Amanda McMillan, a real estate consultant for Prudential Preferred Properties in Chicago, has ranked among the top 1 percent of Chicago Realtors in her volume of closed sales from 2006-08. She has worked in real estate for seven years.

And while she describes herself as a "statistics junkie who loves technology," she said she recognizes that technology is just part of the equation in real estate and "client love cannot be earned in 140 characters."

Hear McMillan speak during the Real Estate Connect conference in San Francisco, which runs from Aug. 5-7.

She responded to a set of questions posed by Inman News:

What do you see happening in the real estate market in 2009?

I imagine that we will see a whole lot more of what we have already seen in 2009 thus far: a continuation of foreclosures and short sales hitting the market (I still think that we have a last solid wave in there); more difficult financing; difficulty of the investors getting back into the marketplace combined with a moderate increase in qualified buyers; four straight months of increases in the number of sales nationwide; and attractive interest rates and incentive packages.

With all of this I think that consumer confidence is building slowly. We might see a small drop in prices, but most are confident that if we are not at the proverbial bottom we are pretty darn close.

What advice do you have to help real estate agents and brokers get through this market?

Consumers are not only in need of, but also hungry for realistic, honest and well-educated agents. With hopes that the realistic and honest elements come more naturally, it is imperative for agents and brokers to be constantly educating themselves on all aspects of the market. Agents need to position themselves as the real estate resource for their clients, now more than ever.

What made you join your current company?

When I first got into the industry, I was looking for one strength in a company. I looked for the strongest and most intensive training program in the Chicagoland real estate market. I didn’t know much about real estate, but I was wise enough to know that I needed as much education and training as possible. That is what lead me to Prudential Preferred Properties. My philosophy was that I would join the company, get the training that I needed, and in that time learn what would be important to me in a company.

Realistically, I think that it is next to impossible for a new agent to fully understand what he/she needs out of a company at the beginning. Once I felt as though I had gotten some good mileage, I reassessed my options in the marketplace.

Interestingly enough, when that time came I felt that it was in my best interest, as well as my clients’ best interests, for me to sit tight at Prudential. Where they had originally attracted me with the impressive training program, they held onto that interest by having the most competitive marketing around the city.

What’s been your biggest challenge in running the business?

Myself. As a typical type "A," analytical personality, I constantly battle myself in the growth of my business. I have such a hard time learning to let go of certain parts of my business. I become almost territorial with my clients and have a hard time having others assist in my efforts. In other words, if my name is being represented, I want to be a part of it. This can actual inhibit growth within the business. I know this, just sometimes have to remind myself of it.

What new features are in the pipeline?

This year, we have been putting much of our energy into developing a new, innovative Web site. Our goal is to provide the most pertinent, hyperlocal information for my clients, whether they’re looking to buy a home in three months or three years.

I think too many Web sites out there either provide too much data that isn’t relevant or explained, are only usable during the buying or selling process, or don’t truly embrace what the social Web has to offer. At the same time, if you look at most "agent" sites, they all say the same things, look the same way. …CONTINUED

My goal is to create a community for my clients where they can turn to whenever they need real estate data, neighborhood info and everything else conveying the brand that people have come to associate with Chicago Home Partner. It will be a true mashup of local news, personal insight and hopefully some of the best tools the Web has to offer.

What lesson did you learn in the last year?

Compassion is the trait that separated the men from the boys. When the market got tough, everyone was affected and some more than others. Where being well-educated and honest were key factors in success for the year, compassion was a missing link for many agents. Clients needed (and continue to need) to feel understood during these tough times.

Adding compassion to a transaction turns a simple buy or sell into a journey, leaving you with more than just "clients." And the hardest part about compassion is that it can’t be taught in a class, learned online or read in a book. One needs to find it within themselves.

What would your second career choice be and why?

I love what I do, I truly do. I think that I would be split in between two avenues. First, I would love to investigate more of a consultative/coaching type role within the industry. Therefore, I could use what I have learned in the industry to help create better and more educated agents. This would allow me to reach a larger pool of consumers than I can possibly do on my own.

On the other hand, I would love to love to return to my former career as a horse trainer — in an equally tough industry that commands a ton of work ethic and has the ability for a great amount of rewards. Horses are one of my true passions in life.

What is the biggest problem in the real estate market today, and how would you fix it?

The biggest problem in the industry is the caliber of the majority of the agents, or lack thereof. This problem can be broken down, in my mind, into three subcategories: ease of entrance into the industry; lack of an appropriate continuing education program; and the skewed compensation programs.

Without going overboard in detail, I think that these three components need to be restructured. By doing this successfully, I think that a better-quality agent would be turned out, which would be in the best interest of the consumer.

What do you most enjoy about working in the real estate industry?

Well, it definitely isn’t the demanding hours and time away from my family. To name just one "perk" is tough. I would have to say that it is when I get to come back and see the fruits of my labor. An example is a recent weekend when I was invited to a block party for some of my clients. The ability to be a part of their lives and see how much their home brings joy to them is, as the commercial says, "priceless."

Most people have a hard time believing that someone as mentally tough as I am can be as soft on the inside. The emotion and empathy involved in this business is quite amazing.

Tell us something we don’t already know about you …

I am a true introvert. When I first got into the industry I actually set up my business plan to hopefully overcome the fact that networking and socializing were not my strengths. In order to overcome this obstacle in a very social business, I learned to educate myself to make myself the strongest agent that I could be.

The more that I knew and understood, the more confident I became. This allowed me to work against the natural wiring of my brain. And where I would still usually pick an evening at home over a hot networking event, I have enough pride and confidence in my business to be comfortable in showcasing it.

Amanda McMillan will speak during a panel session, "Agent 2.0: Cutting Edge Tactics for the Wired Agent," at the Bloggers Connect workshop during the Real Estate Connect conference in San Francisco, which runs from Aug. 5-7.


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