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For Tom Skiffington, president and CEO of Pennsylvania’s RE/MAX 440 and RE/MAX Central, changes in the real estate market are as inevitable as changes in the weather. After more than 20 years in the business, he remains both a broker and a top-producing agent. Here, Skiffington explains his unconventional approach to the business – and how his theories play out to keep his company successful.

Tom Skiffington
President and CEO
RE/MAX 440 and RE/MAX Central

Barbara Pronin: What would you point to as your competitive difference?
Tom Skiffington: For one thing, we have been pretty successful in terms of reading the market over the years and adapting to some rather remarkable changes. As a broker, my job involves taking a broad view over the market and where it is heading, preparing for the changes, and giving my agents the tools and technologies they need to stay ahead of the curve. As a producing agent, I am out in the field every day. I am seeing—and dealing firsthand with—the issues faced by working agents with real buyers and sellers. As I find more efficient and workable solutions to these issues, and better ways to make transactions work, I am able to pass these techniques on to our agents. Best of all, our customers benefit from this multi-level approach. They are getting the absolute best in service along with practical, tried-and-true solutions that can make a critical difference in making transactions work.

BP: What’s the climate in today’s real estate market?
TS: In general, people are pretty stressed. They’re concerned with the uncertain economy and reluctant to make buying or selling decisions. At the same time, we all know that life is full of change. Families grow or shrink or need to move all the time, so there will always be a need to sell, and it’s important for buyers to realize that there has never been a better time to buy. Buyers need to focus less on short-term blips in the market, and more on the long-term benefits of owning the home they live in.

BP: How are you and your sales professionals meeting today’s consumer needs?
TS: In several ways. First, the need for consumer education has never been more important. We offer webinars, computer seminars, relevant, up-to-date news via RISMedia’s Real Estate Information Network® (RREIN), and regular email blogs and newsletters to help consumers understand and interpret what’s going on in the market right in their own neighborhoods. Just as important, we offer face-to-face sessions because consumers want to get their information in the ways that work best for them, whether it’s through the Internet, social media or across the kitchen table. Second, our customer service throughout every aspect of each transaction is truly second to none. And third, we provide the ultimate in tools and technology for our agents so that every transaction, every step of the way, is more efficiently handled.

BP: A lot of agents have left the business over the past couple of years. How are you retaining your top agents?
TS: The agents who’ve been able to adapt to this new environment are true sales professionals—and buyers and sellers know they need an experienced sales professional to help guide them. Also, the agents who are thriving in this new reality are looking to their brokers for cutting-edge tools and continuing training that can help them outperform the competition, and that is what we provide. For those agents who prefer to be out there in the field all the time, we have wonderful support staff who can handle all the back office and administrative processes for them.

BP: In your opinion, what do agents need to focus on going forward?
TS: There is no question this is a new era with new expectations, and the competition will continue to be tough in the foreseeable future. Only the most dedicated, full-time agents and brokers will succeed, and then only if they are well-trained and willing to go back to the basics in terms of outstanding customer service and communication. Also, real estate will always be a people business, but technology plays—and will continue to play—an ever-increasing role. The key, I think, is in understanding the needs of every customer and providing the perfect blend of people skills and techie know-how to help consumers make sensible buying and selling decisions.

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