Reinventing Ourselves

It was all in a day’s work for Steve Harney and Matthew Ferrara—two of the most sought-after guest speakers to the real estate industry.  Harney and Ferrara flew to Sarasota—at the behest of Michael Saunders—to address a gathering of more than 400 of her company’s agents and managers.  At the daylong event, themed “Reinvent Yourself,” the pair of experts told the agents plenty of things they wanted to hear; and a few they probably didn’t.

His reputation built on telling it like it is, Harney teed-off his provocative presentation by challenging his listeners to do no less than save the world.  “The world is counting on the U.S. to solve the global economic crisis,” he said. “The global economy won’t recover until the U.S. economy recovers; and that won’t happen until U.S. housing industry recovers.”  In other words, the agents assembled before him—who Harney acknowledged as being the undisputed experts in Southwest Florida—have it within their skill sets to transform the first stirrings of our local recovery into a full-scale global comeback.  “If not you,” he challenged, “Then who?”

That being said, the information required to save the world suddenly came rocketing at them like so many missiles at a test-firing range.  The flurry of positive signs of recovery in the housing market—particularly in the lower price tiers—are beginning to snowball, Harney said with enough authority to match his portly presence.  To prove the point he quoted from several recent upbeat accounts in the national and local media.  A few days later, Mark Zandi—chief economist for MoodysEconomy.com—would add his voice to the growing chorus of optimism; by expressing his belief that with home prices now at their lowest level in nearly two decades, a full-scale housing recovery is beginning to unfold.

Yet, in spite of all these positive indicators and the mood of general optimism that is permeating the markets, the worst thing a newly-confident buyer can do is encounter a poorly informed, sad-sack real estate agent who—instead of helping them connect the dots—spews nothing but doom and misinformation.  The worst thing a seller can do is sign-on with an agent too timid to speak the hard truths about pricing to meet the market head-on.

It remains unfortunate, but true, that as recovery in the under $350,000 price range gathers tremendous steam, the upper price tiers—from $350,000 to $1 million, and up—are still largely sputtering thanks to prices on many homes that simply aren’t supported by the market.  On this Harney minced no words as he graphically demonstrated the huge gap between prices in the $1 million-plus tier and what recent sales show the local market will actually bear.  Still, many sellers remain resolutely dug-in on prices that make their homes virtually impossible to sell in today’s market.  This is the hard truth that all-too-often must be delivered to sellers by real estate professionals in order to properly discharge their duties.  Not an easy thing to do; but then no one said saving the world would be a piece of cake.  In the end, however, buyers and sellers are always grateful for actionable new information that not only helps them understand the market, but also keep ahead of it.

The one item of good news that caused the entire room to heave a huge sigh of relief came when Harney put everyone on notice that Southwest Florida is finally emerging from the lengthy real estate correction that other markets (such as Houston, Texas) are just now entering.

“Agents in Texas would kill to have the problems you’re dealing with right now,” Harney said, having just spoken before a similar group in Houston.  He was referring to the record number of appointments now being set to show properties listed with Michael Saunders & Company.  He was also referencing the inventory of unsold homes in Sarasota County, which was down in April to its lowest point since December 2005.  Obviously that has something to do with year-to-date sales being up by 21.7% and pending sales being up by 44.5% versus year-to-date last year.

To thrive as a real estate professional in the glare of today’s harsh economic environment, you must not only correctly interpret the market for your clients—as Harney so aptly explained—but you must also reinvent how you come into contact with them.

With 9 out of every 10 buyers now beginning their home search on the Web, it’s rare for any one of them to contact a real estate agent much before they’ve done months of independent research.  Matthew Ferrara used his time in the spotlight to challenge his audience to stop waiting for the market to improve; and instead use technology to more effectively work the market they’ve been dealt.  While urging them to do something as simple as purchase a “smart” phone (one with email capabilities), he mainly encouraged them to join the conversation at various online social networking sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and others.  Each group of consumers—be they Baby Boomers, Gen X-ers or Gen Y-ers—have their own distinct culture, sets of values and preferences for where, when and how to communicate.  Meet them on their own terms or risk not meeting them at all.

What does all this talk of reinvention mean from a customer’s perspective?  For four decades the agents of Michael Saunders & Company have met new challenges and changing markets with freshly-honed skills and a mastery of the latest technologies.  Bringing the brightest minds in real estate and technology to Sarasota to further educate and inspire our agents is just another way we constantly strive to reinvent the notion of exceptional people and service.   If saving the world’s economy begins right here, then our agents are definitely up to the task.

  • User Gravatar Brad@Bakersfield, CA Homes for sale
    May 25th, 2009

    This is a great presentation. There seem to be many reports that the real estate market is getting a new surge of activity. Lets hope it continues and spreads. I know I will be trying to do my part in the housing market recovery.

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