Arizona’s ‘Flying Realtor’ Finds an Edge

Being a pilot has been a competitive advantage, especially within the saturated real estate market, according to a Scottsdale, Arizona, broker.

Due to his passion for aviation, Clarfield is putting significant effort toward getting and marketing aviation listings. [Credit: Robert Clarfield]

After more than a decade of selling homes, pilot Robert Clarfield understands how knowing about aviation and how it relates to the property he is selling can serve him well.

“I think that being a pilot helps. That’s because, here is the thing—with an airport, you know whether this hangar is going to fit a twin. If this 3,500-foot runway will fit a jet, or you need 5,500 feet of runway," said Clarfield, who works as a real estate broker in Scottsdale, Arizona.

"I’m getting asked questions like, ‘What is the pattern altitude? Is there a noise abatement requirement?’ There’s a lot of things that I’m noticing that I know as a pilot, or find the answers a lot easier because I am."

Combining real estate with his longtime interest in aviation has been extremely rewarding, according to Clarfield, known as "Rob the Flying Realtor." He has been a licensed real estate agent for 15 years but transitioned to selling homes full time a few years ago and works for the Arrt of Real Estate group

“One of the things that my partner in the brokerage, Rob [Romanet], liked about me, is that I had something different,” Clarfield said. “Having something different is what we look for in all of our agents. Rob learned that I have had my pilot’s license since 2018 and I love flying. And for me, it isn’t the destination, it’s just being in the air. And I started looking at all these landscapes under me while flying and thought, ‘Wait a minute. There has to be a way for me to incorporate my love for aviation with real estate.’

General aviation has also enabled Clarfield to significantly extend his reach within Arizona. Today, he covers an area that encompasses about a 100 nm circle from Scottsdale Airport (KSDL). 

“Wait a minute, now. Why don’t I also sell homes in Flagstaff, Sedona, Payson, and Prescott, instead of just in the Valley—here in Phoenix?’” Clarfield said. “That's what I thought next. We now belong to all MLS (Multiple Listing Service) in all of those towns, because we do business there. Last week, I had a showing in Sedona, so I flew myself out there and showed the property.”

He believes his knowledge has been a competitive advantage, especially within the saturated real estate professional market in his area. This focus has recently paid off, as he was entrusted with the listing of a privately owned airport, Western Sky Airpark (0AZ2).

Clarfield routinely uses aircraft as a sales tool, enabling him to take marketing photos from a unique angle. [Credit: Robert Clarfield]

“I’m working on (closing) a deal right now with this airport in Salome, Arizona,” he said. “The real cool thing about it is that I had seen the property listed for years and wondered why it had such trouble being sold. So, I decided that I would fly into the property and was able to meet the owners. Their listing agreement had ended, so I told them exactly what needed to be done for it to get sold and how it needed to be marketed. Now I’m scheduling a fly-in there, and we’re doing this whole meet-and-greet program, and several investors are now interested.

“Other things that I’ve been doing to help market these properties are showcasing them in Facebook groups, definitely, and online. I’m good friends with lots of the flight schools out here in Scottsdale and Phoenix, so they let me post information there. I talk with the owners and the students, because some might know investors that would want to invest—or potentially want to purchase it themselves. Even when I fly with my instructor, I mentioned that I have an airport for sale. I had permission to, so we went and landed there. Things like that have really helped to build my experience and have gotten people to get in touch with me.”

Looking forward, Clarfield is leaning harder on his passion for aviation, confident his efforts will be well worth it.

“What I’m going to be working on soon is getting a plane,” he said. “The plan is for me to get my instrument, commercial, and ATP ratings. That way I can take people up, even though I can now, I just want to be sure to do everything by the book. Let’s say somebody in Phoenix wants to buy a house in Sedona, I’ll fly them up there, and there will be a town car waiting for us to land. We’ll go right to the property, grab some lunch, go back to the airport, and then boom—we will be back in Scottsdale quicker than driving.”

Grant Boyd is a private pilot with eight years of experience in aviation business, including marketing, writing, customer service, and sales. Boyd holds a Bachelor's and a Master's of Business Administration degree, both from Wichita State University, and a Doctor of Education degree from Oklahoma State University. He was chosen as a NBAA Business Aviation "Top 40 Under 40" award recipient in 2020.

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