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Change is Good: How 3 Industry Insiders Plan to Thrive in Today’s Market

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RISMEDIA, Jan. 25, 2008-With the New Year’s hype subsiding, the end of January seems like the perfect opportunity to evaluate how you set out to reach your goals for 2008. What’s working? What’s not? What should you be concentrating on more? Here, we take a look at what three industry leaders feel are necessary to continue thriving in the industry throughout 2008 and beyond.  

Moderator: Alex Perriello, Special Liaison for Large Firm Relations, NAR  
Participants: Andrea Lawrence, president and co-owner, Prudential Alliance REALTORS – St. Louis, MO
James Phelps Retz, senior vice president, Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty – Huntington, NY
Margaret Kelly, chief operating officer, RE/MAX International – Denver, CO

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Alex Perriello: With the new year come fresh opportunities and ample challenges. The trick is to tackle them in a way that enhances success and ensures profitability. What follows are insightful comments shared by three industry veterans who have withstood both good and bad cycles. They concede the market will be tough again this year but rich with possibilities, if we cater to consumer needs and stick to business fundamentals.

Alex Perriello: What are your company’s priorities for this year, and why?

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Andrea Lawrence: This is a unique time in the real estate business, and we want to be poised to act aggressively when opportunities arise. We are constantly monitoring market conditions to take advantage of weaknesses. We are focused on developing new revenue sources, the enhancement of our marketing technology, and extreme fiscal responsibility.

retz_james.jpgJames Phelps Retz: Continue to deliver the absolute best service available to consumers, as we have as a privately-held company since 1922; ensure that our sales professionals have all of the right sales, marketing, and technology tools and systems to provide unparalleled results; support our management team with accurate, “live” data on every single agent and transaction and relevant market share information so that they can coach, recruit, and grow their offices properly; and grow and expand the company strategically depending on logical, geographic opportunities.

kelly_margaret.jpgMargaret Kelly: Our priorities are the same as they are every year – find ways to do what we do, even better. We want to sell more franchises, increase our agent count and expand our network, both domestically and internationally. We can do that more easily if we respond effectively to the changing needs of the consumer. In our 34 year history, RE/MAX has experienced similar markets in the past, but we continued to grow because we answered the needs of our customers. We have learned that difficult markets present tremendous opportunities. There are many talented agents out there who will be looking for a safe harbor in this storm, and we think RE/MAX offers them the best resources to survive the present and to thrive well into the future.

AP: What will distinguish this year from previous years?

AL: There will be a weeding out of companies and agents who came into real estate during the boom years and have never fully understood the fundamentals of the business. Mergers, acquisitions, and consolidations will come back to the forefront in the industry, giving significant growth opportunities to strong, well-run companies.

JPR: We believe that it will be imperative that real estate consumers have timely, accurate information on appropriate transactions to make informed decisions. And, albeit redundant, technology expertise on all levels – for consumers, agents, our department and management teams, and our overall media mix – is simply a condition of success, and an area we will continue to outperform our competitors.

MK: The marketplace won’t be very different from what we’ve seen in 2007. However, the real estate industry is undergoing far-reaching changes. We feel that change is good. The strong will survive. Those who are innovative and resourceful will set a new course for themselves and be much more successful, as a result. Agents will go back to the basics to provide good old-fashioned, face-to-face customer service, while taking the time to learn critical new skills. They’ll keep the best of the past and adopt new ways of doing business. They’ll learn to work smarter. So, 2008 will be a year of adapting. Those of us who recognize that, and make the appropriate changes will do very well.

AP: What message do you want associates and managers to keep in mind throughout 2008?

AL: It is time to ignore the negative media, to focus on our business plans and exciting opportunities, and to return to the basics of brokerage. We have withstood many cycles in past real estate markets, and we will ride this wave to new heights again.

JPR: We have grown and prospered through virtually every kind of market imaginable. Our sales associates have afforded us the opportunity to always be the market share leaders for the entire North Shore of Long Island, and it will be the same expertise, integrity, and commitment that will make 2008 a fantastic year. We will always make sure sales associates have everything they need to deliver world-class service at all times.

MK: Our mantra for the new year is, “Be Great in 2008.” And there are many ways to do that. NAR tells us that there are likely to be 5.7 million existing home sales in the U.S. in 2008. The message to our agents is that “you need to position yourself to get your share of those sales.” To do this, many will have to recognize that this market is not like any market they’ve seen in the past. It’s not business as usual. They need to reinvent themselves to become equipped to deal effectively with the new norm. We offer a great deal of technological and educational resources. We feel that if our agents take advantage of these cutting-edge tools they will find a way to be great in 2008.

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