Every week, we ask a Houston real estate professional for their thoughts on the top three stories from the week before.
This week, we talked with Gary Bisha, the owner/broker of My Castle Realty, a brokerage that has been ranked in the Top 10 for closed transactions by The Houston Business Journal for the last five years and was a recipient of Texas Monthly’s Five Star Award in 2010 and 2011.
Houston Agent (HA): Syndication is a topic that many of our readers are interested in; how does online syndication (Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com) factor in to your business? and have you found more effective forms of online marketing for your properties?
Gary Bisha (GB): Syndication has created a wonderful tool in providing “one click” marketing to thousands of potential homeowners. Its value is not as great in Houston, where we have HAR; however, for our clients in San Antonio and Austin, it’s been a positive tool.
Our brokerage has a different model than most. We partner with our clients and empower them to expand their marketing efforts. One example is our relationship and ability to list on The ForSaleByOwner.com website, which reaches the 20 percent +/- FSBO market. Our clients have the ability to manage their own unique website with photos, descriptions, etc. We find the team approach is not only more productive, but more successful. Though the Internet merits the top spot, yard signs, flyers and print advertising also contribute significantly in driving traffic.
HA: Our coverage of HAR’s bilateral agreement with AMPI, Mexico’s real estate association, has also generated considerable interest among readers; can you speak to how you prepare yourself for prospective homebuyers of differing backgrounds and interests?
GB: Working with multicultural clients offers a great opportunity, although not without challenges. Not just language challenges, but customs as well. No matter what part of the world we are from, our needs are the same. We want to be treated fairly and honestly. We want to feel safe. The key is listening. Your client wants to be comfortable that you fully understand what they are looking for and that you are not going to take advantage of them. Once you have gained this trust, you have gained a client for life as well as many referrals.
HA: Finally, both mortgage delinquencies and negative equity seem to be improving in 2012; is this something you’ve observed in your specific pocket of Houston? and do you think homeowner finances will continue to improve in 2013?
GB: 2012 has been a fantastic year. We have seen multiple offers on our homes inside the Loop, in Memorial and other areas as well. With extremely low interest rates, inventory at 4.9 months and employment improving, we expect the trend to continue. The biggest challenge lies with the lenders who need to be less restrictive. Not to forget, though, the recent boom in re-financing, which is giving homeowners a big boost in their savings each month.