What’s up everyone and welcome to another episode of Become A Local Leader! On today’s episode, we have Zoraya De La Bastida, Luxury Realty Specialist with Pacific Sotheby’s International.
Her industry experience as a realtor since 1995 coupled with her civil engineering and financial management background has allowed Zoraya to deliver knowledgeable and targeted guidance to her clients covering all aspects of the real estate market.
As a certified million-dollar guild member of the Institute for Luxury Home Marketing, Zoraya understands the nature of luxury real estate in San Diego. She believes the marketing and technology resources at Pacific Sotheby’s International Realty provides an invaluable asset and successfully markets luxury properties. She’s excited to offer these advantages to her clients as the leader of Z Best Team Incorporated. And finally, Zoraya’s business principles encompass a desire to help her community as a whole.
Meet Zoraya De La Bastida – Our Featured Local Leader!
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Were you born and raised in San Diego?
No. I’m originally from Venezuela. I first came to the United States when I was 15 and I just loved it, I knew I had to go back. So, I was determined to come here so I did everything I could. It started with applying for everything. I finally applied to university and I got into Berkeley in California. Although after a while, I found that it wasn’t the right fit for me so I ended up at University of the Pacific. It was a little scary to be honest. It was 1980 and I was alone in this country, spoke little to no English and I didn’t know anyone.
Looking back, it has been a wonderful journey, and now I have lived in this country more than I lived in my own country. So, I do have two worlds. I love the United States. I do love my country too but the United States is my primary home.
Of all places in California, why San Diego?
San Diego came along because my ex-husband is from San Diego, and he wanted to come back here. I want to go to Florida because I thought it would be closer to my home. But when we came to visit San Diego, it’s like, “Okay. This is it.” I loved it.
And the reason why I came to California is I used to watch those Frankie Avalon movies like Annette. I watched all those California beach movies and I thought everybody did that in California.
What would you say you love about San Diego now?
I’ve been here since ‘92. I’ve seen it gone from a city to a big metropolis. I think that the community is very joined. It has a very relaxed business atmosphere. At the same time, it is a thriving business location. In this country, we have cutting-edge technology and attract high-end earners and that has made the whole country higher priced. It’s great because everybody can get good jobs because there are very high-tech industries driving the economy. I love that about San Diego.
Would you say that seeing all the opportunity and the people moving to San Diego somewhat influenced you or inspired you to want to go into real estate?
When we decided to buy a home, my ex and I, we really couldn’t get a realtor that really understood what we needed. It made it difficult to buy our home here. Finally, we found one that was great. We kept in touch. Then, we decided to have kids and I was working as an engineer in construction. It was difficult for me to be in construction at that time. We needed a bigger house so I went and just took the classes to become a Real Estate Agent. The intention for us was to be able to buy because we didn’t want to go through the experience that we had before. It ended up that I started loving it. I started doing it for some friends and found that I loved it even more.
Fortunately, I was able to use a lot of my engineering experience by helping people find homes that were secure and didn’t have structural problems. And at the same time, I was able to have fun with my friends and have a schedule that had the flexibility for my kids. So, it all kind of all of a sudden was building a life designed for me to be able to do everything like a mom, be at home but also work. All of those things that are so hard to put together on a nine to five job sometimes. I don’t have family here so that’s kind of made it harder for me to have childcare.
Would you say you have a superpower as a realtor? What do people love about your services as a local leader?
When I decided to do this, it was, like I said, with friends. I know I wanted to be that realtor that was there, that was not just to earn a commission but that was there to really help. I’m there for you, not to just buy a home but look at it as an investment over a long term, making sure that you are making a decision that is going to be financially good for the fit of your family and your future. That’s what I love because I use my finance degree, I use my engineering degree, and I use my fun personality to take care of people. That’s why most of my business is by referral. About 80% of my business is by referral every year because I really take care of my clients.
I don’t sell 100 homes a year, I’m not that type of realtor. Early on, I made a commitment that I didn’t want to be that realtor. For me, I only take four to five clients at a time so I can dedicate enough time to everyone and make them a priority in my schedule and that their needs are met. What is important for me is providing my clients with the awesome experience that I wanted when I didn’t have when I went to buy my home. I think that distinguishes me from the other agents in San Diego.
Can you share with us a little bit more about what your current volume is and your total sales?
On average in a year I do about 35 transactions. I do double end where I represent sellers and buyers. I don’t just do sellers and I don’t just do buyers, nor do I just do high end (although I love it!), I also do entry-level. For example I have a client right now that I started with their mom about 20 years ago. I sold her mom a condo. It was a $200,000 condo at the time. It was just a little condo to get them started. And then I helped the daughter when she was ready to buy. Now, I’m helping the grandkids! So, that first transaction has resulted in many transactions in 20 years. I did the sister and then another sister. It just kind of grew.
What would the percentage of new business you get come from relationships versus referrals versus advertising?
It is very interesting because of COVID I have been able to really see more clearly where all my business comes from. I was looking at the fact that about a third of my business budget is buying me opportunities to prospect new clients. Just a person or people that I don’t know but I feel that they need my help. So that is people whose homes I didn’t sell the first time. I specialize in selling homes that didn’t sell the first time. I also specialize in people that have to probate and maybe sell their homes. On top of this, another third comes from referrals from people in my network.
The final third is from past clients as it’s been so long now that they either need a new home or they have more kids and need a larger property or they can downsize because now they have no kids at home. A cornerstone of my business is that I do maintain those relationships. I have coffee with my clients, I call them all the time, I check on them. So, I keep that relationship going. That generates a lot of business for me.
I also have my newsletter that goes out weekly with what’s going on in the market, my new listings, my new clients, and that sort of thing. So, that created that. It’s just almost divided into one third, one third, one third for each area. It’s very well split. I used to go to a lot of networking meetings to kind of build awareness in an unknown group. With COVID it’s hard, I’m missing being able to go to networking events.
How would you say you are building relationships as a leader in your local community right now?
I’ve been going through my LinkedIn and I see people that are actually looking at my profile. I’m just like, “Hey, I noticed you were looking at my profile. I would love to know more about you. Let’s sit down and have a phone call conversation.” So, I’ve been talking to them like that. I’ll add them to my database after that and then that way, in the next month or so, I’ll be calling them and checking them then again. I’ve been networking through LinkedIn a lot lately.
Is there anything you’ve done that you found hasn’t really worked for you all that well during COVID but also even before that?
I think that what doesn’t work very well is we spend a lot of money on advertising in print magazines. With COVID, nobody wants to hang the magazines. We realize that never generated real business. Marketing has completely changed and we have gone completely digital. My engineering degree and two young college kids are always keeping me up to date on what’s going on with the latest digital and social media trends. And so, I have always been on top of my digital marketing.
I ramped up during COVID that’s for sure. I created a digital book about how to sell your home, fast. So, anyone who wants to, anywhere in the world, just has to call me and I’ll send them my book because it works anywhere in the world. Those techniques are simple and they work everywhere. COVID has shown me that I need to put the money in my marketing digitally. That’s where we all really need to go.
How do you determine what you’re going to spend? What do you usually spend on digital marketing?
That is where I am and what I am working on right now. I’ve been watching my ROI on that. I haven’t really gotten all the data. As an engineer, you want all this data. In the past, I haven’t had enough data to know but I would say that definitely Facebook, you cannot do it without Facebook ads. That’s just not going to happen.
I found different platforms in which you can market digitally that goes through Facebook that are more efficient than others. There are platforms where you do it yourself, they’re the least efficient. I haven’t figured that out yet but I think it’s just knowing the ins and outs of Facebook is vital. To make it easier for myself, I hire somebody that is an expert on that. I get better responses when I have a professional do it.
So, it comes down to understanding that you cannot know it and do it all. I think that the best leader of any team is the one that knows that you don’t have to know it all but you really need to have your team all know something about your business. Have people with different strengths and hire experts. I am now kind of delegating and finding that person looking who can do all my digital marketing. They know what they’re doing. Let’s get it done. That way I have more time for my clients.
Can you tell us a little bit more about what specific things you’re involved in as a local leader in your area?
Providing value to the community has always been important to me. When I was about 14 or 15, I really wanted to be a politician. I have this feeling of social responsibility. And so, I kind of decided a percentage of every one of my checks. If you are my client, let’s say you donate to a homeless shelter, then I say, “Okay. Guess what? At the end of the transaction, I’m going to write a check to your homeless shelter and have a donation in your name.”
I just think that is another way to reconnect with my client and solidify that relationship. And if they don’t have a charity of choice, then they open their eyes to it. And I say, “Well if you want to find one, let me know. But if not, let me tell you the ones that I’m planning to donate to.” I was donating to several children charities but now I am concentrated on the food bank and the homeless because the impact of COVID has been devastating. It’s very real today for these families not to have food and to struggle with a health pandemic.
Some clients who are moving out have a lot of fruit that they’re not going to take with them and they’re like, “What am I going to do with this? I don’t want to move it.” I tell them, “Hey, I’ll pick it up. I’ll take it and donate it to someone, just leave it there. I’ll pick that up.” That way, I’ve been able to provide some food for some clients who have lost their job. And I was like, “Okay, let me take it to them.” I think if we all do that we would be much better overall.
Would you say in terms of community marketing initiatives, you’re also involved in? Or is it more like volunteer work?
I’ve been doing more volunteer work. I support big organizations. There’s another organization, T3 Foundation, which is a group of a friend of mine put together and they are doing amazing work. I try to support them as much as possible. Finding very good groups that are doing amazing work, and then either helping them with the wrapping, with the donations, with the parties and all of that stuff or just being in there and going to the charities myself.
In terms of initiatives in the community that maybe some other Local Leaders or Realtors are involved in, is there anything you’ve seen that you’d really like to get involved in that you haven’t yet?
Well, our company has an amazing program. Out of our checks, they automatically donate roughly $50 or $100 to a foundation. The company has a connection with an amazing charity that’s nationwide, or really worldwide, who are building homes in Tijuana. Every two months we go there and we build the home. These homes cost about $5,000 to build. We coordinated with this organization that actually gave us the materials. And then they work with the government of Mexico to build the property.
It’s also educational. The people who are getting the home are there working with us as well as the people who already had a home built for them. So, everybody in the community helps. You have to keep your house clean. You have to go through education. The foundation teaches them their own social responsibility to keep in your home. And you could lose your home if you do not maintain your home clean and do the maintenance of it. If you don’t do that, you could lose your home. Once you have a home, you don’t want to lose it. That’s a great program. It’s a great program to participate in.
In terms of business goals, what would you say are some of your goals moving forward?
I have a team. One of my teammates, she is retiring. Now, my goal is to just really find maybe two other people that can come in and help me provide the service that I want and maybe grow the business to maybe 50 transactions. A lot of this stuff begins to build on my desk, so finding two more team members will allow me to have more time with my clients.
Would you say there’s anything you need to start doing in order to help you achieve this goal?
I’ve created a list of things that I don’t really have to do but if I find someone who can do it better than me, it will really be beneficial. That way I’m basically writing a job description. These are the things that I don’t really like. Putting stuff on the computer, somebody can do it. I tried to create that job description so I can find a person and say, “This is what your job is going to be. Can you tell me how you would do it?” And then that way, I can find the right person to help me get to my goal.
Would you say there’s anything you need to stop doing in order to achieve your goal?
Yes. I love Facebook and it’s good for marketing but I kind of keep on playing with the games and I get distracted. On LinkedIn, it’s more business so I don’t get distracted. That would be one thing. Staying more on target, that’s very important. I think one dichotomy is that the more rigid the schedule is, really the more freedom you have. So, I have a coach and we are working on getting me into a morning routine. I have to create this routine in the morning so by noon, I’ve done everything that’s important for my business. Then, I can go to lunch. And then, in the afternoons I can do interviews and just finish. Everything that was important for me to have my businesses done in the morning. It sounds so easy, but it’s not. I have to be more disciplined.
Would you say there’s anything you need to keep doing that’s working for you?
Yes! One on ones with my past clients. But now that I can’t go to coffee with them somewhere in the area, they just come over to my home. I tell them, “Hey, let’s have dinner. You cook it.” I just really need to stay on my calls, stay on my perspective, and really stay a little more disciplined.
Would you say there are any roadblocks or challenges you face in the pursuit of your goals?
With COVID, because you have more time at home, my idea was that this is going to be easy. I’m going to be able to do more because now I don’t have to travel as much. I’m travelling less. But I find myself turning on the TV.
My husband doesn’t work. He’s retired. So, I hear him like, “That’s a really good movie.” “Oh, yeah? Well, I can watch for maybe 15 minutes.” That’s how it gets me. That’s my biggest challenge because I’m a TV freak. I love to watch TV. I watch around three, four channels at the same time. Now there’s really good movies on TV. But when I’m in the office, I don’t think about that.
Would you say there are any, like specific problems you’re looking to solve in terms of your business?
Yes. I think that trying to go paperless is difficult for me. I think I’m at 90% but not quite there. There’s paper everywhere in my office. This is a good discipline that I am working on.
No, no and no. I don’t buy leads at all.
Have you used Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn or Google ads?
Yes for Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram. I use them all the time. As for Google, I’ve not used them in the past. I am just at the beginning of starting to explore using Google Ads now.
How about retargeting?
I’m going to say no. I understand the concept, but I’m not really good at doing it. That’s one of the things that I really need to hire a professional to do for me.
What about advertising on bus benches, grocery carts, or any other kind of display advertising?
Not on benches. I do a lot of magazines, yes, because we have 13 local papers here in San Diego. I use those local papers. People love to see those. The San Diego Union, Tribune, and stuff like that.
As a Local Leader In your community do you write any blogs or have somebody write blogs for you?
I would love to do blogs. I have started a little bit with a little bit of video. I’ve been doing a little bit of video because of my book and the way that I’m promoting it. Then I do a little bit of a snippet for different chapters. I just started doing that. We’ll see how it works.
What about direct mailers?
Yes, I use quite a lot of direct mailers. It has a little bit of a trick on this direct mailer because it goes directly to the home and it has in the back a code. They can go to the website and then use that code. That will have all the information of their home. And then they can find the value of their property. And then that way I get the lead. I know that they’re looking to find the value of their home and I can call them and then go through it and make sure that they have the right value.
What about open houses or virtual open houses?
I was the open house queen! I love open houses, I would put on average 50 signs all over the neighborhoods. As well as this, I would send flyers, put out a lot of signs and flags and this would get a lot of people to my open houses. But now that’s not possible anymore. I haven’t done a virtual open house yet. So I’m going to have to learn to do that. It’s definitely something I haven’t seen too many people doing but I’m hoping that that’s going to take off a little bit better.
In terms of following up with your database, do you ever pop by?
Well, I used to be able to do the pop by. For example, if I’m going to go show property today in one area, I have a couple of people that I know that live nearby, then I would write my little thank you notes. I will go there and then just drop off the notes or drop cookies or something. Now, I am not able to do that anymore but that was a cool thing to do. I like to do that.
As a local leader, do you ever put on a client appreciation parties?
Yes, I have done several of those. I love them. We had such a good time. I did one and I had everybody come over and we had brunch, but everybody came in to donate money for Connors Costs. That is an organization that helps people with their electric bills and with the things that insurance doesn’t pay while you have your kids in the hospital. So, I say yep, you come over, but I need you to make a donation. I did one when I collected food and things like that. So, I do the appreciation parties but I make them a little more than just a party.
What about things like cold calling or door knocking? Do you do either of those?
Yeah, I do. Cold Calling is my primary thing. I mean, on those three things that I do, one-third of the people that I call is cold calling. It’s calling the expires listings and the probates. I do a lot of that. As a matter of fact, I have three clients right now that came just from that.
For realtors out there who want to become the local leader, market expert or the go-to realtor in the community, what would you tell them?
Well, I say that involvement in the community definitely is important. Be a good neighbor because your neighbors are your clients. Find something that is near to your heart to contribute because people always remember that. When you help someone and make them feel the emotion of happiness or the emotion of loving their home or loving life, they’re going to remember you more than if you give them a lecture. It’s about transferring your expertise in a way that they can feel loved, that they can feel this is good for me. They will remember that.
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