Bamboo Realty

Bamboo Realty offers a look at how one company is handling expansion into a new market niche and growing like wildfire.

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Bamboo is strong and flexible – two words that have come to suit well for a description of Bamboo Realty in Texas.

While just four years old, Bamboo is in the midst of exercising strength and flexibility as it grows from a brokerage that focused solely on leasing services for renters to offering brokerage services for buyers as well.

Naturally, four years later, the happy clients they served as renters are now looking to buy their first homes or condos. And with the market picking up, Bamboo Realty cofounder Sarah Jones saw a growing need to add specialized services for home buyers.

“One of the interesting things we’ve learned about our name is that bamboo takes four years to grow roots, and then it takes off like wildfire,” Sarah said.

The similarity with what she’s experienced with Bamboo Realty is striking.

Planting roots

Founded on basic values around a strong team culture and exceptional customer service, Bamboo Realty is seeing the benefit of making a lasting impression as many of their rental clients have come back around seeking help in buying their first home.

In fact, Sarah says they closed $12 million in sales in 2012 somewhat serendipitously, and had already surpassed that amount by mid-2013.

But rather than just hold on for the ride, Sarah has taken the opportunity to step back and think strategically about how she will grow the sales side of the business.

The leasing services are becoming more a division within a larger company. And Sarah has appointed a Director of Leasing so she can focus on building out the sales side. She’s building training programs to help build skills specifically for sales, and has opened an office in Houston.

Right now, she’s not looking to expand beyond her core markets of Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston and Austin, but she is looking to expand her team of agents to about 60 pretty quickly.

Seeing opportunity where others see obstacles

Bamboo Realty was recently chosen to be part of the Inman Incubator program. In fact, they were the only brokerage business to be part of the program. Sarah has been taking full advantage, using insights and opportunities to speak with some of the industry’s brightest leaders in figuring out the best approach to building out her brokerage.

One thing she’s been very certain of is her desire to continue to focus on the buyer/renter market and stay out of listings in the short term. It’s a different approach considering many brokerages focus much more on getting listings.

In a lot of markets right now, serving buyers is difficult business – especially first-time buyers. In many cases, there are multiple competing bids, very low inventory of homes for sale and very little time to get offers on the table before properties are under contract.

“Dealing with multiple offers on a rental and a purchase are actually not that different,” Sarah said. “We have an unbelievable track record for winning multiple offer situations,” she said.

Part of how they’ve done this is by using escalation clauses, which enable a buyer to essentially add more to their bid if there are competing offers, while keeping a cap on it so they never feel like they’re overpaying or stepping outside their budget zone.

This practice is a big reason Sarah firmly believes that specializing on the buying or renting side of a deal is a good thing. Her agents’ experience with renters has given them a greater level of expertise in helping their clients win in highly competitive bidding situations.

Putting culture first

Culture was a major driving force behind the idea for Bamboo Realty. Four years into the brokerage’s existence, it continues to keep an important place at the table.

Why is culture so important to this company and its founders?

Sarah lived the “corporate culture” life in a previous career and also studied the effects of culture in mergers and acquisitions at major corporations. When she took her first real estate job prior to founding Bamboo Realty, she realized that one thing was missing – and that was culture.

Too often in real estate, brokerages don’t have a culture or vibe due to the fact that agents are independent contractors who often compete with each other for business. But Sarah saw a need and a benefit to the brokerage in creating and nurturing one.

The culture at Bamboo is very team-oriented, fostering an environment in which agents and employees are constantly in learning mode. It’s normal for agents to share lessons learned, insights and new technologies with each other.

One of the things Sarah is very focused on as her brokerage grows is holding onto their culture in the face of change.

What’s next?

Bamboo is in the process of bringing on more agents to focus on helping buyers, and will be launching a new website geared to attracting more buyers. Sarah does not discount the possibility of moving into the listing side of real estate, though it’s not in the immediate plans.