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By Kayla O’Brien

RISMEDIA, Sept. 6, 2008-When it comes to battling misconceptions about real estate, John Dick and Kevin Kirkpatrick, co-broker/owners of Century 21 Realty Group Companies in Indianapolis, are taking a positive attitude. “If the public reads the national news, they have the feeling that no one can get a mortgage and no homes are selling-which isn’t true,” says Dick. “We’re down 15%, which means we’re selling 85% of what we were last year. Although we’d rather be selling more, the motivation for the agent is that the opportunity is out there; you just have to think out of the box and be resourceful, doing things you might not have had to do in the past.” Here, meet the duo and find other ways they’re stepping out from behind the national headlines and helping their agents to find success in their local market.

John Dick and Kevin Kirkpatrick
CENTURY 21 Realty Group Companies
Indianapolis, Indiana

Years in real estate: John Dick (JD): 31; Kevin Kirkpatrick (KK): 30
Number of offices: 19
Number of agents: 600
Region served: Central Indiana and Louisville, Kentucky
Average listing price: In central Indiana, $165,000 to $185,000
Tip for getting the right listing price: JD: Doing a lot of research to back up where the market is, and how their house fits in. KK: We also start by analyzing the customer’s motivation at the time they want to sell. To do this, we ask them a series of questions, and then try to line the price up for what homes are currently selling for. We have to make sure they have an understanding that it’s a slower market than usual and the house should be priced accordingly.
Advice for agents working with a difficult client: JD: It’s time to be firm in your beliefs and stand by them. We don’t do it often, but more recently we’ve had to turn down or not accept listings due to unrealistic selling prices. It’s unfortunate but it emphasizes how firm we have to be in this market. If the house is not priced well, it’s definitely not going to sell in these times. It’s our job to help educate the consumer on what’s realistic in the current market.

Is there a recent ad that you’ve run that you believe to be the most creative?

JD: We were part of an ad campaign in Indianapolis as a part of the broker council. We helped to create the campaign “myths vs. facts”-the myth being that no homes are selling and the fact is that it was our third best year ever. It was successful in getting some of the points across because while the market is not great, it’s not dead.

What’s your strategy for staying profitable in today’s market?

JD: You need to provide the services that the agents need to be productive and successful, but you also need to watch every expense that you have. You’ve got to be able to trim them and still provide the fantastic service that you do.

When it comes to recruiting agents, what strategies have proven to be most effective?

JD: Perseverance. We have an extremely good recruiter-that’s all he’s responsible for. We’ve also found that while most people would think the well-trained new agent might experience extreme difficulty in this market, but when they go out with their enthusiasm and training, we’ve found that they’ve been very successful right out of the box.
KK: Also this year, we have two recruiters. Even though it’s tougher times, we think it’s important to have two people actively working on bringing in new people because it’s a time of opportunity.

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

JD: We’re constantly analyzing and it’s something that’s on the plate all the time. We’re steering more and more to Internet marketing and technology, putting that money toward our website and coming up with the easiest-to-navigate website in the area, which brings more buyers.

What have been your most effective online marketing strategies? What makes your website unique in your market?

JD: We look through the consumer’s perspective as to what they want. They want to find a house, so we have tremendous mapping abilities and search capabilities on our website and and of course, with the IDX, they have access to all the listings. Since our company is in two states, consumers also have access to even more listings.
KK: We are finding that our local print publications are also feeling that change and are trying to reinvent themselves. Our paper has gone to a smaller page size and thinner because there’s just not the same amount of advertising.

What works best when it comes to communicating with your agents on a regular basis?

JD: We’ve set up a system with our outlying offices-we meet with our managing partners once a month to strategize.
KK: As far as direct communication, e-mail is the preferred method. We also have a newsletter that we produce once per week, but primarily all communication is via e-mail.

How do you communicate and keep in contact with your customers?

JD: It depends on the age of the customer-those that are in the 22-32 year-old range want to be communicated to by e-mail or text. Older clients like e-mail communication, but also need more personal communication that’s face to face or by phone with their agent.