Try these 7 tips for staying relevant in a down housing market

Real estate agents can bank on one thing: Change in the residential real estate market is inevitable. While it might be easier for real estate agents to stay busy in a brisk market, a slowing or down housing market is no time to let one’s professional marketing lag, experts say. Agents who make it a point to stay relevant and valuable, regardless of whether the market is up or down, stand not only to survive, but thrive.

Are we in for a slowdown?

While the forces behind market fluctuations are complicated, there are signs that a market slowdown might be ahead. The National Association of REALTORS® reported on a slump in pending home sales for March and April 2017.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said in a recent NAR press release that springtime contract activity is fading because weak supply levels are spurring deteriorating affordability conditions.

“Prospective buyers are feeling the double whammy this spring of inventory that’s down 9.0 percent from a year ago and price appreciation that’s much faster than any rise they’ve likely seen in their income,” Yun said in the release.

Still, the outlook for this year isn’t shabby. Yun forecasts existing-home sales in 2017 will increase about 3.5% from 2016, to around 5.64 million. Nationally, median existing-home prices are expected to increase about 5%, which is similar to 2016.

According to real estate economist Ken Johnson, PhD, of Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Fla., slowing rents along with increasing home prices and mortgage rates are nudging many U.S. housing markets into rent territory.

“This shift should slightly lower the demand for ownership and contribute to the slowdown in housing prices around the country,” Johnson said.

Make a down market work for you

What should real estate agents do if there’s a residential housing market slowdown? Consider these 7 ways to market yourself in a down market:

1. Be that trusted adviser 

Vivien Snyder, residential broker associate at Beverly-Hanks and Associates Realtors, Asheville, N.C., points to a lack of inventory in lower price ranges. Snyder’s advice for remaining relevant despite the challenge: Become that trusted real estate adviser by doing real estate reviews.

“Homeowners are always curious about sales in their neighborhood, what their home is worth in today’s market and also, in our case, how does the new county tax assessments relate to the market value?” Snyder said. “I do quick neighborhood snapshots on a monthly basis and send them out, call people in the neighborhood and offer to meet or send them the latest copy (either by email or regular mail), and bring them to open houses, etc.”

2. Guide and influence, rather than sell

Agents who target people they think are ready to hire real estate agents might be missing the clients who don’t yet realize they want to move, Snyder said. This is true especially in a slower market. Help guide their decision-making by making them aware of what could be in it for them.

“Be the professional that educates them on the market, offers tips on options (refinance, renovate or sell), and people will seek you out,” Snyder said.

3. Ramp up your marketing campaigns

REALTOR® Ron Feir, Pahrump, Nev., is no stranger to down markets. He experienced the real estate market crash in 2007.

Feir’s top tip for agents: Take the approach that the best defense is a good offense.

“Attack the down market. Be aggressive by increasing your marketing [and] advertising, at a time when other agents have suspended their marketing campaigns or pulled back from real estate, in general,” he says. “A more aggressive approach will increase your visibility.”

4. Reinvent yourself

Just as in other industries, the businesses that evolve tend to survive. Those that stay stagnant, don’t. Real estate agents who capitalize on market changes can continue to thrive despite the challenges, according to Feir.

Even in down markets, certain real estate genres, or product types or categories, continue to hold their own, according to Feir. Look for what’s still viable and dive in, he said.

5. Consolidate and reorganize 

When the going gets tough, find like-minded agents and form teams or alliances, according to Feir.

“There’s safety in numbers and added brain power, which is vital during a down market. Creativity and ingenuity are important. This is also a great opportunity to share marketing costs, while pursuing a fresh direction,” he said.

6. Consider things you might not have considered before

Look outside the box. One idea: Feir’s foreign language strategy.

“During Las Vegas’ down market, foreign buyers emerged,” Feir said. “Capitalize on the opportunity or ally yourself with an agent that possesses a key language. You can provide some other needed team support.”

Feir’s strategy could be especially helpful in today’s market. NAR reported in May 2017 that U.S. real estate markets are becoming increasingly international. Immigration and growing interest from foreigners stand to bolster home sales activity and prices, according to an NAR press release.

7. Look for other avenues in the profession

Real estate agents have knowledge that makes them valuable in other capacities, according to Feir.

“Assuming you’ve not given up and decide to stay in the game until the market improves, consider property management, new home sales or timeshares,” he said.

How do you stay relevant in a down housing market? Share your tips with us!