By Anthony Hitt

Agents who do not focus on specialization will not survive.

In fact, agents who operate as generalists are the most vulnerable to being replaced – whether by technology, or more likely, another agent who has developed a specialty niche in the market for themselves.

Often agents let their businesses be guided solely on wherever and whenever the next opportunity comes from. As a result, many end up operating as real estate generalists, understanding a broad knowledge of the industry, its markets, clientele and property types. While this model worked in years past, it simply does not hold up in today’s market due to the changes in technology and home buying processes.

Tech-savvy buyers and sellers are conducting their own research and have information at their fingertips. With this change, in order to justify a commission, agents need to provide an added value to the home buying or selling experience.

This is where specialization becomes invaluable for agents. By becoming designated market experts within a specified client base and property type, agents can provide a depth of knowledge that makes them truly irreplaceable. While many say technology has the power to replace agents, this only applies to those who attempt to be everything to everyone. If an agent transforms from a generalist to a specialist, technology becomes a tool and not a replacement to the industry.

Defining specialization:

Specialization means to target, pursue and entrench into a niche market. For agents, this can come in the form of:

  • Becoming a neighbourhood guide
  • Owning a segment within a specific geographic market and becoming your clients’ go-to local resource
  • Becoming a property expert
  • Focusing on buying and selling specific property types such as ranches, cottages or ski homes.
  • Owning a specific network of people

Cater your business to a niche target audience and become their real estate expert, who understands their lifestyle, needs and preferences

Choosing the right specialization:

Consumers value a specialist who holds a strong skill level and expertise within a certain niche. According to our research, here are the top four factors that homebuyers and sellers say impact their agent selection, in order:

  1. Local expertise
  2. Years of experience
  3. Recommendations and referrals
  4. Brokerage reputation

Because local expertise is the top reason consumers choose an agent, a geographic specialty is the best place for most agents to start. Agents should choose an area with which they are knowledgeable and experienced. At the beginning of an agent’s career, it will be important to invest in hyper-local marketing within their selected market in order to build awareness for their personal brand as a local expert.

Promoting your specialization:

Agents should always seek new ways to grow their network. Make a point to attend relevant events, for example, a city planning meeting or local festival if your specialty is within that neighbourhood.

Similarly, build mutually beneficial connections within your specialty through partnering with other local businesses that service the same target audience.

Agents should also align themselves with a brokerage that supports and speaks to their chosen specialty. For example, if an agent’s specialty is professional athletes or CEOs, he/she should align with a luxury brokerage.

Becoming an influencer:

Engel & Völkers’ study of millennial HENRYs (High Earners Not Rich Yet) found the next generation of wealth is highly active on social media and increasingly looking to influencers when considering a buying decision. In fact, the most widely followed group of influencers, surprisingly, is not celebrities, but topic experts – personal trainers, makeup artists, nutritionists and yes, real estate agents. The goal for agents when choosing and owning a specialty is to leverage the brand and expertise they’ve cultivated as the basis to become a “topic expert” influencer.

Agents can demonstrate expertise within their chosen niche in an authentic and entertaining way, while also building credibility.

For example, an agent who specializes in equestrian properties might use Instagram to post photos of themselves at a polo match. Whatever the specialty, it’s important to be authentic. Social media is an effective way to show clients that you also “walk the walk.”

As technology becomes more sophisticated, an agent’s specialization becomes their unique value proposition and most important differentiator. Carving out and owning a niche specialty is one of the most powerful ways to create a distinct agent brand.


  1. We could not agree more. Buyers and Seller’s should have an agent that specializes in the neighbourhood they are buying or selling in. Agents just don’t know what they don’t know about a community if they are not working in it every day.

    We are so happy to be with a global real estate company that values our life’s-work of promoting our community of Chestermere Alberta. Engel & Völkers makes us be the best Advisors that we can be. They give us the tools, training and global reach to do this better than anyone else can.

    We do things that other real estate agents will not. We go and look at all the listings in Chestermere, so we personally experience the homes that are on the market. We know why the homes that sold did, why they sold for what they did, or why they did not sell. We know the different areas, and how they compare pricewise to others. We know the good deals and cannot wait to tell our clients about them. We know the homes that have been taken off the market for “a rest”, we know many homes that have not hit the market yet. We also know when a seller has an unrealistic expectation. We can help them understand market position, so they can decide if it is the right time for them to sell or not.

    We all go to Monday morning meetings and share our listings with each other. We help each other. We are a group of real estate agents that like and know each other. This is the best office we have worked in in 28 years, (including our own brokerage). If an agent from our office has a buyer or seller for Chestermere, we will can help them or they will refer their client to us.

    We have extra training weekly at 7 am, where we work on our skills together. We also have workshops where we help each other with our websites, marketing and implementation of company tools.
    We have an incredible management team that is in the market selling homes today, so they understand and help us overcome the challenges that we face.

    We reach incoming relocation’s through our extensive global network on sites like Zillow, James Edition, Juwai, and 800 other real estate websites. We are working with a buyer who became aware of us on Zillow. They came to our open house in December looking for a lakefront home we are showing them homes on the market and homes that have not hit the market yet.

    Engel & Völkers is a lifestyle brand and Chestermere has an amazing lifestyle to offer. With a 750 acre lake that you can waterski & sail on, just 30 minutes to downtown Calgary and 20 minutes from the International Airport. We are leveraging the amazing tools that Engel & Völkers provides to share the Chestermere story with the 11,220 advisors in our 800 shops in 32 countries.

    There will always be a place for real estate agents that go the extra mile for their clients with passion, and competence, but exclusivity will give them the value that clients need and expect. Thank you for a company that supports this.

    We are proud to be Real Estate Advisors with Engel & Völkers in Chestermere Alberta Canada. Please call us if you would like to know more about Engel & Völkers or Chestermere.

    Marjorie, Doug and Kevin McKay 403-909-7975
    Engel & Völkers Calgary

  2. When I earned by PRICING STRATEGY ADVISOR designation I new what my specialty was going to be but then is earned my REAL ESTATE NEGOTIATION EXPERT designation and got confused.

    Later that day I bought my ACCREDITED STAGING PROFESSIONAL designation and thought I hit the jackpot.

    The next day I bought my TRANSNATIONAL REFERRAL CERTIFICATION and started waiting as an expert in that area too!

    That’s right folks for few bucks you can buy over 50 specializations to attach to your card for a few bucks.

    I encourage you all to buy as many as possible and fill your business cards with letters and symbols to confuse the public.

    Hey why not CREA offers 79 unique specializations you can have beside your name on today.

    Jump on board the specialization train as your ticket to success!

  3. I can’t think of a single market where this approach works. Limiting to a Niche often feeds one’s ego but not their bottom line. Being a “Generalist” and having knowledge in all areas of real estate is important to be a successful Realtor. i wonder if the columnists are actually in the “trenches” in real time? More relevant articles needed @Rem

    • I have been odd man out my whole life, so why should real estate be any different. When I found myself in a new mat home in a new city where I knew no one, had no friends or family nearby, and was newly licenced, I read everything I could get my hands on relative to real estate and studied the MLS daily material religiously.

      I knew from nothing about anything and had found the courses lacking in fundamental usefulness. I bought and paid for convention courses by the boatload, bought the related books and manuals by the dozens. With each experience I learned at least one new thing. Much of it American provided, where real estate business is conducted quite differently at times.

      And I carried a supply of business cards everywhere I went. I networked everywhere I went including in grocery store line ups.

      What has that to do with specializing? At one such course it was suggested to study mapping and see how much listings and sold traffic turnover there was in specific locations: streets or sudivisions.

      I began by setting up my own charts and graphs that quickly produced the information I desperately needed to become a “specialist” (a forbidden term in our trading area).

      I picked a few high turnover areas and set up my farm, where within almost no time I became the go-to agent. I hated condo apartments so I eliminated that area of expertise seeing as I had none.

      I wasn’t crazy about townhouses but I didn’t eliminate them because I saw those as possible buy-up contenders in my farming generating. I quickly learned in my market research that they preferred to move up but into specific subdivisions, so I became the go-to agent in those locations and then in turn, moved those homeowner sellers up to where they generally wanted to move up to.

      In neariy four decades I didn’t sell a dozen semi-detached houses, never did one rental property, never prepared a lease, never helped with a multiplex, only I think sold one house that had a beautiful basement apartment where homeowners’ parents lived, sold by co-op MLS.

      Never sold historical properties and only a couple of rural properties where I discovered I knew more by happenstance than I would have guessed and told myself this was another exclusion from my career.

      I understood riparian rights, setbacks and side allowances, and learned who built what, where and when, but decided to “stay in town in certain locations only and became a secret agent specialist.” I never talked about what I did or how, and became somewhat of an industry oddity as some tried to figure me out.

      By doing so and by referring out to other agents nearby I did become the local go-to agent, being blessed with a 24% market share in my tight geographical trading area, after almost no time, a then unheard of market ID and UP with a genuine specialist arena that produced plus or minus a half million dollars in commissions annually, so I think I am living proof and qualified to speak to the topic that specializing works. You just have choose a niche and stick to it. I moved some families eight times over the years. And did corporate relocations all over the world, and when helping incoming relo buy, tried to ensure they would work with me again when they left. I created a special niche in this regard, separate from my regular business. One company alone I acquired in 1981 where the firm director was so pleased, he made sure I did all their executive relo until the firm left Canada in 1998. Niche marketing works.

      Agents can specialize in many definitions: geographical locations by mapping, by product definition, by price range, by in-city property, rural, recreational; rentals, leasing or even only commercial (definitely a specialty) … the list is endless.

      After about six months of researching and figuring out what I didn’t want to do, I moved forward at a rapid rate and never looked back.

      Not by choice I elected recently to put my licence on hold for medical reasons. And I still receive requests to do business. Last year alone I turned down more than a couple of hundred thousands in commissions that I was not even able to refer out; it all was tied to my specialty: single family detached suburban residential dwellings; both buyers and sellers in a very tight geographical mapped area.

      And no one ever heard me complain often working 60-80 hour weeks, much of it behind my at-home desk. Showing houses was my least favourite activity. I did an abundance of research and kept people organized and educated. And that contributed greatly to being that forbidden moniker, a “specialist.”

      And I still found time to write consumer education articles that travelled coast to coast and beyond.

      One day I might consider becoming a consultant but for now it’s “back to the kitchen” at least for now. An avocation that fills time and space: writing and continuing to create original recipes. As someone long since out of business commented on another person’s FB page, regarding my eBook cookbook press release, something in this effect: “I guess while the rest of us were door knocking and phone canvassing, Carolyne was in the kitchen… ”

      Here’s the net result, 45 years in the making, alongside my “specialist” go-to agent real estate career wherein I didn’t phone canvass or door knock, yet my phone never stopped ringing.

      To order my ebook, “Gourmet Cooking – at Home with Carolyne,” it is available here for $5.99 US.
      Email Carolyne

      Respectfully disagree with those who want to be all things to all people. It seldom works and the liability and dangers in today’s world are far too great. The waste of time and money often incalculable.

      Carolyne L – a well-seasoned rep, 39 years later… ?

  4. This may work in a large market. If you want to starve in a small market like Sarnia;specialize. This article is like many, in REM these days. Irrevelent or badly researched

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