Realtor James Baxter likes to help his clients with their homework. It saves them and him a lot of time and possible aggravation.
"I team up with a good lender to get buyers prequalified before we go down the path of making an offer," said Baxter, an agent with RE/MAX Solutions in Rancho Penasquitos.
"When you educate a buyer, they're much more comfortable, they understand the process, they know what they're getting into and there are no surprises," he said. "So I don't see that 'deer in the headlights' look when it comes time to prequalify. We get everything done, they know what's expected.
"So do I talk to people who want to buy a home and they can't? Yes. Does it go any further than that? No, because we go, 'Where are you at, what's your scenario, let's talk to our lender and here's your game plan. Let's get you back into the housing market.' When you do due diligence up front, it eliminates those problems.'"
That strategy paid off for well for Baxter in 2013, his best year since getting into real estate in 2007.
He closed 18 residential transactions for total sales of about $11 million. The North County native specializes in properties in Encinitas -- where he lives -- Carlsbad, San Marcos, Vista, Oceanside and Escondido.
"I think 2014 is going to be a good year," he said. "The January median sales price was up 22 percent from the same time last year and I expect to see that trend continue and prices go up -- maybe a 5 to 10 percent bump by the end of summer, maybe even a little bit more, depending on the area."
Baxter sees several other factors contributing to a healthy market this year.
"The end of the distress market is big news. A lot of people forget that this is a pretty normal dip," he said. "If you look back at the early 2000s back to the early '60s, there are these market corrections. It wouldn't surprise me to see another correction by 2020. Every 10 or 15 years, we go through that cycle.
"I'm seeing a lot more people inquire about 'what's my home worth?' People call me for market reports on their house. It's going through the roof," Baxter said. "It used to be a handful here and there. It's interesting when you think about it because it's kind of a leading indicator for inventory levels and where they're going to go."
"I'm also hearing a lot of 'I'll drive by first.' I think the majority of homes don't get open houses," he said. "A couple of years ago, maybe 40 percent of people started their home search online, whereas now that number is 90 percent and I wouldn't be surprised if it hits 100 percent real soon."