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Jeff Lichtenstein of Echo Fine Properties in Palm Beach Gardens.
REAL ESTATE WEEKEND
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If you called Jeff Lichtenstein “ Mr Information,” you’d hit the mark. He sees every interaction as an opportunity and any discussion a chance to learn something. He’s an excellent listener — successful Realtors have to be — and a deep thinker.
Lichtenstein has a business degree from Syracuse University, but learned about business selling fabrics for his father’s home furnishing textile company through high school and college. After graduation he took his show on the road, traveling 35 weeks a year selling home furnishing fabric to manufacturers, distributors, and retailers. When the company was sold, Jeff turned down a job promotion and changed industries. He also promised his wife, Veronica, and kids Sam and Jade, that they’d have dinner as a family every night.
Lichtenstein found a way to excel at business and stay close with his family, a win-win, he says. It helps that the office is only 10 minutes from his house, but he’s at the office before the sun comes up, ready to lead his 40-person team of specialists onto the field. Lichtenstein streamlined the business, breaking it down into parts and automating it as much as possible to improve efficiently, much like an assembly line where each person does a part and they do that part really well.
To do it, Lichtenstein embraced the digital revolution. He saw the value of social media early on, hiring a social media strategist to get the company name all over the world wide web. The social media experts continue to produce for the company, with half of all leads coming through the online pipeline.
A few years ago, Lichtenstein decided to change the name of his company, Jeff Realty, to something that meant something to him. He knew deciding on a name is one of the most important branding decisions he would make.
On a cruise with his wife, he watched dolphins play. Dolphins were cool, he thought, because of their pod structure, their interactions, their reliance on communication to successfully navigate a truly treacherous habitat. But he didn’t like the name dolphin. Sonar was too harsh. Echo had a nice ring. It made sense. Echo-location was clever. Everything fit.
“Fit” is at the core of what ECHO team does. Lichtenstein knew, especially after the events of 2007, that a team would fare better in the current landscape. He was right: He says 83 percent of independent agents fail.
At Echo, two client concierges respond to initial inquiries. They conduct interviews which are used to match the right realtor to the right buyer or seller. Want a golf course property? There’s a specialist for that. Seaside? There’s an agent who knows every inch of waterfront available at any given moment. His IT generates 350 marketing reports that help the team target trends.
Visuals are more critical than ever with everyone having access to high-quality video and photos. Lichtenstein has a team of photojournalists who make sure the property is staged to sell and is reflected, literally, in the best light. They nail down every photo and write hip headlines and snappy copy. He brought that aspect in house when he realized hiring freelancers put him on their timetable. That wasn’t going to work. And they weren’t motivated the way a team member is.
Lichtenstein hires new members cautiously with just a few requirements: “They have to be good people, someone you’d like to be around. They must have positive energy. And drive.”
Where were you during the Great Recession that began in 2007?
I was in real estate in the Northern Palm Beaches. Prices dropped on average 35 percent.
It was like getting a pay reduction and having your hours cut from 40 to 10.1 didn’t represent investors or distressed properties, so about 25 percent of the properties, the foreclosures, I didn’t have access to. My inventory jumped from 25 to 65 homes. I had to learn how to do short sales.
It was a rough, rough four years. Clients wanted more advertising dollars spent. Homes sat for longer. My job was to get my listing clients to understand pricing parameters, raise the commission in certain circumstances, stage properly, react properly. But my favorite and most gratifying sales are also from that period. Getting a hug from someone who was stressed out of their mind because you helped them get out of a terrible financial situation was incredibly gratifying.
A lot of people had it worse than me. Builders and contractors had to retire or reinvent themselves as remodelers. Lots of people lost their jobs.
How has the real estate market changed over the last 10-12 years?
It’s very Ferris Bueller. That quote — “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it” — if you substituted “the real estate industry” for “life,” it would be accurate. Social media and the smart phone didn’t exist 12 years ago. Now half the buyer inquiries we get come from social media marketing.
Tools like DocuSign save so much time. We have a new website, two years in the making, that we are a few weeks away from launching. Complete new patent-pending ways of searching, hyper-local community and lifestyle stats, complete video design idea — and social media integration within the website. I’m so excited!
How is Echo different from other firms?
We have 57 items we promise and guarantee to do for every client. It’s called our Home ECHOnomics Guarantee. Nobody can offer close to what we do because every agent out there doesn’t have the unique set up that we do.
What’s the best part of your job?
The people. The people I work with and the people I serve. It’s an emotional decision and I like teaching and educating them, both the buyer and the seller.
What’s the worst?
Fake Realtors who put on an act in front of a client and really do detrimental harm to the same client. People would be shocked to see some of the behavior and outlandish things that take place to block the free flow of business to the detriment of their own client.
It’s tough balancing career and family with the hours you keep. Got any life hacks to share?
I’ve taken both our kids to breakfast and driven them to school on Fridays since they were in preschool. Sam is now 20 and Jade is now 15.
I’ve missed maybe three dates. Sometimes we talk deep, sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it’s them doing their homework. Jade and I are dreading the end of it.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
My family. Absolutely the thing I am the proudest of is our summer two- or three – week Family Griswold-trips. And Saturday “turn-it-off” family days have also been key.
What’s the strangest request a client ever made?
This crazy referral I got. He was this oddball goofball inventor. (I can’t give the product away). I showed him this property and he sees this lady coming out of the door. He says that she is a stripper and he only wants to live by strippers. Some people want to live in golf communities or 55+, and this guy wants a stripper community!
He writes up an offer, but he has a 400 credit score, so we assigned the deal to his mother. The inventor stormed out and left me and Mom at closing. Mom said she outsmarted him. Now she has equity and doesn’t have to chase him down to collect rent. A week later she called me to put the house on the market. The inventor had moved to California! She sold it for $5k more.
What’s your best advice for someone who is house hunting?
Learn the terminology and what your rights and responsibilities are. Don’t put yourself in stressful situations. And don’t fall in love with a home. If you don’t get this one, there’s almost always another home. But you might have to move on it ultra-fast, so be ready. If you wait too long, you could lose it.
What advice would you give your younger self?
One thing would be, do not waste time with people (agents) who just don’t have any drive or joy. My wife is a mental health therapist and she tells her clients that you have to want it more for you than I do for you. I think it’s a great philosophy.
What’s your personal philosophy?
Grandpa said, “You can’t do a good deal with a bad guy.” Marshall Field, of the big retail chain in Chicago, said, “Give the lady what she wants. And someone said, “Keep it simple. ” And this one is all me: “Implement.”
Lichtenstein hires new members cautiously with just a few requirements: ‘They have to be good people, someone you’d like to be around. They must have positive energy. And drive.’
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