Five Questions With: Joe Fazio

Joe Fazio is a licensed partner and broker behind Engel & Völkers East Greenwich and Engel & Völkers Barrington East Bay. Together with franchise owner Emilio DiSpirito, Fazio helped establish these local Engel & Völkers offices in 2021, joining a global network comprising more than 17,000 real estate advisers in 32 countries. Engel & Völkers is a global real estate firm that was founded in Germany 46 years ago.

A lifelong Rhode Island resident, now living in Coventry, Fazio started his career in real estate as operations manager for the DiSpirito Team in 2016.

PBN: What have these past three years with Engel & Völkers East Greenwich been like, and what are your thoughts on how the agency has taken root here?

FAZIO: The past three years with Engel & Völkers have been nothing short of fulfilling, with significant personal and professional growth. My business partner and I have built our company from the ground up, and currently we have about 25 amazing advisers and four key staff members with whom we have the pleasure of doing business with every single day.

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Engel & Völkers has taken root here in Rhode Island due to everyone’s commitment to exceptional service, extending from our interactions with clients to our marketing department, in-shop staff and various other departments, all the way up to corporate. With all these different areas sharing the same mindset and employing similar systems, it is certainly leaving an impression not only here in Rhode Island but throughout the globe.

PBN: I’ve read that you’re known as the technology guru for the firm. What are some of your favorite technologies used by Engel & Völkers East Greenwich to better serve your clients and manage operations?

FAZIO: While I am proficient with technology, I consider myself a “systems guru.” Engel & Völkers provides amazing tech, such as marketing tools, a CRM [customer relationship management tool] and mobile apps for you and/or your clients, to name a few. So, when you are dealing with an overwhelming amount of tech to support not just your clients but also, equally as important, your business, time becomes crucial.

As a systems guru, one of my goals is to create time for people. I first met my business partner, Emilio, in 2016. One of the initial steps we took was determining his “effective time” and from there, we identified the systems that needed to be created and in what order. This allowed him to allocate most of his time to tasks he was most effective at. Because of these systems, his production doubled year over year and the compounding effects put our team on national charts, which garnered attention from Engel & Völkers. Shortly after, we were asked to open Rhode Island’s inaugural shop.

I now apply that same mentality and strategy to our entire brokerage. Systems are never truly “done”; they are ever evolving and always improving. I guess I could say that to effectively use your favorite technologies in any setting, you need time, a system and a strategy. Otherwise, it is just an app.

PBN: You’ve been described as calm and analytical when closing deals. What kind of conflicts can arise among buyers, sellers and agents and how do you approach navigating those situations?

FAZIO: In the current real estate landscape, buyers often face conflicts in locating a home in markets with limited inventory or dealing with financing issues. Seller-side conflicts commonly revolve around inspection results or disputes over property valuation. Among Realtors, common conflicts include general miscommunication and, recently, compensation disagreements.

As a calm and analytical person, I recall a valuable statement from a former broker who emphasized that we are not competing agents but cooperating agents. This thought aligned with my approach to solving any conflict, which is seeking a resolution where everyone benefits. While it’s unrealistic to expect every transaction to end with satisfaction all around, adopting this mindset from the beginning will set you on the right path. This also doesn’t mean give up and give in. This means that sometimes you may have to help the other side understand reasoning for certain things. It’s all about effective communication.

In most traditional transactions, a buyer is looking to start a new journey, a seller looking to downsize or upsize, and two real estate professionals guiding them along the way, all feeling as if they are responsible for this complex process while trying to juggle on a unicycle.

Managing stress is crucial, and as a broker, part of my role is to remain calm and hope my composure will feed to others. It has in many cases, and my clients thank me for it in the end. As someone’s Realtor, you are their guide, coach and support. Your actions and reactions directly impact them and others closely involved with the transaction.

PBN: What is it like working with clients who are out of state? I’ve read that you helped sell a blueberry farm to clients in Hawaii.

FAZIO: To this date, that remains one of my favorite properties! A colleague at Engel & Völkers, licensed in another state, asked me to help her friends in Hawaii purchase a home on the East Coast. While clients just a couple of hours away can plan a day to drive to town, business as usual, working with out-of-state clients, such as those in Hawaii, demands preparation in specific areas.

First and foremost is clear communication. As their boots on the ground, you are their eyes and ears. Out-of-state clients may view homes through your phone’s camera or, in some cases, through a recording you made. These particular clients saw their new home, in person, for the first time when they flew in for the closing. They had the same love for it as they did all long – a moment that validated the trust and communication maintained throughout the process.

The second crucial aspect is to be prepared with your technology. Sending many photos and videos is essential, and fortunately, most of us have smartphones capable of this. Ensure you have tools [such as] Google Drive or Dropbox on your phone to share large files via email. Additionally, having an electronic signature program and a virtual meeting app on your phone is key. Lastly, having a trusted network of local professionals is vital. This can be anyone from a real estate attorney, a contractor, or a cleaning service. Having this comprehensive package not only facilitates a smoother transaction for any client but also ensures continued guidance for them after the transaction closes.

PBN: What’s your outlook for the local real estate market as we head toward 2024?

FAZIO: A significant portion of the current market is influenced by inflation. The higher interest rates are here to combat that. While we have been experiencing a low inventory, high home price setting for a few years, the increased interest rates have led to even more buyers and sellers holding back in 2023.

I anticipate that we will continue to face a low inventory situation throughout 2024 with more buyers than available homes. Many experts predict that interest rates will slightly decrease in 2024. If this happens, I believe it will stimulate activity in the markets, with more sellers being willing to relinquish their lower rates and buyers experiencing a bit of relief.

Marc Larocque is a PBN contributing writer. Contact him at Larocque@PBN.com. You may also follow him on Twitter @LaRockObama.