This week’s HW+ member spotlight features Stacy Esser, founder and team leader at Stacy Esser Group/SEG Realty Keller Williams. Based in New Jersey, Esser and her team have been recognized as the No. 1 agent in Tenafly, New Jersey and the No. 1 agent for the Bergen County.
Below, Esser answers questions about the housing industry:
HousingWire: What is your current favorite HW+ article and why?
Stacy Esser: I am a Logan Mohtashami groupie, I’m proud to say! His articles are always my favorite. His recent article, “Purchase apps are at 2009 level: where’s the inventory?” takes a deep dive into what the heck is going on with purchase applications, housing demand and inventory levels.
Logan totally nerds out, and I try to digest the story he’s sharing, the graphs and numbers. He helps me make sense of what my 12-agent team is feeling on the front lines, helping me to help my team be the best agents they can be.
We can’t just show homes; we have to be a professional real estate business, which means being able to have real conversations when buyers and sellers ask us questions like, “Did we miss the market?” “Are we in a housing bubble?” and “Should I sell now or wait?”
We let the data do the heavy lifting. This article, for example, asks why, if purchase applications are down to 2009 levels, are inventory levels still so freaking low? Of course, the answer is about why this is not the same market — in any way — to post 2008. When I try to explain this to people, I have to relate to them in some way, help them understand.
There are many reasons this isn’t like 2008: people are staying longer in their homes, aging in place and have more equity in their homes than 2008. And, of course, there is the sheer demand, with our demographics being the best-ever for homebuyers.
This article comes at the same problem from a different angle: a mortgage application perspective. So, it’s another way to show my clients that not all markets are the same, and this is not 2008.
HousingWire: What is the weirdest job you’ve ever had?
Stacy Esser: I was one of those people who dressed up in full costume and did singing telegrams.
HousingWire: What has been your biggest learning opportunity?
Stacy Esser: It is when I f— up, or as I like to say, when I fail forward. In fact, with my team, “failing forward” is embedded in our culture. So much so, that during our weekly team meetings, we each share a fail forward for the week — what happened and what we learned from it. It’s a very powerful team-building experience.
HousingWire: When do you feel success in your job?
Stacy Esser: I felt like a success at my job once I realized that I could go away with my family, be present, and my business would still run successfully without me. I also feel like a success when my agents are achieving their financial goals. It’s interesting, upon reflection, that my answer is not about selling $150 million.
It’s rather my inner success, the thing that makes me feel really good. You know, that authentic smile you get when you know you’ve impacted other people whom you really care about. My role as a leader is what sticks with me and what drives me.
HousingWire: What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
Stacy Esser: The best piece of advice I’ve ever received is to “stay in discovery mode.” This means that when you’re having a conversation with someone, stop talking and ask questions and dive deep. If not, you will constantly be trying to solve the wrong problem.
Discovery mode helps you to understand the other person’s pain points. People work harder to avoid pain and want to move as quickly as possible toward pleasure, so you need to ask what’s on their mind, why they feel how they do, so you can know what they really want and need. Discovery mode also allows you to build trust, and a rapport with the other person. It’s an essential skill for anyone who wants to be successful in sales, coaching, and leadership.
HousingWire: What are 2-3 trends that you’re closely following?
Stacy Esser: First, rising interest rates are one of the most closely watched trends in the housing market. As rates rise, it becomes more expensive to borrow money for a home purchase. This can lead to a slowdown in the housing market since buyers are hesitant to commit to a purchase when rates are high.
Additionally, rising rates can also lead to a decrease in home values, as buyers are willing to pay less for a home when they can get a lower interest rate elsewhere. The actual yin/yang here will be played out in the months to come.
However, it’s the sellers and buyers that we are working with whom really matter. Sellers are always the last to know when prices come down, and that means tough conversations, managing expectations and searching for their pain points to get them to say yes to a sale price that’s not quite what they expected. This is especially true in a luxury market where buyers and sellers are very tied to the financial world. Most of those sellers don’t need to sell, and will hold on to a price too long just because three months ago they may have seen that number.
The market is shifting, and our prices must shift with it. It’s still a strong market and prices are still up, just not as much as they were before. New and move-in ready is what everyone wants — Millennials and Baby Boomers alike are competing for the same product.
In a shifting market, a house with flaws (like a detached garage or situated on a busy street) will not so easily be overlooked. I believe it’s important to communicate often and lay the groundwork early, so there are no surprises with your clients.
Second, another closely watched trend in the housing market is the inventory of available homes. When there are more homes on the market, buyers have more choices, and can be more selective about their purchase. This can lead to a decrease in home prices as sellers are forced to compete for buyers. Additionally, a large inventory can also indicate that there is a slowdown in the housing market, as sellers are not able to find buyers as easily.
Finally, the last closely watched trend in the housing market is construction activity. When there is an increase in new construction, it indicates that builders are confident about the future.
HousingWire: What keeps you up at night and why?
Stacy Esser: For me, what keeps me up at night is lack of inventory and unaffordable housing. I see too many people struggling to find a place to live, and then being priced out of the market. It’s not just first-time homebuyers, but also people who are looking to downsize or upgrade.
This affects my team’s ability to convert. Are they spending time with buyers that are ready, willing and able? Time is our most valuable currency, and I spend a lot of it thinking about how to best leverage my team’s skills.
I want to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to be successful — for ourselves and our clients. I also think about how we can better market our value proposition, and if we’re effectively communicating what makes us unique. Sometimes it’s hard to turn off my brain and stop thinking about work, but I eventually fall asleep.
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