Local Market 'Tough'

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Three years ago, most real estate agents didn't know what a "short sale" was, said Steve Moran, an agent and partner with Keller Williams Realty in Valrico.

Nowadays, the term is in every agent's vocabulary.

"Half of my clients are upside down on their mortgages," Moran said. "They owe more than their home is worth."

It poses a dilemma.

"It's a tough situation," Moran said. "Emotions come into play for the sellers, and you spend a lot of time negotiating with the bank. It can take four or five months" to complete a short sale, in which the lender allows a property to be sold for less than the amount owed on a mortgage and takes a loss.

The most active areas for sales in Valrico and Brandon, he said, are established communities such as Bloomingdale, River Hills and Twin Lakes. Homeowners who want to sell homes they bought in newer communities find themselves in a real bind. In many cases they owe tens of thousands more to the bank than the house is wortht.

"Most of those were bought in '04 or '05, and they are 100 percent upside down right now," Moran said.

But it's not all bad news, at least not for everyone.

Before the bubble burst, Moran said, "You could not find a house for less than $200,000. I'm seeing foreclosed houses that sold for $325,000 a few years ago now selling for $200,000. It's amazing what you can get for that price."

Lower prices and interest rates also have brought more investors back to the table, but they're not so intent on a quick flip this time around.

"Right now I have five clients looking for investment homes to buy and use as rentals until the market recovers."

He believes the market will begin to turn around by the end of this year or the first quarter of 2010.

"We won't see appreciation yet, but I think we'll see it start to level off."

Reporter Laura Frazier can be reached at (813) 657-4523.


Valrico Realtor Ranks No. 1 Yet Again

Laura Frazier
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Since the real estate bubble burst four years ago, Realtors across the country have struggled to stay busy - and in business. Steve Moran, who joined Keller Williams Realty in Valrico as an agent and partner during the downturn, said there is enough business out there to go around, but agents have to work harder to get it.

"The reality is, now you have to work twice as much to make half the money," he said.

Moran should know. For the fifth consecutive year - from 2004-08 - he earned the distinction of top individual agent among more than 500 of his colleagues in Brandon and Valrico. He will take the stage at the company's annual convention in Orlando on Feb. 23 with a group of agents honored as top dogs in their areas.

Moran said client referrals, which account for more than 80 percent of his business, are the key to his success.

A Brandon-area resident since 1980, Moran launched his real estate career in 1993 with Re/Max Realty Unlimited on Brandon Boulevard. His first order of business was to mail 500 postcards to people he knew, letting them know he was in business.

"I went to Brandon High School and USF, so I have a lot of friends and contacts," he said.
He affixed a quarter to each card with a note that read, "Call me if you or anyone you know is interested in buying or selling real estate."

The promotion set his referral network in motion. At the end of his first year in business, Moran was voted top rookie with Re/Max, thanks in part, he said, to many of his high school and college classmates who were buying first homes at the time.

"Now they're buying their second or third homes, and that generates even more referrals," he said.

He makes it a priority to touch base with former clients who continue to send new customers his way.
Every November he and his wife, Rhonda, visit their top 100 referral clients to say thanks and deliver a gift of Publix pilgrim salt and pepper shakers.

And when he dines out several times a week, Moran makes it a point to pick up the tab for any former clients he runs into.

"Fifty percent of the time Rhonda and I go out to eat, I'm picking up someone else's tab," he said.
The gesture is at times expensive, he said - especially one year when the couple dined every Wednesday at Outback Steakhouse on Brandon Boulevard.

"I saw a client there one Wednesday, so I picked up his tab," he said. "He was there again the next week, and the next. This went on, on and off, for about a year."

Moran said some of his colleagues shake their heads when he shares the Outback story. They comment about how much he must have spent that year at the restaurant.

"Over the years that guy personally bought and sold four houses through me, and my investment has come back tenfold," he said. "For the price of a couple Bloomin' Onions, the guy has given me $80,000 worth of referrals."

Reporter Laura Frazier can be reached at (813) 657-4523.


Keller Williams Real Estate Agent in Brandon at Top of Game


Steve Moran of Keller Williams Realty of Brandon is the agency's No. l individual agent, having closed more than $12 million in residential sales in 20l2, said the Brandon team leader, Lisa Spencer. 

The agency, which has 125 agents, and the next closest sales total was generated by an agent team that sold $9 million, said Spencer. Moran's accomplishment is all the more remarkable, since he works independently, not on a team. 

For his achievement, Moran will receive a triple platinum award in February at the Keller Williams “Family Reunion," the company's national convention in Dallas. 

Moran credits his success mostly to recommendations from satisfied customers. He has been selling real estate for 20 years, the last eight with Keller Williams. 

He attended Brandon High School and the University of South Florida, "which has helped tremendously with referrals," he said. "I help clients primarily in the Brandon area but have sold throughout the Tampa area." 

His Wife, Rhonda, is his full-time assistant. They and their two children live in Valrico and attend Bell Shoals Baptist Church. Moran is a sponsor of Bloomingdale Little League, member of Buckhorn Golf and Country Club and a former assistant coach of Bloomingdale High School's varsity basketball team.