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For 32 years, RISMedia has published the Power Broker Report, our annual brokerage list ranking the Top 1,000 U.S. residential real estate firms, coupled with exclusive insights and observations. Each January, when we begin producing the report, we ask Power Brokers—the best brokers in the country—to share their take, from the good and not-so-good, to their confidence level, to the market and their strategies.

By February, the coronavirus had impacted many worldwide, but had yet to affect the new normal we’re now all experiencing here in the U.S. At the time, 68 percent of Power Brokers agreed their biggest challenge is limited supply, 50 percent called themselves “cautiously optimistic” and 35 percent characterized the housing market as “growing”—all new, positive trends, with the exception of the inventory shortage.

Now, the challenges have morphed into the unprecedented, as Power Brokers grapple with maintaining productivity and remotely working, not only in an industry known as a “contact sport,” but also in its busiest season—typically—of the year.

That’s not to say Power Brokers were caught entirely off-guard. Earlier this year, Valerie Post, of Engel & Völkers Boston, was at the epicenter of the outbreak, and described her experience for the Power Broker Report.

“I was in China at the beginning of January and flew back to the States on Jan. 14,” Post recalled. “My office works with a significant number of international clients, with a large portion from Asia. Information about the coronavirus was just starting to circulate, and it was actually a boost to our business in the Boston area for the second half of January, as our international buyers considered us a safe haven for a place to invest their money.

“Now that the global supply chain has started to be impacted, it is possible that we may see a slowing of the real estate market with reduced cash flowing from those buyers,” Post said at the time.

In comments for our report, Gary Scott, president of Real Estate Brokerage at the Long & Foster Companies, also cautioned that the coronavirus could impact the market.

“The business has felt uncertainty from the coronavirus threat and the impact on the financial markets,” Scott noted, “though we’re confident the industry will weather the storm.”

When we asked how his business has pivoted recently, Ken Baris, of Jordan Baris Inc., REALTORS® Real Living, pointed to the virus, despite its limited spread at the time.

“The climate of concern with the stock market and coronavirus is certainly unsettling for many,” Baris said. “In response to the volatile stock market, we ran ads, ‘Looking for Leverage…’Stock Up’ on Real Estate.’ Keeping clients in constant communication is more essential now than ever before. We are educating on the opportunities that have emerged due to the unique and changing environment.”

Additionally, when we asked what agents often struggle with, Ben Kinney prefiguratively said, “fear.”

“The biggest stumbling block is probably fear,” explained Kinney, of Keller Williams Realty – Ben Kinney Companies, in our report. “There are lots of things for those in the industry to worry about, like iBuyers, portals and discount brokerages—not to mention the economy, interest rates, politics and now pandemics.

“We need to keep our agents focused on providing value and service to their databases and doing the daily lead generation,” Kinney said. “We’re providing the tech, training and accountability that helps agents survive all of the above.”

Their budding concerns contrast the incredible numbers Power Brokers posted in 2019. Collectively, the Top 1,000 garnered $1,491,869,249,084 in sales volume, an additional $67 billion-plus over 2018, and 3,985,613 transactions, an additional 100,000-plus in the same timeframe. Realogy Brokerage Group, formerly NRT LLC, came in at No. 1 in sales volume, with $170,082,000,000, while HomeServices of America ranked at the top in transactions, with 329,680.

In addition to the long-standing Power Brokers, additional brokerages emerged in our report this year, along with critical insights presented roundtable-style, gathered prior to the spread of the virus. We also captured important research (below, check out our infographic), including the biggest opportunities—a check of the market pre-virus, and we believe an indicator of its potential, once the crisis subsides. As our CEO John Featherston says, “While the Power Broker Report provides a look into the achievements of our industry’s largest firms, every one of these firms, and especially their sales associates, are facing tremendous adversity due to the impact of the coronavirus on all of our communities.”

He also says, “Our industry is extremely fortunate to have so many industrious, effective and dedicated businessmen and women, and it is our honor to celebrate this year’s leaders in both transactions and closed dollar volume.”

With that in mind, and as we continue to navigate these uncharted waters, we’ll be bringing you more Power Broker Report takeaways, so you can emerge from the pandemic with renewed strength, ready to serve, succeed and thrive.

RISMedia’s 2020 Power Broker Report & Survey is sponsored by American Home Shield, Homes.com, HSA Home Warranty, Leading Real Estate Companies of the World® and Pillar To Post Home Inspectors. The Power Broker Survey ranks brokerages by residential sales volume and transactions in 2019.

Suzanne De Vita is RISMedia’s senior online editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at sdevita@rismedia.com.

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