I started to now, and we’re not stopping. The biggest growth came in the last two years, when we’ve changed our model to what Gary [Keller]’s put out in front of us as far as a team; specialists. We’ve gone from four people to 15, but we’ve doubled our volume.

“In two years we went from $28 million to $58 million in turnover. This year we’re getting closer to $80 million. Really, it’s about creating specialists – getting enough leads, number one, and then having the people to provide capacity to be able to drive the business. Last year when we had $58 million we did about 88 transactions. This year right now we have, with what’s in escrow, about $55 million, and we’ve closed 60 transactions. Our ticket’s rising.”

Dan is part of Gary Keller’s Private Mastermind group (top 100 agents) and presents seminars across the country, which he finds is a major factor in attracting new business.

“I do anywhere from five to 10 seminars a month, somewhere on the island; at retirement communities, at senior clubs, at Lions and Rotary clubs. I’m actually asked by churches to come speak to their group, because I’m supposedly the guy that has all the information.

“At the seminars, it’s like a listing presentation for two and a half hours. They get to know me really well. They get to know our team really well and they get to trust us. It’s a safe environment. I’m not asking them to sign anything and at the end we just ask them if they want information and we’ll come out to them and visit them.”

So what is Dan’s favourite thing about being in the real estate industry?

“Helping our clients reach their goals. It’s really rewarding, especially working with seniors. You’re helping them get from where they are to where they want to go. When you first meet them they think it’s overwhelming and it’s impossible. Literally impossible. ‘There’s no way I’m going to be able to do this.’ After we move them there they say, ‘I would never have been able to do it without you.’ That’s enormously rewarding.”

And finally, we asked Dan if he could have done something sooner; or if he could give advice to his younger self in real estate, what would that advice be?

“Get to know Gary Keller quicker. Seriously… !”

“I wouldn’t be at this point in our business without having that foresight of being surrounded by people who are just so high- minded. There are no limitations on what you can do,” he said.

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Samantha McLean

Samantha McLean is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of Elite Agent and Host of the Elevate Podcast.