Everyone loves scrolling online for their next home or, if they’re fortunate, a second one. From Zillow to Redfin, we have a plethora of options. Yet, the abundance of search tools has not necessarily made it easier to buy. In fact, it may be more difficult than ever to find a home in the current economic climate.
You don’t want to settle when something is most likely the biggest purchase of your life. It has to be just right. That’s why I wanted to talk to real estate agent Bonneau Ansley. He recently sat down with me for an episode of my Retire Sooner podcast.
If you live in Atlanta, you’ve probably heard of the Ansley family. They’ve been active members of the community for more than a century. And you’ve probably seen Bonneau’s ubiquitous real estate signs. But future success wasn’t so apparent in his youth. Learning differences like ADHD and dyslexia and a tendency to push limits in the direction of mischief saw him move from school to school to school. Ironically, having so many different teachers and classmates eventually led to the robust network of friends and acquaintances that now contributes to his real estate success.
“I told my mom when I was six years old that I wanted to be the top real estate agent in Atlanta, and by doing that, I wanted to go to every school,” he laughed. “She didn’t really get it until thirty years later because I was a mess in school. I’m a C student. It’s gratifying now to see my teachers…‘Oh! You were the best student!’ No, I wasn’t.”
He eventually found the direction and discipline to push forward, but the path was not a straight line. “I was building houses down in Savannah and Bluffton, South Carolina. And tragedy struck. My wife was eight months pregnant; we had just built our dream house right on the Wilmington River in Savannah. And our house got struck by lightning.”
You did not read that wrong. In 2004, Bonneau Ansley’s house was struck by lightning. What?!
In an instant, they lost everything they owned. In the movies, this is known as an “inciting incident.” A happy couple, expecting a baby, is enjoying a night out when unbeknownst to them, their house explodes. BAM! Their lives are forever changed.
“In life, there’s a series of curves,” he told me. “You’re at the bottom of the curve, and everything’s awful, and you can’t do anything right. And sometimes you’re at the top of the curve, and you can’t do any wrong. But these curves in life are what mold your life and figure out what direction you’re gonna go and how you’re gonna get there. So, I was on the top of the curve before dinner. Right? I was at the bottom of the curve an hour later.”
At a crossroads, Bonneau and his wife decided to move to Atlanta. He partnered with some folks to develop a large twenty-three-home development on Peachtree Road. At first, progress went like gangbusters. He was back on top of the curve. But then, as they started to sell the properties, Bonneau ran into a brick wall: The Great Financial Crisis. Back to the bottom. He ended up unloading the development for pennies on the dollar, but his buyer would only accept the deal if Bonneau agreed to sell the townhomes himself. Rather than run from the challenge, Bonneau pivoted again and set a goal to become the best real estate agent Atlanta had ever seen.
“I started to wear my branding like it was a tattoo on my forehead that said ‘I sell real estate,’” Bonneau confessed. “Everywhere I went. When I’d go see a valet guy, I’d give the valet guy $100 and say, ‘The next five Mercedes that come in here, make sure my brochure and my business card is in their passenger seat.’”
In basketball terms, Bonneau put on a full-court press, but he’s always done things a little differently. He says it’s because of his dyslexia, “I don’t see the world the way everybody sees things. I don’t see problems the way people see things. And I came at it at a completely different angle.” When a competitor would send out 3×5 postcards, Bonneau would send out 8x10s. Instead of a hundred copies, he’d ship five thousand. He took the game to a new level, trying to scale the ladder quickly. He admits that his methods can be a bit obnoxious, but he insists it takes outside-of-the-box thinking and a lot of effort to keep selling. And, from what I gather, a sizable budget for postage.
Whether Bonneau’s postcards are the right size may be debatable, but the results sure aren’t.
At the end of 2021, Bonneau’s luxury arm joined Christie’s International Real Estate network as an affiliate. Between 2021 and 2022, Ansley Real Estate reported $6 billion in production.
Team Bonneau was even recognized on the 2023 RealTrends + Tom Ferry The Thousand, a program showcasing the top one thousand agents and teams in the United States — as published in the Wall Street Journal. They announced Bonneau Ansley and “Team Bonneau” in several top rankings: # 7 in the United States for sales volume in the Medium Team category. Team Bonneau ranked #1 in the state of Georgia for residential sales volume. Team Bonneau ranked #1 in Atlanta for transaction sides, and #1 in Atlanta for residential sales volume with $469,197,308 — overwhelmingly leading the second ranking team volume of $120,407,641.
A fifth-generation Atlantan, his network of colleagues, developers, and clients is something to behold. He even wrote a bestselling book, Brokering Billions: Secrets of the Nation’s Top Real Estate Agents, in which he shares simple systems and processes any agent can use to sell more real estate than they ever dreamed possible.
Does he have any advice for others looking to get into the business? Yes. He says it’s more important to follow your passion than to think about the money. He was lucky to find his love for the real estate industry because he admits he would’ve been a terrible lawyer, accountant, or anything else. If you feel the same passion, go for it. If not, figure out what gets you out of bed in the morning and start there.
What about advice for buyers and sellers? He says Atlanta is still an amazing place compared to other large cities from a cost-of-living standpoint. He thinks it’s a great place to do business, start a company, and raise a family.
I brought up my theory that despite all the online resources, and perhaps because of them, having a real estate agent who knows the specific market is possibly more important than ever. Bonneau agreed, saying that folks looking for locations in extreme demand can’t afford to wait for properties to pop up on Zillow or anywhere else. By that point, it’s too late.
It’s a wake-up call for those struggling to find that dream property. Perhaps it’s time to close the real estate marketplace app, push that phone icon, and dial the number of your local real estate agent.
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