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Lessons learned from A Year of Hard Choices in Adirondack real estate

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Northern New York's real estate market is showing signs of life, according to Mark Bergman. He's a realtor in North Creek. And he's part of our occasional series, A Year of Hard Choices. Below, you can find a link to these stories of the recession and how the sagging economy is affecting people across the North Country.

Bergman says he won't soon forget last year--and the economic lessons it taught him. Last spring, Mark spoke with Jonathan Brown about the dearth of real estate sales in the southern Adirondacks.

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Bergman says he was relieved to ring in 2010. But he's quick to add that mending the financial--and emotional--strains of the past year will take more than flipping over a new page of the calendar:

I think there were two real challenges this year. One was the obvious financial challenge that goes along with a slow real estate market. And at the same time trying to truly not become depressed.

He did some appraisal work and volunteered as President of the Johnsburg emergency squad. And he says he tried to divert his thoughts from the lack of money coming in.

But his clients had nearly identical concerns. Home values were plummeting. And sellers feared the impact this would have on their own finances:

Homeowners and property owners are in financially difficult times. And are looking to me to help resolve them by getting their property sold. Here's their biggest asset. Maybe they're somebody approaching retirement and they've been chugging away working for the last 20, 30 years, thinking that a big component of their retirement would be selling their home for $400,000 and now I have to be a little bit upbeat about the market but tell them you really only have a $250,000 asset.

Bergman says one of the most draining aspects of the past year was this conflict--between the negative trend of the market and the need to remain positive about its potential to grow:

In real estate--or anybody in sales--you have to be up. You have to be optimistic. Yet you have to balance that with a certain amount of honesty. So, you're trying to balance this feeling of 'Hey business is down. How am I going to pay the bills this month?' at the same time as trying to encourage people to be upbeat and positive and come invest in your community.

He's had some success at this. He says listings are now up. And even though lending is still sluggish, Bergman has made a few sales. This helped stop what he called a constant questioning of the professional path he chose:

In 2009, I'd say that I was reassessing what I was doing on almost a daily basis. I don't want to go through another year like that. Where frankly I don't think I made progress. I treaded water, so to speak. And now I've got a bit more breathing room so I can focus on my business and not so much focus on survival.

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