Different ways to look at real estate

A successful real estate agent in this day and economy has to do more than just represent buyers and sellers.

As the housing market continues to be roiled by foreclosures and falling sale prices, agents who want to stay in the real estate business are finding new ways to do it.

“"Most of us have had to do some ‘stretching exercises’ in order to remain competitive in this market,” said Wight Mixon, president of the Atlanta Board of Realtors. “Being flexible is a must if you want your business to grow in this environment.”

Rosina Seydel is one of the agents who've stretched. Almost four years ago, when Seydel felt the housing market shifting, she began looking for other ways to work with real estate.

“I wasn’t really interested in the sale anymore, but I very much wanted to work with properties,” she said. “Especially properties that are iconic in Atlanta.”

Seydel's solution was to start Lease Luxury Properties, a real estate business that offers special occasion event opportunities in private homes.

“What I wanted to do was help homeowners think of different ways to use their homes,” she said. “For some of these homes to be locked up and never shown, that would just be a shame.”

Seydel’s clients live in homes so distinctive they have names -- the Pink Palace, Pemberly and Villa Di Luci, to name three. The homes aren’t for sale, but they can be leased for catalogue, video or movie shoots, private parties and weddings.

“It’s a way for me to still be in real estate but not represent a buyer or seller,” she said.

With the down market and wobbly economy, Seydel said, she's had no trouble finding clients.  But what she does isn’t for people looking to just make money or cover their mortgage.

“If someone has an immediate need, or needs to sell their home there are people I refer them to,” she said. “What I do is provide homeowners with ways to share their space with others.”

The number of working real estate agents fell 9 percent in Atlanta since 2009, according to Mixon. Statewide, the drop has been 15 percent from the peak, according to the Georgia Association of Realtors.

Gabby Gray, who runs RMG Properties, a Decatur-based property leasing and management business, is another agent who has relied on other lines of business to take up the slack in sales.

For the past eight years Gray has worked in property management and leasing, and that business has zoomed she said.

“We went from somewhere around 18 to 70 properties in two years,” she said. “It was amazing growth for such a short period of time.”

Gray is also an associate broker at Beacham & Co. Realtors, keeping her in touch with her roots as a traditional real estate agent.

“I try to split my time between offices,” she said. “Because I don’t ever want to totally separate from the buying and selling of real estate.”

Gray and Seydel say finding alternative ways to work within the industry are key to the survival of real estate agents everywhere.

“There are a lot of ways to stay in real estate,” Gray said. “You just have to change the way you’ve always done things.”