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By Paige Tepping

RISMEDIA, June 28, 2008-While it may not be possible for all real estate companies to create their own newspaper like Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty, there are other ways agents can face the challenges of today’s marketplace head-on. In fact, John Vatistas, the company’s co-owner and co-chairman attributes most of his company’s success to being entrepreneurial, innovative and embracing the changes in the marketplace. Here, learn more tips from Vatistas and see what’s working in the Arizona marketplace.

vatistas_john.jpgJohn Vatistas
Co-owner & Co-chairman
Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty
Scottsdale, Arizona

Region served: Arizona
Years in real estate: Two-and-a-half
Number of offices: 10
Number of agents: 1,025
Average sales price: $824,484
Average time on market: 143 days
Best tip for getting the right listing price: Know the home’s competition before ever recommending a listing price or agreeing to take a listing. Get the owners in the car and preview what’s on the market competing against the home you are about to list. Oftentimes, that takes the emotion out of the equation. Also, don’t be afraid to refuse a listing if an owner doesn’t agree with your recommendation. I would venture to guess most listings should be turned down in this market as evidence by the sheer weight of overpriced inventory. Agents must learn how to price in a declining market; otherwise, they will lose money, waste their time, hurt their reputation and end up demoralized.
Making meetings productive: We try to make our meetings both fun and interesting. Our designated broker is a fantastic speaker and he tells it like it is. We also bring in outside resources to help educate our agents, as well as speakers who motivate them.
Best tip for dealing with difficult customers: Listen intently to what your client is really saying and don’t take anything said personally, unless of course you did make a mistake. Then you should take it personally and learn from the experience.

What are two fundamentals that you feel are essential to your company’s continued success?

Being entrepreneurial, innovative and embracing changes in the marketplace. In fact, creating changes is a lot more fun than having to respond to them. We have zero interest in being the biggest company. We focus on recruiting and retaining individuals who are all made of the same ilk. We want real pros and not those who don’t take their craft seriously.

What is the best strategy you have in place to deal with the negative effects of the media?

We decided to become the media and started our own newspaper six months ago. It’s been extremely effective.

How do you determine your marketing spend and how does that break down between print and online?

Traditional media is not only expensive, but highly ineffective. We tend to focus a majority of our marketing spend (80%) on the Internet, since we know buyers start their searches online 84% of the time. Also, advertising in local newspapers that are constantly putting fear in the consumer and exaggerating market realities doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.

What makes your company unique in today’s market?

We retain and recruit true talent. We look for agents who have a good business background, are open-minded, are constantly looking to learn and that want to grind it out every day.

What are your best strategies for online marketing?

We have several key strategies. We use search engine optimization, and respond to inquiries from the Sotheby’s International Realty® website immediately. It’s a highly effective tool. We also use’s one of the best websites in the business for luxury real estate. Being a Regent for gives us a significant competitive advantage over any other real estate company in our market. There’s only one Regent and we are it.

How do you effectively manage your time?

I don’t. Just ask my wife and kids.