May 2010

Existing-Home Sales Continue to Improve in April
Existing-home sales rose again in April with buyers motivated by the tax credit, improving consumer confidence and favorable affordability conditions, according to the latest survey. Existing-home sales increased 7.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.77 million units in April from an upwardly revised 5.36 million in March, and are 22.8 percent higher than the 4.70 million-unit pace in April 2009. Monthly sales rose 7.0 percent in March. Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said the gain was widely anticipated. “The upswing in April existing-home sales was expected because of the tax credit inducement, and no doubt there will be some temporary fallback in the months immediately after it expires, but other factors also are supporting the market,” he said. “For people who were on the sidelines, there’s been a return of buyer confidence with stabilizing home prices, an improving economy and mortgage interest rates that remain historically low.”
Read the release >
View Existing Home Sales Data >

7 Timeless Skills for Any Real Estate Market


Regardless of how your market is performing, you’ll succeed in real estate if you can master these essential skills.
By Kelle Sparta // | June 2010

The real estate profession changes every day, but the qualities you find in top-performing practitioners do not. The details may shift as technology rolls forward, yet the underlying skills are always the same. If you can master these, you’ll be successful in any market.

Skill 1: Meeting New People

The simple fact is that if you never meet anyone new, you will never have anyone new to sell to. Whether you encounter them for the first time in person, online, or over the phone doesn’t matter. Get one-on-one with them in a conversation about their needs, and you’ve at least started down the path to success. 

Skill 2: Making Personal Connections

You don’t have to be the best at everything to succeed in this business. You just have to be competent and likeable.People buy from people they like. Develop the ability to connect with your clients and make them trust you, and 90 percent of your sales process is done. Want a quick way to engender trust? Tell the client something that it’s not in your best interest to tell them. Show them that honestly is more important than anything to you.

Now, this doesn’t mean to tell them that you got sued last week — that will make people nervous. But it could mean mentioning that the houses in another neighborhood have the same amount of space and are less expensive. They know that you get paid more if you sell them a higher-priced house. Showing them something in their best interests instead of yours makes you trustworthy.

Skill 3: Following Up on Every Lead

Follow-up is a big area where agents fail. If you aren’t going to take every lead you get and work it to death, then you’ll never be a top performer. Working every lead until it either closes or is clearly not a lead anymore is critical to building the solid pipeline that’s required to keep your business continually producing. This means that you need a system to make sure that nothing gets dropped or forgotten. Throw away your Post-it notes; they should never be used as a place to write down a lead. All leads need to be kept in one place, and all of them need a minimum amount of information. That includes:

  • The person’s name
  • Contact information
  • What property they contacted you about (or where they came from if it wasn’t from a property)
  • What their timeframe is for moving
  • If they’re buying, selling, or both
  • If they’re buying, what they’re looking for and in what area
  • What their emotional hot buttons are (what they get excited or angry about)

If you don’t have all of the information you need, don’t be afraid to contact them again for more information. And once you have the information you need, continue to contact them on a regular basis to make sure they stay on track. Don’t worry that you’ll be bothering them—instead, worry that they would otherwise forget who you are or feel ignored by you.

Skill 4: Asking for What You Want

This is typically a big problem with real estate rookies, but you’d be surprised how many veterans forget this piece of the puzzle, too. It’s not always easy, but you have to ask for things to get them. Ask for the sale. Ask for the appointment. Ask for the phone number of the person your client wants to refer.

Don’t wait for people to call you, for the clients to say they’re ready, or for the buyers to tell you that this is the house they want. Be direct. Ask them, “Is this the house you want to buy?” “I’ll get your house on the market tomorrow if you’ll sign right here.” “Which is better for you: Monday at 6 p.m. or Wednesday at 3 p.m.?” “Why don’t you give me your friend’s number and then you don’t have to think about it anymore?” All of these are great closing questions used by some of the top practitioners in the industry.

Skill 5: Setting Appropriate Expectations

Once you have the contracts signed and your clients are committed to the process, then it’s all about meeting expectations. And make no mistake, there will be expectations—whether you set them or your clients do. This is why it’s important to set those expectations yourself; you don’t want to get blindsided by something the clients decided to expect without consulting you.

The best real estate professionals are masters at setting expectations. They know what reasonable timeframes are, and they don’t make promises they can’t keep. They let clients know immediately if things need to change and they set the new expectations quickly and decisively, leaving no room for the clients to wonder (and worry) what happens next. 

Skill 6: Taking Care of Details

You must treat you business like a business. This means that having a system in place to make sure that deadlines get met, appraisals are ordered, home inspection responses come in on time, appointments aren’t forgotten, and problems are solved. You should even have systems to make sure that your clients—and, if you’re really smart, the other side’s clients—have handled all of the details that they need to attend to. Hold on to every deal and work it until it closes, letting nothing go. In saving multiple deals from certain death each year, top performers improve their closing ratios and increase their per-hour earnings. 

Skill 7: Paying Close Attention to Money

Lots of agents tell me that it’s not about the money for them; it’s about the people. And that’s great. I love helping people, too. But if you don’t focus on making money, you’re not going to make any. Real estate is your business, your livelihood, and you deserve to be compensated for the skills and services you provide. If you stop paying attention to the money, you’ll do things like:

  • Negotiate away your commission.
  • Not take a referral fee “to be nice.”
  • Work on listings that will never pay you anything close to reasonable compensation for the amount of work they are because you “feel bad for the person.”
  • Take overpriced listings so that the sellers will like you.
  • Not make buyers sign contracts.
  • Stay with a broker who pays you a below-market split.


All of these things result in you working too hard and not making what you deserve. It’s not your job to right the wrongs of the world. It’s your job to make a living for yourself, preferably a really good one. It’s not about the number of deals you do; it’s about how much money you get to keep when the deals are done. 

You have to focus on the money if you hope to be successful. If you’re not making a profit, you’re running a charity, not a business, and you don’t get grants like charities do to make ends meet.

You have to keep up with changes in technology, industry regulations, buyer and seller priorities, and economic conditions. But the skills that I’ve listed above will take you further than any new flashy marketing plan or social media technique. No matter what’s going on in real estate, these skills will be the difference between a good agent and a great one.

Kelle Sparta is the author of The Consultative Real Estate Agent

 Building Relationships that Create Loyal Clients, Get More Referrals, and Increase Your Sales, as well as being a speaker and trainer specializing in the real estate industry. Kelle is the founder of Sparta Success Systems, a real estate training company that provides tools, products, and training to empower agents and brokers to create lives and businesses they can love. For more information, visit her website at


More People Are Choosing to Rent
A National Apartment Association survey finds that more people prefer renting to owning in today’s market. The report also says most renters and home owners do not have plans to change their housing status within the next year.
Read more >
Auctioneers Pick Up Business in Tough Market
According to the National Auctioneers Association, auctions are up by 14 percent compared to 2009.
Read more >
Housing Still Lacks Stable Funding
FHA Commissioner David Stevens tells bankers that the home-loan market is “sick” without enough private capital.
Read more >
Defaults on Apartment-Building Loans Set Record
A report by Real Capital Analytics reveals that defaults for apartment construction loans have hit a record of 4.6 percent for U.S. banks.
Read more >
N.C. Sellers Must Disclose Proximity to Bases
Starting July 1, sellers in North Carolina will have to disclose if they live close to a military base.
Read more >
Top 8 Most Transient States
California ranked No. 1 in both gain and loss of residents in 2009, according to See which other states and cities made the list.
Read more >

Top News

U.S. abandons case against AIG – CNN Money – – default swaps on mortgage securities. The value of those securities plummeted when the bottom fell out of the housing market in the summer of 2007. 0:00 /3:32Hank Greenberg on AIG’s future At the same time, Cassano said publicly that the company’s losses

Coulee Bank, La Crosse, Wisconsin, Assumes All of the Deposits of Pinehurst Bank, St. Paul, Minnesota
FDIC – – May 21, 2010 Media Contact: David Barr Office Phone: (202) 898-6992 Cell Phone: (703) 622-4790 Email: Pinehurst Bank, St. Paul, Minnesota, was closed today by the Minnesota Department of Commerce, which appointed the 

Market News

Real Estate Weekly: Most wouldn’t walk away from mortgage: survey – MarketWatch – – Forty-one percent of homeowners with a mortgage would consider walking away from their home if the loan were to go underwater, meaning they’d owe more than

April existing home sales jump 7.6% before tax breaks run out – USA Today – – Existing home sales leaped more than expected in April as buyers rushed to take advantage of a homebuyer tax credit before it expired at the end of the month. HOME PRICES 

Buyers’ attitudes about foreclosures changing – Las Vegas Review Journal – – no matter what, Trulia co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Pete Flint said Thursday. For every borrower who avoided foreclosure through the $75 billion Home Affordable Mortgage Program, 10 otherfamilies lost their homes, he said. ‘It now seems clear 

Technology News

Try these 7 features of Google Maps – USA Today – – Google Maps has become the go-to site for maps and driving directions. And, thanks to satellite and street-level photos, you can explore the world. But, these aren’t the only tricks

Other News

Staging With This Year’s Hot Hue – REALTOR Magazine – – Turquoise can instantly add a pop of color to any space, and the versatile color which is often associated with forms of escape, such as a tropical paradise often elicits pleasant and inviting feelings as you step into a room. That’s

New rule says banks must prove ownership before foreclosing – Miami Herald – – Foreclosure filings have backed off this year compared to 2009, but it may not be a brightening economy causing the decline.A new Florida Supreme Court rule requires lenders to verify 


Existing-Home Sales Up 7.6% in April
Because of the expiration of the home-buyer tax credit and continued affordability of houses, existing-home sales increased last month.
Read more >
European Crisis Drives Down Mortgage Rates
The massive debt loads of some European Union member states, most notably Greece, has spurred a flight of capital to U.S. government securities, causing mortgage rates to go down.
Read more >
Push Underway for Exclusive .MLS Domain
A group of multiple listing services have formed the MLS Domains Association to push for the creation of the ‘.MLS’ Internet domain.
Read more >
Survey: Economy Improving, Housing Lags
While analysts believe unemployment will fall over the next couple of years, the housing market remains a question mark.
Read more >
Owners Optimistic About Home Values
Although more than 40 percent of home owners think their residences lost value in the past year, they predict their houses’ worth will go up during the next five years.
Read more >
Despite Downturn, More Shopping Malls Emerge
The number of shopping centers in the U.S. has inched up since 2008, a new report shows.
Read more >

Owners Optimistic About Home Values

More than 16 percent of home owners say their houses increased in value during the past year, the highest percentage in nearly two years, according to a Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan survey.

While 75 percent of home owners viewed current home-buying conditions as good, citing attractive prices and low mortgage rates, about 89 percent thought market conditions for selling a home were poor. While still an overwhelmingly negative number, it was still better than the results of the May 2009 survey when almost 100 percent of home owners panned the climate for sales.

Some 43 percent of home owners said their home decreased in value during the past year. Nevertheless, home owners believe their homes will ultimately rise in value, with the average annual anticipated gain over the next five years at 2.1 percent.

Source: Reuters News, Julie Haviv (05/21/2010)

Housing Report

NAR Testifies in Support of the Veterans Home Loan Guarantee Program

The House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity held a hearing last week on the VA Home Loan Guarantee Program. First Vice President Moe Veissi testified on behalf of NAR, and emphasized the importance of this valuable program. The VA program provides zero-downpayment mortgages to America’s veterans at favorable interest rates. Veissi asked Congress to make the current VA loan limits permanent and also to permanently authorize the VA ARM programs which allow military families access to flexible financing depending upon their needs. Lastly, Veissi urged VA to provide more flexibility for veteran borrowers. VA limits the fees which veterans can pay in a home purchase transaction. While we support those efforts, veterans have found themselves at a disadvantage in some home sales when buyers or unable or unwilling to pay fees traditionally paid by buyers. This is especially exacerbated during the purchase of a foreclosure or short sale, when there is no real “seller” to pay the fees the veterans is prohibited from paying. For more information on the VA Home Loan Guarantee Program, see the VA Toolkit “Unlocking the Future.”

Moe Veissi Testimony on VA Home Loan Guarantee >
VA Toolkit >

Contacts: Megan Booth, 202-383-1222

« Previous PageNext Page »