Nurturing sales leads, converting more inquiries into closed sales and advertising judiciously are important ways real estate agents and brokers can deal with a slowing housing market, real estate professionals said during a recent audio conference.

“Agents are going to have to stay in touch with prospects for a longer period of time,” said Scott Hoen, executive vice president of Fidelity National Real Estate Solutions. “They can use lead generation systems to stay in touch with them.”

Along those lines, “Fifty percent of all Internet-generated real estate leads aren’t followed up on,” said Rich Sharga, vice president of marketing for RealtyTrac, an online marketplace for foreclosures.

“If you are minding your knitting and following up on your leads you probably aren’t going to be the one to die out in this mass extinction,” Sharga said.

Sharga was referring to the market softening that many are predicting to take place in the coming year. His fellow panelists during an Inman News audio conference said that despite a slowing market, there is no cause for alarm.

“The market has changed,” said Ira Serkes, a RE/MAX Realtor in Berkeley, Calif. “We have a lot more listings on the market this month.” Serkes noted, “A lot of Realtors haven’t seen a normal market where things take a couple of weeks to sell. I think things are becoming normal.”

Serkes and fellow speaker Sherry Chris, chief operating officer of Prudential California Real Estate, referred to February, March and April of this year as “the good old days.”

Chris said, “What’s happening over the country is we’re moving into a balanced market where supply and demand are equal.”  While some markets, such as Southern California and New York, have overvalued properties, Sharga said he expects overall it will be a case of “air coming out of the balloon, but not a precipitous falloff.”

The panelists emphasized that working with slowly developing leads – clients who take longer, perhaps up to a year or more, to act – is key in a slower market.

“Nurture your buyers over a long period of time. Don’t just look at immediate buyers,” Chris said.

“Optimize your business process. It’s not getting more leads, it’s managing the leads and converting more of them,” said Sharga.

“I am overwhelmed with leads. I have more than I can handle. I just need to increase my lead conversion,” said Serkes. To that end, he has created a Yahoo group – a list of people who exchange e-mails – focusing on lead conversion, and he shared his e-mail address, ira@berkeleyhomes.com, with a caller who asked if he could join.

“One secret is, if you want a listing, do a great job for buyers and they will come back to you as sellers,” Serkes said.

Sharga emphasized the importance of advertising. “The people who advertise through a recession are the ones who come out dominant. Just be smart about how you spend the ad dollars.”

Chris said, “The echo boomers, upward of 30 percent of the American population, are online looking for things. We need to spend the appropriate amount of money online capturing them as buyers and some of them as sellers as well.”

Because the market has shifted quickly, many sellers haven’t adjusted and have unrealistic price expectations, Serkes said.

“Two weeks ago, I turned down a listing,” Serkes said. “The seller wanted a price that reflected real estate history – prices from back in February, March, April.” A difficult seller can tie up an agent’s energy and divert it from more promising possibilities, Serkes and Chris noted.

“Get good quality listings. You don’t have to take every listing,” Chris said.

On a related note, a caller asked how to handle reducing the price of a property. Chris said in such instances, forewarned is forearmed.

“We have trained agents when they are on a listing presentation to make sure you talk to the homeowner in advance. ‘If the listing doesn’t sell in 30 days, we’ll reduce it 5 percent,'” that kind of thing,” Chris said.

Sharga, whose firm is an online marketplace for foreclosures, said there are opportunities for agents in the foreclosure arena.

“We are seeing some pretty bright Realtors trying to get into the marketplace and sell houses in default before the banks repossess them. Every house we list on our site is a listing lead for an agent somewhere,” Sharga said.

In a final tip, Serkes suggested innovative marketing and technology training. “Check out Allen Hainge’s technology seminars for agents at AFHSeminars.com,” the Realtor said. “Be top of mind. We are starting to do a lot of podcasting and blogging.”

***

Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to janis@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 140.

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