Mary Pope-Handy is a Realtor with Keller Williams in Los Gatos, Calif. She specializes in Silicon Valley areas and is well known for her real estate blogs on Los Gatos real estate.

She will speak during Bloggers Connect at Real Estate Connect in San Francisco, July 23-25, 2008.

Pope-Handy answered a set of questions posed by Inman News:

What do you see happening in the real estate market in 2008?

There is not one real estate market, but many local real estate markets. In some cases, it varies from ZIP code to ZIP code or even within a given ZIP code. In Northern California’s Silicon Valley, the market is split between entry-level areas and markets, which are in an extremely strong buyer’s market, and the luxury market areas, which are either not suffering at all or are not suffering nearly as much.

Overall, though, prices are falling in many areas as inventory rises and fails to be well absorbed. Professionals in the real estate industry or in related fields are seeing offices close, layoffs happen, sales and closings declining, and a thinning overall in employment in this field, whether in terms of actual layoffs or simply in lower numbers of sales. Agents are cutting their spending, so this is being felt in ancillary providers’ businesses too.

What advice do you have to help real estate agents and brokers get through this market?

Be careful to spend money only in areas where there’s a good return on investment. Prospect, follow up. Blogging is a low-cost or even no-cost method of marketing and I encourage those who enjoy writing and are good at it to do so. (It’s not for everyone, though.)

What was your first job?

My first professional job out of college was teaching religion in a Catholic high school. (I have a bachelor’s in religious studies and an master’s in systematic theology, and taught secondary religious education for several years prior to having kids of my own.)

What made you get into real estate?

I got into real estate because I’d grown up with my mom in the field (a Realtor for 40 years) and knew I could do this if I needed to make more money than I was earning as a teacher. There’s a lot of the "helping profession" in real estate, too, which is important to me.

Recently, I joined Keller Williams for a number of reasons. I like the way the company is structured — it is good financially for me; allows a lot more freedom than most companies do for branding; and it’s a place where there are growth opportunities for me that I didn’t find in most other brokerages. For example, there are opportunities for me to do training at KW and I plan to utilize this.

What’s been your biggest challenge in running the business?

I love working with people; I enjoy seeing homes and neighborhoods; and I like negotiating and working the contracts. I’m not so crazy about the huge quantities of other paperwork involved, especially when there are a lot of brokerage-required papers that are either duplicates or near duplicates of what the cooperating brokerage requires. But the true "biggest challenge" is balancing real estate with my family needs, as I have kids at home, a husband and other relatives who also need me. This year, my father has needed a lot of my time too, for instance, and in past years it was my grandfather who did.

If you had one thing to do over again in your life, what would it be?

Not sure I had any control over it, but I’d have liked to have met my husband sooner.

What style of home do you live in and when did you buy it?

We live in a roomy Spanish-style ranch home in Los Gatos, Calif. We purchased it in 1999.

What worries keep you awake at night?

I have multiple worries about my father, his health, and where he’s living (assisted living place as of May 2008).

What lesson did you learn in the last year?

Blogging is a lot like other forms of marketing. You do it faithfully and eventually it really, really pays off.

What would your second career choice be?

Tough decision. I loved teaching high school religion and really getting kids to think about the big stuff in life. If I weren’t teaching or selling residential real estate, I might enjoy doing hospital chaplaincy (I have done it as a volunteer — hard job but I loved it) or selling jewelry or art. Or perhaps I’d be a writer, if it paid well.

What kind of music do you listen to?

Almost anything but rap, and only a little country. I like James Taylor, Andrea Bocelli, Shania Twain, plus classical, jazz, classic rock, pop music, and all kinds of eclectic things.

Who are your heroes?

My mother’s parents, Col. Michael Buckley and Mrs. Eleanor Fletcher Buckley, were my childhood heroes and still are today. Faith, family, education and hard work were priorities for them, and that has really been the hallmark of their descendants too.

They always had a home open to their children and grandchildren, worked hard, gave generously to charities, were people of deep Catholic Christian faith who lived what they believed. They didn’t just go to church on Sunday — they really embodied what it meant to place a priority on faith. For example, in her 80s, my grandmother used to "visit the old people" in convalescent homes and go to the nearby soup kitchen in Santa Cruz, Calif., to volunteer alongside the homeless as well as do plenty of other "church" volunteer work.

They were very humble people who downplayed their accomplishments, but encouraged all of us to aim high and work hard. They were very proud that all of their children and grandchildren had college degrees, and most had a master’s or higher. I think we were all told by age 5 that we were going to college. Period. Both of them had master’s degrees — and my grandmother was born in late 1899!

They had one of those truly rare, classic love stories and were married for 73 years. Granddad would flirt with "Cook," as we called her, when they were in their 90s. He would grab her hand and say "Sugar, shall we woo?" to our embarrassment and delight. That twinkle in the eye never ever left.

They took good care of themselves and lived to be quite old (100 and 104) and had a profoundly positive influence over their big family, creating a loving and tight-knit clan who truly care for one another. We grandkids vacation together for a week every other summer because of the closeness they fostered. They were proud of all of us and let us know that we were deeply loved.

I hope I’ll pass down the same values, with the same results, in the same authentic way to my kids and to their future families too.

Hear Pope-Handy speak at Real Estate Connect in San Francisco, July 23-25, 2008. The conference program and registration are available online via the Connect Web site.

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