Surviving to the Upturn / Construction, Real Estate Firms Find Many Ways to Survive Down Economy

Article excerpt

Surviving.

Many people in the real estate and construction industries have had that idea on their minds for the past few years.

Recent hikes in the prime lending rate have increased mortgage rates just when city home sales began to show signs of bottoming out. The bloated home, office and retail space markets slammed into companies in time with a lack of funding due to a shaken banking industry. The depressed market made firms struggle to find ways just to keep alive and see the economic upturn - which many say is just around the corner.

Survival has taken many forms.

Dick Cooper of Cooper Bros. Construction Co. said the first thing any company must do to survive a deep economic slump is cut back.

"You've got to know when to start that cutback," he said.

"Just like everybody else, we've had to cut costs wherever possible," he explained. "The first area was in personnel. We don't have as many employees as we did during the good times.

"We've learned to do more things in-house rather than sending them to outside sources. We've even learned more about direct-mail advertising, which we are now doing."

The company sends brochures to doctors around the country, in an effort to sell construction services, he said.

"Medical facilities are probably our major concern right now," Cooper said.

Developing and mailing those brochures is done within the company. Before the downturn, an outside agency performed this chore, he said.

Other developers and builders said the same thing. To survive, a company must reduce overhead, remove the fat from the budget and be prepared to accept just about any job to improve cash flow.

Real estate agents said they just had to work harder.

Talova Jones, president of the Oklahoma City Metropolitan Board of Realtors, said sales people must deal with the market the way it is.

"You've just got to stay busy," she said. "There's always work to be done and you can't sit around wishing it were better.

"The whole idea behind staying busy is that anyone in sales must work harder when the market is the way it is now."

Marolyn Pryor, whose real estate business recently expanded to to eight offices, the emphasis to successful real estate sales is hard work.

"Attitude is the whole key," she said.

She also said the method of surviving is to position a company to where it's ready for the upturn.

"Our market really is better now," she said, "and people should be buying, for there are some good deals."

Sales representatives must be well-trained, she added, so they will be able to list as well as sell houses. …