July 6, 2019 — “I just think it’s an undiscovered gem,” Jim Hoberg, owner of West Coast Real Estate Services, said of the Florence area. “We have all the outdoor activities, we have all the events. We have everything that a big town has in a small-town atmosphere. And then if you want big town, it’s 60 miles in every direction. It is a great place to live, work, raise kids. I mean, it’s just a really cool place.”
Florence is the kind of place that Hoberg, along with his five associates, have dedicated their lives to. The goal is to ensure the undiscovered gem remains vibrant and healthy, though at times it can be difficult. Hoberg, whose business covers both rental property management and real estate, has experienced first-hand some of the issues facing the local rental and housing market.
“The rental market is super strong,” Hoberg said. “There’s not a whole lot of rentals for people to stay in, and there is not a whole lot of homes for people to purchase. It’s a tough process right now. Our job is to try and keep every family and every person in Florence.”
And when Hoberg and his crew are able to fulfill their goal, the moment that a family in need finds stability, West Coast Real Estate goes beyond just finding people homes — the staff does its part by helping keep the community thriving.
Hoberg is celebrating 30 years in the business. A Florence native, he grew up learning the ins and outs of the automotive business.
“I was a certified mechanic in the family business,” he said, referring to Hoberg’s Auto Repair, which his family has run for decades. But 30 years ago, he saw an opening in the real estate business.
“I started to pursue that,” he said. “The family supported me and I never looked back. It was super fun, and I can’t believe it’s been 30 years. It’s still very exciting every day. I’m very happy.”
His favorite part has been satisfying client needs.
“We strive very hard to find whatever the client, whether it be a buyer or a seller, what their actual motivation is and what they want to do,” he said. “And then we scour the market. That is one of our leading things here, to satisfy their desire.”
The past three decades have seen a lot of changes in the Florence community when it comes to real estate. There was the waning timber industry in the ‘80’s, followed by a retirement housing boom in the ‘90’s. Then the housing crash of the 2000s caused an abundance of rental opportunities in the area. Homeowners, looking at the houses as investment properties, began renting their single-family units just to cover the costs of the mortgages.
But things changed when the market prices began to recover. While there are many factors associated with the current “housing crunch” in the region, one large factor came from homeowners looking to recoup their losses after the crash. They began selling off their properties to recover the losses. This has left many long-term residents who were renting without a place to land.
“There’s not a whole lot of options, so they’re reviewing every option they have, whether it’s to stay in Florence or move out of Florence,” Hoberg said. “We’re working with people right now where the home was sold out from underneath them. They were renting a home and it was sold.”
While he said he didn’t like to use the word “couch surfing,” his clients did not have a stable home. This is where West Coast Real Estate becomes a vital part of keeping the community together.
“We walk buyers through every step of the process to get approved for a new home, find a property that suits their needs and take them all the way through closing,” Hoberg said. “Then we give helpful hints on how to maintain the home afterwards, so they don’t have problems.”
And it’s at that moment when the job goes beyond selling property — when Hoberg and his crew help support the community.
“To see them go from rock bottom when they got notice and came in, saying ‘We have no place to live,’ to actually owning a home.”
It’s the excitement of those getting out of a tough situation that makes the job special.
“They’re going from being a renter that was displaced from a sale to living with family and friends,” he said. “They were exploring every option and it’s nice that we were able to keep them here. Florence needs as many people remaining in Florence as we can keep.”
The displaced are not the only people that West Coast Real Estate helps. There’s the people who want to move into the region who can’t find an entry-level home.
“The story is, ‘I got a job here, but I have no place to live. How do I move here for our new job?’ That’s another aspect on the rental side. People get hired here. Where do we house them? It’s definitely a juggling act.”
But the issues surrounding the “housing crunch,” as some people call it, are temporary.
“Right now, the city is pretty proactive in trying to find a solution to that problem,” Hoberg said. Hundreds of affordable homes are in the planning right now, particularly to the north side of the city. “It’s very nice,” he added.
And when that occurs, West Coast Real Estate will transition from keeping the community together, to growing it.
“The best is probably the first-time homebuyer,” Hoberg said. “They’ve been renting for years and they finally come to the conclusion that they want to be a homeowner. That’s probably the most satisfying aspect of our business.”
As new families come in to Florence to help grow the community, West Coast Real Estate will be there to ensure that everyone gets a chance — because community begins with a home.