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Realtors rise to meet increased demand amid surge in new listings

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When there’s huge demand — no matter what business you’re in — it can be challenging to manage an influx of clients. With sellers coming off the sidelines in July, the number of new listings increased by 5.6 per cent month-over-month countrywide, and the figures were even more remarkable in specific regions. 

Cities such as Edmonton saw an 12 per cent uptick; new listings in Hamilton, Ont. increased by 15 per cent; the Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont. region reported a rise of 21 per cent and London, Ont. saw a 20 per cent increase month-over-month.

While it might seem appealing to reign in as much business as humanly possible, the fact is we’re just that: human. That means even realtors have breaking points where stress kicks in, or they simply can’t service clients in the best way once their threshold is exceeded.

Some realtors have a clear business strategy for coping with those large request volumes.


Get organized and follow the process


Shawn Zigelstein, a broker with Royal LePage Your Community in Toronto, feels that agents who are organized and used to doing significant volumes have a system in place. 

“Once you’ve got the system in place, it makes the job substantially simpler than for someone who suddenly gets several calls thrown at them,” he says. “The more systems and staff an agent has, the better and easier it’s going to be to not really feel a difference in workload, no matter how many calls a day they get.”

When asked about those systems, he explains, “We have an extremely structured approach when a call comes in. There are steps associated with dealing with that call. Whether it’s a previous or brand new client looking to sell, we handle it almost the same way by gathering information, setting up appointments, ensuring you’re professional the entire way, and not skipping any steps … most importantly, there’s no way to fast-track it.”

If a client wants immediate turnaround, Zigelstein typically says no because his approach includes making sure the house is ready and looks good. “You can’t just do that in a 12-hour turnaround time with pictures on your iPhone and no measurements.”

Even in times of excessive selling requests, Zigelstein believes in no compromises — though he will speed things up if his clients are on board to work quickly. “You have to work together with the client, but for the most part, it’s following a structured approach.”

Think like a venture capitalist 


Justin Konikow, broker/owner of Prime Real Estate in London, Ont. thinks outside the box and treats his brokerage like a venture capital firm. “The venture capital mentality towards real estate came from a friend and mentor in Silicon Valley, Andy Tse, whom I’ve spent hundreds of hours masterminding with. We had an online discussion around resource deployment.”

Konikow further explains, “Venture capital firms look at risk and reward diversification, and long-term growth of companies and relationships…that’s actually how I pick my clients. Our firm turns down a lot of business right now because everybody wants to list their house.”

Tim Hill, a realtor based in British Columbia’s Lower Mainland with Re/Max, adds, “One thing that factors into managing an influx of requests is what the market’s doing. Price and having a realistic seller, given the market conditions, are huge factors.”

He also points out that the seller needs to be on the same page. “We’ve had changes in price points, and different neighbourhoods have had different declines. Different product types are moving better than others.”

Hill mentions this is also part of educating the seller at the outset, and he makes it part of his initial process in the analysis of why a home is worth what it is. “It’s not my decision; it’s what the market will bear. I think it’s important to separate that because it’s very common to think it’s the realtor saying a price but in reality, we’re just analyzing the data and giving professional advice based on our experience.”

Evaluate potential clients and choose wisely


Konikow’s business is built on select, strategic clients and projects that are not only worth the time and investment required but also align with where his business is headed. “Agents are a dime a dozen — you can work with whoever brings you a deal. So are investors — you can work with whoever interprets data valuably enough…but when I choose my clients, they need to understand I have MBAs and HBAs doing analysis, and I’ve invested hundreds of thousands of dollars and years building the platform,” (hence why Konikow is extremely selective). 

“I want to know what the long-term goal is of the client. If it’s not aligned with what we’re looking to accomplish, we don’t take on the mandate.” He also takes care to ensure Prime’s clients align and have a deep understanding of what they’re getting so they don’t feel underserved or unsupportive of what they provide since the company does everything from residential and commercial to investment and agriculture.

“When I think of what my ideal client looks like … it’s somebody that sees high value in the ability to reach a very large audience and get world-class strategy. Somebody that doesn’t mind paying for a premium service because they understand how those two things will generate a higher net effect of sale,” Konikow underscores.

Hill shares that one of his most important criteria when deciding whether to work with new clients is making sure they get along very well.

“I enjoy what I do, and I want to keep enjoying what I do, and when you work with someone, it gets intimate and could be a short relationship, but you’re going to talk a lot, so you need to be able to have those open conversations … we work long hours, we work crazy days. So, having the client comfortable asking questions but also knowing that you’re taking care of their best interest [is key]. I find when we jive well, they buy into my game plan for them, they do really well, and it’s a lot more fun for everyone.”

Zigelstein wholeheartedly agrees. He has always been selective in the clients he takes, regardless of the volume of listings he gets. When he first meets a client, he always says, “This is a job interview for me, but it’s also a job interview for you. If I don’t believe that we’re going to be good partners here, then we’re not going to work together, and I’m going to let you know that I don’t think it’s a good fit.” He will say this right away during that initial meeting for full transparency.

“You can’t be afraid to say no; you have to be strong enough in your business and your beliefs to say no…if my phone rings and it’s a client about whom I immediately feel I don’t want to talk to right now, then they should not be a client of mine. A client of mine should be someone who I’m willing to talk to any time of day without hesitation. You’ve got to go with your gut,” Zigelstein stresses.

Focus on repeat transactions and diversify whenever possible


They say it’s always easier (and more profitable) to get repeat business than to drum up new business. So, many realtors focus on this strategy, even when new clients approach them.

For instance, much of Hill’s business consists of repeat and referred clients, which makes his criteria of liking his clients easy to fulfill. “We already have that warm introduction,” he explains.

“The term ‘focused diversification’ applies to us,” Konikow mentions. “Our clients are repeat transactions and referral businesses — it’s 90 to 95 per cent of what we do.”

On top of that, Konikow’s business is a brokerage but not in the traditional sense. “We have a waiting list, so we don’t recruit, we don’t care about agent or office count. We have an agency and a production company, too. There are three companies under the umbrella of Prime that truly operate as a company rather than a typical brokerage model.

Konikow stresses, “If you hire me, you’re getting a lot more than just me — you’re getting an entire company of specialists.”

For example, he worked with a large tech entrepreneur who built a thriving business, and Prime got to do all of their site acquisitions, help them build a campus, and sell the founder’s house. “Then, he went to dispose of the transaction and now wants to invest. So, I will have a client that can trust me on the commercial, the investment, and the residential side and flow through all three of those where normally, they would jump from brokerage to brokerage,” says Konikow.

Know yourself, understand your financial situation, and communicate often


Whether they’re managing two sales or 20 sales, Konikow says that realtors really need to know who they are, what they do and what their financial situation looks like, including maintaining a solid profit and loss statement and how much they’re spending on everything from mailers to photography.

“I would start quantifying your time. I can attribute a dollar value and quantify about 25 hours of my pre-listing process, so by the time I list the property and sell it, I know exactly how much time I’ve spent and the dollar figure.”

Konikow also advises new agents not to be afraid to work really hard in the beginning when they don’t have any money or much time. “I did it too,” he recalls. “When you put in enough time, and you develop skill, then you can start being a little bit more selective.”

“But don’t say no to everything,” he warns. “That’s not the answer. Your skill has to be quantifiably good enough that you can say no to business and be more selective. (Do this) early on because saying yes to everything is what kills people in this industry and makes them miserable.”

Konikow adds, “I would rather have taken more time and made less money in the first five years of my business and been a little bit more paced in my growth.”

Hill’s biggest piece of advice for realtors getting a huge volume of requests is to know that it’s okay to say no, even though it can be tough. “It’s something you’ve got to understand. If you get that spidey-sense feeling at the beginning, you should probably just stop there. There are different realtors for different clients and different clients for different realtors.”

He also knows how crucial it is to put the time and effort in upfront. This way, you know what you’re getting yourself into, and you’re not just guessing a property’s value and then having to go back to a client with bad news. “Make sure you do your legwork in advance instead of accumulating listings just to have them. You’re not going to be in the business if you just list — you have to sell the listings,” stresses Hill.

Zigelstein believes a huge success factor is being able to set expectations with clients and have them see you as the professional that you are. Then, at the end of the day, if things take longer or are a bit more difficult to sell, you’ll be okay.

For example, “Even if you have no information for them, even if you’ve had zero showings in a week, you still have to call your clients and say that. Maybe nothing in the area has moved either that week,” he explains. 

“Maybe you’re concerned for the market generally but not for their home specifically, and it’s important to tell them. More agents need to do that to curb their client’s expectations so they know exactly what’s happening. At the end of the day, you should be providing the service that they deserve.”




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