Realtor profile: Frank O'Mahony [The Santa Fe New Mexican :: ]
(Santa Fe New Mexican, The (NM) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) April 06--This interview series focuses on the people in Santa Fe's real-estate industry. Frank O'Mahony, born in Dublin and a graduate of Trinity College, is the founder of, and the qualifying broker at, Evolve Santa Fe Real Estate.
How long have you been in this office (above the Jean Cocteau Cinema)?
Just about six months, but I've been licensed since October 2004. My wife Christophe and son Jeremiah and I moved here from Palo Alto 12 years ago.
What were you doing there?
Well, I ran public relations for Apple UK in London, then I moved to Cupertino, Apple's headquarters, and did marketing and communications as well as consulting work. I was at the launch of Pay Pal and also Excite, which no longer exists, and Trimble, which kind of invented consumer GPS. The tech writer for The Guardian, Jack Scofield, who's retired now, maintains I'm the first person ever to send him an electronic press release. That was 1986 or something.
What brought you to Santa Fe?
Our son was 5 at that point and we thought this would be a more interesting, more eclectic, place for him to grow up and go to school. Also Palo Alto is a pressure-cooker, very intense even for kids.
What was Christophe doing in Silicon Valley?
She was a copy editor at an ad agency. We moved here and realized our skills were not in terribly high demand. I had written a monthly column for the Irish Times called "Letter From Silicon Valley" that was highly read because they had all those same companies over there. I loved doing it and when I moved here I talked to people at The New Mexican and they basically said Why would anyone here care about that stuff? That was a rude awakening, but it was an accurate assessment.
My first job was running the bakery for Cloud Cliff then somehow I had the opportunity to be director of marketing and communications for the New Mexico Economic Development Department. That was in the Richardson Administration and it was really exciting. We brought in the Spaceport. We brought the governor and Richard Branson together. I had all my contacts from Virgin Galactic in London so that was kind of cool for me.
The rockets will be going up soon.
They will. They're going to run out of billionaires. One thing I don't think has been looked at yet is that there will be opportunities for Santa Fe's hotels, because these are going to be people wanting Four Seasons hotels. But I reckon there'll just be four years of billionaires, then it will be payloads into space.
Including servicing the International Space Station?
Branson can't do that because he can't go high enough, but SpaceX, which is a quiet tenant at the Spaceport, has that contract. I was with the state for four years, then I decided to try this real-estate thing, first with Santa Fe Properties.
Why the change?
I wanted to run my own business again and I felt I had an expertise in online marketing that would stand me above a lot of other Realtors who had more experience in real estate.
Online marketing is cool, but print exposure is also an advantage, don't you think?
My personal feeling is that Santa Fe is a print town. I produce the Buckaroo Ball and when I do marketing, the thing that makes the phone ring is the paper. If I'm looking for out-of-town buyers, of course, I'm 110 percent online.
Are you using social networking?
Yeah, but the only way to get visibility on Facebook is to pay for it. As a real-estate guy posting on Facebook you're lost, because most people don't like what you post because it's business-oriented. You have to advertise. It's interesting and ironic that the reason Realtors left print was that we could get something for free. But it's not free any longer.
So how's business?
I'm 57 next year and I will become the average age of Realtors in the United States. That age has been going up. It is a real challenge. It's fine selling multi-million homes in Las Campanas, but that's not where the growth is.
Baby boomers are a growing part of the buyer market.
Luckily, Santa Fe is becoming more of a boomer market, although what was it, 50 percent of the sales last year were below $300,000? My point on the online marketing is about environment. And then it's about geographical reach, where I can post something online and it can be seen all over the planet.
It must be a boon to be selling in Santa Fe. The term is getting to be real well-known.
That's a double-edged sword. It absolutely attracts people. It absolutely has a magic. When you're doing online stuff, it attracts people but it attracts every damn person in the world. You can end up with 400 names and when you contact them, they're like, "Oh, I heard about Santa Fe..."
It's the lookie-loo problem.
Right. So part of growing old in real estate is knowing how to recognize those people. A lot of them fall off because it's a relatively expensive town. Even Dallas people are blown away by that. I have a guy who's retiring from New York City and he wants two bedrooms, dark sky, and room for his telescope in the garden, and his budget is $300,000. I'll find him something, but he's thinking that I'm going to give him 40 different properties and I can't.
Is the market coming back?
It's defintely slow coming back. Our problem is inventory. I have a goodly number of buyers, including local buyers, but the good stuff goes really fast. I'm not pro-development-at-any-cost, but infill is a fabulous thing. We should be encouraging builders to do it whenever they can. Also, they're taking a significant financial risk and getting approvals shouldn't take years.
I compete a lot with Scottsdale. I can complete on the opera and the beautiful skies and even golf, but not on price per square foot or inventory. I'm often asked about health care and I don't have a great answer for that. We only have the one hospital, but I tell them we're only 40 minutes from other hospitals. Airports are another question, and we have a small one here, but the international airport is only 70 minutes away. You can get on trails in half an hour. I sell that to my California people who are tired of driving for hours to get to Mammoth or Yosemite.
What's your prediction for the remainder of 2014?
I think structurally there's no way we can see a dramatic improvement because of the shortage of inventory. Most Realtors say they had a really good year last year and it's looking pretty good this year if we can find the houses for buyers.
Santa Fe has this pull on people and as soon as their portfolio looks better, they'll move up their retirement dates or their plans for a vacation home.
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