Agents adapt to challenging market

Veterans say it's harder to get by as part-timer

With the downturn in the housing market, it has become harder for agents to finalize sales and earn their subsequent commissions.

What once was a decent part-time job 10 years ago requires a lot more commitment just to make sure a sale goes through.

When the housing market was booming, people could work part time as a real estate agent, helping friends and family members buy and sell homes. Houses sold in two to three weeks, said Patti Kremser, the managing broker at Century 21 Roberts & Andrews.

“Today, we’re back to basic salesmanship,” Kremser said. “We’re not only networking with everyone we know, but we’re involved in every community activity, every community group, business network organizations, and we are working every aspect of the job harder.”

Kremser said she even now wears a Century 21 tank top at the gym.

“If I’m wearing my Century 21 tank and getting all sweaty in that, they’ll go ‘oh, she’s in real estate,’ ” Kremser said. “It’s all about branding.”

Kremser also belongs to church organizations and networking groups to help gain referrals.

Don Prigge is a branch manager for Baird & Warner in Crystal Lake.

“The skill level of the Realtors has changed dramatically over the past three to four years,” Prigge said. “As well as the pay. If we’re paid in direct proportion to the sale price of the house, and the houses have dropped [in value] arguably 30 percent in the last three years, you’ve got to do a lot more business to maintain your income. That’s our problem.”

“It takes an agent who is skilled in pricing” to sell in this market, Prigge added.

More than ever, agents and brokers have to know how to work with short sales and foreclosures. Agents need to be intuitive about possible problems that may come in a deal, such as issues with a house, and how much the house will appraise for, said Sharon Glau-Greenlee, a real estate agent for Prudential First Realty in Crystal Lake.

“You have to be immersed in the business to give clients exactly what they need,” Glau said. “You can’t just pop into the business.”

Some people, however, are able to make being a part-time broker work for them.

Bruce Treadway of Woodstock has been a part-time broker for Caldwell Banker Primus for about a year. He is the president and owner of Caring Transitions, a company that helps people downsize homes.

“Many people are downsizing because of an inability to pay their mortgage,” Treadway said.

The other half of his clients are older folks who want a smaller home with less maintenance to worry about, or who don’t want to shovel snow.

He is able to partner his business with his real estate gig.

But people who are getting into the real-estate business can’t just sit in the office. People aren’t buying second homes as they were in the 1990s or the early part of last decade.

“You have to be looking for business,” Treadway said. “It’s not going to be walking in the door like it was five years ago.”

Linda Bykowski, a broker who works for Century 21 who also manages properties, said brokers need to be able to recognize what kind of repair work needs to be done to a house, help prospective buyers figure out how much to offer after figuring in new appliances or electrical work, and recommend different contractors who can do work to the house.

Sometimes, people rip out copper piping, appliances and cabinets from a foreclosed house, and that would need to be repaired or replaced before the house is habitable, Bykowski said.

Over the past few years, she has learned about the inner workings of a short sale and foreclosures.

“It’s still a learning process. You can’t just do that overnight,” Bykowski said. “You never know, you’re working with different attorneys, different things, and all the rules and regulations.”

Kremser said brokers need to be available at a moment’s notice to show a house and must constantly get their names out to drum up business.

“What service are you doing for your clients if an inquiry about a particular property [comes in] and you’re not available to take that call?” she said. “You need to be available to answer every call that comes in on your properties.”

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