Every week, we ask an Boston real estate professional for their thoughts on the top trends in Boston real estate.
This week, we talked with Paul Campano, a vice president with Keller Williams Realty in Cambridge/Somerville. A 10-year veteran of the real estate industry, Paul specializes in unique high-end properties, and has been featured in numerous articles and news programs, including the National Association of Realtors magazine, the Boston Globe, the Boston Business Journal, Luxury Home Quarterly, Bankrate.com, Design New England, and ‘Chronicle,’ Boston’s television news magazine.
Boston Agent (BA): What kinds of challenges do you think Boston agents will have to deal with, as the 2014 market enters its closing months?
Paul Campano (PC): We’re still dealing with a really tight market in terms of inventory. Unfortunately, many of us still have buyers who are still looking, but despite our best efforts, they haven’t been able to find the right property at what we feel is the right price.
There is a hesitancy to list for sellers, but for a very specific reason: it’s all about the ability to invest, and where you can put your money. Right now, if you have a certain amount of money to invest, you could put it in your savings account, but that gets you next to nothing; you could put it in a CD, and if you’re lucky you’ll make maybe 1 percent, though with inflation it’s basically negative; there are mutual funds or the stock market, which have been at all time highs, but you always risk declines; with all those thing said, people are looking more and more at real estate for their investment money, so I find folks who have property are less willing to give it up, because property is tangible and it rises with inflation – why would they give it up?
BA: With the Zillow/Trulia merger in the news, I’m curious what your take is on syndication sites; do you find them helpful, or a nuisance?
PC: I don’t think anybody envisioned those sites becoming as big as they have. I can still remember reading The New York times 10 years ago about a new site called “Zillow,” and thinking it was crazy talk. I come from a tech background, and I thought it would be too difficult to assimilate all the different MLS listings and public records into one source. Nobody envisioned those sites becoming what they are today, and nobody envisioned that they would have data on so many properties. And to give them credit, their tools and apps are very customer friendly, and that’s why millions of people use them. In hindsight, we probably would have struck different syndication deals if we had known that the sites would become the first resource for many consumers. That’s where we are now.
Are the sites helpful? I suppose they are in the sense that they can get more exposure for your properties. I think that at this point, trying to catch up to where Zillow and Trulia are now is unrealistic. It is what it is, and round one goes to those sites. I hesitate to make this comparison, but it reminds me of drug companies. They spend lots of money researching and analyzing for certain kinds of drugs, and when they find one that works, they take out a 17-year patent to monetize that, because they spent so much time on the product. With the syndication sites, they spent so much money advertising the brand to make it a household name and get it on millions of phones and tablets there’s no way to catch up there, so you can only try to get ahead of them. I don’t know what that would be, but they’ll have to get out in front and ask, “What’s the next disruptive technology for real estate” And then they’ll have to take ownership of that technology on a national scale.
BA: Finally, what kinds of things do you look for when preparing a listing for the marketplace?
PC: A lot of my work is with unique properties in certain niche markets, such as adaptive/re-use properties like fire stations, churches and contemporary structures. So I have to look at my listings from the eyes of the consumer and ask myself, “What would get their attention?” Quite a bit of thought goes into even the flow of photos online; ultimately, you’re trying to tell a story, and to use the photos and descriptions to tell a story and engage the consumer. If it’s something unique, you’re really looking for things that are out of the ordinary and not featured in other properties, because that’s what the demographic is looking for.
For instance, a second room that could double as an office would garner attention in a place like Cambridge, where the tech scene is huge. There’s a segment of buyers who put a very high premium on where the property faces; I know that many Asian clients have a strong preference for a home facing south. You have to understand the needs of the consumer, and find a property that best meets those needs. You may have two properties in the same city or the same block, for example, but a demographic’s needs will apply to those properties much differently – and you then have to emphasize that in your marketing, whether it’s an MLS listing or something more specific, like a Google Ad Words campaign.