Award-Winning Real Estate Agent Donna M. Murray Looks Forward to New Association with Compass RE
HOME SWEET HOME: “The real estate agent guides you through the process. We are the experts in the field. A good real estate agent can add more money for the seller, and also assist the buyer in spending less. This is my career, and I take it very seriously. And seeing the uniqueness of so many of the homes, even after all these years, is what makes it so much fun.” Donna M. Murray, founding agent with Compass Princeton RE, the independent real estate company recently opened in Princeton at 47 Hulfish Street, is enthusiastic about her chosen field.
By Jean Stratton
Donna M. Murray knew right from the start that a future in real estate was in store for her.
After an early career as a flight attendant with American Airlines, she followed the advice of a friend in the real estate business, and approached one of the area companies. She was immediately accepted for training, which involved absorbing a lot of challenging new information, ranging from legalities and mortgages to wetlands and flood insurance, and more. After passing the exam, she was then told to go forth and sell houses.
“After the training period and the exam, they said, ‘Now go out, call friends and family to see if anyone wants to buy or sell a house.’
“So I called a friend who I thought might be interested in moving, and I asked her. She said yes, and I listed her property, which sold, and then I was also able to help her buy a new house.”
Murray was on her way!
That was 24 years ago, and she hasn’t stopped since. “This is a career that I love,” the sales associate and Realtor says. “I enjoy meeting people and assisting them to achieve their goal. I learn something new every day too, and every day is different.”
Now, she has embarked on a new stage in her career, as a founding agent with the independent real estate company Compass RE’s Princeton location.
“I contacted Compass because I thought another independent brokerage would be a good fit in Princeton,” she explains. “Compass is an independent company with locations in 46 states and very experienced and high performing agents. It has different, innovative programs that it can offer me and I can offer to my buyers and sellers that no other company has.
“Compass RE supplies me with the office space, and they’re a platform for additional resources. They will assist me with growing my team (whom I have hand-picked), and offer me knowledge of new real estate trends. My clients are my clients, and I am a client of Compass RE. They are all about assisting me with my business and clients.”
Real estate is a booming business right now, with many buyers looking to find a home in Princeton, she reports. This has been true since COVID-19 spurred many people to leave the cities for the suburbs.
“I was lucky during the COVID shut down in March of 2020. I had already listed numerous vacant houses that sold immediately. Adjustments had to be made for buyers to view these properties even though they were vacant. Masks, gloves, booties, keeping closets and kitchen/bath cabinets open (so that buyers did not have to touch anything), lights on (no turning on/off light switches), and disinfecting after each showing. All of this was necessary.”
“Princeton is an awesome place to live,” she continues. “We will always have people moving here from the cities. Our location between Philadelphia and New York City and proximity to the ocean and mountains is so desirable. Plus, there are a number of corporate headquarters for tech, pharma, and financial companies.”
In addition, online opportunities were helpful during the virus, and these have generally become a mainstay in real estate.
“The internet is a powerful marketing tool to give the house its full exposure into the market,” explains Murray. “And it is global. With the advancement in professional photography to include Matterport 3D tours and drone aerial shots, a buyer has a great idea of the house even before entering. But still the buyer likes to go inside to get the feeling of the home and to look over the mechanics of the house to include HVAC, plumbing, roof, and windows.”
Location, Location, Location!
In today’s market, buyers are looking for certain specifics that will encourage them to react positively to a house.
“Location, school system, being able to walk to or have a short drive to town, and proximity to one’s workplace are very important,” points out Murray.
“The most popular homes are colonials with four bedrooms for buyers between 30 and 45 with families. Princeton has a variety of excellent schools to choose from, and that is one of the town’s many great attributes. Public, charter, private, and parochial schools are all available.
“The active adult community homes have become extremely popular with the 55-plus population. Typically, these homes don’t have a basement, and offer first floor bedrooms, property maintenance included in the HOA (Homeowners Association), and lower taxes.”
As it has always been, the kitchen is the gathering place in the home, and this, along with today’s emphasis on large bathrooms, is a major selling point.
“Kitchens are the heart of the home, where everyone gathers many times throughout the day. In addition to bedrooms, bathrooms are really the only place for privacy. Both up-to-date kitchens and bathrooms are extremely popular, and I believe they always will be.”
Other important selling points Murray underscores are “mudrooms and numerous closets for people to place items out of sight. Flex spaces — these are areas in the home that can double for different purposes as needed. For example: home office to nursery; a storage room to an exercise room.”
Open floor plans remain popular, she adds. “Families can see one another and feel connected throughout the day. Also, if the house is on the small side, it gives it a larger feeling. The same is true of the height of the ceilings. The higher the ceiling, the larger the room feels.”
For those interested in selling, Murray offers a number of suggestions to help them achieve a desired outcome. It is important to set the stage, and getting the house ready for viewing by prospective buyers is crucial.
“When a house goes on the market, it should be in its best condition possible. Never rush unless it is unavoidable. People prepare for tests, prepare for events, and prepare for trips. Why not prepare for selling your house? It will certainly get you more value out of your most expensive asset.
Simply painting goes a long way to refresh a house. It is inexpensive, and can be done by the seller. Modern colors can make any home sparkle. Decluttering and packing unused items (you need to pack anyway!) will make your home look bigger. Making sure the front of the house is clean and inviting is major because buyers know within the first three to five seconds if the house is for them.”
In addition, staging has become an important part of the process, she explains. “The way you stage a home is much different than decorating a home to live in. You want to have neutral, modern-day colors, no wallpaper, bright light in all rooms (using non-LED light bulbs), and no photos. You want the house to feel young.
“Some owners might like a Southwest theme in their home, from wall color to decor. This is too personalized, and it will be hard for the buyer to see beyond this and imagine what their style would be like in the property. It’s best to keep the house neutral and simply done.”
Also, she adds, “Real estate agents like myself can have their staging certificate: Accredited Staging Professional (ASP). If an agent of the seller’s choice doesn’t have this, it may cost the homeowner out of pocket expense to hire an interior designer.”
In addition to helping clients sell and buy homes, Murray also handles rental properties. “With the interest rate currently low,” she points out, “people will live in rentals, and save up for a down payment on a home.”
In her 24 years in the real estate business, Murray has seen many changes, especially the increasing importance of the internet. “The ability of sellers to show their property globally is the biggest change. Now, buyers have the ability to shop for homes from the comfort of their living room.”
Her skill as a real estate agent has brought her many awards, including New Jersey Realtors 2017 Realtor of the Year – Mercer County, New Jersey Realtors Circle of Excellence Sales Award Platinum (2015-2020), and the Five Star Professional Award (2013-2020).
These are all recognition of her expertise and a result of her ability to help clients navigate one of the most challenging experiences: selling or buying a home.
“An agent can help relieve the stress and handle all the details so clients don’t have to worry. You need to establish a sense of trust. You can get very close to your clients through this time. I know when I can call someone at 7 a.m. or at 9 at night. I know their preferences. We work together, and helping my clients is my greatest pleasure.”
For further information, call Donna Murray at (908) 391-8396 or (609) 710-2021. Website: YourPrincetonAgent.com.