Real estate brokerage firms are becoming "lean and mean" in an effort to survive and develop a respectable share of business in an increasingly competitive market.
To attract new business, brokers also are becoming more "customer friendly," enhancing the quality and number of services. If they don't perform productively for a customer, a competitor will quickly step into the scene to capture the business.
Computer-generated data, customized to the needs of individual customers, and sophisticated relocation assistance are among special services offered by brokers.
Brokers also are trimming their costs and number of sales associates to survive the still-sluggish real estate market. Many firms are consolidating their operations, closing some offices. Others are merging to improve their fighting position in the struggle for a greater share of brokerage business.
Many brokers believe this is a particularly critical point in the cyclical real estate market. The recession has forced many cutbacks in business operations. But now that home sales are picking up in most areas and positive signs point to increasing activity, brokers are beefing up their operations to be a strong player in the recovering market.
One of those positive signs is the increasing number of families who can afford to purchase a home. A recent report from the National Association of Realtors shows home affordability to be at the highest level in nearly 18 years.
"We now have stable home prices and very affordable interest rates," said NAR president Dorcas Helfant. "If people weren't so reticent about the economy, these conditions would open the door to homeownership for thousands more families and individuals."
Q. Is commercial real estate construction activity picking up?
A. Not yet. The most recent report from the F.W. Dodge Division of McGraw-Hill's Construction Information Group states, "A stubbornly depressed non-residential building market is keeping the construction sector from realizing its full potential. Even after the long recession, lingering weakness in commercial and industrial building is offsetting very substantial gains in single-family housing and public works construction."
Q. What is the Realtor's Adopt-A-School project about?
A. A number of Boards of Realtors throughout the country have launched this program. It's a community service program, targeting one school within the board's jurisdiction for major improvement in the school's physical facilities. The work is performed by volunteers primarily Realtors, teachers and parents.
Dr. Cesare Caldarelli, Jr., superintendent of a school district where one of these Realtor-sponsored projects is under way, said:
"I couldn't be more pleased with the Board of Realtors' project to upgrade selected schools in the district. This kind of community support is what builds a strong, vibrant school district.
"The working partnership between diverse community groups --Realtors, teachers, parents --makes for an invaluable coalition to achieve a project that's important to the entire community."