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Offering a Higher Level of Expertise Enables Agents to Meet the Needs of Today’s Buyers and Sellers

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By Nick Caruso

RISMEDIA, January 20, 2011—Today’s real estate customers and clients have access to much more information than they did in the past. As their access to information will continue to increase with the introduction of new technology, real estate professionals must stay ahead of the curve to offer a greater degree of value to meet the needs of today’s customers. Here, Bill Soffel, president and CEO, broker of ERA Team VP Real Estate in Chautauqua, New York discusses how he is giving his agents the tools they need to be the experts in today’s market, and well into the future.

Bill Soffel
President & CEO, Broker
ERA Team VP Real Estate
Chautauqua, New York

Regions served: Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties of New York
Years in real estate: 28
Number of agents: 50
Average listing price: $175,000
Average days on market: 151
Best advice for real estate rookies: From the very beginning, conduct your real estate practice as a business and spend considerable time on market research, budgeting, goal-setting and performance tracking.
Key to staying profitable: Formal business planning is the key to profitability, and never more so than during a challenging market like we find ourselves in right now. Profit must be budgeted and planned for. A solid business plan provides the foundation or template from which to make adjustments as market conditions change.

What is your biggest challenge in today’s market and how is your company taking it on?
Our greatest challenge is offering the right type of training and support to our agents so they can successfully navigate through this tough market. Many of the tools and strategies they used when the market was at its peak just aren’t working anymore. We need to help them adapt, and at the same time, help them refocus on the basics.

How are you keeping consumers educated about today’s buying opportunities?
We are certainly moving away from the traditional methods, like print advertising, and focusing more on new technology. Since over 90% of buyers start their property search on the Internet, we are pushing our listings to as many real estate websites as we can, constantly updating and refreshing our own website, and are jumping heavily into social media like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.

What have been some of your most effective strategies for working in today’s market?
Inventory management has been a real focus and it has yielded results for us. We are updating our CMAs for our sellers more frequently, recommending price adjustments accordingly, and frankly, are more willing to decline listings that cannot be properly priced. When sellers have followed our advice on pricing their properties ahead of the market trend, we have seen a higher list-to-sale price ratio and a reduction in days on market.

How do you determine your marketing spend?
We break down our marketing budget into two components: one for the money we will spend as a company to build our image and brand recognition, and one for money we will make available to our agents for their self promotion and promotion of their properties. We require that our agents submit a business plan if they want to access these company-provided marketing dollars, and we determine the allocation amount for each agent based on past production and the strength of their plan for the upcoming year. This allows us to direct our resources to the agents who can provide the best return on our investment.

What do you tell sellers about this market?
Seek out the real estate agent and company with the most knowledge and expertise in your local market, and follow their advice on the best pricing strategy for current market conditions. Too often, sellers insist on setting an asking price based on old market conditions or based on factors unrelated to the market, and end up overpricing. Buyers have many resources available to them with today’s technology and are very educated on the market. They

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