A local perspective on real estate

Real estate broker Jeff Williams as seen at Coldwell-Banker Classic Properties in Payette on Tuesday. Williams shares his experience in real estate as well as advice for individuals aspiring to follow in his footsteps.

PAYETTE — If you’re a homeowner, you probably have stories to tell about the buying process more than the moving-in process. In particular, you may have stories to tell about the agent or broker who sold it to you.

For real estate broker Jeff Williams, his entire career in the real estate business has been about making for happy stories to tell.

Williams, 63, owns the Coldwell-Banker Classic Properties office in Payette, where he not only oversees several agents but also shows houses and helps guide buyers through the process of paying for the house. Williams spent time on Dec. 29 telling the newspaper about his experience as a broker.

Williams originally came from Iowa, where he grew up on a family farm and earned a degree in animal science. Originally he considered veterinary medicine before exploring the business world.

“I moved to Idaho in January of 1980, went to work for a family business and did that for … 15 years, and then I started working on my real estate license and I found an opportunity that I would work for myself instead of work for a family business.”

Williams described his move from farming to moving farmland an “evolution.”

“I was somewhat involved in the construction business, so I gained quite a bit of knowledge about foundations and plumbing and electrical.”

Networking also played a hand in Williams’ career, as he also volunteered with the Payette Lions’ Club and the Payette Chamber of Commerce and and through his wife, who grew up in Payette.

Williams said his desire to help people find what they call home is what drove him to get involved in real estate. 

“It’s really a people business,” said Williams. “You’re dealing with people’s wealth or lack thereof, life’s challenges … So you are responsible for helping people with probably their biggest asset. I have a skill set that I can help people with their needs to buy or sell real estate, make an investment, whatever they want. It’s no longer a job, it’s just fun assisting people with your knowledge.”

Such knowledge and insight takes time and effort to obtain, he noted.

“But once you start approaching it that way, its ‘oh, I have a skill set that I can help people,’ then … it’s fun! [Not all days are] like that, just like all days at city hall aren’t as fun.”

He said the same desire to be helpful also led him to pursue city politics. 

“The [first] person that said [I ] might think about getting involved in real estate was [former State Controller] Donna Jones … She was selling real estate here, and actually … she told me about planning and zoning and I had no intention in getting involved in real estate at that time. But I got involved in planning and zoning and that kinda led to real estate, so it was kind of interesting how that happened.”

The vocabulary was what hooked him on working with real estate, he said.

“When I first worked in planning and zoning, I’ll bet I didn’t ask any questions for two years because I was trying to figure out, ‘What the heck is this all about?’ Now, I don’t know everything but I kind of know what that stuff means and can speak a lot easier. Farming here is way different than farming in the midwest,” he said, noting that local farming is more labor-intensive and has much less rain coming down than his former home state.

He has been Payette’s mayor since 2010, having previously served as a city councilor.

Williams cites his time on the Payette County Planning and Zoning Commission as helping him understand why these commissions are there. He summed up their purpose as being to preserve the character of their respective communities.

“Planning and zoning is appropriately named; It is a planning process of where you want development to be. And that is to look at the future twenty, thirty, forty years down the road. You can maybe see ten to twenty but when they start talking about comprehensive plan … sometimes it talks about longer than that. You might have a vision for twenty years, but to think you can plan for forty years is a bit tough because technology and all that…

Williams is on the citizens advisory committee for the county’s comprehensive plan.

“To sum it up, planning is the vision for the future. The zoning meetings is making decisions about individuals’ desires and see if it fits what the plan is. The zoning’s the easy part, it’s take the facts and make a decision, the planning is the hard part.”

Preserving prime farmland tops the list of concerns, according to Williams.

“That’s the lifestyle that we have here, people that move from other areas of the country we’re probably a little backwards. But that’s the appeal… people are moving here in droves.”

Williams cites Payette’s low cost of living, low crime rates and conservative values as a driver of recent population growth, as well as a driver of balancing growth with preservation of the area’s character.

“That’s kind of the strange world that I work in.”

Williams obtained his real estate license in 1995, followed by his broker’s license three years later. In 2001, having worked for Classic Properties prior, Karen Hollis offered him the chance to purchase the business.

“From there, [we] rented places and in 2007 bought this property which was the top of the market.”

The timing of his purchase could not have been less advantageous, as the subprime mortgage crisis of 2007 and the subsequent economic recession challenged his business quite a lot.

“Everything came crashing down like all good realtors should buy high and suffer,” Williams joked.  “That was rather challenging when the market crashed and real estate wasn’t selling, the value of this place was not what I paid for it. But I worked through it, worked with some creditors and been through that  before and survived and have a thriving business now.”

Nowadays, the issue is not a lack of demand but rather a lack of supply; Recent growth has seen houses sell like hotcakes in the Western Treasure Valley.

“It’s really a mixed bag right now, probably one of the most challenging times that I’ve ever been in real estate, in that there is so little inventory on the market,” said WIlliams. “Right now, prices are a little bit lower the Ontario area, Fruitland’s generally the highest price around… New Plymouth, proximity to Boise, as you move closer to those higher paying jobs” the higher 

Regardless of market conditions, Williams says it’s important to be flexible with whatever type of property one sells.

“I just roll with the punches; I don’t take it personally, you can’t please everybody all the time and you make a decision of what’s best for the most people. That … is life. You try to take care of the majority of the people, because you can’t take care of everybody.”

He emphasized that selling homes with emotion is important, too.

“The seller’s gonna have emotions that kids grew up here, and Christmas, and grandma and grandpa and all that. Buyers, when they go and start looking at houses, one of the first things they’re doing is ‘The furniture that I have, is that gonna fit in here?’”

For Williams, helping make sense of the sale financially is not just payment affordability but also ensuring it pays for itself.

Williams said his biggest influences in the real estate market include Rod Panike, a broker with Select Properties in Weiser, as well as Linda Wilson of Wilson Realty, and Hollis. 

“Sometimes it’s just good to give somebody a call and just bounce ideas off of them. I have agents, mostly from my office but there’s a few other agents in other offices.”

He also said he liked a presentation he once saw given by property brothers Jonathan and Drew Scott.

As far as getting maximum value for what they spend on their homes, Williams tells buyers to think like buyers and vice versa.

“I think the most successful negotiation happens when you get a mindset that if you’re a buyer, if you think about the things that are important to the seller. Or the opposite, if you’re a seller you think about the things that are important to the buyer.”

He said what you do with the property is just as important as choosing a property that fits your needs.

To aspiring realtors, Williams notes that you get what you give and that knowing fellow real estate agents helps a lot.

“It’s all about people skills; You never know what people are dealing with in their life and we all share things differently. You need to listen way more than you talk. Listen to what their needs are and direct them … Treat other people like you’d like to be treated; Over-produce and under-promise is huge because if you go the other way you’re setting yourself up for failure.”

Williams has lived in Payette since 1997.

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