Over the past 50 years, Carrollton real estate agent Mitt Conerly Sr. has weathered four recessions. But none of them, he says, were anything like the current coronavirus shutdown.
Conerly works at Metro West Realty, 850 Cedar St. He began his career when he was looking for a way to supplement his income while teaching at what was then called West Georgia College. When a friend’s brother-in-law was opening a real estate company, he became interested in becoming a Realtor and got his license.
“I didn’t do anything with it for a while, but then I sold a house to a colleague of mine at the college,” Conerly said. “That put me on the fire, really. After that, I just kept selling more and more real estate and decided to change careers after two more years.”
Because Carrollton is a small town, Conerly said he has to be well-versed in a bit of everything when it comes to the business. He sells a combination of residential and commercial properties, but he said he does land and commercial ventures mostly.
It takes three years to get a broker’s license, he said. After he accomplished that goal, he formed a company called Real Estate West in the early 1970s. This business would live on for 40 years before merging with Realtor Dwayne Hicks’ company, Metro West Realty, 10 years ago on June 1.
At the start of his career, he said there were not many licensed real estate agencies in this area except for two companies that began in the late 1960s. This was strange to him at the time, but since then the profession has grown and the educational requirements have increased.
Conerly has been through four recessions throughout his career. Real Estate West had only been in business for a few months back in 1973 when he experienced the first of these. At that time, Conerly said interest rates escalated into the double digits of 15-20%.
The way he has survived these economic downturns is by getting creative in each situation. He has practiced this ever since.
“The key is to adapt, be creative and think of new ways to do business,” Conerly said. “It’s changed tremendously, especially here in Carrollton.”
The coronavirus pandemic shares similarities and differences to what he has seen in the past. He said the major difference is that this recession is not somehow related to the economy, but to a medical emergency.
The Great Recession of 2008 was caused by the real estate market, the money supply, and high-interest rates, he said. Initially, the COVID-19 shutdown was not related to the economy in any way.
But, following the lesson of adaptation, Conerly has coped with the crisis by having virtual showings and closings. In some cases, he would conduct business with interested home buyers out in the parking lot of Metro West Realty.
“The business continues to be good, but it’s different, just like it was different after we came out of every recession,” he said.
How agents market properties has also “changed dramatically,” he said, with the advent of technology pushing him into the 21st century. The evolution changed from newspapers to magazines and now websites and social media that have thousands of listings.
From virtual showings to electronic signings, technology has simplified the way Conerly and other real estate agents have conducted business. But while this has opened the market to prospective buyers internationally, the door has also been opened to more competition, he said.
“That has had a dramatic impact on the way we have done business,” Conerly said. “In some ways, it has made it easier. Certainly, communication is a lot better. That has made it easier to show a property.”
The driving force behind what he does has been Conerly’s desire to serve people, sometimes those who are in need. Last week, he helped his grandson and his family close on a house, an “exciting moment” for him during his career.
“Seeing people like that get their first home is quite rewarding,” Conerly said. “It’s been terrifically rewarding, and it’s certainly not all about the money.”
During his 50 years as a Realtor, he has seen how the housing market has changed over time since the mid-1970s. Home values nationwide have more than doubled since then, according to a December 2018 article in Business Insider, and the national median value has increased by 103%.
In 1970, the average cost for a home in Georgia was $92,144, according to Business Insider. That price jumped 89% in 2017 to $173,700. The home-buying website Zillow reported that the average price of a home in the state increased $77,000 to $260,700 three years later.
Conerly uses the term “workforce housing” in place of what is affordable and said the real estate market reflects the average income of the area. Houses in California are much more expensive than in west Georgia because employee salaries are also higher there, he said.
However, he said building costs have gone up, so he is seeing smaller lot sizes and smaller houses. He is also noticing a trend where more houses are being built in the city because he said people like the convenience of being able to walk downtown.
“Overall, the value of square footage compared to what you can afford is still better in this area, a far better saving than New York or California,” Conerly said. “I’ve had people say many times that come from out of town or the area that just can’t believe they can buy a house for what they can here.”