By Sarah Unger
There’s no place like home, and to make the point, Lawrence realtor Joe DeLorenzo— “Joe D” on his Re/Max In Town business card—describes changes in how customers view the dwellings they’re buying or selling.
Largely gone are the days of house-flipping and houses as investment income. The concept of “home” has come home, and DeLorenzo couldn’t be happier. It seems the storm that is rocking the financial and employments markets reveals a silver lining for housing markets as stable as in Lawrence.
“There have been nearly 300 houses sold in Lawrence this year,” DeLorenzo stresses, “because qualified people are getting mortgages. Houses that are priced right are selling. The days of just putting any house on the market and getting any price are over.”
That’s a good thing: “When you’re working for a buyer, you take a lot of time. I never like to pressure anyone to buy a home,” he says.
When it was a seller’s market, to have a potential buyer who was interested in a home and was prepared to make an offer, and then to have to say, “Well, this is the asking price and this is the over-the-asking price,’ didn’t feel terrific. But that was the reality,” he says.
DeLorenzo believes the softening is a correction to its former steadiness. When he became an agent in 1994, the market mirrored today’s. Then, Lawrence’s inventory held around 300 houses. When the market started heating up in 2000, Lawrence’s housing inventory dropped to about 150. Though it fluctuates, the inventory today is well over 200.
DeLorenzo touts greater Mercer County’s quality of life, relative affordability for qualified home buyers, proximity to mass transit for commuters and recreational, educational and cultural offerings.
“We’re not taking a big hit like other areas of New Jersey, or other parts of the country, such as Las Vegas, and parts of Florida. We’re still in very good shape,” he said.
He believes that the real estate market has reached bottom, though some people are still waiting for prices to continue to drop.
“We’ve never had these three dynamics before: inventory, low interest rates, and good prices. If you’re buying a house to live in it, this is the best time to buy,” he said.
Self-described as a hard-working agent for 11 years following a career at IBM, DeLorenzo attended a Re/Max convention in Orlando, Fla. Inspired by the company’s founders, he decided to hang out his own shingle.
Within days of his decision, he bought the then-vacant building at 181 Franklin Corner Road. Originally a barn, the century-old building was moved many years ago from its original foundation across what’s now U.S. 1, and moved to its current location.
He spruced it up with warm touches to evoke feelings of home, from dentil molding and arched entryways to a conference room that looks more like a dining room, with a fireplace and Rococo-detailed furniture.
Bordered recently by a white picket fence, and with a American flag waving proudly out front, the office really does look like home. Just indoors, behind the curved wood reception desk (really a granite-topped bar complete with brass footrest), a flat-screen TV tilts from the wall, tuned to the news or information programming from corporate parent Re/Max.
Clearly, DeLorenzo wants to make customers feel at home in his place of business, saying that what he does is “not just about selling a house. It’s about helping people change their lives.” He considers himself a “marketing nut,” who chooses unusual ways to attract attention, whether by giving away cheesecakes or by depicting himself on a postcard, via Photoshop, alongside Olympic champion Michael Phelps.
By having his own company, DeLorenzo derives satisfaction from not only helping customers, but also by helping agents to become successful in their marketing endeavors, encouraging their business and marketing independence while also supporting them. Since opening its doors three years ago, the franchise has grown from two agents (Dave Thomas and Lorraine McCormick) to 13.
With 80 percent of buyers having first researched their options through the internet before they contact a realtor, DeLorenzo says, “The old days of having a front desk, when people called in and you looked up a listing are gone.”
With a presence on eight to 10 Web sites, DeLorenzo says he uses technology to attract potential customers. It’s good customer relations that will convert these prospects from “fishing” status to customers, he says. “We never pressure. We just want to help.”