As a real estate professional, Erik McCormick will commonly get asked, “Why should I hire you to handle our listing?” Dedicating all his efforts to commercial and residential aviation real estate, he will respectively reply with something along the lines of, “Consider this comparison, would you hire an appliance repair person to fix your airplane?”
Followed by, “Doesn’t it make sense to hire an aviation real estate specialist who has the best chance of bringing in a pilot buyer willing to pay top dollar?”
But what makes selling aviation-specific properties, namely residential airpark homes, different from other types of real estate? McCormick contends that there are amenities that make these properties he works with unique and that help to provide value in addition to that of a standard residential home:
- The community
- Runway type and number
- Availability and type of fuel
- Hangar size and overall structure
- Presence of pilot controlled and other runway lighting
Ascertaining the value of an airpark property is likely the most challenging part of the sales equation. This is primarily due to two factors; lack of comps in the marketplace and the delta between standard residences’ amenities versus those at airparks.
This is just one overarching theme that McCormick, an aviation real estate veteran, helps to highlight to agents that are a part of the Aviation Real Estate Specialists-Certification and Designation referral program.
What It Is
This group was created in 2020 as a way for existing real estate professionals, with or without industry experience, to become experts on this niche type of realty and capitalize upon opportunities. It also allows them to benefit from the large prospect base of buyers, sellers and airpark homeowners that McCormick has developed over the last several years.
“If you are not on social media and the world wide web … you do not exist,” McCormack said. He has focused heavily on these technological aspects over the past few years. In addition to attracting prospects through trade shows and word of mouth, his efforts online have been crucial.
Usually, the process of getting potential buyers into the sales funnel begins at either of McCormick’s websites, or on the Facebook group he created in 2018. The Aviation Home and Hangar group consists of nearly 9,200 members and specifically focuses on aviation real estate of all kinds. The group acts as a place for members to post homes, standalone commercial hangars, and other property for sale across the country and beyond.
Often, people within the group will talk to McCormick, a multi-engine rated private pilot, about their aviation real estate interests. Or they will also find his tailored introductory survey on their own. Either way, the Ultimate Aviation Real Estate-Ultimate Buyer Survey focuses attributes like:
- Type of aircraft owned
- Interests outside of aviation
- Desired type of real estate
- Preferred type of runway
- Type of fuel on field, if needed on field
The result of this 26-field survey allows McCormick to better understand a buyer’s realty needs and how to best serve them. If the respondent desires something in Arizona, then he will work with them on finding a property that fits their needs. If not, then he will work to place them with an aviation real estate specialist in their area of desired residence.
This referral network consists of fifteen agents, including five in Florida. The members of the group have different backgrounds and years of experience selling aviation real estate. But all have a love for aviation and are interested in the industry’s continued success.
Each of the real estate specialists carve out time each week to discuss sales goals, current challenges, obstacles recently overcome, industry trends, as well as topics pertinent to the niche of aviation real estate. Talking about the latter topics help to align the knowledge base of both experienced specialists and those with less experience alike.
An example from a recent discussion tackled an issue related to one of an airpark home’s most important features, the hangar. Occasionally, the agents within the group will run into the situation where a prospective buyer’s airplane’s tail will be too tall to fit into the hangar. McCormick aptly points out, “If a hangar is too small, then that’s a deal breaker.”
But he and the others agreed that there still are ways to keep the sale still alive if the tail is too tall. For instance, McCormick mentions the time that what appeared to be the case was not actually reality.
“Sometimes the hangar door was installed to where it wasn’t lifted to its full available height,” he said. “In one instance, we called the manufacturer. They helped to determine how far it could travel open. We were able to get another six inches [of travel upward], which allowed the airplane to fit and save the deal.”
The cadre also discussed the potential of using ground support equipment and good old-fashioned manpower to lower the tail in certain scenarios to get the aircraft to fit. Either way, it takes an enterprising spirit and effort to consider potential ways of getting the airplane inside and keeping the sale alive.
Another topic discussed during a recent meeting was ensuring safety at airparks for potential buyers. Bringing high energy and expectations, buyers will almost always ask to see active runways and taxiways for themselves. But as there are often spinning propellers and other potential hazards close by, one’s head must always be on a swivel when at an airpark. Oftentimes though, buyers will either be unfamiliar with the layout of the community they are touring, or too caught up in the moment to recognize these potential safety hazards.
So, the real estate specialist is in part there to ensure their safety on the facility, as well as help guide them while providing relevant information to support the buying process. The group explored several ways to maintain a high-level of safety during listing appointments at airpark homes they represent. This includes (for those qualified) carrying and using a handheld radio to communicate with traffic as necessary. It can also mean taking along an airport diagram and the airport manager along if needed.
Judging by the hearty dialogue in a recent call, keeping pilots at airparks is a hot topic. After all, without pilots replacing pilots at airparks, the enthusiast community is threatened.
“Our underlying goal is to sell their home at top dollar and demonstrate that we will fill it with a pilot who will invest in the airpark’s future,” McCormick said. “Keeping pilots in airparks keeps them healthy.”