TRS February 2019
By: Phil Malkinson
All Roads Lead to Rome
The author, blogger and radio show host attracts clients through multiple media channels and novel approaches
After becoming the youngest head nurse at a local hospital, Margaret Rome, CRS, left her nursing job to be a stay-at-home mom, and then to pursue a passion for art by making ceramics. When she was forced to stop due to an injury from an auto accident, she took a real estate class so she could work until she could get back to her ceramics.
“I never thought real estate would be my career, but then I was hooked—I loved it as much as ceramics,” Rome says. She obtained her real estate license and was hired right away, working in the Baltimore area. That was almost 30 years ago and she hasn’t left real estate yet.
Her journey through residential real estate has been highlighted by unique approaches to advertising that often run counter to conventional wisdom. For example, she was told she shouldn’t make her own appointments or show her own listings, blogging is a waste of time, print media no longer works, nobody listens to radio anymore, and it’s pointless to spend time trying to sell unusual properties that are generally considered unsalable. But she has done all of these things with notable success!
Rome’s acquaintances knew her as a nurse and an artist, so she needed a catchphrase that reflected her new career. She started out advertising with the slogan, “Market your home with Margaret Rome,” and later changed it to “Sell your home with Margaret Rome.” Then after 18 years with a large company, she set out on her own and replaced the big-box logo with one of her own.
A unique market
Rome’s niche market is selling properties with unusual—and often widely considered to be—almost unsalable. “I enjoy meeting the very interesting people who are looking for unique properties,” Rome says.
One home she sold was so close to the traffic on the Baltimore Beltway that you could easily read the license plates of the vehicles. “Five agents had already tried to sell it,” Rome says. “I went in, took down the ‘For Sale’ sign and held no open houses, but I advertised it. Then I sold it three times, including to someone in the music industry who needed a location where his noise would not bother anyone, and later to a business executive who needed immediate access to the Beltway.”
Rome once handled a home situated very close to the railroad tracks—and ended up selling it to a retired train conductor. It was his dream location, she says. Unique properties like this mean more days on the market, but Rome loves the challenge of selling a home that others say can’t be sold.
About a year ago, Rome sold a home that had been on the market for four years before she took it on. It was a large farmhouse from the 1800s with a separate river cottage built on 34 acres. Rome says most agents would want to lower the price and post a sign that says it can be shown anytime, but she decided it wasn’t priced high enough. And instead of advertising it as a farmhouse, Rome said: “River cottage for sale, mansion for free.” It took one and a half years, but she ultimately found the right buyer who really appreciated the uniqueness of the property.
Open house master
Rome approaches open houses in novel ways. For a listing that was considered unsalable, she had a professional come in with a large grill and held an open house barbecue. When she blogged about it, the Washington Post ran a story about it, and from there, the National Association of REALTORS® called her. They were doing a master video series, and asked if she would be the national open house master. Although she doesn’t typically do open houses, she agreed. Rome put together a string of open houses, and a film crew spent three days documenting them.
Rome doesn’t schedule the usual open house so as not to tie up her schedule unnecessarily in case nobody comes. But if she knows someone wants to see a house, then she will often spontaneously convert the appointment to an open house to make good use of her time. She is on the radio at noon on Sundays, and if someone wants to see a home in the afternoon, then she’ll announce an open house on the radio. She uses cardboard signs that look like balloons due to their enhanced visibility. She keeps the signs in her car for impromptu open houses.
A multifaceted marketing machine
Rome was a trendsetter when she started blogging in 2006. She has now written more than 3,000 blogs—she writes one every day, discussing daily events and more. She includes her listings in her blog, as well as “Coming Soon” listings, and she will blog multiple times about unusual properties or unique features of her listings.
On Sundays from noon to 1 p.m. for the past five years, Rome has conducted her own call-in radio show—All About Real Estate. “Not only do listeners call in during the show, but I field many calls immediately following the show as well,” Rome says. “When there are gaps during the show, I have the opportunity to talk about my listings, buyers and sellers I have worked with, or real estate issues.”
Rome prepares talking points for each radio show, and if she starts to get pulled in another direction, she will use that as material in her daily blog. Rome also expanded her writing sphere by authoring a book based on her blogs—Real Estate the Right Rome Way.
Tying it together
Rome says she has incorporated key elements from her backgrounds in nursing and ceramic art into her real estate work. She says real estate requires her to use more psychology than she used during her nursing career. Nurses make great real estate agents because they have learned how to think on their feet, she says. Compared to the life or death situations she encountered in nursing, there are no comparable emergencies in real estate.
“In nursing, when you sit down with the panicked parent of a sick child, they both require comforting,” Rome says. “In real estate, it’s similar—you deal with emotions and family dynamics, and nursing prepared me for it. So many people involved in real estate transactions can get buyers riled up, and you have to be a bit of a psychologist to get through the turbulence.”