Input Fort Wayne is launching a weekly blog series by local small business owners as they navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. This is Week One of Leslie Ferguson's blog.
I’m Leslie Ferguson, co-owner of The Regan + Ferguson Group at Keller Williams Fort Wayne. Heather Regan is my business partner, and together, we manage our awesome eight-person team, which offers the full spectrum of professional real estate services for clients in Northeast Indiana. Leslie Ferguson
I’m the daughter of an Army officer, so I grew up… everywhere… and am a native of nowhere. But Fort Wayne is home now and has been for 22 years. I live here with my husband and three children (two in college out of town, and one in high school). My non-traditional professional journey, which includes my own stint as an Army CPT, Denver Broncos marketing manager (John Elway era, so I’m showing my age), marketing/public relations consultant, retail partner (The Find’s former sister store, The Trove!), grant writer (Fort Wayne Trails—love them), and various volunteer roles with local non-profits, led me to this amazing career in real estate.
I have a passion for connecting people to not just a home, but to a community. After all, having moved 25+ times in my life (three times in Fort Wayne—hazards of the profession), I’ve discovered that people and a community are what make a place “home.” This realization has shaped how I’ve built my business and how my team has been adapting to the current COVID-19 pandemic.
After having built successful real estate careers independently, Heather and I decided to join forces in 2018 and jump into business ownership together. We were determined to learn from other markets, master best practices, and build a team of experts who shared our vision, work ethic, and desire to always do the right thing. Through planning, hard work, strategic staffing, and advice and support from our circles, The Regan + Ferguson Group quickly became a top-producing real estate team in the region.
The U.S. and Northeast Indiana have enjoyed a booming real estate market in the years following the market collapse in 2007. Fort Wayne is consistently one of the country’s “hottest” real estate markets on Realtor.com and was just #7 in March 2020. Our region’s median sale price has risen an average of 5 percent each year since 2008 (from $91,000 to $155,000). This trend continued into March 2020, when the true impacts of COVID-19 were only beginning to take shape in our area.
Despite the pandemic’s profound ripple effects on our overall economy, we are hopeful that the usual steadiness of the Fort Wayne real estate market will persist. We are cautiously optimistic, and I look forward to sharing more updates each week about how our team, and the real estate market, in general, are adapting and reacting to the many changes and unknowns we are facing.
Real estate is considered an “essential” business in Indiana, and as such, we are still able to serve our clients and help them buy and sell real estate while following CDC and Indiana Association of Realtors (IAR) guidelines. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t feeling the impact of this pandemic in other ways.
Our team first felt gradual effects of COVID-19 about mid-March, just prior to the Governor’s stay-at-home order. Showings on our higher-priced listings were slowing down. Some of our sellers were opting to “wait it out.” Buyers were pausing, some furloughed, others’ new jobs were suddenly not happening. We were still selling homes, but not at the clip we were accustomed to, and certainly not at what we budgeted based on previous years.
Typically, April is the beginning of our busy season. Suddenly, we couldn’t count on cyclical trends that have guided our business in the past… post-Spring Break, end of school, lake season, new jobs starting in June/July…. All of the seasonal milestones that shape our activities and our budget are gone. So, like everyone, we need to pivot, adjusting budgets and costs, and creatively approaching the way we sell houses.
To protect our sellers and buyers, we have temporarily suspended open houses and adopted video opportunities instead. In Indiana, traditional home showings are down 30 percent compared to March 2019. We now host virtual tours via FaceTime; we Zoom with out-of-town clients; and we’ve amped up our social media presence for listings.
Real estate is a unique one-on-one experience, so we let our clients decide how they want to approach the process. We have COVID-19 guidelines for showings, with masks, gloves, sanitizer, wipes, social distancing, and COVID-19-specific disclosures. Our professional partners (attorney, bookkeeper, inspectors, title companies, photographers, stagers, lenders, movers, and other agents and teams) are critical to our business, too, and they have their own, unique COVID-19 protocols. Together, we’re learning to find a “new normal.” And just when we’ve pivoted and created new best practices, we have to adjust again.
We now have full-time home offices. (I miss our downtown office, the camaraderie, and our team!) At Keller Williams, our staff hosts four to seven remote training classes daily. Our team “meets” weekly and talks daily in an effort to stay connected, stay up on industry trends, and support each other personally and professionally.
Honestly, what’s helping our business the most is this amazing community. The generosity, selflessness, sharing of ideas, support, and general feeling of solidarity that we’re all in this together.
It keeps us going.
This blog is part of an ongoing, weekly series in Input Fort Wayne, following local small business owners as they navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. To see Leslie’s next blog, subscribe to our free weekly email newsletter, or check inputfortwayne.com next week.