If you are house hunting on Folly Beach and happen to see a laid-back looking dude with a pair of sunglasses on ... well, you probably wouldn't notice, right?
But what if that same person could share useful information about the island, help you find your dream property and walk you through the steps with no hassle? In that case, you've probably found Adam Killermann, also known around town as "Charleston's Real Estate Guy."
Killermann graduated from the College of Charleston in 1985 and spent years moving around the United States - Miami, Chicago - before returning to the Holy City. During his stint in Chicago, he thrived in a career in advertising and marketing, which later inspired him to create the real estate guy brand.
"I went to a marketing firm here in Charleston with an image in my mind," he says. "I didn't want a photo of my face but a cartoon that resembled me. A brand."
The resulting caricature that ended up on Killermann's business cards and other materials had exactly the effect he wanted: People remembered it. Of course, that isn't to say that a few of his competitors didn't question his idea.
"Other agents laughed at me for using a cartoon," he mused. "It was a different form of branding from what people were used to."
Yet it was clients he was attempting to attract, not agents. And when it came to new clients, it did not seem to matter that Killermann had an unorthodox way of presenting himself; if anything, it helped adhere him to their memory banks.
"Clients don't care - they just want good service," he pointed out. "And now they remember me."
When Killermann initially began branding himself as Charleston's Real Estate Guy, he worked at Dunes Properties, his first position after returning to Charleston. Interestingly, he was a part of their marketing team until it was suggested he might succeed in property sales, which he did.
Killermann ended up working with the company for six years and later moved to Avocet Properties, where he's currently an independent agent.
"At Dunes Properties, they were resistant at first about my branding and cartoon," he says. "Then they let me do it. I was also able to bring my brand to Avocet."
As an Avocet agent, Killermann now works primarily on Folly Beach, where his unique branding fits right in with the casual, fun vibe of the beach town. He always wanted the chance to sell property on Folly Beach; as a James Island resident he felt that "geographically, it made sense." And he loves working with the types of buyers who are looking to purchase a home on Folly Beach.
"A typical buyer will vacation on Folly Beach for multiple years and then leap into making a property purchase," he explained. "Some of them start small, with something like a condo, then end up upgrading. For a lot of these people, it's their dream to have a beach house."
Because so many of the buyers are not from the Charleston area - Killermann estimates that only 10 percent to 20 percent are local - he makes a special effort to educate them regarding Folly Beach. Matters such as flood insurance, the Folly Beach renourishment project and building codes are just part of the briefing he gives new clients.
"You have to have thorough knowledge and convey it to clients so they understand it," he says. "And that education starts on day one. Purchasing a home is a long process; it's not like buying shoes."
Because Killermann recognizes the importance of constant contact with his clients throughout the buying process, he strives to keep in touch and not let questions go unanswered. He notes that his willingness to listen to clients and provide "an immediate response" has been one likely determinate of his success in an area as small as Folly Beach. Of course, he also keeps branding himself as Charleston's Real Estate Guy and marketing through direct mail, print and Web.
"I'm actively branding myself on a continuous basis," he says.
But perhaps even more gratifying than the home transactions are the interesting friendships Killermann enjoys on Folly, and how the beach has influenced his own lifestyle. In fact, a few of his clients want to teach him how to surf the waves, and he is open to their suggestions.
"This is the most challenging job I've had in my life," he says. "And it's also the most gratifying. So many of my clients have now become personal friends."
Denise K. James is a freelance writer who lives in Charleston.