A changing real estate market is not necessarily a bad situation to be in — it’s what you make of it that counts, said real estate professionals during a Monday discussion of broker survival strategies.
Mindset is important in working through a slowing market, said Ken Baris, president of Jordan Baris Inc., Realtors, in West Orange, N.J.
“I find a lot of people get psyched-out by the market,” Baris said. But agents who truly understand the market and offer effective marketing can help their clients realize current market conditions and accept the agents’ marketing approach. “I think there’s more opportunity now than there has been in quite awhile,” he said, adding that it’s a much better time for new agents to get in the business now so that they understand what it takes to be successful in a slowing sales environment.
Real estate sales have slowed nationally, and the National Association of Realtors reported this week that total sales of single-family homes, apartment condos and co-ops declined 12.7 percent in the third quarter compared to third-quarter 2005, while the median sales price among 148 metro areas studied by the association dropped 1.2 percent in the third quarter compared to the same quarter last year.
Baris spoke during an Inman News audio conference presentation, “Broker Strategies for Managing in Tough Times.” He said that training and marketing techniques can be especially important in changing market conditions.
He advocates a back-to-basics approach to drum up new business, including marketing on the Internet and through direct-mail campaigns, and keeping open lines of communication with clients.
Baris advocates for agents to create a full package of marketing materials to demonstrate to clients during their listing presentations. “I think addressing presentation and process to them is imperative,” Baris said. The goal is to approach the owner of a property with pre-made marketing materials that the agent can unleash “with one stroke of the pen,” he added.
The gravy days of real estate, when hordes of industry newcomers got real estate licenses to cash in on the real estate boom, may be coming to a close, Baris said — houses are not selling themselves these days. “People are forgetting about friends and relatives who are in the business — they want the agent with the best track record.”
Pat Grimm, executive vice president of real estate operations for Windermere Services real estate company, said that agents cannot afford to be one-dimensional in their approach to marketing and transactions. “Agents need to focus on the entire process and have the client focus on making the decisions,” he said. “The process is huge, it’s multidimensional.” Some companies focus mostly on attracting leads but don’t have the back-end to support the leads they bring in, he said, and some agents seem to focus strictly on the transaction process and don’t focus enough on how consumers are entering the marketplace.
In a climate of shrinking sales and growing inventories in many real estate markets across the country, RealEstate.com is building and growing its brokerage company business, said Bret Violette, senior vice president of the Western region for RealEstate.com’s E-Brokerage Business. “It’s actually a great time for us to be building our business,” he said, as agents are looking for companies to provide them with tools that can help them to weather lean times. It can be difficult, for example, for individual real estate agents to secure effective lead generation and to build their own Web presence, he said.
The audio conference participants generally agreed that consumers seek fast and vast real estate information online, and that there is a definite shift of marketing dollars to the Internet.
“Immediate response is everything — it’s a ticket to get you into the game. I think the only way to treat the Internet consumer is the same as if they walked right into your office, the same as having them in your waiting room,” said Violette.
Grimm said consumers seem interested in finding real estate information in one place, but they don’t want to be cornered. “They are not looking to get captured when they first get on there. I think we’re putting people off as opposed to attracting them that way. If the (online) experience is good, they come back.” Sometimes consumers are simply window-shopping, he said.
Windermere Services is investing heavily in technology – spending about 70-80 percent more compared to last year, and mostly for in-house programming projects, he said.
Baris said his company is evaluating a unified platform to handle leads, transaction management, follow-up and other processes associated with real estate transactions. For marketing, he said his company is spending “much more online and going much further away from print. We’re just not getting the bang for the buck from classified. The reality is that online marketing is just more effective for selling real estate at this point.”
Violette said his company is investing “many, many millions” of dollars in customer relationship management and consumer-facing Internet technologies.
Grimm referred to experience as the “new currency,” and Violette said that brokers should invest in training for experienced agents, as “most training is geared toward newer agents.”
Real estate agents should take advantage of changing times and work with developers to sell new properties, Baris said. “There is a really great opportunity now,” he said, as brokers are offering more incentives to get properties and there is more opportunity for brokers to work with builders. “Why take one listing when you can take 50?”
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