Built Piece by Piece: Dean Linnell of Whistler Real Estate

Today we had Dean Linnell of The Linnell Group at Whistler Real Estate. In today’s podcast Dean talked about their services, how they start their training regiment, how they structure their organization in terms of leadership, hierarchy, and meeting schedules, the things agent needs to look for in a brokerage, some of the mistakes he made, and what’s next for Whistler Real Estate.

Dean Linnell is with Linnell Group at Whistler Real Estate located in British Columbia to the north of Vancouver. His primary focus is vacation home sales such as homes and condos. With the homes that they sell, someone’s going to plan to do Airbnb or hire a rental management company to run it for them but they are selling them a property to do that with.

Linnell Group Team Structure

Linnell Group has a small team though they do a lot of transactions. The team is composed of Dean himself, his VA in Calgary who has been with him for 12 years, his wife who has recently got her license but does a lot of marketing management and bookkeeping. Dean’s wife used to be the marketing and brand manager for Whistler Blackcomb, a ski resort in British Columbia. They’ve also gone and fluctuated back and forth between no buyer agents and having a couple and currently, they have one name Alex, who’s brand new in the business and is now killing it because he does everything that Dean tells him to do and it works.

About Dean

Dean grew up in northern Ontario. He says that when people think of Ontario they usually think of Toronto but it’s really the far western end of Ontario which is a 16-hour drive away from Toronto, more closer to Manitoba. Dean went to the University of Manitoba. Before Dean got into real estate, he was a ski instructor. He taught skiing in Ontario then tough skiing in Banff. He decided that it was way too cold so he moved to the West Coast where it was a little bit more temperate. 

He taught skiing in BC for a number of years and went through the tanks in the ski school managing private lessons for the mountains. In the summers, he was teaching skiing in New Zealand and did some fly fishing, guiding, and mountain bike guiding. Dean was trying to piece things together in the summers because ski instructing is six months a month unless you do like going down the southern hemisphere and teaching in Chile or going down to New Zealand or Australia which he did for one year.

After Dean got married, he decided that he needed a real job to make some money because there’s an awful lot of money in ski teaching. Lots of fun but not a lot of cash. At that time. Dean was living in Whistler. When he first got his license, he talked to a couple of broker-owners and they were all saying that he was too young. Dean was 21 at that time and for him, it was a big deal. He waited for a few years until he finally got his license when he was around 26.

In a market where the values are higher, people will find it hard to take you seriously because you look so young they are going to think that you lack experience. Alex, an agent in Dean’s team is around 22 and states that he looks like a kid but dresses super smart. Alex is super switches on just following up with people.

When Dean started, if he didn’t have the answers he would just say that he would get that or figure it out for your, he will find out the answer and that’s how every Realtor is because they usually don’t know all the answers but it works for him but he definitely cherry-picks who he gives to him and who he keeps.

In Dean’s regions, the average home price in terms of homes is 3.1 million Canadian dollars and their average condo price is 1.2 million which is an interesting market.

Starting The Linnell Group

Dean started with REMAX and enjoyed working with them. He did all the REMAX conferences in the beginning and everything. Their broker-owner with REMAX sold to a competitor in Winderemere real estate which is out of Seattle and he just didn’t click with the owner of the Windermere franchise and it’s still REMAX. They’ve ditched Windermere and their full REMAX, never saw eye-to-eye so he moved on.

Dean moved to the Whistler Real Estate Company which is a boutique company, one of the oldest and biggest. They were sort of the gorilla in town which suited Dean just fine. He had a short stint with some of the smaller franchises in his area but it never worked out. It always made sense to kind of be with the big, big company.

Years ago, Dean saw the value in personal branding but he started business in ‘98-’99 and hit up the conferences and tried to learn how to grow his business around 2000 – 2002 and went to a couple of good conferences. Howard Brenton was the star power stuff, Dean went down to a lot of those conferences and got to know how are quite a bit. He, unfortunately, passed away a few years ago. Dean kind of graduated and moved over to a lot of Tom Ferry stuff where he did personal coaching at one point which he found fantastic.

The nucleus of starting a team kind of happened around 2006 – 2008 where they went was non-VA and because at that point, VA stuff wasn’t even a thing so they all had in-house assistants. He had two full-time in-house assistance and four buyer’s agents. Then the market fell off a cliff for them in ‘08, ‘09, they were still going when it was crashing in the states but the team sort of imploded on him at that point. He know he needed to trim things down but didn’t pull the trigger fast enough so he had to basically let everybody go. He still needed a ton of help because he was doing 100 deals a year at that point.

When they started to go off the cliff at their point they were doing around 30 -50 ends and it was like he can’t support all the staff at that type of volume so he needed help. He also shared with us a story where he had Laura Monroe from Inman as his first VA in ‘09. She was doing VA stuff from her home in California and helped Dean for two to three months. When she was ready to move out doing the VA stuff, she recommended her friend in Calgary named Jennifer Wilson who has been Dean’s listing and transaction manager for over 12 years.

Dean started the team in ‘06 – ‘08 in house fashion. They had real struggles with one of their buyer regions during that transition time when the market was kind of crashing a little bit. One of their buyer agents didn’t show up for work for two days in an arrow and he was a young guy, around 21 years of age and he was killing it. He was his GCI where that year was around $120,000 which was pretty big for a new agent in the business on a team.

He couldn’t figure out where he was so he ended up getting the key to his condo and went over to check in and check on him. He found out that he had passed away in his sleep. He died in bed and that was how he found him. Months prior to that, he had told Dean that his family had a real bad congenital heart problem and that he thought he was going to die young because everyone was young and he died asleep. 

It was really tough on the team and they were kind of imploding a little about point two and contracting. That’s kind of what started the whole, Dean then said, okay let’s blow this up, go to the VAs, trim things back until the market gets better, and then they’ll build up after that which is where they are now.

Vacation Rental Market

Dean stated that the vacation rental market is what a lot of people purchase here for. The second home market. People will buy here and the type of people they deal with are everywhere where this is their first, second home, so Dean started getting people who own all around the world. He has clients with over five houses in different places so that was what the market was in his area because they were at a ski resort. They are only an hour and a half away from Vancouver which is their main market and secondarily, they have 15%-20% of the people that own here are actually from Seattle as well.

Dean deals with a lot of people out of Seattle, he got a lot of clients with Microsoft and then just going down the west coasts as well. They’ve got tech guys from San Diego, San Francisco. There are also a lot of those clients but it’s not an international market. They’ve got the UK, Australian purchasers but it’s around 70% Vancouver, 15% Seattle, and 15% around the world.

Marketing Vacation Rental Homes for Sale

Dean found it tricky to market the listing. Trying to get listings is a tough one, it’s more of what he’s doing right now because he has been in the business for 22 years so he has a lot of repeating, referral, and past clients and it’s how it works for everyone when they’ve been in the business that long. They’ve got a kind of away from marketing their sales success over when you get listings. When you sell something, you always want to put a flyer out to the neighborhood and Dean finds it hard to do it here because of two things.

1. The people you’re trying to mail to don’t live here so you go to get your address where they live which is like Hong Kong or Seattle;

2. It’s kind of hard to get those addresses because of Canada’s Privacy Laws

So they’ve been relying on their past success and getting listings through word of mouth and past clients. Now what they do to up their game is going back into direct mail a bit more than and Ferguson was saying he’s doing really well with it down in Seal Beach which is to some extent a similar market being second homes.

What Dean thinks is that there’s a real palace for direct mail again. He states that if you watch Tom Ferry stuff or you’ve been to the recent summit, he’s all about direct mail. What’s old is new again. Dean is working with bringing on another VA from the Philippines that can help them generate those mailing addresses and they’ll be doing it in a legal way which is getting title searches and paying for each title search for each property that wants to send mail to. A title search for each property is around $10-$12 CAD and it’s going to be worth it for them.

Video Marketing for Real Estate

Dean has has his YouTube channel for real estate since 2008. As of today, he has over 350 videos on his channel. Looking back, he would think that it was such garbage but he has learned a ton. He has been working with Owen Video who provides high-level YouTube channel strategy for brands & industry thought-leaders. Dean re-upped with him and they’re doing another 3 months. It’s been a big help for Dean mainly because it’s a very complex market to understand that there’s a lot of different limitations on owner use, different zoning stuff you need to know. 

Dead did a lot of talking, explaining videos and found that they tend to be boring so he liked to do a lot of B-roll just to explain things with a lot of graphical overlays.

They have been playing around with that a lot over the past couple of years and it spices things up enough to the point where you get longer watch time and actually make it happen. Dean is also looking into putting together a second channel which is really sort of a lot of activities in town, restaurant reviews, meeting business owners, all that stuff that they did about three-four years ago, and it kind of petered out.

Now he really thinks that he has to have more of the trust happening and he gets a lot of that through his real estate videos because he states that he is pretty personable especially with his walkthrough videos and listening but those can be boring where they don’t get a lot of watch time but he says that if they can do it separately on a different channel, he’ll still introduce himself as a real estate agent. Dean states that also on the backside of COVID, just trying to help local businesses get a bit more awareness so it’s a win-win game. 

Dean also states that he’s still doing Friday Morning Coffee with Dean which has been huge for him ever since he started business in 2000. They’ve been doing it every single Friday where a little newsletter goes out. It’s an email list and now they have 12,000 email addresses on it. It’s just a quick single paragraph about something interesting followed by a recent explainer video or walk-through and then the more important point because people skip that stuff and get right to the meat at the bottom which are the new listings, price reductions, and sold in the past week in two different markets to towns nearby. When Dean misses sending one in a week, he gets emails asking where’s Friday Morning Coffee?

Mistakes Made in the Business

It’s one of the tough things in the business is just keeping your expenses low, says Dean. They’ve had a couple of good years and they all had in the business and they are starting to see the writing on the wall with things contracting. It’s harder to get listings with zero inventory. Luckily, he represents a couple of builders who are doing a bunch of building right now so he has gotten new homes coming on the market but states to have been really careful with expenses.

Dean is also excited about ramping up their assistance but doing it more virtually. Dean and Leah had a phone call yesterday with SphereRocket out of the Philippines, now Kyle Wesley uses SphereRocket to hire VAs and they’ve been looking at PhilippineJobs.ph and doing some of that stuff on their own. Dean adds that these guys are for 4,000 bucks as an initiation fee and they don’t take any cut off of the VAs after that. They do all of the training where they have weekly training, they’re all pretty much real estate-related VAs.

What’s Next for The Linnell Group?

Dean says that they really trying to focus not only on lead generation since Ylopo got that figured out for them but really staying up of the lead flow. He says that they’re kind of swimming in leads but not sure that they really need to up their tier with Ylopo it’s why they were thinking about it. 

They’re sitting at 200 leads a month between him and one buyer agent and bringing in another buyer agent to handle that and it’s just some of its falling through the cracks. They’ve had hand-raisers, people looking at listings 10 times over the past week and they’re not touching them as they should so Dean thinks that a VA can help them a lot with that.

Connect with Dean

You can find Dean on the following sites listed below: