Marc Rasmussen in the News
By Michael Braga of Sarasota Herald Tribune
SARASOTA -- If you plugged the words "condos" and "Sarasota" into the Google search engine a few months ago, the first Web site you'd encounter would be Marc Rasmussen's.
That was no accident.
The 33-year-old Re/Max Realtor has worked hard to keep his site at the top of search engine results.
"I'm not an expert," Rasmussen said. "I've learned how to do it through trial and error, but I do have some guys who help me."
The visibility of Rasmussen's site is the main reason he has closed nearly $11 million worth of residential real estate transactions this year.
"About 70 percent of my business comes from the Internet," Rasmussen said. "My clients are generally from out of town. Most are second home buyers that want newer homes."
Rasmussen grew up in Orlando and moved to Sarasota after graduating from the University of Florida in 1994.
His first job was accountant at the Longboat Key Club. He then briefly moved to Chicago, working as a runner on the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade before becoming a commodities broker and returning to Sarasota in 1996.
Rasmussen enjoyed the hectic pace of the commodities world, but he found it extraordinarily difficult to keep drumming up new business.
"About 90 percent of people who trade commodities lose money," Rasmussen said. "So the attrition rate of customers is pretty high."
Rasmussen switched to mortgage lending in 1998, catering to people with poor credit. That gave him his first taste of the real estate business.
Together with his wife, Kay, Rasmussen began to speculate, buying and fixing up houses that were about to be foreclosed on in Sarasota County.
In 2000, both Rasmussen and his wife got their real estate licenses and began peddling properties full time. But it wasn't as easy to make inroads into the business as they thought it would be.
"We didn't have a huge bankroll, and the first few years in any business are always the roughest," Rasmussen said.
Kay ended up leaving the field, taking jobs in advertising and then at Merrill Lynch in order to provide the family with a steady paycheck and access to health benefits.
It wasn't until 2003 that Rasmussen's real estate business took off. He logged about $6 million in sales that year and about $7 million in 2004, providing him with enough income that his wife could quit her job.
Rasmussen is the first to admit that he's not the highest grossing Realtor in town. What makes his success remarkable is that the majority of his business has been generated over the Internet.
"Other Realtors ask me how to do it," Rasmussen said. "I tell tem there's no exact formula. You have to constantly tinker in order to build a better web site that people use and enjoy."
Rasmussen's site contains recent articles about the real estate market, featured listings, the number of houses and condos for sale in different areas as well as the highest and lowest asking prices.
Looking forward, Rasmussen doubts whether he'll be able to generate as much business over the Internet in 2006.
One of the biggest drivers of the real estate boom in recent years has been speculators, he said, and there are fewer of them these days.
"If it looks like there won't be appreciation, the flippers will drop out," he said. " Then you'll only get the investors who are in it for the long haul."That's not such a bad thing, Rasmussen says.
"We were due for a slow-down and everyone knows it's here," he said. "I think people are waiting in anticipation of what might happen. That's made them cautious. But when they realize there won't be a bust, they'll come back into the market.
Long term, Rasmussen is optimistic.
"A lot of people are moving to Florida. That's not going to change.