A typical agent in the US closes on 10 homes in a year. One record-setting agent in Texas does better than that nearly every day.
November 11, 2022 – The Hustle – Mark Dent
Try to picture the top-selling real estate agent in the world.
Are you thinking of a New Yorker in a skyscraper who has befriended a bunch of investment bankers? Perhaps a shady Londoner steering oligarchs to multimillion-dollar mansions?
Whoever you’re imagining, it’s probably not someone like Ben Caballero.
Little about Caballero’s aesthetic screams world-class: The slight 83-year-old works out of a nondescript building in suburban Dallas. His office isoutfitted with gray carpeting and drop ceiling tiles. He shares the building with a waste management company.
But the agent’s numbers don’t lie:
- In 2020, he set a world record of 6.4k home sales, presiding as the listing agent over ~$2.46B of sales volume.
- This year, he’s on pace to sell ~6k homes in Texas — a rate of ~16 sales every day.
In an industry teeming with whales, Caballero has become a near-mythical force — a real estate megalodon. And he’s done it without relying on mega-mansion sales and high-rolling clientele.
All he did was come up with an idea that made homebuilders’ lives slightly easier.
Caballero’s real estate career seemed destined to fail before it really got started.
In 1960, he moved to Dallas on a whim: His car had broken down on a trip from Oklahoma City to Houston, and he liked the friendly people who helped him on the road so much that he decided to stay forever.
Caballero was 21, fresh out of the Air Force, recently married, and had ~$500 to his name.
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Dallas was booming. New arrivals flocked to mid-rise apartments that sprouted in city neighborhoods and suburbs like elm trees, and Caballero realized after an unpleasant experience with an apartment-hunting company he could build his own business.
Just after Thanksgiving of that year, he started The Apartment Finders, a service that helped prospective tenants find rentals in Dallas. The company made money by taking a commission from the property owners and charging nothing to the apartment seeker.
Caballero’s (pictured in the photo) got some press in 1962 (The Dallas Morning News via America’s Newspapers)
By Christmas, Caballero felt immense pressure. The ads he placed in the local paper didn’t bring any customers. He and his wife had to carpool with friends to visit relatives in Oklahoma City because they couldn’t afford gas.
“The day after Christmas I say, ‘Well, I gotta get back to Dallas,’” Caballero recalled in an interview with The Hustle. “They said, ‘What for? You don’t have any business.’”
But shortly after New Year’s Day, the calls started coming. Real estate is a seasonal pursuit, and apartment seekers were again on the hunt. It was a small lesson but taught Caballero to pay attention to the quirks of the industry and use them to his advantage.
Soon, Caballero became a local real estate heavyweight.
- He used funds from his business to finance the construction of an apartment building, partnered with another builder, and eventually started his own building company, producing custom homes while holding a real estate license.
- In the late 1980s, during a depressed home sales market in Texas, he started a guaranteed buyout business in which he contracted to purchase the old homes of prospective homebuyers if they didn’t sell them by the time they closed on a new house. Caballero sat on the houses until he could sell them for a decent return.
For years, he ran his businesses with great success. Then, at an age when he should’ve been retired, Caballero got his best idea yet.
Inventing a new sales system
Caballero exploited an odd quirk in the way new houses get marketed and sold.
- Homebuilders generally just want to build houses and don’t care as much for the work of selling them. They’re rarely tech savvy, and they don’t often see eye to eye with agents, who find that builders are desperate in cold markets but avoid their calls in hot markets.
- Real estate agents generally don’t understand nuances of new homes, like how delays alter closing dates or that new homes have more complex contracts than existing homes. They also like to work with their own lenders, another turnoff for builders.
“It’s just a complicated relationship,” Caballero said…more