Education and connection at AVLmeetup

Led by three local real estate professionals, the group is sharing industry expertise and working to change the networking game.

A large crowd gathers in The Mule, some sitting and some standing, while networking.

The group aims to foster meaningful relationships.

Photo by AVLtoday

At its first event in 2022, AVLmeetup hosted around 11 attendees. In the months that followed, that number grew to a consistent 40 or 50 and later 80 or 90 — then at its most recent event in February, about 200 real estate professionals gathered at The Mule to hear from an expert panel and network.

Behind that substantial growth are Zacory Ruiz, Rodrigo Afanador, and Ray Ray Hicks, three locals who work in real estate and have dedicated themselves to educating and connecting Asheville’s business community.

Insight from the experts

Half of the heart of this group is education, and from the beginning, the free monthly meetup has intended to be a learning resource.

During the program, Ruiz always shares the Ruiz Report, which offers a quick + clean look at the local real estate market. Then the evening turns to a panel discussion about a specific topic, like development or short-term rentals, with three experts. The team draws from their own industry experiences and conversations for topics and specifically curates the panel to include professionals operating on different levels — so that anyone who attends can know they’ll get something out of it.

“I think that’s really unique and powerful,” says Hicks, “when you can get a diverse response to a single question and people walk away more educated.”

With the founders’ backgrounds in real estate, AVLmeetup has naturally been focused on that industry, but its growth as a group is also leading to an expansion of scope. The March meetup will cover “The Secret World of Operations” — with Cúrate CEO Susan Aplin and Burial Beer Co. COO Jay Richardson joining a panel with Carolina Cole of Vesta Property Management.

The events will still maintain their original real estate element, but Afanador says that the group’s intent has always been to connect the movers and shakers of the community. Ruiz adds, “If you’re not learning from how the wheel works in other businesses to try to apply it to your area — instead of reinventing the wheel — you’re doing yourself a great disservice. So we’re expanding into business.”

Three panelists and two moderators sit on a stage in front of a large crowd.

The NET Profits philosophy (Networking, Education, Transactions) is the guiding principle.

Photo by AVLtoday

Connecting the community

The other half of AVLmeetup is community, and the team designs the events to connect attendees. As soon as you walk into the room, you’re greeted by volunteers at the sign-in table and asked to take a survey with a few real estate questions (maybe you’re looking to sell or to buy or to get a loan) — then the matchmaking service can connect you with people right there in the room.

“At the end of the day, you’re doing business with someone,” says Ruiz, “Not a company and other entity — a human being. We’re trying to foster experiences and relationships. There’s no commission. There’s no finder’s fee. We’re just trying to build everybody up.”

Hicks adds, “I think that we stand for those deeper relationships.”

Beyond the events themselves, AVLmeetup also has an online membership directory so you can fill out a profile and connect with others looking for or selling a service or property. And if you miss out on a monthly event, you can check out a recording, thanks to the NET Profits podcast and the group’s YouTube channel.

The next AVLmeetup takes place at The Mule on Tuesday, March 5 at 6 p.m. Pro tip: Get there a little early for a headstart on making connections.

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