Janet Jones on the Strength of Central Arkansas Real Estate

Janet Jones was a math and English teacher before a desire for flexible hours that would accommodate her duties as a mother led her to start selling houses in 1974. In 1980, she opened her own agency, The Janet Jones Co., which is consistently among the 10 largest in terms of sales in the state.

In 1998, Jones became the first woman elected president of what is now known as the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Jones was a member of the first group identified as “Women of Influence” by Arkansas Business in 2010.

Q: The numbers for residential sales and new housing starts seem to be slowly picking up across the country. Will your industry return to pre-recession norms?

A: As you know, the real estate market in Little Rock remained more stable than in many other areas across the country, never reaching the extreme lows of the markets on the East and West Coasts and some other areas. We are optimistic about the future with low interest rates and a strong economy in Little Rock.

Has the job that a real estate agent does changed?

The job of a real estate agent has intensified with the strains on the economy on both buyers and sellers. Financing is becoming more rigorous as lenders’ underwriting guidelines and compliance requirements are changing all the time. Sellers have to deal with a competitive marketplace due in part to the past downturns in the economy and uncertainty in the near term. The agent is the glue that is holding the buyer’s and seller’s hands from beginning to end.

For a while there, everyone who wasn’t a homebuilder seemed to be moonlighting as a real estate agent. What has happened to the level of competition locally?

In today’s environment, you cannot afford to be a part-time agent. This is a relationship business and you need to be educated, knowledgeable and available. If your clients call you and you are at work somewhere besides your real estate business, their level of confidence in your ability to handle one of their most important transactions has to be greatly affected. How you conduct your business, how you interact with your competitors and the many individuals who are involved in your transactions will be noticed by your clients. It’s important to be professional, but it’s also important to be accessible, trustworthy and compassionate in a stressful but hopefully exciting time for your clients.

Location, location, location may still be paramount, but what other factors help sell a house in 2013?

Which houses are easiest to sell? Which are the hardest? Condition and style, the “cool” factor and affordability help sell a house and make it a home. The homes that are in good condition, easy to show and priced to sell are, of course, the preference. The ones that are hardest to sell are not well maintained, not ready to show, priced above the comparable homes, difficult to show or the seller is not motivated.

Three years ago you joked about your Chamber of Commerce speech and your home-seller speech being the same. How has your sales pitch for Little Rock changed?

Little Rock is getting better every day. With unemployment well below the national average and a diverse economy not dependent on any one sector, Little Rock continues to have a strong economy and be a great place to live.

What are the three best lessons in management you could share with readers?

1) Show up. 2) Be prepared. 3) Wear a smile. As I’ve said before, you have to have a plan, stay focused on your core business, stay true to your values, surround yourself with good people and treat everyone with respect and kindness.