Realtor: ‘You have to live between sales’
EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – Scott Marino is doing what he needs to do to pay the bills. That means he mows lawns and shovels snow.Marino, a broker at Slifer Smith & Frampton’s Eagle Ranch office, was in the landscaping business before he got into the real estate business about five years ago. Last year, when there were more brokers in the valley than there were completed sales, Marino got back into the landscaping business.But, he said, he’s still a full-time broker.”If someone calls for a showing and I’m mowing a lawn, I’ll stop mowing and go,” Marino said. To fit it all in, “I just work more,” he said.Marino is one of a number of local real estate brokers who are finding other ways to pay their bills. But, like Marino, most people in the business are staying in.Membership in the Vail Board of Realtors has dropped over the last three years, from 811 in 2007 to just about 700 today. But that decline in membership is relatively small, less than 15 percent.The result of people staying in the business hit home last year, when there were more Vail Board of Realtors members than there were completed sales.Why stay in?Marino said he’s still a full-time broker because he believes in the business, a sentiment echoed by others. “This is such a great business,” broker Amy Dorsey said. “Home ownership is just a basic tenet of America, and in the end, home ownership builds great communities.”Dorsey works out of Slifer Smith & Frampton’s office at the Park Hyatt in Beaver Creek. She said people still in the real estate business have had to make a lot of adjustments to stay in it.”Sometimes you have to re-learn the business,” she said. That means making dollars stretch farther between sales, and, at least now, adjusting to the fact that this is a buyers’ market today.That fact has taken some time to sink in. Last year, a lot of brokers complained privately that too many sellers were still attached to boom-time prices, even after the local market fell flat.But Dorsey has been able to ride out the current slump, thanks to a deep client list, a few of whom “needed to sell” last year.Downvalley, Laurie Slaughter has been selling property for Prudential Colorado Properties for about 15 years. Slaughter is busy these days, due largely to landing listings for several bank-owned properties.Those listings are getting a lot of attention from potential buyers, and Slaughter is selling enough to make a living.”And I’ve been in the business for 15 years,” she said. “You don’t just give that up.”Looking aheadThe brokers still making deals say this year’s market is better than last year’s, and are looking forward to brighter, if not booming, times in the future.Matt Fitzgerald of Ascent/Sotheby’s International Realty in Vail Village said a growing market can feed on itself in a way.”Buyers get comfort from seeing other people in the market,” he said.While it’s still a buyer’s market, Fitzgerald, this year’s Vail Board of Realtors Chairman, said he’s seeing signs of recovery. But he’s also working as hard as he ever has, and has no plans to change jobs any time soon.”This is my chosen career,” Fitzgerald said. “I’ve been doing this ever since I graduated from college.”To get by, Fitzgerald said he and his family have tightened up the household budget, eating out less often and living off savings. And savings from the good times is essential to weather the current storm. Dorsey said she and her husband have been using savings, too, although much of what they’d saved went into building a home a couple of years ago.”But (savings) is how you live between deals,” she said.In Eagle, Marino spends as much time as he can with his family, including his young daughter. He’s mowing lawns now, but making plans for better days ahead.”It’s just a market,” Marino said. “When times are good you save up, and when they aren’t you do what you have to.”
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