Sure, market conditions have shifted in many parts of the country.
Cause for despair? Hardly.
You can still make as much money this year as you did last year -- and even more.
Start by forgetting everything you think you know or have been told about operating in this type of challenging market.
Many agents make the mistake of retreating when the market shifts like it has over the past year. They cut back on spending, on advertising and marketing, and on what they hope to earn.
Don't join them in that trap.
Agents who build and maintain a large, healthy pipeline of prospects do not worry about changes in the market. Truly, they don't. Instead, they continue to close business, because they have a steady stream of customers to work with.
Here's what these top agents are telling us right now about this particular market and how they're meeting its challenges head on:
They are not cutting marketing dollars. Their advice to you: Market now more than ever. The key is to spend your marketing dollars wisely. Now may not be the time to spend much, if any, on image marketing or branding; rather, target your dollars on efforts that will generate prospects. Analyze what is working and what isn't. Track where your business is coming from. Spend more there and eliminate the ad buy that doesn't bring in prospects. A word of caution: You need to give this time to work. Don't just try something for a week and drop it.
They are advertising online. No big surprise here: According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), 80 percent of consumers search for information about homes online -- and trust me, that number is only going to grow. Consider the vast array of information consumers can now get online: multiple photos of homes, neighborhood information (check out HomePages.com ), virtual tours, mapping technology, and even printable fliers with detailed property information.
Homes with multiple photos are viewed 299 percent more than those not offering multiple views. That is not a typo. Take advantage of online ad opportunities. For example, the enormously popular Craiglist.org lets you advertise for free. Google and Oodle are other options for ads. Your goal should be to advertise your listings and services 24/7 and not be limited by local distribution like most newspapers and magazines are. An individual webpage per listing is becoming more and more popular, and is a very cost-effective way to advertise.
They pay close attention to customers' concerns. It is important to know how to handle the concerns of sellers whose homes have not yet sold, and who may pressure you to advertise their homes every Sunday in the local newspaper.
It is vital not to feel pressured to spend ad dollars where you may not get the results you know you need for them and for you. Some ads work, but be careful to not overspend in print. Only 20 percent of potential buyers even look there. Make sure you get the best return on your dollar.
They are consistent. Indeed, consistency is key. Many agents tell me that mailing 200 to 300 pieces consistently, rather than 1,000 just once, is much more effective. Their advice to you: Don't spend money on an expensive four-page glossy printed brochure that, while pretty to look at, won't generate many leads. Instead, send "Just listed/Just Sold" postcards into your neighborhoods for each listing and sale. Use the tried-and-true language, "We have just listed … ."
Tease them to your website by offering something of value. The goal is to drive prospects to your site so you can capture their information and provide them with the information they want, like a report on how to prepare their home for sale, a free home evaluation, information on listings as soon as they come on the market, etc. Some agents have even printed business cards with the photo of the home, the web address and some of the property details on it. It is a cost effective way to advertise. Business cards are much less expensive than postcards.
They are creative. Finally, agents are telling me that now -- more than ever -- is the time to get your creative juices flowing, and to be smart. That means watching your budget, but it also means not holding back on your lead-generating activities. Spend in those areas that will help you obtain new business and enable you to build a pipeline of prospects that will help you flourish -- no matter what type of market may come your way.