Networking Power: Make Friends in Building, Design Industries

Collaborate with professionals in other fields to gain insight into new trends.

February 1, 2006

Are you overlooking a terrific opportunity to learn about the latest trends in design, remodeling, and construction?

Kitchen and bath designers, interior designers, remodelers, and builders belong to national, state, and local trade associations, just as you belong to your national, state, and local association of REALTORS®.

These trade associations can help you network and gain insight into advances in space planning, storage, home décor, renovations, and other home improvements. Such information can be very valuable as you seek to make a sale.

For example, if a customer really likes a particular home but is hesitant to purchase because the rooms are too dark, you can educate them on the possibility of removing interior walls to open up the room and bring in more natural light.

Through your contacts at local design and construction associations, you can even get before-and-after photographs of similar homes that have been “daylighted” this way. If your customers have questions about the costs of such a project, you can refer them to one of your new friends in the design or construction industry for answers.

Of course, professionals in other industries have something to gain from you: updates on local market conditions and details on what consumers are looking for in a home. Do buyers want homes in that area that are already finished to their liking, or are they seeking bargain properties that they can renovate and customize? What kinds of amenities and layouts are most popular among consumers?

And when other industry professionals have clients who want information on buying or selling a home, they can refer those people to you.

So how do you begin a relationship with people in other industries? Here are some ideas:

  • Ask if you can attend a meeting. Call a local chapter of a design or builder association and ask if you can attend their meetings. Tell them that you want to stay abreast of news that may have home design implications and that you’re interested in a networking relationship.
  • Seek common ground. Don’t be intimidated; you have a lot more in common with designers and builders than you may think: You’re both self-employed and responsible for growing your business. You’re both always looking for new prospects. And you both can benefit from learning more about other segments of the industry. If you seek out contacts in these groups, you won't be met with hostility. They want to hear what you have to say as much as you want to know more about their expertise.
  • Remember what you have to offer. Even though you are seeking knowledge and networking relationships to build your business, keep in mind that you also are bringing valuable knowledge to the table. One thing many designers want to know about is how to effectively work with real estate professionals; perhaps you can invite them to speak at your next broker meeting or accompany you to your next open house.
  • Plan networking events. Orchestrate a get-together between your local REALTORS® association and the local chapter of their trade association. Arrange speakers who can educate both groups on an interesting topic, such as the subculture of “flippers” and the best ways to get their business.

With collaboration, real estate professionals, builders, and designers can benefit from a big-picture view of the local market and act as the catalyst for change. For example, if your market has a large inventory of single-story ranch homes built in the 1950s, but buyers are looking in other communities for newer homes that have modern amenities and floor plans, you can encourage buyers to look at the possibilities of renovation.

Rather than lose buyers to the far-away suburbs, you can fight the trend by working with designers and builders. Together, you can create scrapbooks and shadowboxes that illustrate how easy it is to move walls and expand the typical ranch-style home. This will provide more options to buyers and sellers — and add energy to your local housing market.

Once you recognize the potential of collaborating with professionals in related industries, the opportunities are endless.

(c) Copyright 2006 Realty Times. Reprinted with permission.

Blanche Evans is a writer/editor and CEO of evansEmedia. Formerly, she was a senior editor with Realty Times, where she was named by REALTOR® Magazine as one of the most influential people in the real estate industry.