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A Terrific Time to Buy

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By Kayla O'Brien

RISMEDIA, August 29, 2009-The $8,000 first-time home buyer tax credit along with record low interest rates, numerous tax credits as well as a housing inventory that is going to take some time to shrink, now is a terrific time to get into the real estate market. Whether you are looking for your first home or even a move-up home, you shouldn’t be sitting on the sidelines. Tony Ventura, Owner/Manager of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Ventura Barnett Properties discusses why now is such a great time to buy a home.

Tony Ventura
Owner/Manager
Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Ventura Barnett Properties
San Jose, CA

Years in the industry: 29
Number of offices: 2
Number of agents: 140
Region served: Santa Clara County, part of the Bay Area, Silicon Valley
Average sales price in your market: $650,000
Average number of days a home spends on the market: Considering the diverse area we work in, 45 days is an average of the long time and short time.
Thoughts on today’s marketplace: As slow and negative as the market is, for new real estate agents who are serious about real estate and making money, it’s a golden opportunity. If you do the basics-knocking on doors, making calls, getting face to face-with less competition, when the market turns around, you’re going to be king of the hill.
The best way to stay in touch with agents is…E-mail. You can send one message to 150 people at the click of a button. We also have weekly meetings to help keep them on top of legal changes, the marketplace, and what we have to do to stay on top of contracts, etc.
It pays to be tech-savvy in real estate because…While the average lead response time is between four and five hours, in the Silicon Valley it’s 15 minutes. Otherwise, they’ve moved on to the next person. Part of staying ahead of the curve is being tech-savvy and building your response time in minutes, not hours.

When it comes to listing homes, what’s your pricing strategy?
For most of our sales under $700,000, the strategy is to price properties at or below market to generate a multiple-offer situation. It falls under the premise that in many cases, if you want to net more money, you have to ask a little less. We get crazy looks when we say that, but up until the down market, if you offered high, you could always come down because there were buyers standing in line. In today’s market, if you offer high, people won’t look at it.

How are you reaching out to first-time home buyers?
We are spending most of our money on the Internet. A lot of the agents are reaching out to various neighborhoods, sending the message that for the first time in the history of real estate, we have low interest rates and low prices at the same time. We also sent out a campaign on renting vs. buying. Rents are high in the Silicon Valley and the margin between renting and owning has narrowed.

We also take into consideration the tax credit and the rebate. The California Association of Realtors® (C.A.R) started a campaign in April that entitles anyone who buys a house from a REALTOR® in the state of California from April through December 31, and gets laid off, a rebate of up to $1,500 from C.A.R. One of the fears out there is that prices are going down; the other is, “what if I lose my job?” If you bought a house through us, the $1,500 is payable for six months, the normal time it takes to find another job. Between the tax credit, the C.A.R. rebate, low interest rates, and low prices, it truly is a terrific time to buy.

What’s your biggest challenge in today’s market and how is your company taking it on?
We have two big challenges. The first is that there’s a big section of the buying public that’s still fearful. They want to know if prices will continue to go down or not. We don’t know that for sure, but we try to convey that a house is not a stock. This is a place you’re going to raise your family. If you buy at a good price with low interest rates and a fixed-rate loan that you can afford, even if prices go down, you don’t have to sell. The only way you’d have to sell is if you’re in a predicament. If prices go up, I won’t tell you to sell either. Build your equity. If you’re on a 30-year loan, every month your principal goes down and you’re building equity. In the meantime, you’re treading water, knocking off the principal. For people that want to wait, you may have found the perfect house today, but it won’t be here six months from now.

The second challenge is REOs and short sales. Our normal closing time is 30 days; however closings for distressed properties go on for months so it could be months before we get paid.

What’s your best tip filtering out real leads from the rest?
You have to be more diligent as to the questions you ask buyers and sellers to make sure these people are real buyers and sellers. You have to have three-times the number of listings and buyers to get the same result. If you don’t do a good consultation and ask questions and find out the true motivation of people, you’ll find yourself busy but not getting paid.

How are you utilizing technology to stand apart from local competition?
We just started including text messaging with our sign riders. I’ve been told by many people and surveys that people under the age of 30 don’t want to call the number on the sign anymore. When a person drives up, instead of calling, they can text message our company and receive a text back with the particulars on the property.

We also try to be in all the places of the Internet-every day there’s something new going on. We’re trying to stay ahead of things, having our staff search sites and places where we need to be. Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate does a good job of that–they’re very tech-savvy. Our agents are also using Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter. While it’s hard to actually advertise on them, you really want a presence on them in order to connect your name with real estate. If someone wants to buy or sell a home, they’ll remember us. Real estate companies that are not in tune with the Internet will be out of business. If you’re waiting for the phone to ring, you’ll be waiting a long time.

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