New president of Realtors Association sees challenges, opportunities

There’s a new leader of the 2,700-member Greater Capital Region Association of Realtors: Laurene Cur

There’s a new leader of the 2,700-member Greater Capital Region Association of Realtors: Laurene Curtin, a longtime resident of Niskayuna.

Despite the competition for buyers and uncertainty that reigns over the housing market, she believes agents who work hard and continue to grow as the industry changes will be successful.

Curtin recently answered questions from The Gazette about the trends and issues for Realtors working in the Capital Region’s housing market, which is showing mixed signals as hopes of economic recovery remain.

Q: What are the challenges of being a real estate agent today?

A: I think our biggest challenge is the economy and the lack of consumer confidence. In the Capital Region, we remind our clients and customers that things aren’t so bad in our area. We find many consumers more aware of the national housing market rather than the local market. It’s like the weather forecast; when you are making plans, you check the local weather. It’s the same with the real estate market.

Q: What makes the Capital Region’s housing market unique and what is your outlook on the market for 2010?

A: Our market is unique in several ways. First, the average price of a home today in the Capital Region is around $172,000, down 6 percent from this time last year. This makes housing very affordable in the area.

The reality of Tech Valley is here. GlobalFoundries, The Harriman Campus at SUNYA, Watervliet Arsenal and RPI are some of the big players in the nanotech and biotech fields. GlobalFoundries estimates on top of their 1,500 employees in the next few years, there will be an additional 5,000 jobs within ancillary businesses that come to the area. This is just the beginning of the Tech Valley movement into the area, and it’s a big beginning! The Capital Region also has some of the best school systems in the state and this keeps people in the area.

The market outlook for 2010? There are so many variables. In January of 2010, contracts for purchase were up 14 percent over last January. Listing inventory is down 5.5 percent from January 2009, somewhat balancing the market with a 9.9-month supply of houses for sale. Buyers have until April 30, 2010, to take advantage of the federal tax credit both for first time homebuyers and buyers who have owned a home for three of the last five years, so we could see a rise in contracts for purchase through the end of April. The extremely low interest rates should also attract buyers as the forecast is for interest rates to rise later this year. With the state of the economy overall, it’s hard to predict what will happen in 2010.

Q: As leader of GCAR, what are the major initiatives for 2010 and what do you hope to accomplish during your tenure?

A: It’s an honor for me to represent our association’s members as their president in 2010. My primary goal is to continue to bring the technology tools to our members that they need to do business. There are so many ways to make doing business much more efficient. All of our tools are online and with the constant changes in technology, it’s a job in and of itself to stay on top of the newest gadgets and dwangs. Another goal is to encourage our membership to take advantage of the training that’s available at GCAR on a constant basis and also to take advantage of the New York State Association of Realtors training and continuing education.

Q: What is your hometown, education and work background?

A: My hometown is Schenectady. I grew up in the city and have lived in Niskayuna for the last 27 years. I graduated from Notre Dame High School, and then attended Albany Business College. I also have a few college accounting credits. I started in the real estate industry in 1983 as a part-time bookkeeper and advertising specialist. I realized very quickly that I was at the wrong desk and got my license and started selling.

Q: What would you tell someone interested in becoming a real estate agent that you wish someone would have told you when you started?

A: The first thing I would say is that you must rely on yourself to be a success in the industry. As an independent contractor sponsored by a broker, a real estate agent is a business within a business. This means spending time and money on self-promotion, education and prospecting for business. If you’re not comfortable with that, it might not be the right profession for you. I wish I had been told more about that when I started my career in real estate.

Buyers are much more educated today about real estate. When I started selling, the phones rang and we got business. It’s different today. You have to set yourself apart and be on top of things to win the trust of buyers and sellers. Over 80 percent of buyers and sellers are on the Internet gathering information before ever calling a Realtor. So when they do call, you’d better be ready with the market trends, the values of homes, interest rates and just about anything else you could think of relating to our market. If you can take on the challenge, then you can be a successful Realtor.

Q: The process of buying a house can be stressful for both the agent and the homebuyer — what are some ways both parties can make the experience better?

A: Buying or selling a house can definitely be stressful but there are many ways to ease that stress.

For sellers, if their house is priced right and they have a current and accurate pre-approval letter from the lender representing their buyer, it is most often smooth sailing once inspections have been completed after contract. For buyers, it’s sometimes hard to get off the fence and make a decision to purchase a home. It’s a huge commitment, one of the biggest financial commitments people make in their lifetime. When buyers and sellers are realistic about their goals and they have the support of a professional Realtor, both these things can ease the stress of the transaction. Personally, I see that buyers and sellers are far more savvy today because of the Internet and I feel this makes their experience a better one because they aren’t as dependent on others in their decision-making process.

Categories: Business

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