MP: So then, what are your overall feelings toward assuming the President’s role for NAR in 2014?
SB: I’m very excited about the opportunity. At the same time, I am keenly aware that there are a lot of challenges ahead. I believe in this work and I believe that what we do has a bearing, not just upon our industry and the economy, but upon our society and our nation. Property ownership is part of the American Dream. In doing this work, I feel that we are all serving our country in a profound way. I’m passionate about the work we are doing, and I want to make this year a great experience for our members.
MP: How has the real estate market changed permanently post boom and bust?
SB: One of the changes that has come out of the “Great Recession” is a tempered and more realistic view of property value. And there’s more cautiousness among younger buyers who have seen their folks lose homes because they overinvested, or the market turned on them. A home cannot just be seen as a piggy bank or as an equity line. A home is a long-term investment. I believe consumers now understand that. So the biggest change is a better consumer awareness of value and their sense of being more deliberate when purchasing a property. The real estate downturn and the recession taught us to be better stewards of our money and more discerning of value.
MP: In your opinion, what were the most significant changes to the business last year?
SB: The biggest change that took place in the past year was our improving economy. Things are getting better, albeit slowly. Unemployment is slowly dropping, home values are more than stabilizing, and in many cases, rising. We’re seeing a generally improving market, which gives us the opportunity to reinvest in our businesses, improve our facilities and expand our technology. We can now make improvements that we have had to put on hold for several years.
MP: In your opinion, what is the current status of the real estate recovery and what can we expect in 2014?
SB: I think we’re going to see a continuing improvement. Consumers are demonstrating a growing confidence in their investments, whether residential, commercial or land. We’ll see stability in home values. We’ll also be dealing with slightly higher interest rates, but it’s still going to be a historically low rate. (One of my agents recently showed me a company newsletter from November, 1983, which told of how “people were lining up for the new 14 percent mortgage rates.” The good old days weren’t always so good, were they?). We’ve been able to accommodate fluctuations in interest rates in the past, and I’m certain we will be able to accommodate them in the future as well. However, it will take the consumer a while to switch gears in terms of expectations regarding interest rates, which will most likely be in the 4.5 – 5 percent range. Maybe these are “the good old days…”?