Are you optimistic about 2015?
Yes, I am very positive about the economy, especially in NYC. Our market continues to be strong, robust and challenging. We are coming to the end of our greatest year in our 100-plus-year history.
What are you worried about?
Inventory worries me. While we have had a slight uptick in more properties coming on the market, the product is for the most part not great. The great properties are not coming to the market; owners don’t have to sell and they love living in NYC, and their jobs are secure.
How much do you fret about global events?
Global events only worry me to the point where our safety is of concern. NYC is a very safe place. It’s why the world is coming to us to park their money.
Will mortgage rates go up or down next year?
Whether interest rates go up or down, they do not affect the NYC real estate market. Co-ops, which represent 70 percent of the real estate business, help ensure that buyers must be strongly positioned to buy in this market so we are mostly immune from the rates affecting us.
Will home prices appreciate next year?
Our market is rising, but it’s rising because the low inventory is driving the prices up. Each day brings yet another bidding war.
Will agents be more productive next year?
The 80/20 rule says that 80 percent of the commissions are brought in by 20 percent of the agents in a company. The 80/20 rule is becoming more 85/15 and will continue to prevail because sellers and buyers want really experienced agents to handle their real estate. It is harder and harder for new agents to break into the business and harder and harder for long-term agents to sustain their business because of this fact.
Will the portals play a bigger role in real estate next year?
Portals have gained the attention of everyone, and because 95 percent of all potential buyers go to the Internet to look, we all have to pay more attention to how we as real estate companies benefit from the Internet business either through our own websites or through the portals. This issue is not going away. We all need to focus more and more time in striking a competitive edge to gain that business coming from the Internet.
What will be the biggest source of real estate leads next year?
For us, our website brings a lot of traffic to our properties. However, we cannot rely on that means; therefore, we developed a better working relationship with Zillow. But more importantly, we have to continue to explore ways — and I mean new ways — to bring the Internet business to our properties, and that means vehicles that we develop internally, as well as searching new entities that are just being created in the Internet marketplace.
Are you making plans to expand, contract or maintain your business this year?
We are continuing to grow our sales force and to expand our market share and new marketplaces across the country.
What is the biggest challenge for the industry in the coming year?
The biggest challenge for the industry is to bury our heads in the sand and say the Internet will implode and we’ll go back to newspaper ads. It’s over! And that’s a good thing. For a lot of people, that philosophical journey has taken years to get to, but unless you get to that point, you will lose your business forever!