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Early to rise a winning strategy for top McMillin agent McKelvey

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Anyone who thinks the south San Diego County real estate market is sluggish hasn't met Patti McKelvey.

She's the perpetual-motion agent who has reigned as the top producer at McMillin Realty in Chula Vista since a year after joining the firm in 1987.

McKelvey is legendary for putting in seven days a week on behalf of her clients. She and son Jeff are usually at their desks in McMillin's Terra Nova Plaza offices by 6:45 a.m., except for about 8:15 a.m. on Sundays after church.

She often doesn't leave until 7 or 8 p.m., after the open houses she's held every Saturday and Sunday the past 27 years.

"Some agents say open houses don't do any good because they don't want to work on the weekend -- which to me is silly, because that's when most people can look," she said. "We do them because it makes the seller feel like you're doing everything humanly possible to sell their home."

All that devotion paid off again in 2013.

With help from Jeff, she sold 204 homes, more than any other agent in San Diego County. Sales exceeded $95 million, with an average price of about $450,000.

"The houses that sell very quickly are those priced below $500,000," she said. "Fortunately, our listings are usually on the market for 30 days or less. But in some areas, where they have high taxes like Mello-Roos and homeowners association fees, those homes stay on the market up to 60 days. As an agent, you really have to talk to people about these fees because they sometimes don't pay attention to them."

Even though other agents have lamented the low inventory of homes for sale, McKelvey is forging ahead with optimism in 2014.

"We're real busy," she said. "To me, it's always a good time to buy and sell real estate. I love it. But it has to work for your family. I never bought things just to make money when the market was going up. I think it's important to have a house first to live in, to enjoy. And if you build up some equity, then maybe buy investment property.

"I think if you can buy real estate, it's a very good investment," McKelvey said. "But I only buy in California. I know a lot of people who bought properties in Arizona and Texas, and ended up losing them. I would say if you're going to buy investment property, you should be able to drive by it almost every day. That's my rule of thumb."

McKelvey isn't shy about dispensing advice for sellers and agents:

"I'm proud to say I'm not a very politically correct person," she said. "Sellers, have your house prepared, and sell between April and September. And the house has to look like 'lights, camera, action!' Agents: Get up, dress up and show up! Jeff and I are here every morning about a quarter to 7. If you're serious about your career, you should be, too."

Photo by Glenn Grant

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McMillin Realty

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Terry LeClair

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