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Kathy Hall feels at home with real estate

by: Vern Uyetake, Kathy Hall takes a break at her office at The Hasson Company Realtors in Lake Oswego.

What does it take to be a top producing real estate agent?

Kathy Hall - The Hasson Company Realtors' top producing agent in 2006 and 2007 - said she's good at marketing, goes the extra mile for her clients and is an attentive listener. Listening, she said, is key to determining what her clients want and desire in a new home or home sale.

'I hear more and I'm told more than probably anybody other that a psychiatrist, psychologist or a hairdresser,' Hall said. 'And everybody tells their hairdresser everything.'

Almost eleven years into her real estate career, Hall - a Dunthorpe resident, mother of four, avid outdoors woman, volunteer and lover of ballet and theater - is doing what's always been in her blood, selling real estate. Hall grew up in Southern California where her parents owned a real estate franchise.

Now working at Hasson's Lake Oswego branch at 15400 Boones Ferry Road, Hall said she's learned a lot, always puts her clients first and is constantly adapting to the changing market:

Q: You knew one couple before deciding to move to Portland. How did they describe our city?

A: 'As a great place to live! Coming from California we were obviously concerned about the weather. (The) husband said to me, 'Well Kathy, it's just soft weather up here.' I think that was the best expression and I've explained it that way since. The weather never really keeps you from doing things.'

Q: Have you always had a passion for real estate? Any advice for someone thinking about becoming a Realtor?

A: 'Yes. And whenever somebody says to me that they're thinking about getting into real estate because they love looking at houses, my suggestion is to go to Sunday open houses. It's such a small part of what we do. We're helping people with usually the largest single investment that they will ever have in their life. And there's a huge responsibility that comes with that. You have to want to truly guide people. You have to possess the expertise and understanding of the nuances in the marketplace, financing issues and so forth.'

Q: Real estate can also be an emotional business, right?

A: 'This is how (clients are) going to live. This is where they're going to bring up their family, and go to the grocery store and the dentist. They are buying a lifestyle. I don't sell houses, I sell communities.

'And what better community to sell than Lake Oswego?'

Q: Not everyone makes a move for the same reason. How do you adapt for each client?

A: 'People are going through a life change. Sometimes it's happy. Sometimes it's sad. Sometimes it's necessary. Sometimes it's voluntary. But it's always a change. And with change comes stress. My job is to help people with a stressful undertaking and make it as smooth as possible - as enjoyable as it can be. It's not fun to have 25 people tromping through your house each week. Making your kids' beds and making sure trash is taken outside every second of every day is a fire drill. And sometimes it's not fun even if you're excited about where you're going.'

Q: What do you do to make the process run smoothly?

A: 'I strive to put myself in my client's shoes. It might be just a few extra phones calls or changing around my schedule to accommodate their needs.

'Some little extra attention and effort on my part can mean the world to one of my clients on any given day.'

Q: Has the slower real estate market been challenging? In 2004 and 2005, it seemed like houses were selling so fast it was hard to keep up.

A: 'It's much harder in a market like today. (But), if the market kept doing what it was doing in '04 and '05 they'd carry all us Realtors out in a box because there's no way we could keep up that pace forever. It was very difficult to try to find a house for our buyers at that time.

'That was a different kind of stress.

'Today the pendulum has swung and it's a little more difficult for our sellers. Before I was doing a lot of hand holding with my buyers. Today that's completely switched. It's my sellers that I'm spending more time with discussing the market and discussing what they need to do to get their house sold.'

Q: Is this a good time for someone to buy a house?

A: 'I've never, ever in my whole career or 'real estate life' seen better conditions for buyers. Inventory is high. Interest rates are still historically low. Sellers are preparing their homes so buyers are buying better prepared homes than ever before. And sellers are motivated.'

Q: What about first-time home buyers? Is this a good time for them also?

A: 'If you don't do it now it's not going to be easier a year from now. Your income might go up but guess what? Interest rates and prices will also go up as well.'

Q: Think back to your first real estate transaction. What did it teach you? You mentioned that some out-of-town homebuyers met you by chance at an open house and wanted you to be their Realtor.

A: 'They said they were paying cash (for a home), which means I had no lender to defer to, no approval letter - no one to check their credit. Everyone in my office just laughed at me. They said, 'you're just being a tour guide. They're never going to buy a house.' They did. They bought a house in a few weeks, it was almost a million dollar home. Eleven years ago that was a very expensive home. I thought, 'I got lucky. Now I have to get smart.''

Q: Your momhas been a Realtor for decades. What did she say when you were starting out?

A: 'The day I got my license I was so excited. … And she said, 'Oh honey, that's so great. Congratulations. Now you have a license and you know absolutely nothing about practicing real estate.' And she was right.'

Q: Before real estate you said you worked in heath care marketing at a time when insurance companies and the government changed how medical care was funded. How does your work marketing health care relate to real estate?

A: 'All of a sudden (in the late 1970s and early 1980s) hospitals needed to create new revenue sources. We began advertising, 'come to us to have your baby,' 'come to our outpatient surgery center for eye laser surgery.' I figured if I could make alcoholism and drug dependency treatment look sexy and enticing, then I could most certainly figure out how to sell houses.'

Q: When marketing a listing, how do you set yourself apart from other Realtors?

A: 'I'm always tracking what works and what doesn't work. Every phone call, every source I get - whether it's a call for a listing or a call from a buyer - I want to know how and where they heard about me or the house they're calling on. Every year I'm adjusting. … The Internet is the biggest single part of our business today. … I own the rights to about 60 domain names, like www.lakeoswegohome.com, so a lot of my listings have their own Web sites.'

Q: Have you witnessed that 'ah-ha' moment when a client walks into a home that they know they have to buy?

A: 'Most certainly. A property can be right on paper. It can have the right number of bedrooms, the right location of the bedrooms. It can (physically) be in the right location, but in the end, the house has to feel right. It's all about chemistry. That's what makes pricing homes so interesting. You can have two homes that are the same size, same location similar in a lot of ways but finished out in different ways. … If we don't get the price right, all the marketing in the world isn't going to make a difference.'

Q: Houses aren't always ready when a potential buyer wants to see it. Tell me about a hectic time that you had to race to make the house shine before the buyers got there.

A: 'The one day this particular client did not leave her house perfect, I ran home to my garden and cut beautiful big blooms of hydrangeas. … When (the homeowner and I got) to the house, we just sprinted. She went one way, I went the other way. I was shoving laundry into her washing machine to hide it. Making beds. Turning on the lights. And (the buyers) showed up and actually bought that house.'

Q: You said there's some risk associated with your profession. What do you do to make sure you keep yourself and your clients safe?

A: 'There are unusual people out there and the risk of identity theft is high. In the past you'd worry about grandma's piece of silver being stolen or drugs out of the medicine cabinet.

'Now we're talking about people's identity. … There are steps that we should all be taking to reduce those risks for our clients.

'And as a Realtor I screen who I'm working with as well, it's safety and security. In what other profession would someone meet a stranger and say hop in my car and I'll (give you a tour) for the next five hours? As an industry, we need to be more proactive in this regard.'

Q: You currently have two of the most expensive house listings in Lake Oswego. Besides the price tag, what makes these houses on Oswego Lake unique?

A: 'There's a story behind everything in these houses, from the name to the antique Murano chandelier in the entryway, to the driveway made of reclaimed cobblestone from New York City.

'These homes have been a labor of love and the quality and attention to detail is unsurpassed.'

Q: Are you a team player?

A: 'I consider every other agent an extension of my team. I need agents listing houses and pricing things right, I need them to show and sell my listings.

'I try to be helpful and responsive to them when working on a transaction together.'

Q: What advice do you have for someone choosing a profession?

A: 'If you love what you do you never really have to go to work.'

Q: Your philosophy?

A: 'Always do what's best for the client.'