Real Estate

3 Reasons A Downturn Can Actually Be An Opportunity

At Inman Connect Las Vegas, panelists Thad Wong, Josh Harley and Kamini Lane agreed opportunities for real estate pros will abound in a downturn: Just reach out and grab them.

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If there has been one theme this week at Inman Connect Las Vegas, it’s that the market is currently shifting. Or it’s in a correction. Or heading into a downturn.

The terminology varies, but the consensus from Connect’s many sessions is that the boom times of the past two years have come to an end in some form or another.

But according to a panel of industry leaders Wednesday, that doesn’t mean the sky is actually falling. In fact, despite a slower housing market, panelists Thad Wong, Josh Harley and Kamini Lane agreed that opportunities for real estate pros will abound in a downturn. Brokers and agents just need to reach out and grab them.

Here’s how they recommended doing that:

Get leaner and more efficient

Harley, who is the CEO of Fathom Realty, said in fat times it’s easy for companies to expand and end up with some bloat. But a shifting market is the perfect time to reorient around fundamentals and “keep our costs low.”

“We all have bloat in our businesses,” Harley said. “Find that bloat, remove that bloat, streamline the operations and then use those funds to help your agents.”

In other words, a shifting market is an opportunity to identify what isn’t working in a business and redirect resources to what is.

From left: Josh Harley, Kamini Lane, Thad Wong and moderator Anthony Lamacchia have a discussion at Inman Connect Las Vegas Wednesday. Credit: AJ Canaria of MoxiWorks

Remove distractions

Lane, president of national brokerage at Sotheby’s International Realty, said during downturns agents sometimes get caught up in negative news. In reality, however, the actual conditions on the ground may well not be as bad as the headlines imply. A broker or team leader’s job in such a situation, then, is to provide context and information that helps agents make sense of what’s happening.

“When we provide that context for our agents we remove a huge distraction for our agents,” she said, explaining that context allows agents to stop worrying about what is going to happen in the next three to four months. And that allows “agents to do their best work.”

Wong, co-founder and co-CEO of @properties, made a similar point. He said that during downturns, some companies will quickly cut back on their expenses, sometimes going so far as laying employees off. He called that strategy a mistake.

“The worst signal you can send to your organization is laying off staff,” he said. “It sends a signal to them that either I’m unprepared or that I’m really worried.”

Wong went on to say that layoffs can lead to fear among agents and that “it’s difficult to turn that fear into motivation.”

A better route, Wong argued, is to try to “reset” and provide information to agents that help them make sense of what’s going on.

Focus on innovation

Wong recalled during the session that he founded @properties before the Great Recession. Living and working through a major downturn taught him the importance of thinking outside the box.

“It’s a breading ground for innovation,” Wong said of downturns.

Wong’s own company has modeled this strategy and has been developing its own software since its earliest days. Other companies might use different specific tactics, but Wong said the point is that companies should focus on things like content, inventory and innovation in tough times.

In the end, the panelists all agreed that companies who follow such strategies can thrive. Harley pointed to the Great Recession and noted the number of Realtors in the U.S. dropped dramatically during that period. Transactions also dropped, he added — but significantly not by as much as agent ranks shrunk.

“Agents,” Harley concluded, “were closing more sales then than they were earlier.”

Email Jim Dalrymple II

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