If agents could be replaced by technology, it would have happened a long time ago. But when you’re talking about something as personal as selling the place where your baby lays their head, people want to deal with humans.

That said, portals, bots, and new models will have us believe that agents’ days are numbered.

How will you survive? By leveraging the thing you have that they don’t: local knowledge, shared experience, and humanity.

Here are five ways to become the community real estate agent, making you the first person consumers think of when it’s time to buy or sell a home.

1. Go Hard with Your Brand

Building a recognizable brand is essential for success. Find a graphic designer to help you with a logo, and start identifying the pillars of your brand.

From there, collaborate with local businesses to create items your clients will love. With The Cape House, I’ve found massive success with drinks, coffee, and wine charms sponsored by my team. Not only does this put your brand in front of more people, but you’re supporting other businesses at the same time.

I’ve also gotten into the habit of giving all my clients gift bags with branded sweatshirts and coozies. Everyone loves a surprise gift. Branding gifts adds an extra touch and makes people think of you every time they use them.

Want to really go big? Check out this branded van that I regularly use to help clients, volunteer, and drive around the Cape. No one forgets Vanny White.

2. Be a Local Leader

Joining a non-profit board doesn’t have to be a mind-numbing time suck. But there’s one huge rule you must follow, or else it will totally backfire: You have to believe in the mission and actively invest your time, talent, and treasure. 

Pro tip: Find the person in the organization with the biggest mouth and say, ‘Hey, I don’t know if you realized, but every time I do business with friends in this organization, I give back some of my commission to the organization.’ They will eventually tell someone else, and word will get out that you’re not just good at your job; you’re a good person. Using this strategy, I’ve personally invested in everything from a church organ to preserved land and done millions of dollars of business in the process.

The second thing you should do in your community is go to town meetings and learn about what’s happening in your town. Stand up for what you believe in, and don’t be afraid of offending someone. They weren’t your people anyway.

3. Charity Fundraisers

Start attending local charitable events and build relationships with the influential people in your community. 

If you’re just getting started and can’t afford a ticket, become a volunteer. When you do have the money, buy a ticket and spend some money at the event, or treat a client to a fun night. 

Until the pandemic, I spent $2,000 annually on a table for a prominent local arts event and would invite some of my favorite clients and referral partners. Not only do those people continue to send me business, but I got to build relationships with influential people in my community, which is always good for business.

4. The Townie Starter Kit

I live and do business on Cape Cod, a strong resort and second home market where the median home price is $675,000. For a client who drops $2 million on a second home, there is no closing gift I can buy that they can’t get themselves. 

So I give them what they can’t buy: A sense of community in their second hometown. 

Enter the Townie Starter Kit. It’s essentially a bunch of gift certificates with a college education. I partner with local businesses to get them just about every type of gift certificate you can think of: from cocktails to a blowout just for mom.  

But here’s the twist: The client gets a stack of sealed envelopes to take to the owners of each business. Once the business owner opens it, the client finds out what they get. 

For instance, they go to the candy store, introduce themselves, and hand over the envelope. The owner opens it and says, ‘Good news–Katie says to give each of these $5 bills to your kids and let them get whatever they want.’ 

The kids are happy, the business is happy, and now the parents are on a first-name basis with the store owner. Also, this is a fun, Instragrammable event for them and you. And it costs a fraction of what you might have spent on a great bottle of Veuve.

5. Community Content

A few years ago, I embraced the #collaborationovercompetition trend with one of my local agent friends, Sarah Lapsley Martin, who works for a different brokerage than me. 

We started a YouTube show called ‘What’s Good Cape Cod’ where we show the Cape through the eyes of a couple of locals. Consumers love to know more about the towns they live in or visit, businesses and entities love the exposure, and it has helped cement mine and Sarah’s brands in our marketplace.

Becoming an active member in your community will make you stand out—not just from technology and disruptors—but from other agents in your area. Decide how you will up your sense of community in 2023, and get a head start today.