When the first major snowfall of the season clings to the mountainside it signals the change from autumn to winter for both nature and the local real estate agents. Although the number of agents declined significantly during the recession there are still about 250 real estate agents competing for business in a community that will see approximately 450 transactions in 2013. While it’s nice to see almost twice as many properties changing hands as agents chasing them, we have to remember that this is a boom year for Lake Tahoe real estate and we can’t expect this high level of sales activity to last forever.
During the past year the number and size of Incline Village real estate brokerage firms remained relatively static. None of the big real estate firms expanded to new or larger offices, although some of them did take on a few more agents in their existing quarters. With so much business being conducted on the Internet and agents able to work efficiently from a home office it's no longer important for the major brokerage offices to keep expanding their square footage unless absolutely necessary.
As the year comes to an end, agents and brokers will begin planning for 2014. The New Year also brings the largest quarterly statement from our real estate board which includes charges for local, state and national association dues. This is the time when many agents contemplate whether to renew their membership, consider a change of brokers or possibly seek alternative sources of income.
It is much easier for an agent in our market to switch brokerage firms between November and April than during the busy summer season. Due to the slower pace of activity, you can change brokers and rebrand yourself during the off-season with fewer disruptions to the flow of business. Whether changing firms is beneficial depends on a number of factors and the goals of each agent. But every year several agents will change offices or on occasion even get a broker's license and open their own office in the hopes of achieving better performance.
Agents who have enjoyed a stellar year will use the off season to contemplate the current commission arrangement they have with their broker and sometimes try to renegotiate more favorable terms. It’s always a little bit of cross between a tug ‘o war and a balancing act whenever agents and brokers sit down to discuss compensation packages. And since each broker is free to utilize whatever compensation structure they deem appropriate, it can often be a case of comparing apples and oranges when agents try to analyze offers from different firms and decide what course of action to take.
The property management and vacation rental firms in town have generally remained fairly stable in the past year with staff turnover holding at fairly normal levels. While market share ebbs and flows, no new major players have entered the game and all of the longtime firms are still standing. This industry has undergone a revolution during the past decade with the advent of online booking and the proliferation of websites such as VRBO.com and AirBnB. Both vacation renters and long term tenants have more choices than ever before and the rental agencies have ratcheted up their service several notches to meet customer demand.
Employee turnover is the bane of every rental agency. Having an intimate knowledge of the property inventory and our local amenities is important to being successful in the rental business, especially in a mountain resort community. While there is always some turnover from time to time at the staff level, the ownership and management of the half dozen or so major rental firms has remained fairly constant. Those who are still thriving are the ones who weathered the recession and continue to work hard and build their businesses into the future.