This April, one of Inman’s most popular recurring theme months returns: Back to Basics. All month, real estate professionals from across the country share what’s working for them, how they’ve evolved their systems and tools, and where they’re investing personally and professionally to drive growth in 2022. It’s always smart to go Back to Basics with Inman.
Between a heated market in many places and an economic recession potentially looming, real estate agents have a lot to deal with right now.
With these factors in mind, some have been making big sacrifices in their businesses and their personal lives to prepare for whatever may come next. And as we all know from COVID, that could be anything. As they consider the uncertain future ahead, here’s what agents are giving up.
In these uncertain times, saving money and working with less are things many agents have grown accustomed to. Starting during the height of COVID, Lindsay Reishman, from Pareto in Washington, D.C., decided to pare down his staff to just the essential people who would help keep his business up and running. He remains conscious about keeping it tight today.
“When COVID first came to fruition, I felt a need to get rid of the fat and make sure that my business was running lean and efficiently, so as part of that, we had to reduce our staff a little bit,” Reishman said. “I feel like I focused on the parts of my business that were the most profitable and tried to make sure that I continued to support those pieces, and I think that continues to be true.”
Time with family
Having to run to and from appointments on the weekends has forced Krystal Acosta, of Compass in Denver, to give up time with her family, a sacrifice that’s not unfamiliar to many agents who are struggling to find balance between their personal and work lives.
“My biggest sacrifice is time away from my family, just because of how hot the market is — we [she and her clients] have to get the weekend,” Acosta said. “So if there’s a house that [my client and I] have to see, I have to sacrifice a little more time away from my family to make sure that our buyer has an opportunity … But that comes with the [job] title.”
Making long-term investments
John Cunningham, at eXp Realty in Phoenix, said he has sacrificed making middle- and long-term investments amid the current global uncertainty — but he hasn’t halted investing altogether, just refocused his efforts.
“Global circumstances will always be changing, and trying to catch a falling knife is not possible and always dangerous,” Cunningham said. “So I am doing what I think is smart — I buy and sell and fix up homes in addition to helping people sell their own home … There’s great opportunity right now, so I’m taking advantage of it [and making] sure my investments are especially focused on short-term investments, things I can get in and out of quickly.”
Many real estate professionals don’t recommend forgoing a home inspection under any circumstances, but in the heat of her market in Madison, Wisconsin, Lori Schilling, of the Lori + Gordon Team at Sprinkman Real Estate, said her buyers are still so frantic that they regularly take that risk.
“The biggest thing that is being sacrificed is inspections,” Schilling said. “Buyers are waiving inspections in order to get houses and that’s a tremendous risk, right? You don’t get to pull back the curtain and see what you’re really buying.”
The sacrifice isn’t just on her clients’ end though, Schilling pointed out to Inman — as an agent, being willing to work with buyers who forgo inspections also makes Schilling herself vulnerable.
“It puts the agents at risk for a potential lawsuit down the road if something bad happened; it puts the sellers at risk. That probably would be my biggest thing that’s being sacrificed in this current market.”
Being reactive to the market
Although there’s a certain tendency to want to pivot and adjust strategy when market conditions change, Stan Ponte, of Sotheby’s International Realty in New York City, said agents should instead put quickly reacting to the market on their chopping block.
“The long vision is not to react to outside market forces, because by the time any business person … has reacted to the potential of something, most business leaders suggest you’re too late,” Ponte told Inman.
Ponte added that he didn’t necessarily disagree with agents who might be cutting back on frivolous expenses like an expensive coffee every day or buying leads that aren’t fruitful, but emphasized that agents should always strive to make decisions that are best for their business every day, across all kinds of economic conditions.
“I don’t disagree with the concept of tightening a belt,” he said. “I just believe you should have the best belt that fits you, whether the outside environments are getting tighter, harder or easier, because you’ve still got to survive and work and produce in good times and bad and have enough invested and saved to weather the storms as they come because they will come — boom times and bust times are part of our history and will be a part of our future.”
Keeping a regular schedule
In the same way that Acosta has had to work more on the weekends and be away from her family, Dennis Bowers, of Compass in Naples, Florida, said keeping any semblance of a regular schedule has gone out the window for him in the hot market Florida’s been experiencing as people migrate to the tax- and weather-friendly state.
“It’s more of a chase than it’s ever been for me,” Bowers said. “I’ve been in the business for 16 years now, almost 17, and it’s more of a chase because it’s a very reactive market. It’s a, ‘This property came on the market and there’s 30 buyers’ … so you have to react to it. You have to make the sacrifice of changing all your plans on that right now and move forward.”
Working harder for the same return
Inventory has continued to fly off the market for Martha Lebron Dykeman, of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices First Realty in Des Moines, which means that as a result, she feels like she’s had to put in a lot more effort to get the same return for her clients.
“The sacrifice that I’m doing is, I am working harder to get the same or better results — harder and longer,” she said.
“The inventory is there — how you locate the inventory has changed. So when people say there’s low inventory, it’s because it’s not sitting on the shelf. But it means that you have to go door-knock, you have to meet face-to-face, you have to ask the right questions so that people say, ‘I would totally sell if I knew where I was going.’ I know where you’re going.”