RISMEDIA, December 30, 2009—The tough real estate market that we have experienced during the past year has caused real estate professionals across the country to look for ways to become the new powerhouse in their market. Here, Michael Pierson, President and Chairman, Prudential Rubloff in Chicago, Illinois discusses how the creation of Prudential Rubloff has enabled Pierson and his team to come together and stay ahead in today’s market.
Years in real estate: 24
Number of offices: 17
Number of sales associates: 900
Current conditions: The city of Chicago is off 20% in total closed sales volume. That being said, in the last 120 days (at press time), we’ve seen increases in closed business over this same time last year. We are narrowing the gap and currently running in single digits behind this same time last year. So we are outperforming the market.
How to help agents survive: Our managers are trained extensively in agent business planning and agent coaching. They are very engaged in helping agents grow their business. If the market is down 20%, the truth is, you have to get somebody else’s business, so we help them return to the prospecting activities they might not have done for a long time.
What led to the decision to recently merge Prudential Preferred Properties and Rubloff Residential Properties to become Prudential Rubloff…especially in the midst of a real estate downturn?
A few things. One, if you have a passion about what you do and you have the confidence that even during the toughest of markets people are going to exchange real estate, you have to have a strategy for how to get more than your share of that exchange. Rubloff has been an incredibly highly respected and regarded company in Chicagoland for 80 years. There were a lot of cultural synergies—both firms had the highest agent productivity in the marketplace and a respected leadership. Both companies were strong players in Chicago. The merger allowed Rubloff to expand all the way up to the North Shore, which is a wonderful, high-end part of the market, and took Prudential into the second-home market, allowing us to expand in that direction.
What advantages are gained by combining such a strong local brand with a strong national brand like Prudential?
The merger brings a national affiliation to a great company. But nothing has changed about that company being locally owned and operated. We believe real estate is unique to each local marketplace and this merger allows us to be highly responsive in those local markets. But any company is only as good as the quality of its leadership, management and sales agents. This merger positions us to have a significant presence—it gives us about 850 agents, about 550 of those are in the city of Chicago where we are a major player, and 300 agents on the North Shore of Chicago.
What are the technological advantages that will result from the merger?
Those agents from Rubloff will now have access to Online Advantage, a proprietary Prudential program that allows clients to take a quantitative approach to what’s going on with their property in the marketplace. All agents also now have access to Marketwatch, a real-time data report that provides weekly, real-time updates on statistics like absorption time and median price—they can now share this information with their sphere of buyers and sellers. These are 11-page reports with one-page summary reports that reside on the agent’s website. These summary reports are tied to drip marketing and lead management programs, enabling our online marketing reach to go much further.
How will the merger enable you to better position the firm in today’s competitive marketplace?
The merger allows us to be highly competitive and vie to become the top broker in the Chicago marketplace within 24 months. Both companies were highly competitive in the market—we now have highly productive agents in key locations.
How is the merging of cultures going so far?
It’s going very well. We’ve spent a lot of time on education on both sides of the merge. We’ve been spending a lot of time on training and productivity programs and rolling out technology tools. The most important thing is that we’re spending a lot of time getting to know people. We’ve always operated in a family-like culture and we plan to continue to do so.
How will the merger allow you to better serve home buyers and sellers?
Our online reach will be dramatically expanded between the two organizations. I don’t think there’s anyone in the market who has online marketing programs that can compete with ours. The exposure we can provide to properties represents a huge advantage for sellers. In regards to buyers, 25-50% of our market is first-time buyers. We have a huge chance of capturing that audience through our online programs. In my opinion, we are better positioned strategically to attract buyers and market properties.
Where do you see the market headed in 2010?
I think a lot of the refinance business will no longer be there in 2010. I think we will start to see more purchase business in 2010. We have some pent-up demand and I think people are going to get on with their lives.