"The most important thing to know about 2014 is, we're back to the basics," said Joe Cobb, broker owner of Escondido-based Realty Experts.
"The basics just didn't work the last five to seven years. If you sent out mailers, nobody would respond to them," he said. "So agents got out of that habit of doing their regular mailing or connecting, knocking on doors, that type of thing. Now we're back to the basics of real estate."
For Cobb and his 80 to 90 agents, 2013 was a year of recovery.
He said residential real estate changed from a bank-involved, short sale and REO (real estate-owned) market to a private-party type of market. As a result, sales are already ahead of last year's pace, even this early in January.
"We're working with people who find they have some equity in their home," he said. "They're able to sell now, where they might not have been able to a year and a half ago. So that seller becomes a buyer. It's our job to go out and find those people who are willing to buy or sell this year."
Cobb said he expects 2014's sales volume to transition from "that terrible short-sale market into what I like to call a more normal real estate market."
"We're finally back to a [genuine] real estate market, so anything that worked before the crash would be working again," he said. "In my 38 years in the industry, the standard operating procedure is that you reconnect with all of those people in your past and in your current sphere of influence, and you really make sure that each of of them knows you're in the business and an expert in the business."
His top advice for agents this year: "I would be emphasizing to the consumer that this is about the lowest interest rates you're going to get. If you're waiting for lower interest rates, you're thinking of the wrong thing.
"Barring some sort of tragedy or Congress stopping the debt limit and closing down the government again, there is no way in my experience I can see that interest rates are going to go down again." he said. "The overall expectation is that it will be about 5.5 percent by the end of the year. We're at 4.5 percent right now, so that's quite a jump. The traditional real estate practice is getting back to local specialists. So if you want to buy or sell real estate in Rancho Bernardo, for example, you want to try to find someone who knows what they're talking about.
"It's kind of a fad for the brokers. It hasn't filtered down to all the agents yet. I'm doing my best to get that into their brain."