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Florida Association of Realtors®’ Leaders Seize the Day/Users/adamp/Desktop/Stuff for FAR/Magazine Assets/JAN09/images/Leadership09

Florida Realtors®’ 2009 leadership team offers ideas for building business this year.

Last year was an unpredictable year for many real estate professionals as challenges from the financial market, tightening credit, lower home prices and the surge in foreclosures made for an unsteady market. As 2009 rolls in, the Florida Association of Realtors® (FAR) is acutely aware that building business, helping buyers get loans and lowering inventory levels are at the top of most sales associates’ and brokers’ minds.

No matter what the market is like, there are golden opportunities to seize and it’s vital that FAR find those nuggets of business. “From working with first-time homebuyers and suggesting retirees sell their homes and get a great deal on a condo to helping businesses find new locations or investors find that great Florida deal, if you watch the trends, you can find a market niche that will get you through,” says FAR President Cynthia Shelton, CCIM, CRE, and an associate with Colliers Arnold, Orlando.
In addition, FAR offers many tools and services that can help. “Members can take advantage of services such as the FAR Legal Hotline, FAR Tech Helpline, powered by Real Estate Industry Solutions, and the multitude of educational products FAR provides,” says Shelton. It’s a budget-conscious way to boost business.

Florida Realtor magazine spoke with the 2009 leadership team to discuss the coming year.

Florida Realtor: What are your priorities in the coming year?

Shelton: One of our top priorities is to continue being aggressive on the legislative front. We started with Amendment 1 and continued with Amendment 5 (which is now off the ballot). In this challenging market, it’s even more important that we continue to push efforts to reduce taxes and insurance for all property owners.

In addition, we want to continue the FAR “It’s a Great Time to Buy” media campaign. It’s critical to educate consumers.

In an effort to save members time and money as well as educate on a wider scale, FAR will leap into the future with state-of-the-art video conferencing capabilities. Through select remote locations, we can use it for legislative initiatives, education and more. We can offer frequent legal updates, committee meetings and even conference with our Governor and legislators. This will save our volunteers money and time.

Davis: The leadership team is looking for ways to assist brokers and associates with training tools. We’ll work to improve communication as well as provide products and services that will help motivate and encourage our members.

Fitzgerald: This year more than ever we need to (along with NAR) be involved in the new tax policies that will be coming our way. There are a lot of tax changes that may dramatically affect our businesses. We must be proactive.

Greene: As treasurer, I’ll closely monitor our membership levels to assure our budget remains relevant. We don’t want to compromise on the services we offer whether it’s educational classes, technology, communication, FAR Leadership Academy or FAR Legal Hotline.

Asher: We must find a way legislatively and with partners to put better financing options in place for buyers.

Florida Realtor: What challenges do real estate professionals face in 2009 and what can FAR do to help them meet those challenges head on?

Shelton: The financial markets will cause things to change so Realtors need to know how to stay on top of those changes and adjust. That’s where FAR communication and video conferencing comes into play. The Association’s Internet presence, publications such as Earlybird e-newsletter, Florida Realtor magazine, and FAR Annual Convention and Trade Expo can help members work smarter and find cost-savings.  Obtaining loans for buyers of all types of properties will continue to be a big issue.

Fitzgerald: The economy has put many buyers and sellers on hold. FAR must maintain a strong connection with brokers and agents and we can do that through video options. In addition, TransactionDesk, powered by Real Estate Industry Solutions, is an incredible, inexpensive product that sales associates can use to coordinate transactions.

Greene: With the abundance of inventory, it will take time to move toward a sense of normalcy. We’re moving toward liquidity in the credit markets but the traditional way of doing business is key. FAR provides a wealth of information in the form of articles on short sales, foreclosures, marketing to international buyers and more. Also, our representation in Tallahassee will keep the dialogue alive for more property tax reform and lower insurance premiums.

Asher: Obtaining financing for qualified buyers is a huge challenge. The perception of the consumer as it pertains to home sales is another. FAR does a good job of broadcasting the services it offers, and we’ll continue to let members know through FAR’s Annual Convention and Trade Expo, education seminars, Florida Realtor magazine, floridarealtors.org and other services just how to stay focused and adjust to the market.

Florida Realtor: Where do you see opportunities in 2009?

Shelton: I see opportunities for first time buyers and retirees who want to snap up condominiums at low prices.

Davis: There are builders with leftover inventory. Instead of 100 houses, they have two or three. Find niches such as small subdivisions and renters who are working toward buying.

Fitzgerald: I see opportunities working with Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. In addition, the foreclosure market is very important. Sales associates who are skilled at handling short sales will be in demand.

Greene: In Southeast Florida, we have a great secondary home market and the international market is strong. I also see opportunities with investors who have cash and are looking for great pricing as well as in managing bank-owned properties and working in property management.

“I am looking forward to working with Realtors in Florida this year,” says Fitzgerald. “Even though we’re in challenging times, we can all do well and make a difference. We are the eyes and ears of the community, and it’s important that we stay that way.”

Shelton agrees, “Don’t give up. Take advantage of the opportunities in the marketplace, take additional education offerings and use the products and services that FAR provides. They will serve you well in any market.”

Oceans of Opportunity

Florida’s market may be challenging but anyone who’s been through a roller coaster market before knows that opportunities abound. Florida Realtor magazine spoke with the 2009 district vice presidents and asked them where they see promise in the year ahead:

District 1
Honora Giumenta
Broker-Owner-Instructor
EXIT Realty First Choice
Palm Coast
“This is a great time to attend as many educational classes as you can, implement what you learn and quickly rise to the top in 2009.”

District 2
David E. Wyant
Broker-Owner
Wyant Realty
Ormond Beach
“The value of international currencies still makes Florida real estate a great bargain for second homes or investment properties. It’s a great opportunity for Florida Realtors.”

District 3
Phyllis A. Choy
Director of Sales-Realtor
Water Pointe Realty Group
Tequesta
“The formula for success in the coming months needs to be that of optimism. Continue to fuel your pipeline with sellers who want to realistically sell a home and work closely with buyers who will buy a home during this economic curing process.”

District 4
Carlos M. Cruz
Sales Manager
LMG Realty Inc.
Miramar
“There are a lot of changes in the lending process, and Realtors have to be ready to educate the many buyers who’ve being waiting for the market to change. Work with lenders and community groups and put together buyers’ seminars.”

District 5
Gerry Rosenblum
Salesman
Prudential Florida Realty
Marco Island
“As savvy investors and end users move back into the market, sales associates must be ready to show the opportunities that now exist. I don’t believe we’ll see any upward price movement until the short sales and foreclosures are cleared. This provides a great opportunity for buyers who want a piece of paradise for their future.”

District 6
Brad Monroe
Broker Associate-Realtor
Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate
Tampa Bay
 “I think the growth opportunity in our current market is selling bank-owned or REO properties. The corporate sellers are anxious to sell, even at substantial loss, to move their inventory.”

District 7
James K. “Butch” Owen
Broker-Owner
Tri-County Realty Group Inc.
Ocala
“Prices in the residential market are at or near 2003/2004 levels, and there are some deals out there. Concentrate on past customers for leads and business. In other words, ‘back to the basics.’”

District 8
Patti E. Ketcham
Owner-Broker
Ketcham Realty Group Inc.
Tallahassee
 “We’ll see a continued move back to the basics. FHA and VA financing will become the preferred way of financing. We’ll continue to see the end of the flippers and the move back to holding a home for a number of years—which is the way it works in a healthy real estate market.”

District 9
Cliff Chaplin
Broker-Owner
The Realty Leaders
Niceville
“I think most of the traditional niches will still generate business, but working your referral base and keeping in touch with old customers will become more important than ever.”

District 10
Arthur Mattson
Broker-Owner
Lakeland Realty
Lakeland
“The opportunities next year will be for the buyers who want to take advantage of the surplus of homes on the market at great prices.”

District 11
Christine Hansen
Owner
Century 21 Hansen Realty Inc.
Fort Lauderdale
“I feel that a great opportunity is with first-time homebuyers. With prices low and inventory at an all-time high, first-time homebuyers now have the means in which to enjoy a piece of home ownership.”
 
District 12
Hope Andrews
Owner-Realtor
Prudential Sapphire Realty
Kissimmee
 “There’s a lot of opportunity in bank-owned properties. There’s a perception that if you haven’t had relationships with asset managers for years, you can’t build them now. That’s not true.”

District 13
Cynthia Logan
Broker-Associate
Coldwell Banker Sunstar Realty Inc.
Port Charlotte
“The area for opportunity in this coming year is learning to participate in the sale of bank owned, short sales and auctions.  It’s a new world for many agents, and it won’t last forever, but it’s worth gaining the expertise in order to maneuver successfully in the listings and sales of these special assets.”