From the New York Yimes:
SELLERS and buyers are not the only jittery players in today’s housing market. Real estate offices along Main Streets throughout Westchester County are struggling to stay in business during one of the worst markets in decades, and at the same time shift away from their traditional job description to become more competitive players on the Internet.
Reflecting the grave state of the market, Houlihan Lawrence, a family-owned real estate company dating back to the 1950s, announced on Feb. 13 that it was laying off 10 percent of its employees — although not its sales agents, who work as independent contractors.
During the past six months, the company has shuttered 5 of its 30 offices and is planning more closings as it increasingly conducts business on the Web, said Chris Meyers, the chief operating officer.
“It’s all part of our down-market strategy,” Mr. Meyers said. “Since September the economy has been in a rapid decline, and we can’t run faster than this wave any longer.”
The company is also increasingly advertising on the Web and establishing business alliances with online listing sites like Trulia.com. “It’s striking how consumer behavior has changed,” he added, “and as a result we have had to shift our strategies to meet them.”
But as the agencies themselves change tactics, so must the agents, said Mark Boyland, the president of the Westchester-Putnam Multiple Listing Service. “The old model of a sales agent who just takes listings, hosts a couple of open houses, and places an ad or two is not enough anymore,” he said.
A new breed of agent is emerging, wise in the ways of short sales and other foreclosure avoidance techniques. “That’s going to be a large part of the business going forward into the next several years,” said Mr. Boyland, who is also an associate broker for Keller Williams in White Plains. “Lots of homeowners have lost jobs and had their salaries and/or hours reduced, and they’re in trouble.”
So what are your thoughts, will we see Boston real estate offices closing in the near future?