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RISMedia’s 16th Annual Power Broker Forum, held on Friday, November 11 at the Anaheim Convention Center, brought together leading brokers and industry visionaries to discuss “The One Thing Power Brokers Can’t Live Without.” Nearly 600 attendees turned out to the standing-room-only event, which provided an environment for top brokers to share their most important tools for staying ahead of the curve and finding success as we continue to struggle through today’s fragile housing market and economy.

Ed Krafchow, Chairman of the Board, Better Homes and Gardens Mason-McDuffie Real Estate, who co-moderated the event, set the stage for a lively discussion by reminding the audience that maintaining integrity is just as important as having the right tools and systems in place. “Every part of this business is being challenged at the moment, and we have to be willing to remain committed as we work through these difficult circumstances.”

“Not only are you out there every day listing, selling and communicating with the American public, you’ve figured out how to be leaders in today’s market and continue to help consumers with all their housing needs,” said John Featherston, President & CEO of RISMedia, who co-moderated the event.

Connecting Through Technology
“The world has changed,” said Sherry Chris, President & CEO, Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate LLC, “to one in which we communicate by way of technology.” Not only are successful real estate professionals sharing ideas and best practices and collaborating with others via technology, they are also utilizing technology to connect with today’s buyers. “The new demographic made up of echo boomers—those aged 18-32—are very collaborative, and the explosion of social media was caused in part by this group who wants to talk to each other and real estate professionals in a different way.” While the technology is easily accessible, Chris noted that real estate professionals have to start thinking like this group if they want to continue to prosper.

John Melo, Broker/Owner, Century 21 M & M and Associates, is also a firm believer when it comes to the use of technology in order to remain successful in today’s market. “When the market began to slow down, we had to find alternate ways to keep up with the level of success we were used to, and reinvent ourselves at the same time,” said Melo. Adjusting to the economy and the world we live in today—one defined by technology—enabled Melo to reposition his company and continue to grow. “The economy shouldn’t dictate whether you are successful or not. Instead, you have to keep moving toward where the opportunities are, and technology has enabled us to do just that.”

A Well-Rounded Communication Strategy
While having the right tools in place is one piece of the puzzle, having an effective communication strategy that utilizes the tools and technology you have access to is equally important. “When it comes to communicating with clients, technology is a wonderful tool,” said Rei Mesa, President & CEO, Prudential Florida Realty, “however, there is no substitute for face to face, personal contact.” Mesa noted that technology has helped his company become more successful when it comes to communicating on a regular basis. “We would rather bear on the side of over-communicating than not communicating enough,” he added. “When there’s no news, there’s a void that needs to be filled, and that’s when people begin to fill it with uncertainty.”

Mesa also points to his responsibility as President & CEO to be disciplined about everything they do as a company. “You can’t live without a healthy, substantial return on investment, so we take the time to measure everything we do against its return on revenue,” he added. “The market doesn’t dictate the success you are going to have. If you want to increase your sales, revenue and income, you have to take it away from others. When the pie gets smaller, people’s manners have to change.”

Agents and Customers Key to Success
The benefits that come with successfully implementing and utilizing technology can’t be overlooked, however, finding success in today’s challenging market has a lot to do with the people you surround yourself with. “You can’t run a successful real estate business without agents,” said Bill Plattos, EVP & General Manager, First Team Real Estate. And that doesn’t mean just any kind of agent. “You need to fill your company with people who want to succeed, and who are willing to work hard to get there,” he added. “Always ask yourself what you can be doing to help your agents become successful since we owe it to them to do the best we can to help them succeed in today’s market.”

Just as important as the agents who make up your business are the customers you work with. “Power Brokers can’t live without customers,” said Margaret Kelly, CEO, RE/MAX, LLC. At a time when there’s low consumer confidence and a decrease in sales, Kelly sees a lot of opportunity in today’s market when it comes to working with Gen X, Gen Y and foreign buyers. While we normally have 1.2 million household formations a year, that number was down to 500,000 in 2009 and 310,000 in 2010. “As housing formations continue to change, we need to figure out where our customers are coming from,” said Kelly. “Then you have to change your philosophy on how you get these clients as well as how you communicate with them.”

Instilling Faith and Confidence
As we continue to work through the challenging market we are faced with today, it’s crucial that real estate professionals have all the tools they need to help restore consumer confidence and get the market moving again. “REALTORS® are in a unique position as they can help make the distinct dream of American homeownership come true again,” said T.J. Agresti, CEO, EquityLock Solutions. With the introduction of the company’s Home Price Protection™ product, real estate professionals have an additional resource at their disposal to help instill faith and confidence in the market.

“We are in an epic battle to overcome fear right now, which was caused by a loss of faith in the value of homes,” added Agresti. The Home Price Protection product preserves the equity or value of one’s home, providing homeowners with peace of mind that their home equity will be protected when in a declining real estate market. “Real estate professionals are the story tellers. If we can push demand by instilling faith and confidence in the home, we can write the story with a happy ending and bring hope back to buyers and make this story a reality.”