3 ways to thrive in a cooling market

Anyone can sell when the going is good. But what about when the market starts to cool? Award-winning agent Michael Clarke says this is the ideal time to grow your market share.

It’s no secret that the real estate profession experiences a high turnover of agents. When the market is booming everyone wants a piece of the action. As things flatten out, however, those eager to make a quick buck quickly get weeded out. Being on top of your game in a slowing market is arguably one of the best positions a top agent can find themselves in.

“The beautiful thing about real estate is it’s the ultimate meritocracy,” says Michael Clarke of Clarke & Humel Property.

“Over the past 24 months a lot of people jumped into the industry and through sheer market forces alone were able to do quite well,” he says, “whereas in this current market it can routinely require every ounce of your skill, work ethic and expertise just to be able to get a result, full stop.

“I expect that over the next couple of years we will see a much higher turnover in the profession.”

This bodes well for those with a strong work ethic and thorough knowledge of their local market.

Mr Clarke is a Top 100 Agent and the winner of the 2015 REB Award for Metropolitan Sales Agent of the Year.

His dedication and hard work have clearly paid off. Entering the profession in a down market with little guidance served him well, and allowed the leading Sydney agent to sharpen his skills in one of the most competitive real estate markets in the world.

Shoe leather and a working telephone 

“When I first started out, I was cold calling, doing 150 calls a week, walking up and down each street and finding out what was on the market in the area,” Mr Clarke tells REB.

“I never door knocked but what I did do is make a lot of phone calls. I systematically broke down every single street in my core area and called every person. I would get in and start making calls at about a quarter to eight in the morning, all the way through until 10 or 10:30. Then I’d call again sometime between five and eight o’clock at night,” he explains.

“I would systematically work my way up and down the streets. If I made 130 contacts and got 126 no’s and four yes’s, that was a great week for me. When I got started it was 100 per cent work ethic.”

Fortunately, most new agents will not need to toil this hard.

One listing = three listings

One thing to remember, says Mr Clarke, is that in a softening market every listing you have is the equivalent of three in a good market.

“That is not only because every listing you have is one that your competitors don’t have, but because listings can be few and far between in a softening market, so they are that much more precious,” he says.

“It gives you the opportunity to be meeting buyers and other potential sellers who are researching the market. You start with the mindset that every listing is more important than usual and then every single listing that you get, you need to be watertight with that campaign.

“The difference between an average agent and a good agent in a boom market can be the difference between a good and a great price. But the difference between an average agent and a good agent in a soft market is there for all to see because the average agent won’t sell the property at all, whereas the good agent will.”

It all begins at the first listing appointment

Clearly a slower market uncovers the strengths and the weaknesses of each agent. This means managing vendor expectations is critical.

“If you have had a fair dinkum conversation with your vendor before you listed it, then with integrity right throughout the campaign you can rely on the fact that you listed this property based on a collective and genuine understanding of where the market was and where it’s going,” Mr Clarke says.

“If you overpriced it to get the listing you can’t have the conversation that you would need to have because they would see you as working on them, not for them. Whether the market is good, bad or indifferent, work ethic can’t be beaten.”

“A boom market is forgiving,” says the award-winning agent. “A flat market is not. You need to know every single property on the market that you are competing with. You are not selling in isolation. You need to know everything that is happening in the market before your vendor does, because they are hiring you as the expert to give them good advice. If they know more about what is going on in their market than you do then why should they listen to you?”

Where some less experienced agents may complain that the market is not as hot as it was a year ago, Mr Clarke sees flat market conditions as an opportunity to shine – and win market share.

“I love a flat market because that’s when you really get a chance to prove to your vendor and others that it makes a big difference who they choose,” he says.

“In a boom market it is difficult to build your market share because anyone can sell anything. In a flat or descending market, you may not sell as many homes but you can massively improve your market share if you are perceived as the agent out there selling everything where others can’t.”

What better way to thrive in a cooling market?

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