New Year’s Planning: Time to Shine in 2009

by Chicago Agent

A new year means a fresh start, and 2009 is filled with tons of potential for many in the real estate industry. Take advantage of what the New Year has to offer with business planning and a positive attitude.

By Meghan Boyer

For many involved in real estate, 2008 was a difficult year centered on the turbulent financial market and constricting lending practices. Those who survived the changing business landscape are looking ahead rather than behind. As the world ushers in 2009, Chicago agents are focusing on the potential for change the New Year brings, from a new president to a possible market turnaround, and they are preparing to make it a great year.

Along with their New Year’s resolutions, those in the real estate business are readying themselves to take advantage of a fresh start. “2009 is going to be a phenomenal year for me,” predicts Long Barnes, managing broker with Sudler Sotheby’s International Realty, North Center Office. “It is a new start, a chance for me to reinvent myself,” he says.

Reinvention, however, does not come without planning. From creating business plans and maintaining a positive attitude to seeking additional avenues of revenue and embracing online networking opportunities, industry members are employing a number of techniques to help ensure success in the New Year.

Yes We Can
There are many positive signs for market change in 2009 and a lot to be excited about in the Chicagoland region, note industry experts. “2009 will be a year of change with a new president and new programs to help Americans and homeowners,” says Aleksandra de Leon, managing broker with Executive Realty Group.

President Obama and his economic plans for 2009 will bring positive changes to the market, agrees Barnes. “The bailout plan will bring about more lending from the banks and allow more buyers to get loans for property. This combined with a moratorium policy on foreclosures are positive signs for the turnaround of the market,” he says. Locally, the prospect of Chicago winning the bid for the 2016 Olympics is an exciting possibility, Barnes adds.

Consumer interest in building new homes is another positive sign for 2009, says Linda Ritter, manager of Tiburon Homes LLC. “We have had a lot of people talking to us about building new homes,” she says.

Sellers also will contribute to change in 2009, as many have realized that they must be realistic in pricing their homes for sale, says de Leon. A percentage of buyers who were sitting on the fence throughout 2008 also will make a move, she adds. Real market turnaround, however, likely won’t come until 2010, says de Leon. “2010 should see a return of confidence in our economy with a rise in home ownership,” she says.

Barnes is more optimistic about the housing market rebounding and pinpoints a lack of confidence in the economy as the challenge thatÕs holding the real estate market down. “With a new president taking over, there will be more confidence in the U.S. and the economy,” he says. “The bailout plans will start to take affect, and as the financial industry steps on more solid ground, more funds will become available. This will convert into an increase in home sales.” These changes will lead to the market leveling out in the first half of 2009 and turning positive in the late second half of the year, Barnes predicts.

Put on a Happy Face
While there are many positive indicators for 2009, the economy and real estate markets likely wonÕt make an overnight turnaround and agents will have to continue working in a challenging market. But just because the market likely wonÕt change immediately, real estate professionals don’t need to carry over any negative feelings from 2008: Success in a difficult market can come from embracing a positive attitude, agree industry experts.

“The media is flooded with news about the grim economic reality we’re facing and are expected to continue to face,” says Sherine Azzam, Realtor with Baird & Warner. “While it’s critical to be aware of market trends and developments, it’s equally critical not to get discouraged. By focusing on the grim news, many real estate agents end up feeling like victims of a bad market, which can only lead to paralysis,” she says.

Clients often pick up on negative feelings, adds Barnes. “Negativity can be felt by everyone around you and can hurt your chances of getting a deal done,” he says. “Keeping a positive attitude will guarantee you a client for life.”

In fact, many in the industry attribute some of their success to maintaining a positive attitude in any type of market. “Attitude is everything,” notes Ritter. “Our clients need us to be positive, and since we are helping them build their dream home, it is mandatory that we remain professional and positive at all times,” she says.

How to Prepare
To start the year off on the path to success, it’s helpful to be proactive and make a business plan. “I’ve made a conscious commitment to focus on the steps necessary to reach my professional goals,” says Azzam, adding that she focuses on being proactive rather than reactive in business. Determination in a challenging market also is important, notes Azzam. “I started my career as a professional real estate agent in May of 2008, knowing that it’s a challenging market,” she says. “I’ve had to maintain strict work ethics, confidence in myself, motivation and a determination to be successful against all the odds.”

Creating a business plan for 2009 is about preparing for success, says Barnes, who is creating a plan that “encompasses a wide range of marketing objectives and goals” to build demand for services. Some, such as de Leon, feel that it is important to first reflect on the past in order to plan for the future. “I think in order to plan for success in 2009, I have to first reflect on the year 2008 with what worked [and] did not work,” she says. After reflection, agents should create a plan that includes four or five major goals and the actions necessary to accomplish them, de Leon says.

Another part of designing a successful business plan includes identifying new avenues for success and pinpointing how to benefit from them, note industry observers. The popularity of social-networking Web sites among consumers is a trend many in real estate will be capitalizing on in 2009, says de Leon, who will be training her agents on using social-networking sites to increase business.

“Given the times we live in, we have to include technology as a road to success,” adds Barnes. “All of my agents will need to embrace the Web and the social-networking aspect of it.” Creating an Internet presence is a good way for agents to expand their networks in a short time, says Barnes, who is strongly encouraging professional profiles on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn and other similar sites for his agents. Additionally, “we will include on our Web site blogs for each agent and links to their profiles on all of the social-networking sites,” he says.

Finding a Focus
Another aspect of preparing for the New Year is understanding what to focus on in order to grow business and increase revenue, agree industry experts. “2008 was the year of weathering the storm, survival and holding on to any business that you can. 2009 is the year for rebuilding and investing in growing my new office,” says Barnes. “I will focus on recruiting top agents and marketing Sudler Sotheby’s in North Center, Lincoln Square, St. Ben, Lakeview and Uptown neighborhoods.”

Barnes also plans to have agents look into other revenue streams, including short sales and foreclosures. “With this down market, international investors feel there is a huge opportunity for them to purchase property in the U.S. Since we are an international company, we will utilize the marketing within our company to focus on some of those buyers,” he says.

First-time homebuyers, who were cautious in 2008, will be important in 2009, says de Leon. “With only needing a 3.5 percent down payment for FHA loans, the $7,500 first-time homebuyer tax credit and interest rates even lower, it is the right time to buy,” she says. First-time buyers typically are educated and Internet savvy, but they still will need good Realtors to help them through the process, says de Leon.

Single-family homes will be a selling in the New Year, adds Barnes. “With the difficulty of getting loans for condos, you will see more single-family homes being snatched up,” he says. “It’s easier to get approved for a loan on a single-family home, and the values are better.”

Stay Busy
There are many ways for Realtors to stay busy in 2009 until the market turns around and the New YearÕs potential turns into reality. Education is a great pursuit in a slow market, agree Barnes and de Leon. “In our industry, there is always more to learn,” including the real estate board and seminars, says de Leon. To gain the necessary tools to succeed, “I read a lot, I research and I take advantage of professional development activities,” says Azzam.

Slow periods also are useful for recruitment, says Barnes. “Many agents make a change during the slow periods so they donÕt lose business transitioning during the busy times,” he says.

Agents interested in earning additional income if needed should consider the rental market, say industry experts. “I think if an agent needs to increase their income because of the slow economy, they should consider focusing, short term, on the rental market,” says Barnes. Rentals increase when home sales slow, and many agents make a good living through tenants and landlord representation, he says. “It’s been my experience that clients will start out as a renter, then purchase or sell their property the following year, so you can start building your pipeline for next year by working on rentals.”

No matter what a Realtor’s plan is for 2009, one thing is certain: maintaining quality is a key component to success. “We will continue to work on providing the highest levels of quality and the best pricing” in the New Year, says Ritter. With a good business plan in place and consistent quality, you wonÕt have to wait until 2010 to have a successful year. C.A.

Sherine Azzam
Baird & Warner

Long Barnes
Managing Broker
Sudler Sotheby’s International Realty,
North Center

Aleksandra de Leon
Managing Broker
Executive Realty Group

Linda Ritter
Tiburon Homes LLC

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