How to adjust your mindset, survive and thrive in a shifting market

by Bonnie Lai

Being a real estate agent is not an easy career, no matter if we are in a buyer, seller or shifting market. As we are going through different stages of the real estate cycle, true professionals will learn to overcome unique challenges that are presented in front of us. Those who can adapt, adjust their mindset, are willing to set goals and execute those targets with measurable actions will be the ones who can survive then thrive in any market.

Unlike a seasonal cycle, a shifting real estate market can happen rapidly. In 2020-2021, real estate agents had to learn how to work through the COVID crisis and an unusually competitive market due to high demand and low inventory. In 2022, the interest rate rose from mid-3% to high-6% or even mid-7% within a six-month period. As a result, sales prices started to soften and sales volume in different Massachusetts counties dropped anywhere from 25% to 50% compared to 2021. In Q1 2023, sales volume remained lower than previous years. 

There are increased uncertainties in economic/political outlooks, continued interest rate fluctuations and low inventories. Buyers’ confidence and purchase power are not like what they were a couple of years ago. Although the buyers’ pool has shrunk due to decreased affordability, the purchase price has not dropped enough in most Greater Boston markets to offset the increase in cost. Sellers remain reluctant to sell due to the great interest rates they have locked in either through refinancing or recent purchases. How should agents adjust their mindset properly and change gears to adapt to today’s ever-changing market?

Many agents’ businesses experienced a big jump during the COVID years because there was a surge of demand from existing homeowners who needed to sell their smaller homes and upsize. Now that the market has finally slowed down, many agents went from “I just had the best year of my career” to “I haven’t had a closing in a few months.” When sales volume goes down, some agents will start to leave the business; and the golden rule of 20% of agents doing 80% of the deals will become even more apparent. How do real estate agents ensure they can survive the slower times and use this as an opportunity to build their business in a meaningful way so they can thrive? Instead of waiting for the market to control the direction of their business, how can agents create their own luck?

Education: Through education, agents can help their clients understand the complex real estate market better and often yield the best outcomes. In order to give our clients the best advice, as real estate professionals we have to stay current with how the market is moving and why. What are the best solutions to the most current challenges? When the market is slow, agents should use this time to revisit their business plan. Set goals and measurable action items and work on how to enhance the level of service for clients. Re-evaluate the budget and expenses, as income might come in at a slower pace compared to a good market. Consider working on additional designations such as CRS (Certified Residential Specialist), GRI (Graduate, REALTOR® Institute) and PMN (Performance Management Network).

Networking: NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK (start a book club, join a gym, volunteer more, don’t be a secret agent)! Agents should not just sit at home, instead they should go out and expand their sphere of influence. It is the best way to generate leads in the most organic/effective way. To turn more leads into actual business, agents need to work on their buyer/seller presentations so they can increase their conversion rate. Be a part of your local Realtor organization and stay in touch with other real estate professional contacts (other real estate agents, loan officers, attorneys, inspectors, etc.), as they can often provide insights on the market and be extra eyes and ears for valuable intel.

Referrals: Referral business is something every agent should not overlook. It is a very powerful source of income when agents can make a connection with one another. Successful real estate agents who master the art of networking can receive referral business not only from agents outside their practice areas, but they can also capture local agents’ referrals (part time agents, agents looking to retire, full time agents who have a growing business but not ready to grow a team yet, etc).

Leadership: Be a mentor; be generous in passing on your knowledge to others. People who are willing to share their experience will also learn more in return. Make time to take on leadership roles. Giving back itself is very rewarding and leadership skill sets are transferable and will help entrepreneurs to run a more successful business.

Listings are king: There is a favorite saying in the real estate industry — those agents who get more listings will control the market. Remember the 4Ds: Diamond, Diaper, Divorce and Death. Agents who capture clients who connect to those events will thrive in any market.

Bonnie Lai is president of the Women’s Council of REALTORS® Greater Boston Central.

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