Nook Real Estate

REW Case Studies

Real Estate Webmasters - Case Studies: Nook Real Estate

California: Orange County, San Diego, Palm Springs and Los Angeles

Brokerage Size

30 agents as of May 2018

Average Gross Volume Per Agent

$7.2 million*


Architectural search

REW Products

Custom web & app design, SEO, PPC

*For the 2017 calendar year with 10 agents as part of the brokerage.

Derek May has been a Real Estate Webmasters client through several different real estate ventures over the past 10 years.

Today, he is the CMO and co-founder of Nook Real Estate, a niche brokerage in California that is changing the way people search for property.

Derek May

Co-Founder/Chief Marketing Officer

With an average gross volume per agent of $7.2 million,

Nook Real Estate has discovered a winning model that leverages Real Estate Webmasters technology to attract top-performing agents, provide an unforgettable client experience, and build up a thriving brokerage.

Specialist in boutique real estate marketing

With a newly minted degree in marketing, Derek “fell” into real estate with a role at Strada Properties shortly after he graduated. As Strada became the market leader and later acquired by Coldwell Banker, Derek’s remit expanded and grew into a management role.

Derek went on to become one of the 12 original members of Surterre Properties, a luxury real estate boutique boasting over $7.5 billion in sales. At Surterre Properties, Derek found Real Estate Webmasters after he was tired of being told “no” by website vendors who could not accommodate his requests for customizations.

Together with REW, Derek went on to win multiple awards for Derek approached REW six years later to create another website for start-up luxury property brokerage Villa Real Estate LLC where Derek earned numerous awards for brand, web, and print campaigns.

The birth of Nook Real Estate

While running his own real estate marketing consulting firm, Derek designed a premium real estate brand called Nook on the side. At the same time, he met Back Bay Funding, a mortgage company in Irvine, CA, that was looking to revamp their real estate division. At their initial meeting, Derek showed the partners his idea for Nook and they loved it. Derek recalls, “They said ‘I want that, let’s do that’ and offered me an equity partnership instead of a consulting gig.”

The idea of architectural search is at the heart of the Nook brand. “When people close their eyes and think about their dream home, they always talk about a style. ‘It’s a Craftsman or it’s Victorian’, and I thought, why can’t they search like that? Why can’t people search by property style?” said Derek. He knew from his marketing background that a niche service lends itself to search engine optimization (SEO) and that by hiring specialists, they could offer a better client experience.

Derek May

Co-Founder/Chief Marketing Officer

“A specialist knows the nuances of their niche. So, for example, if someone is looking for properties that are ‘live-work’, a specialist in that type of property will know the tax implications and zoning rules.”

Recruitment | Attracting the best specialists

“There are three things that will kill you in real estate: rent, print, and staff. If you are a brokerage and you are heavy on those things, you’re going to lose.”

Leverage technology to run lean

Nook invested in technology integrations early on to eliminate data entry duplication, encourage technology adoption amongst agents, and ensure a high-quality client experience.

To their REW website backend, Nook has integrated BambooHR, an HR management system that automatically syncs with the agent pages of the website so it’s always up-to-date and data is only entered once. Integrations with Contactually ensure that Internet leads become part of their lead follow-up program, while a MailChimp integration ensures that Nook listings are promoted to other brokerages representing potential buyers whenever there is a new listing, status change, open house, or broker preview. Skyslope, a contract management system, allows data from agent and brokerage listings to be transferred to contracts from the IDX feed when listings are added and sold, again reducing the need for additional data input. Each integration is done to save time, improve content accuracy, and most importantly, save administrative headcount.

Splits that add value

Nook operates on an 80/20 split for most transactions and 70/30 for Internet leads.

Nook operates on an 80/20 split for most transactions and 70/30 for Internet leads. By being clever about how they operate, Nook is able to offer a ‘Sell with Style’ marketing package to their agents that markets their listings as part of their split. The package includes professional photography, flyers, direct mail, social media, brochures, VR, and email marketing campaigns. It’s a 10-step process that helps Nook agents be more successful.

A search experience that brings in leads

Agents want leads more than anything else, and the Nook leadership team’s main challenge was figuring out how to bring in more leads for these specialists.

The lightbulb moment happened one night when Derek woke up with the idea of ‘Search with Style’. By developing algorithms that would accurately identify a property’s architectural style, visitors to the Nook site could search MLS listings by styles such as ‘California Bungalow’ or ‘Craftsman’, essentially enabling people to find their dream home more easily than traditional search criteria. Nook is then able to match the Craftsman real estate specialist with the Craftsman home buyer or seller.

An app that wins client loyalty

When Nook launched, Derek and his partners wanted to come out guns blazing with an amazing client experience on mobile. He enlisted REW to build a custom app that included their unique ‘Search with Style’ value proposition. Intended as a pure brand play (rather than lead generation), the app has exceeded Derek’s expectations.

“Clients love it. They prefer it to Zillow or any other app. It’s fast, it’s clear, it’s easy to use. It helps us to win listings because it shows how savvy we are at marketing.”
Derek May

Co-Founder/Chief Marketing Officer

“If you’re trying to be all things to everyone, you’re no one. You have to get niche, you have to get craft. You have to be a destination. And REW is the quickest way for someone to become a destination in the real estate space. Nook is a platform to help specialists. If we can bring more specialists across North America under the Nook umbrella, then we’ll have a more complete consumer experience.”

As CMO, Derek defines success as recruiting the right agents and ranking well for their target “city + style” searches.

“Agents and rankings are our focus and, when we do that right, the sales will come. If you zero in on transactions and revenue, then you stop building cool stuff.”

Since launching in January 2016, Nook is showing early signs of success. They have been featured in Forbes, Dwell, and Curbed. Their listings in Orange County are on the market for an average of 29 days, compared to 52 for similarly priced properties in the area. Nook is now at 30 agents, after taking a deliberately slow approach to recruitment.

“I’ve been with several high-growth companies and there are always growing pains. With Nook, I wanted to learn from those experiences; start small and build the platform, perfect the technology with a few test agents, then grow. This year we hired our President, Mark Hughes, who is in charge of recruitment and at the end of the year, we’ll have 60 agents.”

Mark Hughes

Co-Founder/Chief Marketing Officer

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“There is no way we could have launched Nook without Real Estate Webmasters. I’m a creative person, and I don’t want to be told ‘no’. I want to be told ‘yes, let’s figure that out together, we can absolutely do that’. If I’ve got a challenge, REW has always been able to hit it head on, and that’s what I desire most from my tech partner.”

Derek May

Co-Founder/Chief Marketing Officer

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