By DALE MADISON
Remind realtor Gary Lanham that the real estate market has changed and he will look at you and laugh. “No joke, Dale, where have you been?” he asks with mock astonishment. After Hurricane Wilma in 2005, things have not been good for most real estate professionals.
Yet, some agents and realtors have found a way to turn things around. Real Estate broker Gary Lanham is one of those. After working in the health care industry for most of his life, several years ago—in Lanham’s words–“I got burned out.” A longtime friend of local realty mogul Carl Marzola, he was approached by the realtor in 2004 about obtaining his license and “hanging it” at Marzola’s Atlantic Properties International.
“Things changed dramatically after Wilma,” recalls Lanham. “Sellers were abundant. It was the height of the market. Buyers were skittish to say the least,” he adds. “While buyers–and sellers, for that matter– were the higher end of the market, everyone in real estate felt the pinch.”
L a n h a m decided that it was time to start his own brokerage, and 14 months ago he did, with a twist. Viewing the market, he realized that there was a segment that was not getting much attention: those who were in trouble. “Upside-down is how most see this unlikely phenomenon,” Lanham admits.
A market that was once doubling or tripling in value is now shrinking, with banks camped out on door steps waiting to foreclose. Lanham saw an opportunity. “Let’s help people by working with the seller, the bank, and , and hopefully a buyer, to make it so that everyone is a winner, rather than someone losing all that they have worked for years to obtain,” he offers. With that knowledge, he founded Real Estate Recovery. According to Lanham, the banks became far more willing to work with owners in 2011, and so far in 2012, they have remained willing to work with those who are struggling.
“Most of our clients are coming from New York, Boston, Brazil, Columbia, and Venezuela,” Lanham reports. He has also focused on South Florida’s LGBT market, utilizing Realtor.com, among other media. “Let’s face it, who wants to be in the snow up north when you could be spending time on the white sands of South Florida?” he asks. Lanham’s philosophy starts at home.
“I really watch out for my agents,” he says. “Keeping them busy and happy is a priority.” Several months ago, Lanham’s mother became ill. When he went north to care for her, he monitored the business online. “Anytime a lead came in, I would rotate it through and ask ‘can you make contact with this potential client?’ If they said ‘yes,’ great. If not, no problem, I would move it on to the next agent, but the agency ran just as if I were there. We are technology-driven.” notes Lanham.
Lanham advises homeowners to consider all of their options should the specter of foreclosure loom over their home and property. “Many of those who are in foreclosure think they can just walk away with no repercussions,” he reports. But this is not the entire story.
“Banks have up to 20 years to come back to collect any shortfall if you don’t work with someone on an ‘approved’ short sale. And they will do everything they can to enforce that.”