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With the recession of the national economy, the decline of the real estate market and the revolution of technology, our buyers and sellers have become more educated. They literally have a world of information at their fingertips, and their motivation to utilize all of that information is stronger than ever before. Our buyers and sellers want to work with amazing real estate consultants in 2012, not sales associates who don’t have their best interests at heart.

We already know that the real estate market has been extremely volatile in many areas of our country for quite some time now. The positive news is that this year is off to a great start, and for the most part, it seems that many of our markets have adjusted to match the current economic climate. Of course, there will always be sellers that refuse to consider a price reduction, for a variety of reasons, but a large number of sellers have come to understand that if they overprice their home, it simply won’t sell.

The future is still very much unclear for many people, even though the idea that the real estate market is thriving has received widespread acceptance. Until recently, when prices and interest rates dipped so low that buyers couldn’t refuse, there hasn’t been a great deal of pressure to jump into the market. Regardless of the opportunity that sits in front of them, buyers can’t seem to forget about the possibility of continuing drops in prices, or the sting that would come from missing the Bigger Better Deal (BBD).

Although understanding of the difficulties and challenges the marketplace has experienced, sellers are having trouble letting go of their hopes for a comeback in pricing, the likes of which we probably won’t see for many years. Hardship sellers are having to come to grips with the fact that loan modifications, if not a complete myth altogether, are certainly not going to work miracles or solve world problems for them. So what does this mean for us? How do we, as real estate professionals, demonstrate the value that we provide for our clients in the coming year?

Industry leaders have been preaching for years now that the role of the real estate agent in the 21st century will be that of a consultant. The era of the sales associate has passed. The time has come for us to fulfill our new role as consultants and continuously work to advance our knowledge of the industry so that we can provide our clients with the guidance they need to successfully navigate the complexities of the modern real estate transaction.

There will always be people out there who don’t have to experience the stress of having no other choice except to sell their home, but many people still have to figure out the best possible course of action for themselves and their family. These are the sellers who are trying to foresee the future and facing questions that have no easy answers.

Should I stay or should I go? When do I sell? When will the market go back up? It seems like the economy is recovering…should I hold on or press my luck? Should I wait for the government to bail me out and/or reduce my loan amount?

The goal is to first understand the range of emotions that your sellers are going through and the variety of options that might be available to them. It is only when you truly attempt to understand what your clients are feeling that you will be able to help them at the highest level. We’ll explore this in detail next month.

Alan Shafran is the No. 1 REALTOR® in San Diego for Prudential California Realty, President of and author of “Blueprint for 100 Deals Per Year in Real Estate.”

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