Just this week, when I was helping one of my agents with some neighborhood marketing, I reached in a battered paper file to find one of my old direct mail pieces in which I was prominently featured with a full body shot, attired in a short skirted business suit, complete with the requisite strong shouldered look, with a hairdo to match. Oh, and I held a full size phone up to my ear, with the cord trailing into the margin of the page, no doubt hard wired to my car, illustrating that I was in touch with technology, and always in touch with my clients. I regularly mailed this little card out to a neighborhood that I farmed, with timely real estate market information and news specific to the neighbors' interests.
My vintage card inspired raised eyebrows and "reee-ally?" from the Y's and X's, and knowing looks and raucous laughter from the veterans in my office, who have the same pieces carefully tucked away as evidence of their creative marketing in the heady age of agent personal promotion.
But for me, more importantly, the little card invoked memories of what it felt like to be a Realtor in Oklahoma City in the early 1990's. Our state, along with Texas, Louisiana, and parts of Colorado, was recovering from the oil boom and bust cycle of the ‘80's. In the mid 1980's we experienced the savings and loan crisis, multiple bank and mortgage company closures and real estate depreciation that reached the 30% range, accompanied by neighborhoods full of vacant and frequently boarded up houses, high interest rates, heavy job losses and bank closures. Properties were distressed, sellers were many, and buyers were few.
Currently we have a national real estate downturn after a boom market. Just like the 80's oil boom and bust, the cause is extrinsic, in contrast to the natural process that occurs when people buy and sell homes because of real life circumstances.
Media is full of statistics, conflicting opinions and speculation about the economy and the state of real estate. But what is it like to be a real estate professional right now? My reflection is - very much like it did twenty-some years ago. Back then, a number of agents left the business, a few entered it and became successful. When a Realtor was working with at least one qualified buyer, they were lucky and grateful. Appraisals and financing were tough and getting a deal closed was a lot of work. Many times the Realtor was the only one walking away from a closing with a check, and it didn't feel good. Clients brought all the emotion of their predicaments to the transaction; for Realtors it was uncertain, frustrating and a little scary. It took about 6 - 8 years for the market to trend upward and for new developments and construction to be started.
Sound familiar? Well, the history lesson brings good news. Great Realtors today, just like yesterday, are acting intrinsically to move the market forward and are bettering themselves because of it. Acquiring knowledge in short sales and listing distressed properties and foreclosures, and going where the business is to be found will insure their survival. Adapting to new lending and appraisal regulations and obtaining new professional designations in the areas of distressed property situations make agents more prepared to help their clients with complex situations. Working hard to get a contract closed, even two and three times, builds confidence and perseverance. Professionals are working together in a spirit of cooperation, not competition. Above all, communication and compassion inspire clients to move forward with the goal of an improved future.
Every day I see the same signs of increased competence and professionalism in our industry that I saw emerge under the pressure of the last real estate downturn. While wearing those power suits and doing vanity marketing, we were getting designations and improving our skills.
I see that shoulder pads are really hip now. And that is proof enough for me that what goes around comes around. Here's our opportunity to keep raising our expectations of ourselves. Let's make that a trend to keep.