NEW YORK — Pumping through this city is the knowledge and energy of millions. As the home of Wall Street and the site of the fallen World Trade Center towers, the city has shown resilience in the face of crisis and offers lessons that can be applied to the housing market as a whole, said real estate pros who spoke during a "Boom, Bust and Innovation" presentation at the Real Estate Connect conference Thursday.
"Last year was the fear factor. We could not see beyond our noses. The first quarter was dead. We started to see movement in the second quarter. We started breathing in the third. The fourth quarter was a home run. We were better in 2009’s fourth quarter than we were in 2007," said Diane Ramirez, president of Halstead Property.
Some of the drivers behind that improvement are unique to New York, panelists said, but offer hints that the economy is normalizing.
"The energy in this city (is driving demand). We have movement up, down and sideways, but (people) are moving. We’re moving back to the core buyers who we’ve always had. Wall Street is buying again. If they’re having a child, they move up. It’s much more normal," Ramirez said.
Dropping sales prices infused the market with new buyers who believe they are getting great value for their money, panelists said.
"Price came down 20 to 30 percent from the peak across the board," said Chris Meyers, chief operating officer at Houlihan Lawrence.
Buyers no longer see real estate investment as a get-rich-quick scheme, however, in contrast to the boom years.
"Now, people are buying a place to live. They’re not buying it to flip it or get rich," said Dottie Herman, president of Prudential Douglas Elliman.
In an environment in which sales prices keep changing, managing seller expectations as a real estate professional is vital, panelists said. …CONTINUED
"If it’s priced well, it will sell. You can’t force somebody (to drop their price) — you can just guide them," Herman said.
For brokerages, that also means they have changed how they do business. At Halstead, for example, Ramirez said the company went beyond letting agents choose a good price for a property by vetting that process and making it transparent.
"Each agent had to demonstrate to us that that price was a good price in that area, in that competitive field. And we put all our vetting on our Web site so the consumer knew how we were doing it. So it gave them a target. Some of our sellers said, ‘I don’t want to go there,’ but after one or two months, they’re really happy we did that," Ramirez said.
Meyers also credits social media with informing consumers about trends in the housing market.
"When you have a market that’s frozen solid and no one knows where a price should be," consumers look to the Internet, he said. His own company used to spend $2 million a year on print advertising and that number has gone down to zero, he added.
Ramirez said that 40 percent of Halstead’s advertising budget is still spent on print marketing.
"I’m sorry to say we still do (buy print advertising). We’re in transition," she said.
Prudential Douglas Elliman has turned to mobile applications for advertising, Herman said.
"I think everything is going through the Internet and handhelds. Print never sold houses anywhere. I think as a company you need a strong brand because people are going to go with a brand they’re confident with," she said.
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