The Real Deal Miami

Area brokerages staff up for opportunities

By Jennifer LeClaire | June 10, 2009 10:09AM

South Florida’s real estate ranks, thinned by the market collapse, are starting to increase again as brokerages anticipate an upturn.

Some struggling part-timers left the business as the boom times faded, and others near retirement exited gracefully. 

Those who hung on are sharpening their swords in preparation for renewed opportunities. Home sales are once again on the rise, but different strengths are needed for a market characterized by lower prices, fewer buyers, and rising foreclosures.

Companies like Flagler Development are taking advantage of the down economy to recruit talented brokers and train them to leverage market opportunities. In the last six months, the firm has hired four people, taking advantage of cutbacks at rivals such as CB Richard Ellis. 

“We’re a small brokerage compared to the national powerhouses, so we have to be aggressive in going after deals,” said Eric Swanson, executive vice president of Flagler Development. “Downturns create opportunities for us to attract brokers that were involved on the national scene.”

Swanson is looking for what he calls real estate sophomores — brokers who have been around long enough to prove their commitment to the industry, and with a strong track record for closing deals. With more than 5 million square feet of office and industrial projects, as well as over 1,000 acres of land for potential development, Flagler is recruiting with an eye toward the future.

RealEstate.com offers a similar story. A full-service brokerage currently serving 20 markets across the country, RealEstate.com is looking to expand in South Florida. Kurt Gleason, regional vice president for the eastern region of RealEstate.com, heads up expansion efforts statewide. RealEstate.com also offers brokers training to thrive in the current market realities.

“This is a great time for somebody to consider a real estate career, whether they are re-entering the business or getting into real estate for the first time,” Gleason said. “With the exodus of many part-time agents, there is a need for full-time professional brokers who are technologically savvy and responsive to customer needs.”

RealEstate.com, which specializes in using the Internet as a lead generation tool, plans to launch into South Florida in the third quarter. Gleason’s goal is to recruit 50 to 75 agents to cover South Florida before the end of the year.

The bottom line answer to the question of whether or not now is the right time to get back into real estate is this: It’s a good time if you are serious. That’s what Swanson said. That’s what Gleason said. And that’s what Janice Leis, an associate broker at Prudential Fox & Roach in Boca Raton, said.

“Many individuals are in the real estate field only when the going is good. That’s because they don’t see real estate as a profession,” Leis said. “In South Florida I see so many people get in and out. Perhaps quality should be the watchword rather than quantity. It is the fly-by-nighters that create havoc.”