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Training and Technology Arm Agents With Relationship-Building Tools for Today’s Market

Jeanette_SchneiderIn the following interview, Jeanette Schneider, vice president of Management Services for RE/MAX of Southeastern Michigan, discusses the firm’s approach to marketing, and the local housing market.

Facebook: @remaxsemi

Maria Patterson: How did you first get into real estate, and what led to your current position at RE/MAX of Southeastern Michigan?
Jeanette Schneider:
Back in 1990, my husband came out of the service and we relocated to the metro Detroit area where I took a job as an admin in a RE/MAX regional office. To be honest, it wasn’t my first choice, but I never could’ve dreamed back then what it would become. I’ve held almost every position here. The people I’ve met and the opportunities I’ve had—what a blessing it’s been.

MP: What region(s) does the firm serve? How many offices and agents do you have?
JS:
We are the regional headquarters for RE/MAX of Southeastern Michigan—we cover four counties including the metro Detroit area. We have nearly 1,000 agents in more than 50 offices.

MP: How would you describe current market conditions?
JS:
We’re seeing inventory in very short supply in all corners of the market. There’s activity in the market—people are looking at homes; but there’s not a lot of homes out there to show. The good news is we haven’t seen prices driving too high at this point, and we are starting to see some new construction. Additionally, interest rates are ticking up. If all those dynamics continue to play well together, we’ll see moderate price increases.

MP: What are some of the biggest challenges your firms and agents are facing?
JS:
The inventory shortage is certainly one. Peeling it back a bit more, I’d have to say the cost to operate business is rising. There’s an overwhelming number of resources and services to choose from. Whether it’s safety, technology, marketing, or any niche, there are so many providers today. It gets overwhelming for agents who may purchase or sign up for things they never end up taking advantage of.

We don’t necessarily need more tools. Everyone wants to see their company being progressive, but we need people to actively use what’s currently there and use it more effectively, beyond just surface usage.

MP: What are some of the biggest obstacles to homeownership among consumers in your area?
JS:
Due to low inventory, first-time homebuyers are having trouble finding a house—and first-time homebuyers make up a decent percentage of the business. They have the desire, but savings continue to be a problem. Millennials are a major factor and many are carrying student loan debt. They’re trying to save for a down payment, but they’re usually in their first job and working their way up financially.

MP: Given these various challenges, what business strategies are yielding the best results for your firm and agents?
JS:
We’ve put a big focus on consistent training with our folks. We feel it’s our responsibility to train and educate them. We really put a focus on that last year and created a calendar of events where we hold them accountable. As a result, we saw higher transactions. For our newly licensed agents, the up-and-coming generation, they definitely have the desire and the expectation for education, and they want it to be ongoing and diverse. This group is very digital and wants on-demand as a supplement, but not the only option. This generation wants the camaraderie of live training.

MP: What are you doing creatively in terms of marketing?
JS:
On May 7, we held a RE/MAX Open House Day with hundreds of agents across the area holding open houses. This created a bit of a buzz in the community. We had been pushing it on social media, and we were very excited.

MP: What’s the biggest challenge in figuring out the best way to facilitate and maximize social media?
JS:
Social media is where people are, and we want to be part of that conversation. We want to be in the room with them. If someone reaches out to their friends on Facebook and says, “Hey, I’m looking for a local contractor or REALTOR®,” we want to be in that conversation and be very visible. The challenge with social media is time and consistency. It’s not that agents don’t have the desire, but it comes down to finding the time and relevant content to build a calendar.

MP: How is RISMedia’s ACE (Automated Content Engagement) helping you with your social media strategy?
JS:
We absolutely love it. We were attracted to it because we know agents have the desire, but the execution is lacking, when it comes to social media. ACE solves that problem. They can sign up and walk away and it gets done for them with good, relevant content, but not the same thing every day. One day it might be a video, another day, an infographic—it gives them variety and a system where agents aren’t having to figure things out.

MP: How do you advise your agents to make the most of ACE?
JS:
We still want the agent to engage and comment with local flavor. We don’t want them to wash their hands of it. They should rely on ACE to do the heavy lifting, but social media is about engagement and it’s always been about the relationship. ACE is providing content without the agent having to—ACE takes it right out of their hands. The agents who are more engaged in understanding how social media works are loving it and have really embraced it. For those who aren’t as comfortable with social media, we are providing more education.

MP: What are your predictions for your business, and for real estate as a whole in the year ahead?
JS:
Tight inventory will lead the pack. We also think home values will continue to rise. The good news is, it doesn’t seem to be negatively impacting buyers—they’re not taking themselves out of the market. They’re learning that they must move quickly. Millennials will be a big part of the first-time homebuyer market and agents need to be able to track, service and communicate with millennials. Many veteran agents have gotten used to doing things one way, but 60 percent of the first-time homebuyer market is coming from a different generation. You must make sure you know how to service them.

Interest rates are probably going to rise further, but mortgage companies know it’s coming and are adjusting in advance. I would like to believe that strong consumer confidence and employment will help it all balance out.

For more information, please visit www.remax-semichigan.com.

To learn more about ACE, please visit ace.rismedia.com.

Maria Patterson is RISMedia’s executive editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at maria@rismedia.com.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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