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RISMEDIA, August 20, 2009-Keeping your agents successful is one of the best ways to weather today’s real estate market, and finding this success may be easier than you think. Here, David Moody, CEO, Qualifying Broker and Greg Martin, President, COO of ERA Sunrise Realty discuss their best tactics in keeping their agents successful.

moody_david_eraDavid Moody, CEO, Qualifying Broker
Greg Martin, President, COO
ERA Sunrise Realty

Years in the industry: David Moody: 22; Greg Martin: 11
Number of offices: 8
Number of agents: 175
Region served: Metropolitan Atlanta, North Georgia Mountains & Athens, Ga.
Average sales price in your market: Right around $193,000
Average number of days a home spends on the market: We cover a large area with the Athens market probably having some of the highest days, but overall, the average runs probably anywhere between 130-150 days.
martin_greg3Average number of days a foreclosure spends on the market: Most of the foreclosures are priced between $90,000 and $200,000, so they’re still close to the average but slightly under. They seem to be drawing buyers’ attention.
Letting the numbers speak: Looking at the closed numbers for May, we are sitting currently YTD 363 units, $1.7 million in GCI. That’s 12% above last year in units, 8% above last year in GCI.
Market outlook: We’re looking at this market as an opportunity. We’ve been buying companies and opening offices. We’re trying to position ourselves so that when the market comes back and returns to normal, our competition will say, “How did these guys get so big?”
How are the challenges of today helping real estate in the long-run? We believe the reduction in sales associates in the long-term will be a good thing. There were people who were not productive. The bad news is, however, that in certain markets that have declined more severely, our recruiting efforts have been challenged because more and more sales associates have gone back to full-time jobs. We have a smaller pool of talent to draw from to make offices productive.

What’s the best strategy for finding the right listing price for sellers, especially when they’re competing against foreclosures and distressed properties?
The first is training our sales associates how to offer a higher commission to the selling agent in order to drive more traffic to our inventory. Second, because we own an appraisal company, we spend a lot of time helping our sales associates price listings to sell, adjust for square footage, the number of bedrooms, bathrooms, etc. to come up with a better market-based price. Also, when you’re competing against foreclosures, the property must be in superior condition. ERA Real Estate has a program called Gold Star Property. We’re actively training sales associates to deploy the program that ensures the home has been pre-inspected and is in absolute top showing condition-allowing us to advertise the property as a premium, ERA® Gold Star Property.

What helps differentiate your company?
The single thing that differentiates us is that four years ago, we started “rainmaking” at the ownership level. The average real estate professional is good at working with an individual seller/buyer, but many of them have some difficulty in this challenging market finding enough clients. So we started going after big whale deals-Freddie Mac, HUD, local builders, our relocation contract with Cartus. Our sales associates can count on us to provide them business to keep them going in a down market. In 2008, 57% of our sales associates participated in that company-generated business. We created a business model that allows us to spread the wealth across a large population of our people. On the other side, an agent can earn 100% commission on business they generate. And our brokers don’t compete with our sales associates.

How is your company reaching out to first-time home buyers?
One of the things we’re doing here is running ads and encouraging sales associates to run ads about the tax credit. We use sign riders, promoting the credit. We’re also promoting the $100-down program in purchasing a HUD home. Two months ago we did a HUD-home buyer bus tour that we promoted on radio, in flyers, and on websites. We rented a bus, gave the guests a full overview of buying a HUD home and what the process entails, gave a box lunch, took them out to see HUD properties. When we brought them back to office, we had lenders and sales associates on site to answer questions and help participants place bids. It was wildly successful.

What other technology-related tactics are you using to integrate your marketing approach to consumers?
We encourage social media from management down. The sales associates especially ought to be taking advantage of social media like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. We’re looking at a creative Internet lead management team to more aggressively handle our Internet leads, process them, and get them closed more effectively.

Within ERA Real Estate, we have the Direct Market Resource Center that has electronic marketing pieces sales associates can use to send out automatically to former clients. For a sales associate who signs on, they’ve got an automatic e-mail drip campaign as part of being in the ERA system for buyers, sellers, and prospecting.

How does your website stand out in the market?
We’ve merged four MLS systems into one. We have Athens, Northeast Georgia, the Georgia Association of Realtors and First MLS all aggregated on our website. Our consumers and competitors can go on it to see all properties. We also have HUDs and foreclosures on the site and separate tabs that feature certain subdivisions to help market saturation. We have found that the first sales associate to connect with a consumer has an increased chance for success.