A local real estate agent who spends her days selling homes and managing rentals, Gina Pelaia “moonlights” by helping her neighbors. The Homer agent keeps several different perspectives in mind when helping young couples struggling to buy in today’s tough lending environment, or helping someone decide upon a place to rent.
Pelaia maintains her perspective for community with her involvement in everything from fundraising for victims of house fires, to women without shelter. She also lobbies in Juneau on the Alaska Board of Realtors.
Fellow realtors honored her work by naming her the 2008 Kachemak Bay Realtor of the Year.
“Gina handles a wide range of realtor duties from property management to sales,” said Homer Realtor Chris Story. “She deals with buyers, sellers and renters. She’s one of the most exemplary realtors, as well as one of the most versatile.”
Story said Pelaia can go from dealing with the sale of a $640,000 condo to helping a person get through a personal crisis, ” Story said.
Pelaia’s spotlight as Realtor of the Year came just before the new year, yet the work that landed her the honor lasts all year long.
At Bay Realty, Pelaia oversees the needs of 137 renters, dozens of property owners and shows more than 40 Homer homes per year.
Pelaia moved to Homer in 2004 from Tyler, Texas where she sold manufactured homes and properties for about 10 years. After visiting Homer several years to see her mother and brother, who live here, Pelaia found Homer beautiful at each visit.
“I sold my home and moved here so that I would have my mother’s support,” she said. Her son, Noah, now 6 years old, was a newborn. With help from her mother, Pelaia was able to spend a year at home with her children before hiring on at Bay Realty to handle leasing and sales.
A year later, Pelaia moved to her current position. She plays a unique dual role that calls for keeping property owners and renters happy, as well as representing buyers and sellers.
And while it sounds like a lot of juggling, Pelaia said it’s rewarding work.
“Sales is sales no matter where you live,” she said. “It’s a good feeling when you place a tenant in an apartment or when you sell a home. Making an American dream come true for people is always a good feeling.”
Homer’s pool of real estate agents shrunk from 54 last year to around 40 this year. With a lot of homes listed for sale, there’s bound to be insecurity among buyers. Above it all, Pelaia predicts this should prove a stable year.
“We’re going to be just fine,” she said. “Things are selling. It’s a great time to buy with the $8,000 tax credit for buying before Dec. 1, and the weatherization program to help homeowners … interest rates are low.”
On the property management side, Bay Realty sees a short 2-percent vacancy rate running in Homer, meaning the rentals are kept generally full.
“There’s always room for investment in the Homer rental market,” Pelaia said. Particularly, she indicated that Homer could use more apartment construction in the affordable range for people to lease month-to-month as they “rent now and buy later.”
The past two winters, Pelaia lobbied in Juneau and met with legislators to advocate for well-funded weatherization programs in this time of energy uncertainty. They succeeded in passing a law that goes into effect in 2010, and allows realtors to pool costs for “errors and omission” insurance.
“We have a lot of respect in Juneau because we’re a really well-organized group,” Pelaia said.
According to Story, this is the first time in some 10-15 years that Homer has had an elected representative on the statewide board. That can give a boost to local issues.
That Pelaia was elected two years in a row shows she has a great ability to network and influence others, Story added.
In Homer, Pelaia acts as chairman of the Kachemak Board’s annual Christmas auction fundraiser. The group raised $10,000 last year, and distributed it to Hospice, the Homer Food Pantry, Haven House, three $1,000 scholarships and a fund for victims of house fires.
Perhaps Pelaia’s secret to being able to relate to so many segments of the local housing population is how she views people.
“I treat everyone the same whether it’s someone who needs to rent an apartment for $600 or it’s someone looking to buy a house for $600,000,” she said. “I enjoy it. When you help someone else, you’re really helping yourself because it makes you feel good.”
Pelaia said being chosen as “Realtor of the Year” feels like a great honor because she was selected by her peers. A group of five previous winners of the award meet to select each year’s nomination in a “super secret process,” Story said.
In Texas, Pelaia also rose to the top, placing third in a top 10 listing of realtors. For that, she won a cruise to Bermuda.
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