Today’s Weather Didn’t Rain On MAAR’s Q3 Parade

The Memphis Area Association of Realtors (MAAR) quarterly report Tuesday afternoon contained the usual data and graphs, but also a message an esteemed panel of brokers wanted to drive home: infectious optimism.

Total sales in Shelby County, Fayette and Tipton counties dropped 20.6 percent from the third quarter of 2009 to 2010, according to MAARdata. Average prices declined 5.9 percent, falling to $130,828, and median price decreased 8.2 percent to $38,561.

And while new home sales dipped a whopping 36.7 percent, the cloud’s silver lining shows sales price rose 3.1 percent to $216,545. Also, bank sales declined 21.7 percent.

In a slide called, “The Not Top 10,” information and research director Don Wade pointed out that Memphis ranks the 5th worst city with September price reductions – along with Albuquerque, N.M. and Boston – at a 35 percent decrease. The no. 1 city was Minneapolis at 43 percent, according to

The percentage of job seekers relocating has also showed a signification dip in recent years, from 16.1 percent in 2006’s Q3, to 13.4 percent in 2009 and 6.9 in 2010. To put it in perspective, the percentage of job “relocators” in 1986 was 40 percent, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

Average time on the market has also increased nationally, yet another glum aspect of the recession. As of Oct. 15, the majority of housing units, 241, spent a minimum of 121 days on the market. The average time spent by all units was 108.64 days.

Other noteworthy tidbits were revealed in an 8-page questionnaire the National Association of Realtors sent out in July to 111,004 buyers and sellers who had a transaction between July 2009 and June 2010, where 8,449 usable responses were generated.

And the survey says? First-time buyers plan to stay for 10 years and repeat buyers plan to hold their property for 15 years. Also, the vast majority of recent home buyers – 85 percent – view their home as a good investment, and nearly half think it is a better investment than stocks.

More than half of first-time homebuyers – 56 percent – financed their purchase with a Federal Housing Authority loan.

Interestingly enough, for-sale-by-owner transactions reached a record low of 9 percent, down from 11 percent in 2009. Sixty-four percent of sellers chose their agent based on a referral or had used the same agent in the past, and 35 percent cited reputation as the most important factor in choosing an agent.

And a panel of four brokers were there to attest to that: Christy Stokes, area manager with First American Home Buyers Protection Corporation; Judy Skinta, broker of Prudential Collins-Maury Inc.’s Collierville office; Sue Stinson Turner, managing broker of Crye-Leike Realtor’s Germantown office; and Leon Dickson, Benchmark at Southwind LLC’s senior managing broker.

The “motivation panel discussion” began with Dickson, who said his main concern was how to his agents’ spirits up, focusing on what we can change rather than the depressing numbers. The market has already corrected itself to a certain degree, he said, using the analogy that the real estate market was in the seventh inning of a baseball game with “a few more innings to go.”

Turner agreed, saying she wasn’t “putting her head in the sand like an ostrich,” and encouraged the other brokers and agents to do the same. The beauty of Memphis, she said, is that unlike areas such as Florida, we never see a huge rise in prices, and the three percent increase has remained steady over the years.

Turner also stressed the importance of being “the messenger,” by bringing in new strategies into each office.

And that team environment was at the heart of Skinta’s speech.

“Making it alone is not going to be easy,” Skinta said.

In fact, 2010 has been Prudential Collins-Maury’s Collierville office’s best year yet, and Skinta attributed that collaboration to the success.

And while the numbers weren’t where real estate professional would like for them to be, Stokes was bullish about the future.

“Those numbers aren’t zero,” Stokes said, adding that numbers often make us over think ourselves.

“KISS,” or “Keep It Simple, Stupid,” also seemed to a key point in the getting-back-to-the-basics discussion. Attending education classes and seminars is the perfect seed to plant for success, Dickson said, while also setting short-term goals to aid in the process.

Tricks of the trade such as sending handwritten thank you notes and calling to check up on clients were encouraged from the audience. For Turner, it’s all personal.

“Focus your agency on task-oriented achievements,” Turner said. “It’s the little things that make a difference.”