2020 Vision | Chicago Association of REALTORS®

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New year, new decade — the combination has our goal setting on overdrive. Technology continues to evolve, as does our roles as real estate practitioners. Plus, it’s a highly anticipated presidential election year, which will impact real estate trends throughout the late summer and autumn.

In 2019, our market began to stabilize. We expect that to continue — but a stable market doesn’t necessarily mean a boring one. We chatted with a few real estate experts about what we can expect — where to direct our time and attention, where to invest our dollars and what to look out for.

PLAN AHEAD

Hopefully you have your 2020 business plan locked down and ready to roll. Take into consideration your marketing and content plan, too — how do you plan on executing, when time is at a premium?

Danielle Durocher, team leader and CEO at Keller Williams Chicago – Lincoln Park, notes that they’ve been working with their brokers on their plans since October. “We know whatever [REALTORS®] do today will produce in 90 days.” And despite a potentially slower market over the winter months, “this isn’t the time to slow down. This time sets the foundation for the rest of the year.”

Darlene Little, vice president and managing broker at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Chicago, agrees. “Focus on lead measures that fill 2020 pipelines,” she said. “Make sure you use automated drip programs and have a plan for personal connections.”

If you haven’t been working on your plan since October, that’s ok! Start by taking some time to go over your budgets and P&L statements. Identify where you’re at and where you can build — for example, if there are any new marketing tools you want to incorporate or ineffective spending you can redirect. Rebecca Thomson, regional vice president at Coldwell Banker Residential, wrote an article in the last issue that takes you step by step through this process. Access it at ChicagoREALTOR.com.

Regardless, keep in mind this 90-day timeline. Create long-term and short-term goals and identify the milestones you need to hit along the way. Really take advantage of laying strong foundations in January and February — this will pay off just when the spring market kicks into high gear.

Greg Pekarsky, managing broker at Vesta Preferred Realty, is focusing on what works for him and his team in the big picture. “We’re making sure our follow-up plans are clear, and the pathway to staying top of mind with clients as a company is as aggressive as ever.” And in terms of direct goals, “video is a big focus for us, as is growing our spheres of influence by hosting homebuying seminars throughout the city.”

Make sure you have processes in place — after all, it’s better to work smarter, not harder! Why invent the wheel every time if you don’t have to?

And as with any good plan, leave room for you! TJ Rubin, president and founder of Fulton Grace Realty, said that education is a big focus for his team in 2020. “We’re developing an educational platform for both new and experienced brokers. It’ll be a comprehensive approach to group and individual training.”

Consumers are inundated with information about the real estate process. Education is a great way you can stand out. Ensure you schedule time for your professional development and keep that commitment to yourself — it’ll pay off in the end.

PREP YOUR TOOLKIT

Once you’ve run the numbers on your 2019 business and started planning for 2020, keep your ROI in mind — and identify tools that can help amplify that.

“We invest heavily in online lead generation, but we make sure it’s the right channels that give us a minimum of three to one return on our money,” Pekarsky said. “A huge opportunity driver for us is our rental database. Unique marketing to convert them into homebuyers has proven to be a great way for us to spend money.”

“Put this on a bumper sticker: ‘Top brokers can hit home runs in 2020 no matter the pitch thrown to them with the right technology,’” Durocher said. “There are a handful of talented brokers who believe if they do more of the same activities — write more note cards, make more phone calls, do more pop-bys — their clients won’t leave them for brokers who have fully embraced technology and are using it to be an even better expert in the real estate industry.”

One good resource to add to your toolkit: us, the Chicago Association of REALTORS®! Whether you’re looking to network, grow your leadership skills or better leverage the wealth of data available, we can help. With over 75 events, opportunities to get involved or volunteer, statistical charts, talking points, and more, we love to help you achieve your professional goals — it makes us, and the industry at-large, stronger.

Another great resource when planning is your brokerage. Make sure you’re using the tools available to help you build your business. A great example: “We’re focusing on new signage to add to the market and adding a consumer-facing portion to our pl@tform™, our proprietary suite of technology and marketing applications,” Thad Wong, co-founder and co-CEO of @properties, said.

Ayoub Rabah, president of Coldwell Banker Residential, listed a wealth of tools their brokers have at their fingertips, including a Listing Concierge and Design Concierge platform and the consumer facing RealVitalize home improvement program. “Brokers have a wealth of options at their fingertips, all within our new DESK Platform,” he said.

Little summed it up nicely: “Creating real relationships in a tech-enabled world is the goal.”

But also, make time for you. You can have all the tools and platforms in the world, but if you’re burnt out, it doesn’t matter! We live in a 24/7 Amazon world. Leverage the resources available to extend your reach — but not necessarily overextend yourself. “Being mobile and global has translated into being always-on,” Little said. “Many brokers are finding that a team structure helps them extend their reach, while others use automation and technology to provide information access to clients. Proactively addressing the needs of clients in their preferred communication style is the gold standard for work-life balance in our business.”

ANTICIPATE DISRUPTION

“Disruption and change are a constant part of our world now,” Michael Golden, co-founder of @properties, said. However, there are ways you can anticipate and build a disruption-proof business.

While disruption may be omnipresent, our experts agreed there are many ways REALTORS® can reaffirm their value proposition for the consumer.

Consumers are looking for trusted experts to guide them through the homebuying and selling process. Since they have access to more information than ever before, ensure your expertise is on a higher level. “More consulting-based advice, such as construction details and growth metrics, is what buyers want, rather than someone to open doors and drive them around in a nice car,” Pekarsky said. “The more value we can add to the experience, the more buyers will value us.”

“I feel like now, more than ever, sellers are aware of what they are receiving and how their home is being presented to the marketplace,” Wong said. “Leading the way in every aspect in which a property is presented is what we are focusing on for 2020.”

It’s not as simple as adding a client to a drip campaign or MLS alert and leaving them be — personal interaction and tailored expertise is critical. “Plan for disruption by maintaining ‘belly-to-belly’ relationships with clients,” Durocher said. “Brokers with the greatest gain in the year ahead will be those who focus on the absorption and adoption of technology that will enhance their clients’ experience in the real estate market, as well make brokers hyper-local.”

Rabah is also laser-focused on the customer. “It’s important to not only roll out products that help our brokers be more productive, but help our customers, as well,” he said. “This is why we are rolling out RealSure, which is designed to solve the two most common questions consumers have when selling their home: ‘what price can I achieve in the market,’ and ‘can I make an offer on a new home while my current home is on the market?’” Coldwell Banker is also partnering with TurnKey, a homebuying program with Amazon that lessens the stress of moving by offsetting some of those costs.

“Focus on being aware of what others are offering to consumers and [make] sure you have a better value proposition,” Golden said. After all, “If you’re not changing and evolving in this business, you’re dying.”

KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE PRIZE

Our market is changing — and quickly. We’re not seeing the crazy bidding wars or price growth that we saw in 2016, 2017 and 2018. Local taxes, employment and even the stock market are on everyone’s minds. There’s been lots of chatter about whether a recession is imminent — but according to a recent NAR economic release, there’s no cause for concern in the year to come.

“Many remember the impact of the last recession on real estate, and it’s our job to educate buyers and sellers why 2020 isn’t the same,” Little said. “We are expecting a flat market, and even if things slow down, we don’t have the sort of unstable housing finance situation that surrounded the last crash. Housing is far more stable.”

Another factor that will surely play a role: “We are looking forward to closely observing the fluctuations in the real estate market during this exciting election year,” Rubin said. Yes, politics impacts our reality. We may see a slight slowdown in the market leading to the November presidential election, pending consumer sentiment.

A stabilized market like we expect in 2020 can be a great opportunity to really focus on your foundations and your value-add. Keeping in touch with clients is critical — be that reliable source of information while understanding their personal dreams, goals and needs. This is an excellent chance to educate sellers about what’s happening in their neighborhood and how it impacts their home.

“Opportunities are opening up,” Pekarsky said. “We operate across all price points, so we are uniquely ready to move with a c hanging market. I  know buyers have money and they want to s pend it, but they also want to k now what they’re buying and be confident  in their purchase. Low interest rates and a market full of buyers with money mixes together for a potential windfall for the right players next year.”

The takeaway: make your plan, get your tools together and stay focused. “While we believe 2020 is going to be a challenging year, there will also be tremendous opportunities that we’re preparing to take advantage of,” Golden said. “Change always brings opportunities.”

A great example of this? “Our pricing will continue to stabilize after the Trump Tax laws, which limit State and Local Tax deductions to $10,000,” Wong said. “Our pricing has declined because of this law and we are now beginning to see stabilization as our sellers and buyers adjust to t he increased cost of home ownership. Once we have a baseline for our new pricing, we will begin to climb.”

As you can see from these predictions, 2020 is shaping up to b e quite the year. Get your plan in place, and don’t forget to enjoy the ride!

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