Skill Sets

At first blush, it sounded a bit bizarre to hear a woman on the radio remark that now is an excellent time to be a Realtor. If you heard it too you may have wondered if the poor woman has been in a deep coma for the past year.

As she explained herself, however, it all began to make perfect sense. Times are indeed tough; but pros are pros in any field because they can always be counted on to come through in the stretch. This woman clearly isn’t letting a sour economy—or the thick haze of media negativity surrounding it—roadblock her from doing her best. It’s always a great time to be a real estate agent, she posits with no shortage of conviction, provided one continually functions at the top of their game, stays committed to excellence; and is always flexible enough to change with the times.

“Right now it’s a great time to be a Realtor,” said Carmen Mazzia, the voice on the other end of the radio. “Because people who weren’t serious about real estate have left the business; and only the true professionals have stayed on.” Mazzia, it turns out, is a broker of high-end new homes in Portland, Oregon who tunes-out the media’s incessant doomsday chatter; preferring instead to squeeze lemonade from a lemon market.

“Has the market gone down,” Ms. Mazzia asks rhetorically before answering her own question. “Well, some things certainly were overpriced. I mean, I’m not going to lie. But the media has caused a lot of this frenzy and so a lot of buyers are fearful. But people who weren’t able to get into a home before, can get into one now. Do they take their time? Yes. Do we negotiate? Yes. Do we make sure we’re getting them the best deal? Yes. So it’s just a different market. It takes more patience. It takes more skill.”

That real estate agents need extra patience and some brand new skill sets to address today’s market is a gigantic understatement. As a critical first step in achieving their clients’ goals, agents must maintain deeper-than-usual reservoirs of patience as they guide buyers and sellers to an understanding of the changed dynamics and new realities of today’s market. Beyond all the expected skill sets, agents at the top-of-their-game must now possess a complete mastery of such heretofore arcane specialties as foreclosures and short sales.

At the Michael Saunders & Company Career Development Center on South Tamiami Trail, Sarasota real estate attorney Anne Weintraub—along with Ann Stickel, the company’s vice-president of affiliated services—have just wrapped-up another session instructing some 60 of the company’s agents on the intricacies of transactions involving foreclosures and short sales. It’s the 30th such interactive session on the same theme and there isn’t an empty seat in the house.

Why so many sessions on the same topic with less than 500 real estate agents in the company? To stay abreast of the foreclosure process frequent refresher training is a must.

“You wake up tomorrow and I guarantee you there will be something new you’ll need to know,” said Stickel, who just co-anchored a session on foreclosures before a packed house at a national real estate conference in New York City. “Throughout your training you also become fully networked with local real estate attorneys, CPAs, asset protection attorneys and other professionals involved in the foreclosure process,” she adds. “These days you need to work with a real estate agent who is just a phone call away from any of these resources.”

Beyond the issue of foreclosures and short sales, there are other new horizons where the most experienced and best trained agents will agree with Ms. Mazzia that now is an excellent time to be in the business. With the huge number of Baby Boomers edging into retirement, some of the most forward-thinking agents are becoming specialists in the real estate needs of active seniors. They’re learning the key differences between housing options for seniors of all ages; from age-restricted communities to age-in-place designs, to assisted living options. They understand the ins and outs of reverse mortgages and know how to use pensions, 401k accounts, and IRAs to fund real estate transactions. As well, they learn how to recognize and protect their clients from scams that target aging homebuyers and borrowers.

You may never need any specialized real estate service beyond the traditional goals of buying or selling a home. Even then, if you’re a seller you need an agent who is so familiar with the market on a daily basis that he or she can price your home correctly from the get-go. If you’re a buyer, you need someone who can immediately spot the difference between an over-priced listing and a best opportunity. These best opportunities include numerous properties in all price ranges not facing foreclosure or short sale that are just as aggressively priced as the ones that are. Their sellers have shrewdly accepted the market for what it is and are ready to move on without delay. Often these homes are even greater values because they have been lived in continuously and are better maintained.

Regrettably there are still many over-priced homes languishing on the market whose sellers are apparently hoping for a miracle. Hope is not a strategy if you must sell.

Regardless of your real estate needs, the most important duty we can perform is to provide the most experienced and continuously-trained professionals in the business; agents like Ms. Mazzia who routinely stare down adversity, believing that tough times are when true professionals redouble their skills and become an even greater resource for their clients and customers.

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