Another year has ticked by and a fresh start has just arrived. While 2007 proved challenging to some in the industry, others pushed forward with even more determination for success. What can you do in 2008 to make this year a winner? To answer this question, we picked the brains of some of the most successful real estate professionals in the Miami area to find out how to make this year one of the best yet.
By K.K. Snyder
January 1 typically finds us vowing to change or improve something, whether it’s a personal goal or one focused on family or career. And while many of us come charging out of the gates after the holidays, our efforts often lose steam within weeks. But charting a course for success can be the answer you’ve been looking for; a set of directions, might be the key that can keep you focused on meeting the challenges today‚Äôs market poses.
It would appear that most of the suggested “secrets to success” in 2008 aren’t actually secrets at all, but rather tried and true methods for boosting your client base and increasing sales. And what could be more basic than a business plan? Yet, this is exactly where many of our experts swear success begins.
Agents who work for Diane Lieberman, broker/owner of South Beach Investment Company, know that come December, they can count on a one-on-one meeting with the manager to discuss their business plan for the upcoming year. That’s a given, says Lieberman, who with the recent purchase of World Realty Exchange currently has about 160 agents working for her.
“They come in and sit down and talk with the manager about what their goals are for the year and discuss different ways of attaining those goals,” says Lieberman, a licensed real estate agent for about 25 years. “I think that helps. Business planning is very important; it’s like their road map or GPS.”
Not only is the end of the year a great time for agents to consider their individual business plans, it’s also a great time for networking as things tend to be a bit slower through the holidays. So keep all of that useful information you learned from your peers in the weekly meetings in mind and consider how to use it to your advantage, even if it calls for alterations to meet your individual needs.
“There’s a certain continuity when you have these weekly meetings and get all the agents together talking about listings and what’s new in the office,” continues Lieberman, a proponent of networking among peer agents.
The first quarter of a new year is an excellent time for agents in South Florida, she says, noting that brokers should speak to their sellers and make them aware of the unique window for sales that exists for the next four months.
“This is a window when everyone and anyone from around the world will be coming to South Florida. They’ll see our wonderful weather and the beautiful buildings and learn about all of the culture we have to offer here.
“I think the buyers are here. This is the time for sellers to offer the best priced unit in a particular building or the best priced house on a specific island. People are looking for good deals.”
Lieberman encourages her agents to touch base with past clients and even provides printed postcards with photos of all the agents for them to mail this time of year. Also, when agents find time on their hands, they are encouraged to take courses at the board, make cold calls or improve their Web sites. “We encourage them to be involved in things outside real estate, whether it’s their child’s PTA or sports or museums, church or temple,” she says, adding that the more groups an agent is exposed to the more new business they are able to drum up.
“Also, they can ask the agents that have a lot of listings if they can sit at their open houses, another way for them to meet new clients,” she says.
While the winter months always bring visitors, especially the international set, to South Florida, Lieberman says more success can be found this year than in the recent past. “It’s almost more important now than ever since things have slowed down and it’s more difficult to make sales. Listings really need to be priced right in this market,” she says, noting a number of slashed prices among her own listings by owners ready to sell.
“The opportunities are really out there. I think for people who’ve always wanted a second home or a home on Miami Beach, this is the time. I can’t say if prices will get lower, if there will be better opportunities to come along later, but I do know there are some great opportunities out there right now.”
Agents at Avanti Way Realty are also prepared to deal with savvy international clients, as well as local buyers looking for good opportunities in real estate, says Enrique Teran, co-founder of Avanti Way. The company’s unique culture embraces a cutting-edge approach to online agent business solutions, on-demand support systems, continuing educational programs and cost effective marketing initiatives and will continue to ensure a successful 2008 for Teran’s agents.
In addition, Thursdays at Avanti Way bring a meeting of the minds during the company’s weekly gathering, where the team meets for a continuing education session with discussions about the changes in today’s industry. They also find ways to deliver accurate solutions to help their agents adapt and increase their knowledge and grow professionally, keeping them ahead of the game. The success of these sessions lies in providing multi-angle group discussions where the team shares ideas in a collaborative and dynamic environment, says Teran.
Though agents are encouraged to keep a fast pace regardless of what media reports say is happening with the market, when downtime does occur, they can take advantage of Avanti workshops that teach them how to identify and analyze good deals in the predominantly buyers market we’re currently experiencing. Avanti also encourages agents to tap the currently hot rental market, which helps them stay active and generate constant income. But the biggest boost Avanti has provided to help make agents successful in 2008 is the company’s cutting edge technology.
AVEX, Avanti Way’s proprietary Web based application, serves as a complete real estate office solution that includes a wealth of tools such as an online university, voiceover IP phone solutions, e-faxing, online deposit platforms, lead management, listing management, transaction management, contact management, marketing tools and much more, all at the agents’ fingertips and in one centralized place, maximizing the efficiency of agents at unprecedented levels, shares Teran.
The platform guides agents through the deliverables required as part of each transaction, centralizes all of their contracts and other needed documentation and constantly reminds them of upcoming due dates. Furthermore, the system prompts agents on missing information and provides them with user-friendly tools that include mortgage calculators, a listing presentations wizard and investment analysis worksheets.
“It serves as a personal assistant that it is available 24/7 … AVEX keeps me organized, in compliance, and out of the office so that I can focus my complete attention on my customers. I was able to get rid of my assistant and save money. When I travel, the platform’s internet phone and e-fax solution allow me to work from anywhere in the world as if I was sitting in my Miami office,” says Maurizio Oronzo, one of Avanti Way’s top producing agents.
Oronzo and his peer Avanti Way agents have all set up and presented their realistic goals for the New Year, including their marketing budget, the number of calls they needed to make per day, ideas for tracking international buyers, specific income goals or plans to focus on commercial deals. Whatever their goals are, adds Teran, they know that through the Avanti Way business model and support structure they have all the tools necessary to focus most of their time and energy on prospecting for new clients, broadening their marketing scope and looking for new opportunities in 2008.
Today, with over 50 agents, the company is optimistic about the New Year and believes the market will bring great opportunities for well-trained and forward-looking agents. As 2008 kicks off, Teran feels agents should be able to think outside of the box and embrace change, just as company leadership has through innovation and the implementation of the Avanti Way culture.
Though she is relegated to selling a very specific product, Adriana Companet, sales director for Fortune International at the Ritz-Carlton Club and Residences at South Beach, knows that a new year brings new challenges and has planned her next 12 months accordingly. “When you take on a complete project, you have to really research who your client will be to prepare your marketing plan,” she says, noting that the luxury market clients she serves are rarely affected by a fluctuating market.
Companet admits that downtime for her and the agents she works with is rare, but when it happens she suggests updating technology to boost connectivity to clients and reworking marketing plans and goals to keep them current. “The days of putting an ad in a magazine and waiting for a client to come to you are over,” Companet says. “This year we will continue to strengthen those relationships that quality brokers bring to us and try to close the sale for that broker.”
A great deal of 2008 will be spent traveling, she says, going to those international locations where her potential buyers might be located, those clients who have two or three homes but might still be lured by the magic of South Beach.”It’s just so sexy and so complete. South Beach continues to be at the forefront.”
“When something is a little slower over here it may be going up elsewhere, like the strong Euro and Sterling Pound that brings investors and second-home buyers to new areas such as South Florida.”
The Miami area, Companet contends, has joined places such as San Trope and New York as part of the international circuit. “If any market is strong enough to continue to climb to numbers no one thought could be reached it’s South Beach,” she adds, noting that the area has the highest prices per square foot in all of Dade County.
While the luxury market may remain strong, opportunities in other markets in South Florida will continue to evolve significantly in 2008, even pull back, says Donahue Peebles, entrepreneur and real estate developer with The Peebles Corporation. To that end, he explains, his company plans to continue focusing this year on the hospitality and tourism industry in the area, but is also taking on projects in similar markets outside Florida, including Chicago, Las Vegas, New York City and Washington, D.C.
His agents based in South Florida will look for opportunities this year among vacation homebuyers, who, while the market recovers from the recent subprime lending debacle, may come to the Miami area on vacation only to realize the prime opportunity and reduced prices that make owning a vacation home here a possibility for many. Still, that transition may take time and 2008 will not be a year for agents to stand idle, he says.
“One of the beauties of a company like ours is that we’re very entrepreneurial … I provide my agents opportunities within the company on the brokerage side and they can stay busy because we’re national,” says Peebles. “I’ve created an environment where people who work for us can go into other markets.”
Peebles, whose company has developed The Residences at The Bath Club as well as the Royal Palm Hotel in South Beach and the Lincoln office building, says he takes employees with good people skills and encourages them to seek additional education on other aspects of his real estate and development business so they are able to take advantage of any opportunities that come along this year, including the pursuit of fractional clients, which he says will be a focus for The Peebles Corporation.
“I see the fractional client and private residential clubs as the growth opportunity for the future,” he says. “When someone can buy a $3 million villa or a $2 million apartment for $400,000, buying a one-eighth interest in that becomes a much more logical and prudent lifestyle purchase.
“Miami Beach is going to continue to have some strength in 2008 and downtown will get some velocity once it bottoms out,” he says, predicting that the mayor’s vision for downtown to become a living, working, visiting center will start picking up in late 2008.
For many, 2008 will be a defining year – a make or break year. Those who straddled the fence last year may decide this isn’t the career for them, while others will dig their heels in even deeper, determined to ride this market out. In the end, those who prepare for 2008 by using the tips provided by these local industry experts will likely find success.
South Beach Investment Company
The Peebles Corporation
Avanti Way Realty