Vic Nafranowicz started in the real estate business in 1980, shortly before mortgage rates began their inexorable climb to 18 percent and Winnebago County’s jobless rate began its rise toward 20 percent in what then was the worst recession since the 1930s. But even in that dark time, Nafranowicz didn’t resort to a trick he’s trying now — cashback incentives for buyers.
Vic Nafranowicz started in the real estate business in 1980, shortly before mortgage rates began their inexorable climb to 18 percent and Winnebago County’s jobless rate began its rise toward 20 percent in what then was the worst recession since the 1930s.
But even in that dark time, Nafranowicz didn’t resort to a trick he’s trying now — cash back incentives for buyers.
Nafranowicz is offering $500 toward the closing costs to people who buy a house he lists for less than $100,000, $1,000 for houses priced between $100,000 and $200,000, and $1,500 for anything above $200,000.
Considering that Nafranowicz’s business, Homeowner’s Concept, already charges a lower fee than most competitors, it’s a significant cash commitment.
“The way I look at it, I’d rather make something than nothing,” said Nafranowicz, who also is looking to sell his 3,500-square-foot office building and move himself and four agents into smaller digs. “It’s a way to reduce the cost a little bit more — a win-win for me and the buyer. In this economy, you have to give people some kind of incentive. People are worried about their jobs. Not many are in a buying mood.”
The latest home sales figures from a Rockford Register Star real estate database show why Nafranowicz has resorted to unconventional incentives to drum up more customers. In January, just 235 homes and condominiums were sold in Boone, Ogle and Winnebago counties at a median price of $112,500.
The median price is the good news — 9 percent higher than in January 2008, when the number of sales was down 44 percent from last year and down 65 percent from the 672 sales in January 2006, the peak of the easy-credit housing boom.
Nafranowicz’s offer has generated several phone calls but no sales yet.
“It’s gotten noticed, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”
Other companies are pushing back-to-basics training for Realtors struggling to generate sales. Century 21 Country North had agents go through 12 weeks of training on massive action plans. It requires agents to make between eight to 12 new contacts every day.
“It could be on the telephone or face to face, buying coffee, talking at the grocery store,” said Beth Turek, managing broker of Century 21 Country North. “Brokers have tried for years to make their agents accountable. This gives them a measuring stick to hold up to their sales staff. We aren’t following them around making sure they are making the contacts, but the ones who are (see) increases in listings and closings.”
Whitehead Inc. Realtors is encouraging its agents to “Reach Out and Touch Someone,” essentially going through their contact lists, reintroducing themselves and getting an update on a past client’s situation. The company followed up with a “News You Can Use” letter to each with information on market indicators, available mortgage programs, foreclosure prevention information and even healthy-living tips.
“It’s a very trying time. There’s a lot of emotion and concern,” said Dee Primo of Whitehead. “This is a good time to call and wish a happy new year and find out what is going on in their lives. We want them to remember us when they do need a Realtor.”
One of Primo’s agents, Cleo Bankord, is looking to add value to the deal, like Nafranowicz. Instead of money at closing, she’s offering free staging services.
In the real estate business since 1978, Bankord became an accredited stager — someone who makes your house look bigger, brighter and cleaner through strategic placement of furniture and artwork — more than two years ago. The costs of a consultation start at $200 and can run as high as $6,000 for extensive staging on larger homes, according to industry experts.
“I have a slogan — ‘Call Cleo B., results you’ll see, staging is free.’”
Alex Gary can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (815) 987-1339.