'General Hospital' Star-Turned-Realtor Offers Homebuyers Advice

Fans of General Hospital will probably recognize the man in this photo as Alan Quartermaine, the always charming but sometimes scheming doctor and member of one the wealthiest families in the fictional city of Port Charles. What he now hopes for you to recognize him as is a successful Realtor of multimillion dollar properties.

Last year Stuart Damon and his son, Christopher Damon (pictured with his father) went back to school together to prepare for getting their real estate licenses. In January they took their exams, and in Spring 2010 they set out together to become a real estate dream team, The Damon Group, for Joyce Rey Coldwell Banker Previews International.

If you are wondering how an Emmy award-winning actor decides to go into real estate, we spoke to him and his son Christopher to get some answers:

Why did you decide to start a new career in real estate after so many successful years as an actor?

I have actually been involved with real estate development for the last 20 years. Now that my 31-year run with "General Hospital" is over, I have more time to devote to it. Working in real estate with my son offers me the flexibility to continue acting when parts arise, while my son handles the business. He had been working in residential and commercial real estate for the last 10 years so this was a great opportunity. [Chris adds, "I love my dad and he is my best friend. We enjoy each other's company and are so happy we can spend so much time together."]

How did you get started in real estate?

Years ago, I saw the opportunities out there to purchase houses that needed work, fix them up and sell them for a substantial profit. I have been doing that for the last 20 years. Now that the market has changed, I am more focused on helping other people buy and sell the homes of their dreams.

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What method did you use to decide which homes to purchase and which homes to pass on?

The key for me was to be able to walk in a home and look beyond what was there in front of my eyes and envision what could be. I needed to be able to figure out what had to be done, both inside and out, to enable potential buyers to walk in thinking "This is fabulous." If I could accomplish the renovations while still leaving a decent margin of profit I would buy it, if the profit potential wasn't there, I would walk away."

What do you recommend homeowners do to make their home more marketable?

The first thing they need to improve is the landscaping. If the home does not have curb appeal it will be very hard to sell. Also, you need to have great kitchens and bathrooms. Also consider improving the floor plan. Today's buyers like free-flowing homes with an open feeling, so if their home has lots of little rooms they might want to consider removing non-load bearing walls to improve the flow.

Is it possible to improve a kitchen or bath without spending a lot of money?

Absolutely. I have remodeled kitchens with inexpensive cabinets but splurged on some really beautiful back splashes that made the entire kitchen appear expensive, even though the investment was a small portion of the room. On one remodel, Christopher designed a shower that was so beautiful I wanted to live in it! He tore down walls and reconfigured the layout, had tile installed floor-to-ceiling, and water spouts coming out from every angle of the ceiling and wall. It was amazing! It doesn't cost money to be creative."

With all the bad news about the housing market, why would you choose now to become a Realtor?

Personally, I think this is a great time to be a Realtor. During 2003 through 2008, when houses were selling overnight, Realtors were spoiled. They didn't have to work hard, and the money rolled in. This isn't supposed to be an easy business. I feel anyone with a strong work ethic can succeed. You need the right tools and relationships, and this is a great time to build the foundation for a long, strong, career.

Do you have any words of encouragement for homeowners trying to sell in this market?

Be patient. The quick turnovers of the past were really the unusual market. This is a more normal, stable market. There are buyers out there, and more people are coming off the sidelines to take advantage of the buyer's market and historically low interest rates. Make sure your home is at its best, both inside and out. Most importantly, you need to price it correctly. Price it aggressively, close to the price you are willing to sell it for, so that an inflated price does not deter qualified buyers from considering it.

What is your best advice for people shopping for a home now?

If you are looking to buy and stay in it for a long time, look for a home you can comfortably afford, a home that you love, and don't worry about the market. People have gotten into trouble by taking on more home than they can afford. But if you can live comfortably and remain in your home for the long haul, history shows that you'll do fine. If you are looking to buy as an investment, now is not the time to be flipping homes. You will get a better return on your investment if you buy and hold. You can rent the home out now to cover expenses and years later, when you are ready to sell, the prices will have rebounded and you can make a great profit.

Barbara Green is The Design Diva and owner of Sensibly Chic Interior Design. Follow her on Twitter @thedesigndiva.

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