Regional Home Builder Give Some Insight On There Online Marketing Strategy
A New York native, Jason Javer graduated from the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan with a degree in finance. After working for a private equity company that invested in real estate in Chicago, Jason felt he had the foundation needed for success in real estate investment and development.
Additionally, his experience as a financial analyst allowed him to take the leap into real estate entrepreneurship 6 years ago. As a member of the thriving Charlotte community, Jason enjoys his time at the office and out on the golf course with friends. Vista Homes is currently designing Jason and his fiance Steph’s new home, which will be built in the NoDa area.
Jonathon: Welcome back to the Mail Right Show its episode 270. We’ve got a great guest, Jason Java with us. Plus I got Robert Newman, my great co-host with us. So Robert, can you quickly introduce yourself to the new listeners and viewers?
Robert: Yeah. My name is Robert Newman. I am an SEO and inbound marketing specialist that have been focused on residential real estate for the last 13 years. If you want to learn more about me, you can do so at inboundrem.Com. But more importantly, I will teach you how to do Digital marketing and you can find that on my website as well.
Jonathon: And I’m the founder of Mail Right, an online platform all-embracing platform at an affordable price that will get you quality leads by utilizing the power of Facebook. So Jason, can you give us a very, very quick intro, a quick 20-second intro about yourself and about Vista Homes?
Jason: Yeah, definitely. I’m 32 years old live in Charlotte, North Carolina. I run a company called Vista homes. We do roughly $20 million a year in revenue, it’s myself and a business partner and we have eight employees. And what we specialize in is infill development and construction. So what that means is within a few miles of uptown Charlotte and what we’re really looking for on our opportunities is really primarily adding density. And we target a lot of millennial buyers, dual-income, no kids.
Jonathon: And we thought we would have Jason on because he’s a great guy. And also his company spends a lot of time and money on digital advertising and generating leads for their company. And also they try and build relationships with the local real estate agent community. So I think we’ll start off with Jason, in the pre-show chat we were having, you’ve done an amazing feat of building up your company from very modest beginnings to a substantial amount of gross turnover is a great achievement. So, on this road of using digital marketing this year, next year, what are the main platforms that you’re going to utilize and spend the most money and effort to try and attract your clientele?
Jason: Yeah, our approach to marketing in general is we really try to do a little bit of everything, honestly. So, we’ve had success from even signs out at our properties, but then on top of that, we feel like digital social is really, where everything is moving. And obviously, platforms like Facebook and Instagram have been revolutionary for small, medium-sized businesses to reach their target audience. So we have a marketing budget of around, just over six figures essentially. And, we try to spread it around in all different areas, but we do a lot of Facebook, Instagram, we do pay per click ads. We’re really trying to get more kind of on social creating content. So we have companies that we’ll use to help kind of create videos of different topics, or maybe we’ll do testimonial videos with clients. So we’ve seen a lot of success in those areas as well. For use with the size company we are now, we have third-party companies that help us with our marketing and kind of help kind of create the keywords. And we kind of look at those reports once a month and try to tweak things as we kind of see leads coming in,
Jonathon: I am going to put it over to Robert. Robert loves data. He likes specifics so be prepared, Jason. Over to you Robert!
Robert: Actually, it’s kind of funny that you keep me up that way because I was going to ask some specifics, but before I did, I was curious about something he said. It seems to me like you’re collecting as assets to hand over to your vendors. You’re collecting videos. Did I understand that correctly? Like you’re collecting video testimonials or you’re doing written testimonials that your marketing companies are then repackaging and advertising for you?
Jason: So we do a little bit of both, but we do video testimonials. So what we do is we have a company where we’ll do two videos a month. So they’ll kind of be professionally producing it and then we’ll have different topics. One topic we’ve had success with is having customers that are very happy with the process, love this to homes.
And we’ve found like a lot of engagement of just a quick kind of testimonial. And they’ve kind of professionally produced it. I don’t think you need to professionally produce everything when you’re first starting out. But now that we have a little bit of a budget, we try to kind of get something that’s a little bit more professionally produced.
Robert: I got you. So just for my own clarity and also for the clarity of everybody listening. So here’s what I think that I understand that you both do and how you get your clients for doing it. So you’re a new home developer. You and your team are building entire developments of homes and then you’re turning around and selling those homes. So I would imagine that part of your process is making sure that people are arriving to the Vista Homes website and they’re booking appointments with your sales team. Is that basically how this whole operation works?
Jason: That’s a big piece of the operation. And then on the other side, I handle a lot of like acquisitions as well. So there’s a separate kind of marketing arm of finding opportunities as well. So they’re kind of two and one there.
Robert: Okay. So acquisitions being, you’re going to buy other people’s developments, you’re going to buy land. What are you acquiring?
Jason: Yeah, definitely our kind of core. But we look for as a project, that’s going to be anywhere from two to 15 units, so it could be land, it could be an existing home. And then per the zoning of Charlotte, we’ll use generally knocked down a home if it’s there or if it’s raw land and then we’ll develop to, what we can per density what we think makes sense for the area, what kind of product we think makes sense. And then on the backside, since we’re kind of full turnkey in-house we have a sales team that’s looking to, place buyers in those homes as well.
Robert: Okay. Are most of the marketing that we’re discussing right now? Is it mostly to feed? I mean, and I’m thinking granularly and you as a business owner are probably thinking globally. In a very granular way are you trying to feed your sales team with leads using these marketing efforts that you’re discussing?
Jason: Yes. Yes, we are.
Robert: Okay. And to do that, you’ve got this marketing company, that’s doing repackaging a couple of videos for you. They’re testimonial videos that get the phone ringing from potential new clients. You said you were looking at keyword reports; you’re in Charlotte, North Carolina. So I’m just curious about keyword reports. What are a couple of segments of these reports that like, okay, so you’re looking at them, like, have you made major decisions or told people to target? Like, are you only going for broad terms, like new homes in Charlotte? Or have you found some interesting sidelines that maybe it’s worth mentioning on the podcast?
Jason: Yeah. I feel like we’re having pretty good success with some in the neighborhood-specific marketing terms. Because people kind of, maybe they live in that neighborhood. Maybe they live in an apartment near those neighborhoods. So we do find some success getting down to like the neighborhood level. And then in general, each month we’re kind of looking to see what our reach is per spend. How does that look year over year? I think for us for me being a little bit more analytical global saying, okay, like based on this much revenue and industry standards, like we have this much of a budget. And then I have like our sales slash marketing team kind of working with our third-party companies to kind of formulate. And then each quarter we’re going through and saying, okay, this is what we spent in all these different areas. Do we want to tweak it? How is the run rate looking? Are we on a budget?
Robert: I got you. So let me repeat back what I think I heard you say. You’ve gotten to the point where you’re big enough that you even have other people besides yourself handling the marketing decisions and working with the vendors. Is that right?
Jason: Yeah. Yeah. So I’m kind of a little bit more high level looking at it, once a month. And then, a little bit of a deeper dive into the numbers on a quarterly basis.
Robert: Did choose the vendors to start with? Did you assign the vendor to your marketing team or did they bring the vendor to you and say, can we please use this person?
Jason: It was a collaborative effort. So in the beginning we use someone that was a little bit of a more national company. And they were specialized in working with home builders nationally. And what we found was we as being kind of like this niche and fail product benefited more from someone that was local that understood the market, understood the neighborhoods and understood the areas we were talking about. Because a lot of our projects aren’t, so we don’t develop like a whole neighborhood necessarily, but we may have like four homes in one neighborhood and then a few duplexes, a mile away. So we’re very specific in terms of what we’re looking for and where we’re looking. But we’re not your traditional builder that’s going to go build a 30 unit single family put a gate at the front kind of development. We’re more infill kind of one-off projects. If that makes sense.
Robert: I got ya. So, John, you know me, I can keep doing this forever. I have every question he answers. I have four other questions and I don’t want to take up the whole show with my marketing statistics nonsense. So why don’t you take it over?
Jonathon: I have a quick question, and then we probably throw it over for one last question from you, Robert, before we go for our break. But as you were speaking, Jason, I was thinking about our pre-show chat where you were saying that a lot of your clientele or a lot of people that are looking to buy homes in Charlotte are coming from out of state. They’re actually. So how does that fit into your targeting? Local areas or are you supplying digital content that explains the different areas of Charlotte that would be of interest to these, of state people. Is that also something you are doing?
Jason: We do both. So we do have the statistics and tracking to know where some of our leads are coming and we see some stuff in the Northeast and New York and some stuff in the Midwest, in Ohio, in Chicago. And then what we also do is we create videos that are going to be just content-driven around Vista homes, but then also content-driven around the different neighborhoods that people can learn a little bit more and hopefully kind of find the videos pretty engaging. And at that point, I think that as people kind of see our brand, see that we know the neighborhoods pretty well and can see some of our products. It’s pretty interesting. And they want to kind of be, understand what Vista Homes does and what the products we offer.
Jonathon: So before throwing it over to Robert, you seem to have, would I be right? You got like two main clientele areas. You’ve got the local people that in this millennium age group that your product would appeal to them. And then you’ve got this out of state group. Would that be correct?
Jason: We find that the out of state group is still that kind of millennial home buyer, dual-income, no kids up most of our buyers. But it’s also if people want to be in a little bit of a more walking area near to bars and restaurants and near public transportation and they find our homes attractive as well.
Jonathon: Oh, that’s great. Over to you, Robert.
Robert: So also at the beginning of the show, and I cannot remember if we went live and we actually said this, but at the beginning of the show,, you did mention that your budget for this kind of digital marketing was in six figures range. And then you also said that you utilize a number of different platforms. Now, this, I know we were alive and were on the show, you were saying, Hey, we do Instagram. We do Facebook. Wait, like if you had to say, what is, how you’re dividing that let’s just say, $10,000 a month, that’s a hundred percent of the pie. 70% goes to who likes who has been most effective. And where do you spend most of your dollars?
Jason: Yeah, that’s a good question. I’m not a hundred percent sure to be honest, just because I’m dealing with it on a little bit of a more global level. But I will say that what I find to be like the best content is the videos. And that’s kind of like the next step that people are doing. So we find the most engagement across our platforms when it’s like a pretty well done professional video. And we’re seeing that those are like the trends of what’s kind of getting the most eyeballs right now.
Robert: Okay. So I’m on your website at the Vista Homes website, and I’ve noticed that you’ve done a little bit of what I would refer to as SEO optimization that just does, it’s a fancy way of saying that somebody produced some content pages for you and in those content pages, there were some interesting keywords that I’ve noticed. And I just want to ask you to see if you actually had something to do with this. So custom home builders is no surprise when I’m looking at Vista, but I am seeing something that says semi-custom homes in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Is that a keyword term or is that a real thing? This is actually 100% pure curiosity.
Jason: No. Yeah, definitely. So it is a real thing. We kind of specialize in, on the custom home side. So if a client has a lot and they want us to build a house, there is, we want them to kind of stay within the Vista standards and what we’re doing. So we’re not going to get super custom where you’re picking out every single, and sourcing different tile from different places. Like you have to stay within the Vista standards, but we’re still going to build you a great home. So that’s kind of the semi-custom model. So that is a real thing that we do.
Jonathon: We need to go for our break now. And when we come back, we’ll be discussing digital marketing with somebody that’s got a substantial budget. That’s Jason will be back in a few moments.
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Jonathon: We’re coming back. And we’ve had a good first half discussing with Jason Java from Vista homes about his marketing strategy for his company. So, Jason, you outlined your target audience is millennials. So what kind of houses are they looking for? And also just the second question, do they respond differently to your marketing than other groups? So first of all, what kind of houses are they looking for?
Jason: Yeah, our house is range anywhere from 2000 square feet up to around 3000 square feet with a two-car attached garage, but really kind of the key elements that people are looking for are pretty standard. So they want an open floor concept. They obviously care about the master suite master bathroom. Outdoor living is very important and especially in Charlotte where you can really take advantage of that kind of pretty much year-round. So those are some of the key elements. And then from a location standpoint, like we discussed kind of the walkability being able to be kind of close to the restaurant, close to the bars, easy to get to public transportation if they work in uptown Charlotte. So we try to combine all of that with definitely a nice design and up on the trends and making sure that everything that we’re kind of packaging together as what our buyers are looking for.
Jonathon: Over to you Robert.
Robert: So I’m going to take this in a different direction. Well, I never asked this question before, but now I’m again, I’m on your website. And I am noticing what I perceive to be some kind of interesting architectural differences, some real sloped roofs and stuff like that. I don’t talk architecture all that often, but after doing this for 13 years, I’ve probably seen hundreds of thousands of homes. Like no joke, because I got its part of my job is like I’m looking at websites and they always have as no surprise homers on them. I’m seeing some really unique ones here who are like, how are you coming up with your architectural designs? Are you the architect? Do you have somebody working with you that`s the architect?
Jason: Yeah my business partner has a little bit of an eye for it, but then he also heads up kind of developing the plans. We work with a couple of different architects. And we have a designer that’s been with us for a bunch of years now. So, we try to be a little bit designed forward so that we’re not kind of, I feel like we kind of set the trends in our little market versus, us being the last to move to a trend. So I don’t think we’re afraid to take chances like you’re talking about with kind of sloped through and different things like that. Especially if we’re kind of seeing through the trends of like things you see on Pinterest and Instagram, if we’re starting to see those trends where we’re not afraid to try to execute them in a manner that people are going to enjoy, that’s also somewhat cost-effective for the business as well.
Robert: I think that I’m asking this question for our audience, for all the entrepreneurs and real estate investors, because we do have those people listening to the show. Cause it’s a show about marketing for residential. I wouldn’t say that the vast majority of our audience, but I would say there’s they exist. So here’s my question. When as a business owner, you’re looking at design or curb appeal would be a more common term. What percentage of importance do you put you place for that in your entire business plan? So the design is there. You’ve got marketing business savvy. Cost-Effectiveness these are all elements that you personally have to pay attention to as the owner of Vista. But what does curb appeal? What percentage of importance do you place that for your business?
Jason: Curb appeal is definitely very important. I would say that when we go into projects, we kind of have an idea of what size product, what areas we’re looking to do. But then from there, I mean, curb appeal. I mean, it’s the first thing that a, buyer’s going to say. So I would say that over time we’ve gotten better and better at designing homes with good curb appeal. I’d say in the beginning, when we first did our first couple of homes, we were a little bit more, shy, tentative. Like we didn’t want to be too out there, to be honest. And I think that that’s a good learning thing now. I mean, in the beginning, you may not want to take big chances, especially if you only have a couple of homes going on. It doesn’t hurt to kind of see what other people are doing and try to do something pretty similar. And then as you kind of grow and you do some more homes, you can kind of take some chances and then also tweak it as you go. But some of the design elements can start to cost more as well. So you want to kind of sprinkle them in a little bit as you go, if you start to change everything, then you can kind of run into the cost issues pretty quickly.
Robert: I totally feel everything you said, and that was a great answer, but I am going to ask my question again. I’m just saying percentage-wise, if you just had to arbitrate, like, kind of just gut it and say it.
Jason: For the overall home, it’s probably like, 25%, but I would say that the floor plan, the layout is a sign for me, I would say it’s closer to 50 plus percent of the total pie.
Robert: So floor plan, 50% curb appeal, 25. Did I hear that right?
Jason: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Maybe floorplans even a little bit higher.
Robert: And that was just me. I just get curious about other people’s business. So for those of you who are listening to the show, and especially if you happen to be a home builder of some kind I’m on the Vista Home site getting a compliment from me. Anybody will tell you its high praise because I’m very critical. But there is one element about your site that’s interactive, which means it’s good for SEO, which most people wouldn’t even know. But they have a thing on their site where it says filter by square feet. It’s a clever way of doing a gallery that shows what the max square feet is. It’s actually not hard to do from a development standpoint, but it is really cool because you move this slider up and down, you play with it and you get these different homes of the pop-up. For anybody that’s looking for something kind of interesting and unique.
I strongly suggest you go to Vista Homes and just take a quick look. And it’s actually vistahomesclt.com. So that’s my plug, but I don’t plug anybody unless they actually look at something and I go, oh, this is super cool. So this is a really neat element. Whoever built your website for you came up with a very clever idea. You have to have something different on the site you just do. If you want your site to do anything organically, which you’re obviously not all that focused on, but this is a really cool element. And I’m enjoying it. John saved me here because I’m just digging myself into a deeper and deeper hole.
Jonathon: Yeah. I’m looking at the website and I got a question. Obviously, these millennials are a diverse group, the media mix, outlaw millennials are burden with student debt. And they’re just about to kill themselves. By looking at some of your pricing, are these mostly first-time buyers or they have already got a property in they’re moving to Charlotte from some other area? Or are they first time buyers?
Jason: A lot of our buyers actually are first time buyers, even though it’s a pretty high price point, there’s a lack of like housing availability. So a lot of our clients, yeah. They have pretty strong professionals that are making pretty good money. So they’re not may be saddled with the same as you said the millennials that are kind of saddled by the student debt that you really read about. And that the media talks about, which is obviously a real thing. But our buyers tend to probably have worked a bunch of years and are not saddled by that student debt for the most part. It’s a pretty expensive home.
Jonathon: So you’ve been doing this for about, I think you said you started in 2012 to 13. Basically, you migrated into this niche of highly, looking at the interiors. I can tell you spend a lot of time and money with your settings and the way the interiors look. So was it a gradual move into the minimum sector?
Jason: Yeah, it definitely was. So we kind of started out and we were purchasing a bunch of different types of properties. So I mentioned like some of our in our first project was a small condo renovation. And just over the years, we kind of moved from that to larger renovations, to large additions, and then to new construction. And we just found that for us, a new construction provided the best margins and the best ability to kind of produce a repeatable product that worked well and the opportunities that we were seeing. And I’ll say that over time as our marketing has really changed. So in the beginning, we were sending some yellow letters on the acquisition side and I think some of my big takeaways on the marketing side was kind of to always be tracking it always to be very consistent with marketing and the strategies and things that we’ve done over time have changed. But the core concept, the core principle has always kind of been there. And I think that our success is really a product of our ability to kind of market and brand our business.
Jonathon: Now, the other side of your business, in which you are very involved in, I think concrete is the purchasing of properties. And then a lot of areas, the market are very fluid at the present moment because of the pandemic and other factors. But a lot of areas a lot of agents would say their main problem is there are no houses to sell. So what has been effective because you’ve got very two different sides of your business. You’ve got this millennium and then you’ve got the purchasing side. What are some of the things that really worked on the purchasing side?
Jason: Yeah. So that’s really evolved over time. And right now a lot of what we are a really, a lot of it’s based on our brand. So over time by kind of the different things that we’ve done and being consistent and making sure we’re doing digital and SEO. And everything kind of together has created our brand where now a lot of people will bring us opportunities. And then for us, it’s like we have a pretty deep knowledge of zoning and how to add density and what projects make sense for the business and what people are looking for. So it’s a little bit more of our brand has now funneling our leads. But prior to that, it was like I’ve mentioned we started out doing some yellow letters. Then we started driving around the neighborhoods to locate homes that we thought would be of interest in getting in touch with them.
We’ve done cold calling. So we’ve done a little bit of everything throughout. But now we’re really fortunate that, the brand is kind of having people bring us opportunities. So I think for your audience that just kind of goes to always kind of working on your brand, your marketing, it’s super important. I think that people see our business and they see a pretty house, but behind that is a lot of marketing, a lot of consistent branding, consistent videos, and consistently making sure that people know who Vista Homes is and what we’re all about.
Jonathon: So when are they most the owners that approach you, or do you get a mixture of where an agent has actually got representing now, but they want a quick sale and they know that you’ve got the cash reserves to buy? And it’s going to be at a discount but you’re not absolutely terrible to work with exactly the scenario.
Jason: Yeah. It’s a mixture. And we will have homeowners that, for example, we had one recently where they stole our sign out there and they sent us a letter actually saying that they were interested in selling and I gave them a call and it’s one that we’re working on currently. And then we also have agents that know us, they know that if we say, we’re going to move forward on a purchase, we move forward on it. And they know that we know the areas and yeah, sometimes for a quick sale there, they’re interested in working with us.
And we try to be as fair and reasonable as possible. Obviously, we have to make sure that the risk and the reward and everything make sense on our end. But we definitely make sure that for our agents and for people that bring us opportunities that were really easy to work with. Another thing that I try to pride myself on is if people have questions or if they want to understand what we might be able to pay for something. I always try to make myself available to help people understand pricing. So that they will come to me when they have an opportunity and they know that they can trust me. But I’m also adding value by teaching them, how we look at our opportunities as well.
Jonathon: We have time for one more final question, Robert, have you got one?
Robert: I do, but it’s hyper-specific. So, I took a look again, looking at your website, professional curiosity. I am probably one of the only people, like, have you ever seen an artist? And then somebody signs the painting, digital marketing company signs their product. They usually do so by putting a little thing at the bottom of the site website designed by so-and-so. In your case, the site seems to be developed by a company named blue Corona, blue Corona is identifying them as home services, a digital marketing company. And I’m just kind of curious to know if this is the hyper-local company that you mentioned? Or if this is the national company and you moved away from them? Because just because they built the site doesn’t mean that you had to continue to use them for your marketing.
Jason: Blue Corona was the first marketing company that we worked with. It’s actually my business partner. His wife is a part-owner in that business. Then we actually had the national company after that kind of came in and specialized in residential kind of homebuilding. And now the local company is called yellow dock and that’s who we use currently. So Blue Corona is actually kind of a little bit of a, family relationship, tie kind of thing. And then we’ve kind of pivoted throughout. And they focus a little bit more on I believe like working with HVAC companies and some other areas.
Robert: Gotcha. And that’s what it seemed like. See I’m a real estate guy and it’s funny because there’s so much specific stuff, even on the home builder side, which is a more general type of residential real estate than having to build a residential real estate site. You’re lucky that you’re building a development site because actually your website is easier to build than the average realtor’s website is to build. Because they have to feed live listing feeds into their site, which you don’t necessarily have to worry about. You only have your inventory. So it is an easier thing to build. But they did a great job on it, especially if they’re not specific to home builders. So that must be part of the familial. Well, never mind! It doesn’t have to be part of their familiar relationship, but it seems like they spend a lot of time and energy on your site.
Jason: We did a lot over the years, so I’m sure that even it still has a Blue Corona on there. There have been a lot of tweaks as well. Not obviously they do an awesome job, but we’ve had a bunch of tweaks throughout the years.
Jonathon: A website is never really finished. Is it Jason? It’s not producing any results. So, Jason, I think we’ll wrap up the show. I’m respectful of your time. So Jason what’s the best way for people to find out more about you and about Vista Homes?
Jason: Yeah. Feel free to follow me on I’m on Facebook, I’m on LinkedIn. Vista Homes is on Facebook, LinkedIn. Also, the website is vistahomesclt.com. Also, I’m in the process of working on a podcast as well here, the Charlotte entrepreneur podcast. And we just talk about for businesses of all sizes, kind of how to grow your business, how to get started, how to gain traction. And we have a lot of awesome guests that are in the area, but also, a lot of the, the ideas and lessons can be applied to any business anywhere really.
Jonathon: That`s great. And Robert, what’s the best way to find for people to find out more about you and what you’re up to Robert?
Robert: Always pleased. If you want to learn something about digital marketing, if you want to understand the platforms that are out there for real estate lead generation, if you want to understand real estate lead conversion, or building a marketing plan, basically anything related to real estate marketing. Go to inboundrem.com is where I pour my blood, sweat, and tears, and try to give back to the field that has given so much to me.
Jonathon: And if you’re a first-year up to your third-year real estate agent, and you’re looking at an affordable platform that will help you get more success in 2021, go to the Mail Right website. Because you’re the type of agent that we’re looking for to help out. We will be back next week with another great guest or internal discussion between me and Robert. We will see you soon. Bye.