I’ll be honest. Business naming can be a tough topic, and I have quite a lot to say about it, as it’s deeply tied to the branding process for so many Realtors.
This feels almost as surprising to write as it probably is to read, BUT here’s my unvarnished opinion up front — at best, company names are overrated and at worst, they just don’t really matter all that much. (There, I said it.)
And this is exactly why there are important things to share re: this topic. I have seen too many Realtors get caught in exhausting and obsessive mental cycles, easily spending twice as much time brainstorming for clever real estate business names as they do closing deals in a given month.
That said, I’d love to help dismantle some common stresses around the business naming / renaming scenario while offering my best advice for tackling the big + practical questions.
First things first…
If this is a rename…do you really want to change it?
As a branding specialist for the real estate niche, I am often asked to help clients come up with a new name for their company that’s going through big changes. Other than the fact that naming is not a service I offer, my first advice is usually, “don’t do it.”
Name changes, I believe, often cost too much money for too little return. They demand months of management time and thousands of dollars in design and print. And in the end, what you’re probably left with is a name that is not exactly “better” (potentially having signaled to the marketplace that, under the former name, you failed)?
So take a cold hard look at your motivations. Are you compelled to rename because your business focus is in crisis and you’re looking for a change? Is it the unconscious desire for something new, different, cool? Those reasons alone are not enough to justify the investment required to launch a new brand name.
But sometimes name changes really DO make sense, to reflect real changes in your real estate company, such as:
- changing the business at its core
- distancing from a troubled past
- expanding beyond a limiting name
- entering markets where the name is taken
These are all good reasons for a name change.
Don’t try to be special
I encourage any Realtor or team considering a name change to, well…stop aiming so high. There’s a lot to be said for managing expectations here.
Because like most things in life, company names fall on a kind of bell curve. There are a few incredible names, many mediocre names and a handful of truly bad names.
The fastest way to settle on a truly bad name is to aim for the extra special one. The name then becomes polarizing (some love it, some hate it).
So for most companies — in really any industry, really — the most simple + memorable name that has an available web address is the right choice.
Some naming guidelines
01 – Get feedback from your audience. Test the name with a wide group of diverse people. Even better, share your top two or three ideas and let them react. Their feedback may surprise you, and you may end up with a different favorite name than you started with. Gathering feedback helps spawn questions you may not have considered otherwise: How do the name ideas sound in the context of a phone message, or on a business card or part of a website URL?
02 – Test SEO and searchability. While your business needs to stand out, the name must also be practical—what obvious keywords can you incorporate into your name and make it easier for buyers and sellers to find you online? Also, shorter is (probably) better.
03 – Stay creative, yet timeless. Put your creative hat on, but never stray from the simple and timeless. The beauty of the real estate industry is that it allows you to think outside of conventional parameters, but avoid overly trendy names that will fail to stand the test of time or change. Avoid puns, pop culture references or cliches. To that point, here are a few more practical and universal guidelines to keep in mind:
- Don’t obsess over descriptive accuracy. A name doesn’t have to tell people exactly what you do or explicitly include “home,” “real___”, “property.” It just shouldn’t mislead them, implying things you don’t do (like fashion design or, you know, shoemaking).
- Make the name the URL. Don’t make people guess. Someone should be able to type your name between www. and .com and arrive at your website. If you can’t get the un-hyphenated URL, try something else.
- Avoid cute and trendy. Cute sucks; names come and go. If you’re trying to sound uncommonly cheeky or futuristic – if what you’ve come up with sounds so “in” – you should walk away.
Should you brand around your personal name or not?
This is always the big hairy question for my clients: When naming one’s company, is it better to create a generic company name for the brand, or to use your own name as the brand?
I think the answer is subjective and context-dependent. Sometimes you truly can go either way.
In many cases (and I may be in the minority these days), I’m still personally a fan of a real estate business named after the founder(s).
01 – Naming your business after you makes sense when:
- You are the face of the brand. If you aim to create content, record podcasts, film videos, and the like, your personal name is more powerful than a generic brand name.
- If you’ve built a strong following around your image on social media — you are the literal, visual face of your real estate company, and you aren’t hiding it — then your personal name is more powerful.
- If you’ve spent more than 5 years building market awareness around your name / exclusive reputation, where this is currently the sole road to recognition for your business — then your personal name is more powerful. (Side note: 5 years isn’t a hard and fast rule. But in working with many clients and collecting their stories + experiences, this is where my personal recommendation lands.)
Let me give you some examples.
My friends and clients, Bryan and Stefanie Lugo, are a husband-and-wife real estate team out of Arizona with a beautifully human brand. I would confidently describe it as “personality-driven.” These two are heavy content creators: they run an active blog, Youtube channel, and lifestyle-driven Instagram account where both personal and professional sentiments can merge, intrigue, and convert their audience. They also have a significant educational arm to their business via courses and an agent membership program.
For Bryan and Stefanie, naming their real estate company after themselves simply makes sense. Their social media and content strategies are built so clearly around their faces, voices, and personalities as people, any other naming stance would actually be counterproductive to their ventures.
Imagine if their company was named, “Phoenix Home Group.” Suddenly we have a dissonance problem. Without their personal name steering the ship, the result would be subliminal messaging confusion. “THE LUGOS” matters to the brand experience; their faces + stories + tone of voice embody the brand and the brand embodies them.
Another dear friend and client of mine, Gina Bourne, has spent years building “her tribe.” A growing community of dedicated fans. She knows how to express herself online as the unique individual that she is, from her personal clothing style to her business tips and musings on motherhood.
People gravitate to Gina because she owns her personality-driven brand with such confidence. And so, for all the right reasons, her real estate company is named after her. A short, sensible name at the intersection of her personal legacy and leadership of a real estate team.
02 – Naming after yourself also makes sense when you want to help people find you on Google. Unless you have “that name” — the one that’s undeniably problematic for anyone to write, say or spell (in that case? we’re sorry, fault your parents and consider moving on to a more generic business name) — then brand around your personal name as a way to win the SEO game so you come up first in Google searches.
Dreaming up a stellar business name that you’re excited about is challenging enough. Dreaming up one that you’re excited about AND can find as available is even more difficult.
Remember, you are competing with thousands of branded companies here, potentially across industries beyond real estate, who may have snagged your name idea already. They already own search results, the URL, the sazzy IG handle.
Why make things harder on yourself? Using your own name simply keeps things classic and easy.
03 – Naming after yourself also makes sense when you want a specific unique approach to be known as yours. If you are pioneering something new in your corner of the real estate world, your business may feel more honest when it’s attached to your name.
Take Gary Vaynerchuk. His unique approach to social media + online messaging was simpler to digest and more powerful to remember because of his face and name attached to proven results.
When you walk in confidence and are willing to be The Face, and your ideas are uniquely compelling, branding your company around your own name is often the ideal choice.
When should you brand around a company name?
01 – When your goal is to build something that is transferable or can run on its own down the road.
“I want to sell my business in 20 years.”
“I want to build an entire agency much larger than myself.”
If your vision isn’t this expansive, that doesn’t mean your vision lacks quality or rigor. It just means your goal is far more personal and boutique.
Some agents I know have decided that selling their real estate company down the road is critical to their retirement plans. Or they aim to build an agency larger than themselves by meeting calculated annual milestones for staff hires, team management training, etc. For these agents, life and strategies change drastically. Building such a nimble brand calls for a business name untethered to their personal name.
As always, there are pros and cons here. What matters is defining your own definition of success and acting + naming accordingly.
02 – When you want less visibility around your personal name. You may be camera-shy and deeply nervous about leading your own marketing campaigns. It’s okay. I’ve branded plenty of solopreneur real estate businesses with company names simply because the owner/founder is entirely set against being its face. Be honest with yourself and move forward with what feels natural and right.
03 – When you have arms to your business beyond one specific or limiting sphere. My Vancouver Realtor friends, Ashley Smith and Thu Pham, came to me for a rebrand in the midst of a renaming process. They explained that their ultimate goal was not only to build a thriving real estate business, but create a swag line and education/agent mentorship branch as well. Ultimately these ventures would be distinct yet related, falling beneath the same generic name banner.
The business name they finally settled on, “Vancouver Avenue,” was the perfect choice to embody their multi-faceted lifestyle brand with layered professional ambitions.
In the end, the forever challenge of business naming or renaming seems to be keeping an open mind while also keeping your head on straight. 😉 Always think long-term, keep things simple, and consider the brand context. I hope today’s post was valuable to you. If it was, send an email or let me know in the comments!
Cheers to you, friend –
BLUEPRINT is a boutique creative studio serving the real estate industry. Visit our website for information about our services, explore our online shop of high end marketing templates for Realtors, and to learn how our team can support your real estate branding, social media and editorial needs.