By Kayla O'Brien
As 2009 gets underway, real estate professionals across the country are looking for ways to keep their companies thriving during this trying time. While many are anxious about the economy and what it means for the real estate industry as a whole, Gary Walker, general manager, residential vice president with J.P. Weigand in Wichita, Kansas is excited about the year to come- even if it means getting back to the basics and waiting out the turmoil.
General Manager, Residential Vice President
Years in the industry: 29+
Number of offices: 10
Number of agents: 250
Region served: Greater Wichita, Kansas
Average sales price in your market: $134,242
Average listing time: 62 days
Outlook for 2009: We’re very excited about this year, even though we know it’s a year a lot of people are apprehensive about. We have always been known for professionalism and tradition, so we’re very optimistic that we’ll have more than our fair share of business this year. We’re building for the future.
Keep your meetings productive by: Discussing the issues. We have weekly manager meetings in which the entire management team discusses the issues we’re dealing with. We also have sales meetings in each branch once per week.
The easiest way to communicate with agents today is: E-mail. From management right down to our clients, most have made the transition, so e-mail is the most common way we communicate.
What’s the biggest challenge in your marketplace and how is your company taking it on?
Our local employment relies heavily on the aircraft industry. Recently, layoffs were announced, so we have to wait and see the effect of that, but we’ve been very fortunate so far, as we have not had the effect that the national economy has had with the housing crisis. In 2008, we were one of the few markets that had appreciation in value and we were the fourth-highest appreciating city in the U.S. Now we’re down, but not down as much as other parts of the country.
How have you changed your marketing tactics for today’s marketplace?
Like many companies, we are in the process of transitioning from print media to a much more Internet-based marketing strategy. We just recently made the decision to drastically reduce our Sunday advertising in the local newspaper and put those dollars into television and the Internet, so we’re going to be on the most viewed local websites and heavily on TV-driving people to the website rather than to individual properties.
What are the key benefits of teaming up with a home warranty provider?
We have been working with American Home Shield (AHS) for many years and encourage our agents to work with AHS because of the tremendous services we’ve received from them. Not only with the way they handle our business and accommodated claims, but also their responsiveness and service to both us and our clients.
By having the home warranty plans in place, it drastically reduces the number of complaints after the closing. This way, when the homeowner calls to complain about something breaking in their new home, they’re more likely to go and get it fixed with their small deductable-cutting down on potential lawsuits and complaints.
When it comes to recruiting, what strategies have been most effective for your company?
We have implemented several strategies to make us stand out to agents. Just over the last year, we have offered recruiting bonuses to agents in the company who are responsible for the referral or the initial contact of agents at other companies. We also still emphasize staff support, supplying more than any of our competitors. In addition, we match funds for educational purposes.
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