This year’s bull-like housing market has given long-time local realtor Betty Johnson cause to reflect on her three decades in real estate and the mortgage industry.
“This year’s been stressful for all of us in the industry in this area,” she says. “It’s starting to slow down, but we still have an influx of Oshawa and Toronto agents coming this way.”
The realtors, she says, are snapping up good deals for GTA clients, leaving little left for locals.
It means realtors in the Kawarthas have had to fight hard for buying clients over the past 12 to 18 months, Betty says. Houses are listed higher than anyone imagined, and then sold even higher than the listing price.
For Betty, who is in the business because she loves people, it was heartbreaking to see our local first-time home buyers pushed right out of the market.
“I don’t like to see that,” she says. “I dislike seeing people taken advantage of or not given a fair chance.”
Betty was in the banking industry for 24 years primarily doing mortgages for clients. Her work necessitated working with realtors, and her curiosity about real estate led her to get her license. At the time, as a single working mother, Betty had to take the courses at night school.
That was in 1988. She held onto her license — an ace in her pocket — while she continued banking, and then worked as a mortgage underwriter until her two children were done school.
“Once they were through university, I thought it was time to try something different,” she says. “I had no idea if I’d be good at it, but I thought, ‘If I fall flat on my back I could always go back to banking.'”
By 2002, Betty had turned her focus to real estate, testing the waters with a variety of local companies until she landed with Century 21 where she was top of the pack for three years. In November of 2011, she moved to RE/MAX Eastern Realty’s Peterborough office, where she’s been ever since.
The ace in Betty’s pocket now is the mortgage underwriting business, which she has also kept alive as a side business.
On the Sunday we spoke with her, Betty had hoped for a day off, but already had six calls by 10 a.m. While she enjoys her work, at 61, she also wants to spend time with her grandchildren.
“This was a year of reflection for me, for sure,” she says. “I’ve looked at what I like, what I’m good at, and what I avoid.
“One thing I dislike is spending any more time on a computer than I have to,” she laughs.
She’s tried the team approach to real estate — having employed two administrative assistants and a buyer’s agent at one time — but says she didn’t enjoy the additional demands involved in being an employer.
“I like to talk and sell and be around people and be on the go” she says. “That’s what keeps me going.”
Betty says she’s “old school.” She likes to match a buyer with the perfect house, not the most expensive one, and definitely not one the couple can’t afford even if they like it best.
“I’d rather show them 20 houses than do a slam-dunk on the first one,” she says. “There are a lot of realtors who may not spend as much time. I joke with my husband that I probably spend more time talking clients out of houses that are not good investments for them, than I do on an actual sale.
“If it takes me an extra 20 houses to show them to get the right one, then I do it. It’s the right thing.”
Betty’s not shy about saying she very much dislikes the way the market has been in Peterborough and, while it has slowed, she knows there is more to come.
“Baby boomers are retiring and selling their homes for 700 thousand or a million in Whitby or Toronto, and then moving here and snapping up something for half that, and putting the rest in the bank.”
This means that young people, including her own children, are facing a tough go as first-time home buyers.
“Unless the parents are going to give these kids some money, it’s going to be really hard.”
Some of the other challenges in the industry involve new marketing trends for real estate. Although she’s active on social media, Betty says she prefers to depend on her reputation and word-of-mouth referrals rather than digital marketing.
All her reflection this year has led Betty to a couple of realizations.
“I’d be bored out of my tree if I retired,” she laughs. However, she is restructuring her mortgage business, knowing that one day she may want a change.
She will always be the business woman with an ace in her back pocket.
You can contact Betty Johnson at RE/MAX Eastern Realty Inc., Brokerage (91 George Street North in Peterborough) by phone at 705-743-9111, toll free at 1-800-567-4546 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit her website at www.bettysellshomes.net or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.