Real estate is one of the hottest careers right now. We sat down with Ray Lopez from Keller Williams who has been in the business since 2003. He’s seen all the changes the market has experienced in his more than 10 year career in Central Florida; the current uptick, the devastating lows and everything in between. He was kind enough to give us his insights on where the market is headed and what makes him so special as a ten year vet in the business. Check it out below!
E: Tell us how you got in the business
RL: For six and a half years I was a research chemist, but learned quickly that I wasn’t able to function in a lab with people who are lab people. From there I got into the jewelry business and became the number one sales person within the first year. Helzberg Diamonds then recruited me and I eventually became the flagship manager in Orlando and was promoted to be regional manager. At that time though, I was having to fly back and forth home to Kansas City. That didn’t quite suit my family circumstances so I knew it was time for a change. That’s when I got into real estate, in 2003. Since 2009, I’ve been in the top 50 realtors consecutively and do about 120-200 transactions a year.
E: What drew you to real estate?
RL: A friend was looking to get into the business and even a few clients in the jewelry store said, “hey, you have to get into real estate”. I like working with people, helping people, and honestly I feel like everyday is different, so am glad I made the choice.
E: What are your strengths? What have you done well?
RL: My strengths are connecting with people. I feel like I’m able to ask enough questions to really decipher what people want. Generally a real estate agent’s job is to figure out what people want. Most people have a tough time making a decision. When it comes to finding a house, most people, while excited, shut down. If you build trust early, then people will trust you enough to make a big decision for them.
E: What’s special about you as a realtor?
RL: I really take a lot of pride in after the sale. The average realtor has a personality type is very unorganized. People are moving so fast that a lot of things fall through the cracks. After the house sells, agents generally forget about their clients. But I’ve developed a system that I have in place to make sure I contact previous clients regularly. I do special things for my clients and really build a relationship with them. They call me when they need a handy man or plumber and really trust me. And that comes from good database management. If you take care of your database it will take care of you.
E: What things can you improve on?
RL: I’d have to say being able to time block better, time management, and organization. But that’s why my team is so important, they work hard, they work late and they really make the whole operation possible.
E: How long did it take you to go from working alone (new agent) to having a team of people that you worked with and that work for you?
RL: I joined a dysfunctional team actually (laughs). After a month, we were spinning our wheels so we decided to disband and went our own ways. I told my friend Jim, the third guy in the team, that I was leaving and if he wanted to work with me, that could work. He agreed so, Jim and I formed a team really quickly in 2004 and by 2005 we had 6 buyers agents.
E: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
RL: My team will definitely continue to get bigger. When the crash happened in 2008, (even) two years after that in 2010, we had no buyers agents. The market didn’t really recover until 2010 when we leveled. Back in 2010 the average selling price for a house was just $96K. Now that real estate has recovered and is growing, we’ll also continue to grow.
E:What was the major influencer?
RL: Well, it really couldn’t get any worse. Banks ended up having so much inventory. What worked for some of us agents at that time was getting in with the banks and we were able to list bank properties. But it was all sales at that point, there weren’t a lot of buyers agents. In 2008 no one could sell their home. They hit the bottom, so investors came into certain markets and were sucking out the inventory.
E: What real estate markets are most interesting? What’s hot right now?
RL: To be honest everything is hot right now. For the most part, the growth is happening everywhere. The biggest potential for growth in Orlando would be Lake Nona. There’s so much pent-up demand so that’s what’s driving the growth.
E: How do you think student loan debt will impact the next generation of buyers and eventually sellers?
RL: I think it will be like medical debt for older people…kind of like the government knows it there, but they’ll make an allowance for that. Depending on the potential for income, it’s going to be there, but there will still be a possibility for people to purchase in tandem with their debt.