Realtors who go to the trouble of legally branding themselves with a catchy moniker are likely rare. But in late June, RE/MAX agent Jim Regan legally retained the title "Mr. Mount Prospect," a name he has been using informally for more than 30 years.
"I've been thinking about legally retaining the name for 20 years, but never had the time to pursue it," Regan said recently. "So I finally turned it over to someone in my lawyer's office and they took the time to do the paperwork."
Trademarks and branding are popular today, but they were not a big deal when Regan got in the real estate business.
"Years ago when personalized marketing in real estate was just starting to catch on, I thought and thought about what I could do to call attention to myself. When someone asked me if I was the king of Mount Prospect or something because he had seen my open house signs two weekends in a row, the idea came to me," he said.
"The whole idea with branding is to call attention to yourself and this name has done that for me," Regan added. "It has been fun and effective. Even the guys in my golf league jokingly say, 'Hey, Mr. Mount Prospect!' when they see me."
And having a trademark is truly a "value-added" thing, he explained. When you put a name like that on a sign, it sets the Realtor apart from the competition and gives an agent further legitimacy because a trademark is so rare.
"I really feel that it will help me when I choose to go into semiretirement and want to sell my business to someone else because no one else has this name," Regan said.
Regan also recently attained emeritus status from the National Association of Realtors because of his involvement in the business for more than 40 years.
How is the local real estate market faring?
"We still have a low inventory market which favors sellers, but they can't ask whatever they want in terms of price. The highest inventory of homes for sale always occurs in the fall. Those that sell quickest are the homes that regular people can afford -- between $300,000 and $400,000 in Mount Prospect and between $350,000 and $400,000 in Arlington Heights.
"The most active time of the real estate market is from February to May because there are lots of buyers out there then and they are often willing to pay between $550,000 and $660,000, as long as they don't have to do renovations. They all want open concepts and HGTV-quality decorating."
How has the real estate market changed over the last year?
"Things have been pretty consistent over the last three years with the average sales price rising about 5 or 6 percent, per year. The fact that interest rates are still just below 4 percent is important."
Are first-time buyers still an active part of the market?
"When less than 30 percent of the market is made up of first-time buyers, there aren't many move-up buyers because they need to sell their house before moving up.
"About half of the homes being sold locally are sold for less than $400,000, yet many people today are skipping the initial step of the traditional homebuying process and purchasing at the top of the price range for which they can qualify."
What do you see on the homebuying horizon?
"I worry that if interest rates rise above 5 percent, it will be disastrous for the market. Today's buyers don't remember when interest rates were in double digits in the early 1980s.
"I also worry that Congress will stop allowing people to deduct mortgage interest and real estate taxes on their federal income tax returns because the government is looking for more money. That would be disastrous, as well."