RISMEDIA, June 6, 2008-This is a story about three super-achievers who have built – and are continuing to build-successful real estate sales careers on a bedrock of great communication skills, Internet technology and providing outstanding service to their customers.
Each is a team leader in his or her company. Each comes from a different geographic and demographic location. Each had another career prior to this one. And, each is optimistic of better days ahead in their housing markets.
“The common thread linking their successes is their collective ability to anticipate trends and to manage change in their local marketplaces,’ said Michael Bearden, president and CEO of HouseHunt, Inc., a consumer-oriented Internet firm that provides free information and services to homeowners, home buyers and home sellers in 47 states and through nearly 2,000 member-agents and its primary website, Househunt.com. “All three of these top producers see the problems, challenges and uncertainties in today’s marketplaces as opportunities for tomorrow.”
Echo Farrell, Phoenix, AZ
Case in point is Echo Farrell of the Farrell Group in Phoenix, AZ: “Our market is changing. It’s changing for the good! Successful agents are doing all the right things, working hard and are not letting the naysayers affect their attitudes about business. We talk about mindset and positive attitudes in my organization. It’s a huge part of our business. When our market becomes more normal, we’re going to be way ahead of the curve.”
Farrell, of Keller Williams Realty Sonoran Living, is the exclusive HouseHunt member agent for six territories in the greater Phoenix area, including Scottsdale Ranch, Tempe, Paradise Valley and northeast Phoenix. Her group includes two buyer brokers and a transaction coordinator.
“We average about 800 Internet inquiries a month, mostly from HouseHunt, and that’s keeping my buyer brokerage very busy and very happy,” she said. “Our market is very neighborhood specific. Home prices have gone up in some neighborhoods and gone down in other neighborhoods. Some areas will simply take longer to recover.
“Overall, we‘re looking forward to one of the best summers we’ve every had have in terms of what’s in escrow and what’s in the pipeline,” she said. “I feel that we’re going to have a fabulous year!”
A former paid director of the Greater Phoenix/Scottsdale Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, Farrell utilized her knowledge of the community to become a popular choice of those not familiar with the area: “My job was to sell our city as a destination and show people a great lifestyle, not simply sell them a home.”
Farrell has also been a leader in Phoenix in fully utilizing technology in her business: “I have surrounded myself with smart people who know a lot about the Internet and search engine optimization (SEO). I put together an awesome website and was one of the first Realtors in the greater Phoenix area to utilize it. Prospects could go on-line without having to sign in to search properties. This really worked out for me in 2003-2005…” She added: “My website is definitely the backbone of my business, Plus, I don’t have to pay an SEO company because of the quality of leads I’m getting through HouseHunt.”
Donna Forrest-Johnston, Charlotte, NC
Donna Forrest-Johnston of RE/MAX Executive Realty said the housing market is also picking up in the greater Charlotte, NC, area after a slow winter: “We had nine closings in May and expected to have at least eight more in June. My six-member team, Charlotte Premier Realty Partners, closed more than $22 million in gross sales volume last year. Our goal in 2008 is $38 million.”
Forrest-Johnston is exclusive member-agent for eight HouseHunt territories, including Downtown and Southeast Charlotte, Dilworth-Lake Wylie and South Park.
A top producer in the Charlotte area and winner of numerous sales awards given by RE/MAX, she said she has doubled her income every year since she began her real estate career in 2000.
“When I first started, I did all the recommended mailings to homeowners and spent thousands of dollars on advertising, but that wasn’t very productive. I was a single Mom at the time with a real estate license but no income. I was floundering. HouseHunt called me and offered me an Internet territory. I thought:’ I can’t afford to spend $400 for it.’ My Mom looked at me and said: ‘Honey, you’ve got to do something!’ So I went ahead and purchased my first Internet website. I bought two more sites soon after, then five more. The rest is history.”
Forrest-Johnston said the secret to her success and her team’s success with Internet leads is follow-up: “Absolutely! I answer my phone, I return phone calls and I keep in contact with my clients and prospects on a regular basis. People need to understand that Internet leads often take three to six months, sometimes two or three years to culminate in a transaction. I have a third party person who works my leads at least twice a day on a consistent basis. If we can convert two or three leads to sales a week, I think that’s pretty good.”
She added: “In this market you need to be creatively consistent. You have to be on top of your game or you’re not going to make it. And, don’t forget your past client base. It is a good source of referrals.”
Prior to becoming a Realtor, Forrest-Johnston served in the Army and worked for U.S. Airways. Why real estate? “I wanted more control of my life.”
Bob Lehmeyer, San Diego, CA
Every year, Bob Lehmeyer buys a block of San Diego Chargers pre-season football game tickets and throws a giant party for 80 to 100 of his clients, friends and business prospects. “This gives me an opportunity to renew acquaintances and meet people that I otherwise wouldn’t have met,” he explains. “These people already think I’m a great guy and talk me up to their friends and co-workers. This is simply good business.”
Lehmeyer also has a reputation of telling clients not to buy a particular property if he feels that it is not the right location or price or time to buy. And, if they chose to go ahead with the purchase, he asks them to sign an addendum to the contract warning the buyers of his objections.
“Sometimes you have to sacrifice a deal because you know it isn’t the right thing to do,” said Lehmeyer, leader of Coldwell Banker’s Team Action West in San Diego, CA, and exclusive member-agent for three HouseHunt territories in Downtown San Diego, El Cajon, Point Loma and Point Loma Heights. “If you live your life that way and if you truly come across as a person who cares, you will get plenty of business.”
At press time, Lehmeyer was in the process of doubling his sales team from three to six buyer agents and was negotiating for three more HouseHunt locations. He expects his business to double this year despite the slow housing market.
“My background is in the night club, bar and restaurant business,” he explains, “and I’m used to taking care of customers. You work hard to make them happy. People get to know you and trust you. If you say you are going to do something, they know that you will actually follow-up and do it. It’s also knowing what people expect and delivering a little bit more every time.”
Follow-up is one of the hardest parts of the business, he said: “With nearly 80% of buyers searching the Internet first before contacting an agent, it’s critical that you be on-line. That’s where the business is. Another key is to be able to respond within 15 minutes when you get an Internet lead. When you get a lead with a phone number, you have to drop everything and call them back. Otherwise, they will probably forget you.
He stressed: “Real estate is really a game of numbers and patience and persistence and communication. With each lead I receive, I do two contacts a week for 10 weeks. I e-mail them information on available properties and update them on local marketing data. I simply tell them: ‘I’m ready when you are.’”
Lehmeyer concluded: “Real estate sales is also about developing relationships and friendships. A friend of mine has a saying: ‘Shake their hand, gain their trust and a month later you will get their business. It works for him!”
For more information, visit www.HouseHunt.com.
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