I met Tom Ferguson in 1993 when I became politically active. At that time, Tom had already served as a member of the Manchester Board of Directors and as Registrar of Voters. We currently work together at the Registrars Office supervising elections in Manchester. I knew that Tom has also been a realtor for many years and has sold many of the Cheney Mansions, a few of them several times. I asked Tom to share his thoughts and experiences about the real estate business in Manchester.
Timothy Becker: Tom, I know that your Mom and Dad were very successful realtors. How long have you been a realtor in Manchester and how did you get started?
Tom Ferguson: I became a realtor before my parents did. I started at 19 years old and have been a realtor for 36 years. While I was attending the University of Hartford, I took a summer real estate class at Manchester Community College. I was a business major and the class counted towards my degree.
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Timothy Becker: Do you remember your first sale?
Tom Ferguson: At age 19 I sold a big split level on Ludlow Rd. for $68,000. I thought that I had died and went to heaven. How dramatically the business has changed since that time.
Timothy Becker: How has the business changed?
Tom Ferguson: Pricing has changed drastically and the requirement for continuing education has increased. We used to use a one page contract, now it is eight pages. There are inspections for termites, mold, radon, and asbestos. A buyer must now sign a written agreement with the realtor before being shown any properties. Today the buyer needs to be pre-qualified by a bank or a mortgage company before submitting a bid on a property. The seller must fill out a multi-page disclosure form concerning the environmental, structural, and mechanical condition of the property.
Timothy Becker: How has pricing changed?
Tom Ferguson: The large number of foreclosures and short sales are driving price. The low prices are affecting the market. Condos are affected even more.
Timothy Becker: Is it more challenging to put deals together lately?
Tom Ferguson: People are aware of the economy. Buyers are hesitant because they fear home values will drop further. Inversely, mortgage interest rates are unbelievable.
Tim Becker: What are you doing these days to close deals?
Tom Ferguson: To be successful, you have to be creative with offers and with marketing properties. The seller has to be willing to work with the realtor to make their home look better than the competition. The key is effective pricing. Everyone thinks that their property is worth more than their neighbor's property. A realtor needs to bring tools and statistics to prove to the seller what the appropriate pricing is for their home.
Tim Becker: I understand that you grew up in a Cheney Mansion and that you have sold many of them.
Tom Ferguson: In 1958 my parents bought 78 Forest St. I am intrigued with the history of the mansions. I got to know many of the families that lived in the mansions. I do a great lawn tour with Susan Barlow on Heritage Day. People in Manchester are impressed with the Cheney homes. I have sold five of them over the years and I am currently listing one for sale. I didn't realize that my house was special until junior high school when I asked a friend over to my home and he said “ we can't go up there, we will get into trouble.”
Tim Becker: What is going on in the Manchester real estate market and can you share your thoughts about the future?
Tom Ferguson: We have a big range of prices for homes. In a down market we can survive because we are not limited to a particular market. We are currently seeing a lot of activity based on low prices, a variety of mortgage programs, and very low interest rates. I believe that the outcome of the presidential election will have an impact on the future of real estate.