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After 25 years in the business, Laurie Reader is no stranger to market shifts. The team leader of more than 100 agents as CEO of Laurie Finkelstein Reader Real Estate, she’s seen enough to know what it takes to weather the market’s ups and downs.
Reader, a real estate business coach in South Florida under the Keller Williams banner, has led her team to sales in excess of 3,100 homes and more than $1.3 billion in volume over the past two years as the economy and the housing market have kept the entire industry on its toes.
Reader will share her insights as a speaker at Inman Connect Las Vegas in August. Inman caught up with her over the phone last week to dive into how agents’ work has changed, how long she thinks the market shift will last, and how agents can win business in any market.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Inman: You were at last year’s ICLV and you were talking about the market shifting and how to prepare your agents for that. Is it still shifting for you? In what way?
Laurie Reader: We’re deep into the shift. One that’s going to last a really long time. We are seeing somewhat of a pickup in South Florida with more transactions. We know across the country transactions are off about 45-50 percent just depending on what state you’re in.
Coming out of half of 2020, all of 2021 and maybe a tiny peek into ’22, a lot of agents, including the agents that work for me, got away from doing the activities that assure you business regardless of market. It was a frenzy, right? In order to sell a house you just had to be willing to wait in a long line and find a buyer who would pay $100,000 more than it was worth. Then all of a sudden, boom! The brakes got put on when the interest rates rose. Now agents and consumers had to go through this adjustment period, especially real estate agents, who had no longer had to nurture. They had no longer had to do follow up. They had no longer had to do buyer consultations. They were not lead generating.
For us, it was survival. It was just keep answering the phone and just serve as many people as we could. But once that interest rate rose, we had to go back to the basics, which obviously is what keeps the business going regardless of market. It has taken quite some time, I’d say for sure Q2, Q3 and Q4 of ’22 and definitely Q1 of ’23, and now you have agents that got those habits back. They’re lead generating. They’re making 25-30 calls a day and having five contacts a day. They’re back in open houses. They are doing more client appreciation events. They’re doing all the things you have to do to have a sustainable business.
Many people got out of the business. The ones that mostly got out are the ones who got in at the tail end of the boom. As soon as it got tough and you actually had to be a super strong negotiator, your skill set had to be on point, you had to be a great lead generator, those people are long gone.
So is the market still shifting?
The market’s always shifting, but we have already completely shifted. The market ebbs and flows. Here, houses don’t stay on the market for more than two weeks [or] three weeks if they’re priced correctly and they’re staged correctly. We’re still in multiple offer situations, literally, in most price points. We went through a period where homes came on the market and they were sitting and sellers had to be more generous and they had to be more cooperative. That was really short lived. Today, across most price points, homes are still selling within two to three weeks. Maximum. Sellers are still calling the shots. If you can find sellers that want to sell who are willing to give up their 2 percent interest rate. That’s the challenge.
People have been sitting on the fence for the last year waiting for this pretend interest rate to come down and these pretend prices to come down. At some point the consumer says to themselves, ‘You know what? My mom’s trying to move in with us. We just had a baby. We’ve outgrown the house. We have a job transfer.’ There’s all these reasons.
A lot of people are starting to accept the new norm of this interest rate. It’s still a low interest rate. But we still do not have the inventory that we need. Not in South Florida, which is where everyone wants to live.
How do you convince sellers to give up their 2 percent interest rate?
It’s not a matter of convincing. It’s all about motivation. You take them on a journey. You ask the right questions, and you figure out is their motivation in alignment with this market.
You said that you think the shift will last a long time. What did you mean by that?
I don’t see anything that’s going to, at this point in time, change our interest rate, which likely is going to stall the influx of inventory. If we really are going to have a crash, I just don’t know what causes it. I can’t put my finger on what’s going to cause a crash that’s going to force a bunch of sellers to put their houses on the market. From that perspective, I feel we’re gonna be here for a while.
What are the metrics that you focus on?
As somebody who’s running a really large team, I don’t focus on outside forces that I absolutely cannot control. What I focus on is leading, training, inspiring people to keep your head down, put your blinders on. Do not pay attention to things that are out of your control or have no impact on whether or not you put yourself in a situation to help a consumer achieve the American dream of homeownership. I don’t care what size your team is, if you focus on the training and you focus on making sure that the consumer’s experience is your absolute North Star and you just do those activities day in and day out — and by the way, no one wants to hear that — you organically and by accident sell houses.
Of course. I pay very close attention to factors going on in the real estate market. That’s my job, but it’s not going to control our outcome. It’s just not. I’ve been doing this too long to let that happen.
In the past year, what’s been your biggest pivot?
In the last year the biggest pivot has been hiring more agents and trying to learn and figure out faster who is going to do the work, who’s committed, who is on board to serve that consumer and sell real estate.
Is there anything else you’d like Inman’s readers to know before you speak at Connect?
Real estate agents, more than ever, have to be super skilled and knowledgeable. I believe we’re in a full-blown skill-based market. All these things are not challenging. It’s basically reading and making sure you’re attending events, making sure you are getting in rooms like Inman where you are going to learn to be the best at your craft in your area. That’s who consumers are hiring.
If we have 50 percent less transactions and Real Estate Agent A is super skilled and knowledgeable, they’re gonna win the business. It’s that simple. It’s not easy because you’ve got to do the work. You’ve got to show up to your meetings. You’ve got to practice your scripts. You’ve got to go to conferences. You’ve got to read books. You’ve got to get great coaches. You have to do the work and then you will win. But if you don’t do the work, you will be dismissed.
To me, this is an exciting time, because what I think we’ll end up with in two to three years is that our profession is really elevated [and] we are a much more skill-based, entrepreneurial industry, not just someone who gets this real estate license and sells a house every year and makes real estate agents look like we’re not skilled.