This will be the first time I have ever made predictions for the next year.

I am going to go out on a limb with these, and maybe 12 months from now I will have a good laugh (I don’t mind if my readers start laughing now):

In 2010, something will happen that no one can anticipate right now, but it will affect our industry and our predictions.

Next year will be like 2009 when it comes to innovation in the real estate industry: There will again be little or no innovation, just more companies developing products that we don’t need but that are improvements upon the products that they rolled out last year that we didn’t need.

There are always agents and companies that buy the shiny things as they struggle to survive.

We will continue to pay third parties to display our listings on the Internet, and we will continue giving them away for free until 2015, when we will have figured out that our listings are like currency.

By 2016 we will make third parties pay to display our listings. Consumers will still be confused and struggle to find accurate information about homes for sale, and third-party sites will continue to insert themselves in between Realtors and consumers. They will be disintermediated when they stop making money off of our listings.

The real estate market won’t "crash" like it did in 2009, but it will remain very stagnant. Home values will go down but at a much slower pace than they did in 2009. The tax credit is responsible for the current increase in home sales and the uptick in home prices. It is not sustainable and will not manufacture new buyers and sellers.

Prices will also be impacted when the second wave of foreclosures hits and the inventory of homes on the market goes up. The pool of prospective buyers in 2010 will go down because of high unemployment, tougher lending standards and the number of would-be buyers who can’t buy because they went through foreclosure in 2008 or 2009. …CONTINUED

There is a local trend that I think may be silently going on in the background around the country. It seems that fewer people are getting real estate licenses, but broker license applications are up. Large real estate companies are closing offices, but at the same time new, much smaller brokerages are being created. I believe this trend will continue in 2010.

Technology has truly leveled the playing field. Consumers can find us on the Internet and we can find them, build relationships and win their business. The Internet is no longer about building the biggest site with the most traffic — it is about engaging and interacting with consumers. Individuals can do that more easily than large companies can.

There will be new opportunities, as there always are during and after deep recessions. New businesses and new business models will emerge as people struggle through the recession. I don’t yet know what those opportunities will be, but my instinct is to watch for them, especially on a local level. Chances are they are in my own backyard.

In 2010 the numerous coaches, consultants and trainers who serve our industry will have to start innovating and getting some new material and ideas.

Practitioners in the field have been leading the way when it comes to innovation, while the thought leaders and consultants have been echoing this innovation — they need to distinguish and differentiate themselves to stand out if they want to stay in business and compete for fewer real estate agent and real estate company dollars.

The pie has gotten smaller. The industry has contracted and will continue to contract in 2010. Being a social media expert just like everyone else isn’t going to work for everyone in 2010. Experts will no longer be able to make money by echoing our ideas from 2007 like they did in 2009.

As agents, we have an advantage over real estate companies, thought leaders, coaches and consultants in that we come into direct contact with people who are buying or selling homes, and that is where our attention should be focused in 2010. We need to focus on their needs and trust our instincts when it comes to serving them better and more profitably.

This article may not sound very optimistic, but I am optimistic about 2010.

I don’t believe that the housing market or economy will bounce back in 2010, but I do believe that there are opportunities and that we need to recognize them and be ready to exploit them.

Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.

***

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