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Get creative - As inventory drops, agents dust off trusted techniques

With sales down and inventory low, agents are combing social media, calling expired listings and seeking out people with major life milestones. In other words, they're meeting the moment with creativity.

Image by: DALL-E and Inman


July 24, 2023

One of Mike Opyd’s agents had a problem.

Opyd is the owner of RE/MAX Next in Chicago, and recently told Inman that one of his agents was working with a client who owned multiple properties on a single block in Chicago. The client wanted more property in that location, but thanks to an exceedingly tight inventory landscape, nothing was for sale.

Mike OpydBut that didn’t stop the agent. Instead, Opyd said, he called every single homeowner on the block until he ultimately found a family who had inherited a property from their father and was interested in offloading it. 

“Most people told him no,” Opyd said,” but he did find a property.”


The episode highlights how agents are having to go the extra mile now thanks to a limited supply of homes. And the supply truly is limited: According to the National Association of Realtors’ latest report, national unsold housing inventory fell to 1.08 million at the end of June, or the equivalent of 3.1 months' supply at the current sales rate. For context, six months of supply is typically considered “normal,” or at least it was in the years before the pandemic.

That of course makes life harder for agents. But Opyd and other brokers who spoke with Inman for this story said they’re seeing real estate pros find success by trying new or different strategies. They’re combing social media, calling expired listings, and searching for people who have just hit major life milestones. In other words, brokers said that surviving or thriving in this moment requires creativity — and good old-fashioned hard work.

“In this market, you’ve got to get creative,” Opyd said. “If you’re not getting proactive and you’re just relying on the MLS, you are putting your business in the hands of other Realtors.”

The range of activities agents are trying today runs the gamut.

Opyd, for example, said agents in his office have found new clients by exclusively calling the numbers listed with expired or canceled listings, then asking the owners if they were still interested in selling. 

“One of my agents found three or four different properties for clients just by simply calling expired or canceled listings, or even just people in a certain area,” Opyd said.

For Compass agent Alex Platt in Boca Raton, Florida, the drop-off in inventory has completely changed day-to-day operations for his team. Whereas working with a buyer used to involve taking the client out to see multiple properties in a day, it now involves a significant amount of searching for properties that may not be publicly listed.

Alex Platt“Right now, you might take a buyer client out to see five houses,” Platt said. “If they don’t like them, for the average agent your day might be just waiting for a new listing to come up — but we’re a little more proactive so we’ll be reaching out to off-market homes or sellers in a neighborhood trying to find something. Instead of the days being showing, showing, showing, it’s a little bit more searching and backend stuff.”  

Platt says his team has actually increased their transactions and dollar volume over the past year, which he attributes to their more proactive approach.

“I think we’re excelling in a down market,” he said. “We’re getting a little more creative now and it’s really worked for us.”

That down market is largely the result of high mortgage rates, which climbed rapidly last year as regulators worked to battle inflation. Homeowners largely responded by refusing to list their homes lest they lose their lower rates. Now, the rate-induced lack of inventory is expected to persist if the Federal Reserve continues its “higher for longer” rate strategy that will keep rates elevated and suppress home sales, according to Fannie Mae economists.

The National Association of Realtors’ existing-home sales report, released Thursday, puts the situation further into context, showing that not only is inventory down, but also that sales of existing properties fell 18.9 percent annually and 3.3 percent monthly in June. Prices climbed to a median sales price of $410,000.

A report released Thursday by Redfin additionally found that home prices were up 2 percent from a year ago in mid-July due to demand greatly outpacing supply in most markets.

This low inventory environment has naturally resulted in increased competition as buyers scramble for the few available properties. And it’s taking a toll on agents working with buyers. Opyd told Inman an agent in his office wrote 170 offers throughout the Chicago suburbs in 2022. Only 30 of those offers were accepted.

“Agents are burned out at this point,” he said.

Against a backdrop of low inventory and reluctant sellers, Alexander Fromm Lurie - who leads The Lurie Team in San Francisco - suggested “mining for motivation” to track down people who are looking to sell because of a major milestone in their life such as a marriage, divorce, or new job.

alexander Fromm Lurie“Mining LinkedIn, mining Facebook, mining Instagram, mining the news, those are four areas just to be keeping your eye on,” Lurie said. “You can’t just sit behind your computer and expect people to call you. We have to be proactive as agents to understand who is really interested, ready, and able to make a move.”

The upside is that agents who hit the ground running during the down market should expect to be rewarded with more business than ever once the housing market rebounds, according to Lurie.

“We are in a cycle and things will change, by putting in the work now — sure it will enable us to get through this time, but by putting in the work now I suspect that those who really do it in a comprehensive way, they will hockey stick out of this cycle — whatever that is, whether it’s a year from now, two years, three years,” he said. “They will hockey stick out of this with more business than they ever had before.”

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