Pandemic drives more interest in real estate careers

For Victoria Murphy, a RE/MAX agent in Oahu, Hawaii, getting her Realtor license was always a part of her plan. But shut-down orders in March helped push the college student to get it done.

Murphy said the shut-down gave her enough time to get through the pre-licensing course and she was able to enter the real estate world feeling excited and determined. And she wasn’t alone.

A new report from AgentAdvice revealed that in April, when the pandemic forced shut-down orders across the country, the number of newly licensed real estate agents in Florida and Texas fell to practically zero.

In states where strict shelter-in-place orders were in effect, like California, Texas and Florida, new licenses sank completely in April – 59%, 94% and 97% respectively, year over year according to AgentAdvice.

But as the spring gave way to a record-breaking summer for home sales, the profession began attracting a lot of attention. By the end of July, the National Association of Realtors reported that it had grown to 1,409,727 total members, up 1.9% from the same time last year.

Jim D’Amico, broker and owner of Century 21 North East, said that there have been record numbers of prospective real estate agents enrolling in Century 21‘s real estate school program, Century 21 University.

D’Amico told HousingWire that typically, the brokerage sticks to hiring experienced agents, but the pandemic really changed that.

“I’ve never done this before, but a month ago I ran an ad on Indeed for newly licensed agents, or people looking to get their license,” D’Amico said. “And it’s blown up, it’s keeping us busy all week long.”

That ad got about 340 inquiries in the span of 30 days, D’Amico said.

In the Sacramento area, Jodi Martinez said she has seen a surge of newly licensed hires come to Century 21 Select because of the pandemic as well.

Layoffs, forced retirement and second or third career choices seem to be the main reasons Martinez sees people getting their licenses.

“Also I’m seeing an insurgency…I think it’s part of the pandemic but also has to do with a really strong housing market and the fact that rates are really low,” Martinez said.

“Many people are buying into real estate becoming very relevant again,” Martinez said. “What I’m also finding is that people don’t want to be necessarily tied to a job that determines their livelihood or their future, many people love the flexibility of real estate as well as the probability to create their own income stream and be responsible for their own income stream.”

Keller Williams’ Director of Growth, Matt Green, said a similar thing – uncertainty in other parts of the job market is driving more people to get their real estate licenses.

Across all of Keller Williams’ brokerages, about 3,000 to 3,500 newly licensed real estate agents joined per month over the past few months.

“I definitely think in the conversations that we’re having is that with the uncertainty in some of the traditional job markets and even in some cases, situations where they’ve been laid off, they are looking for opportunities where they have more control of their destiny,” Green said.

“I think in some ways I do think that we are seeing an influx of agents that are very intentional about their interest in really controlling their own destiny,” Green said.

What’s one piece of advice that Murphy would give to newly licensed agents? Don’t let your mindset limit what you can do.

“I know a fear that’s really common – here in Hawaii, at least – is the concept of ‘Oh, my market is saturated,’” Murphy said.

“I am a strong believer that a market is never saturated with real estate agents because as a Realtor, we have the opportunity to make ourselves different and stand out,” Murphy said. “There’s a lot of fun and creative things that you can do to drive business your way and set yourself apart. So I think the concept of saturation is really just a limiting mindset. Just to try to work through shifting that and seeing, ‘Okay, yeah, there are a lot of realtors, but what makes me special?’ and running with that.”

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People movers: Notarize, RE/MAX and Planet Home Lending

Notarize has brought on Wendy Ivanoski as its vice president of Enterprise Strategy and Nicole Booth as executive vice president of Public Affairs.

Ivanoski has 17 years of experience in the financial services industry, including time at State Street Corporation and Santander Bank.

A former Quicken Loans executive, Booth has over 15 years of experience working in state and federal government bodies, focusing on transforming the mortgage industry through technology.

RE/MAX announced it has promoted industry veterans Amy Lessinger as vice president of Business Growth, West Region and Kevin Northrup to vice president, Business Growth, Northeast Region.

Lessinger is a founding principal and broker/owner of RE/MAX Realty in Nevada, having built a team of 130 agents in three offices over the span of 22 years. For the last 16 years, the brokerage ranked as Northern Nevada’s highest-producing real estate office by agent activity.

Northrup joined RE/MAX in 2002 as a franchise development consultant, then moving up to senior franchise development consultant and assistant regional director before being promoted in 2005 to region vice president of RE/MAX Pacific Northwest; in 2012, Northrup took leadership of the RE/MAX Central Atlantic and RE/MAX Carolinas Region; in June 2014, he was promoted to region executive vice president, RE/MAX California & Hawaii; in January 2016, he was promoted to region executive vice president with oversight over several regions; and in February 2019, was named vice president, Business Growth.

Planet Home Lending has promoted four people to vice president positions, supporting the company’s continual growth.

Michaelene Whyte has been promoted from processing manager of the East to VP, national fulfillment, distributed retail, and has been with Planet Home Lending since October 2018. Stephanie Gibbons has been promoted from AVP and underwriting manager of distributed retail to VP, national underwriting manager, distributed retail. Gibbons has been with Planet Home Lending since September 2019.

Lauren Reames has been promoted from processing manager of retention to VP, national fulfillment, retention. Reames started as a processor with Planet Home Lending in July 2017. Nicole Berg has been promoted from AVP and underwriting manager of retention to VP, national underwriting Manager, retention. Berg joined Planet Home Lending in September 2013.

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RE/MAX: The December housing market broke records

By one measure, December 2019 was the strongest close to the year of any year in the last decade.

RE/MAX released its National Housing Report for December 2019 last week, which revealed that the month posted a record finish to a year and the decade.

December finished with a year-over-year increase in home sales of 13.5% in the 54 metros it covers. This is the highest increase of any month in 2019, the report said.

It’s also the highest for the month of December since 2009.

And as sales increased, inventory fell. According to RE/MAX’s report, December saw a 14.5% year-over-year decline in inventory.

Consequently, there was a significant drop in the months supply of inventory. According to the report, there was only 3.3 months of available inventory on the market as of December 2019, compared to 4.8 months in December 2018.

“It was good to see the year-over-year spike in December home sales, indicating robust homebuyer interest,” said Adam Contos, CEO of RE/MAX.

“The strong December capped a solid second half of 2019, with year-over-year sales increases in four of the final six months,” Contos added. “The gains were largely attributable to low interest rates and high demand, and with those factors still in place, we expect sales to continue at a solid pace into the first part of this year.”

Interestingly, housing inventory grew year over year in the first six months of 2019, but shrank for the last six months of 2019, the report said.

The median sale price of a home was $266,000 in December, 11.1% higher than in December 2018. It also represented the highest year-over-year increase for any month of 2019.

Leaders of the year-over-year sales percentage increase were Birmingham, Alabama, up 34.3%; Burlington, Vermont, up 26.7% and Los Angeles, up 26.2%.

Average days on the market remained near the same level as the previous year, with days on the market in December 2019 for 54.

That’s up five days from November’s average but down one day from December 2018’s average.

The metro with the lowest days on the market were Omaha, Nebraska at 24. Homes in Des Moines, Iowa spent the most time on the market, at 110 days.

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