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How Fast Can You Evolve?

Position Yourself to See the Trend

Back in the spring I drove over to my favorite title company on an errand I no longer recall. Odds are that it involved an escrow either in process or recently completed; as much as I love Lawyers Landamerica Title’s Arrowhead branch and the ladies therein, I don’t often stop by unless there’s a particular reason.

As I pulled up the branch manager was outside in the smoking lounge with two other agents, at least one of whom voiced his passing interest in working with Canadian buyers. What was notable is he had no agenda, no plans, no concept of how to attract this business. But he did recognize the shift, which in itself was a step in the right direction (though just one step.)

If not for my work in various retirement communities in the Valley of the Sun, I might also have missed the shift in currency exchanges that led to Canadian interest in Phoenix real estate to grow. I was fortunate in as much as the plan never had been to work exclusively with Canadian buyers, but Canadians became a large part of my business this past year.

Eggs in Many Baskets

But they’ve not been my entire business. That would be foolish.

There was an agent in my old office who for two years was by far the leading agent in the office – sales, volume, gross commissions, you name it. How? He worked with a predominantly investor clientele. Now that the investors (and/or speculators) have lost their money, how well do you think he’s faring? This isn’t an attempt to laugh at someone else’s woes. But it is indicative of the risk of not diversifying if for no other reason than to be positioned when the current changes.

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My All Phoenix Real Estate blog often has been accused of being unfocused. And that’s actually okay with me because it’s in that lack of focus that I’ve been able to attract clients from a number of different areas – Canadians, investors, first-time buyers, sellers, REO junkies … a shotgun approach has returned a wide variety of clients.

This becomes even more important in times like this. At the Inman Real Estate Connect conference in July, I told an audience listening to my panel’s discussion of “Tapping the Global Real Estate Market” that there was a limited window of opportunity when it came to Canadian (and by extension, almost any foreign) buyers. The dollar was equal to about $1.04 Canadian and was at $1.53 to a Euro, give or take a few cents.

As of last week, the dollar equaled $1.25 Canadian and was at $1.28 to a Euro; the weak dollar that spurred interest in the Phoenix area and elsewhere in the states is disappearing.

Where to turn now?

Adapt Before the Need Arises

The basic reality is those who had not prepared for the changes are going to have a rough couple of months while they shift gears. Russell Shaw has said that there’s a 90-day lag between action and result – a closed sale. There are exceptions, depending on how you look at things … clients who call one day to view some homes and are escrow days later. But odds are, there was a couple of months’ work leading up to the time the client darkened your Inbox.

None of this is to say that it’s too late to make the changes you need to make to thrive in your market. In some ways it goes back to Charles Schwab’s theory of when to invest in the stock market – today’s always a good day to start, the thought being that if you’re in it for the long term, it doesn’t matter when you begin as long as you begin.

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As for me, the big change I will be working on over the coming weeks and months is to build an inventory of listings. In my hunt for buyers, given market conditions, I’ve essentially neglected any effort to try and attract listings. I call this over-evolution … I’ve adapted to the more apparent conditions in play but have missed the obvious factors that always seem to exist.

We can evolve all we want but at the end of the day we still need oxygen. And at the end of the day, this still is a listings driven business.

My next frontier awaits … what’s yours?

Written By

Jonathan Dalton is a Realtor with RE/MAX Desert Showcase in Peoria, Arizona and is the author of the All Phoenix Real Estate blog as well as a half-dozen neighborhood sites. His partner, Tobey, is a somewhat rotund beagle who sleeps 21 hours a day.



  1. Daniel Bates

    October 27, 2008 at 5:48 am

    This is a great reminder, but I don’t think a lot of people know how to diversify anymore. I saw a future in vacation rental management a few years ago and started building clientele and it has really helped me as the sales market cooled, the rentals haven’t really lessened in pace and it’s a great way to meet new people and get your foot in the door with people who may be moving to the area down the road. There are hundreds of ways to diversify the trick is just keeping your eyes open to the trends that are occurring in your market and reacting appropriately.

  2. sheilabragg

    October 27, 2008 at 11:06 am

    How Fast Can You Evolve?: Scientists may have discovered that commenting on this article may extend y..

  3. Missy Caulk

    October 27, 2008 at 10:40 am

    Jonathan, there was a Realtor in Ann Arbor that marketed straight as a builder agent. 99% of her marketing. It was a great niche, (for years). We had so much new construction going on here. Guess what?

    In this market we are doing a lot of things differently to connect with buyers, have to or go belly up.

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