RISMEDIA, July 17, 2009-A few years back a Harris Poll survey found that Realtors were named among the “Top 12 Most Trusted Professionals in America.” How do American home buyers and sellers feel today? In this month’s NAR Power Broker Roundtable, industry leaders weigh in on what real estate professionals need to focus on now to restore consumer confidence and help turn the struggling markets around.
Moderator: Virginia Cook, Special Liaison for Large Firm Relations, NAR
Participants: Jon Coile, President, Champion Realty, Chesapeake Bay, Maryland;
Helen Sosso, President, Prudential Palms Realty, Sarasota, Florida; and
Vince Leisey, President, Prudential Ambassador Real Estate, Omaha, Nebraska
Virginia Cook: Some of you may remember a few years back when a Harris Poll survey found that REALTORS® were named among the “Top 12 Most Trusted Professionals in America.” That is a reassuring statistic to remember at this particular point in time, when our industry is beginning to pick itself up and dust itself off after a challenging economic downturn. With several indicators suggesting the economy is set to rebound, what must we do to polish our image as trusted advisers and restore consumer confidence going forward? Vince, where do we start?
Vince Leisey: To begin with, I think we need to recognize that consumer confidence fell for a variety of reasons that had nothing to do with our ability as sales professionals. Consumers lost faith because, as home prices dropped, equity was eroded. But we need to remember that, as always, what was a challenge for some became an opportunity for others, and I think we’re seeing that opportunity come into its own today.
Helen Sosso: Pending sales are clearly picking up. We’ve had more unit sales over the last couple of months than in the entire history of our company. People-especially young people-are qualifying for some of the best home values available in years.
Jon Coile: That is especially true in light of the $8,000 tax credit for first-time buyers. That alone is a confidence booster, and it’s bringing in a lot of buyers who had been waiting on the sidelines. No more media doom and gloom. We’re turning that around, meeting actively with reporters and editors to update them on what’s happening. There is plenty of activity now.
VL: The mentality has shifted. Consumers are looking ahead-not back-and as Realtors, we need to take that ball and run with it.
HS: There are plenty of ways beyond the federal tax credit to help boost consumer confidence-things like mortgage protection programs that are beginning to pop up and homeowner counseling and assistance programs we can offer our customers.
JC: But we have to do more than change consumer attitudes; we have to manage the attitudes of our agents. When one of our top producers was lamenting the market a couple of months ago, her branch manager threw some numbers out that made her sit up and take notice. Once she understood the opportunities in the market, she wrote three contracts in three weeks.
VC: Does all this activity mean we need to adjust our marketing outreach programs?
VL: Yes, it means a shift there, too. According to the statistics, reaching a market of 50 million people would take 38 years by radio, 13 years by television, four years on the Internet and three on an iPod-but only two years via Facebook.
HS: But we must not lose sight of the fact that consumers trust us, by and large, because we build and sustain relationships. If we combine technology with our well-honed people skills, we can boost consumer confidence off the charts.
VC: Thank you all for your insight on this ongoing challenge. The NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® (NAR) offers a number of tools and resources to help brokers and their agents communicate the value Realtors bring to the transaction, including the publication, “It Pays to Work with A REALTOR®,” available to members for download free of charge as part of the “Right Tools, Right Now” initiative. In addition, NAR’s Public Awareness Campaign uses a comprehensive mix of television, radio and print advertising to educate consumers about the benefits of homeownership and buying opportunities in a changing real estate market. Learn more at www.realtor.org.
The Power Broker Roundtable is brought to you by the National Association of REALTORS® and Virginia Cook, NAR’s Special Liaison for Large Firm Relations. Watch for this column each month, where we address broker issues, concerns and milestones.