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How I survived the post-GFC slump, and became a better agent 

07 September 2017 | 10 minute read
piersvanhamburg iiiart 250x250 jul2017

The year I started in real estate was 1997, and it was the start of a property boom that would last for 10 years. Back then, the idea of the market going backwards was a real concern to me, and it was something I would lose sleep over.

I thought if prices went backwards, so would I! Prices down, salary down with it. On average, over that time, the market went up around 10 per cent every year. Because of this, for the first decade of my real estate career, I had only worked in a growing market, always rising.

But in late 2008 along came the GFC and things changed. Suddenly, we went from having an abundance of buyers at our open homes to literally no one turning up. Prices dropped quickly and we were now working in a very challenging declining market. This was new territory for me.

In hindsight, those few years post-GFC were my best years selling real estate, for a few reasons. Firstly, I learnt to become a better real estate agent. Every deal was like pulling teeth, and it took enormous skill to work with the very few buyers we did have. Trying to get them up in price (with no competition) was impossible at times, and I had to learn some critical skills to survive. Single-buyer auctions (if you were lucky enough to have a buyer) were the norm.

The other aspect of real estate I learnt to master was that of vendor management. At the end of the campaign, if they trusted you and they knew you had done everything you could, (in most cases) they would reduce their price to meet the market. 

Through those years, I worked incredibly hard and had some amazing success. In fact, 2009 was my best year ever, successfully selling more than 100 homes in a tough market. In short, those who adapted to the new environment did well, those who didn’t struggled, and many left the industry during those difficult years.

Cream rises

The good news about a hard market is that the better agents can excel. The other thing I found is that it’s easier to increase your market share in a hard market versus an easy market. When the market is going well, vendors don’t really put that much thought into who to sell with, as they know that the home will inevitably sell. In a tough market, they will actively seek out the best agents who are getting the results.

I have no doubt that there are newer agents reading this article, and they might be thinking now that I have only worked during the good times and that "it’s all I know". My advice to you is, do not be afraid of tough times. Relish in the opportunity to be that shining star in your market, regardless of where prices are going. Focus on outstanding buyer and vendor management, and prospect even harder so you can get to pick the motivated sellers who actually need to sell. You do not want to be working with unmotivated clients as you will waste your time. 

I will guarantee you at some stage that prices will fall (if they have not already). Please do not worry about this. People will still buy, sell, upsize, downsize, and do all the things they normally do. Prices may go down, but you do not need to go down with them. View a harder market as an opportunity to work on your skills, embrace the challenge, and move to the next level just like I did in 2009.

Happy selling!

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