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‘This Is The Shift Everybody Has Been Predicting:’ Agents at Connect Now

Matt Lionetti and Jason Cassity said during Inman Connect Now on Thursday that the market shift has been fast and furious, and agents must start stepping up their games to survive.

New markets require new approaches and tactics. Experts and industry leaders take the stage at Inman Connect New York in January to help navigate the market shift — and prepare for the next one. Meet the moment and join us. Register here

Matt Lionetti saw the market shift in real time when the deal for his own house unraveled minutes before he walked out on stage at Inman Connect New York last spring.

“An hour before I got up to speak, I get a call from my lawyer saying the buyers can’t close,” Lionetti, a broker with The Agency in Ontario, Canada, recalled this week. “And not just the buyers can’t close, they’re completely out. They have not got financing anymore.”

Lionetti and his family had already moved out of their home and were living in a hotel at the time. And the stress of having a deal apparently collapse while being out of town and about to speak to hundreds of industry professionals made him physically ill.

“I was lightheaded,” Lionetti remembered. “I thought I was going to throw up. I was getting blurry vision. I walked out on stage and thought, I have to pull myself together.”

Lionetti did indeed pull himself together, and the sale of his house did eventually happen. But the moment highlights how quickly the market shifted this spring. And over the ensuing months, the same story happened again and again.

“When I got back into town, people were really starting to see this happen more and more,” Lionetti said. “It was beginning to seem normal. People weren’t able to close.”

Lionetti recounted his experiences with the shifting market this week during a virtual session of Inman Connect Now. Lionetti moderated the session, which also included Jason Cassity, who leads San Diego-based The Cassity Team. And during the conversation, both industry professionals agreed what has happened this year in the housing market has been profound.

“I think this is the shift I’ve been hearing since like 2017, 2018 was coming,” Cassity said. “Everybody used to say we roll in eight-year waves. This year is the shift that everybody has been predicting for a while.”

Lionetti went on to argue that the market will likely continue to decline and “we’ll see a little bit more of a bottom” before settling into a “more balanced market.” And while that poses some challenges for agents and sellers, there’s also an upside: Buyers may have an easier time.

“It was terrible for our buyers,” Lionetti said of the last few years. “I was losing out on 10 places before we got a place.”

Jason Cassity (left) and Matt Lionetti at Inman Connect Now | Inman

Despite agreeing that the market has shifted, both Lionetti and Cassity were also relatively upbeat about the prospects of good agents. Cassity, for instance, pointed out that over the last few years, a perception has cropped up among consumers that agents “make too much money for not enough work.” And he added that when homes were basically selling themselves, that perception was “not wrong.”

Today, however, the shift is going to force agents to professionalize and prove that they know how to actually market a home. Some agents, who only do a few deals a year and don’t work full time in the industry might not ultimately make it through the downturn, according to the duo of panelists. But those who “go the extra mile,” as Lionetti put it, will still be able to thrive.

Among other practices, Lionetti and Cassity urged agents to hone their social media strategies, effectively work their geographic specialties and work to understand the ways technology can enhance their businesses. Things like professional photography, which might have seemed optional during the pandemic market boom, are once again must-do marketing tactics.

“The skill set that’s required to be a successful agent in this market is a little bit different than it has been for the last two years,” Cassity argued.

Lionetti added that in some cases he has even suggested to clients that they wait to sell — the point being that agents have to be trusted advisers even if it means no deal in the immediate term. And Cassity suggested that the agents who do figure out how to thrive will rise to the top. They may even have more business as the downturn winnows agent ranks.

“This is our chance,” Cassity said, “to show we know what the hell we’re doing.”

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