While growing their business, most startup owners try to go broad and attract as many people as possible. But according to many marketing experts, the key is niching down.Therefore, those looking to succeed in the modern-day business world should find an area they can specialize in and build a community around it.
In this episode of Curb Appeal, Tony Farah, the founder of Tony Farah Group, joins our host Rachel Gombosch to discuss his niche. Tony is a real estate agent helping families with special needs buy or sell houses. Tony discusses the process and challenges these families face and how he helps them overcome them.
He also discusses why real estate agents struggle to create a unique selling proposition and shares what he believes helps him fulfill his mission.
''When you put others first — ahead of anything important to you — that will accelerate your success in this business.''
💡 Name: Tony Farah
💡 What he does: Tony is the founder of Tony Farah Group.
💡 Company: Tony Farah Group
💡 Noteworthy: Tony is a real estate agent and author on a mission to help families with special needs buy or sell houses and go through the relocation process as smoothly as possible.
⚡We are in this together. Tony's private life influenced his career path and, as he says, it's a question of whether he would be in this niche had his son not been diagnosed with autism. However, his circumstances motivated him to help families in the same situation. And that deep understanding is what makes his selling proposition unique. ''A lot of times, people are reserved. They don't want to talk about their challenges. But it was an opportunity to say, 'Hey, let me share with you how we got here, where we were, and the challenges we've gone along with.'''
⚡I'm not just a realtor; I'm a dad and a part of a family with special needs. The way Tony presented his business to the community proves that there is no one-size-fits-all approach in marketing. ''It started with being a parent. [...] So we had him in a service center for about five years, and then I lost my job. So I was on unemployment benefits, and it was an opportunity to drop him off and pick him up. And I came into the center and said, 'I'd like to overlap with my son.' [...] It was an opportunity for me to say, 'Okay, now I need to follow where my son goes.' So I took the dad approach, and once he moved to elementary school, I joined the board. [...] Having volunteered at these school boards was an opportunity to say, 'Okay, now I need to sponsor their events.' [...] It was a combination of being a dad and being a specialty realtor. And I was able to merge the two to get my name and niche out there in the market.''
⚡My mission is to help families with special needs and serve as a trustworthy realtor to the entire community. According to Tony, the niche he specializes in is 20% of his business, so his client base also includes, as he says, neurotypical clients. ''When I sit down with a neurotypical buyer or seller, I still say what I specialize in, and their minds right away take them to, 'Oh my God! If this guy is so patient and consistent in working with families with special needs — because they're going to require a lot of his time and energy — our process is probably gonna be a breeze.''
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[00:00:00] Tony Farah: I always find a way to say, "Okay, what's an alternative? What's another solution?" Because that's what we get hired to do, is to solve a problem for these folks. So, anybody and everybody always has a problem that wants somebody else to solve it.
[00:00:14] We get paid to do that. Hello everyone, and welcome to another episode of Curb Appeal. I am so excited to have you all here today. My name is Rachel Gombosch, and I am your host. And today, I am here with Tony Farah of the Tony Farah Group, the leading real estate team for family relocation and families with special needs and top 1% Coldwell Banker realtor in the Twin Cities, Metro area.
[00:01:06] Rachel Gombosch: Tony, how are you doing today?
[00:01:09] Tony Farah: Fabulous. Happy Monday to you, Rachel, and happy Monday to all your listeners.
[00:01:14] Rachel Gombosch: Yes. Happy Monday. And what an awesome Monday it is. We have such an amazing episode to go through today. We are talking on unique selling propositions and, Tony, you have a fabulous one, and we're just gonna get, honestly, right into it because we have a lot of information to cover.
[00:01:33] So, Tony, why don't you go ahead and just tell me why do you believe real estate professional struggle or maybe even hesitate to develop a unique selling proposition?
[00:01:43] Tony Farah: Well, let's just go to the basic, right? The fact that we have real estate has no barriers to entry, so anybody can go in, but at the same time, it's got one of the highest failure rates at 87%. Honestly, I feel like agents don't do their homework ahead of time, and they don't really take the time to understand their true identity, you know, do a soul search, determine, you know, why they want to get into that business, to begin with, you know. Anybody can get in. They sell their moms and pops and cousins.
[00:02:13] And then, they stumble and, you know, when they don't have a plan to really what's gonna carry on to the next level, I feel like they get excited in the beginning, it's, it's not, it's not a challenge in the beginning, but the challenge is, "How do you take it to the next level?" You know, it could be fear, it could be lack of resources, it could be lack of true identity, you know, and what gets them into the real estate to begin with.
[00:02:38] So, to me, it, it was a no-brainer, six and a half months into it, and I'm taking you back to, like, 2015 right now, but six months, six months into it, and I'm like," How am I gonna compete with the number of thousands of agents in the Twin Cities?"
[00:02:54] And when we're talking Twin Cities, we're talking like a 7-county Metro and, and it was a challenge, there's no question about it. And when I sat down on my knees, and I said, "I need to do a soul search. I need to determine who I am, who I want to be, and where do I want go." And it was quite the exercise, honestly, so. Yeah, but I feel like it's, it's a fear, lack of resources in really not determining or defining the true identity.
[00:03:22] I think these are the big three that comes to mind.
[00:03:25] Rachel Gombosch: Yeah. And I think a good point that you brought up is that a unique selling proposition really is developing your why of why you're in real estate, and that's ultimately what's going to carry these agents throughout their entire careers. If you're not developing that why of what is bringing you into the industry, then, " What is it that's carrying you through all the ups and downs and ebbs and flows?" 'Cause we know that the market is not always steady. It's always up and down and around. And so, agents need to develop something that's really stronghold in connecting them to a higher purpose and why they're selling real estate and why they're reaching out to specific clients.
[00:04:07] Tony Farah: Let's take it deeper a little bit.
[00:04:08] Rachel Gombosch: Really good point there.
[00:04:09] Tony Farah: Let's take it a deeper than a, "Why?" You know? If, if we take it a deeper than a why, what inspires me to wake up every day is my son with needs. Right? So, you know, having, having that, one of me kind of, like, inspired me to kind of push forward and say, "Hey, there's nobody that, out there that's really taken that to the next level. So, wake up every day and do it."
[00:04:35] So, totally. I totally agree. You know, "What is your, 'Why?'" You know? And, and people need to really dictate deep dive to, to really uncover that. Great point there.
[00:04:44] Rachel Gombosch: Right. And let's, let's go into your why a little bit and what was your process behind, uh, developing and tailoring your niche and your why and your unique selling proposition into specifically the special needs families. What, what brought you there?
[00:05:00] Tony Farah: Well, when we joined the autism community and that was back in 2007, 2008, I started creating this community. I joined a task force of other parents, you know, thinking that we can make a change in, at the capital level, you know, meeting with legislatives and, and try to really bring both parties together.
[00:05:23] It started there, it started building that network of total strangers, but yet we have that commonality of special need. We have that commonality of autism, we understood each other. And then, uh, fast forward, when I got into real estate, it was an easy jump for me to say, "Hey, you know what? I could make this my specialty."
[00:05:45] Tony Farah: I need to, obviously, understand who I'm dealing with. That's why I got certified to work with severe children with sensory challenges. And it's profound when you listen to it, severe children with sensory challenges, every kid is different, every case is different, but having a general understanding of that, many episodes that can really transpire from these different behaviors really gave me that edge.
[00:06:15] And, to me, it was, it was a no-brainer, and that's when I kind of, like, I went from, like, this way until and let's just go down. That was a, an awakening call, and that was a wake-up call, too, to say, "Okay, let's take it to the next level." To me is, um, it's just so rewarding to look back and where I was and how it started and to where I am today and the impact I've had along the way. And if it wasn't for my son's diagnosis with autism, I would've never built those relationships with these communities outside. If it wasn't for his diagnosis, I would not be standing and, and sharing with you a firsthand experience, what it takes to really move a family from point A to point B and then everything that goes in between.
[00:07:01] And, you know, we could definitely talk about my own family and, and moving my own family during a pandemic and having to really apply every one of these tactics to my own family has really given me that confidence to say, "If I can do it with my own family, guess what?" And I could do it with just anybody, basically.
[00:07:24] Rachel Gombosch: Yeah. And let's get into that a little bit more. So, how has having a special needs son in your life changed your thinking and your approach to selling real estate?
[00:07:37] Tony Farah: Yeah, you know, the old saying, "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." Right? And, to me, it was, "How can I provide, how can I share goodness, you know, to the community? How can I stay upbeat?"
[00:07:49] And, uh, I had a choice. I could, you know, having a child with special needs is, demands a lot of time, demands a lot of patience, demands a lot of sacrifice and being a parent, being a husband and being a dad, to two boys, kind of, like, requires that balance in life. Right? So, I've always used the analogy of the old scale where you would add half a, half a pound to the right and then, until you get that balance and then, oops, you have to add two pounds to the left scale to kind of balance it.
[00:08:23] And I've always used that. And, and my two choices were, "I either do something about it or I become a miserable person and at the end." And, to me, it was just a no-brainer, you know, "What is it that I could do to deal with it? How can I provide to my family? And how can I still be there as a resource, as a source to my family, while providing to, you know, bread and butter on the table?"
[00:08:47] So, it was kind of, like, a combination and, to me, is, "Let me share that goodness, let me share what's working with my family." 'Cause a lot of times people are kind of, like, reserved, you know, they don't want to talk about their challenges day in and day out. But, to me, it was an opportunity to say, "Hey, let me share with you how we got here, where we were, and what are some of the challenges that we've gone along with, you know, from a special diet trauma to seizures, to autism and wandering, they're just best friends to, just to name a few." And that have put other families at ease, knowing that, "Oh, my God, this guy walks in our shoes. This guy understands the complex life that we live."
[00:09:29] I don't, I walk into houses they're not even ready to show, but I'm able to see behind it just because I've been there myself. So, to me, it's a combination of seeing the world from his angle and to help me understand how many of the other community, many of the other populations that live our life are kind of live in and see in it.
[00:09:50] So, kind of like a 3D Vision, here with having into Virtuance products right now, right? But you see in the 3D, and you kind of like, uh, connect, you know? You find that commonality between these families and that by itself is just a true inspiration that I got from my own son, you know? If it wasn't for his diagnosis, if it wasn't for his autism, I don't know that I'd be doing this today.
[00:10:15] I'd probably be still doing my retail, executive job, basically, so.
[00:10:19] Rachel Gombosch: Yeah. And let's get into, you brought up some really awesome points and, in that last response, and I wanna dig into 'em a little bit more, about developing not only a unique selling proposition, doesn't just necessarily mean identifying maybe an issue that you see with industry or a gap that you see with the industry that you are desiring to fill, but, additionally, taking the time to really understand your audience and taking that next step to understanding your audience.
[00:10:51] So, it's not like you're just going into, or you're not just reaching out to these families who also have maybe children with special needs and saying I'm gonna assist you in the home selling process, but the point you brought up of saying, "I go into homes that aren't even ready to show, but I can already switch my brain and know how to address issues that they're gonna bring up that they're gonna think and see and they're gonna bring to light.
[00:11:16] I already know how to answer those problems for them. Because, one, I have firsthand experience. I have a son who's got special needs, so I, I, I've dealt with those issues myself." But then, two, it's almost this, you're doing your job in the sense of you're easing the struggles of what's already an extremely stressful process for them.
[00:11:37] And so, let's dig into that a little bit more, about some of those struggles that maybe, in your particular niche, families have with special needs of what can be issues during this home selling process. And that way, our audience can really see, like, what are the steps you are taking to understand your audience and actually help them and assist them and what it means to take it that next step further in the home buying, home selling process.
[00:12:05] Tony Farah: Well, let, you know, absolutely. I mean, great questions, you've covered a lot. There's a lot to unpack there, but I feel like the shame, embarrassments, not ready, these are all kind of hovering in, in, in these families' minds. And my job is to take that pressure, take the stress. I always tell my clients, "Hey, let me take the pressure off of you.
[00:12:27] Throw it at me, and then I'll be able to at least handle it. Let me have you worry about your families, the kids, and how we can really process this whole thing together, as a team, obviously." Right? So, to, to me, it was an opportunity not just to connect with mom and dad and, to me, my process is so straightforward 'cause I wanted to involve the whole group.
[00:12:51] The whole group, I mean, I want the kids to be involved. And, you know, getting that certification to work with children, to understand where their struggles are and how I could really soothe that process for them, has provided me an opportunity to connect with the kids in many different ways. One is, you know, I could just showcase the storybooks, right?
[00:13:14] I may be jumping ahead, but the storybooks, you know, on the front right here of the cover for the listeners, we have the title that's called What We're Moving, and then we have the child kind of opening up wide his arms out of a window screaming, "Oh, my God." And then, the parents, on the bottom, kind of looking up with that scary face, kind of like and then you've got by Tony Farah.
[00:13:39] And then, if you flip, open the pages, you've got nothing but illustrations. Because I wanna connect with the child. That's my main goal, is to connect with the child, regardless of their age. Because, to me, it's, if I connect with them, it takes a lot of pressure from the parents. And then, it works.
[00:13:59] Every case is different, I get it, but it has not failed me yet. And I'm super proud to say that I'm on my third book right now. So, writing the third storybook, besides the buying and the selling process, the third book talks about, "How to keep our children safe during and post a move?" Which is very, very important.
[00:14:19] Another point, very important that I, I really wanna mention is part of my certification is the way I understand kids is, "How can I keep 'em busy?" So, I come in with a, with a gift for the kids. This is, I'm holding here a sensory basket.
[00:14:37] Okay. What is a sensory basket? The sensory baskets holds, like, fidgets.
[00:14:42] It could be the puzzle piece that I have, which is, like, a de-stressor ball, but it's in the shape of a puzzle, but it could be a small clock. And that simple, that simple clock will provide activities for the child. And then, all I have to say, I say, "Okay, kiddo, we're gonna just be with mom and dad for 10 minutes." And then, I'll time it for 10 minutes, and they're holding on to that clock.
[00:15:07] And it's just a gold mind, right? I'm, like, waiting for that 10 minutes to be off, so. And that's all I need sometimes. It's just little tricks like that to really get inside their head.
[00:15:18] And, you know, and that comes from firsthand experience, that comes from doing it over and over again. That comes from really that trust that these families have put in me, you know. In our business, people will do and will transact with realtors that they know, like and trust.
[00:15:33] I feel like I've jumped to the trust factor right away once I've discovered my niche in this real estate space, and that is to really be the go-to realtor for families with special needs. So, to me is very rewarding, and it's fulfilling to be able to really put out that unique selling proposition and make it more of an added value than anything else.
[00:15:56] Right? So, the selling part comes after it. Once you connect, once you really deliver that value through these many different tactics that I just showed you and, and just talked about, I think that elevates my presentation, you know, to these families. And they're like, "Where do I sign?"
[00:16:14] Rachel Gombosch: Right. Well, and I love, too, that, like, you have developed tools in your toolkit that, one, are just so incredibly creative, but, two, can also be used outside of just real estate. I mean, these families will be able to use these books and these resources that you're providing to them for any time, again, anytime they move, anytime they have big transitions, they'll be able to look back on this series, which really is adapted around like a huge transition in life that may be difficult for someone with special needs, where it's hard for them to move from one home to the next, it's a major change, and they'll be able to pull on these resources that you've created for them.
[00:17:00] And I think that really speaks to your niche and your unique selling proposition goes outside of just real estate. And I think you really need to connect to something that is genuinely something that's, like, heartfelt. It's something you feel, it's something you've experienced, it's a passion of yours.
[00:17:23] And it's something that is with you for the long run. And I think that's awesome that you've been able to develop these resources behind what you're doing. I mean, even just the sensory kit, like you could have just given a toy basket, right? Like, you think, "Kids, okay, here's a toy basket." But taking it one step further of, "This is the child's needs while I'm showing the home to the parents is, 'I need to streamline them down so that their senses aren't as overwhelmed.
[00:17:53] They're not as jarred, and let's get them to just focus on a single clock for 10 minutes. And that's enough time for me to walk the parents through the house. It's enough time for the kid to be distracted, but it, just in case they're not, here's a little stress ball for them to play with.'" You've taken it that one step further.
[00:18:11] That really makes a difference for you in this, this home buying and home selling process, which is remarkable.
[00:18:18] Tony Farah: Totally. Totally.
[00:18:19] Rachel Gombosch: Like, how incredibly awesome.
[00:18:20] Tony Farah: It's, it's like,
[00:18:21] you know what I mean, as being interested versus interesting, you know, it's, it's always kind of, "What's in it for me?" You know, when, when you walk into an interview, or you're meeting a, total new families, you wanna use as much tools as possible to really put them at ease, uh, not just to connect, but, "How can I put 'em at ease?
[00:18:41] How can I reassure them so they could trust that our process is gonna be second to none, is gonna get 'em from point A to point B?" I totally understand what a behavior is. I totally understand how to minimize, uh, tantrum from happening. And I totally understand that if it does happen, "Hey, this is how we're gonna deal with it."
[00:19:00] And in a blink of an eye, it's just, like, as if never happened. So, to me, is, that's the advantage. That's the edge that I hold, as well. And when I share that with families they're, like, more than just at ease, you know? I tell you it's, I went one time to a, uh, to present to a client, to a family.
[00:19:19] And the first comment I got is like, "You don't need to share with me what you want to do. I'm already sold on you." You know? And to me, is that buy-in, right away. It's just so rewarding, and it gives that confidence, again, you boost that confidence to going back to like, "Hey, this is a unique selling proposition.
[00:19:38] This is what it's all about." When you put others first, ahead of anything that is important to you, you know, that will really accelerate your success in this business.
[00:19:49] Rachel Gombosch: Yeah. That's an awesome point. And I think that really kind of leads into, to my next question is, I mean, you've been able to develop your niche on your own personal experience.
[00:19:59] Tony Farah: It hasn't been easy. Trust me.
[00:20:01] Has not been easy.
[00:20:02] Rachel Gombosch: Yeah. Oh, I'm, I'm sure. I'm sure. Uh, once you got into it, though, and you started developing it, did you start noticing within maybe the real estate industry in general that, specifically for special needs families, there were maybe some systematic issues in helping them find a home?
[00:20:20] Tony Farah: Well, let's say, let's take it further, a little bit further. At bigger scale is some of the struggles or the obstacles that I, I could share is lot of rejections in the beginning, you know, and you cannot market to a protected class and, you know, and the minute I heard that, I'm like, "Yes, you bring it on."
[00:20:39] 'Cause I want, I want to bring the notion that, you know what, families with special needs, caregivers in the United States, there are, like, over 35 million caregivers in the United States, as we speak. That's probably a lot more now because I'm going back to 2019 data, according to the CDC and the NIH. But, to me, is, " Why impose such an obstacle to families that are looking for resources?" And I'm like, "I'm here to be of a source, of a resource to provide solution to a, a horrific problems that a lot of families have." You know, when you talk with families with special needs, we all move. On the average, Americans move every seven years.
[00:21:23] Why is that? Because the children grow, their needs grow, as well. And then, that demands more space. And then, all of a sudden, they're teenagers, and they've got friends coming over, you know, what used to be a story-and-a-half now is a two-story. So, there is that notion there that people will buy and sell at least three, four times in their lifetime.
[00:21:49] To us, families with special needs, it's a scary process. Why? Because it's overwhelming, It's so complex. You know, when you take a deep dive into it, I don't wanna move a county because I don't wanna lose my waiver money that I get from the county. I don't wanna move because I don't wanna lose my space for my kids in that school, because that's the only school that serves their needs. So, when, when you start pulling all the different resources, and you say, "Okay, this is what we're gonna do. You're not gonna lose your money. There are other opportunities for schools as well. And this is, I'm gonna take you through that process."
[00:22:26] So, it's just like taking it, again, from being such a complex to really manageable. And we could just work through the process to make it happen. So, some of these obstacles, some of these struggles I kind of faced early on, and I, it was just an opportunity it's like, from every crisis there's always opportunities.
[00:22:46] And that was an easy way for me to really tackle those obstacles. But the biggest one was, "You can't market to a special need families." "Well, watch me." And seven years later, I'm still doing it. And, and it's been just amazing, amazing experience.
[00:23:02] Rachel Gombosch: I mean, and just, it's amazing, again, to just see how far you've been able to take it and to connect with people. And let's just kind of start talking about how you managed to start marketing to special needs families. So, one, you were told you couldn't do it, obviously, we've proved them wrong.
[00:23:20] So, how did you get, how'd you get your foot in the door? How did you start saying like, "I'm the man to come to with.", "Anyone, if you have a special needs child and you're thinking about moving, I'm your go-to." Like, "Come to me, I'm gonna help you from A to Z. We're gonna figure it out. We're gonna find the resources. I've got resources to send to you. We're gonna make this an easy and smooth process for you."
[00:23:41] Tony Farah: It, it started being a parent. It started being a dad. So, I kind of followed where my child went. Okay. So, way back then, we had him in a service center for about five years, and then I had just lost my job. So, I was on unemployment benefits, and it was an opportunity for me to drop him off and pick him up.
[00:24:02] And, uh, I came into the center, and I said, you know, "I'd like to really overlap with my son." And they're like, "Well, Mr. Farah, it's kind of like against HIPAA rules because, you know, you can't overlap while we're working with your child." And so, I kind of stayed consistent on it and persistent, for that matter.
[00:24:21] Until I said, "You know what? It just makes sense. He's here with you guys for eight hours, and he's with us at home for the other 16 hours. So, logic would say, if he's here eight and he's at home, what, double that time, then it's an opportunity for me to understand how you work with him so I could help you help him. And then, I'll be implementing that same tactics that you work with him at home, so he comes in the next day, and then he's able to really progress."
[00:24:51] So, in a way, um, "Help me help you." Type of approach. So, they took it to management and then it came back and, and they said, "You know what? You've got a valid case.
[00:25:00] We're just gonna make a one-hour overlap mandatory for all parents that have children in the service center." Some did not like my approach. Some loved it. But it was an opportunity for me to say, "Okay, now I need to follow where my son goes." So, I took the dad approach to say, "Okay, if he's..." Once he moved to elementary school, then I joined the board and I became, I'm like, "I'm a real estate agent now."
[00:25:25] And I became a co-chair of the facility committee. And then, we came with the opportunity is that we need to build a new school because the building that we were in, it was not sustainable for many obvious reasons. And we put together an effort and few years later, guess what? We have a new school.
[00:25:43] He graduated from the elementary school and then moved on to the middle, into high school. And I joined the foundation board of that school, as well. So, I started, wherever he went, I kind of followed his steps, as a dad. And then, it was kind of a smooth transition for me to say, "Hey, this is what I do for a living."
[00:26:03] So, in 2018, that's when I introduced the first storybook. The second storybook was introduced in 2021, during the pandemic. And the third storybook, obviously, will be introduced this fall. But the transitioning from being a dad to a specialty real estate agent was very smooth at that point. So, to me, "How do I take it to the next level?"
[00:26:26] That's, you know, having done some volunteering at these school boards and whatnot, you know, it was an opportunity for me to say, "Okay, now I need to sponsor their events."
[00:26:38] Now, I started getting the word out there on social media that, "Hey, I wanna sponsor your 5k for autism during April months.
[00:26:46] I wanna, you know, be at the puzzle competition for the Autism Society of Minnesota at the Mall of America in, in the fall and among other sponsorship." And I started supporting these organizations by providing, you know, these puzzles, these stressors, water balls, giving away some of these storybooks just to get the word out there.
[00:27:07] Tony Farah: So, to me, it was a combination of being a dad and being a specialty realtor. And I was able to merge the two to just get my name and niche out there in the market.
[00:27:17] Rachel Gombosch: Yeah, that's awesome. And I think the, one of the greatest points you just made is that marketing yourself goes beyond just saying, "I am this particular type of realtor." But, actually, putting yourself in organizations and in events and in other spaces that support your niche.
[00:27:40] I mean, going out to different organizations and sponsoring different events and saying, " This is a cause that I wanna support. And I just so happen to be a realtor, as well." Right? I think that's such an amazing approach to take because genuinely, that shows, one, your passion behind it is, "I'm not just saying it to say it. I'm not just saying, 'I'm here to help you as a special needs parent.' It's 'No, I genuinely believe in this cause. I support all these different organizations. I've taken the time to really educate myself and go that next step. I wanna help you with all the resources. Oh, and by the way, if you do need help moving, I know the proper steps to take.
[00:28:22] I know how to make it as unstressful as possible for you and your family.'" And so, going beyond marketing and marketing your niche and getting your foot in the door and getting out there goes past, simply, just posting on social media saying, "Oh, I'm a first-time home buyer. Oh, I'm, I'm just, I'm a specialty realtor in this particular area."
[00:28:41] Tony Farah: There's so many of them out there.
[00:28:43] So, many of them out there, again, it's being interested first, then interesting next. Okay. And it, it follows and then it adds and then seeing a gap. And here's a good one. I don't know if I shared that with you, but seeing a gap in, uh, the special education. Those special educators that go in day in and day out and put in every efforts to work with our kiddos and to see their turnover, to see 'em burn out.
[00:29:11] You know, I came up with Honor Our Educators day, and that's usually once or twice a year, excuse me, during their professional day developments. For these school, two schools where my son went. So, I honor them on their day, I provide them with, I cater food for them. And then, we do a drawing for, like, uh, gifts, everybody wins, and then I'm not there to pitch any real estate.
[00:29:36] I'm there to just honor their day, to say, "You're not alone." To just give them that extra boost from a parent that has gone through that journey and continues at a different level right now, but at least still acknowledge their day-in and day-out efforts with our kids. And, to me, that has been so rewarding, as well.
[00:29:58] Again, it, it just puts the stamp on being interested in others versus interesting. Because, you know what, I believe in karma, what goes around comes around, but, you know, God is always gonna work in miraculous way. But, to me is, is, "How can I really appreciate others and what they're doing?" You know, it's, it's very, very challenging what they do on a daily basis.
[00:30:18] And, to me, just doing that simple gesture has really put my name out there, as well.
[00:30:23] Rachel Gombosch: Yeah. And also, too, again, you're just bringing up amazing and interesting points left and right. There's so much to digest, but the fact of hosting an event where you don't talk real estate speaks such in high regard to the fact of you genuinely care. Because I think, there is this misconception that real estate agents are always just out there to push themselves to make the next sale. And that's not always the case. If you genuinely believe in what you're doing and you genuinely believe in the people you're trying to help, then you are out there putting your face in front of these organizations and trying to learn and educate and be better in your industry through these other causes without simply selling real estate. And so, that's just an amazing point you brought up is that you've got this day dedicated where you don't even bring it up.
[00:31:22] It's not even part of the forefront of your mind that you're selling real estate. It's "No, this is a cause dedicated to, you know, celebrating educators in the special needs industry." And I think it just shows, again, that passion and the being interested and then be interesting, that you've been speaking to.
[00:31:42] And so, that's something I think a valuable point that people can take away with is, it goes, your niche goes beyond just the real estate industry, but it helps you a lot in the real estate industry. And that kind of leads into one of my next questions that I want to debunk. So, this is a myth that I think the audience would love to kind of hear, not kind of hear they would absolutely love to hear is and what percentage is your niche of your market? So, for instance, is, the special needs families, is your niche a majority of your clientele?
[00:32:22] That's a great question. It's been growing year after year, but the last couple years has been 20% of my business.
[00:32:29] Tony Farah: Okay. But I wanna make a point that is, I think, more profound is that, and maybe you can test it when you're out there and ask people and asks anybody, total stranger, "Hey, do you know anybody or do you have a son or daughter with special needs?" They're like, "No, we don't. I don't." And then, the follow-up questions should be, "Well, do you know anyone that has special needs son and daughter?" Their hand is gonna go up. Yeah. I recently joined a, a Rotary club in my town and, uh, I was invited to speak about my mission, and I asked, that's how I kind of led the presentation and I asked, "How many of us, including me, I have a son with special needs?" It was my hand and another person in the audience. And we're talking about 30, 35 Rotarians in the room. And then, the follow-up question was, "How many of us, including me, know of someone who has a special needs son or daughter?"
[00:33:23] 90% of the hands went up. One in three person right now, one in three knows of someone who has a special needs. So, to me, it's an opportunity. It's a market that is well underserved and which I think it's a good segue to get into like why and where I'm taking my business, so I could really not clone myself, it's not a proper terminology to use that, but, "How can I really spread the wealth of knowledge by creating a business entity out of this unique niche?" And I think that's where I'm going next, hopefully, in the next couple years.
[00:34:02] But it's opportunity to be called, it's sitting on a table right now, for a lot of us to really go after.
[00:34:11] For sure.
[00:34:13] Rachel Gombosch: Yeah. And I think a great statistic that you brought up that it's, "No, not everyone has a child with special needs, but odds are, as you do know a family that does."
[00:34:26] Right? And I think that's probably something that you can speak to, that's really helped you to put your foot out there and, and get your face out there when it comes to selling real estate. But how has it, how has that also helped you gain a clientele outside of, simply, just special needs families?
[00:34:47] How has developing a niche expanded your audience and expanded your clientele?
[00:34:51] Tony Farah: Validation and credibility, two words, validation, credibility. And the way I, I transition that is when I sit down with a neurotypical buyer or seller, I still say what I specialize in, and their minds right away takes them into, "Oh, my God, if this guy is so patient and so aggressive and so consistent to work with families with special needs because they're gonna require a lot of his time and energy, our process is probably gonna be a brief." And chances are when I have that conversation with them, they're like, you know, "We're excited. We wanna be part of your success and we wanna help, you know, provide or support your mission."
[00:35:31] But they always go back to say, "Oh, my God, my cousin." Or, "My nephew." Or, "My niece."
[00:35:37] And it, it's like, to me, I'm breaking the ice slowly, but surely by reaching out to others because through the neurotypical, I'm able to get to other potential clients, as well. So, to me, it's been an easy transition for me because, "Yes, I could do everything, el, everything that anybody does in my profession.
[00:35:56] I could do an open house. We could market the hack out of it. We could do a radio ad. We could do a TV ad. We could do a flyer, a postcard. We could do all, every marketing tactics that you can think of, and I could do this. And that's where they lean back. And they're like, "Oh, my God, you are quite the guy."
[00:36:19] And, again, you know, it's, I'm interested in what they want. I'm always available to provide what's important for them. Those are questions that we ask because we definitely wanna tailor our activities to match what they want from us. And I also add that twist and, uh, I've been just getting that feedback that patience has been just a wonderful kind of a, it is a virtue, but it's been quite the tool for me to say that I have a lot of it and I always find a way to say, "Okay, what's an alternative? What's another solution?" Because that's what we get hired to do, is to solve a problem for these folks, so. Anybody and everybody always has a problem that wants somebody else to solve it.
[00:37:07] And we get paid to do that.
[00:37:09] Rachel Gombosch: Yeah. How awesome. And then, how do you, I mean, along, along this topic, as well, does your process differ between your niche clientele and then all of your other clientele?
[00:37:22] So, you've spoken on it a bit about how you still introduce yourself as, as an agent who specializes with special needs families, but when it comes to the actual process of, you know, helping buyers, helping sellers, does anything change between the two parties?
[00:37:39] Tony Farah: Not really, you know, because I use the same tactics. It's a total collaboration, it's a team effort. So when, whenever we get hired to really help sellers or buyers, they become part of the team. So, to me is, communication is important, is critical, and it's part of the process. So, on a weekly basis, our clients get either a text, or preferably they get a video text from me about the process in where we are so far.
[00:38:07] So, it's an opportunity for me to connect with them face-to-face. If I can get, uh, throw 'em over the phone. But, to me, I've, I have found a better opening, a better reception when I send a quick video with an update on the file and where we are on the process. And I always get a response back, that's appreciated, you know? I know they're busy, but I also know that whatever I'm gonna say is really important for them, as well.
[00:38:34] So, to me is, as important to the families with special needs because, guess what, then the kids connect with me, and then, when I play that video, or when I record that video, I'm including the family.
[00:38:47] And then, the kids build that trust with me, again, because they see me bring in the, the storybooks, their widgets, the sensory baskets. They remember, they have tremendous memory, and then when they continuously see me on that video text, you know, again, it brings back that trust factor that, you know, "We've got a third party person that's really handling this transition for us. And it's just so easy."
[00:39:14] To me, it's a total collaboration effort, you know, that carries me through every process, regardless whether I'm dealing with a family with special needs or neurotypical clients. And I think communication goes, is a lot of times, we have a lot of agents out there don't pick up their phones.
[00:39:30] So, to me is, is an opportunity to have a conversation, to say, "How can I help?" Because chances are they're calling me for a reason, and I better pick up and answer.
[00:39:41] Rachel Gombosch: Yeah. How did you discover that, that of sending a video text versus maybe FaceTiming or just sending a standard text, how did you, what, I guess, inspired you to start sending a video text message as a text message? And then, how did you decide that that was, like, your best way of communication?
[00:40:01] Tony Farah: Because I want them to really maintain that level of confidence in our services. Right? And what better way to do it than with a voice and a face at the same time. A lot of times, people can read, over the phone, if you're excited through your voice tone and how fast you go and if you repeat yourself, if you mirror the other side, as well, that provides confidence, but adding the aspect of the facial expressions, I think that goes a long way.
[00:40:27] I tried it, honestly, and it went well. And, to me, as a, as I love doing videos, you know, a lot of times I do live videos, but I also record some and post them on social media. It's an opportunity to connect with people, but, uh, it's when I tried it and I started getting the feedback, uh, from the families, from the kids and, you know, it just became a no-brainer.
[00:40:50] Tony Farah: And it's part of our trademarks right now that, you know, we communicate on a weekly basis, you know, whether it's a text, phone or a video text, you know, but the video texts seem to have really hit home with everybody that we've been conversing with, so.
[00:41:08] Rachel Gombosch: Yeah. And I love how that again is another piece, too, to this toolkit we discussed a little bit earlier with the books and with the sensory gift basket is, you get video text, you don't just get a text message, but you get a video text that can also be shared with your kids so that they're actually putting a face to the voice and so that when they see you in person, and they come along with those, with the showings and all of that, they, they recognize who you are.
[00:41:34] And then, again, it helps break that wall down a little bit and give them that sense of being comfortable with you to help, again, back up the fact that you're trying to ease this process for them.
[00:41:46] And so, I love how, honestly, just thoughtful every single thing you have in your process is. I mean, it is so well thought out when you've, how you've developed your niche and how you've developed how you market yourself and how you've developed, how you've created this process and this experience for not just your niche clients, but really for everyone.
[00:42:10] Because just like you said, your process doesn't change on your clients. Obviously, it tailors depending on what they're looking for and what they're expecting, but the experience you're providing is the same. And so, I think that will be a, that's a huge takeaway for everyone listening is, what experience are they providing?
[00:42:29] What, honestly, tangibly can your clients be walking away with? Is it a sensory basket, is it a book to ease the child? Is it a video message? What are those things that people can tangibly walk away with and look back on and remember that experience? So, that's something that is really valuable. So, just scoots to you for really taking the time and establishing that and creating that.
[00:42:54] Tony Farah: We're selling a lifestyle, Rachel. And when you understand the complexity and the lifestyle that some of these families are living, it goes without saying. So, to me is, we haven't even unpacked the buying process and the selling process and what that, what those steps involved. And I believe that's gonna be on another episode.
[00:43:14] If you choose slow, but, but to me, it's, a lifestyle that we're selling and the lifestyle of ease, the lifestyle of calm, the lifestyle of, "Oh, my God, you know, I found somebody that really gets my problem, gets me, walks in my shoes." You know, I wear the socks with my trademarks, you know, with the puzzle piece all over, you know, whenever I go, and to appointments, I've got the pin of the missing piece.
[00:43:39] I bought a cargo van, and I've got nothing but puzzle pieces around it. I don't have the consequence that, "Oh, buy or sell with Tony and use this van for free." You know? My theme on it, it says, you know, "Every move is special." Because really every move is special. And then, we take a deep dive into, like, understanding what's important for them and really share with them.
[00:44:00] Tony Farah: When we go out to see houses, what are we looking for besides the brick and mortar? And when we're selling property, what are we looking at as far as transitioning process goes, as far as really making sure that whatever is important to the child, to the children, is implemented moving forward to the other properties.
[00:44:18] So, there's a lot to unpack there, but, uh, definitely it's a lifestyle that, the unique lifestyle that we're selling, so.
[00:44:27] Rachel Gombosch: Yeah. How incredible. That's, that's fantastic. Well, I've got just a couple questions left 'cause we're running out of time. So, yes, I agree, we're gonna have to have another episode to unpack everything else 'cause there's so much to discuss.
[00:44:42] But I wanna, I want listeners to walk away with how developing their niche and their unique selling proposition is really only the beginning.
[00:44:52] And so, how is developing and tailoring and figuring out what your process and that experience looks like? How developing your unique selling proposition to special needs families has helped you to really excel in your real estate career or maybe in other areas of your business? And how has it opened more doors for you by streamlining down to a particular clientele?
[00:45:19] It's a great question. Uh, you know, and I often really think about it. It's, uh, I call it the degree of separation, right? So, there's wonderful agents out there in the Twin Cities, you know, nationwide. It's amazing when I attend conferences, I take the puzzle piece along with me, and then I share the socks and I talk to top producers that are on the nations.
[00:45:38] Tony Farah: And, uh, it's an opportunity for me to say, "Hey, if you ever are working with a family who has special needs, just pick up the phone, call me, I'll share with you a few tactics, a few strategies." And they're like, they lean back, and they're like, "Wow, you're just like a godsend." And I'm like, "No, I'm not." That's the degree of separation.
[00:45:55] We're in a service industry. We provide solutions to families. And to me is, I'm so grateful, humbly, uh, saying it that it's quite a calling, right? It's a vocation sometimes, even, uh, referred to. So, to me, it's a degree of separation, and you need to have a unique selling proposition, you know, in order to really set yourself apart from others, you know, regardless what it is. Right?
[00:46:22] So, kind of do a soul search like I did, you know, and you'll figure out what you're good at and what separates you from me, you know, what separates you from other people and other agents in the industry and go and run with it.
[00:46:35] You know? You may take, you may have to take some risk. You may stumble along the way, but just keep working on it. It's that persistence that got me here, and quite honestly, there's more to come as well. So, it doesn't stop here. To me is, like, um, the third storybook, it's like the icing on the cake. And I'm super excited just to talk about the safety, right?
[00:46:56] Housing safety, how important is that? You know, we all know change is difficult. We all know everybody perceives it differently. Everybody reacts to change differently, but how do we just minimize it? How do we minimize the tantrums, the aggressions against themselves, against the property, against other people?
[00:47:18] And that's really the degree of separation that I'm talking about, you know? It's bringing firsthand experience and not really be ashamed, not really be embarrassed to share it because, to me, it's an opportunity to share what worked with us, what didn't work with us, and then kind of both ways, you know, help me kind of help you.
[00:47:37] Rachel Gombosch: Yeah. That's fantastic. Well, Tony, where can our audience connect with you? Where can they find you? Where can they find their, your storybooks that you've created? When does your third one come out?
[00:47:50] Tony Farah: Oh, my goodness. There's a lot to unpack there. I tell you, I'm all over social media, on Instagram, Facebook, on LinkedIn, Twitter and TikTok. The best way to probably, is just to use Google, google my business page. That's probably the best way to find me and to connect with all my contact information.
[00:48:09] My website is tonyfarah.com, all spelled out. And then, that's where you can find access to my storybooks. The third storybook is coming, hopefully, in the fall. And I'm looking to do kind of, like, a series offering, probably around the holiday times and, uh, really spread that awareness out there, you know, promoting, you know, inclusion, and I'm super excited where the future is going.
[00:48:31] You, you, we talked earlier on our call about what is my end goal, honestly, is, if I can empower other authentic agents like myself to do what I do, I think that's the legacy I wanna leave behind. So, for any of your listeners or your viewers, if you know anyone that is out there contemplating whether they should do what I've done last six, seven years and still do, please reach out to me.
[00:48:55] I'd love to help. You can, kind of set you up on a scale or maybe on a, on a set of, uh, successful steps to get you to where I am, so you're not having to go through the obstacles and hurdles that I've gone through.
[00:49:08] It's important to really embrace that community needs out there because God knows how much it needs, uh, support, so.
[00:49:16] Rachel Gombosch: Uh, Yeah. So, fantastic. Well, thank you so much for joining me today, Tony. I appreciate your time.
[00:49:23] I appreciate all the value that you've literally been able to provide in this last, almost, hour. Holy crap, like, wow, where'd the hour go?
[00:49:33] Tony Farah: I know, right?
[00:49:35] Rachel Gombosch: But I do wanna, I know, I know, it flew by, like I said, we're gonna have to get another episode out to just keep unpacking more. 'Cause there were so many nuggets that we could just continued diving deeper into, but I do wanna throw out for any of our listeners out there that we do have a special promo code for you.
[00:49:54] if you wanna receive 15% off your first shoot with Virtuance to get beautiful photos for your next listing, you can use Tony0825. Again, that is Tony, Tony0825, for 15% off your first shoot with Virtuance. Tony, thank you again for joining us. You've provided so much value, I know, to all of our listeners today.
[00:50:19] Rachel Gombosch: So, I'm so excited for everyone to just hear and absorb and listen to this episode. So, thank you for joining us, and thank you everyone who listened.
[00:50:26] Tony Farah: Thank you so much. Appreciate you.