New MAAR Leadership Looks to Build on Strengths

LANCE ALLAN | The Daily News

NEW LEADERSHIP: William Mitchell takes the helm of the Memphis Area Association of Realtors from current president Sue Stinson-Turner in January.Photograph by Lance Allan

When William Mitchell takes over as president of the Memphis Area Association of Realtors in January, it's fitting that his term will follow that of current board president Sue Stinson-Turner.

The two have worked off and on for the same real estate firms since beginning their respective careers nearly 30 years ago.

Mitchell and Stinson-Turner, who now work with separate Crye-Leike offices, both started out with Sterling Co. in 1978.

"It's funny because we started within two weeks of each other at the same company," Stinson-Turner said. "So we go back a long way."

Upcoming transition. That relationship and the Realtors' years of experience will ensure that MAAR has a seamless transition to its new leadership. Mitchell, who was confirmed as 2006 president last month, takes over the role Jan. 1. Neil Hubbard of Prudential Collins-Maury will serve as president-elect, John Snyder of CRESA Partners Memphis will serve as secretary/treasurer and John Green of John Green & Co. will serve as vice president.

"I'm not sure that there is any new agenda here," Mitchell said of his goals for the coming year. "It's just a continuation of a good policy that has been in place. I think we need to be more public with what we have done and who we are and what we are about. We intend to do that."

Boom time. For Stinson-Turner, 2005 has been an interesting year, namely because she has been a part of MAAR leadership during a phenomenal growth period for real estate.

"I think we have enjoyed an unbelievable run of housing and selling," she said. "It's a very unique market - it has been for the last couple of years. We have the lowest interest rates you can imagine. The national association economists say these rates are going to be pretty consistent, maybe a little bit of a rise, but pretty consistent for the next couple of years."

Low interest rates have played a major role in the record numbers Memphis residential real estate has produced in the past couple of years. Both Turner and Mitchell recalled when current rates - in the 6 percent range - for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage would have been unheard of.

2006 MAAR Officers:
William Mitchell, president
Neil Hubbard, president-elect
John Snyder, secretary/treasurer
John Green, vice president

"I never thought we'd see single-digit interest rates again," Stinson-Turner said, recalling the 16 percent and 17 percent rates of the early 1980s. "When it fell to 9.5, I was going, 'Oh my gosh, guys, this is unbelievable.' And then it kept getting lower and lower and lower. It was like, wait a minute, this is unheard of."

More members. The industry has changed in other areas, as well. The number of local Realtors, for example, has nearly doubled since Mitchell and Turner entered the profession. There were about 2,500 members in MAAR in the early 1980s, compared to 4,700 current members.

"We have more members, which creates competitiveness," Mitchell said. "But it's good. There are more houses being sold, No. 1. The good side of that is more people are being introduced to homeownership who ordinarily probably wouldn't have been."

Mitchell said communication is important for MAAR in overcoming obstacles the profession faces. For example, communicating with state and local elected officials is important, especially as it pertains to tax issues.

And with the wealth of choices area home buyers have, communicating with members of the Northwest Mississippi Association of Realtors also is vital, he said.

Regional cooperation. The two associations are in early talks about potentially organizing a regional Multiple Listing Service.

"There are almost 400 of our members that are members down there," Stinson-Turner said. "They are paying duplicate fees. What we've been trying to do is open the doors of communication to talk about a regional MLS where our members would only pay one fee and be able to share information.

"We are one market. Years ago, you never heard someone who lived in Memphis want to go looking in Mississippi. But now we're a region. So now is the time we should be moving forward on something together."

The association also is attempting to market itself to the public.

"What I feel like we've tried so hard to do is be much more public," Stinson-Turner said. "Our role is more than just selling houses for them or finding houses for them. We can be their advocate in housing issues. We can be the public's consultant when it comes to mortgages or it comes to those things that affect them in the transaction. I hope we've made ourselves a little bit more reachable to the Memphis people."

Making a difference. Helping the public, and particularly clients, is what makes both Mitchell and Stinson-Turner confident they chose the right profession.

"I enjoy being a part of the biggest investment they'll probably ever make in their lives," Stinson-Turner said. "I especially like working with first-time home buyers. I know after this many years in the business, I should be wanting just nothing but referrals to just resell, resell, resell, but when you help a young couple get their first house, there's just a different feeling to that."

Mitchell enjoys the different types of people the profession has introduced him to.

"You can meet doctors, lawyers, professionals from every facet of life all the way to the workmen at FedEx," he said. "You have to treat them all the same. And of course, the good feeling you get out of assisting people. It's just a feeling you can't equate in dollar terms."