Commercial, residential realtors targeting mobile millennials

www.livingindupage.com, a residential real estate website provided by Mike Lafido

http://www.livingindupage.com, a residential real estate website provided by Mike Lafido

Real estate is a waiting game. Buyers call brokers looking for property and brokers promise to call back when they hear from ownership – if a better offer doesn’t come in first, that is.

It’s 2007 and the real estate market is booming. Tenants and investors are calling nonstop to negotiate and so begins the game of tag between brokers, owners and buyers.

Once a client calls, a new file is created with construction plans, financial information, letters of intent and much more.

With tens of millions of square feet of commercial space for rent or sale, thousands of files are stored at this office.

Inland realtor Eric Speiss

Inland realtor Eric Speiss

At Inland Real Estate Group, brokers such as Eric Spiess are shuffling back and forth answering as many calls as they can.

“I do my best to get back to everybody,” Spiess said. “But, I have to write the details down, build leads and file it away for later.”

Working at Inland for both boom and bust, Speiss has experienced a great deal in his 7 years working in commercial real estate. Built entirely from scratch, his client list has taken years to develop and it didn’t always come easily.

Before the bust, it was a sellers market and real estate companies held all of the cards. Potential clients would call and send in their information and wait for a return call.

“Whether you worked in commercial or residential, the real estate market was about fielding the best offer,” Speiss recalled.

Just two years into his career, Speiss began to get on a roll selling multiple properties, only to have the rug pulled out in 2009 as the recession leveled the industry.

Undeterred by a collapsing economy, the Oak Brook, IL broker continued to separate himself from his peers by not just being an opportunist. Working primarily in one sector, $1 million to $10 million retail investment sales, Speiss was able to focus on the specific needs of his clients without spreading himself too thin.

In 2010, Speiss earned the first of his three consecutive “Inland Top Annual Producer” awards.

Originally, concerned only with building business, Speiss began noticing customer engagement could be the ticket to a competitive advantage.

“There are a few competitive advantages I have compared to the old school brokers in the industry. I am more tech savvy and clients like that,” Speiss said.

Where many industry leaders have no experience using mobile technology, Speiss can obtain information on listings and property specs more quickly through mobile apps and websites, such as LoopNet.com and CoStar.

Most veteran brokers not using social media and mobile devices are struggling to acquire the younger buyers that Speiss does so well with.

“Some clients like to text, and I have emails come directly to my phone and can respond even when I’m away,” Speiss described. “Old school brokers don’t really use it [mobile devices]. So, for me being more connected also means that I’m more readily available than the old school brokers.”

In the four years since the economic crash, realtors have experienced all-time lows in sales.

homesalesWith more than 1.2 million people having lost their homes in 2008, and the rest bogged down by upside down mortgages and buyers remorse, the traditional 40-somethings that once dominated the real estate market, are looking to downsize and seek rental options.

As of May, single-family rentals are up 30 percent year-over-year, according to National Association of Realtors surveys.

This means an entirely new market of buyers are being targeted by the real estate industry.

Traditionally, developers rely on a big-box tenant, such as Best Buy, to lure local and national tenants into lucrative lease agreements. However, given the financial restraints on many national chains, developers are struggling to maintain above 70 percent occupancy, whereas the pre-recession benchmark was above 85 percent.

As a result, companies are more focused on short-term trends rather than traditional long-term tenants. According to RealTrends.com, frozen yogurt shops are upward trending, as are the millennial entrepreneurs, such as Dom Schwartz, a YoGoFactory Frozen Yogurt franchise owner.

“I am not sure I was their first choice, but so far business has been going strong and I just opened my second shop in the loop,” Schwartz said.

Whether it’s residential or commercial, the market is shifting towards millennial buyers.

This new market is empowered by technology and takes full advantage of the abundance of information that it provides.

The first digital natives, millennials embrace technology like no other generation. Using the Internet as a search for empowerment, unlike previous generations pushing buttons, millennials use open sources such as, websites, social media and mobile apps.

All aspects of their lives are entwined with the use of mobile devices. This is a generation that was born and raised during the digital revolution and while others try to catch up with constant changes in innovations, millennials have adopted them as part of their ecosystem.

Best selling amazon author, Michael Lafido

Best selling amazon author, Michael Lafido

Realtors such as Mike Lafido are capitalizing on these market changes by mastering millennial tools.

Lafido, who began working in real estate in 2000, was a former a high school teacher and football coach. Initially a summer realtor, he is currently the second highest selling residential realtor in the Midwest with 55 listings selling on average for more than $512,000 per home.

Similar to Speiss, economic conditions have not curtailed Lafido’s success and he too has found competitive advantage through specialization and client engagement.

“Most of my clients were established financially. But, when the climate changed, I had to find a new client-base and learn how to reach them,” Lafido said.

Focused primarily on sellers, Lafido is very selective, and describes himself as a rational realtor. “You only make money in real estate when you buy right,” as he likes to say.

On average, 60 percent of national realtors sell one or fewer homes per year, while Lafido is currently selling 2 homes per month.

Key to his success is eliminating those things that usually kill a sale – appraisal, inspection and verification.

“26 percent of homes under contract appraise below the contract price and that will kill any deal,” Lafido explained.

“Everything I do is about getting clients ready for the sale. If I can stay connected with them and make sure that everything is in order, the likelihood for success is very high,”

Part of being connected for this Hinsdale, IL realtor is offering his clients concierge-style realty services. He has launched a specialized mobile-marketing company for luxury properties, hosts selling seminars on how to stage properly for showings and has penned a best-selling book titled “Cracking The Real Estate Code”.

Lafido has also launched an e-business called verifiedhouse.com that ensures his clients are verified before any deal making is done.

“I don’t have time to wait around for buyers, I use websites, apps, emails, books, whatever I have to do.”
Forever viewed as the archaic sibling of the financial industry, realtors are gaining ground, and quickly.

smartphone chartA 2012 report by inMotion Real Estate shows mobile use up 61 percent by real estate industry professionals.

The fact that real estate professionals are going mobile has a direct correlation to the amount of mobile traffic that can be seen across industry websites.

InMotion reports mobile visits have increased 225 percent as a percent of total website visits in 2012 and mobile traffic to real estate websites, specifically, account for 14 percent of total visits.

As the real estate market continues to slowly rebuild, more industry professionals will follow Speiss and Lafido into mobilization.