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When it comes to staying on top of your communications, personal connections are key. “Nothing will ever take the place of good, old-fashioned prospecting and building relationships to learn what is on a prospect’s or client’s mind,” says Steve Jones, Director of Real Estate Sales with Kaiser Realty, Inc. “Real estate sales are personal and although most research is done electronically, people buy from people.” Read on as he dishes out his top tips for staying relevant.

Steve Jones
Director of Real Estate Sales
Kaiser Realty, Inc.
Gulf Shores, Ala.

Region served: South Baldwin County, primarily Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, Foley
Years in real estate: 5
Number of offices: 1
Number of agents: 10
Average time on market: 238 days for Kaiser activity; 168 for our local market
Average sales price: $264,389 for Kaiser activity; $188,144 for our local market
Favorite way to connect with agents: Face to face. We live in a small town and it’s great to run into one another at the post office or store. Email is essential, however, to keeping up with the fast pace in our market.
Top tip for productivity: Showing up is 90 percent. Although the world is your office, customers often walk in off the street. Sometimes office time is the way to meet them, and while you’re in an office environment, you feel more compelled to make calls and follow-up leads. It’s important to schedule accordingly.

What are the current market conditions in your area?
Market conditions are improving dramatically. There were a lot of properties under construction when the bottom fell out, and it has taken quite a bit of time for that distressed inventory to be absorbed. Activity is “through the roof” and ready, willing and able buyers are scooping up any bargains. I think this market is well ahead of the curve in recovery compared to the nation as a whole.

What are some of the most difficult challenges buyers face today?
There are two issues, the first being available financing. All the new banking regulations and the cautionary attitude of lenders make obtaining financing, especially for second or vacation homes, difficult. The average buyer these days simply cannot afford to pay 20 percent down to qualify for financing, and their credit has to be very strong.

The second issue is insurance availability. Coastal insurance rates for condominiums seem to have stabilized, but for single-family homeowners, the insurance premium can be as high as the mortgage payments. Strangely enough, the higher the dollar amount you are seeking to insure, the more affordable and available coverage seems to be. It’s the buyers of properties valued less than $500,000 that are struggling the most. Buyers paying cash can elect to self insure, so that is not such an issue for them. We are seeing cash transactions accounting for more than 50 percent of closings. Keep in mind that these are statements about coastal properties.

What technology tool can you not live without?
The MLS website we have at our service is state of the art and user friendly. The amount of information it affords us to share with our clients is invaluable.

How do you keep your marketing strategy fresh?
By subscribing to sources that publish articles and setting Google alerts to bring us pertinent information on the subject. We aren’t really selling homes and condos; we’re brokers of information to prospects that enable them to make more informed decisions. Staying on the leading edge of what is changing keeps us off the bleeding edge. Education is the key to staying out in front, but nothing will ever take the place of good, old-fashioned prospecting and building relationships to learn what is on a prospect’s or client’s mind. Real estate sales are personal and although most research is done electronically, people buy from people.

How is your company working to stay relevant?
Kaiser Realty focuses on quality. Quality will never go out of style and a good reputation in the market goes a long way toward building the image of being essential. Our employees and agents do a lot in the community, which keeps us in the news as well. That additional exposure in the market is the key to keeping real estate interesting.

I’ve noticed that you advertise in The Real Estate Book and on How do those work into your overall marketing strategy for your own brand and for your listings?

I believe The Real Estate book is the most complete and highest quality advertising available to us at this time. There’s a lot of competition and it’s easy to overspend your budget by purchasing several in an effort to reach prospects. The electronic component and exposure afforded by the reach of, Web and mobile, allows us to stay in budget and connect consumers with way more than only the featured properties we put into print. Although our individual agents are free to buy advertising anywhere, we as a brokerage are more about consistency of medium and message with regard to market reach and will continue to stay with an advertising source that we are confident will be here after others have come and gone.