"Like all financial markets, the real estate market has a history of going up and down, and up and down. It's always been that way, and it's always going to be that way, isn't it?"
That is an observation I've heard Floyd Wickman make countless times near the beginning of almost every talk, followed by this connected thought: "Not only does the market go up and down, but so does the population of real estate agents who are actually working."
People tend to leave the business when the going gets tough, when the economy is in crisis, or when interest rates soar, or when distressed properties destroy home values.
And people tend to get back into the business when things look rosy and robust -- like now, for instance.
Almost all of the real estate industry pundits, bloggers and experts have been trying to convince us that things have finally turned around and everyone from the President to your local Chamber of Commerce will be singing, "Happy Days Are Here Again." But have things turned around? Are happy days really here again? Is this the "up" market we've been wishing, hoping, waiting and praying for?
The simple answer is no. But that's not the worst part. May I tell you the worst part? It will never get here. Not ever. Not ever again. Do not despair, because it doesn't matter. There is a solution to whatever the market happens to be doing, but before we go there, I want to offer my take on why an "up" real estate market is a thing of the past forever.
Because the real estate market is such an integral part of the economy, neither one is insulated from global economic forces. They used to be, back in the good old days. But "global economic uncertainty" is now a permanent fact of life and we live in one big interconnected world economy.
As much as I'd like to think that what happens in a village in the Sudan doesn't affect what happens to the market in the village of Ann Arbor–that would be naïve.
As much as I would like to believe that whatever the Central Bank of China decides next week won't send shock waves through Wall Street and then to Main Street and then to your street, we all know better.
Real estate is a consumer market, and consumer confidence drives our financial markets. Feelings. Nothing more than feelings. And with the constant daily flood of market information, people feel unsettled and confused.
As much as I wish for a return to predictability and stability, the clear message of the mortgage meltdown was that unregulated capitalism simply does not work. We are facing a future of more meddling and manipulating which always creates artificial market conditions.
It's up one minute and down the next. In other words, up and down really don't apply any more. It's more like sideways. The market is now a moving target. So what's a Realtor to do? Hey, relax. Take a deep breath and mentally rise above the moment. Understand that the market just is what it is. There's no point in complaining, panicking or wallowing in confusion. Control the controllable instead. Listings are the name of the game. Even if they legislate dual agency out of existence, listings are still the name of the game. You cannot control dollar volume. You cannot control prices. You cannot control buyer sales. But you can control listing appointments.
Maybe it's just that simple. Even if it's not always easy.
Here are 5 things you can do to control YOUR market.
1. Generate leads. Talk to people every day. Have real estate conversations. Can you ask this question? "What are your real estate plans for 2014?" On the phone. In person. Everywhere. How about making a commitment to have at least 3 legitimate real estate conversations a day? A recent Lending Tree survey of single-family, owner-occupied homes stated that 71% of homeowners are thinking of selling this year.
If that's even anywhere close to true, that's a lot of people who are thinking of selling. Seek them out. Talk to them. Having real estate conversations is something you can control.
2. Convert leads to gettable listing appointments. This is done by the process of elimination. Go on the ones where the conditions are right for you to leave with a listing. Keep in touch with the ones where the conditions aren't right yet, and keep in touch until they are. Don't go if your attitude is wrong. If your attitude is, "I need this listing," don't go. If your attitude is, "I'm going over to see if I want this listing," you have the right attitude for get-ability. You control that. If all the decision makers aren't going to be there, and willing to give you enough time, don't go. If they aren't at least thinking of selling, don't go. If they won't tell you in advance either how much they think it's worth, or how much they owe and how much they need, don't go. If you don't have enough information to do a ballpark market analysis in advance, don't go. If you haven't been referred in, or validated in advance, don't go. Those are all factors you can control.
And by the way, if it's a buyer lead, and they have a house that must be sold first before they can buy, don't show houses. They are lookers who should be listers.
3. Present with skill. Here's a Wickman Rule of Thumb: Never talk price until they are sold on you and your company. In other words, you can do the right thing at the wrong time. Before anyone will believe what you have to say about the price of their home, they have to believe you can get the job done. That takes skill. What does it take to develop skill at presenting? Training. A history-proven track to run on. Practice until you are competent, confident and natural. And then do it. Live. In the field. At the kitchen table. You are in control of that.
4. Price it to sell. Most Sellers have an unrealistic idea of the value of their home. They are by and large misinformed or uninformed. But they have hopes. And they have very persuasive reasons why we should accept their price.
"In case we get an offer."
"We want to at least try a higher price for a couple of weeks."
"We need some wiggle room to negotiate."
"That's what the neighbors sold for."
"That's how much we have to net."
We've heard it all, haven't we? But the professional listing agent knows how to get them to agree to base their price on the market, not on their needs. Even if the market is a moving target, use the facts all the co-brokes will use to decide if your listing is worth showing. Use the facts the buyers will use to make an offer. Use the facts the appraisers will use. Use the facts the underwriters will use. If they won't agree to price it to sell, don't take it. Or at least don't take it without agreement in writing to adjust the price when there is no activity.
You can control that.
5. Keep in touch. Keeping in touch begins with asking, "What is your preferred method of communicating?" Or, "May I keep in touch?" There are lots of automated systems, apps and software programs that prompt you to keep in touch with prospects, clients, leads, referrals and pending transactions. Find the follow up system that works for you and work it. If you find yourself losing business by not keeping in touch, use Floyd's 1-31 prospect follow up system. You don't have to be high-tech to master it. It is easy to learn, simple to operate and it creates the follow up habit quicker than any app I've ever seen.
If you are asking yourself, "What is Floyd's 1-31 prospect follow up system?" all you have to do is ask an agent who has already been ‘Wickmanized' and I guarantee they will gladly take the time to share.
Don't worry about keeping that moving target in your sights. Do the 5 things you can control, and your market will be everything you want it to be.