Stepping into a Shay Realtors office is like stepping into one of the homes the 4S Ranch-based agency sells. There's a kitchen, comfortable couches, big-screen TVs, designer lighting and other homey touches.
"Our concept is completely different than any other real estate company you come to because most are going to office locations versus retail," said broker Ray Shay.
"We're at retail with a small number of agents and we believe in high service and great contact with our clients."
Home life is important to Shay and his wife, Theresa, a Realtor since 2003. Ray retired about eight years ago as a lieutenant after a 24-year career with the San Diego Police Department.
After attending a seminar on the real estate business, he decided to join Theresa in the profession. That way, they could work closer to home and spend more time with their young children.
Since then, Shay Realtors has expanded to three offices specializing in 4S Ranch, Rancho Penasquitos, Santaluz, Crosby Estates, Rancho Santa Fe and Carmel Valley. They have all types of clients from all over the county, but "I really enjoy helping out cops," Ray said.
And business has been brisk. The firm's average home price last year was about $750,000.
"2013 was a record year for us," Ray said. "With just the few agents we have, we had over 70 closings worth $53 million in total sales.
"This year we're seeing limited inventory, but if homes are staged and presented properly, we get multiple offers and are able to push the price up," he said.
"North County is seeing 15 to 20 percent price gains since last year, so it feels like things are selling very, very fast and are on an upward trend.
"I still think there's room and good value to purchase. Homes are staying on the market 45 days or less if they're priced reasonably, and that's usually with multiple offers," he said.
The Shays are active in the communities where they live and sell.
They helped form the 4S Ranch Del Sur Community Foundation and SDPD SWAT Officers Association, and support other community organizations. Ray writes a popular blog about the region and offers several email newsletters to keep clients and potential clients updated.
After so many years in the business, the Shays are still passionate about helping buyers own their slice of the American dream.
"We just put a first-time buyer family into a house in Poway," Ray said. "They paid $425,000 for a single-family residence. They're real excited and we're excited for them. You just provide the same high service whether it's a mobile home or an estate. You've got to be consistent."