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A changing of the guard

The leadership of the Mississippi Association of Realtors (MAR) changes next month when Ken Austin of Pass Christian becomes president. As the owner/broker of Mississippi Coast Realty, he has been actively involved in the local and state professional associations and has an ambitious year planned at the helm of the state’s largest trade organization. He chose for his theme: One family, one goal, success.

“That’s one hundred percent me,” Austin said of the theme. “We’re all one family of professionals and have a goal of success, but not all of that success is financial. We’re all involved in having successful communities. What benefits communities benefits us, too.”

Through additional education and sales production, Austin has earned the professional designation of certified residential specialist, which only about five percent of realtors nationally hold. He feels strongly about home ownership and wants to promote it through the association with one voice. “Real estate is a service industry,” he said. “We’re taking care of people and handling the largest purchase most consumers will ever make. There are lots of details and that’s what I love. The people and the process are my two things.”

He hopes to get more real estate professionals involved in local associations and in the state association, which has approximately 6,000 members. “We are a very diverse group, and a lot of our members are second-career people,” he said. “It will help our industry and our consumers if more of our professionals get involved.”

Austin is one of those second-career Realtors. He grew up in New Orleans and earned a degree in finance at the University of New Orleans. For 20 years he worked in the finance and marketing realms of the hospitality industry and served as general manager of full-service hotels. That career also meant he lived in 14 cities during those 20 years. “At some point you have to stop. I wanted to get closer to home and didn’t want to live in New Orleans,” he said. “Every time I moved the most enjoyable thing of my job was the real estate side. It was always a part of what I did.”

The logical conclusion for a career change was to combine his love of real estate with his desire to live on the Mississippi Coast where he had visited frequently as a child and college student. He chose Pass Christian as his new home and base of his new career. “I knew real estate from the consumer side but had to stop and learn it as a new profession,” he said.

He has spent the past 20 years in his new home and new profession while continuously learning. There have been no regrets with those decisions — even after Hurricane Katrina destroyed his home and office. “I didn’t consider leaving. This is near and dear,” he said.

Austin sees insurance affordability as the number one challenge of real estate on the Mississippi Coast. Across the state, real estate is dealing with issues similar to other places in the U.S. although he feels Mississippi’s highs aren’t as high and its lows aren’t as low as other places. “We deal with availability of good, affordable credit in rural areas where community banks are the backbone,” he said. “We have to continually be aware of regulations and continue to work with local lenders as they’ve worked hard to make their products as available as they possibly can.”

The new MAR president is optimistic about real estate in Mississippi and says it’s improving. “Overall, when we look across the state, we see improvement in sales prices and sales volumes,” he said. “Foreclosures brought down prices but appear to have bottomed out. We’re seeing some positive movement in prices. As employment and people’s confidence improve, things will get better.”

Austin sees his year as president of MAR as a great opportunity to see parts of the state he’s never seen and to meet a lot of great people. He also serves as chairman of the local professional standards board and teaches professional ethics with the Mississippi Real Estate Institute.

He has been involved in many community organizations in Pass Christian, including the local planning commission, chamber of commerce, Rotary Club and Holy Family Catholic Parish.



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