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New Honolulu Board Of Realtors President Shares His Vision

ohg0103_12010 Honolulu Board of Realtors President Brian C. Benton takes the reins of the nearly 5,900 member organization with an outlook for the industry that is both positive and realistic.

Benton is Broker In Charge of Prudential Locations, a real estate firm that has traditionally emphasized reliance on sound research, advanced real estate technology, and a strong customer focus. A company shareholder, Benton is no longer a member of the sales force…he now coaches Realtors.

He is also a member of the Board of Directors and Government Affairs Committee of the Hawaii Association of Realtors, the 8,900 member “umbrella” organization for Hawaii’s six local Boards. As such, Benton is kept apprised of legislation and initiatives impacting the real estate industry.

“One of my priorities as president of HBR is to ensure that members are aware of, and take advantage of, the many benefits the organization offers. Our communication tools are constantly being enhanced and every Realtor, whether a new licensee or seasoned practitioner, needs to stay on the cutting edge of technology to compete and succeed in this ever changing marketplace. By participating in Board activities, serving on committees, and answering ‘calls to action’ when they are issued, real estate agents ultimately reap personal benefits by strengthening the industry as a whole.

“As members of the Board and its Multiple Listing Service, Realtors have access to detailed information on properties currently being marketed or recently sold. This information is essential in servicing their clients…in fact, without it, real estate agents cannot provide valuable service to the clients they are representing in transactions, whether buying or selling.”

Benton emphasizes that market analysis and understanding the cyclic nature of real estate has been pivotal in the success of his own company. “In order to chart a course for the future, you have to know where you’ve been. Prudential has always been a leader in market research, which often reveals some surprising data. For example, at the height of the ‘bubble’ period, Hawaii real estate was commanding unprecedented prices. The amounts paid for single family homes and condos, particularly by Japanese buyers, often seemed exorbitant…now buyers wish they had those prices back.

“Hawaii is a unique market that attracts offshore buyers and investors despite the current or any economic crisis,” Benton said. “Its unmatched climate, image as a safe haven, and a real estate product that is second to none worldwide continue to support growth at the high end. Cash buyers in the market for luxury homes are coming from both the Mainland and Asia…there is still plenty of cash out there. At the low to mid price points, the Federal home buyer tax credits are making it possible for new buyers to get into the marketplace and for existing home owners to move up.

“At Prudential, where we offer a program that provides an actual $8,000 cash advance to qualified buyers who don’t want to wait to claim the credit on their income tax, we are seeing a dramatic increase in first time home buyer sales. This incentive combined with prevailing low interest rates will be the dynamic that will continue to support market activity at least through the middle of 2010.”

However, Benton points out that with the expiration of the tax credit on April 30 and the likelihood that interest rates will escalate, 2010 could begin to offer new challenges to the industry. One response, which he recommends to HBR members, would be to hone their skills through continuing education and by obtaining professional designations, such as Certified Residential Specialist (CRS), Accredited Buyers Representative (ABR), Graduate Real Estate Institute (GRI), and others offered by the National Association of Realtors. Many of the more experienced Realtors who already hold these designations, could expand their expertise with some of the newer additions, such as e-PRO, Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES), and NAR’s Green Designation.

His advice to buyers and sellers is to validate the credentials of any real estate agent they plan to work with in a transaction, whether large or small. “Realtors and Realtor Associates who are members of a local Board, and, therefore, the Hawaii Association and National Association of Realtors as well, are required to take courses and pass tests in order to remain active and hold a valid license. These real estate agents have access to all the current forms that enable them to conduct a transaction involving the buying and selling of real property. The sales contract, the basic instrument in a transaction, is now over 28 pages long with inclusion of new addenda. It’s also reassuring to know that the person who is handling the biggest financial transaction you may make in a lifetime is required to subscribe to a strict Code of Ethics.

“And lastly, it’s important for both Realtors and consumers to understand that real estate is a people business…a real estate transaction is a very personal affair. As we move forward with our vision for 2010, we will continue to remind our members that the ‘personal touch’ is still of paramount importance in attracting and retaining clients despite the proliferation of electronic communications and advances in technology. And we also encourage our HBR members to take advantage of the experience and expertise of their leadership for information about any aspect of the business, counseling, or problem solving…we are here for them.”

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