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In today’s broker spotlight, RISMedia interviews Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New Jersey Properties Chairman and CEO Bill Keleher on trends in his market, demographics, tips on staying current and what challenges in business he’s overcome.

Keleher_BillBill Keleher
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New Jersey Properties
Somerset, N.J.

Region served: Central and Northern New Jersey
Years in real estate: 45
Number of offices: 20
Number of agents: 650
Top tip for running a successful meeting: Bring something of value.

What are some of the current trends you see in your market right now?
With 70 miles between our northernmost and southernmost offices, the trends we’re seeing vary. That being said, the markets that have a direct line to Manhattan are really solid. Not only is there significant appreciation in prices in these areas, we’re also seeing multiple offers on properties. In the next tier—offices that don’t have a direct rail line, but are still somewhat hubs in the counties they’re in—things are a little more even. We’re seeing appreciation in these markets, but not at the same rate, and inventory is just about adequate. And in the most remote markets that we serve, conditions are still recovering, but at a much slower rate.

What demographic segments are driving your business these days?
While we’ve seen a decline in first-time buyers this year, move-up buyers and those who are more established financially seem to be driving things today. Our average transaction has grown significantly in the last 13 months as well. While we’re seeing a 3-4 percent appreciation in price, the average transaction has grown 8-9 percent.

What is one challenge your market currently faces, and what are you doing to overcome it?
In our most active markets, we’re seeing a shortage of inventory, so we’ve partnered with our agents through a multi-faceted approach to build stronger relationships in order to generate more leads and ultimately get more listings. Not only have we provided our agents with better platforms for social network marketing, we’ve also stepped up our direct mail platform, making it easier and cheaper for them by providing them with spectacular templates to choose from. We’ve also done a number of networking/relationship-building events within the communities that we serve. For example, in Montclair, we dedicated a portion of our office to the Montclair Art Museum. We run shows for individual artists or groups of artists on a regular basis, which gives us the chance to get to know the people in the community. In the markets that aren’t quite so hot, we’ve brought agents into a coaching program to help them build their business and make them much more knowledgeable about the real estate transaction itself.

How does your company stay flexible and current?
By paying close attention and observing trends as they happen. The truth is, what happened in 2008-9 snuck up on us, and it shouldn’t have. While there were a lot of signs, we weren’t involved in the same level of analysis that we are today because we had so many good years in a row. Today, we’re more cognizant of the fact that we have to ask the hard questions about everything on a more consistent basis. We also have to be prepared to change course much more quickly.

You recently began operating as part of the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Network. What are you most looking forward to?
The identity itself. Not only is it a new brand, it’s bringing a new identity into the marketplace. And it’s incredibly powerful because of the Berkshire Hathaway company and Warren Buffett. In general, there’s a level of curiosity about the brand and the substance being provided.