Talking Shop with Jeff Martin of The Martin Group of Realty Executives of Cape County

Monday, March 1, 2010
Jeff Martin is the new president of the Cape Girardeau County Board of Realtors. (Fred Lynch)

Jeff Martin recently was named president of the Cape Girardeau County Board of Realtors for 2010, but before he began his career in real estate in 2003, Martin was a sales manager and a special education teacher. Business reporter Brian Blackwell recently sat down with Martin to learn how a career in teaching turned into seven years of selling homes in the area.

Q: Why did you become a teacher?

A: I received my bachelors degree in special education and elementary education and taught for nine years in Wisconsin. I loved it and had excellent kids. The students I had were awesome and I enjoyed helping them to grow to be productive adults who learned a lot of job skills. But I got to a point where I was deciding if I wanted to stay in it for the long haul or choose another career. That's when I decided to go into sales management.

Q: Why did you choose a career in real estate?

A: My wife Deb was in the real estate business since 1999. When the opportunity presented itself to work with my best friend, I got my license and joined her in real estate. We truly enjoy helping families fulfill the dream of home ownership.

Q: What has it been like having your wife and daughter, Jessica Goodwin, work at the same office in Jackson?

A: It gives me a different perspective when selling a home. My wife and I usually work together. She is great at working with the women while I bring something that is from a man's perspective. And my daughter gives us a younger perspective on things. She sees things that Deb and I may not necessarily see at times. It's been a lot of fun having all three of us work together.

Q: How difficult has it been selling a home in this economy?

A: This economy has made it more difficult for many real estate agents. Confidence in the economy, job market and in our government is poor at best, which makes this career of helping to provide home ownership challenging. Staying current with a changing market and a changing consumer requires an agent to stay to on top of new trends of marketing, regulations and market conditions, but most importantly, the agent needs to develop relationships based on integrity, honesty and knowledge of the market.

Q: In regard to real estate, how does this current period compare with others in history?

A: This downturn is different from previous downturns. This isn't a situation where interest rates have priced buyers out like in 1981-1982. Mortgage interests are extremely favorable to home ownership. It also isn't a situation where home prices have priced buyers out of the market. This is much more of a confidence issue. Many buyers are concerned about their financial security and want to see the economy strengthen before making a home purchase.

Q: The Commerce Department last week released a report that newly built homes unexpectedly dropped 11.2 percent in January to their lowest level in 50 years. Sales fell in every region but the Midwest. What is your feeling on the situation here?

A: There is no question the pace of spec home building has decreased and changed to meet a different market such as Jackson Ridge and Hawks Landing. Here are the people who will buy a spec home: a new person locating to the area, a renter becoming a buyer and someone who has a house to sell which requires the first two criteria. Even if someone is having a custom home built they usually need a new person locating to the area and renter becoming a buyer.

Q: The first-time home buyers credit ends April 30. Has this been a good or bad thing for our area?

A: There are arguments for and against the policy. Certainly, some first-time home buyers were going to buy a home regardless of a tax credit. However, putting politics aside, there is no question that first-time home buyers have stepped up to take advantage of the tax credit. Approximately 47 percent of all sales in the U.S. last year were to first-time home buyers. A larger demand of homes in the price range of first-time home buyers actually kept home prices up. The average sale price in our area actually increased in 2009. This year is starting strong as the tax credit extension draws to an end on April 30.

Q: What do you see as the trend for home sales this year and when do you see a turnaround nationally?

A: It almost gets old saying this, but real estate is local. I recall a USA Today report that stated 50 percent of all foreclosures were limited to 25 counties in the United States. They were all located in California, Florida, Nevada, Arizona and Michigan, places where housing prices inexplicably shot through the roof. Locally, we did not see huge housing price increases so we haven't seen huge decreases. Having said that, there are specific price ranges in our area that remain slow and where there are simply more sellers than buyers. I believe we will continue at last year's pace but well short of the peak year in 2006. We certainly would benefit from some job growth, but then every community is fighting for such opportunities.

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