June 16, 2009 | last updated May 26, 2012 7:47 am

Barbara (Bobbi) Mathues, owner, Realty World Hometown, Simsbury

Editor's Note: Mathues recently received Realty World's highest honor, the Soar With The Eagles award, for leadership and salesmanship. She is Realty World's only Connecticut broker to receive the award this year and to be inducted into its Broker Hall of Fame.

Congratulations on being inducted into the Realty World Broker Hall of Fame. How does one succeed at being a real estate agent in this down economy? High foreclosure rates can't be a sign of good things.

Thank you - it is quite an honor. Being a successful real estate agent in any economy is the result of hard work. When people are happy with your work word gets around. Despite the economy, it is a good time to consider a career in real estate, as long as you have about six months of savings banked. When I started in real estate in 1988 at the top of the market, no one had time to teach me anything. Within a few months, the market crashed and I had an entire year to pick other agents' brains and learn from my broker. When the market rebounded, I was ready, willing, and able. Foreclosures are an unfortunate sign of the times. We like to talk with people having financial trouble before the house gets to foreclosure. Sometimes we can help them with a loan modification or a short sale, which is better for their credit than a foreclosure.

Why has Greater Hartford done fairly well in the real estate downturn? Houses in some areas have held their values or not decreased by much.

Fortunately, Greater Hartford has not seen the highs and lows that other parts of the country have. For example, prior to the current downturn, the market exploded in California, Florida, and Nevada. When the market crashed, real estate in those areas was devastated because there had been so much appreciation value. Our market has certainly dropped off, but not to the extent being realized in other parts of the country. There are many people sitting on the fence and afraid to take the plunge. They do not think we have hit the bottom yet. What they fail to acknowledge is that once we hit the bottom, the interest rates will increase, so now really is the time to buy.

What is selling right now in this real estate market? Is there a type of house or price that is always going to sell quickly?

Lower priced homes and condos are selling to first-time buyers. The $8,000 tax credit has been a huge help for first time buyers (people who have not owned a home in the past three years). To qualify for the credit, houses or condos must be purchased by December 2009. The tax credit does not have to be repaid if the buyer stays in the house for at least three years, and there are income guidelines as well.

Greater Hartford hasn't dealt with a real estate recession like this since the early '90s. Are you finding a lot of your customers almost have to be dealt with like first-time buyers?

Many buyers have unrealistic expectations. That's a result of the national media painting the real estate market with a broad stroke. In addition, sellers are slow to realize their homes are going to sell for less today than even just a short time ago. It is a learning experience for both buyers and sellers, and we counsel our clients to set their expectations accordingly.

How do you quantify the current real estate market? It seems to be neither a buyers' market, nor a sellers' market.

If a property is priced correctly, it will sell. It is increasingly difficult to secure financing because banks are looking much more closely at credit scores. However, banks do have money to lend, despite rumblings to the contrary. If you have a good credit score, you should not have trouble getting a loan. Even without perfect credit you can secure a loan, likely with a slightly higher interest rate. Appraisals have become tougher, but again, if a house is priced right it should sell.

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