Currently, the only Realtor in Western Michigan asked to serve on the Forbes Real Estate Council, Mark joined Curaytor in 2017 after 13 years of growing his business. At that time, he had $58.5 million in sales volume. In the years following, that number grew to $73 million in 2018, $83 million in 2019, $102 million in 2020, and $127 million in 2021. Even in the tough 2022 market, Mark’s team is currently at $80 million for the year.
What Mark and his wife and business partner appreciate most about Curaytor is the community—they’ve gotten countless referrals through it—and also the marketing content.
“I’ve grabbed so many marketing letters and ideas from that community,” Kara says. “I send it to our marketing intern and say ‘create this and mail it to these neighborhoods’. We do that all the time.”
Starting his business during the market crash
Mark decided to commit to his residential real estate business in 2006—the same year the Housing Market Crash first hit Michigan. “Michigan was the first state to be hit” and, according to Kara, “’06, ’07, and ’08 were very challenging.” But they dug their heels in and wouldn’t be deterred. “We were investing a lot in Zillow.”
According to her, a difficult market wasn’t the time to remain on the sidelines. In those early days a lot of the business was “Built on Zillow,” and they spent “a ton of money on Zillow leads and Realtor.com.”
What followed, was slow, organic growth.
In 2010, the business went into what Kara describes as “growth mode.”
Mark was a fan of Chris back in 2006. He bought Chris’ first book and followed Chris’ journey, taking note when Curaytor signed its first client in 2013. He then talked to a few agents who’d begun to use Curaytor while at the same time interviewing with other services. When he decided to commit to elevating his business, Mark connected with Curaytor right away.
The first thing Kara noticed was the increase in high-end listings. She sees “so much value in the website. It’s the classiest, nicest website. When a luxury seller goes to our site and sees the design, they are blown away.”
Google My Business has also been a considerable boon for leads. “We have more than 115 Google reviews now and when you Google Grand Rapids, our team pops up first.”
What comes across most strongly in reviews is that many of his clients are repeat customers who rave about his expertise. “I have used Mark Brace and his team to buy/sell several properties now. Today, I closed on my 3rd with him. In an extremely competitive market (West Michigan), Mark is the guy you want in your corner. I have full faith in him as an agent and he knows how to win, and get the most value if you’re selling your current home,” says one.
Another review applauds insight: “I have now worked with Mark Brace on the last three of my home purchases and sales and I’m never disappointed in the service and professionalism of Mark and his team, particularly Angie and Andrea. Mark has a wealth of knowledge of the west-Michigan property market and has provided great strategic advice given the current Grand Rapids market. We are thrilled with the outcome of our sale and purchase.”
More substance, less fluff
“There’s a fair amount of fluff in the real estate industry,” Kara says. “And you come across these pages for agents that make them look like they’re killing it. They’re crushing it. But then you see there’s no actual substance behind it."
"That’s another thing Curaytor offers value to… I feel like we’re constantly providing substance to the public… Everything with Curaytor is so top-notch and classy and that aligns with our brand. We want to be the realtor people go to to get educated, to calm their fears… We want to be their forever agent. If you work with us, we want you to feel like you’ll work with us forever.”
What sets Mark apart from other agents?
Kara says it’s the fact that Mark is a hustler. “He works 24-7 and he has a team culture. But without a team, Mark is doing $50-60 million on his own.” Much of that production is repeat referrals from past clients. “We want agents to work hard.” And Mark and Kara offer rewards for agents who hit their goals—trips to the Caribbean, sales drawings—contests.” Beyond the fun Mark nurtures with his team, there’s also a lot of brand recognition because Mark is recognized for his expertise in the community.
With 10 agents currently working with him, Mark’s team remains at the top in his area and outperforms mega teams in terms of volume.
How do Kara and Mark feel about the current state of the market?
“We’ve gone from the most intense market to a less intense market,” according to Mark. “That’s the reality, it’s still a very good market, it’s still a seller's market. The numbers haven’t even come close to normal in our area. I know every part of the country is different but we’ve moved from the most intense real estate market that anyone has seen, to a less intense market.”
“It’s still a seller’s market,” Kara adds. “We’re continuing to get multiple offers on homes.” And she dismisses those who spread fear and doubt at that time. “Normal markets are still lucrative for realtors and we’re not down to a normal market yet."
Whatever the market, Mark has demonstrated a commitment to delivering the best service to his clients—a quality best explained in another one of his five-star reviews: “When we first met Mark, he explained that his job is more service than sales. He proved that time and again with his thorough knowledge of home construction and the local market. Every time we viewed a new property Mark would perform a methodical inspection, looking for signs of problems and commenting on the quality of construction, finish, appliances, etc. Mark also led us through multiple rounds of negotiation to get to a price we were comfortable with. In the end, we found the property that was perfect for us and we are loving it so far.”