Real Deal

Flex­i­bil­ity is Key

The Sentinel-Record - HER - Hot Springs - - Content - By Don Thoma­son, pho­tog­ra­phy by Richard Ras­mussen

Flex­i­bil­ity in their daily lives is one of the strong points the real es­tate in­dus­try pro­vides for Jim and Ch­eryl Watkins. Be­fore get­ting back into the real es­tate business about 18 years ago, Jim Watkins said he was in the re­tail lum­ber and build­ing ma­te­rial business in Lit­tle Rock and his wife was in man­u­fac­tur­ing and they felt like they “were tied to a stump.”

“When you have op­er­a­tions like that, you are stuck. What I like about this, ver­sus that, is that in real es­tate you have flex­i­bil­ity, and aren't tied to one par­tic­u­lar spot. You go to dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions, meet lots of dif­fer­ent peo­ple and it's just more flex­i­ble, but there are some things about real es­tate that are de­mand­ing, too,” he said.

He said he and his wife knew from the be­gin­ning that in the real es­tate business, one has to be avail­able 24/7.

“You aren't tied to a business; you're tied to your phone. When you sign up some­one and list their prop­erty, and they want to talk, you bet­ter be avail­able. And most buy­ers want to look at prop­erty on the week­ends, so you need to be avail­able,” he said.

Jim Watkins said he got his bro­ker's and real es­tate li­cense about the same time in 1985 and ran a small bro­ker­age firm in con­junc­tion with the lum­ber yards he owned un­til 1991. He and his wife have been Real­tors with Crye-Lieke Real Es­tate Ser­vices since Oc­to­ber 2010, but re-en­tered the business in 1996 after sell­ing his re­tail lum­ber busi­nesses.

The cou­ple be­gan vis­it­ing Hot Springs in 1990 and bought a condo on Lake Hamil­ton in 1991.

“We were hooked after that. It's like liv­ing on va­ca­tion ev­ery day,” he said.

After stay­ing in the condo for about four years, the cou­ple built a home on Mar­ion An­der­son Road and lived there about 10 years be­fore find­ing a 5-acre prop­erty on Lake Hamil­ton Drive they pur­chased from John Ed An­thony and sub­di­vided into three lots. The cou­ple still lives in one of the homes built on that prop­erty.

Watkins said he be­lieves the real es­tate in­dus­try is im­prov­ing and gain­ing strength after suf­fer­ing through the hous­ing slump of 2007-2008, and he feels “a lot bet­ter about 2015.”

He also said now is a good time for first-time home­buy­ers to pur­chase a home be­cause the in­ter­est rates “are ridicu­lously low.” In ad­di­tion, he said Fan­nie Mae and Fred­die Mac plan to launch mort­gage pro­grams in early 2015 with down pay­ments as low as 3 per­cent for buy­ers with good credit but lit­tle cash.

Fan­nie Mae is the Fed­eral Na­tional Mort­gage As­so­ci­a­tion, a lead­ing source of res­i­den­tial mort­gage credit in the U.S. sec­ondary mar­ket. Fred­die Mac was char­tered in 1970 to pro­vide liq­uid­ity, sta­bil­ity and af­ford­abil­ity to the na­tion's hous­ing mar­ket. It is one of the largest sources of fi­nanc­ing to­day for mul­ti­fam­ily hous­ing.

“I think in­ter­est rates will stay low and it will put first-time home­buy­ers back in the game. The re­ces­sion cre­ated a huge rental mar­ket, but I think the new pro­vi­sions that are go­ing to be put in place early next year will help peo­ple get into houses,” Watkins said.

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