"On the air, across the nationTom Kelly takes his popular radio real estate show to the rest of the U.S."
June 9, 2008 · Updated 6:46 PM
"Tom Kelly is on his way to becoming a household name on houses.Kelly, a Bainbridge Island resident, recently closed an agreement to nationally syndicate his KIRO-AM radio program on real estate issues - meaning that The Real Estate Show With Tom Kelly will be airing in some 79 major U.S. markets as of Nov. 26.It's another move toward establishing Kelly, who already syndicates a weekly newspaper column and reaches untold masses through his partnership in an Bainbridge-based Internet venture - not to mention several television guest appearances and public speaking engagements - as a pre-eminent media authority on real estate.I'm a lucky guy, said Kelly, an island resident since 1989. I get to do what I love, I get to help people, and I get to live here and work here.Not bad for a guy who started his media career as a sportswriter.Kelly, a Bay Area native, covered Southern California college athletics for the Santa Monica Evening Outlook when he was lured to the Seattle Times in 1975. Though his work for several years took him from prep sports to Sonics basketball, he was also working in his downtime on what would later become his second career.When we bought our first home in West Seattle, I thought that the real estate person misled us, Kelly recalled. So I began studying and taking real estate courses, just so I could understand what was going on.Kelly even went so far as to obtain a real estate practitioner's license, though he never actively sold property.His knowledge of the subject was well-regarded enough, however, that he was tapped in 1982 to write about residential real estate issues for the Times. Two years later, he became the paper's real estate editor, writing a Sunday column exclusively for the Times until 1995.In 1993, KIRO-AM called Kelly out of the blue and asked if he would do on the radio what I do in my column. Though Kelly had no previous experience in that medium, he agreed because he perceived a need in the Puget Sound area to explain the volatile real estate market in simple-to-understand language.We try to bring useful information in a casual way, Kelly said. We're not controversial, and we don't try to be. Our theme is: 'If we can't find you the answer, we'll find someone out there who will.'The show, airing then as it does now from 8-9 a.m. on Sunday mornings, has a call-in format with Kelly and a different guest each week - a home appraiser or lender or mortgage broker.Recurring segments include the industry Web Site of the Week, as well as News In Review and The Monster Mortgage Minute. The latter is a rundown of the most advantageous interest rate programs of the moment.Some people call it 'The Paul Harvey of Real Estate,' and I'm flattered by that, Kelly said.The program was soon picked up by members of the Seahawks/Mariners broadcast network, from Bellingham to Centralia to Walla Walla, fishing for a morning lead-in to their sports programming.In the meantime, Kelly had launched a syndicated replacement to his Times column. The new column, Gimme Shelter, appears in newspapers from Indianapolis to St. Paul to Sacramento to Reno to Tacoma's Morning News Tribune.Far from the usual dry analysis of excruciating number-numbed industry minutiae, Kelly's column often uses personal anecdotes to punctuate salient points about the current state of the residential real estate and mortgage market.A recent column, for example, dealt with the emotions he felt while preparing his California childhood home of 46 years for sale following his father's death.Kelly began expanding his business interests in other directions as well. As his KIRO program began to reach more listeners - including the Armed Forces Radio Network, encompassing 450 stations in 149 countries - he began to eye the possibilities of reaching the largest possible audience in the most interesting way through the Internet.He joined with island resident Kevin Hawkins in a venture called homeradio.com, run out of an office and small studio in Hawkins' home where Kelly often tapes his show. The business uses ReallNewtorks audio and video technology to provide live and taped real-estate program broadcasts - often with a humorous, even hammy bent - to home-computer viewers.One such video featured Kelly extolling the virtues of properly presenting a home on the market for potential buyers - with the host wearing a toilet seat ring around his neck for the entirety of the broadcast.Such entertainment belies the fact that more than half of all homebuyers these days employ Internet technology in some capacity - be it comparing mortgage interest rates or viewing market inventory pictures - before signing on the dotted line, Hawkins said.Kelly's successes are no surprise to his boosters at KIRO.There are two fronts in how we measure a program's performance - audience level and commercial sponsorship interest, said Dave Pridemore, director of sales for Entercom, KIRO's parent company. On both fronts, we've considered Tom's show very successful.There are very few boutique or speciality programs that stay around after a few years, let alone seven, Pridemore added. A lot of that has to do with Tom's style - the way he peels back the mystique of real estate and makes it understandable for the masses.We're proud and excited for Tom and his show. "