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Selling History, Specializing in People
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Aliso Viejo , CA, August 17th, 2005 – When asked if she specialized in the Victorian house market, Nevada City realtor Lee Good responded: “I specialize in people.” Lee has been specializing in people for 31 years as owner of Good & Company Realty, an independent real estate company located on the main street of this historic mining town. When Lee started her business, the average listing price was $40,000. Now it’s nearly $500,000.

Most recently Lee has listed a prime Victorian home that has been in the same family for 90 years. Currently priced at $1.95 million, it’s value has increased a bit from the modest $10,000 it was purchased for in 1914. Named the “Ott House”, it is described as possessing ”Heirloom Victorian Splendor.” All the woodwork is original, and curved glass windows, a widow’s watch, and the first gas fireplace in Nevada City are just a few of its unique features. It is one of the few houses in the country that has working combination gas/electric fixtures.

How does Lee go about marketing this specialized property? In a sense, she lets the house speak for itself. In lieu of the standard “open house” tour, Lee recently gave a formal tea party by invitation only. Among the invited guests were people who knew the family from decades ago. As one woman poured tea from the family’s silver service, she reminisced about a 50 th wedding anniversary party she attended in the late 40’s. “Just keep the buzz going,” says Lee, and her creative marketing strategies guarantee she’ll continue to do just that.

While Lee prefers to say she specializes in people versus Victorian houses, she does list Victorian homes regularly, and has owned two of them herself. “There are two kinds of buyers for this market,” Lee explains. “The first changes the house to suit their modern needs. The second likes the house just the way it is. “ Some buyers have even been known to take out modern kitchen appliances, only to spend years looking for just the right tiles or fixtures to restore it to its original condition. The replica market has grown over the past few years as well, so if you can’t find an original fixture, a replica can usually be found.

It’s clear that Lee has a great fondness and enthusiasm for Victorian houses, and says that each time she sells one to the second kind of buyer, she learns something new.

Nevada City is a very small community, so finding one’s niche here can be much more challenging than in a larger market. It is located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, about 60 miles northeast of Sacramento and 80 miles southwest of Reno, Nevada. To get there, you drive some 30 miles off the main freeway on a two-lane road. You really have to want to live in Nevada City. Or in it’s neighboring town of Grass Valley. Many people do. Both towns grew up around the Gold Rush in 1850. Nevada City came to be known as the “ Queen City of the Northern Mines” and once vied to be the capitol of the state of California. The Ott family was an integral part of that history. The family boasts three generations of assayers, and the local Assay Office is still named for the first one. Assayers were responsible for weighing the mined gold and silver and analyzing its purity, and then took a percentage. You really wanted to be on good terms with your assayer!

The mine owners lived in Nevada City; the primarily Cornish miners lived in Grass Valley. That history is not lost on anyone who has been here for a time. There is still some rivalry between the two towns.

Recently property has been set aside in downtown Nevada City for the restoration of the Chinese quarter. This is in commemoration of the much abused laborers who served the miners and owners, and did the dirtiest work in the mines. Today, there is still “gold in them ‘thar hills” and there is talk of one of the big mines reopening. On a less ambitious scale, you can purchase gold panning equipment at one of the local independent grocery stores.

Being a realtor in Nevada City is challenging and fun, fun being the operative word. When asked if she used any marketing tools such as gift baskets and such, Lee responded, “I prefer stressing good service. I am very much a hands-on owner.” When Lee was asked why the owner of the Ott House asked her to be his listing agent, she modestly replied “I don’t know. You’d have to ask him.” Which this reporter did. The owner said that years in business have taught him that if you have had a good experience with someone, you keep using them. Lee had helped him in the past and it was clear to him that she always puts her clients first. “She’s a 100 percent professional.” he said.

You can get lost in the history and beauty of Nevada City, charmed away from what is important in the present. For Lee Ott, her objectives now remain the same as they were 20 years ago, to do business the old fashioned way: where people come first, period.

-Emily Bell, writer, Nevada City, CA

For more information on niche markets, check out these iSucceed Success Modules and Counseling Calls:

Why Niche Marketing is Important - Don Hobbs

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