I just returned from Idaho, where the national group of independent real estate companies to which I belong was meeting, and I can report that it's scary out there. We have all cut costs, and are continuing to cut costs, finding new businesses and new ways of doing business, and changing our organizations to adapt to a changing world. No one thinks that it's going to get easier in the next couple of years.
We are probably not that different from owners in many industries. When you look at the stock market, it may seem as though times are better, since many are reporting higher earnings. However, when you examine things more closely, most of the improvement comes from cutting costs and laying off employees, not from raising revenues. Especially when you get to smaller companies, that strategy has its limitations. As one member of our group reminded us, you cannot save your way to prosperity.
While the whole country is affected, it's a good time to be in the Midwest. Those in that area say that it's because what doesn't go way up doesn't come way down, and that may be so. Everyone agreed, though, that some ways in which we traditionally made our profits--traditional brokerage, relocation, and commercial sales--are all suffering, and people are increasingly looking to new sources of income--mortgage, property management, and insurance (which, ironically, was fairly recently thought not to be much of a moneymaker for real estate). Short sales continue to affect all parts of the country, with the Midwest again being better than Nevada and other hard-hit markets.
We talked about the trends, the harsh realities, and the future of our industry. Afterward, we adjourned to do the only thing we could then think to do--drink!