Flexibility is Key
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.