NOT ONLY IS THE REAL ESTATE market in the Charleston area changing rapidly, but the way people buy and sell homes is also changing just as fast. Today, almost half of homebuyers find their home through online platforms, including Facebook. That means sellers, or at least their agents, have to be online marketing experts if they are to compete with everything else on the internet that wants our attention.
Three years ago, Diana Johnson, now owner and broker-in-charge of Realty ONE Group Coastal, saw an opportunity to evolve her long and prestigious career as a Realtor into something more robust and meaningful. In 2017 she opened the first Realty ONE in South Carolina, a franchise known for its use of cutting-edge technology to create a relaxed and pleasant buying and selling journey for all involved, including the agents.
Johnson’s business snowballed, and today she oversees 170 agents in three offices in Summerville, Nexton and Mount Pleasant (where Chad Priest is broker-in-charge). One of the things that sets her company apart is her agent-first focus. “Our technology supersedes anything out there, but we don’t charge the high splits most brokerages charge,” she says. “Agents get the best of all worlds.”
If you’ve ever bought or sold a house, or five, you know that agents who are fairly compensated and well supported by their brokers are happy agents, and happy agents sell homes.
Realty ONE Group Coastal is also unconventional in its approach to marketing. Using new data analysis strategies, the company can send extremely targeted emails to buyers about homes that they’ll actually want to see. Although data is the engine that drives the content, the marketing is personal. Each home gets its own beautifully designed website, and the home’s marketing copy is written from a storytelling point of view.
Browsing for-sale homes on Realty ONE Group Coastal’s site is also a refreshing experience because it places a high value on professional, high-quality photos. Scrolling through its listings feels more like scanning pretty pictures on Houzz, rather than slogging through the typical MLS cellphone shot gallery.
The company also leverages Facebook and Facebook’s highly successful ad campaigns, to engage tens of thousands of would-be buyers on social media. Instagram is also part of its social media strategy, and it uses the platform as it’s meant to be used—to share enticing peeks at homes, not as pseudo-MLS listings.
Of benefit to both buyers and sellers, arguably where the company stands out most, is its video content. Johnson’s offices have a full-service video studio that produces custom property tours. Most videos start with drone footage of the property, which is a massive help in orienting buyers in Charleston’s labyrinthine neighborhoods, especially buyers from off, who may not know the landscape like a local. Videos also help online buyers get a feel for the flow and layout of a home, something that static pictures can’t do. Many videos have a short personal introduction by the listing agent, which makes it feel like you’ve just had a mini showing.
“Most Realtors use the MLS for prospecting, but we have an app that dives into the analytics of what the consumer is looking for. The MLS can return results based on the number of bedrooms and so forth, but we can return results based on broader preferences, such as ‘open floor plan,’” Johnson says. Because Realty ONE Group is global, its Lowcountry agents can easily reach buyers up North. “For our higher price point homes, we can dial into specific locations. We can reach thousands more prospective buyers,” she adds.
If all that isn’t enough, Realty ONE Group is dedicated to local philanthropy, an element that fits Johnson’s values. The franchise has its own nonprofit, Realty ONE Group Cares Inc., an organization that facilitates giving campaigns, matching gifts and volunteer opportunities. The nonprofit also hosts ONE Day, an annual company-wide day of service.
“Philanthropy as part of the mission statement is the first thing that caught my eye about Realty ONE Group,” Johnson says. Though she is a busy professional and mother of three (including twins), she also volunteers with several nonprofits, including those fighting child sex trafficking on a local and international level.
After a lengthy chat about Charleston’s real estate, technology and giving back, Johnson comes full circle in a way that is a credit to the sincerity at the heart of her company. “There’s no way I could do all of this by myself,” she says. “Everyone on my entire team is the best of the best.”*
Robin Howard is a freelance writer in Charleston. See more of her work at robinhowardwrites.com.