Talking Business with Paul Kitchen

Monday, December 22, 2008
ELIZABETH DODD ~ edodd@semissourian.com
Paul Kitchen is the President of Prudential Bridgeport Inc. Realtors in Cape Girardeau.

Q: How did you become a Realtor?

A: I've always enjoyed construction, remodeling and all parts of building things. Real estate was something I thought I'd like throughout my life. I enjoy selling and real estate is not a hard sell like other industries that deal with sales because everyone wants a house.

I had been licensed at a Realtor in 1971. Since then I have worked in education, including teaching at Cape Central and Dexter High School, serving as principal of the Delta R-5 School District and superintendent of the Sikeston R-6 School District. I always said that when I would retire from education down the road I'd go into real estate. I retired five-and-a-half years ago and have been in real estate ever since, though I did real estate full time at other times in my life as well.

Q: What about your family and hobbies?

A: I've been married to my wife, Peggy, for 40 years this June. We have two daughters and six grandchildren. All of them live locally, so I get to spend time with them.

I like to garden and work in my shop. But I'm not a golfer.

I grew up around wood and construction. I always felt like a frustrated carpenter. And I always liked to mess around in the dirt. What I have is two acres, where I garden mostly flowers and shrubs. If it doesn't have a flower, chances are I won't plant it.

Q: Who have been the most influential people in your life?

A: My parents, Paul and Wilda. Both are tremendous people. They worked hard all their life to put their boys in school. They were exceptionally supportive and always there when you needed them.

Q: What are you goals for the coming year as president of the board?

A: I want to take what we have now structurally and keep improving on that to become a stronger organization with more and more support from our constituency. With all the rules and regulations we abide by, there's always so much we can improve on.

And we need to build the public image of Realtors and the real estate business where it's perceived in a better light.

Q: New-home sales in October nationwide fell to their lowest in 17 years. How do you feel the local market is faring?

A: If you compare us nationally, it's good. Sales are down and slower but there's still a lot of demand out there. People see the negatives thrown out there by the media and think we're the same as big cities. We're a more viable market. There's a lot of demand. Even though the big boys are out there, we don't see deteriorated sales that we see on TV.

Cape Girardeau has never been real low or high. When things go great, we don't see a real increase. And when things get bad, we don't have a drop either. We're pretty stable.

Rates are low and prices are as competitive as I've ever seen. We don't have the mass layoffs like big factories at major cities. We just don't have the big factories and a lot of our economy is based on small business and sales. Plus, we're a town that has a university and two hospitals, which gives us stability for our economic base.

Q: There are still those who want to buy a home, as you said earlier. Mortgage interest rates continue to decrease. The National Association of Realtors estimates a one-percentage-point decrease in mortgage rates will increase home sales by more than 500,000 homes. What advice would you have for a potential home buyer?

A: First, make sure you have a qualified lender and make sure they're preapproved.

Second, find a great real estate agent. I think that's the most important thing to keep in mind. They know the ins and outs of buying and the town. That can save costs down the road.

Third, always get an inspection.

Fourth, stay within your budget. Don't buy a fixer-upper if you can't fix it up. And don't buy something that you know you can't afford.

Q: What about sellers? The latest stats don't indicate the best outlook. Should they be concerned?

A: It's a buyer's market. But the sellers need to have concerns. As a seller they need to get mentally prepared that they'll get low offers. They need to develop a plan of attack with their Realtor.

Q: Foreclosures are commonplace today. The Mortgage Bankers Association estimates that one in 10 homeowners were behind on their mortgage payments or in foreclosure in the third quarter. Simply put, it's not the best of situations nationwide. What should homeowners do if they are months and months behind in their payments?

A: If they are legitimately worried, they need to talk with their lender right away. Be honest with them up front. Most lenders don't want your home and they're willing to work with you. They aren't making their money in foreclosures. But unfortunately talking to lenders is one of the last things people do. And by that time their options are very limited.

Q: What other information is important for people to know in regard to the housing market?

A: The biggest thing is real estate is not a short-term investment. If you look historically at the housing market, it's gone up in value. The strategy is to purchase good property and then after a period of time sell it. Real estate is one of the few things you can deduct a good number of things on your taxes such as mortgage interest and cost of maintenance.

When the property value goes up fast, a flipper can make money. But in today's market you're not seeing that as you once did. There aren't enough buyers out there that will spend money on a costly home when they can get one much cheaper. Thus, we've seen a decrease in the number of flippers.

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