Over the past several weeks, RealtyBizNews has been scouring the digital realm to find America's best real estate pros. We’ve used a variety of tools to try and narrow down choices, including lead-generating sites like HomeLight, Zillow, and Google, combined with analysis of things like SEO and media/marketing prowess. Just as we figured we were homing in on a truly objective ranking system, we hit a snag in Buffalo, NY.
The brokers and agents in this city on the Canada border just don’t get so many Google reviews. We’d almost come to the conclusion that the best method for picking a top professional should involve a Google search, a glance at Zillow reviews, and some SEO and social media metrics. But the 5-star agent reviews on Google just aren’t there in Buffalo. Rather than lowering our threshold, we had to go back to the drawing board a bit in order to isolate this region’s highest-rated real estate stars. Here’s what we found.
This week we first scanned Zillow to find the highest-rated agents and then correlated our findings with Google and other resources. Previously, we’d prioritized Google because Zillow allows for premium slots for agents who want to advertise. But, advertising is another marker for good marketing practice, so we revamped it. It was pretty easy for Buffalo to locate many of the top professionals. And at the top of the heap is Jason Sokody, who’s an associate broker at Howard Hanna.
It took me all of 2 minutes to isolate this 15-year veteran who rises above the crop in Buffalo. A flurry of traditional media mentions and articles, Sokody’s professed and practiced social media prowess, his use of targeted ads, hundreds of sales in the last 12 months, and the Sokody sales team's Facebook presence speak volumes about this agent’s know-how, effort, and success. Sokody’s motto is “hustle hard,” and it sure looks like he is at it. He and his team could go a bit harder on Instagram if there is a negative here.
Another Zillow top pro, Robert Blake, whose local reviews ratio beat out most others, has a usable social media effort. His “Blake Team” Facebook has about 1,000 fans, and the postings are timely and relevant. Blake is an associate broker for HUNT Real Estate ERA and an agent who seems to understand the value of a network, given his 500+ connections on LinkedIn.
However, Blake seems to lean on the agency's 6,000-plus fans. And Hunt Real Estate’s somewhat mediocre Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube channels provide the bulwark of his social media marketing footprint. In traditional media and advertising, the veteran broker is all but invisible.
Hunt Real Estate Corporation is only slightly visible in traditional media via a few press releases. For a company in business since 1911, their brand seems pretty weak to me. However, Blake seems to lean on the agency's 6,000-plus fans. And Hunt Real Estate’s somewhat mediocre Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube channels provide the bulwark of his social media marketing footprint. In traditional media and advertising, the veteran broker is all but invisible.
To their credit, Hunt shows up on Expertise.com, which I only found out from desperation because the agency advertised on Google and at the lead generating platform. I guess that counts as a valiant effort? A side note, an honorable mention pro, Maya Wertheim, also works for this agency. I'll point out here, that this agency does seem to be trying to re-establish its footprint.
Right behind Blake, David Serota is another Buffalo broker who understands the balance of ads, media, and digital marketing. His Zillow ratings are perfect, too, with a very high proportion of them being local, one of our criteria. His company’s social footprint is not near some of his competitors, but we are talking about Buffalo, NY. It’s not as if the property pros in regions like this will be Elon Musk clones.
Like most other agencies in this region, Serota’s website is nothing to brag about. The SEO is marginal, and traffic minimal. In traditional media, this broker has no footprint I can find. He has a total of two Google reviews, and neither one of them is that good. The fact that it's impossible to find a usable free-use image of this broker on the internet also says a lot. This is the first time in these agent roundups I've had to use a logo.
[Vacancy] This space is reserved for any real estate professional wanting to move to Buffalo, NY, to open a top-notch real estate brokerage based on modern sales and marketing methods.
After Sokody, finding the best agents to reveal here got a little bit sketchy. As I said, most professionals in this region seem to have forgotten Google exists, and the same seems to hold true even if you cross-reference with HomeLight, Expertise, and other methods. Sokody is highly visible on every platform, in my opinion, which makes him my “go-to” agent if I ever move to Buffalo.
As a final note, Sokody’s agency, Howard Hanna, is also listed as tops at PropertySpark, which considering the competition, is not an Olympic task. One trend I am seeing now is that second-order cities within regions seem to have more brick-and-mortar real estate agencies than larger or more progressive areas. This could, of course, just be my impression based on the agencies we’ve already evaluated. This remains to be seen.
As it is, if Jason Sokody were out of town when I wanted to list my house, I’d put the home on Facebook and sell it myself. I know that’s rough, but Buffalo and some of these other cities are just that pitiful where digital marketing is concerned. The trend I see in the midwest cities is one or two agencies doing it right, and the rest tag along. This remains to be seen.